House of Commons Hansard #62 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was languages.


Environmentally Conscious LabellingPrivate Members' Business

2:30 p.m.


Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Carleton. He is a tough act to follow, so I am very grateful that I am here first. With a little luck as well, I will also catch my flight back to Calgary.

Of course, as my colleague from the other side of the House just mentioned, this has to do with the labelling of products for environmental indicators and perhaps health indicators. I thought that with my time today I would start with a story of my family business.

My mother, as I have said before in the House of Commons, is from the lovely province of Quebec, and my father, who is a teacher, is originally from Saskatchewan. When they went to Saskatchewan, they had the wonderful occasion of meeting my godfather, John Varian. Together, he and my father made the bold decision to move to Calgary, where I was born and raised in my riding of Calgary Midnapore. They started a business there. They started with an incredible gift business called the Oriental Emporium. They had three locations throughout the city. However, my father noticed something, which was that 40% of the sales were wicker and rattan. With that information, he made a decision to go into the wicker and rattan business, which was really something. Again, he started that business in retail fashion.

In coordination with my mother, who served as his business partner, he had three stores at the height of his business. Decisions were made around the dinner table. Whether or not it was a good day at the store determined how dinner went in the evening. It really was a strong family legacy.

My father made the decision with my mother to sell the businesses in 1988. From there they proceeded to, three years later, open up a similar concept as a larger box store, a warehouse-style format, but again with wicker and rattan products.

It is very interesting. I have really reflected about wicker and rattan throughout my years. It is no—

Environmentally Conscious LabellingPrivate Members' Business

2:35 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I will interrupt the member for a second. I will stop the time.

I wanted to double-check on something. We do not often see someone asking to split their time during Private Members' Business. Is that really what the member was asking? If so, then she would need the unanimous consent of the House to split her time. Are you taking the full 10 minutes?

Environmentally Conscious LabellingPrivate Members' Business

February 19th, 2021 / 2:35 p.m.


Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

I will take 10 minutes. Excuse me.

Environmentally Conscious LabellingPrivate Members' Business

2:35 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Okay, then there is no splitting of time. Perfect. I will continue the clock.

The hon. member for Calgary Midnapore.

Environmentally Conscious LabellingPrivate Members' Business

2:35 p.m.


Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Madam Speaker, I guess we have changed our speaking times. My apologies for the confusion for the Chair, and for the table as well. I am sincerely sorry.

They started a warehouse format. As I said, I have had a lot of time to reflect on wicker and rattan throughout the years. We are very fortunate. My younger brother made the decision to accept the business from my parents after several years.

Upon reflection on the business and, most important, the product of the business, I recognized maybe five years ago that it was to be of more interest to Canadians, society and the world in general. People were thinking of buying responsibly and choosing responsible products, and for years my family had been contributing to the environmental cause by selling a renewable product.

This is something that struck me as quite significant. All this time, as this evolution in the world had been going on toward the environment and a greener existence, my family had been contributing to this effort for over three decades.

My message is that the market will always determine these things. The market will make the decision as to the products that are successful within our society and the products which are not successful. Oddly enough, unforeseen to my family and my family business, this pandemic has been a time when wicker and rattan have thrived, as Canadians, Calgarians and people B.C., where we have extensions of our business as well, look to have products to beautify their environments and their back yards, since they are stuck at home at this time.

My fundamental point regarding all this is that there are already voluntary rules that exist for this. Business owners, if they feel so inclined, may certainly put whatever labelling they want upon their products in an effort to indicate what is within the product or how environmentally friendly it is. As the story of my family's business proves, the market chose an environmentally responsible product, and I am very proud of this.

It is always very dangerous when the government tells us what we should buy and what we should not buy. The current government has been terrible at that. It has consistently chosen winners and losers throughout industry and throughout our economy.

Unfortunately, I have seen up close the end result within two sectors. The first is the natural resources sector in my home province of Alberta, where we have seen industry-killing legislation such as Bill C-69 and Bill C-48. This is what happens when government intervenes incorrectly, as could be the case with this private member's bill, which is that industry dies.

I have also seen this up front and personally with the airline sector. This was a case where the government should have intervened. It should have come forward with rapid testing, testing on arrival and on departure, and certainly with, what we had hoped for, what should have been the good distribution of vaccines. Unfortunately, to the disappointment of all Canadians, it has not. Again, it is always very dangerous when the government intervenes within business. We have seen this in both the natural resources sector as well as the airline sector.

I would like to point out the incredible burden that this would place upon businesses, and small businesses in particular. We know that the government has been no friend to small businesses at all during its time.

Who can forget 2017 and the changes that the government tried to implement against small businesses, things that would have major impacts, such as income sprinkling, passive income, passing on businesses within families, something I referenced earlier in my speech? Thank goodness my colleague, the member for Brandon—Souris, put forward legislation that would at least attempt to go against that. Fundamentally, it is never a good thing when government attempts to intervene, to control and direct markets. Also, that legislation would do what the government does not do well, and that is to keep focused on the big picture. At this time, coming out of this pandemic is about restoring the economy and bringing jobs to Canadians.

This motion would not allow businesses to focus on this. It would force them to focus on labelling at a time when they should be thinking about increasing revenues, employing more Canadians and bringing the economy back. Unfortunately, the motion does not focus on that.

Who could have foreseen the legacy of my family business, which started and thrived in Alberta and beyond, would have been with the use of an environmental product. In fact it was, it succeeded and the market chose that. We see the government's intervening has destroyed the natural resources sector. Make no mistake about it. It was a joint effort in Alberta with all levels of government to bring my poor city to the place it is now. This year, 2021, brings the opportunity for change at the civic level and perhaps we will see that.

Unfortunately, I cannot support this private member's motion. I do not believe the opposition will not be supporting it. The market knows what it is doing and this private member's motion does not support that.

Environmentally Conscious LabellingPrivate Members' Business

2:40 p.m.


Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I can see that everyone in the House agrees that labelling is an important issue. However, we will not be supporting the motion either, unfortunately.

This motion seems well intentioned. We agree that Canadians and Quebeckers are aware of the threat of climate change and want to change their consumption habits. We agree that consumers have the right to know the environmental impact of products. I also think it is increasingly clear that industries have much to gain by adapting.

The pandemic revealed a growing desire to buy local. That desire is motivated by safety concerns, of course, but also by a growing interest in protecting the environment. People are more aware of the impact of transporting food, and they want to source their food closer to home. We think that is a good thing.

The problem with the motion is its recommendation, which seems to be preordaining the outcome of the study it wants the committee to do. We have no choice but to oppose that, as always. The motion also calls for uniform labelling on all products, including imports, which seems unrealistic to us.

A coherent and constructive approach would be to focus on sector-specific labelling of products. As an extreme example, it would be very difficult to compare the environmental impact of a fish and that of a two-by-four. If we think carefully, we can see that having the same labelling for both will not work. What we need is a system that will let us identify the difference in the environmental impact of one car versus another, for example. Incentives can be introduced at that point, and I will speak more about that later.

The other problem with the motion is that it asks the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development to hold 12 meetings on this issue. I do not know if members realize it, but 12 meetings on this issue will tie up the committee for a very long time, and we believe that it has more urgent issues to deal with.

The motion seeks to establish a uniform labelling regime, and we do not think that it is a good idea. Instead, we should study what is already being done, given that the current market provides a vast array of environmental labels. We recognize that this may be confusing to the average person who wants to purchase products with the lowest environmental impact. A more pragmatic approach would be to examine how we could foster the development of sector-specific practices and identify models with growth potential. It would also be a good idea to study how to regulate labelling rather than dictating a solution.

Moreover, the motion fails to take into account the jurisdiction of the provinces and Quebec in this matter. We in the Bloc Québécois are always on the lookout for things like that and we are rasing a red flag.

