Let’s get ready to rumble… about bulk water exports


Paul Dewar says he would ban bulk water exports and he challenges Thomas Mulcair to say likewise.

“I’ll be frank with you, I haven’t heard Tom speak on this issue since he’s been elected as a member of Parliament. I hope that the position he had before with the Liberal government, which was in the past, is in the past, and that his position will be the party position,” added Dewar.

Back in 2004, Mulcair called for a debate on the bulk export of fresh water in Quebec to the United States despite a five-year ban imposed by the Parti Quebecois in 2001. He argued it was already happening with respect to bottled water and that water exports could keep people in remote parts of the province which are bleeding jobs in forestry, fishing and mining.

The Liberal campaign in 2008 seems to have uploaded video of Mr. Mulcair discussing bulk water exports when he was a member of the Quebec assembly.

I can find no reference to bulk water exports in the NDP’s 2011 platform, but the party’s 2008 platform included a promise to “ban bulk fresh water exports from Canada by federal law.”


Let’s get ready to rumble… about bulk water exports

  1. Bravo! Instead of allowing bulk freshwater exports from the St Lawrence, we should be demanding that every drop end up in the Atlantic Ocean where it will become useless salt water.  

    • Well said.  We must export our fresh water to the oceans, not the Americans!

      • Would you so mock someone who simply opposes the private commodification of water?  

        Presumably the notion that letting the water go into the ocean rather than collecting it and selling it is preferable isn’t a crazy idea from the perspective of someone who doesn’t believe that fresh water ought to be bought and sold as just another commodity.

        • Yeesh.  Water is too precious to be sold as a commodity.  That’s why we must allow trillions of tons of freshwater to flow into the Atlantic Ocean unimpeded, without “selling” even a billionth of that amount.

          • If one morally objects to the selling of water for profit, what does it matter how much water is sitting around, or where it’s flowing to?

          • that depends if one’s moral opinion is based on fact and rational decision making as opposed to some “feeling” that selling water is immoral. If you’re not opposed to letting it flow into the ocean thn why would you be opposed to selling it. I’ll tell you why, because you’d rather see it go down the drain than let someone else benefit from it, in this case the Americans.

          • Letting someone else benefit from it, and letting a private corporation PROFIT from it are two different things.

            I should say that I’m not sure that I necessarily object to the private commodification of water, I just don’t think that moral objections of that kind are somehow irrational.

            I presume that if the UN’s Water for Life program wanted to collect fresh water in Canada for villages in Africa that the NDP would not object to that type of non-profit “bulk water export”. I presume it’s the collection water by private corporations and its sale for profit that they object to, and even if I don’t agree with that moral stance, I hardly see it as irrational.

          • @Lord_Kitcheners_Own:disqus 

            I presume that if the UN’s Water for Life program wanted to collect fresh water in Canada for villages in Africa that the NDP would not object to that type of non-profit “bulk water export”.

            That presumption is moronic, because it’s sheer idiocy to “export” water halfway across the planet in the first place. 

          • Sure, my point was simply that it’s possible for a person to object to the commercial sale of freshwater on moral grounds without being accused of wanting to let Africa “dehydrate”, which commenters here at Macleans have done.

        • Yes, yes I would.

  2. Most people who oppose “bulk water exports” are uninformed fools who haven’t the slightest clue about water.

    • Most who oppose distrust the level of control Canada would have in turning off the tap if it were ever required.
      Besides if they want outdoor pools, green grass and fountains in a desert; let them reassign there water usage before wasting more of it.
      There’s also considerations of the effects on shipping, water habitats as well as unintended consequences of large scale water removal.

      Looking at our sell to the south at all costs energy sales approach, there is much to debate.

      • Newsflash:  Canada isn’t exporting water to desert states.

        • Do you know where the market would be for these bulk exports CR?

    • Really Crit? Proof please.

      • Go jump in a lake.

