Reducing the effects of urban heat islands Act

An Act to reduce the effects of urban heat islands on the health of Canadians

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

Sponsor

Paulina Ayala  NDP

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

Status

Defeated, as of Jan. 28, 2015
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment provides that the Minister of Health must

(a) in consultation with the Minister of the Environment, the provincial ministers responsible for health and with representatives of municipalities, establish a national strategy to reduce the effects of urban heat islands; and

(b) table a report in the House of Commons on the implementation of this Act that sets out the results of the efforts to reduce the effects of urban heat islands.

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.

Votes

Jan. 28, 2015 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Health.

Reducing the Effects of Urban Heat Islands ActPrivate Members' Business

December 11th, 2014 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is always a privilege and a pleasure to rise to address issues that come before the House. This is an interesting issue, I must say. I do not have very much background knowledge on it, but I have been able to look at it to try to get a better understanding. Bill C-579, known as the urban heat islands act, is something the Liberals support. We feel it would be good for it to move forward. Ultimately, as I say, we support it.

Perhaps I could illustrate what it really means by using a graph. If we were to look at a graph comparing hot air in city centres versus rural communities or suburban areas, we would find that where there are heavy concentrations of people or industry—huge industrial parks, for instance—the air temperature versus the surface temperature varies depending on where one is situated. People living in rural communities where there is very little or marginal development, such as on farms or in marshy areas or among the literally thousands of lakes, would find that the air temperature is not much different from the surface temperature.

However, in higher-density communities the gap starts to widen. In Canada, for example, if we were to compare a rural setting, where the air and surface temperatures are close together, to downtown Toronto on a summer day, we would find that it is considerably hotter on the surface than it is 1,000 feet up in the air. In other words, when we talk about urban heat islands, what we are really referring to is the difference between the surface temperature and the air temperature.

What can we do as a government to try to minimize the negative impacts of heat islands? There are negative impacts that we should be aware of, such as lower water quality, higher air pollution, increased heat stress that is very real, and improved conditions for the spreading of airborne diseases.

We have seen some extreme examples of this in the past in some of the cities. Again, if I look at Toronto, which is not alone, we have an extended number of days during the summertime when it will get quite hot. When we look at that heat around the downtown areas, highly industrialized areas, or very high density communities, we will find that it is significantly hotter. Those heat records, such as we experienced a few years ago, have a fairly profound impact on the living conditions of people. We have seen that in a number of examples that have occurred over the years.

One of the things that encourages me, personally, is that we have a generation of young people in our schools today or recently graduated, who place the environment as a very high priority. I remember, a couple of years back, walking into Sisler High School and a number of students took me to what was, in essence, the centre of the high school where they had opened up an outside patio door and were taking away bricks, which they were replacing with vegetation. That is one of the ways we can combat the heat island effect, if I can put it that way.

If we take a look at what we have in our urban centres, we see certain things that draw in the heat. Things we can do to marginalize that, or lessen the effect of it, are very strong positives.

As I said, walking through Sisler High School a few years ago, it was great to see students who were very aware of the positive impact. They had virtually dead ground that was in the centre of the school compound, if I can put it that way, with buildings all around it, and they had the wisdom and the vision through the support of some of the teaching staff to make a change. That change does have a very strong message.

Like all MPs, I am afforded the opportunity to fly considerably. When I fly into my home city of Winnipeg, I cannot help but notice the new subdivisions versus the areas that are more established. In the areas that are more established, the first thing I notice is the trees. There are a lot more trees in some of the older, more established communities. If we compare those types of communities to areas where there are no trees, or very little vegetation, we will find that there is an impact on the difference between the surface and air temperatures.

In the last decade or so, through city planners, we have often found that there are minimum standards right down to the footage of green space that has to be incorporated into the development of suburbs. That is a positive thing. Ponds are put in place. Mandated tree planting is something else that has a positive impact on the amount of separation between the air and ground temperatures.

If we look at some of the ideas that are out there and are prepared to act on them, we will in fact be able to make a difference.

There have been international conferences dealing with this particular issue. In some countries, the impact on communities is more profound. We need to recognize that Canada does have a role to play, not only locally but also internationally by playing a stronger leadership role and taking certain action. We could be more proactive.

What is also being suggested, and I would really encourage, is that we think outside of the national government. We do need to incorporate that into our thinking and planning and in coming up with a strategy. Hopefully, with the passing of the bill, there would be more of a strategy or plan and some sense of accountability that would come back to the House and demonstrate the degree to which we have moved forward as a nation.

Having said that, it is critically important that the Minister of Health and the Minister of Finance work with our partners at the provincial level and those ministries that are having an impact. Hopefully, we would be able to come together and develop some ideas to improve the conditions for generations after us, which ultimately will have to live in the environments we are creating.

I have found it amazing the degree to which some of our municipalities have grown over the last 20 years, whether Vancouver, Calgary, my own city, or other cities out east. We are still relatively young as a country. We have some highly intelligent individuals who can play a strong role in future urban planning.

Reducing the Effects of Urban Heat Islands ActPrivate Members' Business

December 11th, 2014 / 5:40 p.m.
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NDP

Isabelle Morin NDP Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to support the bill introduced by my colleague from Honoré-Mercier. This bill would mandate the Minister of Health to establish a national strategy to reduce the negative effects of heat islands.

In short, people noticed that the temperature difference from one neighbourhood to another can be as high as 12°C because of heat islands. This can increase smog and make air quality worse. For example, there is increased demand for air conditioning and for water, whether we are talking about potable water or water for swimming pools and water parks.

My colleague conducted public consultations in her riding and discovered that constituents in her neighbourhood were very concerned. I know that she is in an area on the Island of Montreal in which there are a number of heat islands. Since she is a good member of Parliament who listens to her constituents, she decided to come back to Ottawa and introduce a bill on this topic. I am very pleased to participate in this debate because I am very concerned about this issue. I really want to see this bill move through all stages in the House of Commons.

It is currently part of Health Canada's mandate to monitor heat islands and safeguard Canadians against the effects of heat waves. However, there is no national strategy for all of that. The bill is calling for collaboration between the federal, municipal and provincial governments in order to increase effectiveness and efficiency. There is no knowledge transfer. People are ill-informed and no one really knows who should be sharing information with the public. I think that this bill is a very good idea.

Many industrialized countries with heat islands have developed a national strategy in recent decades, including the United States, France, Portugal, Holland, Spain, Germany, England, Japan and Sweden. I think it would be good for us to follow suit.

During my speech, I will talk about the impact heat islands can have on health, what can be done, some solutions and the benefits of those solutions. We are talking about the health of Canadians, and a government must show great concern for the health of the people in its policies. That is very important.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said that on hot days mortality can rise by 20% in areas with heat islands. Heat islands can result in discomfort, weakness, loss of consciousness, cramps, fainting spells, heat stroke and breathing difficulties.

