National Strategy for Safe and Environmentally Sound Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury Act

An Act respecting the development of a national strategy for the safe and environmentally sound disposal of lamps containing mercury


Darren Fisher  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill.


This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.


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

This enactment provides for the development and implementation of a national strategy to promote the safe and environmentally sound disposal of lamps containing mercury.


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.


Oct. 19, 2016 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

November 15th, 2016 / 5:05 p.m.
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Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

My amendment would be that Bill C-238 in clause 2—because we're on clause 2, correct?—be amended by replacing lines 8 to 18 on page 1 with the following, and I'm going to read this out. I did ask the clerk in advance, and it was her recommendation that we read it out to get it on the record, so I will do that.

November 15th, 2016 / 5 p.m.
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The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte


When a subamendment to an amendment is moved, it's voted on first. Then another subamendment may be moved, or the committee may consider the main amendment and vote on it. Once every clause has been voted on, the committee will vote on the title and the bill itself. An order to reprint the bill may be required if amendments are adopted, so that the House has a proper copy for use at report stage.

Finally, the committee will have to order the chair to report the bill to the House. That report contains only the text of any adopted amendments as well as an indication of any deleted clauses.

I thank all the members for their attention and wish everyone a productive clause-by-clause as we go through the consideration of Bill C-238.

Are there any questions?

Mr. Shields.

November 15th, 2016 / 4:40 p.m.
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Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

I'd like to first thank Darren for bringing Bill C-238 forward. I do have some concerns as a former municipal mayor, as a councillor, and as a county councillor who looked after the dump situation we had. In a county, unlike a municipality, you may have 15 or 20 facilities that you need to consider. My concern is with the disposal of the mercury vapour lights. In my shop, I have five of the largest ones you can get. When I was buying them, I watched the guy say, “Oh, this one doesn't work”, and throw it in the garbage, where it smashed. I didn't want to hang around there very long. I grabbed the ones that did work and left.

I wonder if you can give me an example of another similar chemical that we have out there that is put into voluntary waste disposals, and tell me how those work. I'm wondering how we transport these things. The little farmer takes his mercury vapour lights over to the county dumpsite that's not occupied by anybody, but eventually somebody comes and moves the stuff. I wonder if you can think of any other examples, for other chemicals, of voluntary systems that work, or of compulsory systems, that do disposal through a dumpsite.

November 15th, 2016 / 4:25 p.m.
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Virginia Poter Director General, Industrial Sectors, Chemicals and Waste Directorate, Department of the Environment

Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you to the committee for the invitation to appear here today to contribute to its study of Bill C-238, the national strategy for safe disposal of lamps containing mercury act. Thank you to Mr. Fisher for bringing forward this bill.

Before focusing on Bill C-238, I would like to provide a brief overview of how mercury is currently managed in Canada, as it may be helpful context to your study.

As you are likely aware, and as Mr. Fisher has pointed out, mercury is a potent neurotoxin that poses a risk to Canadian ecosystems and human health. Although mercury occurs naturally in the environment, it is also released as a result of human activities, such as the combustion of coal and the use and disposal of consumer products such as lamps.

Because of the dangers posed by mercury to the environment and human health, mercury is listed as a toxic substance under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, or CEPA.

In 2010, Environment Canada, along with Health Canada, released “Risk Management Strategy for Mercury”, and I believe a copy was provided to the committee. The strategy provides a comprehensive description of the Government of Canada's plans and progress in managing the risks associated with mercury. One federal action outlined in the strategy that may be of particular interest to you is the promulgation of the products containing mercury regulations, which came into force about a year ago, in November 2015. These regulations prohibit the manufacture and import of products containing mercury or any of its compounds, with some exceptions for essential products that have no technically or economically viable alternatives. In the case of lamps, the regulations set mercury content limits for fluorescent and other types of lamps and require labels to inform consumers about the presence of mercury, as well as safe handling procedures and options available for the end-of-life management of these products.

In addition to the broad range of domestic measures included in the risk management strategy, the need for global action on mercury was also highlighted. Since 2010, Canada has been active in the international negotiations for the Minamata convention on mercury, which our government signed in 2013 and recently tabled in Parliament. Once the necessary compliance requirements are in place, the government will be in a position to ratify the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

I will now turn to Bill C-238 and how it would contribute to the government's ongoing efforts to address mercury.

The bill addresses one source of mercury pollution: lamps. Mercury is an essential component in some energy-efficient lamps, such as fluorescent tubes and light bulbs. These lamps contain a small amount of mercury, which may be released when the lamps break or are improperly disposed of as regular garbage.

There are four aspects of the bill that I want to mention specifically.

First, the bill speaks of “safe disposal”. In the waste-management context, the term “disposal” often means final disposal in a landfill or incineration. However, the environmentally sound management of lamps at end of life includes a range of activities, such as collection, transportation, processing, and recycling, as well as final disposal. I note that the discussion of the bill in the House of Commons, as well as the remarks made by Mr. Fisher today, seems to acknowledge that the national strategy is intended to cover the full range of these activities to ensure the environmentally sound management of these lamps at end of life.

Second, the bill would require the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to develop and implement a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury in co-operation with representatives of provincial and territorial governments. It is important to keep in mind that the jurisdiction over the protection of the environment, including matters related to waste management, is shared among different levels of government in Canada. Other governments, including provincial, territorial, and municipal, have an important role to play in the management of lamps containing mercury. Therefore, a national plan of this kind would build on the existing areas of responsibility and the respective strengths of the various government levels in order to effectively address gaps and make timely progress on this issue.

