From the Council of Canadians newsletter, December 21, 2010
The Council of Canadians and The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) released a report last week raising serious concerns about the threat a trade deal with the European Union poses to Canada’s public water systems.
Public Water For Sale: How Canada will privatize our public water systems is a report to municipal, provincial and territorial governments regarding the Canada European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). It warns that public water in Canada will be lost unless the provinces and territories take immediate steps to remove water from the scope of negotiations.
CETA would open up public municipal water systems across Canada to privatization. Europe is home to private water giants such as Veolia Environment and Suez. At the request of these private, for-profit water corporations, Canada’s provincial and territorial governments are considering including drinking water and wastewater services in their services commitments under CETA. Once systems are privatized, public control and accountability would be lost.
“CETA is a water privatization deal,” says Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “Our public water is being negotiated away behind closed doors. We need to act now or we will wake up one morning and our public water systems will be gone.”
CUPE and the Council of Canadians are calling on the provinces and territories to assert their jurisdiction and protect water from being opened up to private corporate interests.
We agree with both the Council of Canadians and CUPE that Canadian water must not be sold, under this, or any other agreement.
We would like to point out that, if and when the deal goes through, as it likely will, once the intellectual property rights issue has been ironed out, then, when European Union representatives arrive at the door of a Mayor's office, or a Deputy Mayor's office, bearing gifts of millions of Euro's, the municipal politicians will bend over backwards asking, "How much water did you say you wanted, and for how many decades are you willing to pay that amount?"
Inside their heads, those politicians will be saying, "Just imagine how many jobs this deal will bring to our community, and how these dollars will support our tax base and perhaps even lower our tax rates, and then, just think how this will look when it is time to campaign for the next election!" Chortling with glee, with visions of dollars and votes dancing in their heads, they will sign, almost before the EU representatives have removed their coats, for the simple reason that they will be "protecting the (short-term) interests of their municipality," not to mention the short-term interests of those politicians.
And, it will be wrong, and once the horse has bolted from the barn, it will be impossible to get it back. Once the deal is signed, the Americans will also be banging at those same doors, and the sell-off (or the rape) will have begun.
And, since the deal is being negotiated at a time of year when most people are paying attention to "more important matters" like Christmas and Hannukah and family visits and dinners and Santa Claus, it will not get the scrutiny that it deserves.
Water, so says the U.N. declaration, is a human right, not just another commodity, and just because the current Canadian government did not sign that declaration, does not mean that, on this issue, the government speaks for all Canadians. It certainly does not speak for this Canadian, and let's hope there are so many other Canadians and people from all over the world who can and do see the long-term impact both of the U.N. declaration and a bi-lateral deal between Canada and the EU that could result in the sale of Canadian water, and force the Canadian government to opt for the former, not the latter.
Just like air, water must be available for all, as a human right!