|| That, in the opinion of the House, beginning on the 22nd day of April (Earth Day) next:
||(a) all pesticides which are regulated pursuant to the Pest Control Products Act be banned: (i) within a dwelling-house; (ii) on any parcel of land on which a dwelling-house is situated; (iii) on any place that is within one hundred metres of a parcel of land described in paragraph (ii); (iv) in any school, hospital, office or similar building in which members of the public customarily stay for more than a day or work; or (v) on any private or public land that is customarily used by members of the public as visitors, licensees or in any other authorized capacity for recreation or entertainment, including but not limited to parks and sports grounds;
||(b) that this ban not apply to a building used for the husbandry of animals, the cultivation of plants or the storage, processing, packaging or distribution of plants or animals or products made primarily from plants or animals, or in the immediate vicinity of such a building;
||(c) that this ban not apply to a control product used within an enclosed building: to purify water intended for the use of humans or animals; to control or destroy a health hazard; to control or destroy pests that have caused an infestation; for commercial agricultural purposes; as a wood preservative; or, as an insect repellent for personal use; and
||(d) that should further exemptions be sought to this pesticide ban, then the onus to prove safety shall be placed on the manufacturer to show to the satisfaction of both the Minister of Health and the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health, through scientific and medical evidence, that an exemption is justified.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Victoria.
I rise to speak on behalf of all New Democrats to our motion to ban the use of pesticides used for cosmetic purposes in private homes and public spaces, a motion that I am pleased to have rest in my name.
In so doing, I would like to recognize the important work being done on this issue by our members for Winnipeg Centre, Skeena—Bulkley Valley and Victoria.
Only five countries in the world use more pesticides per capita than Canada. This is an issue that impacts our environment and the very health of Canadians, which is why New Democrats are calling upon parliamentarians from all parties to support the motion and take a positive step forward on the issue together.
In backyards and school yards, parks, gardens, green spaces across Canada, a toxic cocktail of cancer causing chemicals are being used to kill weeds and pests. While these carcinogens are very effective at keeping our yards and public spaces looking green, they are far from being green. We are talking about pesticides that in many cases may have life-altering implications, not just in the near term but decades down the road, such as immune system damage, reproductive damage, skeletal abnormalities, skin damage and cancer.
As the Canadian Cancer Society has said:
|| Since ornamental use of pesticides has no countervailing health benefit and has the potential to cause harm, we call for a ban on the use of pesticides on lawns and gardens.
Why does the federal government continue to allow these cancer causing pesticides to be used? These chemicals are seeping into our soil, leaching into the water we drink, being absorbed by our homes, harming our bodies and claiming the lives of our children.
Only yesterday we watched as a warehouse fire broke out near the village of Debden, Saskatchewan. The fire burned pesticides and placed hundreds of school children at potential health risk. This dramatic example shows the importance not only of safe pesticide storage but the threat that chemicals such as these can pose.
We have known for quite some time that pesticides have long-term effects that are both serious and harmful. It is our young people, our children, who suffer the terrible consequences. Despite the accumulation of evidence, the range of harmful, and readily accessible, chemical products continues to grow.
Until now, the federal government has not taken any measures to regulate cosmetic pesticides, even though their harmful and serious effects on Canadians are indisputable. It is time for that to change.
The wait and see attitude of past governments puts more and more Canadians at risk. The science is in. Enough time has been wasted. It is incumbent upon us as parliamentarians to do what is right for our communities and the families that we represent, the people who rely on us to be their voice in this place. It is time to take concrete action to ban the use of these unnecessary cosmetic pesticides, which is why New Democrats are moving this motion.
That is why we are calling on the pesticide manufacturers to prove that their products are in fact safe before they can be marketed to the Canadian public. Just as the government oversees and regulates the use of drugs, the use of pesticides must be held to similar government oversight.
By reversing the onus of proof with proper scientific and government oversight, we will move Canada toward a greener, cleaner future that is healthier for our children and our grandchildren.
Our actions have real and serious consequences for the environment, which is our country's greatest asset.
It is obvious that the environment is not one of the Prime Minister's five priorities. While the former Liberal government adopted an approach that favoured press releases over policies, the Conservatives have adopted the approach of eliminating programs and then waiting to see what happens.
They cut programs and have no plans for replacing them with something more effective. We must fill that void with meaningful measures and respect the commitments made to our citizens and to the entire world. Canada must set an example. By banning cosmetic pesticides, we will be taking a step in the right direction.
Today I am calling on the Prime Minister, the government and all members of the House to support this motion for the health of our children and of all Canadians.
