Former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed is to be commended for his Nov. 11 op-ed in the Globe and Mail in which he warned of an impending aggressive U.S. push for access to Canada's fresh water resources.
"With climate change and growing needs," Lougheed wrote, "Canadians will need all the fresh water we can conserve, particularly in the Western provinces."
He added that his political instincts tell him that, given the growing water shortages in the U.S., "water availability is going to rise to the top of the U.S. domestic agenda" and with it strong pressure to compel Canada to share its "excess" water with parched Americans.
Lougheed argued that, in the near future, fresh water will become a more valuable commodity than oil, and that Canada should resist a U.S. grab of this valuable resource. So far, so good. But Lougheed erred when he went on to declare that Canadian trade negotiators denied a U.S. demand that fresh water should be covered by the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and later by NAFTA. "Fresh water," he wrote, "was not included in the free trade deal."
Unfortunately, he's wrong. As veteran Canadian trade negotiator MeI Clark pointed out in The Monitor five years ago, "the Canadian government, when it signed NAFTA, effectively yielded control of our country's water to the United States."
Clark went on to make the following points:
Now that the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)-which did specifically assure Canada control of its water-has been superseded by NAFTA, Americans have been given the same rights as Canadians to our water. NAFTA cancels our right to tax water exports to the U.S., overrides the constitutional right of the provinces to control the water within their boundaries, and accords to U.S. corporations the right to sue the federal government if it-or a province-fails to respect the terms of NAFTA. Nowhere in NAFTA is there any wording that gives Ottawa or the provinces the right to limit or embargo water exports to the U.S.
To be specific, the NAFTA provisions giving Americans control of Canada's water are Tariff Heading 22. …