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House of Commons Hansard #32 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was powers.

Topics

Drinking Water Materials Safety ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I see a quorum.

The hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre may resume her speech.

Drinking Water Materials Safety ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the drug bureau is gone. This is a very important part of health protection in the country under which the regulation of water standards fall.

We also know how close we came to losing the food research bureau. Under the government's agenda cuts were made and because of pressure from activists in the community, pressures from the House and disclosure in the media the government was forced to back off that issue for now. However, we know the agenda is still alive and well.

What about the water and air research lab of the Health Protection Branch. Where is it and when will it fall? Where is it on the agenda?

How can we talk about standards and about protecting the health and well-being of Canadians and ensuring safe water supplies when the government is busy behind our backs eliminating every regulatory measure and every research capacity we have to ensure the health and safety of Canadians.

That raises a very serious point with respect to this bill as well. So much of what has happened has been done without the benefit of parliamentary debate. It has been done in the most secretive manner possible. It was attempted in the dead of summer, without the benefit of public knowledge and input.

Here we are today with a bill which according to the minister is the result of consultations held with various groups throughout the development of the legislation. He goes on to say “These stakeholders include representatives from industry, public health, consumer groups and standards organizations”.

Why are we now starting to get correspondence and calls from stakeholders in all of those areas questioning where the bill came from, why it is on our agenda and why they were not consulted?

The health critic for the Reform Party has touched on this issue. Let me elaborate. The Safe Drinking Water Coalition attempted to have dialogue with the minister and indicated to him by letter on July 31, 1997 that the coalition was prepared to work with the minister to ensure that standards pertaining to drinking water materials were adequate.

That coalition includes the Canadian Association of Pump Manufacturers, the Canadian Copper and Brass Development Association, the Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating, the Canadian Water Quality Association and the the Nickel Development Institute. That is a significant number of organizations in the country that tried to dialogue with the minister, were prepared to work with him on the so-called standards that the minister says are necessary. Now they are wondering where this legislation came from.

Drinking Water Materials Safety ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Reform

Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order.

Less than five minutes ago we requested that there be some people on the government side listening to the debate, especially the ministers who have introduced this. We feel it is very important. I think that if they cannot even sit here for five minutes and listen to the debate, we have a problem in this House.

Drinking Water Materials Safety ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am afraid I do not hear a point of order in what the hon. member has said.

Drinking Water Materials Safety ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Reform

Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

I am calling for a quorum count.

Drinking Water Materials Safety ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Oh, the hon. member is calling for a quorum. If he had stated that more succinctly I would have started the count.

And the count having been taken:

Drinking Water Materials Safety ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I see a quorum.

The hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre.

Drinking Water Materials Safety ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I was commenting on the minister's claim that Bill C-14 is brought to this Chamber as a result of a very serious and thoughtful consultation process.

All the evidence points to the contrary. In fact, we do not have any evidence before us to show that this minister consulted and that there are groups coming forward to say “This bill is important and we want to see you support it”. We have had nothing but individuals and organizations contacting us to say “This is a complete surprise We've been talking to the minister. We've been offering to help to ensure that the standards are up to whatever level the minister wants. We're prepared to do anything”.

In fact, the Water Quality Association had promised to do a serious scientific assessment of the risks associated with drinking water consumption with respect to drinking water material. That study is in its final stages and is about to be released, probably as early as next week.

Why is it that the minister was not prepared to consult fully, to wait for that kind of helpful advice and then make a decision pertaining to legislation that might be in order? Why are we now left with the situation with every group coming to us saying “Bill C-14 is very controversial. Bill C-14 should not be before this Chamber. Bill C-14 is not necessary”.

We do not have any evidence to the contrary. We do not have a shred of evidence from the minister or from any other group to say exactly what this bill is supposed to do, what standards are not now being met and what the problems are. Yet we know that this bill, if applied according to the way it is laid out, will place very hefty fines on those who deviate from these standards or guidelines, very significant costs to the consumers of this country, and yet we do not know the reason.

All of us, at least on this side of the House, are prepared to say that we need strong regulations. Sometimes they cost money, but we have to pay if they are important in terms of the health and well-being of Canadians. However, we are faced with this legislation today and we do not know where all of this money is going to go. What will it accomplish? How will it protect us? What does it mean?

