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House of Commons Hansard #74 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

Hazardous Materials Information Review ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, perhaps I was confused. That happens sometimes; it is very human. We are here in the House and often we have information to give to colleagues. That sometimes disturbs the concentration that we require to speak on a subject.

I will continue my remarks. The Hazardous Materials Information Review Act governs the activities of the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission. That is an agency independent of the government with a quasi-judicial role. The commission plays a role in workplace health and safety and in the protection of industrial secrets.

The Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission is also a component of the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS). This system was developed by unions, industries and the federal, provincial and territorial governments. It provides information to workers who are in contact with hazardous materials and who need information for their own safety at work.

Why does such a system exist? As I have said, it serves to communicate all the information workers need concerning hazardous materials. All those workers who come into contact with hazardous products need to be protected. That is why the Bloc Québécois supports this bill, along with all the other stakeholders on this subject, including the workers, the industry, the unions and the manufacturers of these products.

WHMIS provides information in the form of data sheets and on labels. For example, if the information is contained on labels that are damaged and the information can not be properly read, a person who must work with that hazardous product can refuse to handle it. He or she can call for the manufacturer to provide information on the dangers of handling certain products. This provides a degree of safety for all workers, and especially for new employees, who also need the data sheet. That data sheet should be available at all times and should be placed in a location that is easily accessed. If it were under lock and key, workers would not have easy access to the data sheet, and that would be contrary to the objectives of the act.

The data sheet provides a list of all dangerous and toxic ingredients, as well as the precautions to be taken in handling the product. The data sheet also describes how to provide help to someone who is exposed to the product, or whose body or eyes have been in contact with the product. There are first aid procedures for anyone who has been in contact with a hazardous product. WHMIS is very important. It is very useful to have an established protocol that all companies must follow for the health and safety of employees in the workplace.

So, there is the establishment of WHMIS, the disclosure of information on the loss of competitive advantage and the disclosure of ingredients. Companies are uneasy about having to provide all the information about the manufacture of a dangerous product. I was going to say, “ a drug.” Since I am our health critic, I almost made a mistake. Really, this is a product that contains hazardous materials. This information must be disclosed; but some company information must remain secret when a product is marketed. The company asks for an exemption from disclosing certain information about certain products to their competitors.

There is a process to claim exemption from disclosure of this information. The bill sets out to ensure that this exemption claim, which is processed by the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission, is much easier to make than it is now.

Application for exemption from WHMIS documentation on how to use hazardous products safely will be much easier and will require much less red tape. It will cut to the chase.

Then we will see how a claimant can be exempt from having their information reviewed, while still providing information on the health and safety risks associated with their product's ingredients and their effects. Some information could also be provided that the companies do not want to disclose in order to protect their trade secrets. This process will be much easier and less restrictive.

Those who do not have trade secrets have no problem since there will be no documentation to provide on health and safety.

The companies will be subject to a review by a federal, provincial or territorial agency and not by the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission.

Others, who want to withdraw from this exemption, will continue their efforts with the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission.

The significance of the trade secrets will be carefully looked at. Not everyone will be exempt. Furthermore, the compliance of the company's material safety data sheet will be determined based on federal, provincial and territorial requirements. If the documents submitted are not satisfactory, then a new material safety data sheet may be required.

Bill S-2would make a number of changes. It would change the procedure by which a hazardous materials manufacturer can obtain an exemption from disclosing the confidential composition of its products.

As I said earlier, the organization that grants exemptions is the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission. This organization works with industry, associations and workers, who are the primary stakeholders.

I think this bill strikes a balance between the challenge of keeping workers safe while handling hazardous materials and industry’s right to protect trade secrets from the competition. The Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission will follow up and make the procedures more efficient. In fact, the commission's council of governors asked that the hazardous materials bill be amended in this way.

The commission was established in 1988. The data sheets were reviewed and 95% were found to be non-compliant. This bill makes it possible to determine whether the data sheets are providing accurate information not only on toxic substances but also on hazardous materials. How could we do a better job of training the people who work with these hazardous materials?

Over the past few years, eight or nine corrections have been required on each data sheet. Better protection for workers' health has also been implemented. There were hazards to their health. Monitoring was inadequate. This bill corrects that situation.

Workers must be given all available information to better protect their safety. The commission plays two roles: one in approving exemptions and the other in health protection with respect to exemptions.

The council of governors is the consultative body that sets policy for the commission. It was the council of governors that submitted the three amendments before us today. Only four out of more than 1,400 claims for exemption have been denied in the past. In addition, the documentation was too detailed, and the goal is to expedite this process because of the administrative burden it places on claimants and the commission.

I would now like to come back to the material safety data sheet. It must be available at all times, even for new workers. Quebec has a welcome protocol that provides new workers with information about a company's traditions and practices. But when it comes to hazardous materials, companies have to go beyond traditions and practices and support workers properly in handling these hazardous materials.

