House of Commons Hansard #61 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rcmp.


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

May 30th, 2016 / 11:05 a.m.


Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

moved that Bill C-238, An Act respecting the development of a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud and delighted to rise today to speak to Bill C-238, a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury act.

First I would like to thank my constituents of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for having faith in me to effect real change and to make their voices heard in Ottawa. It is an honour to come here and work hard on their behalf to create a better environment for Canadians.

My private member's bill calls upon our Minister of Environment and Climate Change to open a dialogue and work with our provinces and territories to develop a robust national strategy ensuring that lamps containing mercury are safely disposed of.

We know that mercury is toxic.

However, Canadians are dumping toxic mercury into landfills daily.

I am thankful to the members who have seconded my bill, and I am truly honoured by the kind words I have received from members across the country. I am also encouraged by their feedback and their eagerness to protect Canada's environment.

I am touched that the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands approached me early on to jointly second the bill. I commend her environmental leadership and passion to work across party lines for the greater good. This is not about individuals; it is about protecting Canada as a whole. Canadians expect us to work together and find solutions together.

Private members' bills are often deeply personal. In 2012, I represented the Burnside Industrial Park in Dartmouth. Burnside is home to hundreds of innovative businesses and manufacturers, and it is the largest industrial park in eastern Canada. We have world leaders in solar technology. We have businesses contributing to shipbuilding. We even have research happening daily on the development of a Tesla battery.

It was during this period that I toured Dan-x Recycling. Dan-x is located in my riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour and is committed to ensuring that all mercury-bearing light bulbs are diverted from landfills and properly recycled. During my tour, I asked the normal questions that one would ask. I asked what the regulations are for end-of-life mercury light bulbs. I was shocked to hear that there were none. In light of the fact that there were no regulations, I began working within our municipality to, at the very least, divert the bulbs used in city-owned buildings. We had no enforcement measures to ensure that folks properly disposed of or recycled CFL bulbs. I was told that it had always been expected that with the introduction of CFL bulbs and the continued widespread commercial use of fluorescent bulbs that regulations would soon follow. This is the inspiration for Bill C-238.

The issue of keeping mercury out of our waterways and off our land matters to me as a parent. Like many folks, I want to leave this world a better place for our children and for future generations. That is why I immediately joined the municipal environment committee when I became a councillor for the Halifax Regional Municipality. It is why I am thrilled to now sit on the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development with our federal government.

It was Benjamin Franklin who said that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. It was true back then, and it is as true now. Remediation of land and water is costly, and when preventative measures can be taken, it makes the most sense.

I would like to thank our previous federal government and my colleagues from across the floor for taking measures to reduce the use of inefficient incandescent bulbs and helping Canadians embrace energy-efficient, compact fluorescent light bulbs and other lamp technology.

As with an ecosystem, even one small positive change often acts as a catalyst, setting off a chain reaction. For commercial purposes, fluorescent lamps have been popular for some time. However, CFL bulbs, as I mentioned, have gained in popularity since legislative changes to bulb efficiency standards were announced.

In 2014, a Statistics Canada report showed that three-quarters of total households reported using compact fluorescent lights. With so many Canadians using efficient compact fluorescent bulbs, we must ensure their safe disposal.

We warn consumers to step out of the room if a mercury bearing bulb breaks, but we do very little when Canadians dump these bulbs into our landfills every day.

Mercury is dangerous and toxic.

We are talking about an element that causes severe health problems, birth defects, and even death.

Commercial fluorescent bulbs alone contain 22 milligrams of mercury. Sources state that it takes only 0.5 milligrams of mercury to pollute 180 tonnes of water. One small CFL light bulb contains between 0.17 milligrams and 3.6 milligrams of mercury. It might not sound like a lot, but with more than three-quarters of Canadians using these bulbs, it really adds up.

The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment reported that waste lamps, whether broken or intact, contribute about 1,150 kilograms of mercury to landfills in Canada each year. That is 1,150 kilograms of mercury with the potential to poison our water and lands.

Mercury has the ability to undergo long range transport. That means that mercury deposited into a Halifax landfill could theoretically redeposit somewhere in northern Canada.

It is our responsibility to show real environmental leadership and protect Canadians whenever we can. We must take responsibility and protect future generations from this needless pollution. We can no longer pass the buck. We must work together and act now.

Solutions to this problem already exist.

As I mentioned, my private member's bill was inspired by an amazing and innovative facility in my riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. It recycles every bit of a fluorescent lamp. These bulbs are made of glass, mercury, lead oxide, and phosphorous powder. This facility 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 phosphorus powder that contains the toxic mercury.

Facilities like this exist across Canada. The member for Edmonton Strathcona has a facility in her riding that recycles these toxic mercury-bearing bulbs, as do the ridings of Brantford—Brant, Cambridge, Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, and Delta. These companies are focusing on a green economy, on clean technology. It is what we as a government have been talking about for the past six months. Investing in clean tech makes sense. Just look at these entrepreneurial ventures that have the ability to take this issue and turn it into something positive. We must encourage those with environmental and entrepreneurial spirit, like those who have established the facilities I have mentioned. My bill complements investment into the green economy. Bill C-238 has the potential to help grow this industry. We all know that when industry grows, so does the number of jobs.

Canadians are investing millions of dollars in the municipal landfills across the country. Whenever possible, we must divert recyclables from landfills. It makes dollars and it makes sense. These particular recyclables may be dangerous, but they are valuable when correct measures are taken. Light bulb recycling facilities, like the one in my riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, employ Canadians while providing a valuable environmental service. That is what we mean by a “clean economy”.

As I mentioned, solutions to this problem exist. Many provinces may lack CFL end-of-life strategies, but others are showing true environmental leadership. The Province of British Columbia is a fine example of leading the way and showing that successful models do exist. Notably, British Columbia's LightRecycle outreach program has diverted over 12.5 million lighting products from B.C. landfills since 2010. Its statistics are outstanding and extremely encouraging. This model gives us a hint of what we can achieve across the country. With a national strategy, we are merely currently scratching the surface. In 2010, only around 10% of British Columbia's mercury lighting was safely disposed of through this program. However, in 2013, that number skyrocketed to 74%.

I am not here to tell the provinces and territories what to do and how to do it. Although this particular program and model is encouraging, it is important to note that Bill C-238 does not put demands on the provincial and territorial governments. Bill C-238 is the first step in ensuring that mercury-bearing light bulbs are diverted from our landfills.

Bill C-238 calls for a conversation. It is about creating a dialogue and encouraging our provincial and territorial governments to collaborate from coast to coast to coast.

