House of Commons Hansard #116 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cpp.

Topics

Oral QuestionsPoints of Order

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Simon Marcil Bloc Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order concerning remarks during question period last Monday.

There are many dairy and cheese producers in my riding, and this subject is very important to me. However, I used an unparliamentary word that caused a commotion. I would like to withdraw that word unequivocally, and I apologize.

Oral QuestionsPoints of Order

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I thank the hon. member.

Bill C-243—National Maternity Assistance Program Strategy ActPoints of Order

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Bryan May Liberal Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order with regard to private member's bill, Bill C-243. I submit to you that the bill does not require a royal recommendation. I want to congratulate my colleague from Kingston and the Islands for his comprehensive speech in the House last week. His arguments were persuasive and correct, in that the question before you is whether or not Bill C-243 would change the purpose or create a new function of EI maternity benefits, more specifically show that protection of the mother and her unborn child is an existing function of the current program. As it stands, outside of the province of Quebec, maternity benefits can be and are frequently used for the purpose of protecting the mother and unborn child when her work environment is hazardous. In fact, this is precisely why benefits can be taken eight weeks before the birth. This is a long-established practice.

The member for Kingston and the Islands also addressed the issue of the terms and conditions of EI maternity benefits, and showed that these terms and conditions are not relaxed by Bill C-243. There is no doubt that you have a difficult task in front of you. It is a complex topic, and parts of the bill are clearly in a grey area when it comes to royal recommendation. I urge you to carefully consider all the arguments put forward on this matter, in addition to the will of the House, which was expressed so forcefully by 231 members who supported Bill C-243.

Bill C-243—National Maternity Assistance Program Strategy ActPoints of Order

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on the same point of order. I listened with great interest to the comments of my colleague from Kingston and the Islands last week. I echo his concerns, and I would like to submit to the House that from our point of view as well, the bill would not require a royal recommendation. The spending that would be incurred by the bill is simply not there. I think you will find, if you read the rulings of your learned predecessors, Speaker Milliken, for example, that they are consistent with the ruling that the bill does not require a royal recommendation.

Bill C-243—National Maternity Assistance Program Strategy ActPoints of Order

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I thank the hon. member for his intervention.

I want to note for new members that if a member wishes to stand on a point of order, they should, of course, stand, but they should also say “rappel au Règlement” or “point of order”, so that I know why they are standing.

It being 11:08 a.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-238, An Act respecting the development of a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

National Strategy for Safe Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

There being no motions at report stage, the House will now proceed, without debate, to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.

National Strategy for Safe Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

moved that the bill be concurred in.

National Strategy for Safe Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

National Strategy for Safe Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

National Strategy for Safe Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

When shall the bill be read a third time? By leave, now.

National Strategy for Safe Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

National Strategy for Safe Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

It is truly an honour to stand here in the House of Commons today at third reading on Bill C-238. I have had the pleasure of speaking to this bill a few times in the House and at committee.

However, before I get started, to better reflect the environmentally positive intent of the bill and to complement the federal government's proposed code of practice for the environmentally sound management of end-of-life lamps containing mercury, at the committee stage, we amended C-238's title to read, “a national strategy for the safe and environmentally sound disposal of lamps containing mercury act”. This title better represents the precautionary approach and nature of the bill. It is important to me that Canadians are protected from toxic mercury and that we ensure these bulbs are recycled by Canadians in an environmentally sound way.

I want to thank my colleagues throughout the House for their support on Bill C-238. I want to deeply thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for approaching me early to jointly second this bill.

Bill C-238, as amended, passed unanimously through the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. The comments and questions at the committee stage, from all parties, were thoughtful and supportive. I thank the members throughout the House who have provided me with constructive feedback and support. I truly believe that we are better when we work together. I appreciate, and have remained open to, members' comments, because this is what Canadians want and what they expect from us. They want us to work across party lines. Together, we can develop a robust national strategy for the safe and environmentally sound disposal of mercury-bearing lamps.

I come from a great place. Dartmouth—Cole Harbour is not just where elite hockey players are born, and it is not just the place over the bridge and across the harbour from beautiful Halifax.

Dartmouth—Cole Harbour is home to innovative businesses and bright minds—from Dalhousie University's Dr. Jeff Dahn, who has the research agreement for Tesla batteries; to facilities like Dan-X Recycling, in Burnside, which can take every bit of a mercury-bearing light bulb and safely recycle its components.

To represent this riding filled with great people and good ideas is an honour. As the federal representative for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, it is my job to bring these bright ideas from home and effect real change.

A Halifax regional councillor visited me the other day and asked me what the topic was for my private member's bill. When I told him about Bill C-238, he remarked, “Are you still on that? I remember when you worked on those bulbs as a councillor.” Yes, I am still on this.

The idea for Bill C-238 goes all the way back to my early days as a municipal councillor. Like any new representative, I wanted to make sure that I knew my district inside and out. While visiting the Burnside industrial park, I came upon Dan-X Recycling. While touring this facility, I learned that it was able to recycle every bit of a fluorescent mercury-bearing light bulb in an safe and environmentally friendly way.

