House of Commons Hansard #77 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was years.

Topics

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill S-9. I want to follow up on an issue the Bloc member dealt with in terms of the microchip solution.

I had pointed out that a number of years ago Manitoba was looking into making immobilizers mandatory. In fact, in the beginning Manitoba made them optional. There was a reduction in the insurance premium for people who voluntarily installed immobilizers in their cars. Guess what? Absolutely nobody took the offer. There were maybe 100 people in the whole province who did. It was only when the provincial government took the bull by the horns and made immobilizers mandatory and free that we started to see results.

We saw a huge reduction over the first year or so. In fact, auto theft was down to the point where there was one day in March a year ago where there were no auto thefts. As a matter of fact, the problem has changed to one where people have been having difficulty finding cars to steal and lately they have been commandeering taxis. That has become a problem that Manitoba is dealing with. The taxi drivers are looking at options involving shields and further protection because recently quite a number of taxis have been commandeered.

At the time we were looking at the immobilizer program there were some statistics available from the Insurance Bureau of Canada. Those insurance statistics would represent all the provinces outside of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia, as they all have government-run programs.

I believe the studies at the time showed that if the big car companies were mandated by the government to install these immobilizers it could have been done 10 years ago at a cost of $30 for installation in each car. I may be wrong on the amount of $30, and it could have been $40 or $50, but it did not cost a lot to install an immobilizer in each car. We would have nipped the auto theft problem in the bud in the beginning and it would have cost a fraction of what it has cost society overall. However, the car companies refused to do that.

People then would have to put in after-market immobilizers. We all know that after-market immobilizers often do not work with the car's electrical system. Also, the engineering department of Ford, for example, refused to honour the warranties if the owners had put in after-market immobilizers. The car owners were caught. They wanted to do the right thing, but if they put in an after-market immobilizer, it would cause problems with the warranty on their new car, so there was a bit of a standoff. It is no surprise that very few people put in after-market immobilizers which, by the way, were very expensive.

The government had a responsibility here. In those days it was probably still a Liberal government because it was a few years ago. The government has to look at the Insurance Bureau of Canada statistics and it should be proactive. It should be looking for a solution and not waiting for the problem to mushroom to the extent that it has.

I am not sure whether it was during the last days of the Liberal government, but I think it may have been the Conservative government that actually mandated immobilizers in all new cars in Canada as of a certain date three or four years ago. That was a very positive thing to do. Within a 10-year period, which is the time it will take for all the older cars to be removed from the road, the problem should cure itself. That is quite a long time. Certainly, if the microchips are going to help solve this problem or do more to curb the problem, then we should be looking at them as well.

In Manitoba there are people who joyride in cars. In Toronto and Montreal, it involves more organized crime in high-end vehicles.

Madam Speaker, I understand that my time is up for today.

The House resumed from June 2 consideration of the motion.

Lake of the Woods and Rainy River Basins
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Gerard Kennedy Parkdale—High Park, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Lac-Saint-Louis.

It is a pleasure to speak about the Lake of the Woods and Rainy River system, as someone who was born in Manitoba. I note that the member who proposed this motion talked about it as one of the purest water systems. I come from another one, which is one of the largest clear-water lakes--

Lake of the Woods and Rainy River Basins
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. The hon. member asked to share his time and during this period of private members' business, there must be unanimous consent.

Does the member have unanimous consent?

Lake of the Woods and Rainy River Basins
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Lake of the Woods and Rainy River Basins
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Gerard Kennedy Parkdale—High Park, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the enthusiasm that came from the members opposite.

The Lake of the Woods is a national treasure. It is appreciated by, as they are called locally, the 'Tobans, who come from Manitoba and utilize it as perhaps their primary source. They also draw water from the region, so it has health implications.

We are debating a private member's motion, and as for all hon. members who bring forward a motion in all sincerity, we sympathize with the member opposite for not having the government act unilaterally. In other words, the government could make its own reference to the International Joint Commission. The IJC was established some time ago. It is a functional mechanism with stronger agreements over bodies of water such as the Great Lakes and so on. It just so happens that under pollution control, we do not yet have the Lake of the Woods referenced there.

Perhaps there are members opposite or other members who are privy to it and could explain why there has not been a bit more urgency on the part of the government, if that possibility indeed exists. The only question we have on this side is why we cannot get into something a bit sooner than it would take for this particular motion to move forward.

It would seem that phosphorus levels in the lake are of a concern and are influencing algae growth of a type that would actually be hazardous to a whole range of the opportunities that the lake provides, be it the local economy in terms of walleye fishing and so on, or the recreational opportunities not just for visitors from Manitoba but obviously for local Ontarians and people who live in the area. It is mainly summer tourism, but there is winter tourism as well and the reputation that could come should some of the concerns that many people have start to develop.

