House of Commons Hansard #222 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was species.


Cn Commercialization ActGovernment Orders

11:40 p.m.


Jim Silye Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, Reform Party members vote nay, except for those members who wish to vote otherwise.

Cn Commercialization ActGovernment Orders

11:40 p.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to the privatization of CN there is no unanimous consent to apply the vote. We will have another vote.

Cn Commercialization ActGovernment Orders

11:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

There is no unanimous consent.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Cn Commercialization ActGovernment Orders

11:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed.)

Cn Commercialization ActGovernment Orders

11:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

It being 11.54 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Treatment Of Municipal SewagePrivate Members' Business

June 20th, 1995 / 11:40 p.m.


Bill Gilmour Reform Comox—Alberni, BC


Motion No. 425

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should support the undertaking of a country-wide program of improving the treatment of municipal sewage to a minimum standard of at least that of primary treatment facilities.

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak to my motion before the House today.

The motion deals with the need for the government to support the undertaking of a country-wide program of improving the treatment of municipal sewage to a minimum standard of at least that of primary sewage facilities. The motion is about setting a minimum standard right across Canada for sewage treatment.

As Canadians we often take for granted the vastness and magnificence of our environment. As much as we struggle to balance environmental with industrial and economic concerns we hold our environment in high esteem.

Reform environmental policy supports the balance between environmental and economic concerns and encourages Canadians to develop, renew and conserve our resources and environment to ensure the next generation inherits an environment equal to or better than that which the last generation received.

Essential to a clean and healthy environment are clean rivers, oceans and water bodies. When our water bodies are threatened with over pollution it hurts our environment, our fisheries, our economy, tourism, industry and municipal growth.

For these reasons municipal sewage facilities, set at a minimum level of primary treatment, are essential to maintaining and protecting our environment. That is why I am introducing the motion today.

I will give some background on the state of sewage treatment in Canada today to illustrate why the motion is necessary.

In most provinces the provincial government sets the standard for sewage treatment and for disposal of municipal solid waste and provides the regulatory function. Municipalities are responsible for the actual treatment of sewage and for collection and disposal of garbage. In 1993 approximately 57 per cent of Canadians were served by waste water treatment plants. That compares with 74 per cent for the Americans, 86 per cent for the Germans and over 90 per cent for the Swedes. We are obviously well behind.

Many cities have lagoon facilities which provide minimum treatment. Waste water flows through the lagoon, allowing long residence times for the settling of solids and the microbial degradation of organic matter. This is basically a system where raw sewage, less the solids, is dumped directly into the ocean or water basin with no treatment. This is the system used in the city of Victoria as well as in Halifax. We have the problem on both coasts. I will discuss the objections to this system of dealing with sewage later on.

Victoria is the only city from Alaska to the Mexican border which still dumps untreated sewage into the ocean.

I will give a quick summary of the three types of sewage treatment which include primary, secondary and tertiary treatment facilities. Primary treatment, which I am calling for, is the most basic stage of sewage treatment and is the minimum level I propose in my motion. Primary treatment involves the settling and chlorination stage prior to effluent discharge.

A more advanced stage of treatment is secondary treatment, which uses an activated sludge process to hasten the rate of waste water treatment. Large masses of actively growing bacteria are retained in large tanks and fed waste water. High levels of mixing and aeration facilitate microbial action.

Treated water then goes through a settling stage to remove the micro organisms and is chlorinated prior to release to the receiving body of water. Edmonton, Fredericton, Hamilton and Winnipeg use this more advanced form of waste water treatment on the majority of their municipal sewage.

Tertiary treatment is the most sophisticated form of water treatment practised in Canada. An anaerobic microbial fermentation step is added after the activated sludge process. The final effluent is relatively clean and in desert areas such as Israel is used directly for crop irrigation. Tertiary waste water treatment is used in Calgary, Kitchener, London, Oshawa, Ottawa, Regina, Sudbury and Toronto. In the maritime provinces a large percentage of municipalities do not have any sewage treatment and tertiary treatment is virtually non-existent.

The annual volume of untreated sewage in this country would cover the entire 7,800 kilometre Trans-Canada highway to a depth of nine metres. That is a lot of you know what, Mr. Speaker.

The effects of raw sewage dumping are being debated in cities such as Halifax and Victoria, which both discharge sewage into large water basins. In cities such as Regina, which dumps into small rivers, the effects are potentially disastrous. Sewage removes so much oxygen from the water that fish cannot survive and decomposing sewage may render the water undrinkable.

The government is in the process of major infrastructure spending with funds initially targeted for projects such as sewage treatment facilities, roads and water lines. Many towns and cities remain without any sewage treatment while tax dollars are being directed toward art centres and hockey rinks. Where are the priorities?

The government has made some significant promises regarding sewage treatment facilities in the country. The Liberal red book states on pages 66 and 67:

One of the country's biggest sources of water degradation is untreated municipal sewage, aggravated by decades of neglect of sewage and water treatment infrastructure. A Liberal government would assist provincial, regional, and municipal governments to finance new or renewed municipal sewage and water treatment infrastructure. This federal commitment would be conditional on municipalities encouraging water conservation and developing a sound financial regime for infrastructure maintenance in the future.

