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 lead.

Topics

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

June 13th, 2002 / 11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-53, to amend the pesticides act.

For almost half an hour, perhaps 40 minutes, I will try to give the background of what the pesticides act was and of what we would wish for in a future pesticides act. I will, of course, talk about the harmful effects of the use of pesticides, both in Quebec and in Canada; about the current legislation, but also existing provincial legislation, particularly in Quebec; about the implementation of this legislation and about some recent supreme court decisions concerning, among other things, the Hudson bylaw on the use of pesticides. I will also talk about power sharing under the current constitution.

We know that the federal government can get involved in this area, and we have never challenged this. This is one of the reasons why we will vote for Bill C-53.

In Quebec, a task force looked at the issue. As a result, the Quebec minister of the environment is preparing a policy that can and must complement the current legislation and the changes that we are in the process of making.

I will also deal with the issue of the analyses done by the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, on which my colleague from Jonquière sat and whose May 2000 report proposed certain avenues to the government regarding pesticides management, registration and use in Canada. In some respects—I will get back to this late—we feel the committee went a little bit too far in its proposals to ban and prohibit the cosmetic use of pesticides. However, some proposals that I pushed for and my colleague vigorously and steadfastly defended when she was on the committee are part of the report and have been a source of inspiration for us both in committee and here in the House as witnessed by the motions and amendment we put forward.

I will talk about the Cousineau discussion group in Quebec looking at the use of pesticides in urban areas, Bill C-53, the amendments put forward in committee and what we want as a model for pest control management. This is the proper term to use.

My first point will be the harmful effects of pesticide use. An increasing number of studies, both in the U.S. and in Canada, show that frequent pesticide use in urban areas, on private land and in agriculture has harmful effects, especially on children. This is one of the reasons why the government introduced this bill.

Several groups pointed it out to us. Even if the children are not affected in their physical development, we know that learning disabilities are frequently linked to the fact that some children grow in an environment where pesticides are used frequently. Several U.S. studies point to what has now become obvious. Moreover, groups specializing in early childhood development told us they wanted tests aimed at evaluating the impact of pesticides on children's learning disabilities to be taken into consideration when registering new pesticides and re-evaluating existing pesticides.

It has been proven that pesticide use has a major impact on pregnant women, infants and children. Thus, the object of Bill C-53 we are addressing today is, as its title would indicate, to protect human health and safety and the environment by regulating products used for the control of pests.

The pesticide industry in Canada is—and this is a very appropriate term—flourishing. Canadian sales are around $1.4 billion, and we are told that, in Quebec alone, half the lawns are treated with pesticides at this time. Pesticide use is, therefore, frequent. The figure given for Quebec alone in 1997 is 8,200 metric tonnes, with a major increase between 1990 and 1996, 60%, for ornamentals alone.

More than 300 kilos are used in public areas alone, that is parks and other public lands, in Montreal. We are told that 80% of pesticide use is agricultural.

This is, therefore, a flourishing industry, a major industry, so we must realize that we cannot just turn up with legislation without at the same time developing alternatives. If we want the public to make use of other solutions, other methods, they have to be made available.

It is wrong to think that a law banning pesticide use would be enough on its own to accomplish a real battle against pests in Quebec and in Canada. Alternatives must be made available so that the industry and the public can find effective solutions.

What we are engaged in today is not without importance. We are re-evaluating a law that has been around for 33 years. The year I was born, 1969, was when Canada enacted pesticide legislation. Thirty-three years later, here we are reviewing it. There has not been any abuse, but the time has come to review the legislation. We are dealing with 6,000 pesticides containing more than 500 active ingredients that were evaluated prior to 1980.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I apologize for interrupting the hon. member. There have been consultations among all parties in the House about two issues I wish to present to the House. First, I would seek unanimous consent to move without debate the adoption of government business No. 29 which would amend the standing orders. I could read the order into the record but there has been consultation and perhaps the House would agree to dispense with the reading of it. It is the one to do with royal assent.

Could the Chair see if there is unanimous consent to move the motion and that it then be carried?

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Richardson)

Is there unanimous consent?

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will continue with my speech on Bill C-53, which, as I indicated, seeks to amend an act that has been in effect for 33 years.

What we are in the process of doing is rather important, and it is also important to pass this bill. However, in my opinion, we should have adopted certain amendments. We are currently faced with a situation where the vast majority of the 6,000 pesticides in Canada, which contain 500 active ingredients, were evaluated by using 33 year old standards. The result of this is that we do not really know the impact of the use of these pesticides, both on public health and on the environment.

This change was urgently required, not only because, in my opinion, the evaluation standards are outdated, but also because we were told—and the environmental commissioner was very clear on this a several years ago—that the agency responsible for the registration and re-evaluation of pesticides is ineffective and is not operating properly.

So, it was important that these changes be amde quickly. In her 1999 report, the commissioner indicated that the process lacked clarity and that certain aspects of the special examinations were dealt with in a negligent manner.

She also indicated that there was a lack of re-evaluation programs and that Canada was lagging far behind other countries. An international comparative study was conducted and Canada ranked behind the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia in terms of the percentage of expenditures earmarked for the evaluation of pesticides.

Therefore, it was important that this legislation be reviewed quickly and that the agency be given the means to conduct good re-evaluations and implement a sound registration process.

This is why, at the time, we asked for these legislative amendments. Moreover, as I indicated, Quebec passed its own pesticide legislation in 1987.

We believe that the legislation can and must reflect a degree of complementarity in terms of the measures taken and pest control. Let me explain. We on this side of the House feel that the federal government is responsible for the registration, marketing and labelling of pesticides.

