House of Commons Hansard #50 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was producers.


The House resumed from January 28 consideration of the motion that Bill C-469, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (use of phosphorus), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canadian Environmental Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to continue on with my speech on Bill C-469, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, a bill to essentially remove all dish and laundry detergents that contain phosphorus. I want to thank the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé for this well-intentioned bill.

When I was last speaking to this issue, I was talking about Lake Winnipeg and how it is the pride and joy of Manitoba. I am so proud to have it as part of my constituency.

This government has shown its commitment to Lake Winnipeg. Last November the Minister of the Environment demonstrated the government's commitment by coming to Manitoba and announcing that Lake Winnipeg was going to get $18 million of new money toward cleaning up Lake Winnipeg. I want to thank the Minister of the Environment for making that announcement and for standing up for the cleanup of Lake Winnipeg when it did not happen for 13 long years under the previous administration.

This fund which the minister announced is a dedicated stewardship fund for Lake Winnipeg. It provides funding to retain the experts and the tools that are needed to physically clean up the lake and remove all the excessive nutrients which helps with these algae blooms that occur and which create toxicity in the system.

The good news is that we will be able to restore the ecological integrity of Lake Winnipeg with this investment, but the lake will not clean itself up. It took a commitment by this federal government to start the process of cleaning up the lake. Luckily our party, a party that does care about Lake Winnipeg, was able to take action after all those years of neglect.

I have talked with many of my constituents about Lake Winnipeg. They have told me that not only is it important that we are cleaning up the lake, but also that future nutrient loading be reduced to ensure that the lake stays clean, and that there has to be a long term solution. My constituents and I have definitely taken a very serious interest in the introduction of this bill. It is a well-intentioned bill and I support the principles of it.

Dish and laundry detergents are only part of the problem in my riding though. They are not the sole cause of all the blue-green algae. While a bill such as this would help reduce the amount of phosphorus entering our waterways, there will still be other sources contributing to the problem. That is what the stewardship fund of $18 million is going to also help to address.

It is important to also note that detergent manufacturers may view this measure as unfairly targeting just them, as there are many other sources of phosphorus, including natural sources, municipal sources and agricultural sources.

I must remind the hon. member who has sponsored this bill that we are fortunate to have a free market economy that allows consumers endless choices when it comes to the products they buy. When it comes to chemical based detergents, there are other products on the market that they could buy which do not contain phosphorus. I have always said that when we look at the problems in our watershed, and I have talked about Lake Winnipeg, every person in Manitoba, every person in Saskatchewan, Alberta and northwestern Ontario has only one person to blame, and that is the person who is looking at them in the mirror. We all have a responsibility to address this problem and reduce the amount of phosphorus that we are using in our households and in our yards.

We are all responsible for making the individual everyday choices that are going to be good for the environment and good for our waterways, so let us recognize those Canadians who are making a difference in their everyday lives. When it comes to collective urban waste, it is also helpful that municipal waste water treatment plants that are being developed are employing advanced techniques to remove phosphorus before discharging their waste.

Nevertheless, last September the government announced its intention to take action to cut water pollution by setting hard and tough new national standards for sewage treatment. Municipal waste water effluent is the single most significant contributor to water pollution, and this government is taking action. The government is assisting municipalities to meet these standards. The unprecedented $33 billion building Canada initiative will provide assurance to Canadians that long term, stable and predictable funding will help support infrastructure projects such as sewage treatment systems.

It is important to note that advances in technology are allowing farmers to adopt nutrient management strategies. The environmental farm plans that have been developed at Agriculture Canada have really helped farmers determine how to use fertilizer, how to apply manure and how to protect any water that is actually draining off their own farmlands and barnyards, in order to prevent those products from getting into the waterway.

Fertilizing, for example, used to be guesswork, but today, new technology allows farmers to apply the exact amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that is need on their land. That is important to make sure that everything that is being applied is being used by the crop and is not running off as excess fertilizer.

While the government cleans up Lake Winnipeg after years of neglect, we are excited about these new technologies that will prevent the nutrient loading in the future.

It is important for the government to support these advances in technology that allow Canadians to work toward their own phosphorus reduction. Measures such as these go a lot further in reducing nutrients in our environment.

Canadians can have confidence that their government will continue to work with its partners on its action plan for clean water to achieve real results and tangible improvements in Canada's water.

On behalf of my constituents, I would like to thank the hon. member for the introduction of this private member's bill and for initiating this important debate we are having here today. I look forward to supporting it when it comes to a vote.

Canadian Environmental Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak this evening to Bill C-469, which arose from two or three sessions the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development held last spring—a committee of which I am a member. This bill is modelled on a private member's bill that I tabled shortly beforehand, Bill C-464, which shares the same objective as the Bloc bill.