To relay my own story, I suffer from asthma. It did not start when I was young, but when I was 25. I started having respiratory problems when I moved to Montreal. I had never experienced that before. At first, I did not know what it was. I underwent some testing and I was told I had asthma. The surprising thing is that I have trouble breathing when I am in Montreal. When there is a heat wave, it is even worse. Nonetheless, in summer, when it is hot and I am camping or somewhere at a cottage, I do not have those same breathing problems. It is therefore one of the effects of the heat islands. This affects pretty much every big city in Canada. More and more major structures are being built, including seniors' residences, big condo towers and shopping centres, which all require paved parking lots. This is conducive to creating heat islands.

In fact, the Lachine industrial park is one of the biggest heat islands in Montreal. According to data from the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, Lachine's industrial sector is one of the hottest areas on the Island of Montreal. I will quote from a report:

The tree canopy coverage in the industrial sector is 4%, which is slightly above average. However, the industrial area is so large that it diminishes the effect of the tree canopy in the borough. Accordingly, the City of Montreal's department of large parks and green spaces recommends that the tree canopy coverage be increased to 15%.

In my riding, with the airport, this industrial park and the highway, heat islands are all around us.

Another report said that the temperature in a paved schoolyard could go as high as 52 degrees Celsius. I know that schools are usually closed in summer, but the playgrounds in schoolyards are being used then. When I was young, I would go to my elementary school's yard. I think that 52 degrees is very high, and even if you are well hydrated, it is still very high. The people most likely to be affected by heat islands are children, seniors, pregnant women, people with existing illnesses, and athletes. If they are in a place where there are a lot of heat islands, it could be very bad for them.

I found one striking statistic: between 1979 and 2003 about 8,000 deaths in Canada were caused by heat islands and heat waves. That is a lot.

As I said earlier, right now in Canada some provinces and municipalities have programs, but there is nothing to create a synergy among all provinces and municipalities in order to make progress, share ideas and improve the health of Canadians.

For example, Montreal now has maps to measure heat islands, and these are available to the public. In Montreal and Toronto there are municipal efforts and awareness programs. In some cities there are planning regulations encouraging white roofs and trees in parking lots, but it all happens piecemeal because the government is not taking the lead. That is what my colleague is trying to do with this bill.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the FCM, has a fund that supports efforts to reduce the effects of climate change. Some provinces also have large, well-targeted funds. However, we want a national strategy to put it all together and move forward.

Solutions have been proposed. We should increase vegetation and green our cities. On that point, I would like to congratulate a group in my riding, GRAME de Lachine, a group that does applied research in macroecology. It is doing fantastic work on heat islands. It has conducted research through a provincial program, the climate change action plan. Once again, this is a good program from Quebec. Could it be exported to other provinces? Yes, we must talk about it.

This group has planted more than 200 trees. It has used high-albedo materials to completely revitalize the playground at one of the primary schools in my riding, Martin Bélanger School in Ville Saint-Pierre. The playground is extraordinary. There are not a lot of games or a lot of structures in the playground. The company planted trees and drew designs on the asphalt. This has reduced the heat and the result is really pretty.

The building where I have my office is called Regroupement de Lachine. It has been completely renovated. It is a former grocery store that has been transformed into an eco-building. It is a community centre with geothermal energy. It has one of the largest accessible green roofs on the island of Montreal. GRAME also distributed 350 large trees in 2014. I attended one of their distribution days. These are the kinds of projects that can really reduce urban heat islands.

In terms of cost-effectiveness for the government, a number of studies prove what we are saying. One study conducted in 2013 by Bélanger Michaud at the Université de Sherbrooke shows that the return on investment is 5.8 times higher than the cost of the trees that could be planted in parking lots or along roads. A study conducted at Ryerson University showed that green roofs have two positive effects. Energy costs are lower and energy consumption is reduced. Berkeley University conducted a study in 2001, which showed that a national strategy makes it possible to save 3% to 5% in energy. A study by the World Bank describes the direct impact on emergency systems, on health and on beds available in hospitals. In fact, the dog days of summer are precisely when we have heat islands, and that is when a number of people go to the hospital because they feel ill. Once again, this represents a reduction in costs.

It is time to stop dealing with problems once they have occurred. This bill will prevent problems from occurring in the first place. It will make it possible to save money in health care and it will enable people to feel better.

I would once again like to congratulate my colleague for tabling this bill. I think it is a winner for everyone. I am going to vote in favour of this bill. I hope that everyone will vote for it, because it is important for our country.

Reducing the Effects of Urban Heat Islands ActPrivate Members' Business

December 11th, 2014 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to speak in support of Bill C-579, an act to reduce the effects of urban heat islands on the health of Canadians. I would like to congratulate my colleague for Honoré-Mercier for bringing this bill before us.

As the urban affairs critic for our NDP caucus and also the sponsor of Bill C-619, the climate change accountability act, I am very excited to have a discussion in this place about the impacts of climate change on cities, on the health of Canadians living in urban Canada and about the great opportunities that present themselves to us for mitigating climate change and improving the health of Canadians by focusing attention on Canada's cities.

The discussion is particularly timely as countries gather in Lima, Peru at the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change with the goal of putting in place, by next year in Paris, the agreement necessary to avoid dangerous levels of global warming. To succeed, that agreement needs to include the world's largest emitters.

While the Conservative government likes to point to the fact that Canada is responsible for only 2% of global emissions, that places us within the top 10 greenhouse gas emitters globally. Looking globally, there appears to be positive momentum in that direction. Specifically, the recent agreement between the world's largest emitters, China and the U.S., holds out promise that we have turned a corner on this issue.

Only five years ago, in Copenhagen, these two countries pointed fingers at each other, accusing each other of sinking global efforts at mitigation. However, with this agreement, things will change. China has agreed to slow and then halt greenhouse gas emission growth by 2030. The U.S. has agreed to reduce emissions by nearly 30% by the same date.

Therefore, things will change, but it is also worth noting that this agreement stands as a clear sign that things have already changed. The simplistic contradistinction between economic growth and emission reductions no longer stands. There are new energy economies that these countries are engaged in and can profit from.

Last week's report from Clean Energy Canada tells us that things have changed in Canada, too, and will continue to change. In that same five-year period since Copenhagen, Canada, in the absence of federal support I would note, has seen its capacity to produce electricity from renewable energy sources increase sufficiently to power 2.7 million Canadian homes, and the clean energy industry in Canada is still in its infancy.

Also relevant to today's discussion is the impact of the health effects of climate change. As reported recently in the The Guardian newspaper, in China:

Air quality is so far below World Health Organisation standards that a blue sky appears only after it rains, or when the government closes steel mills around Beijing and bans drivers from highways for major summits...

Of particular relevance to the bill before us, it is heartening to see that that U.S.-China agreement acknowledges the role of cities as final-energy users and, consequently, as significant greenhouse gas emitters. The Climate-Smart/Low-Carbon Cities initiative that forms part of that agreement recognizes the great potential of cities as sites of climate change mitigation.

Now, of course, the times do not look particularly propitious for us in Canada in light of the revelation this week that the Conservative government, contrary to its commitment, has no intention of regulating emissions in the oil and gas industry.

However, it is the nature of government that it changes. Governments come and they go, but a government that breaks its commitment on such a significant, indeed, existential issue, one hopes will go quickly, and a government that calls regulating what it had once committed to regulate “crazy”, one hopes will fall harder and faster than most.

