Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to support the bill introduced by my colleague from Honoré-Mercier. This bill would mandate the Minister of Health to establish a national strategy to reduce the negative effects of heat islands.
In short, people noticed that the temperature difference from one neighbourhood to another can be as high as 12°C because of heat islands. This can increase smog and make air quality worse. For example, there is increased demand for air conditioning and for water, whether we are talking about potable water or water for swimming pools and water parks.
My colleague conducted public consultations in her riding and discovered that constituents in her neighbourhood were very concerned. I know that she is in an area on the Island of Montreal in which there are a number of heat islands. Since she is a good member of Parliament who listens to her constituents, she decided to come back to Ottawa and introduce a bill on this topic. I am very pleased to participate in this debate because I am very concerned about this issue. I really want to see this bill move through all stages in the House of Commons.
It is currently part of Health Canada's mandate to monitor heat islands and safeguard Canadians against the effects of heat waves. However, there is no national strategy for all of that. The bill is calling for collaboration between the federal, municipal and provincial governments in order to increase effectiveness and efficiency. There is no knowledge transfer. People are ill-informed and no one really knows who should be sharing information with the public. I think that this bill is a very good idea.
Many industrialized countries with heat islands have developed a national strategy in recent decades, including the United States, France, Portugal, Holland, Spain, Germany, England, Japan and Sweden. I think it would be good for us to follow suit.
During my speech, I will talk about the impact heat islands can have on health, what can be done, some solutions and the benefits of those solutions. We are talking about the health of Canadians, and a government must show great concern for the health of the people in its policies. That is very important.
The Public Health Agency of Canada said that on hot days mortality can rise by 20% in areas with heat islands. Heat islands can result in discomfort, weakness, loss of consciousness, cramps, fainting spells, heat stroke and breathing difficulties.
To relay my own story, I suffer from asthma. It did not start when I was young, but when I was 25. I started having respiratory problems when I moved to Montreal. I had never experienced that before. At first, I did not know what it was. I underwent some testing and I was told I had asthma. The surprising thing is that I have trouble breathing when I am in Montreal. When there is a heat wave, it is even worse. Nonetheless, in summer, when it is hot and I am camping or somewhere at a cottage, I do not have those same breathing problems. It is therefore one of the effects of the heat islands. This affects pretty much every big city in Canada. More and more major structures are being built, including seniors' residences, big condo towers and shopping centres, which all require paved parking lots. This is conducive to creating heat islands.
In fact, the Lachine industrial park is one of the biggest heat islands in Montreal. According to data from the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, Lachine's industrial sector is one of the hottest areas on the Island of Montreal. I will quote from a report:
The tree canopy coverage in the industrial sector is 4%, which is slightly above average. However, the industrial area is so large that it diminishes the effect of the tree canopy in the borough. Accordingly, the City of Montreal's department of large parks and green spaces recommends that the tree canopy coverage be increased to 15%.
In my riding, with the airport, this industrial park and the highway, heat islands are all around us.
Another report said that the temperature in a paved schoolyard could go as high as 52 degrees Celsius. I know that schools are usually closed in summer, but the playgrounds in schoolyards are being used then. When I was young, I would go to my elementary school's yard. I think that 52 degrees is very high, and even if you are well hydrated, it is still very high. The people most likely to be affected by heat islands are children, seniors, pregnant women, people with existing illnesses, and athletes. If they are in a place where there are a lot of heat islands, it could be very bad for them.
I found one striking statistic: between 1979 and 2003 about 8,000 deaths in Canada were caused by heat islands and heat waves. That is a lot.
As I said earlier, right now in Canada some provinces and municipalities have programs, but there is nothing to create a synergy among all provinces and municipalities in order to make progress, share ideas and improve the health of Canadians.
For example, Montreal now has maps to measure heat islands, and these are available to the public. In Montreal and Toronto there are municipal efforts and awareness programs. In some cities there are planning regulations encouraging white roofs and trees in parking lots, but it all happens piecemeal because the government is not taking the lead. That is what my colleague is trying to do with this bill.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the FCM, has a fund that supports efforts to reduce the effects of climate change. Some provinces also have large, well-targeted funds. However, we want a national strategy to put it all together and move forward.
Solutions have been proposed. We should increase vegetation and green our cities. On that point, I would like to congratulate a group in my riding, GRAME de Lachine, a group that does applied research in macroecology. It is doing fantastic work on heat islands. It has conducted research through a provincial program, the climate change action plan. Once again, this is a good program from Quebec. Could it be exported to other provinces? Yes, we must talk about it.
This group has planted more than 200 trees. It has used high-albedo materials to completely revitalize the playground at one of the primary schools in my riding, Martin Bélanger School in Ville Saint-Pierre. The playground is extraordinary. There are not a lot of games or a lot of structures in the playground. The company planted trees and drew designs on the asphalt. This has reduced the heat and the result is really pretty.
The building where I have my office is called Regroupement de Lachine. It has been completely renovated. It is a former grocery store that has been transformed into an eco-building. It is a community centre with geothermal energy. It has one of the largest accessible green roofs on the island of Montreal. GRAME also distributed 350 large trees in 2014. I attended one of their distribution days. These are the kinds of projects that can really reduce urban heat islands.
In terms of cost-effectiveness for the government, a number of studies prove what we are saying. One study conducted in 2013 by Bélanger Michaud at the Université de Sherbrooke shows that the return on investment is 5.8 times higher than the cost of the trees that could be planted in parking lots or along roads. A study conducted at Ryerson University showed that green roofs have two positive effects. Energy costs are lower and energy consumption is reduced. Berkeley University conducted a study in 2001, which showed that a national strategy makes it possible to save 3% to 5% in energy. A study by the World Bank describes the direct impact on emergency systems, on health and on beds available in hospitals. In fact, the dog days of summer are precisely when we have heat islands, and that is when a number of people go to the hospital because they feel ill. Once again, this represents a reduction in costs.
It is time to stop dealing with problems once they have occurred. This bill will prevent problems from occurring in the first place. It will make it possible to save money in health care and it will enable people to feel better.
I would once again like to congratulate my colleague for tabling this bill. I think it is a winner for everyone. I am going to vote in favour of this bill. I hope that everyone will vote for it, because it is important for our country.