My colleagues and I support Bill C-469 and we will vote to refer it to the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development to be studied and amended. My own Bill C-464 is more detailed. I hope a few amendments will be made in the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development to add more detail to Bill C-469.

There are some shortcomings with this bill. I would like to go over them briefly. It is normal for private members' bills not to be entirely perfect, because of course private members do not have the same resources at their disposal as governments and ministers introducing legislation. It is very normal and understandable that bills might need some amendments and a bit more work in committee.

My own bill, Bill C-464, would technically eliminate phosphates from dishwashing detergent. In fact, it would reduce the phosphate level to 0.5% by weight. The main reason for this is that it makes virtually no sense to completely eliminate the phosphate levels in dishwashing detergent, because, number one, there are phosphates, I am told, in the packaging of detergents, which is what keeps the packaging firm. There will always be a trace amount of phosphates in any detergent.

When we get to committee, we will have to hear from industry representatives and technical experts from the Department of the Environment, but I am surmising that we might have to amend the bill to allow 0.5% by weight.

Also, it is quite possible we will have to amend the bill to allow some exceptions. For example, a minimal amount of phosphates may be required for detergents that are used at the institutional level, for instance, in hospitals, nursing homes and schools, where there are obviously some potential public health concerns that would have to be alleviated by having some level of phosphates in the detergent. No doubt we will get to that issue in committee.

By way of history, it is very interesting to note that laundry detergents have had very low levels of phosphates for many years, because the regulations under CEPA for laundry detergents were created within the context of the Canada-U.S. Great Lakes water quality agreement. These levels were regulated long before dishwashers became popular and essentially ubiquitous. At the time, the government was focused only on laundry detergent. That is why the CEPA regulations at the moment do not include regulations for phosphates in dishwashing detergent. That is a bit of an anomaly of history and is something to take note of.

The issue of phosphates in laundry detergent is really not a pressing issue at all. It is the dishwashing detergent that we have to focus on and that is why my bill focused specifically on that.

We have to ask ourselves why we need this Bloc bill or my bill in the first place. I will give credit to my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, who presented a motion to the environment committee to have discussions on the issue of phosphates. This was done many months ago and yet there has been no government action on this issue. This is why we need two private members' bills. Even if they are not perfect bills, we need private members' bills because the government has not acted on the issue, even though the issue of phosphates in dishwashing detergent made headlines all over Quebec almost a year ago.

Some people may say that the government is working on amending these regulations. There are two things wrong with that explanation. First, it does not take a lot to make a minor change to CEPA regulations to deal with phosphates. Second, three or four weeks ago when officials from Environment Canada appeared before the environment committee, I asked the question: why do we not have regulations in CEPA to deal with phosphates in dishwashing detergent?

Do members know what I was told? I do not blame the officials for this. In fact, the minister himself should have been present to answer the questions, but he could only stay an hour that day.

I was told that it was not a priority. They said that phosphates in dishwashing detergent is not a priority for them. That was two weeks ago. Then, of course, there was probably a bit of public pressure or some media attention given to the issue again and, lo and behold, we were told a couple of weeks later that the government will amend CEPA regulations.

This is endemic in the Conservative government. The government never acts on the obvious. It never recognizes the truth of the matter until public pressure is put on it. Then it reacts, but late. That is why we need two private members' bills: to put the government on notice that it should be doing the right thing.

Some people, especially on the government side, originally responded that phosphates in dishwashing detergent make up only 1.5% of the problem of phosphorus in water. Of course, there is the whole issue of agricultural fertilizers and runoff from agricultural lands that gets into the waterways, and of course that is a problem. There is also the problem of municipal sewage effluent, which leads to phosphorus in waterways.

So why devote energy to removing phosphates from dishwashing detergent when this is not a huge part of the problem? In politics, there are issues that are catalysts. They may sound simple and be simple, but they somehow allow us to open the door to a broad range of other related issues.

When it comes to climate change, we might focus on something like home renovations to make someone's home more energy efficient. The problem is much more complex than that, I agree, but when we talk about something that is concrete and understandable, we generate public debate. It creates the impetus or the political will to deal with the larger problem, which is a lot more complicated.

It is the same with the phosphate issue. It is a small part of the problem, but it gets discussion going about the quality of our water and also about the need for a national water strategy, which we still do not have. After it was mentioned in passing in the last budget and given lip service in the throne speech, we still do not have a national water strategy. Maybe we need to be talking about dishwashing detergent, because even though it is a small problem, it is something people can relate to and understand.

While the problem of dishwashing detergent is minor in some parts of the country, it is in fact major in Quebec, especially in lakes in the Laurentians, where much of the phosphorus is from cottagers using dishwashers.