Now, as per the bill, we are talking specifically about urban heat islands. The call in the bill is for the Minister of Health to establish a national strategy to reduce the negative effects of heat islands.

Urban heat islands are understood to be urban environments in which the average air temperature is markedly greater as compared to the average or, in particular, that of the surrounding rural environment. The effect is well known and has been well studied, precisely because of the serious impacts of urban heat islands on human health. Annual average temperatures tend to be 3.5° to 4.5° higher in cities than in surrounding rural areas. According to the OECD, this difference—and note that it is in average annual temperature—is expected to increase by 1° per decade to a difference of about 10° in large cities. In other words, the heat island effect is significant presently and anticipated to get significantly worse over time.

It has been estimated, for example, that maximum average temperatures in my city of Toronto will rise by 7° by mid-century. That means that the extreme climate events, such as heat waves, which we are experiencing as a result of generalized global warming, will also become worse in urban areas as a result of the heat island effect, or more properly the conditions that give rise to the heat island effect. Those conditions relate, in the main, to the type of infrastructure we find in urban environments and the particular materials it is made of, as well as the colour of those materials. Surface materials such as concrete and asphalt, including asphalt roofing shingles, are particularly problematic. This kind of infrastructure tends to absorb large amounts of solar radiation and release it in the form of heat, thus creating heat islands. The increasing daytime temperature, in turn, tends to trigger a vicious circle as it interferes with natural nighttime cooling processes, but it also triggers artificial cooling efforts, such as air conditioning, that add to the heat island effect.

There are well-documented health implications of extreme heat and heat islands. It is fair to say that, around the world, the effects of urban heat islands on human health are being documented by health and environmental agencies. The health outcomes vary from simply heat fatigue to death.

According to studies conducted by the American Ernest O. Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, every 1°C increase in warm weather temperature increases the pollution caused by smog by some 5%. Smog generally forms above urban areas and heat islands, and adds to water pollution and air pollution. Smog is one of the main causes of the increase in the number of cases of asthma, throat irritation, and even premature death.

It is worth noting that not all are affected equally by heat island effects. Some people are more vulnerable to health impacts than others. Seniors and youth are particularly vulnerable, but so also are the poor, the disabled, shut-ins, the homeless, and those unable to afford or without access to air-conditioned shelter. There is clearly and notably a social equity issue. This is a matter of climate justice and not just a generalized matter of human health.

Let me end with what I think is some good news. About 80% of Canadians live in urban Canada. Urban Canada is responsible for a commensurate percentage of final energy use and consequently a commensurate percentage of greenhouse gas emissions. Not the current government, obviously, but people around the world who are concerned about the future of this planet, people committed to halting global warming so as to avoid dangerous levels, are alive to the issue of urban heat islands and their health impacts and dangers. They are also alive to the great climate change mitigation potential of cities. That is why this bill and its focus on urban Canada and urban Canadians, and the need to deal with these issues, holds out such great promise for us and should receive the support of all in this House.

I again thank my colleague for bringing it forward.

Reducing the Effects of Urban Heat Islands ActPrivate Members' Business

December 11th, 2014 / 6 p.m.
See context

NDP

Paulina Ayala NDP Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, on March 24, I had the honour of introducing my bill on urban heat islands.

Before drafting the bill, we consulted scientific experts, government departments and municipal, provincial and federal representatives. This is what the Federation of Canadian Municipalities told us:

Our national programs unit focuses on developing and promoting best municipal practices in Canada. We do not currently have a program area specifically for heat islands. This issue is not well known or highly publicized outside Quebec.

Even so, in her speech on September 26, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health had this to say:

Since 2008, Health Canada has worked with federal, provincial, and municipal partners to enhance the resiliency of communities and individual Canadians to the health impacts of extreme heat.

The parliamentary secretary's statement conflicts with the answer I got from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Where does the truth lie?

Everyone agrees that there are many, many compelling initiatives in the municipalities and committees, and everyone also agrees that the Conservative government's lack of support is appalling. Everyone deplores how little support they are getting. Above all, they are criticizing the absence of a real national strategy, which would create a real space for dialogue regarding best practices, and not just through a website.

What is more, the parliamentary secretary said the goal is to help communities and Canadians “adapt” to the effect of extreme heat on their health. Did I understand the word “adapt” correctly? The government wants Canadians to adapt to the harmful effects that heat islands are having on their health.

We already thought the Conservative government's inaction was deplorable. Now we learn that the government has simply abandoned Canadians altogether

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health was so proud to announce that a key component of the government's initiative was the development of heat alert and response systems. That is an excellent example of a confession of failure on the part of this government, which, instead of addressing the causes of heat islands, proposes that we simply adapt to them and, at best, predict when an an asthma sufferer should stay indoors.

Once again, it is not enough to help communities adjust to the effects of heat islands on health. Instead we must tackle the phenomenon and act before the situation is critical because Canadians' health could already be at risk.

What is most serious is the parliamentary secretary's statement that the Conservative government, which refuses to adopt a real strategy, is nevertheless spending billions of dollars. She even said that, since 2007, the government has spent more than $2 billion on 1,400 green infrastructure projects across Canada. Did I hear correctly? The government has no strategy, but is spending billions of dollars. The government definitely does not want a framework for action and support, but it is nevertheless funding more than 1,400 projects.

In the same breath, the government is criticizing the NDP's approach of openly working with communities and having clear objectives and measurable results. The government is telling us that a coherent approach will cost too much. It claims that it does not have a strategy, but that is obviously false. It does have one, but it refuses to reveal it. It lists the good things it does, but is incapable of explaining the consequences.

All this bill asks of the government is that it support communities and stop backing away from its responsibilities with respect to Canadians' health, as it is currently doing.

If the government wants to talk about savings, bring it on. Not only is the government throwing billions of dollars out the window, but it also refuses to take any responsibility for the real impact of this spending. Furthermore, it is disregarding the positive economic benefits of combatting heat islands.

If the government truly listened to the experts, it would have heard Mr. Hashem, a university professor who has dedicated much of his scientific research to this topic. He estimates that we could save at least $100 million a year in health care costs alone by reducing the effects of heat islands. This represents about 4,000 new jobs. This is not a trivial number for the Canadian economy.

The government claims that my bill would create jurisdictional overlaps with provinces. Then the government admitted that a national strategy would make the government accountable for activities over which it has no control. Clearly the government is afraid of being responsible for anything.

A New Democrat government would not be afraid of setting objectives with its partners and assuming its responsibilities to meet those objectives. We will tackle the heat islands problem, and together we will change Canada.

Reducing the effects of urban heat islands ActPrivate Members' Business

September 26th, 2014 / 1:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Paulina Ayala NDP Honoré-Mercier, QC

moved that Bill C-579, An Act to reduce the effects of urban heat islands on the health of Canadians, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to speak to my bill, Bill C-579, An Act to reduce the effects of urban heat islands on the health of Canadians. To begin, let me explain what a heat island is.

