Mr. Brian L. Gardiner (Prince George-Bulkley Valley) moved:
That this House condemns the government for its failure to protect Canadian interests regarding the interbasin transfer of water as exemplified by the Kemano project, the North Thompson River, and both the Columbia River Tteaty and the North American free trade agreement.
He said: Madam Speaker, I am pleased and honoured to present this motion on a very important issue to the people of northern British Columbia and the entire country. It concerns what many would perhaps say is our life-blood. That is our water and in particular our rivers in northern British Columbia, in my constituency, the Nechako River, the North Thompson River and other river systems.
Before putting some comments on the record I would like to first thank my colleagues for their support in bringing this very important motion forward.
I want to comment today on the ongoing Kemano controversy in northern British Columbia. The arguments I intend to make today are of the complicity of this government in hiding information on this matter.
I want to thank my colleagues from what we call the caucus for interior British Columbia. They are members from the interior of B.C. who have concerns about issues outside the island and lower mainland of B.C. They are
There are two water diversion issues in my constituency that I would like to speak on today. One is in the western end of my riding and is known to this House as the Kemano controversy. The other is at the eastern end and is a developing project called the North Thompson diversion, which is currently being promoted by a gentleman named Mr. Clancy from the lower mainland of British Columbia.
I want to speak primarily on the concerns that I and the vast majority of my constituents and others in British Columbia have over the Kemano issue and its potential impact on the Nechako River.
I would like to give a brief history of the situation we have got into, to outline some of the concerns that people have in northern B.C. and to review what has been done to date but particularly to review what has not been done by this government.
The Kemano controversy is a megaproject in northern B.C. I will not go into all of the history on this. Much has been written and much more will be written about this particular project.
In short, a project in the late 1950s developed the community of Kitimat. The massive Nechako reservoir was created around Ootsa Lake for electrical power at Kemano which was transmitted to Kitimat for the production of aluminum. That project continued for some time as part of the arrangement that was signed between the then provincial government with the acquiescence of the then federal government.
There was always the prospect that the company would proceed with another part of its project, Kemano II. It is
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that debate and the current history on that project that I would like to focus my comments on today.
It is remarkable and revealing in this issue of just how we mismanage our water resources. If there is a list of projects that we should learn from as to how not to manage our resources, the Kemano project would be one, the W.A.C. Bennett dam would be another, and there have been a host of other projects across this country. If there is any lesson that we can learn at all, that is not the way to proceed when it comes to these kinds of projects.
In the current history there was the struggle by the federal government at the time to have the right to manage the Nechako River. In fact, the government of the day won that particular fight against the Alcan company. The company wanted to reduce the flows in that river so that it would have more water in its reservoir to pipe through to its hydroelectric generating plant.
It was revealing that after the federal government won an injunction it had the right on behalf of all Canadians to manage the affairs of that river and the company, a multinational corporation, decided to challenge that injunction. That set in motion a string of events we in northern B.C. are now paying the price for.
What we have learned from the few documents that have seen the light of day on this project is that as the federal government was preparing to defend the right to control and manage that river, a backroom deal was signed. This government arranged to settle out of court and in 1987 the Nechako settlement agreement was reached. It is that settlement agreement upon which much of the debate currently revolves.
Some of the concerns that existed prior to the settlement agreement and that exist to this day about the Nechako River are summed up well by a headline in the Prince George Citizen on June 1, 1990. An article about Kemano called "Inside a megaproject" said: "You will wonder where the water went".
That is what the people of northern British Columbia will be asking. They will be asking about the flows in the Nechako River. They will be asking about its impact on
migrating salmon. They will be asking about water intakes and outlets for some of the communities along that river. They will be asking about its impact on wildlife and they will be asking about its impact on agriculture and irrigation.
In other words, there are a host of concerns on this particular river alone. The people of northern B.C. have been calling for a full public review for a chance to present their views in an official forum and to hear and see the information that both governments and in particular the proponent, the Alcan aluminium company, have on this project.
What we have learned from documents that have been released is that this Government of Canada has already said through its access to information officers that it has some 83,000 pages of information on this project. Now it says it is only prepared to release a limited number of those documents to the public so that it can see what is happening on this project.
If this project can stand on its own two feet and if this government says that everything is okay then why does it refuse to release those documents?
From the evidence that has seen the light of day so far on this project we have learned why this government refuses to release information on this project. The memos and documents that I have obtained and have released to the public indicate on the one hand that at one point there was an effort to try to develop a federal-provincial review. However for some reason this did not happen, and I suggest that reason is in the filing cabinet of the current Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the previous Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the current Minister of Forestry. The reasons for hiding this information exist in their filing cabinets.
We have gathered further information from documents released from within the department. This one in particular is dated December 11, 1987 and is by a consultant who reviewed the information on this particular project. It is directed to the deputy minister for fisheries and oceans. It says: "I am worried about these words. They create the impression that the agreement has numerous negative implications". He would like to see that corrected. It continues: "It looks like an inquiry, the exact thing that this government has refused to conduct and refuses to participate in".
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People in northern B.C. have called for the federal government and the former provincial government to conduct a full review of this project. It was an issue, and I have some scars from it.
In the 1984 election, which was the election prior to the Nechako settlement agreement of 1987, the government of the day, now the Official Opposition, could have told Canadians where it stood on this issue. Where does it stand? The Conservative Party was opposed to a public review. It was opposed to releasing information. It was opposed to providing funds to chambers of commerce, community groups and environmental groups to get to the bottom of this project before it went ahead.