I also learned that it only takes 0.5 milligrams of mercury to pollute 180 tonnes of water. This statistic really resonated with me, especially coming from Dartmouth, the “City of Lakes”. It is up to us to keep our lands and waterways safe. I also learned that these bulbs are valuable recyclables that can easily be diverted from landfills. Canadian municipalities are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on landfill cells each year. Whenever possible, we must divert recyclables.

Dan-X Recycling separates and reuses the glass in the production of new bulbs. The metal is melted down and reused by metal recycling facilities. It even processes and recycles the phosphor powder, which contains the mercury. This facility barely takes up 1,000 square feet, and employs local people through this clean technology.

It was at this point that I learned that when the previous government banned the use of inefficient incandescent bulbs, it was always assumed that regulations for fluorescent bulbs, in particular, CFL bulbs, would follow.

Back then, I committed to help in solving the issue of mercury-bearing light bulbs and to divert them from our city landfills. I helped to ensure that all Halifax regional city facilities diverted their spent mercury-bearing light bulbs to recycling facilities, ensuring their safe and environmentally sound disposal.

Now, as a member of Parliament for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, with one of these amazing facilities in my riding, I remain committed to solving this issue.

I have been a member of Parliament for only about a year. However, as soon as I could, my team and I hit the ground running on this issue. I want to ensure the safe and environmentally sound disposal of mercury-bearing bulbs nationwide. This is a problem with a positive solution, and together we can make this happen. Bill C-238 would build on the work of the previous Conservative government by producing a national strategy for the safe and environmentally sound disposal of these bulbs.

I spent almost seven years as a councillor for the Halifax Regional Municipality, and I remember what it is like to have costs and red tape imposed by higher governments. From listening to my colleagues across the floor speak to Bill C-238, and through consultation, I came across a possible costly measure that required amendment. The member for Red Deer—Mountain View spoke to how the reporting mechanism in the original draft of this bill could cause delays and perhaps unnecessary costs, and I agree. It will be up to the consultation process, and any governments that might be implicated by this legislation, to determine any sort of reporting features, regulations, and standards. That makes the most sense.

While listening to testimony from indigenous witnesses at the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, I heard first-hand about the toxic effects of mercury on populations. Mercury is a toxic substance, with the ability to undergo long-range transport. I have used this example before in the House, and I will use it again. Hypothetically, mercury deposited in a Halifax landfill could redeposit into a northern Canadian community, or any other remote area. Although some provinces are making headway on this issue, mercury does not stop at provincial boundaries. Bill C-238 is about working together to find solutions while ensuring that every appropriate body is at the table.

Throughout this process, I have appreciated and listened to the feedback from my colleagues, and I have remained open to good amendments. After listening to the members for Abbotsford and for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, I agreed to amend, strengthen, and open the consultation process of this strategy. It is imperative that all interested and appropriate governments, persons, and organizations are part of this consultation, and that they are all owners of this strategy. Bill C-238 must be a strong, collaborative effort that will include any interested indigenous groups, governments, stakeholders, or citizens, to ensure that this strategy will be best for all Canadians and will represent all Canadians. This will ensure a nationwide solution to this issue.

I believe that a problem like mercury-bearing light bulbs in landfills takes real environmental leadership to solve. I look forward to the dialogue that Bill C-238 will generate among governments, stakeholders, and citizens. I believe that, as a whole, we can take responsibility and protect Canadians from this needless pollution through this collaborative effort. This is another opportunity to show that a clean environment and a strong economy go hand in hand.

It has been an honour to bring this bright idea from home, in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, and to work to make it a reality here in Ottawa. It is a humbling experience for me, as a new member of Parliament, to have an opportunity to create a law that will benefit Canadians nationwide. I hope that all members of this House will continue to support Bill C-238, a national strategy for the safe and environmentally sound disposal of mercury-bearing lamps. It is up to me to make the voices of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour heard here in Ottawa, but it is up to us in this House to work together to improve the lives of Canadians, now and for future generations.

National Strategy for Safe Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the enthusiasm of my colleague across the way. I know he is sincere about addressing the issue of mercury. Unfortunately, what is troubling to me is that the member decided he would amend his bill to take away any mandatory duty to take action on mercury.

We have been trying to encourage him to come forth with why he made the decision that this would no longer be mandatory. I would appreciate hearing from the member as to why he has decided to remove very important mandatory requirements on the minister to finally move on measures for the safe disposal of mercury in lamps.

National Strategy for Safe Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for her great question and her efforts on the committee, as well as the huge amount of knowledge she has on methylmercury and its impacts on our country every day.

This bill is designed to be the beginning of a conversation and collaboration. This is a unique situation, in that all levels of government have some form of jurisdiction over it. Municipalities handle solid waste, the provinces issue the permits to handle that solid waste, and the federal government controls toxic chemicals. Out of respect for all levels of government, having this collaborative approach and putting people at the table to come up with a solution to this problem that all jurisdictions face is the proper way to go about handling this major problem.

