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

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

Dr. Cori Lausen, bat specialist. Photo: Submitted
Kaslo biologist questions logging at unique West Kootenay bat site

Dr. Cori Lausen, a bat specialist, studies a population of bats above Beasley

Robbie Campbell lost his livelihood when the pandemic shut down Shambhala Music Festival. Instead, he spent part of 2020 working on a children’s book called Tulip that is now available. Photo: Submitted
In a lousy year, a Kootenay man was saved by a pink T-rex

Robbie Campbell became a children’s author after the pandemic cost him his livelihood

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
253 new COVID-19 cases, 4 more deaths in Interior Health over the weekend

More than 1,000 cases in the region remain active

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
RCMP: Small tin saved Trail man from stabbing

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

School District 8 is asking the education ministry to stop making the Foundation Skills Assessment data public. File photo
Kootenay Lake School District requests education ministry make annual student assessments private

The district is concerned the data is being misused by the Fraser Institute

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. turns to second doses of COVID-19 vaccine as supplies slow

Pfizer shipments down until February, to be made up in March

B.C.’s Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training announced funding to train community mental health workers at four B.C. post-secondary institutions. (Stock photo)
B.C. funding training of mental health workers at four post-secondary institutions

Provincial government says pandemic has intensified need for mental health supports

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
No Pfizer vaccines arriving in Canada next week; feds still expect 4M doses by end of March

More cases of U.K. variant, South African variant found in Canada

Health-care workers wait in line at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians who have had COVID-19 should still get the vaccine, experts say

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were found to have a 95 per cent efficacy

An empty Peel and Sainte-Catherine street is shown in Montreal, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Poll finds strong support for COVID-19 curfews despite doubts about effectiveness

The poll suggests 59 per cent remain somewhat or very afraid of contracting COVID-19

Sunnybank
COVID-19 related deaths at Oliver, West Kelowna and Vernon senior care homes

Sunnybank, Heritage Retirement Residence and Noric House recorded deaths over the weekend

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

Most Read