An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (inventory of brownfields)

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.

Sponsor

Stan Keyes  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of March 20, 2001
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Canadian Environmental Assessment ActPrivate Members' Business

April 27th, 2001 / 2:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Stan Keyes Liberal Hamilton West, ON

Madam Speaker, as is the tradition, I have been given five minutes to clean up after the presentation of the bill after an hour in the House.

I listened very carefully to all the interventions made in the House today. To my friend in the Bloc, I am still trying to figure out what a ship going up and down the St. Lawrence has to do with brownfields but I take his points.

My friend with the Canadian Alliance Party indicated or assumed that the government was not doing its job on the environment. Through my experience from 1988 to 1993 in opposition, the Conservative government of the day did precious little on environmental concerns compared to what this federal Liberal government has done since 1993 to the present date. It is quite extraordinary and outstanding what has been done on issues of the environment under a series of different environmental ministers.

My colleague, the parliamentary secretary, will probably not leave his seat and allow me another opportunity to ask for unanimous consent to move this bill along for more than just an hour. I jest because he is a friend. Quite seriously, to my hon. friend who is standing in as a parliamentary secretary, I know he has to represent the government's point of view and I know he has a job to do. I have done that job myself.

However I would ask him to take back the message to the officials that Bill C-19 does not address the need of cost assessment as outlined in my bill. If we have a project we want to proceed with then we go out and do an assessment. Then we can get funding for the project.

Bill C-305 would amend the act and take it back a step so the opportunity of financing would begin at the assessment stage. Doing that would involve not just federal, provincial or municipal money but also tax money. Also the private sector would be invited to play a role and to network with levels of government to spend the money, make it possible, make it happen and pay for it at first blush.

There was an interesting use of language in the government's rebuttal. The word altered was used as opposed to my words of expanding the existing registry.

As addressed by the government, Bill C-305 says that we fear this paper registry versus the Internet or computer registry, and that a paper registry does not work. What bill is perfect? If we had perfect bills we would not have to spend time in the House debating them, making amendments at committee, taking them to report stage in the House and then making amendments at report stage. No bill is perfect. We would make those adjustments from paper to computer.

By the way, and the hon. member might pass this along to the government, even the new Internet based registry under Bill C-19 would still only list environmental assessment projects, not suspected or presently unreported sites that my particular bill would do. Maybe we will have to make an amendment to Bill C-19 in order to make that possible.

I look forward to the reforms that are being discussed and may take place shortly in the work of the House. However what harm is there in permitting a private member's bill, which takes place in an hour outside of regular government business, to be discussed more and to have a second and third hour of debate in the House? It could be in a stretch that might take six months. Then it could end at a parliamentary committee where the bill would be addressed, amended, clarified or even thrown out if the government, with its majority on committees, saw fit. What harm is there in moving the bill along?

Remember that a private member's bill takes hours upon hours of work to formulate. Then it goes to the legislative process. I thank Debra Bulmer at legislative services because she spent hours looking through the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act to make the appropriate amendments to respond to what it was I wanted to see in the act vis-à-vis brownfields. I thank her for her hard work.

I ask hon. members, with all the hours that were spent in developing, researching and drawing up the appropriate measures in the bill, to give this private member's bill a shot. There is no harm in it. It can be killed at committee if it has to be killed, and if not at committee at third reading in the House.

In closing I ask one more time, and I may know the answer to this already, that the House give unanimous consent to make the bill votable.

Canadian Environmental Assessment ActPrivate Members' Business

April 27th, 2001 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

Etobicoke North Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, I rise with pleasure to take part in the debate on Bill C-305, which proposes to establish a national registry of contaminated sites through amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

First, I commend the hon. member for Hamilton West on his ultimate goal to rejuvenate contaminated sites. I share his goal. I have a number of contaminated or brownfield sites in my riding of Etobicoke North. In 1999 I worked with a graduate student from the University of Toronto who developed a report entitled “Rexdale Brownfield Sites: A Framework for Understanding”. It dealt with a number of policy issues and alternatives. I submitted the report to city councillors, the provincial government, the Minister of the Environment and other stakeholder groups.