Third, the bill would require the minister to engage with environmental groups and industry in developing and implementing the national strategy. However, consultations with a range of other interested parties, including indigenous groups, would also be important in order to create an effective national strategy, as the protection of the environment is a responsibility shared among all Canadians.

Fourth, Bill C-238 sets out three elements that a national strategy must include, in paragraphs 2(a) through 2(c). Our experience working with our provincial and territorial partners suggests that flexibility is important when developing national approaches to issues that are of shared jurisdiction, in order to accommodate existing initiatives.

At this point, allow me to provide you with a very brief overview of some related initiatives currently under way.

On April 8, 2016, Environment and Climate Change Canada published the proposed code of practice for the environmentally sound management of end-of-life lamps containing mercury, for public comment. The code is intended to address reducing mercury releases and emissions to the environment from these lamps, and also includes options for diverting used lamps from landfill and managing them in remote and northern areas. We are currently working to finalize the code of practice for publication later this year.

It's important to note that all provinces and the federal government have committed to implementing the Canada-wide action plan on extended producer responsibility. This plan, approved by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment in 2009, aims to divert products from landfill and increase the recycling of a broad suite of products, including mercury lamps. One important aspect of extended producer responsibility programs is the enhanced financial responsibility that manufacturers and importers in the management of waste would assume. As a result, all provinces now have in place the necessary authorities to implement programs, and work continues to explore options for northern territories. Four provinces have implemented specific mandatory programs to collect and recycle mercury lamps, and as Mr. Fisher noted, those are British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island.

Although a number of initiatives to address lamps that contain mercury are already under way in Canada, co-operation among all levels of government will promote a consistent nationwide approach to the safe and environmentally sound disposal of lamps containing mercury.

Thank you again for inviting me to appear today. I would be pleased to respond to your questions.

November 15th, 2016 / 3:45 p.m.
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Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

Thank you, colleagues and friends.

My private member's Bill C-238 calls for a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury. Bill C-238 calls upon the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to work with the provinces and territories to develop a national strategy for the safe and environmentally sound disposal of mercury-containing lamps.

We know that mercury is dangerous and we know that it is very toxic. This is an element that causes severe health problems, birth defects, and even death. We advise Canadians that if they break a mercury-bearing light bulb, they should step out of the room, but for years we've done very little to protect Canadians from the mercury-bearing bulbs that are thrown into landfills and that contaminate our lands and waterways every day.

To better reflect the environmental intent of the bill and to complement the federal government's proposed code of practice for the environmentally sound management of end-of-life lamps containing mercury, I propose an amendment right off the bat. I'd like to amend the title to now read “A National Strategy for Safe and Environmentally Sound Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury Act”. I believe, Madam Chair, that this better represents the precautionary approach and nature of this bill and the importance of viewing legislation through an environmental lens, as we've talked about so many times at this committee.

When the previous government took steps to ban the use of incandescent bulbs and promoted the use of efficient, compact fluorescent lamps, it was always assumed that regulations for their safe disposal would follow. In 2014 StatsCan reported that three-quarters of Canadians were using energy-efficient CFL bulbs. At a point where so many Canadians are using these bulbs, we must ensure their safe disposal.

I will note that this bill does not speak to a ban on fluorescent bulbs; it speaks to ensuring that Canadians are aware and are able to dispose of them in a safe and environmentally sound manner. Whenever we introduce or promote the use of a new product, we must look at the full life cycle.

The idea for Bill C-238 goes back to 2012. There was a realignment of districts when I was a municipal councillor, and all of a sudden I found myself representing Burnside industrial park. While touring local businesses to get caught up on what was going on in the park, I came upon a very innovative fluorescent light bulb recycling facility called Dan-x Recycling. This facility has the ability to recycle these mercury-bearing light bulbs entirely in a way that is safe for the environment. During my tour I asked what the regulations or guidelines were for the end of life for mercury-bearing bulbs, and I was shocked when I found out there were none. They were always contemplated but never enacted. At that point I started working within the municipality to, at the very least, divert the bulbs used in city-owned buildings to an environmentally sound disposal facility.

Canadians are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in municipal landfills across the country. These bulbs are valuable recyclables and they must be diverted from landfills and disposed of in an environmentally sound way. All of this was the inspiration for my Bill C-238.

Light bulb recycling facilities like the one in the riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour employ Canadians, while providing a valuable environmental service. This is the beauty of the clean economy. This is where costs are recouped, industry grows, and our environment gets protected.

Like all of you here, I want to leave this world a better place for our children and for our future generations. It's for Canadians and for future generations that we must move forward on a strategy now. This is an opportunity for us to provide leadership and to work with all levels of government to better the lives of Canadians.

I'm sure that some folks would focus on the potential costs associated with the consultation for a national strategy or for its implementation, but we must remember that there is always a cost to inaction.

Our colleague Nathan Cullen, who was formerly on this committee, explained eloquently in the House when he spoke to the bill that:

...if we look at the full cost of what is happening, there is a cost already being borne on municipalities and provinces, in trying to deal with these toxins, like mercury. There is a cost to consumers and Canadians directly through their health care.

The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment reported that waste lamps, whether broken or intact, contribute 1,050 kilograms of mercury into Canadian landfills each year. Remember that for a moment and know that sources state also that it takes only 0.5 milligrams of mercury to pollute 180 tonnes of water.

Remediation of mercury in land is very costly. We must prevent mercury contamination whenever possible.

