House of Commons Hansard #119 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was bank.


Alleged Breach of Members' Right to Vote on a New TaxPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member is not being concise and to the point. If the member wants to continue to debate the issue, he can have an opposition day tomorrow. There is a budget debate. That is where he can be making these points. From my perspective, I do not hear, and I leave it to you to make that decision, a matter of privilege, but rather a waste of valuable time.

Alleged Breach of Members' Right to Vote on a New TaxPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The Speaker cannot determine whether it is a waste of time, but he can determine that things are being repeated, so I will ask the hon. member for Carleton to be concise and not repeat some of the arguments and the stats that he mentioned earlier.

Alleged Breach of Members' Right to Vote on a New TaxPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I will be very concise. Again, the member for Winnipeg North has interfered multiple times without saying anything. I was hoping we would have this done by now, but with the continual interruptions by the member for Winnipeg North, we are almost going to see the clock out, and that is very unfair.

Alleged Breach of Members' Right to Vote on a New TaxPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.


Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Mr. Speaker, on that same point of order, the member for Winnipeg North is using points of order as a tactic to interrupt the member for Carleton. The Chair had made a decision and then gave instruction to the member for Carleton to be concise. The member for Winnipeg North then challenged the Speaker's interpretation of what was and what was not concise.

We are seeing this tactic where we have members using their privilege in this place to raise germane questions of privilege, and we have members from the government side who enter into debate instead of accepting the decision of the Chair, and that was with respect to whether the member was being concise. It was not a question of repetition.

I would hope that other members, under your direction, Mr. Speaker, would allow the member to conclude his question of privilege without these interruptions and tactics they are deploying.

Alleged Breach of Members' Right to Vote on a New TaxPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Once again, we are getting into debate, but I will let the hon. member for Carleton continue. I would ask him, once again, to be as concise as possible.

Alleged Breach of Members' Right to Vote on a New TaxPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, housing prices were dropping until the bank began printing its money. The increase in the money supply flooded into the mortgage system. From the first quarter of 2020 to the first quarter of 2021, mortgage lending grew by 41% and, as a result, from April 2020 to April 2021, housing prices went up about 42%. In other words, there is a direct cause-and-effect relationship between the increase in the money supply and the increase in prices.

This is supported by years of research by academia. For example, Milton Friedman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, said, “Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon”, and John Maynard Keynes—

Alleged Breach of Members' Right to Vote on a New TaxPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

5:30 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I am going to interrupt the hon. member for Carleton. Private Members' Business starts at 5:30 and depriving members of their Private Members' Business items is really unfair to them. That is something that they wait on. The hon. member for Carleton can continue either tomorrow or later tonight.

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business, as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from May 10 consideration of the motion 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.

Fisheries ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise tonight to speak to Bill C-269, an act to amend the Fisheries Act regarding the prohibition of the deposit of raw sewage. It is a bill from the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, who also has been Speaker. I probably have not agreed with many of the things the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle has said over the years, however the issue of raw sewage in our water system is a very important thing to be discussing and I am glad we have an opportunity here to do so.

We know an element of this is under provincial jurisdiction, but people should be able to know we have a top quality environmental system in this country to keep people safe. It should be an issue we are all deeply concerned with. My hon. colleagues can probably speak of many municipalities that have issues with raw sewage being pumped into waters and rivers.

However, one of the things I am not really seeing in the bill is the effect in areas under direct federal jurisdiction, which are of course first nations reserves. It is really important for Canadians to understand that across Canada there is a two-tiered system of infrastructure, a two-tiered system of health, a two-tiered system of education and a two-tiered system of rights.

Those are the rights that exist for citizens of this country under provincial or territorial governments, and the rights of those citizens living on the reserves of our nation and who are under the mandate of the Department of Indigenous Services, the old Indian Affairs and the ultimate colonial system. For them, there is chronic underfunding for basic infrastructure.

When the Liberals ran in 2015 on getting rid of the water crisis and told everyone they would have the mission accomplished by the beginning of 2021, it inspired and galvanized Canadians. Canadians asked themselves how it was possible that in a nation as rich as Canada, in a country with the greatest water resources on the planet, so many people could not turn on their taps and drink safely. Dirty water is also tied to sewage and broken sewage systems.

When the Prime Minister was elected on that promise, people believed he would follow through. What would be an easier thing for the incoming Liberal government to do than to ensure we have proper water? What the Liberal government did not promise to do was deal with the water systems, which include sewage. Why is it important to understand that distinction? It is because the government decided it was going to do it on the cheap.

I remember the terrible Kashechewan water crisis, and Kashechewan is in a terrible crisis right now with COVID. The Minister of Indigenous Services sat on his hands and did nothing until the COVID crisis blew up out of proportion. It took me back to when I was first elected in 2005 and there was an E. coli outbreak in Kashechewan. We saw the same lack of action then.

At that time, the sewage system in Kashechewan was built near the water treatment plant because it was done cheap. When the rain came and the sewage treatment settling ponds overflowed, they flowed into the water system. Kashechewan did not even have a proper backup system so that if something came into the outtake it would actually stop the incoming sewage. The government did not bother to put that in because it was done on the cheap. We need to think about it in that perspective, because the water crisis that caused E. coli in that community and led to the mass evacuation of the entire community was the result of the failed sewage system.