Canadian Environmental Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

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.

Canadian Environmental Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to join the debate today on Bill C-469, which seeks to prohibit the use or sale in Canada and the import of dishwasher detergents and laundry detergents that contain phosphorus.

First, I want to congratulate my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé, who introduced this bill and who is nothing less than the driving force behind the decisions made by the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development. Since June 12, 2007, the committee has called on the federal government to act quickly to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to forbid the sale or importation of products containing phosphates. The member for Berthier—Maskinongé is rendering a service to the residents of his riding who are affected by the problem of cyanobacteria, but the Conservative government does not appear to be aware of this. He is also rendering a great service to all regions of Canada affected by this problem.

Earlier, my NDP colleague spoke of Lake Winnipeg, which is affected by this problem. It is rare that a provincial minister testifies before a parliamentary standing committee. However, the Manitoba Environment Minister came before the standing committee to say that Manitoba supports the Bloc Québécois motion calling for the prohibition of phosphates. I am firmly convinced that she is very happy to see the Bloc Québécois member introducing this bill today. We hope it will receive the support of a majority in Parliament.

This problem is not new but it has grown tremendously in recent years. I will cite three years as references. The first year is 2005. At that time, cyanobacteria were found in 50 lakes in Quebec. The following year, that number doubled. There were 107 lakes affected by cyanobacteria; and two years later, the problem had spread to more than 200 lakes in Quebec. That means that within two years, there was a four-fold increase in the number of lakes affected. We may well imagine that in 2008 the problem is not getting smaller; on the contrary, it is growing. Regions all over Quebec are affected.

I see the Conservatives representing their electors today in the House of Commons. The hon. member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean says he is representing the people of his riding. However, last year we saw alerts in the Pointe-Taillon national park in Lac-Saint-Jean. People were asked to be careful because the lake, lac Saint-Jean , in the Pointe-Taillon area in particular, was affected by the cyanobacteria phenomenon. Today we see the Conservatives voting in parliamentary committee, and in the House of Commons I am sure, against a motion, against the bill introduced by my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé, when these people need to be defended. That member is not defending the interests of his riding.

We must be vigilant because the phenomenon will spread in the coming weeks. It is not for nothing that the Government of Quebec is organizing an information session on February 28 to alert people and organizations to the fact that this phenomenon will get worse this spring.

My Liberal colleague was right. In the 1970s, the government used the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to regulate laundry products containing phosphates. Those products were not banned, as the Bloc Québécois would like, but limited to containing a minimal amount of phosphates.

Why was that decision made in the 1970s? That decision was made because many homes and cottages had washing machines and people were using products containing phosphates.

In the 1970s, dishwashers were not that common in cottages. An increasing number of baby boomers have acquired second homes that were considered cottages at the time. Those homes are increasingly becoming primary residences. Baby boomers are increasingly living in cottages, which they are converting from summer homes to primary residences equipped with dishwashers that use phosphates and make the cyanobacteria problem even worse. We have to do something about this.

There are some good corporate citizens out there. For example, just two weeks ago the Jean Coutu pharmacies decided to ban the sale of products containing phosphates.

In the meantime, other companies are selling products that contain phosphates, at the expense of public health, environmental protection and property values. When you own a property or purchase a residence on the shoreline of a lake that has been struck by cyanobacteria, clearly that limits your ability to go swimming or do other water sports. All in all, it has a direct impact on the value of properties that people bought some years ago.

The issues addressed by the bill my colleague has introduced are not environmental only. It also addresses health, social and economic issues. Are we the only ones who are considering this kind of measure? The answer is no. Switzerland and Washington state have already adopted regulations of this kind, banning the sale of products containing phosphates. The Bloc Québécois is not alone in considering this kind of measure. Progressive states and countries have already introduced regulations like this, which are now the law of the land. As well, as of early 2008, the European Union will be adopting the same kind of regulations, to ban both laundry detergent and dishwashing detergent containing phosphates.

This bill is a logical next step from the intention that a majority of members of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development expressed on June 12, calling for a ban on the sale and importation of these kinds of products.

Earlier, the Liberal member said the Liberals would be proposing amendments. All of a sudden the Liberal Party seems to want to backtrack from the position it stated in committee. I invite the Liberal Party to vote for this bill in principle. I also invite the NDP to support this bill in principle and be realistic when it comes to the amendments they want to make. I have seen the plan presented by the NDP; I have seen that it is proposing to expand buffer strips around lakes from 3 to 10 metres. We must be aware, however, that there are regulations in place in Quebec. Federal legislation must not interfere directly in matters within the jurisdiction of the provinces. We must be careful in that regard. What the NDP says is that the regulations have to be changed. Perhaps, but personally, I have always understood that land planning issues are matters that come within the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces.

