House of Commons Hansard #205 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pesticides.

Topics

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague should have spent a year and a half, as some of us did, on the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development listening to witnesses. I would suggest to him that he read the 1999 report of the commissioner of environment and sustainable development about managing the risks of toxic substances.

The fact is that some pesticides have been in the field for as long as 40 years or more without any re-evaluation. There are horror stories. One story is about acrolein being used in drainage ditches to eliminate weeds. The acrolein was so strong that it would kill the fish.

I asked the head of the PMRA why we were not banning this product when the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans had advised the PMRA to ban acrolein because it was killing the fish in drainage ditches. She told me that acrolein was destined for drainage ditches and that it had nothing to do with fish.

I then asked her: If acrolein is used in drainage ditches for irrigation and this water permeates into the groundwater are we saying it is safe to have acrolein in our groundwater and waterways, especially when it kills fish and then goes into the food chain?

I would suggest that the member read the report from the commissioner, as well as the statement the commissioner made when she appeared before the committee on May 8, 2002. The member will see that today there are stacks of pesticides that have not been re-evaluated or made subject to special reviews for years and years when safer alternatives are now available and have not yet been registered. We need this new law to push the process forward and eliminate those dangerous pesticides that are in the field today.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to rise and speak to third reading of Bill C-53, the pest control act. I know it is too late to make amendments to the bill but I hope to make some suggestions to which I hope the government will listen. Perhaps at some future date it will implement some of these suggestions and the positive changes we hope to see take place.

Unlike the debate earlier today in which the government found itself on the wrong side of an issue, the disability tax credit and having to defend its treatment of disabled persons, we find that this bill is politically correct in every way.

I think this bill is part of a trend. When I came to Ottawa, I was under the impression that bills would be written with a positive objective. It is surprising to me to see that a number of bills have been introduced with a negative objective.

The first one I came across was Bill C-15B, which was the animal rights legislation. It has a very strange definition in it where it defines animals as “any being that has the capacity to feel pain”. That is a very strange and negative way to define an animal. We could just as well have been defined animal as one that can feel excitement. It could have been defined either way. It was interesting that the government took a negative tact to define one of the major definitions in that bill.

When we read the primary objective of Bill C-53, once again we see that it has a negative tact of what it wants to do. It says that it is “in the national interest that the primary objective of the federal regulatory system be to prevent unacceptable risk to people and the environment from the use of pest control products”. It begins with the assumption that the bill needs to do something negative.

It is too late now to change the bill but the objective of the bill could have easily been to promote good health and environmental stewardship through the regulation of products which are used for controlling pests. That throws an entirely different flavour on the objective of the bill and its direction.

The perspective of the department is revealed in a large way by how it put the bill together. The objective sets the direction for how the bill will be enforced and how it will be applied. I have a lot of concerns about that. The words “prevent” rather than “promote” have been used . The words “stop“ rather than “provide” have been used. I think already we can see what the intention of the department will be in applying this legislation.

The bill also seems to be very politically correct in that it is discriminatory. Once again, by picking out special interest groups, the government misses out on protecting the people it should be protecting. In the preamble of the bill it mentions that we need to take into account the effects of chemicals on major identifiable subgroups, including pregnant women, infants, children, women and seniors. However it completely misses mentioning the effects on the people who use chemicals the most and who are most closely exposed to them, and that is men.

It is fine to identify the other identifiable subgroups. It is true that some of them are more susceptible to chemicals than others. In my constituency the men are exposed most closely to the majority of the chemicals. Men are working with them consistently. I would expect that to be fair government legislation should deal with everyone, not just the politically correct groups. It is an insult that seems to always accompany special interest politics by people who either do not really understand how things work right on the ground or bureaucrats who have an agenda.

I would like to talk a bit about the people at home. I come from an agricultural area where chemicals are used. The people who use them are primarily the men in our area. The farmers use them in spring to treat seed crops, fungicides and in a number of other ways. Later in the spring they use them for weed control and insect control. In the fall there are chemicals that are often applied as well. I suggest men do have special characteristics. There are a number of illnesses that are often ignored because it seems they are male in origin, while other more politically popular and perhaps more politically correct diseases get a lot of funding and attention from different places.

The bill discriminates. I am not too sure the people who wrote it realize that. My question would be this. How used to that way of thinking have we become that we begin to discriminate but do not realize it?

As so many other bills, this bill also has a coercive element to it. We have seen other coercive government thinking. We have seen the big stick approach in a number of other bills as well. Just lately, in Bill C-5, the government insisted on passing a bill without providing for compensation for landowners who would be affected by it. The government said that we should be comforted by the fact that at some point in the future it would put compensation in regulations.