National Strategy for Safe Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Madam Speaker, I commend my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for his efforts on this bill. It is an honour to serve with him on the environment committee and to see the work he does there.

The environment committee studied this bill. While we were discussing the bill there, I looked up and noticed there were 70 fluorescent light bulbs in the ceiling. I was struck by the enormity of the issue and the amount of contamination that would spread throughout the environment if we do not properly deal with fluorescent light bulbs.

Could the member talk about the work he has done as a municipal councillor and now as an MP for his riding and the province of Nova Scotia?

National Strategy for Safe Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, when I first set upon Dan-X Recycling in Burnside industrial park and learned of the jurisdictional issues with mercury-bearing light bulbs, I thought for sure we could find a way, municipally, to come up with regulations that could handle the recycling of these bulbs. I discovered that was not the case, that it would take a multi-jurisdictional approach.

The only thing I could really accomplish at the municipal level was to ensure that the bulbs used in the buildings owned by the municipality were handled in an environmentally sound way. All of the buildings and facilities in the municipality of Halifax are now recycling their spent light bulbs at Dan-X, which is the only recycler in the area. That is the one thing I was able to accomplish.

I will add that Halifax Water voluntarily decided, without a motion, to do the exact same thing. Kudos to it for recognizing this issue. All of the buildings owned by Halifax Water also recycle their light bulbs in an environmentally sound manner. That is voluntary. There is no regulation that states they must do that. This was corporate and municipal leadership, in my opinion.

National Strategy for Safe Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a great honour and privilege to stand in the House to speak on Bill C-238, sponsored by my friend and colleague, the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.

We do some very good work together on the environment and sustainable development committee. This is an opportunity to discuss his important idea that has received support thus far from nearly every member. That is not alway easy to do with a private member's bill like this, but he has done it. I want to recognize him and staff for all their hard work on this bill.

This is an important piece of legislation that aims to achieve a good goal. I will be supporting it as it moves forward. Exactly what does this bill do?

First, it establishes national standards for the safe disposal of mercury-containing lamps. Second, it establishes guidelines regarding facilities for safe disposal of mercury lamps. Finally, it asks the government to come up with a plan to promote public awareness of the importance of the proper disposal of mercury lamps. It also calls on the government to table its national strategy within two years of the bill's becoming law, and for it to be reviewed by Parliament every five years after that.

Fluorescent bulbs are in use for a very good reason. They conserve power in a way that conventional light bulbs simply cannot. In fact, they use between 20% and 25% of the energy required by traditional incandescent Edison bulbs. They are the most energy efficient and affordable means of lighting our homes and places of work and leisure. They also last up to 10 times longer than the old-fashioned bulbs. This is why they are so widespread in our communities and should continue to be readily available for the foreseeable future.

Unfortunately, one of the critical components if fluorescent bulbs is mercury. In fact, there is no way to make these bulbs without it. It would be like a fish trying to live out of water; there is simply no way it can. Therefore, it is critical that we carefully dispose of these lamps in a responsible and environmentally conscious way when they finally burn out. Tossing these bulbs into the trash is very detrimental to the environment and human health. Those are the main issues here today.

The issue is that when these bulbs end up in regular landfill with the rest of our household waste, a large portion of the mercury inside the bulbs is released into the air or water. This has debilitating effects on the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink, two resources that we need to stay alive.

The wonderful thing about this is that recyclers can recuperate the mercury found in these bulbs. There are methods of recycling this toxic substance. Mercury is a dangerous toxic substance that can have a severe impact on human health, especially in vulnerable populations like expectant mothers, as well as their babies developing in the womb. It can cause brain and central nervous system damage. It can also attack kidneys and lungs.

As this is a dangerous toxic substance, I am happy that the bill will help address its disposal from fluorescent lamps. There is definitely an environmental and safety impact from fluorescent bulbs. If they break in a home or workplace, the immediate release of mercury vapours can pose a health risk to people. Not only is this an issue, but there can be also the release of more mercury vapour into the air if the proper cleanup and disposal procedures are not put in place.

There are some other aspects of environmental stewardship that this bill intends to target. It supports the aim of our environment and sustainable development committee in looking at clean technology alternatives to products like fluorescent bulbs. There are a number of best practices for the disposal of mercury bulbs, and I would like to talk about some of those recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, in the United States. They have a wealth of ideas on how mercury-containing fluorescent bulbs should be properly disposed of.

One of its recommendations, which may seem obvious, is that spent bulbs be handled with great care to avoid breakage. We have already discussed why it is a bad idea to break fluorescent bulbs. An already broken bulb cannot be properly recycled. It also recommends good strategies for employers, including that they be trained to know whom to call in the case of a burned-out lamp. This would employees taking the initiative to remove or replace burned bulbs, which could possibly lead to breakage.

