Mr. Speaker, I would like to sincerely thank the member for Lac-Saint-Louis for his hard work and insights on Canada's drinking water guidelines, which he introduced through Bill C-326, and also for his leadership in this area over many years. I know that all members in this House come from ridings that pull their drinking water from multiple sources. In my community of Oakville, we pull it from Lake Ontario. Therefore, drinking water guidelines are essential and important to every one of us.
Canada has a long history of developing guidelines to ensure that Canada's drinking water is among the safest in the world. In fact, the first guideline was published 50 years ago. Today over 100 guidelines are maintained and renewed. If passed, Bill C-326 would help ensure that Canada's drinking water guidelines are protective of health and are comparable to those in leading jurisdictions internationally. Furthermore, it would improve transparency on how drinking water quality guidelines are developed in Canada.
It is important to understand that drinking water quality is the responsibility of all levels of government, from federal to municipal. While drinking water is primarily under provincial and territorial jurisdiction, the Government of Canada plays a central role in drinking water safety. Health Canada works in close collaboration with the provinces and territories to establish science-based guidelines for Canadian drinking water quality, which are published by Health Canada. Each of these guidelines is specific to a contaminant found in Canada. These guidelines are in turn used by the provinces and territories as a basis for establishing their own drinking water quality standards, in accordance with their respective public health priorities. The guidelines are also used to ensure the safety of drinking water in areas of federal jurisdiction.
This collaborative approach between federal, provincial and territorial governments is applied consistently throughout the process, from identifying priorities and assessing risks to developing draft guidelines to consulting with Canadians and working toward implementing the guidelines across Canada. This process is based on robust science, national and international peer review and the consideration of standards and guidelines from other international jurisdictions. This harmonized approach helps ensure consistency in the levels of protection across Canada while respecting the existing constitutional division of responsibilities.
Canada takes an approach to the development of drinking water guidelines that is similar to what many other countries do. Health Canada develops guidelines for substances of concern that are found in Canadian drinking water supplies at levels that can pose a risk to human health. A drinking water contaminant in Australia, for example, is not necessarily a concern in Canada because of differences in industry and geology. This means that the substances needing guidelines or standards will vary internationally. Canada identifies issues that are specific to Canada and takes these issues into consideration when developing guidelines designed to protect the health of Canadians. The science generated, as well as the standards developed by other global authorities, are used to help inform the development of drinking water quality guidelines in Canada.
Every four years, Health Canada, in collaboration with the provinces and territories, conducts a comprehensive review of chemical substances, including new or emerging potential drinking water contaminants. This review aims to assess whether there is new science related to the potential health impacts of a contaminant, new information on Canadians' level of exposure, and any new treatment technology developed nationally or internationally. On the basis of this review, a list of prioritized contaminants is created. This collaborative, science-based process ensures that federal and provincial resources are directed at substances most likely to pose a risk to the health of Canadians.
Internationally, Canada is considered a leader in the development of drinking water quality guidelines. Health Canada is also recognized as a collaborating centre for water quality by the World Health Organization, highlighting Canada's international prominence and expertise. The department has been a contributor to all the World Health Organization's drinking water quality guidelines for the last several decades, and over the past 10 years, the World Health Organization has used Canada's drinking water assessments as the basis for developing its own guidelines for 12 chemical substances and has requested specific input from Health Canada on a further 10.
As part of its assessment process, Health Canada routinely monitors and reviews the drinking water guidelines and standards developed by other key organizations. The science supporting these international standards is taken into consideration when developing our Canadian guidelines.
This approach ensures that Canadian drinking water guidelines are based on credible, science-based criteria and also take into consideration the science behind new and updated drinking water standards developed globally.
The Government of Canada also works closely and shares information with international government agencies. Health Canada recently collaborated with the United States Environmental Protection Agency to develop a risk assessment on blue-green algae, also harmful algae blooms, which affect a growing number of drinking water sources in Canada and the United States. This risk assessment was used as a basis for a Canadian guideline and for a U.S. health advisory on blue-green algae.
Health Canada has also co-operated with Australia in the development of an online risk assessment tool. The online tool is developed to help operators in small communities with small drinking water systems to evaluate their level of risk and prioritize areas for action.
To summarize, Canada's effective, collaborative, science-based process for developing drinking water quality guidelines is among the best in the world. However, are improvements possible? The answer is yes. If passed, Bill C-326 would, for the first time, formalize in legislation the role of the federal government and specifically the Minister of Health to coordinate the development of national drinking water quality guidelines and to consider the guidelines and standards developed in other jurisdictions. This represents a significant step toward improving federal accountability on the issue.
The intent of Bill C-326 is not to question the quality of the work that is being done by Health Canada and our provinces and territories. The intent is to maintain Canada's status among the world's leading agencies on drinking water quality. It highlights the need for our scientists to review the work of other leading agencies to keep abreast of new scientific approaches and studies. It demonstrates the need for having open and transparent scientific processes and to better communicate our work and its importance to Canadians on an ongoing basis.
If adopted, Bill C-326 would strengthen federal accountability by improving the transparency of the process by which drinking water guidelines are developed.
Health Canada is already moving in this direction. In addition to being posted on the Government of Canada's website, new and updated guidelines for Canadian drinking water quality are now published in the Canada Gazette under the authority conveyed to the Minister of Health under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
Each guideline published in the Canada Gazette will include a comparison between corresponding guidelines or standards of leading international jurisdictions and agencies. If passed, Bill C-326 would build on these efforts and enhance information that is available to Canadians on drinking water quality guidelines.
Publishing the guidelines for Canadian drinking water quality under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act will help enhance the government's transparency and outreach to experts, stakeholders and interested Canadians, and formalize the consultation process on all guidelines.
In conclusion, Bill C-326, if adopted, would strengthen Canada's efforts to ensure our guidelines are among the best in the world, that they are based on up-to-date science and that they are protective of the health of Canadians. It will inform Canadians and stakeholders of the process used to develop guidelines and how our drinking water quality guidelines compare to standards and the guidelines of leading international agencies.
I am pleased to advise the House that the government will be supporting Bill C-326. Once again, I would like to thank the member for Lac-Saint-Louis for his work on this important issue and for his leadership past and ongoing in ensuring strong drinking water guidelines for all Canadians.