House of Commons Hansard #163 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pesticide.


An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Some hon. members


An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Some hon. members


An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Some hon. members


An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

All those opposed will please say nay.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Some hon. members


An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The recorded division on Motion No. 8 stands deferred.

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

April 8th, 2002 / 4 p.m.

Edmonton West Alberta


Anne McLellan LiberalMinister of Health

moved 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 the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to begin second reading debate on Bill C-53, the Pest Control Products Act, and to outline the reasons why this bill deserves the support of all members of this House.

First, the purpose of federal pest management regulation is to protect Canadians and their environment from the risks associated with pesticides. To pursue this goal we need to replace the 33 year old Pest Control Products Act with a new, forward looking statutory foundation for pest management regulation in the 21st century.

Much has changed since the Pest Control Products Act was enacted in 1969. Scientific knowledge about health and environmental protection has greatly expanded. Canadians are better informed and more concerned about risks to their health and the environment. They want a greater say in how such risks should be managed.

Pest management technology has become much more sophisticated. Major pesticide users are better educated and trained. Federal, provincial and territorial pesticide regulators operate with greater transparency and in closer co-operation with one another. International harmonization has become a fact of life in pest management regulation.

Bill C-53 seeks to safeguard Canadians, especially children, from the health and environmental risks posed by pesticides. It would help ensure a safe and abundant food supply. I will provide an overview of the bill before discussing in greater detail how it would improve the current pesticide registration system.

Bill C-53 has three main objectives. First, it would strengthen health and environmental protection. It would do so by requiring special protection for infants and children, taking into account pesticide exposure from all sources including food and water, considering the cumulative effects of pesticides that act in the same way, and supporting pesticide risk reduction.

The second objective of the bill is to make the registration system more transparent by establishing a public registry to allow access to the detailed evaluation reports that Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency prepares on registered pesticides, by allowing the public to view the test data on which these pesticide evaluations are based, and by allowing the PMRA to share scientific studies with provincial, territorial and international regulators.

Third, Bill C-53 would strengthen post registration control of pesticides. It would do this by requiring pesticide companies to report adverse effects; making it mandatory to re-evaluate older pesticides 15 years after they are registered; providing the Minister of Health the authority to remove pesticides from the market if the data required for a re-evaluation or special review are not supplied; and providing for increased powers of inspection and higher maximum penalties of up to $1 million for the most serious offences when pesticides are not marketed or used in accordance with the law.

We have learned much over the years about how pesticides affect different populations. The proposed new PCPA would ensure Canada's children and other vulnerable populations were given special protection from the health risks posed by pesticides. It would do so by enshrining in legislation the requirement to incorporate modern risk assessment concepts including additional safety factors to protect our children.

For example, risk assessments done by the PMRA often include a safety factor of 100. To take into account the special sensitivities of children the new law would require an additional tenfold safety factor to be used, resulting in a safety factor of 1,000. This would be done unless reliable data indicated a higher or lower safety factor was more appropriate. The additional safety factor would recognize that children are affected by pesticides in a way that is different from adults.

Canadians and the international community must have confidence in the manner in which pesticides are regulated in Canada. By enhancing the transparency of our pesticide regulatory system the new PCPA would enhance public confidence here and abroad that Canadian agri-food, forestry and other products are safe.

One way we are doing this is by allowing the public to verify the grounds on which decisions are made about products. In addition, our ability to share information more easily with other countries' pesticide regulatory agencies would facilitate the international joint review of pesticides and give Canadian growers equal access to newer and safer pesticides so they could be competitive in the marketplace.

The preamble to Bill C-53 sets out the context and principles of pest management regulation. Among other principles the preamble recognizes that health and environmental risks can be associated with pesticides; that pest management is important to the economy and other aspects of our quality of life; that sustainable pest management contributes to meeting our need for food and fibre in an economically viable manner while protecting health, the environment and natural resources; and that safe and effective pesticides can make an important contribution to sustainable pest management.

It is important to keep in mind why we regulate pesticides. We do so for a variety of reasons including the following: Some pesticides may pose risks to people and the environment; many pesticides are released into the environment; our exposure to many pesticides is involuntary; and redressing harm from pesticide exposure is generally difficult.

Human exposure can occur when pesticides such as those used in agriculture, forestry, lawn and garden care, and on golf courses are released into the environment where people may be exposed to them involuntarily. In addition, since pesticides are often applied to crops and livestock we may be exposed to their residues involuntarily through the food we eat.

It is important to recognize that acute health problems attributable to pesticide exposure are relatively rare. They usually stem from accidents rather than from using pesticides according to label instructions. Most health concerns associated with pesticides tend to center on potential long term effects that would be difficult to attribute to specific products. This means we must focus on preventing such potential long term effects rather than seeking redress or medical attention after the fact.

In Canada, the United States, the European Union and most other OECD countries no pesticide may be imported, manufactured, sold or used unless the relevant regulatory authority has given its official approval. In Canada we call this approval registration. In addition, no pesticide may continue to be registered if it cannot meet current regulatory standards.

I will discuss for a moment the broader issues surrounding this piece of legislation. What do we mean when we refer to pesticides and pest management? Pesticides or pest control products are general terms for a wide variety of products designed to control pests. Common examples include herbicides to control weeds, insecticides to control insects, fungicides to control certain types of plant diseases, and preservatives to control the decay of wood and other material. Most pesticides are chemical or biological. Biological pesticides include insects, bacteria and viruses.

Pesticides are used widely and do have a variety of benefits. In homes and businesses, they control insects and other organisms that may threaten human health. They can provide benefits to the environment by controlling exotic organisms such as the zebra mussel or purple loosestrife.

Pesticides are used widely in agriculture to control many different kinds of pests and for similar purposes in other industries such as forestry. On the farm, using herbicides to control weeds instead of tilling may reduce soil erosion which is a significant environmental problem.

Pest management refers to any activity designed to control pests. For example, pest management can involve spraying pesticides on crops to kill weeds, insects and fungi. In addition, it can involve activities unrelated to pesticides, such as implementing an effective crop rotation plan.

The Canadian regulatory authority of pesticides is the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, or PMRA, which is located within Health Canada and for which I as the Minister of Health am responsible. The PMRA administers the pest control products act in the name of the Minister of Health.

In accordance with the acts and regulations, the PMRA publishes guidelines which provide details about the extensive information that companies must submit to the agency when seeking a registration decision. Most applications are made by manufacturers of pesticides. A successful applicant may need to submit additional information to the PMRA for various reasons. For example, should a registrant wish to change the approved uses of a product or when the product needs to be re-evaluated, more information will be required by the PMRA.

As is the case in most developed countries around the world, the bulk of the information required by the PMRA is in the form of results of extensive rigorous scientific studies that the company must conduct. The PMRA evaluates the study results to determine whether the health and environmental risks associated with a pesticide are acceptable and whether the product has value as a pest management tool.

Our goal is to ensure that risks associated with products are acceptable before they reach the market but it is also important to ensure that products registered some time ago can meet today's standards of safety and efficacy. That is why a program for re-evaluating older products is part of any sound pest management regulatory scheme.

We will explore in a moment how Bill C-53 strengthens the post-legislation control of pesticides.

Since the regulation of pesticides is of concern to all levels of government, it is important to look at the relationship and responsibility each level of government has with respect to pesticide regulation.

Since the regulation of pesticides is of concern to all levels of government, it is important to look at the relationship and responsibility each level of government has with respect to pesticide regulation.

I would like to highlight the fact that in Canada pest management regulation includes many more elements than the federal legislation and the PMRA. Provinces and territories work in co-operation with and build on the federal regulatory system to ensure safe transportation, sale, storage, use and disposal of pesticides. Provinces and territories can add to federal restrictions to fit their local needs but cannot relax them. Currently federal, provincial and territorial authorities co-operate to enforce their respective pesticide legislation. Bill C-53 would strengthen this co-operation.

Municipalities may place whatever restrictions they wish on the use of pesticides on lands which they own. In addition, where duly authorized by provincial legislation, a municipality may establish bylaws to restrict or ban the use of pesticides on private land within its jurisdiction. Indeed some municipalities have banned the use of chemical pesticides on public lands and in some cases on private lawns. Public interest groups have called on the federal government to do the same thing under this proposed new pesticide legislation.

One does however have to remember that the federal authority for the pest control products act relies primarily upon the use of the criminal law power which is intended to address serious threats to the public interest. To include in this legislation a ban of the use of pesticides for what people refer to as cosmetic use could be exposing individuals to criminal prosecution for engaging in an activity which has not been proven to constitute an unacceptable risk. Such a measure I would submit would be beyond the proper scope of the criminal law power.

At the same time, citizens of a particular municipality may decide they do not want to have the pesticide used in their community no matter how small the risks. They may convince the municipal authorities to establish a bylaw banning all pesticides for a specific use.

Bill C-53 reflects the important contribution of many Canadians over many years, including parliamentarians, some of whom are here today, stakeholders and provincial and territorial pesticide regulators. The bill reflects their concerns and their recommendations. I would like to acknowledge and thank those who have provided their views and in so doing have participated in the development of this legislation. We owe a debt of gratitude to these groups and individuals.

I would now like to explain in greater detail the three main objectives of the bill to which I referred in my opening remarks: strengthening health and environmental protection; making the registration system more transparent; and strengthening post-registration control of pesticides.

Bill C-53 will help to move pesticide regulation in Canada from a focus on the safety and efficacy of individual pesticides to a wider appreciation of the potential impact of decisions and activities on pest management and its effects on health and the environment.

Among the benefits of the new broader regulatory perspectives called for by Bill C-53 will be clearer authority for minimizing health and environmental risks associated with pesticides and the ability to incorporate modern risk assessment concepts. As I have already mentioned, this includes a special safety factor to take into consideration the needs of children and a consideration of the different sensitivities of other vulnerable groups such as seniors.

