Tories to Flush Canada-led Water Monitoring Program
I suppose this goes in the ‘if it ain’t oil, we ain’t going to watch it’ file.
Ironically, water will one day be more valuable than oil, but we’ll leave that problem to our kids, I suppose.
All to save a shitty little $1.5 million. How embarassing.
Tories to flush Canada-led water-monitoring program
Written by Sue Bailey, THE CANADIAN PRESS
Thursday, 13 November 2008
OTTAWA – The Harper government wants out of a Canada-led UN program that monitors freshwater around the world – a move being slammed as the latest Tory abdication of global causes once championed by Ottawa.
Experts say they’re shocked Canada would abandon a database it designed and has managed for 30 years, just as dwindling water supplies emerge as a critical issue. Environment Canada spokesman John Carey says the Global Environment Monitoring System is no longer a priority.
"We would like someone else to take it over," he said of the database that tracks trends from 2,700 water-quality monitoring stations in more than 70 countries.
Twenty-four United Nations agencies rely on those details to assess how increasingly precious freshwater sources are being managed.
Canada has most recently co-ordinated the system from labs at the University of Saskatchewan and in Burlington, Ont.
The previous Liberal government set up a five-year trust fund worth $1.5 million that was allowed to expire last year, Carey said in an interview.
"We considered within the department at our management board last spring whether there was any opportunity to replenish the trust fund. And we could not find one. We began considering looking for a partner then.
"We like the program. It’s just not a priority for Environment Canada."
Funding for three related salaries and "a relatively small amount of operating dollars" for the database will continue "until we find someone else to take it over," Carey said.
Errol Mendes, a University of Ottawa law professor and former adviser to the United Nations, says the timing is baffling.
"What will be the most important commodity in the second half of this century? It will not be gold. It will not be oil. It will be water. Water is not a question of whether or not you have more money in the bank. It’s a question of whether you live or die.
"And the fact is some of the most critical countries in the world are literally running out of potable, drinkable water – which this institution was supposed to monitor."
Mendes said the move away from the water system mirrors Canada’s about-face on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Canada under the Conservatives was one of a handful of countries that refused to support the landmark document, citing concerns it would conflict with existing laws.
The rebuff was in stark contrast to support for the process under the Liberals.
Canadian Maude Barlow learned of the impending water-program pullout less than a month into her appointment as the UN’s first adviser on water issues.
"That Canada would remove this support from this program is just outrageous and an embarrassment," she said.
"It’s yet another example … that the Harper government is parochial, that it sees its environment commitments really in terms of optics.
"I have people say to me around the world: whatever happened to your country? We used to be able to count on Canada to take stands. And now Canada is in some cases worse than the United States – just absolutely refusing to partake and participate in international programs."
Germany is among countries reportedly interested in picking up Canada’s slack, Barlow said.
"But why should it move from Canada when it was built on Canadian expertise and technology? When it’s been here for 30 years?"
Monique Dube, an associate professor at the University of Saskatchewan’s School of Environment and Sustainability, is a former research scientist at Environment Canada.
"As a scientist, I’ve used the database myself and I understand the significance of (it) in terms of understanding global water trends, water quality – and how absolutely critical it is.
"If this goes after 30 years of investment, I can tell you … it will take a lot longer than 30 years to rebuild."
Dube says federal apathy for the program is especially wrong-headed because it costs so little to give Canada major international profile on a vital issue.
"What this gives us in terms of a contribution to global water sustainability is unmatched. So a million dollars is a drop in the bucket for something that has such impact."