House of Commons Hansard #41 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pfos.


Opposition Motion--SeniorsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I would like the member for Gatineau's attention for a moment.

Does he plan to share his time with another member?

Opposition Motion--SeniorsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am sharing my time with the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, as I mentioned in my speech.

Opposition Motion--SeniorsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

In that case, resuming debate.

The hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.

Opposition Motion--SeniorsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on this issue because the status of seniors deserves the attention of the House of Commons. In that sense, those who introduced the motion deserve recognition for their efforts. I have read the text of the motion, and it seems to me that many of the items mentioned fall under provincial jurisdiction. In the end, we cannot support this motion because it would mean spending twice as much money—money that could otherwise be allocated directly to seniors.

That said, today it is important to recognize the contribution seniors have made to history in Quebec and Canada, and to recognize that the old age pension plan was a good social program introduced years ago in Canada. I remember that when I was a child, seniors did not have enough money left at the end of the month. Life expectancy was shorter. We had those kinds of problems.

A good program was put in place, but over the years there were major problems of fairness. Permit me to pay tribute to Marcel Gagnon, our former member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain, who is now retired. During his term of office, he paid particular attention to the issue of the guaranteed income supplement. We came to realize that tens of thousands of seniors were not receiving the guaranteed income supplement. Marcel Gagnon took up his staff, like a pilgrim, and set out on a tour of virtually every seniors’ association and seniors' community in Quebec so that these people could be informed. He also mobilized the members of the Bloc. He did sufficient work that after two months the human resources department decided to put out leaflets. The department decided to seek people out as well, because it realized that certain persons were doing the work that it should normally be doing itself.

It was not that public servants were not doing their job: this was the result of choices made by the Liberal government in 1994 and 1995. You will recall that it was absolutely necessary to fight the deficit, to make cuts everywhere. Employment insurance was slashed in every possible way, in terms of both eligibility and in the amounts of the benefits. The same thing was done with seniors. The former finance minister—who became Prime Minister and was defeated in the last election—even proposed replacing the old age security pension with another program that would have been very expensive for every individual. That was shelved because of substantial pressure from seniors. I want to congratulate Marcel Gagnon, thank him for the work he has done on this, and also let him know the gratitude that we owe him.

Today there is one point which has not been resolved, and that is the retroactivity of the guaranteed income supplement. We have completed our tax returns and sent them in. If the government is not satisfied with what they contain and finds that the amount declared is not enough, it can go back five years, I believe, to check if things were done correctly. However, things are different when it owes money to seniors. I could give the example of a lady of 70, 75, or maybe even 78 years of age. Her husband died. The way things were done at the time, it was the husband who took care of all things financial. Suddenly the wife inherited this situation which she knew nothing about. For a year or two, she received no guaranteed income supplement, at age 78 or 79. We found this woman. The Bloc helped her recover her guaranteed income supplement, but its retroactive application is 11 months maximum.

Often people are owed four or five years of retroactivity. This would allow them to live out their days in dignity. There was no indication of this in the government's actions and no indication of it in this motion either. This should be put forward. This should be proposed. We are one of the most developed countries in the world. A society should be judged on how it treats the least fortunate. We should not look just at GDP, but at how a country gives the least fortunate the support they need. More effort needs to be made to that effect and we are just not seeing it.

An effort should be made. We have to take another look at the basket that determines the inflation rate and the consumer price index, on which increases to old age pensions are based. The CPI, the consumer price index, gives us the average situation. Seniors have very specific expenses. They need more drugs and special equipment. They need to buy accessories to be able to get into their bathtub without breaking a hip; they have to use taxis more often than other people because they no longer have a driver's licence. All these things represent a cost and I think this should be included in the calculation of the consumer price index, especially for seniors. This does not exist and we should go in that direction.

There are people who receive regular increases to their old age pension and their supplement. However, these increases never cover what they have been paying for the last three or four years because everything cost them more.

There is a need for action here. The government has to listen to organizations such as golden age clubs, clubs for people 50 and older.

I am a proud member of the club in La Pocatière, which breaks through a lot of social isolation. It lets people get together and enjoy themselves. It is very worthwhile, and I think that these kinds of movements and organizations should be encouraged and should have access to the resources they need to serve seniors. This is a very active contribution to our society.

In rural communities, many people become pillars of volunteerism in our society at 60 or 65. There must be dedicated volunteers in urban communities as well, but I am less familiar with that environment. Often these are people who help children learn to read in volunteer clubs. There are hundreds of examples of such activities, and they deserve to be recognized.

The motion before us, which is full of goodwill, would require substantial investment in bureaucracy. A lot of spending would be duplicated. The motion refers to a secretariat; Quebec already has one. It refers to other similar types of spending that are already happening.

This is another characteristic of seniors: they worked hard, they earned their money and they hate waste. To understand this, one just had to listen to what people in the golden age clubs had to say last year about the sponsorship scandal. The people at these clubs were really angry. Long-standing Liberals wanted nothing more to do with the party, because they felt as though they had been scammed by their own people. In short, seniors do not like waste, and they would not like to see infrastructure being duplicated for them or more money being spent for them, but not reaching them directly.

I think that seniors would be best served by a good indexing system, an adequate guaranteed income supplement. As well, people must be able to have this supplement, and if they did not receive it at the appropriate time, it must be paid to them retroactively so that they can move forward. This is an important concern.

For example, the Fédération des Clubs de l'Âge d'Or de l'Est du Québec is organizing a two-day seminar for seniors this fall. I invite everyone to participate, those aged 50 and older, but also younger people. There will be workshops for people of all ages. It is important that people aged 25, 30, and 35 know what those aged 55, 60 and 65 are experiencing. This will help to discourage selfish behaviour and a lack of interest in seniors' problems. Mutual solidarity can only be advantageous. Such action will allow us to achieve positive results.

I believe we need to break a stereotype that exists about seniors: that everyone lives very comfortably with their old age pension. The reality is quite the opposite. Many women live a little longer than men. These people who live alone, who have rent to pay, often find themselves in difficult personal situations. One would have to visit a rooming house to see how things really are.

Our focus should be on finding a way, especially if the federal government has a surplus of $12 billion, to redistribute the wealth in our society, so as to give a little more to those who have given their lives to our society. This is the least we can do as a sign of respect, in order to ensure them a decent existence in their later years.

Opposition Motion--SeniorsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.


Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the following question of the distinguished member who is quite familiar with the situation: what does he think we could say to the Conservative government so that it would show respect to seniors in the matter of the guaranteed income supplement? The current government seems somewhat at a loss.