Of course, as people may realize, this is a transborder concern because the phosphorus is likely coming from fertilizers upriver on the American side. A joint reference is required. Often in these cases, as we saw for example with some of the Red River disputes, there is government action, where the government actually stands up and says that it has a concern, that it has some of the science. If I am not mistaken, the Ontario government has provided some of the science already, so that those concerns could be substantiated. The government could simply sit down diplomatically with our American counterparts and see this happen as part of the IJC moving forward.

The other concern we have in terms of an explanation why this might be a bit dilatory or not the fastest way to get the action that the tourism operators and the sustainability folks, who I understand are working hard on the ground in the Lake of the Woods area, would like is the prospect of having resources. That is something that can only come from the executive branch which is currently held by the party opposite. In other words, will the IJC get the resources it needs to be convincing on this point? Will that be part of the reference?

It is not part of the motion. We understand the limitations of private members' motions, but we certainly would like to see going forward that this be something that brings real relief and not just something that goes on and on. People are used to government processes sometimes that do not deliver the actual outcomes they are looking for. In terms of the variety of groups, cottage owners and people who are permanent residents, people who are involved in the ecology of the area, such as hunters, fishers and so on, are all saying that they want to get this going.

We certainly support this motion moving forward, but for the consideration of the members on the government side and the proposer of the motion who sits there as well, why could we not use some other measures to get this to go forward, for the very same reasons that he has articulated, and which other members of different caucuses in this House have already reflected in terms of their contributions?

I look forward, as the environment critic, to seeing this move forward in the best way possible. If this motion is the only device we have, we will certainly support moving it forward.

Lake of the Woods and Rainy River Basins
Private Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for splitting his time with me.

The motion is commendable, and I would like to congratulate the hon. member who brought it forth.

However, before I get into the specifics of the motion and the substantial aspects of it, I would like to mention that this motion raises another issue that is important to discuss, that is, the need for a national water strategy.

There is a problem. There is a vacuum at the national level when it comes to water policy. This summer, when the first ministers met in August, at the end of their meeting, the Premier of Quebec acted as their spokesperson and said that the first ministers had decided to take some more aggressive measures on climate change and freshwater management. The Premier of Quebec cited the lack of a national water strategy, as well as the lack of federal leadership on water, as the reasons that these new measures needed to be pursued. The lack of federal leadership necessitates action at other levels.

Recently, this theme was also taken up after the Commissioner of the Environment in Ontario tabled his report, in which he underscored the ongoing problems that exist in the Great Lakes. In reaction to the publication of that report, another commentator said it would help the Great Lakes if we had a national water strategy.

Now, when we talk about a national water strategy, or any kind of water strategy, we need to consider the concept of integrated watershed management.

I agree that this is an important concept. However, it is a high-level concept and one that is very general in nature. I think the formation of a national water strategy needs some specific pillars and would benefit from discussions on bulk water exports, water as a human right, waste water treatment, management and protection of the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes, and the oil sands and water. It should also deal with the pollution of Lake Winnipeg and the other problems that Lake Winnipeg is having. And of course, a national water strategy should deal with the IJC and whether the IJC has enough resources to do the work that is expected of it.

Is the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States offering the IJC enough to support to allow it to look at issues like Lake Winnipeg or the Lake of the Woods in a more comprehensive manner?

I think a national water strategy should deal with the Lake of the Woods. The Lake of the Woods sub-basin is the most important of the Winnipeg River drainage areas. It contributes half of the flow of the Winnipeg River.

The Winnipeg River drainage basin, in turn, is the most significant of Lake Winnipeg's sub-basins. In fact, it contributes 45% of Lake Winnipeg's total inflow; it contributes, unfortunately, 25% of the nitrogen loadings of Lake Winnipeg; and it contributes 12% of the phosphorous loadings of Lake Winnipeg.

So we can see that the Lake of the Woods, beyond being a beautiful area for cottagers and tourists, plays an important role in the health of the larger watershed and, more specifically, in the health of Lake Winnipeg.

The motion is important because, at the moment, while the IJC is looking at water pollution and water levels in the Rainy River, and looking at water levels in Lake of the Woods, it is not, for the time being, looking at water quality in the Lake of the Woods. So it is important to raise this point and to put pressure on the Conservative government to deal with the IJC and the United States in getting the issue of water quality in the Lake of the Woods on the agenda.

The fact that this motion was raised at all means that the federal government is not doing its job. I congratulate the hon. member for bringing in this motion, and hopefully the Conservative government will give some attention to the issue.

