House of Commons Hansard #92 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was officers.


Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1998Government Orders

10 a.m.

Don Valley East Ontario


David Collenette Liberalfor the Minister of the Environment

moved that Bill C-32, an act respecting pollution prevention and the protection of the environment and human health in order to contribute to sustainable development, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1998Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

York North Ontario


Karen Kraft Sloan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, on March 12, 1998, the Minister of the Environment introduced Bill C-32, an act respecting pollution prevention and the protection of the environment and human health in order to contribute to sustainable development.

Today the minister is in Toronto for the first joint meeting of energy and environment ministers since Kyoto. The minister will be taking part in a CEPA debate on Monday.

I am pleased to begin the second reading of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

In 1988, only 10 years ago, the Canadian Environment Protection Act, or CEPA, became law. When first introduced CEPA was a significant shift in environmental law and in the way the federal government protected Canada's environment and human health.

The original CEPA contained several important measures including various approaches to the management of toxic substances, provisions for citizens to request an investigation and parliamentary scrutiny and review of the act after five years.

Similar provisions are internationally and domestically becoming more common in environmental legislation. In fact over the past 10 years environmental science and law have evolved considerably. We have much greater insight into the stresses that humans place on the environment. We know more about what must be done to reduce and remedy these stresses. We also have a strong and growing public concern for the environment and related impacts on human health.

Environmental protection is a core value for Canadians. More than 90% of surveyed Canadians are concerned about toxic chemicals, air pollution and water quality. Legislation must reflect the growth and change of society. CEPA must reflect the awareness and concern of Canadians.

I was a member of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development when it undertook the year-long review of CEPA in 1994. Our review, the government response to it and further talks with stakeholders including provinces, territories, aboriginal people, industry, environmental and other groups were included in the development of the bill. The new Canadian Environmental Protection Act must serve as a tool to help Canadians as we move into the 21st century.

Overall, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act covers pollution prevention, managing toxic substances, clean air and water, controlling pollution and waste. The act is further comprised of parts including public participation, environmental matters related to emergencies, biotechnology, federal government operations and federal aboriginal lands, enforcement and information gathering, objectives, guidelines and codes of practice. More important, Bill C-32 incorporates a number of policy directions or objectives.

Some important goals of environmental management are noted in the preamble and these include an ecosystem approach, the precautionary principle and the principle of pollution prevention.

I would like to address the following goals of environmental management: the ecosystem approach, the precautionary principle, user/producer responsibility, pollution prevention, the management of toxic substances, enforcement, and public participation.

Our environment is dependent on countless complex interactions among air, land, water and all living creatures. Ecosystem is defined under the act as a dynamic complex of plant, animal and micro-organism communities and their non-living environment interacting as a functional unit.

An ecosystem approach to environmental management recognizes the fact that all of these components are interdependent. These interactions are key to our continued health and existence. We cannot, for example, protect our air by removing contaminants from smoke stacks only to dump them into our waterways. We cannot protect our waterways by removing pollutants from discharge pipes and sending them to landfills.

An ecosystem approach to managing our environment requires the consideration of the complete picture and all its interdependencies, not just specific pieces of it. The concept of the comprehensive, integrated whole must underpin all our research activities and the way we make decisions.

The earth is an existing single reality and it can survive—we can survive—only in its integral functioning. An ecosystem approach is an integrative, transdisciplinary approach. It recognizes the interplay and interdependence of various domains such as biophysical, socioeconomic, human health, political and ethical domains that make life possible on our planet. Protection and amelioration of the environment demands this integrative and transdisciplinary approach.

An essential component of the current CEPA is the minister's authority to carry out monitoring and research on environmental quality. Monitoring and research allows us to understand and respond to environmental challenges. Knowledge is a critical precursor to informed decision making. The new CEPA specifies that ecosystem health is included in the concept of environmental quality and provides authority to conduct studies to detect the state of and damage to ecosystems.

Bill C-32 also allows for the publication of a state of the environment report for Canada and the development of ecosystem objectives, guidelines, codes of practice and inventories. Efforts will be focused on maintaining the integrity of ecosystems and not just individual components.

In the preamble of the new Canadian Environmental Protection Act the government is committed to the implementation of the precautionary principle which is now clearly recognized as a fundamental tenet of international environmental law.

Precautionary principle means that we act to prevent environmental damage rather than react after the damage has occurred.

Under the precautionary principle science is an essential component of what is done under CEPA. We must act when the weight of evidence suggests that a potential threat to the environment and human health exists. The costs of inaction are simply too high.

I would like to briefly talk about the concept of user/producer responsibility which has also been included in the preamble to Bill C-32. User/producer responsibility means placing a greater onus on the producer, user or importer of a substance to ensure that it is safe.

This is consistent with current regulations under CEPA that require information and data to allow for an assessment of these products before they are introduced into the marketplace. The bottom line is that individuals who profit from a substance should ensure that it does not pose a risk to the environment or to human health.

The pollution prevention approach demonstrates that government must identify toxic substances, work with others who are in positions to devise effective solutions to change specific processes and reduce or eliminate pollutants and waste and, where necessary, aggressively control these substances.

Pollution prevention is a much better approach than trying to control or clean pollution up after it has been created. The pollution prevention approach benefits the environment, improves the health of Canadians and saves money. Good environmental practices make good business sense. They lower operating costs, increase value for customers and build loyalty.