From my days as a municipal councillor, I remember what it was like to have costs and red tape imposed on us by other levels of government. Through consultation with colleagues and stakeholders and comments made in the House of Commons during the reading of the bill, I've come across one measure that should be amended and removed from this legislation.

Our Conservative colleague, Mr. Dreeshen, of Red Deer–Mountain View spoke to the reporting mechanism in the original draft of the bill. He spoke to how the reporting mechanism, through working with the provinces, could cause delays and unnecessary costs. I'm inclined to agree to this point and have brought forward an amendment to that effect. I believe that it will be up to the consultation process to determine any sort of reporting features, regulations, or standards. Too much red tape could put undue hardship on the governments implicated in this legislation.

I must make note that certain provinces are leaders in the safe disposal of mercury-bearing bulbs. There are cool things being done across the country already. British Columbia, through its LightRecycle outreach program, is now diverting 74% of all mercury-bearing bulbs sold in the province for safe disposal. Let's put that number in perspective. They were diverting only 10% back in 2010. Imagine what we can do with a national strategy, instead of a piecemeal approach across the county.

Outreach and public awareness are important parts of Bill C-238. Mr. Cullen spoke in the House about the importance of education and awareness around the safe disposal of these bulbs. I think he hit the nail on the head when he said:

changing the way we recycle and use products is important, but a key element in that is that consumers have full knowledge and full participation in whatever program we are trying to initiate.

It's another reason why a piecemeal approach does not work. It's also dangerous for Canadians. Mercury has the ability to undergo long-range transport. This means that, theoretically, mercury deposited into a Halifax municipality landfill could redeposit somewhere else, perhaps in northern Canada. It's our responsibility to show real environmental leadership and to protect Canadians whenever we can. It's also our responsibility to properly engage and consult relevant and interested governments and stakeholders whenever possible.

After listening to our colleagues in the House, such as Mr. Fastand and Mr. Cullen, speak to Bill C-238, I would like to amend, strengthen, and open the consultation process of the strategy. It's important that all interested and appropriate governments, persons, and organizations be part of this consultation. We need to include our partners in other levels of government to ensure that they, along with the federal government, take ownership of this initiative. This will be a strong, collaborative effort that will include any interested indigenous groups, governments, stakeholders, or citizens to ensure that this strategy is best for all Canadians.

Again, it's important to note that I'm not here to tell provinces, territories, or municipalities what to do and how to do it. We could sit here and we could speculate on what a strategy could look like or should look like, but it isn't up to just us. It is important to me that Bill C-238 not put demands on the provincial and territorial governments. Bill C-238 complements our government's firm belief that a clean environment and a strong economy go hand in hand. You've heard that a lot, even recently around this committee from Mr. Fast echoing the Minister of Environment.

Now is the time to take responsibility and protect Canadians from this needless pollution. We must work together with all interested levels of government, stakeholders, and Canadians to develop a robust national strategy for the safe and environmentally sound disposal of mercury-bearing lamps. It is only by working together that we can leave the world a better place for future generations.

I want to thank you again, Madam Chair.

I want to thank you, friends and colleagues on this committee, for your consideration today.

I look forward to any further discussion you may have on Bill C-238.

Thank you very much.

October 20th, 2016 / 3:35 p.m.
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The Chair (Mrs. Deborah Schulte (King—Vaughan, Lib.)) Liberal Deb Schulte

I call the meeting to order.

Before we get started with our witnesses, I want to ask a couple of things, because I know some people have to leave a bit early, so I want to make sure we get these things sorted out.

I want you all to know that I have sent thank-you letters to all of those who helped us on our trip and were there showing us around and organizing the excellent experiences and the meetings that we had there. On behalf of the committee, we've sent letters out to all of the groups.

We also have letters going out to all the committees, asking them to study the work that the minister has done with the new strategy and talking about needing to embed the sustainable development principles through a whole-of-government approach to ensure significant progress. Anyway, we sent a letter in the hope that it will catch their attention and interest them in doing a little bit of work on that too.

We've just had Darren's bill come through to the committee. I would propose that we have that in front of the committee after we do the drafting instructions at the beginning of November. That would put it on Tuesday, November 15, and it's an act respecting the development of a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury. We're going to have one session. I think we can manage it in one session, unless things really go sideways.

National Strategy for Safe Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury ActPrivate Members' Business

October 19th, 2016 / 6:20 p.m.
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The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-238 under private members' business.

The House resumed from October 7 consideration of the motion that Bill C-238, An Act respecting the development of a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

National Strategy for Safe Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury ActPrivate Members' Business

October 7th, 2016 / 2:05 p.m.
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Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am happy and, in fact, thankful to rise to speak again on my private member's bill, Bill C-238, a national strategy for safe disposal of lamps containing mercury act.

We know that mercury is toxic, and we must keep it out of our waterways and off our lands. I would like to take a second, if I could, to thank the good people, the constituents of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, and also the stakeholders, locally and from across the country, who have reached out with their feedback and support for the bill. I will always do my best to make their voices heard here in Ottawa. I must say that I deeply appreciate the support from my colleagues, which crosses all party lines. I am thrilled that we have been able to work together on the bill.

As federal representatives, this is what we are supposed to do. We are supposed to take good ideas from home, bring them to Ottawa, and effect change. We hope to change and improve laws, and make new laws. My bright idea for Bill C-238 came when I was a municipal councillor, and I visited Dan-X Recycling in my hometown of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

From those folks, I learned about the dangers of mercury in the fluorescent bulbs, and that this facility can recycle every bit of a mercury-bearing lightbulb. This facility not only employs Canadians across its region, but it provides a valuable and very needed environmental service. This is a fantastic example of what the clean economy can accomplish.