With no action forthcoming from the federal government, as so often is the case, citizens and communities are taking steps ahead of government, from Vancouver to Toronto, from Montreal to Halifax. In over a hundred communities large and small across Canada, municipalities have already taken action on the use of these deadly substances.
In spite of fierce opposition, my own home town—Hudson, Quebec—introduced the first such ban in the country.
This ban weathered the attacks and court challenges. It was ahead of its time. We should follow the example of Hudson and all other communities where the citizens have claimed their right to live without carcinogenic pesticides. Their actions are a source of inspiration for us all. Every member must demonstrate good citizenship by adopting this motion today.
Even the Supreme Court became involved in the Hudson case and ruled that the precautionary principle was an important factor that all legislators at all levels should consider in decision making. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, of which I had the honour to be the president at one time, intervened in the case to support Hudson, a case that was initiated by a group of women in Hudson who were concerned about the health of their kids and started a petition about 15 years ago.
In those communities where bans are in effect, gardens are still in bloom, green spaces still flourish, landscapers and weed control specialists provide alternatives to pesticides and more jobs. The result is not just the appearance of healthy gardens but in fact healthy places for plants to grow, for children to play and for Canadian families to enjoy nature without the threat of toxic consequences.
Some in this place will argue today, I am sure, that this is enough, that we should abandon Canadians in their communities to deal with this deadly issue on their own but that is simply not good enough. Not every municipality is able to adopt the measures that some municipalities have done but every Canadian deserves to live free from the use of cosmetic pesticides. The health of Canadians simply has to come first. It is time that the federal government, indeed, it is time that members of this House stood up to protect the people of Canada from exposure to pesticides that we know are harmful to the health of the most vulnerable among us.
As Margaret Sanborn, of McMaster University, said, “Pesticides are designed to kill something and that should be a cause of concern”.
It turns out that those pesticides are killing our kids.
The motion that we brought forward is not revolutionary in practice but its practice may well revolutionize the impact that the toxins and the carcinogens found in pesticides are having on the health of Canadians, most particularly, children and pregnant women.
This is a good first step that the federal government can take to protect all Canadians from chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects, disease and sickness. It is a measure we can take today to help clean our environment for tomorrow.
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?
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Northumberland—Quinte West.
First, I would like to thank the hon. leader of the New Democratic Party for raising the important issue of pest management and control. I share with him a deep concern for the health of all Canadians, particularly the most vulnerable ones, the children, the elderly and the sick, the people who are most at risk from unsafe products.
Fear that pesticides are inherently unsafe appears to be the motivation behind the motion before us today. Pesticides can be unsafe and that is why they must be carefully regulated. Thanks to the diligent efforts of Health Canada, only pesticides, where a careful scientific review raises no concerns for the health of people, animals and the environment, are allowed to be sold and used in Canada.
My hon. colleagues will soon be making some important points about Health Canada, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, the new Pest Control Products Act and the government's rigorous insistence on health and safety. In the time available to me today, I will go into further detail on some of these ideas.
I will speak about the context. Sometimes it is worth restating the obvious, which I will do by pointing out that the PMRA, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, is part of Health Canada. It is under the portfolio of the hon. Minister of Health, not Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, which was responsible for the regulation of pesticides prior to 1995. The agriculture and forestry sectors obviously have an intense interest in pest control products. There are critically important environmental, economic and trade issues at stake as well.
Ultimately, the most important questions revolve around human health. Do pesticides pose an unacceptable risk to the health of Canadians, in particular, children and other vulnerable subgroups? If the answer is yes, then these products may not be sold or used in Canada. It is as simple as that.
The point is that the PMRA will not gamble with the health and safety of Canadians. If there are unanswered doubts, if the science is inconclusive, the agency will always err on the side of caution. Let me add that pesticides, which are permitted in the Canadian market, can contribute directly to human health. For example, they reduce our exposure to a range of threats, including insects, bacteria, moulds and allergy inducing weeds.
How does the PMRA work? The mandate of the PMRA is to prevent unacceptable risks to people and the environment from the use of pesticides, whether manufactured in Canada or imported.
In reviewing submissions for new products, the agency brings to bear the best available science from Canada and around the world. As a result, our regulatory regime is widely regarded for its stringent adherence to tough, scientifically sound standards and evidence for health and safety.
In assessing a submission, agency scientists evaluate a range of factors, including the effectiveness of a proposed product, its effect on health and the extent to which it might accumulate in the environment over time. Products that are registered and approved for sale are required to carry labelling information, with the appropriate warnings and directions for safe use.
However, I want to underline that the PMRA's job does not end when a product is approved for market. It is quite the opposite. The agency is in it for the long haul. It continues to monitor products once they are in use. That way, if new and unexpected hazards come to light, the PMRA can order the appropriate remedies.
At the same time, the agency also promotes the development and use of innovative pest management alternatives that reduce our reliance on chemicals. The idea is that the needs of Canadians today must be met in a manner that does not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
I would like to discuss the new PCPA. As effective as the PMRA is now, my government is making it even better. We expect that a new legislative and regulatory framework for pesticides will come into effect soon, strengthening the agency's capacity to safeguard the health of Canadians and the environment.
Among other things, the new Pest Control Products Act will require special protection for infants and children. This high level of protections is currently applied through policy. It will also take a more comprehensive view of pesticides that considers people's exposure from all possible sources, including food and water.
There are many other features of the new act that are worth mentioning, including an approach that explicitly favours lower risk products. For the first time ever, Canadians will also be able to consult a public registry, which contains detailed evaluation reports on pesticides sold in Canada. The act also extends the powers of the PMRA over products already on the market. For example, it will oblige pesticide companies to report any adverse health effects and it can take tough actions with companies that refuse to comply.
The hon. leader of the NDP is to be commended for raising his concerns about pesticide use. Indeed, we all share his reservations about the overuse of chemicals that can be toxic to people and the world around us.
The answer is not to ban all pesticides. If we did, we would be introducing more problems than we are solving. The solution is to control the use of lawn, garden and other chemicals, ensure that we permit only the safest products on the market, apply the toughest and most stringent rules on their use and continue to monitor them over the long haul, so if new risks turn up we can step in and address them.
That is why we have the PMRA and the Pest Control Products Act. That is why we are moving to make tough and effective regulatory systems even better.
I have faith in the system. I believe in its capacity to protect the safety of Canadians and the environment we all cherish, which is why I will not support the motion put forward by the hon. member opposite.
Mr. Speaker, if not properly managed, pests can affect our quality of life in many different ways. Fungi or mould can cause a farmer's field of wheat to be unacceptable. Weeds can reduce that same farmer's yield by almost half. Spruce budworm and western beetles are wreaking havoc in many of Canada's forests. Mosquitoes can carry the risk of West Nile virus. No one wants cockroaches in their residences or bedbugs in their beds. Pests can represent a threat to public health and to the environment and can create significant negative impacts for our economy if they are not efficiently controlled.
As many members are aware, pesticides are products that are developed to control, destroy or inhibit the activities of pests. Some pesticide products are available for domestic or home use, while a larger number are available for commercial or restricted uses.
At the same time, pesticides differ from many other substances that enter our environment. They are not byproducts of another process but are intentionally used and released for specific purposes. The biological activity of most pesticides is what makes them valuable to Canadian society, while at the same time it means that the use and release of these products must be carefully regulated and controlled.
There can be risks associated with the use of pesticides. For this reason, pesticides are among the most rigorously tested and regulated substances in the world. In Canada, all pesticides are subject to the federal Pest Control Products Act. Under this act, pesticides must be approved and registered before sale or use in Canada.
It is Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency, the PMRA, that is responsible for administering this act. For a product to be approved, the health risks, the environmental risks and the value of the product must all be acceptable.
Before a new pesticide is registered, more than 200 scientific studies must be conducted to determine if the pesticide would cause any negative effects on people, animals, birds, insects and plants, as well as the soil and the water.
Detailed studies regulating possible adverse health effects must be carried out by industry, investigating effects that may result from acute, short term or chronic exposures. Studies are required to assess potential long term adverse effects on reproduction, development, the endocrine, nervous and immune systems, and the toxic effects such as cancer. All possible routes of exposure such as ingestion, deposit on the skin and inhalation are examined.
The PMRA requires and evaluates special studies that characterize the unique exposures of infants and children. These studies examine the potential effects of pesticide exposure on the pregnant mother, the fetus and the young child. Studies that consider the unique exposures of children include the minute exposure to residues in breast milk and in fruits and vegetables, as well as exposure through skin contact with treated surfaces while crawling or playing.
These studies are carefully evaluated by the PMRA scientists to ensure that the pesticide does not pose a health concern when used according to the label. Maximum residue limits, or MRLs, are set if pesticides are used on food crops. These limits ensure that the consumption of food, for a lifetime, does not pose a health concern. If the submitted data or any other relevant scientific evidence, including results of epidemiology studies, raise health concerns about the pesticides and its proposed use, the pesticide is not registered.