When the Prime Minister failed on his latest promise on water, people asked how it was possible. The Prime Minister's number one promise was supposed to be that he was going to deliver clean water. If we look at community after community and at the Indigenous Services list of communities with safe water, the Liberals are always focused on the press release and not actually assessing the real problems.

They spend a lot of time saying they have gotten rid of this boil water advisory and that boil water advisory. I have been in communities that were told they got rid of six boil water advisories. That is because at the very edge of town there was a building that had a well and now that well was clean, but the rest of the community was not safe. That is not a comprehensive solution.

I asked the Parliamentary Budget Officer to cost out the Prime Minister's promises, and he was very clear that the government was deliberately underfunding the training that is needed to run a water treatment plant. The government was deliberately underfunding maintenance. Only the Department of Indigenous Services could cut a ribbon at a plant, walk away and think that there was never going to be a need for maintenance. Any municipality would say that things break.

There are isolated communities like Marten Falls' Ogoki Post, where the sewage lifts are hit by lightning and the boards “kack out”. Residents call and tell the department their sewage lifts are not working anymore and the feds say that it is not their issue. How is a community of 300 going to fix the fried-out sewage lifts? What happens? The sewage gets into the water, the water treatment plant starts to go down and then the feds say they are not going to fix that because it is not in their capital budget, but they will spend upwards of $2 million a year on bottled water. That bottled water money is not new money. It comes from another community where infrastructure was supposed to be built. They are taking money from an infrastructure project in one community that desperately needs it and they are buying bottled water for another community because they refuse to fix the issue.

When Liberals look at fixing the water situation, they look at what is cheapest, what is easiest and how to get out of it without having any more costs. I will give the example of the community of Attawapiskat. The water supply is a stagnant pool. It does not matter how many chemicals are pumped into that water: It will never be good, clean, safe water. The more chemicals that are pumped into the water, the more caustic it becomes and the more damage it does to children's skin. It is really something to see children living in Canada with open wounds all over their bodies. Anyone can go to any northern first nation and see the effects on these children.

Every now and then the media will pay attention and the government will say it does not understand the mysterious cause of these illnesses and rashes. It is obvious. It is because a stagnant pool of water gets chlorine dumped into it to make it drinkable and when the children are bathed in it, it damages their skin. Their skin starts to open and that is when the infections get in. This has happened in so many communities. I have had to medevac children out because of these conditions.

Another example is Neskantaga, which has gone 26 years without water. The Minister of Indigenous Services keeps scratching his head. He cannot figure out why he cannot get clean water to Neskantaga. It is because Liberals are willing to build a plant, but not willing to build all the infrastructure that supports the plant. A municipality needs a proper water plant, a proper source of water and proper pipes. It needs an entire system in order to get water to the community. Someone from Neskantaga said what the Liberals are offering to do is put a new engine in a rotted-out Ford vehicle, thinking we can drive it down the road. It cannot be done without the proper infrastructure. There needs to be proper piping, a proper water source and a plant that is actually built for the needs of the community. This is something the Department of Indigenous Services will never do.

We also see the same companies getting hired over and over again. In any other municipality, if a company built a water plant and the plant failed, there would be an investigation. Does anyone think that company would get the contract the next time? Not a chance. However, when a water plant fails, the Department of Indigenous Services says, “Oh well, whatever. It is just another day at the office.” The bonuses still go out to the senior bureaucrats and things do not change. These are the fundamental inequities that people are facing. There are communities like Maniwaki, just 100-and-some kilometres up the road from Ottawa. The Kitigan Zibi reserve cannot get clean water, but beside it the municipality of Maniwaki has clean water.

Why is that? One is under a provincial system and under that provincial jurisdiction, there are clear standards. There are obligations. There are rules in place. They have to deliver clean water to their community. However, the neighbouring reserve is under the federal government, so there is no obligation or standards. The feds do not want to put the standards in place because they do not want to spend the money.

That is what systemic discrimination looks like. It is in the water. It is in the sewage. It is in the school systems. It is in the failed health.

I am very interested in this bill and I am very glad that I had a chance to speak. I will be here all week taking questions.

Fisheries ActPrivate Members' Business

June 16th, 2021 / 5:40 p.m.


Nelly Shin Conservative Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to rise today to speak to Bill C-269, , an act to amend the Fisheries Act (prohibition—deposit of raw sewage), which was tabled by my colleague, the hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle.

As the Fisheries Act currently stands, there is no definition of raw sewage. Bill C-269 would amend the act by adding raw sewage to denote the following:

raw sewage means sewage that has not yet been processed or treated to separate and remove contaminants, and includes

(a) used water from sanitary appliances that contains human fecal matter or human urine,

(b) used water, other than the type of water described in paragraph (a), from sanitary appliances or from other appliances in a kitchen or laundry, and

(c) surface runoff and stormwater that is mixed with the type of water described in paragraph (a);

The bill inserts a statement in section 34 of the act that would not allow raw sewage to be eligible for an exemption permit from the minister.