Another of its recommendation that may seem obvious is for the recycling of fluorescent bulbs that contain mercury. As the EPA states in one of its documents:

EPA strongly encourages the recycling of all spent fluorescent lamps as the preferred approach to managing lamps throughout their full productive lifecycle. Proper recycling not only minimizes the release of mercury in the environment but also allows for the reuse of the glass, metals, and other materials that make up a fluorescent lamp.

Virtually all components of a lamp can be recycled. Recycling fluorescent lamps reduces the amount of waste going to landfill, saves energy, and reduces greenhouse gases and mercury emissions.

The EPA is not alone in having good tips on how to safely dispose of mercury-containing bulbs. Australia's department of environment has established the FluoroCycle program. Its website states:

FluoroCycle is a scheme that aims to increase the recycling of lamps that contain mercury and reduce the amount of mercury entering the environment.

To achieve this, FluoroCycle provides a national voluntary scheme that businesses, government agencies, and other organizations can join as signatories. The scheme gives public recognition to the signatories for their commitment to recycling. This sounds like a really good initiative. Although somewhat different from what this legislation is proposing, it is a good example of how we can bring industry and commerce on board with recycling these mercury fluorescent lamps, instead of simply throwing them away.

This is a great project that our friends from down under have initiated, and I hope that we could maybe consider something similar here. This would only build on the great work done by my honourable friend from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.

The Republic of Ireland has an interesting program. In Ireland, retailers take old bulbs, as long as new ones are being bought, on a one-for-one basis. This strikes me as a good idea, because this way the retailers can deal with the bulbs' safe disposal and transport to designated recycling facilities, removing the hassle from consumers. It is also good in that these consumers would be buying a new energy efficient fluorescent bulb to replace the spent bulb.

These lights are becoming more common. It seems as though every home, business, and place of work has at least some fluorescent lighting. Statistics Canada has said that, “In 2011, almost 9 out of 10 households (87%) in Canadian census metropolitan areas (CMAs) had at least one type of energy-saving light.” Statistics Canada also had this to offer:

In almost every case, households used only one method to dispose of their dead or unwanted CFLs. In 2011, slightly less than one-third (32%) used a “controlled” method of disposal, with 24% using a depot or drop-off centre, and 8% returning the bulb(s) to the supplier or retailer (Table 2). Half of the households disposing a CFL used an “uncontrolled” method (i.e., throwing them in the garbage), or still had them at the time of interview (12%). The remainder used an unknown method to dispose of them.

These are eye-opening statistics, and I am certain this is one of the reasons my colleague across the way proposed this piece of legislation. He is also a supporter of a recycling facility in his constituency. My colleague has been doing great work on this file. I appreciate he and his team's taking the time to get this right, and I am looking forward to seeing this project move forward.

National Strategy for Safe Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for his action on the environment. It is very clear he has the intent to resolve this issue, and also to support a very important industry in his own riding, an entity that recycles toxins. We need to have measures exercised by our federal government that support these kinds of industries, so toxins are safely disposed of and taken away from the environment, so they do not harm the environment and our health.

On second reading of the bill, I spoke very kindly about the bill, and had also shared that I hoped the bill would go further. Much to my regret, and my colleagues' regret, the decision was made to water down the effect of the bill. I remain puzzled about that. The argument has been that we need more time for the various jurisdictions to work together. However, I have been working alongside the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, and the industry for more than two decades on resolving the issue of emissions of mercury into the environment. In my humble opinion, it is time we actually have the federal government asserting its power to regulate this toxin, not simply to continue the dialogue, although continuing the dialogue is absolutely important. All members of this place recognize there is a need for the federal, provincial, territorial, municipal, and aboriginal governments to begin working together more effectively.

We have a law in effect in the country, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act that actually provides for the designation of toxic substances that are deemed harmful to humans and the environment. It extends the powers to the federal government to establish a regulatory framework for the cradle to grave management of these substances. That includes safe disposal.

Mercury was scheduled as a toxin long before the Canadian Environmental Protection Act was even enacted in the mid-1980s. It was formerly listed under the environmental contaminants act, and way back then, decades and decades ago, it was recognized as one of the most significant toxins that we need to control.

As early as 2000, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment added mercury to its list of five top priority substances to address. Unfortunately, it has taken until very recently to address mercury. As I have mentioned previously in the House, apart from Alberta, no jurisdiction has regulated the single largest source of mercury in North America, and that is coal-fired mercury. Lamps were included in the CCME list, but after coal-fired power and cement. It is very pleasing that the member opposite has chosen to finally seek some action on this source of this serious neurotoxin.

Mercury, when combined with water forms methylmercury. That is how, if it goes into our water and into fish and is ingested, it can cause serious harm. It also can cause harm if it is in gaseous form. As I understand, when some of these lamps are broken there is potential for it to enter in a gaseous form, and therefore we need proper handling and disposal of these lamps. It is commendable that the member is seeking greater action on this risk.

