[R-G] Canada: Losing Water Through NAFTA

Macdonald Stainsby mstainsby at resist.ca
Mon Sep 24 13:46:34 MDT 2007

Canada: Losing Water Through NAFTA
by Stephen Leahy

Global Research, September 23, 2007
Inter Press Service

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Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, Canada lost control over 
its energy resources. Now, with “NAFTA-plus”, it could also lose control 
over its freshwater resources, say experts.

Canada’s water is on the trade negotiating table despite widespread 
public opposition and assurances by Canadian political leaders, said 
Adèle Hurley, director of the University of Toronto’s Programme on Water 
Issues at the Munk Centre for International Studies.

A new report released Sep. 11 by the programme reveals that water 
transfers from Canada to the United States are emerging as an issue 
under the auspices of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP). The 
SPP — sometimes called “NAFTA-plus” — is a forum set up in 2005 in 
Cancún, by the three partners, Canada, United States and Mexico.

Economic integration as envisioned by the powerful but little-known SPP 
is slowly changing the lives of Canadians, says Andrew Nikiforuk, author 
of the report “On the Table: Water Energy and North American Integration”.

The SPP is comprised of business leaders and government officials who 
work behind the scenes and are already responsible for changes to border 
security, easing of pesticide rules, harmonisation of pipeline 
regulations and plans to prepare for a potential avian flu outbreak, 
Nikiforuk writes.

“The SPP is run by corporate leaders; governments are irrelevant,” said 
Ralph Pentland, a water expert and acting chairman of the Canadian Water 
Issues Council.

Pentland envisions a future where, in response to ongoing drought 
problems in the United States, the SPP will make arrangements to dole 
out millions of dollars of public funds for private companies to build 
pipelines to transfer water from Canada.

“The SPP is like putting the monkeys in charge of the peanuts,” he told 

Massive water diversions from Canada do not make economic or 
environmental sense, according to water experts. Far better and cheaper 
is to improve water efficiency and eliminate waste. The United States 
and Canada lead the world in water consumption and are extraordinarily 
wasteful, Pentland says.

Moreover, most of Canada’s water is in the far north, not near its 
border with the United States. And even the transboundary Great Lakes 
are at their lowest levels in 100 years due to climate change, notes 

William Nitze, prominent member of the SPP and chairman of GridPoint 
Inc., a company that makes energy management systems, is not in favor of 
bulk water exports.

“Water management has been poor in all three countries,” Nitze said. 
Canada, for example, favors guidelines over mandatory rules for keeping 
pollutants out of water. And Mexico needs to double its investment in 
its water infrastructure, he noted.

Nikiforuk agrees that Canada has mismanaged its water resources. He 
points out that Canada already ships enormous volumes of water to the 
United States, in the form its main exports: grain, cattle, hogs, 
aluminum, automobiles and oil. Each of these requires many tons of water 
to produce, but the latter is perhaps the most controversial.

Most of Canada’s oil comes from the tar sands, a 125-billion-dollar 
capital project in the boreal forest of northern Alberta province. One 
million barrels of oil flow south each day to the U.S. making Canada its 
largest supplier.

However, it takes three barrels of freshwater to produce one barrel of 
oil from the tar sands, says Nikiforuk.

The project already consumes 359 million cubic metres of water, enough 
for a city of two million people in Canada. Ninety percent of the water 
becomes contaminated and has to be stored in vast tailings impoundments. 
More than 10 of these exist, covering an area of 50 square km.

Members of the SPP North American Energy Working Group met in Houston, 
in the southern U.S. state of Texas, in 2006, where they talked about 
the “pipeline challenge”, a proposed a five-fold increase in production 
at the tar sands, said Nikiforuk.

“No mention was made of water at the meeting, but there isn’t nearly 
enough water in the region for this kind of expansion,” he said.

Under NAFTA rules, Canada cannot reduce its energy exports to the United 
States, according to Gordon Laxer, director of the Parkland Institute, a 
research network at the University of Alberta. “The U.S. is the most 
energy wasteful nation on Earth. And Canada is sacrificing its 
environment to feed America’s addiction to oil,” Laxer said in an interview.

“Respected energy analyst Matthew Simmons told me Canada should stop 
furthering the U.S. addiction to liquid fuels and make it illegal to use 
fresh water in tar sands,” said Nikiforuk.

There is ample evidence that environmental standards and stewardship in 
Canada and Mexico have plummeted since NAFTA went into effect in 1994, 
and “accelerated trade under the SPP means accelerated environmental 
abuse,” he said.

*Originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the 
Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a specialised news service 
produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development 
Programme and the United Nations Environment Programme.)

  Global Research Articles by Stephen Leahy
Macdonald Stainsby
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