Ensuring that Canadians have a clean and healthy environment is an important goal for our government. For example, the recent Speech from the Throne notes that for Canadians, protecting the environment is not an option. It is something we must do.

In his reply to the Speech from the Throne, the Prime Minister stated that a safe, healthy environment is essential to the health of Canadians and to the future of our children. We will accelerate our efforts at home and internationally to foster a clean environment.

These contaminated sites or brownfields are a legacy of poor environmental practices in the past. Because of this terrible legacy we have shifted our thinking and our efforts toward preventing environmental damage before it occurs.

Our government strengthened the Canadian Environmental Protection Act so that it focused on pollution prevention. The Minister of the Environment recently introduced Bill C-19 to strengthen the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act so that future development projects do not cause environmental harm. In this context, it is necessary to look at Bill C-305 to determine if it would help us better achieve our environmental goals.

The bill proposes to do two things. First, it suggests that the current registry system in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act be altered so that any individual could report and therefore register contaminated sites in municipalities.

Second, Bill C-305 would enable the federal government to provide financial assistance for the environmental assessment of projects to remediate contaminated lands.

I would like to bring the House up to date on recent developments relevant to the hon. member's proposal.

The Minister of the Environment just completed an exhaustive and comprehensive review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. This review included the release of a discussion paper in December 1999 with options for improving the current law.

The public consultation phase of this review comprised 38 sessions in 19 cities across Canada. One day workshops were held in six major centres. The Internet was put to good use as a means to distribute information and solicit the views of Canadians. Over 200 written submissions were received. All told, the Minister of the Environment heard from a broad cross section of Canadians: environmental assessment practitioners, provincial governments, industry, environmental groups, communities, aboriginal people and individual Canadians.

One of the findings of the review was that the goal of facilitating public participation in environmental assessment has not been fully achieved. In particular, the current system of establishing a separate paper based registry for projects that undergo an environmental assessment has not worked.

I note that Bill C-305 is based on the same registry system concept.

On March 20 the Minister of the Environment tabled his report to parliament on the outcome of his review, entitled Strengthening Environmental Assessment for Canadians, and Bill C-19 proposes specific Amendments for Improving the current act.

Bill C-19 proposes to create a new Internet based government-wide registry of information about the environmental assessment of specific projects. As a result, Canadians will have easy access to information about projects in their communities and across the country.

Because it is based on the current act, the proposal in Bill C-305 does not really mesh with the amendments in Bill C-19, the amendments that require the establishment of a new modern registry that takes advantage of the Internet.

Moreover, the proposal in Bill C-305 would mix the objective of ensuring that Canadians have access to information about the wide range of projects that undergo a federal environmental assessment, such as proposed mines, dams, roads and pipelines, with the important task of identifying and registering contaminated sites.

For those reasons, Bill C-305 would not help us better achieve our environmental goals.

The second related point I would like to make is that the discretionary authority to provide financial assistance for the environmental assessment of projects to remediate contaminated sites, as proposed in Bill C-305, is not necessary.

In fact, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act already goes much further by requiring environmental assessments of remediation projects where there is federal involvement as a proponent, as a provider of financial assistance or land, or as a regulator. For example, remediation projects with federal financial assistance have triggered requirements for an assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

We must also be mindful of provincial jurisdiction. Many of the contaminated sites that are the target of Bill C-305 would fall within provincial areas of responsibility.

This does not mean that the federal government does not work with its provincial partners on this issue. Quite the opposite. Through the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, Environment Canada has provided the scientific expertise necessary for the development of a national classification system for contaminated sites, as well as a comprehensive set of guidance manuals promoting the consistent assessment and remediation of contaminated sites across Canada.

The Government of Canada is also taking measures to get its own House in order.

With over 25,000 owned and leased properties, it is essential that we identify and clean up contaminated sites in our control. Work is under way in this regard. Under the federal contaminated sites and solid waste landfills inventory policy a database of federal sites is being compiled. The database will soon be accessible to Canadians through the Internet.

