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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was victoria.

Last in Parliament August 2012, as NDP MP for Victoria (B.C.)

Won her last election, in 2011, with 51% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply May 16th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member mentioned the importance of creating sustainable economic opportunities in Canada. He stated that with respect to the motion at hand there are new approaches, like biological controls and others, that are helping to create economic opportunities in farming. In fact in Victoria, the city that I represent, organic landscaping is one of the fastest growing sectors.

What does the member think of the Conservative members' faith that they seem to want to continue to place strictly in the chemical industry and to maintain the continued use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes?

Business of Supply May 16th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I asked the member who spoke previously to this what he could tell us of Madame Gélinas' scathing report of PMRA's management of pesticides in Canada. I did not get an answer to my question.

I would like to ask the hon. member to tell us what he knows of Madame Gélinas' recent report on the handling of pesticides by Health Canada and PMRA.

Business of Supply May 16th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member confuses exempted products and other more dangerous toxic chemicals.

However, what can the hon. member tell us about the last Auditor General's report on PMRA as to the adequacy of its use of evaluations and norms, the adequacy of the evaluation of new products and the re-evaluation of old products?

Business of Supply May 16th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, if I understood the first question correctly, the member asked about the percentage of cosmetic use of pesticides. I have been told that it represents a substantial amount, up to 35%. I base the percentage on what I have read. I would have to rely upon the experts to give a conclusive answer on that.

He asked about the process to follow up on this, if passed. As I understand, this type of motion originally came from the Liberal side of the House, and I know there is a fair amount of support for it in the House. A similar type of motion has often been considered by many people and communities in Quebec, and I know there is a lot of support there.

If the motion passes, hopefully it will be converted into a bill and pressure will be placed on the government to act as soon as possible.

Business of Supply May 16th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.

It is true that a number of agencies did re-evaluate 2,4-D. What I found interesting in the research I did was that all the re-evaluations were based on exactly the same documentation, which was produced by a single company and provided to several agencies. While it might appear that the product was re-evaluated several times, in fact it was re-evaluated only once.

I therefore believe in the rationale and the need for rethinking how such products are re-evaluated. What is more, in her report, Ms. Gélinas mentions that the evaluation methods need to be called into question.

Business of Supply May 16th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to support this motion and speak today to this matter, which is extremely important to Canadians.

It is already six years since the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development recommended that the federal government should give absolute priority to protecting human health and the environment by applying the precautionary principle in all pest management decisions.

As in many other areas, the Liberals did nothing. It is high time now for this federal government to act in the interest of Canadians and not in the interest of the chemical companies.

Canadians expect the government to act in their interest to reduce the presence of pesticides in the environment. For many years now, communities all across Canada have been exploring ways of encouraging the choice of lower-risk products and reducing the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes, that is to say, products that are not necessary to protect health.

Having been a city councillor in previous years, I am familiar with the efforts that many of these municipalities and cities have made. Six years ago, for example, the people of Victoria, known as the “garden city”, started a campaign for a bylaw against pesticides. They got organized, did their research, had scientists come, and demonstrated to a great majority of city council that pesticides were not necessary to have beautiful gardens and lovely lawns. A process is now underway, as a result, to restrict the use of pesticides, as is the case in many other cities in Canada.

The province of Quebec has also taken steps to reduce the use of certain pesticides in order to protect the health of Quebeckers and the environment.

All Canadians are entitled to this kind of protection. They are entitled to equitable protection and a less toxic environment. Municipal governments and some provincial governments have taken steps to fill the gap left by the federal government’s absence from this important area.

The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Ms. Gélinas, issued a stinging critique of the federal government’s management of pesticides. She said:

—the federal government is not managing pesticides effectively...the federal government still cannot ensure that the older pesticides we are using are safe—

She added that the public is concerned about the dangers of pesticides and that, as a result of her audit, she is concerned as well.

According to her audit, for example, the federal government is not adequately ensuring that many pesticides used in Canada meet current standards for protecting public health and the quality of the environment. She discovered major flaws in the regulation and evaluation of a new pesticide. She also revealed that many products are approved in an unsatisfactory way.

She noted as well that the product evaluation methods are not up to date and that the re-evaluation of older but still widely-used pesticides proceeds at a very slow pace in Canada.

She also said:

It is likely that some pesticides on the market that have not yet been re-evaluated will also fail to meet today's standards.

The federal government’s inaction in this matter is appalling.