We also believe that the provinces, including Quebec, are responsible for the use of pesticides. It goes without saying that municipalities also have a role to play.

However, the role played by municipalities today is fairly complex. Why? Partly as a result of a supreme court judgment from June 2001. This judgment gave the town of Hudson the power to regulate the cosmetic use of pesticides.

In 1991, the town of Hudson decided to pass a bylaw banning the use of pesticides.

There were many legal challenges in Quebec courts. This ended with the supreme court judgment in November 2001, which stated that since municipalities were provincial creations under Quebec's Cities and Towns Act and the Municipal Code of Québec, they have the right to regulate the cosmetic use of pesticides.

However, this judgment made reference to the fact that municipalities are under provincial, not federal, jurisdiction. That is when Quebec decided to act, establishing the Cousineau discussion group on October 25, 2001, to look at the use of pesticides in urban areas. For four days in January 2002, the group heard from more than 550 organizations and individuals, and it reached a certain number of conclusions.

First, the group plans on telling the minister “There must be a plan to ban the use of pesticides. We must set a three year deadline for public spaces, such as parks, public sites, schools and childcare centres”.

Is it right that we are still spreading pesticides in urban areas, in parks and childcare centers, when we know full well the impact they can have on children and nursing and pregnant women?

The group said “Let us give ourselves three years to ban the use of pesticides in public places, and five years for trees and shrubs”. This is one of the report's strong conclusions.

The second recommendation says that a training program for environmental management stakeholders should quickly be put in place. It does not make sense that workers, sales persons and people who use pesticides on a daily basis do not know the way to use them. We believe that the provinces should establish management and training programs.

Also, as I have already mentioned, alternative procedures have to be put in place and we must establish, and this is fundamental, a pesticide management code or, as it is called, a regulatory framework.

Following the supreme court's decision regarding the town of Hudson and the tabling of the Cousineau report, I believe that we should implement in Quebec a national standard for the use of pesticides, which could be called a code of environmental management, or pesticide management code, to ensure compliance, so that all municipalities, not one but all, implement this management code across Quebec.

These are the main recommendations of the Cousineau report, which the Quebec environment minister has received and on the basis of which he pledged to introduce a policy.

Before that, in May 2000, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, of which my colleague from Jonquière was a member, tabled its report. The committee did a serious study on the use of pesticides and several conclusions came out of its work. This is what the committee recommends.

First, members of the committee believe that we should eliminate, within five years, the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes. This is one of the main conclusions of the Standing Committee, though we should be cautious about that. The federal government itself recognized that it does not have the power to prohibit, under the Constitution, the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes, which is a provincial jurisdiction.

We feel that the federal government should be responsible for the registration and marketing of pesticides and that the provinces should be responsible for their use. This time, the federal government must be given credit for deciding to mind its own business, unlike with other legislation. It decided to confine its activities to marketing and registration. We will come back to this. The PMRA works very badly and lacks transparency. There are no provisions in the bill for a ban.

But the provinces must act. Quebec has promised to eliminate the use of pesticides in public places over a period of three to five years.

We recommend that the precautionary principle be an important element. This recommendation was made in committee. The member for Louis-Hébert also sat on the committee and, for once, there was no partisanship. We were all of the same opinion; the government should stick to its own business. There was solid unanimity, and this included Department of Justice officials, which was recognized by the federal government.

I do not know whether the present leadership struggle has anything to do with the apparently greater receptiveness to a provincial role, but I think that we had some good exchanges in committee. In any event, we concluded that the federal government should not ban cosmetic use.

At the time, the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development thought that the precautionary principle should be the cornerstone of Bill C-53. Unfortunately, this was not to be. Both the Bloc Quebecois and the New Democratic Party put forward amendments in committee so that the precautionary principle would not be confined to a single clause of the bill—clause 23, if I am not mistaken—but would also be part of the preamble. We wanted the precautionary principle to become the cornerstone of pest control legislation in Canada.

The government steamroller operated in committee, as it has for many other bills. There was no infighting because the steamroller had paved the way. The amendments put forward by the member on my left, from the Progressive Conservative Party, were rejected. The New Democratic Party amendments were rejected. The Canadian Alliance party, to my right, had a completely different vision of pest control. It wanted more powers for the industry, because it feels that it is an industry.

If we want to protect the environment and public health, the precautionary principle must be part of more than just one clause in the bill. It must be included in the preamble, the law, and the regulations, which is not the case at present.

We are really disappointed with the government's attitude. The environment commissioner came before the committee to tell us that if Canada wants to meet its international commitments to the environment and sustainable development, it must do more than just settle for signing conventions, as it did with the Rio Convention in 1992. As we prepare, ten years post-Rio, to go to Johannesburg, the federal government is still refusing to include the precautionary principle in its legislation.

The commissioner was clear on this. If Canada wants to meet its international commitments, it must take steps to ensure that all its environmental legislation includes the precautionary principle. Unfortunately, this is not the case with this bill. The government rejected the amendments presented by the four opposition parties in this House.

We also feel that deadlines need to be imposed for the process of re-evaluation, although of course there are some set in the bill. But we never know when this will be over. As a result, there are still pesticides on the market that were evaluated years ago, up to 33 years ago. They are in the process of being re-evaluated, but the public still has access to them without necessarily having any information on their public health impact.

Those of us, the majority of us, in opposition believe that a date must be indicated by which re-evaluation will be terminated. This the government has refused to do.

