An Act to amend the Department of Health Act (drinking water guidelines)

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.


Francis Scarpaleggia  Liberal

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


Second reading (Senate), as of April 4, 2019
(This bill did not become law.)


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

This enactment amends the Department of Health Act to require the Minister of Health to identify any foreign government or international agency that, in the Minister’s opinion, has standards or guidelines respecting the quality of drinking water that should be compared to those
that are being developed in Canada. Every fiscal year, the Minister shall publish the results of the comparison of various aspects of those standards or guidelines.‍


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


Oct. 3, 2018 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-326, An Act to amend the Department of Health Act (drinking water guidelines)
May 23, 2018 Passed Concurrence at report stage of Bill C-326, An Act to amend the Department of Health Act (drinking water guidelines)

Indigenous AffairsOral Questions

November 7th, 2018 / 3:05 p.m.
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Don Rusnak Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, just last month, my colleague's private member's bill, Bill C-326, which focuses on drinking water guidelines in Canada, moved to the Senate for first reading. As members will know, decades of neglect have left drinking water systems on first nations reserves in Canada in an unacceptable state. This is why our government is committed to ending long-term drinking water advisories on all public systems on reserve by March 2021.

Can the Prime Minister please update this House as to the actions being taken to ensure reliable access to clean drinking water on reserves?

October 4th, 2018 / 4:25 p.m.
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Director General, Safe Environments Directorate, Healthy Environments and Consumer Safety Branch, Department of Health

David Morin

In terms of the legally binding drinking water quality standards, we are working with regard to private member's bill C-326 on improving the transparency, the reporting and the progress that's being made with regard to drinking water quality standards in Canada. We are progressing. Work in that area is to really improve the transparency in the CEPA annual report.

In terms of work that's being done to make this available, a lot is being done between the federal government and the province. We are also a collaborating centre of the World Health Organization.

Specifically with regard to 1,4-dioxane, we actually published a draft drinking water quality guideline in September. Prior to that we did not have one. That draft drinking water quality guideline that was published in September has 1,4-dioxane at 50 micrograms per litre, which is considerably lower now than the one that is proposed by USEPA. They have it as currently at about—

Department of Health ActPrivate Members' Business

October 3rd, 2018 / 3:15 p.m.
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The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

It being 3:17 p.m., pursuant to an order made on Tuesday, October 2, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C-326 under Private Members' Business.

The House resumed from October 2 consideration of the motion that Bill C-326, An Act to amend the Department of Health Act (drinking water guidelines), be read the third time and passed.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

October 2nd, 2018 / 10:05 a.m.
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Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

Mr. Speaker, if you seek it, I believe you will find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, at the conclusion of today's debate on the opposition motion in the name of the member for Portage—Lisgar, all questions necessary to dispose of the motion be deemed put and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until Wednesday, October 3, 2018, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions;

and that, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, the recorded division on the motion for third reading of Bill C-326, An Act to amend the Department of Health Act (drinking water guidelines), standing in the name of the member for Lac-Saint-Louis, deferred until Wednesday, October 3, 2018 immediately before the time provided for Private Members' Business be deferred anew until the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions that same day.

Department of Health ActPrivate Members' Business

September 28th, 2018 / 2:05 p.m.
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Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak in support of Bill C-326, an act to amend the Department of Health Act (drinking water guidelines).

My colleague from Edmonton Strathcona did a great job of talking about things that are missing in this piece of legislation and also what is important.

Before I get started, I want to talk about some of the water defenders in my riding. I want to recognize Linda Safford and the great work that the Comox Valley Council of Canadians do. I want to recognize Dan Lewis and Bonnie Glambeck from Clayoquot Action, and my friend Sarah Thomas, who has fought so much for the Alberni Valley and the protection of the watershed there. I also want to recognize Tsimka and Gisele Martin from Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation for their defence of Meares Island and protecting our water there.

It is really important that we have water defenders in our communities. We are fortunate to have eight Nuu-chah-nulth nations in my riding, the Qualicum nation and the Comox people. They are always there to defend what is important and that is our water.