Canadians are particularly concerned about the risks that toxic substances pose to their health, their children's health, as well as the long term sustainability of their environment.

It has been recognized that stricter management action is required for toxics if they result primarily from human activity, if they persist in the environment for long periods of time and if they bioaccumulate, that is, the toxins are stored in the tissues of living creatures.

Minute quantities of these substances can build up over time. When they do, they can reach levels that cause serious, long term adverse effects to the environment or to human health. Once in the environment, these substances will damage our health and our ecosystem over many generations through subtle effects to the endocrine, immune, reproductive and other sensitive biological systems.

A virtual elimination approach for these substances is required to protect our health and that of the environment.

Bill C-32 allows the government to completely prohibit the importation and manufacture of these substances.

Environmental protection compliance orders are a powerful new tool that work like injunctions. Our inspectors will be able to issue orders on the spot to stop illegal activity and, if necessary, require an action to correct a violation so that the environment and public safety are protected.

Bill C-32 also creates a new category of enforcement officer called CEPA investigators. These officers will be investigation specialists with expertise in the gathering of evidence and court procedures. They will have all the powers of inspectors as well as certain peace officer powers such as the authority to serve court documents. Environmental protection alternative measures, EPAMs, are another enforcement tool. These alternative measures are essentially negotiated settlements to criminal charges. They allow the government to get companies back into compliance and make them pay fines or restore the environment without proceeding into costly and lengthy court cases. Charges are withdrawn only once the conditions of the environmental protection alternative measures are met.

Canadians have a role to play in maintaining a healthy and viable environment. Canadians want a healthy environment and they want to be involved in the solutions. Government alone cannot be expected to protect the environment. Canadians have throughout the years expressed their desire to be active participants.

While provisions for public participation were included by parliament in the original CEPA they were limited. The new CEPA seeks to improve opportunities for public participation. First, Bill C-32 requires the establishment of a registry of environmental information. It is currently proposed to make the registry accessible through the Internet. This will increase information available to Canadians. Use of the registry should increase public participation, how Canadians make more informed decisions and make it easier to hold the government accountable for its actions.

Second, Bill C-32 sets out an explicit requirement to establish and publish the national pollutants release inventory so that Canadians have access to information about pollutants being released in their communities. This inventory exists now on the basis of a policy decision. With Bill C-32 the government is going further by making it a legal commitment to provide the public with information.

Third, under the existing CEPA whistleblower protection applies only to individuals who report illegal releases of toxic substances. Bill C-32 also broadens this to include all violations such as improper storage of PCB contaminated material. Individuals who report infractions can have their confidentiality protected and all federally regulated employees can report violations without fear of dismissal, harassment or disciplinary action.

In addition, the current CEPA allows citizens to sue only if they can demonstrate that they have suffered loss or damage because of a violation of the act. In the original red book we stated our intention to use the review of CEPA to examine giving members of the public access to the courts as a last recourse if the federal government fails to enforce an environmental law.

Bill C-32 allows citizens to sue when there has been a violation of CEPA and the government fails to enforce the act resulting in significant harm to the environment. In other words, a person can sue for damage to the environment without the need to prove they suffered personal harm.

These changes will foster greater public participation which will help ensure the protection of Canada's environment.

I call on all members of the House to enter into the debate on this very important piece of environmental legislation. The legacy we as members of the House leave our children and generations to follow is reflected in how we regard the natural environment.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1998Government Orders

10:15 a.m.


John Duncan Reform Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure. I would like to address the bill before the House on behalf of the member for Nanaimo—Alberni, the Reform environment critic.

Reform's position on the environment is very clear. The Reform Party supports ensuring that all Canadians dwell in a clean and healthy environment. Reform believes that environmental considerations must carry equal weight with economic, social and technical considerations in the development of a project. This is the key to protecting our environment. We believe in public consultation, public participation and public commitment. Governments must work together to ensure our environment is a priority.

When the Canadian Environmental Protection Act came into force in 1988 the primary objective of the act was to protect the environment and protect human health. The act was intended to fill regulatory gaps in certain environmental matters, particularly with regard to toxic substances. It was also aimed at enabling Canada to fulfil international obligations. The Environmental Protection Act replaced and incorporated several previously existing acts such as the environmental contaminants act, the ocean dumping control act and the clean air act. Section 139 of the act requires a five year mandatory review of the administration of the act, and review began in the last parliament. The Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development held hearings which resulted in a report full of recommendations so that the then minister of the environment drafted Bill C-74 in the last parliament. But for many reasons, largely a result of its inadequacies, which I will get into briefly a little later, it died on the order paper and never made it through the House in the last parliament.

The bill we are talking about today is Bill C-32 which is a revamped version of Bill C-74 tabled in the last parliament. This new legislation provides measures for protection of the environment and human health, pollution prevention, management of toxic substances, virtual elimination of releases of substances determined to be most dangerous, and partnerships to achieve highest levels of environmental quality.

Changes to CEPA contained in Bill C-32 include provisions to implement pollution prevention, new procedures for the investigation and assessment of substances and new requirements for toxic assessments, new provisions respecting fuels, international air and water pollution, motor emissions, federal and aboriginal land protection, disposal of wastes and other matter at sea and the export and import of wastes. That is quite an expansion.

