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

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to participate in this important debate, the third reading of an act to replace the Pest Control Products Act which dates back to 1969.

The stated objective of the legislation is to protect the health of Canadians from the ill effects of pesticides and to protect the environment at the same time. Both are laudable goals and we support them. However we cannot support the bill because we do not believe that the bill succeeds in setting out what it proposes to do.

This legislation has been a long time in coming. The existing Pest Control Products Act dates back to 1969. A great deal has changed since then. The Liberal government promised this legislation in its first term of office in 1993 but it has taken nearly a decade to get from there to here. We acknowledge that the bill is a significant improvement over the 1969 legislation.

It would use modern risk assessment practices, taking into account the consideration of vulnerable populations, such as children. It would require mandatory re-evaluation of pesticides, some of which have been around for decades without the benefit of re-evaluation. It would increase public participation in the decision making process and would make mandatory the reporting of adverse effects.

However as the lead critic for our caucus, the member for Winnipeg North Centre, and our environmental critic, the member for Windsor—St. Clair, have both pointed out, the bill does leave a great deal to be desired.

We all realize that there are trade-offs to be made between the need we currently have for using pesticides to produce food on the one hand and the health of Canadians on the other. When it comes to those trade-offs it is the health of Canadians that must take precedence and priority. That is why we are concerned that there is no precautionary principle in this legislation. A precautionary principle would ensure that the health of Canadians is our overriding and major concern. The bill does not enshrine this principle. We find this strange because the basic premise of the bill is to protect the health of Canadians from the adverse effects of pesticides.

Another area of disappointment in Bill C-53 is that it does not adequately address pollution prevention or reduction, and the reduction in the use of pesticides. In other areas the legislation is vague and we see that far too many details would be left to regulations. I speak for example of the details in timelines for the process of re-evaluation of pesticides.

As my colleagues have pointed out earlier in the debate there is nothing in the bill to indicate that the government wants to or has plans for reducing our overall reliance on pesticides.

I have the privilege of representing a Saskatchewan constituency, one that has a mix of urban and rural communities and individuals. I want to talk briefly about some of the trade-offs that must be made in an industrial society where people produce goods and market products for others to enjoy. I want to talk about the method for registering pesticides and of re-evaluating them. This is a task that does fall to the Pest Management Review Agency, the PMRA.

A report was prepared by the committee on environment and sustainable development in May 2000. I know that everyone in the House agrees that the chair of that committee on environment and sustainable development has sterling credentials as a strong environmentalist.

The report stated clearly that it intended to make the protection of human health and the environment the absolute priority in pest management decisions with a special emphasis on the protection of children and other vulnerable populations. This accords very closely with the position of our party in this area and with the position outlined in this debate earlier by my colleagues.

The environment committee indicated that the precautionary principle must be the approach used in all decision making, again mirroring the policy of our party. The committee chair expressed his hope that Canadians would move toward organic agriculture even while acknowledging that this will be a long term project.

On that score, the recent 2001 census is interesting when it comes to agriculture. It indicates that more than 2,200 Canadian farms produce at least one category of certified organic agricultural products. These 2,200 organic farms represent only about 1% of farms, but there is no question that the number of organic farms is growing faster than any other type of farming in the country. I am pleased to report that more than 700, almost one-third of those 2,200 farms, are in the province of Saskatchewan and growth is continuing at a great rate.

In its report the environment committee pointed out that the European Union has also experienced remarkable growth in organic agriculture. Even there the total number of organic farms is only in the range of 2% of all the farms in Europe.

I want to make the point that the government and the federal department of agriculture have not made it a priority to assist in the development of organic agriculture. I believe that is a mistake. There has been a very modest amount of money given recently by the department of agriculture, somewhere in the neighbourhood of $600,000, for the development of organic agriculture. This amount is not to be sneezed at, but it is a very minute amount in comparison to the amount of money available for the study of agriculture biotechnology.