Federal assistance to municipalities for sewage treatment has been discussed in the House for over 25 years. In 1960 amendments to the National Housing Act provided for federal aid for municipal sewage projects to be administered by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Up to two-thirds of the cost of projects would be lent by the federal government. Municipalities would have to repay only 75 per cent of the loan if sewage work was completed by 1963.

The purpose of the 1960 legislation was to provide incentive to make an early start on these problems while it was still relatively inexpensive. Municipal sewage became an ongoing problem with annual allocations of $50 million to $75 million administered by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

The system was put into place 25 years ago, yet today Canada remains with almost half of its residents without any sewage treatment whatsoever. Now costs have skyrocketed. The longer municipalities wait, the more expensive it will become.

Despite efforts to date there are several reasons sewage remains untreated in many areas. One reason is Canada's large land mass and relatively low population which often mitigate the need for expensive, centralized sewage treatment facilities.

Another reason for the low level of sewage treatment is that many Canadian communities located adjacent to oceans and large rivers discharge raw sewage directly into water bodies, as in some cases the solution is to simply dilute the sewage.

In small amounts this may not harm the environment as organic matter can supply nutrition to aquatic organisms and benefit the fishery. However, once communities reach the municipal size, primary sewage treatment should be a requirement.

If we do not encourage a minimum standard of primary sewage treatment we risk damage to the environment, tourism, recreation, fisheries and health. In large amounts raw sewage can devastate the area by drastically degrading water quality, limiting dissolved oxygen levels, harming marine life, polluting shorelines, removing areas from recreational use and endangering human health.

The Liberal Party has recognized that a national waste water program exists and has pledged financial assistance to provincial, regional and municipal governments to finance new or renewed municipal sewage and water treatment infrastructure, but infrastucture spending is bypassing much needed sewer upgrades.

For example, Halifax and Victoria are still without any sewage treatment while at the same time government spent over $12 million in infrastructure funds for improvements to the Olympic Saddledome in Calgary and a hockey rink in Winnipeg.

In the big picture, basic infrastructure such as water and sewage treatment clearly has to take precedence. It is time for the government to renew its commitment to the public. Infrastructure spending should be targeted to local improvements which would benefit the entire community, not just a select few.

Clearly the biggest problem is expense and we all know it. There is no doubt that sewage treatment upgrading will require additional funding. When we look at the environment, environmental costs must be weighed with economic costs. In many instances taking action will be far more economically beneficial than the costs of the long term environmental damage of doing nothing.

Effective municipal waste treatment facilities are an expensive proposition for any municipality as they involve the provision of basic infrastructure as well as treatment facilities.

To counteract the cost, some cities such as the city of Toronto have proposed user pay fees on sewage discharge. That is one way to collect for the cost of cleanup and upgrading. It is one of the many options that warrants consideration.

In deciding which areas necessitate primary sewage treatment facilities, the environmental benefits of treatment must equal or outweigh the environmental costs. I am not proposing that all towns and cities undertake a program of primary treatment because there are many towns that are too small to benefit from sewage treatment programs.

For example, towns with small populations often do not generate enough waste to necessitate sewage treatment facilities. My proposal applies only to the minimum standard of municipalities which by definition have a minimum population of 1,000 residents.

Many studies have shown that secondary or tertiary forms of treatment are not necessary in all cases. In Victoria, for example, studies concluded that the treatment of waste water discharge into the strait would provide no appreciable health or environmental gain to the city or to the strait and that primary treatment was all that was necessary. That is what I am calling for in my motion.

Provincial governments have known about the bio-hazard of municipal sewage for generations, but many choose to ignore the problem. Concerns with the volume of minimally treated waste water were first identified in 1975. Yet many municipalities routinely fail to comply with permits on the discharge of sewage from outfalls.

The Fraser River is B.C.'s most endangered watershed with a sewage discharge amounting to 450 billion litres per year. If one were to package the sewage into one-litre milk cartons and pile them one on top of each other, a year's discharge would extend to the planet Mars and back with enough left over for 100 side trips to the moon. That is a lot of fertilizer.

Federal fisheries scientist analysed discharges from the sewage outfall at Iona Island on the Fraser in 1985 and found 200 toxic substances, many of them persistent and some with the ability to increase in concentration and toxicity as they migrate up the food chain.

Other substances identified are associated with organ damage, birth defects, cancer and second or third generation reproductive collapse in both humans and wildlife. Obviously these substances simply cannot continue to be dumped into the Fraser. I am pleased to report that one of the larger infrastructure projects of the government involves upgrading the Fraser sewage treatment facility.

A report by the World Wildlife Fund said sewage plants in Ontario and Quebec were receiving, along with billions of litres of waste water, about 100 tonnes of industrial metals and

chemicals each year. This discharge can cause serious damage to the ecosystem and contaminate drinking water.