We know that there are different types of eco-labels. According to Environnement Québec, type I labels meet a program's pre-established requirements, usually with regard to a product's full life cycle, and ensure that the product's performance is verified by a licensed and independent organization. That is the kind of certification that should be given preference.

The full life cycle of a product takes into account the environmental impact from manufacturing to disposal, its recycling potential, etc. I am referring to what the previous speaker said about reusable products.

There are other types of certifications. Type II eco-label certifications apply to self-declarations made by anyone who promotes a product. Obviously, this poses a greater risk of abuse because declarations are based on data that is verifiable but not necessarily verified. It is less accurate.

Type III eco-label certifications present quantitative data on the environmental impact of a product, and this data is collected using techniques that are in accordance with ISO 14040 and ISO 14044.

We believe that a study like this needs to be highly focused. It should be up to the members of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development to decide how to approach this issue. It should not be handed a motion that dictates everything in advance and that ties up the committee for 12 of its meetings, which is a very long time. The committee is tasked with studying and adopting concrete and pressing measures. We are worried that it would become paralyzed.

Honestly, that seems to be the purpose of the motion. The Bloc Québécois obviously cares about labelling, but it needs to be done right and done effectively. We need to be aware of all of the problems the process entails.

I could also mention greenwashing. Some companies are dishonest and do not label things properly. Consumers do not always realize this. The government has a duty to oversee these certifications coming from the private sector. The member who spoke before me talked about self-regulation in the private sector. The Bloc Québécois falls somewhere in the middle. We should set some guidelines that allow for a little flexibility, but there need to be some limits.

The various certification processes should be evaluated to determine which one could be improved and used. This needs to be strictly regulated. I mentioned this earlier, but it is worth repeating that each product category needs to be dealt with separately, because it is too hard to assess a tomato versus an item of clothing. There should be a standard. Consumers need to be able to compare products. At the end of the day, we want to encourage consumers to buy the tomato that was grown in Quebec rather than the one grown in Mexico. It would be useful to have a label indicating the greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.

I said earlier that one of the problems is that they want to apply a single label on every products. It is impossible to control foreign production methods. I know I am a broken record always taking examples from agriculture, but take for example American milk that we are allowing to enter under the new treaties. There are hormones in that milk that we do not use in Canada. It would be nice for people to know that, for it to be written in bold letters that this milk is from somewhere else.

When we buy frozen chicken pot pie from a big company and the chicken does not come from Canada or Quebec, that should be indicated in bold letters. This is the type of thing we need to look at. We would be much more efficient and quicker and we could avoid paralysing a committee for 12 long meetings, which would give us the opportunity to talk about a green recovery.

Obviously, I will take this opportunity to talk about the Bloc Québécois's recovery plan. I know that I am tiresome about that too, but I invite people to have a look at our recovery plan. We are proposing a green recovery based on research, innovation, and an energy transition. We urgently need to start thinking about what we are going to do with the money that is left from Trans Mountain. People in western Canada do not need to worry, we want to put that money in Alberta. I think we need to invest it in a smart transition.

We will work together to ensure we are going in the right direction, with a focus on electric transportation, research and innovation. That is how we will truly be able to better protect the environment.

Environmentally Conscious LabellingPrivate Members' Business

2:50 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to talk about this important subject.

In regards to this issue, there are two things I will focus my comments on. First is the process that we have right now, because I think it is important for the member and the general public to understand how we actually proceed with parliamentary business. Second is the subject matter and the appropriateness of the issue at hand.

These issues are very important, and I am glad that the member for Sydney—Victoria has raised them. They are worth debating and discussing in our chamber, but the process that is being suggested is very surprising, because it appears that the member has not been well supported by his own party with regards to the process. What I mean by that is that when one is selected for private members' business, it is like winning the lottery so to speak. At different times in my career, I have been selected at the very top; other times, like now, at the very bottom, and so at the moment I have no hope of getting a private member's motion or proposed legislation into this chamber. However, what the member has presented, quite frankly, is something that could have been done by the Liberals at committee. It is kind of bizarre that we would be spending time on this motion on the floor of the House when it could be done at committee on any particular day or time. Therefore, to waste this opportunity by putting the motion here in the chamber for other political parties to gauge versus other work seems to be an unfortunate loss of an opportunity, especially given that committees are supposed to be their own kind of entities.

