Larry Maguire Stresses the Need for an Assiniboine River Basin Commission

Brandon, MB - Larry Maguire, Member of Parliament for Brandon-Souris called upon the Governments of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and North Dakota to get behind the idea of an Assiniboine River Basin Commission in a speech given to the Keystone Agricultural Producers in Brandon.

Maguire said, "The time is now to come together with various stakeholders and for Government officials to have a seat at the table. It is true that borders divide Manitoba from Saskatchewan and Canadian provinces from American states, but the flow of water and the need to respond to the potential damage should unite all of us in a common purpose and mission."

For many years, while Maguire served in the Manitoba legislature, he was the critic for Conservation and Water Stewardship. During this time, he travelled extensively Manitoba to meet with stakeholders and to listen to their concerns. It was in this role that he heard a loud and clear message: a long term strategy is needed to mitigate against the constant flooding problems that our region is facing year after year.

Maguire also wrote to Premier Selinger, Premier Wall and Governor Dalrymple to urge them to work alongside the Prairie Improvement Network, to create an Assiniboine Basin River Commission that would include the Qu'Appelle and Souris Rivers and related catchment areas. This initiative is being led by Dr. Allan Preston, former Assistant Deputy Minister of Agriculture for Manitoba.

This group has already held a workshop this spring that brought various stakeholders to the table. They will also be holding an upcoming planning committee meeting in Minot and have scheduled a subsequent conference to be held in Regina.

Maguire asked that they look at the good work being done by the Red River Basin Commission as an example of how these types of entities can be developed. The Red River Basin Commission held extensive consultations that brought communities together and are now taking a holistic approach to dealing with their watershed.

"I call on our leaders to make this initiative a priority of their Governments and I cannot stress enough the need for all parties to be at the table. In my capacity as a Member of Parliament I will do all that I can to assist in getting this Commission started as the safety of our communities are too important for us not to take action now," concluded Maguire.

 

It's Time for an Assiniboine River Basin Commission


Speech by Larry Maguire, Member of Parliament for Brandon-Souris
July 10, 2014 at the Keystone Agricultural Producers meeting in Brandon, Manitoba

Thank you for having me here today and for the invitation to speak about some important issues facing agricultural producers in Manitoba.

Before I get too far into my remarks I want to extend my support for those in the room who are facing flooding issues on your property or in your community.

As a farmer for many years I understand your frustration probably better than most elected officials.

As many of you know, I am relatively new to the job of being a Member of Parliament but I have years, even decades, of experience dealing firsthand with the issues KAP members face on a daily basis.

Since my election as Member of Parliament for Brandon-Souris in November, I have been working on a number of issues that directly affect agricultural producers.

As you will recall, the railway system wasn't running anywhere near full capacity this winter.

Now, we've all heard of "back to work legislation", but this winter our Government introduced "get to work legislation" and mandated that both CP and CN get moving.

I was involved in getting Bill C-18, the Agricultural Growth Act through the House of Commons. Bill C-18 will reduce red tape, create new trade opportunities and attract investment for the industry.

I have also been working quite closely with my colleagues on both the European and South Korean Free Trade Agreements. These agreements will give Canadian producers hundreds of millions of new customers to sell agricultural products to.

As proud as I am about all these initiatives, and I would be happy to take some time to speak individually with you about those that interest you, right now, I would like to take the next few minutes to speak about the flood crisis that has put many of our communities into a state of emergency and has put thousands upon thousands of acres out of production this year.

For many years I served in the Manitoba legislature as the Critic for Conservation and Water Stewardship. During this time, I travelled extensively across the Province to meet with stakeholders and to listen to their concerns.

It was in this role that I heard a loud and clear message: a long-term strategy is needed to mitigate against the constant flooding problems that Manitobans facing year after year.

The destruction caused by this year's flooding has caused millions of dollars in damage and many residents have been displaced. Perhaps even some of you in this room today.

We might not yet know the final bill for damage, but we know it won't be good.

I am not here to direct blame at one level of government or another. Pointing fingers doesn't solve problems. I am here today to talk about finding solutions to our problems.