Who supported the Conservatives? The Official Opposition, the Liberal Party, was opposed to a full public review and opposed to the release of information. The Liberals and Conservatives worked together at those all-candidate forums to deny the people of northern B.C. an opportunity to have the truth come out about this project. They are tied together in this. The complicity of the Liberals, the Conservatives and the Social Credit government of the day has denied the people of northern B.C. an opportunity to have a full say and full information on this particular project.
It has only been through the election of a new government in British Columbia that we are finally being given an opportunity to have some say in this project. That is being done by the announcement by the premier of British Columbia and the minister of the environment, the Hon. John Cashore, of a public review under the utilities commission to look into this project and its impact on the Nechako River. If the terms of reference are refined as I hope they are we will learn its possible impact on the Fraser River as well.
Some people were disappointed that the government did not feel it was able to use its legislative power to block the project entirely. Some of my constituents wished that the government had done that. I will tell you, Madam Speaker, about the kind of corporate blackmail we are dealing with on this project. Headlines from the Alcan aluminum company at limited shareholder meetings: "Alcan threatens to sue government" "Al-
can threatens to sue if they don't get then way", a way paid for them by Socreds and Conservatives.
We now have a review. We are urging all people in northern B.C. to participate and present their views about this project. I presented my submission to the commission and outlined what I thought concerning its procedural matters and the issues it should take a look at.
I suggested full public meetings throughout northern B.C. and the communities of Bums Lake, Fraser Lake, Fort Fraser, Vanderhoof, Fort St. James, Prince George, as well as communities outside that area that are affected by this project.
I suggested that the utilities commission use its authority and its powers of subpoena if the federal government in particular was not willing voluntarily to provide all of the information on this project. The commission should use its subpoena powers and compel evidence and compel witnesses to attend those hearings.
We have only just learned from a letter dated April 30, 1993 from the Department of Justice to the utilities commission of the federal government's official view of its participation in this inquiry. It is the one that we expected, the limited release of information. This is revealing because it goes to the heart of this government's attempts to avoid dealing with the truth of this matter.
A paragraph in the letter suggests-and this is where it may all end up-that the government will not participate in even the limited release of information as a waiver by the federal government of its right to object to the authority of the commission to obtain disclosure of information or to subpoena past or present federal government employees in order to elicit information obtained by them in the course of their duties.
We know what that means. This government will use its clout to stop the ongoing attempts to get to the truth of this matter. It is all said here and as my colleague says it is a gag order. That is exactly what it is and that is what we face from this government.
We could go on for days talking about the concerns that the people of northern B.C. have about this project. We have enumerated them in election campaigns. We have enumerated them in committee meetings, in public
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meetings and in this Chamber as well. Still this government refuses to listen to the people of northern B.C.
I use this platform and this opportunity to encourage my constituents, the people of British Columbia to participate in that public inquiry.
I urge Alcan to participate in the inquiry. The day the provincial government announced this review Alcan condemned it. Shame on Alcan for that. But it did leave the door open for possible participation in the future.
Alcan owes it to the people of northern British Columbia for the millions and millions of dollars it has made from the people of British Columbia so far to date and the millions and millions of dollars it might make. It owes it to the people of northern B.C. to appear before that commission and to present its side of the argument.
Shame on it for not participating to date. It has the rights and the responsibilities of any other intervener to participate in that inquiry. I ask Alcan to tell the people of northern B.C. why it refuses to participate. I ask the Government of Canada to tell the people of northern B.C. why it refuses to release information and to become a full partner in the review of this project.
The evidence continues to mount about the concerns that people have all across this country now, the concerns of the Cheslatta, the concerns of the people of Fort Fraser who I think have earned the credit of northern B.C. for the work they have done on this project, for the people in Vanderhoof who have been struggling on this issue, for the Allied Rivers Commission in Prince George, and all the people who are taking petitions around and attending public meetings.
Even in these hallowed chambers we have headlines coming in now: "Parliamentary committee reports Ke-mano decision termed illegal." I know that we will hear more about this particular matter in the weeks to come.
It is because we take our concerns about our water, and in particular our rivers, seriously whether it is a goofy proposal by somebody in Vancouver to divert the North Thompson River into Kinbasket Lake and to sell
the water to the United States, or it is a cover-up by the federal government of an issue concerning the Nechako and the Kemano controversy. It is no wonder people are concerned. Water is our life-blood and it has been mismanaged and mistreated by this government and governments preceding it. The people of British Columbia ask. What is going on?
I will leave the last words to the people of Prince George-Bulkley Valley as to how they feel about this issue. I want to quote from a letter that the president of the Allied Rivers Commission sent to two of the leadership contenders in the Conservative Party's leadership race. It concerns the news this week of the illegality of the government's position on this matter. I quote:
As members of cabinet, I hold you both accountable for
deliberately undermining the integrity of our parliamentary
Who was in the cabinet room when they made every effort to avoid sending this project to a full environmental review? We want to know. The people of northern B.C. want to know which cabinet ministers were there who are willing to allow a river to disappear.
Let me just read a couple of comments in the short time I have left from replies to the surveys I have conducted. From Fort Fraser, B.C.: "I would like Alcan to explain to the people of this province where the 30,000 to 40,000 jobs are that they promised to create after completion of the Kemano I project. Don't sell our river. Its value is much greater than we can imagine".
This from Fort Fraser again: "Alcan failed to build the 40,000 to 50,000 job industrial complex. They are not living up to the agreement". There is a rude comment about the president of Alcan.
I have hundreds and hundreds of these kinds of comments that the people of my constituency of northern B.C. and all of British Columbia are saying about our rivers, in particular the Nechako and the North Thompson Rivers.
I implore the government to join now with the province of B.C. to conduct a full joint review of this project. Release all of the information that is available and give our rivers a chance.
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Subtopic: ALLOTTED DAY, S. O. 81-WATER