The legislation provides for the gathering of information for research and the creation of inventories of data, publishing of objectives, guidelines and codes of practice, new powers for inspectors, investigators and laboratory analysts, environmental protection alternative measures and civil suit action guidelines.

Although we are still considering the merits of this bill it appears the legislation has resurfaced with amendments that work in favour of the bill. There are many areas in this bill that Reform supports. However, there is also concerns which must be addressed both in committee and in the House.

In speaking today there are four major areas that I want to discuss. Those four areas contained in the legislation are the main areas of jurisdictional issues, public consultation, science and enforcement. I will start off with the jurisdictional issues.

As it stands, environmental jurisdiction is not clearly defined and separated in our Constitution. Since the 1980s expanded environmental protection at the federal and provincial levels of government has caused considerable tension. Although the supreme court decision ruled last September that Ottawa has the right to enact legislation to protect the environment the federal government should not take this as a carte blanche to run roughshod over the provinces.

Although environmental issues transcend boundaries there is no reason for the federal government to interfere in provincial affairs. Federal-provincial co-operation is essential to ensure environmental policies are carried through. Clearly provinces must be involved in this process as Environment Canada simply does not have sufficient resources to take full responsibility for the implementation of the act.

Reform blue book policy clearly supports the establishment of clear federal-provincial jurisdiction over environmental matters. There have been some amendments to the bill introduced since the last parliament to require co-operation between levels of government and to better recognize the harmonization accord.

The preamble sets out a shared responsibility for the environment. This is a start. However, this can be improved as the bill does not spell out that the government will discharge its responsibilities by working co-operatively under the federal-provincial-territorial Canada-wide accord on environmental harmonization agreed to in principle by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment and the subagreements.

Bill C-32 does not and should ensure that the provinces are able to advise the federal government on an international treaty requiring provincial implementation and that they take part in the treaty's implementation strategy. The bill also empowers the minister to control the movement of non-hazardous solid waste to or from the United States. As waste management is primarily provincial jurisdiction, this probably represents an intrusion on provincial powers that must be addressed.

Furthermore, Bill C-32 creates a national advisory committee. The concept of a national advisory committee appears quite meaningful at first observation, yet on examination of this section of the bill it is clear that the committee may be compromised by its very structure. The committee, surprise, is appointed by the minister and not by the provinces. Therefore it is very likely that this committee may function as little more than a political vehicle to promote the minister's agenda rather than a national vehicle to ensure that the provinces and territories are properly represented in the decision making.

I was going to talk about four issues, jurisdictional issues, public consultation, science and enforcement. I have talked about the jurisdictional issues. I am now going to talk about public consultation.

It is critical that the process for public consultation in the development of regulations and additions of new substances to this act be as fair and open as possible. The Reform Party is founded on the principle of grassroots participation and public consultation in policy development. This is particularly important when we deal with issues such as the environment that affect all Canadians.

In the last parliament one of the strong complaints voiced by many against the bill was that it lacked proper consultation. There were over 100 concerns regarding the bill when it was introduced in the last Parliament. Some areas of concern have been addressed in the new legislation, though there are still areas that need attention. Some of the issues concern the public consultation process. For example, the bill needs to ensure that all draft regulations and guidelines are released for public comment 60 days before the minister formally releases the assessment.

The bill creates and environmental registry. However, the form and access of the registry is at the minister's discretion. Access to this registry should be open and the form clearly announced.

The act allows for notice of final agreements to go into the Canada Gazette but it does not require that the final text of all agreements be published in full in the Canada Gazette or as an alternative that access be provided through the Internet. These are very common sense things.

The act does not allow the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development adequate time to review proposed administrative and equivalency agreements. Clearly it is important that we move away from the old way of doing business behind closed doors and into a more transparent manner of conducting business.

The third area I want to talk about is science.

When dealing with the environment, sound science is essential to good policy discussions and decisions. This is not always the case with the present government. Our legislation must ensure that political decisions do not overshadow making the right choices to protect our environment. Decisions made under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act must be substantiated by scientific study.

The last bill had serious problems regarding the minister's power to bypass section 65 and its risk assessment approach for determination of toxic substances. This section gave the minister unlimited powers to bypass science in her decision making. This was one of the critical reasons Reform, industry and many Canadians could not support the bill. It is likely one of the reasons for its demise in the last parliament. This section has now been amended. I look forward to receiving comments from witnesses as to whether this has been properly addressed in the new bill.

Some areas of concern regarding the science of the bill includes the fact that toxic is not defined in the preamble. Yet it is defined in the section on controlling toxic substances. This is clearly problematic because it may allow substances to be defined toxic without scientific evidence which proves that they are in fact toxic. This section may give the minister of the department authority to arbitrarily ban substances which, if true, is frightening to say the least.

This was a major concern in the last parliament. A separate piece of legislation went through parliament banning MMT without a scientific basis. We now have an ongoing legal suit from Ethyl Corporation that is held up by many as a fallout from things like negotiating the MAI as a complexity that can be made much worse through something like the MAI. If the decision on MMT had been done not on ramming legislation through the House without scientific basis but had been done on a scientific rationale the whole argument would be moot. We must ensure that the legislation does not allow that kind of back door thing to occur again.

Another concern is the fact that provisions to provide for toxic assessment consultation failed to require that qualified experts from government, academia and industry be full partners in the assessment process.

