Pest Control Products Act

An Act to protect human health and safety and the environment by regulating products used for the control of pests

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

Sponsor

Anne McLellan  Liberal

Status

Not active, as of June 13, 2002
(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.

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2002 / 4:45 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I continue my speech by going over, one more time, the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, which, on the issue of Bill C-53 on pesticides, recommended among other things that there be a transparent and open process in order to build the public's trust in pest management regulations.

It also recommended that the new legislation make it a condition of registration that applicants carry out ongoing monitoring after registration.

It recommended that existing pesticides be re-evaluated.

It also recommended that adequate independent funding be provided under the legislation. Indeed, because of the shortfalls in the 1997-98 and 1998-99 budgets, the agency responsible for monitoring and registering the products has delayed its re-evaluation program of existing pesticides, because it ran out of money. Of course, this was a very legitimate request by the committee.

It also recommended that the government immediately establish a research program on pesticides that is specific to child health and that it ensure adequate funding.

Why child health? Our children are those who are the most likely to develop health problems that may be caused by pesticides because we continue to tell them to play outside. They roll in the grass.

We want them to play, to be vigilant and to be active. Of course, they take advantage of nice lawns and nice landscapes. They have a lot of fun, but this puts them in direct contact with pesticides that are sprayed not only on lawns, but also on field crops.

Since these pesticides are sprayed, winds can carry them to the lawns of people who do not use pesticides. Pesticides sprayed on essentially agricultural areas may end up on lawns; it is possible.

Of course, it was a very legitimate request on the part of the committee to ask that there be a research program on pesticides that is specific to child health.

The committee also recommended that incentives be provided for organic agriculture, that chemical pesticides be banned and replaced with natural or organic fertilizers, which is totally normal.

When we talk about incentives, we mean money. It takes money to develop organic alternatives to chemical pesticides and put them on the market. Therefore, investment in research is necessary. Incentives are also required to encourage farmers to use natural or organic pesticides.

The report also recommended that the government develop a policy on organic farming. Such a policy should include tax incentives, an interim support program for the transition period, and technical support for farmers.

Obviously, there is nothing in the bill before us in terms of tax incentives or other forms of incentives in favour of organic farming. There is no money. This is typical of what we have been seeing from this government. It proposes nice policies and sets nice priorities but it does not invest the money required to achieve our objectives and our ideals.

Again, it can never be said often enough. I support my colleagues who took part in the work of the committee and who had the opportunity to propose amendments. The amendments put forward by the Bloc Quebecois were rejected because we were asking for real incentives for the development of organic farming, with organic and natural pesticides. We wanted tax credits and other incentives for farmers.

Nearly 60% of my riding of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, located along the Ottawa River and the Lac des Deux-Montagnes, is made up of farmland. It must be noted that in the Mirabel area, a beautiful area that all my colleagues in the House should visit this summer, we have witnessed one of the largest migration since the deportation of the Acadians, with the Mirabel expropriations.

At the time they had announced 90,000 acres. Of course retrocession occurred in 1985. From that year on the voracious appetite and the requirements of the federal government have been reduced considerably. No later than yesterday, we learned--through documents that were released from the archives under a federal government's act requiring that these documents be released after a 30 years period--that Cabinet already knew in January 1971 that 22,000 acres more than needed had been expropriated.

Moreover, some 1,700 people were about to or had been displaced. In 1971, the government was already aware of that. Our current Prime Minister, who was then Minister of Indian Affairs, was part of the Cabinet involved in this decision. It was decided to go ahead with the purchase of these 22,000 acres anyhow because the process had been set in motion and the government did not want to be sued by the public. The fact remains that at the time it already knew that 22, 000 acres more than needed had been expropriated and that 1,700 people were going to have to move, to be deported in fact.

Some of them were able to get their land back starting in 1985. The fact remains that for 14 or 15 years they were victims of a terrible expropriation and their land was ruined. As a result field crops in the Mirabel area and large farms were broken up. Later land and properties were rented out. New farmers came in. Today we have a wide range of farmers.

This gives you an idea of the riding of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel where farms are now smaller but just as profitable and increasingly more into organic farming. They use less and less GMOs. All they want is to practice organic farming. We support labelling to be able to say that indeed we sell natural and organic products.

I am proud today to speak on behalf of the farmers in my riding of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel. They have fine and economically viable farms. These farms are modern, with a diversified production. More and more, farmers are turning to organic farming and natural foods with a much better yield. More and more consumers, especially in Quebec, are interested in organic food. There is good reason for the Quebec government's wanting to ratify the Kyoto protocol. This is what is wanted by the people of Quebec, who are concerned with environmental balance. This is a societal choice by Quebecers.

Once again, it is for good reason that the municipality of Hudson went to the appeal court and fought for its right to ban the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes. In Quebec, this is a societal choice. Quebecers care about the environment. That is their choice as a society.

Today, I am proud to stand up for Quebecers and tell the Liberal government that, once more, this bill is too little and too late. The government is not doing enough. As usual, there is no money. But the scandals that have been unfolding in the last few weeks have shown that there is always money for friends of the government and contributions to the Liberal Party. There is always plenty of money for that.

In this bill, we should have told our farmers that if they want to use natural and organic pesticides, we will help them with tax credits, incentives and research money. But there is none of that in the bill.

Once again the people of Quebec made a collective choice, which is not reflected in this bill. Quebec is one step ahead of the rest of Canada, and this bill is holding us back. Our farmers would be ready to receive funds and develop natural fertilizer and organic farming. However, the federal government has chosen not to go that far. Once again, a large part of Canada, Quebec, which represents 25% of the country's population, is being penalized by this bill. This legislation does not go far enough and does not meet the expectations of the people of Quebec.