I know that there are parliamentary secretaries present—at least one—and a minister, who could listen carefully and put forward some plans to respect the seniors of Quebec and Canada.

Opposition Motion--SeniorsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from the Outaouais, a dedicated sovereignist and a symbol of the Bloc Québécois contribution, since it arrived here, to defending the interests of Quebec.

The Outaouais is not an area where the majority are in favour of sovereignty. Significant progress has been made and the type of action by the Bloc Québécois means that today we have a member from the Outaouais who represents the interests of Quebec, as desired by Quebeckers. He is not a representative of Ottawa in the Outaouais; he is a representative of the Outaouais in Ottawa. I wish to thank him.

Insofar as the elderly are concerned, the best thing that the government could do regarding the guaranteed income supplement would be to take a photograph of the reality and make it public. There are still 63,000 senior citizens who should receive the guaranteed income supplement but do not. That must change. We should be able to see from this photograph whether the government is making things as easy as possible for the elderly or whether they have to fill out forms year after year and re-do their calculations. Nowadays, calculations can be done automatically in many fields. Help is provided so that people can have computerized services. And yet, no automatic calculations are done for these people. They are not sent a letter telling them that the calculations have been done and they are entitled to a certain supplement. Efforts could be made as well to check whether that suits them.

Someone who is getting the minimum old age pension and would receive an additional $100 could talk things over with his or her family to see whether it makes much sense.

The government should table figures and report on the situation to the relevant parliamentary committee. The parliamentarians on this committee could then decide what to do.

At the present time, the situation is still murky and hard to follow. Human Resources and Social Development Canada now provides information so that people can get their guaranteed income supplement. This is thanks to the efforts of the Bloc Québécois and, more especially, Mr. Marcel Gagnon. But more needs to be done. The current situation should be explained, for example, that this many million people receive the supplement but this many tens of thousands still do not, even though they are entitled to it. The search for them must continue.

There should be some inter-generational information. People who are 50 or 55 years of age should be asked to check whether their parents are getting what is due to them. The elderly are often very proud and reluctant to say that they are short of money. Maybe the money they need is what the federal government already owes them.

The best thing would still be to give them what is owed and make it retroactive. If the federal government decided to give money to everyone we have found over the last two, three or four years, we could then say that it had done a good job.

Opposition Motion--SeniorsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.


France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to everyone talk about seniors. It is true that they are our best asset. They help out a great deal, especially with children, and are involved in literacy initiatives.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has a surplus of over $4.3 billion. I would like my hon. colleague to tell us what tangible measures this government could propose to help house seniors.

Opposition Motion--SeniorsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, the CMHC is not a private enterprise but a crown corporation. It should invest a significant portion of its surplus—totalling several billion dollars—in affordable housing so that seniors can be decently housed. We should also provide older workers with a program so that they may have a decent and adequate retirement when they can no longer find work.

Opposition Motion--SeniorsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance has 20 minutes.

Opposition Motion--SeniorsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Calgary Nose Hill Alberta


Diane Ablonczy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to respond to the motion by the hon. member for Hamilton Mountain. I wholeheartedly agree that Canada's seniors deserve our support, but frankly, I am a bit surprised by the hon. member's motion. Canada's support for seniors is one of the major success stories of government policy in the postwar era.

In fact, Canada is unique among the OECD countries in terms of the effect--

Opposition Motion--SeniorsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Mississauga South is rising on a point of order, but before he does, I would like to correct myself. Although the parliamentary secretary has 20 minutes, we must interrupt at 5:54 to put the question, so the parliamentary secretary has maybe 15 minutes and not 20. Was this the point of order?

Opposition Motion--SeniorsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to ensure that the member was able to get to her real points. I wanted to make the same point.

Opposition Motion--SeniorsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.


Diane Ablonczy Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his consideration in this matter. It is good to have clarity.

Canada is unique among OECD countries in terms of the effectiveness and sustainability of our retirement income system. We are proud of that and rightly so.

Canada's approach to ensuring income security among seniors has been built on a multi-pillared foundation of a diversified retirement income system based on a mix of public and private pensions.

First, there is the basic income support through old age security pensions and the guaranteed income supplement. These benefits ensure a minimum level of income to over 4.2 million Canadian seniors, providing them with almost $32 billion each and every year.

There are earnings related pensions and insurance benefits provided under the Canada pension plan and Quebec pension plan. According to the chief actuary of the Canada pension plan, the CPP is financially sustainable. It will be there for seniors for at least the next 75 years. This is a solid plan that our seniors can count on.

In addition, both the old age security and the Canada pension plan are already fully indexed to inflation. This ensures that the value of public pension benefits are not eroded by inflation.

In addition to this and bearing in mind the motion we are debating today, and also recognizing that federal surpluses in excess of $3 billion may arise, the Government of Canada has indicated its openness to consider options to allocate unplanned surpluses and in particular, to discuss with the provinces and territories the possibility of introducing legislation authorizing the allocation of a portion of unanticipated surpluses at fiscal year end to the Canada pension plan and the Quebec pension plan.

This would allow unplanned surpluses to be used for the future benefit of Canadians to improve intergenerational equity. There is not just one group in society for whom we need to think about fairness, but all segments of society, and possibly allow for lower contribution rates in the medium term. It is always nice to have lower taxes.

The third pillar of Canada's retirement income system is tax deferred private retirement savings, which include registered pension plans and RRSPs. These plans are important because they provide Canadians with real incentives to save for their retirement and to help bridge the gap between public pension benefits and their retirement income goals.

I would like to expand for a moment on this third pillar, because the protection of pension benefits is an important issue to the federal government. Canada has a solid regulatory framework in place to ensure that the rights and interests of pension plan members, of retirees and their beneficiaries are protected. This new government is committed to further improving the regulation of private pension plans to ensure that these rights and interests continue to be protected.

Based on responses received from a consultation process launched last year and in light of the funding challenges facing some private defined benefit pension plans, the federal government has recently proposed measures that will help re-establish full funding of these federally regulated defined benefit pension plans to re-establish full funding in an orderly fashion while providing safeguards for promised pension benefits.

We are determined that seniors and those who will become seniors will be able to count on this income support, on these savings, on these programs in their retirement years. We will not just sit back and see what develops. Our government will continue to actively monitor the issue of defined benefit pension plans to ensure that these plans continue to be viable. The government will therefore consider any further action that becomes necessary.

This new government is working to ensure that our retirement systems are sustainable for the future. However, this government is doing so much more to help Canadians, particularly low income Canadians, which includes low income senior citizens.