The term “heat island” refers to an urban area that is hotter than the surrounding areas. In urban environments, the infrastructure tends to absorb large amounts of solar radiation during summer heat waves and release it in the form of heat, thus creating heat islands. In the most serious cases, temperature differences can reach 12 degrees Celsius at night.

I would like to make my colleagues aware of the public health risk that this represents. To do that I will simply tell my colleagues how I became interested in this growing problem. I will explain how health professionals in my riding, Honoré-Mercier, brought this to my attention; how we drafted the bill in response to the needs expressed by the community; how the work was done in collaboration with organizations that are already committed to finding tangible solutions in urban communities; and how for the past few months, we have been receiving a wave of support for this bill, which everyone sees as a simple, yet fundamental contribution by the federal government.

I sincerely believe that when members of the House find out about the impact of heat islands on Canadians' health, they will not hesitate to support my bill. That is what I hope.

I would like to give hon. members a bit of background. On May 7, 2011, in the days following the May 2 election, I attended an event in Pointe-de-l'Île. It was a meeting with the mayor of Rivière-des-Prairies and public health officers from the health and social services centres, better known as the CSSS. This issue spoke to me. They started talking about heat islands. I learned that Honoré-Mercier has one of the largest heat islands in Quebec during heatwaves. I want to emphasize that point.

At home in eastern Montreal, it was the worrisome number of asthmatic children that first alerted the public health authority. In searching for the cause of these health problems the health authority discovered the scope of the adverse effect of high temperatures on people who live in areas that become heat islands during heat waves. This phenomenon's adverse effect on health has an impact on all Canadians who live in cities because high temperatures increase pollution. We know that more than 80% of Canadians live in urban centres. That is reason enough to address the problem. We might also say that dealing with health problems will result in significant savings for the provinces.

We can add to that list those who live in the most densely populated urban areas, areas filled with concrete buildings and paved parking lots. It is often seniors or the poorest and least mobile individuals who cluster around local services. The most vulnerable Canadians are therefore the first to feel the negative impacts of heat islands. We are talking about seniors, children and pregnant women. Members will therefore understand my haste in asking the government to take stronger action on this issue.

I would like to give my colleagues a brief overview of the research that my team and I have done since I became aware of this issue in order to help them understand the symptoms associated with the urban heat island effect. As I said, a heat island is an urban area where the air and ground temperatures are higher than in surrounding areas. This is usually a difference of about 5°C or 6°C, but it can reach up to 12°C at its worst. If we think about a summer day in Montreal when it is 35°C, the humidity can bring this up to 37°C; an extra five degrees can therefore make a big difference.

I am thinking here about neighbourhoods where residents experience sweltering heat. Imagine the effect on their health. Heat islands occur in densely populated urban areas—as I already mentioned—and in areas where the ground is covered in concrete. The asphalt absorbs the heat and prevents any water from infiltrating the soil. It is therefore useless to water the asphalt. As I already mentioned, this promotes smog. More smog is produced because of the heat, and so, in the end, everyone is affected.

Let me now give you a specific scenario. Imagine we are in the middle of a heat wave. Your car is not working, and people are saying, on the radio, that you should go to a shopping centre, where you can cool off thanks to the air conditioning. So you end up walking to the shopping centre and you cross the parking lot, all the while pushing the baby's stroller. It is hot. You feel terrible. You finally get there, but you are tired. The baby is even more tired because he cannot express his discomfort. You finally step into the cool, comfortable shopping centre. Imagine now that you have taken off your shoes and are walking barefoot on the asphalt. How many seconds could you stand the heat without crying out?

As I said earlier, this material soaks up heat during the day, then releases it at night. Indeed, if you open a window, the air will still be warm. This adds to the continuous impact of the phenomenon. Furthermore, people living in these urban areas tend to use more air conditioning, which in turn makes the surrounding air warmer. This makes things worse for their neighbours without air conditioning. As is often the case, this vicious circle affects the most vulnerable—seniors, children, those who are sick— who cannot escape this oppressive heat and are left to suffer.

During the day, the only refuges are shopping malls, since they offer a cool environment. However, once the malls close, people return to their apartments, which are so hot that they can make people sick. It is even worse for small children or anyone with heart problems or blood pressure issues.

I truly believe that this is definitely a health issue. Montreal's public health department said that on hot days, the mortality rate was on average 20% higher for people living in heat islands.

Health Canada has found that 8,000 deaths between 1979 and 2003 were caused exclusively by exposure to high or extreme heat. In Europe, 70,000 people died during the 2003 heat wave. We all saw this on TV.

Many people suffer in silence. The symptoms are weakness; fatigue; cramps; heart failure; breathing difficulties; and aggravation of chronic, cardiovascular, neurological or renal diseases.

There are some solutions. If people who are already sick or on medication are not careful to keep themselves hydrated on hot days, they are putting their lives at risk. When I learned that most seniors living alone suffered more than they had to, since they didn't know how the environment could affect their health, I decided that this was unacceptable. People all over suffer as well.

What happens in the riding of Honoré-Mercier also goes on in Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto and many other Canadian cities. That is why I gave specific documents to some of my colleagues. I was pleased to be able to share with them information on heat islands.

I introduced this bill because I am calling on Health Canada to establish a national strategy to reduce the effects of urban heat islands, in consultation with the Minister of the Environment, provincial ministers, health representatives and municipal representatives.

I believe it is important to draw from the experiences of communities and the private industry, which have already committed to fighting the effects of heat islands by tackling the sources of the problem.

There are companies in Canada that have figured out how to make white roads. On a plane to Edmonton, I met a company president who told me that he had imported technology from Europe to do it here in Canada, which would create jobs. The best argument I can offer the House in favour of this bill is that solutions exist.

The purpose of this bill is to raise awareness among decision-makers and individuals, but it also offers hope. My hope is that this bill will help harmonize measures at the national level. Some provinces and municipalities have made a little progress, but if we all work together to solve the problem, I believe the health care savings will be huge, we will create jobs, and we will have the quality of life we deserve.

We have to carry out positive experiments in a community so that they can benefit all Canadians. Inspiring solutions exist, and all community stakeholders can get involved, including companies that are thinking more about the impact of their infrastructure on air quality, municipalities that are trying to green their urban environments and regulate the use of certain materials in building construction and renovation, provincial governments that are figuring out how to locate and measure heat islands, and, of course, organizations involved in raising public awareness and greening problematic urban areas. Everyone needs to get involved in combating the negative effects of heat islands. The federal government must do its part too.

The bill does not provide all the solutions. I propose that we go looking for those solutions together. I need the help of all the members from all parties represented in the House. I need to raise awareness. I can provide some information to help my colleagues who represent ridings dealing with the issue of heat islands. I believe that nationwide collaboration on this type of strategy would maximize the efforts of the communities fighting the harm caused by heat islands on the health of Canadians.

We need to remember one thing: other countries are looking to Canada. We can play a leadership role. Canada can be a country like those that are already addressing the issue, including Germany. Many other countries and large cities in the world have already developed strategies to prevent the problem. Germany's building code and federal nature conservation legislation require municipalities to support sustainable development and protect natural landscapes. In the United States, the federal government provides the states with financial and technical assistance to implement urban forestry plans and encourage research on the role of the canopy as a means of mitigating the effects of urban heat islands. Chicago, Illinois, is a leader in the United States for its green roofing projects. Over the past century, the temperature in Tokyo has increased five times faster than the global average. To fight the effects of urban heat islands, Tokyo requires all new buildings to cover at least 20% of the roof area with vegetation.