Another controversial section of the bill is where it provides for a national ban on substances banned in other provinces or industrialized countries. Such a policy could negate the need for Canada to carry out a risk assessment as a basis for chemical control, which is the standard accepted internationally and by the science community. This policy could also undermine the necessity of requiring a scientific basis for decisions. It is critical that the role of science be clarified so that science forms the basis of decisions made under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. This needs to be spelled out clearly and precisely. Without that all else fails.

The fourth subject area I want to discuss is the whole area of enforcement, which is also critical to environmental policy.

The Reform Party has many clear positions on enforcement. Reform bluebook policy clearly supports the principle that the polluter shall pay for its pollution controls, that this be stringently enforced in an unbiased manner and that penalties be severe enough that polluters will not consider them a licence fee to pollute.

Reform also supports fines and jail sentences for officers and executives of companies violating environmental laws. The biggest problem with the Canadian Environmental Protection Act in this regard is its lack of enforcement. When CEPA was proclaimed 10 years ago the Conservative government bragged that it had introduced the toughest environmental law in the western hemisphere. Yet this has proven to be quite the exaggeration.

One of the principal concerns regarding this act is inadequate funding for enforcement. The Department of the Environment simply does not have the resources to ensure that the requirements of the act are fulfilled. The clearest way to state that is that the environment department has had almost two-thirds of its budget slashed since the Liberals came to power. That is quite a commitment to the environment.

No matter how tough the minister makes this act it will make no difference unless the department has the resources to enforce the legislation.

What must be emphasized, however, is more than enforcement. The operative word is compliance, not enforcement. Compliance is number one. It is always better to follow the carrot on the stick approach. A law must have the capacity to enforce its regulations. Yet it will be a more effective law if it can deter individuals from breaking the law or, better yet, if it can encourage individuals to follow the law.

That applies to all legislation in the House. If we could follow the basic principle that incentives, all things being equal, work better than sticks, I think we would all be much further ahead. The business community certainly knows about natural incentives.

Other areas of enforcement contained in Bill C-32 also need to be examined and possibly amended for improvement. For example, the right to supervision contained within the bill may be improved if amended so that the government is made a mandatory party to any suit. Whistleblower protection contained in the legislation may also require expansion to include whistleblower protection for workers who report breaches of the law and bad environmental practices, not just to inspectors but to the public and through the media. Pollution is a public issue and workers should have the right to publicize it without fear of sanctions.

Despite the many needed areas of improvement, some of the other improvements to the bill include improved time lines for adding new substances that have been assessed to the domestic substances list. Pollution prevention planning guidelines have been further developed in the new bill. Recognition of voluntary instruments has also been added. Section 51 has been amended to ensure that pollution prevention, virtual elimination and environmental emergency plans can only be required by the minister for substances on the list of toxic substances. Greater flexibility has been provided in the preparation of pollution prevention plans to keep with the policy objective that these plans do not become akin to excessive regulatory burden.

How does a bureaucrat cut red tape? The answer is lengthways. As we can see many changes have been made to Bill C-32 to make the bill more acceptable to the public than Bill C-74 which died in the last parliament.

There are still areas of concern that need to be worked out. Canadians have waited a long time for the government to pass meaningful and realistic environmental legislation.

We had the recent example of the fiasco over Kyoto. We do not need another one of those. Canada went with no plan, no preannounced target. We abandoned our own negotiators for political reasons. We had no cost benefit analysis, no idea of how to get to our commitment. It was an international embarrassment due to a Liberal search for political correctness, without caring about the downstream consequences. It was almost as if we would not bother to measure them so that we could not be held accountable later. It is sort of like make it up as we go along.

I am hoping to see our government get away from its empty rhetoric and destructive political agenda and move toward something more realistic and acceptable to Canadians that will truly benefit our environment.

It appears there has been progress in amendments to the legislation since the last parliament. The bill has shortcomings and some revisions are certainly required, as I have pointed out.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1998Government Orders

10:40 a.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on a subject of the utmost importance. We in the Bloc Quebecois consider that the relationship between developing our economy and protecting the environment is one of the major challenges facing our society.

For the past few generations, the capacity of the human race to modify the world ecosystem has undergone a spectacular increase, as the result of the population explosion and our dizzying rate of technological progress.

World economic activity, for example, is more than 20 times what it was in 1900. Consequently, many human activities are on the verge of surpassing our planet's potential to replenish its resources.

Every year, the energy we consume is responsible for releasing billions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere and for using up more than 40% of the planet's organic material. Every year, we burn almost as much fossil fuel as the earth was able to produce in a million years.

Although we are forced to acknowledge that poverty and hardship exist throughout the world, and will continue to exist, we do not throw up our hands in despair at its scope. Similarly, we are capable of seeking solutions together to many of the challenges posed by our deteriorating environment, and the multiplication of substances that are a threat to human health.

A short-sighted view will not enable us to solve these problems. What we need is a fundamental change to our way of making decisions at all levels of society. We need to start incorporating environmental considerations in our day to day decisions as individuals, managers and legislators.

We must treat the environment as the limited and unique resource that it is. We must treat human life like the fragile thing that it is.

Let there be no illusions about this. The precarious state of our environment is the result of what will soon be two centuries of neglect. There can be no quick fix. There will be more crises, more ecological accidents. What is needed essentially is to restore the ecological balance that has been upset gradually over the centuries, and particularly over the past 100 years.

