Mr. Speaker, every year more than 228,000 tons of pollutants of all sorts are dumped into Canada's waters, atmosphere, soil and sub-soil. The cause of all this alarming dumping is simple: it is negligence, whether on the part of careless individuals, unscrupulous manufacturers or governments unable to halt the flow.
I am pleased to rise and speak about the new toxic substance management policy the Minister of the Environment is proposing, which, I hope, will prove to be a practical response to the problems of prolonged toxic dumping that may lead to bioaccumulation. As I have not read the documents tabled today, I am not in a position to express an opinion on the value of the policy. I will therefore simply make four general comments expressing the concerns and worries I have about the minister's speech.
First, I would like to point out that I find it rather surprising the minister is tabling her new policy even before the standing committee of this House has issued its report, due in a few days, on the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. The minister would definitely have benefited from the committee's work, which took a year's time and which enabled many witnesses to express their concerns and suggest solutions with regard to the problem of managing toxic substances.
Second, the minister alluded earlier to the principle of reverse onus. According to her, manufacturers will now have to prove that their products are safe and may be properly managed. This principle, which the Bloc supports without hesitation, arises from another, very simple one: caution. The idea of caution is relatively new in environmental matters; up to now, it has not been a particular concern for governments, including this one. I offer as evidence the minister's unspeakable attitude in the matter of the barge, the Irving Whale , which may well spill its contents of 3,100 tonnes of oil. The minister's decision was clearly motivated by a desire to limit operating costs, as her officials have said publicly, which flies in the face of the most elementary caution.
I hope the minister, whose rhetoric is full of fine principles, will have the courage and the influence in Cabinet to apply them uniformly and not only when it suits her.
My third comment has to do with the way the minister intends to deal with the provinces in the future. Even though she admits that her new policy only applies to the federal areas of jurisdiction, she states, and I quote: "It is the federal government's intention to use the policy that we are announcing today in order to pursue a national strategy for managing toxic substances".
I will remind the minister that, whether she likes it or not, the environment is a shared area of jurisdiction, in which provinces have a determinant role to play. They should and must not be treated as second class actors in the federal plans. Before talking about national standards, the minister should give tangible evidence of the efficiency of her policy. Obviously, an aggressive approach by the federal government will only lead to counterproductive confrontations.
Finally, I notice that the minister is once again boasting that she wants to make Canada a world leader in environmental matters. The Bloc Quebecois and myself have every right to question such a statement and fear that it is just so much hot air. Indeed, the last time the minister said that she wanted to make of Canada a world leader, she was presenting her plan to reduce greenhouse gases which, as we know, was far from revolutionary.
This very morning, The Ottawa Citizen reported that the Sierra Club gave the Prime Minister an admonition to give marching orders to his Cabinet on the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.
I humbly remind the minister that Quebecers and Canadians are not necessarily demanding to become world leaders; all they want are realistic environment policies yielding real and tangible results.
In conclusion, I can understand the minister's desire to improve the management of toxic substances in Canada. In fact, the World Wide Fund for Nature reports that the port of Hamilton is one the most polluted areas in the Great Lakes. The sewage treatment plants located there are not equipped to properly process the waste from surrounding industries and generate close to 40 per cent of the PCB burden and 10 per cent of the zinc burden in the port. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, decades of pollution in Hamilton have completely ruined what used to be first class spawning grounds for many fish species.
I hope that the policy proposed by the Minister of the Environment will enable us to find efficient remedies to solve an environmental dilemma we can no longer ignore.