Is the NDP trying to tell us today that it wants to interfere? I think that the consensus today and in the days to come should be that we vote for the bill and for the principle behind my colleague’s bill. We can thus echo the motion from the standing committee and respond to the request by the government of Quebec, which wants to legislate, but wants to see the measure that was introduced on December 5 expanded.

Canadian Environmental Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, I have a general reminder. I realize tomorrow is a great day. It is Valentine's Day. Maybe those tuned in watching tonight may not have realized the day has crept up on us rather quickly. There is still time to get out and perhaps get something for their loved ones, an emblem of their admiration for their partners. I hope they can do that.

First, I thank the member for Berthier—Maskinongé. He was the first member in the House who I asked a question of when I spoke in the chamber in April 2006. Therefore, the member certainly brings back good memories of my experience in the House.

Today, it is my pleasure to inform the House of a number of initiatives that our government is undertaking to protect our rivers and lakes and to advise of the recent undertakings concerning the regulation of phosphorus in detergents.

We are all well aware of the concerns around phosphate contamination in surface water and we must realize that Canada's waterways are icons for our country. Our rivers and lakes are synonymous with our history and our heritage. They are vital to our economy. The government recognizes that they are also critical to our and our environment. This is why a suite of actions has been taken by the government to protect the quality and vitality of Canada's waterways.

Phosphorus is commonly used in detergents to soften water, to reduce spotting and rusting and to suspend particulate in the wash water. However, it can also act as a nutrient and, as such, can be a factor contributing to the growth of blue-green algae in our lakes. We can all well recall, last summer in particular, that certain regions of the country experienced those blue-green algae blooms. Those blooms can dominate their aquatic environment and impact on the ability of Canadians to enjoy recreational waterways.

I underline, however, that the sources of phosphorus are numerous. They can come from the land and from waste water, as well as from detergents.

According to Environment Canada's report entitled “Nutrients and Their Impact on the Canadian Environment”, I can inform the House that on the annual phosphorus discharges of approximately 68,000 tonnes, agriculture accounted for 82%, while municipal waste water discharge was 8%, including only 1% for all detergents and cleaners.

With many sources, there is no single or simple solution. As a result, phosphorus and other pollutants to Canada's waterways are being tackled on a multiple of fronts.

I point out that Environment Canada scientists are collaborating with their colleagues at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in creating a national agri-environmental standards. When developed, these standards will help to protect the freshwater ecosystems from the negative effects of excessive amounts of phosphorus and other pollutants from agricultural activity.

Likewise, the government is also taking action on other significant sources of phosphates with the proposed regulations on sewage treatment announced by the Minister of the Environment in September 2007. This action will set new standards for 4,600 waste water systems in Canada. We are committed to action to reduce pollutants in waste water.

The government recognizes that these new regulations will imply costs. To offset this burden, the government has set aside $8.1 billion to assist provinces and municipalities to upgrade infrastructure, such as sewage treatment facilities. In addition, the 2007 Speech from the Throne included the government's commitment to help clean up major lakes and oceans.

Just last August, the government renewed the Canada-Ontario agreement to clean up 15 areas of concern in the great lakes. There is also the first nations water management strategy.

These are all examples of the government taking action to contribute to a healthier environment and improve water quality though a wide-range suite of initiatives.

We do not do this alone. We are committed to working with and alongside our provincial and territorial colleagues to meet the challenges we face. There are few resources so fundamentally important to our well-being than water. Through the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, new guidelines for Canadian drinking water quality are being developed.

Today, however, we are talking specifically about banning phosphorous. Phosphorous in detergent is already the subject of regulation. Back in the seventies, phosphorous concentrations in laundry detergents were first regulated after blue and green algae became a problem in the Great Lakes system.

In the seventies, waste water treatment was not what it is today. At that time, dishwashers were not a standard item in most households. In the seventies, laundry detergent was the significant contributor. However, with the intervening years, it is understandable and timely that we revisit phosphorous and its impact on our environment and human health.

The current regulation, to which I just referred, sets the maximum phosphorous limit in laundry detergent to 2.2% by weight. I can give the assurance that good regulation, the kind done by the government, is a considered and consultative process. Good regulation takes technical, economic and social realities into account. With hurried and unrealistic timelines, we risk forcing the industry to introduce other chemical substitutes before it is satisfied of their safety and effectiveness.

Good regulation, the kind the government supports, considers health and the safety of Canadians. A wholesale ban on phosphorous may not be appropriate. For example, detergents used for dishwashers in hospitals call for a different formulation of detergent than we might use in our homes. This is because the machines in hospitals use greater heat, do larger loads and have faster cycles than those of household machines.

