House of Commons Hansard #57 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was federal.


Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

6 p.m.

Some hon. members


Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

6 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

6 p.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to)

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

6 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. It being 6 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

St. John's HarbourPrivate Members' Business

May 8th, 2001 / 6 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle Progressive Conservative St. John's East, NL


That, in the opinion of this House, the government should immediately commit its one-third share of the funding for the St. John's harbour cleanup

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on my private member's motion I submitted for debate here in the House of Commons concerning St. John's harbour.

Why, hon. members may ask, is St. John's harbour worthy of special mention here in the House of Commons? How is St. John's harbour special in the context of the business here in the House of Commons?

Let me tell all hon. members here in the House that St. John's is not just another city. It is one of the oldest cities in the new world. It is the most easterly city in North America and, as such, is Canada's easternmost gateway. It is a capital city where responsible government took root long before there was a nation called Canada.

St. John's is history and it is culture personified. This year we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of Marconi's wireless speech. The site of these celebrations is up on Signal Hill, just above the harbour.

St. John's harbour is the recipient of 120 million litres of raw sewage every single day. That is more than 43 billion litres per year. The narrow entrance to the harbour prevents the sea from effectively flushing the harbour of pollutants. As a result, the Sierra Club in 1994 gave St. John's harbour an F on the national sewage report card. In 1999 it downgraded that F to an F minus.

In 1993 the St. John's harbour ACAP committee was formed. ACAP stands for Atlantic coastal action program, a program set up by Environment Canada to assist Atlantic Canadians in restoring and sustaining watershed areas in adjacent coastal towns.

With regard to the St. John's harbour cleanup, the ACAP committee is doing a very good job in keeping the harbour pollution issue in the public eye. It is a problem that the mayor of the city of St. John's and the adjacent municipalities of Mount Pearl and Paradise are working overtime to cure.

The mayor of the city of St. John's is in the gallery here today. He held a press conference in Ottawa today in an effort to draw national public attention to what is a very serious environmental issue.

The leader of the opposition in the house of assembly in Newfoundland, Mr. Byrne, was in the gallery today. He travelled here to show his support for this particular issue.

One might ask why the federal government should be involved in the cleanup of St. John's harbour. The federal government must have placed a priority on these projects at one time because the Atlantic coastal action program is a federal program. I do not understand why the federal government would set up a program like that if it were not prepared to help out financially in the process of environmental cleanup.

The federal government is already involved in that project in that it did commit a paltry $1.5 million to the project. However, those token gestures on the part of the federal government are not enough. We need the federal government to kick in its one-third share of that $93 million project.

Federal funding has been applied for but to date there has been no response. There has been no indication from Newfoundland's federal cabinet minister that he is even remotely interested in this project. We should not need a special program to deal with a $93 million project like harbour cleanup. From a multibillion dollar national infrastructure program, Newfoundland gets only a minuscule amount simply because these funds are distributed on a per capita basis.

Some 93% of Canadians who are serviced by sewer systems have at least primary sewage treatment. Less than 50% of the people of Atlantic Canada have any kind of primary sewage treatment. We have much less than that in Newfoundland. We probably only have 5%, 4% or 3%. The bottom line is that our need is much greater than the rest of Canada and that fact should be reflected in the amount of funding we get.

A Memorial University economist by the name of Dr. Wade Locke did a cost benefit analysis of this project. If we consider the tax revenues to the Government of Canada during the construction and over the 25 year lifespan of that project, the analysis shows that the government would take in more than twice the $31 million cost of that project. In other words, in terms of the national treasury, over the long run the federal government would be money in. If the Minister of Industry is unable to take anything else to the cabinet table, he is able to take that fact to convince his colleagues to make money available for this project.

This was a big issue during the national federal election campaign. During the dying days of that campaign, the Minister of Industry, flanked by his two St. John's candidates, called a news conference on the waterfront of St. John's. The people of St. John's held their collective breath expecting the minister would make a financial commitment to the harbour cleanup project.

Instead, all we got from the Minister of Industry, as usual, was bafflegab and a firm promise that he would work very hard on making money available for the St. John's harbour cleanup.

The minister is now back in Ottawa and all we have heard from him on the harbour cleanup project is dead silence. The Minister of Industry has done nothing.

Because of that inaction, I submitted the motion today for debate in the House of Commons. Since it has been several months since the federal election, I would ask the minister today what he has done to advance the cause of the St. John's harbour cleanup. Obviously the minister has done nothing.

The Minister of Industry is an individual who loves to deliver. Since the federal election he has made the rounds of the entire country announcing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of projects in every conceivable industry in city after city, everything from genetic research to building airplanes, but still not a single penny for the St. John's harbour cleanup project.

I am sorry to be continually yapping at the heels of Newfoundland's industry minister. I know it must be an awful distraction from his leadership ambitions. However, let me say that he might as well get used to it because as long as I am in the House the Minister of Industry will not get off the hook on this one. He made the promise and he will have to deliver. This is a very serious environmental issue for the city of St. John's and it will not go away.