We have seen it in Bill C-15B where there are very strong penalties for animal rights abuses, yet at the same time the government has chosen not to protect farmers and ranchers from frivolous claims and attacks on their normal way of life. We have seen it also in Bill C-68 which over the years has been a source of a lot of contention and problems.

We see it here again in terms of the transportation, disposal and handling of these products. Clause 6 reads:

No person shall handle, store, transport, use or dispose of a pest control product in a way that is inconsistent with...

Then it states the regulations and a couple of other options.

Later we see that the fines are very substantial. Penalties are severe: $200,000 or six months in jail for a summary conviction and $500,000 and three years upon conviction from an indictment.

I would suggest that farmers will be caught in this. It may be news to the government but containers are not always disposed of in the manner that the bureaucrats have decided is good. That happens for a number of reasons. Often the regulations are made with no accommodation for compliance. The regulations are set up but it is not practical to comply with them or there is no funding in place to make it possible to comply with them. Often there are physical barriers to compliance which includes things like no local facility to dispose of the product or the extra containers.

The best solution I saw on this was in my home province of Saskatchewan. It came out with a program where the containers were triple rinsed and then returned to the local landfill site. It was very successful, it was voluntary and it had educational component to it. Farmers were very happy to comply with the program. They just needed a bit of encouragement and some education on the fact that the program was there for them. Fines of $200,000 will not encourage compliance as much as encouragement and a good program with a bit of education.

I have some concerns as well about the re-evaluation process. Clause 16 talks about that. It mentions that all chemicals shall be re-evaluated at some point. It talks about the fact that if the pest control product was approved in the past years, then the review process would have to be implemented fairly quickly. There is a time limit on when new chemicals will have to be re-evaluated.

This could be a very good process or it could be a disaster. We need to know more about the provisions to re-evaluate all chemicals on the market. If the government tells everyone to begin from the start with these chemicals in order to get them re-evaluated, we will find ourselves with a very expensive, cumbersome process.

The PMRA has not exactly been successful at its registration of new products. I do not know that we can throw every chemical that we have approved in the last 30 years on it without causing a huge backlog. If the government expects companies to start over with the registration, it will be just about impossible. However, if at some point it is willing to set up with an ongoing evaluation system and give approval to chemicals that demonstrate that they are not a problem that are not causing problems in the environment, then this re-evaluation process could be an excellent thing. All of it depends upon the application of the process.

I have great concern over subclause 17(2) which talks about a special review every time any OECD country takes a product off the market. We know that trade concerns can often be hidden behind health and environmental issues. We have already run into that a number of times in other areas. I suggest this ties us too closely to other countries and their activities. The Liberal government seems to be very wary of getting too close to the United States, yet in this legislation says that if any OECD country decides to pull a chemical off the market, we need to do an automatic review of its registration.

If it is good to do it that way, why do we not do it the other way as well. If any one of the OECD countries approves a product, then we approve it as well and put it on the market. That would be a fair exchange. That is not part of this bill and it is not likely that would ever happen.

There are other concerns as well. One is harmonization. We were pleased to get one of the Alliance amendments through on harmonization. Under our amendment when an applicant applies for a registered pest control product or to amend the pest control product registration, they would now be able to submit information from reviews and evaluations conducted in other OECD countries.

We heard this a PMRA hearings. People want the opportunity to bring information here that has already been developed in other places and use as part of our registration. If we use a chemical under similar conditions, it makes good sense that we use that information. It avoids costly duplication for pesticide makers. It cuts down on the cost of the registration process. It actually hastens the process of getting those chemicals onto the market where they can replace some of the older and maybe more hazardous chemicals.

Minor use is one of my other concerns. A major shortfall in Bill C-53 is that it gives no consideration to minor use products. The agriculture committee has heard this a number of times. It is very important for horticulture and vegetable specialty crops. It is important that there be a discussion about minor use and the way it will work in Canada. Minor use applications are increasing as we go to more niche marketing.

There are a lot of times that the economy of scale absolutely does not support full registration. There was a situation last spring on the prairies regarding chick peas. Because the Bravo chemical was not working in stopping the ascochyta, I approached the government to try to get another chemical approved. It took some time but the other chemical, Quadras, was approved and it worked very well. However the approval process for that chemical took quite a bit of time. That approval time has to be shortened up. If a chemical is available, if it has been used in other places and if we seem to have similar conditions here, then it should be available quickly. This is important for Canadian competitiveness.