Phosphorous currently plays an important role in these specialized detergent uses. This role might be ignored in precipitous decisions, but good regulation will give this due consideration.

In addition to acting to protect the environment and the health of Canadians, good regulation respects trade obligations. As can be appreciated, we have a number of these under NAFTA and the WTO. At present, five American states have moved to limit both laundry and dishwasher detergents to phosphorous concentrations of no more than 0.5%. Other states are also moving in this direction.

Our regulations will serve to protect the environment while at the same time respect our trade obligations.

At home, the provinces of Quebec and Manitoba have proposed provincial controls for phosphorous concentrations in dishwasher detergents. The government will also consult with our colleagues in the provinces and territories so as to support environmental protection across Canada as well as domestic trade.

I note that the European Union has regulations on phosphorous in laundry detergent, but has not yet tackled dishwasher detergent. In this I am pleased to say that Canada is in the vanguard along with several American states.

Our proposed regulations for sewage treatment, for funding of treatment facilities, for collaboration with agriculture and for the many other initiatives the government is doing demonstrate our concrete actions to preserve and protect the quality of our water in Canada.

Canadian Environmental Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure to rise today to wrap up the debate on Bill C-469 to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to prohibit the manufacturing, sale or importation of laundry and dish detergents that contain phosphates.

To close the debate, I would like to thank all members of Parliament who spoke in favour of this bill and who are particularly concerned about the environment. I listened to my Conservative colleague. I agree with some of the things he said, but not with others. If he is at all concerned about the environment, I think that the least he should do is vote for this bill so that it can be referred to the committee for further study. This bill deserves that much.

I call on all parliamentarians, including the member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean. We know that Lac-Saint-Jean, for example, has been affected by the blue-green algae problem. We hope that the member will take that into account when it is time to vote, as well as the concerns of environmentalists in the Lac-Saint-Jean region, of course.

As I said when debate commenced on second reading, this bill was tabled because last summer we all saw the problem with phosphates throughout Quebec and all over Canada. We know that detergent products containing phosphates help spread cyanobacteria. We have talked about this. Everyone here in Parliament has heard about the problem with cyanobacteria.

Aside from the measures each of us must take as individuals, the federal government must also take concrete action to solve this problem, following in the steps of the Government of Quebec, which has implemented an action plan for fighting cyanobacteria. Since Ottawa is responsible for regulating imported products, we are—as is the Quebec National Assembly—calling on the federal government to take action through this bill and ban phosphates in detergents.

I have read and listened carefully to members' comments. Of course, we will look at some of the recommendations in committee. That is why it is important for this bill to be referred to committee, so it can be studied by the committee, as I already mentioned. As I was discussing with my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, people deserve to have their say and for this to be studied.

It is important that we take action to preserve our lakes, and that we keep our water clean. We must also work on environmental issues and on all the issues currently affecting our planet. This bill is a start. It does not completely resolve the cyanobacteria problem. That much we know. We also know that there are other problems related to cyanobacteria, but let us start by at least partially resolving it. That is important.

This is why I am asking all parliamentarians today to move forward and vote in favour of this bill, which would partially resolve the issue of blue-green algae and cyanobacteria throughout Quebec and the rest of Canada. I urge anyone who is concerned about the environment and all the issues affecting our planet's future to vote in favour of this bill.

Canadian Environmental Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

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

Canadian Environmental Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canadian Environmental Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

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

Canadian Environmental Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think if you were to seek it you would get unanimous consent to see the clock as 7:10 p.m.

Canadian Environmental Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Is it agreed?

Canadian Environmental Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Some hon. members


Livestock IndustryEmergency Debate

February 13th, 2008 / 7 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The House will now proceed to the consideration of a motion to adjourn the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter requiring urgent consideration, namely the livestock industry.

Livestock IndustryEmergency Debate

7 p.m.


André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC


That this House do now adjourn.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak this evening. I want to thank your predecessor who occupied the chair this afternoon for approving this emergency debate.

We have heard a great deal from pork and beef producers, who are going through an unprecedented crisis. Until recently, producers were telling me that soon they would come en masse to Parliament Hill to make their demands, if the government refused to listen to reason and would not listen to their calls to deal with this crisis.

Obviously, we are holding an emergency debate because there is an emergency. We all understand the situation. I would like to thank the Chair again for allowing this debate on the crisis in the beef and pork industries.

The livestock industry is in crisis because of the rise in the value of the dollar and the costs of inputs, combined with a major drop in the price of meat in the case of pork and additional costs to manage and dispose of specified risk materials in the case of beef producers. In recent weeks, this House has heard all about the problems in the manufacturing and forestry industries. The increase in value of the dollar has often been mentioned as one of the major problems. It is also important to understand that there are exporters other than the people in the manufacturing and forestry industries. Of course, there are the pork and beef producers. These people also export their products and are also having problems because of the rise in the dollar. As I said, other factors also account for the crisis. I will come back to these a bit later.

