Skip to main content

ENVI Committee Meeting

Notices of Meeting include information about the subject matter to be examined by the committee and date, time and place of the meeting, as well as a list of any witnesses scheduled to appear. The Evidence is the edited and revised transcript of what is said before a committee. The Minutes of Proceedings are the official record of the business conducted by the committee at a sitting.

For an advanced search, use Publication Search tool.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the accessibility of this publication, please contact us at

Previous day publication Next day publication




[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Thursday, September 21, 2000

• 1025


The Chair (Mr. Charles Caccia (Davenport, Lib.)): We are now on the red screen, and we can proceed. Before Madame Girard-Bujold formally moves this motion, which is her intent—


Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold (Jonquière, BQ): You're saying that you would have liked to make comments?


The Chair: I would be glad to make some comments before you present the motion, but if you wish to present the motion and hear my comments afterwards—


Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: No.


The Chair: Whatever your preference is.


Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Good. Mr. Chair, with your permission, I will yield to my colleague from Temiscaming, Mr. Pierre Brien. He will move the motion and explain what motivated us to make this proposal before the Committee on Environment. Thank you, Mr. Chair.


The Chair: Before Mr. Brien speaks, it would be interesting to know two things: whether Mr. Brien would like to hear some comments from the chair on the general thrust of the motion and whether Madame Girard-Bujold intends to move the motion on his behalf.


Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: I intend to move the motion, followed by Mr. Brien with his comments.


The Chair: There are certain observations that can be made before the motion is put, and I was wondering if Mr. Brien would like to be brought up to date on certain observations regarding this motion or if he wants to proceed regardless.


Mr. Pierre Brien (Temiscaming, BQ): If your comments are short, relevant and useful for what follows, I have no objection to hearing them now.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: I myself would prefer to move the motion before Mr. Brien and you make your comments. Is it all right?

Mr. Pierre Brien: Yes.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The Chair: You have the floor.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: The motion reads as follows:

    That the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development hold a public meeting, with witnesses, before September 29, 2000, regarding the major landfill project at the Adams mine in the Temiscaming area of Ontario.

I have read the motion, Mr. Chair. If Mr. Brien or you have comments to make, please do.

Mr. Pierre Brien: Would you like me to proceed now, Mr. Chair?

The Chair: Yes.

Mr. Pierre Brien: All right. I do not know how well this issue is understood or how much information you have on the subject. I will therefore explain to you briefly why my colleague moved this motion today. There is a lot of opposition to a project in the north-eastern part of Ontario and north-western part of Quebec. It proposes to convert an old open-pit mine into a mega-landfill site.

The Ontario Ministry of Environment has authorized the use of one of the three mine pits as a landfill site. This raises many environmental issues. For example, no later than yesterday, the geologist who used to operate that mine said: "This doesn't make sense. The ground is fractured; the rock is no longer watertight." One must understand that this mine has been closed for the last 10 years. The pits are filled with water and look more like a lake. The ground at the bottom which has never been seen by the present proponents wishing to convert the mine into a landfill site is fractured.

Briefly, without going into details concerning the environmental technique used, a wall of sand will be put in place to prevent the waste from reaching the external face of the rock. However, the bottom will not be protected. The waste liquids will deposit at the bottom of the mine and will then be pumped to the surface.

This raises many questions. The technology has never been used elsewhere. We are talking about 20 million tons of waste which will be buried there. I simply wish to explain how absurd this is on an environmental level.

• 1030

The developer has signed with the cities of Toronto, Peel, York and Durham a contract in which he undertakes to transport the waste from those four cities to this old mine. The contract says that the municipality will get a volume discount if the tonnage carried is higher than what was anticipated. Since these commitments cover 20 years and since a discount is provided for, I really doubt that those four municipalities will be interested in recycling.

This raises some questions that have not until now been subjected to a large public debate. Very limited environmental hearings were held in Ontario and they concerned only the efficiency aspect of the technique used to pump and recover waste liquids.