Let me also say that this is a minister who has taken on the senior and leading role in the government. However, in the Newfoundland context, so far at least, he is no Don Jamieson, no John Crosbie and no Jim McGrath. These gentlemen not only stood tall in the nation, they delivered at home as well. This minister is not delivering the goods to fix the problem that is an environmental hazard and a major deterrent to tourism in North America's oldest city and one of the most beautiful cities in our country.

What will the minister do to advance the cause of the St. John's harbour cleanup?

At the beginning of the last election, the Prime Minister and the industry minister contributed about a half billion dollars to give Toronto harbour a facelift. I supported that. However, the reason they made that contribution was to make Toronto harbour more aesthetically pleasing and to get it ready for an Olympic bid. Again, I support that. The Olympics are very important to Toronto, fine and dandy, but, I ask members of the House, where is the fairness in that kind of approach? It was a half billion dollars to a harbour in Toronto to make it more aesthetically pleasing for an Olympic bid and thumbs down on St. John's that has a very serious environmental problem.

The environment minister was recently mentioned in his local paper for getting $4.5 million for Victoria harbour, Canada's most westerly capital city. I support that. It is a good project and it should have money. However, it looks like the ministers from Ontario and B.C. know how to deliver the goods.

What is wrong with our minister? Why can he not deliver? Perhaps he has other ambitions or priorities. I hope he does not because he has a duty to his province and to his province's capital city. He loves to use the jargon “we are working on that file”. Let me say to him that he should get to work. This file needs national attention. It is time for the minister to keep the promise he made to the people in November on the waterfront in the city of St. John's. The minister is not good at keeping his promises but he had better start because this one will not go away.

If Newfoundland's minister feels lonely at the cabinet table when he is looking for money for St. John's, he should remind his mainland colleagues that Newfoundland became part of Canada back in 1949. If Canada wants our fish, paper, iron ore, hydro power and oil, it should treat us like we are part of Canada.

We are not being treated like we are part of this great nation. We have made our contribution to the nation and it is time that the nation came to our aid on this issue. When we are faced with a group of Newfoundlanders being forced to live among sewage, we are faced with a group of Canadians that are being forced to live among sewage.

When a German tourist looks over the rail of a cruise ship at the mess floating in St. John's harbour, he does not ask how Newfoundlanders put up with that. He wonders how Canadians put up with that kind of mess.

St. John's is Canada's easternmost city. It is a gateway. Due to the history and culture of the place, and being a port of call for the American and European cruise ships, tourism is a very important industry; it is a growth industry. The mayor of the city of St. John's and his council have done a fantastic job in attracting cruise ships. They have doubled the number of cruise ships coming into St. John's. They deserve a great deal of consideration and compliments for what they have been able to do, but they do not have the federal government and the Ministry of Industry at the moment helping out with their great effort.

This harbour is a health hazard. Studies have shown that sediment on the bottom of the harbour is laced with chemical pollutants and heavy metals. St. John's harbour is a septic soup that is an environmental time bomb. What has the Minister of Industry, Newfoundland's federal cabinet minister, done about it? He has done absolutely nothing. He has given no indication that he even cares. It is about time the minister came to the aid of this very important project.

The harbour cleanup project is not an optional nicety. We are not looking to dress up our harbour to grease the wheels of an Olympic bid. We want to lessen the health risks to our people and at the same time help to develop a fledgling tourism industry that the mayor of the city of St. John's and his council are working very hard on.

St. John's is North America's oldest city and it plays a very historic role in the country. Newfoundlanders should not have to get down on their knees begging, scratching and pleading with the federal government to make money available for this project. The federal minister representing Newfoundland should be front and centre on this issue. He should go to the office of the mayor of the city of St. John's and to the various municipalities in the province and offer help on this project because they are doing such a good job.

The minister has done nothing on this project. He refuses to even be in the House today to talk about this issue and to hear what is being—

St. John's HarbourPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. I was listening attentively as all other members were and I would remind members that we cannot refer to the presence or, more specifically, the absence of members. We all know our time requirements and that I do not want to take anything away from the passionate and strong feelings of the hon. member and other members who might join in the debate.

St. John's HarbourPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Canadian Alliance Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, this is another environmental issue. There have been many during the last eight years I have been here. Again we look at promises and at the politics being played with the issue of the environment.

I had the privilege of going to St. John's during a byelection. I saw the harbour and the history of the place. It is a beautiful spot. One of the things that I was shown in the harbour was the emission of raw sewage into the ocean. At first I did not understand. I could not imagine that in a G-8 country, in an advanced country called Canada, we would be dumping raw sewage into the ocean. I would expect that in developing countries. They have little choice. They have no resources to take care of sewage, but I did not expect that in Canada.

Then I found out that it is not the only place where we are dumping raw sewage. We are dumping raw sewage into the ocean in the beautiful city of Victoria. When we say we have a problem and there is too much sewage lying around on our beaches, the answer is that we put the pipe out a little farther into the ocean.

That is hardly sewage treatment. That is hardly something hon. members would expect in a country like Canada. As I mentioned earlier today in the debate about water, we sell our technology. We sell water treatment plants and sewage treatment plants to developing countries. In Canada we have at least two cities where we are putting raw sewage directly into the ocean. That is a disgrace.