Bill C-53 provides authority to minimize risks, not just to keep them at acceptable levels. Minimizing risks is important in health and environmental protection. It helps for example to reduce the likelihood that problems will arise because of any adverse cumulative impacts resulting from pesticide use. One way that Bill C-53 does this is by having clear definitions for the terms health risk, environmental risk and value associated with pesticides.

Health risk means the possibility of harm to people resulting from use of a product or exposure to it, taking into account how it is to be used.

Similarly, environmental risk means the possibility of harm to the environment, including its biological diversity. Environment is defined broadly to be consistent with the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Environment includes the components of the earth, all layers of the atmosphere, animals and other living organisms.

Value means the actual or potential contribution of a product to the management of pests and includes its effectiveness. Value also encompasses a product's benefits to health, safety and the environment and its social and economic impact.

The clear broad definition of value will strengthen an important basis for minimizing the risks associated with pesticides. Under the new legislation, as under the current act, a product's value must be acceptable before it can be registered. This does not mean that a determination of acceptable value can override any determination that risks are unacceptable. It simply means that people should not be exposed to any risks from a pesticide unless its use has been determined to be beneficial.

Bill C-53 specifies some of the considerations that must be taken into account in order to incorporate the most modern risk assessment concepts when conducting evaluations of health risk. These concepts have already been adopted in practice but until now they have not been specified in the law. As well as the additional tenfold margin of safety to protect children from risks posed by pesticides, cumulative effects of pesticides that act in the same way and aggregate exposure, that is, pesticide exposure from all sources including food and water, must be assessed.

The bill also contains provisions designed to allow comparative risk assessments. This means that it will be possible to replace registered products, products that have been assessed as posing acceptable risks with other products that pose even lower risks. These provisions support minimizing risks and encourage the development of innovative safer pest control technology.

I would now like to highlight the provisions of Bill C-53 that are designed to make the pesticide registration system more transparent for all Canadians.

Decisions about the acceptability of health and environmental risks of pesticides are based on internationally accepted science. Bill C-53 recognizes however that Canadians have a right to be involved in regulatory decisions that could result in people or the environment being exposed to significant pesticide risks.

Accordingly, Bill C-53 provides for public consultation before a major decision concerning the registration of pesticides is made; the establishment of a public registry containing information about registered pesticides; the establishment of reading rooms where the public can view confidential test data which are the results of scientific studies on which the PMRA's evaluations of risk and value are based; and the opportunity for the public to request the minister to reconsider major regulatory decisions.

The bill requires that the minister consult the public before making a decision for full registration concerning a product with a new active ingredient, or a product under special review or re-evaluation, or a decision that concerns new uses of a registered product that might significantly increase the risks to people or the environment. The documentation released for public consultation would contain a description of the product and its proposed uses as well as a summary of the PMRA's assessment of its risk and value. Also included would be the proposed decision and the rationale for it.

A final registration decision would be issued after the public's comments were reviewed. The company's consent would not be necessary to release the documentation for public consultation as is the case under the current legislation.

The minister would also be required to establish a public registry containing information about registered pesticides. It would include the PMRA's detailed evaluations of the risks and values of pesticides, as well as information about applications, re-evaluations of older pesticides, and special reviews. The only categories of information that it would not include would be confidential business information and test data. All information in the registry would be available to the public either electronically whenever possible or in hard copy.

Confidential business information will be defined very narrowly in Bill C-53 and will include only financial information, manufacturing processes and formula ingredients that are not of health or environmental concern. This means that the identity and concentration of formulas that are of health or environmental concern will not be held in confidence and can in fact be made available to the public on labels and material safety data sheets and through the public registry.

The test data generated by companies and provided to the PMRA are considered confidential under the Access to Information Act, but Bill C-53 will make it possible for the public to view this confidential information once a product is registered. The data will not be available to the public electronically or in hard copy, but the public may examine them in a reading room.

The public would have access to summaries of the evaluations used by the PMRA to make major decisions before they were finalized. After a pesticide was registered they would be provided with the PMRA's detailed evaluations via the public registry and they would also be able to view the test data on which the PMRA's evaluations were based.

In addition, the identity and concentration of formulants that are upheld for environmental concern would not be held in confidence and would be made available to the public on labels and material safety data sheets and through the public registry.

This openness and transparency would go a long way to facilitating informed public participation and fostering public confidence in the regulatory system.

Information in the public registry as well as confidential business information and test data could be shared with federal or provincial and territorial regulators to facilitate collaboration. Those regulators would be required to protect the confidentiality of that information.

Under the current legislation only applicants and registrants may request that the minister convene a panel to review major registration decisions. Bill C-53 would give any member of the public the same opportunity.

The minister would have discretion to decide whether to establish the panel and would be required to provide the reasons for the decision to the requester. The public would continue to have the right to seek judicial review of decisions.

I want to talk about strengthening post registration control of pesticides. Our responsibility must obviously not stop at registration. Post registration control is very important.

That is why the bill would strengthen post registration control of pesticides by enhancing the PMRA's existing capacity to re-evaluate pesticides systematically and to conduct special reviews, notably by providing authority to take action against registrants who fail to provide the data needed to conduct the re-evaluation or special review.

The bill would also specify that the precautionary principle must be taken into account when determining whether interim action needs to be taken while a re-evaluation or special review is in progress.

Re-evaluation is important to ensure that older pesticides meet today's higher standards. Strengthened capacity to conduct re-evaluations would translate into better health and environmental protection.

There are times when action needs to be taken well before a registered product comes up for re-evaluation. That is why Bill C-53 would make it mandatory for applicants and registrants to report on any adverse effects that their pest control products are having on health or the environment. Reports of adverse effects could trigger a special review or immediate action, if necessary.

Bill C-53 specifies two new conditions of registration for all pesticides: that product safety information, including a material safety data sheet, must be provided to workplaces where the product is used or manufactured; and that information on sales of the product must be provided to me to help monitor pesticide risk reduction.

Bill C-53 would bring offences and punishments into line with modern standards. It would allow higher maximum penalties to be set, up to $1 million for the most serious offences that result in harm being done to health or to the environment.

The bill would include extensive provisions that clarify what is prohibited and what is permissible. It would enhance the powers of inspectors. It would bring compliance and enforcement up to date.

I would like to point out that careful consideration has been given to issues that should be addressed in Bill C-53 itself, and the issues that should be addressed through regulations, policies and guidelines. The approach reflected in Bill C-53 is to ensure that when it is enacted it would provide a strong, forward looking foundation for pest management regulation.

Procedural issues would be addressed mainly through regulations and details through guidelines and policies. This approach is designed so that law and policy could adapt continually to emerging risks, new products, new technology and new ways to manage risks.

The public and stakeholders would, of course, have opportunities to contribute to the regulation making, guideline and policy development processes.

We think that this approach is better suited to adapting to the inevitable changes in science and technology and public attitudes that characterize pest management regulation. We can adjust to change without having to wait for the enactment of legislative amendments.

In conclusion, Bill C-53 is an important step in the comprehensive process to reform Canada's pest management regulatory system. That process has benefited greatly from the active involvement of parliamentarians, the public, the provinces and territories and many other stakeholders. It represents the key priorities that Canadians want to see reflected in pesticide regulation in Canada, the protection of their health and their environment.

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Canadian Alliance Yellowhead, AB

Madam Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to split my time with my colleague from Selkirk--Interlake.

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is there unanimous consent?

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Some hon. members


Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Canadian Alliance Yellowhead, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise and speak to this important piece of new legislation. It is a remarkable piece of legislation and important to all Canadians.

We are all concerned with the environment, our health and safety and what we are doing to our environment, whether it is air pollution, our water supply, or what the person next door is doing. As our population grows Canada and nations around the world become challenged in some ways.

Bill C-53 deals with some of the things we are doing with pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. There is an overwhelming desire for consumers to understand and discern exactly what is happening to the environment. It is important for them to understand what is involved with the use of herbicides, pesticides and fungicides. To that end this is an important piece of legislation and comes at a time of tremendous interest by the population.

I am a farmer and come from a farming background so I have some personal experience with working with pesticides. There is not a farmer I know who really enjoys working with pesticides. It is something we do as a matter of practice because they are a tool that is available for us to efficiently and effectively look after our lands in the most effective way possible

When dealing with pesticides we must realize that there is a need to respect the dangers as well as the benefits of their use. There are a tremendous number of benefits but there are perhaps some fears and other things that we should be cautious about.

One of the things we need to be cautious of when we are dealing with pesticides is their application outside of the agricultural community. We need to be cautious of their use in urban settings where pregnant women and children can be affected. We must be concerned about how these pesticides are applied. It is fair to say that some of them are perhaps applied too rigorously in those situations.

We must recognize the value of herbicides in our society and in our agricultural community. As farmers use herbicides they need to till their soil far less and this results in less air pollution. Diesel tractors go up and down the fields far less times, some say 7 to 10 times less, because of some of the pesticide uses today than compared to what has been practiced before. There is much less soil erosion. Pesticides are able to restore soil and farmers are able to utilize their soil more because they do not have to work the land so much.

There is more moisture conservation. We hear of a fear of global warming and the lack of moisture allowing farmers to grow crops and yet with the use of pesticides a tremendous amount of moisture is conserved to sustain agriculture in areas that would never possibly have been sustained before.

Agricultural efficiency has enhanced tremendously because of the use of herbicides and pesticides. Chemicals are tools that protect the environment from being overrun by pests from other countries which come in all the time and are difficult to control. We have herbicides for different foliage and weeds that come in from around the world and it is a way of keeping them in balance. If we never had pesticides we would have a very difficult time dealing with that problem.

Recently I have seen many advancements in safer chemicals. There is much less residue in herbicides used today than what was used back in the sixties when the first piece of legislation came to be. It is important that we discern and understand the new technologies coming in and take advantage of some of that technology, but at the same time we must be careful to think of the safety and health of our society. Our number one overwhelming responsibility is to look after the people we serve.