Lake of the Woods and Rainy River Basins
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak on this motion for a number of reasons that will become self-evident. It is important to take care of the water quality in the Rainy River basin and in Lake of the Woods. As I try to do every time I stand in the House, I talk about my riding of Thunder Bay—Rainy River and what a fabulous place it is and invite everyone in the House to come and visit. The Minister of Industry is certainly welcome, as well as my friends from Perth—Wellington and Winnipeg. They are all welcome to come and see the fabulous waterways and water systems in my riding. My riding is 500 kilometres from Thunder Bay on one end and it ends at Lake of the Woods, so I have a particular interest in the motion.

It is interesting that Lake of the Woods is perhaps the only transnational body of water that is not protected by the International Joint Commission. The motion asks for that to happen and I think that is a good thing. As we go down Highway 11 in my riding, a sign says, “Time Zone Change”. Right after that sign, there is a sign that says, “From this point forward, all streams flow north”. So Rainy Lake, Rainy River, and Lake of the Woods all eventually end up in Hudson Bay and the Arctic Ocean, part of our great planetary ocean system, so it is important that we protect the water. This is an opportunity to have it monitored and to enhance the water quality of Lake of the Woods.

This initiative is particularly interesting because it is really a grassroots initiative, and we in the NDP are very pleased about this. Local residents, cottage owners, owners of small businesses, tourist outfitters, environmental groups and first nations all have been part of the Lake of the Woods ecosystem and the efforts to ensure that the water is clean. The big problem is phosphates and algae blooms. These grassroots groups have been working on this for more than a decade. This will see the responsibility, or at least part of the responsibility, go to the International Joint Commission to help ensure and enhance the water quality in the Rainy River basin and in Lake of the Woods, so we are very happy about that.

The International Joint Commission is probably the body that is best suited to govern Lake of the Woods water quality, but a reference is needed. This motion, should the government decide to act on it, will be a way to make that happen. There are many reasons that I will not go into, of course, to protect the environment and particularly the water environment, and many people in my riding have spent a lifetime protecting the water systems that eventually end up in the Arctic Ocean.

I would be remiss if I did not mention a sitting MPP, Howard Hampton, who has been instrumental in ensuring that the Rainy River basin remains a playground for tourists and probably some of the best fishing in this country. It is through efforts of people such as Howard Hampton and other grassroots organizations that this part of Canada has been made such a fabulous part.

Let me talk very briefly about a report that came out in June of last year. It was released by the International Joint Commission and it examined the links between human health and water-related issues in Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River basin. The report noted that Environment Canada had identified 15 ongoing threats related to source water and aquatic ecosystem health. That includes the following: nutrient loading, industrial waste water discharges, municipal waste water effluents, algal toxins and taste and odour problems, pesticides, agricultural and forestry land use impacts, natural sources of trace element contaminants, impacts of dams and diversions and climate change, as well as acidification.

So we know there are problems in this waterway, which by the way, in most parts of this waterway, as we are paddling our canoe we could dip our cup in and have a drink of water. Yet all these things are still present there.

Over the last couple of years especially, the groundwork has really been done by volunteers to talk about this, to bring it to the fore, and to have this motion brought forward.

I would like to thank my friend and neighbour to the north of me, in the Kenora riding, for bringing this motion forward. As we know, this motion is non-binding.

I would like to ask the government to ensure that it acts on this motion. It can do it quickly. I think it is a big step forward, not just for the people of my riding or the people in Kenora but for people all along the water system, all the way to Hudson Bay.

Lake of the Woods and Rainy River Basins
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise in the House today to speak to Motion No. 519, and to also, at your indulgence, congratulate my colleague, the member of Parliament for Kenora, who in his short time here since the election of 2008 has done an absolutely fantastic job, not only here in his work as a parliamentarian but obviously back in his riding representing his constituents. My congratulations go out to him.

It is my pleasure to stand in the House today and recognize the important role that individual Canadians and their communities play in the protection of our most valuable and most vital water resources. Canada would be a poorer place indeed without the dedication demonstrated by committed Canadians to improving their natural environment. This is especially true of those communities in the Lake of the Woods basin and the people who live and work along the lake's shores.

I would like to bring to the attention of the hon. members present in the chamber here today the dedicated effort of the Lake of the Woods Water Sustainability Foundation and the public support for this initiative that exists in the Lake of the Woods basin.

The Lake of the Woods Water Sustainability Foundation is a registered charity established in 2005 by a broadly based community of stakeholders committed to protecting and restoring the water quality of Lake of the Woods. They are committed to working with the Government of Canada and provincial agencies to develop a long-term sustainability plan for the watershed. They have also worked to develop binational community and government support for cooperative action to support and sustain the lake.