As I have said, there will never be a real battle against pesticides if we choose to ban their use without developing any alternatives to the present use of pesticides on public and private property.

We on this side of the House believe that the government missed a golden opportunity to speed up the registration process for biopesticides. We should not talk only about pest control or pest management, but also about biopesticides.

As we know, in Canada there are only 30 biopesticides available on the market, compared to over 150 in the United States. If the government wants to come up with a true alternative to the pesticides that are currently being used by over 80% of the agricultural sector, why did it not speed up the registration process for biopesticides, particularly in the ornamental horticulture sector?

People from the ornamental horticulture sector came to both Quebec City and Ottawa and said that if there were alternatives, they would use them. They told us that they did not like using pesticides. The reason they do is because there are no alternatives.

So, we must speed up the registration process for biopesticides in Canada, so as to make up for the lost ground, because Canada is seriously lagging behind in this area. We also believed that a support program should be set up for farmers who want to stop using pesticides on their land.

Earlier, I said that agriculture accounts for 80% of the pesticides used in Canada and in Quebec. This is a significant critical mass. This is what, to some extent, ensures the industry's survival. We on this side of the House think that an incentive and support program must be set up for farmers who want to eliminate the use of pesticides and promote organic farming in Canada.

Why would Canada not have programs similar to those that exist in Europe?

In Europe they offer financial incentives to eliminate pesticides. They have programs to support organic farming, and technical programs to promote organic farming and offer competitive products. This is something the Canadian government refused to do and is still refusing to do, leaving us very disappointed.

If we are serious about protecting the environment and public health, the PMRA must do a better job. In this respect, the 1999 report by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development is very enlightening. She said that out of 500 active ingredients found in registered pesticides, over 300 were approved before 1981, and over 150 before 1960.

This means that there are still 150 active ingredients in approximately 6 000 pesticides available on the Canadian market. These pesticides were registered before 1960 without knowing what their true impact on public health and the environment was. There is obviously a problem with regard to registration.

Moreover, the commissioner said there was a blatant lack of re-evaluation programs. This is what she said:

In 1986, priorities for re-evaluation were developed by Agriculture Canada, which at that time was responsible for pesticides registration.

According to the PMRA, it is obvious that this delayed the implementation of re-evaluation programs. The commissioner believes that without efficient re-evaluation programs, there is no guarantee Canadians are not exposed to unacceptable risks.

This is the reality of pest control management in Canada, which is lagging far behind other countries.

The federal government wants to interfere in the area of health care and impose national standards while in its own areas of jurisdiction, areas under its own responsibility, it is unable to manage pest control in Canada to ensure that Canadians are not exposed to unacceptable risks.

This is a pretty damning observation by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. She tells us that an international benchmarking study commissioned by the PMRA ranked Canada behind the United States, the U.K. and Australia in the ratio of spending on re-evaluation of existing pesticides to spending on registration of new pesticides.

She indicates that in 1997-98, the government spent 25% more on re-evaluation activities than on the registration of new pesticides. She also tells us that few re-evaluations are undertaken in Canada and that the special review process is exceptional. Finally, she says that a clear process is lacking at the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, which should be developing and implementing a program to re-evaluate pesticides now registered for use in Canada.

In conclusion, we will be voting in favour of Bill C-53. I am my party's environment critic, and rare are the government bills which do not interfere in provincial jurisdiction. The endangered species legislation interfered directly in provincial jurisdiction through the introduction of a double safety net.

As for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act process, the former environment minister for Quebec, Pierre Paradis, decided in the early 1990's to denounce the earlier version of this bill, which we are now considering. He said “The government's approach when it comes to environmental assessment is completely unacceptable”.

Since then, Quebec has withdrawn from discussions on environmental assessment. Quebec has spoken with a single, unified voice on this, as well as endangered species. Incidentally, I see the sponsor of the Quebec legislation, Quebec's environment minister from 1989, in the government benches.

This government accepted provisions of the legislation that created a double safety net, which led to the situation where federal law applies in Quebec, but not Quebec legislation. We denounce this fact, because today, we are in the House with members of Robert Bourassa's cabinet. They voted for bills that cancel all of the work done under one administration, Bourassa's.

I am talking about the member for Bourassa and the member for Verdun—Saint-Henri—Saint-Paul—Pointe Saint-Charles. The latter was a minister in the Bourassa government. They voted for federal legislation that contained provisions that already existed in Quebec law.

In closing, we will be voting for the bill because we believe that registration and marketing come under federal jurisdiction. We believe that Bill C-53 is a step in the right direction, but I am not sure that it will really improve the registration and re-evaluation process.

The federal government needs to do some work on this. Furthermore, we believe that the sale and use of pesticides comes under provincial jurisdiction. Municipalities are in charge of enforcing standards, which I am thoroughly convinced will soon be accepted in Quebec, thanks to legislation. This is the model that we need to promote in Canada, which respects the different jurisdictions while protecting public health and the environment.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Just to remind everyone, the next five hours of debate members will have a 20 minute maximum, subject to 10 minutes for questions and comments.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the New Democratic Party to express our concerns over Bill C-53 and what the bill actually does not do.

One of our concerns is that the legislation is still extremely vague. Many of the details such as timelines for re-evaluation processes, types of tests used in risk assessments, et cetera, will be left to regulations. The precautionary principle is not enshrined as one of the principles of the act and that is a serious flaw in the bill. Although the legislation is an improvement over what was there before, no new money has been committed to look at the long term effects on our natural environment, on children and those people who are susceptible to pesticides.

