House of Commons Hansard #70 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.


Budget Implementation Act, 2006, No. 2Government Orders

5:05 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Before we resume debate, I remind members that the first five hours of debate on this bill have now expired. Speeches from here on in are 10 minutes, with a five minute question and comment period.

The hon. member forDavenport.

Budget Implementation Act, 2006, No. 2Government Orders

5:05 p.m.


Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish I could say that I am pleased to rise and speak to Bill C-28, but one has only to look at the content to realize that there is very little indeed to be pleased with in the first Conservative budget since the election.

Before making any comments on Bill C-28, let us go back to October 25, 1993 when the people of Canada chose the Liberal Party to form a government in the wake of nine years of Conservative rule. During those nine years we witnessed astounding short-sighted fiscal policies that left our country, one of the most prosperous in the world, with an enormous operating deficit and an ever increasing national debt.

Under the excellent stewardship of the new Liberal government that succeeded the Conservatives in 1993, we worked hard over the course of three mandates as our house was put into order. The operating deficit disappeared, the deficit was reduced, and Canadians received the services they both needed and deserved.

Imagine, upon taking office in 1993 the Government of Canada was operating with $40 billion annual deficits. Within four years the deficit was gone and Canadians had a balanced budget. The country's triple “A” credit rating was restored. The world could see what we had already come to know as a Liberal government put Canada's house in order.

I make mention of the fact that it was a Liberal government because from 1997 Canadians have to go back all the way to 1912 to find a Conservative balanced budget.

It was from this prudent fiscal management that the Liberal government was then able to move forward again with progressive policies that have made Canada the envy of the world.

In order to understand the differences in approach, we need only to look at the last Liberal budget in 2005 and the subsequent fiscal outlook also in 2005, both presented with great and deserved pride by the member for Wascana, our previous minister of finance.

What did we find in budget 2005? We found a robust economy, secure social foundations, a sustainable environment, and a sound fiscal framework. This sounds to me like the ingredients of a great fiscal policy that included responsibility, compassion for who needed our assistance, and a sound vision for the future.

In fact, the Liberal budget of 2005 recognized that the fiscal policy of the Liberal government had created the fastest rate of increase in living standards among the then G-7 countries since the budget was balanced in 1997.

What did we find in budget 2005? For one thing, we found a solid and measurable commitment to universal accessible policies and publicly funded health care for Canadians. This was not only talk, but action.

The Liberal budget of 2005 reaffirmed the government's commitment of $41.3 billion over 10 years to improve access and reduce wait times for Canadians.

This enormous commitment to health care highlighted in budget 2005 included investments in health based human resources, healthy living and chronic disease, pandemic preparedness, drug safety and environmental health.

These are the kinds of investments that we could make as a result of the sound fiscal management of the Liberal government since taking office in 1993.

Recognizing the unique challenges facing Canadians with disabilities, we changed tax policies to assist them and their caregivers.

The previous Liberal government increased the guaranteed income supplement over five years by $2.7 billion. Liberals understood the needs of senior citizens in this country and they acted.

Canadians with children also faced significant fiscal pressures and the Liberal government committed $5 billion over five years for our early learning and child care initiative.

The agreements and those being negotiated with the provinces would have created real and sustainable child care spaces. The Conservative government, of course, chose to cancel these significant steps forward and that is regrettable indeed.

In terms of the environment, the Liberal budget of 2005 included a $5 billion commitment to ensuring a sustainable environment.

The Liberal government was committed to the Kyoto accord which would have realized real and measurable action on greenhouse gas emissions. Once again, the Conservatives have chosen to join with the United States and abandon the Kyoto agreement in favour of an ineffective long term policy that has more to do with optics and political expediency than with any results on environmental protection.

What about our cities? The former Liberal government was delivering needed support to them with a share of the federal gas tax. This was a Liberal policy. It was innovative and it was welcome news in municipalities across the country. The total commitment was $5 billion over five years from gas tax revenues.

Canada has long been recognized as a leader in terms of assistance to developing countries across the world. The Liberal budget of 2005 increased our international assistance by $3.4 billion over five years. This was a sound and measurable commitment to those nations most in need.

These solid commitments, among many others, were reinstated in November 2005 when the Liberal government produced its final fiscal update. This plan outlined $2.2 billion over five years to improve financial assistance and to ensure that post-secondary education was within reach for lower and middle income Canadians.

Liberals believe that everyone deserves a chance to reach their maximum potential and that the country benefits when we all have the opportunity to achieve our goals.

There was $550 million over five years to extend Canada's access grants to all lower income students in post-secondary education. This was an incredible step forward that many students welcomed.

There were also tax benefits for low income Canadians contained in the fiscal update, as well as infrastructure commitments.

All of this was proposed while maintaining a sound fiscal footing within the context of a balanced budget. As all members of the House will know, the progressive commitments contained in the fiscal update were cast aside when members of the New Democratic Party joined with their associates, the Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois to defeat the government in late November 2005. It was an election that nobody wanted and was completely unnecessary.

Members of the New Democratic Party will certainly need to reflect on the wisdom of their action now when casting an eye on Bill C-28. Gone are the major commitments in the 2005 fiscal update. Gone are the great strides forward in child care service in the country. Gone is the Kyoto agreement. The list goes on and on.