First, we are reducing the goods and services tax by one percentage point as of July 1, Canada Day. This is a tax reduction for all Canadians, including those whose incomes are too low to pay any income tax. This will provide immediate tax relief starting July 1, 2006. We have also committed to a further tax relief by reducing the GST a further percentage point in a future budget.

Second, budget 2006 reduces the lowest personal income tax rate from its currently legislated rate of 16% down to 15.5%. As well, the budget includes a basic personal amount that is tax free so that it grows each year and remains above currently legislated levels for 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Budget 2006 contains a measure of particular interest to Canadians receiving private pension income. Budget 2006 doubles the maximum amount of tax free pension income that can be claimed under the pension income credit, now up to $2,000. This measure, effective for this year and subsequent taxation years, will benefit nearly 2.7 million taxpayers receiving eligible pension income. That is a lot of seniors and a lot of future seniors. What is more, it will remove approximately 85,000 pensioners from the tax rolls.

This is the first time in more than 20 years that the pension income credit amount has been increased. It was originally introduced as a $1,000 deduction in 1975.

Many seniors are regular users of our public transit systems and to encourage public transit usage, budget 2006 will provide a tax credit on the purchase cost of monthly public transit passes or passes of a longer duration. This is once again effective on Canada Day. A lot of good things are happening on Canada Day. This measure will encourage public transit use by providing millions of dollars and will benefit approximately two million Canadians who make a sustained commitment to use this environmentally friendly mode of transportation. All transit users, including seniors, will qualify.

In summing up, seniors have made Canada what it is today. Seniors deserve, not only our respect for this work, but our support to allow them to continue to enjoy their later lives after a lifetime of contributing to our society. This new government has taken additional action to provide that support. We are committed to ensuring that programs and services for Canada's senior population continue to be fair and help meet their needs.

Opposition Motion--SeniorsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It being 5:54 p.m., pursuant to order made earlier today, all questions necessary to dispose of the business of supply are deemed put, a recorded division is deemed demanded and deferred to Tuesday, June 20, 2006, at the end of the oral question period.

It being 5:54 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

moved 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.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to be here today to talk about this bill which represents an important step in protecting the health of Canadians and our environment. Bill C-298 seeks the elimination from our environment of a chemical that poses a threat to the health of Canadians. This chemical, PFOS, is currently not regulated in Canada in any way.

First, allow me to explain briefly what PFOS is and what it is used for, then I will say why we need to eliminate it from our lives and from our environment.

PFOS is one of a larger class of chemicals known as PFCs. These chemicals are mainly used in consumer products for their non-stick, stain repellant and water repellant properties. PFOS itself is used mostly as a stain repellant in various consumer products, as well as in certain industrial applications.

Consumer products that may contain PFOS include rugs, carpets, fabric, upholstery, clothing, food packaging and certain industrial and household cleaners. Other applications include firefighting foams, hydraulic fluids, carpet spot removers, mining and oil well applications and metal plating processes, such as chrome plating.

The most famous application of PFOS was in the Scotchguard products manufactured by 3M. 3M voluntarily stopped using PFOS in 2000 at the urging of the U.S. EPA, citing the health and environmental dangers posed by the chemical.

I will turn now to the question of why we need to eliminate PFOS from our environment and from our lives. The risks posed by PFOS has been examined by a number of countries and by international bodies as well. They have all come to essentially the same conclusions: PFOS is a threat to human health and the environment.

Most of the health studies we have on the effects of PFOS deal with animals. In animals PFOS has been found to cause breast cancer, liver cancer and thyroid cancer and is known to harm the pancreas, the brain and the immune system.

PFOS is more persistent in the environment than DDT and PCBs. It is quite an awful piece of work. It is also persistent in the human body. Even if we could eliminate PFOS from our environment immediately, it would take eight years on average for our bodies to get rid of half of the PFOS in our systems.

In 2000, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said:

that continued manufacture and use of PFOS represents an unacceptable technology that should be eliminated to protect human health and the environment from potentially severe long term consequences.

Those are strong words.

In April 2004, Environment Canada and Health Canada completed their own assessments of PFOS. They came to essentially the same conclusion. There are four basic questions that we need to ask when deciding whether a chemical poses a sufficient risk to human health and the environment that it should be regulated.

First, is the substance inherently toxic, that is, does it pose a health risk to humans or wildlife? Second, does it persist for long periods of time in the environment without breaking down into harmless compounds? Three, does it bioaccumulate, in other words, does it become more concentrated as it moves up the food chain? Four, is it used widely enough or in such a manner that there is a serious risk of human exposure?

PFOS meets all of these criteria. In its April 2004 assessment, Environment Canada concluded that PFOS is persistent, bioaccumulative and inherently toxic. Similarly the U.S. EPA stated that, “PFOS appears to combine persistence, bioaccumulation and toxicity properties to an extraordinary degree”.

As to the fourth factor, the risk of exposure, we know that virtually all Canadians and Canadian wildlife are being exposed to PFOS. I will read briefly from the summary published by Environment Canada and Health Canada in the Canada Gazette. It states:

PFOS has been detected throughout the world, including in areas distant from sources, and in virtually all fish and wildlife sampled in the northern hemisphere, including Canadian wildlife in remote sites, far from sources or manufacturing facilities of PFOS and its precursors.

This suggests, not only that PFOS is pervasive in our environment, but that it travels very long distances once it enters the environment. As such, it is not only a risk for those using products that contain PFOS, the risk of exposure affects everyone.

What about human exposure? We have data on that as well. New and emerging evidence suggests that human exposure to PFOS is pervasive in Canada. Environmental Defence Canada has conducted two studies in which it tested Canadians from across the country to see if they had PFOS and a number of other chemicals in their bodies. This type of study is called body load testing.

The first report published in November 2005 tested 11 adults from across Canada. It found that all of them had PFOS in their bodies. The second, published just a couple of weeks ago, looked at members of five families in various regions of the country, parents, children and grandparents. Once again, all study participants had PFOS in their bodies.

The second report also revealed something new and very troubling. The concentration levels in children were higher than those in their parents. This means that dealing with PFOS is a serious and urgent question of children's health. Children may in fact be more vulnerable to the effects of toxic chemicals like PFOS because their bodies are growing and developing rapidly. The fact that they have higher levels of PFOS in their systems means that we need to act now, not later.

This all adds up to the fact that PFOS poses a danger to Canadians' health and the environment. I doubt that we will hear anyone dispute this fact in the House today. Among those I have talked to so far, everyone seems to agree that PFOS poses an unacceptable risk. The question is what we should do about it. What action should we take?