Canada is transitioning towards a green economy, and I believe Bill C-238 complements our government's firm belief that a clean environment and a strong economy go hand in hand.

A problem like mercury in landfills from consumer waste takes real environmental leadership to solve. I believe a robust national strategy, with positive collaboration between our federal government and our provinces and territories, can ensure the safe disposal of mercury-bearing lamps. It is time to expect our provinces, municipalities, cities, and towns to make bold moves in the right direction.

We need to work together.

We need to work together with consistency across our country to protect Canadians from mercury.

I strongly believe that a national strategy for the safe disposal of mercury-bearing lamps is a bright idea and provides strong environmental leadership to protect our waterways and our land. This is a government that cares about the environment, but, more so, Canada is a country that deeply cares about the world we leave for future generations.

Together we can encourage our federal government to create an open dialogue with our provinces and territories to develop a strong national strategy for the safe disposal of mercury-bearing lamps. This is about fostering a discussion. As such, I look forward to continued feedback from members of the House.

I encourage all of my colleagues in this House to support Bill C-238. Why? Because we are all in this together. Every single one of our ridings across Canada is affected by this problem. With Bill C-238's federal environmental leadership, we can work together to leave this world a better place for future generations.

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

11:15 a.m.


Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the invitation to engage in the discussion and debate on this. Like most bills that come before this House, one would expect that there would be comprehensive consultations with our provincial and municipal partners. We would also expect that a costing would take place to determine the costs of a new initiative to the taxpayers of this country.

I would ask my friend, who is a member of the environmental committee, of which I am also a part, and who does good work there, whether he has already conducted consultations with the provinces and territories to determine how far they are implicated in this and whether they support the bill. Second, has he done a costing of what this measure would entail in terms of costs to the Canadian taxpayer?

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

11:15 a.m.


Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, as my friend said, we are on the environment committee together.

There have been no discussions at this point. This is the beginning of the process. This is where we would start the consultation when and if we get the bill passed.

I want to point out that the idea of moving forward on this is more of an opportunity than a cost. We would be potentially hiring Canadians to work. I do not want to presuppose an outcome of what this would look like, but if we did go that route, we would be hiring Canadians across the country to work in these facilities.

We have already embraced recycling depots across the country as a way to handle our natural resources and our resources. This is something I would see as a potentially large job creator across our country. In fact, it would benefit the economy. As to potential costs, there are no costs in a discussion. There is no cost in a consultation. This would be something that would facilitate an increase in jobs across the country when we do come forward with a national strategy.

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

11:15 a.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for his piece of legislation.

To reply somewhat to my friend from the Conservatives, I think there is always a cost to action. There is also a cost to inaction. The cost of inaction on dealing with dangerous pollutants is severe and can be quite life threatening, and certainly costs our health care system a lot of money if people are exposed to these chemicals.

We have consulted in B.C. about this issue, and certainly in my riding. One of the gaps, which is significant, for his initiative to become successful is around education. A lot of Canadian consumers often do not know and appreciate what is in their consumer products. We find that some of the federal regulations around what goes into our products are somewhat weak. I have not yet read it in the hon. member's bill, but I am wondering if there are any education components to it. Simply implementing the requirements for recycling initiatives are good on their own, but without consumers actually bringing the product to the right place at the right time, all is for naught.

The hon. member has contemplated calling for a kind of national strategy. However, has he also called for some sort of national education process so that consumers and Canadians can be better informed, not only about the products they choose, but what to do with them once they are done with them?

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

11:20 a.m.


Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I cannot imagine a national strategy not having an educational component. However, this bill does not speak to what the national strategy would look like. It does not offer suggestions. It is a start of a conversation and the beginning of dialogue.

However, I will say that I have talked to hundreds of people across the country about this, and almost to a person, nobody knew that there were recycling facilities for mercury-bearing light bulbs across this country; nobody had contemplated that. It did not seem like a big deal to throw it in the garbage can.

Therefore, there is already a move afoot. There is already a conversation being had around the country right now because of the instigation of this bill and the potential for this national strategy.

Again, I would comment on the incredible work being done in British Columbia on recycling light bulbs. They are truly leading in the nation.

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

11:20 a.m.


Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful to my colleague on the environment committee for bringing forward this initiative. I think he would admit that this legislation builds on our previous Conservative government's actions to control mercury within our environment in Canada.

A lot of Canadians do not realize that Canada does not mine mercury. Canada is arguably the richest country in the world when it comes to natural resources, but mining mercury is not one of those activities. Ninety-five per cent of all the mercury deposited in Canada comes from foreign sources, which is why our former Conservative government was active in negotiating the Minamata Convention on Mercury, an international convention that essentially calls for tough measures to reduce mercury emissions. That was in 2013.

In November 2014, we followed that up with the products containing mercury regulations, which essentially prohibit the broad import and manufacture of products containing mercury, with limited exemptions. These regulations are expected to reduce by somewhere in the order of 21 tonnes the mercury that will be emitted into our environment between 2015 and 2032.

I appreciate the member's effort to build upon our previous government's work. This is important. The work we do at committee is not only about the environment but about sustainability, the long-term balancing of the environment with our economic objectives. We want to make sure that, as the Liberal government has said so often and as we used to say, the environment and the economy have to go hand in hand.

Some of the measures we are undertaking at the environment committee include a study, which we have now completed, on the Federal Sustainable Development Act. We are undertaking right now a study on conservation, which includes parkland and marine conservation areas. We are also undertaking a review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. All of these serve Canada's interests to make sure that, as we move forward, we continue to make our environment safer, cleaner, and healthier for Canadians to live in.

Bill C-238, a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury, contains three elements. The first would establish national standards for the safe disposal of mercury-containing lamps. The second would establish guidelines regarding facilities for safe disposal of these lamps. The third would create a plan to promote public awareness of the importance of safe disposal of these kinds of lamps. Right now these lamps end up in our landfills, and the mercury leaches into our soil and our water sources. Virtually all Canadians would agree that is something we do not want to see happen.

This bill attempts to establish a strategy. I would ask the member why we need a national strategy. As our former Conservative government moved forward to address the presence of mercury within our environment, we acted. We did not simply establish strategies and talk shops where we prolonged any action on these measures, but we acted. We signed the Minamata Convention. We moved forward with regulations on mercury and mercury emissions. We do not need a formal strategy to get this done. The Liberal government has within its full power the ability to move forward with its own legislation and to move forward with its own regulations and policies that would build upon the work that our former Conservative government did in this area.

Some national strategies that have been presented are worthwhile, especially the ones addressing many of the health challenges still present in Canada. However a strategy is simply a call to develop a plan, whereas moving forward with action goes to the very substance of what we hope to achieve.