This is always hard to accept. The fact remains that Quebecers pay 25% of all the income tax collected by Canada. We pay our share in this Canadian system, which is far more profitable for the federal government. Under the Constitution, the federal government is not accountable to anyone for its spending. The federal level does not take care of health, education and transportation.

We have seen what happens; we are trying to get infrastructure programs to help provincial governments reach their goals and give our constituents from all over Quebec a good road system. they made promises, but there are no funds here at the federal level.

Few people blame the federal government because it always acts like a rescuer in all these situations. The terrible part about how Canada is organized is that the federal government has no responsibility whatsoever regarding the true problems of the people.

The federal government is not responsible for health, education, transportation and agriculture. So the federal government passes legislation—on pesticides, in this case—but does not invest money to help producers convert to organic agriculture, to the use of natural or biological pesticides, which, like everything else, always cost more. In the early stages, it means more research.

But no. The federal government is involved with big business, major pesticide sellers, major chemical companies that go and get their resources throughout the world and that sometimes make people work for paltry salaries, to get a better return on their operations and to sell their products here to our producers.

They are often products that are processed or made in countries where these companies use children, cheap labour and women. They take advantage of the situation and, basically, exploit people in other countries to sell to us chemical products that are also harmful to our health.

The amendments put forward by the Bloc Quebecois were very realistic. Finally, we want the government to be able to provide funding through this legislation. I repeat, I am pleased to repeat the standing committee's recommendations, which are very realistic: that the government develop a policy on organic farming. Such a policy should include tax incentives, a transitional income support plan and technical support for farmers.

It is simple. This simply means that farmers using chemical products and pesticides will have to incur costs in order to convert to natural and biological pesticides. They may have to incur losses. A certain balance might not have been reached. Let us compensate those farmers and we will see that things will go well.

We will start a green revolution, as Quebecers want. It is in the image of Quebec. It would be very beneficial for the rest of Canada if they converted to the image Quebec is now projecting, that is being more focused on the environment and the protection of our children.

Finally, everything we do and every decision we make, I hope we are doing for our children and our children's children. We are doing it for our posterity not for ourselves. I hope we will have a little vision.

This is a bill introduced by the federal Liberals who lack vision and will leave nothing to our children and our children's children.

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2002 / 4:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for this opportunity to speak today to Bill C-53, the Pest Control Products Act.

I would like to start my speech by congratulating my colleague from Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, who made a point of speaking up for Quebecers at the standing committee on the environment, which reviewed the bill.

I will start by asking a question the committee must have asked itself: Do pesticides have harmful effects on health? We live in an era where we are faced with diseases, we all know it, and the problems our health care systems across Quebec and even Canada must deal with regarding an aging population that is living better and longer, but that suffers from diseases too.

We are faced with diseases such as cancer which wre not common half a century ago. It has now become a plague that we are trying to fight with every conceivable research program and other means. We need to ask ourselves questions. When a disease appears we must always try to find out what causes this disease.

I do not want to blame pesticides alone, but we must understand that the use of products harmful to health has resulted in contamination. Cancer causing agents have been found near facilities. It happened recently in the Atlantic provinces.

We have changed our attitude regarding the massive use of pesticides for field crops. Medical studies have been carried out to see whether groundwater was contaminated, and whether there was an increase in the number of cancer cases in some areas. Some comparisons were made, and it was found pesticides were used on an industrial scale on field crops. All this raises questions. Whose fault is it? Who should be blamed? Has a culprit been found?

This is not the purpose of my speech today. However, it is certain that pesticides have harmful effects on health. The question is settled. Witnesses were heard by the committee, positions were taken and today we have Bill C-53, which, again, is unfinished.

We heard from witnesses, and I am going to share with those listening the recommendations of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development. I would like us to read them together. Those who listened to my learned colleagues all afternoon, and at other times since the beginning of debate on this bill, have surely understood that the government, in order to protect a segment of the industry, is introducing a bill which does not go as far as the authors of studies and analyses would like.

I am going to cite the recommendations of the standing committee, which went as follows.

We would have liked the new Pest Control Products Act to establish human health and the environment as priorities by creating databases on the sale of pesticides, their adverse effects, and alternatives to pesticides.

We wanted pesticides used for cosmetic purposes, those we use on our own lawns, eliminated over the next five years.

Earlier, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot told the House that the pesticide industry is a very lucrative one, with sales of $1.4 billion. As we speak, one out of every two lawns in Quebec is being treated with pesticides to eliminate pests, as our colleague would say.

I went through this with my lawn. I have not used pesticides for four years, and I have never had so many dandelions. Members can laugh, but I eliminated them just four years ago with pesticides. Now, I have stopped using pesticides, but I have never had so many dandelions. But that is fine.

My neighbours find it a bit discouraging. But I am not doing anything about them. I used to use pesticides and I had no dandelions at all. Now, I have the lawn with the most.

So there is something in pesticides. When I do not use them, all the dandelions in the neighbourhood end up on my lawn.

Obviously, I have decided not to use pesticides any more. You will have understood that this is fine by me. But my neighbours are a bit discouraged. I am trying to convince them not to use pesticides. When they see my lawn, they obviously have a few little problems.

There is a hard reality behind this little anecdote. Obviously, when we use chemical products, we change the course of nature. That was the point of my story.

A message was delivered by the Usher of the Black Rod as follows:

Mr. Speaker, Her Excellency the Governor General desires the immediate attendance of this honourable House in the chamber of the honourable the Senate.

Accordingly, the Speaker with the House went up to the Senate chamber.

