There were hours and hours of committee meetings. We heard witnesses from across Canada in all sectors of society. The clause by clause process was excruciating. I believe there were 560 amendments. When the bill came to the House there were an additional 230 amendments. The minister just mentioned how many were supported by the government. Many of the amendments were supported and presented by members of the Reform Party.
All through this debate there have been predictions of dire consequences if we do not toughen up the environmental protection act. To some degree, I suppose, they are right, but I believe that in many instances they go too far. A critical balance between activity and regulation has to exist, because if it gets out of whack either way it is harmful.
The bill gives the government the authority to research 23,000 toxic substances and to clarify what these substances do to mankind, to life in general and how they affect human health. We heard a lot about hormone disrupting substances during this study, as well as endocrine disrupters, gender benders, or whatever we want to call them. Our party supported more research in this area. We really have to know what the effects of these toxic substances are and we need to spend the time to find out.
To confirm problems we have to be able to find out the scope of what is happening when an action is taken and what is the reaction to that action. Canadians want to feel that government is working toward solutions which will improve the environment. That is something which all members of the House tried to work toward in this bill. We did it in our own different realms, but we all had the same focus in mind. That is what Canadians are expecting from us and that is what they should expect. The bottom line is a safer environment and sustainable development.
Getting a little more close to home, last Sunday morning I was able to take a drive out to the country to have a look at my farm and the crops. It is nice to be able to go out in the countryside at this time of year to see what a wonderful country we have. The crops were in. The ground had been tilled. It had rained and it smelled fresh and just looked wonderful.
I must acknowledge that there are many areas in Canada where this has not happened. My colleague, our agriculture critic and many others realize that there are areas in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and other places in Canada where the crops are not in. The ground is too wet and they are still struggling in that regard.
To get to the point where the agricultural community can seed its crops a lot of work needs to be done. The soil has to be worked. Fertilizer has to be applied. In some cases chemicals are applied. In all instances every operation that takes place is very expensive. Chemicals and fertilizer are expensive.
For the best results the right amount must be applied. This is done through soil testing and other methods. I believe this is what needs to be taken into account when we talk about toxic substances. If they are used, if they are needed in manufacture, let us make sure the management of these substances is done properly and there is the minimal amount of exposure to Canadians.
Even in the preparation of the soil it should not be overworked and put into a state where erosion can take place. This is something we have learned over the years. We want to do as little as possible to alter the natural state of our environment. I believe, especially in the agricultural community, we are starting to see the results of science, study, and tremendous work such as that done at the Lethbridge research station. We have started to produce more per acre than we have in years past. Over time the products we are producing will be more environmentally friendly and more useful to mankind.
A lot of care and planning is used, always with the goal in mind of preserving if not improving our environment and producing more and more on the same land base to feed a growing population. This must continue and I am sure it will.
As lawmakers we need to support Canadians by having laws that will assist our agricultural industry, our manufacturers and others to provide food and the necessities of life in a way that Canadians find acceptable and which reduces harm to the environment.
We have always to keep in mind sustainable development, the environment and human health because they have to be considered in any development. As well social and economic aspects have to be taken into account. It is important to take into consideration the impact on society or on the development of a decision.
We must use sound science and research to achieve laws and regulations and we must back them up with enforcement. We have learned through this process, through the environment committee and witnesses, that in some areas our enforcement is in dire need of a tune-up. It is not happening. It is not being done in a way that is congruent or in any planned fashion.
Environment Canada needs to have a look at its resources and direct them to the areas which need the most attention. Departmental review and putting emphasis where the emphasis is needed have to be done on an ongoing basis.
We have done a lot in the House recently, albeit not enough because of the time allocation that has been put forward. Hundreds of hours of committee work have been done. I would suppose it involved millions of dollars in wages, work and support for all the people who appeared before us and the people who work for them. We must keep in mind the expectations of Canadians. We need workable and enforceable regulations.
To be in Canada at this time of year is an absolute treat. We live in a great country, especially in the spring as we see things come to life, as we see wildlife such as the pair of geese with their goslings that I saw the other day, as we see blooming gardens, fruit trees coming around, crops going in, birds coming back and singing in our communities. It is just great.
It is important that we work in an effective manner to preserve the country for generations to come. The member from the NDP says consideration in the aboriginal sense is seven generations. We have to look at how any action that is taken by their people will affect seven subsequent generations. That is a good rule to follow.
I attended a high school graduation on the weekend and saw the excitement, the hopes and the dreams of the class of '99 as it goes out into the world. I reminded the students that they needed to pay attention to the environment.
The education aspect of environmental protection is important. All Canadians have to be aware. I have great hope in future generations. They are very much aware and will do a better job than we and previous generations have done in preserving the environment and making the country a far better place in which to live.
All in all this time of year is very exciting. Canada is one of the most pristine places on earth and we need to work to keep it that way. We have made mistakes in the past and unfortunately we may make mistakes in the future. We have to limit those mistakes and continue to make headway. We have to be sure that we sustain life and human health and develop in a way that accomplishes that. Certainly young people are very concerned about the environment. They are very much aware of it.
Different parties have brought forward different philosophies which sometimes do not lend themselves to full co-operation but allow for debate to be broadened to include how we as Reformers and how other parties feel about the environment. The bottom line is that we appreciate what we have in the country but we need to work very hard to preserve it.
To make sure people understand I would like to indicate that we support sustainable development, which is human activity that combines economic, social and environmental considerations without compromising the well-being of existing and future generations. This is very important. We support the participation of effective local communities in environmental decision making.
We always talk about residual powers in the provincial and municipal governments. They were discussed quite a bit in committee. Who has the ultimate power? We feel that the federal government has to be involved in the environment. We believe constitutional challenges have stated such. However, the provinces, municipalities and all Canadians also have a duty to perform.
We support the rationalization of federal and provincial environmental laws and the development of regional and national environmental standards where appropriate. We also support integration of social, environmental and economic objectives into the management, philosophy, structure, procedures and planning where the federal government has constitutional jurisdiction.
If we take what we believe in and support each party's philosophy and policies, it will go a long way to creating a tremendous environmental protection act.
We support federal leadership for a commitment to sustainable development, including the creation of partnerships with provincial governments, private industry, educational institutions and the public to promote meaningful progress in the area of environmental protection. This is where strong research is involved. We must get everyone involved in getting the facts laid out for Canadians to consider and in bringing government, industry, community groups and municipalities into the fold to come up with the best possible balances.
We also support the principle of establishing and regularly reviewing standards based on sound science which are technically and socio-economically viable.
We also support the removal of administrative and regulatory fiscal practices that discourage or detract from environmental responsibility. I suppose that is coming at it from another way, that all regulations should be looked at from the point of view of their environmental impact and how they will affect the world in general.
We also support the continuing development of commercially viable practices for the management of the environment. We support the development of reasonable endangered species legislation, and I could go on.
In committee and in the House our party has tried to put forward the best balanced approach which we feel will do the most in the end for the protection of the environment.
In conclusion, this will be the last time I will get to address Bill C-32 in debate. I will probably get involved in questions and comments a little later. Going through this act has been an experience I will never forget. Hopefully at the next review there will still be a few of us here.