I remember the days of the Jean Chrétien regime when I was first elected, when we did not have parliamentary secretaries at committee. That practice was changed by the Liberal administration under former prime minister Martin. Thereafter, the government could access its cabinet to control or influence committees, and that continued throughout the Harper administration and now the present administration. The situation is different from what it was in the past when committees were the masters of their own domain.

To have the House direct the committees is very much like the tail wagging the dog. Committees were supposed to be a bipartisan opportunity for members to get through a number of bills, to make sure they were important and to be looked at and screened through a more professional and less partisan lens. However, I have seen that process tainted, because parliamentary secretaries, despite their best intentions, individual reflections and so forth, have access to information that is different from what other members have, as well as having political motivation, because they are part of the entity running the government at the particular time. It is just a thing that happens in the process. It is not underhanded or whatever, but just what takes place in the job of a parliamentary secretary, who is, in fact, privy to more information than other members of Parliament.

It was noted that the motion before us would take a minimum of 12 meetings at committee, and I know there is a potential amendment for it to move to the industry committee, which I sit on. However, when members look at our parliamentary schedule, they would see that we only have a few more sitting weeks left in March that would be available, and then we would be into April and May. The study the motion calls for would basically be at committee for months. At the same time, the content process calls for a further study from there, and then on top of that, it is to be reported within a year. Parliament would have to continue beyond a year for this process, and the government would then have a chance to look at the study and respond.

We are probably looking at a baked-in process here of about a year and a half, which would take the place of other issues that, in many respects, deserve a qualitative and quantitative debate right now. In fact, we would be kicking down the road other very important issues, such as buying local and labelling, which, as has been rightly noted, many of which are provincial jurisdiction. There are also language issues, which we would miss the opportunity to discuss. The motion would push farther down the line things that are important for us to talk about and decide, and might obstruct our accomplishing and completing some things in the meantime if we invited these witnesses.

We have legislation that does not go through 12 meetings. That is important to note, because the business of the House of Commons, for example the environment or industry, will be compromised by acting on a series of other things. We will not have that time. On top of that, we have reduced translation service capabilities, which are crucial right now with regard to COVID-19 in the House of Commons. We have a whole series of compounding factors taking place.

I want to credit the member for Sydney—Victoria. Despite the process elements that we have here, some of things that he is raising are important and they have to be discussed. I have worked on a number of different things that have been either differently labelled or administered differently, and we have changed our practices. I point to some of the things that have taken place that are quite significant in this chamber related to the environment, whether it was labelling on products or registering through a different type of process through regulatory means.

One motion that was passed was in regard to microbeads, something that I worked on for a long time. It passed as a motion to be listed as an item of concern, and now it is being managed. The motion helps our Great Lakes, our water and a series of things. That process was adopted by all in the chamber, and the Harper administration made it part of regulations. These are very item-specific things that can be done. I would hate to see some item-specific issues held up because we were doing a comprehensive study in another committee and that work was duplicated or stalled, or an issue was challenged later on.

Again, when we talk about labelling that we have changed over the years, an example is pesticide spraying and what can be done about that. When I was on city council, we moved to stop that in our public areas and then were challenged by the courts on it. Long story short, the country has moved in an entirely different direction now and we have reduced pesticide spraying. These things relate to some intentions of this motion, but again, the vehicle we are looking at is becoming very problematic.

There will be a lot of changes with regard to plastics and their labelling. We cannot wait to do some of those things. The NDP has proposed several strong ways to enhance consumer and environmental protection in a fair way that involves businesses. Again, these are things that should not wait, as a study might be lengthy. It seems that we end up kicking many good things down the road and tying up resources in the House of Commons during COVID-19. It would seem to be a significant burden for ourselves and for the intent of the motion.

