Thursday, March 8, 2007

Waukesha County Chamber of Commerce's Erroneous Canadian Xenophobia

Conservative politicians and commentators routinely invoke fear of foreigners in the current political environment, with most of the misinformation or downright demagoging directed at immigrants from south of the border.

Curiously, some misleading misinformation about Canadian influence over Wisconsin water supplies has worked its way into the debate about whether Great Lakes water should be diverted beyond Great Lakes basin boundaries and into communities in western Waukesha County.

The Waukesha County Chamber of Commerce has entered that debate and opposes Wisconsin endorsing a set of new diversion rules and standards in pending amendments to the 22-year-old US-Canada Great Lakes Compact.

The Chamber says it's wrong to require the eight US Great Lakes states to unanimously approve an application from out-of-basin communities like Waukesha or New Berlin.

But in a posting on its website, the Chamber says that the two Great Lakes Canadian provinces could also veto a US community's diversion application - - and that is not the case.

Says the Chamber's posting:

"Specifically, the compact includes a provision by which any one of the member states or provinces can veto any future requests for Great Lakes water diversions. Waukesha County, considered a straddling county by compact definition as the basin lies partially within the county, may need to consider Great Lakes diversions to meet future water needs. As the compact is currently written, our destiny may be in the hands of governors or premiers who are not accountable in any way to our electorate nor invested in the future success of our region."

The italicization is mine - - so you spot the worries raised about Waukesha's future being in foreigners' hands.

Under the US-Canada agreement, the Canadian provinces are to be consulted on US diversion applications, but the Canadians do not have a vote - - something that has not gone down well in Canada.

And the absence of the 'Canadian veto' was reported factually in the local media: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel put it this way in three paragraphs of a February 10th story by reporter Darryl Enriquez:

"The proposed compact contains a controversial condition that Brian J. Nemoir, chairman of the chamber's Advocacy Committee, called "a deal buster."

Under it, water withdrawals from communities outside of the Great Lakes Basin, but in a county that straddles the basin, must be approved by all of the Great Lakes states.

That means a single negative vote can veto a project, Nemoir noted. The provinces have a say, but not a vote, in diversions." (Again, the italics are mine).

Isn't it time that the Chamber starts giving its members and website readers a more accurate explanation of just what the Compact and the pending amendments are all about?

It could begin a more rational regional discussion of the benefits of protecting a shared, common resource.

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