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House of Commons Hansard #168 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was physical.

Topics

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Members' speeches will now be 20 minutes in length, followed by 10 minutes of questions or comments.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to publicly congratulate the minister responsible for amateur sport for his recent appointment to cabinet.

The purposes of Bill C-54 are to encourage, promote and develop sport and physical activities and to reflect and strengthen the role of government in sport. We saw here today on the floor of the House that sport and physical activity are very important to Canadians and I think there is a recognition that the government should promote physical activity and participation in sporting activities. As the member for the Bloc noted, all of this requires the co-operation of provincial and territorial governments, physical education and activity groups, the sports community and the private sector. The government's role in all of this is the promotion of physical activity as a basic element of health and well-being of Canadians and also the reduction of barriers that prevent them from being active.

There certainly are barriers to physical activity. Canadians face real and perceived barriers in moving from a sedentary to an active lifestyle. Central among them is the lack of social, physical and cultural environments that support people's intentions to become active. Other barriers include lack of time, energy, information and access to facilities and costs and concern for safety. These systemic barriers need to be addressed if public health objectives related to physical activity are to be achieved.

The bill sets out various goals such as increased participation, the support of excellence and the building of capacity in the Canadian sports system. The government is looking for drug free sports, fair play and the fair and timely resolution of disputes, the alternative dispute resolution system on which I will say more in a moment.

The government has correctly targeted women, the disabled, aboriginals and other minorities as groups requiring upgrading of physical activity, all the while boosting the high performance sports and the athletes that go with them. Physical education programs will be re-emphasized according to the terms of the bill and that is welcome. Recently the press has reported that there is something like a 400% reduction in physical activity in the current younger generation compared to those who were young back in the 1960s. A fitter, more active population would obviously save billions of dollars in our health care system.

Today the member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough was on his feet talking about sport and physical activity. The current Minister of Health applauded and congratulated him, especially on his remarks about physical activity, but the ministry that she is now responsible for has over the last couple of years entirely cut out the very well applauded participaction program that was around for almost 30 years starting in 1971. It died, not because Canadians were not interested but because financial resources from the government continued to drop until the program was not sustainable any longer.

Back to public health and on women and aboriginal groups, these two groups are overrepresented in many of our health care areas and underrepresented when it comes to physical activity and sports.

In January immediately after the minister was appointed Secretary of State for Amateur Sport, his department received a letter from a gentleman in Regina who was endeavouring to develop a weekend tournament in March of next year for outdoor hockey league participants. Probably 45% of these participants, 950 individuals all told, would be first nations or Metis children.

The outdoor hockey league, the OHL as it is known in Regina, is particularly for young boys who do not have the wherewithal to join the tiered hockey system. They have a competitive outdoor hockey league which relies on used equipment. It has received support from the NHL Players Association and others. It is a highly worthwhile endeavour.

Mr. Ken Jones, who is intimately involved with the outdoor hockey league in Regina, is trying to promote a weekend tournament in March called the world cup dream weekend. He is looking for financial assistance from the government. Unfortunately, there has been no response. My office checked with Mr. Jones earlier today and there has not even been an acknowledgment. We hope that there will be an acknowledgment forthcoming so that plans can proceed for this important tournament next year.

The physical activity and sport bill would encourage sport as a tool to develop Canada in co-operation with other countries. Private sector money is part of the bill, facilitating the participation of under-represented groups. It would encourage provinces and the territories to co-ordinate, stage and host Canadian games or international games in this country. It would also support additional activities and alternate dispute resolutions for sport.

The dispute resolutions centre is deemed to be a not for profit independent corporation, a national dispute resolution service with expertise and assistance in this area. The goal is timely, fair and transparent resolutions of sport.

One of the things I am concerned about in the bill is the two track policy, one is sport and the other is physical activity. It will be easy for people who are monitoring and implementing it to be overwhelmed by the sport aspect of it at the expense of physical activity.

Jim Thompson, recently appointed chief executive officer of the Canadian Olympic Association, has said that we definitely need to focus on high-performance excellence. The Secretary of State for Amateur Sport agreed with Mr. Thompson's analysis. I emphasize, and we saw it here today, that we do need success stories. Our children need success stories that come from athletes who perform very well at the international level.

With the glamour, the idolization of athletes, and the fawning that sometimes occurs around successful athletes we must ensure that we do not go all out on one side and forget about the fact that it needs to be the greatest good for the greatest number. We need to be out there promoting physical education and physical activity that occurs for all of our young people, encouraging lifelong habits and, as a result, put less wear and tear on our health care system.