And being returned:

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2002 / 4:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2002 / 3:55 p.m.
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Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2002 / 3:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

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

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

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

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

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

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2002 / 3:20 p.m.
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NDP

Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2002 / 3:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take advantage of my colleague from Rosemont—Petite-Patrie's intervention to congratulate him once more for the great work that he has done on Bill C-53. He has done a remarkable job representing my party, the Bloc Quebecois, and I would like to pay tribute to him for that.

As my colleague said, we have to recognize that this government does speak from both sides of it mouth. On the international scene, it is boastful but when the time comes to pass legislation, it backs off. And what are we presented with? Nothing but an incomplete bill, when what we needed was a super bill. What is the government doing? I do not dare repeat the phrase we use in my part of the country because it would be declared unparliamentary.

The government just turned around and said “You know, we can pull the wool over the eyes of Canadians and Quebecers; they will not notice a thing. But on the international scene, we have to look good”.

These are people with an empty shell. This government is nothing but an empty shell. It looks good wrapped in cellophane, but when you unwrap it, you find a lot of incomplete things.

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2002 / 3:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, as you said, before question period, my colleague from Fundy—Royal asked me what I thought about the government not including the precautionary principle in Bill C-53.

It is a serious mistake on the part of the Minister of Health. The precautionary principle is an essential component that should have been included in the bill's preamble. It would have been the basis for all the provisions contained in Bill C-53.

Anyone who reads this bill can see that the minister did not do her homework properly. It is very disappointing to see that, because the bill was supposed to give us indispensable tools to protect our health and our environment.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

June 13th, 2002 / 3:15 p.m.
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Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there has been a reference to a deadline made by the hon. member regarding this issue, which of course is a serious issue and I am not diminishing the importance of it. He says to buttress his argument that there is no deadline in this and it is based on the consideration which he refers to as forthwith.

Notwithstanding the fact that it is there, during the course of his presentation the hon. member might have forgotten one of the original propositions he raised in the House. It stated that it was in the chief actuary's opinion to trigger the mechanism of issuing this letter, or note which was the expression the hon. member used a while ago. I do not know, nor do I suggest the House knows yet whether the chief actuary has given such an opinion at this time.

I have asked officials to verify and to report to me. I will report to the House as early as possible. Hopefully later this day I would be able obtain that information for the benefit not only of the Speaker but of course for the benefit of all hon. members. However I do think that the triggering mechanism, which the hon. member admitted is there, is the chief actuary's opinion.

I would undertake to verify if he has given such an opinion and what the opinion is. If the chief actuary has given an opinion that in fact the triggering mechanism does not apply, the point of course is not valid. If he has not given an opinion at all, it is not valid either because the whole argument is based on the chief actuary providing that opinion, and that is the contention of the hon. member who raised the proposition in the House.

Perhaps I can assist the House and undertake that if, by the time we complete consideration of the bill now before the House, I have not obtained the information to be able to rise and give further explanation to hon. members, I would then call the other bill that is on the order paper instead, namely, Bill C-55, and call Bill C-58 at a later time, perhaps tomorrow. That would satisfy the hon. member because the proposition is not before the House given that the bill has not been called for debate and I could delay perhaps for a little while.

That being said, if anytime between now and the completion of the debate on the other bill, Bill C-53, I could rise on a point of order and give further explanation to the House, I would do so at that time.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

June 13th, 2002 / 3:05 p.m.
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Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I understand that many members would have suggestions about the government business over the next few days. However, in the absence of hearing all that, I will inform the House of the following.

We will continue this afternoon tomorrow with the following: Bill C-53, the pesticide legislation, to be followed by Bill C-58, the Canada pension plan investment board bill and any time remaining on Bill C-55, the public safety bill.

On Monday we will begin with a motion by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to refer to committee before second reading the bill on first nations governance that he will introducing tomorrow, notice of which is already on the order paper. We would then turn to report stage and third reading of Bill C-54, respecting sports. We would then turn to the specific claims bill introduced earlier today and any business left from this week, that is the bills I named a moment ago.

We would also like to debate report stage and third reading hopefully of Bill C-48, the copyright legislation and, subject to some progress, I would also like to resume consideration at second reading of Bill C-57, the nuclear safety bill.

In addition, it would be the wish of the government to dispose of the motion to establish a special joint committee to review proposals made concerning the code of conduct for parliamentarians.

This is the list of legislation that I would like to see completed over the next several days.

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2002 / 1:55 p.m.
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Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Champlain.

I hope no lobby is powerful enough to prevent the health minister from taking action to protect health and the environment. If such a lobby does exist and she is influenced by it, I think she has a big problem. I think it would be a big problem, and I hope it is not true.

Moreover, I think that in the riding of Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay, a local business has indeed come up with a natural product for spraying on grass for cosmetic purposes. Its product was registered by Quebec authorities. Right now this new business is marketing its product and is urging people to use it.

Some research has been conducted, and products are now available to replace pesticides. I urge Quebec municipalities to make bylaws banning the use of pesticides. I think that they will have to assume this responsibility to make up for what the minister has failed to do with Bill C-53.

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2002 / 1:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part to the third reading debate on Bill C-53, an act to protect Human Health and Safety and the Environment by regulating products used for the control of pests.

At the outset, I wish to congratulate my colleague, the member for Rosemont--Petite-Patrie, for the excellent work he did throughout the study of this bill and also congratulate several opposition colleagues for putting their arguments so forcefully and, by so doing, getting the health minister, who introduced the bill, to really protect human health by including the precautionary principle in the bill.

