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  • His favourite word is water.

Liberal MP for Lac-Saint-Louis (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 34.10% of the vote.

Statements in the House

The Environment October 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, in 2011, waste water from a Suncor oil sands project was accidentally released into the Athabasca River. We were surprised to learn that the test applied to determine if this was a violation of the Fisheries Act was whether more than 50% of affected fish died. I am told this is a provincial standard, one that appears to be in contradiction with the traditional federal standard that says nothing that could be harmful to even one fish should be allowed to enter water.

How can this more lax standard be allowed to exist under the enforcement provisions of the Fisheries Act? Is it because Fisheries Act enforcement has been devolved to the province, where the provincial Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act applies weaker standards? Are the regulatory changes in budget 2014 at least partially aimed at allowing the minister to retroactively exempt this and other industries from more stringent federal anti-pollution prohibitions in favour of more lax provincial ones?

If so, which other industries and provinces will be benefiting from the minister's new power to single-handedly exempt pollution-generating activities from Fisheries Act prohibitions?

The Environment October 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Fisheries Act is the federal government's main and, by far, most powerful legislative instrument for protecting Canada's lakes, rivers, and streams. In other words, the Fisheries Act is at the heart of federal water policy.

Since first being elected, the Conservative government has waged an almost incessant crusade to progressively undermine the Fisheries Act; in other words, to effectively weaken the act's prohibitions against harming fish and, by implication, polluting Canada's watercourses.

First, the government used schedule 2 of the Fisheries Act's mining effluent regulations to open the door wide to converting more and more northern freshwater lakes into dumping grounds for toxic mine tailings. The original intent of the regulations was to grandfather lakes that had already been destroyed by mine tailings in clear contravention of the Fisheries Act. In other words, the intent was to retroactively make these toxic lakes legal under the act.

In 2012, the government weakened section 35 of the Fisheries Act, the act's provisions for fish habitat protection, by restricting the section's application to recreational fisheries, commercial fisheries, and aboriginal fisheries only. In regard to section 36 of the act, the section that prohibits the deposit of deleterious substances into fish-bearing waters, absent an explicit regulatory exemption granted by entire cabinet, the budget gave greater power to the minister of fisheries to, by himself or herself, carve out exemptions to the act. In other words, he or she could accord permission to those who wished to be allowed to legally pollute waterways for purposes of research or in the process of conducting various industrial activities, including agricultural production.

In the case of agriculture, the government's aim is to make it easier to allow pesticides to leach into waterways.

In budget 2014, the government followed up on the broad enabling provisions adopted in the 2012 budget, by more precisely defining the regulatory framework within which the minister could create blanket exemptions to the water pollution prohibitions found in section 36 of the Fisheries Act.

Is the government's aim to carve out exemptions for the oil sands industry specifically? It is an industry that, despite persistent and, I would say, stubborn earlier denials by the government, has been found by scientists, including the government's own scientists, to be causing to harm to the Athabasca River watershed.

Business of Supply October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, what I will say is that I think it is completely inappropriate that we allow exploratory work at very sensitive times of the life cycle of whales in this particular case. It is obvious from my remarks that I think the decision that was made on the northern gateway, a review panel decision that ignored the impacts on the humpback whale, is a mistake. It really undermines confidence in the environmental processes that are going to be done in future by the National Energy Board. Yes, we have to be sensitive to these seasonal patterns and so on. That is why the Superior Court in Quebec made the decision it did, and I agree with that decision.

Business of Supply October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, a certain culture has been created within federal departments. Scientists are being muzzled and management is being given carte blanche to issue advice without consulting the experts.

It is as though the government gave its permission for departments to give non-scientific advice that appears scientific for all development projects, without having to consult any scientists.

A culture has been created where everyone believes they have this right. Officials in these departments feel they have the right to issue an opinion on subjects without having any evidence to back it up, in order to please the political higher-ups.

Business of Supply October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, we are open to economic progress. We do not close the door on every industrial project in the oil and gas sector. We must move forward with the pipeline.

However, the law and common sense dictate that we must proceed with a rigorous environmental assessment before making any final decisions regarding this project.

Business of Supply October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak to this motion. I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Halifax West.

The Cacouna port project is no small potatoes, as the saying goes. According to Le Devoir:

TransCanada has ambitions of building...nothing less than the largest infrastructure in history for transporting and exporting oil from the oil sands.

As an aside, let me say that if this energy project is seeing the light of day today, that is partly because the government has failed with the Keystone XL pipeline. We are still waiting for a positive answer from the U.S. government. We have reached this stage because of the Conservative government's clumsy diplomacy, and now it is talking about building a major port on the St. Lawrence.

I will continue quoting the article from Le Devoir. TransCanada “actually wants to build a port that is unprecedented in the history of Quebec”. That is no small thing. To better understand the scope of this project, the ships that will come to the port to take on cargo, “will carry two to five times more oil than the amount spilled by Exxon Valdez in Alaska in 1989”; this is according to Le Devoir once again.

