Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Struggle for Water

Passports Required at Canadian Border?

It has been a hot topic of debate whether or not the United States and Canada should require passports at the border between the two countries. Among the arguments against it is that it would be bad for business. Some say that a small percentage of Americans have passports, so this might reduce the flow of tourists north. This would restrict the movement of people across the border. While the European Union as an economic bloc has been moving towards the freer (that word looks funny) movement of people as well as goods across national borders, the NAFTA bloc (drafted by bloc-heads?) has been falling apart. As well, the United States has put in place tariffs on softwood lumber coming from Canada that directly contravene the stipulations of NAFTA, and both the Canadian lumber industry and the American consumer are suffering as prices of this commodity in the US rise.

On the other hand, the normalization of international relations between the United States and Canada is necessary at this juncture if Canada wants to maintain independence in the world economy. We have the second largest oil reserves in the world, according to the somewhat ineffective method of calculating reserves by only regarding the statistics of proven reserves. We also have huge water resources. If the United States continues to levy tariffs on lumber imports, the Canadian government will look to sell its oil to China and India. Furthermore, the current practise of selling the huge majority of petroleum produced in Canada to the United States must stop. If Canada, a net petroleum exporting country, sold its oil within its borders, rather than importing oil from unstable areas, we could lower our own fuel pricesinsert sarcastic dig at Canada's trade policies here. The requirement of passports would constitute one such measure of normalization. Several vigilante patrol groups on the American side have confronted visitors, demanding passports long before this measure has even been introduced. Talk about crazy... They show a total disrespect for international citizenry. Next time they need water, they shouldn't expect to their northern neighbour to help them out in a bind... Shooting yourself in the toe anyone?

The Struggle for Water (next century's oil?)

There has been a dispute over the milk river watershed, which meanders both through American and Canadian soil between Alberta and Montana. The irrigation in Alberta has diverted water from the watershed, leaving water supplies depleted downriver in Montana. This dispute is covered by a treaty over a hundred years old. This is not the only dispute, though. There has been talk of diverting water from the Lake of the Woods into the United States. NAFTA is fuzzy(a lack of clear borders) about water issues. The US cannot legally divert water from water that naturally exists in Canada, but as soon as we start treating it as a commodity, it comes under the jurisdiction of NAFTA, which is far from clear on the subject. Canada should use their water resources as leverage to require that the United States strengthen its sustainable development policies. Air and Water, after all, cannot be confined in borders like humans can. Air pollution from Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Chicago all end up in Canada, which in term affects the integrity of our natural resources.

NAFTA needs renegotiation. While it disgusts me that goods have freer movement than people, I think that in the current political climate the requirement of passports at the border mightn't be the worse thing that happens. What do you think about this issue?
©Trevor Cunnington

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