Bill C-269 amends section 36 of the Fisheries Act by adding, “No person shall deposit or permit the deposit of raw sewage in water frequented by fish.”

The bill also states non-application for Canadian fisheries waters located in the Northwest Territories, in Nunavut or north of the 54th parallel in Quebec or Newfoundland and Labrador.

The bill also indicates that anyone dumping raw sewage in water frequented by fish is guilty of an offence and liable.

The act would come into force five years after the day on which it receives royal assent.

Bill C-269 is simple and straightforward. It calls for accountability and urgency of action. For me, personally, it triggers a vision for improved environmental protection and infrastructure.

In 2015, when the member for Ottawa Centre was the minister of environment, she allowed the City of Montreal to dump eight billion litres of raw sewage into the St. Lawrence River. Regardless of any justification, that is an unfathomable amount of toxic matter that was dumped into the water. I cannot even imagine what the repercussions of that were.

According to Environment Canada, from 2013 to 2017, more than one trillion litres of untreated waste water is known to have leaked or been purposely dumped across Canada. The City of Victoria and surrounding municipalities finally became one of the last major communities to stop dumping sewage into water in 2020. According to Mark Mattson, president of non-profit water protection organization Swim Drink Fish, Canada still has ongoing sewage pollution problems.

Bill C-269 is necessary to protect our waters from contamination and for wildlife species in water to be able to survive and thrive. It is time there was no more ambiguity on this. Being the member of Parliament for Port Moody—Coquitlam, Anmore and Belcarra, I have the privilege of being an advocate and steward for many environmentally sensitive places within my riding. This privilege brings responsibility. Today, I would like to highlight a very special and globally significant creek, which is Stoney Creek, which some of the rivers in my riding feed into.

Stoney Creek is the environmental lifeline for countless wildlife, as well as an urban oasis for both my riding and the neighbouring riding, Burnaby North—Seymour, and the greater region. Countless hours and decades of work by stream keepers from the Stoney Creek Environmental Committee, as well as local residents, has resulted in the return of salmon to Stoney Creek.

Today, Stoney Creek is the most successful Vancouver area urban creek for returning salmon. Stoney Creek is the spawning grounds for chum and coho salmon, as well as steelhead and trout. It is also significant on a global basis as it is home to the endangered Nooksack Dace. Approximately 10,000 Nooksack Dace remain.

It is very moving to watch the salmon on their spawning journey. I see their long, upstream and painful journey of perseverance ending in sacrifice for the next generation. It is very emotional to watch. I was shocked to learn that after torrential rainfalls, sometimes raw sewage overflows from Coquitlam sewers and makes its way to the celebrated Stoney Creek where the endangered Nooksack Dace have made their home and the coho and chum salmon come to spawn.

It is troubling for me that sewage overflow coming from my riding in Coquitlam is contaminating the aqua ecosystem in the riding of Burnaby North—Seymour in Stoney Creek. Upon discovery, I officially offered my assistance to the mayors of Coquitlam and Port Moody to seek federal infrastructure funding for their sewer systems when they seek upgrades.

However, I am perplexed as to why the member for Burnaby North—Seymour, who is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, who has been in office longer than I have, has not taken any action on this troublesome issue or championed funding for sewage infrastructure when the harm is being done to wildlife in his own riding and reports of sewage being dispensed into Stoney Creek have been happening under his watch for years.

According to obtained records, since 2014 at least nine documented discharges of sewage have occurred in the Stoney Creek watershed. Raw sewage has spewed from manholes in my riding and flowed into the creek, and some experts believe that raw sewage is also escaping through exfiltrating from the Metro Vancouver Stoney Creek trunk line and flowing into the groundwater and ultimately into Stoney Creek.

The Metro Vancouver Stoney Creek trunk line was constructed in 1959. Over time, concrete piping and gaskets will tend to deteriorate, increasing the likelihood of both infiltration of groundwater into the pipe and inflow from surface water entering collectively inflow and infiltration, or I and I, as well as exfiltration of sewage into the groundwater and creek.

Records obtained via freedom of information requests show the following levels of E. coli in Stoney Creek. On September 18, 2020, there were 8,664 colony-forming units per 100 millilitres of water. In August there were 7,701, and in October there were 4,611. Samples exceeded 1,000 colony-forming units per 100 millilitres on six days. Ultimately, to solve the problem, new sewage infrastructure needs to be built. From obtained records, it is apparent that Metro Vancouver trunk line is over capacity, a very common phenomenon.

Meanwhile, the catchment's population is projected to increase 15,000 to 50,000. Constituents and other nearby residents are concerned that not expanding the sewage infrastructure promptly will result in increased contamination of Stoney Creek as well as situations where new home purchasers will not be able to move into their new homes due to lack of sewage capacity. Something similar recently happened in Campbell River, another B.C. community.

The topic of sewage is not a glamourous one, but waste elimination is a basic health and safety issue that needs to be dealt with. As we have seen, a microscopic virus like coronavirus has done much damage in our lives and to our establishments. Development of residential homes is a natural part of urban sprawl. Building more affordable housing is necessary to allow young families and first-time homebuyers to break into the housing market and have a home, but development without proper infrastructure is dangerous for the community and surrounding ecosystems.