Instead of waiting a few short months, members of the New Democratic Party joined with the Conservatives and Bloc Québécois for the purpose of political expediency to force an election. They also caused some of the most progressive policies this country has seen in years to vanish with the cold wind of Conservatism that has swept through the esteemed corners of Parliament.

I am sure many of those who have in the past supported the New Democratic Party will now be asking themselves why their party would have joined with the Conservatives in voting against the Liberal government on that November day causing all of these commitments to vanish in a single vote. I am sure they will also have much to say about what took place in the House on October 24 when members of the New Democratic Party voted with the Conservative government against a Liberal motion which stated:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government inherited the best economic and fiscal position of any incoming federal government and has not demonstrated the need, value or wisdom of its announced expenditure cuts which unfairly disadvantage the most vulnerable groups in the Canadian society.

What possibly could the members of the New Democratic Party have found so offensive about this resolution that they would once again vote with the Conservative Party? The truth is that so much has been lost to so many Canadians as evidenced in the Conservatives' first budget.

For example, where would we find in the budget the great accomplishment that was the Kelowna accord? The answer is that we do not because it is not there.

The Kelowna accord budgeted $5 billion over five years to our native people in the country. It was negotiated with provincial premiers and aboriginal leaders. The Kelowna accord was described at the time as an unprecedented step forward. I believe this to be true. I believe the decision by the Conservative government to abandon the agreement is quite frankly an unprecedented step backward.

The reality is that there is little in the budget speech for ordinary Canadians. Even those things that have been heralded by the Conservatives as significant really amount to very little.

Take the so-called tax plan for public transit users. The Minister of Finance, and indeed the Prime Minister, make much of this part of the budget. However, when actually calculating the amount, it is about $12 a month for transit users, hardly anything to really cheer about it.

Ken Georgetti of the Canadian Labour Congress described the budget this way, “The arithmetic does not work for ordinary working Canadians”. This is true because at the end of the day there is very little in the budget for ordinary Canadians.

We can only look in disbelief and regret when we glance through the budget for the financial commitments that give substance to real action on the environment file. Stephen Hazell of the Green Budget Coalition stated after the budget was announced that there is virtually nothing in the budget to make good on the government's throne speech commitments to tangible reduction in pollution and greenhouse gases. He is right because there is nothing there.

Bill C-28, the budget bill, is really a confirmation that the government is not moving forward in a manner that reflects the real values of Canadians. We have only to compare the sparse commitments in this budget to those made by the previous Liberal government, both in budget 2005 and the fiscal update, to see the reality of the Conservative government.

Canadians are compassionate, hard-working and progressive people. Budgets are statements that reflect the priorities of the government. I cannot imagine any administration in recent memory more out of touch with the people of this country.

Canadians believe in the priorities outlined in the Liberals' fiscal plans, including the environment, seniors, public transit, cities, students and persons with disabilities.

We do not find much in Bill C-28. Clearly the government is very much out of touch with the people it is supposed to be governing. I trust all members will keep this in mind when it comes to cast a vote on Bill C-28, the Conservative budget.

Budget Implementation Act, 2006, No. 2Government Orders

5:15 p.m.


Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, that was an interesting history lesson as the member reflected on the months coming up to the election, not just last January and they were rather revisionary comments I must say considering the outcome that we saw earlier this year.

The member must not have taken into account the kind of tax savings that have been proposed for Canadians. The GST cut, for example, will put more than $5 billion back into the pockets of Canadians. I do not know how he might consider that that would somehow be a disservice to Canadians considering that this will be an improvement not just right across the board for all of those who buy goods and services in this country, but most important, 30% of Canadians will not even pay any income tax.

I wonder if the member might respond as to how that is somehow a disservice as I believe he described it.

Budget Implementation Act, 2006, No. 2Government Orders

5:20 p.m.


Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to comment once again on what I see are the problems with this particular budget of the government.

The member raised the issue of the GST. He also forgot to mention the fact that the government also raised taxes for low income Canadians by half a point.

There are many things that also need to be addressed which I did not have the opportunity to address in my budget remarks. I would like to take this opportunity to address them. They are the cuts that affect the vulnerable in our society, the cuts to programs relating to literacy, students, seniors. This is increasing the social deficit in the country. There are cuts to museums and to the Law Commission.

Most important, something which was recognized internationally as very fundamental to the democratic rights of many Canadians, the court challenges program was cut by the Conservative government. It is shameful because that program has greatly enhanced not only the freedom but the equality of all Canadians. It is sad that the government could not see the wisdom of a program that has benefited so many Canadians.

Budget Implementation Act, 2006, No. 2Government Orders

5:20 p.m.


Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, my colleague across the way mentioned the issue of the vote the other night.

The opposition day motion put forward really was very thin soup for Canadians as not a penny was added for the people who have been hit so hard by those cuts, but it was a very rich appetizer for the Liberal soul. I think those things made a bit of a meal that we in the New Democratic Party had a hard time eating.

Parliament is here not to keep score or to deal in that fashion, but to accomplish things for Canadians. We would love to work with the Liberals, just as we would love to work with the Conservatives on accomplishing things for Canadians.

How do you think your motion would have restored any of the dollars that were lost to Canadians in those cuts?

