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.