In their sustainable development strategies tabled in February departments with large land holdings such as National Defence, Transport Canada and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada committed to continue with the identification, assessment and remediation of their contaminated sites.

Environment Canada also continues to be a global leader in the development of technologies to clean up contaminated sites.

For example, field experiments near Trail, British Columbia, and Île-aux-Corbeaux in the St. Lawrence River have demonstrated how certain plants can successfully remove toxic substances from soil, sediment and ground and surface water.

Sunflowers, ragweed, cabbage, geranium and Jack pine show considerable promise. Further field trials are being conducted on this innovative method for removing contamination from our lands and water.

In closing, Bill C-305 is a very forwarding looking and thoughtful project, but in the view of the government it is not appropriate because of more wide ranging proposals in Bill C-19 which will significantly strengthen the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Bill C-19 will help safeguard our environment through an environmental assessment process that is more predictable, certain and timely. Bill C-19 will improve the quality of assessments through measures to improve compliance and ensure more follow up. Bill C-19 will increase opportunities for Canadians to have a meaningful say about projects in their communities.

I applaud the hon. member for Hamilton West. I encourage him to keep his initiative alive and to keep a light on this issue. In light of the efforts of the government on many fronts to deal with contaminated sites, Bill C-305 is not necessary at this time.

Canadian Environmental Assessment ActPrivate Members' Business

April 27th, 2001 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Stan Keyes Liberal Hamilton West, ON

moved that Bill C-305, an act to amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (inventory of brownfields), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, in the short time that I have to defend my bill, Bill C-305, I will try to address four key areas: a definition, an explanation, the need for and approaches to remediation, and the reasons why this legislation should be deemed votable.

What is a brownfield? According to the 1998 report by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, entitled “State of the Debate on the Environment and the Economy: Greening Canada's Brownfield Sites”, brownfields are defined as:

—abandoned or underused properties where past actions have caused real or suspected environmental contamination. Although they are classified as a subset of contaminated sites, these sites exhibit good potential for other uses and usually provide economically viable business opportunities. They are mainly located in established urban areas, where existing municipal services are readily available, or along transportation corridors. They may include, but are not limited to: decommissioned refineries, railway yards, dilapidated warehouses, abandoned gas stations, former dry cleaners and other commercial properties where toxic substances have been stored or used.

I am only guessing but I dare say each and every one of us in the House of Commons has a brownfield site or two in our ridings. Redevelopment of brownfields is often paralyzed due to a variety of reasons, including uncertainty regarding liability and ownership, and provincial and federal liens. Since brownfields are normally located within urban areas, municipalities are the main drivers of brownfield development.

The concept of brownfields is in contrast to that of greenfields, that is, low cost virgin land on the urban fringe which is often more attractive for industrial or commercial relocation or expansion.

Why do we need to remediate and what are the approaches to remediation? The advantages to the remediation of brownfields are obvious: job growth, the revitalization of our downtown cores and the reversal of urban sprawl, as well as the cleanup of potentially environmentally hazardous sites right in our own backyards.

What we are seeing in many cities today is the growth of the urban doughnut, where the city expands ever outward while the once vital core becomes nothing but a hole.

I do not need a police study to convince anyone in this place of the high crime rates in brownfield areas. They can be dangerous places, not only for environmental reasons but also because of the threat to personal safety. Vacant lots and abandoned sites become lairs for drug users and violent criminals. Perfectly good commercial and residential land which just happens to be nearby such an area drops in value because of its proximity to the abandoned sites. In short, these sites are dangerous, ugly and wasteful.

As we begin this new millennium, we need to adopt the new virtues of reduce, reuse and recycle in ways that are more than just putting newspapers and pop cans in the blue box. The three Rs hold a lesson for city development as well. All of our cities and towns are stuck in the wasteful habit of growing outward and ignoring their cores. This trend cannot continue.

By encouraging brownfield remediation and reclamation, cities and towns can capitalize on infrastructure already in place, such as roads, sewers, et cetera. The strain on public transit systems will be eased by putting people to work in town rather than in newly developed areas. Increased construction, commerce and real estate transactions will return to where they were, to where they are most needed, to downtown.

