Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to once again speak about the environment.
I am very pleased to support the motion that was moved by my colleague from Halifax, the NDP environment critic. She puts her heart and soul into protecting our environment. Again yesterday, she wanted to propose an emergency debate on the excessive melting of Arctic ice. The ice in the Arctic is melting very rapidly because of climate change. Unfortunately, the Conservatives denied the request for this debate. The member continues to speak out against a number of measures that affect the environment, measures passed by the Conservatives that undermine our environment, whether it be the elimination of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy or the gutting of all or almost all of our environmental protections. There is 1% left. The Conservatives did away with environmental assessments so that a number of projects could move forward without public consultation or oversight.
The member is an outstanding environment critic, and my colleague from Drummond, who is the deputy critic, also does a wonderful job. He works hard to protect our environment for future generations and to show the world that sustainable development and the economy go hand in hand and that companies are prepared to get on board. All that is missing is some political leadership from the Conservatives.
Today we are debating the following motion:
That, in the opinion of the House, microbeads in consumer products entering the environment could have serious harmful effects, and therefore the government should take immediate measures to add microbeads to the list of toxic substances managed by the government under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.
Microbeads are toxic substances that are polluting our environment. They were patented to replace natural ingredients in beauty products, including face and body washes and toothpaste.
It is really troubling to think that these plastic substances are found in products that we put on our skin, in our toothpaste and in some other products. Multinational cosmetic companies should not play with our health, nor should they play with our environment. They should replace microbeads with the natural ingredients that were used prior to the 1990s.
Microbeads pose a real threat to the environment, and I will explain why during my speech, as many of my colleagues on all sides of the House have done. These microplastics are ingested by aquatic animals, including fish that are intended for human consumption. They therefore wind up in the food chain. They are toxic to our health, as well as to flora and fauna, but they allow companies to save a few pennies in the manufacturing of consumer products. That is completely unacceptable.
The worst part is that these tiny plastic fragments are not biodegradable. They accumulate and are transferred to animals that ingest them, and then we consume them.
Microbeads are the product of an industrial manufacturing philosophy that focuses only on profits, with no regard whatsoever for the environmental footprint. Cosmetic companies should take into account the impact that these ingredients have on the environment when they manufacture beauty products and other consumer products. Moreover, 21 countries around the world have already chosen to gradually eliminate microbeads from their products because they are aware of the negative effects those substances have. They need help from the government and legislation to ensure fair competition among all companies.
Many large corporations that care about the environment now employ life cycle analysis. What is life cycle analysis? It looks at the resources needed to manufacture a product and quantifies its potential impact on the environment. This standard is accepted by a vast network of companies and even has an ISO code. Companies that make cosmetics should use this analysis in manufacturing their products.
To encourage companies to adopt best practices, my colleague, the member for Halifax, suggested that this substance be included on the toxic substances list in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Why do we need to do that? We want Canadian companies to compete on a level playing field, as I said earlier. All companies, not just some of them, should follow the rules for respecting the environment. By banning microbeads in consumer products, we will ensure that all companies respect human health and the environment.
Passing this motion will enable companies to follow the example set by companies like The Body Shop that have pledged to eliminate microbeads from all of their products by the end of the year.
Also participating are Johnson & Johnson, Lush and Colgate-Palmolive. Microbeads are threatening the ecological health of the St. Lawrence. That is clear. Wastewater treatment plants cannot filter out microbeads because of their small size and buoyancy. This is affecting the river's plants and wildlife. Let us not forget that many sources of pollution are already affecting the health of the St. Lawrence. People in my riding, Beauharnois—Salaberry, are well aware of that.
Every year, the river becomes more acidic. Seaway navigation brings in dangerous invasive marine species, and fish fertility rates are being affected by pollution. Moreover, global warming is exacerbating the effects of pollution and acidification of the river, not to mention that water levels in the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes are falling year by year.
All these sources of pollution are affecting the flora and fauna of the St. Lawrence River and cost millions of dollars in water filtration and purification. We should not forget that the St. Lawrence River is a drinking water reservoir for an entire region of Canada. In Beauharnois, which is in my riding, an old cargo ship has been rusting since 2011 in Lac St-Louis, which feeds into the St. Lawrence. Our lax environmental legislation, which the government weakens with every budget, leave us powerless to do anything about these sources of pollution.
If these large vessels do not pose an immediate risk to the environment, they are left to deteriorate in public waters. However, their long-term presence has serious repercussions for the environment. There is also the economic impact of all this pollution. Sport fishermen are no longer catching trophy fish. This is the result of the gutting of environmental legislation by this Conservative government, which nonetheless calls itself the champion of sport fishing and hunting. However, the Conservatives do not see the contradiction.
In my region, ecotourism is one of the economic drivers threatened by pollution. Waterways are threatened by blue-green algae, another source of pollution created by products such as detergents and industrial soaps. Swimming, fishing and camping are all activities affected by the pollution of our environment.
Les Amis et riverains de la rivière Châteauguay, the Société du vieux canal de Beauharnois, and Les Amis de la réserve nationale de faune du Lac-Saint-François, which is in Dundee in my riding, are just a few of the organizations that work with the public to raise awareness about the importance of protecting our waters, lakes, rivers and oceans. They run water-based activities to ensure that our economy is based on more than just the fossil fuel industry.
A number of environmental organizations are also raising public awareness so that we can better protect our waters. These include SCABRIC, Ambioterra, Nostra-Terra, Crivert, the Comité ZIP du Haut-Saint-Laurent, the Comité de l'environnement — Ste-Martine, the Comité consultatif en développement durable et en environnement de la Ville de Salaberry-de-Valleyfield and the Comité Environnement de la MRC de Beauharnois—Salaberry, just to name a few. All of these local organizations are very aware of the fact that we need to protect our waters.
The motion moved to eliminate the use of microbeads is one of the measures put forward by the NDP to protect our waters. All of these sources of pollution show that things are not looking good for our waterways. As I was saying, in my riding, the Lac Saint-François National Wildlife Area has been fighting for years to preserve plants and wildlife that are unique to the region. The wildlife area is home to approximately 20 rare or threatened species, including the yellow flag; the osprey, which is a bird of prey; and the snapping turtle, a wonderful species of turtle.
What has the Conservative government done to protect our wildlife areas? It cut the budget of the Lac Saint-François National Wildlife Area, threatening its very survival. It also amended the legislation protecting our lakes and rivers with Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, mammoth bills that were introduced in 2012 and gutted protections for our waterways.
Châteauguay River protection groups strongly condemned the Conservatives' direct attacks on our environment. In addition to all of these efforts, many members banded together to introduce bills to protect the environment and our waterways.
I hope that all members of the House will vote in favour of this motion to ensure that we can make the consumer products that enter our homes safe and leave a healthy planet to future generations by developing a sustainable economy.