We will be using pesticides to produce products for the foreseeable future. I refer again to the chair of the environment committee because in the preface to his report last May the chair said “our reliance on pesticides in agriculture is so overwhelming, it would be impossible for us to abandon their use in the short term”.

It then becomes crucially important that we have a safe and transparent process for the registration and evaluation of pesticides and those tasks fall to the pest management review agency, the PMRA. When this organization was created as a standalone agency, it was supposed to streamline the process of getting new pesticides onto the market and getting old and untested ones reviewed and cancelled if necessary. It has not worked out that way and criticism comes from all sides and all quarters.

When it comes to the PMRA there is a rare unanimity among industry groups, environmentalists, health groups and legislators. That unanimity is that the pest management review agency in Canada lags well behind its U.S. counterpart in approving newer, safer chemicals that could allow older and more hazardous products to be removed from the market.

The Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, of which I am a member, discussed this very matter at some length this year during our deliberations. In a report on the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, one of the four recommendations was that Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada provide at least $1 million a year in funding for a research and analysis program similar to the IR4 in the United States. This was to be developed in co-operation with agricultural stakeholders to generate or complete the necessary data for the approval of new minor use products or to expand the use of previously approved products.

That was a significant recommendation of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food to deal with the minor use policy of the Pest Management Regulatory Agency.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture and other farm groups wrote to the health minister regarding Bill C-53 about a month ago. In a letter to the hon. Minister of Health, the president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, Bob Friesen, indicated that on timelines the Canadian Federation of Agriculture recommended that product registrations be included in the legislation or applicable regulations should be referred to therein in order to create greater accountability of the PMRA's performance and management regarding submissions.

The federation also had recommendations on the auditor general's requirement for the agency's financial statements, information about the agency's performance with respect to the objectives established in the corporate business plan and a summary statement of the assessment by the Auditor General of Canada of the fairness and reliability of the information. There has been some concern.

The CFA went on to say that there is no mention of minor use in the legislation and that too is of concern. The CFA and others are insisting that farmers need faster access to newer and lower risk chemicals. The CFA stresses that product registrations have to be dealt with in a more timely manner. We in this caucus certainly agree with that observation.

For one reason or another the PMRA has not been up to its task. The Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food found the problem so vexing that it held hearings and wrote a report. I have already alluded to recommendation No. 3 in the report. It was a report on the performance of the PMRA from the perspective of farmers and the competitiveness or lack thereof.

The agriculture committee chose to send a strong message to the Pest Management Regulatory Agency that improvements to its management and registration process were crucial and overdue. We have to ask why the PMRA has not performed better than it has. Part of the problem is the conflicting mandate. The Pest Management Regulatory Agency is charged with protecting human health and the environment while at the same time supporting the competitiveness of Canadian agriculture, forestry and other industries. In this latter role there is pressure on the PMRA to promote the use of pesticides.

These, we submit, are conflicting interests. As well, there appears to be a corporate culture at the PMRA that does not promote transparency in decision making. We submit that transparency is extremely important in order to guard the health of Canadians and the environment.

Regrettably, the bill before us does nothing new to clarify the statutory responsibilities of the PMRA. That is a serious concern.

We have looked at Bill C-53. We certainly concede that it is an improvement over the situation that has existed under the old legislation that was passed in 1969 called the Pest Control Products Act. We have to say in all sincerity that we are disappointed because the government had a golden opportunity to fix the process of registering and reviewing pesticides in a way that would set a clear priority on protecting the health of Canadians and at the same time protecting the environment. The government had the opportunity to establish a review process that was both transparent and efficacious but somehow it managed to fail on both fronts.

The legislation has been promised for nearly 10 years. The former Minister of Health promised legislation in the fall of 2001. The Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development produced a study in May 2000 on the management and use of pesticides, including an examination of the Pest Management Regulatory Agency.