The bill would also require this strategy to be tabled in the House within two years and then reviewed every five years to make sure it is in keeping with new strategies for the disposal of mercury-containing lamps.

By the way, I am going to support this bill going to committee, because I want to continue to build on the work that the previous Conservative government achieved, to make sure we continue to clean up our environment of mercury contamination. However, the challenge is to make sure any initiative or strategy is cost efficient and does not impose additional undue tax burden on Canadian taxpayers or red tape that ties up businesses, provinces, and municipalities.

The member actually admitted in his opening comments that the provinces and municipalities are implicated in this strategy. Much of the work and cost in implementing this strategy would actually be done at the provincial and municipal levels, which is where these recycling and disposal facilities would be located. Conservatives, of course, are always concerned with what kinds of additional costs will be imposed on Canadians.

As a Conservative government, we were very proud of a record of having reduced Canada's tax burden to the lowest level in over 50 years, and Canadians welcomed that. They do not want to pay more taxes, but they understand that we want to keep our environment clean.

I looked at a few pieces of legislation similar to this one that have already been presented in the House and to which I had a chance to speak. Motion No. 45 required that all infrastructure projects at the municipal level that are over $500 million in value would have to go through a full climate change impact analysis to determine what the upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emission implications would be for those projects.

The member who brought this private member's bill forward suggested that projects at the municipal level, chosen to meet the needs of municipalities and provinces, would actually be seen through a lens of climate change rather than for the purposes for which those projects were being built and planned. This would impose huge additional costs on our local governments, additional red tape, and delays, and it would discourage the municipalities from moving forward with critical infrastructure in their communities.

The same thing was true for Bill C-227, a private member's bill, which would place a requirement on contractors for projects within the federal realm. In other words, if a building contractor wanted to bid on a federal building project, the contractor would have to go through a community benefit analysis. On top of all the other red tape government has already imposed on those wishing to do business with government, it now wants an additional community benefit analysis, which again would add additional costs, more red tape, and increased costs of projects, because that would have to be built into the bid price.

On top of that, it would complicate the federal bidding process, by adding more and more red tape to the process, when in fact these projects should be bid based on best value for the taxpayers' dollar, or in other words, the best value for the best price. Therefore, Conservatives have a right to be skeptical about the bill before us. Is it going to be another example of Liberals' overreaching, adding additional cost to taxpayers?

In both of these cases, of course, as much as the motives behind these initiatives are laudable, the motion and this bill would actually pose additional regulatory burdens on Canadians, and that is my fear with this strategy. Quite frankly, the member could have moved forward with simply asking the government to move forward with regulations in consultation with the provinces and municipalities to provide the appropriate recycling and disposal policies across the country. For whatever reason, the member did not do that.

Hopefully, this matter will be fully discussed at committee. I will certainly be asking the member questions about costs, regulatory burdens, and exactly what this would mean for Canadian taxpayers. I look forward to the discussion, and I know the member and I are going to work very closely to make sure this is done in a way that is respectful of taxpayers and also addresses the very real concerns of mercury within our environment.

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

11:30 a.m.


Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my friend and colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for his excellent presentation and his private member's bill, and also for having secured the support of the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands and the express support from the last speaker to bring the bill to committee. That really—

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

11:30 a.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

I have a point of order, Mr. Speaker. There are no questions asked during private member's business outside of the mover.

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

11:30 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I will consult with the table and get back to the members shortly.

My apologies to all, there was an error here and I seem to have made it. We will resume debate.

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

11:30 a.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was worried for a moment. I am sure it was a good question, too. We will have to find a way to get it on the record. Perhaps our friend can offer a speech on the bill.

New Democrats will be supporting Bill C-238. We think it would go some measure toward doing some important things for our environment, which Canadians are rightly concerned with. It is a deeply held belief and value by Canadians that as we go about our daily lives, feed our kids, light our homes, and go to work, we do not want to be doing harm.

At the heart of the legislation is a notion around a principle that is often not applied when we pass legislation and laws in this place. It is a notion, which has been long-standing, called the precautionary principle. It suggests that before we go out and bring a new product or chemical into the world, we should look at all the best available evidence to understand if there are any impacts or exposure to the environment that would bring risk to the environment or the health of Canadians.

Clearly around issues of mercury or any of the highly classified toxins, as we innovate and try to get that green economy, products that use less energy, that are less wasteful in a whole bunch of different ways, it is important to take the full life-cycle costs and the full understanding of what it is that we are buying, producing in our factories, and bringing in from overseas.

The bill would move us in that direction. However, there is a couple of concerns that we have but they are concerns that can be addressed as the bill moves through. One is around the element of education. We know that changing the way we recycle and use products is important, but a key element in that is that consumers have full knowledge and full participation in whatever program we are trying to initiate.

The bill is interesting in that the federal government does not really have jurisdiction to direct provinces, territories, and municipalities to do one thing or another with their waste streams. We can offer some guidance. We can have some encouragement. We can bring in laws that restrict the use of certain products.

However, in terms of recycling, in terms of the reusing of certain products, what the bill seeks to do is three things. One of them is set up a national strategy. We know, and we have been told, that Environment Canada is engaged in producing such a strategy. This would be encouragement for the department to get on with it.

It is not news that mercury and other toxins are highly lethal, not just to humans but to a lot of things that humans care about, like the planet, fish, birds, and all the rest of that. It is curious that we have gone so long, and there are have been some delays by previous governments in introducing legislation. My understanding is that as we have been exporting a lot of this harmful material south of the border into their recycling facilities, there is not a lot of enthusiasm to continue to have that stream going to the United States and other countries. It is a good principle that Canada takes care of its own garbage and pollution. This seems like a basic understanding and value that we would all share.

I suppose, as my friend from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour has said, this is the beginning of a conversation with provinces and territories. In my experience, they sometimes like to have that conversation in advance of legislation being brought forward, but it is a big task for a single member of Parliament to take on, to try to engage with all the provinces and territories. However, that is going to be vital. Oftentimes if our partners at the provincial and territorial level feel like an initiative is also their idea, they are much more enthusiastic about participating and going through the process. If they feel like it is Ottawa imposing an idea, that can have the opposite reaction.

It is curious, simply because when we have dealt with other issues from the government, it has had very long and strenuous consultation processes, sometimes to the point of frustration. John Manley used to talk about constipation through consultation. There can be a tendency within governments that when it is not sure how to proceed, it continues to consult and consult and never really does anything. Ottawa loves to study things.

