STEWART UDALL, U. S. Secretary of the Interior, says: “We (Americans) are not looking hungrily at Canada’s water resources. We're looking at our own.” The U. S. has “suddenly begun to realize that if we do the right job on pollution control, we are going to increase our water resources enormously.”
There is no reason to doubt either the sincerity or the accuracy of these statements. As the late General A. G. L. McNaughton pointed out repeatedly, in speeches to audiences in both countries, the U. S. is not yet short of water, it’s merely short of clean water. General McNaughton thought, rightly in our view, that Americans should clean up their own water supplies before seeking to buy, borrow or otherwise share ours, and Secretary Udall agrees.
But what too few Canadians seem to realize, as they look complacently on the vastness of Canada’s fresh water (40 percent of the whole world’s supply, according to some estimates) is that the settled part of Canada is almost as hard up for clean, fresh water as is the United States. We too are in urgent need of increasing our supply of accessible fresh water, by “doing the right job on pollution control.” And so far, Canada appears to be far behind the United States in any serious attempt to tackle the problem.
Last year, the U. S. Congress passed legislation with teeth in it, to encourage and if necessary compel pollution control by states, industries and municipalities. When is Canada going to do the same?
Politicians, in all parties and all levels of government, often cite the constitutional problem as an excuse for inaction—water in most of its uses and places is a provincial matter, provinces must beware of forcing up industrial costs above those of other provinces, and so, alas, nothing can be done. Nonsense. A great deal can be done, and the federal government can and should give a lead.
It could, for one example, impose severe tax penalties on industries that pollute their environment, while offering handsome tax bonuses to those that refrain from doing so. It could bring to the coordination of pollution-control programs something of the same energy, and urgency, and financial resources that it devoted to medicare — also a provincial field, but one the federal government is willing to invade for the advantage of all the people. At the very least it could call a meeting with provincial authorities to discuss the problem at a senior level, and incidentally consolidate its own authorities on water into one agency instead of the score or more that impinge upon it now.
Unless something like this is done, the U. S. is going to have ample supplies of clean water before wre do. This might serve us right, but it’s a poor way to demonstrate our national independence.
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