I mentioned earlier that Environment Canada and Health Canada completed a draft assessment of PFOS in April 2004. On the basis of that assessment, the ministers of these departments made two proposals for action. These were published in the Canada Gazette on October 2, 2004.

The first recommendation was that PFOS be added to the list of toxic substances under CEPA which is found in schedule 1. The second recommendation was the implementation of virtual elimination of PFOS. This is precisely what Bill C-298 proposes to do. It requires the virtual elimination of PFOS.

Virtual elimination has a specific meaning under CEPA, which is laid out in clause 65 of the bill. It means that the substance cannot be released into the environment at any level or concentration that cannot be accurately measured using sensitive but routine sampling and analytical methods. Essentially, the chemicals should not be entering the environment at any level that is detectable using the best commonly available measurement techniques. As I understand it, virtual elimination, as its name suggests, is a mechanism that is intended to eliminate harmful substances like PFOS from our environment.

If Environment Canada and Health Canada have already recommended the virtual elimination of PFOS, why do we need a bill? There are two reasons.

Given the mounting evidence about the risk posed to Canada by PFOS, we must ensure that our response is speedy and we must ensure that it is adequate. Neither of these things is assured if we simply continue down the normal regulatory path.

In terms of the response being speedy, allow me to outline what moving forward with the normal regulatory process might look like.

As I understand it, the next step would normally be another publication in the Canada Gazette, accompanied by a recommendation to the governor in council. In the Canada Gazette posting, the ministers would outline the process they intended to follow to develop a regulation or instrument to address the risk posed by PFOS. After that, they would have two years to actually propose a regulation or an instrument. Once they have made this proposal, they would another 18 months to review feedback on what they have proposed.

After 18 months, if no material or substantive changes are required, the regulation or instrument would be published. By my account, this means that if we were to take the next step tomorrow, we might be a little over three years away from an actual regulation to address the threat of PFOS.

More than two years after the initial assessment was completed, the prospect of waiting another three or four years before anything gets done to address the threat posed by PFOS is simply unconscionable. There are ways that the ministers could choose to act more expeditiously.

These are outlined in the bill as well. I do not want to speculate on what path the ministers might choose to take, but the bottom line is that for the sake of our children and for the sake of our environment, we need to act now, not later.

In my opinion, this bill is the right way to do that because it ensures that not only is the response timely, it is also adequate.

It is the nature of the regulatory process that until we have a final regulation, we do not actually know what the response will be. Without knowing specifically what the minister intends to recommend, I cannot comment on whether or not it would be an adequate response. I can say that experience has taught us that merely adding a chemical to the list of toxic substances does not guarantee significant action. In fact, it does not guarantee any action at all.

This bill avoids that problem. If Parliament were to pass this bill, they would know what kind of response they would get to the threat posed by PFOS. They would know it would be adequate and they would know it would be carried out in a timely fashion.

Other countries have already taken action to protect their citizens and their environment from exposure to PFOS. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of PFOS in 2000, with the exception of a few very specific applications. Other countries have since moved to ban or severely restrict the use of PFOS. Sweden has proposed a global ban on the substance under the Stockholm convention on persistent organic pollutants, sometimes called the POPs treaty.

The POPs committee is now moving forward with its consideration of PFOS to decide if it should be included under the Stockholm treaty. A draft report prepared for the committee in May of this year found that PFOS meets all of the criteria for inclusion. The report concludes with the following statement:

Due to the harmful POP properties and risks related to its possible continuing production and use, global action is warranted to eliminate the pollution caused by PFOS.

Incidentally, we also learned from this report that Environment Canada and Health Canada have revised their ecological and human health assessments on PFOS and that the revised versions should be publicly available soon. I look forward to seeing these.

Sweden is right. PFOS belongs on this list of persistent organic pollutants banned under the Stockholm treaty, but in the meantime we need to deal with it here at home. We simply cannot allow Canada to lag behind when it comes to protecting human health and the environment. We must act now, not later, to protect Canadians from exposure to PFOS. That is the objective of this bill, and I hope that all parties and all members will support it.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague across the way for her concern about this chemical. I have a couple of questions for her.

First, this product has not been allowed to be sold in Canada since 2002. It is in the process. CEPA is dealing with it, basically to get this banned. My worry is, and I think all Canadians and my hon. colleague across the way should be concerned, that this private member's bill could actually hamper the efforts of CEPA.

Second, why, after the 13 years that her party was in government, was the thing not banned in that time? I would like that answered. Why does she not just let the CEPA process work because this bill could actually damage that? I would like to hear her comments on that.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find it strange how this could possibly hamper the process.

First, with respect to the previous government, the regulatory process is very complex and it takes a long time. I have outlined in fact why it takes a long time.

Second, there is new evidence which demonstrates that PFOS is a real problem in the Canadian context. We need to act now, rather than later.

When we put together the new evidence, as I said earlier, a great deal of time is taken to actually address the situation. I do not believe that we can wait that long.

Third, my understanding is that CEPA is not looking to ban the product. As I understand it, it is looking to list it, which is not the exact same thing. It can be listed as a toxic substance, but that in itself does not deal with the issue nor does it take it out of the environment entirely.

When I was the minister responsible for international cooperation, I was responsible at the time to deal with the issue of POPs, persistent organic pollutants. As part of Canada's response to the environment on the international scene, I was responsible to work with POPs in developing countries.

The reason that Canada was involved in investing money with developing countries to eliminate the use of persistent organic pollutants is because they are landing in northern Canada. We have a very direct interest in this issue. The reason why POPs are banned is because they are persistent and they stay in the environment. They are bioaccumulative.

Canada was very aggressively involved with developing countries with regard to the elimination of POPs, first because they were bad for everyone in the world, but also because they were landing in our north.

Exactly the same thing is happening with PFOS. In fact, as I said earlier, this substance is even more persistent than some of the other ones. PFOS is harder to get rid of in the environment and in the system. It takes decades and maybe never. PFOS affects children more than it affects adults. Quite frankly, I do not see how a bill that is addressing a very serious issue could hamper the work that CEPA is doing.

I presume and I know that the review certainly can integrate whatever decision the House makes. Quite frankly, Parliament can make decisions that are over and above whatever CEPA is doing. I do not see how that would hamper it.

As I said, this substance is serious. It is bad. In Stockholm, the United States, even the company 3M has stopped using it. In fact, Environment Canada in 2004 stated that it should be quasi-listed and virtually eliminated. Now we are talking about listing it as a toxin. That is not sufficient.

