February 17, 2009

The South African Coalition Against Water Privatisation writes, "In its historic judgement handed down on the 30th April 2008, the Johannesburg High Court declared prepaid water meters both illegal and unconstitutional and ordered the City of Johannesburg to provide residents with 50 litres of free water per person/per day."

The South African constitution adopted in 1996 states that, "Everyone has the right to have access to sufficient food and water."

The Coalition notes, "Despite the judgement being celebrated by poor communities across South Africa and supported by a wide range of domestic and international unions, political parties and non-governmental organisations, Johannesburg Mayor, Amos Masondo – alongside Johannesburg Water and the Department of Water Affairs & Forestry – appealed the judgement. More recently, the National Treasury has applied to be an amicus in support of the appeal. And so, now into its sixth year, this landmark case to secure basic constitutional rights to water for all, heads to South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal."

The appeal hearing will take place on February 23-25.

February 17, 2009

Ricardo Acuña, executive director of the Parkland Institute, writes in Edmonton's Vue Weekly that, "After years of pressure from environmental groups, First Nations communities, public interest organizations and virtually everyone else with an eye to the long-term well-being of Alberta, players in Alberta’s tar sands have shelved the massive expansion plans they have been pushing."

"OK, it’s not an official moratorium, but for all intents and purposes it’s the same thing...I understand that it was the falling price of oil that forced the hands of these companies, and I also understand that they have only delayed their expansion plans rather than cancel them. But in the end, the result is the same—for the time being, tar sands projects have essentially stopped expanding."

February 17, 2009

The Globe and Mail reports today that, "Abitibi is preparing a challenge to Newfoundland's move (to expropriate their assets) under the NAFTA treaty - since the company is considered to be a U.S. entity. It will soon file a notice of intent, which will begin the process, and in that document the company will detail its exact claims for the value of the assets that are being expropriated."

The article notes, "In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said it is still evaluating the full financial impact of the expropriation, and exactly what compensation it will ask for when it files a claim under the North American free-trade agreement. But the carrying value of the assets, which may eventually be written down, is about $300-million, the filing said."

The full article is at

February 17, 2009

On page A4 of today's Ottawa Citizen, Maude Barlow answers the question, 'What should Harper say to Obama to get the most out of this visit?'

She writes, "While he is unlikely to do so, I would want Prime Minister Harper to say that a better North America is possible and that our two countries can work together to improve the lives of people and to rescue the environment."

"We need to reject the agenda of freer trade, privatization and deregulation. With the International Monetary Fund saying the world's advanced economies are in 'depression,' the prime minister should tell the president that this crisis won't be solved by the same policies that brought us to this point."

"Mr. Harper should also take this moment to say that he agrees with Mr. Obama's call for the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement."

"This would be the perfect occasion to say that trade between our two countries can be based on different principles and doesn't need to undermine Canada's energy security, threaten our water or allow corporate rights to exceed those of the public through NAFTA's investor-state clause."

February 15, 2009

The National Post reported on January 12 that, "Among the laws earmarked for revision (by the Harper government) is the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which was enacted in 1882 to regulate the construction of dams and bridges and guard marine routes from intrusions by the logging industry."

"The law has been revised over the years, but (Transport Minister John) Baird said its antiquated guidelines fail to distinguish between 'the tiniest creek and the bridge between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.' 'It's a piece of legislation brought in the 1800s with, frankly, little benefit but huge regulatory burden that can really slow things down,' he said."

The Canadian Press reported the same day that, "Baird criticized the Navigable Waters Act, which dates to the 1870s. The act, he said, requires government officials to 'put a canoe in a creek or large puddle' to find out whether it is navigable."