In the case of beef producers, we remember the mad cow crisis and the border closures. In the case of pork producers, we can think of porcine circovirus and so on. These industries are truly in crisis. That is why it is really important to do something now.

Pork producers want an immediate program to guarantee loans or take over the interest currently assumed by producers, while beef producers want emergency measures such as a $50 million program over two years to help them deal with the costs incurred as a result of the new specified risk material standards. New standards were imposed on Canadian and Quebec producers when it was determined as a result of the mad cow crisis that certain materials in cattle had to be removed. We must realize that producers are incurring higher costs because they are obliged now to get rid of these specified risk materials. These include, in particular, the spinal cord, eyes, cerebellum, and so forth. Certain parts must absolutely be removed before carcasses can be shipped for human consumption.

On the other hand, and this is the main problem, American producers are not obliged to do the same. This means additional costs for Canadian producers, who have asked for $50 million over two years. This is far from extreme or exorbitant in view of the huge surplus that the federal government has been talking about this year. They have been talking about a surplus of nearly $11 billion. However producers have been getting nothing but the cold shoulder.

This debate is needed because of the silence of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food in the face of all the letters sent to them by producers in addition to the unanimous recommendations of all—and I wish to emphasize—of all the parties, including the party in power, which voted on the recommendations in the first report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

Entitled “Report on the Beef and Pork Sector Income Crisis”, the unanimous report recommends transitional measures to alleviate the crisis as well as more long-term measures to improve the competitiveness of the industry. Producers have appealed over and over for assistance. So far though, the government’s response has been nothing at all.

The government will surely talk this evening about the huge sums that have been allocated to these producers. What we hear in the field, though, is talk about producers who sometimes get an advance payment from the famous APP but two weeks later have to pay it back because they got money from the Farm Income Stabilization Program. What the government gives with one hand it takes away with the other. Producers have a serious problem when they hear talk about $600 million having been allocated.

That means nothing to them because they cannot get the money that was announced.

I would like to say that I will be splitting my time with the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot. I apologize for not saying that earlier. Her riding, in Quebec, is the one with the most hog producers, and obviously she wanted to speak this evening. So I believe that my new colleague has a strong interest in standing up for her producers, and I will be splitting my time with her. Thank you.

As I was saying, that is why we need to hold this debate, particularly in view of everything that is happening at present, so we can make this government see reason, when it has literally abandoned the pork and beef producers. In Quebec, there are 23,000 beef producers and 4,000 pork producers, and I mentioned the heavy concentration of producers in the riding of my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

In my region, which extends from central Quebec to the Eastern Townships—the riding of Richmond—Arthabaska practically covers both those areas, obviously not completely, but in large part—there are 5,000 beef producers and nearly 700 pork producers. So a lot of people come in regularly to ask us to carry their message.

As I was saying earlier, if we do not reach an agreement, if we do not find a solution to these problems, they will be coming to carry their message themselves. Now, we do not want that to happen. These people have got to the point where they are leaving home and coming all the way here to demonstrate. The beef and pork producers and the agricultural producers are not demonstrators, they are not paid to do that. In fact, they want to work on their land and produce food for the public. They have a lot of things to do other than come and carry placards in demonstrations. When people are at the end of their rope, however, there is nothing left to do but go on the road to make their demands heard, and rightly so.

I rise this evening on their behalf and I to call on the government to act. The opposition, and in particular the Bloc Québécois, is often accused of talking but doing nothing. I will remind this government that one party in this House rose in 2005 to say that supply management had to be protected. It introduced a motion. That motion was passed unanimously, and still today, at the World Trade Organization negotiations, that Bloc Québécois motion is still being used by the Canadian negotiators.

At present, we have grave concerns about the agreements drafted in Geneva. But we hope that Canada will stand firm and defend our producers and supply management system. That is action and not just talk. We are prepared to withstand the accusations. However, we want the government to walk the talk. That is what we are asking this evening.

As I was saying, the government response is that it has given a great deal. But these are recycled announcements. The same thing is announced over and over. That is the problem. This evening they will say that they provided more than $70 million to combat circovirus. We do not deny it. We understand completely, but that will not solve the crisis.

Furthermore, the Secretary of State (Agriculture) and member for Mégantic—L'Érable was bragging that he went to Paris to tell the French that they were subsidizing their hog producers and that they had to put a stop to that. We do not oppose that. Naturally we understand that pressure must be brought to bear on other countries with respect to subsidies they provide to their agricultural sector. However, that will not solve the current crisis in any way, shape or form.

