Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague opposite on putting forward, I believe, her first motion to the House of Commons. I have done so myself. It is not an easy thing to do, and sometimes it can cause a lot of work in one's own office. I appreciate that, and I want to make sure that my comments reflect that tone of appreciation.
I would, however, like to comment on some of the comments by the hon. colleague opposite in her speech with regard to the summer villages in Alberta, for example, which I am very well aware of. In fact, I actually just got off the phone with one of my municipalities. We were talking about this issue.
When a member puts forward a motion in the House of Commons and calls up different municipalities and says, “I'm going to do something that's going to get you more money for vital infrastructure in your riding”, that raises their expectations, which I think is unfortunate. There are a couple of things to look at. First, we know that this is a provincial jurisdiction. We know that this is under municipal jurisdiction. Under the wastewater systems effluent regulations under the Fisheries Act, we know that septic systems for individuals fall under provincial and municipal jurisdiction.
The other problem is the fact that the member herself acknowledges that she wanted to put forward a motion, knowing that it would not bind the government's hands. I find it somewhat troubling when the member opposite decides not to take the concrete steps of actual legislation. She would rather talk about it in the form of a motion, because she knows that it would require a royal recommendation and the government would not even have a chance to vote on it. Instead, it was put forward in this manner, which I find to be somewhat troubling. It raises the expectations of a municipality such as Bonnyville, which I just spoke to. They are not necessarily cognizant of all these facts.
The other aspect, as members well know, is that our government has invested a lot of money in many of the lakes and rivers for environmental protection. I know that Lake Simcoe has. I know that Georgian Bay has been announced. I know that Lake Winnipeg has received money for this. These are great things that should be celebrated. It should not be used as a fearmongering tactic to say that the environment is being penalized.
I would like to continue by thanking the member for Simcoe—Grey for the excellent work she has done in trying to advocate and for ensuring that everybody understands what the motion actually represents.
While I certainly appreciate the hon. member's good intentions, I must inform the House that the government will not be supporting the motion. The regulation of household septic systems off reserve is, as I said, the responsibility of provinces and territories. This simply is not an area of federal jurisdiction.
We continue, however, to take action, in areas of federal responsibility, to protect Canada's environment and the health of our citizens. Last July, for example, our government announced the new wastewater systems effluent regulations, which were established under the authority of the Fisheries Act, after consulting with the provinces, territories, aboriginal communities and other stakeholders. These regulations are the federal government's principal instrument for implementing the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment's Canada-wide strategy for the management of municipal wastewater effluent. While the regulations do not apply to household septic systems, they do tackle the largest source of water pollution in Canada.
Our government is also making historic investments in public infrastructure. Public wastewater infrastructure has been one of the key categories of investment under the federal infrastructure program. Since 2007, approximately $1.8 billion has been committed to over 1,200 wastewater projects across the country under the building Canada fund and a number of economic action plan infrastructure programs. Also, under Canada's economic action plan, our government provided $2 billion in low-interest loans to municipalities for housing-related infrastructure projects, including sewage and water systems.
Since 2005, over $600 million has been allocated under the gas tax fund toward wastewater infrastructure across Canada.
The Government of Canada will continue to support public wastewater infrastructure through programs such as the gas tax fund, which is now permanent at $2 billion per year. Municipalities can choose to spend 100% of this funding to upgrade their wastewater infrastructure. In ridings such as mine, in northeast Alberta, that have tremendous growth pressures and enormous responsibilities for more infrastructure, I know that many, but not all, of my municipalities are putting significant amounts of their gas tax money into exactly these kinds of projects. That is exactly the way they would like us to continue to fund them.
It is also worth noting that our government provided $550 million to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to establish the green municipal fund. The fund supports partnerships and the leveraging of public and private sector funding to achieve higher standards of air, water and soil quality as well as climate protection.
While the federal government does not have jurisdiction over private household septic systems, Canadians may be able to access federal support in a couple of ways. The first is through mortgage loan insurance, which can be purchased from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, with the full backing of the Government of Canada. The current parameters for government-backed mortgage loan insurance allow homeowners to refinance their mortgages up to 80% of the value of their homes. Qualified homeowners can apply for CMHC-insured loans for any purpose, including for upgrading septic systems.
Homeowners may also have access to federal funding under the investment in affordable housing framework 2011-2014. Under this framework, CMHC is providing more than $238 million per year to provinces and territories to reduce the number of Canadians in need of housing by improving access to affordable housing that is sound, suitable and sustainable.
Most jurisdictions, provinces and territories match the federal investment and are responsible for program design, delivery and administration. They have the flexibility to invest in a range of solutions, which could include assistance for the repair of septic systems, if they so choose.
In the Yukon and Prince Edward Island, CMHC delivers renovation programs off reserve. Under these programs, forgivable loans are available to qualifying low-income households to address major deficiencies in dwelling structures or systems, including plumbing.
On reserve, first nations chiefs and councils are responsible for planning and developing their capital facilities to provide for the basic infrastructure needs of the community. They are also responsible for the day-to-day operation of water and wastewater systems on reserve.
Our government is making significant investments to support first nations communities in managing their water and wastewater systems. New wastewater treatment systems are eligible for funding when managed centrally by the first nation.
I see that I am running out of time. I would like to once again highlight a couple of things our government has done, not only with CMHC and not only on reserve but in tackling some of the environmental issues in our rivers and lakes. As I have said before, I know that the House is very familiar with the upgrades in Lake Simcoe and Lake Winnipeg through our government. Those are real investments.
These are ways the government can take concrete action without members simply bringing motions forward that have no opportunity of being binding on the government or even on their own parties.
I would like to thank the member for bringing forth this motion so that we have the opportunity to discuss and talk about some of the options. However, at the end of the day, it is important to recognize that our Conservative government is taking real steps to help our environment and to tackle some of the real issues rural Canadians face every single day.