House of Commons Hansard #257 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was family.

Topics

Class Of 1965
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Len Hopkins Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

-and for the members of my family, Doug and Sherri, who have tolerated me over these 30 years. There are many in the House who know what it is all about.

The best thing for people in public life today is to be decent to people, respect them and listen to them. Enjoy your career here by doing useful things for those people and for the country. Remember that this is a great institution through which many wonderful people have passed in bygone years. It is up to those of us here today to make certain that people in the years to come look back and say that we respected the system and looked up to the Canadian people and did the best we could for this great nation of ours.

Class Of 1965
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Class Of 1965
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

My colleagues, the last word always falls to the Speaker. Len and Warren, my words are also meant for you.

In the name of your colleagues here in the House and for those of us who have served by your side over the decades, it is good to know there are people like the two of you, fighters fighting quietly at times and at other times more vociferously.

This House is an honourable place. The two of you, Warren and Len, have brought greater honour to the House by being part of it. Thank you for serving Canada.

Class Of 1965
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Order In Council Appointments
Routine Proceedings

November 8th, 1995 / 3:15 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands
Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table in both official languages a number of order in council appointments which were recently made by the government.

Pursuant to the provisions of Standing Order 110(1), these are deemed referred to the appropriate standing committees, a list of which is attached.

Government Response To Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands
Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table, in both official languages, the government's response to two petitions.

The Environment
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Hamilton East
Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment

Today, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table before the House the OECD's Environmental Performance Review of Canada . The review was conducted over the last 18 months by a team of international environmental policy experts. It looks at how Canada is doing in meeting the goals we have set domestically and internationally.

The Environment
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Hamilton East
Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, having tabled the document, how did Canada do?

Overall the OECD report is positive for Canada. It points to areas where we are doing well. Equally important, it points to areas where we must do better. The report credits co-operation among various levels of government as a key reason for effective environmental protection in Canada. It recognizes that Canadian governments have embraced the concept of sustainable development.

[Translation]

But Canada-like most OECD countries-continues to struggle with turning the concept of sustainable development in reality. The report says we have to do better-and we are. Over the past year, we have taken significant steps to address this problem. Bill C-83, which amends the Auditor General Act, is an example.

It requires that government departments prepare sustainable development strategies and integrate sustainable development into departmental policies, programs and operations. This means giving the federal government the tools to start making the shift to sustainable development.

The OECD report also has a lot to say about the way we are bringing environmental policy to life in Canada. While the report compliments the way we use voluntary agreements, it says that we need to increase the use of economic instruments. The report is right. We should use economic instruments in more cases to achieve our environmental goals. However, the government also believes there is a definite role for good legislation and good regulation and a definite need for legislation to be vigorously enforced.

The federal government's flagship environmental legislation is the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. It is here that good regulation can shift society and industry to cleaner commercial practices. As members of the House know, this legislation is currently under the mandatory five year review. The government will be tabling its response to the standing committee report very soon.

In terms of wildlife and species protection, the OECD report makes it clear that we still have a lot of work ahead. While we can be pleased that population levels for many vulnerable species are going up, the report points to many cases where the laws are weak. It suggests that Canada give special consideration to protecting wildlife in areas where there are severe pressures from human activities.

The government recognizes this need. Last May, I released a proposal for a new Canadian Endangered Species Protection Act. This is the first time a federal government has moved to create a co-ordinated and co-operative national approach to protect the 244 species of wild plants and animals that are endangered, threatened or vulnerable.

On air pollution, the OECD report is positive about the effectiveness of Canada's federal-provincial partnership in reducing air pollution. We have met our goals for emissions of many air pollutants, including sulphur dioxide, lead and carbon monoxide causing acid rain. It also points to areas where air quality is inadequate for human health and ecosystems.

In parts of Canada there are consistent breaches of national and provincial ambient air quality standards for ground level ozone, what we call smog. Environment ministers across Canada are strongly aware of the need to take action to reduce pollution from cars and from industry. We have begun to take action in concert to address this problem.

Last month in Whitehorse, Yukon my provincial colleagues and I endorsed a report calling for the tightening of regulations under the federal Motor Vehicle Safety Act. Our report also calls for actions to improve fuel efficiency and to promote advanced technology and alternatively fuelled vehicles.

There will be new standards for cleaner gasoline and diesel fuel. All in all, we believe these changes will significantly reduce the level of smog in Canada. That means cleaner air and healthier Canadians, which means Canadians will live longer.

The most sobering element of the OECD environmental performance review report is that we are told we need to do more to meet our climate change goals. The report says that Canada will have a tough time meeting its climate change goals with our current plans. Nor does it believe that our national action program will allow Canada to meet its international commitment to stabilize carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2000 at 1990 levels. Clearly, tougher measures must be taken.

