Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand in the House to speak to Bill C-16, an act to amend the Environmental Enforcement Act.
This bill, as has been stated previously, would amend environment bills and create one new act. The purpose of the bill is to stiffen penalties for environmental offences. This is the first step in the right direction.
In the past, the effectiveness of Canada's environmental legislation and regulations has been hampered by the lack of an adequate enforcement regime.
Mr. Speaker, before I go forward, I will be sharing my time with the member for Scarborough—Rouge River.
Bill C-16 attempts to address the shortcomings of the current laws and puts in a stronger enforcement regime. It introduces stiffer fines, penalties and new sentencing powers, and strengthens the government's ability to investigate and prosecute infractions. Canadians do need to know that there is an effective environmental enforcement regime. They need to know that polluters, poachers and wild life smugglers will be punished or will be fined and will pay for it.
Bill C-16 would not only introduce enforcement tools like fines but also sentencing. The drafting and architecture of the environmental enforcement was accomplished in many stages during three successive Liberal governments, and I am glad to see that this has been carried forward.
Climate change and its impact on the population is a well-known fact. Climate change is a global phenomena and is affecting every country.
Today I was at a breakfast meeting with the deputy minister of Jamaica. He stated that the Caribbean Islands are facing the wrath of climate change. He stated that, as a young man, hurricanes were very rare, once in 10 years, and that now hurricanes hit the islands and surrounding area on a regular basis. This has had a devastating impact on their economy.
Countries that rely on agriculture have seen their crops fail badly or totally destroyed. We have seen devastating results in our own country. In Canada, we have had droughts on the prairies and rivers dry up or overflow. Our rivers are being polluted making the water undrinkable, unsuitable for swimming or anything else and for sea life as well. We have seen the impact of climate change on the northern communities. Their way of life is threatened. The snow is melting and the polar bears are in danger.
The elephant in the room, as we discuss environmental enforcement legislation, has to do with what the government is doing to address the issue of climate change. The government has no regulatory framework for climate change.
The government has made claims that its plan would reduce GHGs by 20% by 2020 but the C.D. Howe Institute, the RBC Dominion Securities and 11 independent groups stated that the government's plan will not work. In fact, at the public accounts meeting, the Commissioner of the Environment stated that the government had achieved nothing with some of its tax credits, for example, the TTC tax credit, which was a waste of $635 million with zero reduction in GHGs, or the Eco-Fund, which is a $1.5 billion boondoggle. There is no accountability, no help in reducing GHGs and nobody knows whether any of the provinces or territories have drawn down the money or have done anything to assist with the greenhouse gas reductions.
The government still does not have a plan. Its Clean Air Act, which was introduced in the last Parliament, was a disaster. The U.S., on the other hand, under President Obama, is moving forward with an aggressive climate change policy because they realize that the science of climate change is real.
We should just look at the desertification in the Sub-Sahara. In many parts of the world, the impact of climate change has led to a lack of water and lack of arable land which has led to conflict and human tragedies.
Therefore, my question is, where is the government's plan on climate change?
With the evaporation of the clean air act from the last Parliament and its being rewritten and greatly strengthened, the government did not like it and therefore, it censored debate. Now the government is waiting for the U.S., but Canada is a sovereign state. Is there an envoy or timeline?
If we are desperately in need of environmental enforcement, we are desperately in need of a climate change plan. What will we do when the temperature increases? What are the crises that will occur?
The line of questioning that I hope will be pursued when the bill is sent to committee is: what about climate change? Where is the government's plan? What has motivated the government to move in the direction of environmental enforcement without moving to put in a proper climate change plan?
The government has put in an aggressive agenda. We would like to ensure that all parties send the bill to committee for better study.
There are 38,000 to 40,000 contaminated sites at the moment. How will environmental enforcement deal with the pre-existing liabilities for the municipalities, cities, towns and regions across the country that have these toxic sites? Who will clean up those toxic sites? How will they clean up brownfields, blackfields, et cetera? It is a troubling issue and therefore it is important that the government work with the provinces, territories and municipalities to come up with a strategy on how to compensate and restore these sites. Those questions have to be answered.
The registry of environmental offenders, which was referred to previously, is a good idea, but how will the government move forward with it? I hope the government takes its time to do a deeper study.
This bill, which relates to environmental enforcement, will bring in specific improvements to the previous legislation. A new structure of fines will be added, and nine acts will be brought under one act. The bill will bring in minimum sentences. Those are some of the positive things about the bill.
It will consolidate nine acts, bring in new enforcement regimes, new sentencing regimes. We need those regimes, but the root question which still remains is, what are we going to do about the climate change crisis? How is the government going to address these issues in the environmental enforcement bill? How will it ensure that we have in place the proper regimes, compensation and methods to clean up our contaminated sites?
With that, I would suggest that the bill be sent to committee for review and sober second thought so that people can have a proper look at it.