I think that this substance is bad for children, bad for our environment, and bad for the country. We should do as other countries have already done and continue to do. It should be listed.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Langley B.C.


Mark Warawa ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to begin by thanking the member for her work on this file and her obvious concern for the environment.

The government does not support Bill C-298, her private member's bill, dealing with the chemical substance perfluorooctane sulfonate, known as PFOS.

Both the ministers of environment and health have already conducted a draft assessment on the risks of PFOS that it may pose to both humans and the environment, and the member acknowledged that in her speech. The ministers will also follow up with proposed actions to manage identified risks.

The government has an open and transparent process under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, known as CEPA 99, to assess and manage the risks posed by substances such as PFOS. Under the current legislation in CEPA 99 substances come forward for a scientific risk assessment. The risks of the scientific assessment are then used to initiative appropriate risk management actions.

As members of the House are aware, CEPA 99 was enacted to protect the environment and human health. As I said earlier, the departments of environment and health have been actively evaluating the science of PFOS in order to make sound decisions concerning the risks that PFOS may pose and the most suitable risk management actions to take if required.

As part of the science assessment the departments consider all available scientific information concerning PFOS and follow an open and transparent assessment process as required under CEPA 99.

Officials from Environment Canada and Health Canada have drafted a screening risk assessment of PFOS. As part of the process a draft assessment was released in October 2004 for review by a large number of scientific experts in the field. It was formally released to solicit public comment.

In releasing the draft assessment the ministers gave notice of their intent to recommend that PFOS be added to the list of toxic substances under CEPA 99. All comments received on the proposal and assessment were carefully considered and incorporated into the assessment where appropriate.

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. These conclusions have not changed from the initial draft assessment. Canada's conclusions are also in agreement with the assessment decisions and actions of other countries.

The revised assessment states that PFOS meets criteria established under section 64 of CEPA 99. In examining the risks posed by this substance to humans, it was concluded that concentrations of PFOS do not currently constitute a danger in Canada to human life or health. The final science risk assessment should be published shortly.

I would like to now provide some context on what PFOS is, its use and its potential impact on the Canadian environment. PFOS has been used primarily for oil, grease and water repellants, specifically used on rugs, carpets, fabric, upholstery and food packaging. The hon. member mentioned some of those. PFOS has also some specialized uses such as firefighting foams and hydraulic fluids.

It should be emphasized that PFOS is not manufactured in Canada. PFOS is not in the Canadian marketplace and is largely unavailable to the average Canadian consumer. Emerging science shows that PFOS is found around the globe in the environment and wildlife.

Transported over long distances by air movements and ocean currents, PFOS is found in remote regions such as the Arctic. Some of the highest concentrations measured in the world are in polar bears in the Canadian Arctic. Leading Canadian scientists have spearheaded this groundbreaking research.

PFOS has been found in many fish, fish-eating birds and Arctic mammals such as polar bears. It has been shown to accumulate in animal tissue and concentrating in increasing amounts up the food chain.

These concentrations are at or approaching the levels known to cause harm to wildlife. Harmful effects can include regressing growth in birds and aquatic invertebrates, liver and thyroid effects in mammals, lethality in fish and changes to biodiversity. Concentrations of PFOS in polar bears are higher than any other known persistent organic pollutants, otherwise known as POPs.

Therefore, as noted previously, the ministers gave notice that based on available information, they propose adding PFOS to the list of toxic substances.

The problem with Bill C-298 is that it would disrupt the process that is currently under way to develop a comprehensive risk management strategy. This proposed risk management strategy will ensure the protection of the health of Canadians and their environment. Under the existing legislation and regulatory framework, the Department of the Environment will soon propose a risk management strategy, in consultation with stakeholders, to address PFOS and to ensure the protection of the environment.

Furthermore, the department's proposed risk management actions will be consistent with international actions and activities on this substance. For example, the United States has established restrictions to control new uses of PFOS. The United Kingdom has proposed restrictions on the supply and use of PFOS. Sweden has filed a proposal to the European Commission for a national ban on PFOS. The European Union has proposed market instruments and use restrictions of PFOS in 2006.

Canada is engaged in multinational efforts to address the risks posed by this substance. For example, Canada is a signatory of a number of relevant international agreements. We acknowledge the nomination of PFOS to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe protocol on long range transboundary air pollution, and its nomination to the Stockholm convention on persistent organic pollutants.

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

In conclusion, we do not want to jeopardize the assessment process as it nears completion for PFOS. It is clear that under its current powers and authorities the government is committed to the control of toxic substances and pollution prevention. The necessary steps are being taken to further the continued protection of the Canadian environment, particularly the Arctic ecosystems, and to minimize impacts.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great joy today to rise and speak to Bill C-298, presented by the hon. member for Beaches—East York. This bill requires that the Minister of the Environment add perfluorooctane sulfonate, more commonly known as PFOS, to the Virtual Elimination List under subsection 65(2) of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, passed by this House in 1999, and to do so within nine months of the enactment of the bill.

The minister,under the bill tabled by the member, must also make regulations prescribing the quantity or concentration of that substance that may be released into the environment, either alone or in combination with any other substance, in order to achieve the virtual elimination of the substance.

I would first like to recall that virtual elimination, in the context of discharging a toxic substance into the environment as the result of human activity, means the ultimate reduction of the quantity or concentration of a substance released into the environment to below the level of quantification specified by the ministers in the list contemplated in section 65 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

What is PFOS? This substance is such that its salts and precursors belong to a broader category of fluorinated chemical substances. The term PFOS may refer to any of these forms, that is, anions, acids or salts.

PFOS and its precursors are used mainly to manufacture water-repellent and soil-repellent agents on surfaces and papers, such as rugs and carpets, fabrics and upholstery, and food packaging, as well as specialized chemical products, such as carpet stain removers, surface-active agents, such as detergents, frothing agents, wetting agents, dispersing agents and emulsifying agents for mines and oil wells.

As some of my colleagues have indicated, in Canada, there is no known production of compounds, of which PFOS is one. Some 600 tonnes of compounds were imported to Canada from 1997 to 2000, PFOS representing only a very small part of this total.

What are the effects of PFOS? First of all, according to the available data, PFOS penetrates the environment in quantities or in conditions that may immediately or in the long term have a harmful effect—and I stress the word harmful—on the environment or its biological diversity. The presence of this product in the environment is chiefly due to human activities, and these inorganic substances do not occur naturally in the environment.