I am encouraged that there is an initiative in here that says we should go forward and do something. There is maybe going to have to be some extra energy put toward the consultation side, particularly at the municipal level. For those of us in the House who have engaged in municipal government, they have very few resources, and by that I mean money, to deal with a lot of issues. Their budgets are often strained. They cannot, as the federal government does and the previous one did, run massive deficits. It is just not available to municipal governments.

One of the first questions I am going to get from councillors, town councillors, and mayors is, “How do we pay for this?” If this is going to end up on their bottom line, they want to be able to participate and do it right, but they also want to ensure they do not bear all the costs. That is a completely fair understanding of the situation.

We also see in the bill that there would be a report-back mechanism, and I believe it would be in two years. There would be an ability for us to have a sense of where the strategy is going and whether it is working. One of the things that I would encourage is that we would have some clear metrics designed, if they are not already in place in the legislation, so that reporting back is not anecdotal or subjective but is quite objective and fact-based. What is the level of mercury hitting the landfills right now? What is the expectation of the legislation in terms of reducing that pollution? Are we able to achieve those targets, and if we are off, why are we off? That accountability is important to Canadians because they have too often heard large ambitions from governments that are left relatively vague. When it comes time to see whether the thing worked, there is no way to actually hold government to account because the measures were never put in place.

My friend from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour talked about the need for environmental leadership, and we agree that for far too long, on the broader issue of the environment, the federal government has been absent or heavy on the rhetoric but very light on the action. Probably no issue underlines that fact more than the issue of climate change, where we have seen, in fact, a lot of leadership from the municipal, provincial, and territorial levels but an absence of that here in Parliament where it has been a frustrating 30-year process of trying to deal with the issue of climate change and carbon pollution into our atmosphere.

As my friend from the Liberal side noted earlier, some will come to this debate and say that it is only costs. This is a cost to consumers. It is going to be a cost to the economy. It is going to hurt the creation of jobs and only cost consumers and taxpayers. I would argue that this is an example where, if we look at the full cost of what is happening, there is a cost already being borne on municipalities and provinces, in trying to deal with these toxins, like mercury. There is a cost to consumers and Canadians directly through their health care.

I was just with a friend this past weekend, when I was back home in Smithers, who is dealing with mercury contamination issues, yet his exposure to them was never through his work. The doctors have looked back and realized that it was from playing with old discarded light bulbs, as many of us did as kids playing Star Wars and busting them up with no knowledge that we were being exposed to something like mercury, which can bioaccumulate. That means it can continue to stay in our systems decades after exposure. My friend is facing serious health consequences now. It may be through diet, which is also a concern, but it was actually just through exposure as a young person.

All this is to say that when addressing any issue and looking at any product, any chemical, any toxin, we look at the full life-cycle of the product from cradle to grave. We look at how we are taking care and being responsible consumers, and how it is when the government puts forward legislation it is seen through a lens that is clearly understood by Canadians and is accountable to Canadians.

This is not what this bill is, but I would greatly encourage the current government to apply the same principles it has in the legislation to things like climate change and reviewing industrial projects, such as mines and pipelines, so that we have a clear accounting for what that precautionary principle is and we have a clear accounting of what the true costs are of any government decision. It would not be some vague subjective notion but something that people could hold the government to account on.

If they are going to approve an oil pipeline like Kinder Morgan to Vancouver, what are the Liberals actually taking into account? This would not be some sort of subjective “we looked at climate change”, but what the actual contribution upstream and downstream is, and what the full life-cycle cost of any decision that we make is. Canadians make these decisions all the time. If they put funds into their kids' education program, they try to understand what the full costs and benefits are. As a government, we should run ourselves as a household, and as many families do, understand what the full cost of any activity or inactivity might be.

I thank my friend from Nova Scotia for his bill.

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

11:40 a.m.

North Vancouver B.C.


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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to the bill introduced by the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, which proposes the development of a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps that contain mercury. I certainly commend him for his efforts in this regard. The lamps referred to in the bill are light bulbs such as florescent tubes or compact florescent light bulbs, which are known commercially as lamps.

Mercury, as many of us know, is a potent neurotoxin that can cause damage to the brain, central nervous system, kidneys, and lungs, and is particularly damaging to the development of the human fetus, infants, and young children. It is a chemical of global concern due to its high toxicity and its ability to travel long distances in the atmosphere. It has impacts on human health and the environment in places far from its source of release, such as Canada's Arctic. There, mercury levels in wildlife have been increasing over the past 30 years.

While the effects of mercury are most significant in Canada's Arctic and pose a particular risk to populations who rely heavily on the consumption of predatory fish and traditional food, the impacts are evident in all regions of Canada. The bill could make an important contribution to reducing releases of mercury and can build on other actions Canada has taken domestically and internationally.

Domestically, the federal government has undertaken several targeted policy and program initiatives to reduce emissions and releases. Under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, the government is taking action to address the health and environmental risks of mercury, including mercury from lamps.

For example, the products containing mercury regulations prohibit the manufacture and import of products containing mercury, with some exemptions for essential products that have no technically or economically viable alternatives, for example, certain medical and research applications, and dental amalgam. In the case of lamps, the regulations limit the amount of mercury the lamps can contain and require labelling to inform consumers of the presence of mercury, safe handling procedures, and options for end-of-life management and recycling.

In addition, in April of this year, the government published a proposed code of practice for the environmentally sound management of end-of-life lamps containing mercury. The code of practice provides guidance on environmental best practices for managing these lamps at their end of life. It also includes information on diversion and end-of-life management options for areas where access to recycling and disposal facilities is limited, such as northern and remote communities.

The proposed code of practice is open for comment until June 6, 2016, and the government plans to publish the final code of practice by the end of 2016.

In addition to federal measures to address mercury in lamps, there are federal regulations aimed at other activities, which also reduce mercury emissions and releases. For example, federal regulations limiting carbon dioxide emissions from the coal-fired electricity sector have an added benefit of reducing the mercury released into the atmosphere. Regulations on effluent from metal mines include limits on the release of mercury to water.

In March of this year, the government also published the first national evaluation of mercury in the Canadian environment, called the Canadian Mercury Science Assessment. During the period covered by the assessment, which was 1990 to 2010, Canadian emissions of mercury to the air decreased by 85%. Despite the decreases in Canadian emissions, however, ambient levels of mercury in the air in Canada have only decreased by 18% on average from 1995 to 2010. This is because over 95% of the mercury that results from human activity and gets deposited in Canada comes from foreign sources: approximately 40% from East Asia, 17% from the United States, 8% from Europe, and 6% from South Asia.