In Toronto in April 1998, an international symposium was held, entitled “Redeveloping Brownfields: A Different Conversation”. I would like to pass on to my colleagues the findings of the executive summary of that comprehensive symposium. Ten recommendations were made.

First, there is no single generic approach. Best practices for brownfield redevelopment are not so much a list of directions or a prescription as much as a new way of thinking. The best redevelopment approach is closely related to a site's competitive advantage, its marketability, the intended use and location. The key is to integrate site restoration and the land redevelopment process in a way that fosters reinvestment.

Second, a project is nothing without a vision. It is important to be able to imagine and articulate the possibilities, to describe what others cannot yet see, because brownfield redevelopment is about protecting and revitalizing the very heart of our communities.

Third, integration makes it happen. Planning, design and environmental issues should be addressed together in an integrated, transparent process.

Fourth, a decisive set of players is needed. Project teams must have diverse skills and experience. In addition, brownfield redevelopments benefit from collaboration among players, regulators, citizens, investors, bankers, technical experts and other members of the design team. Getting the right players involved at the right time saves money and effort.

Fifth, every brownfield project requires partnerships to make it work. Those partnerships can result in consensus about the next use and site design as well as innovative financing strategies, formal agreements regarding cleanup and monitoring, and ongoing communication and community development initiatives.

Sixth, local government and its citizens know best what is needed to spark reinvestment in brownfields. The local spark may come from the public sector, such as a city department, agency or politician, or the non-profit sector such as, for example, the local economic or community development corporation. Improving the investment climate by clarifying and streamlining the decision process and articulating the community vision are two areas where local government can play a key role.

Seventh, risk based decision making is about managing change, ensuring that environmental and human health are protected in cost effective ways and making sound economic investments.

Eighth, broadening the scope of the decision leads to better understanding and better decisions. Effective communication should be seen as a priority task for all members of the project team.

The ninth point is best viewed as a shared responsibility of private and public sectors. When we speak of education around the issue of brownfields the decision has traditionally been focused on public education. The question of education and learning must be more comprehensive and should include all stakeholders, such as risk assessors, lenders, landowners, purchasers and developers.

Finally, the last point is that many successes have resulted from upfront public sector investment in environmental restoration, infrastructure improvements and job creation. Setting a new standard for design and land use can go a long way to improve the investment climate.

I would ask that members present consider these recommendations as they listen to the details of my proposed legislation and evaluate it accordingly. I have endeavoured to take these recommendations to heart in my consideration of the problem of brownfield remediation and I believe that this bill, Bill C-305, is an effective first step toward this goal.

In summary, the bill would amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act to expand an existing registry that is already there. Any member of the public can report suspected contaminated sites with the express purpose of building an easily accessible national registry of brownfields. The registry would accept voluntary reports of contaminated lands according to regulations which would determine how much evidence of contamination is required.

The bill would also allow the federal government, together with provincial, municipal and private partners, to assist with the often prohibitive costs of environmental assessments.

To solve a problem, we first need to identify the problem. Ultimately I see this as a three stage process: identification, assessment and remediation. The bill addresses the first two stages directly. First, we identify the extent of brownfields right across the country and once we know where these sites are we can begin to assess the costs of the cleanup. Having this information open and available to all levels of government and private enterprise would foster co-operative and innovative solutions.

The bill is a small but crucial step toward reclaiming these commercially useful sites, revitalizing our city centres and combating urban sprawl. The existing public registry system, under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, was set up to facilitate public awareness to ensure convenient public access to records on projects requiring environmental assessments.

One of the impediments to brownfield remediation is the reluctance to report a site due to the expense involved with the assessment. By expanding the registry to include not only projects requiring an environmental assessment, in other words sites already in the process of remediation, but also suspected sites, the public will have access to information about sites that are lying dormant. This is the key difference between the existing legislation and the changes I am proposing in Bill C-305.

