Debates of June 2nd, 1995
House of Commons Hansard #210 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was federal.
- Farm Improvement And Marketing Co-Operatives Loans Act
- Recognition Of Same Sex Spouses
- National Awareness Week
- Child Support
- Royal Canadian Mounted Police
- Violence Against Children
- Sharing Of Federal Debt
- Health Care Reform
- Ontario Election
- Sharing Of Federal Debt
- Aboriginal Nations
- Atlantic Fishery
- Human Rights
- Department Of Justice
- Foreign Affairs
- Youth Services Canada
- Canadian Wheat Board
- The Environment
- Upper Nicola Band
- Forest Fires
- Irving Whale
- Alzheimer's Registry
- Point Of Order
- Government Response To Petitions
- Bill C-89
- Bill S-7
- National House Of Canada Act .Brev
- Questions On The Order Paper
- Farm Improvement And Marketing Co-Operative Loans Act
- Buffalo And Fort Erie Public Bridge Company Act
- Official Languages
Oral Question Period
Jane Stewart Brant, ON
Mr. Speaker, the solicitor general and the Minister of Health have recently announced the creation of a national registry for Canadians with Alzheimer's. I would ask the solicitor general to explain to the House the intention of the registry. Could he tell us who is going to manage the system and explain the government's expectations as to the impact the registry will have on Canadians with Alzheimer's and members of their families?
Oral Question Period
Herb Gray Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada
Mr. Speaker, the registry is intended to help locate and identify missing individuals with Alzheimer's or related conditions. It will help to ensure that the risk to them because of their condition is mitigated and limited. It will also reassure their families and caregivers.
I am very pleased that we could work on this project together with the Alzheimer's Society of Canada and the department of health. The program will be managed by the Alzheimer's Society of Canada and its branches across the country. It will use the RCMP's Canadian police information computer system.
I think this is a wonderful example of police-community co-operation. I am very glad that the federal government has been able to facilitate the project.
Oral Question Period
Colleagues, this would bring to a conclusion the question period. I have notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.
Point Of Order
Oral Question Period
Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will let you be the judge and decide whether this is a question of privilege or a point of order, but as you know, the matter I wish to raise is connected to the fact that yesterday, we had the second hour of debate on a motion I presented earlier in April in which I urged the government to recognize same sex spouses.
I must say that yesterday, for the first time since I became a member of Parliament, I was not very proud to be a parliamentarian. I was not very proud because, as we know, a few days ago the Supreme Court asked us to discuss one of the most important issues for the future of our society, and I am referring to equal treatment of same sex spouses.
I feel I must draw your attention to the fact that yesterday evening, some very discriminatory, hateful and offensive statements were made concerning the homosexual community, and we can hardly say the homosexual community benefited from the kind of debate we had yesterday.
My main point is, and I will give a very specific example, that I always saw the role of the Chair as allowing a maximum of freedom of expression, and I must say that you and your team have always scrupulously abided by this principle. However, I feel I must draw your attention to the fact that in the course of the debate yesterday evening, the hon. member for Calgary Northeast made some comparisons that were extremely dangerous and very difficult to accept for parliamentarians, and I think that if we do not put a stop to this and if we do not call to order members who take the liberty of making comparisons which I find deeply offensive between the homosexual community and certain rights to which I am committed on their behalf, the reputation of this institution will be tarnished.
In concluding, I simply want to bring to your attention a comment that will give some indication of the very distressing tenor of yesterday's debate, at least in the case of the hon. member for Calgary Northeast. Very briefly: "Homosexuality, to anyone who has not been brainwashed by the last decade of effective propagandizing by the gay lobby, is unnatural".
I finally want to say that I am not acting on behalf of any lobby whatsoever. In presenting a motion I felt was important, I was acting as a parliamentarian in order to raise one of those issues which, as you know, requires more than one debate.
In concluding, I want to say that I do not believe that in this Parliament or anywhere else, those who are involved in promoting gay rights have been brainwashed.
Point Of Order
Oral Question Period
Dear colleagues, I do not believe that this is a matter of privilege. I would ask all of you, regardless of the topic being debated, to always make judicious word choices because sometimes we are confronted with ideas that are not always acceptable to all individuals.
As you know, in this House, we use strong words and express strong opinions, and sometimes, we use unusually strong words. But, in this instance, I have not read the record of the debate. I will read those statements in context and will watch the video to find out more. If necessary, I will report back to the House with my decision on the matter.