In St. John's harbour, 120 million litres per day of raw sewage are dumped directly into the ocean, letting the tides carry it away and becoming someone else's problem. All members should be shocked by that kind of information. We should be reacting to it immediately. There are bacteria, pathogens, phosphorous, nitrogen, heavy metals, visible pollutants lying everywhere, and baby diapers, condoms and needles lying on the beaches.

The hon. member who raised the issue talked about the numerous cruise ships going by. What do they think about Canada when they see and hear about that sort of thing? There is not only the health hazard the hon. member has mentioned, but the shame and the embarrassment that we as Canadians have to live with.

I see the money that is wasted in planet Ottawa and some of the programs that are funded. It is shocking that we would even need a private member's motion on an issue as basic as water and sewage.

I see how politics are played. I do not say I understand politics in Atlantic Canada all that well. I hear how people are told at public meetings that if they vote a certain way the money will be made available for a sewage treatment plant. That is not the way the government should play with environmental issues. It is not a partisan political issue. Taking care of sewage is a basic thing that a country does. Whether Canadians vote Liberal, NDP, Conservative or Alliance should not matter when it comes to putting raw sewage into the ocean.

I also looked at the Sydney tar ponds, which our party has been looking at for eight years now. Again we see how little is being done and how much politics is being played. There is a face-off between the industry minister and the environment minister for who can have the dirtiest harbour. That is not something I would like to say I represented if I were either the industry minister or the environment minister. I certainly would not want to list on my credentials that my city's raw sewage is going into the ocean. It is certainly not something we would want to talk about.

How do we deal with environmental issues? Obviously the list could be very long. What we do or what we expect from our federal government is leadership. It should not pass the buck. It should not say that it is this level of government or that level of government. It must recognize that environment is a provincial issue and in many cases is a municipal issue.

What should be the role of the federal government? Its role should be one of leadership, of providing research money and expertise to the provinces and territories to help them help the municipalities.

We do not even know what our aquifers are and whether or not we are polluting them. We do not have nor do we use the technology to look at our water supply.

Sewage is another matter. We really do not use the most modern technologies in many cases. We do not have a set of standards for testing. Some have primary treatment, some have secondary, some have tertiary and some have none. Obviously, that is not the sort of Canada that most of us want environmentally. The federal government should provide leadership and initiative to deal with these kinds of basic problems.

The matter of garbage is a favourite of mine. I have been visiting garbage landfill sites in different countries to see how they deal with garbage for probably 35 years. I remember sitting next to the mayor of Vienna. I asked him casually over dinner what his city did with its garbage. I told him that I had looked at the garbage facilities in Frankfurt, Amsterdam, London, Miami, New York and a lot of Canadian cities as well.

He told me that he would show me what they did. At 11 o'clock at night we drove downtown and came to a building that looked like an apartment building. Inside was a recycling facility and an incinerator.

Vienna's biggest problem is that it cannot get enough garbage. It is now purchasing garbage from surrounding communities and bringing it in train loads so that the plant is kept fully functional.

That is the kind of thing that Canadians should be promoting and utilizing whether for recycling, composting or incineration. The technology is there. The technology to handle the sewage problem in St. John's harbour is not rocket science. It is just a matter of getting the job done and being committed to doing it.

We should also look at our air situation. I will give an example that is similar to St. John's harbour or Victoria. There is an area in the Fraser Valley that is the second most polluted air shed in Canada. Southern Ontario is the most polluted and this area is the second.

California is short of energy. It cannot build power plants there because they pollute. Washington does not allow high tensile lines to go over the top of populated areas. Guess what they are going to do? They have decided to build power plants along the border on the Washington side. California gets its power and Washington gets the profit. Canada gets the pollution and the high tensile lines.

That is the sort of thing that Canadians cannot allow. We cannot allow raw sewage into the oceans. We cannot allow pollution to come across our border without raising a fuss about it. We have to deal with our sewage problem and modernize our garbage disposal.

Canada's environmental record needs to be improved. At the present time it is dismal. We need to stop playing politics with the environment and get on with the job of creating a cleaner environment for all Canadians.

St. John's HarbourPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Scarborough Centre Ontario


John Cannis LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, this is a very important issue for each and every Canadian no matter where they live. I would like to respond briefly to the member for St. John's East who spoke with such passion about this very important issue.

However, I find it very unacceptable and disheartening when a member in the hon. House tries to destroy a member by saying that he does not care and that he has not participated.

Quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, you were a member of the House at that time and you remember very well when he was the minister of fisheries. He went to bat for the province and the Atlantic provinces. He brought the issues front and centre and got results and spoke with passion.

The hon. member knows that very well. It is unfortunate that he did not stick to the issue at hand but tried to politicize. As the hon. member from the Alliance said, let us take the politics out of it, and I agree with him. This is not an issue of politics.

Let me point out that the Government of Canada has made and will continue to make serious commitments to the protection of our environment and to the reclamation of our threatened lands and, of course, waters.