This is a long term undertaking, and one which will require the commitment of each and every one of us, from the various governments down to the last individual. Any serious response to the environmental challenge will lay our present lifestyle open to question, because the environmental issue is more than just pollution, domestic and chemical waste, or land use management. These are just symptoms of a larger problem.

The main thing is the way we approach our relationships, define our prosperity and select a lifestyle. In this respect, we are witnessing a real revolution in attitudes. Recent polls, newspaper forums and radio hot-lines all agree.

The public, and young people in particular, consider quality of life more important than the mere accumulation of consumer goods. They choose health over the pursuit of economic expansion at all cost. These new values are priorities. They should be used as the basis for the political will to allocate sufficient resources to the preservation of the environment we all care about.

It is paradoxical that this government repeatedly drew upon this widely held public opinion to finally come up short in terms of a commitment to reduce greenhouse gases and protect the collective scientific tools used to assess our environmental situation.

This government cannot be satisfied with reacting to environmental crises. Never has the government developed a long term action plan which takes into account the collective diversity of the territory for which it is responsible under the Constitution. Never has the government given any serious thought to where it wanted to be five or ten years down the road and even after that.

In order to have a political will, governments must be able to set out the goals they wish to achieve through specific actions. For the time being, we must unfortunately express concern about this government's lack of vision on environmental issues in the current constitutional context.

In fact, since I have been sitting in this House as the member for Rosemont, not one federalist party has been able to come up with a vision of the future that reconciles two fundamental values in my view: respect for societies, including Quebec society, and implementation of sustainable development.

Bill C-32 as it stands symbolizes the failure of a unilateral federal approach, which denies the right of the Quebec people to decide their own future. This is my view of Bill C-32. Because of what I believe in, I cannot consider this bill simply from a sovereignist or environmentalist point of view. I am opposed to Bill C-32, because this Liberal bill fails to reconcile two fundamental values for Quebeckers.

First, my vision of sustainable development is based on the conclusions of the United Nations commission on the environment and development, chaired by the then Prime Minister of Norway, Gro Brundtland. The commission defined this new concept that it was proposing to the world, namely that economic development must now be subject to environmental considerations.

Let us be clear: it is wrong to claim that the environment must now be at odds with economic development. These two basic realities are not at odds: they are essential elements of a type of progress that is now sustainable in our society.

The notion of sustainable development simply means that we must no longer endanger the resources of our planet and that we must make sure our natural resources will still be there for future generations. In other words, economic development must be achieved by preserving our planet's resources, rather than by using them up, or, to use a financial image, by using the interest and not the capital, in terms of our resources.

Economic development must not jeopardize the planet's natural balance. Since I first came to Ottawa, all too often I have seen people try to change the meaning of sustainable development. They closely link that concept to economic growth and then use it to oppose environmental concerns.

These people are not helping anyone's cause. If anything, they take us back 10 years, before the Liberals and before the work of the United Nations on development and the environment. We now have to recognize that the respect for individuals must be extended to their surroundings.

In other words, it is not a question of choosing between economic growth and environmental protection. Since both of these concerns are essential to global survival, what matters is finding an approach that takes both into account.

This environmental challenge still requires changes in attitude that force us to reconcile what might initially look like contradictory goals. I am convinced that we can forge a consensus in Quebec around these environmental and economic convictions. I am sure that a great many Canadians and Quebeckers also share my vision of sustainable development.

The misunderstanding does not lie at this level. The difference resides in our identifying with distinct peoples. We want to acquire as many tools as possible for orienting our development.

Our wishes are the opposite of those of the majority of Canadians, who basically want to see Ottawa play an increased role in numerous areas, including that of the environment. Elected representatives from Quebec, whatever their political stripe, have always fought to be able to retain the prerogatives that allow us to shape our future as we see it.

If there were any sign of this feeling of belonging and this desire for freedom in the other provinces, Bloc Quebecois members would not be the only ones rejecting the federal government's attempts to keep on grabbing a little more power. We can only conclude that this wish for autonomy is confined to Quebec. The fact of the matter is that, every time this country wanted or had to make weighty decisions of the sort that reveal basic natures, it went into crisis.

Instead of finding comfort in the face of adversity, instead of being galvanized by a challenge, and united in trust and hope, like a normal country, it instead fell into painful division. From the Riel affair to the schools in Manitoba, from conscription in World War I to conscription in World War II, from the 1982 patriation to the passage of the free trade agreement, from the Meech Lake accord to the Charlottetown accord, each time the same wounds were opened anew, the same tenuous solidarity was torn apart along the same stress lines by the same tensions. Paralysis and uncertainty were the poisoned fruits of this inability to live together.

Two recent environmental initiatives provide another illustration of the forces blocking the legitimate aspirations of two peoples still bound together by one federal government. The first issue is of the highest importance for our future, since it involves climactic changes affecting the nature of life on earth as we know it today. As I speak, millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide are being released into the atmosphere. In North America alone, we are responsible for more than a quarter of these emissions, which are having an unprecedented effect on our atmosphere.

For some time already, scientists from the four corners of the globe have noted that the planet has been warming up at a rate unprecedented in the past hundred years or so. Naturally, many research teams have looked at this phenomenon to understand its origins. One after another, the teams have published their disturbing results, which have begun to reveal that human activity is responsible for global warming.