So far, there is no safe dosage, but there are a couple of industries in Canada that are at least capturing it and trying to keep it out of the environment. Mercury cannot be broken down. It simply remains toxic.

What is important to note though is that the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, right now, specifically empowers the ministers of environment and health to recommend to the Governor in Council to make regulations governing the disposal of any scheduled toxin, and that includes mercury. It is sad to say, as of today, no federal government has ever chosen to actually assert that regulatory power. Why is that significant? It is because the very framework of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act is cradle to grave.

An additionally important framework for CEPA, when it was enacted, was recognizing the dual jurisdiction of federal and provincial governments, so if the federal government decided to issue a regulation regulating a toxin, any provincial or territorial jurisdiction could claim equivalency if it issued an equivalent regulation and the commitment to effectively enforce or seek compliance with that rule. It is for exactly that reason that that mechanism was put in place, and there have been calls for quite some time for stronger action on mercury.

For mercury in lamps, the only measure taken at the federal level until recently has been a Canada-wide standard, but mostly recently, there has been a code of practice put in place that deals with many of the matters the bill before us deals with. It sets forth suggestions to the provinces, cities, and companies on how they should control these lamps, how they should be collected and how they should be delivered to safe disposal.

I mentioned the Canada-wide standard. The common phrase is, “When is a standard not a standard? When it is a Canada-wide standard”, because a Canada-wide standard is not binding. It is merely a suggestion. It is more of a suggestion that friendly federal-provincial relations rule over actually asserting a federal rule. From my perspective and the perspective of many out in the public, when we are dealing with a serious neurotoxin, when is there possibly a reason for the federal government not to finally assert its regulatory power?

The bill calls for a strategy to address a number of matters, but it is disappointing that it does not extend what a number of people, including the Canadian Environmental Law Association, have called for, which is extended producer responsibility. It is hoped that if the bill passes and again the discretion then passes to the minister to decide what to do with the bill, that consideration be given to this. We have certainly heard about this before the committee.

Environment Canada itself has reported that only 10% to 15% of these lamps are recycled, and therefore, while we will try to have a proper mechanism to collect and dispose, we have that continuing problem of people who are not even returning those lamps and they are simply going into the dump.

A greater issue is that, unless producers are made more responsible, the practicality of consumers transporting the lamps to dispose of them and the manner in which they are collected and then transported for disposal expands the risk of exposure and leakage. That is exactly what the bill is attempting to deal with.

Again, what is particularly troubling to me and some of my colleagues is the decision by the tabler to remove the mandatory provision. The very strength of the bill is that it sets forth three key measures on which there is unanimity, even in this place, of action needed to be taken to make sure that we keep this mercury out of the environment, yet the decision was that the minister does not have to do any of those things. I think that is very regrettable. Even though the bill does not provide exactly what those measures would be, the most important one is that the minister would have been required to actually issue standards. If we defined standard as generally accepted in law, that would be to finally promulgate the regulations that are long overdue on regulating these measures. Regrettably, this discretion is still left to the minister.

I think there is a lot of heartfelt intent. I appreciate the member's efforts to try to have a clear framework around this, and in fact to support a very valuable industry in his riding. Regrettably it does not drive that because he has taken away the mandatory aspect. If national binding disposal regulations were in place, the provinces and territories, as I have mentioned, could simply enact exactly the same rules and enforce those equivalent rules.

We have heard a number of calls during a review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to strengthen the mandate of ministers. This is troubling to many in the public who have been working on these issues for many decades. While the bill provides for the listing of these dangerous substances, there is no mandatory duty on the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to actually take any action. That was what was commendatory about the bill that the member brought forward. It is regrettable that for whatever pressures were brought to bear on him, he has removed that provision. It is regrettable. Maybe at some point in time it might come forward and be strengthened.

We are dealing with toxins, and this is one of a limited number of substances, one of the top five designated by all the ministers of the environment across this country. I think it is regrettable that we would continue this, that we would defer to provinces or territories that may want to move in a certain direction, instead of the federal government. Every time a federal regulation is promulgated, there is vast consultation with the provinces and territories, with the industry and with the public, and that could have allowed for that consultation, but in the end, it actually had a binding rule.

Again, I commend the member, but I find it regrettable that he has taken away the very mandatory aspects of the bill.

National Strategy for Safe Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

North Vancouver B.C.

Liberal

Jonathan Wilkinson LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak today about Bill C-238, an act respecting the development of a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury, which was brought forward by the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.

Bill C-238 builds upon efforts already under way across Canada to reduce mercury emissions to the environment. Reducing mercury emissions is an important goal, given the serious effects mercury can have on human health and on the environment.

As members are no doubt aware, mercury is a potent neurotoxin. It can cause damage to the brain, central nervous system, kidneys, and lungs. It is particularly damaging to the development of the human fetus, infants, and young children.