The current situation, whereby untreated sewage empties into St. John's harbour, is unacceptable to me, to the minister, to the Prime Minister, to the government and I know to the country as a whole. It is important that the situation be addressed in a manner acceptable and feasible for the city of St. John's, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Government of Canada.

I am fully aware that the municipal and provincial governments have committed to cost sharing the necessary cleanup. I believe that this approach will expedite our efforts to address this most important issue.

For this reason, we are working to identify an appropriate mechanism for funding this kind of undertaking. The estimated cost for the construction of a required primary treatment plant is $93 million. The only program currently in place to facilitate federal contributions to municipal infrastructure is of course the Canada infrastructure program, which is cost shared with provincial and municipal governments.

The existing Canada-Newfoundland infrastructure works program has committed funds totalling $153 million over five years. These funds were allocated to assist in building and improving infrastructure in more than 400 communities, incorporated areas, of course, and the local service districts in Newfoundland and Labrador. The municipal infrastructure requirements in this, Canada's fourth largest province, are broad based, pan-provincial and in some cases very urgent.

There are, for example, as many as 240 boil water orders in effect right now on any given day in areas that do not enjoy the basic advantage of reliable, safe drinking water.

On October 13, 2000, the Canada-Newfoundland infrastructure agreement was signed, with an allocation of $51 million in federal funds for Newfoundland and Labrador. I would like to point that out.

Unfortunately the existing program, while substantial, cannot meet the existing demand. For the current fiscal year alone, $250 million in water and sewer management projects have been proposed for the province. The $93 million required to put an adequate sewage treatment facility in place in the capital city of St. John's is not included in that sum.

The Canada-Newfoundland infrastructure works program has a specific mandate to provide assistance in the ongoing development of appropriate and essential infrastructure in communities throughout the province. It would be inappropriate to commit in excess of half of that funding to one project.

This in no way diminishes the importance of finding a solution to this unacceptable situation in St. John's harbour. It would be inadvisable and counterproductive, let me say, to make short term, reactive promises in response to an issue of this importance.

I would like to assure the hon. member, members in the House as well, and of course the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, that the minister will continue to work with his cabinet colleagues and municipal and provincial partners to find an appropriate long term solution to the problem.

St. John's HarbourPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on this motion by the hon. member for St. John's East.

The position of the Bloc Quebecois, and mine by the same token, is based on the opportunities cities had in the past and which they lost over the last few years. They are slowly getting them back, but they are far from meeting all the needs of Canadian municipalities in infrastructure, and waste and water treatment.

In a not too distant previous incarnation, just last year, I quit as president of the Union des municipalités du Québec. I can say that Canadian cities have been hard hit by the deep cuts in federal transfers to the provinces made in 1992.

In 1998 alone, Quebec municipalities have contributed $730 million to the Quebec government to help erase the deficit and meet the needs in health care and education. Since 1992, with a government of the Liberal Party in 1992 and of the Parti Quebecois in 1998, Quebec municipalities have had to make a more significant contribution. In Quebec, this was a bill that was paid in part to the government of Quebec, but the municipalities saw their budgets cut by $730 million.

I am sure that a similar situation exists right across Canada, with the federal government's cuts in health and education. Let us not forget that in 2001 federal transfers to the provinces for health care will only he as high as they were in 1993. No miracles are made with the taxpayer money and we all know that people do not want more tax increases.

What did the provincial governments do? They reduced in turn their transfer payments to the lower levels, basically the transfers and support they were providing to the cities for various programs, including the water purification program.

I am not surprised to see that in 2001 the City of St. John's, Newfoundland is faced with a sewage problem, which it has not yet found a way to solve, and a horrendous $30 million bill. The problem is simple. The level of government funding for the tripartite infrastructure program is insufficient.

The speech that the government member just gave proves it. What he said was that there was not enough money to respond to the 400 demands in the province of Newfoundland alone.

The problem is much larger amounts need to be earmarked for infrastructure programs. Since 1992, cities have had to contribute to the higher levels of governments' deficit reduction efforts. The federal government started things off by shifting the deficit burden to the provinces and provinces then dumped their problems partly on the municipalities and partly on various other health and education institutions.

We are just coming out of a large operation to put public finances back in order, but let us not forget that municipalities provide frontline services to the population. We tend very easily to think that this costs nothing, but when we get up in the morning and flush the toilet or turn on the faucet, we must never forget that the quality of life we enjoy in our beautiful provinces and also in Canada is largely due to the municipalities that take care of water treatment, wastewater treatment and garbage collection.

Those are things we often forget. People too often forget that there are costs involved and that the municipalities have to meet them.

I sympathize with the mayor of St. John's, Newfoundland. That city should have the resources needed to treat its wastewater. It should have, in the year 2001, the amounts required to deal with what is now one of life's necessities, wastewater treatment.

In this regard, we could recommend that the government be receptive to all municipal applications regarding the needs identified as a result of studies. A major study had to be conducted by municipalities across Canada before they could submit their applications under the tripartite program.

In Quebec municipalities need $10 billion to deal with infrastructure problems of all kinds. The $10 billion will only be spread over the next ten years. They need $10 billion dollars to maintain their water systems, sewage treatment systems and transportation systems in reasonably good shape.