We rely heavily on clean water in our riding for our water supply. Comox Lake is something we are looking at as a water supply in the Comox Valley to ensure that we have clean water. Meares Island supplies the water for Tofino and Ucluelet is looking at getting its water from Kennedy Lake.

We all know that water makes life possible on our planet. We learn this as children. If we are fortunate to live near the streams, rivers, lakes and oceans of our country, we learn that it is fundamental to our local economies, our culture and our food security.

Too often we take this knowledge of water as the essence of life for granted as we live our lives. We waste it and we pollute it with industrial waste and debris such as single use plastics, which I have raised repeatedly here in the House.

Protecting and preserving our water is urgently required through a national ocean plastics strategy, including filling the legislative and regulatory voids that are required to ensure effective stewardship.

At the same time, there is no question that water is a human right. Nothing can survive very long without it. We can live up to a month without food, but only for a week without water.

Most of us also take the right to safe drinking water for granted because most of us have access to an abundance of fresh water like I just spoke of. I live in a temperate rain forest so we do take it for granted. However, this is not true for two-thirds of all indigenous communities here in Canada. These communities have been under at least one drinking water advisory at some time in the last decade and people in many municipalities as well face repeated drinking water advisories.

This is true, for example, of the Comox Valley in my riding which has been subjected to multiple boil water advisories covering a period of 126 days just over the past three years. We have an application for the Comox Valley water treatment project and we desperately will need federal and provincial support to establish that and ensure that we do not have these boil water advisories and that we know that our children, our elders and all citizens will have access to clean drinking water.

During the last election campaign, the Prime Minister promised to end drinking water advisories in indigenous communities within five years. The government is three years into its term and we are far from that. According to a recent report from the David Suzuki Foundation, the Liberal government is not on track to fulfill this promise and, sadly, it has no plan to get there. The government has two years left in its five-year promise and there is no plan to fulfill this promise. This is completely unacceptable. It is disappointing and frustrating. Frankly, it is embarrassing.

According to a 2014 Ecojustice Canada Report, drinking water standards in Canada continue to lag behind international benchmarks. The report compared the guidelines for Canadian drinking water quality with corresponding frameworks in the United States, European Union, and Australia, as well as standards recommended by the WHO. While Canada has, or is tied for, the strongest standard in 24 instances, it has, or is tied for, the weakest standard for 27 substances. That is unacceptable.

In 105 other cases, Canada has no standard at all where at least one other country does. There is no regulatory framework holding the federal government accountable for safe drinking water in indigenous communities. This is largely because provincial laws and regulations that apply to municipalities do not apply to reserves, which are considered federal lands under federal jurisdiction.

The federal government's unacceptable failure to provide clean drinking water in indigenous communities is still unacceptable, and its funding continues to be inadequate for addressing urgent, immediate drinking water and wastewater and waste management treatment.

While the mandated guideline reviews called for in this bill are important, more stringent national objectives and standards in line with the European Union, United States, Australia and the WHO are clearly required.

In closing, all Canadians clearly do not have equal access to clean drinking water. It is time for Canada to establish a national water policy to secure the principles of water as a human right and as a public trust. We need a plan to implement that strategy.

Department of Health ActPrivate Members' Business

September 28th, 2018 / 1:55 p.m.
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John Oliver Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to sincerely thank the member for Lac-Saint-Louis for his hard work and insights on Canada's drinking water guidelines, which he introduced through Bill C-326, and also for his leadership in this area over many years. I know that all members in this House come from ridings that pull their drinking water from multiple sources. In my community of Oakville, we pull it from Lake Ontario. Therefore, drinking water guidelines are essential and important to every one of us.

Canada has a long history of developing guidelines to ensure that Canada's drinking water is among the safest in the world. In fact, the first guideline was published 50 years ago. Today over 100 guidelines are maintained and renewed. If passed, Bill C-326 would help ensure that Canada's drinking water guidelines are protective of health and are comparable to those in leading jurisdictions internationally. Furthermore, it would improve transparency on how drinking water quality guidelines are developed in Canada.