I am pleased to see in today's newspaper some reference to the greatest good for the greatest number. There was a fairly large survey that has just been released that indicates 65% of Canadians would like more government money spent on arenas, playgrounds and swimming pools, as well as sports for women, the poor, the disabled and aboriginals. As long as we can keep our eye on the goal of physical activity, the government will be responding to what Canadians are saying as a result of being polled.

The result of the extensive consultation that has been alluded to in this debate earlier is that the 1961 act is no longer reflective of today's modern sports and Canadian sport policy. The government's role requires a more strategic and collaborative approach. One of the minor things that would occur with the bill is the deletion of amateur sport because it is increasingly ambiguous and many other countries have dropped it.

I note in passing that this was presented by the Secretary of State for Amateur Sport. I am assuming that we will see a bill to make that individual the minister of state for sport. We will stay tuned on that one. Bill C-54 would allow the government to work collaboratively with partners, including professional sports.

I would like to provide a few more specifics on the alternative dispute resolution which proposes a secretariat. There is no organization in Canada now to advise national sports organizations when they have a dispute. This would offer procedures and independent mediation and arbitration services as an alternative to the time consuming notion of going to courts, which is what has been in place heretofore. That is an appropriate change in the bill.

I will be supportive of Bill C-54 and my colleagues in the New Democratic Party caucus will as well. It is worthy of support overall but I urge that we keep an eye on the physical activity component because there will be that inevitable attraction to the high performance side of sport where we shower attention and money on our star athletes.

We need to be concerned about the growing obesity that we see, especially in the younger generation, the potato chip crowd, that likes to sit back and watch all of this. The minister said that Canadians have a passion for physical activity and sport. They have a passion for sport. I am less sure that they have a passion for physical activity. We really need to encourage that in the bill.

The bill talks about barriers. Surely one of the barriers is the fact that too many Canadians are working too long. They are exhausted at the end of a workday or work week and too tired to either work out themselves or to encourage their children to get away from the television set, go outside or otherwise take part.

In the province of Ontario where the House of Commons is situated we have a 60 hour work week. Some of us thought many years ago at university that we would have reduced work weeks. What we find is that people tend to be working longer hours, which means that there is less time to indulge. We could take lessons from Europe, especially Scandinavian and Nordic countries, in terms of learning how some other societies deal with those kinds of problems.

These kinds of barriers must be addressed. Let us be careful that the physical activity side is not overwhelmed by the sport side. I expect the NDP caucus will support the bill and I intend to.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Palliser is a former sports journalist and has been following sports for many years when he was a newspaper writer following national hockey and so on. Along the same vein as the points he was making, I wonder if he would comment on an issue from my riding in Winnipeg, something we gave a lot of thought to?

The point I raise is the general public's view of professional sports. He refers to the sports elite, the sports industry and the lack of attention to the development of amateur sport. When we lost our Winnipeg Jets hockey team in Winnipeg the public was so horrified at the prospect of losing the team that it agreed to take an equity position in the team and subsidize the losses of the team so it would stay in Winnipeg.

People were very emotional. We had a rally at the corner of Portage and Main with 10,000 people. Eight year old children brought their piggy banks and gave them to the owner Barry Shenkarow asking him to save the Jets and saying that they would do anything and pay anything.

The public picked up the losses. The first year was not bad, we lost $2 million and we could kind of justify shelling out $2 million from the public purse to keep the economy of the Winnipeg Jets in Winnipeg. The next year we lost $14 million. That was getting a little stiff. The next year the Winnipeg Jets lost $32 million. Here we were closing down inner city hockey rinks and wading pools for children to play and be active in because we could not afford them, yet we could afford to subsidize millionaire hockey players with the Winnipeg Jets.

Would the hon. member see the parallel that I am drawing here? There is too much attention toward the elite of sport and not enough attention toward the real issue of getting young people active and encouraging a new generation of kids into sports.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague because he has hit on what I was trying to emphasize perhaps in my own feeble way. I am concerned because the bill has the two track approach. The sports side would be overwhelmed at the expense of the physical activity side.

There are a number of ways in which to respond to the member's point. One of them that comes to mind is the whole infrastructure program that occurred a few years ago. Some of that money in the province of Alberta went to the Calgary Saddledome and the Northlands Coliseum, or whatever business group it is named today.

That is not what Canadians in this Environics poll were talking about when they said to build more arenas. They want to build more arenas for kids to play hockey, not for the Jerome Iginlas and all the other superstar athletes.

That is the point my colleague is making, we need inner city activity. We need to get our kids involved in programs to get them away from the television set or other activities that are harmful to them and perhaps to other members of our society as well.

The member spoke of the specific incident of the Winnipeg Jets. A couple of years ago we went through the 24 hour flip-flop by the now Deputy Prime Minister about helping out professional sport teams with support payment subsidies. Canadians gave a very negative reaction to that. The quick reversal recognized the furor that it caused at the time.

Canadians are sending a clear message. I am glad the Secretary of State for Amateur Sport is here today and listening to this debate because it is important that we focus on the physical activity side so that it is not overwhelmed by the glamorous professional sport or the excellence of our top athletes.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Simcoe North Ontario

Liberal

Paul Devillers LiberalSecretary of State (Amateur Sport) and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, just to reply to the hon. member's concern, that is precisely what the Canadian sports policy, endorsed by all 14 jurisdictions a week ago in Iqaluit, is calling for. It is that balance in the participation side.

However, it is a little concerning when we seem to want to put one against the other, participation and elite. They are very compatible. The more we encourage participation the more we would broaden the feeder systems up into the elites. The more our high performance athletes excel then the more we would have that inspiration to get people more active. I understand the member's concern, but it is one that has been fully addressed in the policy and in the legislation.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister. I hope that is the case. I take him at his word.

All I am trying to say is that it seems there will inevitably be more tugs and pressures toward putting resources to the high performance side. That is why I think the minister and the department need to keep their eye on the ball. However it is comforting to hear what the minister is saying. We will be watching with care.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, I too appreciate the secretary of state's answer, all this while respecting jurisdictions. When one starts talking about health, it is an area of provincial jurisdiction, an area under Quebec's jurisdiction, one is talking about.

I believe that is what the secretary of state intends to do with regard to sport, to discuss and give the provinces, therefore Quebec, the necessary funding to promote physical activity. I believe that it is the intent of the bill. I hope that is what it is.

In another vein, my question would deal with the fact that I believe the bill to be a golden opportunity to enforce the Official Languages Act. I would like to know whether the member and his party would agree to include in the preamble and in specific parts of the act provisions to explicitly enforce the Official Languages Act.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the question. Yes, of course we think the Official Languages Act should be respected.

In the preamble to his intervention the hon. member talked about health as a totally provincial jurisdiction. That is not my interpretation of health care in Canada. It is a shared jurisdiction. It is clear from the British North America Act that there is a significant federal component to health care. The federal government has responsibility for maintaining the five principles of the Canada Health Act. The federal government needs to work with the provinces and territories in this area but it is not an either/or situation. It is the same in agriculture where there is joint jurisdiction.

Regarding the Official Languages Act, there is no question our party supports the hon. member's view.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst, Gasoline prices; the hon. member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, Employment insurance; the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas, Middle East.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of fitting circumstances in the House. Given that you are presiding over the debate I point out that you have long been an advocate of sports and an individual capable in his own right, as is the minister and the hon. member for Bras d'Or--Cape Breton.

We in the House had the great honour today of being graced with the presence of Olympic and Paralympic athletes. I will not make parallels with the fitness levels of the minister or some hon. members of the House. I had the opportunity to serve with the Secretary of State for Amateur Sport on a committee that delved into some of the challenges facing amateur, and to some extent professional, athletes in Canada. I also served with him on the justice committee. I know this is an issue near and dear to his heart. I have also had the opportunity to play hockey against him and have the scars to prove it.

Bill C-54 has at its root the promotion of physical activity and the aspects of health that flow from a healthy and active lifestyle. That is what all hon. members and all Canadians should be focusing on. It is a positive piece of legislation in that regard.

There are more technical elements to the bill. It would replace the Fitness and Amateur Sport Act which was enacted in parliament in 1961, around the same time the Prime Minister and the Sea Kings arrived on the scene.

Bill C-54 would establish a sport dispute resolution centre in Canada. This is important in its own right. It would set up a body with the ability to intervene and act as an arbitrator to avoid protracted, drawn out legal disputes that interfere with and in some cases paralyze activities and organizations that promote sport activities. An independent organization with a mission to provide sport and sport communities with a national alternative dispute resolution would be a positive contribution. It is a positive part of the bill.

We can hearken back to the dark days of Canadian amateur sport where we saw doping in some Olympic events. With great sadness everyone can recall the Ben Johnson affair. Great pride in his accomplishment was dashed at the revelation that doping had entered into his sporting prowess. We can also recall the Dubin inquiry and the lessons learned from that exercise.

The backdrop to some of the accomplishments of sport could be enhanced and improved for future development by virtue of the legislation before us. One element that would come from the dispute resolution centre is accountability. The bill contains mechanisms to encourage reporting, help bring about public understanding and accountability, and enable the auditor general to keep track of funding as a reminder that necessary resources may not be forthcoming. The infrastructure Bill C-54 would be put in place is a positive step forward.

