Mr. Speaker, I rise today to discuss Bill C-326,, an act to amend the Department of Health Act, drinking water guidelines, a private member's bill sponsored by the member of Parliament for Lac-Saint-Louis.
I would like to touch upon a few reasons why I stand in favour the legislation.
We all know that suitable drinking water is necessary for human life. Without water, there is no life. The average adult human body is made up of 65% water. We can all agree that all Canadians deserve better than the bare minimum, especially when it comes to their health.
When we think of Canada, we think of a country that is clean, healthy, and thriving. That is why it is essential our drinking water be of the highest quality.
My riding of Markham—Unionville depends on Lake Ontario for all our drinking water. We are blessed to have one of the Great Lakes at our disposal. In Markham, we have the great fortune of being able to enjoy clean drinking water straight from the tap.
Unfortunately, not everyone has this great fortune. We know all too well the tragedies that come from contaminated water. Far too many examples come to mind when I think of the dangers of a contaminated water supply.
As of July 31, in 101 first nations communities south of the 60th parallel there were 48 short-term drinking water advisories, meaning there was a temporary water quality issue on a specific water system; and 102 long-term drinking water advisories, meaning the advisory had been in place for more than a year.
Among Canada's first nations communities, Ontario has seen the highest number of drinking water advisories. This problem hits close to home for many of us. Reasons for inadequate drinking water include E. coli, inadequate disinfection, and source water contamination, among many others. This is simply unacceptable in Canada.
Many parts of Canada rely solely on ground water for their day-to-day needs. The legislation would ensure that those people have better drinking water. Access to safe, clean, and reliable drinking water is an important priority for Canadians, which is why the previous Conservative government passed the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act in 2013.
No matter where we live, every Canadian should have access to safe, clean, drinking water. I am a very proud Conservative member of Parliament, and I stand in agreement with my colleagues on this legislation.
Bill C-326 will include that the Government of Canada recognize that national guidelines respecting drinking water would be required to ensure such quality.
The bill would amend the Department of Health Act to require the minister of health to conduct a review of drinking water standards in 35 of the member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and, if appropriate, to make recommendations for amendments to the national guidelines respecting drinking water.
The creation of a federal-provincial-territorial responsibility will ensure a higher standard of drinking water for Canadians from coast to coast to coast. The federal-provincial-territorial committee on drinking water is designed to protect the quality of drinking water in Canada. This will be done by developing and maintaining national guidelines.
The bottom line is that Canadians need to have access to safe drinking water. We can all acknowledge the need for the national guidelines to be in keeping with the highest international standards respecting drinking water, keeping in mind that the best interest of Canadians is essential to every parliamentarian.
Accountability is essential to this process. The legislation would require the minister of health to ensure that a review conducted on drinking water standards would be the best deal for our constituents and Canadians overall. Further, the bill would create a stronger partnership between OECD countries and share the best practices which would ultimately allow Canada to have a higher standard of drinking water.
Bill C-326 would require the minister to compare Canada's water quality standards with other OECD countries. This practice currently does not take place. Moreover, Bill C-326 seeks to have the Government of Canada recognize that national guidelines respecting drinking water are required to ensure the highest quality. As well, it seeks to ensure that the main responsibility of the federal-provincial-territorial committee on drinking water is to protect the quality of drinking water and to develop and maintain national guidelines.
Ultimately, the bill would lead to the creation of better guidelines and the goal of safer water for all Canadians. However, there are a few observations I would like to address.
The first is that some OECD countries do not currently base their guidelines on science, and many contaminants found in other countries are not found in Canada or are already banned. This has potential to become problematic.
The second observation I want to draw attention to is that Canada also shares information with other government agencies, such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency, in the area of drinking water quality. We already share best practices with our southern neighbours, but we can do better.
Third, I would like to highlight that Canada is a World Health Organization collaborating centre on water quality and participates in the development of World Health Organization guidelines for drinking water. As a nation, we hold ourselves to a high standard when it comes to water health and safety. The legislation would make water quality in Canada better.
Finally, I would like to add that implementing water quality guidelines falls under provincial and territorial authority. This could hinder the process and create an issue of authority.
Our country has an abundance of fresh water, yet water in many indigenous communities is not safe to drink. Small towns and villages across the country face the issue of accessible water. The water on many first nations reserves is contaminated or hard to access. Oftentimes the treatment systems and infrastructure in place are not acceptable. Supporting the legislation is taking the right steps to address this crisis.
I will always be in favour of sharing best practices and having working partnerships with other nations around the world, especially if the issues in these discussions pertain to my health, that of my family, my constituents, and Canadians as a whole.
The previous Conservative government worked with provinces and territories to establish guidelines to ensure high-quality drinking water in Canada. However, this new legislation would ensure reviews would be done that would keep our drinking water standards among the highest in the world. Canadians deserve that. We need to keep Canadians safe and healthy.
I am confident in speaking in favour of this legislation. Canadians rely on their drinking water, and it must be safe and clean.
My colleagues and I are supporters of the legislation. I understand the bill is widely supported by members of aboriginal communities as well human rights advocates.
Canada is the best country in the world in which to live. We deserve the highest standards when it comes to our most basic necessity, water.