House of Commons Hansard #98 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was wheat.

Topics

Toxic Substances
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Hamilton East
Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment

Madam Speaker, this morning I am releasing for consultation a discussion paper outlining a proposed Canadian policy for the management of toxic substances.

The policy proposes that Canada introduce the most advanced toxic substances strategy in the world. It would be the leading approach taken by any nation. The document is based on the most up to date international scientific findings and is consistent with the conclusions recently reached by the world's leading scientific experts at a meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.

Although the document I am tabling today contains some very complex information, the objectives of the policy document are quite straightforward. We want to eliminate from the environment, as completely as possible, all substances that are the result of human activity, take a long time to break down in the environment, accumulate in living organisms and are toxic.

The bottom line is that the Canadian government wants to see no measurable release of toxic substances into the environment. We want to clean up what is there now and we want our international partners to do the same.

In the case of all other substances that meet only one or more of these criteria, we propose to put in place a system for the integrated management of their life cycles.

[English]

We propose to take a leading edge approach to toxics, those that are currently being used in Canada and those that may be introduced in the future.

If we cannot find ways to prevent toxics from being released into the environment, we intend to take steps to prevent their manufacture and use.

The new policy involves a principle of reverse onus. It is a very simple principle, a principle that applies now when we deal with issues like medication. It basically means that the onus is on industry to satisfy Canadians that a substance is safe rather than vice versa.

When a substance is targeted for virtual elimination, the onus will be on industry to prove that it will achieve no measurable release into the environment.

According to our proposal, the most hazardous toxics should not be allowed in the environment at all, and management of any other substance that causes problems should be subject to the strictest possible controls.

The policy would provide a clear framework for all federal laws, regulations, policies and programs dealing with toxics.

In the coming weeks, our government will consult all the provinces and territories, business sectors and environmental groups on the subject of the process and about any improvements they would like to see in the policy and the discussion paper. We want to find out what Canadians think by November 30, because time is of the essence where the health of Canadians is concerned.

I want to make it clear that our ultimate goal is to have a national policy on toxic substances that is the best in the world. We need a healthy environment, both for our economic well-being and our personal well-being. We must concentrate on preventing environmental damage instead of taking action once the damage is done. More efficient management of toxics means that the federal government must take a militant approach.

In the red book we said:

Canada needs a new approach that focuses on preventing pollution at source. Timetables must be set for the phasing out all use of the most persistent toxic substances. Manufacturing innovations are needed to avoid the use or creation of pollutants in the first place; for example, through raw material substitution or closed-loop processes that recycle chemicals within the plant. There is no alternative if Canadians wish to stop long-term toxic pollutants from entering our air, soil, and water.

A new policy that will be the focus of Canada's position on toxic substances in our negotiations with the rest of the world. We want Canada to lead the way in a movement for international action.

The simple reality is that Canada is open to the world on the Arctic, the Pacific and the Atlantic. We cannot solve our toxic problem alone. We must encourage our American neighbours and indeed the whole world to clean up their act. Airborne toxics do not respect borders. The milk of nursing mothers in Inuit communities that have never been touched by industrialization is contaminated by toxins used literally thousands of kilometres away. Toxics dumped in the sea do not respect borders.

I had a meeting earlier this week with Canadian and U.S. members on the International Joint Commission who advised me that when we move to a policy of zero discharge in Lake Superior, which should be in the not too distant future, that lake will still suffer from levels of toxicity up to 25 per cent because of airborne toxins that come from countries around the world.

If we are to protect Canada and Canadians we need local action. We need global action. We need a global agreement. We will only be in a position to reach that agreement if Canada leads from a position of strength. If we have the best policy in the world, if we clean up our own toxic act, we will be able to encourage other countries to follow suit.

Canada must take the lead to establish its position to influence the international agenda on the reduction and virtual elimination of toxins. To that end we intend to host an international conference on airborne toxins in Vancouver. We hope, along with other countries, to pull together an international agenda for joint action on the reduction and virtual elimination of toxins. We need to seize that opportunity to present a model program to the world.

The proposed policy would control the entry of toxic substances into Canada from sources outside our country through commerce and long range transport. If we can move our country ahead in managing toxics we can be at the vanguard of new environmental technologies, new green jobs and new opportunities. Sooner or later the world will move to control toxic substances, and we want Canadians to be in the best position to capture the new markets for green alternatives.

Within the next few weeks, I will be announcing new environmental initiatives to be taken by the government.

I hope, whatever other disagreements we may have, that all members of Parliament will agree on the importance of moving forward on our country's environmental agenda.

All members of Parliament must agree on the importance of moving forward on the country's environmental agenda. I think we all agree that we need to take very serious action to deal with toxic substances that are potentially a poison to our children.

Some of the proposals in the discussion paper may seem harsh, but we really must stop poisoning ourselves, our children and our world.

