Madam Speaker, it has been interesting to hear the debate here so far today. Part of that is addressing an important new bill before Parliament, Bill S-5, an act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, to make related amendments to the Food and Drugs Act and to repeal the Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination Act.
These are important environmental considerations for Parliament to consider. It would be updating a bill that was initially passed, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, back in 1999 and it is well past due. I understand from my colleague, although I did not know this before he spoke in the House today, that it has been five years since this bill has been under review. Five years is a long time.
The past five years were interrupted by two elections, one of which was completely unnecessary and changed the entire legislative agenda so that we could not address these things in ample time here in this place. We are supposed to be looking at legislation in Canada and how we can do better at what is on the agenda.
This bill, as my colleague pointed out, came over to us initially after it was passed at the Senate with many amendments. In this case, we seem to be the chamber of sober second thought on what has been brought to us as an amendment to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
All Canadians want a strong Canadian Environmental Protection Act to make sure that the substances that are transmitted in society have some very clear guidelines around how they are going to be approved by the regulatory process.
Make no mistake: There are good things about this bill that I support. I hope to get into some committee work and go through the detail here on some changes that are required. Some of the changes would be undoing some of the amendments that were put in place in the Senate, which actually served to move this legislation backward as opposed to forward.
What does work in this bill is getting rid of some of the redundancy in regulations. In the House, I have spoken many times about the weight of government and the weight of regulations. There is overlap not only between different levels of government, as in provinces, municipalities and the federal government, but also within the government itself. We have a combination of looking at the same regulations through various departments.
It is a waste of time, a waste of money and a waste of effort for the companies that have to go through that process. Dealing with those in one fell swoop, as this legislation seems to propose, is a better way of getting past regulations that industry has to go through in order to move things forward.
I will point out that I have been involved in bills in the House of Commons where we did expedite things very clearly. I remember my work with the previous minister of natural resources in the 43rd Parliament when we moved forward on the regulatory advancements required for offshore work to regulate workers and make sure they stayed safe.
This was work that had been delayed for years. As a result, for the offshore workers in Canada, primarily in Newfoundland but also Nova Scotia, the regulations were not on top of each other anymore, and there was a legal void as to what would happen in an accident.
The minister at that time, who was a very good minister, worked together with me behind the scenes and made sure that we advanced that as quickly as possible. We got it through the House and over to the other place. I stand corrected; it actually came from the other place. We got it through the House as quickly as possible, through committee, because we had addressed everything that needed to be addressed in that legislation. Not having that legislation available at that time was putting workers at risk.
When things need to move quickly in the House, we move them quickly. Our job is to make sure we look at what is best for Canadians and address what needs to be changed in legislation brought before us.
I am going to talk about this legislation a bit because there are some clear deficiencies. There are some good things, as I have noted, in this bill, and we do need an updated Canadian Environmental Protection Act. This also brings changes to other legislation. There are some things I have questions about. I question a lot of the bureaucratese that we address here in the House of Commons.
The language in the bill identifies certain things that I know are going to require further definition down the road. Those are things like “vulnerable populations”. Can we define what a vulnerable population is? I have not seen it prescribed anywhere in legalese.
It talks about “the principle of non-regression and the principle of intergenerational equity”. All of these things are nice concepts on paper. As yet, they have no standing in any court of law, because they have not been in front of any court of law. That is one of the problems here.
We can put these things on paper and then, all of a sudden, somebody will actually challenge them and they will be in front of a judge. As my colleague said earlier, a judge does not get to look at the preamble of a bill. He only looks at the bill. He says, “This intergenerational equity thing is something profound, and here is the ruling I have.”
That, of course, will layer its way up to every court in Canada. Then we will have a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada on what is meant by intergenerational equity, to say nothing of the intergenerational inequity that the current government has visited upon Canadians repeatedly over the last seven years. The amount of deficit that we have incurred with the government foisting taxes upon future generations of Canadians is the definition of intergenerational inequity. Our kids, our grandkids and our great-grandkids are going to be looking after bills that the government refuses to pay today.
Those are things that are going to have to find their way through in the wash. It is better that we find those things in the wash here than 10 years later after several court iterations and several millions of dollars through our court system. We would have to reverse everything that has been done over that time.
We talked about toxicity in this bill. I recall, not so long ago, that they talked about plastics being toxic. I know that the plastics industry was very upset about that. I used Tupperware last night. I used a baggy this morning.
Is that toxic? Am I using toxic goods? I think that we really have to get toward what toxicity actually means for the communities that we are acting on behalf of. A watch-list for these substances becomes capable of being overused and misunderstood by the bureaucrats and the legalists who might get involved with it.
There are other definitions in here, like “the right to a healthy environment”. I am all for a healthy environment. Everyone knows that. How we put that into a right, as far as Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is a mystery to me.
I know that a lot of my colleagues think a healthy environment looks like a golf course and that is not at all the case. A healthy environment is actually something where we have a whole bunch of bugs, if we will. We start at the very basic level here, and things move their way through the ecosystem. Sometimes nature, in its healthy environment phase, is not pretty.
If we take a look at the agriculture we produce in Canada, that agriculture, quite frankly, is a manipulation of nature. If we look at this, somebody could challenge it and could say that is making the environment unhealthy. We are plowing fields and that is killing a whole bunch of moles, voles, insects, birds, nests and everything else in order to feed the world, which Canada does very well.
I am challenged by some of the terminology that is in here. We need to balance all of this against social and economic factors. We need to make sure that we have risk assessments and risk management profiles that show exactly what we are trying to accomplish and balance it with what is good for all of society.
One of the other issues in here that we have seen in regulatory overreach, which we have seen in many government bills in their regulatory approach, is the ability for anybody to request that a minister look to see if a substance is toxic.
There are all kinds of nuances going on in our court system currently in Canada where that is being abused by many organizations that are trying to stall developments in Canada. This opens the door to more of the same.
Once we start opening the door to more of the same in every measure of society, we are going to have nothing but litigation from self-interested entities all the way through our legal system. That is what has to stop. That is what has to move forward a little better here to make sure that we get better legislation for all Canadians. Those are my main points.
I am looking forward to the government considering how we can make some good recommendations and good amendments so that this bill, the terms around it and the definitions that we are talking about are addressed clearly, so that we can address good legislation for Canadians going forward.