Mr. Speaker, before beginning my speech, I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with the excellent member for Beauharnois—Salaberry, who is doing impressive work in her riding. I am sure that she will be re-elected in the next election in 2015, as will many New Democrats. In fact, we will be the next government come October.
In December 2014, an article in La Presse stated that some 270,000 tonnes of plastic are floating around in our planet's oceans. There are even such things as floating islands. This shows how big the plastic problem is, and we need to tackle it. That is not even counting what has sunk to the bottom of our rivers, the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes. Recent studies have shown that the problem is getting worse and that we have to do something about it.
Once again, I thank and congratulate my colleague from Halifax, the environment critic, who is doing excellent work. This week, she asked for an emergency debate on the rapidly melting Arctic glaciers, which is a very serious phenomenon. They are melting at record rates. This is a huge concern in terms of global warming, which is hard to control. We have to do something about it; we cannot wait for the Conservatives to act. That is why New Democrats are leading the charge and coming up with constructive solutions and proposals. That is what we will continue to do once we form the government in October 2015.
Plastics are contaminating every ocean. The small pieces of manufactured plastic called microbeads are used in consumer goods such as face wash, shower gel and toothpaste. As a result, they are found in our waste water, and because our water treatment plants cannot filter them effectively, they then end up in the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River.
These plastic microbeads attract other pollutants, such as PCBs, which are even more dangerous. Because aquatic species that live in our ecosystem swallow them, they enter the food chain. That is very worrisome. What is more, they do not just float. They are also found in sediment, as I mentioned earlier. This is a problem that is getting worse, and we need to do something about it as quickly as possible.
Microbeads were first patented for use in cleaning products in 1972, but it was not until the 1990s that they began to be used on a much broader scale. It did not take long to see that this was becoming a problem. Some companies even voluntarily stopped using microbeads, which shows that the industry took action even before the Conservatives. The Conservatives are once again lagging behind on this issue.
Right now, waste water treatment plants cannot filter out the microbeads. It would be much too costly to have plants that could stop these microbeads from entering our marine ecosystem. That is why I am pleased to support the motion by my colleague from Halifax, who does an excellent job. The motion says:
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.
We are very pleased to support this motion. We are also happy to see that the other parties will follow the leadership that the NDP is once again showing here today. This example serves to demonstrate, once again, how we plan to govern beginning in October 2015.
In other words, we will take constructive action, and our proposals will improve both the economy and our environment in the context of sustainable development projects. We in the NDP are the only ones who can pride ourselves on being champions of sustainable development.
At the end of 2014, another article explained that recent studies had shown that plastic was posing a threat to the St. Lawrence. A team of researchers from McGill University discovered a new source of pollution in the St. Lawrence: plastic microbeads. The researchers found a high concentration of them in the sediments of the St. Lawrence.
As I was saying, microbeads are a real problem, not only in the Great Lakes, but also in the St. Lawrence. It is therefore crucial that we take action, and the NDP has moved this motion in order to help solve the problem, which has become a real scourge.
Microbeads can be mistaken for food by organisms living on the bottom of the St. Lawrence River, which are then eaten by fish. Biologist Philippe Archambault, of the Institut des sciences de la mer de Rimouski, pointed that out in the Radio-Canada report “Le fleuve menacé par le plastique”, on the threat that plastic poses to the river.
As I mentioned, and as Philippe Archambault did as well, the problem is made worse by the fact that these microbeads attract other chemical pollutants such as PCBs. This further pollutes our entire marine ecosystem and becomes part of our whole food chain. This is a concern for human consumption. As we know, and we have already talked about this, the scientific community believes that we must take action. This study shows how urgently action is needed. Other studies were conducted in the past. Consequently, we are pleased to support this motion, which demonstrates the NDP's leadership.
Companies such as Unilever, L'Oréal, Colgate-Palmolive and Johnson & Johnson are already leading the way. These manufacturers have begun tackling this problem either by stopping the manufacture of new products that contain microbeads or by altogether stopping the manufacture of such products.
This shows that action by the Canadian government is even more urgently needed. Companies that are acting of their own accord end up penalized in a way, compared to other companies that continue to harm the environment by using microbeads. When most of the industry wants to take action, all that is left is for the government to take action, and that is what is missing from the Conservatives. It is very disappointing.
In conclusion, I remind members how important it is to the New Democrats to consider future generations. We must not only think about today; we must also think about the future and what we will leave for our families.
I am thinking about my nephews, including Zacharie and Michaël, and my daughters, Ariane and Oriana. It is important to leave them a planet with a strong, sustainable economy, as well as a healthy, sustainable environment.
That is why it is important to take actions such as the one we are discussing today. I once again congratulate the member for Halifax for her excellent work and I thank the House for listening.
I hope that all members in the House will support this motion, as well as the other motions the NDP constructively presents in the House of Commons. I am very proud of them.