Fruit and vegetable growers have told us that they need these chemicals. If they are available in the United States, if they have been approved and are on the market and if we have similar conditions, we need to be able to use them. The government has recognized the importance of minor use but has done nothing about it.

Concern about access to minor use products was brought up prominently in the recent report of the agriculture committee on registration of pesticides and the competitiveness of Canadian farmers. According to the report:

Canadian farmers...do not have access to the same safe and effective pest management tools as their competitors, particularly American producers.

I was glad to be part of the committee that put that report together. It called for several improvements and I would like to read two of them to the House.

First, the committee has called for at least $1 million a year in funding for research and an analysis program similar to the U.S. IR-4 that will be developed in co-operation with agricultural stakeholders to generate the necessary data for approval of new minor use pesticide products or to expand the use of previously approved products.

A second recommendation is that an adviser on matters pertaining to minor use pest control products be appointed to intervene in decisions and policies to facilitate activities relating to minor use products. This adviser's mandate would include a special focus on harmonization issues with the United States such as the equivalency of similar zone maps and the consideration of data already existing in an OECD country. The adviser would report to the Minister of Health and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

Another concern the committee is that the bill does not address the issue of reduced risk products. It makes no provision for getting these new, safer reduced risk products directly into the marketplace. We need to expedite the reviews of such products.

The United States has reduced risk category and timelines in approving them. Last year the timelines to get these products onto the market was approximately 35% less than conventional pesticides. There are some big savings in terms of efficiency and cost.

Bill C-53 also does not mention any timelines for registration. That is an important change but perhaps it will be made later. There needs to be some timelines put on registration because presently this is taking far too long.

The health committee also heard from a number of witnesses that registrations were taking too long compared to the United States. That was consistent with what the agriculture committee heard as well. Our party has pressed for timelines to be drawn up but the government has chosen not to put them into this legislation.

I would like to take a few minutes to talk about the PMRA, which seems to be an ongoing problem in the agriculture sector. This legislation will be completely wasted unless changes are made to the PMRA.

Unfortunately, the bill does not bring accountability to the PMRA. Timelines are a concern within the PMRA, but also the audits that this legislation calls for do not go far enough. There is no requirement in the bill to report the financial information of the agency. We already saw the failure of that in the Canadian Wheat Board audit where wheat board directors were allowed to set the conditions for the audit.

The auditor general did a good job on the area she was allowed to study but she was not allowed to study the overall operations. She ended up doing a study of office management but could not study the overall efficiency of the board. Because of that she was prevented from reaching any conclusions about the kind of job the CWB was doing for farmers. I would not like to see the same thing happening with the PMRA. We need to know if the agency's objectives are being achieved in an expeditious manner.

Both the health and agriculture committees heard a number of times from witnesses their concerns about the PMRA. Many of their administrative and management practices were called into question repeatedly. The agriculture committee highlighted problems with the PMRA. We were told that seven years after the PMRA was started up it had advanced the pesticide registration system but the impatience and frustration of farmers persisted and was systematic of a glitch in the agency's overall operation.

We heard from many witnesses who were frustrated with having to deal with the PMRA bureaucracy and feeling that they could not get through the registration process. They could not talk with the people who could make decisions and often regulations were changed while they were trying to work on registrations.

The agriculture committee recommended that an independent ombudsman be appointed to facilitate discussions on the needs of farmers regarding pest control within the PMRA. We made a recommendation that the Auditor General of Canada conduct a value for money or performance audit to examine the management practices, controls and reporting systems of the PMRA.

We feel it is important that for the legislation to work that the problems within the PMRA be resolved if any of the worthy goals of the legislation are to be realized. The bill is only as good as the PMRA's ability to administer it.

I will go over the agriculture committee recommendations made regarding the PMRA. It is important that we get them on the record because we heard a lot of concern about these needs. The report that the agriculture committee submitted dealing with pesticide registration had four recommendations.

First, it recommended there be an ombudsman independent of the PMRA that would report to the health minister. Poor communication between farmers and the PMRA has been a concern. Having a third party reporting directly to the Minister of Health would certainly alleviate disputes. We thought it was a good idea and that the time had come for this to take place.

Second, it called for the auditor general to do a full audit of the PMRA. The PMRA has been slow in registering products. It has been far too slow. Bureaucrats from the PMRA told the committee that it was due to inadequate funding. There are people who would dispute that but the auditor general's recommendation would allow general performance and management practices to be audited for efficiency and we could then see whether this bureau is funded adequately or not. It would be important to do a value for money check to examine the management practices and the efficiency, or the lack of efficiency, that we may find within the PMRA.