The primary objective of Bill C-53 as we understand it is the protection of human health and the environment. It is much stronger than the current legislation which must balance health and environmental concerns against those of industry. Some of the key provisions that will do this are the use of modern risk assessment practices, that is, consideration of vulnerable populations such as children, and of aggregate exposure and cumulative effects; mandatory re-evaluation of pesticides; increased public participation in the decision making process; mandatory reporting of adverse effects; and mandatory material safety data sheets in workplaces where pesticides are used or manufactured.

Bill C-53 does not adequately address pollution prevention and reduction in the use of pesticides. There is nothing to indicate that the government is seeking to reduce overall reliance on them.

There are concerns that the legislation is too vague and I hope I have covered that. Much of the details will be left to regulations, including details and a timeline for the re-evaluation process, types of tests used in risk assessment, et cetera.

The precautionary principle, which is very important, is not enshrined as one of the principles of the act. This is an extreme deficiency in our opinion.

There is a failure in the act to ban the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes; the lack of a fast track registration process for lower risk or minor use products; a failure to reduce the number of pesticides being used, to reduce the use of pesticides in general and to prevent the most harmful pesticides from being registered; and a failure to require labelling of all toxic formulants, contaminants or micro-contaminants.

The mandate of the PMRA is not set out in the legislation. Unfortunately there is a failure to commit money for research on the long term effects of pesticides, especially on vulnerable groups like our children, and for public education about the dangers of pesticides and for support of alternatives.

In conclusion, the proposed legislation is an improvement. It is still flawed. Much of it is based on U.S. standards which will bring some of our standards up, but we will still be far behind countries in the European Union.

Harmonization may have dangerous effects in the long term. Given the scientific evidence that exists, the bill could have and should have been much stronger in the government's efforts to protect both human health and the environment.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my NDP colleague for his excellent speech. He obviously has a good knowledge of the pesticide issue in Canada. He made a good assessment of Bill C-53.

I would like to inform him, if he does not already know, that a discussion group on pesticides was set up in Quebec. That group, known as the Cousineau group, met with over 50 people and organizations to reflect on this issue.

One of the requests that this Quebec group made to the federal government concerned the whole issue of speeding up the registration process for biopesticides.

We know that only 30 biopesticides are currently available on the Canadian market, as compared to over 150 in the United States. Consequently, contractors in ornamental horticulture have too few alternatives available to them.

Does the member think that the government should have included in its bill provisions to expedite the registration of biopesticides, as requested by the Cousineau group in Quebec, so that we can not only prohibit the use of pesticides, but also develop in Canada organic products and alternative methods for pest control? Does he not think that this bill should have contained provisions to speed up the registration process for biopesticides in Canada?

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Rosemont--Petite-Patrie for his questions and his kind remarks. I was not aware of the Cousineau report on bio-pesticides, but let me make a couple of points.

First, under the Pest Management Regulatory Agency I think that in general we have been far too slow in this country in terms of dealing with minor use products. The numbers are quite startling when we contrast them with those in the United States. It seems to be able to move much more quickly than our regulatory agency can in order to get some of these minor use approvals through in a narrow timeframe. Members will realize that when crops are at certain stages it is extremely important that the application be applied then or it is wasted, the money is lost and the product just does not work. Generally speaking there is a concern.

However, to specifically answer the member's question about using bio-pesticides to reduce our involvement with the more harmful products, this is something that I think is extremely important. In my speech I tried to contrast the differences we see in this country in terms of money available for biotechnology from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the very minuscule amounts of money that are available on the organic side including, in this case, the bio-pesticides. I think there needs to be a balancing.

The organic industry is growing extremely quickly in this country. I know it is only 1% or 2% of the overall farms, but it is surging ahead and I think those farms need some additional assistance. Something in this area like Quebec is apparently doing on bio-pesticides would certainly be a step in the right direction.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have one question for the hon. member. Would he concede that in fact biotechnology has the capacity to actually help in terms of improving environmentally sustainable farming practices in some ways?

For instance, some genetically modified strains of wheat require less pesticides or no pesticides. The impact of these genetically modified strains of wheat and other produce can in the long term reduce the use of pesticides and as such have a positive impact on the environment. In fact, some of the environmental organizations are starting to identify some of the positive elements of biotechnology in terms of its capacity to improve the sustainability of earth-sensitive agriculture.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question. He essentially asked about GMO wheat, for example, without using pesticides. There are some real concerns about GM wheat. It has not been licensed for use in this country. The Canadian Wheat Board came before the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food and said that 65% of its current customers have indicated that they would not buy a GM wheat product. It may receive a bill of approval, but if consumers do not want it then I think our Canadian farmers will be very reluctant to grow it.

On the broader question of soil degradation and so on, a lot of people in the organic industry are convinced that going organic is a much better way to ensure that the soil of our arable lands will be better protected and that we will ensure sustainable agriculture with more of a commitment to organic farming methods.

Just before I take my seat, let me say that I think some of these biotech promises deserve further scrutiny. For example, we are told of GM rice to which vitamin A can be added to help children in third world countries who may otherwise suffer eyesight problems at an early age. However, when we look at it a little more closely we realize that for that product as it is currently available to be of any significant use in assisting on the eyesight front, an individual would have to consume more than four pounds of rice a day. I dare say that there would be very few people who would be able to eat that much in one day to help with their eyesight.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to know if my colleague thinks that the use of pesticides, especially cosmetic use, should be more strictly regulated.

The other day, because of the abundant rain we had this week, I noticed a very beautiful golf course that had just been sprayed with all sorts of pesticides meant to make it nice and attractive. The following day, torrential rain washed all these pesticides into streams and rivers.

Does my colleague not think there should be some form of regulation, and perhaps some education to increase people's awareness of the fact products are used, which are often carcinogenic and dangerous? I am asking my colleague what he thinks about that.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. Yes, I do think more education and more information should be available, but I have to note that I think we see some improvements in this regard. I think the word is slowly getting out about pesticides.

I think the member raises an important point, because we are talking about agriculture primarily but in our urban areas we admire the lawns that look so green and beautiful and are devoid of dandelions and other weeds. However, I think people are beginning to rethink that, to recognize that this has a cost and that it is perhaps dangerous to young children who play in parks and gardens that have had pesticide use or when children play with their pets that have been running around in those places.

It is an important point. I do believe more should be done, but I think some things are beginning to be done.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Before we resume debate, pursuant to Standing Order 38, it is my duty to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows:the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, Fisheries.

Message from the Senate
Government Orders

June 13th, 2002 / 3:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed certain bills.

Message from the Senate
The Royal Assent

3:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Government House

Ottawa

June 13, 2002

Mr. Speaker:

I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada will proceed to the Senate Chamber today, the 13th day of June, 2002, at 4.30 p.m. for the purpose of giving royal assent to certain bills of law.

Yours sincerely,

Barbara Uteck

Secretary to the Governor General

Message from the Senate
The Royal Assent

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I understand that some hon. colleagues in the House were inquiring earlier as a result of a point of order, which was somehow described as a question of privilege, as to what the next item on the agenda would be after the completion of the bill that is before the House.

Should I not obtain the answers on Bill C-58 that I had committed to getting to the House, which it does not look like I will get now, I will not call the bill. I will not call Bill C-58 if I cannot get the answers by the time we get to the completion of this. Instead I will call Bill C-55 as the next item.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-53, An Act to protect human health and safety and the environment by regulating products used for the control of pests, be read the third time and passed.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to take part in the debate on Bill C-53, which is aimed at protecting human health and safety and the environment by regulating products used for the control of pests.

By way of an introduction, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Rosemont—Petite-Patrie for his excellent job in raising the awareness not only of his own Bloc Quebecois caucus, but also of the public at large. I congratulate him not only for his work on this bill dealing with the proper use of pesticides, not only for his major concern for organic farming for instance, but also for his interest in anything having to do with the environment. He is becoming an expert like no one else in this parliament.

It was high time the federal government took action in its jurisdiction. Indeed, pest control is an area of shared jurisdiction, the federal government having certain powers, specifically with respect to registration and the safe use of pesticides.

This act, which had become obsolete, outdated and criticized by just about everybody, should have been reviewed at least 25 years ago. We are talking about everything that has to do with pesticide use. Naturally, it was not criticized by those who sell pesticides; I believe the old legislation served them well these past few years. Updating this act was long overdue, especially since, for the past 25 years, a lot of scientific research has been carried out on the dangers of uncontrolled use of certain pesticides. This often resulted in the outright ban of products found to be dangerous, particularly in the United States, where more stringent controls of pesticide use were imposed in the early 1980s.

I recall that, these past few years, whenever pesticides were withdrawn in Canada, it was because the United States had carried out the necessary research, with the proper resources, in order to review the past registration of a given pesticide. They would come to the conclusion that given the state of research at the time, the pesticide in question was now deemed a hazard to human health. Canada benefited from the resources the United States has been investing for a long time in the protection of human health.

Talking about research, we talk primarily about what was done over the last few years, which has demonstrated beyond any doubt the link, sometimes a direct one, between the use of pesticides and certain conditions that develop over time, such as allergies in young children. Children are more sensitive to pesticides than adults. They also play merrily outside in the summer, precisely on the grass made so perfectly green by the use of pesticides, and easily develop allergies. Researchers link certain cases of cancer to the use of pesticides.

Thus this becomes a serious issue. It calls for a tightening of controls, notably through this legislation which, incidentally, will be supported by the Bloc Quebecois. However, we would have liked the bill to go much further, particularly with regard to alternatives to chemicals currently used. However we will come back to that at the end of this demonstration.

As I was saying, research has been developed, which established a link between illnesses developing over time, such as allergies and even cancer, and the use of pesticides. However, we have not yet reached the point where doctors receive training adequate enough to make a link between certain symptoms of these illnesses or short term symptoms associated with pesticide use, and the health of children and even that of adults. Often we think that an indigestion is simply an indigestion. The fact is, however, if we took a closer look at what the child visiting the doctor for some indigestion had been doing, we would realize that he had likely been playing on grass that had just been sprayed with pesticides to prevent it from yellowing or from being taken over by dandelions or other pests.

We should not only pay special attention to the use of pesticides, but also consider the fact that this industry is dominated by big players, essentially transnational corporations which control the entire agricultural production in the world. They control just about everything.

Companies have challenged bylaws passed recently by municipalities to ban the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes in their jurisdictions.

Take for example companies like ChemLawn or Spray Tech, which specialize in massive chemical spraying of lawns. They tried to challenge the jurisdiction of municipalities and their authority to regulate the use of pesticides in their jurisdictions. They even went to the supreme court, but they lost. When I learned that they had lost at all three judicial levels, I was very pleased, because there is big money behind pesticide use.

We are talking about two companies in particular, namely ChemLawn and Spray Tech, but we should not forget those that supply their inputs, the likes of Monsanto and CIL.

If there are businesses that take advantage of people and of this planet, they are the ones, along with other similar transnational companies. Why do they take advantage of the planet and of people who live on it to the point of devastating complete regions? Let me explain briefly.

They have complete control, from the seeds to the finished product. They produce genetically modified seeds for crops of wheat, soya beans, rapeseed and canola. The genetic modifications make the use of the pesticides produced by these companies essential. Therefore, the whole world is dependent on their genetically modified products and the pesticides that go along with them.

If you use Monsanto seeds but not the Monsanto pesticides, your crop will not yield as much or could even be completely devastated by pests.

Internationally, farmers and peasants in Africa and Europe are at the mercy of these companies controlling the agrifood industry upstream and downstream.

Those large companies manufacturing pesticides and seeds to match are so destructive that they were the cause of the devastation observed in Africa in the 1980s and 1990s. Efforts to boost several regional economies through agriculture, which represents on average 80% of the GDP of these countries, except for South Africa, were a failure. This initiative was a failure because the only seeds available on the world market were genetically modified seeds. Following harvest, it was impossible to keep any portion of the crop to seed the next crop, because the seeds must be used together with the pesticides produced by CIL or Monsanto. Besides, they are not reproducible.