The reasons for this motion and the need for action are clear. The Ontario College of Family Physicians has verified positive associations between pesticide exposure and cancers of the brain, prostate, kidney and pancreas, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, leukemia, nervous system disorders, birth defects, and other developmental disorders. The doctors' orders are clear: Avoid exposure to all pesticides whenever and wherever possible.

I would like to read to the House, which is largely male dominated, a quote by Dr. Paul Claman, clinical director of reproductive medicine at the University of Ottawa, who said, “Scientific evidence links landscaping pesticides to impaired male fertility”. I will just leave that for the reflection of the many men in this House.

Close to 70,000 Canadians will die of cancer this year and 149,000 will be diagnosed. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars seeking a cure, and yet the government hesitates on a simple act of prevention.

We may hear today from some members who are skeptical about the science, that the science is not absolute. They will point to studies that purport to raise doubts about the link between pesticides and cancer, birth defects and other health problems. Of course, science is rarely absolute. However, there is some absolute science out there about pesticides. In large doses they are poison. Where the science is not absolute is with respect to safe doses. There is no conclusive scientific evidence that a safe dose exists.

This motion reverses the onus in favour of Canadians' health and the environment by requiring scientific and medical proof, assessed in a public forum instead of behind closed doors, that a chemical is safe. This is the precautionary principle where there is persuasive reason to believe that some harm can be done, preventive measures are taken. We do not do that enough. We must prevent health problems before they occur. This is not just precautionary, it is just common sense.

The most compelling argument is that it is entirely unnecessary. Simple cost effective measures and alternatives exist. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation itself argues that by simply using a mixture of grasses instead of a monoculture lawn, homeowners can avoid pesticides and use less water, less fuel, less maintenance and less money on their lawns.

If hon. members want proof, they can just walk outside these doors to the front lawn of Parliament Hill which is maintained free of pesticides. They can wander down to Rideau Hall where the Governor General's extensive lawns and gardens are maintained with no health risks to her young daughter and the many visitors.

Using pesticides for ornamental use is like treating a cold with chemotherapy. It is a no-brainer. Why take this unnecessary risk with the health of our children?

Budget Implementation Act, 2006 May 15th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member mentioned that in the early years the Liberal government inherited a difficult situation and had to make very tough decisions. That is undoubtedly true. I remember the then prime minister saying to Canadians that they had to tighten their belts, and they did. The debt was paid over the backs of ordinary Canadians, municipalities, cities and the provinces. They paid. They helped out.

Then a surplus began to accumulate. That surplus was never turned back to ordinary Canadians. It went to subsidies for large corporations. In some years, $1.4 billion in subsidies went to the oil and gas industry.

I am wondering if the hon. member feels that this was a sensitive way of helping ordinary Canadians deal with the very serious issues they were facing with these six years of record surpluses that the Liberals acquired.

Budget Implementation Act, 2006 May 15th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the hon. member a question regarding post-secondary education.

I congratulate the government on its tax credit for skills training which is very nice and a good first step. However, with regard to the issue of post-secondary education, the government has increased the amount that students can borrow without investing at all in lower tuition fees and without investing, as it promised during the last election, in a dedicated post-secondary education transfer.

I wonder if the member considers the equivalent of what amounts to $83 to buy books and the apprenticeship credit to be a national strategy to help our young people face the challenges of the new economy.

Budget Implementation Act, 2006 May 15th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I also deplore the fact that many previous governments did not keep their election promises. In this regard, I have a question regarding post-secondary education. Last week, the Minister of Human Resources claimed that the Canada social transfer included, and I quote from Hansard:

—$16 billion for education—

However, only $8.5 billion are available for this transfer. These funds are for social assistance and a number of other programs, not just post-secondary education. It seems, once again, that we will have to make a leap of faith and that the government has not kept its promise in this matter. During the election campaign, the Conservatives also made a very clear promise concerning a fund exclusively for post-secondary education.

In the interest of transparency, will my colleague elaborate on the figures before this House?

Budget Implementation Act, 2006 May 15th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague opposite for his remarks.

This weekend, I spoke with families in my riding who said they were coming out behind with this change to the national child benefit supplement and this $1,200. This budget does nothing to help those families, not just in terms of child care, but also in terms of housing. Of course there is the $800 million that comes from last year’s NDP budget, which had already been approved, but no more, even though we know that the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is making billions of dollars in profits.

This budget is also silent on the Kyoto protocol. We know that Canada is going to lose its credibility in that respect. This budget is a step backward in numerous areas.

My question to my colleague is this. Given that the Bloc supports a number of values that are important to me and to a lot of Canadians and Quebeckers, why and how could it have supported a budget like this, which is truly a step backward? I find that hard to understand.