Mr. Speaker, I would like to repeat the supply motion of the Reform Party:
That this House call on the government to demonstrate its commitment to accountability and to the efficient and effective use of public funds by reporting to the House, no later than the first week of June each year, what measures have been taken by the government to address unresolved problems identified by the Auditor General in his report such as-
I go to our subclause (f):
that the Minister of the Environment address the duplication of regulations between the federal government and the provincial governments regarding the pulp and paper industry-
I believe many observers of the House of Commons agree that Reform Party members have brought a constructive approach to all matters before the House. We have led the way in the establishment of a very direct formula. We look at the good and compliment; we review areas of concern and define them; and finally we work to create a positive response with an attitude to making the process work.
First let me commend the Minister of the Environment for her exhibition of an attitude of co-operation and her expression of a desire that all members of the House of Commons have access to relevant information and the ability to dialogue with officials in her department.
I also wish to compliment the deputy minister and the assistant deputy minister on their recent interview with the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. As one of the two Reform MPs on the standing committee I was very impressed with their very forthright and business-like attitude and look forward to working with both the minister and her officials.
As the member for Kootenay East I am acutely aware of the environment. I have in my constituency Glacier National Park, Yoho National Park and Kootenay National Park. My home on Wasa Lake is only five miles from Crestbrook Forest Industries pulp mill at Skookumchuk and as a consequence I have a great sensitivity to sharing a pristine wilderness with a large industrial production facility.
I am pleased to report that in total Crestbrook Forest Industries has exhibited a very responsible attitude toward its potential liability to the environment. In fact it has just completed a $200 million project which responds directly to concerns about pollution.
Crestbrook, along with other members of the pulp and paper industry, come under regulations put forward by both the federal and provincial governments. I know from casual conversations with various people in the industry that the duplication of regulations between the two levels of government regarding the pulp and paper industry has been frustrating at times. I refer specifically to the Auditor General's report on the duplication of regulations.
We are concerned about attracting international investment and creating a climate of confidence for the domestic investor. There is nothing that scares capital more than the unknown. Investors must have the security of knowing what the rules of the game are going to be.
Learning from history I note in paragraph 26.37 of the Auditor General's report that:
The January 1993 report of the Sub-committee on Regulations and Competitiveness of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance criticized the Department for not assessing the benefits of regulations.
-a commitment of $4.1 billion in resources, with no apparent sense of the magnitude of the benefits, was not reasonable.
That is a commitment of $4.1 billion in resources being thrown into the unknown.
The Auditor General continues:
The data to assess the effectiveness of the regulations, including long-term impacts, are expected to come eventually from the Environmental Effects Monitoring Program.
I ask that members to note the words: "are expected to come eventually". In the next paragraph the Auditor General states:
The Environmental Effects Monitoring guidelines and program continued to be developed after the regulations were passed.
I draw to the attention of members the words: "continued to be developed". He continues:
In early 1993, the industry expressed concern that the program was still evolving and that its final scope and costs to all were not yet fully defined.
I note there again the word evolving. From this instructive lesson we can see why the investor in Canadian business has some serious concerns about the application and impact our laws and regulations bring to our desired direction.
The Reform Party believes there must be a balance in which environmental considerations carry equal weight, that they do not overpower economic, social and technical considerations in the development of any project. We believe that without any economic development and the income generated therefrom the environment will not be protected nor enjoyed.
Overlap of enforcement is an additional problem. For example, I am aware of two recent cases in British Columbia, one involving Weyerhaeuser's Pulp Mill at Kamloops and the other at Howe Sound Pulp and Paper on the coast. As a result of effluent spills, both federal and provincial agencies felt obliged to take legal samples. A couple of days after the provincial government regulators turned up, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans felt obliged to use a search warrant to obtain information and repeated the process already completed by the provincial government.
There are also redundant regulations. As an example, at the federal level there are two regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act affecting the pulp industry which deal with the use of defoaming agents and pentachlorophenol contaminated wood chips. Both these regulations were introduced to control potential sources of dioxins and furans in the pulping process. Pentachlorophenol is no longer used by the sawmilling industry and therefore this regulation is redundant. The petrochemical agency has cleaned up the oil based defoaming agents, making the second regulation also redundant.
New initiatives under federal fishery regulations require pulp mills to do environmental effects monitoring at a cost of $150,000 to $200,000 a year per mill and there is little or no confidence that the results will be scientifically meaningful. It is a case of collecting information for the sake of having the information, with no apparent value but at very high cost to the industry.
In the spirit of co-operation, I know the environment minister is aware there are federal-provincial environmental agreements that have been drafted and reviewed by senior level bureaucrats at the federal level in co-operation with the provincial ministries of environment in B.C. and Quebec. I understand early drafts have also been developed for Ontario and Nova Scotia. They are very close to conclusion.
In light of the government's much quoted red book position on the elimination of duplication and overlap of federal-provincial services, I ask the minister to push the various buttons required to get the agreements completed. The minister today acknowledged these agreements are pending. I am asking for priority to expedite completion.
I will be sending a copy of this speech to the chairman of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development to indicate that I will be raising this issue with a view to having the committee encourage the early completion of these agreements. This is a no cost way of enhancing efficiencies in the application and enforcement of regulations, thereby reducing the cost to industry.
In addition, I will be circulating copies of my speech to all interested parties in a spirit of co-operation to assist in the creation of a positive working relationship with an attitude of making the process work. I invite constructive criticism and input, especially from industry, to the suggestions I have made today.
As stated, Reform Party members are striving to bring a constructive approach to all matters before the House. However, as indicated in our supply motion, it is imperative that the Minister of the Environment, not later than the first week of June each year, deliver to the House a report outlining what measures have been taken to address the unresolved problems identified by the Auditor General. As he chose to focus on the issue of pulp and paper regulations, identifying specific deficiencies, we anticipate that the minister will respond positively to this most reasonable position put forward by the Reform Party.
That kind of response will clearly demonstrate the government's commitment to accountability to the House and, through it, to the people of Canada.