Their conclusions were immediately contested by many scientists, who were astonished to learn that humans could have such an impact on the atmosphere protecting us. For a long time these scientists and ecologists were reduced to preaching in the wilderness. However, by the mid-1980s, we were becoming increasing aware of the seriousness of the environmental problem we now face.

Once the main concerns relating to the 1982 economic crisis were resolved, our societies began to realize the scope and the amplitude of our environmental problems. We all benefited from the expanded debate that ensued. It did not take long for the environment to become a concern to society as a whole.

Public awareness supported both specialists and political leaders in their efforts to further protect the environment. After facing the many challenges necessitated by greater levels of protection of waters, air, forests and the earth, we looked to problems at the global level, such as those concerning our atmosphere.

The international scale of these problems necessarily involves global and co-operative action by nations.

This led to the signature in Helsinki, in 1984, of the first international protocol to reduce transborder emissions responsible for acid rain. Three years later, in 1987, Montreal hosted an international meeting that resulted in the signing of the Montreal protocol, the purpose of which is to reduce the production of gases harmful to the ozone layer.

Five years later, over 150 nations got together in Rio for the earth summit. This meeting led to the signing of a UN framework agreement to limit concentrations of greenhouse gases. At this unprecedented summit, developed countries adopted the common goal of stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions at the 1990 level by the year 2000.

Today, five years after the Berlin conference, Canada as a whole has achieved nothing but a resounding absence of concrete measures for meeting this challenge. Why? Because the Liberal government, which has been in office since 1993, seems to have devoted more effort to developing an environmental doublespeak than to implementing concrete measures for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

There is no lack of examples. In a self-congratulatory advertisement that appeared on April 24, the Liberals claimed to have demonstrated international leadership by helping reduce the causes of climate change in the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unless, in Liberal speak, leadership means one of the worst performances in the world when it comes to reducing greenhouse gases.

Indeed, compared to other OECD members, Canada has done poorly in terms of reducing greenhouse gases, in spite of the good results achieved by Quebec, which is still in a position to meet the objectives set in Rio. For Canada as a whole, however, observers expect that there will be an increase of 13% in emissions by the year 2000.

If, by international leadership the Liberals are not referring to this country's notorious failure to reduce greenhouse gases, perhaps they are referring to its apparent wish to be the last to present a reduction goal for the period up to 2010.

In fact, thanks to the Liberal government, Canada was the last G-7 country to present its negotiating position for the Kyoto summit. For a long time, the only public position that was endorsed by the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Natural Resources was the Regina position. Once again, this decision widened the gap between two blueprints for society.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1998Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I regret to interrupt the hon. member, but he will have 23 minutes left to conclude his remarks after oral question period.

Maple SyrupStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


John Finlay Liberal Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, the maple sap is flowing in many parts of this great country of ours.

Around the world one of the things Canada is known for is the delicious maple syrup produced here. The most recent edition of the Canada Catalogue, a publication sponsored by the Canadian Tourism Commission to help sell Canada globally, includes two pages of information on Jakeman's Maple Products of Beachville in Oxford county.

I want to assure Canadians and those around the world who eagerly await the syrup season each year that high quality maple syrup and other maple products like maple sugar leaves, maple pops, maple crisp and maple brittle are being produced in my riding and many other ridings throughout Ontario and Quebec.

I look forward to taste testing this year's vintage of Jakeman's fine maple syrup in its many forms as the year progresses.

Hepatitis CStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Philip Mayfield Reform Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, is there no limit to which this government will sink into the stinking swamp of political degradation?

How can an opposition motion ever cause a vote of confidence in the government? Only when the government is determined to strong arm its members into holding their noses and voting against what is right.

Hepatitis C victims are further victimized by this government's unwillingness to provide just compensation for the government's irresponsibility. Why is the government putting its politics before the needs of these victims?

Only a thorough reform of this parliament will allow it to be the democratic institution that represents the Canadian people and not a political machine. Call your MP, call the health minister and call the Prime Minister to let them know what you think, not only about their hepatitis C compensation package, but also about their refusal to listen to Canadians and the need for parliamentary reform.

Prince Edward IslandStatements By Members

11 a.m.


George Proud Liberal Hillsborough, PE

Mr. Speaker, each year I like to stand and invite all of my hon. colleagues and their constituents to my riding of Hillsborough, and Prince Edward Island in general.

P.E.I. has in the past few years really strived to enhance its tourism sector. We are graced with beautiful sandy beaches, gentle rolling hills and inviting warm weather. We also have our eternal tribute to Anne of Green Gables with the various tourist sites and the famous stage production at the Confederation Centre of the Arts.

Prince Edward Island is now more accessible since the opening of the Confederation bridge. In fact the bridge has become an attraction in itself. As proof, last year there were over one million visitors. That is up substantially from the year previous. But we are not yet satisfied. The industry this year is aiming for 1.4 million visitors.

I invite everyone from across the country to come and enjoy everything Prince Edward Island has to offer. I can assure them they will not be disappointed.

Breakfast For LearningStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Ovid Jackson Liberal Bruce—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my support for the Canadian Living Foundation's Breakfast for Learning Program.

Research shows that children learn better on a full stomach. Their concentration skills and ability to retain information are stronger when they enter the classroom on a full stomach after having a good breakfast.

The Breakfast for Learning Program has been helping thousands of Canadian children. Since 1992, over 24 million meals have been served in many schools across this great country, including those in my riding of Bruce—Grey.