I will look into this particular matter. To the hon. member for Calgary Northeast, I do not want to get into a debate. We had a debate on this yesterday.
At least at this point, it does not seem to be a question of privilege. If the hon. member for Calgary Northeast wishes to put something on the record very briefly I invite him to do so. I do not want to have this escalate into a debate.
Point Of Order
Oral Question Period
Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB
Mr. Speaker, I stand by the words I issued in my statement. I did not mention any particular person by name. That is all I will state in the matter.
Point Of Order
Oral Question Period
I thank the hon. member for his intervention.
It is not a matter of privilege, but I give the floor to the whip of the Bloc Quebecois.
Point Of Order
Oral Question Period
Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC
Mr. Speaker, I trust you unconditionally to review this issue and to listen to what was said.
To better understand the issue and put the debate in context, I suggest that we-us parliamentarians and you the Speaker-should consider that when we say that a community is immoral, for example homosexuals, we are going after each and every individual. If we were to do the same for francophones, Jews or women in general, it would not be tolerated.
Point Of Order
Oral Question Period
Some hon. members
Point Of Order
Oral Question Period
I would like to end this discussion here. As I said, my dear colleagues, I do not want members to get into a debate on the matter. I will take care of it, I will look into it, and will report to the House, if necessary.
Government Response To Petitions
Patrick Gagnon Parliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada
Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table in both official languages the government's response to 20 petitions.
June 2nd, 1995 / 12:05 p.m.
Sheila Copps Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment
Mr. Speaker, I think it is certainly a relevant day, given the question that was asked by the member from the Bloc Quebecois in the House on what we do to deal with contaminated sites.
Today I wish to advise Parliament that as a government we are introducing a new federal toxic substances management policy. What we would like to do is begin with pollution prevention to avoid the kinds of messes we saw with things like PCBs in the past.
We do not often get up in the House to discuss complex scientific issues involving complicated chemical compounds. However, we also do not often discuss the need to stop poisoning ourselves, our children, our environment, our reproductive systems, our food chain, and our genetic make-up. We do not often discuss how chemicals can affect the health Canadians and the health of our environment.
Toxic substances in the air, water, soil and sediment upset the balance of nature and jeopardize the interdependent existence of all living things on earth.
The new toxics policiy I am announcing today will apply across the scope of federal activity-not just the Department of the Environment. The policy calls for virtual elimination from the environment of substances that result from human activity, that take a long time to break down, that build up in living organisms and that are toxic.
For other substances that threaten the health of our environment, we will implement full life cycle management-from cradle to grave.
It is cradle to grave management for those substances.
If we cannot find the means to keep certain natural substances from being released into the environment, we need to take measures to prevent generation and their use by humans. Federal laws, regulations, policies and programs will be used to turn off the tap of release into the environment of bio-accumulative and persistent toxic substances produced by Canadians.
What does that mean? It means saying no to toxins that work their way into the food chain. It means saying no to toxins that take too much time to break down once they are released.
All other substances of concern under federal jurisdiction will face the world's strictest controls.
The new policy is based on the most advanced scientific methods and concepts, and expert analysis, including computer modelling and internationally accepted criteria.
In making today's announcement, the government is making public complete details of the policy and a document describing the scientific basis and the technical criteria of the policy.
In making today's announcement, the government is making public complete details of the policy and the document describing the scientific basis and technical criteria of the policy. The government is also publishing a third document summarizing the main issues identified in eight months of public consultations and our response to those issues.
The policy covers the complete range of toxic substances that are used or released into the environment as a result of our modern lifestyle. PCBs, dioxins, furans would not have been accepted had we known their effect on human health and on the food chain. This policy will mean that new industrial chemicals, new pesticides, new compounds produced by biotechnology, and new chemicals that mimic human hormones will be banned unless they can satisfy rigorous scientific criteria. The onus will not be on Canadians to prove that these products pose a danger. The onus will be on the manufacturer to show that they are safe and can be properly managed.
The bottom line is that a decision to ban new chemicals and new products will be made on science. For existing toxic substances that continue to pose a risk the decision to eliminate the products from the environment will also be based on science. We will establish targets and schedules that will take into account social, economic, and technical considerations.
During public consultations some have made the point that they should have the opportunity to produce additional scientific evidence once a preliminary decision to virtually eliminate or to stop the production of a product is made. The government will provide that opportunity, but we will provide the same opportunity to scientific experts, to other governments, and to the public. For human made toxic substances that are not persistent and do not bioaccumulate, do not stay in the environment for a long time, actions to control them will take into account risk management and legal, economic, and sociological factors.