As I only have a few minutes left, I would like to read some very interesting quotes from those in the know about this crisis.

First, Christian Lacasse, President of the Union des producteurs agricoles du Québec said, “The situation is extremely precarious. Federal money must be forthcoming. There is no question about that.”

Jean-Guy Vincent, President of the Fédération des producteurs de porcs du Québec, a resident of my riding, stated, “the situation has become untenable—” He also added that Ottawa remains silent. He is probably listening this evening. He absolutely wants this Conservative government, during its term of office, to respect its election promise to help hog production.

I will close with one last quote and then listen carefully to my colleagues' questions and comments. According to Michel Dessureault, President of the Fédération des producteurs de bovin du Québec “—we constantly come back to see you and to tell you that producers are at the end of their rope. They cannot take even one more step. They have done their utmost.”

In my opinion, if the government does not hear these alarm bells, I do not know what will spur it to action. I hope that this evening's emergency debate will get things moving.

Livestock IndustryEmergency Debate

7:10 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the member explained how the Conservative government makes grand announcements but the money does not get to where it is supposed to go. I think the one he is talking about is the agri-invest and the advance payments program.

Would the member agree with me that this is really the case: the government pays money out with one hand under one government program and then it draws it back in the other government program; it makes the grand announcement but the farmer has no net benefit and, in fact, the government is paying itself? Is that not what is happening?

Diamond X Ranch Ltd., a producer in B.C., wrote a letter to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. The first paragraph states:

In our mailbox the other day we received a check from the federal government for “cost of production”. Now we have, in the past three years averaged one hundred and sixty-seven head of cows to calve each spring. The check was for $316.32 which works out to approximately $1.89 per head.

The writer asked:

How do you figure the cow/calf operator can produce a calf for $1.89?

Would the member answer those two questions?

Livestock IndustryEmergency Debate

7:10 p.m.


André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Malpeque for his very pertinent questions. I must say that, having worked with him on the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food for some time now, I usually appreciate his contributions enormously. Even though we do not belong to the same party, we have certainly developed a sense of solidarity on this issue. I think the whole committee has that sense of solidarity. Earlier, I mentioned the unanimous report we produced. Some people in the Conservative Party seem to have understood, but they have not yet helped the minister understand what was going on.

The examples that the member just gave are good ones, and they are also tragic. I do not know how the minister responded to those cases. Producers have told me that they have not yet received a response to all the letters they wrote to ask the minister for help. Nevertheless, it is clear that these people cannot continue to live like this. They cannot survive on such ridiculous sums of money.

As I was saying, this evening, we will no doubt hear people on the government side talk about billions of dollars—some $2.3 billion—that it injected to deal with these crises. But producers are telling us that they have not received a penny of it. The government knew that CAIS was not working, so it proposed AgriStability, which is a lot like CAIS and does not seem to work any better.

Producers have been receiving advance payments, only to be told two weeks later that they have to pay it back. That is a serious problem. The member for Malpeque may know more about this than I do, but I do know that in Saskatchewan, producers were told that they had been sent a cheque by mistake, which was too bad, but they had to pay it back. As if they needed that on top of everything else. These people have had it up to here!

The fact that this is happening proves that there are serious flaws. It is not that the government cannot fix these problems. It can attenuate the crisis. The committee, the members of the opposition, and agricultural producers gave it the means to do so a long time ago.

There are solutions out there, and it is up to the government to implement them.

Livestock IndustryEmergency Debate

7:15 p.m.

Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry Ontario


Guy Lauzon ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for initiating this debate this evening. This is a very serious matter.

However, I would like to point something out to him. The Liberals were in power for 13 years and I find it odd that the hon. member did not say a word about the 13 years of Liberal inaction.

As the member opposite knows, the Conservative government believes in designing programs and he mentioned them. We are very proud of our programs. The minister is proud of our programs. These programs were developed by farmers for farmers.

We know that for 13 years the Liberals created programs that were not really in the best interest of the farmer. We know that the Bloc, unfortunately, never developed a program and never will develop a program. The member must agree that these programs were developed by farmers for farmers.

Livestock IndustryEmergency Debate

7:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska should know that the period for questions and comments is now over, but I will allow him a moment to reply.

Livestock IndustryEmergency Debate

7:15 p.m.


André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, since I only have a moment, I will say quite frankly that after the two years the government has been in power we are tired of hearing it blame the previous government. Let them read everything we said about the Liberal government when we were—

Livestock IndustryEmergency Debate

7:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

Livestock IndustryEmergency Debate

7:15 p.m.


Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today in this emergency debate on the current crisis in agriculture. I am also very pleased to support the hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska in the presentation of his motion and I am pleased the Speaker agreed to hear this debate this evening.

