Madam Speaker, to be perfectly honest, this bill puts me in an awkward position. Why is that? It is because if I were to challenge you to find one person who does not like firefighters, it would be impossible to find anyone.
I want to say right away that the Bloc Québécois will not be supporting this bill. However, this is not because we do not recognize the difficult and necessary work done by firefighters.
I will try to use a counter-example by way of introduction. If the Quebec government felt that our military personnel were not being sufficiently supported by the federal government, could it decide to establish its own standards for dealing with post-traumatic stress or soldiers who use chemicals that are hazardous to their health?
I am sure my colleagues in the House would be the first to point out that national defence is not a provincial responsibility. I therefore find myself in the awkward position of having to say no to a bill that could be described as being like apple pie, because it represents a consensus.
I know that my Liberal and NDP colleagues, who are often gripped by centralizing tendencies, will be quick to vote in favour of this bill. They are free to do as they see fit. However, I do not know if my Conservative colleagues, who have often claimed to be champions of the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces, will vote the same way.
To my mind, this bill is a direct interference in provincial jurisdictions. I am afraid that although everyone likes firefighters and no one likes cancer, we will be voting against this bill. In short, let us say that the federal government is overstepping its jurisdictional boundaries with this bill.
The Bloc is against national framework legislation that goes against the standards and practices in Quebec and the municipalities. The Bloc Québécois believes that there needs to be more awareness and recognition of occupational diseases linked to exposure to cancer-causing particles and more research, but it is not for the federal government to order that. Quebec, the provinces and the municipalities know what to do and how to do it in the areas that concern them.
What is more, I would point out to my colleague that Quebec recently changed its practices and made it easier to access its labour standards, pay equity and occupational health and safety regime, which is overseen by a commission known as the CNESST, by adding provisions for occupational and oncological diseases. Quebec already has institutions that are capable of handling this problem.
The argument I am making is rather simple: The work of firefighters is not federally regulated. The municipal institutions that firefighters work for are the responsibility of Quebec and the provinces.
In Quebec, the department of public security is responsible for fire safety, and the Fire Safety Act establishes good fire fighting practices.
Quebec's department of public security is responsible for establishing general policies on fire prevention, personnel training, emergency preparedness and emergency response procedures. It must also issue certificates of compliance for fire safety cover plans, coordinate the fire safety actions of government departments and bodies, encourage its partners' fire safety initiatives, facilitate the formation of associations working in the field of fire safety, and help educate the public on fire prevention.
It is quite clear that everything to do with firefighters is actually under Quebec's jurisdiction, under provincial jurisdiction. As for municipalities, they have similar responsibilities.
I would still like to quickly mention the issue of workplace injuries. In Quebec, the CNESST deals with workplace injuries through its laws and regulations and compensates workers who have work-related illnesses.
As of April 2016, the CNESST recognizes seven types of cancer linked to firefighting. They are kidney cancer, bladder cancer, laryngeal cancer, lung cancer, mesothelioma, multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. This work has already been done in Quebec.
If I am not mistaken, my colleague said earlier that Manitoba recognizes more than eight types of cancer. It goes without saying that there are differences. A firefighter who fights fires in the oil and gas industry may face a higher level of risk. We need to keep that in mind. However, it is certainly not up to the federal government to intervene in this area of jurisdiction, as it is too far away from this reality.
After the CNESST made changes, the municipalities changed their practices, partly to respond to a complaint that my colleague raised about the need to protect workers from contaminants. To summarize, in Quebec, the CNESST now requires that equipment be decontaminated via brushing and rinsing and that it then be sealed until it is cleaned, even if the equipment does not have any obvious traces of contaminants. My colleague spoke a lot about equipment being stored in vehicles. That no longer happens in Quebec. The CNESST resolved that issue.
The Association des pompiers de Montréal, the city's firefighter association, has launched an occupational cancer awareness campaign among its members and is calling for the CNESST to recognize more cancers. This is something that will absolutely need to be done, maybe not in this chamber, but within Quebec institutions. This is in no way a federal government issue.
A number of associations in Quebec, such as the Association des chefs en sécurité incendie du Québec, which represents Quebec fire chiefs, and the municipal affairs section of the Association paritaire pour la santé et la sécurité du travail, a joint occupational health and safety association, have since held awareness campaigns to help their members reduce the risks associated with fire contaminants. There is clearly some public education to be done here, but we do not need federal legislation to do that.
Chris Ross says that the challenge for Quebec is not to get the CNESST to recognize the issue, but rather to make sure that workers who develop cancer are not required to prove that the cancer was caused by their work. The list of cancers recognized by Quebec also needs to be expanded.
On September 30, 2021, the Quebec National Assembly passed Bill 59, an act to modernize the occupational health and safety regime, which contained a number of amendments to make it easier for workers to access the regime, including the creation of a scientific committee.
Earlier, my colleague pointed out that studies to identify other types of cancers are required to ensure that firefighters are better protected. Quebec has already mandated the creation of a scientific committee on occupational illnesses, the updating of regulations on diseases, and the creation of a committee on oncological diseases.
I will close by saying that cancer is cancer. Everyone agrees with that; no one likes cancer. Whether it is a cancer affecting a firefighter or a cancer affecting a person working in an environment where they must handle chemicals, cancer is cancer. If we want to address the issue of cancer, the best way to do so is to have a robust health care system.
At present, COVID-19 is causing immeasurable delays, and the way to address them may be to have access to more resources. All stakeholders in the health care field are asking for health transfers to be increased to cover 35% of costs.
This morning, the Journal de Montréal published a letter signed by all the major unions in Quebec, including the CSN, FTQ, CSD, CSQ, FIQ and others, as well as several associations of medical specialists. All of them are asking for health transfers to be increased to 35%.
Last week, the federal government reluctantly acknowledged that there is a health care funding issue. It put up $2 billion to try to deal with wait lists. If the government acknowledges that there is problem, it should listen to all of the stakeholders, including the Conference Board of Canada and the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who is not, to my knowledge, a Bloc member.
All of these people say that the solution is to boost health transfers to 35% to ensure the system's long-term viability. That just might help us treat occupational cancers more effectively.