        • So rather than providing proof of your assertions you resort to insults. I’m only asking because I honestly want to know — I guess I’ll just remain an “uniformed fool” by your standards but hey, don’t blame me for my ignorance. I gave you an opportunity to prove your statement. I guess you’re just another troll from the PMO war room.

          Have a nice day.

          • The “go jump in a lake” thing was a joke.  About water.  Turns out we have lots and lots of it.

          • Oops, sorry. I forgot to bring my sense of humour with me today.  Cheers!

  3. More reactionary pious nonsense from Dewar and NDP. 

    Canadians consume large amounts of water every day – significantly more than world average – but we refuse to sell naturally replenishing product to people who need water for basic needs. The world can dehydrate as far as NDP are concerned while Canadians waste enormous amounts of precious product.

    NDP = Let them eat cake! 

    CBC News ~ Selling Canada’s Water:

    Canada lucked out in the global water sweeps. We are near the top of water-rich nations, trailing only Brazil, Russia and China. Thanks to the replenishing cycle of rain and evaporation, the amount of water on Earth has remained the same over the past four billion years. 

    Estimates of Canada’s supply of fresh water vary from 5.6 per cent to nine per cent to 20 per cent of the world’s supply, depending on how one defines “fresh water” – whether it means “available,” “usable,” or merely “existing.” One study says Canada has 20 per cent of the world’s fresh water – ranking it at the top – but only nine per cent of “renewable” fresh water. 

    Whatever the case, Canadians consume 350 litres of water a day per capita, second only to the Americans as the most profligate wasters of water in the world. The average global citizen needs only between 20 and 40 litres of water a day for drinking and sanitation.

    • Canadians consume large amounts of water every day – significantly more than world average – but we refuse to sell naturally replenishing product to people who need water for basic needs. 

      Some people would say that this argument is the equivalent of “We’ve got huge amounts of this substance that people literally need to live just sitting around, why on Earth aren’t we allowing private corporations to make a profit off of it?”

      The hyperbolic analogy would be to India or China saying “We’ve got all these kids living and dying in slums and their lives are being wasted.  Why don’t we let some multinationals come in, gather them up, and sell them at a modest profit to people overseas who would give them a good home?”

      Not wanting to allow the sale of water by private entities for a profit is not the same as telling the world that they can just dehydrate, any more than not wanting to sell children for a profit would mean that one objects to adoption.  I don’t believe that the water leaving Canada is the issue for most of those who object to bulk water exports.  The water being collected by private corporations and sold for a profit is the issue.

      • I also highly doubt that “bulk water exports” refers to the sale of it “to people who need water for basic needs”. It’s highly unlikely that it will leave the continent as the people who are in a real shortage situation are not able to pay for it.  

        • I certainly know that if I was selling water for a profit I’d call golf courses in Arizona and Nevada before calling drought plagued villages in sub-Saharan Africa.

          • Are we selling/distributing to either at the moment?

          • Good question. I honestly don’t know the answer (except that I’m pretty sure that “we” aren’t doing so, though some private company might be).

            That said, I’d be surprised if someone out there is selling water to drought-plagued villages in sub-Saharan Africa for a profit. It would shock me to learn that impoverished villages in Africa could actually afford to have large amounts of fresh water shipped in to them from Canada by a private corporation that’s operating for profit.

          • @Lord_Kitcheners_Own:disqus 

            LKO, you seriously need to acquire a basic education in stuff like science and economics if you somehow imagine that it makes sense for Canada to ship water to Africa.  No offense.

          • None taken.  My reference to Africa was more in response to comments suggesting that people who have a moral objection to the commercial sale of freshwater are in favour of letting Africa burn which is, as you point out, ridiculous.

            That said, the fact that the only place that it makes sense to ship bulk freshwater is a place that’s not actually in dire need of it arguably lends some small bit of support to people who want it banned on moral grounds.