These foreign sources of mercury include emissions to air from industrial sources in other countries. They also include the use of mercury in small-scale gold mining, and in various products and processes, as well as from the disposal of wastes containing mercury and the re-emission of mercury from contaminated sites. While Canadian mercury emissions are expected to continue to decrease due to our ongoing efforts, global emissions are predicted to increase, in part due to the growth of coal-fired power plants in China and India.

In light of the impact of global activities, Canada continues to be a strong proponent of international action on mercury and the government is working toward ratifying the Minamata Convention on Mercury, a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from human-generated emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds.

Returning now to the bill being debated, this important initiative would also result in less mercury getting into the environment and will benefit the health of Canadians and the environment.

Bill C-238 deals with one source of mercury emissions, lamps. The bill would put an obligation on the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to develop and implement a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury. The bill would also require the minister to work in co-operation with partners and stakeholders in order to table a national strategy within two years of the act receiving royal assent by Parliament, or December 31, 2018, whichever is later. Every five years after the national strategy is initially tabled, the minister would report on the effectiveness of the national strategy.

This private member's bill complements the government's current actions on mercury. The national strategy that would be developed as a result of the bill would facilitate a harmonized approach, focusing on existing gaps to achieve environmental and sound management at end-of-life lamps containing mercury.

The bill envisages that the minister will seek the support of other governments across the country to develop and implement a national strategy. Responsibility for managing waste is shared among federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments.

The Government of Canada currently regulates international and interprovincial movements of hazardous waste, manages waste on federal lands, and has extensive authorities to regulate toxic substances and products that contain them. Provincial and territorial jurisdictions regulate waste management operations and facilities, and the end-of-life management of products. Municipal governments collect and manage waste for recycling and disposal.

The development and implementation of the national strategy will also require support and input from industry, environmental groups, municipalities and Indigenous groups. We will need to hear from these stakeholders about what should be included in the national strategy to help advance this important issue.

We look forward to hearing from all our partners and stakeholders as to what is needed to develop an effective national strategy. It should build on successful programs, such as the work done through the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, and should address the gaps that exist. We already know what some of those gaps might be, such as a lack of public awareness on the importance of recycling these lamps as well diversion programs for northern and remote communities.

I am pleased to say that the government is supportive of this bill. We will encourage the committee to do a careful reading of its provisions to ensure that the national strategy does not duplicate efforts already under way and can focus on the gaps that may exist across the country.

Once again, I would like to thank the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for bringing the bill before the House. It will help to focus national attention on the issue. I am confident that when we all work together, we can make a significant difference in addressing the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury.

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

11:45 a.m.


Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in favour of Bill C-238, an act respecting the national strategy for safe disposal of lamps containing mercury, put forward by the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. I would also like to congratulate the member on putting forth his first private member's bill in the House.

Bill C-238 would provide for the House to work in a bipartisan manner to not only pass the legislation, but begin the process of raising awareness and educating Canadians on the safe disposal of light bulbs containing mercury.

Mercury has the ability to be spread between water, air, and soil, which can significantly and negatively impact human and environmental health. It is well known that mercury is toxic and can cause health problems, including birth defects, rashes, and death. When low quantities are accumulated, they create a risk to mothers and their babies.

Mercury poisoning can also cause neurological damage, including slurred speech, memory loss, and tremors. The Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland did not get eccentric and zany from the exotic tea he was drinking; it was the mercury that led him down the rabbit hole of insanity.

Bill C-238 prescribes three important elements that need to be considered and supported. Precisely, it would establish national standards for the safe disposal of mercury-containing lamps; guidelines regarding facilities for safe disposal; and would create a plan to promote public awareness of the importance of those lamps being disposed of safely.

Previously, in 2010, our Conservative government released a risk management strategy for mercury, which proposed to reduce releases of mercury through the products containing certain toxic substances regulations. Supporting the bill is in line with the previous Conservative government's approach to controlling toxic substances that pose a risk to human health. For example, the previous government passed the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, Bill C-36, in 2010 and banned the use of bisphenol A in baby bottles.

As the environment is a shared jurisdiction with the provinces and territories, we also must be mindful to not overstep our boundaries as a federal government. I believe, however, the legislation would strike not only the right balance but could lead to a productive partnership on this file.

I appreciate that the legislation is focused and has a clear purpose as the thrust of the bill is to instruct the environment minister to develop and implement a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury. As it stands, many provinces and municipalities have different approaches to this issue. I believe that best practices can be shared, and when different levels of government work together, we will be able to educate consumers on how to safely dispose of these light bulbs without a considerable cost to the taxpayers.

In Brandon, Manitoba, the city has taken the approach of allowing our collection point for hazardous goods to be open six days a week, as an example. Furthermore, it has partnerships with hardware stores across the city at which people can drop off hazardous goods. The city communicates on a regular basis with its residents on which goods should not be tossed into the regular garbage pickup to ensure they do not end up in the landfill.

There are many other examples of municipalities having programs that accept household products that contain mercury. Some have implemented collection programs specifically for fluorescent bulbs, while others collect them as part of their household hazardous waste programs.

The reason the legislation is timely is many Canadians have fluorescent bulbs in their homes, their businesses, or farm operations. The reason we still use fluorescent bulbs is that they are more energy efficient than incandescent lights. The use of fluorescent lamps in place of incandescent bulbs can reduce energy consumption and in turn keep our electricity bill down. Nonetheless, we must not forget about their negative effect on the environment and on health.

The knowledge curve on properly educating consumers on how to safely dispose of them needs to be enhanced, and this legislation is a good starting point for that to occur. In fact, I hope the legislation will spur hardware stores, department stores, and just about anyone who sells florescent bulbs to take it upon themselves to share with their customers how to safely dispose of the bulbs and how to take the appropriate measures when a bulb is accidentally broken.

Moreover, the legislation can provide an opportunity for light bulb manufacturers to review how they package and ship their products to further enhance the safe transport of their products.

As with all programs and activities in the federal government, it is important to measure the effectiveness of specific initiatives. Far too often governments have good intentions, however, do not have systems in place to see if goals are being met. That is why it is necessary to emphasize that under the bill the Minister of Environment and Climate Change would have to report to Parliament. In particular, under clause 3, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change would be responsible for preparing a report setting out a national strategy and implementing it. Moreover, clause 4 describes the review of the report where within five years of the tabling of the report and every five years after that the minister of environment would set out his or her conclusions and recommendations regarding the national strategy.

It is imperative that all levels of government work together to keep toxic substances out of Canadian landfills and waterways. I am pleased to highlight that in the member's riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, a company called DAN-X recycles mercury-bearing light bulbs, which is reducing the environmental risk to its landfills. Many members might be interested to know that recyclers can recover the mercury for reuse.