In terms of environmental impacts, mercury biomagnifies as it moves up the food chain, meaning that higher levels of mercury are found in animals higher in the food chain. This can lead to increased exposure for fish and wildlife as well as humans who consume certain kinds of fish. Increased exposure means increased health problems, including slower growth, reproductive failure, and the development of abnormal behaviours. Also, mercury can travel long distances in the atmosphere and has been found to accumulate in Canada's Arctic.

Given these impacts on human health and the environment, the Government of Canada is committed to minimizing, and when feasible, eliminating human sources of mercury emissions. Domestic mercury emissions have been reduced by approximately 90% since the 1970s, thanks to a wide range of initiatives to address mercury emissions, but more can be done.

In 2010, the Government of Canada released the risk management strategy for mercury. The strategy provides a comprehensive description of the government's plans and progress in managing the risks associated with mercury.

One example is the Products Containing Mercury Regulations, which came into force in November 2015. These regulations prohibit the manufacture and import of products containing mercury, with some exceptions for essential products that have no technically or environmentally viable alternatives. In the case of lamps, the regulation set mercury content limits for fluorescent and other types of lamps and requires labels to inform consumers about the presence of mercury.

In April of this year, Environment and Climate Change Canada published the proposed code of practice for the environmentally sound management of end-of-life lamps containing mercury. The code provides guidance and information relevant to managing these lamps at their end of life. The final code of practice is expected to be published by the end of 2016.

International initiatives to address mercury pollution are another important element of the Government of Canada's approach. It is estimated that 95% of human-caused mercury deposits in Canada come from foreign sources. To help reduce the impact of transboundary pollution on Canada, particularly the impact on Canada's Arctic where mercury tends to deposit, the government signed the Minamata Convention on Mercury in 2013. We are in the process of finalizing the necessary implementation matters required to ratify the treaty.

The bill introduced by my colleague for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour would complement these and other existing measures to address mercury pollution by focusing on one particular source of emissions: light bulbs. Many energy-efficient bulbs, including the compact fluorescent lamps used in the homes and workplaces of many Canadians, contain a small amount of mercury. This mercury may be released if the lamp breaks or is improperly disposed of in regular garbage.

The bill would mandate the development of a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury. Amendments made to the bill at committee served to reinforce the purpose of the bill and the need for co-operation across jurisdictions in the development of a national strategy.

For example, the bill now speaks of safe and environmentally sound disposal. The environmentally sound end-of-life management of lamps containing mercury involves a range of activities, including collection, processing, recycling, diversion, and storage. The national strategy contemplated by the bill would capture any number of these activities rather than the disposal of lamps containing mercury in a landfill. This terminology is consistent with the proposed code of practice for the environmentally sound management of end-of-life lamps containing mercury.

The amendments made at committee also strengthened the bill by recognizing the jurisdiction over the protection of environment, including matters related to waste management, is shared between all levels of government in Canada. Removing the requirement on the minister to implement the national strategy recognizes this fact, as the minister cannot implement the national strategy on her own. As a result, the bill requires the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to work with other parties, including the provincial and territorial governments, in developing a national strategy.

The bill also intends to capture other interested governments, such as municipal and indigenous governments, that may have important roles in the implementation of the national strategy. The minister will need to co-operate with them, but also consult with other interested parties, including stakeholders in the development of a national plan of this kind.

The bill lists examples of the kinds of things that the national strategy could include. The possible elements set out in the bill would not only help guide collaboration and consultation with other interested parties, including stakeholders, but would also help to ensure that the national strategy does not duplicate efforts already under way.

This strategy can evolve to ensure that a range of perspectives are considered in the development of the strategy.

One possible element of the national strategy is a plan to promote public awareness of the importance of disposing of mercury-containing lamps safely and in an environmentally sound manner. Many Canadians are currently unaware that these bulbs should not be disposed of in regular garbage, because they may break and release mercury.

The bill sets out a flexible framework for developing the national strategy but also contains important mandatory requirements. In particular, the bill would require the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to develop and report on the national strategy.

The first report to Parliament setting out the national strategy must occur within 15 sitting days of December 31, 2018 or within two years after royal assent, whichever is later. Every five years following the initial tabling, the minister must report on the strategy, including his or her conclusions and recommendations regarding the strategy. These reporting requirements will promote transparency and accountability and will help ensure that the national strategy achieves its intended purpose.

Once again, I would like to thank the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for bringing this bill forward. The government supports this bill, as amended, and looks forward to working with other governments, indigenous groups, and stakeholders to develop an effective national strategy for the safe and environmentally sound disposal of lamps containing mercury.

National Strategy for Safe Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to be here today, even though I had a bad week last week. Labour rates for the number one employer in Alberta are going crazy, the Oilers lost, the Flames lost, and the Stampeders lost. However, this bill is a winner, and I am happy to stand here today to speak to this bill. I thank the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for introducing this bill. We sit on the environment committee together, and this is a winner.

As a member of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-238, a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury act. The bill would establish a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury, guidelines regarding facilities for safe disposal, and the creation of a plan to promote public awareness.