Third, we called for a recommendation dealing with funding to enhance broader product access. More funding is needed for the approval of minor use pesticides. In the United States, for example, the EPA has approved 901 new pesticides and new uses for existing pesticides. The PMRA has only approved 24 products since March 2000. Are we getting good value for our money?

The committee recommended at least $1 million a year in funding from Agriculture Canada for research and analysis development in co-operation with stakeholders for the approval of new minor use products.

Fourth, we made a recommendation for a scientific data adviser. The PMRA often seems to reinvent the wheel every time an application comes in for a minor use product. The committee recommended an adviser on minor use pest controls to intervene in decisions and policies. The minor use registration is a growing and significant part of what the PMRA will do. It is important for it to have a scientific adviser in place to make good and quick decisions on minor use. The person could work specifically on the harmonization with the U.S. There should be some equivalency with the United States and encouragement to use existing data so that we do not have to repeat the research that was done several other times.

The bill is needed and it is time that it was passed. It is long overdue. We have some reservations about it and I have tried to make some suggestions of areas that the government might consider improving. I know that they will not be in the bill but hopefully in the future the government would take a look at putting some of these improvements into place. The government could have done a better job but the bill serves the purpose of beginning the process.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the remarks of my colleague of the Canadian Alliance on Bill C-53.

Like several other opposition members, the Canadian Alliance member is suggesting that this bill is a step forward. But it is not a big enough step, given the bill's purpose. The bill should address the whole issue of pesticides.

When pest control was discussed in the previous parliament, we submitted a brief, and several witnesses told us that the federal government should give money to the provinces to allow them to consider providing university training to help farmers make the transition to organic farming.

Would this proposal be agreeable to my colleague from the Canadian Alliance? At the beginning of his remarks, he told the House that a certain form of pesticide use was important for agriculture. Would it not be time to move to organic farming?

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, my area of southwest Saskatchewan has been one of the leaders in the area of organic farming. We have a number of organic farmers. I have a brother-in-law who has been involved in it for over 20 years so I understand a little bit of the philosophy and the interest that goes with it. It is a great development in western Canada and throughout the rest of Canada that we are moving toward organic farming. At the same time there are a lot of positive impacts from people who are farming with conventional methods.

The problem is not with pesticides. It is not with the fact that they exist and that we have them. We need to have pesticides approved that are good for the environment. There are lots of situations, times and places where those chemicals are good. They are good from a scientific, economic and environmental perspective. I do not buy into this idea that the use of pesticides is somehow destroying our world.

I would suggest that the improper use of them is one of those things that we must correct, but we also need to fix the regulatory system so that we can bring those new pesticides that have less impact on the environment on stream as quickly as possible. We need to work with the American government in registering some of those so that we can also use them and that the older ones can be taken off the market if they are a danger to our environment.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to relate this legislation to the foundational principles that were set forth by the Canadian Environmental Law Association and the World Wildlife Fund with respect to how prospective legislation of this kind should be evaluated. I will run through the principles as set forth by these groups and look at the present legislation in that context.

The first and most important principle is that pesticide legislation must protect the most vulnerable among us. In other words, protecting the health of the most vulnerable populations must be the benchmark for the evaluation of any pesticide. For human beings this may be a child or a senior, whereas currently pesticides are evaluated based on risk to healthy adult males. For environmental protection it may be a fish, a bird or a tadpole, depending on the nature of the pesticide and its use. It is particularly important to ensure protection for the embryo and the young of all species whose reproductive and nervous systems are developing and most easily damaged.

In that regard at present, under the existing Pest Control Products Act, modern risk assessment methods are used but they are not incorporated in the law.

Under the proposed new pest control products act, PCPA, health evaluations of pesticide would take into account sensitivities of vulnerable groups such as children and seniors There would be extra protections for infants and children. In my view it still does not go far enough and does not reach, for example, the threshold of American legislation, as has been mentioned earlier in debate in this House.

Pesticide exposure is aggregated and includes exposure through food, water and pesticide use in homes and schools, and cumulative effects of pesticides that act in the same way are considered.

Principle number two stipulates that pesticides should be considered guilty until proven innocent. In other words, the responsibility needs to be, as it is not yet now, on the applicants to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that their pesticides will not cause harm to people and wildlife. Under the proposed legislation the onus would be on the applicant to demonstrate that these pesticides would not cause harm to people and wildlife and would not be on the public to bear the burden to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that a chemical is safe.