I make these personal remarks because of my understanding of where agriculture is at and what I sense as being some of the problems with the application of pesticides. I also have a primary hat that I would like to wear today as the senior opposition health critic.

The Canadian Alliance would generally support the intent of health and safety in the bill but we must be cautious listening to the minister's remarks. We will be interested in getting this to committee where we can take a good look at exactly how this piece of legislation would be applied. Generally we are in favour of a piece of legislation that would address the health and safety of the population but I will reserve my judgment on it until we get it into committee and we take a good, serious look at it.

We support the goals of strengthening health and environmental protection, making the registration system more transparent and strengthening the post-registration control of pesticides. However it is important too that our current regulatory framework, dating back as late as the 60s, be updated to incorporate the modern risk assessment concepts, to entrench current practices into law, to account for new developments in pesticides in regulations around the world, and to reflect the growing concerns for the health of children and others.

We believe there are some shortcomings in the bill and a number of amendments should be made. I will outline some of those concerns later in my presentation.

The primary objective of the bill is sound. It is to prevent unacceptable risk to people and the environment from the use of pesticide control products.

As health critic I am committed to promoting and protecting the health of Canadians. The health of Canadians should be paramount when it comes to pesticides. I believe that most farmers who use pesticides are committed to protecting human health as well. Their livelihoods depend upon producing safe and healthy food products.

There are three main objectives in Bill C-53. I will speak to each of them in turn.

The first objective is strengthening health and environmental protection. These are important goals. Increased efforts to protect the health of infants, children and pregnant women are welcome. Entrenching in law current practices of additional margins of safety for pesticide use around homes and schools is appropriate.

We support the provisions related to the labelling of pesticide products and the requirement that the product safety information be available in the workplace where these products are used or made. Those who make and use pest control products deserve to know what they contain and how they are to be used with appropriate and safe measures.

Labelling on containers, from my experience, is very important. We have come a long way when it comes to that. One of the problems we saw at the farm gate level when dealing with pesticides was when metric conversion happened in Canada. It became difficult for the agricultural community to be able to discern exactly how to mix appropriately. Labelling has come a long way. We must enhance that and become even more clear on the labelling. If members have ever read the labels on containers, it is easy to become confused

The second objective is to make the registration system more transparent. The objectives of increasing transparency in pesticide regulation is noteworthy. Who would oppose more openness in the operations of government, particularly in the matters of health and safety? To that end we support the proposed establishment of a particular registry that would allow access to detailed evaluation reports on registered pesticides.

We believe that this commitment to greater transparency is so important that it should be carried over into areas of drug safety regulations because we have a serious problem when it comes to drug safety.

We think that the pesticide problem is large and is endangering our society. I will be explaining in the next few weeks just how dangerous it is and what actually is happening on the drug safety side of our society. I will not dwell on it now because of the bill that is before us, but I would suggest that if we can have such concerns when it comes to pesticides that we certainly can follow this as a pattern on the drug safety side.

The third objective is to strengthen the post-registration control of pesticides. The provisions requiring pesticide companies to report adverse effects are of obvious importance. Effective and meaningful provisions must be in place to ensure that pesticides, once on the market, can be reviewed and if necessary pulled from the market. Again, this hearkens back to the drug safety issue.

Regarding the required re-evaluations of pesticides that have been on the market for over 15 years, we are somewhat concerned that this might unduly strain the resources of the pest management review agency.

As mentioned, we support the overall direction of the legislation but we have a number of concerns. Let me briefly outline some of those.

First, the bill's laudable objectives may be difficult to achieve if management problems and the misallocation of resources at the Pest Management Regulatory Agency are not corrected.

My colleague, the member for Selkirk--Interlake, the Canadian Alliance agriculture critic, is perhaps better able to speak on some of the shortcomings of the PMRA. He has done so on numerous occasions and will undoubtedly do so again as he speaks to the legislation.

Suffice it to say that there are fundamental flaws at the Pest Management Regulatory Agency which the bill has not sufficiently addressed.

Accordingly, we propose the following amendments. First:

That the PMRA be required to consider credible research and acceptable data from re-evaluations done in other jurisdictions where the pesticides are used under similar conditions.

I note that the bill specifies in subclauses 17(2) and (3) that information from other OECD nations and from other federal and provincial jurisdictions can trigger special reviews of registered pesticide.

On the positive side, the bill does not specify that information from such jurisdictions could or should be used to support the registration or the re-evaluation of the pesticide.

We would like to see the PMRA work more closely with the regulatory bodies in other countries and end unnecessary duplication and thus save valuable resources. We would also like to see it help to ensure that safe and efficient new chemicals come from the Canadian market more quickly.

Farmers in this country have expressed repeated concerns over the inability to access some of the new products because of the roadblocks set up by the PMRA.


That the re-evaluation provisions be amended so that the chemicals are only re-evaluated if an effective alternative product exists.

This is necessary to prioritize scarce PMRA resources.

We would also amend the bill to include specific approval procedures for minor use chemicals.

Unlike legislation in other jurisdiction, the bill requires manufacturers to show that their chemicals are more effective as part of the approval process.

I would like to refer to clause 7(6)(a) which states:

During an evaluation, the applicant has the burden of persuading the Minister that the health and environmental risks and the value of the pest control product are acceptable--

The notion of value is defined in the bill definitions under clause 2, Interpretation and, among other things, includes the notion of efficacy. The requirements to prove efficacy may add unnecessary costs and time to review the process.

The PMRA should only be concerned with safety. The market will decide if a pesticide is efficient and few companies will go through the process for a chemical that does not work.

We look forward to discussing and debating those proposed amendments in committee.

I would like to note that we were pleased to see that the bill did not impose a ban on the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes. We believe the government is correct in allowing municipalities to maintain control over such decisions.

While the official opposition is supportive of developing and using proven alternatives in urban environments, we do not believe that the moratorium on pest control products should be in place before there is a substantial body of conclusive scientific evidence that unequivocally links such products to human disease or ill health.

The official opposition believes that proven, sound science, domestically and internationally, should continue to be the cornerstone of debate.

In conclusion, we look forward to reviewing the bill at committee, to hearing from the interested parties and to proposing amendments that will produce the best legislation that we can.

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Canadian Alliance Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Madam Speaker, as my learned colleague said, I am the chief agriculture critic for the Canadian Alliance. I will be taking a bit more of an agriculture perspective on the bill.

The bill we are presently debating would enact the pest control products act. It is the primary legislation that would control the import, manufacture, sale and use of all pesticides including insecticides, herbicides and fungicides in Canada.

The bill was first introduced in 1969 and has not been significantly updated since that time. It is a positive note that the Liberal government has finally gotten around to updating the bill. In fact it has some potential to improve on the environmental aspects of the chemicals that we use at the present time.

The bill essentially would strengthen health and environmental protection, make the registration system more transparent and strengthen post-registration control of pesticides.

With regard to industry's reaction, the Sierra Club is not too happy with it and would like to see more of a complete ban on pesticides. I had the pleasure of hearing Sharon Labchuk from Earth Action speak in Prince Edward Island. The MPs from Prince Edward Island had better take notice of Ms. Labchuk's comments because the small land area that is in Prince Edward Island will be seriously affected by what the minister is saying, which is that this accidental spray contamination, as she would say, off the very field that it is being applied to will come under the intense pressure in Prince Edward Island. I will be interested to see whether those members from Prince Edward Island can support the full impact of the bill.

The Canadian Alliance certainly wants to examine the bill and in particular the minister's speech in which she talked about using the precautionary principle. She talked about the potential impact of chemicals, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides.

She then used a term that will take a lot of examination. She tried to define some kind of value. That will no doubt be the value of the bureaucrats and the value of the ministers and those elected officials at the given time in the future. Who knows whether the values they have could be to the extreme of saying that there should be no chemicals in use whatsoever.

The concern with this is that it seems like the government is moving away from science based decision making and moving into this quasi-philosophical method of assessing our chemicals and their impact on the environment and people. I think that is a dangerous thing on first blush.

The second question I posed to the minister, as she and her government move into this area of fuzziness, as it would appear to be, concerned the trade implications if the government were to use this as a non-tariff trade barrier to harass importers of foodstuffs into our country.

These are a couple of our major concerns.

I note that Mr. Lorne Hepworth, president of CropLife Canada which represents the chemical industry, said that most of the practices outlined in the legislation were already in practice. The industry has done a lot up to this point to make sure that not only are the chemicals and pesticides effective but that they are safe for the environment and safe for people.

The bill would require that it be implemented once it is passed and in a logical, efficient and effective way.

This brings me to the current operations under the director, Claire Franklin, of the Pest Management Regulatory Agency. It would not matter how good a bill the House passed with the way the PMRA is being run at the present time. From the presentation Ms. Franklin gave to the agriculture committee some time ago, there is little hope of seeing any positive legislation implemented in a way that will satisfy the industry, the farmers and the environmentalists because of the inefficiencies and the philosophical attitude of the agency which is not in keeping with the attitude of the majority of Canadians.

The mismanagement at the PMRA is costing farmers money because they do not have access to newer, cheaper and more effective chemicals. These chemicals are in use in other countries. Were they brought into Canada, we would have less toxic chemicals that are more effective, that is, the new generation. That is not happening on a regular or timely basis because of the department.

The minister has had quite the history in the House. The minister is presently in charge of Health Canada. We see that as the provincial budgets come down, all the provinces will be spending over 40% of their budgets on health care. It is the minister's responsibility that health care is becoming untenable.

