Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to reply to the environment minister's policy statement on toxic substances management.
I listened very closely to the minister's speech and for the most part I agree that toxic substances in air, water, soil and sediment will jeopardize the existence of all living things. I agree that if toxic substances are not brought under control Canada's environment will suffer. Action should be taken immediately rather than later.
However, I do not agree with the halting path the minister has chosen. The minister's policy applies only to areas under federal control. While the federal problem is a serious concern, another problem does exist, those industries in the private sector, those currently under provincial jurisdiction.
This is the continuing problem with this minister and her department. She introduces policy after policy which might be described as nothing but fluff. In other words, they sound great but the implementation is later evaluated as disappointing.
She never seems to get to the core of the problem of some of our biggest polluters. Perhaps there is a reason. Perhaps it is more political than sensible.
In late April of this year Environment Canada released a national pollutant release inventory, an extensive list of Canada's worst polluters of toxic chemicals. Among the list were some very large companies, primarily from the hub of Ontario as well as Montreal.
The country's biggest polluter was Kronos Canada in Montreal, which dumped 66,000 tonnes of sulphuric acid into the water. Another large pollutant was benzine. A total of 3,000 tonnes of benzine was released countrywide by steel and chemical manufacturers. Interestingly enough, Dofasco and Stelco Steel in Hamilton combined 882 tonnes, 29.4 per cent of the total amount of benzine released in 1993; two large companies right smack in the middle of the minister's riding. Any political handler would say to the minister stay away from that issue. Where is the integrity? Where is the will? One of the country's worst polluters of a toxic chemical is in the environment minister's backyard and the minister does not want to touch it with a ten-foot pole.
How can she claim to be environmentally friendly? If the minister were a true friend of the environment she would put politics aside and take action in cleaning up the plants that grace her riding. What this country does not need are politicians who think first about how things appear for the political image and second about real benefits to Canadians. We just need to get on with it.
This polluters list tells us where the polluters are. Well that is fine. Canadians know where they are. What they want to know is how they are going to be dealt with. Canadians want actions, not just another data base.
I will read an interesting quote from the minister regarding this data base: "It is intended to encourage industries to voluntarily reduce their releases and develop pollution prevention plans". This is coming from a minister who is supporting Bill S-7, which will legislate government departments into increasing the number of automobiles using alternative fuels, even though the Treasury Board already has guidelines for them to do so.
The minister is not promising miracles with this policy today. One does not have to be a genius to figure that out. The clean up of federal contaminated sites will be no small task. In the last auditor general's report it was estimated that there are 2,000 to 3,000 potentially contaminated federal sites, of which 500 to 1,000 would require immediate remediation. The projected cost was a minimum of about a billion dollars. The auditor general's report also mentioned that a high priority should be to clean up all federal PCB sites, at a cost of perhaps $2 billion.
This policy paper does not clearly outline how it will clean up these sites. It does not determine where the money will come from, and it does not state a deadline when all federal sites should be toxic free. I think the minister clearly has some questions to answer.
Further, with this policy we find out that the one who is going to be overseeing the policy will be the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, the office of the auditor general. The federal government does not seem to listen to what the auditor general says now, so what will change with the commissioner, who will only report to the auditor general?
The minister says that Canada is sending a message to the world that we will do our part to deal with toxic substances. How can a strong message be sent when we are only dealing with half the problem?
Whenever the government initiates something new, it never changes the whole picture substantively. It never wants to get serious with the issues that mainstream Canadians want. Take the federal budget, for example. Canadians wanted a zero deficit plan and the government gave us a fraction of a dent to the deficit and no long term hope.
Another example is the Young Offenders Act. Canadians wanted a tougher, more accountable law. Yet the justice minister gave Canadians a watered down bill. Now we have this policy paper, which the environment minister thinks represents a solid foundation for dealing with toxic substances.
The Canadian Environmental Protection Act sounds good, but in practice has not been sufficiently delivered. The Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development will soon be tabling its recommendations to improve CEPA. I hope the minister will take heed.
We have a fisheries minister who advertises his defence of Atlantic fish. Who in the government is defending the Fraser River basin and the salmon of the Pacific coast?
The Reform Party is not against control of toxic substances. Quite the contrary. What we are saying is if there is a problem, and in this case the minister has admitted there is, deal with the problem comprehensively and not just a fraction of it.
I do not have some great scheme of how we could get industries like Dofasco and Stelco to reduce or eliminate their benzene dumping tomorrow. Then again I do not have thousands of employees at Environment Canada to work for me on this one either.
Cleaning up Canada's environment is a priority of the Reform Party and it is a priority of the minister. However, do not do it with a policy statement that federal departments can continue to ignore. Do it with legislation that is binding and that has some real bite.