It is important to understand that drinking water quality is the responsibility of all levels of government, from federal to municipal. While drinking water is primarily under provincial and territorial jurisdiction, the Government of Canada plays a central role in drinking water safety. Health Canada works in close collaboration with the provinces and territories to establish science-based guidelines for Canadian drinking water quality, which are published by Health Canada. Each of these guidelines is specific to a contaminant found in Canada. These guidelines are in turn used by the provinces and territories as a basis for establishing their own drinking water quality standards, in accordance with their respective public health priorities. The guidelines are also used to ensure the safety of drinking water in areas of federal jurisdiction.

This collaborative approach between federal, provincial and territorial governments is applied consistently throughout the process, from identifying priorities and assessing risks to developing draft guidelines to consulting with Canadians and working toward implementing the guidelines across Canada. This process is based on robust science, national and international peer review and the consideration of standards and guidelines from other international jurisdictions. This harmonized approach helps ensure consistency in the levels of protection across Canada while respecting the existing constitutional division of responsibilities.

Canada takes an approach to the development of drinking water guidelines that is similar to what many other countries do. Health Canada develops guidelines for substances of concern that are found in Canadian drinking water supplies at levels that can pose a risk to human health. A drinking water contaminant in Australia, for example, is not necessarily a concern in Canada because of differences in industry and geology. This means that the substances needing guidelines or standards will vary internationally. Canada identifies issues that are specific to Canada and takes these issues into consideration when developing guidelines designed to protect the health of Canadians. The science generated, as well as the standards developed by other global authorities, are used to help inform the development of drinking water quality guidelines in Canada.

Every four years, Health Canada, in collaboration with the provinces and territories, conducts a comprehensive review of chemical substances, including new or emerging potential drinking water contaminants. This review aims to assess whether there is new science related to the potential health impacts of a contaminant, new information on Canadians' level of exposure, and any new treatment technology developed nationally or internationally. On the basis of this review, a list of prioritized contaminants is created. This collaborative, science-based process ensures that federal and provincial resources are directed at substances most likely to pose a risk to the health of Canadians.

Internationally, Canada is considered a leader in the development of drinking water quality guidelines. Health Canada is also recognized as a collaborating centre for water quality by the World Health Organization, highlighting Canada's international prominence and expertise. The department has been a contributor to all the World Health Organization's drinking water quality guidelines for the last several decades, and over the past 10 years, the World Health Organization has used Canada's drinking water assessments as the basis for developing its own guidelines for 12 chemical substances and has requested specific input from Health Canada on a further 10.

As part of its assessment process, Health Canada routinely monitors and reviews the drinking water guidelines and standards developed by other key organizations. The science supporting these international standards is taken into consideration when developing our Canadian guidelines.

This approach ensures that Canadian drinking water guidelines are based on credible, science-based criteria and also take into consideration the science behind new and updated drinking water standards developed globally.

The Government of Canada also works closely and shares information with international government agencies. Health Canada recently collaborated with the United States Environmental Protection Agency to develop a risk assessment on blue-green algae, also harmful algae blooms, which affect a growing number of drinking water sources in Canada and the United States. This risk assessment was used as a basis for a Canadian guideline and for a U.S. health advisory on blue-green algae.

Health Canada has also co-operated with Australia in the development of an online risk assessment tool. The online tool is developed to help operators in small communities with small drinking water systems to evaluate their level of risk and prioritize areas for action.

To summarize, Canada's effective, collaborative, science-based process for developing drinking water quality guidelines is among the best in the world. However, are improvements possible? The answer is yes. If passed, Bill C-326 would, for the first time, formalize in legislation the role of the federal government and specifically the Minister of Health to coordinate the development of national drinking water quality guidelines and to consider the guidelines and standards developed in other jurisdictions. This represents a significant step toward improving federal accountability on the issue.

The intent of Bill C-326 is not to question the quality of the work that is being done by Health Canada and our provinces and territories. The intent is to maintain Canada's status among the world's leading agencies on drinking water quality. It highlights the need for our scientists to review the work of other leading agencies to keep abreast of new scientific approaches and studies. It demonstrates the need for having open and transparent scientific processes and to better communicate our work and its importance to Canadians on an ongoing basis.

If adopted, Bill C-326 would strengthen federal accountability by improving the transparency of the process by which drinking water guidelines are developed.