I am pleased that we have such effective facilities in our country. We need to encourage their growth and success in order to keep our lands and waterways clear of hazardous materials. It is important that all members of the House support the legislation as the associated risks from mercury to our health and the environment are too high.

I know all Canadians care about our environment, which is why it is so important to involve the provinces, territories, municipalities, and private industries in developing and implementing this national strategy. Working together and supporting each other is the only effective way to make positive changes in our communities, and in Canada as a whole. Together, we can provide strong environmental leadership and can protect our lands and waterways. After all, this is what Canadians expect from us. The time to fulfill this obligation in a tangible way is right now.

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

11:55 a.m.


François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to discuss Bill C-238, an act respecting the development of a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury. I support this important bill at second reading because it is a good initiative and a step in the right direction.

The NDP supports all initiatives relating to the sustainable development of our communities. We want to minimize the presence of toxic substances that can threaten the balance and viability of our ecosystems.

Our record proves that the NDP has always been a leader in environmental protection. We must figure out solutions to the unsafe disposal of the mercury component of bulbs.

There are three main points in this bill. First, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change must develop and implement a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury. I congratulate my colleague on proposing such a strategy. This should have been done a long time ago, but unfortunately, the Conservative government was not particularly concerned about the environment. This is a step in the right direction.

Second, the bill calls on the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to work with representatives from the various levels of government, industry, and environmental groups to implement a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury. That is extremely important.

Later, I will explain why we need to work with the provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, as well as the private companies that make these products. I will explain why we need to address the root of the problem, the creation of this waste.

Third, the bill calls on the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to monitor and properly assess the effectiveness of the strategy. That is common sense. The NDP has always called for a ban on incandescent light bulbs. We want the government to implement a plan that will make it mandatory to recycle compact fluorescent bulbs. What is more, we want the companies that sell these light bulbs to be subject to a code of practice that is not just voluntary.

A voluntary code of practice does not ensure the implementation of a robust process. The process cannot be monitored or assessed and so no progress is made. A voluntary code of practice is no longer good enough. We need a code of practice that makes it mandatory for the industry to safely dispose of lamps containing mercury.

I worked in the environmental field for a number of years, and I think that extended producer responsibility is one of the most important things. Producers cannot just put a product on the market and then wash their hands of it. They need to be responsible for that product from cradle to cradle, from its creation to its recovery or reclamation. That is what is meant by extended producer responsibility.

It is important to reduce the quantity of waste materials sent for disposal by making companies responsible for the recovery and reclamation of the products that they put on the market and promoting more environmentally friendly products.

At the manufacturing stage, companies need to think about what will happen to a product at the end of its useful life. They need to think about how its components can be repurposed and how to dispose of it safely. This is known as extended producer responsibility.

It is important to implement a strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury, but we need to go even further and implement a national strategy on extended producer responsibility, in order to come up with ways to dispose of all products manufactured in or imported into Canada in a manner that is safe for the environment and for Canadians' health.

In that respect, I have worked very hard to find ways to improve the overall performance of products before their life cycle ends, specifically in order to minimize waste at the source.

In fact, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment has been advocating for standards to reduce the amount of mercury in lamps sold in Canada since 2001. Of course, it is now 2016.

I congratulate my colleague on his contribution towards creating this national strategy, and I want to assure him of my full support. I will help and encourage him in his efforts. Unfortunately, the Conservatives did nothing on this file for far too long, for nearly a decade in fact, which is really disappointing.

Many businesses and organizations in Drummond are doing their part, and I would like to highlight one in particular: Ressourcerie Transition.

On April 22, Earth Day, I visited a number of organizations and industries that work on environmental protection, as well as some organic farms in my riding. One of the organizations I visited was Ressourcerie Transition, which works on the reuse, recovery, and repurposing of products. This is very important.

There has to be a shift from producing disposable products that end up in our landfills and create major problems in our communities, to coming up with a way to have products that meet conditions for the 4Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle, and reclaim.

I want to congratulate Ressourcerie Transition on reusing and reclaiming objects and then reselling them to the public.

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



The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

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.

Public Service Labour Relations ActGovernment Orders



Public Service Labour Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra B.C.


Joyce Murray LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to offer my support for Bill C-7, a bill that respects the rights of the dedicated women and men serving in the RCMP by providing a new labour relations framework for RCMP members and reservists.

The bill is a significant step forward in the history of the RCMP and its labour rights. It would enable RCMP members and reservists to engage in meaningful collective bargaining. I am proud of this initiative that is so in the public interest and serves the rights and well-being of these dedicated women and men.

Our national mounted police force has not only a storied past but now a stronger future. Since its beginning in 1873 when Prime Minister John A. Macdonald introduced in the House the act establishing the Northwest mounted police, the RCMP has been an integral part of Canada's development. From the 1874 march west from Fort Dufferin, Manitoba to policing the Klondike gold rush, to the St. Roch passage through the Northwest Passage, to the last spike of the Canadian Pacific railway in Craigellachie, British Columbia, to the vital roles in World Wars I and II, the RCMP has played an instrumental role throughout our country's history.

Despite its long, storied contribution to Canada, its members did not have the full freedom of association with respect to collective bargaining. That would now change. The Supreme Court of Canada has removed the barriers RCMP members faced in exercising this right, a right guaranteed to all Canadians by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The bill provides the appropriate framework for the labour legislation that will govern the RCMP. It gives RCMP members and reservists the same access to a collective bargaining process that other police forces in Canada have.

To do that, the bill amends the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act to create a new labour relations regime for RCMP members and reservists.

More specifically, it will give RCMP members and reservists the right to choose whether they wish to be represented by an employee organization during collective agreement negotiations with the Treasury Board of Canada.

As I said, before the Supreme Court decision, RCMP members could not organize or participate in collective bargaining.

Indeed, they have been excluded from the labour relations regime governing even the federal public service since the introduction of collective bargaining for this sector. Instead, members of the RCMP had access to a non-unionized labour relations program. This program had initially been imposed by section 96 of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police regulations in 1988. It was then repealed and replaced by substantially similar section 56 of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police regulations in 2014.

Its core component was the staff relations representative program, or SRRP, the primary mechanism through which RCMP members could raise labour relations issues. It was also the only forum of employee representation recognized by management, and it was governed by a national executive committee.

The program was staffed by member representatives from various RCMP divisions and regions elected for a three-year term by both regular and civilian members of the RCMP. Two of its representatives acted as the formal point of contact with the national management of the RCMP.

The aim of the SRRP was that at each level of hierarchy, members' representatives and management consulted on human resources initiatives and policies. However, the final word always rested with management.

