‘Hogwash,’ says Abbotsford MP to trade claims on water

There is no danger that Abbotsford residents will compromise ownership of water rights if they vote in favour of a P3 water

  • Oct. 26, 2011 7:00 a.m.

by Kevin Mills and Neil Corbett

Abbotsford News

There is no danger that Abbotsford residents will compromise ownership of water rights if they vote in favour of a P3 water system, according to Abbotsford MP Ed Fast.

Opponents of the P3 proposal, including CUPE and a local linked organization Water Watch Mission-Abbotsford, have put forth the argument that private control of Abbotsford’s water could result from a P3 deal. They say a multi-national corporation could use the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the coming Canadian/European Union Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) to facilitate foreign ownership of Canadian water.

“Absolutely not. That’s hogwash – misinformation spread by people with an ideological opposition to P3 agreements,” said Fast.

Fast has a unique perspective from which to comment on the Stave Lake water referendum in his home riding on Nov. 19.

He was a member of Abbotsford city council for nine years, and has first-hand experience with the city’s water infrastructure.

This year, the third-term MP was appointed as minister of international trade. He is involved in CETA negotiations, and has spent the last five months learning the intricacies of trade agreements.

“I am very up to date, and I have a very full understanding of what’s involved,” said Fast, who points out when NAFTA was being negotiated, opponents said the government was “selling out” Canadian culture, jobs and water rights to the U.S.

“NAFTA has been in place 17 years, and none of that has happened,” said Fast.

The Canadian government has maintained a position that “water is not on the table.”

Any agreement that allowed the sale of Canadian water rights would be outside Canadian law – of no force and effect, said Fast.

“Canadian sovereignty over water will be fully protected.”

Critics of the P3 plan remain adamant that the danger exists.

Earlier this month, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow was in Abbotsford as part of a cross-country tour, called Canadian Communities Are Not For Sale.

One of her main concerns is CETA will give foreign corporations the right to sue Canadian governments if they attempt to interfere with the company’s ability to make a profit. She told those in attendance at the University of the Fraser Valley that Chapter 11 of NAFTA already allows corporations to sue for compensation, and CETA will do the same.

While Fast and Barlow are on opposite sides of a charged debate, Simon Fraser University’s Alex Moens has an academic view of the issue.

Professor Moens teaches international relations, specializing in American politics and U.S. foreign policy, as well as the policies of the European Union. In April 1999, he was a visiting fellow (an academic performing research) at the Center for Hemispheric Studies at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.

While he hasn’t seen reports on the Abbotsford issue, Moens said if the delivery of water is for individual consumer use in Abbotsford  and is not going to be part of a further production process for commercial sale, there should be no NAFTA concerns.

“Given those conditions, I cannot see any possible angle where anyone could use Chapter 11 in the United States to argue that this opens a way, for example, for American companies to draw water from Canada for municipal use in the United States. I cannot see it – I want to be careful because I have not done the research – but I cannot see how this would apply to a NAFTA challenge.

“It seems to me to really be a stretch.”

Hypothetically, Moens said if the city opened bidding for water sales, and allowed U.S. bids, but then for some reason decided the U.S. can’t bid, he could see the possibility of a legal challenge.

Moens believes some of the concerns may be based on an emotional reaction.

“The history of water trade in NAFTA is a very interesting one because in the very beginning of this debate there were companies in eastern Canada that wanted to sell water from the Great Lakes to Asia.”

The companies were stopped by Michigan-based advocates who didn’t want the water sold. Moens said in Canada we think of the Americans wanting our water, but at first, it was the other way around.

As for the theory that a private company could begin changing the conditions of a contract, in an attempt to force the city to treat more water than needed in order to make more profit, Moens said its a “weak” notion.

“Nothing in NAFTA, by itself, removes regulatory powers of government.”

He said there would have to be a provision that absolutely specifies such a removal.

“… as far as I know there is no regulatory limit for the governments of Canada on how to manage its production of water that is subject to a NAFTA override.”

As for CETA, Moens pointed out that it is still in negotiation, and declined to comment.

Just Posted

Singer Ben Cottrill performs during the 2019 Arty Awards at The Reach Gallery Museum, the last time the event was held in person. Cottrill received the award in the performing arts category. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
Nominations now open for 2021 Arty Awards

Annual event hosted by Abbotsford Arts Council, with ceremony Sept. 25

Xauni de Figeuiroa of Abbotsford has been selected to attend a virtual space camp hosted by the Canadian Space Agency at the end of July.
Abbotsford student selected to attend virtual space camp

Xauni de Figeuiroa among 52 youth selected from across Canada

Kindergarten kids from Evans elementary school in Chilliwack painted rocks with orange hearts and delivered them to Sto:lo Elders Lodge recently after learning about residential schools. (Laura Bridge photo)
Kindergarten class paints rocks with orange hearts in Chilliwack for local elders

‘Compassion and empathy’ being shown by kids learning about residential schools

Chilliwack potter Cathy Terepocki (left) and Indigenous enhancement teachers Val Tosoff (striped top) and Christine Seymour (fuchsia coat), along with students at Vedder middle school, look at some of the 500-plus pinch pots on Thursday, June 10 made by the kids to honour the 215 children found at Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack students make hundreds of tiny clay pots in honour of 215 Indigenous children

‘I think the healing process has begun,’ says teacher about Vedder middle school project

A program of the Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation enables patients to thank their health-care workers.
Fraser Valley program enables patients to say thanks to their health-care workers

Philip Harris Grateful Patient Program offered through health care foundation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Harvesting hay in the Fraser Valley. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
COVID-19: B.C. waives farm income requirement for a second year

Property owners don’t need minimum income for 2022 taxes

Cruise ship passengers arrive at Juneau, Alaska in 2018. Cruise lines have begun booking passengers for trips from Seattle to Alaska as early as this July, bypassing B.C. ports that are not allowed to have visitors until March 2022 under a Canadian COVID-19 restrictions. (Michael Penn/Juneau Empire)
B.C. doesn’t depend on U.S. law to attract cruise ships, Horgan says

Provinces to get update next week on Canada’s border closure

This undated photo provided by Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails shows a scout donating cookies to firefighters in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, as part of the Hometown Heroes program. As the coronavirus pandemic wore into the spring selling season, many Girl Scout troops nixed their traditional cookie booths for safety reasons. That resulted in millions of boxes of unsold cookies. (Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails via AP)
Thinner Mints: Girl Scouts have millions of unsold cookies

Since majority of cookies are sold in-person, pandemic made the shortfall expected

In this artist’s sketch, Nathaniel Veltman makes a video court appearance in London, Ont., on June 10, 2021 as Justice of the Peace Robert Seneshen (top left) and lawyer Alayna Jay look on. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould
Terror charges laid against London attack suspect

Crown says Nathaniel Veltman’s four counts of first-degree murder constitute an act of terrorism

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province's fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Most Read