Budget Implementation Act, 2006, No. 2Government Orders

5:20 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Just a matter of order. The hon. member should ask the member about his motion rather than using the second person. The hon. member for Davenport.

Budget Implementation Act, 2006, No. 2Government Orders

5:20 p.m.


Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure what the member found so disturbing about the motion, given the fact that the motion clearly speaks about the lack of wisdom in the government's cuts and those cuts do in fact unfairly disadvantage the most vulnerable groups of Canadians. I thought that is exactly what the problem is with the budget and the way the government is acting.

The members of his party talked about the cuts that have taken place to the volunteer programs, to literacy, to the court challenges program, to the museums and to the Law Commission. These are things that we as Liberals had fought for. We put it in the budget.

It is the present government, which was supported originally by the NDP, which is making those cuts.

I do not have to explain myself. I think it is the member and his party who have to explain to Canadians why we see so many cuts, so many aggressive policies that are taking place and why the member's party supported the government.

Budget Implementation Act, 2006, No. 2Government Orders

5:20 p.m.


Jim Peterson Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-28.

The Conservative government is the most meanspirited retrograde government I have ever seen in the entire time that I have been in Parliament. It uses policies for politics, not for good governance. Let me give an example.

The Conservatives financed a cut in the GST by increasing income taxes. Good fiscal policy demands that there be a variety of tax sources. Most jurisdictions in the world have a consumption tax. The beauty of having a mix of taxes is that we are not victims in our fisc of economic circumstances. We can weather storms. This is the reason every single expert, economist, teacher, practitioner said that cutting the GST instead of personal income taxes was wrong.

When we cut personal income taxes, we are giving people options. They can spend the savings, as they can with the GST cut, but they can also have more money to invest and more money to save. That is why the income tax cuts that the Conservatives reversed on us were so important for the ongoing performance of our economy, to give us that money to reinvest in our capacity to compete in a global economy.

What did the Conservatives do with child care? We had meaningful child care spaces for parents in this country, as demanded by all of the groups. What did they do? They went back to something cut long ago, the baby bonus. Anyone with a child gets $100 a month. What does that do?

Budget Implementation Act, 2006, No. 2Government Orders

5:20 p.m.


Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

That is taxed.

Budget Implementation Act, 2006, No. 2Government Orders

5:20 p.m.


Jim Peterson Liberal Willowdale, ON

And that is taxed back. What does that do to help people put their kids in quality child care? Nothing. That is why every child care expert in this country has condemned the stupid politics of the Conservative government trying to pander to everybody but doing no good for any of them.

What did the Conservatives do with Kelowna? It was a historic accord reached by our government with the provinces, the territories and the leadership of all our aboriginal communities. It was historic to allow that community to develop, to grow and to have the standard of living that it is going to need. Today many of our aboriginal peoples live in such shameful conditions that we cannot hold our heads high in this country. We had to do something about our first peoples, and what did the Conservatives do? They cancelled the Kelowna accord.

Let us look at the environment. What is the single biggest problem faced by us globally according to all of the ecologists, all of the environmentalists, all of the experts? It is global warming. What has the government done with global warming? It has said that within 45 years it will reduce emissions by 45% to 65%. Does any action have to be taken today? No, it is going to continue to consult, continue to consider what measures should be taken.

We do not deal with the crisis of global warming by renouncing Kyoto. We do not deal with it by not bringing in targets. This thing has been studied to death. We know what has been accomplished in other countries in the world, in Europe.

I am not saying our record was great in Canada, but we at least had in place a program for dealing with meeting the Kyoto targets by 2012. Even our biggest detractor, the Fraser Institute, said that our green program would have gone at least 80% of the way toward meeting those Kyoto targets. The Tories have not put in place anything to start dealing immediately with greenhouse gas emissions.

Global warming is taking place at an incredible rate, 30 times what it was 20 years ago. We see the melting of the ice cap. We see the disintegration of the Larsen B Ice Shelf in the Antarctic. This is serious. There is enough ice in the Arctic ice cap and in the Antarctic--

Budget Implementation Act, 2006, No. 2Government Orders

5:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order, please. I hesitate to interrupt the hon. member because I know there is quite an appetite for his words, at least on one side of the House, but it is now 5:30 p.m. and the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business. The member will have four minutes and forty-six seconds remaining in his time.

The House resumed from June 15, 2006, consideration of the motion that Bill C-298, An Act to add perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) to the Virtual Elimination List under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

October 26th, 2006 / 5:30 p.m.


Marcel Lussier Bloc Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am particularly pleased to take part in today's discussion on Bill C-298 introduced by the hon. member for Beaches—East York.

My goal is to illustrate the importance of this bill for protecting the environment and for the health of Quebeckers and Canadians.

This chemical, referred to as perfluorooctane sulfonate or PFOS, is one of the many threats to the health of current and future generations.

PFOS is part of the perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs.

The four non-metallic elements in the halogen group are chlorine, fluorine, bromine, and iodine.

Many common products contain chlorine. Just look at PCBs alone, including organochlorine pesticides such as aldrin, chlordane and mirex.

Many common products also contain fluorine. Take for example all the compounds eliminated from air conditioners and refrigerators that were affecting the ozone layer.

Now it is PFOS that needs our attention and review.

