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UPDATE: Council of Canadians a founding member of the Our Water Is Not For Sale network

The March 18, 2010 founding meeting of the Our Water Is Not For Sale network. Photo by Meera Karunananthan.

The March 18, 2010 founding meeting of the Our Water Is Not For Sale network. Photo by Meera Karunananthan.

Council of Canadians supporters will have seen recent news articles and campaign blogs about the Our Water Is Not For Sale (OWINFS) network critiquing the Alberta provincial government’s recently-announced ‘water conversation’.

In mid-January, Edmonton-based Council of Canadians organizer Scott Harris was quoted in an OWINFS media release stating, “This clearly isn’t the broad and meaningful consultation on the future of the province’s water that Albertans have been waiting for since the fall of 2008. It seems as though this process is about putting a tick in the box to say that Albertans have been consulted, without allowing them to actually address the issues or influence policy.” In mid-February, Harris stated in another media release, “Albertans who have waited for years for promised consultations on the future of water in Alberta are going to be extremely frustrated when they see what the government has come up with. Fifteen online questions, many of which bundle a range of policy options into ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’ options and are so vague as to be almost meaningless, is hardly the broad and meaningful consultations Albertans deserve.”

What Council of Canadians supporters may not know, is that this network – doing critical work at a crucial time on water issues in the province – had its origins three years ago, with the Council of Canadians playing a key role in bringing groups together to fight a common challenge.

In November 2009, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow told the Edmonton Journal, “It looks like the province is going to be the first in Canada to move to a market-based solution for water. It’s a big concern because the public loses control of something essential for life and it becomes a market commodity.”

By March 18, 2010, Council of Canadians water campaigner Meera Karunananthan and organizer Scott Harris hosted a roundtable meeting in Edmonton with key groups to discuss a campaign to counter the threat of water markets in Alberta.

Then on July 9, 2010, the Canwest News Service reported, “A coalition of organizations began a campaign July 8 urging Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner not to introduce legislation that would establish a province-wide water market. …Scott Harris said the groups in the network have disparate interests, but they all agree on one thing: leaving decisions about who will have access to water up to the market will not ensure there is enough water left in Alberta’s rivers to ensure their health and will not ensure basic human needs are prioritized as the province increasingly struggles with the water crisis.”

By October 26, 2010, Maude Barlow was in Edmonton to speak at an OWINFS public forum titled, ‘The Fight for Water: Challenging Water Markets in Alberta’.

On December 5, 2011, a five-community tour in Alberta was organized by the OWINFS network. Scott Harris accompanied Jeremy Schmidt, the author of a Parkland Institute report (funded in part through the Council of Canadians) that says the expansion of water markets to all of Alberta as part of the provincial government’s review of the provincial water allocation system would have adverse effects on the environment, access to water by a range of users in the province, and First Nations’ communities.

And the work continues.

The founding members of the Our Water Is Not For Sale network included the Council of Canadians, Public Interest Alberta, the National Farmers Union, the United Church of Canada, the Sierra Club, and many other groups. The five groups that most recently released a statement of concern about the Alberta government’s water conversation are the Council of Canadians, Public Interest Alberta, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Keepers of the Athabasca, and Water Matters Society of Alberta.

To visit the Our Water Is Not For Sale website, please go to http://www.ourwaterisnotforsale.com.