The report encourages us to be more aggressive and to consider the use of all instruments available to reduce our emissions of carbon dioxide, instruments including charges, regulations and indeed taxes. The world's leading scientists have confirmed that if human beings do not reduce and eliminate their impact on the world's climate, the repercussions for Canada and the planet earth will be severe, crippling and irreversible. Aggressive actions must be taken now. They must be taken if we are to fulfil our responsibil-

ity to protect the health and future of our children and grandchildren.

And so, what messages can we take from the OECD Environmental Performance Review of Canada? Yes, our efforts to protect the environment are bearing fruit. But we cannot be complacent. There are important environmental issues that we have not resolved. And there are goals and commitments that we have not successfully met.

In Canada, we have a record of working together to solve problems. This is something we can be proud of. The OECD has recognized this, but we must continue.

The Environment
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, the Minister of the Environment is tabling the OECD's report on Canada's environmental performance.

This report also recognizes the efforts made by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, which proved itself to be a useful instrument in several respects. The report highlights the environmental strengths and weaknesses of the federal and provincial governments, which made sustainable development a central theoretical concept but with few concrete applications.

The minister states that, contrary to what the report says, her government was able to translate the concept of sustainable development into a reality. To prove her assertion, she used the example of Bill C-83, which creates the position of commissioner of the environment.

I simply want to point out to her that creating the position of commissioner of the environment is no guarantee of sustainable development for the federal government, let alone for Canadian and Quebec society. On October 3, the auditor general admitted before the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development that he would have no control over the scope of departmental action plans. The departments themselves will be responsible for setting objectives, which cannot be questioned by anyone. In simple terms, nothing can prevent a minister from setting meaningless or superficial objectives.

More importantly, the auditor general questioned the departments' ability and willingness to find ways to assess the effectiveness of their action plans. On this subject, he said, and I quote: "In an era of downsizing and restructuring, I fear that the challenge will not be taken up. In our experience, in order to take positive action, departments need leadership, support and direction", something that is obviously lacking.

How can the minister come here to brag, when she knows full well that her government was unable to force her colleagues to develop meaningful action plans that could set an example for the private sector?

At report stage and third reading of Bill C-83, I will be pleased to analyze more thoroughly the amendments put forward by the committee, which open the door once again to federal meddling in areas of provincial jurisdiction.

The minister admitted today that there is a real need for environmental legislation to be vigorously enforced. I fully agree with her. In this regard, she should be reminded again that Canada is still acting illegally by exporting toxic waste to the third world and that her officials simply cannot afford to put an end to this practice.

The minister is quite right. It is not enough to sign international arrangements such as the Basel convention; we must also enforce them. In that sense, instead of interfering in areas that are no concern of hers, as she keeps doing, the minister should ensure that those acts which are clearly under her responsibility are properly enforced.

Moreover, the minister should also be reminded that, since her government came to office, the number of proceedings under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act has clearly dropped compared to previous years.

Similarly, the minister mentioned the CEPA regulations. The report in which the standing committee criticized the fact that there are hardly any regulations respecting the CEPA must have escaped the minister's attention.

The minister also announced that the government's response to the standing committee's report on the CEPA would follow shortly. The minister might be tempted to table a bill reflecting the centralizing designs of the Liberal members of the committee, but I would caution her against it.

In the last referendum, the people of Quebec have clearly indicated that they will no longer tolerate the federal government's highhanded and centralizing approach. The Bloc Quebecois and myself are anxious to see if the minister got the message and acted on it.

I wish to stress the fact that this government's attitude since coming to office and the episode of the Environmental Assessment Act, which raised an outcry, have left a bad taste in the mouth of provincial governments. Co-operation between the various levels of government must not be taken for granted, and the minister has already gone beyond the limit of what can be tolerated in many respects.

As far as air pollution is concerned, it is obvious that the minister is walking on eggs. According to the OECD, Canada's performance is far from enviable. While, clearly, some provinces have simply

not taken their responsibilities, the minister can hardly brag about her own performance.

The minister's proposal at the recent summit in Berlin to literally deliver permits to pollute, as well as her bill on MMT, which could result in a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions, are evidence of her poor performance.

I also note that Bill S-7, which seeks to introduce the use of more environment friendly fuels for the federal fleet of vehicles, is not an initiative of this government, but of Senator Colin Kenney.

Finally, I want to point out that the OECD report presented to us today concerns the provincial governments just as much, if not more. Indeed, in its report, the OECD recognizes that the provinces assume most of the responsibilities related to management of the environment. Canada still has a long way to go before it can claim to be a leader in environmental issues.

