Madam Speaker, I wish you and all the mothers right across Canada a belated happy Mother's Day. It is an honour today to rise on Bill C-269, tabled by the hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle and I am joining you today from the home of the Nuu-chah-nulth people on the unceded traditional territory of the Hupacasath and Tseshaht people, who have a long history as protectors of coastal communities in my riding, which guides my decisions as a member of Parliament every day while I sit in the House of Commons.
We in the New Democratic Party strongly support stopping the flow of raw sewage into our oceans and waterways. We all want to see an end to the dumping of raw sewage and as I stated, we are strong supporters of initiatives that would stop this practice.
However, the bill penalizes those communities that cannot afford to upgrade their systems. We absolutely support the intent of the bill, but it is deeply flawed in its approach. We cannot abandon communities like the Harper government did for a decade and the Liberal government is falling far short.
We know, according to the FCM, that it would cost over $18 billion for communities right across Canada to improve their waste-water systems to stop raw sewage dumping, but the bill does not do anything positive to help get them there. It is in this spirit that I rise to speak to Bill C-269 and express my deep reservations about supporting this legislation. It is not simply a matter of banning raw sewage dumping, but rather how we as communities and as a country support one another in keeping our oceans clean for this generation and for generations to come.
I think about the implications in my riding, because people across my riding are rightfully concerned about our coastal waters and want to take measures to support them. It goes without saying that whether they are environmentalists or people who care about the health of fish or the health of coastal ecosystems, they want to make sure that there are no dangers to the water that surrounds their communities and our communities.
The water in Courtenay—Alberni is not just a source of food, whether it be wild salmon or other fish, but also a refuge for swimmers, boaters and recreation. Ensuring it is clean is critical and crucial to our local economy, our way of life and our food security. It attracts recreation fishers and boaters who invest their money into our restaurants and shops, so it is part of tourism. It draws tourists to stay in our hotels and bed and breakfasts. It grounds us every day and reminds us as residents that we are part of an ecosystem that depends on us to make the decisions that we need to to protect our families, the species and the biodiversity where we live and that surround us.
I think about the bill's impacts not only on the cleanliness of the water, but also on the communities that will be affected. I think about the municipalities that need to have clean water systems, but do not have the resources to build them as well. I think about the boaters and their families who would be impacted by its sweeping generalizations. I think about the decision-making processes we have in place when enforcing environmental regulations and some of the better options we have to make real impacts on the health and safety of our waterways.
I sat in local government in Tofino, British Columbia, so I am very familiar with the challenges in dealing with waste water. The bill literally pits the federal government against these small communities and it shows again that the Conservatives are out of touch with municipalities. I wonder how much consultation the member and the Conservatives have done with these communities that are lacking support to get their waste-water infrastructure in place. Everyone wants that.
We know costs are soaring. We need mechanics, electronics and specialized crews to build waste-water treatment. Obviously we have to pay for work camps in rural or remote communities and inflation is skyrocketing. We know that there is new risk in pricing due to COVID. Again, modern waste-water treatment depends on very modern producers and these producers are highly specialized and they are very expensive.
I talked to the former mayor of Tofino, who is now the minister of municipal affairs in British Columbia. She sat as the mayor for seven years and her number one priority each year in council was getting waste-water treatment in place. They still have not broken ground. It was a deep commitment by their local government.
In fact, in the early 2000s, it was projected that it would be a $12-million cost to build waste-water treatment. When I sat on council in 2008, it was $18 million. When the City applied for funding, it was for $40 million. It rejigged that plan and the figure came back at $57 million. The City put it out for tender and the bids came back at $82 million. It would take a tax increase of $1,000 a household every year for literally over a decade to pay for that.
I think about a small community of 500 people in Newfoundland that has really good staff but is very unlikely to have the capacity to develop an $18-million or $20-million waste-water treatment centre. I know the member who just spoke said the lack of coordination cannot be the problem, but it actually is the problem. We need the government and all parties, not just the Conservative Party because it has tabled this bill, to coordinate and commit to filling the gaps so these communities can get there.
We have heard that people are considering not even running for office in Newfoundland and small communities because they are concerned about the liability around the legislation that is in place currently. We know that in big cities such as Toronto and Montreal, a lot of the infrastructure is old. They would literally need to rip up a lot of their infrastructure to meet the goal of this bill, because the sewer and stormwater systems are integrated. Without understanding the costs and obstacles to meet the goals set out in this bill and the way they are going to meet them, it is actually a big gap and a big problem.
We talked about municipalities. This legislation would immediately punish those communities that have no choice but to dump raw sewage right now. Instead of helping to build the water treatment systems they need, this bill directs sparse municipal resources away from water treatment toward paying the inevitable fines it would create.
We know that between 2013 and 2017, approximately 96% of municipal waste water underwent some form of treatment before it was discharged. This means that around 4% of municipal waste water was discharged untreated, which is still significant, but it is worth examining the reasons this amount of money is dumped into our water waste, such as leaks or dumps of water, which occur for a number of reasons.
For example, in Toronto, more than 7.1 billion litres of raw sewage leaked into Lake Ontario because of the capacity of the city's waste-water system. Much of this occurred because of rainwater amounts, something that even big cities like Toronto are not capable of controlling right now. The systems need serious investments. It would be almost impossible, the cities have cited, even if funding came from the federal and provincial governments, to get facilities up and running by 2030 and to complete those upgrades.
This bill comes into effect within five years of its passing. It is unreasonable to expect communities such as these, which have said they cannot meet its targets, to get there. Small communities that do not have the same resources as bigger cities would incur fines that would be absolutely devastating, and would seriously hamper the work they are doing.
I think about the concerns we have talked about around recreational boaters and commercial boaters. There is a huge concern with this bill's impact on these vessels and the economy. My colleague, the member for St. John's East, is a lawyer. He looked over this legislation and pointed out that every single commercial and recreational vessel that has a waste-disposal system built in would be impacted by this bill. The way it is written, this bill leaves open the possibility of imposing fines on commercial and recreational vessels that dump waste while they are on the water doing any form of business.
At best, this bill conflicts with regulations under the Canada Shipping Act. At worst, it would severely hurt these vessels and the economy. This really has not been looked at closely. We have serious reservations about this regarding the hundreds of thousands of commercial and recreational fishers who would all have to update their vessels, buy new boats or significantly change their operations in order to comply with this bill.
I will touch again on what we want. My friend and former colleague, Tracey Ramsey, introduced a private member's bill to develop a national freshwater strategy. Her bill would have ensured that the federal government consulted and worked with the provinces, municipalities, indigenous peoples and stakeholders. This is what we are asking for. I hope the member takes into consideration what we are offering today. Again, the member missed out on banning toxic substances, which are going into waste-water stream catchment areas, capturing plastics as I have talked about in the past, and ensuring that these systems are upgraded.