Blue gold: Canada’s new frontier

By Mike Fegelman

Water on demand, that’s what we’ve got. With every turn of the faucet, every flush of the toilet, and every 20-minute shower we take, we’ve got a clean and clear resource at our very want and whim.

Just like air, water is necessary for sustaining human life. Still, 1.1 billion people around the world do not have access to clean drinking water, whether they’re paying inflated prices for bottled water, or walking great distances to gather untreated water, therefore continuing the spread of leprosy, malaria, and other diseases.

Let’s put this into perspective. The average Canadian consumes 1.5 litres of water each day and each household uses an average of 343 litres in a day. In comparison to a typical Third World household which uses 40 litres of water to both drink and bath in.

I don’t think we realize how truly lucky we are as Canadians to have 20 per cent of the world’s freshwater resources. That being said, our water-rich nation has the responsibility to ensure that water-deprived countries aren’t denied this basic human right.

But humanitarian interests aside, we cannot be naïve to the economic opportunities that lie in the export of water. The potential profit could garner huge revenues that could be used for reducing the deficit, improving social services, and annihilating homelessness.

Some even say our water resources are equivalent to Saudi oil, otherwise known as black gold and that its true value is unimaginable.

With the sale of our “blue gold” Canada can be placed into the forefront of international trade, therefore stimulating our economy and allowing our nation to be a viable competitor in all aspects.

So where does this leave us?

There are two main choices: the first: to privatize our water industry and export our prized natural resource for profit. The second: to stand pat and selfishly keep our water to ourselves.

Proponents of the first, organizations like Industry Canada, argue that competition and free enterprise could offer the best services, as capitalism encourages efficient and cost-effective delivery to its consumers.

Those opposing the idea of water as an international export, the Council of Canadians for example, argues that the sale of our water could bring about widespread environmental catastrophes.

But I have one more idea; why not appoint a Crown corporation to oversee the export of our water. Being that water is such a vital industry, it need not be tarnished by the lure of the private sector. I think it must be handled in a bureaucratic manner, so as to promote an aura of legitimacy that will look at the economic and environmental considerations at the same time.

So which method is the best?

If we do nothing and keep the status quo, there will be no environmental disruptions. But then again, people in impoverished countries will continue to get sick and die.

I cannot agree that doing nothing is the appropriate method. Canada is in a privileged position; we are the water barons of the world and we carry a very valuable resource in our possession.

But the environmental concerns are valid. According to Environment Canada, water is a renewable resource, but it renews so slowly this is almost negligible. By exporting our water, there’s a potential to disrupt ecosystems. It may start a butterfly effect of worldwide environmental disasters. But then again, the same could be said about our forestry, fishing, and mining industries, which are all exported around the world.

So then we must sell our water. But who do we put in charge?

Privatization has been successful in Bolivia, but this project is still in its infancy and therefore any assessment would be premature.

There’s also the consideration that since hydro in Ontario has been privatized, our rates have increased and corruption ensued. But then again, look at the sponsorship scandal and you’ll see the same thing happening when our government takes charge.

But no matter how spin doctored this issue becomes, wouldn’t you rather the money go back into government? A Crown corporation is not only the best method, but is the only method that we should consider.

The people of the world are parched and dying. Canada might also miss out on a huge financial opportunity if desalinization methods continue, making our once-valuable resource worthless. There are economic opportunities for Canada, but we must also consider our responsibilities to the Third World, who are bullied by the World Bank and the IMF to privatize their water industry. We have the power to make changes that will affect the world for the better.

You ever play Monopoly and get the water works card? No one really wants it, but soon everyone will want our water works card and wars may even be fought over it in the future.

This is the position we’re in: we’ve stopped, collected $200 and we’re this close to hitting free parking… all we need to do is roll the dice.