Bill C-269 is a good place to start to trigger more accountability and action to upgrade all the infrastructure needed. Development is inevitable, but without the proper infrastructure, we could see a host of problems, of which the impact could be the contamination of our waters and harm to endangered species and salmon. It requires a concerted effort among all tiers of government to solve this problem effectively of aging sewage infrastructure and innovating new systems to meet the demands created by growing development in urban and suburban centres like my riding, and extreme weather events from climate change. If done with efficacy, a simple bill, like Bill C-269, could instigate the unfolding of a larger vision to yield greater protection of vulnerable fish, species and water habitats and improve public health and safety and job creation to help reopen our economy.

This is a problem across our country, and municipalities are aware of it, but they are stuck. They have so many other pressing matters they have to get to that without the funding, it gets shuffled under the pile. With Bill C-269, accountability would be placed. We can keep talking about the environment with trumpet blasts, but without deadlines and rules and a plan to accomplish these goals, it is still talk and no action. We know, as humans, we all need a deadline and some rules to get anything done. I see this bill as one that has great potential to help us literally clean up our act.

One thing I did discuss with the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle was the five-year term clause. In discussing it with him, it is something that should be debated and discussed with fulsome conversation so that we are helping the municipalities set themselves up for success and not failure. It should not be punitive. It should be something to help them get things done efficiently.

In closing, I feel that this is an issue that has been around for a long time and everyone is aware of it, but it is one of those things that nobody wants to tackle because the money is not there. We know that with the Canada Infrastructure Bank, the minister promised $35 billion, but how much of that is used for things like this?

Moving forward, as we discuss Bill C-269, I hope that we can come to the table, bring our different ideas, and use this as a starting point to break that cycle of all this aging infrastructure not being dealt with, so that we can protect the environment, so that we can move forward with positive, prudent development that does not create other problems, and so that municipalities do not feel like they are alone but that they have the support of other tiers of government.

Fisheries ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba


Terry Duguid LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (Western Economic Diversification Canada) and to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change (Canada Water Agency)

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-269, an act to amend the Fisheries Act (prohibition—deposit of raw sewage), and to reiterate the key issues with this bill.

The government opposes Bill C-269 for multiple reasons. It would reduce environmental protections. It would negatively impact current federal, provincial and territorial collaboration on waste water. It would impose significant financial and practical challenges on all levels of government. It would be redundant and could weaken existing federal pollution prevention powers.

As the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle knows, the Fisheries Act is the federal government's most effective tool to prevent and set strong controls for the management of waste-water releases. The tools created through the Fisheries Act combined with our government's historic investments of $2 billion in support of over 1,700 water and waste-water projects across the country have made significant progress in protecting the water quality of our lakes, rivers and oceans.

The Fisheries Act already prohibits the release of deleterious substances, pollution into water unless the release is specifically managed under federal regulations. The Fisheries Act also contains strong regulatory controls requiring notification of pollution releases and that every effort is taken to prevent a release or to mitigate potential adverse impacts, if one is unavoidable.

We all want to end releases of raw sewage. That is why our government has invested nearly two and a half times the amount of federal funding for waste-water projects compared to the previous Conservative government over the same period, the same Conservative government that in 2012 gutted the Fisheries Act's most powerful pollution prevention tools and severely underfunded investments in water and waste-water infrastructure.

I would also point out that, as the former leader of the Conservative Party, the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle proposed cuts to billions in public infrastructure funding, the same funding that helps support critical water and waste-water projects in communities across the country.

Prohibiting raw sewage, as this bill prescribes, would not prevent all untreated waste-water releases from occurring. Due to years of chronic underfunding in public infrastructure under the previous Conservative government, our government has had to step up and invest in critical waste-water treatment to minimize the occurrence of such releases.

Let me be clear. There is already an effective and responsible approach in place to address this problem. Releases of raw sewage are already managed under the federal regulations for waste water, or they are prohibited under the Fisheries Act. Our government has been clear in its commitment to protect Canadian waters. That is why in 2019, we strengthened protections in the Fisheries Act by restoring lost protections and incorporating comprehensive and modern safeguards.

If enacted, this bill would mean taking several steps back. The bill does not introduce any new protections, enhanced monitoring or regulatory controls to address waste water beyond the strong measures that already exist within the act. This bill would not increase, but would reduce, environmental protections, and would have significant and harmful impacts on the ability to prevent and manage pollution under the Fisheries Act.

If enacted, this bill would take raw sewage out of the definition of deleterious substances, thereby removing raw sewage from all other critical protections and requirements that the Fisheries Act currently provides. In addition, by removing raw sewage from the existing prohibition of deleterious substances in the Fisheries Act and excluding northern waters from the proposed bill's scope, this would create a gap where raw sewage could legally be released in the north. This is unacceptable.

While our government's current national strategy effectively targets the most significant sources of pollution, this bill would impose enormous fiscal and practical challenges to all levels of government for a minimal environmental benefit. Eliminating raw sewage within five years would mean replacing the underground plumbing networks in over 700 cities across Canada at a cost of over $200 billion.

