moved that Bill C-269, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act (prohibition — deposit of raw sewage), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise today to introduce my third private member's bill as the member of Parliament for Regina—Qu'Appelle.
The environment, like so many issues, is a subject on which the Liberals are all talk and no real substance. This Prime Minister has become world famous for this. In 2015, he ran on a very thin environmental platform. It was just a few paragraphs long with very few details and no modelling or costing, and was, of course, centred around a carbon tax. We now know that the carbon tax is not revenue neutral and is not actually working. Emissions pre-pandemic went up every year the government was in office.
It is not just on greenhouse gas emissions that the government has failed. The environment goes far beyond climate change. That is why in the last election, the Conservatives ran on a platform that included real action on a whole host of issues, including a very important plank that focused on cleaning up our lakes and rivers.
What do I mean by that? When it comes to the environment, the very first thing the Prime Minister did after taking office was to grant permission to the City of Montreal to dump billions of litres of raw sewage into the St. Lawrence River. The hypocrisy was astounding. The Prime Minister was very successful at portraying himself as someone who was serious about the environment. However, at the very first opportunity, he literally flushed that down the toilet by allowing Montreal, instead of treating that waste water and protecting our precious natural environment, to dump it, untreated and full of all the dangerous substances that were contained within it, into a vital water artery. The current infrastructure minister was the environment minister at the time, and she was directly involved in granting that permission as well. While she was trying to create the illusion that she was some kind of real-life captain planet, she was signing off on one of the biggest dumps of raw sewage in Canadian history.
That is a bit of background on why I have brought forward this bill today. This is a very simple bill, and I probably do not even need my full 15 minutes today to explain it and to talk about the details of it.
Under current legislation, there are various regulatory frameworks and laws that protect our water systems and fish habitat. My bill would amend the Fisheries Act to define raw sewage as what is called, under the act, a deleterious substance. Basically, any kind of substance that would harm fish habitats is prohibited from being emitted into our waterways. Given the background I have just gone over, that legislation also empowers the government to grant exemptions to authorize or issue permits, so to speak, to municipalities that need to emit those types of substances into our rivers, lakes and oceans.
My bill does things. First, it defines raw sewage as a certain type of deleterious substance. Second, it would amend the section that authorizes the government to issue these kinds of permissions and would exclude raw sewage from the list of exemptions. In essence, that means future governments would not be allowed to grant that permission. The bill is basically saying that of all the substances that one municipality or another may seek approval for, untreated waste water would not be allowed to be emitted.
It is a very simple fix. It is a very short bill, and it is very straightforward. I am hoping I can get all parties to support it, especially members of the Liberal Party in the back benches, who are probably frustrated at their own party's record on the environment.
We just have to look at a few examples where the Prime Minister has been all talk and no action. Do they remember the famous billion trees promise in the last election? Here we are, over a year and a half from the 2019 election, and not a single tree has been planted. I know that members of Parliament who come from municipalities where towns and cities have been forced, or feel like they have no choice, to emit these types of substances into the waterways are frustrated not only that municipalities are being allowed to do it but that the federal government has not been responding to the infrastructure needs of those communities. That is something else I would like to talk about for a few moments here.
I recognize that many towns and cities are dealing with an incredible challenge when it comes to their existing infrastructure needs. This new bill would obviously impose a requirement that municipalities have the capacity to deal with unexpected events, whether it is a weather event that adds a tremendous amount of unexpected water flowing through the system or aging and decaying infrastructure that needs to be replaced. This bill, by preventing future dumps of untreated waste water into our water systems, would impose a burden on municipalities.
We have done two things with the bill: One thing is in the bill and one is a future commitment. I have written in a five-year coming-into-force date. That means once the bill receives royal assent, towns and cities across the country would have five years to plan, invest and upgrade their water systems. This timeline is long enough that they would have time to do the necessary work, and is short enough that we can take real action on protecting the environment in the here and now, not just punt the ball years and years down the field.
There is a recent media report indicating that the current environment minister has given a 20-year timeline to municipalities before they even start talking about ending this practice. Of course, a lot of damage can be done to our natural environment in 20 years. That is why the five-year timeline that I have suggested in this bill is much more realistic and effective.
I probably do not need to go into a tremendous amount of detail as to why this bill is necessary and why it is necessary that we stop the practice of dumping untreated water into our water systems. I could cite numerous studies in which scientists and researchers have studied the impact on fish habitat, the depletion of stocks and the types of dangerous trace elements that have been discovered in fish whose habitat is near where the water is emitted.
This happens all across Canada; it is not just unique to the city of Montreal. There was a study done in Toronto in 2018 by an advocacy group called Swim Drink Fish. It had this to say about the state of Toronto waste water back in 2018: Regardless of rainfall, “there isn’t a day that we’ve gone to the harbour that we haven’t been able to find some evidence of sewage contamination.” Also, there were instances in Vancouver in 2016 where over 45 million cubic metres of raw sewage was leaked or otherwise dumped into nearby waterways.
We can all appreciate the importance of protecting our fish habitat. Canadians love our natural environment. It is part of our culture, part of our history and part of our social fabric. Taking all my kids fishing whenever I get the chance is something we really enjoy as a family. My daughters are probably better than I am and my two boys are asking for fishing gear for Christmas and birthdays.
I am very fortunate to represent the Qu'Appelle lakes in my riding, a wonderful area in the Qu'Appelle Valley, but unfortunately in recent years, incidents in Regina have led to the emission of waste water into the Qu'Appelle system. That has had a negative effect on the water quality in the Qu'Appelle Valley. Some of the best moments I have had with my family have been from taking the them to the Qu'Appelle lakes and going out for the day fishing.
I do not need to tell members who represent coastal communities how important the fishing industry is economically and culturally for indigenous populations as well. I missed out on having the benefits of being taken salmon fishing in British Columbia. The timing just did not work out, but of course my British Columbia colleagues in the Conservative caucus are passionate advocates for doing more to protect fish habitat and helping the stocks throughout British Columbia grow again. We all know the importance that the salmon fishing industry has recreationally, for tourism and of course commercially.
The same is true in literally every corner of the country. The ability to fish for fun, for sport, for food or for our livelihoods is incredibly important for all Canadians in every single province and every single community. It is something the government promised to take action on, but like so many promises during the last election, it has completely failed to do it. That is why this private member's bill is necessary.
I am proud to have the support of my Conservative colleagues. This is one more concrete example of where Conservatives take real, tangible and achievable action on the environment. If members look back throughout the history of our party, they will see John Diefenbaker's work on establishing parks and the amount of work the previous Conservative government put into the Clean Air Act, which is legislation that put in meaningful reduction targets. We can also look at the Conservative government in the 1980s, under former prime minister Mulroney, and its work on the acid rain issues. In all the work that Conservative governments have done, we take real, practical action on the environment.
The Liberals say a lot of things during elections, but when they have the opportunity to act, they never seem to do so. That is why this bill is necessary, and I am hoping that all parties will give it quick passage so that it can get to committee and we can take real action on protecting our rivers, lakes and oceans.