Its anti-adhesive, anti-stain and impermeable properties are very attractive for manufacturers of new products and new clothing.

Among the large number of consumer products that may contain PFOS, there are carpets, fabrics, upholstery, food packaging, cleaning products and industrial and domestic stain removers. Everyone has had or still has ScotchgardTM made by 3M.

All these consumer products can already be found in our homes and their numbers are likely to grow in the future, given that there are currently very attractive designer garments and quality material treated with PFOS in Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese and South-East Asian factories. More products will mean more imports and more skin contact with PFOS.

We are talking about a persistent, bioaccumulative and intrinsically toxic substance, according to an annex to the document published by the Department of the Environment and the Department of Health containing the results of a survey and recommendations on PFOS. The conclusion of that document, published in the Canada Gazette, does state:

Based on available information for ecological considerations, it is concluded that the criterion set out in paragraph 64(a)—

Paragraph 64(a) reads as follows:

64. —a substance is toxic if it is entering or may enter the environment in a quantity or concentration or under conditions that

(a) have or may have an immediate or long-term harmful effect on the environment or its biological diversity;

Examples of presence of PFOS in the environment can be found readily in the literature. Evidence of the presence of PFOS even in the blood and liver of the polar bear confirms that the environment has been contaminated by this substance, that this substance is persistent, that it travels, that it is bioaccumulated and, worse yet, that it is bioamplified through the food chain, from the fish to the seal to the polar bear, all the while increasing in concentration. That is what is called bioamplification.

What about humans?

Our first surprise came from a document entitled “Polluted Children, Toxic Nation: A Report on Pollution in Canadian Families”. This document by an organization called Environmental Defence reveals the results of laboratory tests conducted on 13 volunteers of various ages: six adults and seven children. Of the 68 chemicals studied, 46 were detected in 13 volunteers, 32 products on average in the parents and 23 in the seven children.

Thirty-eight of these chemicals are carcinogens, 23 are hormone disruptors, 12 are respiratory toxins, 38 are reproductive or developmental toxins, and 19 are neurotoxins.

Five of the 13 perfluorinated chemicals targeted by the study were detected, including four in the children and five in the adults. Two perfluorinated chemicals were detected in all of the volunteers, namely, PFOS and PFOA.

The median concentrations of the perfluorinated chemicals was 13.5 micrograms per litre among the 6 adults, compared to 13.8 among the children, which is what inspired the title of the report, “Polluted Children, Toxic Nation: A Report on Pollution in Canadian Families”.

In addition to the shocking news revealed in the Environmental Defence group report, the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development received another shock during the meeting of October 19, 2006. The testimony of Kenneth Cook, president of the Washington, D.C., office of the Environmental Working Group (U.S.A.), had quite an effect on the committee. In fact, Mr. Cook revealed the results of the analyses of 10 blood samples taken from newborns that confirmed the presence of numerous toxins in these babies' bodies.

This confirms that the toxins absorbed or accumulated by adults throughout our lifetime, through ingestion, inhalation or contact with the skin, can also be transmitted to the fetus through the placenta in the uterus. This is an incredible discovery that demonstrates that newborn babies no longer have the option of taking positive action against toxins later on in life through healthy living, a strictly controlled diet or a pure environment. Babies no longer have that option later in life, for they already have toxins in their system from birth. They are born contaminated. This is appalling.

This is why the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of this bill.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to join the debate on the bill on behalf of the NDP caucus and specifically my colleague from Skeena, the environment critic for the NDP who has a very similar bill put in place, dealing with a different series of chemicals but virtually identical in its motivation to try to protect Canadian consumers and citizens by eliminating some of the more harmful chemicals.

Where we have knowledge that these products can hurt Canadians, there is no good or compelling reason, be it commercial or any other reason, why they should not be eliminated and put on the virtual elimination list under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

I am glad to rise in this context simply because Canadians have to take more seriously the environmental threats to public health.

I saw the recent Wendy Mesley program on CBC where she, in a very touching way, dealt with her own personal brush with cancer and the frustration she felt. More and more she felt the medical community was throwing the blame back on the individual. Maybe it was something she did. Maybe she smoked too much. Maybe she did not eat the right foods. Maybe she did not get enough exercise. In actual fact, maybe we are being subjected to such a chemical soup every day that we are being poisoned, not to use too strong a word, by our environment.

We especially should be using the precautionary principle. We should not have to wait until a specific chemical can be linked directly to a specific symptom we have before we throw up our arms and say that there is a connection. We should, proactively, based on the body of information when it reaches a certain critical mass, take the precautionary principle and say that we have a pretty good reason to believe the chemical is hazardous to our health and it should be put on the virtual elimination list.

That is the case with the compound PFOS. We are satisfied that the scientific community has investigated, analyzed and assessed the risk of harm that this chemical causes to people and wildlife. We are not satisfied that there are arguments to the contrary to anyone's satisfaction, other than those produced by the manufacturer of the chemical.

In that way, the chemical falls into the same category as another environmental hazard, which we raise frequently in the House, and that is the government's lack of action on asbestos, the greatest industrial hazard the world has ever known.