The chair of the Standing Committee on Health said to wait until the standing committee gets the bill, but we are here debating on principle. We are here to try to make a judgment call about whether to support this bill in principle or not. We cannot because all of the evidence suggests that there is not a basis for this legislation and that in fact these high standards that the minister talks about could be achieved in other ways.

As an example, I refer to the fact that the Water Quality Association has pointed out that it is prepared, with the minister, to look at the NSF International standards and to apply those standards here in Canada. As I understand it, one of the intentions of this bill is actually to use those international standards, probably provided by NSF International, which is a private, not for profit U.S. standards agency, which has representation from industry, Health Canada and provincial representation here in Canada as well as representation from the United States.

We have a bill which will supposedly look at those standards and apply them here in Canada. We have a council for water quality. We have a coalition of people concerned about safe drinking water. We have a whole lot of other consumer groups which are prepared to say they will look at those standards, consider those standards and work with us if that is what we think is the best model.

It begs the question why this legislation? What is it for? What is the rush?

On the basis of what we have read to date and on the basis of the input that various community organizations are providing it is not supportable at this time.

What are the priorities of this government? Why are we dealing with this legislation at this point when the government is busy dismantling all those agencies which ensure the health and safety of Canadians is protected?

On the topic of water, it begs the question of what this government is actually doing to ensure safe drinking water in all our communities. Just this morning at the Standing Committee on Health we dealt with issues pertaining to health care for our first nations and Inuit peoples. It was acknowledged that there are many problems which cause ill health, one of them being poor quality of water. Where is that on the priority list? Why are we not dealing with that in this House? Why are we dealing with legislation when we do not know what the risks are? Why do we need to change the standards? What is wrong with working with the groups concerned about safe drinking water?

On the basis of the kind of inadequate consultation process that we believe to be the case, on the basis of the evidence that suggests there may be no risks at present, on the basis of the fact that this government has been so hasty once more in pushing through this legislation without proper dialogue and consultation, we will at this point in time oppose this legislation. We urge the government to go back to the drawing board and come back with a meaningful plan based on proper consultation.

Drinking Water Materials Safety ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Vancouver Centre B.C.

Liberal

Hedy Fry LiberalSecretary of State (Multiculturalism)(Status of Women)

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member speak against this proposed legislation. I believe the hon. member's heart is in the right place. She brought up some very thoughtful questions. She made some very thoughtful interventions.

I want to comment on a couple of the questions that the honourable member asked.

The first question was why the haste in bringing in this bill. This bill was first tabled in December 1996. This is not haste. This is just bringing something back that because of various reasons, breaks, et cetera, has not had due course in the House. Having first reading of the bill in December 1996 and talking about it almost a year later is considered to be haste.

Second, the honourable member spoke about lots of other very important health issues that she felt that the government should be dealing with at this point in time. Are we suggesting an either/or set of initiatives so that if we do safe drinking water we will not be paying attention to other issues? It is obvious that you cannot do all things at once, but this is important.

The question is why now. Why do we need this bill now? Why do not we wait until we have a lot of evidence, until there are innumerable small children who have died from gastroenteritis because of drinking unsafe water, until we have had lots of people become ill, and then when we have all that data, let's do something about it?

The whole concept of good public health policy is to be proactive. It is to protect people, to prevent. It is called preventive health care at its very best. This is what I see this bill about. I think that the question again is why not work with stakeholders. It is obvious that it is in the second component of this bill when it goes to committee that we will be hearing from stakeholders, where we will factor in all of the whys and wherefores and concerns and new ideas that will come in to strengthen the bill. That is what the legislation is about.

Drinking Water Materials Safety ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to answer by asking a question in return to the member, because this goes to the heart of the matter.

Is it proactive in terms of the health and well-being of Canadians to eliminate the drug research bureau as part of the health protection branch? Is it proactive to eliminate a body which costs roughly $2 million to $3 million and lose any independent capacity in this country for ensuring that the drugs people take are safe? Is it proactive to try to dismantle the food research bureau in the health protection branch? Is it proactive to study the lead content of children's toys, identify an acceptable content and then say there is no risk for children? Is it proactive to pursue an approach of privatization, deregulation and reducing the department and the government's liability when it comes to people's health and well-being?