Even the best teachers cannot reach a child without the energy to learn. With a funding request now before the government I urge my colleagues in the House of Commons to support child nutrition programs like Breakfast for Learning. By sending our children into the classroom with full stomachs today we ensure the best possible head start for those who will steer Canada into the future.

National Volunteer WeekStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Elinor Caplan Liberal Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, volunteers open doors to a better world. That is the motto for this year's National Volunteer Week.

With the goal of improving our communities and quality of life, thousands of volunteers and organizations devote their time and energy to many different worthwhile causes. Whether in times of crisis or in day to day life, volunteers from all over Canada are willing and available to help each other and strengthen our communities.

This week is a chance to celebrate, congratulate and encourage others to participate and enjoy the benefits derived from volunteerism. As I told volunteers last night from the York Region Children's Aid Society, volunteers can make a difference. They can make a difference for themselves, their children, their community and their country.

Get involved and make a difference. Be a volunteer.

Canadian War HeroesStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Peter Goldring Reform Edmonton East, AB

Mr. Speaker, Canada's brave young men fought, spilled blood and died on foreign soil 50 short years ago. Fifty thousand never returned to their homes. One million Canadians rose to their task in World War II.

Our country was third in allied military might. Canada trained all air forces of the free world. Canada's factories built 17,000 planes. Canada's navy and merchant seamen kept sea lanes free to feed the war effort. Now we shame this memory by neglect. Now we belittle our proud war effort. Now we extinguish Canada's war leader from view.

Quebec ought not drop the torch. Quebec must hold it high. Our Prime Minister Mackenzie King must stand shoulder to shoulder with other leaders of a war that allowed our flag to fly. All three must be remembered. Lest we forget.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Ian Murray Liberal Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, last December in Kyoto this government agreed to a protocol that committed Canada to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 6% below 1990 levels by the period 2008-2010.

This week Shell Oil withdrew from the U.S. lobby group known as the Global Climate Coalition. This group opposes the protocol.

We, as a government, are committed to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and honouring our Kyoto commitments. Since Kyoto, Canada and the international community have been directing our energies to how we will meet our commitment, because meet it we shall.

To achieve this Canada will be working with the provinces and territories, as well as with local governments, community organizations and the private sector. That is why today in Toronto the ministers of environment and energy are meeting their provincial and territorial counterparts. They want to work with all sectors to design Canada's national implementation strategy.

Companies like Shell and other people who believe that climate change is not an economic drain but rather an economic environmental opportunity are the leaders who will make our Kyoto commitments a reality.

Armenian PeopleStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Armenian community is commemorating today the 83rd anniversary of the 1915 Armenian massacre.

As an expression of solidarity, I offer my deepest sympathies to the Armenian people, and I share their grief. Today, we commemorate the death of one and a half million Armenian martyrs, and the death of all the victims of the terrible carnages of our century.

In so doing, we are helping the international community in its efforts to end such killings. As you know, Canada has always been and will continue to be a great protector of human rights.

I take this opportunity to commend Montreal's Armenian community for its spirit of justice and for its constant efforts to have that historic tragedy recognized as it should be.

Hepatitis CStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Gurmant Grewal Reform Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, hepatitis C is a killer disease. Its victims suffer and die. Unlike other diseases, hep C is given by the government through tainted blood. Blood is not for sale in Canada.

Canadians trusted our government, but our government failed them.

The Liberal government continues to refuse to do the right thing by not compensating all the victims fairly. I believe the Prime Minister is confused about what the letter C in hepatitis C stands for: compensation, compassion or confidence vote.

Earlier the government made a mistake by not screening the blood supply. Then the government made another mistake by not compensating fairly all the victims. Now it will make another mistake by not allowing a free vote in the House for government backbenchers.

I remind all members in the House that principles should be more important than policies and—

Hepatitis CStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Mississauga Centre.

TobaccoStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Carolyn Parrish Liberal Mississauga Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to encourage members of this House to join me in condemning any cigarette advertising or promotion that encourages youth smoking.

Tobacco addiction is a major public health threat. By some estimates, over 40,000 lives are lost each year as a result of smoking.

Tobacco use is an addiction that is almost always acquired in childhood. That is why I support the government's Bill C-71 initiative and I look forward to future initiatives that will discourage youth smoking.

Tobacco is a factor in 80% of all preventable deaths. We as a society must make an effort to prevent addiction among young people. Bill C-71 started us in the right direction by limiting advertising and promotion. It will also commit funds to education, enforcement, smoking prevention and cessation programs.

We have an opportunity to prevent some of the 40,000 annual tobacco deaths. Let us keep building on the momentum of Bill C-71 to ensure that some day this country raises a generation that collectively says no to tobacco.

April is cancer month, when thousands of volunteers will be knocking on doors all over the country. Please give generously.

Armenian PeopleStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, on this 83rd anniversary of the Armenian genocide, the Bloc Quebecois wishes to express its deepest sympathy to the Armenian community and its admiration for the courage of Armenians who, for many years, suffered atrocities under the Ottoman Empire.

Unfortunately, the government opposite has always refused to recognize the Armenian genocide. Yet, the facts speak for themselves. From 1915 to 1923, close to two million Armenians were executed or deported by the Ottoman government of Turkey.