As I said in my opening comments, the objective of Bill C-54 is to promote physical activity. A fundamental element of a healthy lifestyle and well-being is encouraging Canadians to become more engaged and participate. Canadians and many in the House will recall the analogies that used to be made between the average 60 year old Swede and the average 25 or 30 year old Canadian. The ParticipAction ads were meant to promote Canadians getting more involved in community activities. These did not necessarily include organized sport but simple activities such as walking, running, getting out and living a healthy lifestyle, and being more health conscious. They raised public consciousness of the ability of an active lifestyle to enhance quality of life be it through sport or other physical activity.

Bill C-54 is in the same vein. It would go in the same direction. It would encourage Canadians to improve their health by integrating physical activity into their lives each and every day. It would help reduce some of the barriers faced by Canadians that prevent them from pursuing an active lifestyle.

Increased participation in organized sport has as a corollary and added bonus the pursuit of excellence in sport and the early recognition for young people that there is a higher level to which they can aspire. As much as I agree with the commentary about the need to balance our support and resources for high end achievers, the Paralympians and Olympians we saw before us today are heroes to young people. They give them the inspiration to aspire to a greater level of accomplishment.

It is important that we support elite athletes, programs that recognize excellence, and new sports. It was interesting during the Olympics to see sports like snowboarding, skeleton and some of the new winter sports in which Canada could excel and lead the world. Women's participation has come of age in recent years in rugby, hockey and sports that for years were male dominated and associated with men's activities. We are seeing women participate at world class levels. Our women's hockey team is a shining example of that.

Sport activities at grade school, high school and post-secondary school levels are a source of pride particularly for rural communities in places like St. John's, Newfoundland, the maritimes and throughout the country. Quebec has been at the forefront. Its approach in many instances should be the model for the country, just as it has led the way in youth activities and the way it treats young people. The way Quebec interprets federal legislation such as the Young Offenders Act is very beneficial to the people of the province. We could learn a great deal from the way Quebec promotes young people and activities within its boundaries.

Bill C-54 would help build on some of the foundations that already exist in minor sports programs throughout the country. It would build on our capacity to promote and enhance sporting activity. Some of the agreements and arrangements in Bill C-54 would allow the minister, with the approval of the governor in council, to enter into agreements with provinces and territories to provide for payments or contributions in respect of the costs incurred by provinces when undertaking programs to encourage and promote physical activity and sport. With the approval of the governor in council provinces might enter into arrangements with the federal government or foreign states to promote and develop sport.

We are seeing opportunities for unique sporting activities to occur. For example, other countries could send athletes to Canada to participate in exchange programs. We are seeing unique activities in Iqaluit with the aboriginal games. I am encouraged to see the coverage. It allows Canadians to see the unique sporting events that are part of aboriginal culture in the north. That cultural link is a source of pride. It is important to communities. It is important in defining how young people and Canadians see themselves, their place in the world, and their place in the sporting venues and arenas of the world.

Bill C-54 would establish a not for profit corporation called the sport dispute resolution centre. The centre would aim at taking away some of the acrimony that naturally comes from a competitive environment and putting the focus back on the sport. This is a wonderful element of the bill. It would put the emphasis on the athletes and the activity and take away the pettiness and natural acrimony that sometimes results from a competitive environment.

The centre of course is not an agent of Her Majesty, the department, the corporation or the crown within that Financial Administration Act. It is there acting as an independent body. Presumably the appointment process will result in individuals having long connections, long associations and understandings of sports resolutions to act as referees, which again is something I know the Chair has a great deal of understanding about, even though at times referees are accused of turning a blind eye or not necessarily picking up on all of the activities, just as persons might accuse speakers of the House from time to time. It is good to see the Speaker wearing glasses.

The Progressive Conservative Party wholeheartedly supports physical participation. We support the spirit and intent of the bill. It encompasses the message of health and fitness and encourages Canadians of all ages to become more involved.

It was heartwarming to see the efforts made by the Minister of Health in recent months to promote the same idea shared by the Secretary of State for Amateur Sport, that Canadians benefit intrinsically from being more active. Intrinsically, the health care system will have corollary benefits from a more healthy and active lifestyle promoted by Canadians.

In the pursuit of a healthier lifestyle, we must keep in mind that there are infrastructure requirements.

Turning to that subject matter for a moment, I want to recognize the extraordinary efforts of the people in Sherbrooke, a small community in my constituency, who, with the assistance of the Government of Canada and the NHL Players' Association which came forward with a significant contribution at a crucial time, built what they call the Sherbrooke recplex, a community rink that now has the ability to promote its minor hockey program and figure skating. The surrounding area is now able to access ice time and participate in a very real way in sporting activities and it has created a greater sense of community for this small village of Sherbrooke.