I am proud to say I come from Nova Scotia. The city of Halifax is moving forward in terms of its pesticide bylaws. To my friends who live in Hudson, Quebec, that was the first city in Canada to make a supreme court challenge to be able to say what can and cannot be used in terms of pesticides in their natural environment.

We as parliamentarians should ensure that the health of the planet and the health of our children come first and foremost. That should be in the minds of all legislators and bureaucrats when they are drafting a bill. What will the bill do to enshrine and protect the interests and security of children and those most susceptible and vulnerable? It is not just for the human species but for other species as well.

We hear constantly about the horrors in Canada of bad drinking water. When pesticides are applied to lawns, golf courses or any area, there is a runoff effect. Eventually the pesticides end up in the water table and eventually end up in our drinking water. That should be of grave concern to all Canadians.

I can understand the use of pesticides in agricultural concerns, but I am quite glad that some golf courses in Nova Scotia where I partake in the odd round or two have reduced their pesticide use by almost 80% over the last six years. They are working to eventually say they run the course without using any pesticides at all. It will be a very good day when that happens not only for the grand game of golf but also for the natural environment.

We should be enshrining it in any legislation. The government cannot honestly say to the children of the country or the world that the legislation will protect their interests down the road. There are still serious health risks out there.

Although the bill is a slight improvement over what was there before, the New Democratic Party cannot support the legislation at this time. We would like to see further amendments made, especially when it comes to funding commitments and other concerns. We should be encouraging our society and industries to wean themselves off pesticide use.

As a little side note, I always get a kick out of people who spray their little postage stamp size lawns to get rid of a dandelion. Since when was a dandelion so offensive? What is really ironic is we can buy dandelion greens in specialty food stores or as in Nova Scotia, a superstore. It is quite ironic that someone would spend a couple of bucks to buy dandelion greens and would turn around and spray Killex or other materials on their lawns to get rid of them. It is unbelievable.

If people do not like a weed, a dandelion or anything of that nature, they should use a little shovel, get on their knees and dig it out. They do not have to spend all kinds of money on pesticides. Eventually the pesticides will get into the drinking water. This also affects birds, worms, dogs, cats, and children who play on their lawns. People should be more reflective of the actions they take when it comes to pesticide use.

People have to realize that what they put on their lawns has a downstream effect. I am proud that Halifax is moving forward on this issue. The Halifax council should be complimented and congratulated, just like those great people in Hudson.

We in the New Democratic Party oppose this legislation. We think it is a small step forward but the government could have taken the time to move it much further ahead.

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12:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Bachand Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise for the last time to speak about Bill C-53.

After 30 years, we are finally going to have a new bill on the products used to control pests, products we commonly call pesticides. It took a long time; the process stirred up various forces throughout the country and drove governments and political parties to action or inaction.

For a few years now, we have seen environmental groups, community groups and municipalities adopt one position, and the pesticide industry and farmers take the opposite stand, of course. I must remind the House that the agriculture and agrifood industry uses 90% of all pesticides.

This means that there were some fears, especially on the part of Canadian farm producers. For several years, they have been severely hit by the environment, because of the droughts and the floods. All over Canada, farmers have to face some harsh realities. So naturally the industry was concerned about rules that would make it more difficult to use certain products to increase production whenever nature gives farmers a chance to do their job.

The other industry, which had even more concerns, was the pesticide producers. Invoking all sorts of arguments to justify their intentions, they wanted to hide as much as possible some of the active or inert ingredients used in tpesticides.

This being said, the committee managed to make some progress towards public protection. I say “some progress” because we had asked that the precautionary principle be mentioned in the preamble to the bill and in some clauses of Bill C-53. The government turned down most amendments put forward by opposition parties including the Progressive Conservative Party.

We had some success though with an amendment aimed at informing the public. When a product is about to be registered and reviewed by the government, the information must be put in the registry, which is public. Should the product be harmful and so dangerous that the government might have to intervene, there is a nationwide notice.

We had put forward amendments to Bill C-53 regarding labelling for instance. We believe that labelling, which is central to consumers' information, to the men and women who purchase these products on a daily basis in Canada, should be much more detailed. The government refused. We know that pressures came from the industry.

We wanted to redefine the whole issue regarding confidential data, again to inform the public, so that people would be aware of the risks linked to the use of pesticides and pest control products.

However, like the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development that put forward an excellent report on the issue, we realized that the federal government was lagging behind municipal governments and several provincial governments in Canada. This is not the first time a government lacks vision, and this is yet another example. It becomes apparent, as I said a few days ago here in the House, at report stage.

In Quebec, there is an ad campaign. I say it again because it is important. In Quebec, the ad campaign is very well done and subtle. You see someone entering a store, a hardware store, and asking a clerk, a man or a woman, “Do you have something against bugs?” The clerk answers “No”. It is not because he does not have any product, but because he does not have anything against bugs. In an other ad, someone asks “Do you have something against dandelions?” And the answer is “No”.

With these ads, people realize that there are means to control pests and weeds.

Some say that dandelions are not weeds, that dandelion wine is good for lowering cholesterol, and that dandelions are great in salads, as they have a delightful, different taste. They say dandelions is slightly bitter, but very good. I never tried them.

That being said, we see that things are changing as far as public education, awareness and practical measures are concerned. It took 30 years to get some action from the federal government, no matter what party was in power. And, even then, this bill does not go far enough.

I remember I was hopping mad at report stage. An amendment by the Progressive Conservative Party got through the committee with unanimous support. We imagined it would stay in the bill, but, at report stage, the government moved an amendment to throw it out. I was dumbfounded.