Provinces such as Ontario have been working on developing effluent quality standards for sewage plants but nothing concrete has developed to date. Six years ago the federal and Nova Scotia governments agreed to deal with the untreated sewage flowing directly into Halifax harbour. Concern was raised seven years ago that the lack of sewage treatment facilities in the harbour would have long term consequences on the fisheries and on growth and investment in the metropolitan area.

Over 30 million gallons of untreated sewage enter Halifax harbour waters every day, with close to 20 per cent of this inflow classified as industrial in origin. This has resulted in documented levels of toxic contamination of the harbour waters.

This sewage and waste dumping into Halifax harbour present health hazards on top of the aesthetic problems with the harbour mired in sewage. The Nova Scotia government and Canada entered into an agreement in September 1988 to upgrade existing sewage infrastructure in the Halifax-Dartmouth area.

The agreement recognized that:

Even though the provision of municipal sewer services is fundamentally a provincial-municipal responsibility, Canada and the province recognize that the current state of sewage infrastructure in Halifax-Dartmouth is of urgent concern and justifies assistance on the basis of a regional development priority; and a significant portion of waste water is generated by federal facilities in the Halifax-Dartmouth metropolitan area.

Some $200 million was set aside to build a sewage treatment facility in Halifax, yet today the project is at almost a complete standstill with over $20 million sunk into consulting and with Halifax no closer to a primary sewage treatment facility. This is where the G-7 conference took place.

Today the estimated cost has doubled to over $400 million, twice that which was first estimated six years ago. The longer we wait, the more expensive it will be.

Now the Nova Scotia government and the federal government are wondering how it will come up with the extra money. After several promises that this will be completed they appear to be backtracking on their promises. Again I go back to the G-7.

Halifax harbour is but one example of the status of sewage facilities throughout the country. It is now commonplace to hear each summer which beaches are open and which beaches are closed due to high concentrations of fecal chloroform. Now is the time to deal with the problem.

In conclusion, I hope all members will support Motion No. 425 to undertake a country wide program of improving the treatment of municipal sewage to a minimum standard of at least that of primary treatment facilities.

Treatment Of Municipal SewagePrivate Members' Business

12:10 a.m.

Lachine—Lac-Saint-Louis Québec


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

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague for introducing this private member's motion. It is a very important subject. We share the feeling that this is a question of key importance.

I know my colleague is extremely concerned about matters of the environment. However, at this time when friends are fewer and fewer as days go by, we have almost completed an infrastructure program. The federal, provincial and municipal governments have joined together to launch a $6 billion program, effectively to renew infrastructure including the sewage systems in the country.

Whatever we do we cannot do by imposing ideas from the federal government. It has to start at the municipal level because sewage is a matter for municipalities to deal with and municipalities are creatures of provincial governments. This is why at the time of the election, in our red book, we decided to join with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and with all the provincial governments without exception to start a broad infrastructure program.

The $6 billion infrastructure program has achieved sewage treatment upgrades amounting to $2 billion in total. I will give a few examples of various projects that are being carried on under the program. In British Columbia, as the member for Comox-Alberni pointed out, there has been a $206 million upgrade projected of the Anascis Island sewage treatment plant; one of $2.2 million in Sherwood Park, Alberta; one in the Hamilton-Wentworth region of $25 million; one in Chicoutimi, Quebec, of $7.2 million; one in Grand Falls, New Brunswick; another one in Crossroads, P.E.I; another one in Deer Lake, Newfoundland; and so on.

The irony of it is that the leader of the Reform Party at the time of the election was quoted as saying:

Any politician who thinks he can stimulate a $700 billion GNP economy with some sewer projects or $2 billion to $3 billion in public works will believe he can start a 747 with a flashlight battery.

Therefore, with due respect, I think my colleague from Comox-Alberni should speak to his leader and suggest that sewer and infrastructure programs are key to the renewal of a prosperous economy. In fact the Reform Party, in its own budget plan, referred to physical and intellectual infrastructures on one page. However, as I read through it, there is not one mention of the environment or sewage projects. It mentions Canadian highways, airports, information transmission systems, ports, and railways, but not one word about the environment, sewage or water treatment.

It would seem to me that this is where it must start. If the member wants to do something constructive he should start at the level of his own party and persuade his leader to include the environment, sewage treatment plants, and infrastructure projects dealing with environmental needs in his future budget.

It is significant that during the infrastructure program the following provinces spent the greatest part of their money toward sewer upgrades and environmental projects. British Columbia has spent as much as 75 per cent, amounting to $488 million. Sixty per cent of all New Brunswick's infrastructure money went into environmental projects. In Newfoundland it was 48 per cent, in Nova Scotia 62 per cent, in P.E.I. 60 per cent. Admittedly, the other provinces spent a minor part of their infrastructure moneys in sewer and environmental projects. Even then, it is pretty significant. Alberta has spent 30 per cent to date, Saskatchewan 32 per cent, Quebec 33 per cent, Yukon 27 per cent, and so it goes.

Treatment Of Municipal SewagePrivate Members' Business

12:15 a.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

In Ontario?

Treatment Of Municipal SewagePrivate Members' Business

12:15 a.m.


Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lachine—Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

The figure for Ontario was only 16 per cent, and in Manitoba it was 16 per cent.

