Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for the bill. Members may be interested to know that this bill was first debated at second reading on June 16, 2006. It has been a long time. It is also interesting to note the position of some of the members who participated at the time and how this has evolved.
Before I get into that, I want to mention that we have some new rules that have changed with regard to what happens to private members' bills after prorogation. We may want to look at them again. It used to be that when we prorogued, all private members' bills died and then members would have the opportunity, if they wished, to move that their bills be reinstated in the same form. That allowed a member to say, “Mine is not going anywhere. I want to try something else, otherwise I am locked in”.
This way, they are all deemed to have been put at the same stage they were at when we prorogued, but they go back to the beginning of that stage. In this case, we are going to have three hours at report stage and third reading instead of the normal two.
It is kind of an anomaly, but this bill, when it was in the last session of Parliament, had received the unanimous support of this House at report stage. In fact, it is an indication, with that kind of support of the House, that we should move a motion to deem it passed at third reading and referred to the Senate. We need to deal with this because we are talking about a health bill. It may be under the environmental umbrella but it is a health bill.
If I could talk to the health minister about this, I know he would agree. I just wanted to quickly add to the record that this substance, called perfluorooctane sulfonate, referred to as PFOS, is currently not regulated in Canada and it is very prevalent in our society in repellants and all kinds of things. It is also detectable in certain products like rugs, carpets, fabric, upholstery, et cetera.
The whole idea is that this is a chemical that is biocumulative. It means that one can build up an amount of it in one's system. The research is done on animals. We have a zoologist in the chamber who spoke for the government earlier and explained that we have the science to detect this.
The interesting thing is that we have now come to the conclusion, as a consequence of the member's initiative, the good work by the committee, the debate and the support that has been generated, that we are here today with a bill that will pass this chamber, that will go to the Senate and, I hope, will get speedy passage because it is a health bill.
Here is the contribution I would like to make in terms of a new contribution to what has already been said. It has to do with the position that was taken back on June 16, 2006, by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment. I know the gentleman. He is a good member. He works hard and knows his stuff. However, as the parliamentary secretary, he needs to consult with Health Canada and Environment Canada and they pretty well let him know what the state of the union is.
If anyone has not read the speech, I happen to have it here. First, the member announced that his party would not support the bill. Interestingly enough, Health Canada has done the same assessments and the assessment concluded:
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 assessment goes on to read:
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.
On June 16, 2006, a year and a half ago, the same department said that it did not pose a risk. However, after more work was done and a few people started talking about this stuff, the same data, the same information, and Health Canada now says that it is a problem. It now agrees. There has not been any new research. It is still the same data but Health Canada now has a different opinion. In the first place it was not a significant risk and now Health Canada says that it is a risk and that we must deal with it. The United States and a bunch of other countries have dealt with it.
I do not know whether other members share this, but how is it that Health Canada can have both positions on the same data and the same conclusion? There is an inconsistency here. It raises the question about whether or not there was a problem in making that initial assessment back when the parliamentary secretary spoke to the House and presented on the basis of the opinion of Health Canada in consultation with Environment Canada whether this was a problem.
I think we should ask Health Canada to please explain why its position was wrong when this bill first came forward. This is actually quite a success story for Canada and for the member who introduced this bill because it has created the necessity to have some informed debate, to go to committee and to hear from the experts. In fact, we have now identified other areas in which some similar problems need to be looked at.
What this whole process has really exposed, and it is the contribution I care to make to this debate, is that we may have a problem within Health Canada in terms of the manner, the procedures and the due diligence it does in making recommendations and giving advice to the government and to government members who will stand and have no personal knowledge but will rely, to their detriment, on information they were provided by departmental officials.
I believe it calls for an inquiry by the minister to look at the details and find out who wrote these and on what basis they made that recommendation and put the parliamentary secretary in a situation where he would be giving information that clearly sustained the argument that was made by the members in debate and then through a committee, which is that we have a problem here and the best thing to do is to pass the bill and put it on the list because it is a health risk to Canadians.
I am pleased to have consulted with other members because I now know that other substantial research is going on and that the science is such that we will be able to protect the health of Canadians even better because of the improvements in our research abilities, particularly with animals, to determine other health risks potentially harmful to Canadians.
I thank the member again for her excellent bill and congratulate her on a bill that will become law in Canada.