The parliamentary secretary was in the House at the time. Furious, I told him that, politically, he was gutless, because his government was moving against an amendment he supported.

Regarding the whole issue of the way committees operate--you know, Mr. Speaker, you have always shown great sensitivity toward committees—this is like a slap in the face for members of House committees.

If the government votes against opposition amendments, that it fine. This can make sense and be legitimate, in part. There is quite often a very political element, because the governmentmay not want to constantly redraft bills based on amendments brought forward in committees. Unfortunately, we understand this is the way things work, at present. We hope this will change.

However, using a government motion to reject an amendment that was unanimously passed during clause by clause study, is a slap in the face, not in terms of the balance between government and opposition forces, but in terms of the whole House. This is unbelievable. It is absolutely unbelievable.

We had several amendments. We even withdrew some. In committee, we must also try to have the most important amendments passed. The precautionary principle was one. Labelling was another one. Information and the inputting of all the information into the registry was dealt with in another amendment. Most of the amendments were rejected.

However, we try, we negotiate and we raise awareness to move things forward. We manage, after one, two or three days, or one or two weeks of work, to have an amendment passed. This makes us proud. We say everything is working fine. We can make a positive contribution to a government bill. This makes us happy, this makes us proud.

We spend hours, days, weeks and years considering an issue to get to a report. Then there is a draft bill and, finally, hopefully, legislation that corrects a problem and that provides a vision.

We work hard in committee. We work long hours. We negotiate. We talk to opposition members, to government members, to parliamentary secretaries and even sometimes to the ministers' offices to try to have at least the principles behind the amendments accepted. If the principles are understood, we then move our amendments.

We manage to get a few amendments accepted that have an impact and that help improve the bill. But, over a period or four to five years, all our work is destroyed. It is enough to make one wonder if committees exist just to keep members busy. We should be sent back to our ridings. We have a lot of work to do there. I find that very disappointing.

That being said, Bill C-53, with all its flaws—we must be aware of this--replaces a 30 year old act.

Despite all these flaws—the list is quite long and I do not have the time to mention them all—and despite the fact that the government acted in bad faith in committee and especially at report stage in the House, we will support this flawed bill.

We would have liked a review of the bill after five years. Everything goes so fast in this field. The government said ten years, and we suggested five years. In committee, we negotiated and agreed on seven years. Seven years is a long time before new regulations can be tabled, but the life expectancy of the bill will be four to five years.

If we can get information through annual reports and if it becomes urgent to amend one or two sections, we can do that in the House. The Conservative Party is very open to the whole idea of modernizing anything that is related to the environment.

We can see that, since 1993, the government has done virtually nothing about the environment, and now it is patting itself on the back about Bills C-5 and C-53.

In ten years of Liberal reign, there have been two bills, one of which spent years with the standing committee on the environment. My colleague from Fundy—Royal has devoted a huge number of hours, weeks, months and years to it. The same thing happened in the standing committee on health. We can push the government all we like, but if what we are promoting does not fit into its vision, its partisan Liberal strategy, there will not be much progress made. They do not want to rock the boat. Visions are all very well for partisan politics, but when it comes to government, what they do instead is to appear to be a little more flexible, take their time, get their members involved in each of the committees, and do the same thing over and over, two, three, four times.

How many times have we wasted time over the endangered species bill? It is an important bill. How many times did it go back and forth? The same topic comes up three different times in committee and in bills. It makes no sense.

The standing committee on the environment did its job with respect to Bill C-53. It was not a matter of reinventing the wheel; it is just that the government neglected to move on. The vehicle was there. There was a significant consensus within the committee. There was an absolutely amazing list of witnesses, and the committee went out to meet with them. Its reaction, “Yes, that is fine, but we are going to start all over again. We think that it involves health, not the environment”. I have spoken with my colleague from Fundy—Royal on this and asked him what was different about it. His answer, “Nothing. We have to start over. By the way, here is a copy of the environment committee report. You are going to do more or less the same thing over again”. That is what happened.

We were not able to improve on it further. The issues that the standing committee on the environment raised are essentially the same ones that were raised by the Standing Committee on Heath. We were unable to promote our amendments anymore than the standing committee on the environment.

The bill has been described as flawed, cobbled together, but it is better to have a flawed bill than outdated legislation. The act is thirty years old; for a an act, that it old. I know there are some acts that are older, but in an industry that evolves so quickly, where competition is so strong, we must act. We must not wait. The government has finally decided to act.

Of course, people often point to the town of Hudson, but it is important to note what is being done in Aylmer, Quebec, and what Ottawa city council will be doing. People are acting across Canada. People are being proactive and there is a vision. They have not been waiting for 56 regulations to raise awareness and educate the public. It is too easy to grab a product and apply it.

Some day the government will have a vision, a strategy. It will be prepared to make important decisions for the people it represents and for those it wants to represent, future generations.

In order to implement any type of environmental program to help communities, people who live in urban or outlying areas, there must be a vision. The government has thrown together some sort of a sponsorship program, where big PR firms pocket 12% commissions just to pass on a cheque. Meanwhile, a former Liberal minister, André Ouellet, who is the president of Canada Post Corporation, says that stamps do not cost much and that it is even less for members, with franked mail. So, it might be an idea to have a vision for people who live in our municipalities, in our regions and provinces.

That said, it is indeed better than nothing. We have a bill that has been cobbled together, instead of a dead system. The Progressive Conservative Party will support it. However, we hope that some day, the legislation will go much further and that there will be a partnership between both houses of parliament and the public who will be supporting a party that has a vision for the people of this country.