Health Canada is already moving in this direction. In addition to being posted on the Government of Canada's website, new and updated guidelines for Canadian drinking water quality are now published in the Canada Gazette under the authority conveyed to the Minister of Health under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

Each guideline published in the Canada Gazette will include a comparison between corresponding guidelines or standards of leading international jurisdictions and agencies. If passed, Bill C-326 would build on these efforts and enhance information that is available to Canadians on drinking water quality guidelines.

Publishing the guidelines for Canadian drinking water quality under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act will help enhance the government's transparency and outreach to experts, stakeholders and interested Canadians, and formalize the consultation process on all guidelines.

In conclusion, Bill C-326, if adopted, would strengthen Canada's efforts to ensure our guidelines are among the best in the world, that they are based on up-to-date science and that they are protective of the health of Canadians. It will inform Canadians and stakeholders of the process used to develop guidelines and how our drinking water quality guidelines compare to standards and the guidelines of leading international agencies.

I am pleased to advise the House that the government will be supporting Bill C-326. Once again, I would like to thank the member for Lac-Saint-Louis for his work on this important issue and for his leadership past and ongoing in ensuring strong drinking water guidelines for all Canadians.

Department of Health ActPrivate Members' Business

September 28th, 2018 / 1:45 p.m.
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Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, in Bill C-326, the member for Lac-Saint-Louis proposes a number of measures related to empowering the federal Minister of Health, under the Department of Health Act, to investigate and report on the need to update regulation of toxins in drinking water.

I want to say again that I am aware of the long-standing interest of this member in calling for greater action to protect Canadian water quality, including safe drinking water, and I commend him for this dedication. I also wish to echo the calls by the MP for Sarnia—Lambton for the comments she has made on the concerns about the continuing boil water advisories in our indigenous communities.

However, the member for Lac-Saint-Louis' specific reforms appear at odds with, and may actually conflict with, recommendations made by the parliamentary committee on environment and sustainable development in a number of reports tabled in this place in 2007, 2008 and as recently as 2017, which have still not been acted upon.

Certainly, repeated calls have been made for greater action at the federal level to protect water quality, in particular from contamination from harmful toxins. Strengthened measures have been demanded by parliamentarians, government officials, scientists, physicians, lawyers, environmental advocates and our own commissioner of the environment and sustainable development.

Indeed, during our committee study of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, we heard testimony that Canadian drinking water standards often lag behind international benchmarks. CEPA, or the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, is the federal law that has been in force since 1988 for regulating toxic substances, including those that may be found in drinking water or potential drinking water sources. It is also important to note that it is this law that extends powers to both the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Minister of Health for the control of toxins.

Following an extensive study that heard testimony from government officials, the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, industry, scientists, legal experts and environmental advocates, the committee tabled a report calling for substantive reforms to this law to ensure improved control of toxins, including in water.

Bill C-326 proposes that the Minister of Health be empowered to review drinking water standards to ensure consistency with standards imposed by other OECD nations. Our committee was advised that in some instances, Canada has in place the lowest standards among OECD nations for 27 toxic substances. While the committee recognized the need for the reforms, they do not appear to coincide with those the member recommends under Bill C-326.

In fact, the committee recommended amending CEPA to require a mandatory assessment of any substance where an OECD country has placed restrictions on it and more. It also called for action where there was an increased use of that substance or any new scientific findings came to the attention of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change. The committee recommended that CEPA be made the principal statute to regulate any products containing toxic substances, not the Department of Health Act.

The parliamentary committee did recognize the need to enhance the powers of the Minister of Health in recommending controls on a toxin where it may pose risks to health. However, it was noted that the law must require dual reviews by both the health and environment ministers to ensure that risks to both health and environment are assessed.

A recommendation was also made to ensure that any assessment consider risks to vulnerable populations. The committee went a step further than Bill C-326, recommending automatic listing of any substance once it is determined to be toxic, not simply that it be reported to Parliament. It called for immediate action where there is information that a substance may be harming human health or the environment. However, we still await action by the government on these languishing critical calls for reform to protect our environment and human health.