Many Canadians would be shocked to learn that Canada is now the second largest producer and exporter of asbestos in the world. The reason I raise it in this context is that we are seeking to have PFOS put on the virtual elimination list under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act while the world's developed nations are trying to have asbestos put on the Rotterdam Convention, which is the international list of hazardous chemicals that the world has put in place. Canada continues to oppose having asbestos put on the list of hazardous materials under the Rotterdam Convention. In fact, we spend a great deal of taxpayer money flying teams of lawyers around the world to argue against listing asbestos as a hazardous product.

It is in that same vein that we can make the argument that we should proactively list PFOSs on the virtual elimination list under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. It frustrates me no end that we are not more aggressive and proactive with other products and other chemicals. Asbestos is only one. Those of us who were here in the last Parliament will remember that the NDP used one of its opposition days to call for the Government of Canada to take steps to eliminate the cosmetic use of pesticides, the non-agricultural, non-essential use of pesticides.

We use the same logic that unless it is absolutely necessary, we should be taking every precaution possible to minimize the exposure of Canadians to these chemicals, especially children, pregnant women and nursing women, or lactating women. Why would we put ourselves at risk? Why would we put our population at risk when we have good reason to believe that these products cause staggering health effects?

We know that leading environmental NGOs have campaigned for years to have this chemical banned in Canada. We also know it is one of the most common exposures because it is commonly used in fabrics as a stain repellant. I do not know if trade names such as Scotchgard apply, but we all know that it was a trend in recent years that furniture and even clothing, men's suits for instance, would be advertised as stain resistant. We are talking about that type of usage. It is reasonable to believe that not just workers are being exposed at a job site. Ordinary citizens in their homes and in the clothes they wear are exposed to this material.

Tests, which have indicated that it causes organ damage and developmental problems, were enough to prompt the United States Environmental Protection Agency to ban the substance. To those who would say that Canada is being too proactive, in actual fact we are lagging behind our neighbours to the south with this product. I never like being trumped by my neighbours to the south. In the case of environmental protection, I would like to think that Canada would be at the leading edge, at the vanguard of environmental protection. However, in this case , in recognizing the organic pollutant qualities of PFOS, clearly the United States is way out in front.

There are proactive steps that we can take that would improve the general state of public health. Rather than putting all our health dollars into trying to fix Canadian citizens after they have been broken, after they are sick, we have to start paying more attention to creating a generally healthier population.

In our NDP caucus we have often said that the Minister of Health is kind of a misnomer. The Minister of Health has very little to do with promoting health. The Minister of Health is all about fixing people after they are sick. We should be spending at least as much attention, energy and resources in preventative steps and measures that would lead to a healthier population where we would need less health care resources and dollars because, hopefully, less people would get sick.

This was the message that came through loud and clear to anyone who saw that compelling documentary put together by Wendy Mesley. To her great credit and that of CBC, it has been run and rerun many times to the point where most Canadians are probably aware of her tragic story. It took a great deal of courage for her to use her own personal experience to help make the point that environmental contaminants are a leading cause of many of the cancers. Who does not know someone in their personal life or within their circle of friends who has been diagnosed with or has passed away from cancer in recent years?

In closing, I was shocked to read that when my children's kids grow up, 50% of people will die of cancer. It never used to be like that. It is a recent phenomenon. It is since the industrial revolution and the petrochemical explosion of the post-war years that we are being exposed like never before to contaminants and pollutants.

I believe this is a common sense step. We will support Bill C-298 to put PFOSs on the virtual elimination list of CEPA.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak in support of Bill C-298, An Act to add perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) to the Virtual Elimination List under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), introduced by my colleague the hon. member for Beaches—East York. I congratulate the member on this bill as it relates to an issue of extreme concern for Canadians and especially for our young people.

Bill C-298 would add the chemical PFOS to the virtual elimination list under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. The result of this is essentially that it would be illegal to have this chemical enter into the environment in any measurable fashion that could not be measured analytically and with the required level of sensitivity.

In familiarizing myself with the issue around PFOS, this was a matter of grave concern. It affects very directly the health and well-being of Canadians. It is for this reason that we must act in support of Bill C-298.

As vice-chair of the environment committee, which is currently reviewing the CEPA, I am particularly interest in this bill. Historically, PFOS could be located in quite a number of familiar products found in the average home. These include carpets, leather, textiles, paper and packaging, coating and additives, industrial and household cleaning products, pesticides and insecticides.

Clearly, this product in the past was found in quite a varied number of familiar items. As I noted, these kinds of product references are for the most part historic. A report prepared in the United Kingdom for the British Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirms that in that jurisdiction, as in most western nations, the use of these specific wide-ranging products is indeed historical; that is, it has ceased. Obviously this is the case because PFOS are dangerous.

However, to this day there are still products in which we will find PFOS. These include those associated with the photographic industry, semi-conductors, hydraulic fluids and also in firefighting materials. In fact, by way of example, in December 2004 there was a considerable debate following a fire in the Buncefield oil depot in Hertfordshire, England. I understand this fire was the largest in peacetime Britain.

During the course of the firefighting efforts, a considerable amount of foam was sprayed on the fire to extinguish it. The foam contained PFOS, which acts as a compound and allows the foam to spread more rapidly at higher temperatures. The result of this extensive use of the PFOS chemical compound was the contamination of the area's water table.