I am going to conclude by thanking the member for Sydney—Victoria for bringing this up. I am sorry that the New Democrats are not going to support it. It is entirely tied up, with regard to the processes. I am surprised that there was not any type of coaching or support for the pitfalls with regard to this, because it is obvious that there are some good ideas here that are important. However, because the process is burdensome and fraught with potential issues of duplication, lost work and time, and also the disadvantage we lose to other matters, I cannot support this.

Environmentally Conscious LabellingPrivate Members' Business

3 p.m.


Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the member for Sydney—Victoria for introducing this motion and for his consistent advocacy on this topic. If adopted, this motion would launch a committee study on the creation of an environmentally conscious labelling regime on all products available to Canadians.

Before I begin discussing why I support this motion, I would like to speak on a topic that is of utmost important to me, many of my constituents in Richmond Hill and many Canadians.

Climate change is a serious concern that presents a great threat to our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren. The rise of greenhouse gas emissions from humans into the earth's atmosphere has led to an increased concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide, ultimately affecting the earth's climate and the way we live as humans.

The effects of climate change are already being seen today. Global surface temperatures have been on the rise since the 1990s, leading to extreme weather conditions such as droughts, floods and high temperatures, affecting our agriculture industry, forests, glaciers and wildlife.

As a father of two, I constantly think about the impacts of climate change and hope I personally can reduce my carbon footprint as well as my family's carbon footprint to create a better environment for my future grandchildren. I am looking forward to having grandchildren at some point.

Many Canadians, especially in my riding of Richmond Hill, feel the same way I do. The main question for us is, what can we do to ensure that the future is safe, not only for our children but our grandchildren? This motion makes it a lot easier for parents like me to be able to answer questions like that.

The heart of this motion is designed to support the Canadian consumer who wants and deserves to know the environmental impact of the product they are purchasing, allowing them to make informed decisions that impact their families.

We also know that many Canadian industries and businesses have already started selling sustainably produced and locally grown products, and have seen the benefits to the environment and to their bottom lines. Our government can work to bring consumer interests and the specific needs of Canadian businesses together by creating a clear metric that assesses the environmental impact of the products we are buying.

Two weeks ago, I held the first meeting of my community environmental council. This council is a space where constituents from Richmond Hill are able to have a forum to discuss their priorities and feedback for our government that are related specifically to the environment. These individuals are diverse in their ages, backgrounds and life experiences, but they all have one thing in common: their passion for the environment and the future we are leaving to the next generation.

In this meeting, I realized how universal my own values are. Canadians are concerned about climate change and saving our environment. We are introducing clear environmental labelling with an accessible grading system. Consumers will have the power to know the effects on the environment of the products they consume and can make the conscious decision to shop sustainably.

Canadians would be informed on the waste created and the greenhouse gas emitted from the products they use and would be able to clearly identify the products that are more sustainable. Industries will then have the opportunity to reflect on these practices and make sustainable changes to their products as well. A standardized system across Canada will ensure that the information is accurate, science-based and transparent.

Currently, large corporations have the means and resources to be able to invest in PR that advertises their sustainable practices. This often hurts our small local producers, who are not able to invest in such advertising. A consistent metric on all product labels will ensure that companies with large budgets will not have the advantage and that consumers can judge products accurately. This will drive a green shift in the market, and businesses will be inclined to adhere to more sustainable practices.

We know that Canadians are concerned about the future, and I know that given the choice, Canadians will make the right decision. Informative labelling on Canadian products is not new, and statistically there are positive effects. Nutritional labelling has been mandatory in Canada since 2017, giving Canadians the power to base their decisions to buy food on the food's nutritional values.

It is a simple and effective way of informing consumers of the ingredients of the products they consume. Researchers from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine have found that the standardized nutritional information on products reduces consumer purchases of unhealthy choices by about 13%. This system could be very similar to how products are graded based on several indicators of sustainability, including but not limited to, greenhouse gas emissions, water and energy usage, waste creation, chemicals in the products, recyclability and durability. We can safely assume that when the grade is clearly outlined on the front, a consumer will be more likely to make the sustainable choice.