Aside from the unprecedented cost, it is simply not possible to design, plan and build new or upgraded waste-water treatment facilities in over 700 cities across Canada in under five years. A typical planning and construction cycle for waste-water infrastructure would usually take 10 to 20 years.

We need to acknowledge that many communities are already making investments to reduce the environmental impacts associated with waste-water infrastructure. This includes projects to advance waste-water treatment, green infrastructure and converting waste to energy. These projects are a much more cost-effective way to achieve environmental outcomes than spending hundreds of billions of dollars on a small percentage of reductions.

The government cannot support such a poorly thought-out bill. It does not add value to the existing strategy to address waste water in Canada. Instead, it actively threatens it. Furthermore, our government already has a robust national strategy in place that establishes achievable and predictable timelines for communities to complete the necessary treatment system installations and upgrades. While upon first glance this bill would appear to offer environmental benefits, a closer look reveals that its proposed legislative changes would create considerable negative environmental and economic consequences.

To wrap up, our government is making historic investments in critical waste-water infrastructure to support our comprehensive national waste-water strategy, which combined will keep Canadian waters safe and healthy.

Fisheries ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I must say that the Bloc Québécois welcomes the Conservatives' desire to engage in a debate on water quality and the pollution of our rivers.

At first glance, it might be surprising to see the Conservatives interested in the issue of water pollution. Let us not forget that, during the last campaign, they promised to take action on the dumping of waste water in waterways.

It must be said that the Conservatives happily rode the wave of Montreal's “flushgate”, when the city was forced, in 2015, to dump eight billion litres of waste water into the St. Lawrence.

It was probably to fulfill this promise that the former Conservative leader, the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, introduced Bill C‑269. Again, we welcome the Conservatives' willingness to look at ways to reduce water pollution.

It is true that the debate on Bill C‑269 is an opportunity to draw attention to an important environmental issue: the problem of sewage being discharged into our waterways. This is not the first time the Conservatives have focused on this issue.

I would like to return briefly to the promises around sewage treatment and, in turn, federal inaction on this issue.

In fact, in July 2012, Stephen Harper's government enacted the wastewater systems effluent regulations. This was the first Canadian standard for sewage treatment.

At the time, the federal government estimated that 75% of existing waste water facilities met the new standard. For the remaining 25%, the government promised to provide funding to help them comply, and it established three categories of facilities.

The first category includes the highest risk facilities, which must comply with the new standard by 2020. The second and third categories are those facilities that pose less of a risk and have until 2030, as is the case for Montreal, or 2040 to comply with the new standard.

The then minister of transport, infrastructure and communities, Denis Lebel, promised that Ottawa would invest for the long term and would work in partnership with the provinces. For its part, the Union des municipalités du Québec estimated that it would take $9 billion to upgrade municipal facilities in order to bring them into compliance with the new federal regulations. That was in 2012.

According to a recent Réseau Environnement report, it will actually cost at least $17 billion just to upgrade the existing treatment facilities, which are beginning to show their age.

This amount does not include waste-water treatment plants that do not comply with federal regulations, nor does it include the investments required to build treatment plants in municipalities that do not have any. In March, Le Devoir reported that 80 Quebec municipalities still do not have waste-water treatment plants.

Ten municipalities in the Lower St. Lawrence and Gaspé region, the region I represent, still do not have treatment plants at the outlet of their sewer systems. It is 2021. That is unbelievable. This is a serious, ongoing problem, but the federal government is slow to get involved financially.

Sewage spills happen frequently in Quebec, I am sad to say. The Fondation Rivières counted more than 60,000 spills in 2019, which added up to a total of over 470,000 hours of sewage flow into Quebec rivers and streams. The water pollution problems do not stop there.

The most recent research has brought to light the adverse health effects of endocrine disruptors in water. When these chemicals are present in the environment, they can enter the bodies of animals and humans, interact with their hormones and affect all systems in the body.

This is often harmful for both animals and humans. Even small quantities of these substances in the environment can have a significant impact. The adverse effects of endocrine disruptors have been observed in fish and mollusks in the St. Lawrence River, as well as in amphibians in rivers in southern Quebec.

Many scientists agree that endocrine disruptors are a contributing factor in certain cancers and can cause reproductive issues in humans, though few studies have been conducted in this area.

Research is currently focusing on the endocrine disruptive potential of several chemicals, such as parabens, polychlorinated biphenyls and pesticides.

The presence of microplastics is another problem that demonstrates the importance of addressing waste-water discharge into our rivers and streams.

Scientists at McGill University published a study in 2020 in the well-respected journal Environmental Pollution that found that microplastic pollution in the St. Lawrence River is of the same order of magnitude as that measured in waterways near densely populated cities in China. The researchers found, on average, 832 particles of plastic per kilogram dry weight of sediment. That is four times higher than the levels found by another team in the Ottawa River a few years ago. This finding places the St. Lawrence among the worst waterways analyzed to date. One of the problems is that microplastics linger in the environment for a long time. Since they remain in the sediment, many organisms are at risk of ingesting them and passing them up the food chain.

In short, all of this data about endocrine disruptors and the presence of microplastics shows that there is a a significant and disturbing amount of pollution in our waterways as a result of sewage spills, and we must do something about it.