Finally, many have called for the current national guidelines for Canadian drinking water to be made binding in law, as is the case in many other western nations. Further, they have called for communities, including indigenous communities, to be granted the right to participate in risk assessments and the setting of standards. This would be consistent with Canada's having recognized, at the UN conference on sustainable development in 2012, the right to water. Such calls have been made for decades by Ecojustice, the Forum for Leadership on Water, the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources, the David Suzuki Foundation blue dot campaign and indigenous leaders.

Should Bill C-326 be passed, it will be important that the proposals be considered in tandem with the recommendations by the parliamentary committee.

I call on the government to table amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act this year. That would enable them to be debated and implemented as expeditiously as possible to ensure the protection of Canadians.

As my colleague from the Conservative Party noted, yes, the government is showing a greater commitment to removing boil water advisories in aboriginal communities, but no community in 2018 should be suffering under a boil water advisory. Yes, there may be certain gizmos that can be attached to taps, but frankly, many of these communities do not even have water from taps and have to go to a well.

A number of years ago, I wrote a handbook for indigenous communities to ensure that they had protections for their safe drinking water, because there was a law proposed by the Conservative government to regulate safe drinking water in indigenous communities. Regrettably, essentially what that law did was simply transfer liability to indigenous communities.

It is absolutely critical that the resources be given to our indigenous and rural communities so that they can, in fact, be granted the same opportunity many of us have to simply turn on the tap and have clean, fresh water. I have had the privilege of working overseas in a number of countries, such as Bangladesh and Indonesia, and on those occasions, it was not necessarily safe to drink the water from the taps, so I recognize in a very small way what is being suffered in many of the communities.

I again commend the member for his attention to this issue and the initiative he is taking, but I would encourage the government and the committee, when considering this bill, to look at it in the context of the report done by the parliamentary committee.

Department of Health ActPrivate Members' Business

September 28th, 2018 / 1:40 p.m.
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Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-326, an act to amend the Department of Health Act with regards to drinking water guidelines. I am truly grateful to the member for Lac-Saint-Louis for introducing this bill. I also want to thank him for his ongoing work on this issue.

Bill C-326 would require the Minister of Health to examine existing drinking water standards in 35 OECD countries and, if necessary, make recommendations to change Canada's drinking water standards.

Canada is currently a World Health Organization collaborating centre for water quality and has an active role in drafting the WHO guidelines for drinking water quality.

Canada also shares information on this subject with other intergovernmental organizations such as the agency that handles these matters in the United States.

It is important to note that developing water quality guidelines falls under provincial and territorial jurisdiction. However, I believe the federal government should contribute to the conversation and has a role to play in standardizing those guidelines nationally.

All Canadians must have access to drinking water of the highest quality no matter where they live, their history or their income. Drinking water in Canada should be available to everyone, and the fact that entire regions do not have consistent and permanent access to water is unacceptable.

Federal oversight and the clear responsibility of the Minister of Health to report to the House will greatly improve this situation and hold the government to account on its commitments to Canadians.

As with all other matters pertaining to health, we must ensure that changes put forward come from up-to-date sources and scientific data.

As always, I expect that the federal government will use the best data possible when developing these measures.

Now that we have a bit of background on the intent of this bill, I would like to outline exactly why I think the bill may actually be a bit redundant. The committee heard that the Minister of Health and the Department of Health already, on an annual basis, review the World Health Organization's standards on water quality and check back to ensure that they are implemented. The problem is not that the check is not happening. The difficulty is in making sure that we adhere to those standards across the country.

There is some difficulty with that because there are so many layers of standards. It would be great to get to a place where we would say that the World Health Organization's standards are the ones we want to meet and that federally, provincially and municipally we would all line up to the same thing. Some effort to get there is time well spent.

With respect to our first nations people, there was a commitment on the part of the government to eliminate the boil water advisories and $8.4 billion was pledged. There are some statistics on that. Since 2015, 40 boil water advisories were lifted, but another 25 were added to the list and a total of 91 boil water advisories remain in effect. We need to make sure the water quality standards we have in place federally make their way across the country and that we address the issue of water on reserve.