The foundation has been advocating for more than five years for an International Joint Commission reference on water pollution in Lake of the Woods. There is strong local support for such a reference. In fact, communities throughout the basin have already asked for this. Municipal council resolutions have been passed and transmitted to their respective provincial and federal legislators.

Let me give some examples. The Council of the City of Kenora passed a resolution endorsing a request to the Government of Canada to refer the question of Lake of the Woods water quality to the International Joint Commission. The township of Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls, Ontario wrote that because the maintenance of good water quality in Lake of the Woods is of vital importance to the social and economic sustainable continuance of the township, it also supports a request to the government to refer the matter to the International Joint Commission.

In addition, the Northwestern Ontario Tourism Association has expressed support for a reference on this matter, as has the Lake of the Woods District Property Owners Association. In each case, concern over the future of clean drinking water for their communities has brought them forward to voice their support.

We have heard them loud and clear. Contrary to what the member for Lac-Saint-Louis just tried to say in this chamber, on June 17, 2010, our government heeded their requests and those requests were answered when the Governments of Canada and the U.S. issued letters of reference to the International Joint Commission to review and provide recommendations on the binational management of the international waters of Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River system.

Co-operative science networks have also been establish between our two countries over the past several years with stakeholder groups in the Lake Winnipeg basin area, including scientific collaboration with the Lake of the Woods Water Sustainability Foundation. The foundation was approved for funding under the federal Lake Winnipeg basin stewardship fund for a project to develop a water quality modelling project for Lake of the Woods.

Through this project, the foundation will collaborate with other partners from government and academia to assist decision-making for managing phosphorus in the lake and in its watershed.

A multi-agency working arrangement was established in 2009 to foster trans-jurisdictional coordination and collaboration on science and management activities to enhance and restore water quality in the basin.

Members of this working arrangement include Environment Canada, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, provincial and state agencies from Ontario, Manitoba and Minnesota, academics and stakeholders from the basin on both sides of the border.

In moving forward, the federal government will do its part to build upon the spirit of co-operation and collaboration that currently exists. Long-term sustainable management of the basin is dependent on establishing a decision-making body that is inclusive and responsive to the concerns of the local population. Our existing binational management framework needs to be reviewed in order to better govern water quality issues in the lake.

The June 17 reference builds on these existing efforts. The International Joint Commission has assigned the International Lake of the Woods and Rainy River Watershed Task Force to conduct the review of existing binational management in the basin and provide recommendations for two purposes: first, to recommend potential structures and mechanisms to enhance binational management; and then to identify priority issues or activities to be addressed by or through such mechanisms. The task force met in the Lake of the Woods basin in late August to begin this important task.

The reference will be conducted in line with the International Joint Commission's international watershed initiative. This will promote communication, collaboration and coordination among stakeholders in the basin, using an integrated ecosystem approach.

The International Joint Commission is ideally suited to review the governance arrangements in the basin. The commission is already present in the basin and has a history of working well with the communities there.

The task force is working in consultation with governments at all levels, as well as first nations and tribes on both sides of the border, and is setting up a citizens advisory group to ensure stakeholder participation in its review and recommendations. Following the task force's recommendations to the International Joint Commission in June of 2011, the commission will perform public consultations in order to directly receive the views of ordinary folks who live in the basin before reporting to governments in December of 2011.

A review of the governance arrangements in the basin, including the role of the International Joint Commission, is a necessary first step to establishing the longer-term sustainability plan that the local communities desire. Each element of the existing governance arrangements will be carefully reviewed. I look forward, as a member of the governing party, to receiving the recommendations of the commission on this matter.

As a former conservation officer, fisheries technician and a person who has studied fisheries and aquatic sciences, I am very pleased not only with the motion brought forward by my colleague from Kenora, but with all the efforts we are making to clean up our waters and create marine and freshwater conservation areas so we can have continued good ecological and environmental integrity to maintain water as a strategic and important necessity of life for future generations to come. I look forward to hearing more from my colleagues as this debate continues.

Lake of the Woods and Rainy River Basins
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I, too, would like to congratulate the member for Kenora for his efforts on Motion No. 519. I would like to read it to the House. It states:

That, in the opinion of the House, in order to ensure the long-term ecological and economic vitality of the Lake of the Woods and Rainy River Basin, the governments of Canada and the United States should continue to foster trans-jurisdictional coordination and collaboration on science and management activities to enhance and restore water quality in the Lake of the Woods and Rainy River Basin, by referring the matter of Lake of the Woods water quality to the International Joint Commission for examination, reporting, and recommendations regarding the binational management of the international waters of the Lake of the Woods and Rainy River system and the International Joint Commission's potential role in this watershed, in line with the International Watersheds Initiative.