The tripartite infrastructure program announced in its last budgets by the federal government will only give Quebec $1.5 billion over the next five years, which is 15% of what Quebec municipalities need. I am sure the situation is the same across Canada. It is too little, and in the case of St. John's, Newfoundland, it is too late, because considerable damage is being caused to the environment by not dealing with such a serious problem as water purification. We are always waiting for the federal government because that is how we are able to calculate investments made by the provinces and municipalities.

I would even go as far as to say that, on top of that, all municipalities along the St. Lawrence River, along the St. Lawrence Seaway and along Canada's entire coastline need a specific envelope for decontamination and cleanup to repair the damage caused by nature and man in the last few years.

These municipalities need special assistance. There should be a special envelope for municipalities along the coasts of Quebec and Canada, including along the St. Lawrence Seaway, in order to meet this urgent need to fight pollution and to be environmentally correct, if we want our country to be at the forefront of the fight against pollution.

The Bloc Quebecois will support all municipalities and cities that try to take charge of their own destiny and need money to compensate the big revenue loss caused indirectly by the federal government since 1992. Cities had to part with billions of dollars to help provincial governments and Quebec deal with health care and education problems.

It is inconceivable that in 2001 federal transfers to the provinces are at the 1993 level. When health care was implemented in Canada, the federal share of the costs was 50%. It stands now at 25%, while costs keep rising for the provinces. In Quebec health costs will double over the next five years. Obviously, federal transfers will not increase at the same rate, even if we are told that agreements have been signed. True enough, the provinces have signed agreements on infrastructure programs.

We are supposed to be glad with everything that is being signed. Of course, half a loaf is better than no loaf. Premiers sign agreements with the federal government because it is better than nothing and because it will help their communities and citizens. However we should not forget that Canadian cities need much more.

I will say it again, St. John's deserves this federal investment. It deserves to have the federal government pay one third, and the provincial government and the municipal government will also each pay one third.

St. John's HarbourPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think it is appropriate that this private member's bill is being brought forward today given today's debate in the House on water and the obviously detrimental effect it has on the citizens of this country and on their health when it is not adequately protected.

That, to a great degree, is what the bill is about. I would like to thank the Progressive Conservative member for St. John's East for having brought forward the bill and giving us this opportunity to debate it.

I will take this opportunity to quote some material. One of the quotes I found is from the Telegram newspaper in Newfoundland from October 24 of last year. This is how the harbour was described: “The harbour, a noxious stew of feces, condoms, tampons, rubber gloves and everything else that gets flushed down the thousands of toilets in the metro area, has long been an environmental embarrassment”.

What is interesting is the date that the article appeared in that paper because of course it was not long before the last federal election. The present Minister of Industry was quoted at that time as saying that he would “work as hard and as smart” as he could to bring sewage treatment to the region, appropriately so, as we also have the Minister of the Environment in the government—again I am paraphrasing but reflecting the positions he has taken—on the record, recognizing that the lack of sewage treatment is a serious threat to the sustainability of coastal communities, affecting human health, constraining economic development and compromising ecosystem integrity through the release of toxic substances into freshwater and marine ecosystems.

He should also be working as hard and as smart as one of his other fellow ministers, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans who went further than the Minister of the Environment in his threatened legal action against those poisoning the waters of the Atlantic by the discharge of raw sewage. I am talking about the city of St. John's which the fisheries minister is to sue.

After all the work that has been done and the history in terms of the amount of pollutants being released into the water in that area, we still have no involvement of any consequence by the federal government. It is important to recognize the amount of work that has been done by both the province and the municipality in terms of their one-third shares. They have to be acknowledged in that regard.

In the legislature of Newfoundland yesterday Mr. Harris, a member of the New Democratic Party in that house, asked the premier what was happening in terms of the cleanup of St. John's harbour. Basically he received this response:

Unfortunately, I do have to report that we have no definite commitment from the Government of Canada yet with respect to their one-third share. We have made a firm request, repeatedly, that they participate with a special fund, and a separate fund, for an initiative as important as the clean up of the St. John's harbour.

Then he indicated they would continue to do that and were expecting at some point that the federal government would come through. He went on to acknowledge the comment that Mr. Harris had made earlier about the fact that the provincial government and the municipality involved had committed their one-third shares. Yet there has been no action by the federal government.

I come back to where we were today in the debate on water and the motion we passed earlier in support of setting national standards. It is typical of the federal government that it is willing to support that type of motion but when confronted with the reality of the necessary action we see no response.

We have the municipality kicking in its $31 million. The provincial government in Newfoundland is kicking in its $31 million. They are prepared to do so and ready to go. They even have a design of the plant and the piping required to make the system work appropriately and safely for the protection of the environment and the health of the people of St. John's.

They have done all that work and the only missing piece is a commitment from the federal government. They still do not see it. If the federal government were serious when it supported the motion that was passed earlier, it would act when an occasion like this one comes forward. We are in strong support of the motion and of the needed action and would vote accordingly.

St. John's HarbourPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the motion put forward by the hon. member for St. John's East respecting the proposed St. John's harbour cleanup.

