Backbench Conservative MP Larry Miller has introduced a Private Member’s Bill entitled Bill C-383 Transboundary Waters Protection Act: An Act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act and the International River Improvements Act. Similar bills pop up from time to time but, like most Private Member’s Bills, they rarely make much progress through the legislative system. This time just might be different because Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has announced that the Bill has the support of the Government.
The trouble is that Bill C-383 does not do very much. Although headlines are suggesting that the Bill would prevent bulk water exports, the fact is that it would only stop bulk exports of water from the Canadian portion of rivers that already cross the Canada – US border. There are relatively few transboundary rivers and GallonDaily is not aware of any current threats to any of them from major water export undertakings. Boundary waters, such as the Great Lakes, are already covered by legislation. Rivers and lakes which do not cross the border are apparently not be affected by this legislation. As tabled in the house, the Bill will also have no effect on manufactured products that contains water, including water and other beverages in bottles or other containers.
House of Commons and Committee debate on this Bill will likely provide a field day for groups with opinions on water exports and for the media. At least one of the opposition parties will likely move amendments to expand the scope of the Bill and the Government may find itself under considerable public opinion pressure to do just that.
No date has yet been set for debate or committee hearings on this Bill but it will likely be dealt with, if it is going to be dealt with, this summer.
The text of the Bill can be found at http://parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&DocId=5328384