We are still battling it out in the House over her Bill C-15B, the cruelty to animals legislation. Once again, as late as April 3, the Dairy Farmers of Canada, the Canadian Cattlemen's Association and many other common sense average Canadian groups which are trying to make the economy of the country work and people who are trying to have their families and businesses progress in essence were hung out to dry. This lowers my confidence in the legislation. I mentioned the precautionary principle and the definition of some kind of value and the term “potential impact”, as things that I am not sure the minister is really going to deliver as more effective or better for industry and for Canadians as a whole.

The rigidity of the PMRA's bureaucracy is denying access to those cheaper chemicals in other countries. The Farmers of North America Inc. is one group trying to import chemicals that are used just a few miles across the border. The EPA in the United States is probably much more strict in regard to its regulations, legislation and examination of chemicals than we are here in Canada. Our rigid ineffective PMRA will not let those chemicals come in. Maybe it is not because the officials do not want to; it is just that they are so bound up in their own bureaucracy and the system is everything and effectiveness is nothing. We are being hurt very badly by not having access to those better chemicals and getting rid of the ones that are toxic that could and should be replaced. We will see if the legislation actually does that.

The Canadian Alliance always has some solutions. In regard to Health Canada and the PMRA, we should work more closely with regulatory bodies in other countries. For example, the PMRA should accept data from tests done in other countries if the products will be used under similar conditions in Canada.

This would reduce the time required to move new products through the Canadian system. As well it would reduce the licensing costs for chemical companies and therefore increase the likelihood that they would apply for a Canadian licence.

At the present time our market is fairly small in regard to a lot of agriculture production and chemical use. As a result it does not necessarily pay to go through the full bureaucratic process in Canada of up to four years of evidence given to the government to try to get a chemical in that is licensed as safe in the United States.

The process for re-evaluation of older chemicals consumes a great deal of the PMRA's resources. There are about 7,000 chemicals registered for use in Canada at the present time. That was the last figure I saw. We have two problems. One is that the government is not putting enough resources into re-evaluating these older chemicals. I do not want my granddaughter, my children, neighbours or others to be hurt by chemicals that are no longer considered safe. In fact for many of these chemicals, if the PMRA were to get off its butt, we would have the new ones that are less toxic brought into Canada which would make things safer for the environment and for all of us.

The process for re-evaluation of older chemicals consumes a great deal of the resources. The efficiency of the PMRA would be dramatically increased if it would accept the data from recent pesticide evaluations done by capable regulatory agencies in other countries. The legislation fails to force the PMRA to consider scientific research done in other jurisdictions. Furthermore, the bill will force additional re-evaluations on the PMRA for all pesticides older than 15 years which will be reviewed automatically even if there is no reason to suspect that their toxicity or safety is in question.

The PMRA should only review existing pesticides if suitable and effective alternatives exist. That is a very important point. It needs to prioritize what it is doing in government. That way it can get at the real problem chemicals while not looking at the others. From what I heard at the agriculture committee when the director and others were making their presentations, this is certainly not being done.

The transparency at the agency certainly has to be improved. The bill does improve the transparency of the agency in Canada's pesticide approval process and I give credit for that.

As I said, the bill has the potential to do some good but with the PMRA's bureaucratic intransigence, I suspect it may not accomplish what it is intended to do. That will depend on good solid direction from the minister. That cannot be emphasized enough. To this point the previous ministers have not given that kind of good solid direction. Absolutely every presenter that has come before the committee in regard to the PMRA's activities has been critical of its operation.

I have indicated I do not have much faith in the minister being able to do the job. However, she does have the confidence of the Prime Minister to do it, so we will just have to see. As I say, a lot of us on this side of the House do not have much hope.

We have some additional unanswered questions with respect to the PMRA. Why does the pesticide approval process in the United States occur much faster than in Canada? Why has the PMRA failed to increase its acceptance of data from reputable scientific bodies from other countries?

The efficiency of the PMRA would be significantly improved if it accepted the data from pesticide re-evaluations. There is no evidence that accepting data on pesticide research done in other countries poses any threat to Canadian health and safety. Still the government has the philosophy and obviously has given instructions to the PMRA that it is not to be the case that those studies and scientific examinations can be admitted into Canada.

We would like to know what the environmental impact is of Canada falling behind in the licensing of new and more effective pesticides. I have outlined some of the concerns in that regard. Certainly the safety of the environment and individual Canadians is one of the big things.

The government is not going to take into full consideration the trade impact and how it will be used by the minister when we talk about the precautionary principle. The minister talked about the potential impact of chemicals without really having a scientific basis for it. She talked about values. Anytime a Liberal uses the word values, man, I run for cover just like most of my neighbours do. That is scary because Liberal values represent virtually no Canadian but it will be their values that they want to push onto the rest of us.

At the present time the Crompton Corporation is suing the Canadian government for $100 million. It claims that Canada had no scientific basis to ban the chemical Lindane.

The government up to the present has shown a great deal of incompetence in regard to the operation of the health ministry as it pertains to the Pest Control Products Act and also in regard to the regulatory agency that is supposed to protect Canadians and facilitate industry, agriculture and the quality of life for all Canadians.

Reports have indicated that the PMRA is 40% less efficient than other countries, particularly the United States and Australia. This is in regard to efficiency in getting pesticide applications through the process. During 2000-01 a total of 22 minor use registrations were approved by the PMRA. Eighteen were for food use and four were for non-food use. During the same period over 1,200 minor use registrations were approved in the United States. More than 500 were for food use and over 700 were for non-food use.

The fact is that our industry, our farmers and our agricultural sector are competing directly head to head with the United States on virtually every commodity, with the exception of peanuts and some of the things grown in the tropics. There is a lot of work to be done. Canada imports U.S. fruits and vegetables grown using new chemicals not yet approved for use in Canada. It seems somewhat illogical that Canada would accept produce grown with more chemicals used by U.S. farmers but would refuse to license the pesticides themselves.

With that I will conclude by saying that the minister's speech should give all of us cause for concern. We should examine her words very carefully. We should examine this legislation before we throw our support wholeheartedly behind it.

We know of the pesticide anti-chemical bias in the government as evidenced by some of the bills that have been brought forward. In particular the one that really bothered me and a lot of Liberals attempted to say that somehow genetically modified foods were dangerous and scary. That was brought forward by a private member from the Liberal side. It was not based on science. It was based on bunk.

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-53, an act protect human health and safety and the environment by regulating products used for the control of pests. This bill, more than 60 pages in length, was designed to improve a statute that dates back some 33 years, believe it or not.

Since I have been given 40 minutes, I will try to summarize our party's position, with four points.

I shall begin by outlining the current situation regarding pest control in Quebec and Canada. Then I will quote some of the recommendations from the report of the Standing Committee on the Environment—the Chair of which I now see opposite—the report on pesticides published in May, 2000. Third, I will discuss a recent report submitted to Quebec's minister of the environment on March 27, by the focus group on the use of pesticides in urban areas. I will also discuss the 1999 report from the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. Finally, I will outline our position on Bill C-53.

First I would like to say that my party believes Bill C-53 to be a step in the right direction. It was time, as I will demonstrate later, that this statute dating back to 1969, and therefore close to 33 years old, be renewed. We believe there should have been legislation to improve the current law. As such, it is a step in the right direction, as I said, but naturally, we fundamentally believe that there needs to be improvements.

The precautionary principle must prevail at all stages of the study of this bill, including the examination by the Standing Committee on Health that I plan on taking part in, as well as during every opportunity given to parliamentarians to study this bill.

Second, we recognize that public health risks, especially those involving children, nursing infants and pregnant women, must be given special attention. We recognize that exposure to pesticides, especially the active ingredients found in pesticides, has a significant impact on public health. This might seem ridiculously obvious, but I believe that it is important that our first premise establish this as a priority.

As far as jurisdiction is concerned, jurisdiction over pesticides appears to be divided. The federal government has responsibility for the legislation relating to the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, or PMRA.

The purpose of this agency is to administer the Pest Control Products Act and to facilitate safe access to methods of pest control, while reducing hazards. The federal legislation controls the certification, marketing and labelling standards for products. At the present time, there are more than 6,000 certified products on the market and these contain more than 500 registered active ingredients. This is where the hitch comes in.

Until now, very little effort has been made as far as the mission and objectives of the Canadian legislation are concerned. Very little effort has been made by the agency precisely to make available products that are safe. I use that word because that is the very objective of the agency. When we come a little later on to look at the report by the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, we will see that there are grounds for concern as far as reassessing the entire matter of products on the market which contain active ingredients is concerned.

There is one other aspect. As I said, the purpose of the PMRA is to ensure the availability of safe products on the market. It therefore has a certain responsibility as far as products containing biopesticides are concerned, products with the potential to be an alternative solution.

We must acknowledge that there are alternative products available on the market, the biopesticides. Unfortunately, however, their availability is very limited. At this time, only 30 biopesticides are available on the Canadian market, whereas there are in excess of 150 in the United States.

Not only is the Pest Management Regulatory Agency not involved in the reassessment of currently available pesticides, it is also not fulfilling its responsibility to provide alternatives to traditional pesticides on the market. Finally, under the federal legislation, the agency must monitor labelling standards for products.

Let us take a look at what I would call the federal problem. It exists because the current act dates back to 1969. The existing rules and standards are obsolete in many respects. In its current form, the act may be considered a danger to public health. In a few minutes, I will quote some comments made in 1999 by the environmental commissioner. These comments are disturbing to say the least, when we look at products currently on the market, in terms of their safety for women, children and infants.

For example, the problem with some pesticides that are currently on the market has to do with the active ingredients that they contain. There are 500 active ingredients in the pesticides currently available on the market. Believe it or not but, out of these 500 active ingredients, 300 were approved before 1981, and more than 150 were approved before 1960.

This means that there are currently on the market pesticides that are sold to the public, even though they contain active ingredients that were assessed based on standards that were often far from those that are now deemed acceptable, both from a scientific and a public health point of view. This is all the more reason to act quickly.This is also why we believe that the existing pest control legislation had to be reassessed, redefined and updated, since public health is at stake. We must act in the best interests of Canadians.

