MONTREAL – According to a recent study, Quebec is rich with water and could grow richer by $6.5 billion annually if it decides to export the resource. The suggestion, however, has already provoked heated criticism. The report, a project of the Montreal Economic Institute (MEI) — an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank — recommends that Quebec extract one-tenth of its supply for profit.
Marcel Boyer, vice president and chief economist of MEI, points out in the report that Quebec boasts three percent of the world’s freshwater reserves per inhabitant and supports only one-tenth of its population. Not only could extracting water for export enhance the economy, with the right regulation it could also encourage Canadian citizens to use the resource sustainably, he maintains.
Canada’s Department of the Environment, however, suggests that only seven percent of Canada’s water is actually renewable. “The MEI study coming out now is extremely disturbing,” Francis Scarpaleggia, MP for Lac St. Louis and the Liberals’ critic on water issues told The Gazette. Scarpaleggia recently introduced a bill to prevent significant national and transnational water transfers.
Boyer emphasizes that “Quebec must be imaginative in exploiting its water resources. Implementing its freshwater export potential and protecting the environment will pose great challenges, but the biggest danger on the horizon would be to get cold feet in designing and implementing the governance mechanisms for the major infrastructure projects that will be needed for this exploitation.”
For critics, however, ‘exploit’ remains the operative term. “Canada’s precious fresh water resource belongs to the people,” Joe Cressy, of the non-profit Polaris Institute, told The Gazette, “and cannot be bundled and privatized at the whim of government and corporate interests.”
Read the report here [pdf].