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House of Commons Hansard #33 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was benefits.

Topics

Environmental Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do know that the hon. member comes from Yukon, which is, in a relative sense, sparsely populated. However, as I listened to his remarks and to the questions and comments, I could not help but think that even though we are dealing with a bill that deals with insult to the environment, environmental degradation and offences against Canada related to environmental degradation, the biggest villain might be climate change.

I represent a riding in Toronto. Could the member comment on the relative weight that we perhaps should be attaching to these threats, one being the environmental degradation from people relative to the environmental change or degradation that is threatened by climate change? Which is more important in Yukon?

Environmental Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, the member makes a good point. If there is no law that allows us to deal with something, what is the use of having enforcement? In the north, in particular, the damage caused by climate change is four or five times worse than what is happening in the rest of the world. Therefore, it is very significant for us.

Environmental Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

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.

Environmental Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member urged us not to be too distracted by the details of the bill so that we are not distracted from what is actually the big gorilla in the room, which is climate change. That is excellent advice.

I want to ask her, in relation to all of the increased penalties and enforcement in the bill, and the index of the bill reads like an environmental who's who because it covers over half a dozen separate environmental protection statutes, if we here in the House should not be too distracted by all of this enactment of new penalties. I have grown weary over the years of all of the shameless posturing and pretence that we as politicians go through whenever we see a problem. For example, on the criminal side of things, we see a criminal act take place in some part of the country and we say we are going to pass a law to increase the penalty and that will deal with it, when in fact I do not think there is a criminal out there who knows what the penalty for these crimes really is. The criminals actually do not know.

I could probably win a $100 bet if I went around this House and asked what the penalty for an armed robbery is because there would not be a member in the House who would know. If we the legislators do not know what the penalty is for an armed robbery, how the heck do we think the criminal is going to know? In fact, the criminal could never know because the penalty is not known until the judge sentences the person in court well after the event, sometimes too long after the event.

Can we simply enact new penalties and new provisions and hope that it is going to make a difference? Do we not also have to invest in enforcement, in boots on the ground, in policing and regulatory authorities, people who will be there? Do we not have to do that--

Environmental Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. I have to cut off the hon. member because the hon. member for Don Valley East will have to respond to the question.

Environmental Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will respond very quickly.

It is all very well to have fines and penalties, but the hon. member is right in that we have to have enforcement. Enforcement is very critical. Boots on the ground are what is required. That is why it is important to send the bill to committee for further study and further tightening.

Environmental Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the member's discourse with respect to the critique of what I would think is a rather robust approach our government is taking on the gigantic issue of climate change.

In light of her arguments, are she and her party still intending to use a carbon tax as the approach to try to bring some kind of redress to the situation that Canada faces?

Environmental Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, the environmental enforcement bill, as I mentioned, has a lot of penalties. It brings together all the bills so that we have one bill that would make it easier for people to understand. We need to have boots on the ground.

With regard to the clean air act which the government had proposed but which evaporated, the committee, which is what a democracy requires, decided that the clean air act needed to be strengthened. Once it was strengthened it was the responsibility of the government to enforce it, but it did not.

If one does not believe in the science of climate change and if one brings about enforcement in an environmental act, it is critical, in order to be taken seriously that one has to take climate change seriously. It is important to understand the science of climate change.

Environmental Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member has talked about climate change, but I would like to get back to the actual bill.

This bill introduces a fine regime, a penalty regime that is designed to impact very strongly on those who pollute. However, fines have been the price of doing business. Is there anything else in the bill that would make those who pollute pay and it would not just be written off as a matter of being the price of doing business?

Environmental Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, we need to understand that the key message here is that we are trying to strengthen and standardize the penalties that polluters will have to pay. It is not only fines; it is sentencing. What is important when we talk about sentencing is that the criminals need to know that all offenders who pollute or aggravate the environment will have to pay.

Environmental Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is the House ready for the question?

Environmental Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Environmental Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The question is on the motion.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Environmental Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Environmental Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Environmental Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Environmental Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Environmental Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Environmental Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

In my opinion, the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Accordingly the vote is deferred until later this day.

Suspension of SittingEnvironmental Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is it agreed that we suspend the sitting until 5:30 p.m.?

Suspension of SittingEnvironmental Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Suspension of SittingEnvironmental Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 5:24 p.m.)

(The House resumed at 5:30 p.m.)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992, be read the third time and passed.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992Government Orders

March 25th, 2009 / 5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It now being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the third reading stage of Bill C-9.

Call in the members.

Before the taking of the vote: