House of Commons Hansard #49 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was regulations.

Topics

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Laval for her presentation on this important and very technical bill that has an impact on the entire scientific and medical community in Canada.

I want to refer specifically to a letter sent by Quebec's health minister, dated April 6, in which he states his opposition to the continuation of this bill's consideration because of its impact. Measures proposed in the bill would have major repercussions, especially on the management of medical laboratory and diagnostic services. This letter says, “Accordingly, the Government of Quebec is calling on the federal government to reconsider its approach to ensuring the biosafety and biosecurity of human pathogens and toxins, rather than pursuing the parliamentary work currently underway.”

That was exactly the amendment proposed by the Bloc Québécois in committee during the study at second reading. It was rejected.

I would ask my colleague what she thinks of the negotiation in good faith proposed by the current Conservative government regarding the harmonization of the QST and GST and this other situation where the Government of Quebec wants to be consulted before this bill is passed. What does she think about this attitude, especially considering that the Liberals are also thinking of supporting the bill?

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question which is quite relevant.

I am not surprised that the government rejected this amendment. Any pretense of openness towards Quebec is just that, a pretense. But I must admit I was surprised that the Liberals and the NDP refused to support this amendment.

This amendment stated that, in Quebec, we have a public security agency and that we know very well how to protect our own citizens. We do it with great openness and transparency. We have always done it.

I wish that, at least once, this Parliament would be transparent and true to itself and that it would respect Quebec’s demands. I would be quite surprised if it did, but I would be very pleased.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, much has been said in my able colleagues’ remarks and mine on Bill C-11.

I would like to know whether the hon. member feels a renewed sovereignist commitment when she sees the federal government interfering, with a bill like Bill C-11?

As my colleague from Alfred-Pellan said, we have seen this happen in the issue of tax harmonization, and in other issues like cuts in scientific research and so many other issues over the years.

Does my colleague feel a renewed commitment to sovereignty every time she sees this kind of interference and incompetence on the part of the federal government?

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Madam Speaker, my young colleague displays great eloquence for his age. What a fire and what a passion for such a young colleague!

My answer for my young colleague will be brief. As we know, I am a keen admirer of the late René Lévesque, who said that, after all, Quebecers are something akin to a great people. This may explain why others have a hard time working with us and understanding the Quebec people, the Quebec nation.

An African proverb says that you can go faster by yourself, but that we can go farther together. Quebecers have decided to go farther together, towards sovereignty. And it is true that my desire for sovereignty becomes greater when I am here.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague for Laval how the different provinces and the Quebec nation react to Bill C-11.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Madam Speaker, unfortunately, I am not a member of the Standing Committee on Health. However, if I understood what my colleagues said today, there is abundant questioning coming from all provinces, be it British Columbia, Quebec or other provinces. I am sure of that.

We must not forget that the most important thing is freedom, no matter what the Prime Minister might be saying. Presently, all sorts of means are being used to reduce freedom. We do not want to have the type of limited freedom the Prime Minister is calling for in his speeches. We want true freedom, without barriers so that people can go farther and higher, and achieve their full potential.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

April 30th, 2009 / 5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, something strikes me about Bill C-11. The federal government once again is using its power to legislate in criminal law to impose regulations in provincial areas of jurisdiction. We often see that in the tax area. Here is my question. Is it not unfair for Quebec and the other provinces that the federal government uses the principles of criminal law and the Criminal Code to impose regulations in areas of provincial jurisdiction, such as laboratories, hospitals and research centres? Should we not rely instead on the Anti-terrorism Act, as it is done in Australia, for example?

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his question.

I know how involved he is not only with the environment but also with everything related to ethics. I know how important it is for him and how much time he has spent studying those issues. Indeed, that should be part of the rights of the provinces in a real federation. Unfortunately, we all know that we do not have a real federation. The government is more centralizing than it appears. It pretends not to be, but it really is. A real federation would not be as centralizing, it would allow us to use the tools we have developed the best way we can, and it would give us the money to continue developing those tools.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, first I want to congratulate my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie on his excellent question and also my colleague from Laval on her excellent answer. Once again, she spoke with the kind of eloquence that only she is known for.

My question is very straightforward. She said earlier that the Conservative government is centralizing. It is probably the worst government we have had in that regard in the history of this country. I would like her to give me some other examples that show how centralizing this government is.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Laval has one minute to answer the question.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Madam Speaker, would you give me 20 minutes to answer my colleague's question? I will be able to give just a few examples if I have only one minute.

We voted this week on the harmonization of the GST with the QST. That is another example. We also had to ask the government on several occasions to stop trying to manage education, health care and wait times in our province. We asked the government several times to stop taking money that belongs to Quebeckers and using it to its own ends. There are so many measures, whether they have to do with child care, social housing or other things.

In closing, this government is definitely not in favour of decentralization. It is a centralizing government.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Resuming debate.

The member for Rosemont—La Petite Patrie has the floor. I would advise him at the outset that I will have to interrupt him at 5:30.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, it is important that we have this debate today on Bill C-11, An Act to—allegedly—promote safety and security with respect to human pathogens and toxins.

There is a paradox right in the title the government has given this bill. This government is talking about the safety of pathogens, and yet in a media release dated April 29, 2008, when Bill C-54, the predecessor of Bill C-11, was introduced, the Minister of Health at the time said: “The risk to Canadians posed by the presence of human pathogens and toxins in labs is low .”

In 2008 they were saying that the risk to the public was relatively low. And now the government is introducing a bill to promote safety and security with respect to human pathogens and toxins, as if there were numerous risks.

So what does the bill that is before us do? First, it makes the guidelines that have been presented by the Public Health Agency of Canada mandatory. Second, it makes it mandatory that licences be obtained for regulated activities, so that existing pathogens can be monitored, to determine where they are and to know who has them. Third, it institutes a scheme of offences and penalties.

We are not opposed to oversight of these pathogens. That is a basic principle: the risk has to be managed, we have to ensure that the precautionary principle can be applied, of course.

In reality, however, what impact would the implementation of this bill have? It would create operating methods in workplaces like universities, research centres, clinics and hospitals. It seems clear to me that these sites are under Quebec’s authority. And today we have a federal government that would use the Criminal Code to get directly involved in how our hospitals and clinics operate, in the name of criminal law.

As I said, the precautionary principle must be applied, of course, but at the same time, the federal government has to understand where its authority to act begins and where it has to end.

We on this side of the House are not the only ones who think the government is going too far. This is an excerpt from a letter written on April 6, 2009, which makes it very recent, barely three weeks ago, by the Minister of Health of Quebec, Yves Bolduc, to the federal Minister of Health, concerning Bill C-11:

Quebec notes that the measures proposed in the bill would have a significant impact on the organization of medical laboratory and diagnostic services, which are normal services within Quebec's health system. However, these services fall under the jurisdiction of the government of Quebec.

Health Minister Yves Bolduc wrote further:

Accordingly, the Government of Quebec is calling on the federal government to reconsider its approach to ensuring the biosafety and biosecurity of human pathogens and toxins, rather than pursuing the parliamentary work currently underway. It is important that that approach better reflect the respective roles of both levels of government in this matter.

This is a letter dated April 6, which the federal health minister has received. Unfortunately, our colleagues on the Standing Committee on Health, who merely tried to get the government side to approve an amendment to ensure that the provinces would be consulted during the development of the regulations, got a resounding no for an answer.

Not only did the minister not deign to withdraw her bill but the members of the government party and some opposition members refused, I firmly believe, to make sure that at least those concerned by the application of it, that is the Government of Quebec, the hospitals and research centres, were consulted. It was a categorical no. The federal government is trying to use the terrorist threat in order to meddle in areas of provincial jurisdiction. That is the reality.

The federal government has all the tools it needs to handle pathogens of this kind. It can do so under the Terrorism Act. At least three countries have done so. The United Kingdom decided to take action under its terrorism act to regulate pathogens of this kind. But the government refuses to use the legislative tools at its disposal. It decided to go further and meddle directly in areas of provincial jurisdiction.

There is clearly a constitutional problem with the bill. This is not the first time this has happened. The government already used its power to legislate in the area of criminal law to make some laboratory biosafety guidelines obligatory through the issuing of licences. However, the bill exceeds the federal jurisdiction, as happened as well in the case of the federal bill on assisted reproduction, among others.

On June 19, 2008, the Quebec Court of Appeal handed down a judgment in the reference from the Government of Quebec on the constitutionality of sections 8 to 19, 40 to 53, 60, 61 and 68 of the Assisted Reproduction Act. The Court of Appeal stated that the sections in question exceeded the authority of the Parliament of Canada under the Constitution Act, 1867. In short, the judges said that the basic, overriding purpose of the part of the act that was challenged was to protect health and not to right a wrong. The provisions that were challenged could therefore not qualify as pertaining to criminal law under the Constitution Act, 1867.

There are precedents, therefore, for the federal government trying to use its power to legislate in the area of criminal law to introduce bills concerning health that are obviously outside its jurisdiction. Workplaces, universities, clinics and hospitals are clearly provincial jurisdictions.

We would have hoped today that the government would listen to reason at the stage the bill is at and withdraw Bill C-11, as requested by the Quebec health minister.

Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading System for North America
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should work with its North American partners to promptly pursue a North American cap-and-trade market with absolute greenhouse gas emission targets based on scientific knowledge, using 1990 as the base year.

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege to debate my motion today, but before beginning, I would like to congratulate you. I think that it is the first time I have the floor with you in the chair. There are about 68 women out of a total of 308 members of Parliament. It is reassuring to see that a woman is in the chair today. That is why I wanted to congratulate you. There are no coincidences in life but I consider myself lucky to be able to debate the first motion in my name since I was elected, in January 2006, with you in the chair. Once again, I congratulate you.

We know, and the people who watch us on television know, that when it comes to consideration of private members' business, members are chosen by lot. Since I was elected, my name had never been lucky enough to be among the first 30 names. Since we have been working with successive minority governments, and there have been many elections, I had never had the opportunity to table a motion or introduce a bill that could be debated and voted on. Now, it is my turn and I am pleased to debate my motion with my parliamentary colleagues in this House.

The choice of the subject of a motion or bill is a serious matter. In choosing the subject of this motion, I felt it was important to contribute, with the means at my disposal, to improving a situation that affects the largest number of people possible. In this particular case, we could say the subject affects everybody and the effects could be disastrous according to the latest scientific studies.

Will I succeed in changing the situation by presenting this motion all alone? Obviously not. This is a global problem that affects us. Still, I will do what I can in this struggle that effects us all and put pressure, in my own way, on the current government to change its positions.

There were many different avenues open to me in the fight against greenhouse gases, but in my case, the choice was easy because the Bloc Québécois already has a comprehensive and credible climate change plan.

The Bloc is not just the only party that has consistently supported the Kyoto protocol. The Bloc is also the one party that has never stopped calling on the federal government to develop a plan that respects its own objectives. We have even proposed bold and constructive measures targeting both the environment and the economy that would enable Quebec and Canada to be well positioned for a “post-petroleum economy.”

Among our proposals is a carbon exchange that is compatible with international markets. This idea, which was ignored by the Liberals and ridiculed by the Conservatives, is now the route that the United States wants to follow. It is not surprising that we feel this government is backtracking towards the creation of a carbon exchange tied to mandatory targets. There is such a lack of environmental leadership in this government that the Americans are now deciding the policies Canada will follow in the fight against greenhouse gases.

In the opinion of the Bloc Québécois, the Liberals and the Conservatives have closed their eyes to this problem for too long. It is now time for Canada to shoulder its responsibilities and make a commitment to significantly reduce greenhouse gases.

Let me read my motion again:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should work with its North American partners to promptly pursue a North American cap-and-trade market with absolute greenhouse gas emission targets based on scientific knowledge, using 1990 as the base year.

Simple as it may be, this motion contains several elements, which I will explain shortly, after putting them in context to clarify the scope for those who find the motion a bit convoluted.

As I said earlier, climate change represents one of the biggest challenges humanity has to deal with. As scientific evidence piles up and we see just how staggering the extent of the consequences is, it becomes imperative to act without delay, and in an efficient and fair manner.

It is only by adopting credible greenhouse gas reduction measures that we will fight climate change and prevent the serious and irreversible damage and the enormous economic costs created by climate change.

I remind hon. members of the findings of former World Bank chief economist Nicolas Stern, who said that if nothing is done to fight climate change, the economic impact would amount to a annual 5% decline in global GDP. However, if measures to fight climate change were taken quickly, the negative impact on global GDP would only be 1%.

The Bloc Québécois believes that the Kyoto protocol targets are still the ones that must be reached. Canada is still a signatory to the Kyoto protocol and its targets have been confirmed by numerous recent scientific studies, including that of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC.

I want to be clear: it is perfectly possible to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions while jolting the economy. In order to achieve that, we must take strong action to reduce our dependency on oil, and to stimulate the economic recovery of Quebec and Canada by investing in green technologies. How do we do that? By using, among other tools, tax and market instruments such as the carbon exchange, to which the Conservative government suddenly seems to find positive aspects, after criticizing the position of the Bloc Québécois and of environmental groups on this issue.

This is why the Bloc Québécois is proposing a credible plan that will allow Canada to get back on track and to move as close as possible to the targets set by the Kyoto protocol by 2012. Furthermore, the plan will attempt to meet the reduction target recommended by the IPCC to prevent climate change with irreversible consequences. We are talking about a reduction of 25% to 40% in greenhouse gas emissions, compared to 1990 levels, this by the year 2020.

The plan is based, among other things, on the establishment of absolute reduction targets in the short and medium term, that is by 2012 and 2020, with 1990 as the reference year. It also proposes the use of science-based targets, a territorial approach, and the establishment of a carbon exchange in Montreal, which is the main purpose of this motion.

The idea is quite clear. We apply the polluter pays principle. Any credible plan to reduce greenhouse gases is based on that principle. In other words, the polluter must pay for the costs generated by his polluting. It is simple common sense. However, as we know, the Conservatives opted for the opposite principle, the polluter-paid principle, which rewards those who have done the least to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Indeed, by substituting the reference year of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and of the Kyoto protocol, which is 1990, with the year 2006 proposed in the Conservative plan, or the year 2005 suggested by the U.S. administration, all the efforts made by Quebec businesses since 1990 are being swept under the rug. We are starting all over again, and businesses, whether or not they have reduced their emissions since 1990, are now all on the same footing and they must reduce their emissions in the same fashion. We can see how totally unfair and inequitable this situation is.

Let us talk about the territorial approach. Given the urgency of acting while fully respecting the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces, the Bloc Québécois is of the opinion that the most efficient, swift and equitable way to share the greenhouse gas reduction effort is to implement a territorial approach instead of a Canada-wide sectoral approach which, as we know, has been a monumental failure.

The territorial approach is the act of dividing Canada's greenhouse gas reduction target up among the provinces. It is a flexible approach that allows each province to choose its own plan or to join in the federal plan.

Let us take, for example, a scenario where the target would be a 6% GHG reduction for 2012, with 1990 as the base year. Quebec, which has already reduced its emissions by 1.2% since 1990, would only have to reduce them by 3.98 megatonnes. Alberta, which increased its emissions by 36.6% since 1990, would have to reduce them by 73 megatonnes.

Let us talk about the carbon exchange. The Bloc proposes to include in such a territorial approach a tradeable permit market, called a carbon exchange. I would remind the House that a carbon exchange is a tool enabling a company which has brought its greenhouse gas emissions below its reduction objectives to sell the tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions it would still be entitled to emit. For example, a carbon exchange would enable a province which has exceeded its targets to sell its surplus to another province experiencing difficulty reducing its emissions. With the territorial approach, provinces and Quebec will also be able to set targets for their industries and authorize them to buy or sell their tradeable permits with other industries outside their borders. Thus, there would be a powerful financial incentive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions since the company could make money with its reductions.

A carbon exchange cannot, however, achieve its full potential unless absolute greenhouse gas reduction targets are set. This creates a dynamic market where there are both sellers and buyers. The federal government must therefore set absolute greenhouse gas emissions for the short and medium terms, thereby making it possible to make a significant, but achievable, reduction in emissions. Such a reduction will stop Canada from losing all its credibility on the international scene.

This implies that some severe financial penalties—for example, twice the cost of a permit—should be mandatory for each tonne of emissions by a company in excess of the allowed limit. Finally, this would require the creation of an independent body or bodies responsible for certifying emission reductions and imposing fines on companies that did not produce permits in conformity with their actual emissions.

The last, but not the least, component is the scientific criterion. What point would there be to measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions if they do not make it possible to achieve appropriate results?

The IPCC was set up in 1988 by two UN bodies and the United Nations program, and brings together close to 2,000 scientists from all over the world. After gathering data from numerous scientific studies, the IPCC formulated recommendations on the follow-up to the Kyoto protocol in its fourth assessment report, released November 17, 2007.

In order to avoid warming with irreversible consequences—that is 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels—the IPCC has recommended the capping of global greenhouse gas emissions within the next 10 or 15 years, and a reduction of over half the emissions compared to the 1990 levels by the year 2050.

I am proposing a motion that both respects the objectives set for greenhouse gas emissions and includes significant financial and economic incentives in order for us all to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thus to contribute to fighting climate change.