It must be recognized, as my colleague from Richmond--Arthabaska said earlier this afternoon, that this bill is cobbled together, or leaning on crutches, if I can put it that way. Now, when people move around on crutches, they often go hobbling along, unsure of their footing, and move cautiously to protect themselves. This is the case of the bill as it now stands.

With this bill, we will never be able to meet the expectations raised by the study by the former environment committee on the impact of pesticides on the health of children, women, pregnant women, as well as on the health of vulnerable people like seniors or people who are in poor health, in particular those with asthma.

The former committee did the work and produced an excellent report under the leadership of the Liberal member for Davenport. I am pleased to say it, because he did a good job. As my colleague from Lac-Saint-Louis said, I believe this was the best report tabled in the House in many years.

The health minister had everything she needed to finally draft legislation that would allow us to go forward. However, today, even if my colleagues from the opposition, the member for Rosemont--Petite-Patrie and myself, believe that there are many flaws in this bill, we will support it even if it is cobbled together, leaning on crutches and represents a feeble and uncertain step forward.

This is unfortunate, because since 1969, we have not taken the necessary steps to bring about environmental changes adapted to today's and tomorrow's needs.

I do not know what kept the health minister from adopting this approach, but it is certainly sad to discover that fact in the House today. We are convinced that the government had a good momentum at first. We went to committee hearings and the government adopted broad principles. However, the more the committee sat and the more we debated, the government backed down. This is unfortunate, because the government had everything it needed to act. I do not know what made it back down.

Today, I can say that the new minister of the environment for Quebec, André Boisclair, decided to act on pesticides. He created a committee, which made some recommendations, and he said he would eliminate the use of pesticides on lawns for cosmetic purposes.

That is what this report suggested to the health minister. However, she was not there. Fortunately, this is legislation concerning a jurisdiction shared by the federal government and the provinces. I must admit that, for once, the bill does not infringe upon provincial jurisdiction. It is important to point this out. In fact, the provinces will have the opportunity to act in their own area. However, the federal government should have taken steps to make its own area ironclad and should have said “we are moving in a new direction”.

Let us just talk about the PMRA. The government keeps saying that the basic principle of the PMRA should be the regulation of pest control, with the sole objective of protecting health and the environment. However, we know that, since 1965, with the Pest Control Products Act, which controls registration, marketing and standards on product labelling, there are 6,000 products, and the government refuses, under the new Bill C-53, to ensure that all these products that were registered before 1965 are re-evaluated. No deadline is set. We know that today, as the Canadian Alliance member was saying, there might be products that are less harmful to the environment and human health. They cannot be registered because all the other products must currently be re-evaluated and the government has not established a deadline. The fact that there is no deadline in this bill is a major shortcoming.

This bill also has very serious shortcomings regarding the registration process. Nowhere in this bill it says that the PMRA will expedite the registration process. This is very important. Some people came to testify on this during our study on pesticides and told us “We would really want to act, but products that are very harmful to the environment are still on the list. Our hands are tied”. As we can see, these products are very harmful to health.

The bill does not propose alternatives to current pesticides either, as recommended by all the reports, focus groups and the standing committee on the environment.

The Minister of Health should have acted to ensure that, finally, Canada has legislation based on the principle of human health. In the report from the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development entitled “Pesticides: Making the Right Choice”, we stated very good reasons for taking action with regard to the vulnerability of children.

Most of the public health and environmental protection organizations received by the Committee, in particular the Canadian Institute of Child Health, the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada, the World Wildlife Fund, the Canadian Environmental Law Association and the Ontario College of Family Physicians, denounced the Canadian pesticide management system because it does not specifically address the vulnerability of children, and emphasized the importance of correcting this deficiency. In the view of the Canadian Institute of Child Health, and I quote:

Most regulations and policies are designed to protect adults and refer to the healthy 70-kilogram male, and not the 7-kilogram child.

May I remind members that, in the summertime, when children go outside to play when the weather is nice, when it is not raining—unlike the weather we had for most of this week— they come in contact with people's lawns. When pesticides are used, it is the children who come in close contact with these very harmful products who are the most vulnerable.

We know that children are in close contact with pesticides; credible studies prove it. The Minister of Health should come to the defence of Canadians' health. She had the authority to prohibit, in the bill, within three years, the cosmetic use of pesticides. She did not do so, even though we had credible studies showing that there has been a spectacular increase in asthma and allergies over the last few years.

Also, statistics show that in Quebec and Canada women have fewer children for reasons directly linked to the environment. We know how pleasant it is to have children and grandchildren. I am a grandmother and it makes me very happy. Our children are our future. Studies show that everything in the environment has a direct impact on the health of pregnant women. The minister was given reports showing the link between health and pesticides and hazardous products, but she did nothing about it.

I am thinking that maybe this bill should not have been entrusted to the Department of the Environment. The government introduced the bill, put forward some proposals, rejected every single amendment the Bloc Quebecois introduced regarding registration and restricting the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes, and to accelerate the registration process and the review of the current list. The government rejected all these amendments and did not include the precautionary principle, which should have been the basis of this bill.

This bill is an unfinished piece of work. Some people might like to buy unfinished pieces of work. Health and the environment are too important to allow just anyone to play around with concepts that are so important for the people we serve.

We have to say that the bill before us today is unfinished. People are way ahead of the minister and her bill. People are attuned to the environment.

In 1991, the municipality of Hudson in Quebec introduced a bylaw banning the cosmetic use of pesticides. It is now 2002, and the minister has not reached that point yet. Does that mean that she has forgotten an important step in the evolution of the municipalities and provinces that are directly affected by bills that do not go far enough?

I think that she has not finished her homework. When we visit our ridings, we meet a lot of people who are very attuned to the environment. How many seniors, parents, children and young people tell us “Why is nothing being done at the federal level for the environment? Why is your legislation is so obsolete?

