Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to address this particular motion. As we have heard, there is a great deal of support for the motion put forward. I would anticipate, as others have anticipated, that the motion will receive unanimous support from all members of the House. That is what I am expecting, having listened to what people have had to say about it.
Canadians want us to be more progressive in our approach to the environment. Listening to a number of the speeches, from all sides of the House, I had some thoughts with regard to what could have been, if I can put it that way.
One member of the New Democratic Party spent a great deal of time talking about killer whales, or orcas, and how important they are to his community. What issue would the member want to talk about if we could choose an issue? If I were to canvass my constituents, the response I would likely get would be water management. I have heard members across the way and beside me talk about the importance of a national strategy on water.
I have had the opportunity to talk to a number of local candidates for the next election. There is a lot of talk at the door, whether it is in urban or rural Manitoba, about the need for a national water strategy.
In virtually every discussion we have had here today, the importance of water and the creatures within the water have been talked about at great length. That is not to take anything away from the importance of microbeads. Just recently, a member of the Ontario legislature, Marie-France Lalonde, the MPP for Ottawa—Orléans, actually brought forward a private member's bill proposing to ban this particular product.
The issue of plastic microbeads would seem to have taken on quite a bit of momentum. We have heard that there is at least one American state that has banned them. We hear that other jurisdictions have gone a long way in looking at how they could be banned.
In Canada there is at least one province that wants to move forward, and I hope it is successful. I will go into some of the things that have occurred in my home province in regard to environmental issues related to water and water management.
I was given an article. It was amazing in terms of the recognition given to the MPP for Ottawa—Orléans for her idea. It is from different types of stakeholders who applaud the action, recognizing that this is a direction we should be moving toward.
I started off, even before I was made aware of this, talking about the importance of working with others in trying to make a difference on the issue. I did that because of my personal experience.
In the Manitoba legislature six to eight years ago, phosphates in dishwasher soap were an issue. I can remember going to the store with the then leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party, Jon Gerrard, and we had a package of phosphate-free dishwasher soap in our hands. Members might call it a a photo op. We were calling on the province to take action to ban phosphates in dishwasher soap. Unfortunately, we were we not able to get that private member's idea accepted by the government at the time, but only a few years ago, when other provinces and the federal government worked together, it ultimately led to the banning of phosphates in dishwasher soap at the residential level. Therefore, working together to achieve something that Canadians want does make a difference.
I brought up that particular example because legislation was proposed by a Liberal member of the Ontario legislature, and the ball is in Premier Wynne's court in terms of how they are going to respond to this particular piece of legislation. I think it behooves all of us to lend our support to this initiative. In fact, I would suggest that there is a role for the federal government in raising this issue with its provincial counterparts. If that were to happen, I would argue, we would be more effective at dealing with the issue at hand and be able to provide the people of our country with what they want, which is a better, healthier environment. It would be virtually at no cost, because it would be driven through industry. I look at it as a wonderful opportunity.
The motion before us talks about the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. If we reflect back on the creation of that act back in 1999, we will find that there was a great sense of co-operation between the then prime minister, Jean Chrétien, and the federal minister responsible, along with the different provincial ministers, in coming up with legislation that would ultimately be used as tool to improve our environment. That did not come out of the blue, from nowhere. It was an idea that was talked about, I suspect, for a couple of years prior, and it involved a great deal of consultation that allowed the Chrétien government to work with the provinces, understanding that waterways do not recognize provincial or international boundaries, that our oceans are accessed by countries around the world, and that we needed to work with others in order to make a difference.
I like to think that at the end of the day the Chrétien government recognized the importance of working together in bringing forward legislation and at the same time recognized that the national government has a leadership role to play in dealing with environmental issues, such as the one we have here today.
However, it is not exclusive to the federal government; in fact, there is a role that can also be played by other levels of government.
Again I will refer to my home province of Manitoba. I made reference to the dishwasher soap, but I can recall another initiative that involved the banning of plastic bags. I do not know how many times I have seen these white plastic bags floating in rivers or all over our environment, caught in trees as the winds blow. These non-biodegradable bags stick around for years to come, and they are a threat to our environment. In Manitoba there are municipalities that have actually taken the initiative to ban the plastic bag.
That issue again I know, because I have talked about it at the provincial level. The then leader of the Liberal Party raised the issue, but for whatever reasons, whether it was Gary Doer or Greg Selinger, they never bought into it. They never brought in the legislation that was required to deal with some of those environmental issues.
The point is that no one government in Canada can say that it has the sole responsibility. Each level of government has the choice to demonstrate leadership or not. There have been examples that have been disappointing at the provincial level, but one of the best examples I could give in regard to the federal government is the Experimental Lakes Area.
Members will recall how important the ELA is, not only to the province of Manitoba but to all of Canada, and I would suggest it goes beyond Canada's borders. Someone talked about $3 million being what it takes for this House to operate for one day. That $3 million would have kept the ELA going for years. It is still there, and I will explain why it is still there. It is not because of the current Conservative government.
We recognize what the ELA has done. It protects our waterways. It does the research that is so vitally important. We often talk about the importance of science. The ELA is one of the leading research bodies dealing with fresh water. Freshwater is a commodity that is in high demand, and it will continue to be in high demand well into the future. Some of the greatest threats to freshwater are pollution and industrial waste.
We have mining tailings in northern Manitoba that are so bad that I can again recall Jon Gerrard bringing into the Manitoba legislature a glass of what appeared to be red water. That is what mining tailings have done in, I believe, Kississing Lake. I might not be 100% accurate on that, but it is right in that region that water has turned red because of mining tailings. There are so many things that we could and should be doing. The challenge is for us to recognize that we each have a role to play.
If I go back to what I think is really important, at the end of the day I do not think anyone inside this chamber is going to be voting against this particular motion.
I hope the piece of legislation in the province of Ontario continues to move in the direction of banning plastic microbeads. I hope it does that.
Personally, I think it would be a mistake if I did not at the same time emphasize how important it is that we deal with water management as a whole and emphasize the importance of having a national strategy.
Every year in the province of Manitoba, water is a major issue. Every year it seems there are certain areas of the province that are in need of attention because we do not have the water management plan that we should have as a provincial entity, let alone as a national entity. The federal government needs to recognize that it has a stronger leadership role in dealing with water management. It is not just the Province of Manitoba. The federal government has a stronger leadership role in dealing with water management issues.
The water flowing into the Red River, which ultimately ends up in Lake Winnipeg, comes in good part from the United States. It crosses an international boundary line. To what degree has the Government of Canada been dealing with that issue? To what degree is the federal government prepared to work with the Province of Manitoba in dealing with some of the other issues related to flooding?
Last weekend I met with members of our first nations community. We still have first nations members from certain regions who have been displaced for over two years. The NDP government diverted water out of the Assiniboine, which ultimately flooded homes on some reserve lands, which forced the relocation of some first nations members into the city of Winnipeg. Even though the provincial government might have forgotten about them and the federal government tends to want to ignore the issue, the issue is still there. There is a need to deal with it. Whether it is the federal government or the provincial government, the community is feeling frustrated because we do not have that very important national water strategy.
The Government of Canada, in particular the minister responsible and the Prime Minister, should be making it a higher priority. If that were to occur, I suspect they would gain considerable support from the public as a whole. It is fair for Canadians to have an expectation on the issue of water management and water resource development.
Our farming communities have a huge interest in it, as well as residents in the city of Winnipeg and all of our municipalities. I do not want to limit it. In many of the speeches I heard today, people talked about the Great Lakes. Lake Winnipeg might not be attached to them, but it is a very important lake also. Citizens of Winnipeg and beyond are very much concerned about that lake.
The need to deal with microbeads is something that industry itself is trying to deal with, with a limited amount of success. I suspect it is only a question of time before we see some form of banning, or it will no longer be an issue. However, that does not mean we should be dragging our feet on it. There are initiatives the government could be taking that would ultimately achieve what Canadians expect of the government, which is strong leadership that could actually make a difference on environmental issues.
This would be almost a no-brainer if the government had the desire and the will. The government should, first and foremost, look at ways in which it could change federal legislation and also work with other stakeholders to see if this issue could be dealt with in a more timely fashion. I think Canadians expect us to do that.