It must also be noted that navigation in this part of the river will necessarily be complex. If the project gets the green light, and this was mentioned by my colleague from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, we would also be facing the problem of the discharge of enormous quantities of ballast water. As we all know, ballast water is a kind of conduit for invasive species that come from elsewhere and fundamentally and irreversibly alter aquatic ecosystems, in particular the Great Lakes ecosystem.

I will not say more about the potential impact of this gigantic project because the real nub of the question we are debating today, as far as I am concerned, is the process that will be used to either confirm or dispel the concerns about a future port in Cacouna. In other words, we are talking today about the quality and rigour of the environmental assessment process that will be used to reach a decision about this project.

We know that the assessment is coming and I have serious doubts about it. To begin with, I do not have a lot of confidence in the assessment, and that is partly because of one of the mammoth bills the government introduced in the House, a budget bill that, as we know, completely changed the rules for federal environmental assessments in this country. In other words, since 2012, energy projects such as pipelines are assessed not by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, but by the National Energy Board.

We are entitled to wonder whether that board has the expertise needed for properly assessing the impact of projects like these on the environment; we might also wonder whether its priority is to protect the environment or simply to advance the private interests of companies in the oil industry.

We know that because of that bill, in 2012, apart from the fact that responsibility for environmental assessments of these projects has now been handed to the National Energy Board, the number of stakeholders with the right to present their views on the potential environmental effects of an energy project has been reduced. That bill, which is now law, also shortened the time allowed for doing an environmental assessment. And last but not least, under the new law, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will now be acting as a mere consultant to the National Energy Board, and has had all its decision-making powers on this kind of project taken away.

I would like to draw a parallel between the environmental assessment that will be done for the energy east pipeline and the one that has already been done for the northern gateway pipeline project. In British Columbia, there is talk about the impact of a pipeline on whales. In that case, they are not belugas, they are humpback whales, off the coast of British Columbia.

In that environmental assessment, the issue was the risks that the pipeline project posed to the whales. According to a professor at the University of Calgary, the report and recommendations of the assessment committee frankly left a lot to be desired, because they seem to have disregarded the concerns about the fate of the whales in the context of the northern gateway pipeline project.

In recommending the approval of the project, Professor Shaun Fluker said that the National Energy Board panel erred by

...accepting that known threats to the humpback whale will occur from tanker traffic in critical habitat and [yet] by concluding that this will not be a significant adverse effect on the species.

Then he went on to say that:

Enbridge [the project's promoter] submitted that knowledge on whales is sparse, vessel strikes and other impacts on whales are unavoidable....

However, in the end, the panel wholly accepted Enbridge's view that the project would not have a significant adverse impact on the humpback whale. Therefore we see that, yes, the Energy Board does do assessments now, but when it comes to the impacts on wildlife and, in this case, on whales, it just seems to skirt the issue a bit.

Even if we can assume a rigorous environmental assessment process, we have to have good information, and we see that the government is not really forthcoming with good information that is the product of research by scientists. We know that scientists are muzzled; that is pretty clear. We have seen in the court case that imposed an injunction on the exploratory wells at Cacouna that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans was not very forthcoming with very important information needed for the decision on whether to allow exploratory wells. I am just saying that I am not very confident that the environmental review will be as rigorous as it should be.

Health October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the “Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality” are weaker than drinking water standards in other national jurisdictions. Canada has no standard for certain substances, while other countries do.

For example, there are 189 substances regulated in other countries for which Canada has no standard.

In other cases, our Canadian standards are much more lax than those in other countries for the same toxic substance.

When will the Conservative government start to show leadership on the vital issue of drinking water quality?

The Environment October 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, to date the government has failed in its feeble attempts to reach its own greenhouse gas reduction targets. The cause of this failure: federal inaction, and by that I mean the abysmal lack of leadership on the part of this Conservative government, which has not even bothered to meet with representatives of the oil sector since March 2013 to discuss regulations for this sector.

When will the government take action and finally take the threat of climate change seriously?

Georgian Bay Channel to Lock 45--Port Severn October 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to discuss Motion No. 502. The motion asks the federal government to invest money in improving the Trent-Severn Waterway in the Great Lakes region.

I have been interested in our freshwater resources for years. In preparing for this morning's debate, I learned more about a region and a waterway that were somewhat familiar to me.

I learned a lot from reading the speech by my colleague, the hon. member for Simcoe North. It is interesting because there are connections between that waterway and the Lachine Canal near my riding alongside the St. Lawrence.

Like the Trent-Severn Waterway, the Lachine Canal is a Canadian historic site managed by Parks Canada. There are connections between the two regions. I am interested in this issue not only because it involves our freshwater resources, but also because of the connection between these two historic waterways: the Lachine Canal and the Trent-Severn Waterway.