A short while ago, in my riding, I witnesseded a primary school pilot project promoting the environment.

I was amazed. These children were nine and ten years old. They were so attuned to the fact that the environment had to be central to their life. They knew that previous generations, their parents and their grand-parents' generations, were directly responsible for what is happening now in the environment because of what they did.

These children were aware of that. They told me and their parents that something had to be done, that corrective action had to be taken, that we had to go green to give people the feeling that the environment is both the alpha and the omega of life on our planet.

We have to admit that we have done things that have resulted in the elimination of a good part of our forests. Let us think about acid rain. Let us think about all the pollution we released into the atmosphere without a second thought. We were under the impression that everything was eternal and renewable.

When we know and think that something is renewable, at some point we have to face the facts and say “We must protect what we have. If we lose that, it will be very difficult to make up for lost time and for natural assets that have resulted from a certain way of doing things”.

In Bill C-53, the Minister of Health has greatly disappointed me. Being the Minister of Health, she should take the health of Canadians and Quebecers to heart. I see that she did not.

This is unfortunate because, what is more, she is a woman. Women are very much aware—we bear children and take care of them—of the fact that more and more children are very fragile and quite affected by their immediate environment. They suffer from a many allergies, have problems with asthma, sleeping disorders and are hyperactive.

This would have been a way to solve a lot ofhealth problems for children, pregnant women and the elderly. The population is aging. People can expect to live longer, but they are more and more fragile.

Instead of being sick for the rest of their lives, they must be allowed to lead a very good life, in a healthy environment that will allow them to be in contact with their children, to be healthy and to say “Life is beautiful. Perhaps we have been a little irresponsible, but today's laws will protect our young people, our children and, consequently, will protect us too”.

I would have liked to congratulate the minister, but I cannot. I say that she has taken a step forward, but I encourage her to go further and to speed things up so that we can finally have legislation that it is truly designed to protect health and the environment.

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2002 / 1:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to relate this legislation to the foundational principles that were set forth by the Canadian Environmental Law Association and the World Wildlife Fund with respect to how prospective legislation of this kind should be evaluated. I will run through the principles as set forth by these groups and look at the present legislation in that context.

The first and most important principle is that pesticide legislation must protect the most vulnerable among us. In other words, protecting the health of the most vulnerable populations must be the benchmark for the evaluation of any pesticide. For human beings this may be a child or a senior, whereas currently pesticides are evaluated based on risk to healthy adult males. For environmental protection it may be a fish, a bird or a tadpole, depending on the nature of the pesticide and its use. It is particularly important to ensure protection for the embryo and the young of all species whose reproductive and nervous systems are developing and most easily damaged.

In that regard at present, under the existing Pest Control Products Act, modern risk assessment methods are used but they are not incorporated in the law.

Under the proposed new pest control products act, PCPA, health evaluations of pesticide would take into account sensitivities of vulnerable groups such as children and seniors There would be extra protections for infants and children. In my view it still does not go far enough and does not reach, for example, the threshold of American legislation, as has been mentioned earlier in debate in this House.

Pesticide exposure is aggregated and includes exposure through food, water and pesticide use in homes and schools, and cumulative effects of pesticides that act in the same way are considered.

Principle number two stipulates that pesticides should be considered guilty until proven innocent. In other words, the responsibility needs to be, as it is not yet now, on the applicants to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that their pesticides will not cause harm to people and wildlife. Under the proposed legislation the onus would be on the applicant to demonstrate that these pesticides would not cause harm to people and wildlife and would not be on the public to bear the burden to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that a chemical is safe.

Principle number three is the importance of reviewing existing pesticides regularly. Simply put, most pesticides in use today were developed and registered for use decades ago. New data about risks to health and the environment are emerging all the time. New proposed legislation now under consideration in the House must provide for regular reviews of pesticides in the light of new data.

I would like to make specific reference to the provisions for re-evaluations and special reviews, which would include re-evaluations of older pesticides that would be mandatory 15 years after the registration of the product. A request from the public could trigger a special review of a pesticide. If a pesticide registrant does not respond when information is requested for a re-evaluation or a special review, that pesticide's registration may be cancelled or amended, again putting the burden on the pesticide registrant or applicant.

The precautionary principle would be applied during re-evaluations and special reviews. That means where there are threats that a registered pesticide could cause serious damage it would not be necessary to await full scientific certainty to take cost effective measures. The principle was set down in the recent supreme court decision in these matters.

Principle number four would ensure reporting, monitoring and follow up for adverse effect. At present there is no formal requirement for reporting or monitoring the adverse effects from a pesticide's use. Without this data reviews are difficult to undertake. Under the proposed bill pesticide applicants and registrants would be obligated to report information on the adverse effects of a pesticide.

Principle number five is that one needs to automatically ban pesticides when critical health and environmental problems are identified. In other words pesticides should be automatically banned if they build up in the food chain or pose hazards to health and the environment.

The proposal for automatic bans of pesticides in my view does not go far enough in the bill. However, the bill would provide enhanced enforcement capability through clearly defined offences, increased powers of inspectors and higher maximum penalties. For example, importation of an unregistered product could lead to a maximum fine of $500,000 and three years imprisonment. Recklessly or wilfully causing harm to the environment or causing serious bodily harm would carry the maximum penalty under the act of $1 million or three years imprisonment.

Principle number six is that the cosmetic use of pesticides should be banned. In other words, pesticides used only for cosmetic purposes are not acceptable. This is an issue to which I have spoken in the House and which is of particular concern, among other things, to the constituents of my riding. Regrettably, Bill C-53 contains no prohibition on the cosmetic use of pesticides. If the precautionary principle were to be applied the cosmetic use of pesticides would be prohibited.

