Mr. Speaker, first I want to compliment my colleague. Over the years, I have been able to get to know our caucus chair, and one of his passions I have witnessed is that he truly cares, in a very real and tangible way, about Canada's environment and anything related to water. I have had the opportunity in the past, as have a number of my colleagues in the province of Manitoba, to talk about Lake Winnipeg and how important it is not only to the residents of Winnipeg or Manitoba, but indeed to all of Canada. That water basin crosses international borders.
The member has a very strong passion on this particular file, and I have had the opportunity to ask him, in a nutshell, what he is hoping to achieve with this piece of legislation.
I respect the fact that Canada, most people would think, sets a fairly high bar in terms of water quality, but sticking to what the Prime Minister often says, we can always do better. When I reflect on what the member has brought forward for us to debate this afternoon, he is accepting the Prime Minister's challenge. We can do better.
We think of Canada as a wonderful, vast nation with literally thousands of lakes, rivers, and creeks. We are a water nation in a very real sense. Many would think that we have the best water in the world, and in certain areas of our country I suspect that we do. However, the member brings up a valid concern. Other jurisdictions in the world tend to have different criteria, higher criteria, for ensuring that the quality of their drinking water is of a high standard. It raises the question of whether Canada has some standards or criteria that are lower than those of some other countries, whose standards may be a little better than ours.
I respect the fact that we should not be taking our guidelines for granted and that we should be looking at what is happening here in Canada. We need to recognize that we live in a federal society where we have different levels of government, all of which play an important role. The national government has a leading responsibility in many areas, but it would be irresponsible of us to think that this is solely the national government's responsibility. Provincial jurisdictions also have a very important role, and even our municipalities.
Winnipeg just got a new water system, which was finalized around 2009-2010, and it is an amazing facility. Winnipeg, as a community, has been very blessed in terms of water, such as with Shoal Lake and the beautiful, crystal-clear water that is coming down a pipe based on gravitational pull into the city of Winnipeg. It has been providing water for generations of Winnipeggers and Manitobans. We have been very fortunate with that. It is one of the reasons we have some of the lowest water bills in North America. I still drink from the tap, which is something we can all be somewhat proud of, because in many jurisdictions that is the case. In fact, there are some who would argue that drinking from the tap can be healthier than drinking bottled water.
The point is that we have to take into consideration that, yes, Ottawa plays a role, but provinces, municipalities, and people as a whole all have something to contribute to this area of concern.
We have a fairly competent and able Department of Health. It has been working with the different stakeholders, the provinces and territories, and will continue to do that through the federal-provincial-territorial committee on drinking water, for example, with the idea of developing and updating guidelines for the quality of Canadian drinking water.
My colleague across the way raised some valid concerns with respect to indigenous people and the important role we play in working in co-operation with their leadership to ensure the quality of water is equal and fair in all regions. The Prime Minister and our government are committed to doing just that. Wherever we can improve the quality, we need to do so.
Members know that we encourage private members of all political stripes to generate ideas and bring them to the floor of the House to challenge us as legislators.
Looking at the specifics of Bill C-326, the government is saying that we need to take into consideration Canadian context and priorities before conducting an internal review, and that is important. My colleague and our caucus chair is very much aware of that.
We need to limit any review of standards and guidelines to those considered to be of leading international agencies and to the guidelines designated as priorities for development in Canada. These are two concerns we need to at least attempt to get more clarification on and possibly address. This could enhance my friend's private member's bill.
There is a lot to be gained on this. If we can tweak the legislation so we can get widespread support within the House of Commons, we would be doing a great service to Canadians.
Stealing from what I started off by saying, whether we listen to the Prime Minister or others who say we need to do better in different areas, this is an area we can do better in. We should look at what the sponsor of the bill hopes to accomplish. I believe this is an expectation that most Canadians would have of the different levels of government, that being a high sense of co-operation, working together to ensure Canada not only demonstrates strong leadership from within our boundaries, but even to countries outside of our boundaries that try to emulate some of the things we have done to provide good quality drinking water.
Often when disasters abroad take place, we will send our military and DART to provide good quality and clean drinking water. We have done this with a number of countries over the years. In good part Canada is perceived as a country that understands the importance of providing good quality water.
I look forward to seeing the bill head to committee. I understand the member is working with the government on ways we can improve the legislation.