Principle number three is the importance of reviewing existing pesticides regularly. Simply put, most pesticides in use today were developed and registered for use decades ago. New data about risks to health and the environment are emerging all the time. New proposed legislation now under consideration in the House must provide for regular reviews of pesticides in the light of new data.

I would like to make specific reference to the provisions for re-evaluations and special reviews, which would include re-evaluations of older pesticides that would be mandatory 15 years after the registration of the product. A request from the public could trigger a special review of a pesticide. If a pesticide registrant does not respond when information is requested for a re-evaluation or a special review, that pesticide's registration may be cancelled or amended, again putting the burden on the pesticide registrant or applicant.

The precautionary principle would be applied during re-evaluations and special reviews. That means where there are threats that a registered pesticide could cause serious damage it would not be necessary to await full scientific certainty to take cost effective measures. The principle was set down in the recent supreme court decision in these matters.

Principle number four would ensure reporting, monitoring and follow up for adverse effect. At present there is no formal requirement for reporting or monitoring the adverse effects from a pesticide's use. Without this data reviews are difficult to undertake. Under the proposed bill pesticide applicants and registrants would be obligated to report information on the adverse effects of a pesticide.

Principle number five is that one needs to automatically ban pesticides when critical health and environmental problems are identified. In other words pesticides should be automatically banned if they build up in the food chain or pose hazards to health and the environment.

The proposal for automatic bans of pesticides in my view does not go far enough in the bill. However, the bill would provide enhanced enforcement capability through clearly defined offences, increased powers of inspectors and higher maximum penalties. For example, importation of an unregistered product could lead to a maximum fine of $500,000 and three years imprisonment. Recklessly or wilfully causing harm to the environment or causing serious bodily harm would carry the maximum penalty under the act of $1 million or three years imprisonment.

Principle number six is that the cosmetic use of pesticides should be banned. In other words, pesticides used only for cosmetic purposes are not acceptable. This is an issue to which I have spoken in the House and which is of particular concern, among other things, to the constituents of my riding. Regrettably, Bill C-53 contains no prohibition on the cosmetic use of pesticides. If the precautionary principle were to be applied the cosmetic use of pesticides would be prohibited.

In this regard we should look to the province of Quebec which is moving toward reducing and gradually eliminating the cosmetic use of pesticides. We have municipal initiatives to that effect. A co-operative federal-provincial-municipal framework would be appropriate if it were unpinned by the precautionary principle.

Principle number seven states that we should not permit registration of pesticides when alternatives are available. The essence of Bill C-53's risk management approach is to prevent registration of products that would pose unacceptable risks to human health or the environment and to manage the use of registered pesticides in a manner that would preclude unacceptable risks.

Principle number eight would ensure public participation in the regulatory system and public access to information on hazards and use. Canadians have a right to know what pesticides are being applied to the food they buy, to the parks they use and at their children's schools.

In this regard some important features of the legislation which would promote public participation include provisions for public comment prior to major decisions for full registration; access to information; support for pesticide registrations; an opportunity to request a review panel to re-examine major registration decisions; and an opportunity to request a special review of registrations. The documentation to be used as a basis for public consultation would contain a description of the product and its intended uses, a summary of the risk and value assessments, as well as the proposed decision and the rationale for it.

Principle number nine emphasizes the importance of education, awareness and support with respect to alternative and transition programs. In other words, the federal government should support the extension of education and research on alternatives to pesticide use. Farmers need support. Support for making the transition to pest management systems that reduce reliance on pesticides makes sense both ecologically and economically.

My hon. colleague also spoke to the issue when he was minister of the environment in Quebec where he introduced a legislative framework. That is the objective we should have in mind for this legislation as well.

Principle number 10 is that the precautionary principle should be enshrined throughout the bill. It is not at present. It is referenced only with regard to evaluation reviews and the like. However with regard to the supreme court decision and public policy in these matters, the precautionary principle should underpin the legislation as a whole and be read into it. I trust the courts would read this into it and incorporate it by reference throughout the legislation.

Regarding the oversight principle, there would now be a seven year parliamentary review. I would have agreed with the proposal that there be a five year review, but I am pleased there is at least some provision for oversight and review.

In conclusion, the legislation is an important first step. It incorporates some of the principles recommended by groups such as the Canadian Environmental Law Association and the World Wildlife Federation. However it does not go far enough. Bill C-53 deserves to be supported because it would address the important principles to which I have referred. However for the legislation to be effective regulations would need to be brought forward to give it specific powers of implementation. The PMRA should be given a statutory mandate. As I mentioned, the precautionary principle should underpin the legislation as a whole. It is at the core of public policy and how we can protect and evaluate such legislation.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part to the third reading debate on Bill C-53, an act to protect Human Health and Safety and the Environment by regulating products used for the control of pests.