Some provinces and municipalities across Canada have shown real environmental leadership and are leading the way in recycling these bulbs. Back home, under the leadership of Mayor Mike Savage and council, the Halifax Regional Municipality took initiative on its own and started recycling all of the spent fluorescent light bulbs in their municipal facilities. Why? Because it is the right thing to do. As a recyclable, we must ensure that fluorescent bulbs are diverted from all of our landfills across the country. Economically and environmentally, it makes good sense.

The bill calls for collaboration. It calls upon our Minister of Environment and Climate Change to open a dialogue and work with our provinces and territories to develop a robust national strategy, ensuring mercury-containing light bulbs are safely disposed of and recycled.

I believe that the successes we have seen on this issue in some provinces will help lead the discussions to a great solution that will work nationwide. It is extremely important that we have a national strategy for the safe disposal of these mercury-bearing bulbs, because a piecemeal approach hurts other parts of the country.

We heard today that toxic mercury has the ability to undergo long-range transport. Hypothetically, theoretically, mercury deposited in a Halifax landfill could redeposit into a community in northern Canada or any other remote area. This is why we cannot afford to pass the buck. It is up to us to take the initiative, to show real environmental leadership, and to protect Canadians.

I have appreciated all of the members' support so far in moving Bill C-238 forward. I urge members to please help me encourage our federal government to create an open dialogue with our provinces and territories to develop a strong national strategy for the safe disposal of mercury-bearing lamps.

Now is the time to take responsibility and protect Canadians from this needless pollution. It is only by working together that we can protect our communities and our country from this toxic mercury. It is by working together that we can leave the world a better place for future generations. Please support my bright idea, Bill C-238.

National Strategy for Safe Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury ActPrivate Members' Business

October 7th, 2016 / 1:55 p.m.
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Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, let me begin by saying how pleased I am to rise to speak to Bill C-238, which my friend and colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour has referred to as his bright idea.

The bill is important because it promotes a healthy environment and a strong economy at the same time. It involves the development of a natural strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury.

Before I begin my remarks, I want to thank the hon. member for his leadership on environmental issues. He has been an advocate for the environment within our caucus in Nova Scotia, Atlantic Canada, his community at large, and, of course, by virtue of the bill in this House as well.

As many people already know in this House, the member was formerly a municipal councillor and deputy mayor of Halifax Regional Municipality. His legacy as an environmental leader carries on today from his time in that position. I want to thank him for his continued leadership on these issues. He has even taken the opportunity to meet with individuals who live in my riding and are trying to promote environmental products and drive the economy. They are outside of HRM, but he recognizes the benefit it will have on our region of Atlantic Canada as a whole.

From every corner of the country, whether it is my friends in Joe Batt's Arm, on Fogo Island, Tuktoyaktuk, or Vancouver Island, Canadians by and large are trying to promote a healthier environment to combat climate change. Finding more energy efficient options to household products is a great and easy place to start.

We have known for some time that energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs, as many people know them, are easy and long-lasting ways to cut down on the amount of energy we use in our homes every day. For this reason, many of us have used CFLs over the years. There are 75% of Canadians in large cities who have at least one of these light bulbs in their homes today.

Canadians know that protecting the environment is important for our health and safety, but also, and as a new parent, for the health and safety of our children and our grandchildren as well. This is an important motivating factor. When Canadians purchase energy-efficient lamps, they are doing something in a small way to improve the future for other generations.

They may not be aware of the proper process for disposing of these environmentally friendly products once they have them in the home, which is also very important. It is important because when it is not done correctly, these products can release toxic substances into our environment, in particular in this case, mercury, as many of the hon. members have pointed out in their remarks on the bill already.

Mercury is actually a very useful substance. It appears in many consumer and commercial products. It is a great conductor of electricity. It reacts to temperature and pressure changes, which is why it is in everyone's thermometer. However, when products containing mercury are broken or when they are disposed of in a landfill, as they often are today, the mercury can get into the environment and have an adverse impact on our ecosystems, because it is highly toxic.

The more fragile products, such as fluorescent lamps, may also break during transportation and release mercury into the air. The EPA, in the United States, estimates that 3% of the total mercury in discarded fluorescent lamps is released to the atmosphere during transportation to a disposal facility.

If a product that contains mercury ends up in a landfill, the mercury can leach into the surrounding soil or be released into the atmosphere. If waste containing mercury is incinerated, the amount of mercury released into the atmosphere may be even higher. Without pollution controls, almost all of the mercury contained in waste entering an incinerator will be released into the air.

The best way to prevent mercury releases to the environment is to send lamps for proper recycling, instead of throwing them away.

Improving public awareness about the need for safe disposal and recycling of used lamps is very important. Canadians want to know how to best deal with these products, and they want to know that their government is taking steps to reduce these risks.

As one of my colleagues from the NDP pointed out, we are not always doing it now because we do not know and we are not made to, but municipalities and industry have taken early action. Many cities have already implemented specific collection programs, and some have incorporated them into household hazardous waste programs.

In B.C., Manitoba, Quebec, and P.E.I., manufacturers and importers are subject to extended producer responsibility regulations and are required to join or implement programs to collect and recycle lamps containing mercury at the end of their life cycle. In Ontario, manufacturers and importers take part in voluntary take-back programs for these kinds of lamps.