We have good reason to take action to protect the health of Canadians. We can do more. I urge my colleagues to support this bill. Together, we can do better.

Reducing the effects of urban heat islands ActPrivate Members' Business

September 26th, 2014 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Honoré-Mercier not only for her edifying speech but also for having introduced such a pertinent bill. As we all know, environmental legislation certainly does not emanate from the other side. Thankfully, the NDP is here to ensure that future generations will be able to live in an environment as healthy as ours, or even healthier if possible.

My colleague's bill certainly fits with the environmental vision that compels us to act locally but think globally and come up with global solutions. By local, we mean within a riding, a municipality, a province and, of course, Canada.

I am apprehensive of the answer, but will Canada once again be the only OECD country without a policy on this?

Reducing the effects of urban heat islands ActPrivate Members' Business

September 26th, 2014 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

François Pilon NDP Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend my colleague for her wonderful speech.

I lived in the riding of Honoré—Mercier for several years and so I know that heat islands cause real problems near refineries and highways.

Does my colleague think that it would be a good idea for the federal government, the provinces and the municipalities to work together to resolve this problem as set out in her bill?

Reducing the effects of urban heat islands ActPrivate Members' Business

September 26th, 2014 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Paulina Ayala NDP Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question.

That is precisely the purpose of the bill: for the federal government, the provinces and the municipalities to work together. This would save money and improve people's quality of life.

We all need to work together because we are all part of the same country.

Reducing the effects of urban heat islands ActPrivate Members' Business

September 26th, 2014 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Paulina Ayala NDP Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, we already know that emergency health services are very expensive.

It costs less to make an appointment at the doctor's office, even though you might have to wait a few months to get in. However, sometimes people have to go to the emergency department to bring in a child suffering from an asthma attack or a senior who has to stay in hospital for a few days.

By addressing the root of the problem, we will certainly save money on these hospitalizations. This represents a savings for the provinces and therefore for our country. That is good economics. This is not theory. This is something tangible that will allow the municipalities, the provinces and the country to save money.

Reducing the effects of urban heat islands ActPrivate Members' Business

September 26th, 2014 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

Mississauga—Brampton South Ontario

Conservative

Eve Adams ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, our government's position on this is plain and simple: Bill C-579, an act to reduce the effects of urban heat islands on the health of Canadians, is not the right approach for Canada.

Indeed, our government is already taking action to help Canadians adapt to the changes in climate and mitigate health risks related to extreme heat. Our approach has been to recognize that urban communities across Canada have different priorities, characteristics, and capacities to address local health issues related to a changing climate.

We have sought to work with Canadians in ways that respect these variances and which are not prescriptive. I would like to highlight a few of these examples.

Since 2008, Health Canada has worked with federal, provincial, and municipal partners to enhance the resiliency of communities and individual Canadians to the health impacts of extreme heat. In fact, I served for many years on the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and Credit Valley Conservation authority.

A key component of our initiative has been the development of heat alert and response systems in communities across the country, and raising awareness of heat health risks among individuals, health professionals, and communities. We have provided information to help communities decide when to issue heat alerts; assisted in developing messaging for vulnerable populations, such as seniors and children; and informed public health authorities and emergency management officials of measures that can be put in place to reduce heat-related illnesses and deaths in their communities.

We have been successful because we have relied on a collaborative approach across different levels of government to build capacity, not a one-size-fits-all framework, as is proposed in the bill.

Indeed the ability of this government to work with varied jurisdictions is leading towards the implementation of province-wide heat alert and response systems in Manitoba, Alberta, and Ontario. Even something as simple as addressing air pollution can help to mitigate some health impacts of extreme heat.

Health Canada officials have worked with officials from Environment Canada to roll out the air quality health index across the country. On a daily basis, I am sure many Canadians are familiar with this index. It provides Canadians with air quality forecasts and health messages that seek to provide Canadians with balanced information regarding the benefits of maintaining an active lifestyle versus the risks associated with prolonged outdoor exposure to air pollution.

Again, our approach has been to provide Canadians and communities with the tools to help them make informed decisions and take meaningful actions to reduce health risks for themselves and their families.

Our government set the Canadian ambient air quality standards, in 2013. These new health-based Canadian ambient air quality standards set the bar, so to speak, for managing the two key components of smog: fine particulate matter, and ground level ozone.

Over the last decade, under the clean air regulatory agenda, this government has enacted a series of regulations to reduce air pollution from motor vehicles. This initiative for improved air quality overall translates into reduced health risks, particularly during heat events.

Finally, allow me to highlight how we are working with Canadians to help them adapt to a changing climate. In 2010-11, Health Canada held a series of workshops, in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Windsor, Winnipeg, and Vancouver, just to discuss how to bring health authorities and community planners together to address health and the built environment.

Research on extreme heat and air quality is being conducted across Canada to inform policy decisions at the local level. The findings are being shared at all levels of government, so that communities can develop approaches that fit their particular needs within their own timeframe.

For example, the City of Windsor has developed urban recommendations that were submitted to their city council as part of its broader climate change adaptation strategy. The city is presently working with Health Canada on improving thermal comfort in its urban parks and playgrounds to improve healthy and active living. Similar success stories are occurring in other partner communities all across Ontario.

Results from community projects will be disseminated to stakeholders across Canada in presentations and case studies to help raise awareness and to support action at the local level.

In additions, Health Canada has in place a webinar series called “Cool Communities”, which is helping to share the results and lessons learned from community-based initiatives with a national and international audience.

Through this effort we are linking public health officials, landscape architects, planners, local, provincial and federal government employees, and academics so that they can share best practices.

Indeed, since 2007 our government has invested over $2 billion towards 1,400 green infrastructure projects across Canada through a number of targeted programs as part of building Canada and Canada's economic action plan.

Now that I have outlined the benefits and early successes of our current collaborative approach with provinces and municipalities, I would like to tell members why this government will not be supporting Bill C-579, and why we will instead continue to support ongoing collaborative efforts.

Bill C-579 would duplicate co-operative federal efforts that the government has already put in place with the provinces and municipalities to adapt changes in climate and mitigate health risks. The bill would also create jurisdictional overlaps with provinces, which could have a negative impact on current co-operative efforts under way with several municipalities. The jurisdictional overlaps created by the bill would also make the government accountable for activities over which it has no control.

The NDP simply need to realize that the solution to everything is not a new national strategy and broad spending promises. The legislation should not be wholly surprising to this House given that its genesis is from a party that is proposing a $20 billion carbon tax.

Even laying aside the lopsided approach proposed in the bill, we simply cannot support legislation that so clearly infringes on provincial, territorial and municipal jurisdictions.

Our government has already established effective programming through the clean air agenda without the need for Bill C-579. The work we are already undertaking with respect to the air quality health index allows Canadians to limit their exposure to air pollution while our health-based Canadian ambient air quality standards will improve air quality, thus reducing health risks during heat waves.