Treatment Of Municipal SewagePrivate Members' Business

12:15 a.m.


Lee Morrison Reform Swift Current—Maple Creek—Assiniboia, SK

They fixed up the rinks.

Treatment Of Municipal SewagePrivate Members' Business

12:15 a.m.


Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lachine—Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Well they might have fixed up the rinks, but they also fixed up a lot of sewer projects. In the member's own riding I see that out of this infrastructure project the village of Ucluelet, the regional district of Comox, Strathcona, Port Alberni, and the village of Cumberland all realized sewer projects with their infrastructure money.

What I think we have to do is support what we have already in order to make it a better project and convince the member's own party that the environment counts. When they redraw their famous budget they should include the environment and sewer projects.

I agree that work has to be done, but it will only be done when we sit together with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, all the municipalities in the land and all the provinces so that future infrastructure projects, if we can find the collective money to put them together, will be geared firstly and hopefully almost exclusively to environmental needs.

Admittedly a lot of money has been spent on road repair and all other types of infrastructure projects, which were also necessary. However, maybe we can agree in the future that environmental needs will come first and foremost. In this I would support the member 100 per cent.

What we must do is first of all ensure that what we have already works and works well. What we have attempted here has been a significant achievement to put together for the first time a collective program of $6 billion at a very tough juncture for both provincial and federal governments as well as for municipal governments. It has been a big achievement, $2 billion spent on environmental projects.

I believe that we have the start of something constructive, and I respectfully suggest to the member that this is a solution for the future in what he is trying to do.

Treatment Of Municipal SewagePrivate Members' Business

12:20 a.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, I see that the Minister of the Environment has managed to influence the hon. member for Lachine-Lac-Saint-Louis. He speaks the same language as the Minister of the Environment. He now engages in petty politics.

It is with great interest that I rise tonight during private members' hour. Motion M-425 put forward by the hon. member for Comox-Alberni deserves a few minutes of consideration since it deals with an issue that affects us very closely, municipal sewage.

If I understand correctly, the purpose of the hon. member's motion is to prevent municipal sewage from being dumped back directly into the environment without undergoing at least primary treatment, as the motion says.

I, for one, am totally in favour of this. Sewage must undergo a minimum level of treatment. We no longer think that we can flush our sewage directly into bodies of water without negative consequences. We, unfortunately, did this for too long, and we must now pay for our carelessness and stupidity. Today, we must live with and clean up polluted lakes and rivers. Of course, at the time, we thought that our hydrographic system could absorb a certain amount of sewage. Perhaps it could, but did we have the right to do this?

Since then, however, the amount of sewage has grown by leaps and bounds, so to speak, and it now contains an increasing variety of products whose long term effects are totally unknown. At the present time, if we dumped all municipal sewage without treating it, our hydrographic system would be totally devastated and become unusable for no good reason.

Fortunately, some 30 years ago, I would say, we became aware of how big the problem is. The small facilities then in existence quickly became outdated and inefficient, even obsolete.

It is then that it was decided, in Quebec in particular, to modernize existing systems and build more sophisticated and efficient equipment that could absorb and treat large amounts of sewage.

Significant amounts were invested. Provincial funds and municipal taxes were spent through specific programs. Of

course, there were major flops. Some of the plants that cost a lot to build did not live up to expectations. But on the whole, we can say that it was a success.

Much work has been done and much money has been poured into this since, but we are still far from being able to draw our drinking water directly from our lakes and rivers or dip our big toe into certain waters that bathe our urban or semi-urban areas. In that regard, is it not somewhat paradoxical that we treat our sewage before discharging it and have to treat water again before using it?

That being said, it is clear that efforts are required in that area. So far, all the efforts have come from the provinces and municipalities.

Municipal sewage is therefore and undeniably an area of provincial and municipal jurisdiction. So, when the hon. member for Comox-Alberni talks about a country-wide program and a minimum standard, I cannot help but wonder and worry about what he wants exactly.

Does he want the federal government to come and impose, because of its spending power, standards in a jurisdiction clearly belonging to other levels of government? If that is what he wants, I think that he is mistaken. The federal government is certainly no guarantee of a better environment. As media reviews and environmental groups have been telling us regularly these days, the federal government is backing off in matters of the environment. It is cutting funding, abandoning the Green Plan, showing its inability and blatant lack of willingness to meet its own targets and failing to honour every one of its international undertakings under various treaties.

In the face of this abdication, I think that the federal government should stay in its backyard with respect to municipal sewage. Not in my backyard, as the popular saying goes. The government could nonetheless provide funding to carry out this great plan of discharging clean sewage into our waters. A resource envelope divided equitably among the provinces would certainly help achieve this objective. Do not get me wrong. All I am talking about is funds divided equitably, period.

If the federal government starts imposing standards, as it tends to do more and more, its attempt will have to be quashed. Finally, I wish to underline the good intention of the hon. member for Comox-Alberni. His motion reflects a genuine concern for the environment. Besides, the Reform Party's concern for the environment is made abundantly clear anytime we deal with an environmental issue. From Cape Breton, where we have the Sydney Tar Pond Projects, to the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, where the CEPA is being reviewed, the Reform Party contribution has shown exemplary concern for the environment.