This all being said, too many Canadians still dispose of mercury-containing lamps in the garbage simply because they do not know that they contain this harmful substance or they do not understand the importance of safely disposing of these products. In addition, many environmentally sound recycling options are not readily available at this time.

This is precisely the purpose of the bill. It calls on the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to work with different stakeholders and partners to develop and implement a national strategy on the safe disposal of these lamps. The strategy would encourage concerted action by the federal government, as well as other jurisdictions and stakeholders, to shine a light on this important issue.

Increasing public awareness can lead to actions that are going to reduce the harmful impacts of releasing mercury into the atmosphere. The minister is not able to do this without the help of others. We need the provinces, territories, municipal governments, and communities all to have a role to play if we are going to make something happen here.

In addition to environmental groups and industry, which are specifically listed in the bill, we need to collaborate on the safe disposal of mercury with our indigenous communities as well. A careful study of the provisions of the bill would ensure that the national strategy would build on and not simply duplicate work that is already being done in some of the provinces and territories, where some progress has been made in diverting this toxic substance from our landfills.

The bill would provide an opportunity for all jurisdictions and interested stakeholders to work together to develop this national strategy aimed at safely managing these lamps at the end of their lives. The proper end-of-life management of these lamps would allow us to benefit from their energy efficiency qualities without compromising the environment.

In addition, there is a serious economic impact. I know a few members have mentioned the company Dan-X in the riding of the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. This is a perfect example of how the environment and the economy can work together and promote one another at the same time.

If there is an environmental problem, such as the unsafe disposal of mercury in our landfills, there are companies that will actually create new jobs in turning what is currently treated as a waste product into a value-added product that can be injected back into the economy. This is new money that is currently literally being thrown into the garbage that would result in more jobs for Central Nova, Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, and every riding across this country if we implement a proper national strategy.

For these reasons, I am proud to be supporting the hon. member's bright idea and would ask that the committee carefully review the provisions of the bill to ensure that we can all work together with every interested party and stakeholder to make this national strategy as effective as it can be. I know the residents of my riding and my region are all going to be better off if they can enjoy a cleaner environment, greater public health, and more jobs for the region.

We are all doing what we can to protect the natural beauty of our wonderful country and we want to for generations to come. The bill would help, at least in a small way, to make a difference for the environment at home.

National Strategy for Safe Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury ActPrivate Members' Business

October 7th, 2016 / 1:50 p.m.
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Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-238, tabled by the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, who I sit on the environment committee with, is proposing a strategy for dealing with the mercury that comes from lamps containing mercury. He proposes three measures: national “standards”, which I will discuss later; guidelines for disposal facilities, which is required under the Basel convention and long overdue; and a plan to promote public awareness for the need for safe disposal.

By way of background, in November 2014, the previous government promulgated regulations requiring that products containing mercury be addressed. However, those regulations had exempted lamps and excluded disposal. Interestingly, in the meantime there was a Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment Canada-wide standard, which seems to have been forgotten. It also announced the intention to bring forward a code of practice, and in the spring of 2016, under the current government, the government posted for public comment a proposed code of practice for safe disposal. However, the issue has been known for far longer.

By way of background, from 2001 to about 2008, I participated in both the national MERS and Alberta processes related to the elimination of mercury in the environment. Why? The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment had issued a list of top priority substances for elimination, and mercury was at the top of the list as a neurotoxin of serious impact, particularly to children. The identified major sources were not light fixtures or any product, including auto switches, but in fact coal-fired power and cement plants. Sadly, to date, contrary to what the parliamentary secretary suggested in his speech on the bill, the federal government has absolutely failed to regulate either of those significant sources.

However, in 2005, the Alberta government, to its credit, responded to a multi-stakeholder framework issued by the Clean Air Strategic Alliance and issued regulations requiring coal-fired power plants to capture their mercury emissions. To its additional credit, this past year Alberta moved forward to shut down coal-fired plants in a faster time span due to health reasons.

Interestingly, in 2007, the federal government initiated a public consultation on alternatives to reduce mercury contamination from products containing mercury. One source was compact fluorescent bulbs. Strangely, this alternative, while more energy efficient, contained the dangerous neurotoxin, mercury. I had the privilege of participating in Environment Canada's consultation in Vancouver that year. At that meeting, I raised concern with the mercury contamination potential and that there was no life-cycle strategy. There were strong concerns being voiced across the country that the federal government was merely downloading the costs of recycling, recovering, and disposal of the mercury to the municipalities. As the Canadian Environmental Protection Act requires a cradle-to-grave response to its proposals, the department had failed in addressing this part of its mandate.

There was strong support for the need for a compliance strategy up front to evaluate the efficacy of the approach with these lights to ensure that they would limit harm to health and the environment by requiring the capture of the mercury from the bulbs when disposed. There was also a widely held view across North America that without a regulation requiring the capture of this mercury, there would be no incentive to pursue an alternative cleaner technology.

Some provinces and some municipalities have, in the interim, established programs for the recovery of the bulbs containing mercury, where others have not. Some companies have stepped up, and some have backed down. For the most part, recovery depends on the voluntary actions of homeowners or businesses to take their bulbs to an eco-station, and by and large, the cost is then passed on to the municipalities to pay for the handling, transport, and recycling. Environment Canada has estimated that approximately 10% to 15% of these bulbs sold in Canada are recycled. The rest go to landfills. This dismal showing reflects widespread public ignorance about the issue, hence the bill the member has brought forward.

Back to Bill C-238. The first measure is a proposal for national standards. Indeed, action is needed but it is unclear exactly what mechanism is proposed by the member in the bill. Is it merely another Canada-wide standard that is not legally binding? Is it a code of practice, which is not legally binding as well?