Similarly, we saw the opening of the Millennium Centre in Antigonish at St. Francis Xavier, a terrific state of the art complex that will help enhance that university's ability to recruit but, more important, to be competitive and to promote the same sort of ideals that we want to see encompassed in this type of legislation.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the upgrade at the New Glasgow Stadium and the hosting of the under 17 world hockey tournament that took place two years ago and some of the worldclass events that have been hosted in northern Nova Scotia, a region which I represent. It is a region, I hasten to add, that has produced some worldclass athletes: Colin White and Jon Sim were both winners of Stanley Cups in the past number of years; Joey MacDonald and Derrick Walser were both recently promoted to the NHL. They follow in the footsteps of Lowell MacDonald and Tiger Mackie and players who came up through the Pictou county and Antigonish--Guysborough county hockey leagues to go on to accomplish great things. That was just in one sport. Our region has produced a number of worldclass athletes who have competed around the world with great pride.

Certainly my region and my province share the hopes and aspirations of all Canadians in promoting this type of bill. It is a good news bill, a bill I know the minister takes great pride in and a bill that promotes some of those very core values that encourage family participation. One only has to go to the ball diamonds, the rinks and the basketball courts to see the number of families who promote and band together around activities that their children and sometimes their parents and grandparents are taking part in.

I know that the direction in which the legislation is headed is one that I think, on certainly a non-partisan level, members of the House of Commons can agree upon. It provides both immediate and long term health benefits. Physically active lifestyles do help combat childhood obesity, a condition that many studies have shown to be on the rise since the early 1980s.

Healthy lifestyles save Canadians massive amounts of dollars in the health care system. It goes without saying that we need to encourage children early on to develop habits of not only healthy activity but healthy diets, healthy lifestyles and a healthy mind set which are achieved through participation in sports.

Mr. Speaker, as a parent I know you must recognize that there are many intrinsic values that serve young people throughout their entire lives when they participate in a sport: fair play, competition, the need for hard work, the need for team work, the need for working together and dealing with both wins and losses. All of these I find are very much a part of the entire sporting experience.

As one hockey dad described it to me, he said that it was sports or courts for a lot of young people. That is the choice that in many instances young people in both inner city and rural environments sometimes are faced with. Sports is an outlet that prevents them from going down a path of a life of crime, a life of drug or alcohol addiction. It is a benefit that has enormous consequences in terms of involvement at an early age and the enhancement of life skills, of the ability of young people to recognize the choices they make and the affiliations they make with others. Travel opportunities often exist for young people who make a commitment to a team or to an individual sport early in life.

The coaches, the trainers, the physiotherapists and those who work as a support system around sports will also be very pleased to see the direction in which the bill brings us. Motivated by the love of sport, as are many Canadians, there is an understanding now that by investing early on, be it in terms of the resources for infrastructure, for programming or for supporting existing sporting activities, there is an incredible exponential payoff later in life and in real dollar terms for the government.

I again congratulate the Secretary of State for Amateur Sport. By committing to this type of legislation and by committing to shaping and improving lives through participation in sports, the dividends from investing early will no doubt pay off and make Canada a better place. As we have seen today, this will provide us with a source of pride and a source of inspiration with programs that can produce worldclass athletes. They will perpetuate this feeling of accomplishment, this motivation for young people who see their heroes win those medals, hoist that cup and win that competition.

I am very pleased to speak in favour of the legislation on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party. We look forward to seeing the legislation come to fruition. We look forward for the opportunity of participating in future debates on legislation that can truly be deemed as wonderful and productive legislation for Canada.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, on this historic day, a day on which we all enjoyed having the Olympians here with us in this very theatre, I look around and see many people who were heavily involved in sports in the past.

My colleague mentioned young people imitating their heroes and becoming great athletes. I know some who probably looked at their heroes who were referees and went the other way and became good hockey players, but we cannot blame them for that .

In the presence of the minister responsible for HRDC, I would like to ask my colleague a question. He talked about the need for facilities. In recent years there have been many cutbacks, especially at the provincial levels, and many of the smaller communities in rural Canada are finding it difficult to create and maintain facilities.

One of the agencies, which perhaps did not receive the credit it deserved in the past, is the Department of Human Resources Development Canada whose labour component has created many facilities throughout the country.

In light of the cutbacks in areas where capital has been provided in the past, does my colleague think the department should be encouraged to continue promoting and supporting sports and creating sports facilities throughout the country? We often criticize but we must also give credit where credit is due. Without the help of the minister's department many good, solid local facilities would not exist.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, in keeping with this positive announcement today and the bill, I would have to agree with my colleague. I know that the local HRDC office in the riding I represent in Nova Scotia has been very forthcoming in providing programs that allow members of the community to actively participate in the construction of ball diamonds.

I mentioned the recplex in Sherbrooke and other facilities wherein there is a twofold benefit. A job is provided. The individual has the opportunity to feel a sense of pride in the construction of a sporting facility and the facility itself is brought to fruition, is completed wherein it can serve the needs of that community. The person is also left with the sense of ownership having completed a very integral and important part of the community infrastructure.