The Canada Environmental Protection Act already requires authorities to label products, for example, for containing mercury. We have also seen labelling requirements under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, the Pest Control Products Act, and the Food and Drugs Act. Canadians are already comfortable with reading labels on products.

I imagine a scenario where a conscious consumer is deciding between two different brands of the same product. They want to make a decision that will result in a lower carbon footprint, and with this they would have an accessible way of easily knowing which is less impactful on our environment. I also imagine that this would help our local Canadian producers and manufacturers. Lower emissions of greenhouse gases from a faster and more sustainable transportation method would make for a higher grade and help promote our local businesses.

By passing this motion, sending it to the committee and engaging in this study, we will have already established Canada as committed to climate action and providing a better future for our next generation. By investing in equal labelling regimes, it would be a step in Canada's transition into a circular economy that would encourage businesses to take responsibility for the products they sell to Canadians, including for their recycling potential.

In closing, we have already begun this transition through the Canada-wide strategy on zero plastic waste, which endorses a shift toward extended producer responsibility for the recycling of plastic products. I imagine that we will be much closer to a green-tech economy through this initiative as well. I hope that this motion passes and that we continue on our path to saving our environment and ensuring a sustainable future for the next generation. I support this motion moving to the committee for study. I am part of the industry committee, and I look forward to receiving this motion at the committee to be able to study it.

Environmentally Conscious LabellingPrivate Members' Business

3:10 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Madam Speaker, today we are debating a motion that seeks “consumer-friendly environment grading label on all products available to Canadian consumers” I could not agree more with the goal of this environmental labelling proposition. Therefore, today, I am going to take it one step further and help write some of the warning labels that might actually be used if this proposal is implemented.

Let me start with a product that is our number one export in Canada, and I speak of course of petroleum. It is also an import. Because we do not have pipelines to get our oil to ourselves, we import almost a million barrels a day from abroad. My idea is that we not just have a label but actually a loud speaker that could tell people where the oil that made the gasoline that they are pumping into their cars actually came from and what the money was used for.

This is how I see it. People are pumping gas into their automobiles and a voice comes over a loud speaker, “Dear valued customer, because the government blocked the energy east pipeline, which would have taken a million barrels of western oil to eastern refineries, Canada imports almost a million barrels a day.” The voice goes on and it might say that the gasoline they are putting in their car comes from the 100,000 barrels of oil Canada imports from Saudi Arabia every day, that their gas is going to, in the words of Amnesty International:

The authorities escalated repression of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. They harassed, arbitrarily detained and prosecuted dozens of government critics, human rights defenders, including women’s rights activists, members of the Shi’a minority and family members of activists.

Saudi Arabia failed to co-operate with an inquiry by the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions into the murder. The inquiry concluded in June that Jamal Khashoggi was the victim of a deliberate, premeditated extrajudicial killing for which Saudi Arabia was responsible.

Then it says that their payment today will fund the surveillance equipment, prisons, whips, execution chambers or other resources that make state torture and assassinations possible. Finally, it thanks them very much for filling up with them today.

That could be one of the notices that we could have when Canadians are using oil from abroad.

Oil is not just fuel; it is also used in things like smart phones and eyeglasses, but let us stick with smart phones. Perhaps when Canadians are buying one, they could have this label written on the phone, and it quotes directly from BBC. The BBC is of course talking about Nigeria, from which we import 12,000 barrels of oil every single day and countless other barrels embedded in the products that we buy. It would say:

Continued oil spills from the activities of multinationals have also cast doubt on the impact of the clean-up exercise. 'Things are getting worse by the day,' Celestine Akpobari, an environmental activist from Ogoni, told the BBC.

Mr Akpobari says people can no longer fish or farm because of the devastation. 'People are dying, there are strange diseases and women are having miscarriages' from the pollution, he says.

UN scientists have found an eight centimetre layer of refined oil floating on top of the water that supplies the communities' drinking water, vastly higher than is legally permitted.