As we consider this bill introduced by my hon. colleague, it should be pointed out that, in 2004, the government published in part I of the Canada Gazette a notice of its intention to add PFOS to the list of toxic substances and recommend its virtual elimination. The notice invited comments from the public for a 60 day period.

To date, however, schedule 1 of the Environmental Protection Act has yet to be amended to include PFOS. One might think that, at the time, the government heard from industry representatives who came forward to ask that the government defer adding it to the list. I want to stress that it is very likely that industrial sectors intervened with both the previous government and the current one. The latter announced today that it opposed the bill introduced by the former minister.

Is it normal not to be further along after two years?

One has to wonder if this long delay is due to a lack of will on the part of the administration, which is certainly under pressure by the industries concerned to delay designating PFOS as a toxic substance. Should, however, this be a standard delay due to a ponderous democracy, it would be totally unacceptable. It is indeed unacceptable to take nearly two years to restrict the use of a substance proven to be harmful. If the blame lies with the bureaucracy, we will have to do something about that at the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, to ensure that, once they have been assessed as harmful, substances become regulated without delay.

In fact, the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development is currently reviewing the Environmental Protection Act and, as part of our work, we will certainly have to hear evidence from groups, both environmental and industrial ones. We will also have to ensure that the process can be sped up from the moment that a substance has been declared harmful.

As the parliamentary secretary said, high concentrations of PFOS have been found in certain wildlife species. For example, it has been found in polar bears, elsewhere in the world in some kinds of fish, in Japan and the Netherlands, and in the environment. The documents provided by Environment Canada show that the highest ambient concentration recorded was higher than the threshold concentration, which suggests possible effects on aquatic organisms, birds and mammals. Minimal concentrations were found in the livers of wildlife species in remote parts of the Canadian Arctic, including mink, common loon, seal, brook trout, Arctic fox and polar bear. This is the reality. Some toxic effects have been discovered, and departmental specialists have found concentrations in aquatic organisms.

In my final minute, I would like to say that we will support the bill introduced by the member today. We will support it because, among other things, a study released in 2005 by Environmental Defence showed that high concentrations have been found in humans. Eleven volunteers agreed to take part in a number of studies and evaluations.

Given the toxic effect on aquatic environments, and given existing concentrations, even in humans, we will support this bill and we hope it will pass speedily given the current situation. We will most likely be examining this issue during our review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, which is currently before the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Dawn Black NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak tonight to Bill C-298, a private member's bill to add perfluorooctane sulfonate, PFOS, to the virtual elimination list under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

This substance is commonly used in many fabrics, usually as a stain repellent. Recent tests have suggested it causes organ damage and problems in development. These tests prompted the USEPA to ban the substance.

PFOS is both persistent and bioaccumulative, according to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act criteria, more persistent than DDT or PCBs.

If we were to eliminate PFOS today, it would take each of us an average of eight years to get rid of half of this chemical in our bodies. In the meantime, our bodies continue to accumulate PFOS.

My colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley also has a private member's bill before the House to eliminate phthalates, another chemical, in children's toys, cosmetics and medical devices.

There is extensive scientific literature reporting adverse effects of phthalates, particularly on children, including early puberty in girls, premature delivery of babies, impaired sperm quality and sperm damage in men, genital defects, and reduced testosterone production in boys and testicular cancer.

The EU has banned three of the listed phthalates in children's toys and the other three from toys for children under the age of three.

I am speaking tonight to this private member's bill, not only as a member of Parliament but also as a mother of three sons. Two of my sons have been diagnosed with cancer, different types of cancer. The cancers that my two sons have are not related.

Of course, as parents, we search for reasons why this devastating disease has attacked our child, or in my case, two of my children. I believe, in talking to their oncologist, in talking to the researchers in this field, that it is entirely possible that both of the instances of cancer in my children may have been caused by environmental degradation.

As we collect more and more evidence of the harmful effects of these chemicals to our bodies and to our environment, it is time to act. Both these private members' bills introduce a concept of reverse onus, which would require proof that a chemical is safe before it is allowed to be marketed rather than having to prove a chemical is harmful after the fact.

We owe this to our children. Our children deserve no less. The NDP is supporting this private member's bill to rid our environment of PFOS, a harmful chemical.

I urge the member who has introduced the bill, the member for Beaches—East York, to bring the support of her caucus to my colleague's private member's bill to ban phthalates.

As I said earlier, we owe this abundance of caution to our children. We owe it for a healthy environment and for the development of healthy children. What could be more important than the health of our children and the future of our planet? We must all support this bill in the House of Commons.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Susan Kadis Liberal Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in support of Bill C-298, the private member's bill of the member for Beaches—East York, to add perflurooctane sulfonate, otherwise known as PFOS, to the virtual elimination list under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, CEPA.

Last week we held a joint news conference to raise awareness of the need to act more quickly in protecting the health of Canadians and to bring this pressing issue to the attention of all Canadians. “What you don't know can't hurt you”. That old saying is obviously not true. We cannot turn a blind eye to these realities. We can no longer ignore how serious these chemicals are, and they are all around us.

Earlier this month a recent study, undertaken by Environmental Defence, titled “Polluted Children, Toxic Nation” provided yet more reasons for the government to take action. It tested children, parents, grandparents from five Canadian families who provided blood and urine samples that were tested for 68 toxic chemicals. The shocking results indicated that 46 of these toxic chemicals were detected, including PFOS.

The presence of these chemicals in children as young as 10 years old raises serious concerns about what impact they may have on the health, well-being and development of Canadian families today and in the future. The bottom line is the toxicity of Canadians is increasing, and this should be of concern to everyone, and no less to the government.

The Globe and Mail also recently did a week long series about toxic chemicals and their impact on us as human beings and our environment. I know my constituents, many of whom brought these issues to my attention, have expressed a great deal of concern and want the government to take action and not sit idly by.

In October 2004 both Environment Canada and Health Canada thought that the virtual elimination of PFOS not only could be implemented, but should be. There was no room for ambiguity on this question.

There are many aspects in our lives that we cannot control. Therefore, it is particularly incumbent upon us to take the appropriate steps, especially when we have the opportunity and the tools to take preventative and precautionary measures to eliminate a number of very significant and serious threats to our environment and our health.

As science and technology move forward at lightening speed, with more information becoming available and coming to light, it is imperative that we do not keep our heads in the sand. On the contrary, we need to respond accordingly and in a timely way. We need to protect the health of Canadians.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment has said that PFOS is not in Canada, but I would wholeheartedly disagree with him. If that were true, then why was it found in Canadians? The reality is we are learning more and more about our surrounding environment and the elements that affect our health. People have become more educated over time and demanding that we take seriously the threats and risks to our health.