Let us not forget—since I am dealing with jurisdictions—that pesticides are a shared jurisdiction. The federal government has a responsibility, but so do the provinces. I should point out that Quebec has had its own pesticide legislation since 1987. The purpose of this act is to avoid and reduce threats to the environment and public health.

The primary responsibility is to develop public awareness through sustained campaigns on the dangers related to the use of pesticides. Second, we must support municipalities and organizations and, third, the government must fund research and development on alternatives, including biopesticides.

The government of Quebec supported establishing a pesticide management code that would govern the entire process, from pesticide production to the sale and storage of pesticides.

Another aspect concerns municipalities. In recent years, the responsibilities of municipalities for pesticide management and control have increased. Why? Because following a ruling by various tribunals in Quebec and based on supreme court decisions regarding the passing by the municipality of Hudson of a bylaw prohibiting the use of pesticides, certain courts in Quebec ruled in favour of the municipality of Hudson in its decision to ban the use of pesticides.

In recent years, the authority municipalities have to establish regulatory codes has increased. Under the Cities and Towns Act, municipalities may regulate and prohibit the use of pesticides. As a result, we have seen, and will continue to see municipalities pass regulations prohibiting the use of pesticides in the coming months and years.

In response to these court decisions and to Quebec's tendency to reduce and ban the use of pesticides, the government established a committee, a focus group that submitted its recommendations to the environment minister on March 27. The committee's main recommendation was to develop a management code to govern all activities involving pesticides.

It is important to recall that this work and this bill were not dreamed up overnight. Here in the House, and more particularly, within the Standing Committee on the Environment, there was a great deal of thought given to this important phenomenon involving the use of pesticides and their impact on health. In its recommendations made in May, 2000, the committee urged and proposed that the new act establish human health and the environment as priorities by creating databases on the sale of pesticides, their adverse effects, and alternatives to pesticides.

One could even go so far as to say that the bill fulfills these expectations. The problem lies with the committee's second recommendation, the most important one, which would have made it possible to ensure that, by a specific deadline, the use of pesticides could be phased out in Canada. I am referring to Recommendation No. 2, in which the committee recommended, in May 2000, that pesticides used for cosmetic purposes be phased out within five years.

We can clearly see, and the government must also admit this, that there is nothing in the bill, which we are studying today and which we are going to study in committee, that sets any kind of deadline with respect to the non-use and elimination of pesticides.

We on this side of the House are very disappointed. Not only was this the position of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, but it was also one of the recommendations in the May 27 report by Quebec's task force on the use of pesticides in urban areas, i.e. that the use of pesticides in public areas be phased out over a period of three years.

Quebec's task force goes even further than the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development. The committee and Quebec's task force, which is chaired by Mr. Cousineau, an MNA, feel that we should phase out the use of pesticides in urban areas over three years.

When we look at this bill and see that there is no indication of any intention to phase out the use of pesticides at all, let alone over five years, we are rather disappointed. The House can rest assured that we will fight hard in committee to keep this bill. The government's tendency is to renew the legislation approximately every 33 years. We must be more vigilant than ever and ensure that this five-year phase out becomes law.

The standing committee on the environment made various recommendations. One of these was that the sole mandate of the Pest Management Regulatory Agency should be to protect health and the environment.

In the committee's opinion, PMRA should not also be responsible for encouraging the competitiveness of the agricultural, farming and manufacturing sectors. It felt that there should be an open and transparent process in order to build the public's trust in pest management, and that the new legislation should make it a condition of registration that applicants carry out ongoing monitoring after registration and that existing pesticides be re-assessed.

Once again, with all the measures proposed by the committee, there is no deadline set for re-evaluating these old pesticides. There is no deadline for the conditions for authorizing any pesticide. So we are in the most total vacuum possible.

Yes, this is a step in the right direction with the new process we want to put in place, but there are never any clear indications of the deadlines for attaining these objectives, whereas it would have been simpler to make provision for this, to say: we want pesticide use eliminated within five years, or three. But no, there is no measure relating to this, which is somewhat of a disappointment.

I have already referred to the Groupe de réflexion sur les pesticides en milieu urbain, whose report was released this past March 27. The federal government, as a government with a desire to work in collaboration with the provinces, could have waited for that March 27 report, having waited 33 years already to introduce an amended act. But no, they had to decide to move on it a few months ahead of time. I should remind hon. members that the decision was made last October 25 by the Quebec Minister of the Environment, André Boisclair, to mandate this task force on the use of pesticides in urban areas.

The task force met with more than 50 organizations or individuals who had submitted briefs. These came from health, environmental, ecology, business and municipal backgrounds. We are of the opinion that we are bringing to this House the Quebec consensus reached by that task force, which was struck last October 25 and whose report was released on March 27.

The task force addressed this issue, and set out its objective as follows:

The objective is to identify avenues for solution which will enable Quebecers to reduce their dependency on, and the risk of exposure to, these products which are in common use in lawn care, ornamental horticulture and extermination.

The task force has indeed managed to come up with alternative solutions and an approach to true pest control in Quebec.

This report, on which the committee held hearings in January, contained a certain number of recommendations. There were 15 recommendations. The task force's first recommendation serves as a main underlying theme. We must quickly reduce the use of pesticides in urban areas. This is the main them underlying the task force's recommendations.

The task force made 15 recommendations. First, it proposed banning the use of pesticides in public and municipal green spaces and in schools and daycare centres in three years' time. Therefore, the recommendations involve prohibiting the use of pesticides on lawns in three years, and on shrubs in five years. So, the shorter deadline is three years, and the longer deadline for public green spaces, whether they be parks, daycare centres, schools and all public green spaces, is five years.

Another recommendation consists of training stakeholders in environmental management. People must be made aware that the use of pesticides constitutes a threat to public health. If we start from the premise, as I stated at the beginning of my presentation, that the precautionary principle should guide all of our thoughts and actions, stakeholders need to be made aware of risks, and trained, whether they work in ornamentals or horticulture, as municipal employees, or in maintenance. They must be educated about the dangers of pesticides.

The task force recommends establishing a training program that would lead to a vocational diploma in the field to raise awareness among pesticide users, the stakeholders themselves.

Third, more emphasis should be placed on making alternative methods and less dangerous products available. If we set deadlines banning the use of pesticides, as we want to do, then we need to work now on making biopesticides, or alternative solutions available. So, we need to increase the availability of alternative solutions, in order to allow us to reach these same quality of life objectives down the line, using a very different approach.

Another issue is the establishment of a pesticide management code. In my opinion, this is probably, along with banning the use of pesticides within three years, the strongest recommendation of the task force. It is proposed to put in place a pesticide management code that would set standards regarding the sale, storage and use of pesticides. Why? Because, among other reasons, the rulings made by Quebec courts now give municipalities the option of regulating the use of pesticides.

Therefore, we believe that we must have regulations and legislation based on the same standard, and establish a single standard. What is being proposed is a Quebec management standard that would be put forward by this pesticide management code. In my opinion, this is probably the strongest recommendation.

The fourth point that I wish to raise is the issue of the environmental commissioner.

In 1999, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development tabled a very eloquent report on how the federal government manages the certification process for pesticides and their reassessment. The commissioner passed rather harsh judgment on the government's way of managing pesticides.

He emphasized the significant lack of reassessment programs. Moreover, he noted that Canada was seriously lagging behind other countries, including the United States, and that the percentage of expenditures allocated for the reassessment of pesticide certification, and also for the whole assessment process of pesticides, was very low compared to that of some other countries. The commissioner also said that pesticide reassessments were a rarity in Canada, something which is very worrisome from a public health standpoint. Again, the reassessment of pesticides is rarely done in Canada.

I remind the House that of the 500 active ingredients in the pesticides, 300 were approved before 1981 and over 150 before 1960, according to the environmental commissioner's last report submitted in 1999. In terms of public health standards, pesticides are now available on the market and have been evaluated on the basis of standards which I consider outdated, or which should at least be re-evaluated.

So, not only are re-evaluations rare, but there is a lack of transparency in the process on the part of this government.

Before continuing, I wish to cite four passages from the environmental commissioner's 1999 report. The first has to do with available re-evaluation programs:

The absence of an effective re-evaluation program means there is no assurance that Canadians are not being exposed to unacceptable risk.

This is what the environmental commissioner wrote in 1999. There is no assurance that Canadians are not being exposed to unacceptable risk. Here is another quote:

We are particularly concerned by the lack of clarity about the role of federal science-based departments [in the re-evaluation of pesticides].

This is from the 1999 report by the environmental commissioner. Here is the third quote:

Many pesticides were approved when the standards were much less stringent than they are today.

Again, this is taken from the 1999 environmental commissioner's report. I will give one final quote, although I could give many more:

We found Canada's track record to be one of inaction and unfulfilled commitments.

This is the fourth quote from the environmental commissioner. According to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Canada has not done its work and, 33 years later, he is proposing a remodeled, redefined act which could meet the expectations of Quebec's task force on the use of pesticides in urban areas, which could provide a satisfactory response to the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, which has examined this issue, which could respond to the expectations of environmental groups on this issue, and which could, above all, respond to the need of Quebecers and of Canadians to be protected from a public health point of view so that the precautionary principle is first and foremost.

As for Bill C-53, the purpose of which is to update the regulations governing the use of pesticides in order to protect the health of children and others, the government says it has adjusted its proposals in the light of the recommendations made by the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development.

If the government really wanted to provide a proper response and to adjust the present legislation to reflect the recommendations, it would call for elimination of pesticides over five years, as the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development has proposed, or it would propose, in keeping with the Quebec task force's suggestion, their elimination over three years. We are, however, forced to admit there are no such measures within the bill we are examining at this time.

We are disappointed because we believe that the principle of precaution ought to take precedence over any other as far as examination of this bill is concerned, not solely commercial and economic ones. The government must not be influenced by major pesticide producers but must instead put the health of Quebecers and Canadians first.