The notice could thank them very much for buying this smart phone which includes Nigerian oil, that they were funding this devastating pollution abroad, that unfortunately the oil in the smart phone was not from Canada, where none of the aforementioned practices are undertaken, and enjoy their product. That is another thing we could put on our product labelling if we were so intent on passing this proposal.

I am happy to write labels all day for all kinds of products, because we forget that oil is used for everything from textiles, basketballs, combs, prosthetics and countless other products that we do not even realize contain petroleum. Perhaps it is time to have warning labels about all the dirty foreign oil that goes into those products, because the clean, green, environmentally, ethically and economically responsible oil produced in Canada cannot actually make it to the markets.

Before our friends stand up and say we will not need oil anymore because we are all going to go electric, there will have to be, of course, a warning label for that. It is going to be on electric cars when we pass this motion. Forgive me if I quote the CBC:

Lithium mining, needed to build the lithium ion batteries at the heart of today's EVs, has also been connected to other kinds of environmental harm. There have been mass fish kills related to lithium mining in Tibet, for example. The freshwater supply is being consumed by mines in South America's lithium-rich region. Even in North America, where mining regulations are strict, harsh chemicals are used to extract the valuable metal.

I will quote Wired magazine:

In May 2016, hundreds of protestors threw dead fish onto the streets of Tagong, a town on the eastern edge of the Tibetan plateau. They had plucked them from the waters of the Liqi river, where a toxic chemical leak from the Ganzizhou Rongda Lithium mine had wreaked havoc with the local ecosystem.

There are pictures of masses of dead fish on the surface of the stream. Some eyewitnesses reported seeing cow and yak carcasses floating downstream, dead from drinking contaminated water.

By buying an environmentally friendly electric car, people will be sending money back to mines just like the one described in this warning label, and they will be thanked very much for buying the automobile. By the way, dear customer, none of these kinds of practices are carried out by Canada's clean, green energy sector, which, in contrast to the aforementioned foreign suppliers, actually has the support of its surrounding communities.

There is a different kind of warning label we could put on our products. We could actually highlight the successes of Canadian energy, by contrast.

For example, we could talk about the countless reserves and other indigenous communities that have signed benefits agreements to receive billions of dollars of revenue from our energy sector, lifting countless first nations people out of poverty. Twenty out of 20 of the first nations communities that surrounded the proposed Teck Frontier mine supported it. Every single community along the path of the Coastal GasLink project supported it.

We could tell people in a warning label that if they buy products that use Canadian energy, they will be helping to fight poverty in first nations communities. They would also be buying oil with GHG emissions that are lower than the average per barrel produced. In fact, in the last 20 years, dear customer, those who have filled up their cars with gasoline originating in western Canada's energy sector have put in their vehicles an energy source that resulted from a 36% reduction in GHG emissions per barrel of oil in the last two decades. By the way, dear customer, those who buy this or that product containing Canadian oil are supporting the industry that paid over $600 billion in taxes to all three levels of government to fund schools, hospitals and roads. They will also be putting money into an industry that faces the highest and most intense regulations on the environment, on labour and on human rights. These are all things we could find a way to put in a label on the products that emanate from Canada's energy sector.

I encourage us to continue this dialogue. As Conservatives, we are prepared to come forward to help in the drafting of these labels that are now going to go on our products, so that Canadians can distinguish between the dirty, unethical, polluting and oppressive sources of energy from around the world and the clean, green, world-leading sources of energy around the world.

We might even tell Canadians on these warning labels that the first carbon-negative oil company, Whitecap Resources, which puts more GhGs back in the ground than it does in the air and actually takes greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, is a Canadian company. Maybe that could go on one of the labels we are going to produce as a result of today's proposal.

Environmentally Conscious LabellingPrivate Members' Business

3:20 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The sponsor of the petition, the hon. member for Sydney—Victoria, has five minutes for his right of reply to the motion.

The hon. member for Sydney—Victoria.

Environmentally Conscious LabellingPrivate Members' Business

3:20 p.m.


Jaime Battiste Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Madam Speaker, when I first presented this motion in the House I spoke about a climate crisis, and the profound threat it represents to our children and our grandchildren. The alarm bells have rung. The United Nations has been adamant about our need to cut our carbon footprint in half globally within 10 years.

The scientific evidence is clear. Poll after poll clearly shows that Canadians understand this, and we must all do our part to combat climate change. We have struggled together through an unprecedented global pandemic. We have witnessed first-hand how vulnerable humanity is to germs, pathogens and diseases. In many ways, this pandemic is a dark preview of the looming environmental crisis, which some have argued has already begun. Now is the time for environmental reconciliation.

Netukulimk, a Mi'kmaq concept for enviro-sustainability, is something that I have been taught. Indigenous teachings share that all things are interconnected and humanity must be stewards of our environment. When we nurture and respect our environment it will nurture and heal us. Unfortunately, we have allowed greed and profit to contaminate our relationship with our environment. However, as a country, we are waking up to a brand new reality where we can work to mitigate the impacts of climate change. We can all do our part, and Canada can lead the way.

During COVID-19, we have each shouldered burdens economically and emotionally, all for the greater good of survival, but we need guidance. We need to be armed with the scientific knowledge of how we can effect change in our day-to-day actions. I would tell colleagues that is what environmental grading labelling, if done right, can do. It can give Canadians the ability to make better choices every day that will fight climate change and work toward a better, more sustainable future for generations to come.

We need to transition to an economic model that is sustainable, that is just and that works within our planet's social and ecological boundaries. Environmental grading would not only enable Canadians to make environmentally conscious choices, but would encourage them to support local industry and agriculture. When it comes to environmental impacts, local would have an advantage over the larger footprint of international alternatives. Environmental grading labelling would also give Canadian industries, which often exceed environmental and ethical standards, a way to demonstrate those commitments clearly and concisely to Canadian consumers.

Before I conclude my remarks, I would like to address some of the concerns and comments made by my colleagues during the debate. There have been a number of interesting points raised. Many were already addressed in the proposed amendments. I would ask my opposition colleagues to see if the amendments already proposed and accepted address some of the issues raised, especially that of reducing study meetings to seven, as raised by my colleague, the MP for Windsor West. I believe committee would be a fantastic venue to study it and explore all these issues that have been raised.

I thank my colleague, the member for Victoria, for her comments in the first hour. I appreciate that she saw the potential for an environmental grading label and incentivizing positive choices that could drive a shift to sustainable green economies. However, I would also like to acknowledge her concerns; namely, that there are some questions as to how effective eco-labelling would be in practice. This concern highlights the need for a federal approach to green labelling.

Simply seeing the difference in calories between two items on a menu can be enough to change what one orders at a restaurant. Inconsistent eco-labels, however, designed independently by different companies, lack the ability to be cross-referenced and compared, which is confusing to an average consumer. With a uniform federal approach, consumers, even those who lack expertise or specialized knowledge, would be able to quickly compare products and alter their purchasing decisions with ease, thereby making informed decisions that would encourage more sustainable and environmental choices, which in turn would encourage companies to make sustainable and environmentally friendly products.

Colleagues should think about the art of the possible. Canada can be a global leader on this front. I humbly ask members to join with me and allow this motion to be studied for the process to move forward.

Finally, I will end with an indigenous—

Environmentally Conscious LabellingPrivate Members' Business

3:25 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I am sorry, but the time has expired.

It being 3:29 p.m., the time provided for debate has expired. The question is on the motion. If a member of a recognized party present in the House wishes to request a recorded division or that the amendment be adopted on division, I would invite them to rise and indicate it to the Chair now.

Environmentally Conscious LabellingPrivate Members' Business

3:30 p.m.


Lindsay Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, the NDP requests a recorded division.

Environmentally Conscious LabellingPrivate Members' Business

3:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Pursuant to order made on Monday, January 25, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, February 24, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

The motion that the House do now adjourn is deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until Monday, February 22, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 3:30 p.m.)