A similarly rigorous approach is taken to identify and evaluate the environmental risks of a pesticide. Health Canada scientists determine the fate of the pesticide in the environment and whether it will contaminate ground or surface waters such as lakes, streams and rivers. They also identify which species might be vulnerable to pesticides and which species are likely to be exposed under normal use conditions.
Toxicity studies are also required for a range of wildlife, including birds, fish and mammals, as well as beneficial organisms such as earthworms. The pesticide will not be registered if it poses a risk to the environment.
Finally, a pesticide must have value in order to be registered. It must be efficacious and the host or crop that is being protected from the pest must not be harmed by the pesticide. The efficacy studies allow Health Canada to ensure that only the lowest effective rate is allowed, thereby minimizing possible human and environmental exposure.
In 2001, following public consultation, the government implemented a new approach to re-evaluating older pesticides that first were marketed prior to 1995. This is to ensure that they meet modern standards. Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency has committed to complete the re-evaluation of these older pesticides by 2009.
The new approach to re-evaluation has prioritized work by considering the pesticides used on crops and any identified health or environmental concerns. It makes maximum use of recent re-evaluations completed by other countries, particularly the U.S. This will permit the completion of the re-evaluation of older pesticides as soon as possible to ensure that Canadians' health and that of the Canadian environment continue to be protected.
It is important that everyone recognize that the regulation of pesticides is a shared responsibility with our provincial and territorial colleagues. A strong system of provincial and territorial legislation addresses the sale, transportation, storage, use and disposal of registered pesticides, taking into account provincial and territorial conditions and concerns.
The federal-provincial-territorial committee on pest management and pesticides brings together federal, provincial and territorial pesticide officials to exchange information and expertise and to provide advice and direction to governments on programs, policies and issues related to pesticides. Regulators at all levels work together toward the common goal of protecting Canadians from any risks posed by pesticides.
Health Canada's PMRA has also worked at the international level, actively cooperating with pesticides regulators around the world. Under NAFTA, there is close collaboration with the United States Environmental Protection Agency, also responsible for pesticide regulation. Some of the notable accomplishments include harmonizing data requirements, increased availability of lower risk products, the establishment of worker safety programs and the establishment of integrated pest management programs.
There is also a successful joint scientific review process for pesticides between Health Canada and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This is a formal process with specific timelines in which the workload is divided between the two countries involved, the reviews of data are exchanged and a peer reviewed and cooperative risk assessment is undertaken, all with the goal of harmonized and simultaneous registration decisions in the two countries.
Canada also participates actively with both NAFTA partners as well as members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to ensure that standards for pesticides incorporate the latest scientific knowledge.
In closing, I would like to reiterate that we recognize the risks that can be associated with pesticides. This is why Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency stringently regulates pesticides in Canada, and we have full confidence in our regulatory system.
Mr. Speaker, I rise with pleasure today to support the amendment to the Pest Control Products Act in order to significantly limit the places where pesticides can be used legally in Canada.
In fact, when we introduced a similar bill in 2002, the purpose was to protect human health and safety, and the environment by regulating products used for the control of pests. The PCPA's primary objective was to prevent unacceptable risks to people in the environment from the use of pest control products. Ancillary objectives included supporting sustainable development to enable the needs of the present to be met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own.
This bill passed on June 13, 2002, and was given royal assent on December 12, 2002. It was sponsored by the Minister of Health and in fact replaced a 33 year old act first passed in 1969. It controls products commonly called pesticides, but it also encompasses a broad range of products including insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, algaecides, insect repellents, wood preservatives, et cetera.
The development of the PCPA involved collaboration with the Pest Management Regulatory Agency of Health Canada, the Departments of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Environment, Industry, Natural Resources and Fisheries and Oceans, Canada Food Inspection Agency, and industry stakeholders as well as broad consultations with environmental and health advocacy groups.
The result of their efforts demonstrated the way Canadians approach sustainable development in terms of policy, legislation and regulations. The bill protects human health, biodiversity, air, water and soil. It protects and promotes the interests of our agricultural industry to ensure a safe and abundant food supply at an acceptable cost, and the productivity of our natural forestry endowments by encouraging the move to the development and use of leading edge, sustainable pest management practices.
The preamble of the bill states that the regulation of pesticides is to be pursued through a scientifically-based national registration system that addresses risks to human health and the environment both before and after registration. A new product will be approved or accepted only if there is reasonable certainty that there is no harm to human health, to future generations and to the environment under the conditions under which a pesticide has been approved.
