Mr. Speaker, in record time this morning Canada responded formally to the seventh biennial report of the International Joint Commission on Great Lakes water quality.
Last spring the IJC issued a clarion call for action by Canada and the United States to get serious about cleaning up the Great Lakes.
The Government of Canada has taken the IJC's message to heart and we have responded in an unprecedented timeframe-not just with words but with deeds and concrete action.
Since last spring Canada has got its Great Lakes act together. In July we signed and are now implementing the Canada-Ontario Great Lakes agreement, an agreement that had languished for three years. In September we released the proposed toxic substances management policy. Today I wish to announce a new action plan for the management of chlorinated substances in Canada.
These measures are forceful responses to the recommendations of the International Joint Commission. More important, they demonstrate that Canada will do its part to restore and protect water bodies like the Great Lakes. We will work to ensure a healthy and safe environment for all residents and, in response to this issue, in particular for the 45,000 citizens who live around the Great Lakes basin on both sides of the border.
The Canada-Ontario agreement is innovative and co-operative. It sets out schedules, targets and mechanisms for co-ordinated action. Canada and Ontario have agreed on a shared vision of sustainable development for the Great Lakes.
I would like to thank those people in the department who worked very hard to bring forward this speedy response. When we asked for a response this fall they said it could not be done. The Department of the Environment did it and I think John Mills and the team from Ontario deserve special credit.
In this new approach we are embracing the ecosystem approach, cleaning up pollution hot spots and implementing binational commitments. We cannot clean up the Great Lakes alone. The agreement is based on the principles of pollution prevention, shared responsibilities, openness and accountability.
Equally important, in responding to the commission's call for building partnerships-and I see a member of the commission in the House today-the Canada-Ontario agreement provides a context for the participation of other partners.
Governments cannot do the job alone. The agreement provides a smart fiscally responsible way to resolve the complex challenges that we face in the Great Lakes.
Canada and Ontario are putting in place strategies to eliminate the use, generation or release into the Great Lakes' environ-
ment of 13 problem chemicals. The agreement targets significant reductions for 26 other toxic substances.
We are putting our money and our science where our mouth is. Despite serious financial restraint the federal government is putting millions of dollars over the next six years into the restoration of the Great Lakes. These efforts make a difference.
Collingwood Harbour in Ontario is the first Great Lakes hot spot to be declared clean. We intend with the stakeholders group to keep it that way. Co-operative efforts produce tangible results.
Our proposed national toxic substances management policy would commit Canada to the virtual elimination from the environment of those substances that result from human activity, take a long time to break down, build up in living organisms and are toxic. In drafting this policy, the Government of Canada paid attention to the IJC's recommendations.
I want to repeat. In response to the IJC's report we are proposing that Canada reach virtual elimination from the environment of all man made substances resulting from human activity which rest in the environment for a long time, accumulate in living organisms and are toxic.
In elaborating the policy we are in fact adopting the recommendations of the IJC. The emphasis has to be on prevention. There is no point in spending a small fortune to clean up the Great Lakes, the Fraser River and le fleuve Saint-Laurent if we turn around and pollute them all over again.
As part of our approach to toxics I am pleased to advise the House of Commons this morning that Canada is implementing a chlorinated substances action plan that will benefit the Great Lakes region and the rest of the country.
Chlorinated substances will be managed under a five part action plan. That action plan includes targeting actions to focus on critical uses and products. Government action will include eliminating the most harmful chlorinated substances, taking a sectoral approach to managing chlorinated substances and entering into environmental performance agreements with key industrial sectors like the dry cleaning sector and other governments.
We will also improve the scientific understanding of chlorine and its impacts on the environment and human health. Following the IJC report we will develop detailed socioeconomic and health study issues of the use of chlorinated substances and their alternatives. We intend to improve access to all this information for Canadians. We want to promote international efforts for global action on chlorinated substances.
We are adopting the advice of the world's most respected scientists. I personally want to thank Dr. David Shindler for his very constructive contribution in the development of this action plan.
At a special meeting convened by the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, scientists agreed to ban all uses of chlorine that are not supported by a critical review of the scientific evidence to protect the environment. They also agreed that actions are needed to restrict or ban a number of toxic persistent and biocumulative chemicals, some of which are chlorinated.
The scientists agreed that there are some positive uses for some aspects of the chlorinated chain, including the use of purification processes in drinking water. At this point we have no alternative to the use of chlorine for safe drinking water. Certainly it is reasonable to expect that Canadians want to feel safe about the water they drink. There is also no reasonable alternative to certain chlorinated compounds in the development of pharmaceutical products, including antihistamines and anti-inflammatory medication.