It always behoves me to remind the hon. member for St. John's East, being a good fellow from St. John's, that there are other issues, other harbour cleanups that have been proposed for other parts of the island of Newfoundland and indeed throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

I would like to promote the concept of a harbour cleanup in Corner Brook. The Atlantic coastal action program, the Humber Arm group, have been proponents of that endeavour for quite some time. I would have liked to have as well included in this motion in terms of its context and wording a more all inclusive, a more encompassing debate and a more encompassing discussion written right into the text of the motion itself.

This being a debate, we are allowed to go the full gambit of basically how it will proceed. I would like to provide some discussion about priorities and about expanding the mandate. The House engaged in a discussion just this afternoon about priorities. This is an opposition day on which we discussed at length the need for national regulation on clean, clear drinking water as a priority matter. It was put forward by the Conservative caucus, by the Conservative Party as the priority.

If we look at the recent round of infrastructure programs put forward in my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador, we did respond to what our people, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, said were their priorities, as would be noted by the hon. member from the Conservative caucus. We invested literally tens of millions of dollars into clean, clear drinking water in communities and as a matter of fact in rural communities. This is something of which I am very proud and has to be explored.

On the issue of harbour cleanup, the hon. member has put forward that the municipality of St. John's has put up $31 million. The rubber is ready to hit the road. The pedal is ready to be put to the metal. The province has also put up $31 million. A total $62 million is committed.

I would like to pose a question. Is it possible with $62 million already sourced that the project could now begin? Given the fact that it probably would be initiated over a 10 year period, an extended period of time, that the commitment is genuine and real and that the need is there, which I think the hon. member opposite has proven quite effectively, could the $62 million be put into play immediately?

We determine our priorities and our commitments and put forward money for municipal infrastructure that provide for clean, clear water. We put money forward for municipal sewer systems in rural communities. If St. John's harbour cleanup is the priority, as the hon. member says, and I agree with him, we have an opportunity to put $62 million in play, not tomorrow, but today, right now, on the floor of the House if the hon. member consents.

St. John's HarbourPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the inadequate time that I have been given to address this very important issue. I offer my support and congratulations to the member for raising the issue in the House. I would also like to pay some deserved tribute to the mayor of St. John's for his continued efforts on behalf of the constituents that he shares with the member.

This is an issue which has been treated in an excessively partisan way by the government opposite in that during the federal election campaign it made eminently clear to the people of St. John's when the industry minister travelled there that the project was one he supported. That was borne out by the fact that as premier of Newfoundland he supported the project himself.

During the federal election he went further than that and encouraged the people of St. John's to vote for the Liberal candidates, arguing that would give him allies and encourage him in his ability to generate funding support for the project. That is where we step over the line. That is when we make partisanship blatant. When we do that we remove any credibility to argue that fairness is the basis upon which funds are allocated for projects such as this one.

This does not need to be a partisan issue. This is an issue of a dirty harbour that needs to be cleaned up. I know the member opposite would agree that is the issue we should be talking about.

I raised a simple question in the House with the environment minister in question period. I asked him why he would tell the mayor of St. John's that there were no funds available from his department and subsequent to that announce that funds were available for a project in his own riding.

I thought it was a very fair and reasonable question. An opportunity was provided for him to respond. All he did was launch into personal attacks about me. That was not fruitful. It did not lend any credibility to the government's rationale for its criteria and priorities on issues such as this one.

Opportunity was provided today for both ministers to rise in their places to participate in the debates by saying what are their priorities and how they determine the criteria for allocating funds to these kinds of projects. Rather they give the mayor of St. John's the runaround and waste his valuable time. As hard as he wants to work for the people of St. John's he would like to have a partner in the federal government. I can understand that.

There is only one taxpayer out there. We have heard many times that one taxpayer pays provincial tax, municipal tax and federal tax. One taxpayer expects to get services from government. It is a shame when government seems to insist on being partisan to an excessive degree and interfering with the basic co-operative approaches that should be taken on infrastructure projects such as this one.

That is what we are seeing with this project. We are seeing a willingness to put partisan self-interest ahead of fairness. It is clearly evident. The Liberal candidate in St. John's East was asked on the night of the election whether St. John's would be punished by its refusal to send Liberals to the House of Commons. His answer was that it had nothing to do with punishment but with reality.

If that is the reality of government members opposite, they should stand and be honest about it. If this is about partisanship and rewarding ridings that vote Liberal, the government should say so. It seems clearly evident that is the case. That is most unfortunate, because the project is deserving of support. I stand in support of the member and encourage the government to take action on this resolution so it can go forward.

St. John's HarbourPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle Progressive Conservative St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I thank all of my colleagues for their submissions on this very important issue. I thank the Alliance members, the NDP members, the Bloc members, members of the backbench and the Liberal caucus for their remarks as well.

It is too bad that we have to come to the House of Commons to make a case for a project that is very basic and vital to the development of one of North America's oldest and most beautiful cities. However we have to come here because of the inaction of government. We have to come here because politicians make promises during election campaigns that they have absolutely no intention of ever keeping.