Water levels, whether they are high or low, are always a problem for those who live beside or use a particular waterway. I know this because my riding, as I just mentioned, is on a waterway, the St. Lawrence River. There are many marinas, sailing, and boat clubs along the St. Lawrence. We can see from one year to the next the impacts caused by low water levels or high water levels.

Low water levels are a problem for a number of reasons. When water is shallow, there is greater sedimentation, which then requires dredging. That is the subject of this motion. It is also very hard for recreational boat owners to get out of the marina when the water levels are low. Sometimes they are unable to leave that space because of the physical limitations that come with lower water levels. We know that commercial shipping is also affected by low water levels because there is not usually much space between the bottom of a ship and the riverbed. Sometimes we are talking about two or three feet, even for the big Great Lakes vessels.

I understand that my hon. colleague's attention to this issue is very important. I learned that the Trent-Severn Waterway, which is quite long and includes some free-flowing parts and canals, is in great use. It has 160 dams and 44 locks, and there are 50,000 residences along the waterway. This is a very important issue, and I support the request for a very modest sum of money, from what I have read, to drag a portion of the waterway which is at Port Severn. I believe there will also be some blasting required, which I would imagine makes the project a bit more expensive.

What we are talking about is a particular part of the waterway in a particular region, the Great Lakes region. However, I would be remiss if I did not talk about the issue of fluctuating and especially diminishing water levels in the Great Lakes in general.

What is causing those fluctuations and specifically the falling water levels? There are three causes that we know of, and we learned this from the IJC's Upper Great Lakes Study.

One cause is from the dredging of the St. Clair River, which is apparently allowing more water to leave the upper Great Lakes. Another cause is from the shifting of the earth's crust. The ice age compressed that part of the continent and over time the lake beds rise a little and tilt, causing some water to flow out of the region. Also, there is the problem of climate change, which leaves less ice cover in the winter and there is thus more evaporation.

This is a broader issue, and the government is going to have to look at the issue in broader terms.

I hope the government listens to the hon. member for Simcoe North and does the work for which he asks. However, we need to look at the issue of the falling Great Lakes water levels more broadly and the government will have make some investments.

The hon. member who spoke before me talked about infrastructure investments, and, yes, I would have to agree, but there are other kinds of investments that the government will need to make, which I would like to address a little later.

We have a problem with climate change and there is some uncertainty as how climate change will impact the Great Lakes. We know climate change will cause less precipitation in some areas and more in other areas.

The problem around the Great Lakes is that we do not know where the greater precipitation will occur, at what latitude. This is an issue when we talk about the Great Lakes because the basin is so small relative to the surface water. It is not a huge basin where if it rains farther north the water would still make its way into the lakes. No, it is a very small basin and if the precipitation is above or below the lakes, that water will not necessarily make it to the lakes.

We cannot say with certainty how climate change will impact the water level, but we have to plan for the worst case scenario and for falling water levels because of the attendant costs of falling water levels.

I mentioned earlier that there were other investments that needed to be made above and beyond infrastructure investments. When the hon. member talked about the infrastructure investments that would be required, she talked about big physical constructs no doubt that might better regulate water flows and so on.

There is a group called Great Lakes Our Water, or GLOW, in Georgian Bay, and we are essentially talking about Georgian Bay here. I am told that part of its focus has now shifted to another problem in the area, which is an invasive species, a kind of reed that is quickly proliferating in Georgian Bay. However, GLOW also has a campaign called “Stop the Drop”.

I was speaking to GLOW's executive director, Colin Dobell, not long ago on the phone. Then I met him on Friday at the meeting of the Freshwater Alliance here in the region. I learned that Stop the Drop was focusing on a technology that would allow us to better predict the impact of changing water levels, in this case, of dropping water levels. This is called LIDAR technology.

LIDAR technology is essentially a radar technology that allows us to construct integrated topographic-bathymetric models to visualize the impacts of variable water levels. Typically it is used to see how rising sea levels will impact on coastal areas, but it can also be used to predict what the impact of dropping water levels will be.

It is very important that the government put some money into applying LIDAR technology in Georgian Bay so the area can adapt to the impact of climate change.

Walter Pacholka September 22nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay respects to a true gentleman, Walter Pacholka, who passed away earlier this summer.

I am grateful and honoured to have known Wally, as he was affectionately known. Wally was an example of what really matters in this life and of the values that should guide us every day: devotion to loved ones, hard work, integrity, respect for others and service to country.

Wally was born and grew up on a small farm in Saskatchewan. He joined the RCAF in 1942 and went overseas, where he met and fell in love with Pamela Moran of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. After returning to Canada in 1945, Wally continued his air force career and later joined Air Canada as a flight instructor.

I would be unforgivably remiss if failed to mention that Wally was a proud Liberal who served the party in numerous roles over many years. He sold me my first Liberal membership card in what was then called the riding of Lachine—Lac-Saint-Louis.

I ask all members of the House to join me in expressing our heartfelt condolences to Wally's children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. May we all leave such an indelibly positive mark on this world.