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12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my hon. colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska.

What the hon. member is saying is true. That is exactly what is happening now with the government opposite. I sat with his colleague on the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development when we agreed to the report entitled “Pesticides: Making the Right Choice”. All the items in it were discussed and the committee decided unanimously to go ahead and prepare this report.

Today, we are forced to acknowledge that, instead of moving forward, the government is starting all over again, as it has been doing for ages.

In view of what the hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska just said at the end of his 20 minute speech, I would like to ask him this: Based on this bill, which will be passed by a majority of members in this House, even though it has been cobbled together, should he not recommend to the government something more that would not put people at risk but instead would help the population of Canada and Quebec?

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12:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Bachand Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague who has effectively done an enormous amount of work with the members of the standing committee of the environment. She is very familiar with the issue of pest control products.

This bill is cobbled together as if it were going around on crutches. Unfortunately, we cannot push this government too hard. I repeat—and I may be rambling a little—but, at some point, it is a reality. When, for example, we meet government members and raise the issue of the environment, they say “Oh yes, we are all for the environment. Yes, this is an important issue. That being said, we will not do a thing about it that because it is provincial jurisdiction”.

Where this is the case and the Liberal government says it is respectful of provincial jurisdictions, as my colleague from Rosemont--Petite-Patrie said, we say “Hear, hear”. We are surprised. That would mean that the intergovernmental affairs minister is not very busy these days.

In several areas, such as the environment, one cannot say that the jurisdiction belongs to another level of government. Some jurisdictions are shared. There are grey areas, as my colleague from Rosemont--Petite-Patrie said, in terms of registration and international role.

When we talk about a bill and the OECD, the province of Prince Edward Island can do many things, but the Government of Canada has to act.

We pushed all we could. I know that my colleague is a tenacious woman. But tenacious though we have been, the system has ground to a halt. The mechanism is blocked; there is salt in the inner workings.

When one wants to stop a piece of machinery, one can put sand or coarse salt in the gears. But this government is throwing salt in its own gears. We are not the ones doing it. We are trying to move things forward. There is a principle we wanted to see in the bill and it is called the precautionary principle. But we did not want the government to keep using it to its own advantage.

The precautionary principle applies to the government. It is afraid. Look at the legislative agenda. It is empty. Look in the other place. Same thing. We are waiting and tapping our feet, wondering what is going on. They are the legislators. What is going on? There is no vision. The government is pretty much at a standstill.

So they are using the precautionary principle to their advantage. We wanted it to be included in the environment bill. Species at risk, what is that? Is it democracy that is at risk? Things are at a standstill. So, yes, we are going to keep on pushing.

But it is most effective when others do the pushing, when individuals and groups take up the cause, when municipalities, the governments of Quebec, Ontario, and other provinces take action.

Eventually, the government will say “Ah, that is not a bad idea, not bad at all”. I am not a partisan politician, as members know. That is not how we operate in the House, but the present government will help itself to the ideas of others on the eve of an election campaign or a throne speech.

We know that there is a possibility that Her Majesty will be paying us a visit in the fall. Knowing her interest and that of her heir in the environment, we hope that the government will get its thumb out and propose a vision for the environment.

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12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, earlier this week, along with my government colleagues, I voted in the House to pass Bill C-53 at report stage. It has a long title, which reads as follows: “An Act to protect human health and safety and the environment by regulating products used for the control of pests”.

It is obvious that this new legislation is a clear improvement over the current act, which is 33 years old. As was strongly recommended by the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, and by the environment and sustainable development commissioner, it was urgent to act and to renew the legislation.

So Bill C-53 is a step forward. This new legislation deserves our support.

However, as a number of environmental and health organizations that I respect have stated, the government has lost an opportunity to bring in progressive legislation to replace the 33 year old laws now governing pesticide registration in this country. I will quote from a communiqué issued by some of these groups at the time of the tabling of the law. Stated Sandra Schwartz of Pollution Probe:

Bill C-53 enshrines current practice. We were looking for the new Pest Control Products Act to substantially improve our current practice.

Kathleen Cooper, researcher with the Canadian Environmental Law Association said:

Some new provisions that specifically refer to children are welcome, but the bill doesn't even match what has been in place for years in the United States to protect kids.

The Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, after extensive study, made recommendations that would vastly improve Canada's pest management practices. This it did in its substantive report entitled “Pesticides: Making the Right Choice for the Protection of Health and the Environment”. Yet this legislative proposal does more to reaffirm present practices, albeit more safely, than embark on the bold course of renewal recommended by the committee. Fortunately, the health committee amended the bill to ensure regular review of the bill, albeit only once every seven years rather than every five years as proposed by four motions at the committee. This review will ensure that major problems not now addressed in the bill can be revisited and improvements can be made.

A great deal of detail still needs to be set out in regulations and it is up to us to make sure that there is follow through in these regulations. We must take full advantage of the annual reporting provisions that have been provided through committee amendments to see that the details are turned into reality.

As I mentioned in my opening remarks, new pest management legislation is desperately needed. Bill C-53 is certainly not a huge step forward, as was hoped, but it is worthwhile supporting. Our farmers want new legislation to provide faster access to less harmful pesticides and also better information that will enable them to reduce their need for pesticides. Canadians all across the country want greater protection from harmful chemicals that are used in and around our homes, our schools and places of work.

The legislation, although no panacea, is a start. Prudent avoidance is something we all need to practice. Implementation of Bill C-53 should lead to safer products on the market, but we must all make an effort to learn about the inherent dangers of these chemicals, be ever conscious of them and indeed be extremely aware of the dangers of these chemicals so that we can make changes in our buying habits and our behaviour to substantially reduce our risk of exposure.