It is getting all too common that this type of politics is infiltrating the country. People stand and make promises. They have no intention of ever keeping them. They want to get through a couple of weeks or months in an election campaign. They hope the public will have a very short memory and that it will all go away.

The public does not forget. We cannot let the industry minister forget the promises he has made to the people in St. John's to get this project moving. This project deserves to be moved along. Some 120 million litres of raw sewage a day is going into one of the most beautiful harbours in the world. If we do the mathematics, 43 billion litres of raw sewage per year go into St. John's harbour. Is it any wonder that in 1994 the environmental watchdog, the Sierra club, gave this project an F and in 1999 downgraded it even further to an F-minus? I do not know how much further it can go than that.

I want to make a comment about the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry who came here with a prepared text today. I am really surprised that he did not even run the remarks by his boss before he came here, saying that we could take advantage of the Canada-Newfoundland infrastructure program to fund the project.

There is only $50 million from the federal government over a five year period. There are hundreds of small municipalities for that $50 million over five years or $10 million a year. The Minister of Industry himself has indicated that we cannot apply under that program to have St. John's harbour cleaned up. It has to be a separate side agreement.

Let me say to the other Newfoundland member, the member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, who said that since we have $60 million committed to it now why would we not proceed. We cannot proceed. There is an agreement involving the municipalities of Mount Pearl, Paradise, St. John's and the provincial government and it cannot kick in until the federal government comes up with its share of the funding.

It is conceivable to say that the project will never move ahead unless the federal government comes up with its share of the money for the project.

I want to compliment the people who do so much work on this from year to year and who do not get discouraged. The city of St. John's has been working very hard on it, along with the mayor. There are the ACAP people who put their backs into it on a daily basis as well and try to keep it in the public eye. They are the people we should be complimenting for the work they have put into it, not the politicians.

If the Minister of Industry has any feeling that getting the money would somehow give some credit to me or the member of the Alliance or NDP for the very limited submissions we have made, he can forget about it. That is not the case at all. Making money available for this project would be saying thanks to the people who have made such a difference, people like the mayor of the city of St. John's, the people on the St. John's city council and the ACAP people. They are the people who deserve the real credit for the effort that has gone into this so far.

I sincerely hope that the Minister of Industry is back in his office somewhere listening to this and will take it into account, into consideration, step up to the plate and make money available for what is a very good project.

St. John's HarbourPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired. As the motion has not been designated a votable item, the order is dropped from the order paper.

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

St. John's HarbourAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to again rise in the House of Commons to speak to an issue of utmost urgency concerning the people of east Vancouver.

On several occasions in the past two months alone, including today, I have pressed the government on its lacklustre response on the health crisis of drug use, overdoses and safety. In fact, for four years I have been raising this and will keep on until I am satisfied that the federal government and the Minister of Health are doing all that can be done to save lives, improve the health and safety of my community and stop the criminalization of injection drug users who are dying at an alarming rate.

There are now so many expert reports, including that from the city of Vancouver, that it boggles the mind that leadership and action are so slow to follow. One of the most recent studies shows that female drug users are twice as likely to be infected with HIV-AIDS as men. This is the first time that this has happened in the developed world.

Since 1997 I have been pushing for a comprehensive strategy. I have called on the Minister of Health to adopt multicentre heroin prescription trials, safe injection sites, better housing and social support to users. All of these things will significantly improve the health of injection drug users as well as safety in the community. It will also reduce crime. If there is any doubt about this we have only to look to Europe to see the success of such an approach.

I do want to acknowledge that the federal government has provided some response. I am glad that the minister has responded to some of the concerns and has provided support for drug users, for example, by supporting the drug resource centre which unfortunately has yet to open. It has been mired in development permits and appeals in the city of Vancouver. Also, there is now talk of a feasibility study on clinical trials for drug maintenance. In my several meetings with the minister, I have always found him to be knowledgeable and sympathetic.

Up to now the RCMP has been opposed to safe injection sites and clinical trials for drug maintenance. Therefore it is very significant that the chief superintendent of the RCMP's drug enforcement program is now saying that the government should consider safe injection sites. This is a significant development and cannot be ignored, but it would require federal approval from the Minister of Health.

I want to say to the government today, for heaven's sake, let us get on with it now. I ask the government to be courageous and listen to what its own experts are saying.

In Australia the first legal heroin injection room opened a few days ago. Canada can be next. Canada can and must move on this issue. We can prevent needless deaths. We can prevent crime, which causes so much distress in my community and other communities across the country. We can stem the flow of wasted resources in law enforcement and judicial systems. We can change Canada's drug laws, which are badly in need of reform. What it takes is political will.

I ask the Minister of Health to stand tall, to be resolved to take this issue on and to listen to what his own experts are saying.

St. John's HarbourAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Anjou—Rivière-Des-Prairies Québec


Yvon Charbonneau LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to answer the questions raised by the member for Vancouver East regarding clinical trials to assess the effectiveness of heroin in treating heroin addiction and HIV/AIDS in injection drug users.

Mayor Owen has met with Health Canada to discuss Canada's drug strategy and continued collaboration between Health Canada and the city of Vancouver. Health Canada is also a formal partner with the city of Vancouver and the province of British Columbia on the Vancouver agreement.