Mercury has been identified as a toxic substance under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. The release of mercury poses a significant risk to the Canadian environment and public health. Canada-wide standards for mercury-containing lamps were developed by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment and endorsed in 2011.

I want to spend some time on the plan to promote public awareness. I know a lot of younger members in the House probably grew up during the Star Wars era and played with florescent lamps of sorts. They probably broke them. Hopefully they put some protection on their hands, but no one thought about protection from what they were breathing in when they broke.

I remember, a little before that era, that school teachers used to bring out mercury during science classes. We would play with the mercury hand to hand and roll it back and forth. No one knew any better. In fact, I remember a friend of mine putting it on his tongue to taste it. Think about that. I am not sure if he is around anymore, and I do not really want to inquire. That is how ignorant we Canadians were a number of years ago. We are not ignorant today, and we need to address it.

Going back a number of years, I was a young police officer in the mid-1970s, and I went to a community called Fort St. James in the interior of British Columbia. About 25 miles north of Fort St. James was an area called Pinchi Lake. There was a mercury mine on that lake. The mercury mine opened in around 1941, operated through the 1940s, closed for about 10 or 12 years, started up again in the late 1960s, and shut down again in the mid 1970s. There was contamination from that mercury mine. There was an open-pit mine and an underground mine.

Pinchi Lake is a beautiful lake on the outskirts of the mine. I remember driving there in the spring of 1978 to have a look at it, as I had heard about it. There was a town there too, a ghost town now, because no one lives there. There were people fishing on the lake, but on the shore, about every 300 yards, there were signs saying, “Mercury contamination. Do not fish”. Yet there were people out there, aboriginal people, fishing. I stopped to talk to some of them. They said it would not hurt them and that the signs were just to keep them off the lake.

That is why we need to educate people. It was wrong then and it definitely would not be acceptable today.

Mercury is an essential component in some energy-efficient lamps, such as florescent tubes and light bulbs.

At home I have a fairly large shop. I like to play around with motorcycles and cars. As I get older, I cannot see as well as I used to. I hate glasses when I am working on something, because they always fall off and then I bang my head when I bend over to pick them up, so I decided to get the best lights out there, mercury vapour. I have these big vapour lights in my shop.

I went to a recycle shop in Edmonton, because I believe in recycling, to see if I could buy some. It probably was not so much being a real environmentalist; I am a little cheap and I could buy them a lot more cheaply used than new.

I bought mercury vapour lights, and I put them in my shop. I remember when I went over to pick them up, the guy was testing them. One did not work. Crash. One worked, so I bought that one. He did it about two times in a row. They did not work, and he threw them. I said, “You get half a dozen, which I need, and I will come back in a few hours”. It was not a healthy atmosphere to be in.

Again, it is ignorance. People do not know the significant dangers of mercury lamps.

Why am I using them? I know better. Again, I am using them because they are very efficient. The use of fluorescent bulbs or mercury vapour bulbs lowers energy use, thus reducing the mercury that would come from power plants. That is why a lot of people use them. Plus they are more cost-effective and last 10 times longer than a normal light. That is why people in industry and people in shops use them and why they are in skating rinks across the country. They use them for that reason.

When our former Conservative government was in power, we were very active in negotiating the Minamata Convention on Mercury in 2013, as mentioned earlier by the last speaker, which called for tougher measures to reduce mercury emissions. In 2014, our government followed up with regulations prohibiting the broad import and manufacture of products containing mercury.

Even prior to that, in 2001, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, which I mentioned earlier, got together and came up with a set of guidelines. The target was a 70% reduction in the average mercury content of all mercury-containing lamps by 2005, compared to 1990 levels, and an 80% reduction by 2010. Industry jumped to meet it, and the lamps passed the 80% standard by 2006.

Industry, when it is challenged, will comply and will work very hard to meet the guidelines set by government.

Much of the work and cost of implementing the strategy in Bill C-238 would actually be done at the provincial and municipal levels, which is where these recycling and disposal facilities would be located.

Prior to my role as an MP, I sat as the mayor of the city of Fort St. John and as a director on the Peace River Regional District board, which is the area encompassing all of North Peace. One of my portfolios was garbage disposal and garbage dumps. I travelled throughout the North Peace area.

I feel I am a bit of a trash expert. I know that much work needs to be done by bringing in this bill, Bill C-238. We need to educate the people running our garbage disposal dumps, although probably not so much in our larger urban areas, because those garbage dumps and facilities are very well organized and have professional people. I am talking about rural Canada and the Northwest Territories. In these small areas, most of what I will call waste disposal sites are unmanned. They are run by the counties. They may be manned one day a week by someone who comes in to look after them during a special day. However, at these sites, there are usually just garbage bins. Most people today probably bring their fluorescent lights or their mercury vapour lights, if they burn out, and toss them in. That is not good. That is bad, because we do not know where they are going.