Agriculture is a very simple thing. For centuries, it has been the result of nature's miracles and human intelligence. For planting, one sows seeds or plants and transplants seedlings. Once they have grown, you set some aside. This is what people have been doing from time immemorial. Part of the crop is set aside to be used for seeds the following crop year.

It is no longer possible to do that because these big companies have control over seeds, pesticides and all the rest.

Do not think that having allowed the pesticides control and registration legislation to become outdated did not help these companies. It served them very well because once pesticides were registered, 25 years ago, there was no reason to be concerned. As a matter of fact, after registering products once, the government did not re-evaluate them. This allowed producers to sleep tight, do research to improve certain aspects of their products, while knowing that with such an outdated legislation, they had nothing to fear in Canada.

Coming back to pesticides used in Canada, this is a large market. Sales total $1.4 billion a year. In Quebec, since the late 1970s, there has been a massive increase in the use of pesticides because of the enthusiasm for green lawns free of pests and undesirable plants, like dandelions—I wonder why people do not like them; they are so nice.

During the 1990s alone, over a five-year period, I believe it was from 1992 to 1996, there was a 60% increase in the use of pesticides in ornamental horticulture.

In Montreal alone, 300 kilos of pesticides are used in parks, in places where children play. Children develop allergies and they can also develop cancer. Three hundred kilos of this junk is used in parks where our children play.

This reform was long overdue, but it does not go far enough. We congratulate the government for at least dusting off the old act. However, when one wants to do a good cleaning job, one has to do more than dust; one must also do some polishing. If the legislation can be improved, it is a good opportunity to do so. The government could have gone much further in this modernization of the pesticide registration legislation.

Had the government heeded the recommendations of my colleague from Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, who is becoming an expert on this issue and on the environment in general, someone with convictions who is working hard to bring the government to keep its word on the Kyoto agreements, for example, perhaps we would have had an act worthy of its title, true legislation dealing with pest control, but pest control with no risk to human health and not interfering with the protection of animals and plants.

But no. As usual, the government does things grudginly. It does them in stages and says “We will try this first; we will remove the dust and then, in two or three years, we will pick it up”. We sometimes wonder whether Liberal legislators know how to clean up.

When one picks up the dust, one can say that the housework is done. However, as long as one leaves it there, the housework is not done. And the government is leaving the dust in this bill, when it could have gone much further. Even if it had used the U.S. legislation as a model, it would have been a clear improvement, compared to the bill before us.

Why did the government not listen to my colleague from Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, when he suggested a data bank on alternatives to current pesticides?

There are natural pesticides in use in the United States and also in a part of Europe. They are not harmful to human health and, if they are used wisely, they do not represent a threat to the environment. Why did the government not give the example with this bill?

A government that claims to take the environment and health seriously and that keeps talking about its so-called deep convictions has introduced an incomplete bill. Why did it not create this bank? Why, also, did it not increase research on alternatives?

In this regard, even though there are natural pesticides, there is a lack of research on their large scale use, to ensure that producers in Quebec and Canada can get results and be as competitive as the United States or Europe.

Why did the government not increase significantly the resources allocated to research and to enforcement of the modernized version of the act? My colleague from Rosemont—Petite-Patrie was pointing out to me that the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development tabled a report in 1999 in which she identified serious problems that could have guided the government in drafting this bill.

For example, the report refers to the lack of re-evaluation programs. This bill provides for a certain degree of re-evaluation of registered pesticides, but we think that it is not enough. The bill does not go far enough in that area.

The report said that Canada was lagging way behind other countries throughout the world, not only with regard to pesticide registration, but also with regard to spending for the implementation of standards and regulations to protect human health as well as animals and plants. Agriculture means plants, animals and humans. We must find the right balance between protection, yield and the health of users.