The OECD's criticisms primarily concern provincial governments. It is up to them to take the initiative and to reduce pollution, improve management of our natural resources, and improve integration of the economy and the environment.

I also think that it would be in the best interests of the provinces to take a direct part in signing international agreements. That way, they would have no excuse for not reaching objectives they themselves have set.

The Environment
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, the OECD report shows that we are doing fairly well, but there is more that we can do. We have embraced the concept of sustainable development, but like many countries we have had trouble in translating this into reality. Encouragingly the minister agreed with this.

In the face of this admission the government has produced a pea soup agenda with respect to the environment, this even after a superb report by the committee on the environment that was completed earlier this year and was lauded in many quarters.

I ask the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of the Environment: Why is she putting bills such as the environmental auditor general forward when the functions of the environmental auditor general can be co-opted by existing structures?

Why are we talking in the House about banning MMT and spending enormous amounts of money and time on this issue when there is no reason to ban it for reasons of health? There is a lot of evidence to show that MMT does not damage onboard devices, the basis on which the Deputy Prime Minister is trying to ban it.

The government is taking up these issues when there are other larger, pressing, persistent and dangerous issues affecting Canada's environment as we speak.

First, the OECD report states that Canada has not been exporting toxic materials to other countries since we signed the Basel convention in 1992. The investigative unit of the minister's department shows that Canada is exporting highly toxic materials to non-OECD developing nations such as Hong Kong, China, India, Thailand and South Korea. The toxic substances being exported to these countries cannot meet the environmental standards we have in our country. These countries are taking toxic materials, stripping parts away, and burning them or dumping them in a fashion that is highly damaging to the environment.

Second, there are 26 sites in this country that pose a high degree of hazard to people, flora and fauna. There is absolutely no plan to address these toxic sites within our own border.

Third, the OECD analysis also showed that on a per capita basis we emit the highest levels of such damaging agents as nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide. Yet in the face of this the minister wants to ban MMT which will greatly increase nitrous oxide emissions, which is a very important component of the smog that exacerbates respiratory problems.

Fourth, Canada refused to agree to be a signatory of an important section of the UN convention on the prevention of pollution from ships. As a result, one-third of the garbage on some of the most pristine and protected beaches in the British Isles comes from Canada. I would ask the hon. minister to please look at that.

I agree with the minister's statement about working with industry to try and develop economic ways to help them become more sensitive to the environment, and in developing ways to use industry in a sustainable fashion. We would be happy to work with the minister on that.

I also applaud her statement on trying to protect our flora and fauna. It is a heritage that the people of the country have been given and in turn, we are obligated to give to future generations.

Our problems demand immediate action, not only for the benefit of all Canadians but for the benefit of people around the world. Our environment is not only shared with those within our country, it is shared by all people on the planet. We have only one planet, only one environment and only one opportunity to make sure our environment will be sustainable and sound for coming generations.

We are at a watershed on the planet right now. If we choose to put forward sound plans for sustainable utilization of the environment, then we will have a world worth living in. But if we choose not to take this course of action, then the planet we know will not be what we were born into. It will be a very sorry place to live.

In southeast Asia a number of countries have gone full bore into developing their nations with very little respect for the environment. As a result great numbers of children are being born with genetic defects which are directly due to the polluted environment into which they are born. We must take heed of this and develop our country for the future in a way that we will not fall into this trap, for us and for the coming generations.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Reform

Ed Harper Simcoe Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise in the House today and present a petition on behalf of 2,500 constituents of my riding of Simcoe Centre. The signatures were collected after the beating of a young girl by a gang of girls in the city of Barrie.

The petitioners request that Parliament pass legislation to strengthen the Young Offenders Act, including publishing the names of young offenders, lowering the age of application and transferring serious offenders to adult court. I support these petitioners.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Reform

Dave Chatters Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to present two petitions under Standing Order 36. The first petition is from residents in the communities of Athabasca and Smith in my riding.

The petitioners request that Parliament not amend the Canadian Human Rights Act or the charter of rights and freedoms in any way which would tend to indicate societal approval of same sex relationships or of homosexuality, including the amending of the Canadian Human Rights Act to include in the prohibited grounds of discrimination the undefined phrase sexual orientation.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Reform

Dave Chatters Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from residents from the High Prairie area of my constituency.

The petitioners request that Parliament support the laws which would severely punish all violent criminals who use weapons in the commission of a crime; to support new Criminal Code firearms control provisions which recognize and protect the right of law-abiding citizens to own and use recreational firearms; and to support legislation which will repeal and modify existing gun control laws which have not improved public safety or have proven not to be cost effective or have proven to be overly complex as to be inefficient and/or unenforceable.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands
Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?