In this regard we should look to the province of Quebec which is moving toward reducing and gradually eliminating the cosmetic use of pesticides. We have municipal initiatives to that effect. A co-operative federal-provincial-municipal framework would be appropriate if it were unpinned by the precautionary principle.

Principle number seven states that we should not permit registration of pesticides when alternatives are available. The essence of Bill C-53's risk management approach is to prevent registration of products that would pose unacceptable risks to human health or the environment and to manage the use of registered pesticides in a manner that would preclude unacceptable risks.

Principle number eight would ensure public participation in the regulatory system and public access to information on hazards and use. Canadians have a right to know what pesticides are being applied to the food they buy, to the parks they use and at their children's schools.

In this regard some important features of the legislation which would promote public participation include provisions for public comment prior to major decisions for full registration; access to information; support for pesticide registrations; an opportunity to request a review panel to re-examine major registration decisions; and an opportunity to request a special review of registrations. The documentation to be used as a basis for public consultation would contain a description of the product and its intended uses, a summary of the risk and value assessments, as well as the proposed decision and the rationale for it.

Principle number nine emphasizes the importance of education, awareness and support with respect to alternative and transition programs. In other words, the federal government should support the extension of education and research on alternatives to pesticide use. Farmers need support. Support for making the transition to pest management systems that reduce reliance on pesticides makes sense both ecologically and economically.

My hon. colleague also spoke to the issue when he was minister of the environment in Quebec where he introduced a legislative framework. That is the objective we should have in mind for this legislation as well.

Principle number 10 is that the precautionary principle should be enshrined throughout the bill. It is not at present. It is referenced only with regard to evaluation reviews and the like. However with regard to the supreme court decision and public policy in these matters, the precautionary principle should underpin the legislation as a whole and be read into it. I trust the courts would read this into it and incorporate it by reference throughout the legislation.

Regarding the oversight principle, there would now be a seven year parliamentary review. I would have agreed with the proposal that there be a five year review, but I am pleased there is at least some provision for oversight and review.

In conclusion, the legislation is an important first step. It incorporates some of the principles recommended by groups such as the Canadian Environmental Law Association and the World Wildlife Federation. However it does not go far enough. Bill C-53 deserves to be supported because it would address the important principles to which I have referred. However for the legislation to be effective regulations would need to be brought forward to give it specific powers of implementation. The PMRA should be given a statutory mandate. As I mentioned, the precautionary principle should underpin the legislation as a whole. It is at the core of public policy and how we can protect and evaluate such legislation.

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2002 / 1:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the remarks of my colleague of the Canadian Alliance on Bill C-53.

Like several other opposition members, the Canadian Alliance member is suggesting that this bill is a step forward. But it is not a big enough step, given the bill's purpose. The bill should address the whole issue of pesticides.

When pest control was discussed in the previous parliament, we submitted a brief, and several witnesses told us that the federal government should give money to the provinces to allow them to consider providing university training to help farmers make the transition to organic farming.

Would this proposal be agreeable to my colleague from the Canadian Alliance? At the beginning of his remarks, he told the House that a certain form of pesticide use was important for agriculture. Would it not be time to move to organic farming?

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2002 / 1 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to rise and speak to third reading of Bill C-53, the pest control act. I know it is too late to make amendments to the bill but I hope to make some suggestions to which I hope the government will listen. Perhaps at some future date it will implement some of these suggestions and the positive changes we hope to see take place.

Unlike the debate earlier today in which the government found itself on the wrong side of an issue, the disability tax credit and having to defend its treatment of disabled persons, we find that this bill is politically correct in every way.

I think this bill is part of a trend. When I came to Ottawa, I was under the impression that bills would be written with a positive objective. It is surprising to me to see that a number of bills have been introduced with a negative objective.

The first one I came across was Bill C-15B, which was the animal rights legislation. It has a very strange definition in it where it defines animals as “any being that has the capacity to feel pain”. That is a very strange and negative way to define an animal. We could just as well have been defined animal as one that can feel excitement. It could have been defined either way. It was interesting that the government took a negative tact to define one of the major definitions in that bill.

When we read the primary objective of Bill C-53, once again we see that it has a negative tact of what it wants to do. It says that it is “in the national interest that the primary objective of the federal regulatory system be to prevent unacceptable risk to people and the environment from the use of pest control products”. It begins with the assumption that the bill needs to do something negative.

It is too late now to change the bill but the objective of the bill could have easily been to promote good health and environmental stewardship through the regulation of products which are used for controlling pests. That throws an entirely different flavour on the objective of the bill and its direction.

The perspective of the department is revealed in a large way by how it put the bill together. The objective sets the direction for how the bill will be enforced and how it will be applied. I have a lot of concerns about that. The words “prevent” rather than “promote” have been used . The words “stop“ rather than “provide” have been used. I think already we can see what the intention of the department will be in applying this legislation.

The bill also seems to be very politically correct in that it is discriminatory. Once again, by picking out special interest groups, the government misses out on protecting the people it should be protecting. In the preamble of the bill it mentions that we need to take into account the effects of chemicals on major identifiable subgroups, including pregnant women, infants, children, women and seniors. However it completely misses mentioning the effects on the people who use chemicals the most and who are most closely exposed to them, and that is men.

It is fine to identify the other identifiable subgroups. It is true that some of them are more susceptible to chemicals than others. In my constituency the men are exposed most closely to the majority of the chemicals. Men are working with them consistently. I would expect that to be fair government legislation should deal with everyone, not just the politically correct groups. It is an insult that seems to always accompany special interest politics by people who either do not really understand how things work right on the ground or bureaucrats who have an agenda.