The commissioner said that Canada lagged far behind in terms of the resources for the enforcement of provisions on the use of pesticides and their re-evaluation. No resources worth mentioning were added in the bill. A major part is missing, and the bill does not fill the gaps mentioned by the environmental commissioner.

Clear processes are also lacking. Did the bill settle the issue of certification, of re-evaluation and so on? Does the government know where it is going with this bill? I do think so.

I see my colleague from Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, who is nodding. There is a lack of clear processes for things like certification and the time it can take. In the United States, it is clear. A product is certified within a year. There is no fuss.

Indirectly, we are dealing not only with human health, but also with the profitability of the agricultural sector. For example, there are consequences if we cannot certify biological control agents. It would be best to be able to certify them for their use in this country. If our competitors in the U.S., for example, use biological control agents that are as cost effective as chemical pesticides used in this country, or more cost effective, we will be at a disadvantage. Since we are a net exporter of farm products, it is very much to our advantage to keep our competitive edge.

We are really disappointed with the registration process. We would have liked a much faster process, access to an alternative products databank and access to a much more efficient model, like the one that has been adopted in the United States for example, which does not threaten, as is the case here, human health and competitiveness in the agricultural sector.

We would have supported this bill with a lot more enthusiasm. However, we will support it anyway. As my colleague from Rosemont—Petite-Patrie mentioned more than once in his speeches on the protection of the environment and human health, it is a good start. We hope that the government will speed things up to further improve this area of shared jurisdiction, that is the registration of pesticides and the search for alternatives.

I wonder why the government acts like this for all its bills. In the more or less eight years that we have been here, we have made all sorts of proposals with respect to the criminal code. The government was rather hesitant and came back three years later with other amendments to the criminal code. Why did it not accept the Bloc Quebecois' recommendations which, in the case of pesticides, put forward a full plan for a real pesticide control bill promoting health protection. There again, we will keep on working to convince the government, because it has a hard time understanding.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased that my colleague is taking part in this debate on Bill C-53 for a very simple reason. You will quickly understand why.

We have dealt with various aspects of this bill throughout our discussions, but the agricultural aspect as opposed to pesticides has hardly come up. My colleague, who worked for many years for the Union des producteurs agricoles, is in a better position than anyone to really understand the important link between pesticides and agriculture.

He also took the opportunity to remind the House that we have moved and tried to put through a number of amendments in committee. We did not move a hundred amendments or so, but we moved amendments that we thought were relevant. This is the difference between wanting to be constructive and wanting to hold up the process.

We only moved about 10 amendments that we felt were relevant, but the government refused to adopt these proposals by the Bloc Quebecois. The Liberal bulldozer went into action, and our proposals were rejected.

What did we propose? We proposed a deadline for the re-evaluation of pesticides already available on the market. There is no sense in taking 10 years to complete this re-evaluation. Not only does this create uncertainty for the pesticide industry, but it also create uncertainty for environmental protection and public health, in the sense that people cannot know in the short term what the impact is and whether the products are safe.

We asked that the bill provide for deadlines for the re-evaluation of products already available on the market. We also asked that the precautionary principle be included right in the preamble of the bill.

I am aware that a number of parties in the House do not agree with our proposals. I know, however, that the Conservative Party and the NDP do agree with these proposals.

We believe that Canada must be consistent not only internationally but also nationally, in its own legislation. Canada cannot sign international conventions dealing with the environment, like the Rio convention, where the precautionary principle is recognized, and then refuse to include this principle in its own bill even though the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development said that the government had to include this principle in the preamble if it wanted to honour its international commitments concerning the environment. But the government refuses to do so.

Finally, we have proposed an organic farming program, and I would like to hear what my colleague has to say on that issue. We know that, in Europe, there are programs under which a number of financial incentives can be given to farmers who decide to eliminate the use of pesticides on farmland.

I would like to hear what my colleague, who is an expert on farming and who knows about the impact of pesticide use, thinks about that. I would like to have his opinion on this issue.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, in all modesty I must admit that I am no expert in agriculture, even though I have worked for experts in that area, namely the agricultural producers in Quebec.