Both of these measures could be made binding if they were adopted in permits or in regulations issued by provinces or territories. If it were a binding standard, the provinces or territories could enforce, and their law, if enacted, could claim equivalency. In fact, the government could issue a code of practice or a guideline if the agreement was with the provincial and territorial jurisdictions that they were going to take measures to actually make this happen.

I note that the government of the day has already issued notice that by the end of this year, it will issue and have in place a code of practice. I note that the member is proposing a measure, but only to come into effect two years from now, and it is not clear which of the three measures he would come forward with more quickly. Perhaps, given the fact that the government has shown initiative, at least one measure would be expedited.

The second proposed measure is guidelines for disposal facilities. It is not clear whether that would be a code of conduct or a guideline. Again, it would not be binding unless it was implemented by permit by a province or territory, and it would then be binding on the facility that was disposing of the mercury-containing product.

Third, the member proposes a plan for public awareness. There indeed has been a lot of support on the need for action on awareness. As I mentioned earlier, only 10% to 15% of these bulbs are being returned for proper disposal or recycling, so there needs to be awareness. However, there has also been concern that simple public awareness is not going to get it done and that we need additional measures to support, for example, the recycling facility in the member's own riding, Dan-X, which currently recycles mercury.

However, it is clear from our past experience with enterprises like this that have been set up that unless one is obligated to submit the substance for recycling, we cannot guarantee the return. Therefore, indeed, we need public awareness, but we need the first two initiatives more.

The second issue is that the code of practice the government put forward offered training for employees, but by and large, it is homeowners who take these bulbs to the recycling centres, and they are not going to be subject to the training.

In short, I am very pleased that the member has come forward. This is an important action, but I look forward to the member also supporting my initiative and move on the largest source of mercury, which is coal-fired power plants. I look forward to him taking similar action in his province of Nova Scotia.

National Strategy for Safe Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury ActPrivate Members' Business

October 7th, 2016 / 1:40 p.m.
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Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer—Mountain View, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-238, an act respecting the development of a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury, put forward by the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.

I was pleased to listen to the member for Hull—Aylmer, and I have had a chance to speak him on numerous occasions. He did bring back a few of the things that I remember when these light bulbs first started coming into discussion, and how we would have young children trying to sell these to their parents in a fundraiser so we could save the environment.

Of course, there are some unintended consequences that happen, and this is certainly one of those. We recognize what the base metal included in this can actually do. We have so many other issues with rare earth metals that are needed, for batteries, for windmills, and for solar devices. Again, there are unintended consequences, but we have to make sure we understand what all of that will do.

I am glad that the member has put forward a bill that builds on our previous Conservative government's actions to control mercury in our environment. I would also acknowledge my colleague from Abbotsford and the official opposition critic for the environment and climate change for his work on environmental issues. Bill C-238 would provide the opportunity for the House to work in a bipartisan manner, to not only pass the legislation but to kick-start the process of raising awareness and educating Canadians on the safe disposal of light bulbs containing mercury.

Most Canadians are aware of the dangers of not having a proper disposal procedure for the highly toxic substances like mercury. In 2010, our Conservative government put forth a strategy for proper mercury disposal, and, in 2013, we negotiated the Minamata Convention on Mercury, an international convention that essentially calls for tough measures to reduce mercury emissions.

Supporting Bill C-238 is in line with our previous Conservative government's approach to controlling toxic substances that pose a risk to human health. This same approach made me proud to stand with my colleagues when our previous government passed the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, in 2010, banning the use of bisphenol A in baby bottles. I want to stress the importance of all such initiatives.

In the bill, we discuss the effects of mercury, which has the ability, as was mentioned, to be spread between water, air, and soil. Contaminations can have a catastrophic impact on our environment, and the health of all Canadians. We know that mercury is toxic and that it is related to various health problems, including birth defects, rashes, and even death. Even in lower quantities, when mercury is accumulated, it creates a significant risk to our most vulnerable.

Products containing mercury are in our landfills. We know that through this disposal method, mercury has the potential to leak into our soils and water sources. Most Canadians would agree that it is something that must be dealt with.

We, as parliamentarians, have a duty to make sure that our work also creates the right circumstances for us to protect our environment for future generations and ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for our children and grandchildren.

The bill calls for the environment minister to develop and implement a plan or proposal for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury. I know that the people in my constituency of Red Deer—Mountain View, and all Canadians, will welcome our efforts to minimize the presence of mercury in our immediate environment and put a stop to the negative health risks that come along with it.

Bill C-238 contains three essential elements: the establishment of national standards for the safe disposal of mercury-containing lamps, the establishment of guidelines regarding facilities for safe disposal, and the creation of a plan to promote public awareness of the importance of those lamps being disposed of safely.

The bill also requires that the strategy be tabled in Parliament within two years of royal assent, and that a review and evaluation of that strategy takes place every five years afterwards. The Liberal government can implement, through regulation and policy, and by working with provincial counterparts, the three elements proposed in Bill C-238 at any time. There is a way to make things more efficient, but with a Liberal government in place, Canadians would not be surprised with delays and unnecessary costs being the result of its actions.

My colleague from Abbotsford has looked at a few similar pieces of legislation to this one that have already been presented in the House. Two such red-tape legislative instruments have been put forward. First, Motion No. 45 required that all infrastructure projects at the municipal level over $500 million in value would have to go through a full climate change impact analysis to determine what the upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emission implications would be of those projects. Second, Bill C-227 would place a requirement on contractors for projects within the federal realm.