We are disappointed because we had thought there would be elimination over five years in response to the committee's demands. Disappointed as well, because we see there is no measure whatsoever that will speed up the certification process for less harmful pesticides. Nor is there any deadline for the accreditation of biopesticides.

Need I remind hon. members that an effective battle against pest control products requires alternative solutions? These will, of necessity, require the availability of biopesticides and pesticides that are less of a public health hazard.

I would like to quote some figures. In Canada at the present time, there are a mere 35 biopesticides on the market, under 150 brand names, while in the U.S. there are 175 different biopesticides marketed under 700 brand names.

What we want to see in this bill—and we will be presenting amendments in proper form in committee when the time comes—is that this battle against pests will involve speedier certification of biopesticides. There is no sign of this in the bill as presented by the minister.

A second aspect we also find disappointing is that it contains nothing in connection with the proposed use of less harmful products. I have already referred to the biopesticides but there are other more environmentally friendly solutions available in modern societies, as I hardly need remind the government.

Why would the government not have taken the time to develop legislation containing incentives to organic agriculture? Why not include in this bill incentives aimed at a real sustainable pest control strategy? Why has Canada not looked at what is being done in Europe and taken its inspiration from European countries that offer financial incentives to farmers to eliminate pesticides and synthetic fertilizers?

There is nothing in this bill to provide for alternative measures. There is nothing to provide for financial incentives for farmers to eliminate the use of pesticides. This bill does nothing to promote organic farming, it is as though it were a concept that was a surprise from a Cracker Jack box, and the government was suddenly made aware that it exists. This bill could quite easily have included measures to promote organic farming.

A fourth aspect proposed by the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, and that we would like to see included in this bill, involves the re-evaluation between now and 2006 of all pesticides registered prior to 1995. This bill does make an attempt to re-evaluate pesticides.

Yes, there are some measures to accelerate the registration of some older pesticides, but there is still no deadline, no specific timeframe, which is what the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development had wanted, to re-evaluate all pesticides registered prior to 1995 by the year 2006. It is not simply a matter of reassessing the 500 active ingredients contained in pesticides, it needs to be done in a realistic timeframe that also allows for the protection of public health.

The committee examined this issue and heard from young people, from children. They were victims of pesticide use in certain municipalities of West Montreal. On some golf courses, dangerous pesticides were used; had these pesticides been re-evaluated, some of today's victims might have been spared. One had to have sat on the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development to understand the impact of the use of these harmful products on the public health of citizens.

We must ensure that all products currently being sold on the market are re-evaluated based on adequate and modern standards by 2006. This is how we can truly provide pest control.

Another aspect to consider is the concept of special protection for children and infants. We are trying to understand, and we will be making presentations in committee on this concept of special protection for children and infants. I thought this was included in the bill. We will therefore have questions on this concept of special protection for children.

I will conclude by saying that Canadians, but also Canadian businesses, those who use pesticides every day, are prepared to go along with the committee's recommendation, which is a five-year phase out. By way of example, I will simply mention the Fédération de l'horticulture ornementale du Quebec, which said it would agree to use pesticides as little as possible, provided that alternative products were available. Civil society in Quebec and in Canada is prepared to engage in this effort, to phase out pesticides, provided that alternatives are available.

These alternatives require two things: first, faster registration of Canadian biopesticides—there is no need for us to trail behind the Americans—and, second, the introduction of a sustainable development strategy for pest control. Among other things, this will require development of organic farming through financial incentives.

I will have an opportunity to debate this bill in committee, in the hope that the government will respond satisfactorily to the needs and expectations of Quebecers and Canadians, of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, and of Quebec's task force on pesticides in urban areas.

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, at the outset let me indicate that I will be splitting my time with the member for Windsor--St. Clair.

We have had a rare sighting in the House today. We actually have a piece of health legislation before the Chamber. This is good news. It is good news that we finally can focus our attention on the number one issue facing Canadians and deal with substantive legislation in this very important area. You will understand my delight and appreciation, Mr. Speaker, for this moment in our Chamber today, considering the fact that for the five years I have been health critic for the New Democratic Party we have dealt with three pieces of legislation on the whole broad area of health care.

Shortly after the 1997 election we dealt with Bill C-42, a bill that actually weakened the Tobacco Control Act. Then we dealt with Bill S-17, a bill in response to the drug industry that extended patent protection for pharmaceuticals. We did deal with a positive initiative, Bill C-13, which established the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. On the other hand the water bill that came in for second reading disappeared. We had a brief sighting of a food safety bill. It was tabled, we were tantalized with it and it disappeared.

Finally we have a piece of legislation on health care and health protection. Thank heavens for that. I commend the new Minister of Health for doing something so early in her new term, taking over from a minister who is known for and will go down in history as the minister of unfinished business. I am glad to see we have some initiative on the part of the Liberal government today on a very important area of health care. I hope that it is an indication of some political courage, fortitude, strength and vision on the part of the government when it comes to health care.

We are dealing today with one of the two important pillars of health care in Canada today, that being health protection. The other important pillar is health insurance or our beloved medicare system. Both those pillars are crumbling under the neglect of this government. For at least as long as I have been here, we have seen nothing but neglect, delay and study. As a result, the institutions that have united the country and served Canadians well have been crumbling out of neglect and desperately are in need of vision and leadership from the government.

You will also understand, Mr. Speaker, my skepticism today when I indicate that we have been trying for many years now to gain recognition for the importance of protecting Canadians from the ill effects of toxins in food, water, air and in pesticides. We have tried tirelessly to get the government to act on a number of important issues of great significance to health and well-being of Canadians, particularly the health and well-being of children.

I want to remind all members of our efforts to raise the matter of arsenic in pressure treated wood. Did we get any concrete action in response to that? No. We raised the issue of mercury in fish, which is very dangerous to pregnant women and the children they are carrying. Did we get any action on that? No. Maybe we got some warnings hidden on an Internet site but there was no specific action. We raised the question of toxic substances in plastics that were a part of toys on which babies chewed. Did we get any action from the government on that important issue? No.

Time and time again the government has chosen to delay and wait until the damage is done; when it is too late. It is important today that we finally act on a very important issue pertaining to pesticides, clearly an area that has potentially devastating ramifications for human health, particularly the health and well-being of the children.

I am skeptical even as I speak about this bill just because of the record of the government on pesticides alone. Look at the issue of Dursban, a pesticide that was banned in the United States and which this government finally decided to ban it in June 2000.

Here we are and what is the news today? Dursban is still available on the market. It is like Lindane. We heard from the member for Selkirk--Interlake, on the other side of this issue of course, on the issue of Lindane. It was recognized as causing serious health problems and was banned.

However, both Dursban and Lindane are on the market. Why? Because of the pressure from the industry to allow it to get rid of the product already out there. Maybe there is a ban on creating new product or having new product on the market, but it is okay to allow poisonous substances to stay on the market, no matter the consequences, no matter the ramifications? Does that make any sense? What is the point of a ban? Why spout about action when there is no real intention to act on the rhetoric?

We always try to teach our kids and their parents something that I think the government would do well to heed and that is the expression, “Say what you mean and mean what you say”, and do what you say you're going to do. When it comes to health protection and toxins in our environment or the potentially hazardous substances in the food we eat and in the toys we play with, where is the government? It is sitting back and letting the marketplace be overtaken by products that could be dangerous as opposed to offering a proactive, regulatory approach in this whole area.

The bill is a move in that direction. I do not want to sit down without giving some credit to the government for taking some steps in the right direction. It certainly does that. It is long overdue. One has to ask why a bill that is 33 years old is only now being revised and revamped. One has to ask why, 10 years after the Liberals promised to bring in new legislation in the 1993 election, we are here today just beginning the process. One has to ask why the delay, when the former minister of health said last year that he would have legislation in the House by fall 2001. One has to ask why it has taken so long after the environment committee did such a comprehensive report on this issue in May 2000.

The good news is that we are finally here. We finally have a piece of legislation. We finally have something to put our teeth into and we finally have some hope to offer Canadians, especially children. The concern about the delay was best said by children's entertainer and health advocate, Raffi, who was here on the Hill not too long ago and reminded us of our obligations. As his song says, if children had a say, this would have been done by now. I think this is the real issue today: What are we doing today in this legislation to ensure that the health of children and all Canadians is protected?

The minister very rightly identified the fact that pesticides can have a disproportionate impact on children. Children face a special vulnerability because of pesticides. We have to recognize that and make sure that this legislation uses that as a measure, as a bottom line in terms of determining safety and taking cautionary steps. There are good parts in the bill. We certainly want to recognize the fact that in the bill there are more modern risk assessment practices, a mandatory re-evaluation of pesticides, a provision for increased public participation, a better method of reporting adverse effects and so on. I want to give credit to the minister for at least doing that much.

However, I believe the bill still falls short, which raises some very important questions that we have to raise now and at committee and need to have addressed before we bring back the bill for final reading. Those questions are the following. Does the bill encourage pollution prevention and reduce the use of pesticides? Does it actually keep pesticides off the market until they are proven safe? Does it ban pesticides for cosmetic purposes? Does it require clear labelling of all toxic elements of pesticides? Does it provide a clear mandate for the pesticide management review agency? Does it put in place resources and a mechanism for independent, science based research about the long term impact of pesticides on human health?

Those questions remain outstanding. Those questions must be answered. We look forward to the debate in committee and to the government's attention to those very important issues.

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6 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to finally speak to the bill. It is one that the NDP, environmentalists, scientists and the general public have been calling for decades for the federal government to introduce.

The current legislation was introduced over 30 years ago. Not since 1969, when DDT was still in wide use, have there been any substantial changes to the legislation. If I may digress for a moment, I would like to try to set in context where we are at in this country. There are a few salient points that need to be addressed.