Let us get back to Bill C‑269. Unfortunately, this bill does not contain a solution to the problem of sewage spills. Why not? Because it is inconsistent. It will still allow certain hazardous materials to be discharged. In short, Bill C‑269 is not as good as it looks.

It is true that, to reduce water pollution, we need effective regulations to stop sewage from being released into the environment. However, this bill allows the discharge of certain “authorized” substances, including petroleum products such as oil, gasoline, diesel and grease, chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals, fertilizer runoff and more.

Consequently, even if it were passed, Bill C‑269 would allow industry to discharge waste water contaminated with petroleum products from their facilities into our rivers, provided that the discharge complies with the Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations. This means that waste water contaminated with chemicals like the ones I mentioned earlier would be allowed, but effluent from municipal waste-water systems would not. What will municipalities do then?

Montreal has been talking about building an ozonation plant to treat waste water for the past 15 years. The project was first announced by the Gérald Tremblay administration with a completion date in 2012, which was later pushed back to 2018. In 2019, Radio-Canada revealed that it should finally be completed in 2023 at a cost of half a billion dollars.

In February 2020, Valérie Plante's administration published a notice of interest for the construction of the plant. So far, however, there have been no developments. It is safe to say that the 2023 target may once again be postponed, but the City of Montreal has until 2030 to comply with existing federal regulations.

It is all well and good to draft regulations, but if a municipality is unable to build a water treatment plant because it simply cannot not afford it, what will the federal government do?

The solution for keeping sewage from polluting our waterways, including the St. Lawrence River, does not lie in arbitrary, unenforceable obligations or prohibitions. It lies in meaningful investments to help municipalities fulfill their waste-water treatment responsibilities.

The Bloc Québécois believes that, if we want to solve this problem together, we must demand that the federal government invest in waste-water treatment infrastructure through targeted, substantial, multi-year funding. Otherwise, neither municipalities nor Quebec will be able to fix the problem.

In conclusion, I will reiterate that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of having a debate on water quality and pollution in our rivers. We must admit that the debates on Bill C‑269 are drawing attention to this important environmental issue. However, for all of the reasons I mentioned, the Bloc Québécois will be voting against the bill.

Again, this bill does not contain a solution to the problem of sewage spills. The health of our waterways requires financial commitments that are not included in Bill C‑269. It requires a solid, long-term commitment on the part of the federal government. The government must invest heavily in municipal waste-water treatment infrastructure by means of appropriate transfers to Quebec and the provinces.

Fisheries ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Mr. Speaker, I must admit that during my time in this place, I have always found great value in private members' business. It is our opportunity as members of this place to bring forward legislation that we believe will ultimately better serve this great country. Yes, there is a lottery system in place, but there is also nothing to stop the government of the day from taking a great idea in a private member's bill and incorporating it into government legislation. Indeed, we have witnessed this practice before.

Another aspect of private members' business is that often members in this place will vote more freely than on government bills. That can add a very interesting dynamic, particularly during a minority government.

Given my passion for private members' business, I must state in advance that I am speaking in support of the bill before us, as it is important to me.

The bill proposes to exclude raw sewage from the definition of “deleterious substance” so as to entirely prohibit its deposit in water, which is a critically important environmental protection we can pass in this place. Indeed, I suspect that if we asked Canadians, most would believe that this is already a banned practice in Canada. However, as we know, the minister can sign off and essentially provide an exemption to it, just as a former environment minister of the Liberal government has done previously, and that should concern us all.

Increasingly, what we see with the Liberal government is that environmental policy is being applied in a discriminatory manner. While I could provide a number of different examples, I would much rather not. Politicizing this issue is ultimately not helpful in this debate. I would like to think that if there is one thing we can all agree on in this place, it is that it is never a good thing to dump raw sewage into fish habitat. I hope that we would all agree on that point. It should be a basic guiding principle of environmental stewardship that we do not contaminate fish habitat.

While I believe there is much we can agree on in principle with the bill, I also recognize that there are criticisms.

Critics have raised the cost to municipalities as one of the criticisms. It is a fair point. However, it also acknowledges that some municipalities are currently adding to the problem, and that a lack of revenue to fix the problem is the primary reason.

On that note, I will point out that the bill proposes that it will not come into force until five years after the day on which it receives royal assent. That is five years to take action, five years to ensure that this becomes a bigger priority for the federal government and five years to work out the details with local governments. Yes, I realize that there are many challenges and many reasons why some can argue this cannot be done in five years. However, to those people I would ask a very simple question: Does anyone want to argue that this should not be done? On that point, I would like to think we can all agree.

I am hopeful about it. If we can agree that it should be done, let us ask ourselves how. If we do not start taking steps in that direction, it would be fair to say that this bill is not perfect, but few ever are.

Having said that, we need to send the message that fish habitat protection is a priority. Critics raise valid points: It might be difficult and it does involve costs. On the issue of costs, it is important to say that we must also consider the cost of inaction.

In my former riding, the water supply for a small rural community was contaminated with fecal matter, which made the drinking water supply unsafe.

To secure the drinking water supply, the source of the contamination had to be found. The process is not as simple as it sounds. They changed the source of the water supply. Costly, unpleasant and heavy chlorination in the water treatment system was to blame.