I would like to talk a bit about the people at home. I come from an agricultural area where chemicals are used. The people who use them are primarily the men in our area. The farmers use them in spring to treat seed crops, fungicides and in a number of other ways. Later in the spring they use them for weed control and insect control. In the fall there are chemicals that are often applied as well. I suggest men do have special characteristics. There are a number of illnesses that are often ignored because it seems they are male in origin, while other more politically popular and perhaps more politically correct diseases get a lot of funding and attention from different places.

The bill discriminates. I am not too sure the people who wrote it realize that. My question would be this. How used to that way of thinking have we become that we begin to discriminate but do not realize it?

As so many other bills, this bill also has a coercive element to it. We have seen other coercive government thinking. We have seen the big stick approach in a number of other bills as well. Just lately, in Bill C-5, the government insisted on passing a bill without providing for compensation for landowners who would be affected by it. The government said that we should be comforted by the fact that at some point in the future it would put compensation in regulations.

We have seen it in Bill C-15B where there are very strong penalties for animal rights abuses, yet at the same time the government has chosen not to protect farmers and ranchers from frivolous claims and attacks on their normal way of life. We have seen it also in Bill C-68 which over the years has been a source of a lot of contention and problems.

We see it here again in terms of the transportation, disposal and handling of these products. Clause 6 reads:

No person shall handle, store, transport, use or dispose of a pest control product in a way that is inconsistent with...

Then it states the regulations and a couple of other options.

Later we see that the fines are very substantial. Penalties are severe: $200,000 or six months in jail for a summary conviction and $500,000 and three years upon conviction from an indictment.

I would suggest that farmers will be caught in this. It may be news to the government but containers are not always disposed of in the manner that the bureaucrats have decided is good. That happens for a number of reasons. Often the regulations are made with no accommodation for compliance. The regulations are set up but it is not practical to comply with them or there is no funding in place to make it possible to comply with them. Often there are physical barriers to compliance which includes things like no local facility to dispose of the product or the extra containers.

The best solution I saw on this was in my home province of Saskatchewan. It came out with a program where the containers were triple rinsed and then returned to the local landfill site. It was very successful, it was voluntary and it had educational component to it. Farmers were very happy to comply with the program. They just needed a bit of encouragement and some education on the fact that the program was there for them. Fines of $200,000 will not encourage compliance as much as encouragement and a good program with a bit of education.

I have some concerns as well about the re-evaluation process. Clause 16 talks about that. It mentions that all chemicals shall be re-evaluated at some point. It talks about the fact that if the pest control product was approved in the past years, then the review process would have to be implemented fairly quickly. There is a time limit on when new chemicals will have to be re-evaluated.

This could be a very good process or it could be a disaster. We need to know more about the provisions to re-evaluate all chemicals on the market. If the government tells everyone to begin from the start with these chemicals in order to get them re-evaluated, we will find ourselves with a very expensive, cumbersome process.

The PMRA has not exactly been successful at its registration of new products. I do not know that we can throw every chemical that we have approved in the last 30 years on it without causing a huge backlog. If the government expects companies to start over with the registration, it will be just about impossible. However, if at some point it is willing to set up with an ongoing evaluation system and give approval to chemicals that demonstrate that they are not a problem that are not causing problems in the environment, then this re-evaluation process could be an excellent thing. All of it depends upon the application of the process.

I have great concern over subclause 17(2) which talks about a special review every time any OECD country takes a product off the market. We know that trade concerns can often be hidden behind health and environmental issues. We have already run into that a number of times in other areas. I suggest this ties us too closely to other countries and their activities. The Liberal government seems to be very wary of getting too close to the United States, yet in this legislation says that if any OECD country decides to pull a chemical off the market, we need to do an automatic review of its registration.

If it is good to do it that way, why do we not do it the other way as well. If any one of the OECD countries approves a product, then we approve it as well and put it on the market. That would be a fair exchange. That is not part of this bill and it is not likely that would ever happen.

There are other concerns as well. One is harmonization. We were pleased to get one of the Alliance amendments through on harmonization. Under our amendment when an applicant applies for a registered pest control product or to amend the pest control product registration, they would now be able to submit information from reviews and evaluations conducted in other OECD countries.

We heard this a PMRA hearings. People want the opportunity to bring information here that has already been developed in other places and use as part of our registration. If we use a chemical under similar conditions, it makes good sense that we use that information. It avoids costly duplication for pesticide makers. It cuts down on the cost of the registration process. It actually hastens the process of getting those chemicals onto the market where they can replace some of the older and maybe more hazardous chemicals.

Minor use is one of my other concerns. A major shortfall in Bill C-53 is that it gives no consideration to minor use products. The agriculture committee has heard this a number of times. It is very important for horticulture and vegetable specialty crops. It is important that there be a discussion about minor use and the way it will work in Canada. Minor use applications are increasing as we go to more niche marketing.

There are a lot of times that the economy of scale absolutely does not support full registration. There was a situation last spring on the prairies regarding chick peas. Because the Bravo chemical was not working in stopping the ascochyta, I approached the government to try to get another chemical approved. It took some time but the other chemical, Quadras, was approved and it worked very well. However the approval process for that chemical took quite a bit of time. That approval time has to be shortened up. If a chemical is available, if it has been used in other places and if we seem to have similar conditions here, then it should be available quickly. This is important for Canadian competitiveness.

Fruit and vegetable growers have told us that they need these chemicals. If they are available in the United States, if they have been approved and are on the market and if we have similar conditions, we need to be able to use them. The government has recognized the importance of minor use but has done nothing about it.

