May 28, 1993 (34th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Lyle Stuart Kristiansen

New Democratic Party

Mr. Kristiansen:

Even if it were a written policy it would not matter very much. Whether or not we are going to export and have large scale diversions of water it will not really matter if it is in or out of an international agreement or not. Even if we wrote it into our Constitution, sooner or later a diversion will happen. The pressures will be so great that no government of whatever stripe will be able to resist them.
We must take whatever steps are humanly possible now to exclude it from the North American free trade agreement. Even though we have passed it through the
House of Commons we are not necessarily finished with it yet. To exclude it as a good to be considered, we will need all the leverage we can get to demand as high a price as possible.
People will say, and I say rhetorically, there is no price big enough. When we get the kind of pressures that we know we are going to be faced with, because of that expanding U.S. population and our relatively small population, we had better make sure it is going to be virtually impossible for them to do. The federal government, the provincial governments and perhaps other international partners must have the required agreements if we are going to exact the maximum possible price.
The only kind of price that should be considered is probably major geographical concessions in return for that water. Otherwise we are not going to have a country left. Later on we would have to get part of the property, whether it is in the state of Washington or the state of Oregon, in exchange for that kind of water to make sure we are still in a position to benefit from the water we have.
That is how serious it is going to be down the road. It is the kind of issue that nations go to war over. If you want to talk to people who feel it is that kind of issue, come out to the west where we have had to face problems even from something as relatively innocuous as the Columbia River Treaty. It was supposed to have all kinds of safeguards in it and supposedly was limited to simply storage for the purpose of the generation of electric power.
We know what the stakes are and anybody who travels in the American southwest knows what the stakes are. I really do not have much patience with the kind of picky little defences I hear; that it is a government policy or it is not in clause x of this or clause y of that or somewhere else.
As I said, these are the kinds of issues that nations live, die and go to war for. The United States can bring pressures upon Canada, even being the best of friends, if we do not yield for a price somewhere down the road.
I find it patently ridiculous to have anybody on that side lecture us about being realistic in the face of what any school kid ought to know if he or she can count. That is what I meant about the hon. member's argument being

May 28, 1993
so narrow it was like a river running on its edge. That puts it exactly into perspective.
In the moments available to me I would like to comment on some of the issues raised by my good colleague, the member for Kootenay East or what used to be Kootenay East-Revelstoke prior to the last redistribution.
Last year and again this year in Kootenay East an issue arose that revealed exactly how Canada loses some of its sovereignty when it sells control of its fresh water resources to the U.S. or any foreign nation for that matter.
The Koocanusa reservoir was created when the Libby dam in Montana was built to harness the flow of the south flowing Kootenay River, a branch of the Columbia River in southeastern B.C., as part of the massive Columbia River treaty system.
I am quite familiar with that waterway. It runs right by my home. Until recently the reservoir has been managed relatively well ensuring power benefits and a solid fish and tourism base on both sides of the border.
Last year however the U.S. took water from the reservoir earlier than normal. The B.C. government had to scramble within the narrow range of the treaty to adjust other reservoirs in order to protect the Koocanusa for the . crucial summer season.
Some of those other reservoirs that were partially sacrificed were within my own constituency. We are already facing pressures on those reservoirs again this year even though the shortage on a short-term basis is not quite as drastic in the U.S. southwest as it was last year.
This year water levels are even lower and the Americans are determined to take what is theirs legally not just for power and flood control but also for fish and environmental enhancement. The B.C. government remains restricted under the treaty and the result is that the Koocanusa reservoir is now a dust bowl. The local tourism based economy will be destroyed this summer.
This is a serious issue and shows on a very micro scale the tremendous damage that can result if we allow any large scale diversions of water whether they are supposedly for electrical generation or whatever purpose.
Certainly it was meant for fresh water consumption in the American southwest.
My colleague, the member for Kootenay East, is en route right now to Eureka, Montana to participate in a number of these meetings that have been set up in part to widen the scope of the purposes of that treaty. What is happening?
Water diversion may have originally been for electrical generation but it is now for much more and understandably so. It is legitimately so from the point of view of our American neighbours across the way who are concerned about their quality of life and that of their children in the future.
We are not their enemies. We have to live together. Sooner or later we are going to have to make accommodations for humanitarian purposes and because the negotiating pressures will be so great. We will have to find a price and conditions acceptable to both our good neighbour and Canada, living just a few miles apart.
I appeal to the government once more. Regardless of its exact, fine, narrow range arguments about whether something is in this treaty, this clause or not, realize that Canada is here we hope for a long time. Canadians are here we hope for a long time.
We need every bit of ironclad protection as is humanly possible to ensure that whatever government, Liberal, Tory, NDP or Reform 50 years down the road will be forced to get virtually unanimous agreement in order to exact the highest possible price and the strongest possible conditions on the future exports that we know will happen whether we think it is a good idea or not.
That is a reality and I ask the government to face up to it. It has tried to face up to some others but this is perhaps the biggest reality and the toughest crunch that Canadians are ever going to have to face. We need all the weapons we can get. I appeal to them to look ahead and begin now to address those needs.

Subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY, S. O. 81-WATER
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