Many changes were subsequently made to this labour relations regime, which increased the independence of the staff relations representative program.

However, none of these changes had much of an impact on its objective, place or function within the traditional RCMP chain of command.

In May 2006, two private groups of RCMP members filed a constitutional challenge on behalf of RCMP members in Ontario and British Columbia regarding labour issues.

These two groups were never recognized for the purposes of collective bargaining or consultation on labour issues by RCMP management or the federal government.

They saw the declaration that the combined effect of the exclusion of RCMP members from the application of the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the imposition of the SRRP as a labour relations regime unjustifiably infringed members' freedom of association.

The Supreme Court ruled that key parts of the RCMP labour relations regime were unconstitutional. It struck down the exclusion of RCMP members from the definition of employee in the Public Service Relations Act as unconstitutional, and it held that a section of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police regulations infringed on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In fact, the court affirmed that section 2(d) of the charter “protects a meaningful process of collective bargaining that provides employees with a degree of choice and independence sufficient to enable them to determine and pursue their collective interests”.

In the case of the RCMP, the court determined that the existing labour relations regime, built around the staff relations representative program, denied RCMP members that choice, and imposed a program that did not permit RCMP members to identify and advance their workplace concerns free from management's influence. It found that the staff relations representative program did not meet the criterial necessary for meaningful collective bargaining. Under this program, RCMP members were represented by organizations they did not choose, and they worked within a structure that lacked independence from government. The court held that this violated their charter right to freedom of association.

I am proud that our new government's bill, Bill C-7, addresses just that. It brings labour rights governing this group of federal employees into line with the federal public sector labour relations regime, which has been in place for over 40 years. It provides RCMP members and reservists with a sufficient degree of choice and independence from management while recognizing their unique operational reality.

The RCMP is a nationwide federal public sector police organization, and thus its labour regime should be aligned and consistent with the fundamental framework for labour relations and collective bargaining for the federal public service.

Bill C-7 includes several general exclusions that mirror exclusions already in place for the rest of the public service. For example, staffing, pensions, organization of work, and assignments of duties are excluded from collective bargaining. Each of these issues is instead dealt with under other legislation, for example, the Public Service Employment Act for staffing, the Public Service Superannuation Act for pensions, and the Financial Administration Act for the organization of work and the assignment of duties. This system has been in place for years, and it works.

Having recently taken the GBA+ training module that government provides, which is gender-based analysis, I was impressed to see how the RCMP has been implementing gender-based analysis, the lens that ensures that both women and men are properly served in policy decisions taken by management. I want to congratulate the RCMP for being a leader in the implementation of this very important program.

There are other ways in which RCMP members can express their concerns about labour issues. If a uniformed member has a concern about the safety of the uniform, he or she can speak to the workplace health and safety committee. Together with the union representatives, the committee can study the issue and identify the best possible solution based on the evidence.

Moreover, workplace health and safety issues can be included in the collective agreement through bargaining. If members have concerns about employment conduct, they can share them with the union representative on the labour-management committee.

In other words, there are other ways for RCMP members and the union to raise concerns outside of the collective bargaining process. The members and the union can work with management to improve the workplace.

I would also like to point out that some have criticized the bill and said that only pay and benefits can be collectively bargained. This is simply not the case. There is a whole host of other issues that can be collectively bargained. Conditions of work, such as hours of work, scheduling, call back, and reporting conditions, can be collectively bargained. Leave provisions, such as designated paid holidays, vacation leave, sick leave, and parental leave, can be collectively bargained. Labour relations matters, such as terms and conditions for grievance procedures and procedures for classification and workforce adjustment, can be collectively bargained. For example, the decision to lay off an employee is a staffing matter, which is not subject to negotiation. However, measures such as compensation or the manner in which layoffs are conducted may be negotiated.

As I said, the Supreme Court invalidated the existing labour relations framework for the RCMP because it violated the charter right to freedom of association. The court suspended its judgment for one year to give government time to consider its options. The government sought an extension and was given an additional four months to provide a new labour relations framework for RCMP members and reservists. Unfortunately, the suspension of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision has now expired. Therefore, it is important that the government move quickly to put in place a new labour relations framework to minimize disruption for RCMP members, reservists, and management.

Indeed, delaying the passage of this legislation is problematic for a number of reasons. There currently is an overlap between the RCMP Act and the Public Service Labour Relations Act, which could result in confusion and conflicting interpretations. In addition, members could be represented by multiple bargaining agents, making it difficult for the RCMP to maintain a cohesive national approach to labour relations. That is especially worrisome given the nature and function of our national police force, in which members are posted to positions anywhere across the country in a variety of functions and activities. The potential to be represented by a number of various bargaining units could be very confusing.

Should this not pass quickly, there is also the concern of uncertainty among RCMP members about their collective bargaining rights and the measures they can take should they need access to representation.

Let me add two further arguments for the swift passage of this legislation. The government took steps, including consultations with RCMP members in the summer of 2015 to bring this new framework into compliance with the Supreme Court's ruling. Last summer, regular members of the RCMP were consulted through an online survey and town hall meetings to seek their views on potential elements of a labour relations framework.

At the same time, Public Safety Canada consulted with the provinces, territories, and municipalities that are served by the RCMP through police service agreements. Public Safety Canada will continue the dialogue with contracting parties as the new regime is implemented. The findings from these consultations were very helpful and instructive in developing the elements of Bill C-7.

Finally, let me add that this bill is also consistent with our government's efforts to restore fair and balanced labour laws in this country. We believe in collective bargaining. That is why, for example, we introduced Bill C-5, which would repeal division 20 of Bill C-59, the 2015 budget implementation act, which was tabled last April by the previous government. Division 20 would have provided the government with the authority to unilaterally override the collective bargaining process and impose a new sick leave system on the public service. By repealing those provisions in Bill C-59, we are also demonstrating our respect for the collective bargaining process.

We believe in fair and balanced labour relations, and we recognize the important role that unions play in Canada.

That is why we have also introduced measures to repeal Bill C-377 and Bill C-525, which were also passed without the usual consultation process for labour relations law reform by the previous government. Bill C-377 placed new financial reporting requirements on unions, and Bill C-525 changed how unions could be certified and decertified.

Bill C-7 restores the power of the federal Public Sector Labour Relations Board to select the certification or decertification method appropriate to each particular situation, and I would say fair method to both the representing and the represented parties, rather than being limited to the mandatory vote method, which can skew a decision against the union in certain circumstances.

The previous government had research and a report that concluded that very situation.