More importantly, through our heat resiliency initiative and the successful implementation of heat alert and response systems, we are creating awareness of the dangers to one's health from extreme heat events.

A 2010 report of the Office of the Auditor General highlighted the successes of the heat resiliency initiative in generating and sharing information for use. Most importantly, the audit report stated that this government is creating awareness that extreme heat is a health concern and is making that information available and understandable to Canadians.

By continuing to work with willing communities and targeting funding to address local concerns related to air quality and extreme heat, this government is taking concrete actions to protect and promote the health of Canadians.

To reiterate and to conclude, Bill C-579 is not required to protect Canadians from the health impacts associated with extreme heat.

Reducing the effects of urban heat islands ActPrivate Members' Business

September 26th, 2014 / 1:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of Bill C-579, An Act to reduce the effects of urban heat islands on the health of Canadians, sponsored by my colleague from Honoré-Mercier. The purpose of the bill is to address the effects of higher temperatures on large urban areas. I too live in a large urban area, in Montreal.

This is how Bill C-579 defines “urban heat island”:

“urban heat island” means a built-up area in an urban environment in which the average air temperature is markedly greater—as much as 12 degrees Celsius hotter—than that in nearby rural areas.

As I said, my own riding of Westmount—Ville-Marie, which is heavily urbanized, is a good example of a region that is affected adversely by this phenomenon.

As the city of Montreal grew, forested areas and vegetation were cut down to create office buildings, parking lots, and residential complexes. These kinds of structures absorb heat much more readily and result in localized rises in temperature.

Heat islands are forming on the earth's surface and in the atmosphere. On hot summer days, the temperature on the outer surface of buildings, in parking lots and on roadways can often be between 27 and 50 degrees Celsius higher than the air temperature. In the evening, this accumulation of heat in urban infrastructure is released, thereby keeping the air temperature elevated. The higher temperatures of urban heat islands, particularly in the summer, can have a definite impact on the environment and the quality of life of a community.

Urban heat islands have a number of effects, including increased energy consumption, higher levels of air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions, negative impacts on human health and increased discomfort, and degradation of water quality. The average number of premature deaths in Toronto due solely to extreme heat is estimated at 120. That number could be a lot higher, because mortality rates increase sharply during extremely hot summers.

High daytime temperatures can seriously compromise people's health when the mercury does not drop enough in the evening and when air pollution levels are high. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, extreme heat can cause respiratory difficulties, heat cramps and exhaustion, non-fatal heat stroke and heat-related mortality.

An assessment rendered from the 2010 urban heat island summit in Toronto, which was attended by local decision-makers, heat researchers and industry representatives, concluded that the issue could not be tackled by a single measure or by a single municipal department. This is why it is important to have federal government leadership.

The bill has several objectives.

First, the Minister of Health and the Minister of the Environment must establish a national strategy to reduce the effects of urban heat islands that includes the following elements: (a) create a public awareness campaign on air quality and heat islands; (b) develop an inventory, prioritizing heat islands; (c) develop action plans that must address: (i) the management of urban biodiversity; (ii) the promotion of community green projects; (iii) the protection of natural areas; (iv) the establishment of greening areas to be developed; and (v) the promotion of public transit and sustainable transportation.

Within 90 days of this act coming into force, the minister must convene a national conference establishing this strategy.

This bill focuses on the health and safety of Canadians, as well as the health of the environment. It aims to make the Canadian government a world leader by urging it to work with the provinces, territories, municipalities and specialists to come up with an action plan.

I know it might seem terrible for this government to have to work in partnership with the provinces and scientists, or to have to play a leadership role when it comes to the environment, but one can always hope that the government might actually change its position on something.

Many municipalities have begun tackling the problem of heat islands, but their efforts have been scattered and are not nearly substantial enough to produce real results. Some measures taken involve increasing the amount of vegetation and the number of trees, creating more parks, building green rooftops and rooftop gardens, installing cool roofs and using cool pavement.

Luckily, there are potential solutions that can help mitigate the effects of urban heat islands.

As Dorothy Maguire, a Ph.D student in natural resources sciences at McGill University in my riding, wrote in a recent article:

...researchers have found that the effects of heat islands can be reduced through innovative urban planning and design that increases the amount of urban green space! Vegetation in the city cools surface temperatures by increasing the amount of heat reflected back into the atmosphere (called the albedo effect). The same way that we sweat to cool our bodies, vegetation reflects sunlight and releases water into the atmosphere to cool the city down. Trees also provide shade, reducing the exposure of heat-absorbing surfaces to sunlight and giving us city-dwellers a cool place to relax. We need to encourage strategies to reduce the urban heat island effect in Montreal, like developing green roofs, preserving existing natural areas and reforesting degraded ones.

Measures similar to those proposed in this bill were implemented in the early 2000s and have been quite successful. There is no doubt that the phenomenon of urban heat islands is a problem in urban centres. The targeted interventions set out in the bill should help improve public health, environmental quality and energy efficiency in urban areas, as well as in surrounding suburbs and rural areas.

We need to deal with this issue, which affects environmental health, in order to help our society move toward more sustainable and effective solutions.

Studies have all shown the same thing: the presence of urban heat islands has harmful effects. For example, they negatively affect water quality, increase atmospheric pollution, increase heat stress and create an environment that is conducive to the spread of vector-borne diseases.

As I mentioned earlier, there are many documented examples that show how effective green projects are in reducing the effects of urban heat islands, increasing energy efficiency and improving public health and general environmental conditions in cities.

This is an important bill that focuses on both the environment and health, two issues that are important to me and my constituents.

I would like to thank the member for introducing this bill, and I look forward to hearing the rest of the debate.

Reducing the effects of urban heat islands ActPrivate Members' Business

September 26th, 2014 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

François Pilon NDP Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity today to speak to Bill C-579, introduced by my colleague and friend, the excellent NDP member for Honoré-Mercier.

Her bill would reduce the harmful effects of urban heat islands on the health of Canadians. The environment is an issue that I have been particularly interested in since I was elected in 2011. I work with a number of local organizations that promote and protect the environment, including the Conseil régional de l'environnement de Laval and the Association pour la protection du boisé Sainte-Dorothée. I find the issue of heat islands to be very worrisome, and as parliamentarians, we have to tackle this issue as quickly as possible for the good of the people.

Let us begin with a definition of a heat island. According to Health Canada a heat island is an urban area that is hotter than nearby areas. Depending on the population density, the temperature can vary by up to 12°C from one neighbourhood to the next. These heat islands are directly caused by human activity in urban areas, whether it is urbanization, transportation, the pollution it causes, or the lack of vegetation. There is no doubt that heat islands have a direct effect on the health of Canadians.

Montreal's public health authority noted that on hot days, the mortality rate was 20% higher than average for people who live in heat islands. It goes without saying that heat islands affect the health of Canadians because of higher temperatures, which create heat waves and increase air pollution.