Yes, I agree with him. I hope the HRDC department will take heed of its opportunity to work in synergy with sports and recreation and with the Department of Health and to continue to provide that type of infrastructure which has such huge benefits, particularly in rural Canada, as my colleague from St. John's has quite correctly pointed out.

We certainly do acknowledge and thank the minister of HRDC for her department's involvement in that positive effort.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am starting to wonder whether by any chance my colleague would not be tempted to cross the floor. It is rather surprising. In any case, if good things happen, so much the better.

I would like to ask the member a question very similar to the one I put earlier to the NDP member, that is would it not be appropriate, I would even say necessary, to state in the preamble to the bill as well as in specific provisions that the Official Languages Act must be protected and enforced.

I would like to hear from the PC member what he and his party think about this.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. Yes, I believe it is necessary to include a very clear statement in the bill.

I think it is very important for the provinces to know where they stand vis-à-vis the federal government's intention. They need to know whether the government will contribute a certain level and whether they will have the liberty and initiative to control where these programs will go. They also need to know to what degree the federal government will follow that age old practice of attaching conditions upon the level of support and the resources that often follows.

As far as the member's comment about me going elsewhere, I can assure him that it is not likely to happen. However I do think that in this place there is a time for non-partisan debate and an acknowledgment when programs that are presented to us are done with the best interest of Canadians. We sometimes need to be a little more constructive in our criticism.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-53, an act to protect human health and safety and the environment by regulating products used for the control of pests, be read a second time and referred to a committee.

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

April 15th, 2002 / 5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-53, an act to protect human health and safety and the environment by regulating products used for the control of pests. It is no secret that the population of Canada and Quebec is increasingly concerned by the overuse of pesticides. Through this bill, we will be bringing up to date the 1969 legislation, which is 33 years old.

During the last parliament, I was a member of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, where I had the opportunity to participate for almost a year in hearings on this issue. We tabled a very substantive report, which made positive suggestions to the government asking it to take action on the issue.

After hearing very many witnesses, we came to the conclusion that the concern of Canadians and Quebecers was justified and that pesticides could pose a serious threat to human health and the environment.

I must say that Canada's policy on pesticides leaves a lot to be desired. As a matter of fact, regulations and the pesticides management system regulating the use of pesticides have remained unchanged for the last 30 years. Obviously, the government uses outdated scientific data to register this kind of product, which poses an extremely serious threat to society in general and especially for children, pregnant women, fetuses and seniors. During the hearings of the committee last year, Dr. Kelly Martin, of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment stated, and I quote:

I would say there's concern. There's limited evidence, and there's quite a lot of concern over that. It's not like leukemia and lymphoma, for which we have reasonably good evidence to act on. Breast cancer is the other big concern with pesticides.

Dr. Merryl Hammond, founder of Action Chelsea for the Respect of the Environment, also expressed her concerns to the committee, and I quaote:

Many studies published in prestigious, peer-reviewed medical and epidemiological journals and reports point to strong associations between chemical pesticides and serious health consequences, including--and I'll just read this list briefly--endocrine disruption and fertility problems, birth defects, brain tumours and brain cancer: cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, childhood leukemia, cancer clusters in communities, gastric or stomach cancer, learning disabilities, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, canine malignant lymphoma, and various acute effects—

Children are vulnerable in part because they run a greater risk of exposure to pesticides due to the specific characteristics of their development and physiology. For example, they eat more food, drink more water and breathe more air per kilogram of body weight than adults and can thus absorb larger quantities of the pollutants present in the environment.

The main recommendation made by the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development was therefore for the government to review its pesticide management system and put the principle of safety foremost in its process of registering pesticide products.

From my examination of Bill C-53 I am pleased to note that Health Canada acknowledges that the primary objective of the bill in question is to protect Canadians, Canadian children in particular, and to ensure that there is an ample supply of healthy foods.

To that end, Bill C-53 includes provisions requiring the producers of pest control products to point out adverse effects on health, and older pest control products to be re-evaluated 15 years after registration, and giving the minister the power to withdraw them from the market if the information required is not provided. It also gives increased powers of inspection and provides for higher maximum fines. These can go as high as $1 million for the most serious offences when pesticides are not marketed or used in accordance with the legislation.

As well, in many respects, the new process allows greater public participation through consultations held before major decisions are taken in respect of registration, special review or re-evaluation. Under the provisions of the new pest control products act, anyone will be able to make a request to the minister for a special review of the registration of a product.

Under the 2002 PCPA, anyone may file a notice of objection to an important registration decision. In addition, the review will be open to the public. The public will have numerous opportunities to participate and will have access to most of the information received by the review panel.