As many of you know there is a movement afoot to create an Assiniboine River Basin Commission. This proposed Commission would include representatives from the Qu-appelle and Souris Rivers and related catchment areas.

I would like to recognize the Prairie Improvement Network's role as the catalyst for this initiative and for being the primary driver to this point.
Earlier this Spring, in March, there was a workshop held in Virden that brought various stakeholders to the table.

I'm pleased to hear that an upcoming Planning Committee meeting in Minot has been scheduled. In addition, a subsequent conference in Regina is planned with the objective of discussing the governance structure and moving to formalize the organizational structure by documenting some overarching goals and objectives.

Today, I want to thank KAP members for being part of these discussions and for your valued input. These things take time.

Don't get discouraged. Continue your hard work. Know that you have a strong ally in Ottawa who wants to get this Commission up and running.

Let me be crystal clear: The time is now.

To the Governments of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and North Dakota: come to the table. Work together. We need to establish an Assiniboine River Basin Commission and we need your involvement to make it happen.

This morning before coming to this meeting, I wrote to Premier Selinger of Manitoba, Premier Wall of Saskatchewan and to Governor Dalrymple of North Dakota.

My message to them was clear. Citizens of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and North Dakota cannot wait any longer.

Come together and meet as soon as possible. Do not delay in instructing each of your governments to get 100% behind the creation of this Commission.

It is true that borders divide Manitoba from Saskatchewan and Canadian provinces from American States - but the flow of water and the need to respond to the potential damage it can lead to should unite us all in a common purpose and mission.

An example some of you may be familiar with: the Smith Creek watershed, which is located near Langenberg, Saskatchewan feeds into the Shellmouth reservoir, which then flows down the Assiniboine River.

Since 1958, the Smith Creek watershed has lost over half of its wetlands, dropping from 96 square km to 43 square km.

The decrease in wetlands has caused the stream flowing into the Shellmouth reservoir to double over the past 50 years.

Did you know that the restoration of these wetlands would have decreased the 2011 flood peak by 32% and would decrease the annual flow by 29%?

These are the types of solutions that a basin-wide commission needs to be involved in exploring.

The residents of our communities are looking to their leaders to roll up their sleeves and get to work. The people in this meeting room cannot wait for another year of flooded fields and missed opportunities to pass.

Dialogue between our governments needs to start today.

We must pool our resources to protect our homes, our farms our communities and our way of life. Not only for those of us in this room today, but for our children and grandchildren and for the millions of mouths that the food we produce feed on an annual basis.

It is time to be proactive instead of being reactive.

The idea of a water basin commission isn't new.

I would ask that we look at the good work being done by the Red River Basin Commission as an example of how successful these types of entities can be.

The Red River Basin Commission brings together Minnesota, North and South Dakota and the Province of Manitoba.

They held extensive consultations, brought communities together and are now taking a holistic approach to dealing with their watershed.

Among the solutions they are working on currently is the construction of water retention structures on producers' lands. The goal is a 20% reduction in peak flows compared to 1997 flood levels.

Some of the objections raised today with respect to the proposed Assiniboine River Basin Commission were raised in the past when the Red River Basin Commission was being established. They had to overcome tensions between communities and jurisdictions.

But friends, the issues at stake are too important to let these divisions keep us from establishing the Commission.

As I come to the end of my remarks, I cannot stress enough the need for all parties to be at the table - provincial and state governments, community leaders, NGO's, producers, and the public-at-large to address important questions like:

How best can we retain water and provide related compensation for property on which water is retained?

Can we invest in further conservation and wetland restoration?

How best can we utilize drainage and ditch control?

Can we further build on the waffle system which stops water at section lines?

Do we need to build more dams to control water flow?

I know that many of you here today are discouraged by the delays in getting this proposed Commission off the ground. But today I am here to ask you all to not give up. Continue making this a priority. Let's get the proposed Assiniboine River Basin Commission up and running.

I pledge to you that as your Member of Parliament I will do all that I can to get these discussions started and I won't stop until our work is done.

Thank you.


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