Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore.
This legislation is a continuation of the Liberal agenda to deregulate. It is a total corporate agenda, a cave-in to a lobby group. In effect, what we have is a virtual environmental protection act. The term virtual has come to mean that it is not real.
We have heard all day that this bill is supposed to be balanced. We are trying to accommodate the economy as well as the environment. We have heard members of the Reform Party say that they are in favour of sustainable development, as well as Liberal members. In fact, they are having a love-in with the Reform Party in support of this environmental protection bill, which in fact is not going to protect our environment.
We are supposed to accept the virtual elimination of the most deadly poisons and toxins known to man, when what we need is the phase-out of persistent organic pollutants. These are heavy metals. They are DDTs. They are truly unmanageable poisons and that is why we do not want them in the environment. We cannot accept any level of these toxins because we cannot manage the effects of them. We cannot manage the effects of endocrine disrupters. How low will we allow sperm counts to go before we say no, we cannot accept this any more? How many mutated embryos will we accept before we say no, we have to stop the actual generation and sale of these poisons because we cannot manage them within our environment?
Newer research is clearly showing that we are affected by very low levels of toxins; not just megadoses of poisons that cause cancer, but very low doses of common poisons in our environment, such as nitrates that we use as fertilizer and soaps that we use in cleaning.
The worst thing is that we do not know what the combination of these toxins will do to our children and to our health. We do know that it is not a benefit for us to have them within our environment. If we ignore the effects we will be propagating them by not going forward with environmental protection that is preventive and not crisis oriented, trying to clean up the mess at the other end.
When it comes to the north, the Arctic contaminants report has clearly stated that the north and the people of the north are disproportionately affected by these poisons because they stay there. They do not go anywhere else. We have lead, mercury and DDT levels that are unacceptable in mothers' breast milk.
The people who live in the north do not have the opportunity to go to a health food store to get organic produce. People who live in Old Crow, who want to buy some milk for their child, are looking at triple the cost which is paid by those living in a southern community. It is just not reasonable to expect these people, if they are concerned about their health and the levels of contaminants in their environment, not to live off the caribou and the fish which are coming more and more sparsely up the river to Old Crow. They have to depend on the country's food, the indigenous food, to bring up their children in good health.
It does not show concern for the northern people and the effects that these poisons have on them. They have no control over how or when those toxins arrive in the north because they come through the winds and evaporation.
We have a bill where the minister is going to limit her own powers to protect the environment. The minister's power will in fact be dissipated to the Minister of Industry. Maybe the Minister of Finance is not going to like how the minister wants to protect our environment. That minister will no longer have the ability to make a decision and say “No we cannot do this. This is unacceptable. The cost to human health is far to high”. That is exactly what the bill does. It dissipates the power, the focus and the concentration on protecting our environment in the best interests of our public. The best interests of the health of these citizens have become subordinate to corporate interests.
I have heard this over and over again today from some of the members who have spoken and, I think, at great personal cost. It certainly must be heartbreaking to stand up and not vote with their party on a bill that they have worked on for years in the belief that as citizens they could protect our environment.
I will jump back to the north. The bill is not about good corporate citizens. It is about those individuals and those corporations who will not and do not clean up after themselves. They do not look ahead to the cost to the environment and to health through the process they use in their industry or the product that they produce in the end.
We have the DEW line, the distant early warning sites across the north that the U.S. was heavily involved in. It abandoned those sites leaving behind barrels of DDTs and other toxins. It sometimes buried them and sometimes left them exposed. What has happened to the sites? They have not been cleaned up. The Liberal government made an infamous deal to trade used military equipment for cleaning up the north, which means of course that those sites do not and will not get cleaned up.
Corporations have gone through the Faro mine one after the other. It will cost over $100 million to clean up the toxins that were left behind. Who is responsible for that and who is going to end up cleaning it up? The people who live there or the government of the country will have to clean it up? As it stands, the mess is there.
We just had a $300,000 fine for a company that left behind a mess. Guess what? That company is out of business. Who is going to clean that up? Who is going to live with the contamination? The indigenous people in that remote area who are going to have to live with the poison.
The Royal Oak mine in the Northwest Territories has gone out of business. It will cost over $100 million to clean up the leaking arsenic in that area. Who is left with that? It is the Canadian citizens. Obviously with the company out of business it is not going to be cost effective to clean that up.
There is this whole idea that we will not clean up our environment or expect business to be responsible for what they have produced because it might not be cost effective. What is the definition of cost effective? How many lives will we abandon to sickness or death on the terms that it would be too costly to put in any kind of preventative measures on their behalf?
Last year I had the good fortune of listening to David Suzuki when he was on Parliament Hill. It was very impromptu. Members of parliament had the chance to listen to him. What he emphasized, and I suppose has emphasized throughout his career, is: that we somehow think our economy is independent from the earth that we live on; that we depend on the ozone layer for protection; that we depend on our sea for fish; that we depend on our lakes for fresh water; that we depend on the earth to grow our wheat; and that somehow we think that as a species we can live independently of our environment. This is something we cannot do. In order to have an economy we have to have an environment and we have to protect it.
This legislation does not protect the environment. It does not prevent the poisons that are being generated in great numbers by our society. I would suggest that this is pushed by greed and not by the concern for a quality of life on this planet that we truly can sustain for further generations.
I join my colleagues in sadly not supporting the environmental protection act because it does not do what it said it would do. It has become a virtual protection act.