Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour and pleasure to be in a position where I am wrapping up debate on the first private member's bill that I have had in my career here that has made it to this stage.
I thank all those who participated in the debate. I think we all learned from the perspectives that different parties and MPs have brought to this debate. I know that I did.
I want to make clear that the bill is not aimed at suggesting that we do not have excellent quality drinking water in Canada. I would not want anyone watching this debate to somehow be alarmed or suggest there is a generalized problem. I say that with the caveat that we have a problem in first nations.
I am part of a group that is working with the Minister of Indigenous Services to focus on the first nations water issue specifically. From interactions with the minister, she is deeply committed to getting this job done. In fact, as a sign of how committed our government is, we added water systems to the government's target for maintaining good water systems. If a government were trying to get off easy, it would not do that. Therefore, it is a sign that we take this issue very seriously.
I am very proud of the work that the minister has been doing. I believe we are on track to meet our March 2021deadline. There have been 70 long-term water advisories that have been lifted already. Indeed, it is the result of investment, but it is more than that. It is the result of political will. I am very proud of the work our government is doing.
With respect to the bill, it is not a magic wand. It is one small step in bringing attention to water issues in Canada, which should be moved up on the public agenda.
There is a role for the federal government. Of course water is very much a provincial responsibility, with municipalities involved in managing different aspects of water, but the federal government has a role to play. However, I do not think it is necessarily a question of having, as the member who just spoke said, a broad-based national water vision or strategy. It requires a more granular approach.
By that I mean that the issue of water is so vast that if we try to envelop the whole issue in one kind of policy statement, we necessarily abstract from the discrete issues with which we have to deal. Therefore, we have to build a water strategy from the bottom up. We have to tackle issues like the one the bill attempts to tackle. There are other issues of course that we have to address. I have done that over my years here, including with the member for Edmonton Strathcona when we sat on the environment committee and looked at the oil sands industry and how it managed water in the Athabasca region.
The bill is not a cure all. It is just meant to introduce a little more accountability into the process. We know our government officials, in league with provincial government officials, do a very good job of comparing with standards elsewhere. However, the bill, in a sense, would require them to be a little more proactive. It would require the Minister of Health to be a little more proactive in telling us who the government is comparing to; why it is comparing to a particular country or entity; and explain why, in that comparison, it is focusing on a particular contaminant and maybe not on another. It would permit civil society to see a little more clearly how the government is operating in this respect and to question it on what it is doing.
That is really the essence of democracy in general. In this case, it will help advance the water agenda. It may be a small step, but at least we are going forward.