Create an independent Canada Water Agency

Speaker: Ms. May
Time: 30/01/2023 18:30:32
Context: Question

Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP): Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today on our first day back in calendar 2023. I am returning to a question that I put to the hon. Minister of Environment on October 20, 2022. It is important to note the date because of the minister’s response.

My question cited the Liberal platform which was in the election of 2021 which they promised to, “Establish and fully fund a Canada Water Agency in 2022”. It was also promised that they would, “Modernize the 50-year-old Canada Water Act”.

The Minister of Environment responded with, “we are, in fact, working to create an independent water agency for Canada.” He said we needed to pursue this and then at the end of his response, he said, “we will have good news to announce to this House in the coming weeks.”

That was October 20, 2022, and of course, it is true that the last week of January 2023 does fall within weeks after the answer that we received in October, but the nature of the minister’s answer, I think it is fair to say, suggested something a bit sooner than sometime next year and we are still waiting.

We are now in a period of pre-budget work, and I think it is important to focus now on what the government must include in the budget if it is at all serious about creating a Canada water agency. I note particularly, and it was encouraging to me at the time, that the hon. Minister of Environment and Climate Change used the word “independent” to refer to this agency.

I want to cite that we have quite a lot of good, solid work being done in the NGO community by groups like Flow and others across Canada that work on water policy. There is a strong consensus that the Canada water agency must be independent of the Department of Environment and Climate Change, the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food, as well as the Department of Natural Resources.

There is a strong call to have an officer of chief water security to work through interjurisdictional blockages and ensure that this country has strong water policy. We know we need to ensure that we have what we used to have in Canada, which was co-operation and shared work between provinces and the federal government, with the federal government in the lead, on programs to avoid flooding.

Flood plain work was shared, anticipating the vulnerabilities of our water system to floods and making sure that we pay attention to water policy, particularly around our freshwater systems, like the Great Lakes or Lake Winnipeg.

It is extraordinarily important that we rebuild the scientific capacity we once had in this country, which is now down to precious little compared to what was there when I worked in the Minister of Environment’s office back in the eighties. We had a robust program, an inland waters directorate, near Hamilton. We had a very strong department with hundreds of people working. It has virtually disappeared.

What happened to the coming weeks? What happened to the good news? When are we going to see an independent Canada water agency that is fully funded to at least $1 billion a year as promised in the platform?