I think that this is the reason why the Bloc Québécois supports this bill. It is a question of facilitating the process to speed things up.

As well, many companies wanted to update their material safety data sheet and the information they gave their workers. The new bill can facilitate that. A company will now be allowed to act voluntarily instead of waiting to be notified to make a claim for exemption.

I think that this is a good idea, because if the company shows that it is willing to support its workers better in handling hazardous materials, it will not have to make a claim for exemption. It will be allowed to proceed voluntarily. That is why the Bloc Québécois supports this bill.

The Bloc is very proactive when it comes to the health and safety of workers. We have submitted a number of bills that were very proactive in this area. Take, for example, the bill introduced by my colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert on preventive withdrawal for pregnant workers who have to handle hazardous materials. Considerable caution is required.

And then there are replacement workers. It could be dangerous for them to work in places where they have to handle hazardous materials. We are already talking about the workers who are used to their job, but there are all the other workers, including replacement workers. My colleague's objective, or at least her concern, was to introduce a bill on replacement workers during a strike, should a company decide to use such workers. Taking that another step, if a replacement worker should have to work with hazardous materials it would be dangerous for him or her to do so. We have to think about workers who are in daily contact with hazardous materials.

I think I have covered the issue with respect to the body charged with implementing the new procedure. This is an improved procedure that is more functional and less restrictive, but also makes companies accountable. I think that when workers, the company and the people concerned agree with a bill and its amendments, then the Bloc Québécois—which has closely followed this issue and has the workers' interests at heart, as several bills confirm—also agrees. We will therefore also vote in favour of this Senate bill.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been consultations and I think you will find the unanimous consent of the House for the following motion. I move:

That statements by ministers be taken up after oral questions tomorrow.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. minister have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Hazardous Materials Information Review ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate my colleague for her excellent presentation on Bill S-2 regarding hazardous materials.

My question is simple. The hon. member represents a very beautiful riding, Quebec City—one of the oldest cities of our nation of Quebec—which has developed and evolved considerably, and has been extensively renovated. Many products containing hazardous materials were used to make these magnificent improvements to Quebec City.

I would like the hon. member to give the House a brief overview of the work that has been done in Quebec City and to tell us about the workers who worked there, who are currently working there in construction and who may receive assistance thanks to this bill.

Quebec City has undertaken some magnificent improvements and renovations because it will soon be celebrating its 400th anniversary. Can the member tell us how the city is getting gussied up for this event?

Hazardous Materials Information Review ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

The city is certainly gussying itself up. We hope, though, that this bill will provide more assurances to the workers who come into contact with hazardous materials. The city is fixing itself up for its 400th anniversary and a number of projects are underway. We have been talking about the health and safety of workers in contact with hazardous materials. In my view, though, we need to go further in workplace health and safety and take a broader view of these materials.

My hon. colleague was speaking about construction workers. When I was a college student, I did some papers on workplace health and safety. In the old days in pulp and paper plants, for example, they did not have safety railings. Workers walked along in front of machines that could shred a human body in five seconds. One of my uncles passed out and fell into a machine. We need to be sensitive to this kind of thing when we think about our working people.

I could list all the things being done at construction sites in beautiful Quebec City, as my colleague requested. However, I will have to keep that for another speech because I would not have time to list all the major projects in the city in just a few seconds. We hope that the federal government will support one of the major projects that can also be dangerous for construction workers: the improvements to the Quebec bridge, which have not been made yet.

There will certainly be some fine work done. However, one thing will not get done, despite the federal government's promise: removing the rust from the Quebec bridge. It is too late for 2008. The bridge will remain rusty and all our fine visitors will see it like that. It is too late because the necessary decisions were not made on time. I have high hopes, though, that the Bloc Québécois will finally force the government to move because this will be an important election issue in the next campaign.

Hazardous Materials Information Review ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her speech on Bill S-2.

As we know in the House the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission is part of WHMIS which is the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System. This is a communications system which provides workers with information on the safe handling of hazardous materials used in the workplace.

I noted that since 1988 the commission has registered a total of just over 5,200 claims and that presently there are 1,450 active claims. To help rectify this matter the council of governors has put forward some legislative proposals such as, first, allowing claimants to declare that the information for which an exemption is sought is confidential business information and that full justification is available and will be provided on request; second, allowing claimants to enter into undertakings with the commission to voluntarily correct health and safety information when it is found non-compliant with applicable legislation; and third, allowing the commission to provide factual information to independent appeal boards.

I would like to put a question to my colleague. In her dealings with business and industry, and in her dealings with workers, what sort of feedback has she received from those two different groups with respect to Bill S-2 and these amendments that we would like to bring forward on WHMIS?

Hazardous Materials Information Review ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was not at the committee to hear the witnesses’ presentation. However, I can say that this decision was made by the council of governors of the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission. As well, the industry as a whole, labour, and the federal government are involved in this review commission. All of the stakeholders who were entitled to speak to express their desire for change were in favour of Bill S-2. You know very well that if there had been a risk to workers, or if labour had not agreed with this bill, we would have studied it further and we would have gone into much greater depth in our consideration of it.