In simplest terms, the worst offending toxics will be gone, all other toxics will be managed throughout their entire life-cycle.
In English we say cradle to grave management.
There are those who may complain that this is too tough a policy. Tell that to people who live along dead lakes and rivers, with deformed fish and birds. Tell that to Canadians who breathe our country's air, till our country's soil and swim in our country's waters.
I want to be clear that these actions apply to areas under federal control. Many toxic substance problems in Canada fall under the jurisdiction of the provinces and the territories; hence my response earlier in question period on the issue of contaminated sites. It is the federal government's intention to use the policy we are announcing today in order to pursue a national strategy for managing toxic substances through discussions with the provinces and the territories.
I think here is one example where a PCB in Quebec, a PCB in Ontario, and a PCB in British Columbia pose the same problem for Canadians.
I do not approach this matter with a "holier than thou" attitude.
The federal government's hands have not always been clean in the past nor has the federal government made a determined effort to be a world leader in controlling toxic substances.
My belief is, however, that it is in the absolute interest of Canadians to work together to eliminate and control toxics, and, more importantly, beacause this is what Canadians want.
We need a united Canadian strategy for dealing with the world community. The free flow of air and water means that dangerous substances released in one community can end up poisoning the environment of another community a thousand kilometres away. That is why it is important to have a Canadian policy but it also means toxic substances produced in other countries end up poisoning Canadians. Toxic substances in eastern Europe are currently poisoning breast milk of mothers living in the Canadian Arctic.
Lake Superior is probably the most virgin of the Great Lakes. If we took all the toxins of local creation out of Lake Superior at the moment that lake would be 20 per cent damaged as a result of toxins that come from places that have never even heard of Canada, places very far away where the toxins come out of the smokestacks, get into the atmosphere, travel to the Arctic shield and diffuse over Canada.
That is why we need not only a national strategy but an international strategy for birds flying over our Pacific coast, fish swimming in our Atlantic waters and people living along the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes.
The federal government will use the strategy and the policy announced today as a basis for negotiations with the world community. Next week Canada will host in Vancouver a meeting of the world's leading experts on persistent organic pollutants. We will co-chair the meeting with the Philippines so that we can have the right marriage of countries of the industrialized world as well as countries en voie de développement. International
co-operation is certainly needed in areas from capacity building to technology transfer, to the use of alternative substances.
The Government of Canada is announcing this policy for Canadians because it is the right thing to do. In doing so I know we are following a course directly contrary to the course currently being advocated by members of the Congress of the United States. Certain American Congress people are calling for fewer controls over toxic substances. They want to release more toxins into the St. Lawrence, into the Great Lakes, into our oceans and other bodies of water and air we share. With the greatest respect, that downgrading attitude by some members of the United States Congress is dead wrong.
By this policy today Canada is sending a message to the world and in particular to our American partners that we will do our part to deal with toxic substances and we expect them to do theirs.
When you look at the people living along Lake Champlain, who are currently facing an ecological disaster partly because of construction operations by the Americans, it is obvious that the environment knows no boundaries.
By moving Canada to the forefront in managing toxics, we can move Canada to the forefront of new businesses, new green technologies and new green jobs. I am confident that the new policy will serve the long term health of our economy and I know that it will serve the health of our environment and the health of Canadians.
On Monday I will be in Montreal opening the Biosphere which is another tribute to the possibility for Canada to begin to return to a country where environmental technology is not imported but exported.
At the Biosphere, on Monday, you will see that with the Biodome, the Biosphere, the environmental centre-the public really supports this endeavour-and modern technology, Canadian technology, we are indeed able to go ahead and eliminate these toxic substance. But to succeed, policy and legislation are required to speed up the process of protecting the environment.
We do not want to go down the road of the Americans who are now saying this to 50 million people who drank water from the Great Lakes. This summer we are getting into a period of potential smog. I am sorry to say that in the United States the current acceptable levels of smog are about 40 per cent higher than in Canada. Who breathes that?
The Detroit-Windsor corridor sends all the stuff over to the Canadian side and we end up losing work days because of pollution problems caused by persistent toxins that come over from the United States.
We want to make sure with this policy that we have our own house in order to ensure that when we go to Vancouver next week and when we go to the international community and in particular when we go to our American neighbour, we will not allow the U.S. Congress to lose the gains we have made. The action we are taking today is a further commitment to the strategy of pollution prevention which says we should not only focus on cleaning up messes but make sure the messes do not occur in the first place.