Mayor Owen's report on the injection drug use situation goes beyond any one initiative. A comprehensive response is required and the issue goes far beyond Health Canada. I am pleased to report that federal and provincial-territorial officials representing issues related to drugs, AIDS, hepatitis C, corrections, enforcement, justice, aboriginal peoples and population health have been working together to develop strategies to reduce the harm associated with injection drug use in Canada.

With regard to HIV/AIDS infection rates, the study results mentioned by the member in her original questions were preliminary. Health Canada takes into account the vulnerability of community members with a higher risk of infection, by working with other federal departments and public administrations within the framework of what is known as the Vancouver agreement.

With this in mind, Health Canada has just funded two projects in Vancouver downtown east side. One deals with alternate ways of providing counselling and education in order to help women get off the streets. The other targets the network of drug users in Vancouver and is aimed at providing advice and services to drug addicts.

Canada recognizes the gender implications of this global pandemic and has undertaken several initiatives such as the Canadian strategy on HIV-AIDS which supports research and other activities that meet the specific needs of women and girls in Canada and around the world.

St. John's HarbourAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, you have been more than generous to the people who have preceded me and I appreciate that.

I am here tonight in relation to a question regarding Lancaster Aviation which I have asked the Minister of National Defence on a number of occasions.

Lancaster Aviation, for the benefit of the general public and those who are interested, was awarded a contract by the federal government in 1997 to sell surplus military equipment spare parts. The concern is that the spare parts contract grew to include, without a tender process, 10 Challenger jets and 40 helicopters, far exceeding the original contract.

How could a company such as Lancaster Aviation go from selling spare parts to selling 10 Challenger aircraft and 40 helicopters? It is very obvious. There was an escape clause in the contract that allowed the government to do this. I guess it did it to reward its friends, if it wished.

We have a number of concerns on this file, one of them being that the Challenger aircraft, which were Government of Canada aircraft, were sold on the international market by a company called Lancaster for less than 50% of their value. The helicopters were sold in the same fashion. How is something like that allowed to happen?

Then we found out that Lancaster Aviation closed its doors in Milton, Ontario. It took the equipment, up to $70 million worth of Canadian goods owned by the Government of Canada, and housed it in Florida in a warehouse owned by a convicted felon who is under contract with Lancaster Aviation.

Our concern is how and why those spare parts were allowed to leave Canada. Lancaster Aviation closed up its operations, closed its warehouse in Canada, only to move goods owned by the Government of Canada across the border.

Incidentally, the individual has not yet been sentenced, but he is up on money laundering charges and on leading an international prostitution ring. We do not consider the individual to be a good corporate citizen.

My question to the parliamentary secretary is simple. Why would the Government of Canada allow this to happen? What security do we have on the assets now lying in a warehouse in Florida owned by a convicted felon who is awaiting sentencing? The laundered money was through the selling of drugs. What happens to his assets? What happens to the contractual agreement between Lancaster Aviation and the individual in Florida? How much at risk are the parts owned by the Government of Canada?

I have a second part to my question. When did the Government of Canada realize that its goods were stored in a warehouse owned by a convicted felon? When did the minister know, how much did he know, and what action is the government taking today to secure the assets owned by the people of Canada and in a warehouse in Florida?

St. John's HarbourAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Mississauga South Ontario


Paul Szabo LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the erroneous statements made by the hon. member tonight.

The government has had a competitive arrangement in place with Lancaster Aviation since 1997 for the disposal of surplus aerospace assets, not just spare parts as the hon. member has said.

The solicitation process was a rigorous one. It made sure that the successful bidder met three criteria: first, that it had the knowledge to sell such assets; second, that it could market the assets worldwide; and, third, that it could achieve the best return for taxpayers.

The contract was competed for in June 2000 and Lancaster Aviation was the successful bidder. How could the hon. member refer to it as an escape clause to help friends when it is the same company that won the competition?

Allegations that the contractor disposed of Twin Huey helicopters and the Challenger aircraft were sole sourced are false. It was a competitive process. The 1997 RFP contemplated special projects such as the sale of the planes. When such a need arises the process calls for an amendment to the contract to legally bind the parties. That is what we did with the sale of the Twin Huey helicopters and the Challenger aircraft.

I want to assure the House that the sale of the surplus aircraft was conducted to the letter of the law and in the interest of the Canadian taxpayers. Lancaster was paid a fair commission, as per the terms of its contract. It had an incentive to sell the aircraft at the highest possible selling price.

Lancaster Aviation has warehoused these assets in Florida and that is true. They are not owned by a convicted felon. They are owned by Air Spares Inc., a company in Florida. The member should know that the assets are in Florida because that is where the market is. Lancaster Aviation is using a facility in Florida strictly for warehouse purposes. It remains solely responsible for the marketing and sale of those assets.

The assets are not in danger. They are the property of DND. They are only in the custody of that contractor. No parties other than the crown have any right to those assets.

With those facts, clearly the member has presented to the House a set of erroneous statements and facts, which he should know better.

St. John's HarbourAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24.

(The House adjourned at 7.17 p.m.)