There have been many instances, historically, when people have resisted questioning the status quo until it has proven unequivocally true. One glaring example is smoking and lung cancer. Knowledge has allowed people and governments to take action to protect their health. Sometimes just changing one aspect or behaviour has made a significant difference.

We must wake up and take the lead in these matters. Canada is lagging behind and it will be at all our expense, in particular our children who have been found to have the most concentrated levels. The U.S., the European Union and other nations have recognized the urgency and are taking action.

I will quote from the testimony given recently by Dr. Kapil Khatter, a family physician working with Pollution Watch, which is a joint project of Environmental Defence and the Canadian Environmental Law Association. He said:

There is ample evidence to suggest that Canada is failing to meet its environmental challenges, and falling behind internationally. According to a recent study of OECD data, Canada ranked 28th out of 29 OECD countries in emissions, 29th out of 29 in volatile organic compounds, 27th out of 28 in sulphur oxides, 26th out of 28 in nitrogen oxides...

The United States has legally enforceable national ambient air quality standards and water quality criteria that are enforceable, whereas Canada does not. They have strong regulations and agreements with companies to phase out some of the most persistent and toxic chemicals, the most problematic chemicals right now, like PFOS flame retardants and stain repellents, while we are still trying to finalize our assessments. The United States has a comprehensive program to test for body chemical levels. We don't even know how much lead our children are being exposed to right now.

Health is of the utmost importance to Canadians. We cannot turn our back on the need to take steps to protect and improve our health and quality of life. The stakes are too high.

These types of known problematic or dangerous chemicals have been shown to leach into our environment, not only in the area of their use but they are able to migrate.

As a 14 year breast cancer survivor, I understand and appreciate how precious and important good health is. When we consider that this chemical has been shown to cause breast cancer in animals, this is more than compelling. The fact that this seems to be taken not as seriously as it should be and rejected out of hand by the government is very disturbing. We must apply precautionary measures where there is or has been a demonstrated or likely risk factor.

We have a responsibility to future generations, to our children. We cannot just wash our hands of information brought to our attention in such a fashion. We must confront and deal with this issue quickly and decisively.

As a mother five children, I am more troubled by the effects, particularly on our children. They are the most vulnerable, developmentally, and they are relying on all of us to be vigilant regarding their health.

Yes, we must live our lives with zest and full participation, but we must do so with great regard and respect to this great gift of health. I understand that, as many others do. It must not be taken for granted; it must be protected. First and foremost, we must all be our own health advocates, never giving up these rights and responsibilities to safeguard our health as individuals or as a government.

I applaud my colleague from Beaches—East York for moving this issue to the top of the agenda. We have the tools available to take the appropriate steps to avert the threat that these chemicals pose. All that is needed is the will to take action.

There is a provision in the act that allows for interim orders to be made respecting such substances as one option. The issue of adding perfluorooctane sulfonate, PFOS, to the virtual elimination list is now before the House. Now it is up to the government to move forward without further delay or procrastination. The health of all Canadians depends on it.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Department of the Environment's draft screening assessment for perfluorooctane sulfonate, known as PFOS, concluded in October 2004 that PFOS is a persistent bioaccumulative and inherently toxic substance in the environment. It meets the definition in section 64 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, in that it is entering into the environment in a quantity or concentration or under conditions that have a harmful effect on the environment. The initial conclusions have not changed and it is expected that a final assessment will be published shortly.

The Department of the Environment is proposing that priority be given to the development of actions to protect the health of Canadians and their environment. Under the existing legislative and regulatory framework, the Department of the Environment will propose and develop actions for PFOS with the participation of stakeholders, including the public, industry, non-governmental organizations, and provincial and territorial governments.

To support the development of these actions, the Department of the Environment will investigate the various instruments and tools available to control PFOS in Canada. The Department of the Environment will analyze the costs and benefits of the proposed actions to ensure the most appropriate approach that results in a net benefit for Canadians is chosen.

It would be premature to add PFOS to the virtual elimination list and develop release limit regulations as proposed by Bill C-298 before the Department of the Environment can fully consult or perform the necessary supporting analysis. The Department of the Environment is expecting to propose a strategy very shortly in consultation with stakeholders.

This strategy will outline proposed actions to control PFOS in a way that releases to the Canadian environment would ultimately be eliminated to ensure the protection of the health of Canadians and their environment. The development of the strategy and the implementation of actions will be carried out independently of any decision on the virtual elimination list or regulations prescribing release concentration limits. Today's reality is that PFOS is not manufactured in or exported from Canada, nor is it used or imported into Canada in significant quantities.

In 2000 the major global manufacturer of PFOS announced a voluntary phase-out of production of this substance by 2002. Prior to 2002 the primary uses of PFOS in Canada were for applications involving water, oil, soil and grease repellents for fabric, leather, packaging, rugs and carpets, as well as additives in firefighting foams, aviation hydraulic fluids, photographic photofinishing, paints and coatings.

Since 2002 the majority of PFOS imports and uses in Canada have ceased. In comparison to early PFOS import and use data whereby seven industrial sectors were involved, a survey of Canadian industry confirms that after the phase-out for the 2004 calendar year, PFOS is imported and used by only a single industrial sector.

With the exception of the existing stockpile of PFOS based firefighting foam that is used to extinguish fuel fires, all other stockpiles of PFOS in Canada have now been exhausted. It is estimated that this reduction in use in Canada since 2002 has resulted in a significant decrease in releases to the environment. Also, PFOS products and formulations are largely unavailable to the average Canadian consumer.

The Department of the Environment plans to pursue actions that will ensure PFOS does not re-enter the Canadian marketplace and address the remaining exposure sources. Stakeholders will be given a formal opportunity to participate in consultations shortly following the distribution of the proposed PFOS risk management strategy. The ultimate objective of this strategy will be a total phase-out of PFOS in Canada.

The strategy will propose an action plan to address the environmental risks associated with PFOS in Canada and outline a proposed approach on the virtual elimination list. Stakeholders, including the public, industry, non-governmental organizations and provincial and territorial governments will have an opportunity to comment on this strategy through various forums. Further consultations with stakeholders will be held as the Department of the Environment proceeds with the implementation of the strategy and develops appropriate preventive and control instruments.