Back-flow valves were installed. All of that cost a lot of money. Finally, a proper sewage treatment plant was installed. That occurred under a former Conservative government, but that is not the point. The point is that today that community water system is no longer contaminated and, more importantly, the groundwater is not contaminated.

This all matters because the Okanagan River system passes through this unincorporated community, where currently local indigenous communities have been working in partnership, and very successfully I might add, to restore lost salmon habitat. It is an incredible success story. Obviously, it also speaks to the importance of not dumping raw sewage into fish habitat.

To those who raise the valid concerns of cost to local government, I point out that there are many costs of inaction that can result from the situation. More importantly, critics aside, I come back to one simple point: While some have raised concerns over getting this done, I have yet to hear anyone suggest that it cannot be done or that it should not be done. I have only heard that it could be challenging.

Current government members, in 2015, told Canadians, hand on their hearts, that better was always possible. I submit that Bill C-269 proposes better protection for our fish habitat than is currently available. This bill is an important next step in moving forward to better protect our environment.

Before I wrap up, I would like to thank the member who sponsored this bill, the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, for his ongoing leadership and commitment to seeing this gap in our governance addressed. This gap, whether it was intentional or not, exists. We cannot let this go by saying there is a cost. We need to count the current costs to the environment. There are challenges here, but it is because of members like the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle that we are debating this important subject, adding a spotlight to an issue that has haunted this country for too long.

As I said before, I hope we can all agree in this place that dumping raw sewage into fish habitat is wrong and that we need to do our part, in partnership with communities, local government, the provinces and indigenous communities, to make this problem go away so that we all can have clean water and feel proud of the contributions we have made to this issue.

I thank the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle for helping to elevate this argument and for this debate. I hope that all members will put aside partisanship and say yes to his proposal.

Fisheries ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be speaking today about Bill C‑269, an act to amend the Fisheries Act, which I can summarize very quickly as being a good idea only at first glance. My colleague from Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia agrees with me completely.

There have been at least 10 sewage spills in Quebec in recent years. Consider the spill of millions of litres of waste water in the Richelieu River in Saint‑Jean this past March. It was the fourth such spill in three years. The same thing happened in Longueuil in 2018, when 150 million tonnes of polluted water spilled directly into the St. Lawrence River for eight straight days. It is also impossible to forget “flushgate” in Montreal in 2015, when no less than eight billion litres of waste water was dumped into the St. Lawrence.

These examples are only some of the many similar incidents that have occurred, since sewage spills are unfortunately not a rare occurrence. In Quebec alone, Fondation Rivières counted 60,660 spills in 2019, adding up to a total of 471,300 hours of overflow. That is a lot.

Considering all of the data and the pollution in our waterways, we might have expected a far more ambitious bill. That is why I called it a good idea only at first glance earlier.

It is true that Bill C‑269 has given the House the opportunity to talk about the environment and the protection of our waterways. The Bloc Québécois is certainly not going to complain about that. However, Bill C‑269 does not offer any real solutions to the complex problem of sewage spills.

Unfortunately, it does not cover all waste water or all the harmful substances that could be discharged into the environment. It does not contain any real solutions for municipalities that are forced to release their sewage into our rivers, including the St. Lawrence, because they do not have adequate treatment systems.

The first fundamental problem with Bill C‑269 is that it contains only half measures. The first clause of Bill C‑269 excludes raw sewage from the definition of “deleterious substance” in the Fisheries Act. That is the problem.

Bill C‑269 prohibits the deposit of raw sewage, which could prevent another “flushgate” in Montreal. However, it permits the deposit of several other substances that are just as deleterious, meaning the Conservatives' bill opens the door to discharges of all kinds in our waterways. Allow me to list a few substances that the Conservatives forgot: petroleum products, chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals, industrial effluent, paint, and cleaning products like bleach.

If we want to truly protect our waterways, we need to go much further. Prohibiting the discharge of waste water is one thing, but allowing the deposit of all sorts of other equally dangerous substances is quite another. If the Conservatives want to prove that they care about protecting our waterways, they should revise their bill to avoid creating two categories of pollutants.

I would like to mention another problem with Bill C‑269. How do the Conservatives plan to prohibit the discharge of waste water if the municipalities do not have adequate water treatment facilities to stop doing it?

Let us consider the facts. Le Devoir recently reported that 80 Quebec municipalities do not have waste-water treatment plants. The article also mentioned a report by the Réseau Environnement that estimated we will have to invest at least $17 billion just to upgrade existing treatment facilities, which are beginning to show their age. Even with $17 billion, we will not achieve the miracle solution the Conservatives think they are proposing.

For the Bloc Québécois, until effective regulations against waste-water discharge are implemented, the problem will never be fully resolved. The real solution is clear, but it does not appear in the bill. It is so simple: The federal government must make substantial, regular investments, with dedicated, multi-year funding, to help the municipalities, which should not have to cut corners when it comes to protecting our waterways.

The federal government must invest in order to allow municipalities to build adequate waste-water treatment infrastructure.