Between 1973 and 2003, nearly 8,000 people died in Canada alone because of heat waves, and many of these deaths occurred in heat islands. Therefore, this is a problem that we must tackle as parliamentarians, not just because it is a public health issue, but also because it is a wake up call about the disastrous consequences of the environmental decisions, or rather non-decisions, by successive Liberal and Conservative governments over the years.

Although we have been aware of the existence and effects of heat islands for many years, no government—Liberal or Conservative—has bothered to address this issue. No national strategy has been put in place to reduce the effects of heat islands on the health of Canadians. The provincial, municipal and federal governments are not working together on this issue. We need some leadership here, as we do on many other issues. The NDP is the party that is showing leadership by addressing the urgent problems facing our society.

I am proud of the leadership my colleague from Honoré-Mercier has shown on this crucial issue. I am also proud of the leadership shown by our leader, the leader of the official opposition and future Prime Minister of Canada, who has put environmental protection ahead of lobby groups' interests throughout his career. That is the kind of leadership Canadians deserve. As a result of this same leadership, we were able to hear from a number of experts on wetlands and urban agriculture when I was on the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. They told us about the dangers of deforestation in urban areas and the negative effects of wetland destruction.

I want to take this opportunity to say hello to Guy Garand and Marie-Christine Bellemare from the Conseil régional de l'environnement in my riding of Laval—Les Îles. They came to testify in committee to explain the direct causal links between wetland destruction in my region and the creation of heat islands.

Heat is not the only consequence of heat islands. The effects can come in many forms, including higher smog levels in major urban centres and lower air quality, which can create breeding grounds for bacteria, mites and mould. These effects also increase demand for energy to cool indoor air and increase demand for and consumption of drinking water.

We must act now because Canadians' health is at stake. Our children, grandchildren and seniors are among those most affected by heat islands.

The Conservative government has washed its hands of the whole thing. It eliminated energy efficiency programs. It has done nothing to help major Canadian cities that have this problem share knowledge and take coordinated action. It is leaving municipalities to their own devices yet again. It has never taken action or implemented any kind of strategy to tackle this problem.

The NDP does not pass the buck and hope that problems will magically solve themselves. The health of Canadians is a priority, and we want the current government to support Health Canada in its mission to reduce the harmful effects of heat islands. We want to support the provinces and municipalities in their efforts to locate and assess the hottest urban areas. We want to facilitate information sharing among the provinces and municipalities. We want to raise public awareness about the pressing problem of heat islands.

We also believe that it is the federal government's role to support the work of organizations that are offering tangible, low-cost solutions for dealing with or reducing the effects of heat islands. One solution is planting trees, which also improves Canadians' quality of life.

The federal government has an obligation to show leadership and coordinate all these efforts. The NDP is asking for leadership on this bill, among other things.

I can already hear the members opposite saying that it will cost too much and that our heads are in the clouds. That is not true. According to a 2013 study by the Université de Sherbrooke, planting trees provides a return on investment that is 5.8 times higher than the cost of the trees themselves. The University of California, Berkeley, demonstrated that developing a strategy to counter the effects of heat islands reduces energy consumption by 3% to 5%. That is in addition to the money saved on emergency and health care services and on the cost of hospital stays when communities effectively address the problem of heat islands.

To conclude, the bill introduced by the hon. member for Honoré-Mercier clearly shows that the successive Liberal and Conservative governments were faced with this challenge and, as usual, did nothing.

Canadians will be able to count on real leadership by electing an NDP government in 2015.

Reducing the effects of urban heat islands ActPrivate Members' Business

September 26th, 2014 / 2 p.m.
See context

Richmond Hill Ontario

Conservative

Costas Menegakis ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the debate on the bill so far and I could not agree more with the position detailed earlier today by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health. Bill C-579 is simply not the right approach for Canadians. Indeed, our government is already taking action to help Canadians adapt to changes in climate and mitigate health risks related to extreme heat. Our approach has been to recognize that urban communities across Canada have different priorities, characteristics and capacities to address local health issues related to a changing climate.

I would like to focus my speech on our government's activities working with other orders of government on this issue of extreme heat, rather than acceding to NDP calls for yet another national strategy. I intend to complement the picture painted by the parliamentary secretary and provide members of the House with further assurance that the government takes the protection of Canadians' health and the environment very seriously, but at the same time, recognizes that the solution to every issue is not a new national strategy.

The bill before us today would require the Minister of Health to consult with the Minister of the Environment, provincial ministers responsible for health, and representatives of municipalities on the issue it speaks to. Within 90 days of the coming into force of the bill, the Minister of Health would also have to convene a national conference aimed at implementing a work plan designed to achieve the objectives of the strategy.

I have some news for the members of the NDP. Our government is already working with provincial and municipal governments and actively supporting initiatives aimed at addressing the effects of extreme heat. In fact, we work with different levels of government all the time.

Some of these initiatives are focused on reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, both of which can contribute to extreme heat. Perhaps more importantly, our government has recently announced that it will be stepping up its efforts to conserve our environment. Indeed, the Prime Minister recently announced a national conservation plan that includes a long-term vision for conservation in Canada. New investments of $252 million over five years will be directed by the government to conserve Canada's lands and waters, enhance biodiversity, restore degraded ecosystems, protect recovering species and promote Canadians' connection to nature.

Our government has also committed to work toward the creation of a national urban park in the Toronto area. The Rouge Park is set to become Canada's first national urban park under the stewardship of Parks Canada. The creation of the park will also offer nearly 20% of the country's population the opportunity to connect with nature close to home.

The government also promotes community green projects that help mitigate extreme heat. Environment Canada's eco-action community funding program has provided financial support to community-based, non-profit organizations for projects that will protect, rehabilitate or enhance the natural environment. Since 2011, over 100 eco-action projects related to nature, clean air, clean water and climate change have been put in place throughout the provinces and our territories.

Some examples of projects funded include the Treekeepers initiative, which aims to increase the tree canopy in Vancouver, reducing energy use, providing habitat for species, and improving local air quality. Another will create a 400-square-metre green roof and green walls in the Lachine area of Montreal. Eco-action also funds projects that promote the vegetation of empty lots, the installation of native shrubs and trees, and the use of alternative transportation. All of these projects speak to our government's commitment to the environment and reducing the effects of extreme heat.

Health Canada also has a webinar series called “Cool Communities”, which is sharing the results and lessons learned from community-based initiatives with a national and international audience. Through this series we are linking public health officials, landscape architects, planners, local, provincial and federal government employees, and academics so they can share best practices.

Since 2007, our government has invested over $2 billion toward 1,400 green infrastructure projects across Canada through a number of targeted programs, as part of Building Canada and Canada's economic action plan.

The government's approach to the protection of biodiversity and promotion of green spaces in urban areas through initiatives such as the national conservation plan, the Rouge National Park, and the eco-action funding program has the merit of building on existing co-operative work with provinces and municipalities.

In addition to urban conservation initiatives, our government is taking action to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, both of which can contribute to urban heat island effects.

Through the clean air regulatory agenda, our government is reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants that threaten the health of Canadians. They degrade the environment, they contribute to smog, and ultimately they adversely affect the economy. The government regulates smog-forming emissions from on-road vehicles; off-road compression ignition engines, such as those found in tractors; off-road spark ignition engines, such as those found in lawn mowers; off-road recreational vehicles; and marine spark ignition engines.