The member who has brought forward Bill C-227 suggests that projects at the municipal level originally chosen because they meet the current need of municipalities and provinces would henceforth primarily be selected through a lens of their climate change implications. This would impose additional costs on our local governments and additional red tape and delays. For example, if a building contractor wanted to bid on a federal building project, the contractor would have to go through a community benefit analysis, adding additional costs and more red tape for projects because that would have to be built into the bid price. On top of that, it would complicate the federal bidding process by adding more red tape to the process, when in fact these projects should be bid-based on best value for taxpayer dollars or, in other words, best value for the best price.

In a way, I am somewhat skeptical about Bill C-238. Would it be another example of the Liberals over-reaching and ultimately adding additional costs to taxpayers? As much as the motives behind these initiatives are commendable, they are duplicative and would pose additional regulatory burdens on Canadians. That is my fear with this and with most any Liberal strategy.

The member could have moved forward by simply asking the government to enact the necessary regulations through robust consultation with the provinces and municipalities to provide the appropriate recycling and disposal policies across the country. For whatever reason, the member did not do that. We can deal with dangerous toxic waste like mercury now. That essential task is something the government can do now even without this bill. The Liberal government can move forward right now with regulations that set the standards and guidelines for safe disposal of these lamps. The government has the ability to make the public aware of these standards and guidelines.

Our caveat about the bill is the fear that it would lead to the Liberals actually calling for a national strategy, which would take far too long to conclude and create additional initiatives that would come with higher costs, higher taxes, and more red tape. There are many provincial jurisdictions that have programs in place, and by simply working with them we can achieve great results without adding any unnecessary hoops.

When it comes to important issues like emissions targets, research and development investments, infrastructure, and increases in health care funding, the Liberals are quite content to use evidence-based policies from the former Conservative government. While we expect them to refresh these initiatives with some Liberal red paint, unfortunately the overall Liberal program also comes with a massive amount of red ink for future generations.

In this case, making sure that mercury-containing lamps are safely disposed of is something that everyone should support. We should also do the right thing and make sure that our proposed solutions are efficient and, most importantly, effective.

I support taking this to committee in the hope that it will establish national standards for the safe disposal of mercury-containing lamps, guidelines regarding facilities for safe disposal, and create a plan to promote public awareness of the importance of such lamps being disposed of safely. I look forward to a process that will be cost efficient and does not impose an additional undue tax burden on Canadian taxpayers, nor add additional red tape that would tie up businesses, provinces, and municipalities.

The House resumed from May 30 consideration of the motion that Bill C-238, An Act respecting the development of a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

National Strategy for Safe Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury ActPrivate Members' Business

May 30th, 2016 / 11:55 a.m.
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François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to discuss Bill C-238, an act respecting the development of a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury. I support this important bill at second reading because it is a good initiative and a step in the right direction.

The NDP supports all initiatives relating to the sustainable development of our communities. We want to minimize the presence of toxic substances that can threaten the balance and viability of our ecosystems.

Our record proves that the NDP has always been a leader in environmental protection. We must figure out solutions to the unsafe disposal of the mercury component of bulbs.

There are three main points in this bill. First, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change must develop and implement a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury. I congratulate my colleague on proposing such a strategy. This should have been done a long time ago, but unfortunately, the Conservative government was not particularly concerned about the environment. This is a step in the right direction.

Second, the bill calls on the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to work with representatives from the various levels of government, industry, and environmental groups to implement a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury. That is extremely important.

Later, I will explain why we need to work with the provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, as well as the private companies that make these products. I will explain why we need to address the root of the problem, the creation of this waste.

Third, the bill calls on the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to monitor and properly assess the effectiveness of the strategy. That is common sense. The NDP has always called for a ban on incandescent light bulbs. We want the government to implement a plan that will make it mandatory to recycle compact fluorescent bulbs. What is more, we want the companies that sell these light bulbs to be subject to a code of practice that is not just voluntary.

A voluntary code of practice does not ensure the implementation of a robust process. The process cannot be monitored or assessed and so no progress is made. A voluntary code of practice is no longer good enough. We need a code of practice that makes it mandatory for the industry to safely dispose of lamps containing mercury.

I worked in the environmental field for a number of years, and I think that extended producer responsibility is one of the most important things. Producers cannot just put a product on the market and then wash their hands of it. They need to be responsible for that product from cradle to cradle, from its creation to its recovery or reclamation. That is what is meant by extended producer responsibility.

It is important to reduce the quantity of waste materials sent for disposal by making companies responsible for the recovery and reclamation of the products that they put on the market and promoting more environmentally friendly products.

At the manufacturing stage, companies need to think about what will happen to a product at the end of its useful life. They need to think about how its components can be repurposed and how to dispose of it safely. This is known as extended producer responsibility.

It is important to implement a strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury, but we need to go even further and implement a national strategy on extended producer responsibility, in order to come up with ways to dispose of all products manufactured in or imported into Canada in a manner that is safe for the environment and for Canadians' health.

In that respect, I have worked very hard to find ways to improve the overall performance of products before their life cycle ends, specifically in order to minimize waste at the source.

In fact, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment has been advocating for standards to reduce the amount of mercury in lamps sold in Canada since 2001. Of course, it is now 2016.

I congratulate my colleague on his contribution towards creating this national strategy, and I want to assure him of my full support. I will help and encourage him in his efforts. Unfortunately, the Conservatives did nothing on this file for far too long, for nearly a decade in fact, which is really disappointing.