First, at the present time there are between 6,000 and 7,000 pesticide products registered for use in Canada, an estimated 50 million kilograms of herbicides, insecticides and fungicides each year. That includes everything that we think of as normal pesticides used in agriculture and in lawn care to the products used in combating head lice in children.

It is also important to note the main problem we have with pesticides and it is relatively simple. They are designed to kill. They are deliberately introduced into our environment and onto our food to kill. It is also interesting to note that only 1% of all pesticides used actually gets to the intended targets. The other 99% stays in the environment, affecting humans and wildlife.

As well, over the last 30 or 40 years we have learned that many of those 6,000 to 7,000 pesticides I mentioned do not break down. They in fact accumulate in the environment, oftentimes in human beings, affecting the reproductive systems and the immune systems of both humans and animals.

It is also interesting to note that in the last while we have developed some alternatives, specifically in Ontario, where the World Wildlife Federation and the Ontario apple growers have developed an ecological program that is now producing five million pounds of premium apples. That program dramatically reduces the use of pesticides, at least in that province. There are a number of other alternatives like that.

It is impossible to address the legislation without looking at the report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, released in May 2000 and entitled, “Pesticides: Making the Right Choice for the Protection of Health and the Environment”. This report was the result of widespread consultation among scientists, academics, labour groups and community organizations from coast to coast to coast. Many of those individuals gave evidence and supported the committee's report. As a party, we encouraged the government to take action immediately after that report was tabled and to implement the extensive recommendations of that committee.

There were a number of important recommendations. I believe that the most pressing was the call on the Minister of Health to introduce new legislation as a matter of top priority. Of course it has now been just about two years and we are just finally getting it, only at committee stage.

There are a number of recommendations, but I want to use that report as a litmus test, if I may, for what should have been done, as a test for assessing the viability of the legislation. Very quickly, the major recommendations made for what the act should cover were: to protect human health in the environment as the absolute priority in all pest management decisions; to apply the precautionary principle; to promote and increase reliance on pollution prevention strategies in order to eliminate or minimize the use of pesticides; and finally, to foster public confidence by actively informing and educating Canadians about pesticide use by involving them in the decision making process.

More specific, committee members are saying that the precautionary principle means that appropriate, preventive measures are to be taken when there is reason to believe that a pesticide is likely to cause harm even when there is no conclusive evidence to prove a causal relationship between the pesticide and its effects.

In effect they are saying that human health comes first. The onus falls on the producer of the product to establish absolute safety. Otherwise it does not go on the market and does not go into our environment. Unfortunately the government has not addressed all the concerns of that litmus test.

I would like to list a few points that still need further protection. One is that there is an inadequate provision for wildlife protection. The public is still denied full access to important information about pesticides. This is true both for the users of the pesticides and the workers who use those pesticides.

The information clauses in the legislation are not adequate. They paid lip service to the precautionary principle. It is mentioned in the legislation but is not operationalized. It is not a mandatory or functional aspect of the bill at all. There is a lack of streamlined process for registering low risk products for farmers, landscapers and other users to allow for the use of less harmful alternatives.

At the start of my address I mentioned that alternatives were available. One thing we have heard from the apple farmers in Ontario was that there were alternatives. The European Community in particular has a number of them that have not been registered in Canada because of the length of time it takes for that to be done. They need to be streamlined or fast tracked. In addition there is a lack of specifics in the bill. As the government so often has done, it has left way too much to regulation.

The greatest failure of the bill is the lack of the ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides. I believe the minister mentioned it again today as she certainly has in the past. She said not to worry about it, that the municipalities would take care of that. Approximately 37 municipalities have banned or severely restricted the use of pesticides for cosmetic reasons. The most recent one is Halifax which has introduced what in effect will be an eventual ban of all pesticides.

We have to set it in this context. Somewhere approaching 75% of lawn owners still use pesticides. Lawns and gardens in municipalities, in urban areas, are sprayed more heavily than farms. People still seem to consider that the use of pesticides is essential for lawn care in spite of the fact that a four to sixfold increase in incidents of child leukemia occurs when pesticides are used on lawns in urban areas.

A ban is necessary. We do not have the time in terms of protecting the health and well-being of Canadians to wait for every municipality to ban or at least severely restrict the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes.

In summary, there is no question the bill is a step forward. We have begun to address some of the problems the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development raised but it does not go far enough. It does not ban pesticides in urban areas. It fails to protect generally the health of Canadians.

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6:10 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, allow me briefly to ask the hon. member for Windsor--St. Clair, whose judgment I highly respect, whether he has any comments to offer on the role of the agency in charge of this bill.

First, does the agency not find itself in a dual role, one of screening products and one of giving access to the market to the proponents of these products? Second, is it his opinion that the agency ought to be accountable to parliament by way of an annual report?

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6:10 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from Davenport was chair of the environment committee at the time the report was prepared and published. I acknowledge all the hard work and excellent leadership he provided.

With regard to the conflict between the two roles of the agency, the committee addressed the issue in its report. It is impossible to on the one hand say we would review products and decide whether they would be allowed onto the market and on the other hand say we would have a role in promoting the use of pesticides in Canada. It is impossible to tell civil servants they must play both roles at the same time. It is clear there should be a severing of the two roles into two separate branches of the department or, preferably, two separate departments. That way the conflict would be allayed if not completely done away with.

I will answer the question another way. Other than at a preliminary level there has been no indication of or provision for adequate funding for the role to be played by the department in this regard. It is an issue we hope to address at the committee when the matter finally gets there.

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6:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Canadian Alliance Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, my question for the hon. member is related to two things. First, there is concern about the safety of pesticides, particularly the new generation of pesticides. The hon. member talked a lot about residue and said only 1% hits the mark. Many if not most new pesticides have zero residuals but I understand his concern. Most consumers are quite concerned about pesticides.

Second, the use of new generation pesticides has been tremendously reduced due to genetic modification of food. Could the hon. member comment on this?

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6:10 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. First, I am unalterably opposed to using products that are genetically modified without the long term research that is required. We should not put products on the market that have been genetically modified in any fashion after only a year or two of review.

Second, with regard to the hon. member's comment that a number of products do not have residue, I would not go quite that far. That is not the case. A number of products are better alternatives to what we now have in terms of buildup and accumulation in both the environment and the human body.

We do not look at GMOs as the be all and end all. That is not where we are at. The science is not there yet. I do not know if it will ever be. If the bill were properly drafted we would have an answer and the precautionary principle would be applied. Products would not be allowed onto the market or in the environment until they passed the litmus test.

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6:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to participate at long last in this evening's debate. In my view and the view of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada Bill C-53 represents a lack of political will to bring forth the legislation we need to address the issue.

The framework legislation that currently manages pesticides was established in 1969. Over the past 30 years we have gained a more comprehensive knowledge of the effects of pesticides on human health and the environment. It is in good form for us to update legislation of that vintage.

I compliment the new minister who has been in the portfolio only a short time. The issue has been a thorn in the side of health care professionals, environmentalists and concerned Canadians from coast to coast for quite some time. Our hats are off to the minister for tabling this piece of legislation.

I am a bit concerned about the issue. A few weeks back I sent out a press release asking why the bill was being tabled at that time. Was it because of the myriad rumours we had heard in the House and in the hallways that the House could prorogue? It is reasonable to ask whether it is a disingenuous effort to table a bill that will never see the light of day in terms of royal assent. On the positive side, perhaps it gives the government a chance to test the legislation to see what benefits there should be.

I will refer to one aspect of the pesticide debate. Mr. Speaker, I am sure you read the Progressive Conservative Party's platform comprehensively throughout the election campaign of November 2000. I will bring to light a plank of our electoral platform. We called on the Government of Canada to bring in modernized pesticide management. There were two main points in the platform concerning pesticides. I will read them for the record:

A Progressive Conservative government would table new pesticide legislation that would modernize the existing 30 year-old legislation. Exposure levels and toxicity of pesticides will be evaluated with consideration on the effect on our most vulnerable populations.

This refers to the elderly, children and pregnant women. We would also establish a comprehensive reduced reliance program. The platform states:

A Progressive Conservative government would initiate educational initiatives to inform Canadians of the risks of pesticide use with a goal to reduce usage particularly for cosmetic purposes.

For the record, that is a goal the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada has had with respect to this debate.

I will illustrate how lax the government has been at tabling legislation. I asked the Minister of Health in December of 1999 when we could expect legislation given that Claire Franklin, chair of the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, had said draft legislation had been in place for three years and was coming soon. I asked again on November 22, 1999. The Minister of Health said legislation would be tabled shortly. I asked again on June 13, 2001, nine months ago. The government said it would soon table legislation that would reflect the recommendations and protect the health of Canadians.

We have been a little slow at this, so to make up for the government's lack of energy in getting the legislation tabled perhaps we can put our shoulders to the wheel and make some improvements.

I will speak to the bill itself. There are some solid aspects to Bill C-53 that deserve the appropriate accolades. One is Bill C-53 clearly places the burden of proof on the person who is trying to register the particular pesticide. The applicant must demonstrate to the minister that the health and environmental risks of that product are indeed acceptable to the Canadian public at large. We think that is a positive step.

It follows the report of the committee that was developed in May 2000 entitled “Pesticides: Making the Right Choice for the Protection of Health and the Environment”. That was a comprehensive study by the standing committee on the environment of which I had the privilege of being a member.

Accolades to the government for being inspired by the United States food quality protection act. The government has said that when it comes to establishing toxicity levels, testing will be done on vulnerable populations, children, the elderly and perhaps pregnant women, as we advocated in our last platform. The act also enables the application of a 10-fold safety margin on pesticide standards and extra protection for children.

I think the government was also inspired by the report of the standing committee which was tabled in 2000. That plank was recommended by all parties with the exception of the Reform Party at that time.