Those are the key issues. How do we put this bill in that context if we have a government not committed to being proactive, to a regulatory approach in terms of the food we eat, the drugs we have to take for medical reasons, the air we breathe, the water we drink? How can we start understanding the need for this legislation at this time when we have organizations saying the standards the minister is talking about they are prepared to co-operate on, they are prepared to implement, they are prepared to enforce without the costs that will result from this bill if it goes forward?

The proactive approach is to demand a strong health protection branch, a strong role by Health Canada and to ensure that this government backs off its right wing agenda of privatization, deregulation and offloading. That is what I would like to hear from this government.

Drinking Water Materials Safety ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I heard with great interest my colleague from across the way talking about privatization, deregulation, and so forth.

I am wondering if the member is sitting in the provincial legislature in Queen's Park in Ontario or if she is sitting right here.

Talking about privatization, I do not think this is happening here. But with great interest I heard that the member said that we do not have any dialogue with organizations, we have inadequate consultations, no proper dialogue. We have been at this almost a year. How much more do we have to wait, according to the member's sense of evaluation, until we have to see the light and get a proper bill on the table, which in my estimation this is, to get Canada moving? How much longer do you want to wait? Another two years until you have, in essence, dialogue with everybody or are you ready to move right now?

Drinking Water Materials Safety ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I know the hon. member will want to address the Chair in his remarks.

Drinking Water Materials Safety ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member raises the important issue of privatization that is happening at this level of government. He may not be aware of the number of steps that his own Minister of Health and other government officials have taken in that direction.

I would ask him to review the whole situation with respect to the elimination of the drug research bureau which costs taxpayers $2 million to $3 million and which means the loss of any independent research capacity when it comes to drugs and for which the minister answered by saying that the private drug companies can monitor themselves and do their own research. If that is not privatization what is?

On his second point, there are a number of organizations that felt they were in the process of dialogue with the Minister of Health and were prepared to work on the improvement of standards. They feel Bill C-14 came out of the blue in the middle of that consultation and dialogue.

If they were prepared to do that and were prepared to come forward with an important study about the scientific assessment of risks associated with drinking water and drinking water materials then why could we have not waited to see the results of the study? Why could we not have found ways to achieve these objectives other than a very costly mechanism which by the minister's own admission could cost consumers and taxpayers in the order of $2 million?

Drinking Water Materials Safety ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, could the member comment on the circular I received from the health department which stated that consultations were held with various groups throughout the development of this legislation. These stakeholders include representatives from industry, public health, consumer groups and so on.

Yet I presented to the House information that consumer groups and industry had tried very hard to be in touch with the department on this issue and had been denied. I have quite a correspondence from them. Does the minister agree with the fact that this consultation has been cursory and quite restrictive?

Drinking Water Materials Safety ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member is quite right in pointing to the number of organizations in terms of the industry, the health activist community and the interest groups that there was inadequate consultation if any.

Drinking Water Materials Safety ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I want to clarify with the member across the way what minister she is talking about. When the question is put to the New Democratic Party, what minister is the member actually—

Drinking Water Materials Safety ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I think the hon. member for Macleod was referring to the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre. He meant to say member and he said minister. I believe that was the mistake that was made. Perhaps the hon. member for Macleod wishes to clarify the point.

Drinking Water Materials Safety ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, if I made a mistake and called the member minister—maybe in another life. I did mean member. I was speaking of the Minister of Health having received this information.

Drinking Water Materials Safety ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I trust that clears the matter up.

I would like to speak about the amendment moved earlier by the hon. member, just before the speech by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre. It is the Chair's opinion that the amendment is in order.

Therefore, the next time the bill is considered by the House, the debate will be on the amendment.

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of several deferred recorded divisions.

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

The House resumed from November 5 consideration of the motion.

Parenting ArrangementsGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

The Speaker

Pursuant to order made Wednesday, November 5, 1997, the first recorded division is on Motion No. 7, under Government Orders.

(The House divided on Motion No. 7, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Division No. 23Government Orders

November 18th, 1997 / 6 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed from November 6 consideration of the motion and of the amendment.

SupplyGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

The Speaker

Pursuant to order made Thursday, November 6, 1997, the next recorded division is on the amendment relating to the business of supply.

Shall I dispense?

SupplyGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.