Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you for giving me these eight minutes to address the issue of pesticides.
As I said earlier, this issue is very important to us. I am very pleased that we are revisiting the legislation through Bill C-53. It gives us the opportunity to better protect not only our environment but also, as I mentioned, the health of our children and pets, because pesticides are often used on lawns.
As this issue affects several jurisdictions, we need to find a way to work in co-operation with the various levels of government.
Earlier, I mentioned Hudson, the first municipality to make an important environmental decision to ban the use of pesticides.
I also mentioned that, in a riding like mine, if there is one priority that municipalities must have, it is to protect lake waters. It goes without saying that lakeside residents, those who live around lakes, love to have a beautiful lawn. They often use pesticides that can be extremely dangerous, not only for the water in our lakes, but also for the health of bathers and fishers who eat the fish that lives in these lakes.
So, if we pollute the environment with pesticides, we also pollute lakes, fish and ourselves, because we eat the fish. We must take this into consideration. We must have bylaws that protect the land around lakes. This is the case in several municipalities.
I have the good fortune of living on the shores of a lake where the municipality passed a bylaw banning the use of chemicals, not just pesticides, but also fertilizers, so as to protect the quality of our lake water. Very stiff fines are levied if people do not comply. This is one way to ensure that regulations and bylaws are well respected.
It was worrisome to see how the registration of pesticides was done here on the Hill by the agency responsible. An incredible number of pesticides have been registered in recent years. In this regard, we must be careful, because when a pesticide is registered, its impact is not always measurable in the short term, but often only in the mid term or the long term, with the result that we often realize after the fact that a product that was registered is in fact very harmful to health, or even to the environment.
So, we must be very careful when registering products. I think we should also invest in research to find products that will be less harmful to the environment and to health.
I know people who work in this area and they are increasingly looking at natural sources, at environmentally friendly products. Let me give an example. Some environmentally friendly products are now sold on the market to treat plants and rose bushes. These products are much less harmful to health. I have personally used them.
We can go to a garden centre and ask for these ecological products. Unless we do, nothing will happen. I think that there will have to be a new vision in the future with respect to pest control products. We have relied on them too much and now we must think of our children's future and go back to much more ecological products.
I will give another example. Just a few short years ago, in regions such as mine, I remember that it was very popular for golf courses to have absolutely perfect greens, and that is understandable. In fact, at one point, this was all the rage in the Laurentides, where people went for lawn care packages involving four or five treatments with just as many pesticides as fertilizers.
I recall vividly how, when these companies came to treat your lawn, they left little signs with the following warning “Keep pets and children off the grass for the next 24 hours”. If they leave a warning like this and instruct people not to use the lawn, there is some sort of risk.
I myself remember that my children had rashes after the lawn was treated, because the products used were very strong and could cause nausea or even rashes. One cannot keep children from playing on the lawn.
I mention all of this to make the point that it is high time that this legislation be reviewed. However, we said that we agreed with the bill, but that we would not support the amendments. Those listening already know why. My colleagues have spoken at length about this and I do not think that it is up to the Senate to make decisions. It is the job of those who have been legitimately elected to this chamber to make decisions, and to do so in consultation with the public. We are here to represent the public.
We must also take into consideration the fact that the production of pesticides is a big industry. There will be a lot of lobbying. We will have to stand fast and stand together to make sure this lobbying will not have an impact on our decisions on health and environmental issues.
A short while ago, Quebec was mentioned. Personally, I would really like us to work together and harmonize all regulations. Quebec has made regulations and passed laws in this area. There are also regulations or laws at the federal level and bylaws in many municipalities. I hope that municipalities in the regions, which have lakes, rivers and other important environmental assets, will eventually have similar regulations to really protect our environment in a consistent manner. We will have to work in harmony.
We see more and more products on which the public wants information. Somebody talked about GMOs earlier. People want to know what they are eating. More and more, they want to know about the mid term and long term impact of the products they buy. With a review of the legislation and Bill C-53, we will be able to deal with this in a practical manner.
Government members can count on our support for this bill, but we will vote against the amendments.