In conclusion, if the Conservatives want to look good and burnish their green credentials by showing concern for the health of our waterways, including the St. Lawrence River, they must be bolder and propose real solutions, none of which appear in Bill C‑269.

If the Conservatives really want to solve the problem of sewage spills, they must think about including all harmful substances, and the federal government must help municipalities build adequate treatment systems, or the problem will resurface and will never be totally resolved.

For these reasons, the Bloc Québécois will vote against Bill C‑269.

Fisheries ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

There is just enough time to invite the hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle for his right of reply. The hon. member will know he has up to five minutes.

The hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle.

Fisheries ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate all the members of Parliament who spoke in favour of this bill. Out of respect for the House's time, I will not repeat the points that I made in my original speech, but I would like to just take a few moments to address some of the misinformation that I heard throughout the debate from members who are opposing this bill.

First of all, and we hear this argument all the time from them, the Liberals are making the false allegation that Conservatives were not going to make the same commitments to infrastructure spending as they did. This is completely false. In the last campaign, our platform committed the same amount of money to be partnered with the provinces and municipalities in order to rehabilitate our cities, towns and municipalities.

It is the current Liberal government that has allowed billions of dollars in infrastructure spending to be lapsed, so there is no doubt that cities and towns are feeling the burden, the weight of the lack of action and the extra burden that follows when the federal government does not partner with those dollars. When it allows those dollars to be lapsed, it means that there is further pressure on cities and towns and further pressure on property tax payers.

Another bogus argument I heard was that somehow this bill would weaken protections. Only to a Liberal would banning something lead to weaker regulations. Right now, the minister is able to grant these types of permits, and as was already referenced this evening, did just that when the government allowed the City of Montreal to dump billions of litres of untreated raw sewage into the St. Lawrence River. This is clearly just a case of the Liberals projecting onto another party what they themselves are guilty of.

The Liberal member for Lac-Saint-Louis asked in debate about why the Conservatives did not include it in their platform if this idea was such a good idea. That is an easy one to address. We did include it. We made a campaign announcement, and it is on page 27 of the previous campaign platform our party ran on. This is a long-standing commitment that our party has been in support of.

Another member this evening talked about how this bill would permit the dumping of raw sewage in northern communities. They have that completely backwards. This bill would ban the dumping of raw sewage, but it leaves an exemption for northern communities, recognizing the additional burdens that they face in terms of meeting the needs of their infrastructure requirements.

That means that this bill would not immediately apply to them, but they would be covered under existing regulations. Those existing regulations that are already out there, as was mentioned, would not disappear with the passage of this bill. These are complementary pieces of legislation, and this is no excuse not to support this bill.

I heard, just a few moments ago, from the Bloc member who was wondering why there were not other types of harmful substances covered in the bill. Again, that is not a reason to vote against this bill. If we can all agree that raw sewage should not be dumped into our rivers, lakes and oceans, then surely we can pass this bill.

If there are other substances that members would like to see added to the list of things that would be banned from being dumped, Conservatives are all ears for that. However, members would know that, in a private member's bill, there is a need for much greater focus. Focusing on something that is achievable and practical, something that we can certainly all immediately agree to, is necessary in terms of a private member's bill. Private members do not have the same ability or the same tools as government ministers have.

If the government were saying it was not going to pass this bill because it is coming with a comprehensive list of harmful substances that should not be dumped into rivers, lakes and oceans, then I would be happy to participate and coordinate on that, and I would be happy to support that type of initiative, but it is not. There is nothing on the Order Paper coming down the pipe. Therefore, why would we not take this easy step to ban the dumping of raw sewage?

I know members have talked about the cost. There is no doubt that this would add a significant cost on municipalities, and here is where Conservatives have the answer. The Liberals are talking about the fact that they do not have the funds available to do that. They have no problem costing our economy billions of dollars, attacking our energy sector or cancelling pipelines, even though there is no evidence that those measures have a positive effect on the environment, as we shut down production here in Canada only to see emissions go up in other countries. However, we have a simple, tangible, practical, achievable proposal, and suddenly the Liberals are pretending they are worried about the cost. That is where we know where we can find the money.

The Liberals have put $35 billion into the Infrastructure Bank, an institution that has completed zero projects in four years, so there is plenty of existing funding that Conservatives would make available to municipalities so they can comply with this new law.

As my colleague from British Columbia mentioned, there is a five-year term clause coming into force, so the government has time, and a future Conservative government has the time, to partner with these municipalities to ensure they have the investments they need to upgrade the systems, so once and for all, we can stop dumping raw sewage into our waterways.

It is 2021, and Canada is a developed nation. There is no excuse for this practice to continue. That is why I am so pleased to present this bill to the House.

Fisheries ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It being 6:30 p.m., the time provided for debate has expired. Accordingly, the question is on the motion.

If a member of a recognized party present in the House wishes to request either a recorded division, or that the motion be adopted on division, I invite them to rise and indicate so to the Chair.

The hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London.

Fisheries ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would request a recorded vote.

Fisheries ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Accordingly, pursuant to order made on Monday, January 25, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, June 23, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

The hon. member for Louis‑Saint‑Laurent is rising on a question of privilege.

[For continuation of proceedings, see part B]