OTTAWA – Canada is a water-rich country, with plenty to spare and share. But lakes can be deceiving, says Maude Barlow in her report Blue Betrayal: The Harper government’s assault on Canada’s freshwater. In the absence of adequate legislative protection against climate change over the past three decades, “Canada has lost enough water to fill 1.4 million Olympic-sized swimming pools every year… a decline of 8.5%.”
This weekend, experts from around the world, including the University of Alberta’s renowned water expert David Schindler, gather in Banff for In Deep: A Conversation About Water to discuss “Earth’s greatest resource.” In the absence of federal oversight and protection, our waterways have never been this vulnerable – yet federal parties continue to fail to raise water as a key election issue.
“Canadians and Indigenous peoples have an opportunity this election to protect water for generations to come,” says Maude Barlow. “Where do the parties stand on this? I am in agreement with David Schindler: we need to put pressure on the federal and provincial governments for meaningful regulations. If we don’t, climate change, extreme weather and the lack of clean water is going to affect all facets of our society – the economy, infrastructure and public health.”
Blue Betrayal looks at the damage created by the deregulation and privatization of our water resources and the accelerated decline of water protection under the Harper government. Viewing legislation such as the Fisheries Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act as impediments to economic growth, his government has gutted them, turning “policy and practice upside down to advance the interests of the energy industry.”
“Thirsty for change is an understatement,” says Maude Barlow. “We are completely unprepared to manage our water resources in a sustaining fashion. Thanks to the one-trick pony that is the Harper government, if you can’t drill it or sell it, there’s no political will to protect it.”