House of Commons Hansard #115 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was judges.

Topics

Prayer

Access To Information

10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I have the honour, pursuant to section 38 of the Access to Information Act, to lay upon the table the report of the information commissioner for the fiscal year ended March 31, 1998.

This report is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs.

Government Response To Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Liberal

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

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

Canada Customs And Revenue Agency Act
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Vancouver South—Burnaby
B.C.

Liberal

Herb Dhaliwal Minister of National Revenue

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-43, an act to establish the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency and to amend and repeal other acts as a consequence.

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

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-418, an act to amend the Criminal Code (mandatory counselling for certain assaults).

Mr. Speaker, this morning I am please to introduce a private member's bill concerning domestic violence, which we all know is a very serious problem in our society. We know that if it is unchecked, if it is not dealt with at the beginning, the frequency increases, the intensity of assaults increases and judgment becomes impaired. It is very difficult to get out of the situation. The risk of bodily harm or even death approaches certainty as time goes on.

I am pleased to introduce this bill as a small step toward addressing domestic violence. The bill would require mandatory counselling for those convicted of domestic assault in addition to any other charges or penalties imposed by the courts.

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

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Rick Laliberte Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I move that the third report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, presented on Monday, May 25, 1998, be concurred in.

I would like to take this opportunity to make my colleagues in the House of Commons and all of our citizens in this wonderful country called Canada aware of a most crucial report that was tabled by the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

The third report of our committee was entitled “Enforcing Canada's Pollution Laws: The Public Interest Must Come First”. The report was tabled on May 25, 1998. This being Environment Week, it is a most crucial time to bring this to the forefront and to apprise all of our members of the details of this committee report.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development proceeded to study the enforcement of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and the pollution provisions under the Fisheries Act.

There were 24 recommendations. These are the highlights of some of the recommendations.

It is most crucial that the Minister of the Environment provide the committee with amounts budgeted and actually expended for inspections, investigations and prosecutions related to the enforcement of CEPA and the pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act and, also, that any report prepared for the review process of the department in relation to enforcement be provided to the committee.

The committee also recommended that the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans develop and publish a comprehensive enforcement and compliance policy in relation to the pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act within six months of the tabling of this report.

It recommended that the Minister of the Environment ensure that the regulated parties are informed of their legal obligations under the federal environment laws and that such laws and regulations continue to apply and that they must be observed.

There are many instances in which agreements are made between provincial jurisdictions and federal jurisdictions which fail to highlight that federal legal obligations are still in tact.

The committee recommended that the new CEPA legislation, Bill C-32, enable inspectors and investigators to be designated and given the full powers of a peace officer. Bill C-32 is now being reviewed under the House process. Our inspectors and investigators who are out in the field have little power to issue fines, aside from creating warnings and starting the prosecution process.

Also recommended was that the minister establish without delay a professional intelligence gathering and analysis capacity. This is most crucial because pollution affects our communities, our health and our families. We must therefore establish an intelligence agency among police officers like the RCMP, the provincial police and the customs officers who control our border crossing.

There was also a recommendation to have whistleblower protection for anything dealing with federal obligations. We have many labour groups working in our ports, our manufacturing companies and our industries who may be aware of infractions and must therefore have whistleblower protection in order to protect their careers. There will be instances where they must extend their authority and highlight the infractions that their company or their employer may be inflicting on our environment. This is a most crucial recommendation that challenges this government to consider.

The minister should revise the current structure of enforcement and establish regional branches and that the decisions not made by officials having managerial functions must be made by members of the enforcement personnel. Enforcement decisions must be made by enforcement personnel, not managerial or political decisions.

Another recommendation is delaying the signing of the proposed subagreement on the enforcement under the Canadian council of environment ministers. Under the harmonization accord that was recently signed there was a subagreement called enforcement which was supposed to be introduced later. We strongly recommend that this be delayed because the present enforcement structure and the federal responsibilities presently are not being complied with.

The minister should publish all enforcement data relating to CEPA, the Fisheries Act and the manganese based fuels act. All these must be published for the media to scrutinize for the public's interest and for leaders and politicians in the legislatures of the provinces, the territories and the House of Commons to scrutinize the abilities of the enforcement of this country. These environmental laws are most crucial for the future health of our children.