In concluding, I should say that municipal sewage is only one element of the much larger pollution problem. It is essential that we immediately correct the problems and that we consider very seriously all the other sources of pollutants. If we do not act now, the condition of our planet will be such that in the future our children and grandchildren will not be able to survive. I would like to propose an amendment on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois to the motion of the hon. member for Comox-Alberni. I move, seconded by the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve:

That Motion M-425 be amended by adding, at line 2, after the words "a country-wide program" the following: "with opting out provision and full financial compensation for all provinces".

Treatment Of Municipal SewagePrivate Members' Business

12:25 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Order. The amendment moved by the hon. member for Laurentides, seconded by the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, is in order.

Treatment Of Municipal SewagePrivate Members' Business

12:25 a.m.

St. Boniface Manitoba


Ronald J. Duhamel LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, the motion by the member for Comox-Alberni concerns the establishment of a country-wide program to permit municipalities to upgrade their sewer systems. I would point out to the House that the infrastructure program launched by the government in co-operation with the provinces and the territories has helped municipalities modernize their effluent treatment facilities and, at the same time, has created the jobs these communities badly needed.

On June 14 of this year, the government approved $1.2 billion dollars for infrastructure projects across Canada to modernize and expand sewer systems. If we add to this the funds approved for projects to improve drinking water supply and treatment systems, we end up with a figure of $1.9 billion, or a third of the money earmarked for the infrastructure program, going to water or sewer system projects.

These figures indicate that clean water and establishment of a healthy environment are priorities in each province. The municipalities invest the money from the infrastructure program to provide essential services, and we are their partners in this undertaking.

The improvements will benefit the municipalities themselves and Canada as a whole. The projects will mean work for workers, improved quality of life in the communities and a better future for our children.

The member sponsoring this motion comes form British Columbia. In that province 75 per cent of infrastructure works funding has been set aside specifically for sewer and water projects and $388 million has already been approved for sewage treatment improvements.

The largest single infrastructure works project in the country is a major sewage treatment facility in B.C. The $206 million upgrade to the Annacis Island sewage treatment plant will reduce waste reaching the Fraser River. Costs will be shared with the province of British Columbia and the greater Vancouver regional district. The upgrade will cover the first phase of secondary waste water treatment and reduce the level of pollu-

tants expelled into the Fraser River, home of the largest salmon run in the world. More than one billion fish migrate up the Fraser River to spawn every year.

Still in British Columbia, communities from one end of of the province to the other are taking advantage of the unique partnership created by Canada infrastructure works to upgrade vital services and boost their local economies. For example, in the Okanagan region infrastucture funding of $27 million is allowing the district of Summerland to build sanitary sewers and a sewage treatment plant. With a population of almost 10,000 Summerland is the largest community in the Okanagan without a community sewage program.

Thanks to the $7.5 million in infrastructure works funding Prince George is moving ahead with stage three of a waste water treatment plant in that city. Smaller communities are also benefiting. On the northern part of Vancouver Island, Port Alice, Port McNeill and the district of Powell River are upgrading or building sewage facilities under the infrastructure program.

By taking advantage of the possibilities for co-operation offered by infrastructure works, municipalities can begin earlier, and at a lower cost, to modernize their water treatment facilities. In my province, Manitoba, Winnipeg is modernizing its sewer system in order to reduce spillover into the Red River. Four projects worth a total of $20 million will prevent the rise and overflow of sewer water.

A similar project is now under way in Hamilton, Ontario. That city is building a $25 million facility that intercepts combined sewer overflows and contains them for treatment at the water pollution control plant. Here again is a case of the national infrastructure program responding to local priorities and improving our environment.

The infrastructure program is bringing water and sewer service to many rural Atlantic Canada communities for the first time. Examples include Colchester county, Nova Scotia where a $13 million project will build a sewage treatment plant to service the town of Truro and surrounding area. This improved infrastructure will assist industrial development while enhancing the local environment. What is more, using the latest technology will develop the job skills of those employed in the construction and operation of the plant.

Three communities in Prince Edward Island have worked together to expand sewer facilities. Bunbury, Southport and Crossroads have now been amalgamated into one town. The community is pleased with the rapid implementation of the $1.5 million project. It is a densely populated area and environmental problems were imminent if the sewer system had not been extended.

According to the head of the local pollution control commission, the community benefits in several ways. I quote: "One is the potential for safer groundwater for a much longer time. It also makes the area much more attractive to live in. There's also a greater potential for commercial and industrial development in the area".

In the community of Conception Bay South, Newfoundland about 350 homes, schools and businesses will have water and sewer services available to them this summer for the first time. The $5 million infrastructure project employed over 200 people and has been a real shot in the arm for the local economy. The town's mayor says that it is the best thing that has ever happened to his community. I quote: "There are a lot of families that have been waiting a long time, perhaps 20 years, for these services, if not for the infrastructure program".

Finally, the infrastructure program has allowed large and small municipalities across Canada to make improvements to their sewer systems, improvements they established as priorities themselves.

Thanks to federal-provincial co-operation, these improvements may be made now and create the jobs these communities so badly need. The program is a fine example of what can be accomplished when three levels of government decide to work together for the welfare of the people.

Treatment Of Municipal SewagePrivate Members' Business

12:35 a.m.


Paul Forseth Reform New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is now 12.35 in the morning and it is a privilege to speak to the motion put forward by my colleague from Comox-Alberni. The motion says:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should support the undertaking of a country-wide program of improving the treatment of municipal sewage to a minimum standard of at least that of primary treatment facilities.

The motion put forward is to improve sewage treatment facilities, part of what I might call need to haves rather than the like to haves, which are often put forward by the government in its infrastructure program.

This is not a western issue. It is a national issue. It is also an issue raised by the Liberals in their red book, an issue that now seems to have been put on the back burner.

I want to read the promise in the red book word for word. I encourage my colleagues from across the floor to listen closely. It states: "One of the country's biggest sources of water degradation is untreated municipal sewage, aggravated by decades of neglect of sewage and water treatment infrastructure".

This sounds very similar to the motion so I would assume its mover would have the full support of all the members on the government side on this one.

The lack of basic sewage treatment is a serious problem. According to the Sierra Legal Defence Fund report: "If the annual volume of untreated sewage were piled on the trans-Canada highway, all 7,800 kilometres of it, it would cover the road to a depth of nearly 9 metres from coast to coast".

Running on the boundary of my riding of New Westminster-Burnaby is the Fraser River. British Columbians realize that the Fraser is in serious jeopardy. Unfortunately most do not truly understand why it is in the condition that it is in. I am sure there are many answers, complex scientific ones, but certainly one answer is that it is how sewage is handled in and around the river.

Just last week the Fraser River Management Program issued a report card on the Fraser basin. Sewage treatment plants on the river were singled out as the biggest problem, receiving an f grade, a fail. Dumping of under treated sewage is benefiting no one and is endangering once abundant fish stocks.

The Outdoor Recreation Council declared that the Fraser River, which supports about a $300 million a year salmon fishery, is British Columbia's most endangered river.

We realize that the cost of upgrading or building new treatment plants is rather expensive. We also realize what our priorities are. Our priorities should always be for the well-being and health of Canadians.

A ribbon cutting ceremony for a new sewage treatment plant may not make for great photo opportunities but photo ops are not what will keep the country environmentally sustainable. We all know the Liberal government is more into photo ops than it is into environmental cleanups.

The government implemented its grand infrastructure programs soon after they were elected. They talked about funding going toward roads, sewers, bridges and water mains, except here is where some of the funding is actually going: $15 million for renovations to a coliseum; $21 million for a convention centre; $173 million for a trade centre; $50 million for an arts centre; $24 million for a tennis stadium; and almost $15 million for building a circus training facility.

This is only a portion of the list. I believe the list I just read will give an understanding of how wasteful this government has become. Among the legitimate projects there is also a lot of Liberal pork. These are misplaced priorities from misguided Liberalism.

Our motion clearly calls for the federal government to improve municipal sewage facilities to a minimum standard of at least primary treatment. With only three types of possible treatments available, this is the second from the bottom for effectiveness yet it would be far greater than some Canadian cities currently have. Some of them have nothing at all.

In Halifax, Nova Scotia the city dumps all of its raw sewage down the pipe into the ocean. That is 250 years of pumping untreated sewage right into the Halifax harbour. The same method is used in Victoria, British Columbia. In both places proponents hope that the cold tidal waters will be capable of carrying the waste out to sea. I believe both cities are realizing that there is only so much that the waters are able to neutralize.

So many promises have been made that people are having trouble keeping track of which level of government actually said what. For Halifax, the federal, provincial and municipal governments apparently earmarked $200 million to build a new treatment facility yet residents of Halifax are still pumping over 100 million litres of untreated sewage into the harbour each day. While Nova Scotia waits for its much needed facilities, Montrealers will be serving up aces in their new tennis complex and doing somersaults in their new circus tent, all part of infrastructure money.

This country's deficit and debt are ballooning larger every day. The federal government must be frugal on how it spends its money. My constituents have told me that when their bank accounts are low, they spend according to priority. They only purchase what is most necessary and they expect the government to do the same.

Like many of my constituents, Canada has basic necessities like education, health and the environment. When my own personal bank account is low, I do not go out and purchase a painting but when the federal government's bank account is low it goes out and builds an art gallery. Something just does not make sense here.

The Minister of the Environment talks of sustainable development but talk is insincere when the words are not put into action. British Columbia's Fraser River is the greatest salmon producing river in the world. People living along the Fraser have always had a close connection with the river, relying on it for water, food, transportation and livelihood. However this river system cannot be sustained if municipalities along the river are forced to release untreated sewage.

My colleague from Comox-Alberni is not proposing anything new with his motion. He is simply reminding the government of its commitments for sustainable development. I hope that the revenue minister as well as the member for Halifax are listening closely to this debate because Victoria and Halifax are the two Canadian cities that are dumping untreated sewage into our waters.