The proposed amendments would strengthen the use of the precautionary principle that refines our views of what constitutes reasonable certainty. The precautionary principle applies in the current version of the PCPA and the principle asserts that a lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent adverse health impacts or environmental degradation.
Science offers an evolving set of parameters within which we make decisions. Centuries ago our understanding of science allowed us, with reasonable certainty, to believe and act on an opinion, for instance, that the earth was flat. It would appear that some members in the Conservative Party continue to hold that view when it comes to environmental policy and other fairly arcane ideas about sustainable development.
We support the amendments which strengthen the approach in applying the precautionary principle. The amendments strengthen protection against possible exposure from multiple sources including food, water, home and school. By restricting the legal use of pesticides in specific locations, populations including pregnant women, children, farmers and their families would be protected from cumulative risks that would otherwise exist.
Due to their smaller size, diet and play habits, children are indeed more vulnerable to the harmful effects of pesticides than are adults. The existing bill recognizes this special vulnerability of children by calling for the application of an additional tenfold safety margin in evaluating a product's health risks. The amendments, as presented, would expand our protections to those in society most vulnerable to impacts.
The PCPA prohibits pesticides from being imported, sold and used unless they have been registered by the minister. Once registered, their use is carefully controlled. The minister may refuse to maintain an applicant registration where reporting requirements have in fact not been met.
This is an important protection for Canadians and for our agricultural sector as well. It creates the context for a race to the top among our agricultural sector positioning Canada as a leader in sustainable pest management.
Environmental policy can be used to create economic growth and opportunities. To do this, tax credits need to be put in place to attract capital and talent to promote research and development in environmental sciences and create a positive context for the marketing of this sort of technical and technological environment.
It was more than 20 years ago that Harvard professor Michael Porter, in assessing Canada's position in the global marketplace, described a robust regulatory regime for environmental and health protection as “technology forcing”. In fact, it does help when there is multilateral cooperation between governments that not only require consumers and the private sector to develop better long term approaches to the environment, but also help create economic opportunity in doing so.
We have seen evidence of the ingenuity of our Canadian agricultural and forestry sectors to respond to health and environmental challenges with cutting edge pesticide management strategies. The sectors have adopted a “reduced risk” approach to pest management. Our agricultural sector has collaborated with Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada developing an array of pest management strategies for priority crops and land uses. Some of these strategies create a brand for Canada, a brand in the use among global leaders of integrated sustainable pest management approaches.
Canada could become a world leader in this type of environmental technology, particularly with green technologies, green energy and clean energy, for example. There will be lots of opportunity in agriculture, for example, to develop biodiesel.
Some of these strategies, that the private sector and our agricultural and forestry sectors have developed, are actually breathtaking in their simplicity. In pear and apple orchards, which are an important ingredient in infant and child diets, pesticide use has decreased in favour of mating disruption techniques thus reducing the typically high pesticide load on this horticultural crop and strengthening the organic farming sector which is one of the faster growing sectors within horticulture.
Berry farmers have found the chemical controls for weevils to be ineffective, but the parasitic nematode used in a low temperature tolerance strain of berry has in fact produced results that have increased crop yields.
Canola and potato farmers, whose crops incur a 20% loss due to root maggot and wire worms, are using fungal parasites and meeting their pesticide use reduction goals at the same time.
There are new approaches to tillage to control weeds in oat, flax and wheat fields. This is contributing to new approaches to protecting waterfowl habitat, and soil and microbial damage and erosion.
Using pesticides before crops emerge helps to control weeds, deliver low health and environmental impacts, and reduce overall use of pesticides in the long term.
Cattle ranchers know the blight of the leafy spurge, a non-indigenous species which impacts two million hectares of valuable grazing land and whose sap is toxic to cattle. Chemical treatment of these species is expensive and is inappropriate in terms of being close to water sources in those areas. Canadian farmers are using a biological control, the black spurge beetle, to reduce losses and increase productivity and innovation in their approaches.
By amending the bill and expanding the application of the precautionary principle, PCPA will protect human health and the environment and drive innovation, productivity and competitiveness in the agricultural and forestry sectors.
It is important to recognize that Canadians, not only from a short term health and safety perspective but from a long term environmental and economic sustainability perspective, understand the importance of these measures and in general environmental policy.
There is a lot of support throughout the country for environmental measures, especially in Quebec.
I would now like to talk about greenhouse gases. It is clear to everyone that Canada, as a multilateralist, has a responsibility to honour its commitments to the Kyoto protocol.
