It was tax deductible. It is unbelievable. While other organizations in North America were fighting to increase those penalties and fines, if we poisoned the water that our children drink, at tax time we could get up to 50% of that money back. We found that unacceptable, which is why this party in this corner of the House fought to end that diabolical practice. It was unfair to ordinary citizens and to other companies. Other companies, which were practising the right procedures, doing the right things by labelling their chemicals, by having the proper disposal practices and by living up to the bargain that has been part of the law of our country, had unfair competition from those that actually could subsidize their industry by polluting and not paying those fees.
It is important to note that Bill S-2 would provide us an opportunity to update those types of chemicals and materials. I believe we need to go further. I think that if, for example, we are going to have a continued non-compliance of 95% of the data forms and updating, there have to be significant consequences. These are known factors. We have seen the continual effects on human health in our society.
Most recently, because of the chemicals, the toxins and the pesticides in their environment, we have seen that people in farming communities are experiencing much higher degrees of breast cancer. We are trying to eliminate the pesticides that are not necessary. My municipality has worked very hard on this. Why our legislation to ban pesticide uses that were unnecessary failed is unconscionable. It has an effect. The prevention issues that this bill has and what we can do would not only improve our economic development through ensuring that we have a higher productivity value, it would also lessen our costs for health and other types of problems that emerge by neglect.
When the laws of the land that define the responsibility and the use of those products are not being administered and not being followed, then I believe there needs to be greater consequences. These products affect society as a whole.
My colleague from Winnipeg Centre skirted around the issue of asbestos quite well. In his recent press release, “Canadian officials are acting as globe-trotting propagandists for the asbestos industry”, is about as straightforward as one can get.
It is important to note that this type of advocacy and prevention, similar to Bill S-2, is how we can actually eliminate some of the tragedies. The member went into great detail about the asbestos industry but I would hammer home the fact that prevention is really a lot of the solution to some of our problems here and it is one that we can control. Why we would be sending trade delegations abroad to push a killer industry is unacceptable and unconscionable.The member has done justice to this file and it is one that can apply to the fact that we need to start examining our responsibility internationally.
A number of different chemicals and hazardous materials are transported on a regular basis between Windsor and Detroit and we are supposed to have specific laws to do so. However, the regulations and laws do not always match up with the United States. The situation on the Ambassador Bridge which runs between Windsor and Detroit is that the Americans can come into Canada some types of chemicals and hazardous materials but some Canadian chemicals cannot go to the American side. The chemicals still cross on the same bridge no matter what but it all depends on which regulation is being used as to where the chemical ends up. We can do some work on those regulations because there are a series of potential problems with hazardous materials.
We have a ferry service that actually does pre-clearance. This is important with regards to the data sheets. Greg Ward and the ferry service receive the information on the hazardous materials. It is cleared by customs before it even gets on the hazardous materials barge and then the barge goes across to Detroit.
We have a system in place where the information is necessary for entry into and exit from the United States but it also has to be provided correctly. This operation has been in existence for over 11 years and there has not been one accident. The Department of Homeland Security supports the operation and has given it a number of different accolades. It is a model that has been very good.
While that was happening on the U.S. side, as the U.S. government was dealing with supporting the ferry service and its management of hazardous materials across the Detroit River and the ecosystems that are so delicate in that area, the previous Canadian government tied the Americans up in the courts for years because they provided free customs officials to the Ambassador Bridge but then they charged the customs people and the ferry service.
The safer route that has enjoyed the support of the Department of Homeland Security on the U.S. side, being touted as a responsible mover and administrator of these types of materials, was being unfairly treated by the Canadian government and still is to this day. They had to settle in court and I know they have to pay for some of their customs officers. It makes no sense because it is unfair that one business would have an actual subsidy of customs officials and another one, a competitor, that is supposed to be providing the hazardous material waste movement for the region, is being attacked in a sense by having to pay for their customs officials. It raises the price and costs.
What we would have would be similar to what we have now where truckers take off their placards, placards that are supposed to go on the back and sides of a truck to show that chemical materials are being transported across a different region. We know that the price of the ferry is a little bit more.Truckers were taking off those placards and then using other means to get to the U.S. side, and that has been done openly. Why the government has not cracked down on that has been very disappointing. We have not seen the proper action.
The materials identified in the bill are very serious. I will give another important example. Chlorine gas is being transported on rail systems through my region as well. The Department of Homeland Security in the United States has classified those containers of chlorine gas as weapons of mass destruction because they can kill up to 100,000 people in a 15 mile radius if there were an accident or an attack on one of those types of containment vessels.
Several jurisdictions in the U.S., and I believe Washington is one, Cleveland is another and Dayton county in Florida, have come up with specific strategies to re-route those chemical materials outside of those jurisdictions which ensures that large urban areas are not exposed to this.
It is also important to note that our first responders, the police and firemen, but in particular firemen, who need access to the rail yards to deal with the issue in case of an accident, need permission first. We need to get Bill C-3, which deals with the bridges and tunnels act, passed by the Senate. The Senate is dealing with it and I believe it will be going to committee. However, until that bill is actually passed, the Ambassador Bridge will continue to be considered private property. We will have the same jurisdictional problems, which must change.
These are all things we can control and these are issues on which we can actually have a positive impact. I believe this bill will get wide support to move forward because it is a first step. It contains a number of different prevention strategies that are important. I would urge all members to consider what we can do on the other fronts, whether it be asbestos management and Canada's international relations or other types of human health and toxic chemicals that are in our environment. We should be thinking of ways to take remedial action and find prevention techniques to offset their harm so people do not get sick from those materials because they have been exposed either improperly, by accident or by design.