Many businesses and organizations in Drummond are doing their part, and I would like to highlight one in particular: Ressourcerie Transition.

On April 22, Earth Day, I visited a number of organizations and industries that work on environmental protection, as well as some organic farms in my riding. One of the organizations I visited was Ressourcerie Transition, which works on the reuse, recovery, and repurposing of products. This is very important.

There has to be a shift from producing disposable products that end up in our landfills and create major problems in our communities, to coming up with a way to have products that meet conditions for the 4Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle, and reclaim.

I want to congratulate Ressourcerie Transition on reusing and reclaiming objects and then reselling them to the public.

National Strategy for Safe Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury ActPrivate Members' Business

May 30th, 2016 / 11:45 a.m.
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Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in favour of Bill C-238, an act respecting the national strategy for safe disposal of lamps containing mercury, put forward by the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. I would also like to congratulate the member on putting forth his first private member's bill in the House.

Bill C-238 would provide for the House to work in a bipartisan manner to not only pass the legislation, but begin the process of raising awareness and educating Canadians on the safe disposal of light bulbs containing mercury.

Mercury has the ability to be spread between water, air, and soil, which can significantly and negatively impact human and environmental health. It is well known that mercury is toxic and can cause health problems, including birth defects, rashes, and death. When low quantities are accumulated, they create a risk to mothers and their babies.

Mercury poisoning can also cause neurological damage, including slurred speech, memory loss, and tremors. The Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland did not get eccentric and zany from the exotic tea he was drinking; it was the mercury that led him down the rabbit hole of insanity.

Bill C-238 prescribes three important elements that need to be considered and supported. Precisely, it would establish national standards for the safe disposal of mercury-containing lamps; guidelines regarding facilities for safe disposal; and would create a plan to promote public awareness of the importance of those lamps being disposed of safely.

Previously, in 2010, our Conservative government released a risk management strategy for mercury, which proposed to reduce releases of mercury through the products containing certain toxic substances regulations. Supporting the bill is in line with the previous Conservative government's approach to controlling toxic substances that pose a risk to human health. For example, the previous government passed the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, Bill C-36, in 2010 and banned the use of bisphenol A in baby bottles.

As the environment is a shared jurisdiction with the provinces and territories, we also must be mindful to not overstep our boundaries as a federal government. I believe, however, the legislation would strike not only the right balance but could lead to a productive partnership on this file.

I appreciate that the legislation is focused and has a clear purpose as the thrust of the bill is to instruct the environment minister to develop and implement a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury. As it stands, many provinces and municipalities have different approaches to this issue. I believe that best practices can be shared, and when different levels of government work together, we will be able to educate consumers on how to safely dispose of these light bulbs without a considerable cost to the taxpayers.

In Brandon, Manitoba, the city has taken the approach of allowing our collection point for hazardous goods to be open six days a week, as an example. Furthermore, it has partnerships with hardware stores across the city at which people can drop off hazardous goods. The city communicates on a regular basis with its residents on which goods should not be tossed into the regular garbage pickup to ensure they do not end up in the landfill.

There are many other examples of municipalities having programs that accept household products that contain mercury. Some have implemented collection programs specifically for fluorescent bulbs, while others collect them as part of their household hazardous waste programs.

The reason the legislation is timely is many Canadians have fluorescent bulbs in their homes, their businesses, or farm operations. The reason we still use fluorescent bulbs is that they are more energy efficient than incandescent lights. The use of fluorescent lamps in place of incandescent bulbs can reduce energy consumption and in turn keep our electricity bill down. Nonetheless, we must not forget about their negative effect on the environment and on health.

The knowledge curve on properly educating consumers on how to safely dispose of them needs to be enhanced, and this legislation is a good starting point for that to occur. In fact, I hope the legislation will spur hardware stores, department stores, and just about anyone who sells florescent bulbs to take it upon themselves to share with their customers how to safely dispose of the bulbs and how to take the appropriate measures when a bulb is accidentally broken.

Moreover, the legislation can provide an opportunity for light bulb manufacturers to review how they package and ship their products to further enhance the safe transport of their products.

As with all programs and activities in the federal government, it is important to measure the effectiveness of specific initiatives. Far too often governments have good intentions, however, do not have systems in place to see if goals are being met. That is why it is necessary to emphasize that under the bill the Minister of Environment and Climate Change would have to report to Parliament. In particular, under clause 3, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change would be responsible for preparing a report setting out a national strategy and implementing it. Moreover, clause 4 describes the review of the report where within five years of the tabling of the report and every five years after that the minister of environment would set out his or her conclusions and recommendations regarding the national strategy.

It is imperative that all levels of government work together to keep toxic substances out of Canadian landfills and waterways. I am pleased to highlight that in the member's riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, a company called DAN-X recycles mercury-bearing light bulbs, which is reducing the environmental risk to its landfills. Many members might be interested to know that recyclers can recover the mercury for reuse.

I am pleased that we have such effective facilities in our country. We need to encourage their growth and success in order to keep our lands and waterways clear of hazardous materials. It is important that all members of the House support the legislation as the associated risks from mercury to our health and the environment are too high.

I know all Canadians care about our environment, which is why it is so important to involve the provinces, territories, municipalities, and private industries in developing and implementing this national strategy. Working together and supporting each other is the only effective way to make positive changes in our communities, and in Canada as a whole. Together, we can provide strong environmental leadership and can protect our lands and waterways. After all, this is what Canadians expect from us. The time to fulfill this obligation in a tangible way is right now.