The reservoir behind Mica Dam, one of dams constructed under terms of the Columbia River Treaty. Photo courtesy Bonneville Power

B.C. minister: Trudeau-Trump relations haven’t impacted Columbia River Treaty talks

Katrine Conroy says progress has been made despite squabbling leaders

The B.C. minister responsible for the Columbia River Treaty negotiations says frosty relations between Canadian and United States leaders have not yet impacted bargaining.

Although Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Donald Trump have taken jabs at each other — the latest in which Trump attacked Trudeau because his cameo was cut from a CBC broadcast of Home Alone 2 — Katrine Conroy says the squabbling has not been a factor in treaty talks.

The Kootenay West MLA hopes it stays that way.

“It’s always a concern because we’re a little part of Canada and we’re here in the Kootenays, but it’s a very important part,” said Conroy. “It’s critically important to the province of B.C. and that’s why we have a seat at the table, that’s why we have a chief negotiator from B.C. as well as from Canada. It’s very important.

“We will see what happens.”

Eight rounds of negotiations have been held since May 2018 as Canada and the U.S. work out a new version of the water management agreement first signed in 1964.

A ninth round of talks originally scheduled for November in America has been pushed back to January.

Conroy said negotiators made slow but steady progress in 2019. One of her highlights was the Canadian inclusion of First Nations observers from the Ktunaxa Nation Council, Okanagan Nation Alliance and the Secwepemc Nation.

“It’s made a real difference,” said Conroy. “In this past year they’ve actually had more discussions around the ecosystem, the return of salmon, the things people thought would never be included in those discussions. But times have changed and people recognize that, which is a good thing.”

Twelve community meetings were also held throughout the B.C. Interior in 2019. Conroy said the feedback from those meetings, which will be made available online at https://engage.gov.bc.ca/columbiarivertreaty/, was heard by negotiators.

“It was good that we had the opportunity to talk to people throughout the Basin. I think that’s really important, that people need to know that that’s not it. They can still have input.”

Conroy is privy to the details of the negotiations but isn’t part of the Canadian team and said she can’t disclose the specifics of what’s being said at the table.

But she said what started with topics focused on flood control and power generation has broadened into discussions including climate change. Conroy said changing snow pack levels in Canada, and how that impacts water flow, is an example of how climate change affects negotiations.

“How do we deal with that?” said Conroy. “We need to have some flexibility in the treaty. We can’t say what we decide now is going to be good in the 60 years to come, because that’s what they did in the late 1950s, early 60s.

“When you think of it now, you think how things have changed so much and changed in our Basin. We have to have the ability to have flexibility in our treaty so that if things go one way or another we have the ability to deal with it.”

The Columbia River Treaty led to the Duncan, Hugh L. Keenleyside and Mica dams built in Canada for flood control and power generation, which in turn sees the U.S. pay Canada about $120 million annually, or half the value of power generated south of the border.

The original treaty has also been criticized for its lack of Indigenous consultation, its impact on the salmon population and the approximately 100,000 hectares of flooding that destroyed farming and communities such as Renata.

Related:

Columbia River Treaty: What’s on the table?



tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Foodbanking in the time of COVID-19

Local food bank needs are high, but Lawrie Mack said: “there is hope to counter the gloom.”

Rievaj family: alone together during COVID-19

Alone together is a Pioneer series about how local families are coping with COVID-19

All fitness centres, gyms and yoga studios ordered to close immediately

Many Columbia Valley fitness centres were already closed

Columbia Basin Trust offering $11.7 million to help with COVID-19

Columbia Basin Trust is announcing $11.7 million in new funding to provide immediate support.

Hospital’s Chief of Staff asks for vigilance

Doctor stresses vigilance and compliance to guidelines to mitigate future surge in COVID-19 cases

From inside the ER: B.C. doctor tells it like it is from the frontlines of COVID-19

‘Stay home. It’s working,’ says ER doctor in a Q&A discussion, ‘And please don’t worry.’

Don’t stop going to the doctor, just do it virtually: B.C. association

Doctors encourage patients to access telephone, online visits

Businesses advised to prepare for federal, B.C. COVID-19 assistance

Canada Revenue Agency portal expected to open next week

Dogs are property, not kids, B.C. judge tells former couple

Court decision made on competing lawsuits over Zeus and Aurora — a pit bull and pit bull cross

B.C. senior gives blood for 200th time, has ‘saved’ 600 lives

There was no cutting of cake for Harvey Rempel but he’s challenging youth to start donating blood

Trudeau commits $100M to help food banks amid COVID-19 crisis

Funds will help ‘urgent food needs’ for Canadians awaiting federal emergency benefits to kick in

Couple won’t self-isolate after returning from overseas: Cowichan by-law

New law requires 14 days of self-isolation when returning to Canada

How well can cell phones carry COVID-19? Disinfecting may be wise

‘You want to keep it as clean as you would normally your hands’

Most Read