Ms. Francine Lalonde (La Pointe-de-l'Île, BQ)
Mr. Speaker, I had the pleasure of working on amending the 1909 treaty, and of taking part in the International Joint Commission when it was working on its new proposed order. I know that the International Joint Commission is doing extremely important work. When I saw the member for Kenora's motion, I thought it was both interesting and important. Because it is well-written, clear, precise and in French, I would like to read part of it. I will then comment on the proposal therein. As everyone can tell from my remarks, we support this motion.
The motion says:
—in order to ensure the long-term ecological and economic vitality of the Lake of the Woods and Rainy River Basin—
With respect to the words “ecological and economic”, the vitality of fresh water in Quebec and in the rest of Canada, water that we share with the United States, is under threat, to say the least. That threat can affect the economic assets these waters currently represent. The same is likely true of the Lake of the Woods, which is why we should take care of it. It is an indispensable resource for life and pleasure, as well as for economic development.
One factor is not mentioned, but it will come into play more and more. We see it with the St. Lawrence River, which is not a lake but is fed by the Great Lakes. I am talking about climate change. This spring, the St. Lawrence did not rise to record levels. On the contrary, it showed its banks much earlier than usual, because of the effects of climate change.
The motion states that:
...the governments of Canada and the United States should continue to foster trans-jurisdictional coordination and collaboration on science and management activities...
We need to engage in science and management activities if we want to preserve water quality, and I would add water quantity and use as well.
The motion goes on:
...to enhance and restore water quality...
The motion refers to enhancing and restoring. Enhancing, because there has been a deterioration in water quality, which the member links to phosphate pollution, often from fertilizers, but also to economic activity, likely by industries. The motion says that the governments must:
...enhance and restore water quality in the Lake of the Woods and Rainy River Basin, by referring the matter of Lake of the Woods water quality to the International Joint Commission...
Why the International Joint Commission? Because the lake sits between Ontario and the state of Minnesota. I will read on:
...by referring the matter of Lake of the Woods water quality to the International Joint Commission for examination, reporting, and recommendations regarding the binational management of the international waters of the Lake of the Woods and Rainy River system...
My colleague said earlier that we unfortunately do not talk often enough about binational management of international waters by the U.S. and Canada—through the provinces first and foremost—and it is true. I thank him for giving us the opportunity to do so. He talked about the commission's potential role, but he said it would be in line with the International Watersheds Initiative.
I have here a January 2009 report from the International Watersheds Initiative, which was created by the International Joint Commission. My colleague let me read this interesting report. This international initiative suggests that local ways of addressing current and future problems be developed before those problems become international issues. I will read the quote in English, because I do not have the French copy:
The underlying premise is that water resource and environmental problems can be anticipated, prevented or resolved at the local level before developing into international issues.
Of course this means an integrated, ecosystem approach that takes into account how all watersheds are connected to one another. My colleague mentioned that there was a link, an intersection with a basin that feeds into Lake Winnipeg. Perhaps there is more pollution in once place than another, and we need to know how to manage that. We think that in order to study this issue, we must look further, that is, take into account the people around the basin who use those waters, new species of fish that may enter the waters, and the climate changes I mentioned earlier.
I would like to take a couple of minutes to say that last fall in Quebec, the Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement, or BAPE, studied a report entitled “L'eau, ressource à protéger, à partager et à mettre en valeur”. This report was the result of 15 months of study and examination of 400 briefs, in other words, an incredible amount of work. It confirms what we already knew: Quebec has vast quantities of freshwater. With nearly a million bodies of water, approximately 135,000 cubic meters of water is available per person per year, which is eight times the global average. But that does not mean we can allow large amounts of water to be removed without any environmental impact. Generally speaking, lake water is non renewable; only overflow feeds into rivers and irrigates the land. Basically, we can never have too much water.
The only known study on water renewal rates was conducted by the International Joint Commission and deals with the Great Lakes. The report's conclusions are unequivocal:
The waters of the Great Lakes are, for the most part, a nonrenewable resource...Although the total volume in the lakes is vast, on average less than 1 percent of the waters of the Great Lakes is renewed annually—
Thus, removing any water at all would reduce the amount of water in the entire water system, most important of all, the St. Lawrence River.
When we consider all of the basin's areas of activity, there can never be too much water in the Great Lakes system or in the Lake of the Woods system and I—
Topic: Private Members' Business
Subtopic: Lake of the Woods and Rainy River Basins