Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in support of Bill C-238, the national strategy for Safe and Environmentally Sound Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury act.
First, I want to thank my colleague, the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, for bringing the bill forward. The bill serves an important purpose by contributing to efforts to reduce mercury emissions and releases. Mercury is a toxic subject that is harmful to the environment and human health, which is why the Government of Canada is committed to eliminating human sources of mercury emissions when feasible.
Bill C-238 calls for a national strategy for the safe and environmentally sound disposal of lamps containing mercury. The bill would fill gaps within the existing framework governing management of mercury in Canada. Although robust measures are already in place to manage mercury emissions and products containing mercury, many Canadians are unaware of the dangers of improper disposal of lamps containing mercury. Many Canadians do not have ready access to facilities where lamps containing mercury can be disposed of safely and in an environmentally sound manner.
The Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development studied the bill. I was there for one meeting. In a very collaborative way and arguably a way which all committees ideally would operate, adopted amendments that would facilitate a co-operative and collaborative approach to the development of the national strategy. These amendments are consistent with the purpose of the bill. The member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour has noted that the bill is meant to be the beginning of a conversation. The amendments made at committee facilitate that goal by expanding the range of perspectives to be considered in the conversation and by ensuring flexibility in determining the elements of the national strategy.
The amendments made at committee strengthen the bill by recognizing that jurisdiction over waste management is shared between different levels of government. The national strategy is to be developed by the Minister of Environment, in cooperation with representatives of provincial, territorial, and other interested governments. The addition of “other interested governments” improves the original bill by capturing other governments, such as municipal and indigenous governments, that would like to have a role in developing and implementing the national strategy.
A related amendment is that the minister shall consult with “all interested persons and organizations”, rather than only requiring consultation with environmental groups and industry. This would help to ensure that a range of perspectives would be considered in the development of the strategy.
There are a number of reasons why the co-operative, flexible framework set out in the bill is essential to the success of the national strategy.
First and foremost, co-operation is important because jurisdiction over matters related to waste management is shared among different levels of government. 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. Bill C-238 recognizes that these various levels of government have a role to play in the safe and environmentally sound disposal of lamps containing mercury.
A collaborative approach to managing mercury emissions is nothing new. For years, important work has been coordinated by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment to address various sources of mercury pollution, including lamps containing mercury.
One example of action at the CCME level is the Canada-wide action plan on extended producer responsibility. In 2009, all provinces and the federal government committed to implementing the Canada-wide action plan, which includes action on mercury lamps. Extended producer responsibility, or EPR, is an approach where producers are responsible for dealing with products at their end of life. Essentially, EPR shifts responsibility for dealing with waste products upstream to the producer and away from municipalities and general taxpayers. EPR can be an effective way to divert certain products from landfills and we have seen some success in the context of mercury lamps. Four provinces, British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island, have implemented specific regulatory programs to collect and recycle mercury lamps.
This brings me to another reason why the co-operative approach put forth in the bill is so important. This approach recognizes that a number of efforts are already under way in different jurisdictions to minimize pollution from lamps containing mercury. Some provinces, and even certain areas within provinces, are further ahead than others in terms of managing lamps containing mercury in an environmentally sound manner. In other areas, such as much of the north, the infrastructure to properly divert these lamps from landfills simply does not exist.
There are also a number of federal initiatives to address mercury lamps. For example, in April of 2016, the Government of Canada published a Proposed Code of Practice for the Environmentally Sound Management of End-of-life Lamps Containing Mercury. I do not know how these titles are arrived at. It seems there is kind of an art form that goes with the creation of law that there has to be a title that runs for about four paragraphs.
The code of practice is a voluntary tool developed to complement provincial, territorial, and municipal initiatives and to promote the best practices for managing lamps containing mercury at the end of life. By setting out a co-operative framework, the bill would allow the national strategy to complement, rather than duplicate, existing federal, provincial, and municipal efforts to manage lamps containing mercury. The bill would not mandate what the national strategy must include. Instead, it would require that the strategy be developed co-operatively.
The bill would provide guidance by setting out certain elements that could be included in the national strategy. For example, the national strategy could include guidelines for facilities involved in the safe and environmentally sound disposal of mercury. This could be a facility like the recycling facility in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour and similar facilities across Canada. However, the elements of the national strategy are not predetermined by the bill. Rather, the strategy may include any elements to reflect the work and consultations that the minister will undertake with provinces, territories, municipalities, and other interested parties in the development of the strategy.
The bill focuses national attention on an important issue, an issue on which we have a real opportunity to reduce mercury emissions. I want to again thank the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for his initiative and for bringing the bill forward. I expect that a national strategy will have an important impact on ensuring environmentally sound management of lamps containing mercury.