In addition, it is clear to everyone that the Conservative government does not support the principles of Kyoto.
It is also important to recognize that we have a huge credibility challenge right now as a country.
Indeed, we are the only country in the world reducing its environmental spending this year.
To be the only country in the world that is in fact reducing environmental investment this year is not the kind of club Canada wants to belong to.
In terms of Kyoto, we have a history as a country where we are respected internationally as a country that keeps its promises and respects its treaties. We have a responsibility to do more. There was a plan implemented by the previous Liberal government and that plan was working. Any plan takes time to have the effect required.
It has been often referred to that there was a growth in greenhouse gas emissions over the last 13 years of about 24%. It is also notable that during that period of time there was a GDP growth economically in Canada of about 45%, largely driven by some of the worst emitters, the fossil fuels petroleum industry. While technologies are evolving rapidly and importantly in those areas to clean energy production from traditional sources, we still have a long way to go.
This is why I think it will be very important for Canada to work with the other international partners to develop innovative technologies to reduce greenhouse gases and to create economic opportunities at the same time. Canada could be a world leader in this area and create opportunities for young Canadians to earn a living. In addition, it will have an impact on industries such as green or clean energy, or alternative energies. There will be many opportunities.
In my opinion, this will be the 21st century's most dynamic sector. So, it is our responsibility as leaders in Canada and the responsibility of the government as well to play a leading role in this area.
It is embarrassing that we now have headlines such as the one in the Toronto Star this morning that the Minister of the Environment “lacks credibility; Rather than embarrass Canada, environment minister should stay away from UN meeting on climate change”.
It is not the right kind of signal to be sending to the international community in terms of Canada's seriousness on these issues, that 300 non-governmental organizations from around the world charge at the meeting that the minister ought to step down from her role as chairperson. In fact, the 300 organizations that signed on to the ECO newsletter said the following:
|| Avoiding dangerous climate change clearly requires leadership from industrialized countries such as Canada in reducing emissions now and an agreement on deeper reductions for the second commitment period. If you feel, as Chair of these proceedings, that you and your government are not committed to fulfill your obligations under the Kyoto Protocol and that you cannot provide this needed leadership for the future, please, do the honourable thing. Step down.
That was the communication of 300 international non-government organizations in the environmental community directed to the Minister of the Environment on her chairpersonship of the Bonn conference.
It is important, whether in pesticide management or in measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, that we work multilaterally. Greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants do not stop at borders. It is important that we work multilaterally, with the United States absolutely, but also with our partners through the Kyoto accord. The fact exists that in the U.S. private sector players are now seeking to put together a trading mechanism that can work because their government has not signed on to Kyoto. They recognize the efficacy of a trading system that would enable them not just to be competitive internationally but at the same time to build a cleaner greener planet.
Progress has been made within Canada with our private sector, with our oil and gas sector and in fact with our new energy sector. Wind farms are being built and are operating successfully in places in southern Alberta and also in places within Atlantic Canada. We are seeing the development of biofuels. That is good for the agricultural industry and traditional sectors. It is good for rural Canada. What is exciting about this is that some of the intractable regional and rural development issues and some of the intractable and difficult development issues with aboriginal communities can in fact be addressed through what quite possibly will be the fastest growing area in the 21st century economy and that is new energy and clean energy.
They are not going to be putting wind farms on the corner of Bay and Bloor and they are not going to be developing biofuels on Bay Street either, but the fact is that a lot of these opportunities will provide sustainable economic opportunities to rural Canada, to aboriginal, first nations, Métis and Inuit communities, if we get it right.
To do this, tax credits must be put in place to attract capital, for example. There is a lot of international capital and many investors wanting to invest in this area.
Canada can become the world leader in this area.
It is that kind of vision that can recognize that we can create economic opportunity and it is directly out of environmental responsibility. I think a lot of Canadians in the private and public sectors, and Canadian consumers want to see that kind of leadership. I would urge all members of the House to pursue vigorously and in as non-partisan a way as we can in this quite partisan place, efforts to work together to ensure that Canada fulfills its international commitments but at the same time help create economic opportunities for future generations of Canadians by being environmentally responsible and innovative at the same time.
Mr. Speaker, I ask that my colleague from the NDP be patient. I fully agree with her on the substance. The bill that was presented by the Liberal party moves too far away from the spirit of this motion.
That said, I am pleased to speak on this NDP opposition day. This motion, moved by the leader of the NDP, the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth, has just launched an important debate on the entire issue of using and transporting pesticides. Naturally, this is an issue that concerns many Quebeckers and Canadians.