The health committee made a number of significant improvements to the bill. I am particularly grateful to members for accepting an amendment I proposed to strengthen the educational mandate of the minister.

I would like to underline some of the improvements made by the health committee. First, on the mandate of the minister to inform the public, the health committee amended Bill C-53 to give the Minister of Health a mandate to actively inform the public about pesticides. Unfortunately, much of the wording I suggested on educating the public about pest control products, the health and environmental risks associated with their use, the need to avoid non-essential uses and the availability of alternatives to the use of these products was not adopted, but the essence was retained.

It is my hope that we will build on this and create something along the lines of a non-smoking campaign to reduce pesticide use, which will one day lead to a phase-out of chemical pesticides in our homes and gardens.

When I was privileged to introduce and pass the pesticides act of Quebec, we insisted that the powers of the minister include the following duties. I will quote from subsection 9(2), which states:

carry out or commission research, studies, inquiries or analyses pertaining to the effects of the use of pesticides on the quality of the environment and on human health and, generally, on any topic relating to pesticides and alternatives to their use;--

Subsection 9(3) states:

devise, foster and ensure the implementation of plans and programs to train specialists, educate and inform the public and promote awareness in the field of pesticides;--

For if we make the public more aware, if we take special steps to educate them as to the dangers of pesticides, as to the fact that safer alternatives might be there, but better still that no pesticide use is far better, especially in homes, schools and parks, then we will have carried out a very worthwhile task for our citizens.

One of the improvements in the bill is that “acceptable risk” is now defined. This is extremely important for the interpretation of this legislation and the definition is a tremendous improvement over what the current practice provides. The onus would now be on the applicant to provide evidence that its products would cause no harm. Besides that, future generations are also taken into consideration in the new definition. This is an important measure.

Formulants are now included in the definition of a pest control product. For this, credit must be given to the committee for listening to the many public health advocates and environmentalists who have been calling for formulants to be given full consideration within the act.

A number of amendments increase the protection of human health and the environment provided for by the bill, such as the consideration of aggregate exposure and cumulative effect in risk assessment, re-evaluations and special reviews, which is a key measure indeed. The protection of children is extended to future generations. Lower risk products will have expedited review. Stronger language favouring alternative products and strategies is included in the preamble.

Finally, in terms of public accountability there is now a seven year parliamentary review and the annual status report is to include registrations, including lower risk products. Seven years was a compromise made by the committee. Although I would have preferred a five year review, I would hope that at review time significant changes could be made to improve the workings of our pesticide law.

There are indeed shortcomings, especially compared to the recommendations of the report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, which will need to be addressed when the review is carried out.

We must all be vigilant in ensuring that regulations promised by the bill are brought forward without delay and that steps are taken to address the fundamental problems at the first review of the legislation. In particular, I would hope that at that time the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, the PMRA, would be given a statutory mandate. That was one of the key issues referred to in the standing committee's report.

I would like to quote from the committee's report, at page 144, where the committee said:

When the PMRA was created in 1995, it was given the following mandate: To protect human health and the environment by minimizing the risks associated with pest control products, while enabling access to pest management tools, namely these products and sustainable pest management strategies.

The committee goes on to say:

Given that the PMRA is directed both to protect human health and the environment and to make pesticides available, it is small wonder that concerns have been raised about its “dual” mandate, particularly when no clear priority is given to minimizing risks to human health and the environment over access to pesticides. Both interests appear to be placed on an equal footing and require a delicate balancing.

This is essentially what the Minister of Health said in the House of Commons when responding to a question raised by a member of parliament. It is quoted in the report that the minister said:

As the Member knows, the PMRA has to balance public safety and environmental concerns against the needs of producers and growers. In the opinion of the Committee, the PMRA's dual mandate sends out decidedly “mixed” signals. These signals are even more mixed in light of the goals the federal government has set for the Agency. In the opinion of the Committee, one of the root problems with the PMRA is its weak and equivocal mandate. Protecting human health and the environment must be given priority over all else.

The committee goes on to compare the mission of the office of pesticides program, OPP, of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency whose mission statement is as follows:

To protect public health and the environment from the risks posed by pesticides and to promote safer means of pest control.

The committee recommended the following:

--(a) give absolute priority to the protection of human health and the environment when considering whether to approve a pesticide for use in Canada or allow its continued use; (b) promote the use of sustainable pest management strategies that seek to reduce use, risk and reliance on pesticides; (c) emphasize the development of safer pest control products; and (d) inform and educate the public about pesticides and the risks associated with their use.

These were the four items of the mandate suggested for the PMRA by the committee.

The government chose to give the authority to the minister herself, and rightly so because the minister is ultimately responsible for the law. However the fact is that the application of the law on a day to day basis has always rested with the PMRA which makes decisions on registration of pesticides, on regulation and on review.

Although the ultimate decision and the ultimate authority is given to the minister and the goals are stated that protection of human health and the environment is our priority in the law on behalf of the minister, I still believe that there would have been no inconsistency in setting out a clear mission statement for the PMRA so that the PMRA and all its members would be under no illusion that protection of human health and the environment are paramount and that registration of pesticides is the ultimate last resort.

Apparently there is a great deal of creative debate about the implementation of the precautionary principle in legislation. The government has issued a discussion document to solicit input as to the development of government policy in the area of the precautionary principle.