Following this realization, there was considerable discussion about the water being consumed by residents of the area. It is alleged that in Britain water inspectors, under considerable pressure due to that country's drought, relaxed the regulations on contaminated water.

The member of parliament for this constituency, including the town of Buncefield, was quite distressed with this and advocated for the ban on water containing any measurable quantity of PFOS. He stated:

I cannot see the logic that says, on the one hand, this stuff is so dangerous that it should be a crime to import it into the country at all and, on the other hand, it's all right for my constituents to drink it.

I might add that this member for Hemel Hempstead is a Conservative, a fact my colleagues across the floor might consider in their deliberations about whether they will support this bill.

The point of bringing the British experience to the House is that this is a dangerous chemical. It affects the water table and is a threat to the health of Canadians.

This debate is not by any means limited to Canada or the United Kingdom. Indeed in most developed countries this is a subject of considerable debate.

The Swedish government has proposed a global ban on this chemical. In this case, this ban has been proposed to the United Nations under the Stockholm Convention, which seeks to eliminate the so-called persistent organic pollutants.

Even the major global producer of PFOS, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, commonly known as 3M, voluntarily began to phase out the use of PFOS beginning in 2001. Similarly, the European Union has considered a proposal that would restrict or limit the use of PFOS among member states. One concern in the United Kingdom is that the EU proposal does not go far enough.

Furthermore, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has used these terms to describe PFOS: “persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic to mammalian species”. These are serious concerns being expressed by a multitude of sources, including governments, multinational associations like the EU and OECD, environment groups, and even manufacturers themselves. PFOS is a significant risk to the environment and to human beings. It is pervasive in that the time it takes for it to leave the environment to which it is exposed is substantial, to say the least.

The threat to human health is real and must be acknowledged. Among the most common illnesses associated with PFOS exposure is bladder cancer; breast cancer; liver cancer; thyroid cancer; harm to the pancreas, the brain and immune systems; and there are also suggestions that the chemical interrupts the body's ability to produce cholesterol. The reality is that PFOS is difficult to remove from the human body. Studies suggest that it takes years for the substance to diminish within human beings.

With respect to this, studies indicate that the bioconcentration factor has values of up to 2,800 that have been measured in laboratories. This falls within the bioaccumulative criterion of the European Union. In other words, this chemical does not easily leave the system.

In fact, in Europe higher organisms, including seals, dolphins, whales, eagles and other creatures, have all been found to have PFOS within their metabolisms. The presence of these toxins within the human body is absolutely unacceptable and something which requires our attention.

The passage of Bill C-298 is a necessary step. I cannot imagine, quite frankly, why the government would be opposed to the passage of this bill. Clearly, the evidence suggests that PFOS is harmful to our environment and most certainly is harmful for us as human beings. We owe it to Canadians, particularly our children, to confront this issue and to stop the abuse of PFOS. At the very least, we must pass Bill C-298 which would add PFOS to the virtual elimination list.

Each day we fail to act on this issue we place people in our environment needlessly at risk. It is our responsibility as legislators and representatives of Canadians to take action when evidence supports the fact that there is an issue such as this. It is undeniable, based on the scientific evidence, that PFOS is harmful. It is toxic, pervasive and bioaccumulative and does not go away easily.

I will be supporting Bill C-298 because we need to take action on PFOS for the sake of all Canadians and most especially the sake of our children. I encourage very strongly all members of the House to do the right thing and vote to pass Bill C-298.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Maurice Vellacott Conservative Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the House for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-298. Our government does not support this private member's bill for a number of reasons, particularly because it is a circumvention of the normal process here.

First of all, Bill C-298 impinges on the current legislative, regulatory powers and authorities of the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Health of the Government of Canada.

Under the provisions of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the ministers published on July 1, 2006 a final ecological screening assessment of the risks that the chemical substance PFOS poses to the environment. Concurrently, it was proposed that PFOS be added to schedule 1 of CEPA. Schedule 1 is the list of toxic substances for Canada. Also on July 1, 2006 the ministers published the proposed risk management strategy to manage those identified risks.

In effect, the ultimate aim of these actions is the total phase-out of PFOS in Canada. Environment Canada will take action to ensure that PFOS does not re-enter the Canadian marketplace and Environment Canada will also address the remaining sources of exposure.

These government actions will meet the spirit and the intent of virtual elimination, thereby meeting the intent of the private member's bill through the existing regulatory and legislative framework provided under CEPA, 1999.

As members of the House are aware, CEPA is an act that contributes to sustainable development through pollution prevention, and the protection of the environment and human health. CEPA is the primary federal legislation that provides for the assessment and the management of substances that may harm the environment or human health.

In particular, it provides for approaches to deal with harmful substances that are founded on strong science, transparency and also openness of process, while at the same time ensuring that precautionary and preventative measures can be taken to safeguard the health of Canadians and their environment. The current government's approach is following that law. Stakeholders and other interested parties would expect no less of us.

Provisions in CEPA call for the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Health to conduct a screening assessment of a substance to determine whether a substance is causing harm or may cause harm to human health or the environment. Once an assessment is complete, the ministers must propose one of the following three measures: either take no action in respect of the substance, add the substance to the priority substances list for more indepth assessment, or recommend that the substance be added to schedule 1 of the act and, when appropriate, the implementation of virtual elimination.

The Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Health have been actively evaluating the science on PFOS in order to make sound decisions concerning the risks PFOS could pose and the most suitable risk management actions to take. We have been talking to stakeholders as well.

The assessment was undertaken because scientific evidence that has become available since the end of the 1990s has shown that PFOS is now found everywhere in the environment. Notably, and of particular interest for Canada, it has also been found in remote regions such as the Arctic. In fact, science was showing that some of the highest concentrations in organisms were being found in Arctic animals.

The CEPA screening assessment of PFOS has concluded that PFOS is persistent. It accumulates in organisms such as polar bears and can harm a variety of wildlife species. Fortunately, concentrations of PFOS currently found in the environment are at levels that should not pose a risk to human health.

As I mentioned previously, the process of risk assessment is conducted in an open and transparent fashion to make scientifically sound and credible recommendations.

For instance, the methods used in the risk assessment under CEPA follow publicly available technical guidance using methods that have been adopted internationally. In addition, the assessment that was prepared by Environment Canada and Health Canada was reviewed by scientists and other experts from academia, industry, and domestic and international government agencies.

The draft assessment of PFOS was published in October 2004 to solicit comments from stakeholders and the public at large. Comments and additional information received through these consultations were carefully considered in producing a final ecological screening assessment document.

The final assessment concluded that PFOS meets criteria established under section 64(a) of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. The assessment also concluded that PFOS was persistent and bioaccumulative.

The final assessment concluded that PFOS did meet the definition of toxic under CEPA, 1999. That is important to note, that it did meet that definition of toxic.

PFOS, even while it bioaccumulates, does not bioaccumulate to the level stipulated under the CEPA 1996 persistent and bioaccumulation regulations. Accordingly, we cannot apply the virtual elimination criteria under CEPA, 1999.

That has not the stopped the government from taking action in meeting the spirit and the intent of virtual elimination. Our proposed actions under the risk management strategy are aimed at that very same objective.

Under CEPA the government can take a range of actions to protect the environment and human health from substances, such as PFOS.

Bill C-298 would disrupt the risk management process that is currently underway. That is our major objection to the private member's bill before us today.

Under the existing and regulatory framework, the department must propose, in consultation with stakeholders, strategies and approaches to control PFOS and to ensure the protection of the health of Canadians and their environment. In order to fulfill that commitment, the department published a proposed risk management strategy for PFOS.

The strategy proposes that these substances be added to the prohibition of certain toxic substances regulations, 2005, and that would result in a prohibition on the manufacture, use, sale, offer for sale and import of these substances, and products or formulations containing these substances.

In addition to working through CEPA to assess and manage PFOS, Canada is actively discussing the environmental impacts of PFOS in international forums. Canada is working to ensure that work done internationally is consistent with and supportive of actions being considered by Canada.

Canada is actively discussing the appropriateness of including PFOS in international agreements that would lead to major restrictions in the manufacture, use or release of PFOS globally. This is being done through the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe convention on long-range transboundary air pollution and also the Stockholm convention on persistent organic pollutants.

Canada will continue to engage our international partners in global action on PFOS to complement our domestic action. Supporting these efforts is critical to addressing the long range transport of PFOS into the Canadian environment.

The government is very committed to the control of toxic substances and pollution of the environment. I assure members that the necessary steps will be taken to ensure the continued protection of the Canadian environment.

All together, these government actions combine to meet the spirit and the intent of virtual elimination and already meet the objective of the hon. member's private member's bill.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, our government does not support Bill C-298 for a number of reasons, some of which my colleague has already touched upon.

On July 1, Environment Canada established a quick management strategy for PFOS, which proposes that these substances be added to the prohibition of certain toxic substance regulations. This strategy would meet the intent of the private member's bill by prohibiting the manufacture, use, sale and import of the products containing PFOS. Effectively, the process already in place by the government's actions will meet the spirit and the intent of virtual elimination more quickly than what is being proposed by Bill C-298.

At the first hour of debate for Bill C-298 on June 15, the hon. member for Beaches—East York expressed concerns that the government's response on PFOS should be speedy and adequate. The hon. member suggested that this would not be achieved through existing regulatory processes.

I would like to explain that the current time clock requirements, as established legally under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act by the Government of Canada, under the current regulatory process, if a substance has been found to be a toxin through a screening assessment, and when that substance has been proposed for addition on the list of toxic substances, a proposed regulation or instrument establishing the preventive or controlled actions for managing the substance must be developed within 24 months. Within these 24 months, the proposal must be established in the Canada Gazette Part I for a 60 day comment period. Once proposed, the minister has a further 18 months to finalize the regulation or instrument.

As members can see, the minister's obligation under the Environmental Protection Act is to act in a timely manner to control the toxic substance. However, let me clarify that the government intends to act much faster than the maximum time frames prescribed by CEPA.

As I mentioned earlier, the government published a risk management strategy on July 1 which outlines the government's intention to develop a regulation under CEPA to prohibit PFOS in Canada. The next step is the regulatory process that will publish proposed regulations in Part I of the Canada Gazette, which the government intends to do by December. Following the mandatory 60 day consultation period after the publication of the proposed regulations, the government will work to finalize the regulations on PFOS so that they are in place as quickly as possible.