            ETA: Also, didn’t I actually say in the comment you’re replying to that it would surprise me if anyone was shipping water to Africa?

      • Oh carp! Next you’re going to say the same thing about oil!

        • I would have thought that even the most jaded observer could see the distinction between oil and water. However, even so, it’s not like private corporations can just grab oil from anywhere without restrictions and sell it at a profit. A ban on the private export of water for profit is really just a point at the far end of the spectrum of the already existing restrictions on the exploitation of oil (or lumber, or minerals, etc…).

  4. Is it unreasonable to have a national water strategy such that we are sure the water exported is not of the drain our lakes and waterways variety?  As in most things, a certain amount of moderation is key, and specifically with water, I think where it is taken is also of importance.  Opening the, uh, floodgates as it were is no more the answer than ensuring not a single drop is sold from anywhere.  But with no national strategy looking at the big picture, how can we know the impacts?

    • How much and from where are indeed enormous concerns, if we are going to proceed rationally. 

    • Based upon other comments here, and presuming that they’re largely accurate, I’m not sure that worrying about how much water might be exported (in the sense of worrying about causing strain on our lakes and waterways) is a pressing concern.  While there may be specific lakes and waterways that are the exception to this rule, my impression is that there is enough fresh water in Canada that companies would hit the “Now we’ve extracted more water than we could possibly sell in a generation” long before such activities actually had an effect on a lake or waterway.  

      That said, I’m sure there are no doubt sensitive waterways that would need to be protected, however, these are probably also not likely sources for a water exporting company to tap, as they’d either be insufficient and/or unsustainable compared to much more plentiful options.

      • I’m remembering going on a sightseeing trip somewhere within the great lakes and seeing people wading, pulling their large powerboat behind them, up to the island their cottage was on.  I thought it was amazing the water level was so low but I later heard the U.S. didn’t need to do something around Buffalo I think, since they had so much rainfall that year.  I believe the two were connected in spite of being so hazy on the details.  Now, perhaps a bad example since we do not own the Great Lakes by ourselves, but certainly shows the selling (or giving away or just diverting) of water can have a marked effect on a lake.

    • … no more the answer than ensuring not a single drop is sold from anywhere.

      I’m not sure that’s true if one has a moral objection to the private commercial sale of water, which I believe that many people do.  

      If one has a MORAL objection to the private sale of water, in the same (though obviously much less serious) sense that one has a moral objection to the selling of people, or the selling of human organs, then presumably any amount of private sale is unacceptable.

      • Well, as you’ve said above I think, no company could actually sell water for a profit to those needing it for survival.  So, I highly doubt that moral objection applies.  We are selling it to those who want green lawns and swimming pools in spite of choosing to live in a desert.  I see no reason those people shouldn’t pay for it.  Or, and perhaps more commonly, we are selling it to people who feel the water out of the tap “isn’t good enough” and choose to buy water out of a bottle but at a ridiculous price.  Those people NEED to pay for it to make it worthy of them.  I live in an extremely hard water community.  About the only thing our water is good for is drinking–its everything else where it wrecks our machinery (coffee pots, washing machines, dishwashers, etc.). 

        • All true, but again, I believe that there are some people who have a moral objection to the private selling of freshwater for profit, full stop.  

          So, while people who want to use water in order to have green lawns and swimming pools in the desert should absolutely have to pay for that, there are people who believe that they shouldn’t be PERMITTED to pay for it, just like people aren’t permitted to buy a human kidney, or pay for a baby from China.  Whether such a moral objection is reasonable is another question, but if that’s how one views the issue then there’s presumably NO “appropriate” mechanism for selling freshwater whatsoever.  Period.

  5. Evryone should watch the CBC drama “H2O” – in that TV movie/series a Quebec politician (with a beard!) fights to prevent the “commoditization” of water – in part because once that happens we can’t change our mind or slow down how much is exported – because of NAFTA. Ironically… the PM in the movie argues “we already export water – bottled water!

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