There will also be a public registry. This registry will include information on registrations, re-evaluations, and special reviews, including the PMRA's detailed evaluations of the risks and values of pesticides.

I would remind the House that when witnesses appeared before the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development and we tabled the report, they complained vigorously about the PMRA and very serious problems within this government structure. I hope that, with this bill, the government will have listened and taken action to ensure a truly rapid response. When people put questions to PMRA representatives, they will receive a speedy response.

Information on tests will also be available. The public may inspect the results of scientific tests submitted to justify registration requests. If what the government does in practice is consistent with a desire to protect society, as set out in the bill, it will be possible to meet Health Canada's primary objective. Note that I said if.

However, allow me to express a reservation with regard to Bill C-53, which does not fully follow up on a recommendation made by the Standing Committee on Environment. The committee felt that, by 2006, there should be a re-evaluation of all pesticides registered before 1995. Unfortunately, the bill does not seem to have set a deadline with regard to the re-evaluation of old pesticides. Therefore, I hope the government will reverse its decision and will include into its legislation an amendment to that effect. What is the point of tightening up pesticides registration standards if products registered over the last 30 years are not re-evaluated? Their harmfulness will remain the same and children, pregnant women and seniors will not be better protected for all that.

In that regard, the organization called Campaign for Pesticide Reduction has shown a cautious optimism with regard to the health minister's Bill C-53. According to the organization, in order to be effective, the new legislation should allow for the withdrawal of the registration of pesticides recognized as being harmful to health.

I agree with that position. If the health minister really wants to protect health, she will have to bring forward in committee an amendment providing that as soon as a pest control product is recognized as harmful to health, it will be removed from the registry. This is critical.

In my opinion, there is another deficiency in the bill, that is the cosmetic use of pesticides. Allow me to quote from the environment committee report.

A number of witnesses informed the committee that they are opposed to pesticide use for esthetic purposes in urban areas. According to the he Working Group on the Health Dangers of Urban Pesticide Use, Nature-Action Québec, Citizens for Alternatives to Pesticides and the Campaign for Pesticide Reduction, pesticides are used principally for esthetic purposes in urban areas and this poses an unnecessary risk for those applying the products and the general public. It cannot be emphasized enough that children at all stages of growth are the primary victims of our overuse of chemicals. As many of the effects of exposure to pesticides are chronic, they may well suffer the consequences of exposure all their lives and even pass this on to the next generation

The Committee firmly believes that a moratorium on pesticide use for esthetic purposes is necessary until science has proven that the pesticides involved do not constitute a health threat and some light has been shed on the consequences of their use in urban areas. Pesticide use should only be permitted in an emergency, such as a serious pest infestation which threatens the health of people and the environment.

This was one of the main recommendations of the committee at that time, which was unfortunately ignored by the government when it drafted Bill C-53. I cannot understand how it can be that the government could set aside such an essential recommendation. People must realize that the mania for a beautiful and totally dandelion-free lawn is not without danger. Young children are the ones most likely to play in the grass, in parks or other areas in their neighbourhood.

There are, however, too many carcinogenic pesticides which are harmful to their growth and may even cause leukemia. It is very urgent and very strongly advised that the government add one recommendation and add a clause to its bill, which would be along the lines of finally setting a deadline for stopping the use of pesticides on lawns.

If we really want to have as our sole objective the protection of the health of society in general, there must be some compromises and we will have to accept having a few yellow flowers in our lawns. What is worse: childhood cancer or a few dandelions? I think that the answer is self-evident.

Moreover, we have succeeded in developing alternatives to pesticides for our lawns. In this respect, it is important to mention organic farming, which seeks to promote and protect biodiversity, sustainable development and the environment. The fact is that traditional farming causes soil erosion and degradation. The benefits of organic farming are threefold.

First, not using pesticides and synthetic fertilizers eliminates the potential danger of damage to the environment. Second, the absence of synthetic fertilizers forces farmers to be concerned with soil conservation ethics, which means maintaining and recycling soil nutrients, thus reducing the risk of pollution around the farm. Third, in winter, soil recovery with forage crops, winter grains and cover crops is emphasized to improve soil condition and reduce the risk of erosion, degradation and compaction.

A number of cities in Canada and in Quebec have already begun using environmentally friendly means, similar to organic farming, to maintain their parks and lawns. According to Nature-Action Québec, it is possible to have a nice lawn without using chemicals. I do not intend to give a gardening and groundskeeping 101 course, but appendix 11.1 of the report of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development includes some useful tips for achieving a good looking lawn without the use of pesticides.