I note that the revenue minister is quite aware of the situation. In February 1993 he wrote a column in the Globe and Mail entitled: The benefits of dumping sewage in the sea''. In the article he wrote:When the waste water leaves the pipe, it is immediately subjected to vast quantities of cold, fast moving sea water high in oxygen which would result in a biological, bacterial and chemical change''. Strangely enough, he does admit there is the possibility that something dangerous but unknown may be in the discharge water and might become a problem in the future.

Finally it should be noted that in 1989, 70 per cent of Victorians supported treatment for all waste water coming out of Victoria's capital regional district. I hope that the minister will have the courage to listen to his own electorate.

The government was so proud of the red book during the election. I often heard the Prime Minister tell Canadians that if his Liberal government was not following the red book promises to notify him and make him accountable, not that the red book was so great anyway.

Someone mentioned to me recently that the Deputy Prime Minister said a similar thing but added that if promises were not kept that they should give her a good swift kick. After the next election, the voters will not be able to kick the minister around any more for she will not be around.

The Reform Party through this motion is asking the government to live up to its basic promise and to support improvements to municipal sewage facilities. Should it fail to do so it will be conveying a message to Canadians that the red book was merely an election pamphlet which was long ago forgotten.

I urge the government to take care of the basics, to do at least the minimum and quickly act positively in response to the motion presented today.

Treatment Of Municipal SewagePrivate Members' Business

12:45 a.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, the motion and the well researched speech by the hon. member for Comox-Alberni are very important and stir the sentiments of many in the Chamber who share the views with respect to the importance of continuing this effort.

I remind my colleagues in the Reform Party it was the Liberal Party and the Liberal government which initiated the infrastructure program. Even if the method by which the program was launched is not 100 per cent satisfactory, programs related to sewage treatment, water improvement and the like have been set in motion which permit the debate tonight in a search for ways of improving what is under way.

The infrastructure program is a good measure. It has helped to create jobs for Canadians and it has helped to finance initiatives environmentally oriented in conjunction with other initiatives, as the hon. member for Comox-Alberni has already indicated and as the parliamentary secretary indicated in his reply.

What needs to be stressed in the debate is the importance of the Canadian Federation of Municipalities and of the respective provincial governments in deciding how the money is to be allocated. Evidently Ottawa, even if it wanted to allocate 100 per cent of its funds to a specific purpose, would have to obtain the concurrence of the other two partners. Therefore there is the necessity of working very closely with and convincing municipalities and provincial governments to agree to what we think are the priorities for the infrastructure program.

However, the infrastructure program has come to an end. This is year two and the scheme has virtually been completed. The question is how to continue. Obviously in considering the economic policies of the Reform Party and the limitations which have been imposed by the budget one would have to be very creative in the search for the funds.

I invite members of the Reform Party to look at a study conducted by the Department of Finance in December of 1993 and January of 1994 entitled "Tax Expenditures". There is one item which is rather considerable, a tax expenditure which is the equivalent of a loophole in the taxation system with respect to lottery winnings. In 1991, because of non-taxation of lottery winnings, the loss in revenue amounted to some $860 million. I suspect that amount increases every year. Therefore there are places where moneys can be found by way of improving our taxation system and by closing loopholes.

I bring these thoughts to the attention of the hon. member for Comox-Alberni because I am sure he is very keen in his search for funds required in order to continue the infrastructure program in years three and four.

Treatment Of Municipal SewagePrivate Members' Business

12:50 a.m.


Bill Graham Liberal Rosedale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House at this late hour and be the last speaker on the motion brought by the member for Comox-Alberni.

Like the member for Davenport, I will begin by congratulating the member for Comox-Alberni on his motion and on the presentation he gave which was a very thorough exposition of the nature of the problems in our country and in every modern society dealing with effluent. We have to be very conscious of this. This is an example of the type of debate we can have in the House to search for the best solutions to these perplexing and complex problems from a technological point of view and from a human management point of view.

I suppose as a member of the government one regret I have about the debate is I was disappointed to see it degenerate so quickly on the other side of the House from what I considered to be the high level of the opening moral tone of the member for Comox-Alberni to other members of his party who then used the motion as a way to attack the government for not doing things which we have been doing.

It reminds me of earlier when I listened to the member for Fraser Valley East spending his whole speech complaining that there is no discussion in the House. When members of the third party get up and use these opportunities to attack another party, no wonder we do not get into any discussion.

This is a constructive opportunity to exchange views. The member for Davenport has indicated members of the House on all sides are passionately interested in finding solutions to these problems.

I, as chairman of the foreign affairs committee and the member for Red Deer, who also sits on that committee, are more than aware of the consequence of effluents flowing from Victoria into international waters and our relations with the United States. It behoves all of us to be aware of that.

To suggest that the government is not aware of it is totally ignoring reality. Suggesting the infrastructure program has been deficient in this respect is doubly unfair. The infrastructure program is, as the member knows, a tripartite program conceived in the Canadian spirit. It requires the collaboration of the federal, provincial and municipal governments.