I think that it would be a step in the right direction to provide better monitoring of safety in the workplace and in terms of the information that has to be provided. We know that labelling and material safety data sheets are very important. The council of governors, which has chosen this arrangement, was in contact with the entire industry, and especially with labour. We know that the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission is made up of 18 people, nonetheless. Some of them represent the provinces and territories and the federal government, others represent labour unions and businesses. It is somewhat rare to see so many people around a table supporting a bill. There was ultimately consensus on this question.

This is why the Bloc Québécois wants to see it pass.

Hazardous Materials Information Review ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is the House ready for the question?

Hazardous Materials Information Review ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Hazardous Materials Information Review ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

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

Hazardous Materials Information Review ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Hazardous Materials Information Review ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Health.

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

The House resumed from May 5 consideration of the motion that Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I started this speech last June I believe and I do not intend to speak very long. I am not sure whether there will be other speakers. I would like to compliment the former minister of transport who brought in Bill C-62 over a year ago and which has now been reintroduced.

After years of consultations with stakeholders it was noted that we would do the following: first, we would implement new strategies to regulate aviation safety; second, we would increase penalties for violations under the act; and third, modernize the act to meet the needs of the aviation community.

A press release from the Minister of Transport stated:

The proposed amendments to the Aeronautics Act reflect new strategies being implemented to regulate aviation safety, including an increase in penalties that may be imposed under the act. Key amendments would also allow individuals and operators to confidentially report, on a voluntary basis, less safety-critical regulatory violations.

If we look back at the record of this Parliament, we would find that a number of the bills that are being tabled in the House are in fact the reintroduction of bills that were introduced by the previous Liberal government. That bodes well. Parliament is working and will continue the important legislation that is in the best interests of all Canadians.

There are two proposed amendments to this bill. The first amendment would allow individuals and operators to confidentially report on a voluntary basis what is described as a “less safety critical regulatory violation”. I am not sure that we have the assurance of the minister as to what constitutes a less safety critical regulatory violation. I am going to be interested to hear more on this subject. If they are not serious violations, why do they have to be confidential? There are some questions here. We want to know if there will be an opportunity for members of Parliament to be briefed on a number of such reports and their nature.

The second amendment would allow the Canadian government to obtain information through any air accidents that happen outside of Canada through new and expanded powers being allotted to the military and to the Minister of National Defence. In the interests of transparency, I am wondering what checks and balances will be on these new powers?

We are paving the way to ensuring that all the information is available to authorities, especially in tragic accidents. There is a balance to be struck. We on this side of the House would like the Minister of Transport and the Minister of National Defence to take some time to assure us that measures are in place to ensure that these powers will be strictly adhered to. We also expect that there will be a report to parliamentarians in any case where this amendment comes into play and has to be exercised.

As a result of all the hard work of the former minister of transport in creating this legislation, we will be supporting it. We hope the government will uphold the spirit of this legislation.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the question I will ask my colleague is a simple one.

The effect of this bill will be to institute what the government and Transport Canada call a new monitoring system, a management system that will assign responsibility for ensuring safety to the airlines, which will have to regulate themselves.

I would like my colleague to explain how this will be safer than it is now. As we speak, inspectors and pilot inspectors are doing inspections, without warning, to ascertain whether airlines are complying with the rules.

Now, a management system is being created that will have the industry regulating itself. Ultimately, the industry is to discipline itself when it comes to monitoring and ensuring the safety of the industry.

I would like my colleague to explain how this will be better than what is done today. As we speak, inspectors and pilot inspectors are carrying out completely unscheduled inspections. They arrive without notice to check the condition of the aircraft, the quality of the piloting, etc. This is to be replaced by a system managed by the industry itself. I would like my colleague to explain how this will be better than what is done at present.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member has asked a very good question.

Very simply, we can state that the new powers and duties will be comparable to those exercised by the Transportation Safety Board investigators examining civilian accidents. If he is interested in how this bill brings that closer in terms of the level and the quality of the work done, the bill includes: the status of the Airworthiness Investigative Authority making available any on-board recording obtained in the course of an investigation of a military-civilian occurrence; a coroner who requests access to it for the purpose of the investigation that the coroner is conducting; and to any person carrying out the coordinated investigation under section 18 of the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act; or, finally, to a board of inquiry convened under section 45 of the National Defence Act by the minister, if he or she requests a recording be made available, the occurrence did not take place in or over Canada and it involved an aircraft operated by the Canadian Forces.

The bottom line is that it basically harmonizes the provisions that we see under the investigations of civilian accidents with those now being referred to in this bill.

The House resumed from October 31 consideration of the motion.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion to concur in the second report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food in the name of the hon. member for Malpeque.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #52

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.