You might be tempted to ask why the federal government should get involved in this. In my opinion, the federal government could invoke several reasons to justify its intervention and to ask for an impact study. The following two aspects seem the most important to me: the Aboriginal land claims and the possibility of an interprovincial conflict. Although this old mine is located in the north-eastern part of Ontario, some watercourses flow in a north- south direction and flow into lake Temiscaming, located on the Quebec-Ontario border. If contaminated waters reach lake Temiscaming, a border lake, there is an important risk of environmental damage outside Ontario. The federal government can intervene when interprovincial aspects come into play. Besides, 20 Quebec municipalities and 23 Ontario municipalities have made known their opposition to this project and have made an official request.

Petitions coming as much from the Ontario side as from the Quebec side have been signed. In Quebec, more specifically in the Temiscaming region which has 15,000 inhabitants, 5,000 people have signed during the last six weeks a petition asking the federal government to make an impact study and for the Quebec government to exert pressures on the federal government to enjoin it to do so.

Mr. Chair, I see that the artillery is coming out. I do not know if people came in greater numbers to defeat this motion, but I am open to suggestions and very flexible. I wanted to put this issue to your attention in case some of you might wish to give it serious thought. I think it would be interesting and relevant for the Committee on Environment to examine the opportunity for the Minister of Environment to ask for a federal impact study.

I have heard some people say that I was maybe too hasty. In moving this motion, I wanted to attract your attention ton the fact that, on October 3rd, the promoter will be signing with the Toronto City Council a contract in which he will undertake to deliver the waste to the mine. As you know, elections are to be held in all Ontario municipalities this year, so they are hurrying to sign the contract because they want to avoid doing so just before the elections and binding the hands of the next city council. Such a contract must be approved by the beginning of October. The promoter and the four cities are getting ready to finalize the negotiations concerning costs. A supply of 1.3 million tons per year is presently anticipated. That is a lot of waste.

Such activities go against all the efforts made to convince people to do more recycling and not to invest only in landfill. We cannot continue to bury the million tons of waste we produce as we are doing right now. We will certainly not be able to transport this waste to far-away towns, washing our hands of it because towns like those in the north-eastern part of Ontario are far and not very populated, nor can we think that the problem is solved as soon as the waste disappears.

To illustrate the magnitude of this tonnage, it is the equivalent of 122 railway carloads of compressed wastes being delivered at the old mine every day.

• 1035

I went to Toronto this summer and I went back last week to meet with representatives of the municipal councils of Durham, York and Toronto. Just last week, it was said before these three municipal councils that the project had the support of the local population and that agreements had been signed with the municipalities. It was therefore said in Toronto that they were willing hosts. Let me explain to you on what this assertion is based.

There has been talk of this project for more than 10 years. It never had the importance it now has, but it has been in the air for the last 10 years. The promoter has succeeded in convincing the municipal boards of the three municipalities located near the site to sign a contract. These municipalities are Larder-Lake, Englehart and Kirkland Lake. They are located near the mine and they have signed an agreement in principle with the promoter in which they promise not to oppose the project and the environmental permits in exchange for annual fees of $700,000. They were definitely bought, Mr. Chair, and none of them has the mine site on its municipal territory.

MPs from the cities may not be aware of this, but in some parts like north-western Quebec and north-eastern Ontario, there are places where there is no municipalization. The mine is not located in a municipalized zone. The first level of political representation for these people is the provincial government. These people live on what is called a territory without municipal organization. They are part of regional municipalities. They take part in these things, but the territory where they live is not recognized as a municipality. The township people where the landfill site is located are opposed to the project.

Therefore, the promoter says in Toronto that they are willing hosts. However, anyone who has visited the north-eastern part of Ontario or the north-western part of Quebec during the last few weeks has easily observed that there is a very strong opposition to this project. Moreover, a poll was conducted on the Ontario side. It was financed by the Liberal provincial MP, Mr. David Ramsay, who was here this morning in the company of members of the coalition to give a press conference asking for the intervention of the federal government. In the poll in question conducted by a Sudbury firm, 70% of the people, even those of the three municipalities concerned, were opposed to the project.