This policy does not offer overnight miracles but it does provide a solid foundation for dealing with toxic substances and getting those persistent bioaccumulative toxins out of the environment permanently. The need to take action is easy to understand which is why we are moving today on a policy I think will put us at the forefront of dealing with toxins into the 21st century.
Monique Guay Laurentides, QC
Mr. Speaker, every year more than 228,000 tons of pollutants of all sorts are dumped into Canada's waters, atmosphere, soil and sub-soil. The cause of all this alarming dumping is simple: it is negligence, whether on the part of careless individuals, unscrupulous manufacturers or governments unable to halt the flow.
I am pleased to rise and speak about the new toxic substance management policy the Minister of the Environment is proposing, which, I hope, will prove to be a practical response to the problems of prolonged toxic dumping that may lead to bioaccumulation. As I have not read the documents tabled today, I am not in a position to express an opinion on the value of the policy. I will therefore simply make four general comments expressing the concerns and worries I have about the minister's speech.
First, I would like to point out that I find it rather surprising the minister is tabling her new policy even before the standing committee of this House has issued its report, due in a few days, on the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. The minister would definitely have benefited from the committee's work, which took a year's time and which enabled many witnesses to express their concerns and suggest solutions with regard to the problem of managing toxic substances.
Second, the minister alluded earlier to the principle of reverse onus. According to her, manufacturers will now have to prove that their products are safe and may be properly managed. This principle, which the Bloc supports without hesitation, arises from another, very simple one: caution. The idea of caution is relatively new in environmental matters; up to now, it has not been a particular concern for governments, including this one. I offer as evidence the minister's unspeakable attitude in the matter of the barge, the Irving Whale , which may well spill its contents of 3,100 tonnes of oil. The minister's decision was clearly motivated by a desire to limit operating costs, as her officials have said publicly, which flies in the face of the most elementary caution.
I hope the minister, whose rhetoric is full of fine principles, will have the courage and the influence in Cabinet to apply them uniformly and not only when it suits her.
My third comment has to do with the way the minister intends to deal with the provinces in the future. Even though she admits that her new policy only applies to the federal areas of jurisdiction, she states, and I quote: "It is the federal government's intention to use the policy that we are announcing today in order to pursue a national strategy for managing toxic substances".
I will remind the minister that, whether she likes it or not, the environment is a shared area of jurisdiction, in which provinces have a determinant role to play. They should and must not be treated as second class actors in the federal plans. Before talking about national standards, the minister should give tangible evidence of the efficiency of her policy. Obviously, an aggressive approach by the federal government will only lead to counterproductive confrontations.
Finally, I notice that the minister is once again boasting that she wants to make Canada a world leader in environmental matters. The Bloc Quebecois and myself have every right to question such a statement and fear that it is just so much hot air. Indeed, the last time the minister said that she wanted to make of Canada a world leader, she was presenting her plan to reduce greenhouse gases which, as we know, was far from revolutionary.
This very morning, The Ottawa Citizen reported that the Sierra Club gave the Prime Minister an admonition to give marching orders to his Cabinet on the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.
I humbly remind the minister that Quebecers and Canadians are not necessarily demanding to become world leaders; all they want are realistic environment policies yielding real and tangible results.
In conclusion, I can understand the minister's desire to improve the management of toxic substances in Canada. In fact, the World Wide Fund for Nature reports that the port of Hamilton is one the most polluted areas in the Great Lakes. The sewage treatment plants located there are not equipped to properly process the waste from surrounding industries and generate close to 40 per cent of the PCB burden and 10 per cent of the zinc burden in the port. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, decades of pollution in Hamilton have completely ruined what used to be first class spawning grounds for many fish species.
I hope that the policy proposed by the Minister of the Environment will enable us to find efficient remedies to solve an environmental dilemma we can no longer ignore.
Paul Forseth New Westminster—Burnaby, BC
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to reply to the environment minister's policy statement on toxic substances management.
I listened very closely to the minister's speech and for the most part I agree that toxic substances in air, water, soil and sediment will jeopardize the existence of all living things. I agree that if toxic substances are not brought under control Canada's environment will suffer. Action should be taken immediately rather than later.
However, I do not agree with the halting path the minister has chosen. The minister's policy applies only to areas under federal control. While the federal problem is a serious concern, another problem does exist, those industries in the private sector, those currently under provincial jurisdiction.
This is the continuing problem with this minister and her department. She introduces policy after policy which might be described as nothing but fluff. In other words, they sound great but the implementation is later evaluated as disappointing.
