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GVRD Water Accountability May Be Threatened by Metalclad NAFTA Decision

The President of BCs largest union is warning that this weekends court decision on the controversial Metalclad NAFTA case could threaten the regions ability to control its own drinking water.

Barry ONeill, President of the BC Division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, says when NAFTA tribunals can over-ride local governments ability to govern, public accountability is put at risk.

The Friday decision from the BC Supreme Court upheld a NAFTA tribunal decision that ordered the Mexican government to pay Metalclad more than US $16,000,000 because a municipal government in Mexico had established an ecological reserve.

The reserve had been established by the community in an effort to prevent Metalclad, a multinational corporation, from establishing a toxic waste dump within municipal boundaries.

ONeill says the same principal could make privatization of the GVRDs water a one-way street.

We have the GVRD planning to hand over a crucial piece of the drinking water system to one of a number of international consortiums to build and operate, says ONeill. This NAFTA decision raises an important question if the GVRD does privatize its drinking water, and future politicians try to take it back, will they be stopped by NAFTA and FTAA rules?

The Metalclad case shows us that the NAFTA rules have been clearly designed to put the rights of interest of international investors ahead of local citizens.

ONeill says that CUPE is in the process of obtaining a legal opinion on the potential impacts of international trade agreements on the GVRDs water privatization scheme.

The provinces largest and fastest-growing labour union, CUPE BC represents more than 65,000 local public employees across British Columbia.


For more information:
Barry ONeill: (office) 291-9119 or (cellular) 916-8444
Jim Kirk: (office) 291-1940