The plan I am announcing today has to do with ridding Canada of chlorinated compounds that do persist, that are biocumulative and that are toxic. These chlorinated compounds will be gone. We are committed to the virtual elimination in the Great Lakes basin of nine toxic chlorinated substances identified by the IJC. We are also committing to significantly reduce the use, generation and release of five other substances.
As part of our immediate efforts, we will be working with two important industry sectors to reduce the release of chlorinated substances: dry cleaning and metal degreasing.
We are all in this together and the smartest route is to work together to find solutions.
We know we can make progress. Since we determined that chlorofluocarbons were destroying the ozone layer we implemented a phaseout program to reduce their production in Canada. So far we have reduced CFC consumption by 77 per cent. The government intends to build on this progress by introducing an accelerated ozone protection program.
We are also working with the provinces and the territories to produce national guidelines for water, sediment and soil quality for more than 40 chlorinated substances. We are undertaking major initiatives to examine the alternative use to chlorine based technology.
The government believes all Canadians wherever they live care deeply about the environment and want to be included in the
future decisions, but Canadians often feel hamstrung by the lack of information. That is why the government will produce later this year a national publicly accessible database with information on the environmental release of 178 substances.
We want the public to have a say in understanding and in developing public policy. We see the national database as a step in the right direction in furnishing Canadians with the information they need to make sound decisions about their own environmental future.
Next spring, Canada will co-host, in Vancouver, a United Nations' conference bringing together international experts on the long-range transport of persistent organic pollutants.
We will be hosting in Vancouver next spring an international congress of experts from the United Nations on the transportation of long distance, persistent toxic substances. It is a direct result of our intervention at the United Nations commission on sustainable development. We pointed to a situation in which in the Canadian Arctic right now women face the incredible difficulty of having excessive levels of PCBs in their breast milk. This is not because of industrial development from which they have benefited but rather because of long distance airborne toxins which come from other parts of the world. We need a global response.
When we met yesterday with the Prime Minister of the Ukraine we underlined the importance of developing an international approach to toxic management so the women of the Arctic do not have to face the incredible health hazard of having elevated levels of PCBs in their milk because the world community has not responded with tough regulations and with tough responses of pollution prevention.
We are also entering into negotiations with the United States because we believe an ecosystem approach is the way to go. We are exploring with the United States a pilot project on chlorinated substances in the Great Lakes in which Canada and the U.S. will focus on a dual approach to the elimination of persistent biocumulative toxins.
Canada will continue to work with the United States in addressing other Great Lakes issues. No Canadian program, no matter how comprehensive, no matter how successful, can achieve the goals set by the International Joint Commission. In a meeting I had recently with the members of the International Joint Commission they pointed this out to me.
Let me use Lake Superior as a microcosm. If today all industrial input into Lake Superior on the Canadian and American sides were eliminated, we would still see a poisoning of that lake by up to 20 per cent as a result of international airborne toxins.
Not only do we need a domestic approach, we need a binational ecosystem approach to develop closed loop systems for industrial emissions. We also need a global approach to deal with the problem of international airborne toxins. Canada will continue to work very hard with the United States. I know that my American counterparts are expected to table their IJC response next spring. They are looking forward to working very closely with us in developing a constructive binational approach.
We need joint action on the clean-up of boundary waterways such as the Detroit and Niagara rivers as well as Lake Superior. We are eagerly awaiting an American national program.
We are waiting with impatience for a national American program to clean up, to prevent pollution and to deal with the health of this vital ecosystem. As I stated earlier, it is an ecosystem that supplies the drinking water of 45 million people, the heart of the fresh water supply of the world.
I want to thank the International Joint Commission. Through its carefully considered recommendations the commission continues to provide vital advice on Great Lakes environmental issues. The government wants to clean up the Great Lakes. It believes the best way to encourage action from our neighbours to the south and from other countries is to show leadership on environmental issues in Canada.
In the last month we have tried to do that. Working with the very able chair of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development we have announced a new environmental industry strategy. We have proclaimed the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, no mean feat and one for which special tribute is due to my parliamentary secretary, the former minister of the environment for the province of Quebec.
We have also introduced important improvements to that act only yesterday.
We have announced new legislation for a commissioner of the environment and sustainable development and we have announced the proposed toxic substances management policy and the chlorinated substances action plan.
Canadians want the government to be a world leader in environmental issues. We are determined to provide a balanced ecosystem approach that recognizes the key is pollution prevention and that responds positively to the very constructive IJC recommendations. The goal for chlorinated substances that are toxic, persistent and that accumulate in living organisms should be virtual elimination. That is the goal we have embraced today.