It was my hope, as many witnesses suggested during hearings on this legislation, that the precautionary principle would be enshrined throughout the bill. Bill C-53 falls far short of this. I would hope that during the review of the bill, a truly precautionary direction would be adopted.

In this connection, I would like to quote the head of the PMRA. She said:

--the ultimate precautionary approach [is]: If we have any questions or reasons to believe that we need more information to be able to assure ourselves that there's reasonable certainty of no harm, we simply do not register the product. We don't need another tool to be able to say what should we do in the event that there may be people exposed and there may be a problem. That's why we've tried to very clearly point out that the precautionary approach or principle on a product that's out there, gives you that little extra piece that you may want to have to take quick action, but we don't put that product on the market if it's a brand new active. That's why it's inappropriate to utilize a precautionary principle to define what it is that's done for a brand new product that is not already on the market.

This in my view is a classic example of saying “Don't worry, we do it already”. If that is the case, then why not put it in the law? There are really no answers to that question except to enshrine the precautionary principle.

I note that the head of the PMRA mentioned brand new active products, and certainly not mentioning the thousands of other ingredients that are out there.

I believe that with regard to pesticides, Bill C-53 goes a long way to address the gaps that the commissioner for the environment and sustainable development identified in his May 1999 report entitled “Understanding the Risks from Toxic Substances: Cracks in the Foundation of the Federal House”.

The new commissioner, Johanne Gelinas, came before the health committee this spring and stated:

--the main message in the May 1999 Report was that there was a substantial gap between talk and action on the federal government's environmental and sustainable development agenda. I believe this is still the case today and we are paying the price in terms of our health, environment, standard of living, and legacy to our children and grandchildren.

She further stated:

--effective legislation will be key for addressing some of the issues confronting the government and the PMRA. Key areas in this regard include provisions for reporting and information sharing, requirements for conducting re-evaluations and special reviews, and the establishment of a national sales database.

Bill C-53 is not perfect but it is a good start. It deserves our support and I hope it will become law very soon.

I will end on a note about the financial aspect. No matter how good a law may be, if the financial resources are not made available to implement it, the law will not be effective.

The commissioner's 1999 report remarked that within existing budgets departments were struggling to meet legislated responsibilities, policy commitments and international treaty obligations, and in many cases are failing to do so.

The environment committee recommended that the government provide the Pest Management Regulatory Agency with the necessary additional financial resources to effectively carry out its entire program.

In fairness, I should put on the record that in the last budget a sum of many millions, I believe $20 million, was provided toward the process of controlling pesticides. This is of course both required and welcomed. We must now ensure that the new law be supported by whatever necessary funds are needed to implement and enforce the law and its regulations, especially with regard to the re-evaluation of pesticides that have been in the field for years and years and in special reviews.

In closing, I wanted to recommend that, once the bill is passed, we follow its implementation very closely to ensure that it is as effective as possible, until we can definitely improve it in 2009.

Meanwhile, I will certainly support this bill with great conviction.

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12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the remarks made by my colleague from Lac-Saint-Louis, who was environment minister in Quebec and for whom I have great respect. I sat with him on the former environment committee, and we were guided by his good advice as we adopted several amendments in connection with the report on pesticides entitled “Making the Right Choice”.

While listening to him earlier, I read through entire pages of the report that we tabled. At present, Bill C-53 does not prohibit the cosmetic use of pesticides. Yet we know how harmful it can be to children and pregnant women.

He also talked about the re-evaluation of pesticides registered before 1995, saying that they will not all be re-evaluated and that there is no deadline for re-evaluation. When I sat on the environment committee, this issue was debated and witnesses were heard.

What does he think about the fact that his government was not sufficiently specific regarding the re-evaluation of currently registered pesticides? We know that not allowing the re-evaluation of pesticides registered before 1995 prevents the evaluation of new pesticides.

I want to know what my colleague from Lac-Saint-Louis thinks of the fact that two entire sections of our report barely made it into Bill C-53. I would like to have his comments on that.

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12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, to be absolutely clear, I would say to my colleague, with whom I enjoyed working at the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, that this report is one of the best documents produced by a House committee in years.

Naturally, I would have preferred that the committee's recommendations be more extensively reflected in Bill C-53. I think the other members of the committee would also have preferred that. I would especially have liked to see the bill reflect the committee's recommendations in the area of the precautionary principle applied to the cosmetic use of pesticides, and in the area of re-evaluation and review for new products.

As far as the cosmetic use of pesticides is concerned, the government has decided, in accordance with recommendations from the justice department, that it would be unconstitutional to refuse to register pesticides if, for example, we had proof that they posed no risk to human health. However, we know there is always a human health risk.

I agreed to be the sponsor of a private member's bill tabled by my colleague, the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, who is now a parliamentary secretary. That bill asked that the federal government ban the cosmetic use of pesticides by refusing registration. I hope this bill will be debated in the House so that we can thoroughly discuss this important issue.

In passing, I am very pleased to see that the present Quebec environment minister, whom I know very well, has decided to adopt a policy on the cosmetic use of pesticides. I believe he aims at reducing that practice with the ultimate goal of eliminating it altogether. I hope this legislation will pass in Quebec and that it will influence the rest of Canada pending a change in direction, here in this House.

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12:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member has left the impression that chemicals available to Canadians are dangerous and unhealthy. He used those words. The PMRA mandate has been to approve products that, when applied as registered, do not damage the environment. Many of these chemicals have been studied for decades.

Why does the member continue to cling to the false assumption and leave the false impression that many of these chemicals, when used properly and in accordance with their registration, are unhealthy and dangerous to Canadians?