The commemoration of the Armenian genocide reminds Quebeckers and Canadians that any country that resorts to violence as a political instrument—a genocide being the most extreme form of such violence—is committing a crime against humanity.

Today, along with the Armenian community, the Bloc Quebecois remembers.

FisheriesStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans under the direction of the federal government has failed miserably in its management of fish stocks in Canada.

On the east coast stocks such as lobster, cod, crab, scallops, salmon, shrimp and silver hake are being mismanaged and poorly allocated. The same goes for salmon and hake on the west coast, and yet the livelihood of thousands of families and hundreds of communities on both coasts are in peril.

It is time this government lived up to its responsibility and allocated the resources necessary to compensate the victims of its actions by implementing a community based, comprehensive plan so that the fishing communities can get on with their lives and so that we can rebuild the depleted stocks.

Canadian Armed ForcesStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


John Richardson Liberal Perth—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honour all our Canadian military personnel helping keep the peace in distant corners of the world.

Today when Canadians think of peacekeeping they think of Bosnia, Haiti, the Persian Gulf. These missions are Canada's most visible peacekeeping efforts, but are by no means our only contributions.

Today I wish to salute the efforts of military personnel in some of those unsung United Nations' missions around the world. I salute the following Canadians: the three people serving to maintain peace in Cyprus; the 28 people in the Sinai Desert enforcing the 1979 peace accord between Egypt and Israel; the 187 supervising the ceasefire between Israel and Syria; and the seven military engineers helping the people of Cambodia rid themselves of antipersonnel land mines.

I am sure that I speak for all of us in the House of Commons when I say we are proud of them all.

Armenian PeopleStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Diane St-Jacques Progressive Conservative Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we commemorate a tragic event in the history of humanity, the persecution and murder of a million and half Armenian men, women and children during the first world war.

Those who managed to flee this genocide have settled throughout the world, and many of their descendants are today citizens of Canada.

It has been said that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. We join today with members of the Armenian community and other Canadians in remembering the atrocity of crimes against humanity.

This grim anniversary is an important reminder to all of us. We share a responsibility to help build understanding between peoples and between nations so that the peace that was denied their ancestors can be experienced by future generations around the world.

PeacekeepingStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


David Pratt Liberal Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, in September 1993 during a UN peacekeeping operation in the former Yugoslavia, Canadian troops of the 2nd Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Light Infantry found themselves in the middle of a conflict between Croat and Serbian forces. A UN sponsored ceasefire agreement called on the Croats to withdraw their forces and let Canadian soldiers deploy into the Medak pocket to establish a buffer zone.

However, the Croats had different plans. They attacked Canadian positions with heavy artillery and machine-gun fire. The Canadian soldiers returned fire to defend themselves. One unit came under repeated attacks but held its ground. Eventually the Canadians forced compliance with the ceasefire agreement and ended an ethnic cleansing operation in the area. The Canadians were given a rare unit citation by the French UN commander for their collective bravery and devotion to duty. Unfortunately, most Canadians know very little about the Medak pocket action.

On Monday the national defence committee will hear from Colonel Jim Calvin, the commanding officer, and some of his troops. I would encourage MPs to attend to hear their remarkable story.

Hepatitis CStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Darrel Stinson Reform Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, family members, friends, constituents—many people have asked me for help because they were infected with hepatitis C from tainted blood. Through no fault of their own, no fault of their doctor or hospital, they received a product so poisonous that 20% or more will die and many others will be too sick to ever work again.

One woman from Vernon wrote to say that because her surgeries would require several transfusions she asked about their safety. She said “I was informed by Vernon Jubilee Hospital staff that the blood had been tested at least three times for all infectious diseases prior to me receiving it”.

Somebody lied. Somebody assured Canadians that our blood supply was safe, even though they knew it was not. The Government of Canada stood behind that guarantee of safety. Now it is time for the Government of Canada to make good on our guarantee.

I ask all honourable members to look into the faces of friends who have lost a dear family member to tainted blood, as I had to do this week, and then vote with your conscience to compensate every victim.

Calgary DeclarationStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Hélène Alarie Bloc Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday Jean Charest, the new federalist poster boy in Quebec, announced that he would accept nothing less than the distinct society concept. He also stated that the Calgary declaration was just the beginning of discussions.

Provided Mr. Charest has not changed his tune today, after being called to order by the Liberal Party brass, we need to remember that the Calgary declaration was dragged out of the premiers of English Canada after heavy negotiations behind closed doors.

The federal government is in a bind. It endorsed the Calgary declaration, the final offer from English Canada, and now Jean Charest deems it insufficient and Quebeckers want to debate it in a referendum before they will endorse it.

Is the government going to go back to the drawing board on the Calgary declaration or will it tell Jean Charest, through its minister in charge of plan B—

Calgary DeclarationStatements By Members

11:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. As the hon. member is well aware, she cannot refer to a member except by riding name or title in the House I trust that she will continue to comply with this.

Hepatitis COral Question Period

11:15 a.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is no valid reason to turn Tuesday's vote on hepatitis C compensation into a confidence vote, and it is a shame that the Prime Minister has chosen to do that. The only reason he is whipping his caucus into line is politics, pure and simple.

In 1996 Liberals voted for the opposition motion on the victims of crime. In 1997 they voted for our national unity motion. Both these opposition motions passed and the government of course did not fall.

If he allowed his MPs a free vote then, why will he not allow his MPs a free vote on this important issue?