Concern about access to minor use products was brought up prominently in the recent report of the agriculture committee on registration of pesticides and the competitiveness of Canadian farmers. According to the report:

Canadian farmers...do not have access to the same safe and effective pest management tools as their competitors, particularly American producers.

I was glad to be part of the committee that put that report together. It called for several improvements and I would like to read two of them to the House.

First, the committee has called for at least $1 million a year in funding for research and an analysis program similar to the U.S. IR-4 that will be developed in co-operation with agricultural stakeholders to generate the necessary data for approval of new minor use pesticide products or to expand the use of previously approved products.

A second recommendation is that an adviser on matters pertaining to minor use pest control products be appointed to intervene in decisions and policies to facilitate activities relating to minor use products. This adviser's mandate would include a special focus on harmonization issues with the United States such as the equivalency of similar zone maps and the consideration of data already existing in an OECD country. The adviser would report to the Minister of Health and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

Another concern the committee is that the bill does not address the issue of reduced risk products. It makes no provision for getting these new, safer reduced risk products directly into the marketplace. We need to expedite the reviews of such products.

The United States has reduced risk category and timelines in approving them. Last year the timelines to get these products onto the market was approximately 35% less than conventional pesticides. There are some big savings in terms of efficiency and cost.

Bill C-53 also does not mention any timelines for registration. That is an important change but perhaps it will be made later. There needs to be some timelines put on registration because presently this is taking far too long.

The health committee also heard from a number of witnesses that registrations were taking too long compared to the United States. That was consistent with what the agriculture committee heard as well. Our party has pressed for timelines to be drawn up but the government has chosen not to put them into this legislation.

I would like to take a few minutes to talk about the PMRA, which seems to be an ongoing problem in the agriculture sector. This legislation will be completely wasted unless changes are made to the PMRA.

Unfortunately, the bill does not bring accountability to the PMRA. Timelines are a concern within the PMRA, but also the audits that this legislation calls for do not go far enough. There is no requirement in the bill to report the financial information of the agency. We already saw the failure of that in the Canadian Wheat Board audit where wheat board directors were allowed to set the conditions for the audit.

The auditor general did a good job on the area she was allowed to study but she was not allowed to study the overall operations. She ended up doing a study of office management but could not study the overall efficiency of the board. Because of that she was prevented from reaching any conclusions about the kind of job the CWB was doing for farmers. I would not like to see the same thing happening with the PMRA. We need to know if the agency's objectives are being achieved in an expeditious manner.

Both the health and agriculture committees heard a number of times from witnesses their concerns about the PMRA. Many of their administrative and management practices were called into question repeatedly. The agriculture committee highlighted problems with the PMRA. We were told that seven years after the PMRA was started up it had advanced the pesticide registration system but the impatience and frustration of farmers persisted and was systematic of a glitch in the agency's overall operation.

We heard from many witnesses who were frustrated with having to deal with the PMRA bureaucracy and feeling that they could not get through the registration process. They could not talk with the people who could make decisions and often regulations were changed while they were trying to work on registrations.

The agriculture committee recommended that an independent ombudsman be appointed to facilitate discussions on the needs of farmers regarding pest control within the PMRA. We made a recommendation that the Auditor General of Canada conduct a value for money or performance audit to examine the management practices, controls and reporting systems of the PMRA.

We feel it is important that for the legislation to work that the problems within the PMRA be resolved if any of the worthy goals of the legislation are to be realized. The bill is only as good as the PMRA's ability to administer it.

I will go over the agriculture committee recommendations made regarding the PMRA. It is important that we get them on the record because we heard a lot of concern about these needs. The report that the agriculture committee submitted dealing with pesticide registration had four recommendations.

First, it recommended there be an ombudsman independent of the PMRA that would report to the health minister. Poor communication between farmers and the PMRA has been a concern. Having a third party reporting directly to the Minister of Health would certainly alleviate disputes. We thought it was a good idea and that the time had come for this to take place.

Second, it called for the auditor general to do a full audit of the PMRA. The PMRA has been slow in registering products. It has been far too slow. Bureaucrats from the PMRA told the committee that it was due to inadequate funding. There are people who would dispute that but the auditor general's recommendation would allow general performance and management practices to be audited for efficiency and we could then see whether this bureau is funded adequately or not. It would be important to do a value for money check to examine the management practices and the efficiency, or the lack of efficiency, that we may find within the PMRA.

Third, we called for a recommendation dealing with funding to enhance broader product access. More funding is needed for the approval of minor use pesticides. In the United States, for example, the EPA has approved 901 new pesticides and new uses for existing pesticides. The PMRA has only approved 24 products since March 2000. Are we getting good value for our money?

The committee recommended at least $1 million a year in funding from Agriculture Canada for research and analysis development in co-operation with stakeholders for the approval of new minor use products.

Fourth, we made a recommendation for a scientific data adviser. The PMRA often seems to reinvent the wheel every time an application comes in for a minor use product. The committee recommended an adviser on minor use pest controls to intervene in decisions and policies. The minor use registration is a growing and significant part of what the PMRA will do. It is important for it to have a scientific adviser in place to make good and quick decisions on minor use. The person could work specifically on the harmonization with the U.S. There should be some equivalency with the United States and encouragement to use existing data so that we do not have to repeat the research that was done several other times.

The bill is needed and it is time that it was passed. It is long overdue. We have some reservations about it and I have tried to make some suggestions of areas that the government might consider improving. I know that they will not be in the bill but hopefully in the future the government would take a look at putting some of these improvements into place. The government could have done a better job but the bill serves the purpose of beginning the process.