I also would like to provide some accolades on the issue that re-evaluations are required and special reviews are made possible. Most of the pesticides currently used in Canada were registered long ago. The act requires that the Government of Canada establish or initiate re-evaluations of registered pesticides at least every 15 years. Further, if a member country of the OECD, the Organization for Economic Co-operation Development, bans the use of an active ingredient, then the minister must conduct an immediate special review. That is a good thing.

I do not know if members particularly recall that the auditor general performed a comprehensive review of pesticide management in Canada. He pointed out that Canada was among the most lax of industrialized nations. As a testament to that, Canada and the Slovak Republic are the only two OECD countries that do not measure pesticide consumption. This is fundamentally important because further decisions would eventually include consideration of cumulative effects and aggregate exposures once the methods of doing so were confirmed.

That is the methodology the Government of Canada wants to follow, which follows the same train of thought that is in the U.S. food quality protection act. If that is so, then we need to ensure that we have a proper inventory of consumption of pesticides in the country. That makes a lot of sense.

If that re-evaluation will be a component of the act, then we need to ensure that Health Canada has the added financial capacity to conduct those reviews and do them in an extremely timely manner.

I would also like to touch on a few aspects that need some improvement. Some of those issues refer to the aspect that the law in its current form does not emphasize that it is necessary for us to reduce the reliance of the risk of pesticides. It is incumbent on the Government of Canada to educate the Canadian public at large, in particular on the cosmetic use of pesticides. There is indeed a cumulative effect and additional exposure and prolonged exposure does have a detrimental effect to human health and the environment

If that is true, then why does the federal government not initiate a public awareness campaign about the harmful and cumulative effects of pesticides, particularly in our urban areas, in the same stead that it does with anti-tobacco campaigns. In my view this is something that would at least ensure that Canadians think twice. That is one aspect for which we should find an innovative way of encompassing it in this legislation, perhaps in the preamble.

The Progressive Conservative Party of Canada believes that Bill C-53 fails to entrench the precautionary principle as a guiding principle or to effectively operationalize it. The bill needs to be amended to include the internationally acceptable precautionary principle in the preamble and purpose.

There is an accepted definition established at the United Nations for the precautionary principle. The all party committee called on the Government of Canada to utilize that form of definition. We reviewed the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. It was the intent of the committee when we tabled the review in May 2000 on pesticide management in Canada that it was a process that the Government of Canada absolutely needed to follow.

What is the precautionary principle? I would explain it as follows. If the weight of evidence and science says that there is an immense likelihood that a particular substance can have a detrimental effect on human health and the environment, perhaps potentially the loss of life, we do not have to wait for the absolute finality of information before the Government of Canada actually acts.

When it comes to public awareness the leadership on reducing the reliance on the cosmetic use of pesticides has not come from the federal government. I believe we should follow a public awareness campaign as we do for the use of tobacco by encouraging individuals to reduce their reliance on the cosmetic use of pesticides.

We have seen leadership from the provinces on some occasions but for the most part we have seen leadership at the municipal level. Cities, such as Halifax, and communities such as Hudson, Quebec were really the first municipalities to step up to this challenge.

We have public awareness advocates from coast to coast. Patty Donovan from Quispamsis in my riding of Fundy--Royal has been an ardent advocate for the reduction of pesticide use in Canada and particularly the cosmetic use. It is not some mission or crusade that she is on. For her it is the very vitality of her son Zack. If Zack were exposed in any kind of serious way to pesticides or pesticide residue it would have an immense effect on his human health immediately that may potentially cost him his life.

This is a clear indication that we need to manage pesticides in a responsible way and take into consideration where individuals could be at risk.

We see pesticide campaigns in the west as well. Jennifer Wright from Calgary has made a number of presentations to the municipality of Calgary encouraging it to reduce its reliance on pesticides.

Canadians and municipalities are way ahead of this and the Government of Canada should get with the program on that particular aspect as well.

Another good aspect of this proposed legislation which needs a bit of ratcheting deals with the pesticide management process. It must come out of the dark ages and recognize that public awareness and access to information is critical and that public consultation should be sought prior to registering any new substance. The Government of Canada has done a good thing on that particular aspect as well. It must ensure that we catch up with the rest of the industrialized world.

I have a document before me which was produced in September 2000. It is not even a comprehensive list. There is a list of 60 pesticides that are banned by other OECD nations but are still permissible here in Canada.

The problem is that the Government of Canada is not taking leadership in addressing this issue. Clearly, within the agricultural community pesticides are a responsible component to farming, but we need to ensure that access is available to lower risk substances. We should utilize substances that are already used in the OECD and which may be more cost effective. We have been denying our farming community access to these lower risk substances. We are putting the health of farmers at risk by leaving them with only products that are high risk to themselves, to human health in general and to the environment.

I must emphasize that any new pesticide legislation has to evaluate toxicity on the most vulnerable in our population: children, pregnant women and the elderly. The Government of Canada has moved in that direction. That is a step we should applaud.

When evaluating a pesticide, we need to ensure that we evaluate the formulants as well. Quite often the formulants in the pesticide can have a more detrimental effect as a toxin to human health and the environment than the active ingredient. As the legislation is shaped at the moment there is not the appropriate due process that challenges the proponent of a new pesticide, or an existing pesticide if it is at the re-evaluation stage, to ensure that all active ingredients are evaluated as well.

Our very learned health critic, the member for Richmond--Arthabaska, has recommended to me that the Progressive Conservative Party will support the legislation. It is long overdue. Sometimes that line seems extremely trite, but the existing act is 30 years old.

The Government of Canada spoke about this in its throne speech in 1999, three years ago. When something is in a throne speech it usually means that action will take place immediately and we are only seeing the legislation now. This is respectable framework legislation which we hope to have the capacity to improve at committee stage.

I am very pleased the Liberal Party of Canada has taken a page, page 25 to be exact, out of the election platform of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. It has followed our commitment to Canadians to provide pesticide legislation which includes evaluation for toxicity of formulants, evaluates the toxicity on the most vulnerable in our population and updates the current regime which is nearly 30 years old.

I look forward to the debate as the bill moves through the legislative process.

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6:30 p.m.


Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his comments on the pest control products bill.

I happen to be one of the lucky people who lives in one of the municipalities that has a progressive pesticide bylaw in place, and that is the Halifax regional municipality. Over a three year period we will see the elimination of pesticides altogether. First there will be a ban on municipal properties, then in the first, second and third years there will be a ban on schools, day cares, parks and playgrounds with the ban in the final year on all pesticide use. Given that we have heard today we are seeing five to six times higher rates of childhood leukemia because of the use of pesticides, we see how critical this is.

The member has made the comment that we need to see more public awareness campaigns regarding cosmetic pesticides. Can we not take a further step and ask the federal government to set up national standards which would include a ban on cosmetic pesticides?

We have heard from the Alliance that it is up to municipalities to look after that. I do not know what would happen to people who live in those municipalities that do not choose to take the ban seriously. Perhaps they would have to move somewhere else in the country.

Would the member from the Conservative Party support national standards, those national standards being much higher, including a ban on cosmetic pesticides?

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6:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her question because it really follows a fundamental plank of the pesticide management regime that we presented in the election campaign of November 2000. I was the author of that section of our national platform. The approach I took, and I will cite the language if I may, is that a Progressive Conservative government would initiate educational initiatives to inform Canadians of the risk of pesticide use with a goal to reduce usage particularly for cosmetic purposes.

Why would we take that approach versus an all out ban? It is possible, and I cannot think of an instance at the moment, where one may want to consider utilizing pesticides for a quasi-cosmetic purpose if the intent were to prevent something worse from happening. However, the real reason we did not use the word ban is it was far too provocative.

We still need to move the Canadian population a long way on this issue that empowering the municipalities to ban, like the Government of Canada is saying the municipalities can do, is an option. However the federal government has a leadership role here as well. That is why I do not know if the national standards aspect would be the appropriate route I would advocate, which would reflect the remarks I made earlier, that the Government of Canada should recognize there is a cumulative effect of pesticides on our environment, especially if they are condensed in an urban setting.

There should be a massive public awareness campaign of the same ilk as that regarding the detrimental effects smoking and tobacco use has on our environment. We have learned a lot over the 25 years since biologist Rachel Carson wrote the book Silent Spring which really sparked the debate on how we use pesticides and how they actually harm the environment. We have learned a lot on this issue but Canadians need to be engaged far more.

We could hit the ground earlier and harder in that even without the bill the Government of Canada could have a pesticides campaign. I say to my friend and colleague from the province of New Brunswick who serves as the parliamentary secretary to the health minister that it is something the Government of Canada should seriously consider. It took up a very positive and aggressive anti-smoking and anti-tobacco campaign. The Government of Canada could consider a public awareness initiative of the same ilk on the cosmetic use of pesticides. He may wish to take that up with the Minister of Health.

I compliment the minister for tabling the legislation in short order after receiving her new portfolio.

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6:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I commend and congratulate my colleague for the work he has done not only on this file but on a number of files involving the environment. It is fair to say Canadians recognize that he truly is a friend of the environment and a person who has brought forward both progressive and very proactive ideas on how we could improve the state of the environment not only in this country but internationally.

Perhaps he can tell us more about the bill, in particular how much consultation was undertaken. He has told us that this area of legislation has been 30 years in waiting. In looking at the situation and looking at the bill in particular, is he satisfied that industry, farmers, the agricultural industry and all other the stakeholders including the science, which obviously has to be taken into consideration when passing this type of bill, have been given sufficient opportunity to give input? What might their reaction be?

In the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia where both our mothers currently reside there is a real problem given the number of orchards and pesticides used in the control of certain insects that feed on various forms of vegetables and fruit there and throughout the country.

There is a very real need that we delve in this issue on the part of Canadians. Obviously the legislation starts in that direction, but does the member feel there has been sufficient opportunity for all stakeholders to get involved in the final process?