However, when we look at the substance of the motion presented by the party opposite, we realize that it will allow for significant abuse and considerable interference in provincial jurisdictions. It is not that Ottawa does not have a chance to take action in its own jurisdiction. However, by virtue of this shared authority over the environment, the federal government is far from being able to take action involving the banning, transport or use of pesticides.
In the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development we had a chance to examine Bill C-53 in 2002. I had a chance to speak in this House about that bill. I took that opportunity to make the point that the federal government does indeed have a responsibility when it comes to pesticides. But this responsibility stops at registering and reassessing pesticides. It is the provinces that are responsible for the transport, sale, use, storage and elimination of pesticides. The provincial governments are also responsible for training and permits, and restrictions regarding the use of pesticides. The municipalities also have a responsibility with respect to the regulations on municipal land only.
Accordingly, this jurisdiction over pesticides is shared among the federal government, which is responsible for their registration and use, the provinces, which are responsible for the transport, use and handling of pesticides and for issuing permits, and the municipalities, which are responsible for regulations, including one category in particular, those having to do with municipal land. The municipalities do indeed have a responsibility, but let us never forget that under our Constitution the municipalities answer to the provinces.
Regarding the substance, I have to say that the motion contains principles we support. First, there is the principle of precaution. We have always believed that this principle had to be included in the PCPA in Canada. Second, this four part motion, this very long motion moved by the NDP, provides that the PCPA should ban certain uses, including in the home and on the land surrounding it and in hospitals and schools as well as on land located nearby.
The substance and the spirit of the NDP's motion are good and commendable. However, it must be recognized that this motion is asking Ottawa to meddle in areas of provincial jurisdiction.
In this regard, I give Quebec as an example. In 1987, it passed legislation on pesticides. We passed this legislation aimed at reducing the use of certain pesticides and at protecting public health and safety.
In 1987, Quebec was proactive and decided to establish its own law.
In 1998, to ensure the law was up to date and responded to public concerns over health and the environment, broad consultations were undertaken in Quebec to revise the legislation. The result was that in 1998 and 2002, in particular, a task force made 15 recommendations in Quebec aimed at better governing the use of our pesticides in Quebec.
So Quebec formulated for itself one of the most innovative laws in the world, by incorporating in the existing legislation a pesticide management code amending section 11 of Quebec's pesticide act. This amendment in fact provided for the ban—sought by the NDP—on the use of pesticides on public land and spaces, be they early childhood centres, schools or hospitals. In 2002, Quebec adopted these amendments to the act in order to protect our children, the public and our seniors from what we consider unwarranted use.
As a result, we modified section 11 of the pesticides act to integrate this pesticide management code. The first part of the code came into force in 2003. The second part of the code just came into force in 2006. The purpose was to ensure that pesticides would not be used in public places.
I would like to mention a few of the elements provided for in the code we adopted: we banned the use of the most toxic pesticides on grassy areas in public, semi-public and municipal greenspaces; we banned the use of nearly all pesticides in and around early childhood centres and elementary and high schools, which is exactly what the NDP motion calls for; we created a specific regulation governing the use of certain pesticides that are still authorized; and we banned certain aerosol treatments inside buildings.
This shows that Quebec has decided to take on its responsibilities in its areas of jurisdiction. I have nothing against the government in Ottawa intervening in the pesticide issue, but it should intervene where things are going wrong.
The use of pesticides is not a problem in Quebec because they have already been banned around early childhood centres and in public spaces. Today, the NDP should have introduced a motion to accelerate the re-evaluation of pesticides currently on the market. In 1999, the NDP should have responded to recommendations made by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development when she said that pesticides on the market contained many active ingredients that had not been re-evaluated.
What the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development said in 1999 spoke volumes. She said that of the 500 active ingredients in pesticides on the market, 300 were approved before 1989 and another 150 before 1960. This means that there are pesticides that have not been re-evaluated for many years and are therefore still on the market.
Why should we ask the federal government to increase its responsibility for pesticides by banning their use on public lands and in hospitals and schools—which, as far as I know, are provincial responsibilities—when it cannot even do its job in its own jurisdiction?
Action was needed on re-evaluation and registration. In addition, the motion should have proposed faster registration of biological control agents in order to make pesticide alternatives available on the market.
Canada lags far behind the United States in registering biological control agents. Registration is still a federal responsibility.
According to the latest figures I have seen, only 35 biological control agents are sold in Canada, under 150 product names, whereas in the United States, 175 biological control agents are available on the market under 7,000 product names, offering an alternative to pesticides.
