Wednesday Night #911

Written by  //  August 18, 1999  //  Judith Patterson, Reports, Water, Wednesday Nights  //  Comments Off on Wednesday Night #911 Salon Magazine vol 18

As the guests assembled, it was obvious that university sessions are about to resume. After prolonged summer absences, a familiar – and welcome – complement of professors took their places around the table. In addition, Judith Patterson introduced Dr. Dieter Soyez, professor of Geography at Cologne University. He has wide experience in working in aboriginal and environmental issues.
As the video machines were again functioning, the evening began with a brief tour of the website during which David pointed out the unusual cat on the “soon-come Wednesday Night” page; this is one of Robert Ackerman‘s designs and leads to his home page.


Margaret Lefebvre gave her own version of this year’s “Couch” (see last week for Alex Weinstein‘s take). Although the topic, Science, Ethics & Human Destiny, was not one for which it was easy to find sponsorship, the Board felt strongly that it should be addressed, e.g. Where do we come from? What issues affect our destiny?
Margaret gave a brief summary of some of the ideas that she found particularly intriguing, including:

  • Lifeforms emerged from under the earth’s crust, through the oceans, thus leading scientists to believe that our origins could have been on Mars and have traveled to Earth with asteroids
  • · Extinction of species comes from specialization; as the human brain is what distinguishes us from other lifeforms we may conclude that the seeds of our extinction reside in the human brain.
  • Only the human race has the power to interfere with its own evolution.
  • Earth will end in 50 billion years. There will be no Big Bang as there is no sound in a vacuum.
  • The conflicting forces of Globalization and Environmentalism will bring about the next great social revolution.

A very brief mention was made of Howard Galganov‘s recent and unsuccessful ad calling on American tourists to boycott Québec stores that do not have English on their signs.
“Galganov’s downhill trek” 18 August 1999 . Galganov and his organization, as well as Brent Tyler who took his case to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, frequently overstep the boundaries of common sense by suggesting thoroughly insulting – and false – parallels with totalitarian régimes, notably Nazi Germany. No supporters around the Wednesday Night table. Margo, please note Galganov is not a lawyer!
Julius Grey mentioned Ron Rosenbaum‘s book on Hitler Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil which presents him as a thoroughly dull and inconsequential individual in his private life. Do we overestimate him as an intellectual influence? Why was Mein Kampf considered to be a seminal work? Probably because so few people read it (judging by the straw poll of Wednesday Night). How could the previous generation have been so taken in? Because Hitler was a brilliant communicator, playing on the population’s prejudices, fears and ambitions.

September 21, 2007 Howard Galganov is still an idiot
Hey, remember Howard Galganov? He’s that anglo-rights crusader who was popular back in the 90s, ran for office a bunch of times (and lost) and eventually gave up on our province and moved to Ontario.
Well, Howard doesn’t let silly provincial boundaries stop him from opining, which he does now through his website. His latest diatribe talks about the declining anglophone population in Quebec, and he blames it on what’s clearly the most logical source: the anglophone media. (Except The Suburban and CIQC.)

Drivers targets of drug tests
Quebec’s automobile-insurance board is conducting an unprecedented study to see whether there’s a link between drug use and motor-vehicle accidents. Civil-liberties lawyer Julius Grey said yesterday the methods used to conduct the survey appear to be illegal. Especially taking urine tests on Sherbrooke St.
Lawyer Julius Grey said police are not empowered to stop people at random. “The idea of simply stopping people and asking them to pull over and do this is as bad as if the police were to stop people and ask, ‘Would you like to contribute to a police charity?’

The Chair introduced the topic, saying: We’re all behind you, Mayor Trent, we’d like to know why.
Municipal Affairs Minister, Louise Harel is due to table the government’s answer to the Bédard Commission report on municipal reform next week – or next month, according to whose report one reads. The Métropole and the Capitale will be treated differently from any other towns or cities.
According to the PQ, “Amalgamation is a global trend”, however in reality, Canada is joining the trend just as Europe and the United States are seeking to reverse it. Europe is decentralizing and there is a secessionist trend in the U.S. Meanwhile, in Canada we have Hamilton/Wentworth, Ottawa/Carleton, Dartmouth/Halifax and, of course Toronto.
It appears that the Québec government will not support Mayor Bourque’s proposal, but would look favorably on a more gradual approach, étapisme. (Editor’s note: The Gazette of August 23rd “Mayor, Minister and Merger” quotes Mme Harel as saying that Montreal has grown too big to be administered within the island alone.) Under the White Paper proposals, Québec would name the Chairman of the new regional government; s/he would not be elected.
We cannot “sweep problems under an ever-expanding rug”. It is not true that things will be better for Montreal under the new formula – things will be worse for all of us, including Montreal citizens, and this must be clearly conveyed to them.
The quality of services will NOT improve;
Economies of scale do NOT apply (private sector economics cannot be applied to the public sector).
Our mayor is not standing idly by. Westmount has commissioned a study on municipal amalgamation which should give the suburban mayors a cogent, well documented argument, recognizing that above all we must seek fiscal, not structural, solutions to the problems facing Montreal.