As of last year, two-thirds of the $2 billion that was allocated to address water systems in budget 2016 is unspent, so it is important to make sure that if we put money in place to address issues, we spend the money,

The other point I would make is we are three years into the mandate and have not yet made the progress we wanted to make on those boil water advisories, so I encourage the government to make tracks to see that happens.

There is a lot of technology in place. I took note that the government is shipping bottled water into many reserves. There is technology available today, where for $300 we could supply a family of five for a day. It is a water filtration system that filters both organic and inorganic materials, and just requires a cartridge filter change every 10 years. This is the kind of significant technology that could be brought to bear, along with water treatment systems that the government is putting in place.

There are other things I wish we were talking about in terms of water. Many of my constituents, when they found out I would be speaking on this, had issues they wanted to bring forward. Nick Young sent me some information about Nestlé and the withdrawal of millions of gallons of water from our lake system for mere pennies. He is concerned we are not adequately protecting our resources.

Similarly, I had input from people in the community who said the government should weigh in on the issue of whether or not we should be fluorinating our water. There was quite a volume of data provided to me. If we looked around the world to different places, some fluorinate and some do not, and there actually is not much difference in terms of dental health and some of the determinants that happen there. However, because there are municipalities that are constantly seeing this issue come forward, it would be good for the government to complete the research and come with an answer on how we could standardize across Canada. There have been cases in Calgary where they took the fluoride out of the water and now we are seeing an increase in dental health problems that they believe are related to that,

In addition to these issues, we should do some work on updating some of the guidelines. There is a lot of inconsistency between jurisdictions. Sixteen of the 94 Canadian drinking water guidelines are consistently applied across all provinces and territories. A very small percentage of what we say we want to have is in place. Only eight Canadian provinces and jurisdictions have legally binding drinking water standards. Obviously, we want to include that as part of the law.

I want to thank the member for Lac-Saint-Louis, because I know he has done a lot of work in the area. There is still more to be done, not just in setting the standards but in the work to clean up and remediate our water. In Sarnia—Lambton, we are part of a binational effort to clear up the areas of concern. When the work began between Michigan and Sarnia, a lot of the industries have been there over the years and there was a lot of cleanup to be done. The efforts have resulted in most of the areas of concern being cleaned up and the blue flag status being returned to the water in Sarnia—Lambton, so it is great to swim and enjoy the beaches there. However, there still remain areas of concern.

I was speaking with the Minister of Environment today about finding money to finish up that remediation. They have extended those areas of concern now from Sarnia all the way down to Niagara, and there are five remaining areas of concern to be addressed. I encourage the government to do that, in addition to drinking water standards. We have some of the most beautiful lakes in the world. We have the largest volume of water on the planet. We should be leaders in setting the standard in making sure that everything we have here is kept for generations to come.

That said, I appreciate the member bringing this forward. It would put into law the practice that the government currently has of checking with the world standards every year and making sure it brings those back to try to get some coordination and implementation across all of the provinces and territories.

Department of Health ActPrivate Members' Business

September 28th, 2018 / 1:30 p.m.
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Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

moved that C-326, An Act to amend the Department of Health Act (drinking water guidelines), be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased that Bill C-326 has moved past second reading and committee stage and is back in the House for third reading. Although the scope of the bill is narrower than what I had hoped as a result of the amendments proposed in committee, the fact remains that the bill is another important lever that will ensure greater transparency when establishing drinking water standards and that this process will look to the future, that is the study and control of emerging contaminants.

When developing and drafting the bill, I borrowed elements of the American system for drinking water. I use the term elements only because, in general, here in Canada we favour an approach to regulating drinking water that is a little different than that of the U.S. For example, we do not favour adopting uniform standards that are enforced by law across the country. Instead we use a regional approach, that is a provincial one, which in reality places greater importance on the efficient management of water purification plants than on attaining certain specific limits or thresholds for a large variety of water contaminants. In other words, our approach gives regulatory bodies greater flexibility.

Ironically, the stricter approach can make the work of plant operators more complex and can even be detrimental to the objective of ensuring quality drinking water. I sincerely believe in the Canadian model, which, according to the experts, is becoming more prevalent internationally for the regulation of drinking water.

That being said, the United States is actually being more proactive and transparent about studying and regulating drinking water contaminants, especially those known as emerging contaminants. The United States amended its Safe Drinking Water Act in 1986 and again in 1996 to give the U.S. EPA additional responsibilities regarding drinking water.

These amendments included the requirement that the U.S. EPA develop and manage a candidate contaminant list every five years. In other words, every five years, the EPA must select at least five contaminants from the candidate contaminant list and make decisions on whether to make regulations pertaining to them, in a process that is called regulatory determination. Moreover, the EPA is also now required to monitor at least 30 unregulated contaminants every five years. In the event that it decides that a new contaminant will be regulated, the EPA has two years following that decision to draft a regulation and an additional 18 months to finalize it. There is thus a well-structured, forward-looking and transparent process in place in the U.S. with respect to managing contaminants in drinking water in that country.

Publishing the candidate contaminant list is a key strength of the U.S. system. Making the list public enhances transparency regarding the future regulatory direction of the EPA. It provides important information that researchers can then use to make decisions, namely, regarding the contaminants for which they would want to collect primary data to inform the regulatory process. Moreover, this proactive approach spurs research and innovation, including in the area of water filtration processes.

In essence, Bill C-326, both in its original and current forms, aims to encourage that same kind of forward-looking and transparent approach. The amended version of Bill C-326 calls on the minister “to identify any foreign government or international agency that, in the Minister’s opinion, has standards or guidelines respecting the quality of drinking water that should be compared” to Canada's. This determination, which until now has not been legally required, nor, to my knowledge, made public, if the minister has in fact considered such a comparison, will necessarily elicit questions from those with an interest in the quality of our drinking water, and questions, of course, are the very currency of accountability.

In other words, civil society, including NGOs and researchers, will be able to seek clarification and justification publicly through Order Paper questions, oral questions, correspondence to the minister or other means, of the minister's decisions with regard to the agencies and/or countries she has chosen as a basis of comparison to Canada in regard to drinking water guidelines. Civil society will in turn be able to offer its own opinion as to the validity, or conversely, the lack of validity of the minister's choices.

Furthermore, Bill C-326 requires the minister to identify which standards set by the chosen agencies or countries should be compared to the standards being developed in Canada. Again, civil society will get a chance to critique or support the minister's choice. This will help us look ahead and look at other countries or international agencies that may have more stringent standards than ours, as well as at specific standards outside Canada that may be higher or stricter than ours.

This bill highlights gaps, and as budget analysts and scientific analysts both know, gaps are what stimulate reflection, research and corrective action.

I also hope that this bill—if passed—and the debate it has stimulated so far will spur the government to focus more on emerging contaminants in its Canadian Environmental Protection Act annual report.

In the interest of increasing transparency, promoting research and innovation, and ultimately improving human and environmental health, I ask the House to support this bill.

Department of Health ActPrivate Members' Business

May 23rd, 2018 / 6:45 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 report stage of Bill C-326 under private members' business.

The House resumed from May 10 consideration of the motion that Bill C-326, An Act to amend the Department of Health Act (drinking water guidelines), as reported (without amendment) from the committee, be concurred in.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-326, An Act to amend the Department of Health Act (drinking water guidelines), as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

HealthCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

April 18th, 2018 / 3:20 p.m.
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Bill Casey Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, we acknowledge the comments by the Conservative member. Certainly the report does not have all the answers, but it is a great first step.

I now have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 15th report of the Standing Committee on Health in relation to Bill C-326, an act to amend the Department of Health Act, drinking water guidelines. The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments.

I want to thank the member for Lac-Saint-Louis for developing this private member's bill. It calls on the government to conduct a review of drinking water standards and to make recommendations on our national guidelines.

April 16th, 2018 / 4 p.m.
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The Acting Chair Liberal Sonia Sidhu


(Motion agreed to: yeas 6; nays 0)

We will proceed to the consideration of Bill C-326.

I'm pleased to welcome our two guests from the Department of Health. David Morin is the director general for safe environments, and Greg Carreau is the director of the water and air quality bureau. They're available should members have any questions about the bill or amendments. Thanks for being here today.

Pursuant to Standing Order 75(1), consideration of the preamble is postponed. The chair calls clause 1.

(On clause 1)