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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Avalanche take on Mariners in weekend PACWEST action

The College of the Rockies Avalanche took on the visiting Vancouver Island… Continue reading

Council to consider postponing public hearing for Innes Ave development

Cranbrook city council is eyeing a move to postpone a public hearing… Continue reading

Cranbrook Knights of Columbus donate funds to seven local organizations

City Councillor Wayne Price (centre) presents a $400 cheque to Brian Clifford… Continue reading

CBT grant helps local disc golf club improve youth access to sport

The Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) has announced it will be distributing a… Continue reading

Battle of youth vs experience at 2020 BC Championships in Cranbrook

Rebecca Connop Price The 2020 BC Championships in Cranbrook next week could… Continue reading

VIDEO: Music stars pay tribute to Kobe Bryant at Grammys award show

Music artists including Billy Ray Cyrus, Rick Ross and Kirk Franklin paid tribute to Bryant

Furstenau flays NDP as she launches B.C. Green Party leadership bid

LNG, Site C dam wrong for environment, Cowichan MLA says

Woman guilty of dangerous driving crash that left Saanich girl, then 11, unresponsive

Nikirk guilty of one count of dangerous driving causing bodily harm

Pregnant B.C. woman stuck in Wuhan, the epicentre of coronavirus outbreak

Woman is due to give birth in Wuhan, China unless she can get out

Victoria-area wolf tranquilized after being seen running around neighbourhood

Officials say wolf unharmed during its ‘arrest’

Ontario confirms second presumptive coronavirus case in wife of first patient

Both arrived on a China Southern Airlines flight after having been to Wuhan

Canada’s basketball community mourns Kobe Bryant after helicopter crash

Bryant was an 18-time NBA all-star who won five championships

‘Devastated’: Fans, celebrities remember Kobe Bryant after his death

Bryant played all of his 20-year career with the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers

Investigation launched after six dead puppies dumped in Richmond hotel parking lot

RAPS reminds people they can always give up puppies they can’t take care of

Most Read