At the moment there is little or no concerted effort by the federal or provincial governments to address the issue of contaminated property that is cheaper and legally safer for the owner to ignore and let lie fallow rather than clean it up or sell it to someone who will.

Another aspect of the legislation would permit the federal government to fund projects before the environmental assessment is completed, in other words to pay for the assessment. Bill C-305 would exempt projects from one component of the environmental assessment process. No assessment would be required before the federal government provides any funding but only as long as the funds are used to pay for the actual assessment.

As I mentioned before, one of the impediments to remediation is the prohibitive cost of environmental assessments. What I propose is that the federal government be allowed, be allowed I say especially to the Bloc who I know has a concern about jurisdiction, not obligated, to fund the assessment possibly in co-operation with the provincial and municipal governments and private partners.

Why should the legislation be deemed votable? I believe that my bill meets the five criteria which the standing committee responsible for private members' business has set out: First, the bill is clear, complete and effective; second, the bill is constitutional and concerns only an area of federal jurisdiction; third, the bill concerns a matter of significant public interest; fourth, the bill concerns an issue that is not part of the current legislative agenda and has not been addressed by the House; and fifth, the bill is not of a purely local interest and certainly is non-partisan.

By virtue of its voluntary nature, the registry would not encroach upon provincial jurisdiction. What the registry would do is collect and share voluntarily submitted information, thereby fostering intergovernmental and private co-operation.

There are no punitive measures associated with being on the list. In fact, it would be in the interest of a brownfield site owner to be on the list, as it would open up opportunities for remediation.

The issue of brownfields remediation is a matter of highly significant public interest. This is a problem of enormous magnitude which is long overdue for some kind of a solution. According to the redeveloping brownfields symposium, it is estimated that there are 2,900 such sites in Canada with an estimated cost of $3 billion.

Permit me to read from a part of the report from the symposium. It states:

By far, the overriding success stories in the United States Brownfields program have turned on the ability of the parties to engage all appropriate decision makers and for all decision makers to have a common goal of redevelopment using flexible decision making authority. The cooperative approach, very consistent with the Canadian style of regulation, will be the key to the success of redevelopment in any jurisdiction.

My proposed legislation, without overstepping federal jurisdiction, can do just that, by initiating a co-operative movement between all levels of government and the private sector.

I conclude by re-emphasizing my earlier statements. To solve a problem we must first identify the problem. Ultimately, I see this as a three stage process: identification, assessment, remediation. The bill addresses the first two stages directly. First, we identify the extent of brownfields right across the country. Once we know where these sites are, we can begin to assess the costs of the clean-up.

Having the information open and available to all levels of government and private enterprise will foster co-operative and innovative solutions.

Canadian Environmental Assessment ActRoutine Proceedings

March 20th, 2001 / 10:10 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Stan Keyes Liberal Hamilton West, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-305, an act to amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (inventory of brownfields).

Mr. Speaker, I consider it a privilege to introduce a bill, which is the first step of what I intend to be a three stage process, aimed at identifying, assessing and remediating what are known as brownfields. The term brownfields refers to industrial properties which lie vacant or neglected due to concerns of environmental contamination.

The bill will amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act to expand the existing registry so that any member of the public can report suspected contaminated sites with the express purpose of building an easily accessible national registry of brownfields.

The bill would also allow the federal government, together with provincial, municipal and private partnerships, to assist with the often prohibitive costs of environmental assessments.

To solve a problem one first has to identify the problem. Ultimately, I see this is as a three stage process: identification, assessment and remediation. The bill addresses the first two stages directly. First, we identify the extent of the brownfields nationally. Once we know where these sites are, we can begin to assess the costs of the clean up.

Having this information open and available to all levels of government and private enterprise will foster co-operative and innovative solutions. The advantages of the remediation of brownfields are obvious: job growth, revitalization of our downtown cores and reversal of urban sprawl, as well as the clean up of potentially environmental hazardous sites right in our own back yards.

The bill is a small but crucial step toward reclaiming these commercially useful sites, revitalizing our city centres and combating urban sprawl.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)