At the outset, I wish to congratulate my colleague, the member for Rosemont--Petite-Patrie, for the excellent work he did throughout the study of this bill and also congratulate several opposition colleagues for putting their arguments so forcefully and, by so doing, getting the health minister, who introduced the bill, to really protect human health by including the precautionary principle in the bill.

It must be recognized, as my colleague from Richmond--Arthabaska said earlier this afternoon, that this bill is cobbled together, or leaning on crutches, if I can put it that way. Now, when people move around on crutches, they often go hobbling along, unsure of their footing, and move cautiously to protect themselves. This is the case of the bill as it now stands.

With this bill, we will never be able to meet the expectations raised by the study by the former environment committee on the impact of pesticides on the health of children, women, pregnant women, as well as on the health of vulnerable people like seniors or people who are in poor health, in particular those with asthma.

The former committee did the work and produced an excellent report under the leadership of the Liberal member for Davenport. I am pleased to say it, because he did a good job. As my colleague from Lac-Saint-Louis said, I believe this was the best report tabled in the House in many years.

The health minister had everything she needed to finally draft legislation that would allow us to go forward. However, today, even if my colleagues from the opposition, the member for Rosemont--Petite-Patrie and myself, believe that there are many flaws in this bill, we will support it even if it is cobbled together, leaning on crutches and represents a feeble and uncertain step forward.

This is unfortunate, because since 1969, we have not taken the necessary steps to bring about environmental changes adapted to today's and tomorrow's needs.

I do not know what kept the health minister from adopting this approach, but it is certainly sad to discover that fact in the House today. We are convinced that the government had a good momentum at first. We went to committee hearings and the government adopted broad principles. However, the more the committee sat and the more we debated, the government backed down. This is unfortunate, because the government had everything it needed to act. I do not know what made it back down.

Today, I can say that the new minister of the environment for Quebec, André Boisclair, decided to act on pesticides. He created a committee, which made some recommendations, and he said he would eliminate the use of pesticides on lawns for cosmetic purposes.

That is what this report suggested to the health minister. However, she was not there. Fortunately, this is legislation concerning a jurisdiction shared by the federal government and the provinces. I must admit that, for once, the bill does not infringe upon provincial jurisdiction. It is important to point this out. In fact, the provinces will have the opportunity to act in their own area. However, the federal government should have taken steps to make its own area ironclad and should have said “we are moving in a new direction”.

Let us just talk about the PMRA. The government keeps saying that the basic principle of the PMRA should be the regulation of pest control, with the sole objective of protecting health and the environment. However, we know that, since 1965, with the Pest Control Products Act, which controls registration, marketing and standards on product labelling, there are 6,000 products, and the government refuses, under the new Bill C-53, to ensure that all these products that were registered before 1965 are re-evaluated. No deadline is set. We know that today, as the Canadian Alliance member was saying, there might be products that are less harmful to the environment and human health. They cannot be registered because all the other products must currently be re-evaluated and the government has not established a deadline. The fact that there is no deadline in this bill is a major shortcoming.

This bill also has very serious shortcomings regarding the registration process. Nowhere in this bill it says that the PMRA will expedite the registration process. This is very important. Some people came to testify on this during our study on pesticides and told us “We would really want to act, but products that are very harmful to the environment are still on the list. Our hands are tied”. As we can see, these products are very harmful to health.

The bill does not propose alternatives to current pesticides either, as recommended by all the reports, focus groups and the standing committee on the environment.

The Minister of Health should have acted to ensure that, finally, Canada has legislation based on the principle of human health. In the report from the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development entitled “Pesticides: Making the Right Choice”, we stated very good reasons for taking action with regard to the vulnerability of children.

Most of the public health and environmental protection organizations received by the Committee, in particular the Canadian Institute of Child Health, the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada, the World Wildlife Fund, the Canadian Environmental Law Association and the Ontario College of Family Physicians, denounced the Canadian pesticide management system because it does not specifically address the vulnerability of children, and emphasized the importance of correcting this deficiency. In the view of the Canadian Institute of Child Health, and I quote:

Most regulations and policies are designed to protect adults and refer to the healthy 70-kilogram male, and not the 7-kilogram child.

May I remind members that, in the summertime, when children go outside to play when the weather is nice, when it is not raining—unlike the weather we had for most of this week— they come in contact with people's lawns. When pesticides are used, it is the children who come in close contact with these very harmful products who are the most vulnerable.

We know that children are in close contact with pesticides; credible studies prove it. The Minister of Health should come to the defence of Canadians' health. She had the authority to prohibit, in the bill, within three years, the cosmetic use of pesticides. She did not do so, even though we had credible studies showing that there has been a spectacular increase in asthma and allergies over the last few years.

Also, statistics show that in Quebec and Canada women have fewer children for reasons directly linked to the environment. We know how pleasant it is to have children and grandchildren. I am a grandmother and it makes me very happy. Our children are our future. Studies show that everything in the environment has a direct impact on the health of pregnant women. The minister was given reports showing the link between health and pesticides and hazardous products, but she did nothing about it.

I am thinking that maybe this bill should not have been entrusted to the Department of the Environment. The government introduced the bill, put forward some proposals, rejected every single amendment the Bloc Quebecois introduced regarding registration and restricting the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes, and to accelerate the registration process and the review of the current list. The government rejected all these amendments and did not include the precautionary principle, which should have been the basis of this bill.

This bill is an unfinished piece of work. Some people might like to buy unfinished pieces of work. Health and the environment are too important to allow just anyone to play around with concepts that are so important for the people we serve.

We have to say that the bill before us today is unfinished. People are way ahead of the minister and her bill. People are attuned to the environment.

In 1991, the municipality of Hudson in Quebec introduced a bylaw banning the cosmetic use of pesticides. It is now 2002, and the minister has not reached that point yet. Does that mean that she has forgotten an important step in the evolution of the municipalities and provinces that are directly affected by bills that do not go far enough?

I think that she has not finished her homework. When we visit our ridings, we meet a lot of people who are very attuned to the environment. How many seniors, parents, children and young people tell us “Why is nothing being done at the federal level for the environment? Why is your legislation is so obsolete?

A short while ago, in my riding, I witnesseded a primary school pilot project promoting the environment.

I was amazed. These children were nine and ten years old. They were so attuned to the fact that the environment had to be central to their life. They knew that previous generations, their parents and their grand-parents' generations, were directly responsible for what is happening now in the environment because of what they did.

These children were aware of that. They told me and their parents that something had to be done, that corrective action had to be taken, that we had to go green to give people the feeling that the environment is both the alpha and the omega of life on our planet.

We have to admit that we have done things that have resulted in the elimination of a good part of our forests. Let us think about acid rain. Let us think about all the pollution we released into the atmosphere without a second thought. We were under the impression that everything was eternal and renewable.

When we know and think that something is renewable, at some point we have to face the facts and say “We must protect what we have. If we lose that, it will be very difficult to make up for lost time and for natural assets that have resulted from a certain way of doing things”.

In Bill C-53, the Minister of Health has greatly disappointed me. Being the Minister of Health, she should take the health of Canadians and Quebecers to heart. I see that she did not.

This is unfortunate because, what is more, she is a woman. Women are very much aware—we bear children and take care of them—of the fact that more and more children are very fragile and quite affected by their immediate environment. They suffer from a many allergies, have problems with asthma, sleeping disorders and are hyperactive.

This would have been a way to solve a lot ofhealth problems for children, pregnant women and the elderly. The population is aging. People can expect to live longer, but they are more and more fragile.

Instead of being sick for the rest of their lives, they must be allowed to lead a very good life, in a healthy environment that will allow them to be in contact with their children, to be healthy and to say “Life is beautiful. Perhaps we have been a little irresponsible, but today's laws will protect our young people, our children and, consequently, will protect us too”.

I would have liked to congratulate the minister, but I cannot. I say that she has taken a step forward, but I encourage her to go further and to speed things up so that we can finally have legislation that it is truly designed to protect health and the environment.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleagues, the hon. member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie and the hon. member for Jonquière, who did excellent work on this extremely important committee.

I am also disappointed that the health minister did not go far enough on such an important issue. I had the opportunity to do exactly the same study on pesticides in the standing committee on agriculture. I think that the members of that committee were ready to go further. We thought the health minister would go further.

I would also add that it has become extremely important to stop releasing poison into the atmosphere, especially around homes. An important mayor in my riding said “In my city, I am ready to pass a bylaw tomorrow; my seven year old son has cancer because of pesticides spread around the house”. Similar examples are to be found everywhere.

Can my colleague from Jonquière explain why more research is not being conducted on natural products, among others, which could replace chemical products and would be less dangerous? Could she also explain what lobby, what power is stopping the minister from doing more on this issue?

