Mr. Speaker, this evening I have the pleasure of being here with you and my colleagues to discuss this bill.
This represents another attempt by this Parliament to change the government's attitude and to have it protect the environment.
For the current government, which we hope will not be in power much longer, the environment is not important and protecting it is not an urgent matter.
We have a completely different view of the situation and we believe we have to do something about it right now. Canadians believe that the environment is currently the most important issue.
Phosphorus is an obvious problem that is just coming to light with recent blooms and because of serious issues, particularly in Quebec and Ontario, but it is not restricted to those particular provinces. There have been other places and other bodies of water where it has caused huge concern. Getting down to the source is what this bill attempts to do.
We had some witness testimony about what these influxes of phosphorus can actually lead to. They start with seemingly harmless sources in dishwasher detergent, laundries and farming fertilizers and end up in our waters, but then, through accumulation, they allow these allow algae blooms to go on. Cyanobacteria are created in these blooms and these can be very harmful to human health.
I will quote Richard Carignan, of the Université de Montréal, who talked about the serious nature of the effects on human health and the ecosystem. Cyanobacteria create:
--toxins that cause skin irritation and symptoms that are like gastroenteritis. Also, they may affect the nervous system. Because of that, health departments are aware of cyanobacteria. In Quebec at least, when they observe toxins in the water, they generally close the body of water to most uses.
That has impacts not just on the environment but on the economy and the quality of life of those who are near that body of water and those impacts can be profound.
There are many solutions to this problem. The government does not have a sense of urgency with regard to putting in place the solutions needed—solutions that citizens want now. The problem has been around for many years. It is nothing new. In last summer's news it may have seemed new but this problem has been around for many years.
We have to figure exactly what the problem is. To focus simply on detergents is not enough, we need to find out what can be done. We have to determine how to manage the land while respecting agriculture and the farmers who live on the land.
I recall that this summer the candidate for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, the current member for Outremont and I announced a comprehensive plan, together with some very important Quebec producers.
This bill is one option and a good start. However, we must address other matters and other aspects of the problem. It is important to do so to find a solution.
As for the NDP plan, the existing buffer zone of three metres—or something like that—is not enough. The need is greater and, in certain cases, three metres are not enough. Our plan proposes a 10-metre buffer. Quebec farmers have expressed considerable enthusiasm about this plan. Thus, it is important for the NDP. The cost of this plan is $50 million for the entire country.
We think it is a good solution. The farming community is making a concerted effort to move this forward, but it is difficult. It is very difficult. Quite frankly, almost all Canadian farmers need help. They need help from this government and all governments in the country.
I would like to read another quotation regarding the issue of chemicals, a very important issue. The same professor from the Université de Montréal also said:
The most recent federal analyses of acid rain progression in Canada indicate that much of the blue green algae that has been flourishing in Quebec over the past three years, including in the Laurentians where there is very little agriculture, is falling, for the most part, literally from the sky.
There is mounting evidence and interest of Canadians from coast to coast to coast on this issue. It is important to realize that we cannot proceed without a federal action plan. The government seems loathe to even consider that as was the case when dealing with our waters.
I can recall this from the very first throne speech. The government talked about having a national water inventory and a national water strategy, an announcement that we hesitantly encouraged and were excited about. I say with some hesitance because the government's promises and commitments and what actually happens is so often misleading.
What happened in this particular instance, and we are now two years away from that time when the government announced its plans, was that we still do not have a national water strategy nor a national inventory.
The reason that this is important for this particular private member's bill is it would deal with not just instances that come up when there is news attention, when the crisis comes, but also to allow Canadians some feeling of certainty that the government has in hand their best interests and a plan that will allow us to go ahead.
Yet, we are still waiting. There is a huge discrepancy, as my dear colleague from Winnipeg pointed out to me earlier, that across the country, when we look at federal and provincial spending patterns, in particular federal in this case, there are enormous discrepancies between bodies of water.
I will take just two for example. There is the very small Lake Simcoe, which has a great deal of real estate interest and tourism interest. It receives almost $16,500 per square kilometre of water in federal funding. Whereas Lake Winnipeg, which I know is near and dear to your heart, Mr. Speaker, receives just $250 per square kilometre.
In this instance, between almost $17,000 and $250, we see the results on the water and in the water quality. That level of stress that is brought to those who depend and survive alongside these bodies of water is justified.
Lake Winnipeg has a $55 million freshwater fishery with obviously enormous economic impacts, probably the largest freshwater fishery in the continent. Yet, the government is without a national strategy and without any kind of national vision. How to deal with water is something that is obviously near and dear to the hearts of many Canadians.
In the absence of that plan, it is a hodge-podge of band-aid solutions trying to make some attempt at actually dealing with the urgency of this serious issue.
A government that actually took this issue seriously, that actually believed that water was at some risk, would bring forward a national strategy to deal with it, at least aquifer inventory, at least an understanding of where the water is, what water is at threat, and what is at risk.
Yet instead, we have a government which even on issues like climate change, when it does conduct the studies which the government has through natural resources, completes the study as to the impacts of climate change on our economies and our communities, and then sits on the study for four months and still has not released it to the Canadian public.
These were taxpayer dollars that the government spent to create this study, to allow us to understand the impacts of our policy choices and our industrial choices, and it refuses to allow this study out into the public realm.
We think this has to stop. If the truth is what the government is afraid of, then clearly its policies are not aligned with a future that Canadians are looking for.
If its policies are aligned and the government is comfortable with the truth, then it should start to release these studies, begin to create a national water strategy that will allow Canadians to deal with phosphorous concentrations in their water and the impacts of climate change.
Canadians will only then feel like the government is actually willing and ready to put ideology aside and put in its place clear thinking based upon science that will allow Canadians to feel that assurance that the peace, order and good governance written into our Constitution is actually being enacted on behalf of the Canadian people by their government.
At this point it is difficult to call this particular representation the Government of Canada because its interests obviously lie not with the interests of Canadians.