House of Commons Hansard #41 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was process.


Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, back in February the Minister of the Environment stated in the House her intention to review the present situation and to propose within four to six months timetables and schedules for the phasing out of toxic chemicals in the Great Lakes, particularly of organochlorines.

Chlorine is at the centre of a controversy because of its impacts on the environment and on human health. On one hand chlorine has been very useful but it is also has negative effects.

Today there are about 15,000 chlorinated compounds in use by industry. In addition, many byproducts are produced when chlorine is used in processes such as pulp and paper and vinyl manufacturing. These byproducts include such toxic persistent substances as dioxins, furans and PCBs.

Organochlorines are known to be persistent in the environment and to build up in the food chain.

A number of health problems are associated with organochlorines and mounting evidence indicates that some organochlorines can cause not only cancer, but also reproductive dysfunctions, endochrine disruptions, developmental impairments, and immunological effects.

The International Joint Commission on the Great Lakes has recently recommended first, the virtual elimination of persistent toxic substances from the Great Lakes, including the use of chlorine and chlorine-containing compounds as chemical feedstocks in industry. Second, the elimination of other chlorine uses or at least their reduction and, third, a shift from government or the public having to prove the danger of a product to the chemical industry so that it would be the chemical industry that would have to prove the product or a substance is not harmful.

In addition, the International Joint Commission is urging industry to rethink its practices in order to eliminate the production of persistent toxic substances, a much better preventive approach than the reacting and curing approach we have at the present time.

Many scientists are saying that organo-chlorines are a problem from a public health point of view. While some organo-chlorines might be generally safe, they should earn their designation as safe through good, solid science and through a shift in the onus of proof.

For all these reasons, I urge the Minister of the Environment to announce a plan for the gradual elimination of industrial chlorine use as recommended by the International Joint Commission. Also, I urge the minister to set up a strategy and a timetable for examining the possibility of reducing or eliminating other uses of chlorine and other persistent toxic substances.

In conclusion, it seems to me that in 1994 the Minister of the Environment has the opportunity to act and to plan a transition as called for by the International Joint Commission which recommends the adoption of a virtual elimination strategy within two years. This action requires political will and commitment, of course. The Minister of the Environment and Deputy Prime Minister has the power to prove that this Liberal government is committed to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement which as we all know commits the Government of Canada and that of the United States of America to a toxic free water body for the benefit of Canadians and Americans.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

Lachine—Lac-Saint-Louis Québec


Clifford Lincoln LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the government has been following the chlorine issue extremely closely. So far the government's policy has focused its regulations and control efforts on chlorinated compounds demonstrated to be toxic and on the processes that generate them.

Environment Canada and Health Canada have undertaken a science-based examination of 22 chlorine compounds and have shown 14 of them to be toxic either to the environment or human health.

We are determined to address this issue through the CEPA, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, a review that will start very shortly through the Standing Committee on Environment

and Sustainable Development of which my hon. colleague is the chairman.

Through the Great Lakes action plans and programs in place already and through close interaction with other countries, especially the United States, we need to establish strategies along with our neighbours to the south to reduce, prohibit and substitute for the use of chlorine and chlorinated compounds. The U.S. is now proposing a task force with timetables to establish a definite action plan that will define the ways to reduce, prohibit and substitute the use of chlorine.

Currently the Minister of the Environment is convening a consultation process of multi-stakeholders to do exactly this, to try and define an action plan to reduce, prohibit and substitute the use of chlorine. This action plan should be ready by the late spring of this year.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


Simon de Jong NDP Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Thank you, Mr. Speaker and members of the House, for the opportunity of being able to speak in this House. It is a rare opportunity for some of us.

The question I am raising tonight is a question that I raised in the House on March 15. It concerns Rogers' takeover of Maclean Hunter and the virtual monopoly that Rogers Communication will have on the information highway.

Rogers Communication with this takeover will have some 43 per cent control over Canadians who are hooked into the cable system. In Ontario it is over 70 per cent.

My question to the government was to request it to either set up a special committee of Parliament or to ask the standing committee for the Department of Heritage to have special hearings, not just on Rogers' takeover but on the whole question of what is the public interest in the information highway.

I acknowledged in my question that both the CRTC and the Competition Tribunal will have to hold hearings and approve this takeover. My position is we must first define what is in the public interest in terms of the evolution of the information highway.

Mr. Rogers might be quite correct in claiming that we need large monopoly type organizations or companies in order to compete with the Americans and to take full advantage of the technologies available. If he is right then basically what he is saying is that he is a natural monopoly like telephone, like power and other utilities. If that is the case then we must look to make certain that the proper regulations are in place. This type of work, I suggest, should be done by a parliamentary committee.

I noticed later last week that the government had set up a commission under the chairmanship of Mr. David Johnston from McGill University. The discouraging part, when I read about this in the Thursday, March 17 edition of the Citizen , is that most of these hearings will be held in private and not open to the public.

I wish to underline the importance of an open public process in which all the players, including the public, can participate. I would also suggest that this is a creative way of using members of Parliament and the existing committee system. I could envisage working very closely with the departments involved, including the Department of Canadian Heritage, the bureaucrats in that department working with the committee, to work together on a co-operative basis to develop a position of what is in the public interest.

I was also somewhat encouraged by the response of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry. I believe that the parliamentary secretary left open the possibility of using members of Parliament either in a specially struck committee or in the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to deal with this issue. I believe this is an issue that should be dealt with by committee and utilizing the work of the House.

Let me again underline the importance of what is happening here. Never before has a development of this magnitude, that is Rogers' takeover of MacLean Hunter, been seen in the Canadian history of cultural industries. It creates a virtual monopoly. It is a turning point in Canada's technological and cultural future. Therefore, it is essential that the public interest be defined and that this be done through a committee of the House of Commons.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

Broadview—Greenwood Ontario


Dennis Mills LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I begin by thanking the member for his concern on both of these issues.

First, the information highway will be a cornerstone for future industrial development and economic growth. The development of innovative products and technology will provide Canada and Canadian businesses with the infrastructure and technology necessary to compete successfully in international markets.

On Wednesday, March 16, the Minister of Industry announced that Mr. David Johnston, the vice-chancellor of McGill University, will be the the chairperson for the advisory council for the information highway. The advisory council will assist the Minister of Industry to develop a Canadian strategy for the information highway.

The council will analyse and provide advice on general matters of policy and strategy to ensure that Canada has access to the benefit of advanced communications information services. The council will also be accepting submissions from Canadians in any area of interest to them.

I want to say to the member that in my own community with the assistance of constituents and Mark Cameron and Roman Kowalczuk, members of my support staff, we are beginning to set up a community centre for information access on this very important subject.

I welcome members of the House and all Canadians to write for information on how to set up one of these systems in their community. We will supply them with the information. We are very much concerned that we bring this issue into the public forum. It is moving fast. It is complex and we want to make sure that public participation is involved all the way along.

Getting back to the advisory council, it is not being established to review the proposed merger of Rogers Communications and Maclean Hunter. Issues concerning the merger will be addressed by regulatory bodies under existing legislation.

Pursuant to the Broadcasting Act which Parliament passed in 1991 a change in ownership of cable companies greater than 30 per cent requires the approval of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. The CRTC has broad powers and a fact finding mandate that will explore and examine the issues in this takeover to ensure it is in the public interest.

Once the CRTC has received the application from Rogers Communications, it will make plans to schedule public hearings for the takeover of Maclean Hunter. Any group or organization that has an interest can request to be heard by the CRTC at those hearings.

Furthermore the takeover will also be reviewed by the director of investigation and research pursuant to the powers vested in him by the Competition Act. It is also important to allow these officials to proceed as currently planned.

Though the hon. member suggests that the Commons committee on heritage-

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Order, the hon. member for Capilano-Howe Sound.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


Herb Grubel Reform Capilano—Howe Sound, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is a question for the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

Since the minister announced that next year's level of immigration will be 250,000 I have received only critical comments from my constituents concerning this decision. Other Reform members of Parliament have had the same experience. We are getting clear signals from the people of Canada that they want less immigration.

Last week I asked the minister about the contacts his office has had concerning the same matter. I received no answer and instead received a lecture about the merit of the government's determination to stick to policies regardless of public opinion polls and comments received from the general public.

I find this attitude of the government policymakers arrogant, elitist and undemocratic. When this government was in opposition its MPs were constantly arguing against government policies on the grounds that the people did not want such things as free trade and the GST. Power corrupts. Now the people's wishes no longer matter.

I ask the minister again a simple and straightforward question which should be answerable in simple terms. How many contacts from the public has he received critical and supportive of the immigration levels since he has announced them?

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Halifax Nova Scotia


Mary Clancy LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Capilano-Howe Sound for his intervention.

I must say that counting the number of representations on any issue is really no way to determine the wishes of the majority of Canadians. It is also no way to determine whether public policy reflects the opinion of the people of Canada.

Write in campaigns initiated by certain groups distort reality. All of us who have sat in this House for any length of time are aware of that. They only reflect the opinion of the particular group. With the greatest of respect, I might remind the hon. member that we on this side of the House who did win the majority of seats campaigned on exactly the immigration level the hon. minister brought forward this year.

The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is aware that many Canadians are concerned however about the future directions of the immigration program. That is why on February 2 of this year he launched a major public consultation process that will help shape this country's immigration policy for the next decade.

His intentions are clear. He wants to hear from Canadians through an open and informed discussion. The process will set the stage for establishing a new 10-year framework for immigration and a new immigration plan.

The minister has stated on numerous occasions he has no intention of formulating immigration policy on public opinion polls, but by an open and frank discussion of the facts, not the myths.

In the red book this party described our policies. Canadians accepted them through the national and democratic election. The 1994 levels fulfil the red book commitments, including a total immigration of approximately 1 per cent of the Canadian population and a priority to family and independent immigrants.

The Reform Party is calling for cuts to levels which would reduce immigration levels by 100,000 people. The only way to

do that is to modify the eligibility criteria which means changing the rules of who gets in and who does not.

This is a very important issue which deserves input and discussion by as many Canadians as possible, not just a few letter writers in a few constituencies.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

It being 7.03 p.m., this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7.03 p.m.)