I know the 60-day time frame is a tight one. I also know that the time to end toxic substances is rapidly running out. That is why I look forward to not only the discussion but the resolution of the toughest toxics policy in the world.

Toxic Substances
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Laurentides, QC

Madam Speaker, we are happy to hear from the Minister of the Environment that she intends to establish a new policy on toxic waste. You will understand, however, that we cannot give our support to this working paper without first having a chance to examine it. The minister's intentions seem good, but the federal regulations are often not implemented in due form.

The implementation of the primary Canadian legislation concerning toxic substances, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, presents a number of difficulties. For example, in the two years since the CEPA was first implemented, some 20,000 substances have been placed on the domestic substance list and 44 have been identified for assessment and added to the priority substance list.

In his 1991 report, the auditor general noted that, although the CEPA required that the 44 substances on this list be analyzed by 1994, only two had been investigated fully. In addition, Environment Canada and National Health and Welfare have assessed

20 of the 33 chemical products on the list. To date, only ten of these assessments have been made public.

The creation of the Office of Enforcement is an initiative that should help to solve these problems, but a number of concerns remain, particularly with respect to the regulation and control of toxic substances. Thus, according to the Auditor General, there is confusion within the federal administration regarding who is responsible for introducing environmental programs and the department has failed to evaluate the effectiveness of existing controls.

This example, just one among many, is a clear indication that the federal government is already having trouble enforcing the CEPA. The minister should show us what means she intends to use to ensure compliance with the policy she will be introducing and she should realize that this is necessary if she is ever going to make us think that it will have a definite impact on the use of toxic substances in Canada.

I would like to see the minister's policy ensure a healthier environment and an improved quality of life for us all.

The minister talks about regulating industry in order to prevent the proliferation of toxic substances. Industry should convince the government that a given substance should not be eliminated from the environment. However, the federal government is not itself snow white in this regard.

I would invite the minister to take a stroll in the Old Port of Montreal, a few hundred metres from the downtown core. I would invite her to wander over to hangar No. 3 by the Alexandra pier, at the corner of Callières and de la Commune. The federal government is storing 1.5 tonnes of PCBs here in downtown Montreal, for lack of another appropriate site.

There is no cause for alarm. The building is inspected on a regular basis and well guarded at all times. But I can assure you that the Old Port of Montreal officials would be only too willing to get rid of it. Environment Canada should above all manage these toxic substances responsibly, by not taking any risk, however remote, of causing an environmental disaster in the heart of Montreal.

Last week-end, I had the opportunity of discussing with members of environmental groups from Quebec and Canada at the general assembly of the Canadian Environmental Network. These people strongly dedicated to environmental protection described to us the enormous difficulties they are faced with when working on issues involving dangerous substances.

What they are referring to is the powerful lobby of big industries that use harmful chemicals for the manufacturing or conversion of certain products. We must warn the hon. minister of the political and economic context of the discussions she is planning to have with the industry with respect to the burden that shall rest on it of proving that a given chemical substance poses no immediate or long-term threat to the environment.

The minister also indicated that she intended to discuss with the provinces with a view to improving on the working paper she has tabled. This is the least she can do. In fact, toxic substances control does not fall under the jurisdiction of any level of government under the Canadian constitution. Both the federal and provincial governments can act in that area and it is of paramount importance that all levels of government be involved in developing a policy in that respect.

Having read the minister's paper over, if it is clear that Quebec's jurisdiction was respected and that the policy provisions were duly negotiated with the Quebec government, the Bloc Quebecois will give its support to the minister's policy proposal. This means that the Bloc Quebecois support depends for a large part on the consultation process the Minister of Environment will choose to use with the provinces.

Environment is one area where Quebec and Canada can set common goals. A sovereign Quebec will quite obviously negotiate environmental agreements with its neighbours. Where the interests of Quebec and Canada coincide, which is often the case with regard to environmental protection, the governments must agree to look for a mutually beneficial solution to the problems confronting us.

Toxic Substances
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Reform

Bill Gilmour Comox—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to respond to this paper.

We are all environmentalists. I believe the environment committee is an excellent example. It is one of the committees on which we all get along because we have the same aims. The difference is degree, and that is what we are talking about here.

Toxic substances can be brought into the scene, for example in eastern Europe, in particular Romania where there were huge quantities of waste going into the air. The other end of the spectrum is something like Wood Buffalo National Park. We are in the middle. We clearly want to manage our affairs in the best way possible.

There are naturally occurring substances such as mercury, lead and asbestos but then there are the man made toxics which are the ones we are talking about today. Clearly something that is toxic, persistent and bioaccumulative should not be on our

shopping list. Those should not be there and I believe that is where we are going.

My concern, however, is that we take too hard a line. In some areas of B.C. we have done that. I would hope that there are good scientific data so that we are acting from a good broad base rather than a good feel, for example. As the onus is going to be on industry, it needs to be involved.