Saint-Hyacinthe is the main city in my riding and it is an agri-food high-tech hub. However, the agri-food and agriculture sector is currently in crisis. I lived on a hog farm for more than seven years. I am very aware of what producers are going through right now.

The incomes of hog producers are atrocious. Soon many of them will have to hand their keys over to the banks because they are being choked by payments. Many farms will have to stop operating and start liquidating in the short term because of the programs the government has implemented and the money the government refuses to release quickly to help the producers.

The steep rise of the Canadian dollar has harmed producers immensely. The high price of inputs is another factor that is harming producers. The very low price producers have been getting for the past 16 months only adds to the catastrophic situation they are in.

The money currently being invested in the programs is not new because the programs have been recycled. The agricultural sector needs help now. Given the huge surpluses that the Conservative government has generated over the last few years and the surpluses that will be generated in the years to come, it has ample means to help farmers out.

In the cattle industry, farmers in Quebec and Canada are finding it very hard to keep up with our neighbours to the south because of all the competition and the fact that the Americans provide outrageous subsidies to their producers. Canadian agriculture is not helped either when food markets here buy meat from our neighbours to the south at ridiculous prices. Maybe the standards are not the same as the ones we impose on our farmers. So our farmers are facing unfair competition. The government should therefore assist the farmers who have been victimized by this.

My riding of Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot has been hit hard by job losses over the last two years: pork processing plants have closed and many workers have lost their jobs even though they were skilled. It is not easy under current conditions to find a new job, especially in a region where 25% of the jobs that are created are directly related to agriculture and agri-food.

I will fight tooth and nail for this because this sector is vital to my riding.

In addition, Quebec does not get its fair share of the payments. Quebec farmers have a shortfall to make up of more than $150 million. The report tabled yesterday by the Pronovost commission urges the federal government to give Quebec its full share.

I have been sitting since just recently on the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, along with my colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska. I had an opportunity last week to ask the chair of the Canadian Swine Breeders' Association, Mr. Schlegel, if he had received any acknowledgement of the letter he sent to the Prime Minister regarding urgent assistance for farmers and what answer he got. He has not received any answer at all. The Prime Minister still has not replied to his letter. This is a slap in the face of very hardworking farmers. They need immediate help. The assistance currently announced will be available around April, but farmers need that money now.

We can expect to see producers soon on the Hill, showing their disgust at the situation. The member for Richmond—Arthabaska and I will be at their side, and we will support their demands. I will not be there just because I am an elected member of Parliament, but because for many years I made my living from farming, so I feel directly affected. As I have said, I represent a riding that is highly agricultural.

A unanimous report tabled by the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food makes recommendations and suggests ways of quickly addressing the farm crisis. I cannot understand why the government does not make funding available immediately, and I mean immediately. Farmers need this money now. The government has the means and the opportunity to act now.

Personally, I believe that the Conservative government is acting in bad faith. I will go into the field and I will keep telling my farmers to fight. I will also tell them that I will be at their side in this crucial fight to keep farming alive in Quebec and Canada. We have always said that food is a basic need. But the crisis affecting farmers across this country is threatening Canada's ability to meet that basic need.

Livestock IndustryEmergency Debate

7:25 p.m.


Carol Skelton Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member for Malpeque argued throughout the debate we had in the agricultural committee that we should completely ignore the WTO obligations and develop farm aid without any consideration for the disastrous consequences that countervail would have. Industry has repeatedly stated how bad this would be for its sector.

Could the member talk about the disastrous consequences that countervail would have for the industry, or would she agree with the member for Malpeque on that?

Livestock IndustryEmergency Debate

7:25 p.m.


Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her question. The Conservative government is currently in power. I would like to reiterate what my hon. colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska said. I am tired of hearing my colleagues across the floor constantly return to the Liberals' proposals and their failure to act. But the Conservatives are the ones currently in power and in a position to help farmers.

The Bloc Québécois is calling on the government to respond to the needs of our farmers. As my hon. colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska clearly stated earlier, we sometimes agree with the positions taken by our opposition colleagues, but, first, I urge the government to respond quickly to this crisis.

Livestock IndustryEmergency Debate

7:25 p.m.


Paul Steckle Liberal Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, I sincerely appreciate the passion which the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot has put into this debate this evening.

As a farmer, as a hog producer, myself, I share some of the same sentiments that she has expressed. However, I find it rather odd to believe that we have a government now in power for two years and has as yet failed to deliver on many of the promises that were made.

Given the circumstances of farmers going broke, many of these farmers I believe, as they are in my riding and likely in hers as well, are working off farm to keep their operations going. Once they lose their operations, what impact does that have on their local communities, the schools, the churches and the small business operators? Could the member tell us what kind of a social impact that has on small communities?