We need to make sure that we educate the people managing these facilities to make sure the facilities have proper containment for mercury vapour lights. That will not be a big cost, but it is a cost. We must ensure that the government works with all levels of government to make sure they are there so that when people bring in mercury vapour lights for disposal, there is a safe place to put them and none of the mercury escapes.

Although a number of initiatives to address the lamps that contain mercury are already under way across Canada, co-operation among all levels of government will promote a consistent nationwide approach to the safe and environmentally sound disposal of lamps.

Our Conservative Party supports Bill C-238. The bill would ensure lamps containing mercury would be safely disposed, and it would be in line with the party's previous efforts to keep Canada's environment clean and control harmful toxic substances.

National Strategy for Safe Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury ActPrivate Members' Business

November 28th, 2016 / 11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure as the member of Parliament for Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook to speak today to this important bill, Bill C-238, a national strategy for sound disposal of lamps containing mercury.

I would like to speak about the leadership of my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. This bill is a continuation of his hard work at the municipal level.

At the municipal level, environmentally sustainable protection of the environment was a key item and objective of his. It is pretty impressive because I was told as a new member that maybe only 20% of private members' bills made it through. My colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour had unanimous consent in the House, and that is an indication of the hard work and consultation that he has done.

In listening to the audio of the committee, again, it was very obvious that members of all parties across the House and in the committee were eager to have the bill move forward on its merit because of the environmentally safe disposal.

The amendments coming back to the House under the guidance of the sponsor, the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, would allow for all parties, governments, and stakeholders to sit together, talk about this issue, and find solutions, which is crucial. I would like to read a quote from my colleague for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour:

We need to include our partners in other levels of government to ensure that they, along with the federal government, take ownership of this initiative. This will be a strong collaborative effort that will include any interested indigenous groups, governments, stakeholders, or citizens to ensure the strategy is best for all Canadians.

I could not be more in agreement with my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.

The contents of the bill are crucial. The bill speaks to Canadians wanting to reduce their energy use and their costs. Therefore, they need to find an environmentally friendly alternative. This compact fluorescent light bulb would do that. The savings are great, and it is a very positive step. However, Canadians need to know that the light bulbs contain mercury, the effect that mercury will have, and ways of recycling it. That is extremely crucial for the bill.

It was noted also by the ministry that four provinces had mandatory programs to collect these light bulbs: B.C., Manitoba, Quebec, and Prince Edward island. Nova Scotia Power has put in place a program to take back the light bulbs. These are extremely positive steps.

We must also note the importance, environmentally, for the economy. For the green tech economy, this is another step forward. I am so proud to see my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, who was inspired by visiting a local business that was disposing and recycling the lamps in a very sustainable and environmentally safe way. It is impressive that the MP took the example of that situation after visiting a company and moving it through steps. The first step, of course, was to the municipal government. The member did what he could in the municipality to ensure that all municipal fluorescent light bulbs would be recycled. That is a very positive step at the municipal level. His initiative would allow the federal government, the provinces, and stakeholders to work together to find solutions for a national strategy.

This is a green environmental initiative that is very well supported by the federal government and by all parties in committee.

As the Prime Minister has said on many occasions and as the Minister of Environment and Climate Change has repeatedly said, the economy and the environment go hand in hand. This legislation is a good example of that.

It is extremely important for people to realize that we have to fix the mercury problem and that there are many ways to do so.

In the past, people did not really know what was causing the problem. They put these things in garbage dumps and trash cans. The problem is that it ended up in the air or the soil.

Incineration was another option. The whole thing can be burned to produce energy. The trouble is that it causes a lot of air quality problems.

The best approach, what we would like to see happen, is recycling, which ensures that the substance does not cause any problems in the air or the soil, and that is essential.

We need leadership on many fronts: businesses, municipalities, the provinces, and the federal government.

My colleagues may not know this, but in 2011, Statistics Canada found that 50% of people were unaware of the problems caused by mercury.

They also did not have access. Therefore, if people do not know the danger or they do not know where they can have these things recycled and if that is not accessible, they probably will not do what is best for our environment and our country.

The bill is extremely important. It proposes a national strategy, which will shine a light, make people more aware, and ideally dispose of these things in a way that is totally environmentally safe.

The second thing I want to note is the importance of collaboration among all parties, as indicated in the bill, as well as indigenous groups and all stakeholders that are concerned and want this to move forward.

We have to be careful. This is an add-on. It builds on programs already in place. It is not a duplication. That is what is extremely important about the bill. This is an opportunity to do what is right, an opportunity for the safe management of these lights to the end of their life, without compromising the environment.

It has been a great pleasure for me to speak to the bill. I congratulate the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for his hard work. I also congratulate the committee members for all of their hard work. I will be supporting the bill.

National Strategy for Safe Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury ActPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act and the Income Tax Act, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Speaker's RulingCanada Pension PlanGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

There are 69 motions in amendment standing on the Notice Paper for the report stage of Bill C-26. Motions Nos. 1 to 69 will be grouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting pattern available at the Table.

I shall now propose Motions Nos. 1 to 69 to the House.