The minister should be required to publish and table officially in parliament a detailed annual report on the enforcement actions taken in the previous year relating to all the laws and regulations of Environment Canada mandated under CEPA and the Fisheries Act.

Presently we hear instances that the fisheries minister is required to table the report here in the House of Commons and has not been able to because the provincial governments have not been able to give him the data. The harmonization accord has many holes in it. If these different levels of government cannot be involved in providing a report to the House of Commons there is something drastically wrong with the relationship we have with the provincial departments.

Another major recommendation that challenges this government and the environment minister is to conduct an indepth study to determine whether methyl mercury released in the aquatic environment as a result of the creation of reservoirs, dams and hydro projects in the great rivers of our northern regions is accumulation in the fish and the food cycle. This must be realized because under the CEPA regulations mercury is considered to be a natural substance and not a human induced toxin into our environment. However, because the building of dams increases mercury in our food system we need to have an indepth study on how to address this issue.

The most important recommendation that the minister is challenged to seek and the Government of Canada grant is more resources to ensure proper enforcement on the environment legislation. Time and time again witnesses who were questioned in committee said there was a lack of resources as a result of cutbacks from program reviews one and two. These were financial reviews, not environmental enforcement reviews for the protection of our environment. These were reviews to see where cutbacks should be properly made, surgically cut for the financial wellness of this country. We see the financial well-being of this country. We see an exuberant amount of surpluses in programs that previously were in deficit. Now is the time to draw a priority and consider the environment as a number one priority, especially in this beautiful country.

The introduction of the report and the recommendations are a result of public meetings held from February 18 to March 26, 1998. The committee heard various witnesses from industry, from aboriginal peoples, from labour organizations, environmental groups and government officials, numerous submissions from stakeholders from across Canada.

In this consideration we would like to note the bravery and congratulate the field staff members of Environment Canada who came out and were honest in their perception of the challenges they face in their daily operations as inspectors, as investigators in enforcing the CEPA regulations and the fisheries regulations.

The key points in the report which are highlighted are Environment Canada's enforcement responsibilities and the need for effective enforcement, enforcement problems under federal-provincial-territorial agreements and involving the Canadian public, which is the most crucial aspect of the report, the public's right to know and the public's right to the protection of our environment.

I draw to the attention of the House a book that was most crucial. A quote from this book is that citizens of nations should have a bill of rights. The charter of rights and freedoms of this country should be considered to include environmental protection so that we are free of the poisons and the toxins of the many industries that indiscriminately induce these toxins and pollutants into our water, our air and our land, the very nature of the life we are going to depend on for future generation.

In context we have the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. That is our bill of rights. That is what defines the protection of our environment. But the act is useless if it is not enforced. Without a police officer system on a highway, who is going to keep track of the speed limits? Who is going to keep track of the traffic infractions? Who is going to keep track of all the violations that take place from day to day without the volunteer aspect that we expect from our citizens? The CEPA regulations and this recommendation from the committee highlight that enforcement is a crucial aspect of the protection of our environment.

Under CEPA there are 26 regulations that deal with PCBs, ocean dumping, clean air and water, CFCs, dioxins, furons and fuels. All these issues deal with every constituency in this country. All members of parliament should be aware of the implications, of the inability of the government and the department to enforce these laws.

Under the Fisheries Act we also add fish habitat, the rivers, the lakes, the oceans and the coastlines. We have the drastic results of the Atlantic fisheries and the decline in our fish, the Pacific coast, the changes in our environment, the protection of the fish species and the very economy that depends on it. A total of 32 regulations fall under CEPA enforcement and the fisheries.

In recent times there have been seven equivalency and administrative agreements with the provinces and the territories. Three are specifically under CEPA and two under the Fisheries Act. One of them we highlight is Quebec, federal pulp and paper regulations, a major agreement between federal and provincial jurisdictions.

The Northwest Territories is defining a framework agreement in the five regional offices that comply with the enforcement and the interpretation, the Atlantic regional office, the Quebec regional office, the Ontario regional office, the prairie and northern regional office and the Pacific-Yukon regional office. These regional offices play an important role. In some of the data we were provided with, between 1996 and 1997 there 701 inspections under CEPA, 53 investigations were conducted, 2 directions, 28 warnings, 5 prosecutions and 7 convictions. In some cases investigations had begun in previous years.

In Fisheries Act data for the same year there were 778 inspections, 25 investigations, 1 direction, 8 warnings, 5 prosecutions and 6 convictions.

I highlight the major topics of the report, including the need for effective enforcement and limited resources as a result of the program review of the environment. Environment Canada has realized a 40% cutback in its the financial budget. There is also a loss of the Fraser River action plan that deals with the west coast. The Fraser is a major river system. The Pacific-Yukon budget has been cut by 30%. This cut was effective on April 1. Five hundred and fifty average inspections are expected to drop to three hundred and eighty-five as a result of the cutbacks. The cuts have a definite impact on enforcement. Vacant positions are not being filled, existing workloads and work expectations are insurmountable.

There are issues of climate change and a need to research and collect data on the state of our environment and our fish habitat. But the workload and the expectation is based on the existing workload which has been cutback by 40%. In the Quebec region alone, 60% of its enforcement budget is actually used for enforcement. We must direct these resources to where they are needed. Existing vacancies in Quebec have been left unfilled for as long as two years although it is one of the most industrialized provinces in Canada.

Poor information supplied to the committee by the department is a major highlight. We are still waiting for information from the department that was requested by our committee. To date it has not materialized. No on really knows how bad the situation is. No details are brought out on the enforcement versus compliance promotion and other activities. Two inspectors in Ontario provide four to five days per company to verify the national pollutant release inventory, a new international compliance. We are making international commitments to do inventory on our national state of pollution but our workload is being carried by the existing staff. In B.C. areas, including non-industrial impacts, there are approximately 17,200 possible sites for a total of 16 staff.

Entire sections of CEPA are not being enforced in Canada. We are trying to juggle and hope industry does not know much about the unenforced regulations and that Canadians believe the protection of our environment is of utmost importance. But we cannot assume. We must make sure enforcement of this law is taking place. Fifteen inspectors in the prairie region cover an area roughly 50% of Canada's land mass.

In 1992-93 there were 1,233 inspections concerning CEPA by inspectors, 93 investigations, 105 warnings, 2 directions and 22 prosecutions. By 1996 the situation deteriorated. We were down to 97 warnings, 15 prosecutions, no directions and no convictions, a clear reduction in environment presence and in regulatory enforcement.

The deputy minister admitted at committee under intense pressure of questioning that there were inadequate resources in terms of environment enforcement. A KPMG survey highlighted that the voluntary measures expected from companies are inadequate, about 16% efficiency compared with enforcement and regulatory compliance measures where 90% will comply.

This government continues to promote voluntary measures. In many areas of the report, there is a lack of resources, a lack of enforcement and also a lack of real harmonization between the provinces.

There is inadequate responsibility of reporting to parliament on the infractions to the fisheries habitat. The provincial regulators and enforcers are supposed to provide this information to the fisheries minister. He has still not been able to provide this report to the House of Commons for all the public in Canada to know. He is legally liable.

The agreement between Quebec and Canada on the application of federal pulp and paper regulations was highlighted. There were 20 infractions in the same year that this was re-signed and renewed and no prosecutions were instituted.

More alarming was the aquaculture memorandum of understanding between DFO and New Brunswick. In that area there was rampant disease and marine pollution. Pesticides were dumped to control an aquaculture problem but the natural environment was being compromised as a result.

In 1997 Ontario pulled out of its agreement with DFO to enforce fish habitat protection. The existing enforcement officers out of the Ontario region are expected to carry out what the province of Ontario is supposed to be doing.

Existing resources have been cut back. The expectations have increased and this report is a major highlight. We must address the enforcement of our environment and pollution protection of this country.

I beg that this House understand the implications of this report and the challenge for this government to make the environment a number one priority, especially this week which is environment week.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That the House do now proceed to the orders of the day.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen: