Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The NDP are the only party guarding water sovereignty!

Thank you for taking the time to share your concerns over Canada's water sovereignty. Happy World Water Day!

Please know that my party and myself share these concerns. In fact, our interest to protect Canada's water resources dates back to Canada's early involvement with the North American Free Trade Agreement.

First and foremost, New Democrats believe that the access to clean water is not a privilege but a human right for all Canadians and people worldwide. We are dismayed that the Conservative government decided against a recent United Nations resolution to recognize access to water and sanitation as basic human rights.

Our vision for Canada includes a commitment to protecting our supplies of fresh water by excluding it from all international trade agreements, privatization and deregulation (http://www.ndp.ca/vision/environment).
Water is our most precious natural resource, but it belongs to both all of us and none of us-it is not a commercial commodity. We have been told repeatedly that our water resources would be protected in trade deals.
However, neither Conservative nor Liberal governments have added water to the list of goods to be exempt from NAFTA. This omission has left a loophole that could eventually cause us to lose control over our own water resources.

We have consistently called for the development of a robust National Water Policy. Such a policy is urgently needed to address important water-related issues facing all of us today - including the roughly 1,700 boiled water advisories affecting Canadians and the negative environmental impact of water use in the tar sands development. While the Harper government committed to a clean water strategy in the past, it has yet to produce one.

Please know that I share your concerns about the NAFTA record-setting $130 million payoff by the Harper Government to Abitibi Bowater. New Democrats have been working to hold the Harper government to account regarding its gross mishandling of this case.

As you may know, NDP International Trade Critic Peter Julian put forth a motion to the International Trade Committee to start hearings into the Abitibi Bowater deal and into the impact of this settlement on future decisions taken in the public interest.

In 2007, when Parliament voted 134 to 108 in favour of preventing bulk water exports, the motion came about from a push by the New Democrats to hold hearings on the impact of the so-called Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) because SPP negotiations have revived troubling questions over access to Canadian water. Our party worked tirelessly to stop the SPP, which, under the Liberal Martin government, removed Canadian sovereignty of many our natural resources, of which water was a hotly debated issue.

You may also be interested to learn that federal NDP councillors, representing regions and groups from across Canada, have adopted the following resolution on trade agreements:

"BE IT RESOLVED THAT the NDP continue advocating the renegotiation of NAFTA to remove Chapter 11, which enables foreign investors to directly sue governments over public policies.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the NDP advocate amending trade deals to ensure that labour rights are subject to an enforcement mechanism at least as strong as investor rights.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the NDP call for the application of countervailing import tariffs equal to the cost advantage gained by a foreign producer through violations of labour rights and/or environmental standards." (NDP Federal Council Motion-adopted Oct. 2,

Again, thank you for writing. I appreciate knowing of your interest to have effective measures in place that will preserve and protect our water for future generations. Please know that we will continue to press this important issue.

All the best,

Jack Layton, MP (Toronto-Danforth)
Leader, Canada's New Democrats

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