These are practical yet very simple tips. Companion planting works wonders in gardens. Many insects are repelled by garlic, chive, mint, anise, coriander, geranium, nasturtium and many other plants. For example, putting such plants close to rosebushes will keep aphids away.

Natural substances may also be used to catch pests. A container full of a mixture of molasses, lemon juice and water will attract earwigs, and they will drown. Slugs react in a similar fashion to beer and honey. As for carpenter ants, they are attracted to and poisoned by a mixture of peanut butter and boric acid.

A number of natural infusions make excellent pesticides. Mixtures made of rhubard, onion, garlic and soap, for instance. They can be sprayed on vegetables, put on the soil, applied to tree trunks or poured directly on plants.

There is no need to spread carcinogenic products over our lawns. Natual products work fine. The government could have prohibited the use of pesticides for aesthetic purposes, because there are natural and effective alternatives. Unfortunately, the bill seems to ignore the importance of research into and development of organic pesticides.

Nonetheless, Bill C-53 is a step in the right direction. It will allow for the review of legislation that is 30 years old and now outdated, given the evolution and progress of science. It will also establish the paramountcy of the principle of safety and general health protection. Yes, there are shortcomings, as I mentioned earlier in my speech. That being said, this bill will provide for greater transparency and increased public involvement. It provides for very severe fines for companies that try to give misleading information. We will now be able to progress, but we cannot stop at this.

This bill must become a catalyst to raise awareness among people that pesticides are toxic. These are products whose sole purpose is to kill. Apple producers make up to 16 applications of pesticides per year to prevent the apple scab, yet this fungus, when appearing in small amounts, only has a minor effect on the nutritional value of the fruit.

Sooner of later, we, as a society, have to make a choice: do we want to eat poisoned apples and have lawns that stink of chemicals, or live in a more healthy environment?

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my colleague from Jonquière for the quality of her speech. She clearly shows that the Bloc Quebecois is able to make analyses that are not partisan and that reflect reality. Without necessarily responding to all the needs, this bill is a positive step, and the Bloc recognizes it as such.

However, I would like to ask her whether it would not be desirable to propose an amendment to put forward incentives to foster organic agriculture.

In my riding, we have the Institut de technologie agricole, or ITA, of La Pocatière. Students and teachers there have developed expertise in organic agriculture and in the specific sector of horticulture. I think the government should have included in this bill the possibility of providing incentives to help develop this type of activities. In an environmental perspective, this would have been a very meaningful and important step forward.

I would like to ask my colleague if she intends to propose an amendment or to try pressing the government to correct its bill to ensure that, in five or ten years, people will realize that action was taken to get rid of rather artificial pesticides and replace them with organic processes and approaches that improve the quality of life in all our environments.

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, when the environment committee tabled its report, we specified that the government should act on this.

The government will have to give grants to organic farming pilot projects. As my colleague said, now is the time to act. Five years from now, it will be too late. We have the bill; the process has been set in motion. The Bloc Quebecois says “Yes, we have taken a step in the right direction”. However, we should have a vision for the future.

In all areas having to do with pesticides and organic farming, all areas that will be of growing concern to future generations, a process must be set in motion now, through bills with teeth, to ensure they will have tools to move forward.

Someone will have to put forward an amendment, and I hope the government will be open-minded enough to consider that amendment.

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her answer. It is encouraging indeed. I hope the government heeds our suggestion and, ultimately, when the bill comes back to the House for further study, it will contain an amendment like the one that the Bloc Quebecois would like to see included in the bill.

I will remind the House that the president of the Order of Agrologists of Quebec, Claire Bolduc, stated that the fact that this bill does not encroach on provincial jurisdictions was not really a problem in Quebec. We already have an act which, as she said, is not perfect, but it is among the toughest in that area.

Finally, do the bill before us and the amendments to be proposed shortly not represent a victory for those who want a healthier environment? Should we not ensure today that we have a bill for the future, a bill that will last five, ten, fifteen or twenty years because we really do need to clean up our act in this area? The fact that we support this bill shows that the environment is a great concern for both Quebecers and other Canadians.

Should we not call upon the people to take more responsibility in that regard and to approach their governments, at the municipal, provincial or federal level, and urge them to take action to constantly improve the quality of our living environment?

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, just like my colleague, this is what I hope for. We have a tool for the future. We all want to protect the environment.

The environment committee report is quite comprehensive; one can find everything in the document. I invite people to obtain a copy of the report--there are still copies in both French and English--in order to see the very serious work done by the committee. The witnesses who appeared before the committee said what the government should aim for. We heard from some fine witnesses people who made some very compelling suggestions.

The report sets out everything needed for the government to finally become a leader in the area of pesticides and organic farming and everything pertaining to our collective conscience. Every day, people are being challenged; now they will have some way of realizing that maybe tomorrow will be too late and that they should act right now.