I would like to go back into my other life, when I first got to Port Alberni in 1970. This is not a criticism of the pulp mill industry; in fact it is the reverse. The first time I got to Port Alberni I parked in a hotel lot. The next morning I got up and I could not see out my windshield because of the fly ash from the pulp mill. That was 24 years ago.

It was the same for scuba divers I talked to who had gone out into the canal. The bottom of the canal 25 years ago was like a wasteland. Today Alberni is much different. One has to take a second look at the mill on a day during which there is low humidity so there will be no steam to actually see if that mill is running. There is just heat going out of the stacks. There is no fly ash.

When I talk to scuba divers now they say the marine life in the harbour has all come back. That is where we have come in 24 years.

The minister is to be complimented on the consultation process. I have concerns about the time frame because it is clearly pretty tight. I would hope that in the process the minister will listen to what comes out of that process. I hope it is not set down in stone now so that in the process it can evolve.

I am pleased to see all the groups, environmental groups, the industry, all levels, so they can have input into this process. There are some concerns with international agreements and the Great Lakes. How does it tie into CEPA, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act?

In short, I look forward to working with this document. I thank the minister for getting it to us so quickly.

Government Response To Petitions
Routine Proceedings

September 27th, 1994 / 10:20 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands
Ontario

Liberal

Peter Milliken Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the Government's response to five petitions.

Grandparents' Day Act
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Sarkis Assadourian Don Valley North, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-274, an act respecting a national grandparents' day.

Madam Speaker, the purpose of the bill is to recognize and celebrate grandparents in Canada. We have over four million grandparents living in North America. They take care of more than six million children.

It is extremely important that we celebrate this day by designating the second Sunday in September every year as national grandparents' day, as we do in many provinces and cities in the country.

(Motions deemed adopted adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Ronald J. Duhamel St. Boniface, MB

Madam Speaker, the petitioners from my riding oppose any further legislation that might be brought forward concerning doctor assisted suicide.

They believe the provisions of section 241 of the Criminal Code should be enforced. It is their opinion that this by itself would go a long way toward prohibiting this type of activity. They also would like expansion of palliative care.

I should mention in passing that hearings have been undertaken by the government, by the special Senate committee on euthanasia and assisted suicide. There will be hearings in Winnipeg from September 29 to October 1 of this year.

Anyone from the city of Winnipeg or the province of Manitoba who wants their points of view to be known could do so through this vehicle.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson Burnaby—Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition signed by hundreds of residents of provinces across Canada who draw to the attention of the House the fact that the current Criminal Code denies people who are suffering from terminal or irreversible and debilitating illness the right to choose freely and voluntarily to end their lives with the assistance of a physician.

Therefore they call upon Parliament to amend the Criminal Code to ensure the right of all Canadians to die with dignity by allowing people with terminal or irreversible and debilitating

illness the right to the assistance of a physician in ending their lives at a time of their choice subject to strict safeguards.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Ontario, ON

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I wish to present a petition signed by 42 constituents of Ontario riding.

The petitioners call upon Parliament not to amend the human rights code, the Canadian Human Rights Act or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in any way that would indicate societal approval of same sex relationships.

They also call upon Parliament not to amend the human rights code to include in the prohibited grounds of discrimination the undefined phrase sexual orientation.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Reform

Philip Mayfield Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise to present a petition signed by over 500 constituents from several communities in my riding including Williams Lake, Forest Grove, McLeese Lake, Quesnel and 150 Mile House. The petition is also signed by people who live outside my constituency.

The petitioners call upon the government not to pass any new legislation that results in additional gun control laws. The petitioners also call upon the government under existing gun laws to increase penalties for the illegal possession or criminal use of any firearm.

I concur with the petitioners.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Reform

Jim Hart Okanagan—Similkameen—Merritt, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present today, both on the same subject matter of gun control.

The petitioners from Okanagan-Similkameen-Merritt are outraged at the prospect of additional gun control legislation. They oppose further legislation for firearms acquisition and possession and urge the government to provide strict and mandatory sentences for the use or possession of a firearm in the commission of a crime.

I agree with the petitioners.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands
Ontario

Liberal

Peter Milliken Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Nos. 27, 28, 29, 30 and 51.

Question No. 27-

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Vic Althouse Mackenzie, SK

How many Canadian grain hopper cars have been dispatched with: ( a ) CWS cargo; ( b ) open-market WGTA cargo; ( c ) specialty cargo into the United States in each of the past three months and what is their turnaround time?

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Acadie—Bathurst
New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young Minister of Transport

(a), (b) and (c). Transport Canada and the Grain Transportation Agency do not have access to the necessary data to answer this question.

Question No. 28-

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Vic Althouse Mackenzie, SK

In this crop year, how many loaded hopper cars taken into the United States by CP and CN were diverted to United States owned lines for transport of cargo to final destinations?

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Acadie—Bathurst
New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young Minister of Transport

Transport Canada and the Grain Transportation Agency do not have the necessary data-information with which to comment on this issue.

Question No. 29-