In the case of PFOS, the enactment of Bill C-298 would require the Minister of the Environment to add PFOS to the virtual elimination list of CEPA within nine months of coming into force. At that time, the minister must prescribe the quantity and concentration of PFOS that may be released into the environment in order to achieve virtual elimination. After a further nine months, the release concentration would be set out in regulation.

Effectively, Bill C-298 is proposing an additional 18 month timeline. That is longer than what is required by the regulatory process that is already underway by this government.

Virtual elimination has a specific meaning under CEPA as laid out in section 65(2). It is the reduction of releases to the environment of a substance to a level below which this release cannot be accurately measured. Virtual elimination specifically applies to the release of a substance as a result of human activities and does not apply to the presence of a substance.

Technically, the implementation of regulations controlling the release of PFOS into the environment would be problematic. This is due to the non-quantifiable sources such as landfills and sewage treatment plants. The availability and the cost of end of pipe technology that would be required to be used by landfills and sewage treatment plants to control PFOS is still unknown.

Furthermore, the cornerstone of CEPA is pollution prevention that encourages reduction of pollutants at the source. Developing PFOS release regulations for landfills and sewage treatment plants is placing the burden of reducing emissions on the provinces and on the municipalities. The government is working on regulations for PFOS that would address the source of these chemicals; that is, the manufacture, import, sale and use here in Canada.

The prohibition of PFOS at the source will ultimately result in the reduction of releases at landfills and sewage treatment plants.

In addition, the proposal to regulate the concentration of PFOS released from municipal landfills and waste water treatment facilities would require careful analysis to identify the availability of technology to capture or reduce PFOS from these sources and to determine if a release concentration regulation is the most practical and cost effective means of protecting the environment.

As such, Bill C-298 would not likely expedite the current regulatory process but may in fact obstruct it further.

It is expected that the actions as proposed in the risk management strategy published by the Department of the Environment on July 1, will achieve the same results as virtual elimination to protect the environment and will meet the spirit of the bill through the prohibition of the manufacture, use, sale and import of these substances and these products or formulations containing these substances.

Furthermore, it is expected that the regulations currently being developed by the government to prohibit PFOS will be completed quicker than what is being proposed in Bill C-298.

The proposed risk management strategy also completed the required 60 day consultation period with stakeholders. Stakeholders, including public, industry, non-governmental organizations and provincial and territorial governments, used this formal opportunity to provide comment. Stakeholders will have additional opportunities to provide input on the proposed regulations for PFOS which are expected to be published in December.

In addition, Canada's actions on PFOS are in step and consistent with international actions and activities. Canada's proposed actions also include working with international partners for a harmonized approach to manage the international issues surrounding PFOS as a persistent and organic pollutant, POP, as well as conducting environmental and biota monitoring to ensure that Canada's risk management strategy objectives are indeed met.

It is clear, therefore, that all of these proposed actions together will achieve the objective of virtual elimination as proposed by the private member's bill as effectively as possible under the current legislative and regulatory process.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have put this bill forward. Bill C-298 seeks to eliminate a very harmful chemical from the environment to protect the health of Canadians.

This chemical is recognized around the world as a toxic substance. It is not new. In fact, 3M Corporation stopped manufacturing this substance some time ago and Sweden has called for a global ban on PFOS already. The United States has done the same thing and has stopped using it.

PFOS is persistent in the environment for long periods of time. At the beginning of my statement I said that it was an inherently toxic substance. It is also bioaccumulative, which means it stays in the body for years. In fact, if one were to stop using it as of this moment, it would take eight years to eliminate the substance from one's body. Children are especially affected. It is used widely enough for serious risk to human exposure.

The list that I have just enunciated contains the criteria that need to be matched to determine if a chemical is a threat to human health. It should be regulated because PFOS meets all of the criteria I have just mentioned in terms of its toxicity, being bioaccumulative and so on.

Listing PFOS as a toxic chemical in schedule 1 of CEPA does not eliminate the chemical from the environment. Instead, it just sets the stage for more consultation and comment. The studies have been done. Environment Canada and Health Canada agree that the only way to deal with PFOS is through virtual elimination. That was their recommendation in 2004, so I cannot see how it would change at this time.

Also, in the first hour of debate on this bill, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment stated, regarding the assessment period of listing PFOS under schedule 1 of CEPA, 1999:

The revised assessment concludes that PFOS is a persistent biocumulative and inherently toxic substance in the environment. Furthermore, the revised assessment concludes that PFOS is entering the environment in concentrations that may have a harmful effect on the environment.

That was part of the government's own statement. This is what the hon. member said and yet the government does not want to eliminate PFOS from the environment. That is totally irresponsible. Listing PFOS under schedule 1 of CEPA, 1999, and virtually eliminating it is not the same thing.

I hope the government decides to take the health of Canadians and the protection of the environment seriously and support my bill. However, with the joke that is its so-called environment plan, I doubt anything serious about the environment will come from the government.

Government members have stated themselves in their own statements that this substance is bioaccumulative and inherently toxic. What else do we need to know in order to eliminate it altogether? I believe this bill does that and I would ask the rest of the House to support it because it is one thing we can do for the environment.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Is the House ready for the question?

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

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

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


On No.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

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

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

All those opposed will please say nay.