She never seems to get to the core of the problem of some of our biggest polluters. Perhaps there is a reason. Perhaps it is more political than sensible.
In late April of this year Environment Canada released a national pollutant release inventory, an extensive list of Canada's worst polluters of toxic chemicals. Among the list were some very large companies, primarily from the hub of Ontario as well as Montreal.
The country's biggest polluter was Kronos Canada in Montreal, which dumped 66,000 tonnes of sulphuric acid into the water. Another large pollutant was benzine. A total of 3,000 tonnes of benzine was released countrywide by steel and chemical manufacturers. Interestingly enough, Dofasco and Stelco Steel in Hamilton combined 882 tonnes, 29.4 per cent of the total amount of benzine released in 1993; two large companies right smack in the middle of the minister's riding. Any political handler would say to the minister stay away from that issue. Where is the integrity? Where is the will? One of the country's worst polluters of a toxic chemical is in the environment minister's backyard and the minister does not want to touch it with a ten-foot pole.
How can she claim to be environmentally friendly? If the minister were a true friend of the environment she would put politics aside and take action in cleaning up the plants that grace her riding. What this country does not need are politicians who think first about how things appear for the political image and second about real benefits to Canadians. We just need to get on with it.
This polluters list tells us where the polluters are. Well that is fine. Canadians know where they are. What they want to know is how they are going to be dealt with. Canadians want actions, not just another data base.
I will read an interesting quote from the minister regarding this data base: "It is intended to encourage industries to voluntarily reduce their releases and develop pollution prevention plans". This is coming from a minister who is supporting Bill S-7, which will legislate government departments into increasing the number of automobiles using alternative fuels, even though the Treasury Board already has guidelines for them to do so.
The minister is not promising miracles with this policy today. One does not have to be a genius to figure that out. The clean up of federal contaminated sites will be no small task. In the last auditor general's report it was estimated that there are 2,000 to 3,000 potentially contaminated federal sites, of which 500 to 1,000 would require immediate remediation. The projected cost was a minimum of about a billion dollars. The auditor general's report also mentioned that a high priority should be to clean up all federal PCB sites, at a cost of perhaps $2 billion.
This policy paper does not clearly outline how it will clean up these sites. It does not determine where the money will come from, and it does not state a deadline when all federal sites should be toxic free. I think the minister clearly has some questions to answer.
Further, with this policy we find out that the one who is going to be overseeing the policy will be the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, the office of the auditor general. The federal government does not seem to listen to what the auditor general says now, so what will change with the commissioner, who will only report to the auditor general?
The minister says that Canada is sending a message to the world that we will do our part to deal with toxic substances. How can a strong message be sent when we are only dealing with half the problem?
Whenever the government initiates something new, it never changes the whole picture substantively. It never wants to get serious with the issues that mainstream Canadians want. Take the federal budget, for example. Canadians wanted a zero deficit plan and the government gave us a fraction of a dent to the deficit and no long term hope.
Another example is the Young Offenders Act. Canadians wanted a tougher, more accountable law. Yet the justice minister gave Canadians a watered down bill. Now we have this policy paper, which the environment minister thinks represents a solid foundation for dealing with toxic substances.
The Canadian Environmental Protection Act sounds good, but in practice has not been sufficiently delivered. The Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development will soon be tabling its recommendations to improve CEPA. I hope the minister will take heed.
We have a fisheries minister who advertises his defence of Atlantic fish. Who in the government is defending the Fraser River basin and the salmon of the Pacific coast?
The Reform Party is not against control of toxic substances. Quite the contrary. What we are saying is if there is a problem, and in this case the minister has admitted there is, deal with the problem comprehensively and not just a fraction of it.
I do not have some great scheme of how we could get industries like Dofasco and Stelco to reduce or eliminate their benzene dumping tomorrow. Then again I do not have thousands of employees at Environment Canada to work for me on this one either.
Cleaning up Canada's environment is a priority of the Reform Party and it is a priority of the minister. However, do not do it with a policy statement that federal departments can continue to ignore. Do it with legislation that is binding and that has some real bite.
Stan Keyes Hamilton West, ON
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present in both official languages the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Transport.
Pursuant to order of reference of Tuesday, May 16, 1995, your committee has considered Bill C-89, an act to provide for the continuance of the Canadian National Railway Company under the Canada Business Corporations Act and for the issuance and sale of shares of the company to the public, and has agreed to report it without amendment.