We know that chemical products used in the maintenance of lawns, golf courses and so forth cause more pollution than the same products used in the whole agriculture sector.

I would like my colleague to explain what, in her opinion, is stopping the minister from doing what she ought to be doing to protect human health.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Champlain.

I hope no lobby is powerful enough to prevent the health minister from taking action to protect health and the environment. If such a lobby does exist and she is influenced by it, I think she has a big problem. I think it would be a big problem, and I hope it is not true.

Moreover, I think that in the riding of Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay, a local business has indeed come up with a natural product for spraying on grass for cosmetic purposes. Its product was registered by Quebec authorities. Right now this new business is marketing its product and is urging people to use it.

Some research has been conducted, and products are now available to replace pesticides. I urge Quebec municipalities to make bylaws banning the use of pesticides. I think that they will have to assume this responsibility to make up for what the minister has failed to do with Bill C-53.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I compliment the hon. member for Jonquière on her commentary. I worked side by side with her on the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development when we put out the report on pesticides.

I have two questions. First, does the hon. member not think it is a major shortfall that the precautionary principle would not be made operational throughout the legislation as we had recommended in the committee report? If the PMRA uses a precautionary approach why would it not want to enshrine it in the act?

Second, is it not also a shortfall that the bill would not incorporate non-active ingredients with more clarity by giving full disclosure of the potential toxic effects of formulants?

Does the hon. member not agree that these are two shortfalls--

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I regret but I am going to have to intervene and start with members' statements. The hon. member for Jonquière will have the opportunity in the last five minutes left in her intervention to respond after question period.

Millennium Scholarships
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Beth Phinney Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate 15 Hamilton and area students recognized by the federal government for academic achievement and community service.

Established by the government three years ago, the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation excellence awards are divided into local, provincial and national levels and give students either a one-time gift of $4,000, an annual scholarship of $4,000 for four years, or $4,800 annually for four years.

These scholarship awards ensure that the best and brightest of Canadian students receive recognition for their hard work, academic excellence and community involvement.

Sidra Abid, Danny Auron, Catherine Kates, Adrian Brook, Krista Cranston, Julian Tam, Bikramjit Nahal, Anna Chew, Sarah Muller, Lindsay Scott, Julie Strychowsky, Brynne Stainsby, Megan Bauer and Leslie Allchin have all been rewarded with--

Millennium Scholarships
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Kootenay--Columbia.

Government Contracts
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are disgusted as they hear report after report about millions of their tax dollars being handed out to sponsor phantom events, millions more being paid for reports never received, and still more millions being blown on questionable government advertising.

The government is out of control and out of touch when it promises it will return some federal tax dollars to pay for important projects that affect the well-being of small communities. The Liberals promise project money for safe drinking water, health care facilities and safe highways, then withhold the funds even when they are approved.

Better yet, the federal Liberals say there is money for important projects like the expansion of the Cranbrook airport in my constituency, but the Liberals cannot decide on the rules because the Prime Minister and his cabinet are at each other's throats over the leadership issue.

It is phantom money for real projects, yet for their Liberal cronies it is real money for phantom projects. It is vacuous Liberal promises. The reality is that there is little money for community projects because it went to Liberal buddies and golfing friends.

Millennium Scholarships
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

John Finlay Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada created the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation in 1998 to assist Canadians in pursuing their post-secondary education goals.

Each year through its bursary program the foundation awards over 90,000 bursaries to Canadian students based on financial needs. Furthermore, through its Excellence Award Program the foundation recognizes academic achievement, community service and interest in innovation with grants to hundreds of Canada's top students each year.

As a former principal and as member of parliament for Oxford I am pleased that two students from my riding have been chosen to receive millennium excellence awards this year. I congratulate Justin Deluca of College Avenue Secondary School and Catherine Hignett of Huron Park Secondary School, both in Woodstock.

On behalf of the Government of Canada I wish Justin and Catherine continued success as they move on to post-secondary studies for the next important step in their lives.

Health
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, many of us, of our friends or relatives are living in hope that new medications will be found to treat the disease they suffer from.

New drugs that are the outcome of research must, however, go through an entire system of review and approval before they can be marketed.

Unfortunately, however, the deadlines for approval are not always met, for a variety of reasons, the consequence of which is intense worries for a number of patients.

One of the ways of attaining this objective is to create a mechanism to ensure that the deadlines for new drug approvals are really improved and adhered to.

Finally, all stakeholders must work together in the patients' interest.