Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to speak to the issue of the environment.
As we have heard today all of us are concerned about the environment. We are concerned about the air; we are concerned about the water; we are concerned about the soil around us.
Often we look at the environment and we see the radical end of things on the scale. Then we see the radical things on the industrial scale. As all of us recognize it is really the middle ground, the ground of compromise, co-operation and in many cases the ground of trade-offs. We have to understand these trade-offs.
Often someone says: "You're getting kind of hard on environmentalists". I answer: "Yes, but I don't want to live in a cave and go out and grow my own food. If I don't want to do that, then I have to make trade-offs in order to live the way I want to".
I have a long background in the area of environment. Professionally that was my training. I was involved 25 years ago in the Conserver Society. I went around the country talking about what we could do to conserve our society, recycling and so on. I must admit it was kind of an off topic back then. We were not very popular when we talked about it. A lot of people did not know what we were talking about.
I came from that age of Silent Spring , of the environmental impact studies. I worked for the Canadian Wildlife Service. From all that background I gained a real appreciation of preservation of the environment.
As well I have learned that the environment is not in the domain only of socialists and liberals but is of concern to everyone. I want to assure the member for The Battlefords-Meadow Lake that when we form the next government we will be concerned about the environment and will place it high on our list of priorities.
I want to also address the member on the reforms that are going on. We are part of that overall reform.
I want as well to quote from our blue book on the environment: "We want to establish clear federal-provincial jurisdiction over environmental matters. We want to reduce duplication, confusion and all of the unnecessary things that so often go with government. We believe the government should provide federal leadership, encourage partnership, encourage private industry to get involved, encourage educational institutions and of course encourage the public to be part of these environmental protection studies".
The environment is related to all of us and interrelated. There are many things wrong and those have been identified here today.
We must of course be equal to everyone and we must go for equal enforcement. In looking at Bill C-56 I think we go at least some way to accomplishing what we want to. Certainly the one assessment will save time and money and will avoid some of the duplication of so many examples we could talk about.
Participatory funding. Having been involved in that grassroots level of trying to participate in environmental involvement, I can certainly appreciate having that as part of this bill. I think if that is properly administered and decisions are made properly that that can be a great plus for people wanting to get involved in projects and understanding them better.
The decision that the cabinet, not just one minister, will make the decisions regarding this of course becomes even more credible today. A lot of us are reading the recent book published about the last government and that would convince us even more that we want more than one minister deciding anything.
We have a lot of examples that we need to confirm the need for a bill like this. We have of course, and this has been mentioned many times, the Oldman River dam project. The environmental assessment that should have been triggered and was not would have saved so many dollars, so much confusion and so many problems that have now gone on with a project like that. It has demonstrated and caused a confrontation rather than co-operation.
We must avoid duplication. It emphasizes we must have provincial co-operation and third parties involved rather than just through the courts of law.
Federal-provincial duplication is enormous. This is one area this bill does not address adequately that I would like to see possible amendments to. We must resolve these federal-provincial problems. That is essential with getting on with the job.
I use an example of a company in my constituency. I have a letter from the Alberta environmental minister, Brian Evans, in which he says: "I can assure you that the issue of duplication overlap is at the top of the agenda for Canadian ministers of the environment". He goes on to say that the agreement that Alberta has signed will go a long way to help solve the problem.
An Alberta government document goes on to state: "This agreement will greatly reduce the burden placed on industry because of a dual regulatory framework. From now on the Alberta government will be the primary representative in dealing and contacts with the pulp and paper industry". He goes on to describe other industries. He continues: "The establishment of a single window at the provincial level does not relieve industry from the obligation to comply with federal regulations. Each level of government retains its respective legislative powers and can take legal action against defenders". While it has moved some way it has not moved all the way.
I will go on with some examples and look at some of the background where this harmonization just has not occurred. One thing I would like to stress here today is that we must get the harmonization of this environmental assessment program. I think all sides would agree. I am disappointed to hear some of the dissenters to that whom we have heard from today.
I would also list four items that have been identified for me in my constituency. There is a big problem with reports between provincial and federal governments. There is a great variation between what they are asking for and yet they end up getting to the same place.
Second, there is a real perception that business is doing something wrong and that they are always doing something wrong. The lack of co-operation where one government does not trust the other one has to be alleviated. We must get away from the idea that in fact industry cannot pay for and be involved in some of this analysis. We also must look at the regulations to be sure they are realistic. Again, I have many examples of where unrealistic legislation is in place in terms of environment.
The duplication of regulations has played havoc with particularly smaller oil companies. I can summarize some of this by listing four major areas. The purpose of most regulations is reasonable. However they become ridiculous when the administration of the regulations and the people involved begin to protect their own turf and refuse to be reasonable or co-operate with the other branches of government for fear of losing their power. Again we have many examples of that.
We must also be concerned about their competitiveness within Canada. The number of reports keeps increasing which greatly handicaps smaller companies. Having one extra person to complete reports in a plant involving 10 people is quite a bit different than adding one person in a company of 500. We must consider that. We must keep these companies competitive.
I quote an example from one of my constituents: "In the early 1980s I was closely involved with the major grassroots complex being built close to Fort Saskatchewan in Alberta. Over a period of two and a half years the company had to make a total of 4,200 submissions, permits and other formal requests from every conceivable government branch in three layers of government. Many of the pieces of information was repeated many times over because a given permit could only be issued for 30 days. If we informed one level that the same information was sent two months ago to, say, the federal environmental group we were told that confidentiality prevented moving information between departments and the same information would have to be submitted in the new format requested".
At the end of the project a complete listing of the total number was sent to the Alberta economic development department for review because no one could believe the number and they were dismayed and shocked by the number of reports. We must address that. We must do something about that. We are literally putting small business out of business because of environmental regulations and no co-operation between levels of government. It is reasonable then. We must deal with this. We must address this problem.
Going on, the lack of co-operation seems to go on and on. I will not get into all of this because I intend to deal with another subject. What we must do is end the duplication, the lack of co-operation, the protecting of different departments' turf that goes on in this whole area of environmental testing.
I finish this section off by saying I have an example of the bureaucratic growth that has gone on. In terms of water testing for a number of oil projects in Alberta the company does a complete set of independent lab studies. These go on, and I have copies of them, for some 30 to 40 pages. Then the province comes along and does the same testing and sampling and it goes through all of the expense and duplication of 30 or 40 pages. Then the federal government comes along and does all the same testing and it does 30 or 40 pages of reports on the same material. Neither side will talk to each other because each side is afraid of losing its jobs.
That kind of environmental holding back of companies has to end. An example of the growth of bureaucracy in licensing is where reports used to be four pages, today they are 34 pages. Whether it is air emissions, sulphur emissions, or whatever, the reports go on and government grows.
If I had to encourage anything I would encourage the harmonization of this environmental conflict and the co-operation between all of these levels of government and all of these bureaucrats.
I would now like to get into another area which I have been involved with some 30 years now and that is in the environmental area that I feel involves all of us. A lot of people sort of laugh when I say I am really interested in this subject and that is the subject of landfills, the subject of garbage. The problem that all of us have is universal. It is a problem where everybody says: "Don't put them in my backyard, put them over there".
It is a universal problem across this country. There is a problem whether one is a landowner or whether one lives in a city or town. There are some basic problems that make this a federal issue. When we phone the Department of the Environment here, we are told: "That is not our area, that is a provincial area". This is a good example of where there are roles for the three levels of government.
Let me propose what I have in mind. First, the biggest problem is from the seepage going on underneath the ground. We are contaminating groundwater. We are contaminating lakes. We are contaminating rivers. We are doing things to our environment that will only come forward 50 or 100 years from now.
It is fine to build deficits and say: "Well, we know we are going to have those to deal with". Now we are going to tell them they are not going to have water to use. We must address that. What is the solution? There are solutions. One problem is they cost money. I think if people understood the problem and the potential time bomb they were creating, they would deal with this.
Recycling, composting and incineration are all areas that somebody in Canada needs to look at. We could be world leaders. How can we work this through the provinces and through the cities? What happens now is the feds say: "Well, it is not our area. We cannot touch that because it is provincial".
I see the federal government providing the umbrella. I see the federal government providing the research and development, the technology, the gathering together of information, putting together the seminars it takes, getting the experts involved. I see it being the resource for all other levels of government. I see the provinces providing a unified delivery of the service and then I see the municipalities as the operators of whatever that facility is now.
What happens today? Today we have the municipality doing the research, trying to decide what it should have. Meanwhile, it does not have the money, the technology or the people. It is not in a position to try to deal with that subject.
I would like to see in a bill like this the ability and the encouragement of the federal government to get involved in this issue. It is an issue for everyone. All of us have garbage problems. It is one where I think we are putting our head in the sand in trying to deal with it.
In summary my party and I would support this bill. It could go much further in the area of environmental leadership. I could see it taking on, as I say, things like landfills. It should speed up the process. It should save money. It must get involved in co-ordinating federal-provincial areas. It allows third party input and it does protect the individual from government force.
Finally, the environment is a world issue. Being a member of the foreign affairs committee I can relate to the fact that this is a global problem. If China builds 18 huge coal generated power plants, that air will be over Canada in a couple of days. That air is going to affect us. That is air that we will have to breathe. We cannot be just a province or Canada. We must be the world when it comes to environment.
I encourage all politicians to be concerned about China, the South American rain forest, and sustainable development. We can all play a role in that. We cannot put our heads in the sand any longer.