The Department of the Environment's ability to fully consult with stakeholders on the strategy, the approach to virtual elimination and any proposed preventive and control instruments that may follow would be limited under the timeline specified in proposed Bill C-298.

Bill C-298 is proposing to develop regulations prescribing release concentration limits of PFOS within nine months of specifying its levels of quantification. Given that most industrial and commercial uses of PFOS have already ceased in Canada, the key remaining source of exposure is through municipal landfills and waste water treatment plants.

Potential releases of PFOS from those sources are expected from the disposal and use of consumer articles which were treated with PFOS as a repellant prior to 2002. These consumer articles include rugs and carpets, furniture, fabrics, leather articles, packaging and photographic material. A 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 those sources and to determine if release concentration regulation is the most practical and cost-effective means of protecting the environment.

The Department of the Environment is continuing to work with the international community on PFOS. The approaches taken in other jurisdictions will be considered during the development and implementation of proposed actions in Canada.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has established three significant new use rules, SNURs, in 2002, 2003 and 2006 to control PFOS and its precursors and other perfluorinated compounds. The United Kingdom has proposed restrictions on the supply and use of PFOS. Sweden has filed a proposal for a national ban on PFOS with the European Commission. The European Union has proposed market instruments and use restrictions for PFOS in 2006.

PFOS is under consideration for addition to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe convention on long range transboundary air pollution and the protocol to the Stockholm convention which addresses persistent organic pollutants. PFOS continues to pass review steps for inclusion in the protocol and convention.

Canada will continue to engage our international partners in global action to eliminate the remaining uses and production of PFOS around the world and to complement our domestic actions. Supporting these efforts is critical to addressing the long range transport of PFOS into the Canadian environment and the ultimate global phase-out of these substances.

The Department of the Environment is committed to pollution prevention and the control of toxic substances. The necessary steps will be taken to continue the protection of the Canadian environment, especially in our Arctic ecosystems and to further minimize impacts on a global scale.

Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Rob Anders Conservative Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, we are debating Bill C-298, the perfluorooctane sulfonate virtual elimination act. At the beginning of the bill reference is made to, “Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada”. It is important that since we are paying respect to Her Majesty, we congratulate Her Majesty on her 80th birthday. We recently saw on the news all the fanfare that was associated with her birthday. She has been a long reigning monarch and has done great service to our dominion, along with many of the other countries in the Commonwealth. Her Majesty is a fine royal example for our assembly, as well as for many others.

I was recently at Spruce Meadows when His Royal Highness Prince Edward was there. He was presenting the Duke of Edinburgh awards. It was a lovely event. He was handing out awards to young people. The awards encourage young people, I believe starting at the age of 14, to participate in volunteer activities. As long as they have completed an expedition along with other aspects of a certain amount of community hours, by the time they turn 25 years of age, they are eligible for the Duke of Edinburgh award. That is something that is highly valuable and encourages young people to do volunteer work in their community. I congratulate members of the royal family in terms of their involvement and support for that program.

I will now turn to the intricacies of Bill C-298 which relates to the Conservative Party's environment policy. I am very supportive of what our party and government has done on this matter, in that we are pursuing a made in Canada policy.

There are many others in the House who support the idea for Canada's environmental policies to be made in other places. For example, when it comes to the Kyoto accord, they would prefer that our policies were made in Japan, or that in a sense we pay homage to Russia with regard to environmental policies by shipping credits and money to those countries that have worse environmental records than Canada's record. Some people in this place in their support for some of the Kyoto provisions would have us send money and credits and whatnot to China. That is a serious problem. We have to be mindful that it is far better to support a made in Canada policy.

Another country that has an incredible number of people along with some policies that could be questioned is India. India is a large parliamentary democracy. We want to make sure that our policies are made in Canada.

What we are talking about with Bill C-298 is the idea that we will be dealing with waste water treatment here in Canada. We will be dealing with landfills here in Canada. We are not dealing with exporting credits or moneys, Canadian taxpayer dollars, to other jurisdictions in order for them to look after some of their concerns. The environment is a global concern, but we must look at what we can do here in our own backyard before we look overseas internationally.

We can suggest things to those other countries as they can suggest things to us, but it is very important that we look after Canada first. As a matter of fact, as legislators, Canada is our primary responsibility. It is important that we are mindful of that, that we look after our own backyard. We must do the best for our children and grandchildren.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

6:55 p.m.


Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian embassy in Damascus, Syria, processes permanent residence applications from the following countries: Syria, Cyprus and Iran, 41%, Iraq, 15%, and Jordan and Lebanon, 23%.

This means that Cyprus, Syria and Jordan combined make up 21% of the claims. This is, therefore, an embassy whose needs are not really local, but elsewhere, when we look at the other percentages.

The Damascus embassy has around 11 officers and 36 locally employed staff, compared to the Ivory Coast embassy, which has 6 or 7 employees and processes claims from 16 African countries. We see that in 80% of the cases, all the permanent residence applications in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, are processed in 31 months. In Damascus it takes 61 months and the world average is 53 months. What is going on at that embassy?

Currently in Beirut, Lebanon, there is a Canadian embassy with some nine employees, which is just a satellite office for temporary residence applications. My numbers on the staff are approximate.

We are told by CIC, and I quote:

Over 50% of those who apply for permanent residence do not need to be interviewed in person.

They must be kidding. This means that the office in Damascus, which takes 61 months on average to process files, fast-tracks 50% of the files from Lebanon. The processing time should therefore be shorter.

We know that there are tensions between Lebanon and Syria that were exacerbated by the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri on February 14, 2005. Other Lebanese leaders were also assassinated. This led to Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon on April 26, 2005.

CIC tells us:

After the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in Beirut in February 2002, some representatives and family members of Lebanese applicants expressed concerns about not being able to go to Damascus for interviews because of problems at the Syrian border. No such problems occurred. The RPC in Damascus checked with its clients to make sure there was no problem crossing the border.

That means that CIC does not even know when this political figure was assassinated.

Once again, they must be kidding. On November 1, 2005, when he was sitting on the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the current Minister of Public Safety stated, and I quote:

Syria has tried to rule Lebanon for decades and now that it has been forced to withdraw, it is still trying to diminish the hopes of the Lebanese people.

Has a decades-old situation changed in seven months? The borders between Lebanon and Syria have been closed many times. People who have been waiting for an interview for years have had it postponed.

If this government recognizes Lebanon's sovereignty and respects the Lebanese diaspora in Canada and Quebec, it is time that it sent all the applications for permanent residence back to the existing embassy in Beirut. It is a matter of dignity and security.