More than 2,000 people were present at a public hearing held on the Ontario side at the beginning of July. There will be a couple of hundred more on the Quebec side this weekend. The general outcry will grow on both sides of the border. No need to tell you that it is hard to hold back the people because some of them are more radical than others and will do anything to stop the project.

What I am asking you this morning, Mr. Chair, is to hold a hearing here during which you could hear the promoter, if you so wish—this isn't a problem—and people from the coalition. There is a coalition in Quebec and there's another in Ontario and they have a lot of technical expertise. They could explain to you how absurd this project is, show you alternatives and explain how, on a social level, this project is not right.

Besides, as far as I know, recycling is a big hit in the City of Edmonton as in Halifax. I would like you to hear the coalition run by Mr. Pierre Bélanger on the Ontario side, as well as Quebec Aboriginals who are opposed to the project and municipal elected representatives, amongst others, from Ontario and Quebec. They are asking you to intervene.

They are not asking for much. They are asking that the committee devote an hour and a half to two hours of its time to study the issue and to examine its relevance in order to determine if a recommendation should be made to the Minister of Environment asking him if the federal government is concerned by this.

This seems to me very relevant and I repeat for those who did not understand me earlier that the federal government can, according to two purposes of the act, intervene where an Aboriginal issue exists. It can do so in accordance with its fiduciary obligation towards Aboriginals.

• 1040

By the way, they were not consulted concerning the project. They were not implicated. They were notified at a certain moment and, in 1995, they sent a letter of opposition, but there were no other contacts.

The federal government can also intervene when there is an interprovincial conflict or the possibility of an interprovincial impact. The request must then be made according to a formal process which is ongoing presently, following a request made to the Minister of Environment by Quebec and Ontario municipalities.

Mr. Chair, such is the project. There is a strange coalition. Besides, this coalition is not very partisan. It is composed of all sorts of people, such as BQ MPs, Liberal MPs, provincial MPs, Aboriginals, people from Ontario, people from Quebec. This coalition expects the federal government to do something. It also expects, if necessary, the governments of Quebec and Ontario to take part in this. According to what we have seen up to now, it seems that the project has the support of the government of Ontario and that this government does not make much case of the local population's opposition.

I will leave you on this note, Mr. Chair. Municipal elections will be held everywhere in Ontario on November 13. Since the support in Toronto, York, Peel and Durham is based on the fact that the towns are willing hosts, they are told to wait until the next municipal election before signing the contract to be sure that these hosts are really willing. If it is the case, they will go ahead. But citizens must be given the chance to express their opinion in a democratic way. That is what they want to do.

Mr. Chair, that is what I am asking of you. I would like the committee to study the issue.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Brien.


As indicated earlier, there are five or six points I would like to make before opening up the floor for discussion between now and 11 a.m., which is when we have to leave this room. I'm sure there are other members who would like to make brief interventions.

The observations from the chair are of a general nature and they are: one, I would like to congratulate Mr. Brien, of course, for coming forward; two, I should also congratulate the Bloc Québécois for its faith in federalism, which is confirmed by this request; three, I would also like to indicate that no one is happy with what is happening between Toronto and northern Ontario these days, particularly people in this room; and four, for the information of Mr. Brien in particular, the council of Toronto is now on its last few days, as a new council will be elected in November, and it is very possible that this entire decision will have to be revisited after the election of the new council.

Finally, as Mr. Brien told us, because 23 municipalities are opposed, the responsibility of the Ontario government at Queen's Park is of paramount importance. This matter will in the end have to be dealt with at Queen's Park. Since the Bloc Québécois is a defender of provincial rights, I'm sure it will also want to make sure that the provincial responsibility of Queen's Park is not denied by a measure that at this stage at least, it seems to me, is premature.

I would see a role for this committee at a later date, perhaps in the new year, after mature reflection, having seen what has happened with a new council in Toronto and what has or has not happened at Queen's Park, a reflection that would allow then for a course of action that would not be won before September 29, because of a situation of turmoil, of political friction without precedence perhaps, because of the number of municipalities opposed, and really with regard to an issue that at least at this stage is still perfectly of a provincial character.

Having said that as an observation from the chair, I would invite comments from the committee, and Madam Catterall is ready to speak.

• 1045

Ms. Marlene Catterall (Ottawa West—Nepean, Lib.): Mr. Chair, the Ottawa River borders my constituency from end to end, and I think it's fair to say that the people I represent regard the Ottawa River as a very precious resource, a tremendous heritage asset, an environmental asset, and a link between our two founding cultures. We look across the Ottawa River and we see our partners in Quebec. So it has a lot of emotional as well as practical importance to my riding.

I certainly am concerned about any environmental impact on that river. I think we have a lot of work to do to clean it up, rather than to take any further risks with its environmental status. So to me this is an extremely important issue.

At the same time, because it's an important issue, I would not want to see the committee treat it superficially. To suggest that we should hold a hearing within the next week to me would not be giving it the seriousness it deserves. So I'm going to vote against this motion. In one hearing we couldn't possibly begin to touch the serious issues that are involved here.

But I do think it is important and that there's a role for this committee to play in emphasizing that importance. What I would like to propose to the committee is that we defeat this motion and that we in fact adopt a much more substantive motion asking the Minister of the Environment to consider holding a federal environmental assessment. At this point I don't know if it has jurisdiction to do that, but I do know that this touches two provinces at least, and I think that may put it within the jurisdiction of the federal Environmental Assessment Act. That is the step I would like to see the committee take, Mr. Chair.

The Chair: Thank you, Madam Catterall.

Next is Mr. Lincoln, followed by Mr. Herron.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln (Lac-Saint-Louis, Lib.): Mr. Chair, I've followed with great interest my colleague's motion and his description of the problem, to which I fully subscribe. I think a lot of us here have not only followed this issue but also addressed it within our caucuses. A lot of us are very worried about it. As environmentalists, we can't sustain it.

With regard to Mrs. Catterall's idea, I hope we can find consensus here to adopt this, which will be a far stronger measure than just holding a hearing. I think what we are trying to do really is to reach the point where we strongly ask the minister to hold an environmental assessment, which is really the only option the federal government has in this issue. So I would like to suggest to my colleagues on the other side that we rally around the proposal made by Mrs. Catterall, which will have a far more direct impact than just having a hearing.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Lincoln.

Mr. Herron.

Mr. John Herron (Fundy—Royal, PC): Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I think the motion brought forth by Mr. Brien has merit. I think the least we owe to the communities involved is a hearing. I think we've had enough debate, in my humble opinion, and I'd like you to put the question.

The Chair: Mr. Gruending would like to speak, so if you don't mind, I will recognize Mr. Gruending.

Mr. John Herron: After my good friend, Dennis.

The Chair: Mr. Gruending, please.

Mr. Dennis Gruending (Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, NDP): I also believe we should have this hearing. I don't think having this hearing would preclude the kind of activity Ms. Catterall and Mr. Lincoln are in favour of. I also would like to see the question called.

The Chair: Fine. Are you ready for the question?

Madam Kraft Sloan, briefly.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan (York North, Lib.): I would like to support both motions.

The Chair: There is only one motion before us, so we are now working on that motion.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: I know there's only one motion, but there's also an idea that Madam Catterall has put forward, and I would hope that members would be amenable to supporting both.

The Chair: Are you ready for the question?

• 1050

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Before the question is called, Mr. Chair, I want to know whether Mrs. Catterall's motion would be votable today, whether it's technically feasible, because I think it's key to what we do here.

The Chair: There's a question of receiving the motion or having Ms. Catterall word it in a manner such that everybody can hear it and understand it in both languages. So we will deal with that as soon as we have taken a vote on this, if Ms. Catterall is willing to proceed today. It can also be proceeded with at another meeting of this committee.

Are you ready for the question?

Mr. John Herron: Recorded vote.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: On a point of order, I would like to know whether there is consensus in the committee to consider Mrs. Catterall's motion today, before we proceed with number one, because to me it's germane to what we're discussing here. I would like to hear Mr. Brien's point.

The Chair: One step at a time, Mr. Lincoln, one step at a time.

Are you ready for the question?

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Point of order.

The Chair: Point of order.

Yes, Mr. Brien.


Mr. Pierre Brien: I agree to a debate on Ms. Catterall's motion today. I will indicate right now that that motion is much stronger than mine. In fact, according to the version I was given, we would ask the federal government to have an impact study, a federal assessment, made. Mr. Chair, this effectively seems to me much stronger. However, as a preventive measure, I would also like an agreement on my proposal.

However, I would be willing to support your motion, Ms. Catterall, that is to accept that it be debated immediately and be adopted today. From my point of view, hearing witnesses does not prevent us from doing this. Besides, I would at least like to make sure that my motion is agreed to, because I fear that in the end, we will not be able to debate yours. I would therefore hesitate to withdraw mine without the guarantee that yours will be adopted.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: I would like to make a suggestion.


The Chair: I'm sorry. Madam Kraft Sloan had a point of order, then you have a point of order.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: No, I just wanted to follow up on Mr. Lincoln's point of order, which was to make sure we had an opportunity to discuss Mr. Lincoln's idea before we proceeded quickly into a vote and just feel railroaded into—

The Chair: No, excuse me. There were two requests by two members that we proceed with a vote, and I have to take that into account. It was proposed by Mr. Herron and by Mr. Gruending. So there has to be some order in this business.

Are you ready for the question?

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Hold it a minute, Mr. Chair.

The Chair: Are you ready for the question?

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Mr. Chair, on a point of order, I would like to make a suggestion that might rally everybody here.

We're all for getting movement on this file. We all feel the same way. How would it be if we have unanimous consent to deal with Mrs. Catterall's motion first? This would put Mr. Brien at ease, because what he is saying—and I agree with him—is he wants to hold back just in case Mrs. Catterall's motion is defeated or not seen. If we deal with it first, it's a far more important issue than holding a hearing.

The Chair: We understand Mr. Lincoln's request.

Is there unanimous consent to proceed on the proposal by Madame Catterall? If there is, then we will deal with Madame Catterall's proposal first, before taking the vote. I'm looking at Mr. Herron and Mr. Gruending, because they are the ones who have asked that the vote be taken now. Is there agreement? Do we seek consensus first on Madame Catterall's motion? I am looking at the two who have sought the floor, asking for a vote now.

Mr. Jim Gouk (Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, Canadian Alliance): Why can't we just have this redrafted so that it's one motion, combining...

The Chair: No, they can't be combined into one motion. They are two totally separate motions.

Mr. Jim Gouk: Nothing says they can't be merged.

The Chair: All right. So there is consensus to seek consensus on Madame Catterall's motion first? Fine. Madame Catterall has the floor.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: I would move, Mr. Chair, that the committee urge the Minister of the Environment to consider holding a full environmental assessment into the... however it is in Madame Girard-Bujold's motion.

• 1055


Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Mr. Chair, in French, it would read more or less as:“Que le comité encourage le ministre de l'Environnement à considérer...”

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: “Que le comité demande”.

Some hon. members: “Que le comité demande”.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: “Que le comité demande au ministre de l'Environnement de considérer la tenue d'une étude d'impact environmental sur le projet de la mine Adams.”


The Chair: “To establish a panel” is the technical terminology needed by the act.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: To establish a panel?

The Chair: A panel—under section 78 or so of the act, whatever the number is.

Ms. Marlene Catterall: The minister knows how to interpret our motion, Mr. Chair.

The Chair: So we have now the motion that has been proposed by consensus by Madame Catterall. Are you ready for the question?

(Motion agreed to)

The Chair: Thank you. That takes care of the whole matter.

With that, we will resume hearings on Tuesday. Thank you very much for your cooperation.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: No, no, no.

Mr. Pierre Brien: We agreed to consider this motion first.

The Chair: Yes.

Mr. Pierre Brien: We didn't agree to kill the other one.

The Chair: If it's the wish to put the other motion, it is still before us.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Yes.

Mr. Pierre Brien: Yes.

The Chair: This is a recorded vote, I understand.

(Motion agreed to: yeas 8; nays 7)

A voice: So what the heck is going on? I have no idea.

The Chair: The meeting is adjourned.