Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Mississauga.
Before I get into my remarks, I had better take a minute to help my hon. colleague across the floor, because unfortunately, she has the facts all fouled up. There are no facts in what she is talking about.
Let us take a minute to look at the time frame. There was a comment made that nothing has been done on this file for years and years. The truth of the matter is that the file became very active in the summer of 2006. We are now in 2013. I respectfully suggest that there has been a fair time frame between 2006 and 2013.
From February to March 2009, there was a series of engagement sessions with first nations communities to look at their problems and at anticipated solutions. In the fall and winter of 2009-10, government officials met with first nations chiefs to discuss their needs with respect to water and waste water on their reserves. From October 2010 to October 2011, without prejudice, first nations organizations addressed various concerns about water.
I mention water, because the hon. member across the way seemed to think that we did not do anything with this file, and nothing could be further from the truth.
There was also mention of there being no funding. Let us look at that for a minute.The government has committed $330.8 million over two years through economic action plan 2012. That plan runs, as members know, into 2013, as well. Therefore, there is indeed money for this project.
As we go further into 2014, the Government of Canada will have invested $3 billion to support delivery of drinking water and waste water for first nations. I respectfully submit for members that this is a sizable piece of change. Obviously, the government is taking water and waste water very seriously.
I stand today to declare my support for Bill S-8, the safe drinking water for first nations act. The proposed legislation would lead to further progress on the remarkable collaborative effort that has been under way for more than seven years to improve safe drinking water in first nations communities.
As the members of the House recognize, although considerable progress has been made to date, much work remains to be done to ensure that the residents of first nations communities have access to safe, clean and reliable drinking water. I am convinced that the key to safeguarding drinking water is to develop regulations using the same type of collaborative approach that has produced so much progress in recent years.
In 2006, the Government of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations agreed to a joint plan of action for first nations' drinking water. At that time, the parties committed to five specific action plans. They are, in no particular order, but all of them important, the following: implementing a clear protocol on water standards; ensuring that water systems operators are properly trained; making immediate fixes to water systems in 21 priority communities; establishing an expert panel to identify options for an effective regulatory regime for drinking water in first nations communities; and issuing regular updates on progress made through the plan of action. This collaborative plan inspired significant results and led to a further commitment of funds in an increased effort to make tangible, long-term progress.
For example, thanks to the government's ongoing investment in the circuit rider training program, the number of trained and certified operators, between 2010 and 2012, increased from 51% to 60%. First nations' drinking water systems have enjoyed this increased certification. For first nations' waste water systems, the number has risen from 42% to 54%.
The expert panel created under the plan of action staged a series of town hall sessions across Canada and identified three legislative options. We are talking about water and waste water, and as members in the House here this afternoon are aware, the focus is very much on targets.
One of these options, the delivery of regulations on a region-by-region basis, forms the basis of the legislative situation now before us. To improve the original version of that option, the Government of Canada has published a discussion paper and has met with representatives of first nations groups.
The government has been accused of not consulting, but here we are, a year later, after holding a series of 13 engagement sessions and hearing from more than 500 members of first nations. Throughout these sessions, the participants agreed on the urgent need to address health, safety and environmental concerns related to drinking water in first nations communities.
In 2010, the Government of Canada introduced a different version of Bill S-8, which died on the order paper at the dissolution of Parliament in March 2011.
I respectfully submit that the government has indeed paid close attention to waste water and water management on reserves. It has supplied dollars for the development of the programs. It has supplied training for the development of the programs. It has put in action a plan that ensures that the government has made a commitment to first nations for water and waste water, and it will continue that commitment over a period of years until all first nations communities have the same water and waste water as all the rest of Canada.