House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was respect.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for York South—Weston (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 33% of the vote.

Statements in the House

National Forest Week May 5th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, the week of May 4 to 10 we are celebrating National Forest Week. It is a time to reflect on the vital role forests play in our daily lives as well as their significant benefits.

Canada as a forest nation depends on our forests for needs that range from economic to environmental to cultural.

The Canadian Forestry Association has chosen this year's National Forest Week theme, “Canada's Forests, Source of Life”, to echo that of the World Forestry Congress that later this year for the first time will be held in Canada from September 21 to 28 in Quebec City.

We must remember that humanity and forests are interdependent. For forests to remain the source of life, we must find a balance between our needs as humans and the ability of the forest to fulfill its ecological role.

This week, Mr. Speaker, please take the time to think about the ways that we as Canadians can protect our forest wealth and health so we can ensure that the full range of forest values is safeguarded for future generations.

I encourage all members to join me in celebrating National Forest Week.

Canadian Environmental Assessment Act May 5th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the question. As I indicated, if there were a project that was initiated from CP or any of the other rail entities, that project would be dealt with within the confines of the Canada Transportation Act.

It would seem to me that the spirit of Bill C-9 with respect to the information that would be provided to those who are within the immediate right of way, those who are implicated directly or indirectly, whether it be through noise or with respect to an unseemly interruption of what could be characterized as reasonable life and lifestyle, is that they would have all the information available to them. I do not know whether the Canada Transportation Act provides for that but it would seem to me the same spirit with respect to public information and access should be provided.

I would like to point out that it is the application though, through the Canadian Transportation Agency, that would trigger the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the same provisions would provide with respect to the public's right to have input. The ultimate decision would be made through the Canada Transportation Act and agency.

Canadian Environmental Assessment Act May 5th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently as various members raised the implications of Bill C-9. I particularly want to thank the member for Davenport for his wise adjudication of the whole process of Bill C-9. In addition to the points that were made last week, there are some points that I am pleased to address.

Those points primarily fall into three categories: the bill as it relates to crown corporations; the bill as it relates to the immensely implicating concerns with respect to nuclear storage, and the Bruce nuclear dry storage issue was mentioned; and the issues with respect to federal-provincial harmonization. I would like to address those three issues this morning as well as additional points that have been made during the course of debate.

With respect to crown corporations, the bill provides that after three years crown corporations would come under the provisions of Bill C-9, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Some members have asked why.

There are crown corporations that have and immense impact on particular parts of our constituencies. For example, the Farm Credit Corporation receives literally thousands of applications for farm credit. If the strictest letter of Bill C-9 were addressed to the Farm Credit Corporation, it would result in the applications for credit being held back. All members would agree that is not the intent of Bill C-9. The Farm Credit Corporation addresses Bill C-9 in a special way in its intent, but in a very different way in terms of implementation.

It is important to look at different corporations such as the Export Development Corporation, which is exempt from the requirements, because it has a separate process for environmental review of projects that it funds. Those processes have been separately established through the Export Development Act. To bring congruency to that act, which is not companion legislation at all because it is its own separate legislation, would require some time.

Another example of that is the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board which is also exempt because it is not a federal authority as it has a unique federal-provincial nature.

My colleague from Davenport raised the matter of CP Rail. I have been able to extract the information with respect to those points. CP Rail is not a crown corporation, but any permit or licence that it needs to construct a project would trigger the act through the Canadian Transportation Agency. This is another conduit for that particular crown corporations to work through. It will take a little time to bring these two different jurisdictions into congruency. For those who are interested in the rail sector, VIA Rail is a crown corporation and the new provisions of Bill C-9 would also apply to it.

With respect to the Bruce used fuel dry storage facility, I would not want it to be perceived as being simply a quick and dirty, and nasty process in regard to the dismissal of the concerns that were raised with respect to nuclear storage because that was not the case. The matter that was being adjudicated upon was for the onsite storage of existing nuclear fuel. It was not to bring in nuclear fuel from other operations.

In addition, the project was required to continue its operations. That was something that had to be considered at the time. The project underwent a thorough review as a comprehensive study from 1997 to 1999 and the comprehensive study included a 60 day public comment period. It was concluded that the project would not likely result in significant adverse environmental effects. This conclusion, as has been pointed out, was upheld by both the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal, which concluded also that the federal authority could not delegate away its responsibility and accountability with respect to that issue.

I would suggest that the cycle has come full circle in that Bill C-9 closes the accountability gap, if it ever existed in the first place. We also know that there has been separate legislation under the Nuclear Safety Act which, at this particular time through the Nuclear Safety Commission, is engaged in looking at this whole question of onsite nuclear storage.

There has been considerable concern and interest raised with respect to federal-provincial relations. As I have indicated before, when I was speaking on this issue, the matter of jurisdictional cooperation is dealt with up front with respect to Bill C-9 because it is absolutely clear that there must be a high level of provincial-federal cooperation in order to address and get around the kind of duplication and obfuscation that occurs when we have two important desires which should come together, and that is to protect the environment in a sustainable manner.

In 1998, all provinces and territories, with the exception of Quebec, signed the Canada-wide accord on environmental harmonization. It is hoped that the kinds of issue that have been addressed within the context and spirit of that particular companion document will find us perhaps discovering a new day in provincial-federal relations where the nature of duplication and conflict can be resolved. I would beg that the new government in the province of Quebec would review Bill C-9 against the opportunity to develop new mechanisms so that it too would sign the harmonization accord.

The legislation mentions the creation of a new position: federal-environment assessment coordinator. The coordinator would have powers to set timelines and would be accountable for ensuring that federal authorities fulfill their obligations under the act in a timely manner, since justice delayed is justice denied in terms of holding back unnecessarily the information that is provided through the public registry, and the scoping and recommendations that are entrenched in Bill C-9.

Aboriginal peoples have a unique role to play in environmental assessments and Bill C-9 would ensure that special provisions would apply with respect to the value and use of traditional knowledge that is very much part of aboriginal background. The legislation would enable band councils to undertake assessments on reserve lands.

Martha Kostuch, from The Friends of the Oldman River, appeared before the standing committee and welcomed new requirements that established an Internet based registry of project information. However, she cautioned that electronic information alone is not sufficient because there are still people who require paper information. Those provisions have been included. Under circumstances that are specific to a proponent's application for environment assessment, all information will be provided in a manner that is best utilized by the public.

There are other positive changes. As hon. members know, the environment is a dynamic area of public policy. In terms of its dynamics it is extremely sensitive to advances in science and technology. It is in that manner of update of information, in particular as it is available to special interest groups which have a huge opportunity and a wisdom and an information base to be part of the environmental process, that they will have even additional opportunities to do so.

As members of Parliament we must be certain that the positive evolution of environmental assessment set in motion by the minister's review of the Act and Parliament's consideration of Bill C-9 will continue. The answer to the question of whether the act will fulfil its obligations probably lies in the fact that not only is there a companion piece with respect to beyond Bill C-9 but that the quality assurance program requires that there is an ongoing response and monitoring under the quality assurance program that will keep the agency vigilant. It will make recommendations as policy issues arise that require change. It is not just at the end of the seven years that the review will to take place, it will be an ongoing review.

New requirements that make follow-up programs mandatory for larger and more complex projects are a second way that Bill C-9 will promote continuous improvement. Under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act follow-up programs examine whether the predictions made by an environmental assessment are accurate and whether the mitigation measures intended to prevent environmental harm are actually working. By making these programs mandatory for projects assessed by a comprehensive study, mediation or a review panel, we are guaranteed a constant flow of follow-up information.

In support of these legislative changes the minister has committed the agency to act as a central electronic repository of follow-up information allowing others to use the results of past assessments to improve their ability to predict effects and design mitigation measures.

I am confident that Bill C-9 will significantly strengthen the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. I am also certain that the positive momentum created by the bill will continue. As as a matter of fact, the provisions beyond Bill C-9 start to relate environmental assessment to sustainable development in order that the process facilitates a meaningful change, not only in attitudes toward sustainable development and the stewardship of our environment but invite new positive ways that it can be done as well.

We look forward to a continuation of that spirit as we gain experience from Bill C-9. In this way we will have an environmental assessment process that retains the confidence of Canadians, a process that supports on a project by project basis our environmental priorities, including action on climate, endangered species, clean water and clean air. In other words, we will take those steps that will provide for a legacy for future generations that is in keeping with the sense of responsibility that we feel at this present time.

Canadian Environmental Assessment Act April 11th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased once again to rise on Bill C-9. I again would like to thank the members of the committee on behalf of the minister for the manner in which they have addressed the proceedings of the bill in committee and with the amendments that have been brought forward attempting to reflect the spirit of the debate and the many deputations that came before the committee.

It has been pointed out that there is a thin line between the two groups of resolutions that have been brought forward. Today we are talking about the matter of compliance.

In Motions Nos. 25 and 26 we are trying to come to grips with wording that was incorporated in the amendments made through committee that would ensure the legislation passed in the form of Bill C-9 would be obeyed and respected. It would be an understatement for me to say that it is the hope in good faith that all laws which are passed by the Parliament of Canada would be respected by the institutions that have carriage and responsibility to carry them out.

In that vein, the committee recommended that the word “ensure”; that compliance with the legislation would be ensured. The amendment the government has put forward is more reflective of the role of the agency that is charged with responsibility to carry out the intent and substance of the bill.

The technical problems that would be created have been accommodated by changing the wording from, “ensuring that compliance would be achieved” to the words, “that the agency would be required to promote, monitor and facilitate compliance with the act”. I hope all members of the House would agree that this provision will better reflect the type of activities the agency will be involved in under the revised act.

Finally, I have a few comments with respect to points that have been raised. I sense these will also cross between the two sets of resolutions. On the issue of provincial jurisdiction, it should be understood that companion legislation also is a backgrounder for any legislation passed by the House.

In terms of provincial jurisdiction, paragraph 2.2 of Bill C-9 signals the importance of co-operation and co-ordination between the provincial governments and the federal government. That comes within the context of the 1998 Canada-wide accord on environmental harmonization and the subagreement on environmental assessment.

Further, with respect to concerns that have been raised on crown corporations, it is understood that there will be a three year delay with respect to the intent of the legislation covering crown corporations, and there are good reasons for that. I will use one illustration.

For example, requiring an environmental assessment for the thousands of relatively small loans by the Farm Credit Corporation to family run farms could create hardships for farmers resulting from delays, et cetera, without any corresponding environmental benefit. This is a small illustration of the kind of implementing problems that might result. We need a little time to adjust to them.

Finally, I want to refer, under compliance, to the point raised by the member for Lac-Saint-Louis with respect to screenings, and also has been raised from time to time. I want to emphasize, as the member did in fact, that public participation, and I quote him, “is the key to everything”.

I cannot overstate the case that the bill, with the establishment of the registry, with the different criteria established, with the strengthening of the whole process of providing information and with the number of days that have been designated for minimal screenings to those that are at a higher level, is in the interest of facilitating citizen participation. Even the terms of the scoping in respect to why there is an hierarchy of screenings is being provided through the registry so that the citizenry, be it individuals or special interest groups, have the information and can cross-examine the whole nature of why discretionary authority is being applied. I hope that satisfies the member for Lac-Saint-Louis because he has raised a good issue.

The spirit and intent of the bill are to provide citizens with the information not only make the legislation inherently compliant but allows citizens the opportunity to be part of the oversight to assure that compliance with the spirit and intent of the bill are achieved in the interest of a greater and better legacy for future generations through the application of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Question No. 103 April 11th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns April 11th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, if Question No. 103 could be made an order for return, the return would be tabled immediately.

Questions on the Order Paper April 11th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, Question No. 167 will be answered today.

Government Response to Petitions April 11th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to eight petitions.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act April 10th, 2003

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise with respect to the report stage of Bill C-9. In spite of the comments that have been made by my hon. colleague, I would like to say how much I think that the committee's deliberations in fact were what I believe to be a true characterization of how in committee we should work to find consensus with respect to issues that on their appearance may divide us.

In that spirit, I would like to thank the members of the committee for the efforts that they have made with respect to making this legislation a practical working document and an understandable document that will guide Canadians, in partnership with both levels of government, the provincial and the federal, to understand the workings of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

In particular, I would like to thank the former parliamentary secretary, the member for Kitchener Centre, who in fact shepherded much of this legislation, at least the clause-by-clause process, through committee. I would like to express my appreciation to the member.

The standing committee heard from dozens of groups and from citizens about the need to improve Bill C-9. In fact, there was a wealth of information that was transformed into 75 amendments, which I believe will result in very practical improvements.

I would also like to say that almost 75 amendments were made to Bill C-9 during committee stage. As has been pointed out, these have been distilled down to two groups of clauses that will streamline the bill. I believe that Canadians and our environment will benefit from a legacy that the bill will establish and will continue through the application of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

I really do not know with respect to the points that have been raised by the hon. member that appear to be an exception of the spirit of that act, but I would like to reply to just one part of the concerns that he raised with respect to the conflict between provincial and federal legislation.

I would like to point out to the member that in 1998 there were approximately 160 projects that required both federal and provincial environmental assessment. In 1998, a Canada-wide accord on environmental harmonization and its subagreement on environmental assessment were signed by all provinces and territories, except Quebec, providing the foundation for a cooperative approach when both levels of government have environmental assessment responsibilities.

That spirit is embodied in clause 2(b.2) of the bill, which signals the importance of cooperation and coordination between federal and provincial governments when both levels of government are required, through their respective legislation, to conduct an environmental assessment of a project.

I hope that the hon. member will be in fact satisfied to some extent, although his province has not signed on to that accord, that the framework of the spirit and intent is embodied in Bill C-9.

I would like to focus my comments with respect to the timing of decisions and then on a few legal housekeeping items, as indicated by the Chair.

During our review of Bill C-9, Jeff Barnes of the Canadian Construction Association told the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development that under the current Canadian Environmental Assessment Act there have been unfortunate situations where the public only finds out about a project “when the bulldozers arrive on site”. Obviously that is not appropriate or satisfactory.

Bill C-9 addresses this problem through the establishment of a government-wide Internet site for project information. This means that Canadians will be able to go on line to learn about projects proposed for their communities. Among other things, the Internet site will include notification that an assessment of a proposed project has started, notices requesting input from the public, and environmental assessment decisions. The standing committee strengthened and expanded the provisions for the Internet site in several ways.

For example, the notice of the beginning of an environmental assessment must be posted on the Internet within 14 days of the start of the assessment. Decisions on whether to require a follow-up program for a proposed project would have to be posted. Decisions on the scope of the project would also have to be included. We heard about this whole matter of scoping. It would pre-empt some of the other processes so the public would know whether decisions are being made with respect to scoping at the beginning of the process. The terms of reference for a mediator or a review panel would also be available online. All of these changes would help to ensure Canadians have the information they need to participate in environmental assessments involving the Government of Canada.

The standing committee made an amendment to delay any decision until 30 days have passed from the posting on the Internet site of the last document associated with the project. The idea of providing a reasonable period of time for the public to access information on the registry before decisions are made makes a lot of sense. This has been incorporated into the bill. There are problems however with the way the committee amendment is structured. The proposed motions before the committee have several refinements to the standing committee's original approach and I would like to outline them.

First, for screening level assessments that deal with smaller, less complex projects, the government motion provides that decisions may only occur 15 days after the notice of commencement. Information about the scope of the project would be posted on the Internet site. Motion No. 22 is designed to prevent situations where public access to reports may be delayed, even though final decisions have been made. Countless numbers of times great exception was taken to that through the public participation process.

Motions Nos. 15 and 17 are designed to provide the public and interested parties with ample time to comment on environmental assessment reports for larger and more complex projects. They ensure that these reports would be publicly available for at least 30 days before decisions would be made about those projects. These amendments would add precision to the important changes made by the standing committee. As a result, the public would be guaranteed a reasonable period of time in which it could access information and provide input, possibly influencing governmental decisions.

The balance of those clauses are legal housekeeping changes that would correct errors with respect to ensuring concurrence between the French and English versions of the bill and to ensure that Bill C-9 is consistent with other recent legislation.

World Health Day April 7th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, today we are celebrating World Health Day. This year the theme is “Healthy Environments for Children”.

Children are at greater risk from environmental threats because of their unique physiological, developmental and behavioural characteristics. As such, this is an issue that features prominently on Environment Canada's agenda.

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act is our key instrument through which we seek to reduce threats to our environment and to human health. We work closely with other federal government departments, particularly Health Canada, to advance our understanding of this issue.

Environment ministers of Canada, Mexico and the United States have adopted a cooperative agenda for children's health and the environment in North America. This agenda commits three countries to collaborate on projects to strengthen protection of children's health from environmental threats in the three countries.

Healthy environments for children should not be our goal for just one day but should be our forever commitment to future generations.