Madam Speaker, before I begin my speech, I will take a moment to express my sincere sympathy for the families of the victims of the shooting at the Centre culturel islamique de Québec. The tragedy has shaken us all. We are all aware of the importance of continuing to strive to live together in harmony and understanding, and to be united in the face of this tragedy. There are no words to describe the horror of this act. It is important for us as parliamentarians to say that we must always fight against hateful messages and hate directed at those who are a little different from ourselves. We are all united in asserting that. I wish a speedy recovery to those who were wounded in that unspeakable attack.
I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-238, an act respecting the development of a national strategy for the safe and environmentally sound disposal of lamps containing mercury. As we know, mercury is a dangerous substance. It is an incredibly dangerous neurotoxin, which can cross the placental barrier and endanger the fetus, and can be found in breast milk. Therefore it should not be taken lightly. Very minor exposure to traces of mercury can damage the nervous system and even lower IQ levels. It can also cause tremors, insomnia, memory loss, neuromuscular changes, headaches, and other problems. It is not a substance to be taken lightly. That is why having a strategy for the safe disposal of certain lamps containing mercury is very important.
I support the bill of the Liberal member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, who took this initiative. It is very good and a step in the right direction. The NDP supports all initiatives relating to sustainable development. We want to minimize the presence of toxic substances that can threaten the balance and viability of our ecosystems. Unfortunately, biodiversity is currently diminishing from year to year. It is really something we need to consider. As you know, the NDP has always been a leader in environmental protection. We have put forward many bills to protect the environment. We have been working very hard on this for a long time, which is why we must figure out solutions to the unsafe disposal of mercury component lamps.
I, myself, was on the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development when this bill was being studied. I asked questions about certain aspects of the bill that might be improved, to ensure that we had a sounder approach.
To explain the bill a little, it requires that the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change develop and implement a national strategy for the safe disposal of bulbs containing mercury. It asks the minister, in cooperation with the provinces, the territories, industry stakeholders, and environmental groups, to work on establishing a national strategy for the safe disposal of bulbs containing mercury. It also asks the minister to monitor and rigorously evaluate the effectiveness of the strategy.
On that point, I would personally have preferred that there be regulations to implement the strategy, but there are none in the bill. It is hard to have tangible action when there are no stringent regulations to be followed. This is one of the points in the strategy that could have been improved. As I was saying, this is a start, but the bill could have been tougher, firmer, and more rigorous. This is one of the first points.
Another point is that even though this is a federal responsibility, we are ultimately asking the municipalities to take action.
The risk is that the financial responsibility will be foisted on the municipalities. In reality, this is a federal government responsibility.
This is a concern I have shared with my colleague. Unfortunately, my concern has not been allayed and I am still worried. The financial burden of this federal responsibility should not be off-loaded on our colleagues in the municipalities. As we know, our colleagues in the municipalities already have their hands full and they have a lot of things they have to look after. They do not have a whole lot of ways to raise funds. We have to be careful not to weigh them down with more responsibilities.
I am going to talk a little about an extremely important principle when it comes to the environment: the expanded responsibility assigned to producers. It is important to understand this process, so that as little waste as possible ends up in landfill sites and so that it does not pollute those sites. That is why it is important to change the way we look at things. Unfortunately, we too often think that items that are no longer useful are trash or waste, when they should be thought of as resources. We should see trash as resources that can be reused at a later time.
Extended producer responsibility means that producers have to think about the parts or residual materials of an object that could be used for other purposes and that will be easy to recover and reuse at the end of the object's useful life. That is called extended producer responsibility. It is also known as cradle to cradle or circular economy. Instead of producing objects that will end up in the garbage and the landfill at the end of their useful life, producers should instead ensure that the various components of the object can be recovered later. This is especially important when there are other problems related to landfill sites, which are not easy to manage.
It is extremely important to ask questions in order to convert our economy into a circular economy. Producers need to take on extended responsibility. We cannot afford to keep throwing everything out. The planet has a lot of resources, but we must take better care of it than we are right now. It is extremely important.
Since 2001, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment has been promoting standards to reduce the amount of mercury in lamps sold in Canada. Those measures were introduced a while ago. Unfortunately, things are moving too slowly, and there is still a long way to go. There are far too many lamps containing mercury in landfills. We will need to work much harder on this.
I will close by saying how tremendously important it is for the government to raise awareness. Without an awareness campaign, if people do not know where to take lamps containing mercury for safe disposal and potential reuse, the strategy will fail. It is vital that we back it up with a public awareness and information campaign so that everyone knows how to dispose of lamps containing mercury.
As I said, municipalities are doing excellent work in waste management, but managing waste, or, as I prefer to say, resources, containing mercury is the federal government's job. The feds must not download this responsibility on to municipalities. It is extremely important for the federal government to step up and support municipalities on this.