In addition to air pollutant regulations, our government is also implementing a sector-by-sector regulatory approach by reducing greenhouse gas emissions in collaboration with provinces, territories, and stakeholders.

In 2010, the government released regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from passenger cars and light trucks for model years 2011 to 2016.

In 2012, we introduced proposed amendments to also regulate model years 2017 and beyond.

Last year, we produced regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from on-road heavy-duty vehicles, such as buses and dump trucks. In 2012, our government also put in place regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the coal-fired electricity sector. With these regulations, Canada became the first major coal user to ban the construction of traditional coal-fired electricity generating units.

The facts are clear for all of us to see. Our government is already taking decisive action in working with provinces, territories, and municipalities to combat the effects of extreme heat and protect our environment. Only the NDP could view the concrete actions that the parliamentary secretary and I have referenced here today as insufficient save for one thing: the branding of yet another “national strategy”.

All that is missing from this legislation is a rehash of the NDP's commitment to impose a $21 billion carbon tax on Canadians. It is not enough for them that our government is working with communities in a respectful and constructive manner, not at all. According to New Democrats, we need to raise taxes on Canadian families and roll out national strategy after national strategy, and it will be these grand socialist schemes that will save Canadians from every ill.

This bill is not needed, it is not wanted, and it will do no more to protect our environment than our government is already doing.

Reducing the effects of urban heat islands ActPrivate Members' Business

September 26th, 2014 / 2:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I mean no offence, but hearing that my time has been cut short comes as bad news; however, I will try to make the best of a bad situation.

The one consolation I have after this bad news is the fact that, as the Quebec caucus chair, I have had the good fortune of visiting many regions of my province. Every time, I have noticed that the bond of trust between the people and the New Democratic Party is always strong when it comes to the environment. This is no doubt directly related to the fact that our leader, the member for Outremont, not all that long ago, was probably one of the best environment ministers that Quebec has ever had.

It therefore comes as no surprise that most of the environmental measures proposed in this Parliament are introduced by NDP members, like the bill introduced this afternoon by my colleague from Honoré-Mercier. The bill introduces legislative provisions to develop a national strategy. If there is one expression we have been hearing a lot over the past year, it is just that: “national strategy”. We hear it so much these days because Canada has never been more disorganized than it is now, ever since the Conservatives came to power. We are probably seen as the laggards or as a laughing stock, take your pick. Among the OECD countries, we are always pulling up the rear and rarely a model. This is definitely true when it comes to the environment, and especially regarding protection measures against heat islands or, what would be even better, measures to eliminate them.

What exactly do we mean when we talk about heat islands? As Camus said, “to call things by incorrect names is to add to the world’s misery”. I will take just a few moments for those who are watching and might not be familiar with the reality we are talking about to explain what we mean by heat island. It is an urban area where the average temperature is higher than that in nearby areas. It is a simple definition that makes it fairly easy to understand the concept. In rural areas, heat islands do not really exist.

Two factors contribute to the temperature rise: (1) urban density, in other words the number of inhabitants per square foot and the number of urban facilities; and (2) urbanism itself. I am drawing the attention of my colleagues to these two key factors to point out that it is human activity that essentially creates heat islands.

Montreal's public health branch released a devastating report on the adverse effects of these heat islands. During the dog days of summer, for example, the branch claims that the death rate is 20%, not 2% or 0.2%, higher than average among people living in heat islands. Of course, that is not all. As you can imagine, heat islands are quite often found in the poorer neighbourhoods of urban areas. These are people who often do not have access to air conditioning, or groups of people who are more sensitive to these climate conditions, such as people with a history of heart disease or seniors. There is a statistic there that needs to be taken into account, even though the numbers are not the only things that matter.

I am running out of time, so I will skip some very interesting statistics and talk about my own riding. These statistics will probably come up in the second hour. The population of Trois-Rivières is 134,000 to 135,000. It is neither a megacity nor a metropolis. There has been a significant amount of urban development, and the city must now deal with heat islands. It is tackling this issue head-on. My riding is not immune to this phenomenon. The temperature in heat islands can be 5 to 10 degrees higher than in the surrounding areas. A study conducted by the Conseil régional de l'environnement de la Mauricie identified the main heat islands in the region.

The city immediately planted about 100 trees in some of the larger heat islands, on boulevard des Récollets, between boulevard des Forges and boulevard Laviolette, and also in the area between the Salon de jeux and boulevard des Forges. These street names probably mean nothing to my colleagues, but the people watching know exactly what I am talking about.

We put down asphalt and say that it is a good thing, but I think those days are gone. Not only do we want projects to be green, but we want them to be sustainable and consist of more than just some grass. The City of Trois-Rivières plans to bring in bylaws so that it will be more difficult for developers to put wall-to-wall asphalt in their development plans.

Organizations in my riding such as Fondation Trois-Rivières pour un développement durable are educating young people about the importance of vegetation in urban areas. The ultimate goal of these initiatives is to urge the people of Trois-Rivières to incorporate sustainable development into their way of life.

Nevertheless, not everything can be done at the local level. I certainly commend the municipal council for all of the measures it is taking. However, Health Canada also has a responsibility to take a leadership role in improving public health for Canadians. Despite their efforts, community organizations and municipal and provincial authorities do not have the means necessary to effectively combat the spread of heat islands. That is why my colleague's bill is so important.

It will be especially difficult to address this issue since by 2051, at least one in four Canadians will be 65 or older, which increases the proportion of people exposed to this risk. It is therefore urgent to pass such a bill. There is work to be done once a bill is passed before heat islands can be eradicated.

This bill offers a way out of the suffocating atmosphere that has developed under the Conservatives. There are many ways to take action when it comes to the environment. It is extremely urgent that we study this bill in committee, since public health knows no political boundaries.

Reducing the Effects of Urban Heat Islands ActRoutine Proceedings

March 24th, 2014 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Paulina Ayala NDP Honoré-Mercier, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-579, An Act to reduce the effects of urban heat islands on the health of Canadians.

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to introduce my private member's bill to the House.

On May 7, 2011, the day after the election in which the people of Honoré-Mercier placed their trust in me, I participated in a forum on planning and the environment that was my initiation to the problem of heat islands. I learned that, on hot days, the temperature in some urban neighbourhoods can be up to 12 degrees higher than the average.

This phenomenon is most common in high-density neighbourhoods, which are often home to the less fortunate. Children and the elderly are especially susceptible to its effects.

Heat islands can affect human health in many ways: an alarming incidence of asthma among children, more emergency room visits, and a significant increase in the number of smog days.

In light of the scientific evidence on the issue, many of the things we do make no sense: new construction takes place with no greening plan, green energy programs are cancelled, rail facilities are built with no green border, nursing homes and schools are located right in the middle of heat islands. What makes the least sense of all is that there is no national plan to combat the effects of urban heat islands.

That is why I decided to take action by introducing this bill, which states that the government should establish a national strategy to reduce the effects of urban heat islands on the health of Canadians.

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