THE IJC REPORT – A SIX-MONTH MORATORIUM In the wake of today’s IJC interim report (the final is due in February 2000) and recommendation that Canada and the U.S. should ban new bulk removals and sales of water from the Great Lakes for the next six months, this topic could not be overlooked.
(Editor’s Note: TIME, August 23 has a thoughtful piece “In a Lather over Water – An extended ban on Great Lakes exports will only highlight a big problem”.)
Lloyd Axworthy has stated that the report is exactly what Canada wants, giving the federal government time to consult with the provinces before tabling amendments to the International Boundary Waters Act banning export of bulk water permanently.
The Great Lakes certainly present a tempting source, with such vast volumes of water, however the volume of water in the Great Lakes is variable (but according to the IJC, there is never a surplus) and we still do not know enough about the hydrology of the Lakes.
Canada does have 1/5th of the world’s water resources, but only a relatively small percentage is near the U.S. border and that is where the majority of the Canadian users are.
Additionally, much is still not known about the hydrology of the Great Lakes. For example, the residence time of water in the Lakes is unknown (this is the term for the average amount of time that each particle of water spends in the Lakes. Some particles flow in and out in the same year. Other molecules of water may have been at the bottom of the Lakes for millennia). The Great Lakes were formed after the last Ice Ages (ending about 10,000 years ago in this neck of the woods), when melt water from the glaciers filled in gouges in the earth’s surface. Much of the water in the Great Lakes is therefore what hydrologists call “fossil water”. That is, the Lakes did not fill up gradually with rain, etc., but on a one-time basis when the continental ice sheets melted. Now, each year, a little water runs in and a little water runs out down the St. Lawrence (about 1% of the total Lake volume). The IJC document points out that water levels in several of the lakes have dropped 55.9 cm in the past year and the average levels of all five lakes could be lowered by as much as 91 cm by 2035.
“..take out more than 1%, one percent, and you are mining the stuff”

Hydrogeologists and civil engineers fear that if additional water is taken out of the Lakes – beyond the annual natural flow – the Lakes will be in a deficit situation. Essentially, we will be mining the fossil water from the Lakes – where would the extra water come from to replenish what is taken out for bulk export?
An example of what can happen to a watershed basin when the basic hydrology is tinkered with is the Aral Sea, a huge ecological disaster in the former Soviet Union..
Global warming must be factored in; sea levels are rising and the impact of climate change increases the farther north one goes. Global warming is bringing more extremes, flash floods, droughts, drastic contrasts between the east and west coasts of North America. This may also affect the hydrology of the Great Lakes.
The diversion of the Columbia River was rejected because of the ecological problems that it would have created and the amount of water that would have been lost to evaporation through transportation to the American Southwest in a canal running in a trench between mountain ranges.
The U.S. had vast reserves of groundwater that have been deplenished over the last 100 years.
The situation on the West Coast of the U.S. is much worse than other parts of that country

George Cavadias reiterates that water is NOT a commodity. Axworthy has taken the same position. For some it is impossible to envisage the point at which Canada would sell water – not even if the price were right. It is as inconceivable as selling the Niagara Peninsula.

Julius Grey reminds us that free enterprise and free trade are not part of the Charter. The sale of water is a political and not a NAFTA issue. The Canadian chairman of the IJC is quoted as saying that international trade laws ” do not appear to prevent Canada and the United States from protecting their water resources and preserving the integrity of the Great Lakes’ basin ecosystem”.

In the opinions expressed around the table, as navigable waters belong to the Crown, the federal and provincial governments have jurisdiction. Riparian rights. One may not deprive a neighbor of usage. Clear regulatory power of the feds. However, in a study completed earlier this year for the Council of Great Lakes Governors, Canadian and American legal experts agreed that governments don’t have the ability to dictate water use by fiat.
Are developed nations exerting neo-colonial pressures on the Third World to conform to sustainable development practices (prohibition of burning off of Brazilian rain forest is a case in point)?
It was noted that throughout this discussion, the Chair had exercised unusual restraint concerning the Council of Canadians’ demand that the NAFTA be reopened to establish explicit Canadian sovereignty over water!

As the evening closed with the statement that in a global economy, business will go where there is the least environmental regulation, we came full circle to the Couchiching speaker’s prediction that the clash of environmental and globalization forces will bring about the next great social revolution.

Quote of the evening: Are you the man we were talking about in your absence? DTN


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