As previous members have pointed out, this system is the only system so far not under the auspices of the IJC. Mr. Comuzzi is now the chair of the Canadian section of the IJC and I understand that things will move along to solve this problem.

Manitoba has a situation involving Devils Lake in North Dakota. We have been working for many years to try to get the IJC, under the boundary waters agreement treaty, to deal with the issue. Unfortunately, one side cannot refer the problem to the IJC. It has to be a joint recommendation.

It bodes well when both American and Canadian jurisdictions see things in the same light and recognize this as a long-term problem that will only get worse. The problem needs to be solved now.

I think back many years to when we spoke about what happened to the buffalo herd over the years and how indiscriminate hunting killed the herd off. We were able to solve the problem to the point where the herd was brought back.

If we work together with the Americans, in the this case of the IJC, and with the provinces, we can solve any problems and bring the environment back to where it was.

Many members will recall the 1960s when the government was forced to close down the fishery on the English-Wabigoon River system. Many tourist camps relied on American tourists and Japanese tourists, who came to that area regularly.

It was discovered that Minamata disease was caused mercury poisoning. Mercury was being dumped into the river by the pulp plant, I believe, in Dryden. This poisoned the fish as well as the people who ate the fish.

It does not take a genius to figure out the long-term effects of mercury poisoning. When I spoke to the member for Kenora, he told me that the river had been cleaned up and was now pristine. There is no mercury in the fish anymore. It is great that we solved the problem, but the fact is a large number of tourists, locals and native guides ate the fish.

This did not happen overnight. Did Minimata disease develop in the fish over a period of 5, 10, or 20 years? Did it develop from the time the pulp plant started dumping mercury into the water? We will have to do some studies in the next 20 or 30 years to see how many people have died prematurely of cancers and so on caused by Minimata disease.

At the end of the day, the pulp mill is out of business or has been converted to some other use. What did we gain through that whole exercise? We provided jobs for a number of people for a number of years in the pulp mill, but who paid for the costs of the cleanup? If we look at the environmental costs added together with the medical costs, the total cost will potentially overwhelm the economic benefits we received from the lifetime of that plant.

A member tells me today that mercury is no longer used in the process. It took Minamata disease and the recognition that dumping mercury into a river system could be a problem. Now science has figured out a way to still run its pulp plants without using mercury. I suppose the problem has been solved. The fact is mercury probably should not have been used in the first place.

If we move forward from the 1960s into our current environment, we have new problems. We have the same problems here as those that exist in Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba. We have the problem with algae and phosphorous to the point where this past summer Manitoba passed legislation that people were not allowed to use phosphorous and certain types of detergents, which cause the lakes to have all these algae blooms. That adversely harms the aquatic life, not to mention the fact of the property values of the cottagers and the people who use the lakes. We are polluting our own environment by allowing this to continue.

We have some big changes that are controversial in Manitoba. For example, the hog farmers and producers are not happy with some of the rules to keep the fertilizers and pesticides out of the rivers. They want to know where they will go. The pesticides get into the rivers and they end up going upstream into Lake Winnipeg.

I understand a lot of farmers are in the Rainy River district and their farming activities are contributing to the problems we are trying to deal with here.

We will have to look at a comprehensive approach to this, because this is not an isolated problem. We can see this problem mirrored and reflected all over the country. We have to look at a global approach, involving the federal, provincial and municipal governments, to rethink how we deal with our environment. I am very pleased to know that certain cities, and I believe Winnipeg is included, across Canada have in recent years passed rules dealing with pesticides.

We used to think nothing of dumping this stuff on our lawns to kill the dandelions. By the way, we used to make wine with the dandelions back in the 1960s. We got to the point where we tried to have lawns that were perfectly green. Just to prevent one dandelion from growing, people were pouring all these chemicals over the yards and thinking nothing of it.

The chickens have come home to roost. The recognition by mainstream population is that we should not do stuff like that. There are substitutes for these chemicals, which people can use to keep their lawns green.

I am optimistic overall that we will be able to solve these problems. I do not know why we have to let them develop for so long and why it takes so long to recognize the problem. If we look back, we see it is just common sense. Who would think that somehow we would not have a problem dumping mercury into a river year after year?

Lake of the Woods and Rainy River Basins
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Is the House ready for the question?

Lake of the Woods and Rainy River Basins
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Lake of the Woods and Rainy River Basins
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Lake of the Woods and Rainy River Basins
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Lake of the Woods and Rainy River Basins
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)