When we look at the way the infrastructure program has been applied around the country and the way it has been used, it co-ordinates the needs and desires of all people. Members of the Reform Party should be happy because at the municipal level we are getting the input from the very lowest level of government in the European sense of subsidiarity, that which is closest to the people, and it is their choice.

There are municipalities that have selected water treatment facilities. In those cases the federal government has participated, encouraged and done its best to make sure the country and the needs of the municipalities are served. Where other municipalities have chosen other priorities, the federal government has recognized that it is their right as citizens and as municipal governments.

I suggest to the third party we should concentrate not only on the question of effluent removal, which is a most important priority, but also on the principle on which the country is founded; a principle of tolerance and co-operation by all levels of government. If we can get all our programs working that way and use persuasion to get the federal government to do its work we can achieve the results wished for by the member for Comox-Alberni without trampling on the rights of local municipalities.

Treatment Of Municipal SewagePrivate Members' Business

12:50 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired. Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 is deemed to have been made.

Treatment Of Municipal SewageAdjournment Proceedings

12:50 a.m.


Jim Jordan Liberal Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to focus on the recently passed gun legislation.

Our articulated gun bill in Canada says something for us as a society not only for today but for generations to come. However, I have some real concerns in the ability to apply that law. We would like to think that Canadians are law-abiding citizens in terms of there being seven million guns. I do not know who counted them. I do not know who knows for example that I have three guns.

Let us say there are seven million guns out there. A lot of those guns have been sitting around. They are in attics, basements and behind pantry doors. A lot of them are not used and have not been used for years. I have two rifles that have not been used for 20 years. My concern is that we must have some incentive to flush out of existence a lot of those rifles and guns which have not been used, are not being used and will not be used unless they happen to fall into the wrong hands.

I am proposing a form of gun amnesty in Canada. There would be some incentive for people to turn in those guns. Some people are quite aware they have no use for the gun but there is a reluctance or a sentimental attachment to it. Perhaps the widow's husband used the gun for many years and she is just a little bit reluctant to get rid of it but at the same time knows she has no earthly use for it.

The bill could be improved. The application of the bill certainly would be much easier. It will be a tremendous and horrific job for our police departments unless there is genuine co-operation to register the guns.

My proposal is to have a form of amnesty, amnesty plus if you like, with some sort of minimal tax credit, something in the area of $25 or so for turning in those guns. Motivation is needed. I do not think a lot of people would object to that. It would not cost very much. It is going to cost something to register the gun

anyway so it is not as if it were all lost. Some program like that with a public relations selling job associated with it would have a very positive effect on the number of guns that are in this nation.

I would be glad to turn in my two rifles and keep my shotgun. In that case I would probably make better use and take better care in the storage of my shotgun than if I had a whole lot of guns sitting around.

We could flush out those guns that are no longer used and where their purpose is long forgotten. I do not see any advantage to having them sitting around when people will be reluctant to go through the inconvenience of registering them. They would be relieved if there were some way in which they could dispose of them. The motivation could be a very small tax credit. I think it would work. I have received very positive feedback from some very unexpected corners when I think back to their attitude toward the gun bill. That is why I brought this matter forward.

Treatment Of Municipal SewageAdjournment Proceedings

12:55 a.m.

Cape Breton—The Sydneys Nova Scotia


Russell MacLellan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the member for Leeds-Grenville brings forward a very interesting proposal. There is a new twist I have not heard before which is the aspect of the tax credit.

With the passage of Bill C-68 in the House of Commons and the expected passage of the same bill in the Senate later this year, we will be registering all firearms. As the member for Leeds-Grenville has said, some people may not want to register firearms.

Frankly, I do not think it will affect the gun owners themselves, but for those who have inherited firearms or have had firearms lying around the house, they may not want to go through that procedure if it is not their intention to use those firearms. Of course I think mainly of long guns, rifles and shotguns. Firearms can be sold. Handguns, even the prohibited ones, can be sold to people who have similar types of firearms. They can be turned in at any time or they can be sold out of the country.

It is correct that when there is an amnesty it focuses the idea in people's minds so they become more conscious of turning in their firearms. A lot of people will turn in firearms without any compensation but certainly more people would turn in their firearms if there is compensation.

The main problem is the cost which would be considerable. One never knows how many people would take advantage of the amnesty but we would have to expect that there would be a cost.

The other question that has to be looked at is if prohibited weapons are being turned in that can be purchased on the street or out of a trunk of a car for a very small amount, then these people with the tax credit would receive more than they actually paid for the firearm. That would only take place for a short while. Once registration came into effect they would not be able to do that. However, it is certainly something that should be examined further.

I know the Department of Justice and the Minister of Justice will be discussing this idea with the Department of Finance. Something may result from this but it is too early to speculate whether the idea of the hon. member for Leeds-Grenville will result in a solution or not. We will have to wait until these discussions take place.

Treatment Of Municipal SewageAdjournment Proceedings

12:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Pursuant to Standing Order 38(5), the motion to adjourn the House is now deemed adopted.

Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 1.02 a.m.)