Recently, on May 25, the government announced its intention to repeal portions of the Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 2, division 17. The portions in question have to do with changes made to essential services, collective bargaining and processes for grievances, and dispute resolution without any consultations with public sector partners. We took these important measures to ensure that workers are free to organize and that unions and employers can bargain collectively in good faith.

Bill C-7 honours this right, a right that has long been exercised by all other police officers in Canada. It is the right to good faith collective bargaining. This bill would institute this right in law. It would lay out the rules that govern labour relations for RCMP members and reservists, and enshrine the principles and values of our society as reflected in the charter and as required by the Supreme Court of Canada. It would recognize the particular circumstances of our unique national police force, the RCMP.

I would ask my colleagues to do the right thing and support the passage of this bill, so that it becomes law without further delay.

Public Service Labour Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member talked about how legislation apparently aligns the process with other parts of the public sector.

The member will know, I think, that every other time there has been certification within the public sector, there has been a secret ballot process. There are allegations that there could be intimidation if there is a secret ballot. I do not understand how that could even work. Even so, is that not particularly unlikely in the public sector?

Would the member not agree that in order to be consistent with certification processes in other parts of the public sector, there should be assurances in this legislation that there is a secret ballot for the RCMP?

Public Service Labour Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make sure the member understands that under this bill there may be a secret ballot for the RCMP, but it would be for the board to determine whether that is the appropriate certification or decertification method given the circumstances.

I would also like to remind the member that the previous government's own analysis, the study it had commissioned on the impacts of secret ballots, concluded that using a secret ballot has led to a significant decline in unionization. In other words, it made it more difficult for members of the public service to be represented by a bargaining agent.

We are looking for a fair approach that could select a secret ballot, but also the card check, depending on the circumstances of which would be the most fair.

Public Service Labour Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the things I have noticed in my 12 years in the House of Commons is that everything is an emergency now. We have to get these bills through immediately or we are failing in our duty. The role of Parliament has become increasingly, as the present leader of the Conservative opposition says, an audience or a rubber stamp of bobble heads.

We are here to do due diligence. Therefore, when I hear the hon. member talk about responding to the court ruling on the rights of RCMP officers and yet I look at the bill and see what is taken out of the collective bargaining rights, I think there are serious concerns that have to be addressed here. The inability to bring forward issues of harassment allegations and the inability to talk about issues of staffing, whether or not a police officer has proper backup, are things that belong within the collective bargaining process. The hon. member tells us not to worry, that there are other manners within the civil service that work well. Well, no they do not work well.

The problems we have seen with the RCMP, such as fundamental harassment and backup, are issues that have not been dealt with. This is where the collective bargaining process is supposed to be in place. It seems to me that the government is stripping out all those rights in providing a Potemkin process for the RCMP to go through, while not giving it the tools it needs to be in conformity with the courts.

Why this rush to push this through, when we need to scrutinize the lack of credibility of key parts of the legislation?

Public Service Labour Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member raised two key issues. One was the short time, and the other was what he called stripping out rights. I will respond to the second one first. This would not strip out rights. This would provide rights. It would provide the right to be represented. It would provide the right to collective bargaining, and it would not be just pay and benefits. There are a whole host of issues that can be bargained collectively, such as hours of work, scheduling, call-back and reporting conditions, leave provisions, designated paid holidays, vacation leave, sick leave, parental leave, and I could go on.

However, I also want to address the first part of the member's question, which is about how quickly we are aiming to have the bill completed, and that is because there was a Supreme Court decision on this. The extension has expired, and now we are in a period where the lack of representation is not allowed, so this is a period of confusion. We need to make sure it is absolutely as short as possible, on behalf of the RCMP members themselves.

There are opportunities for several unions to move in and make an attempt to represent RCMP members. That would not be in the interests of having a unified national police force that can be managed nor for the members themselves having constant and consistent conditions in their collective agreement. It is not in their interests to delay this, and it has been thoroughly discussed and studied. I encourage the member to support this on behalf of the RCMP members in his constituency.

Public Service Labour Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am wondering if my colleague the parliamentary secretary could talk more about the real world impact, now that the Supreme Court deadline has in fact passed.

Public Service Labour Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, here is one very important aspect. The legislation before us, Bill C-7, requires that a collective bargaining employee representation organization not also be substantially representing other public servants, so that it is a dedicated collective bargaining organization. That is very important because of the nature of the RCMP's work.

Think of a time when the RCMP might be called in to address a situation of disorder that has to do with a strike and collective bargaining. How would its members respond if it were members of their same union in a different category who were on strike, a different type of employee in one large umbrella union? That would be extremely problematic and conflicting for RCMP members, but that is exactly the situation that could arise, should the RCMP be organized by a union that has some other components to its responsibilities.

It would not be in the public interest, and it would certainly not be in the RCMP's interests to be put in that situation where it may need to take action against its own union and fellow union members. That is why having a union dedicated to the RCMP is so important. For that, we need Bill C-7 to be passed as soon as possible.

Public Service Labour Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my friend from Timmins—James Bay that, under the Supreme Court B.C. hospitals case and the more recent case specifically with respect to the RCMP, its members have the right to bargain collectively with or without this legislation. The hon. parliamentary secretary makes a good point. However, I am sure that would be avoided if we did not have Bill C-7 in place.

As the member will know, my biggest concern with Bill C-7, which I find baffling, is that the decision was taken to remove the issue of harassment from the ambit of a possible collective bargaining agreement. We are not requiring that it consider harassment, but why has the government decided that members of the RCMP, employers and employees, should not be able to agree to include harassment in negotiating the collective agreement? I have heard from the hon. Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness that the harassment issue is high on his agenda and that something else will be done. However, just today, Karen Katz, a 27-year veteran of the RCMP, who has been on sick leave with PTSD since 2009, was fired by the RCMP. That does not give me confidence that the institution is taking harassment seriously.

Public Service Labour Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for raising this important point. As a Liberal member in opposition in previous years, not only have I participated in meetings with members of the RCMP who have suffered harassment and not received proper support and response, but I have hosted such meetings in my constituency of Vancouver Quadra. Therefore, I am in complete agreement that there is a problem within the organization, that there has been a problem historically, and that there remains a problem. I want to assure the member that the minister is seized of this issue and is working on it.

I would ask how collective bargaining would address that. That would suggest that in other organizations that have the right to have representation and collective bargaining there is no such harassment happening. However, that is not the case, not in some of our municipal first responder forces nor with national first responders. Therefore, I would say that collective bargaining cannot necessarily address the aspects of an organization's culture and human behaviour that leads to this completely unacceptable activity and that we must take serious measures to prevent—

Public Service Labour Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Order, please. Resuming debate, the hon. member for Durham.