We would have liked to pass a motion today asking the federal government to amend the act or take the necessary steps to expedite re-evaluation, starting with pesticides on the market that were approved in 1960 and no longer meet our health protection and environmental protection criteria. I am stressing this because it was one of the main conclusions reached by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development: some pesticides currently available on the market no longer meet these criteria.
Today, the Bloc Québécois is being asked to vote for a motion that will tell Quebec how to go about prohibiting pesticides in public spaces, when we have had a law in effect since 2006. The motion seeks to impose this on Quebec, when Ottawa is not doing its job. It makes no sense.
Quebec takes an innovative approach to environmental protection. When we passed our first law in 1987, it was not perfect, of course. We can recall the debates we had at the time about pesticides. But whenever possible, Quebec set up a task force or focus group and modernized its laws to prohibit pesticide use on its territory.
Essentially, this motion does not respect the provinces' areas of jurisdiction. It seeks to impose something on Quebec, to open wide the door to interference in provincial jurisdictions. As well, it is important to remember that if Quebeckers had not wanted to bring about better pesticide regulation, we very likely would not be at this point today.
I would remind the House that it was a Parti Québécois government in Quebec that established this pesticide management code, which is considered one of the most innovative. However, Quebec did not stop at simply declaring bans in its pesticide management code. It also decided to train the individuals who handle such substances. It was decided that Quebec workers needed training to handle such products, especially workers who at times must use potentially dangerous substances, even those which do not appear on the list of hazardous materials.
The instructions and codes of practice for these products must be properly followed in order to ensure that our citizens are not overexposed to such substances.
In Quebec, not only did we decide to ban substances that are dangerous to human health in public spaces, but even when such substances are not necessarily banned—not everything can be banned—training was planned for everyone who handles such substances. Thus, we made training a priority in Quebec.
We would add that, in spite of everything—aside from banning—among other things, alternative solutions must be found. Specifically, I am referring to organic farming. As for the particulars of organic farming, we note that European governments have made choices very different from ours. In terms of technology and training, Europe is the recognized leader. Investing in research to promote organic farming is considered value added to a product. If we decide to give technical training to our farmers so that they could move from one form of farming to another, this is not an economic constraint. On the contrary, these products have added value that is increasingly in demand around the world.
We have had the example of Roundup Ready wheat, a genetically modified wheat. Our Asian partners told us that if we approved Roundup Ready wheat they would no longer purchase Canadian wheat. The Canadian Wheat Board had to send a very clear message to the government that, despite its possible alliances with major multinationals such as Monsanto, it would lead to significant losses of market share.
We want our agricultural sector to be increasingly organic, and to use, and desire to use, fewer and fewer pesticides. This should be echoed by our governmental authorities through the development of strict guidelines by the organic agriculture sector at Agriculture Canada. We have waited too long. We in Canada should be ashamed when comparing ourselves to the Europeans, in terms of subsidies, for example.
I just spoke of the investment in training and technology for farmers in European countries. We should also be ashamed of the fact that Canada does nothing to financially assist its organic growers. On the contrary, we have a government and a Canadian Food Inspection Agency that prefer to side with Monsanto to lend genetic material and establish partnerships with major multinationals to develop products that are genetically engineered. And then they try to tell us that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is an independent agency.
In summary, in terms of registration and re-evaluation, there are significant shortcomings in current federal programs. Ottawa should restrict itself to acting in its areas of jurisdiction by expediting the re-evaluation of products on the market since 1960, and concentrating on the registration of biological control agents. It should not interfere with the provinces, such as Quebec, that have up-to-date legislation and pesticide management codes. This is how we will make headway and protect both the health and the environment of Quebeckers and Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I am please to have the opportunity to join in the debate on the NDP's opposition day motion.
First, let me recognize and pay tribute to the member for Toronto—Danforth, the leader of the NDP, who tabled the motion. It was very fitting that he was the leadoff speaker. He has a long history in Toronto municipal politics in being the champion of this issue, coming from the very municipality that was the first in Canada to take the step of banning the use of cosmetic and non-essential pesticides. It has been a very important part of his career to date.
I will be splitting my time, Mr. Speaker, with the member for Winnipeg North.
I will being my remarks with a shocking statistic. Our children now have a fifty-fifty chance of getting cancer. It was not always that way. In fact, it was only in the post-war years that the use of chemicals grew exponentially. Correspondingly we know now it is no coincidence that there is a direct causal link of many cancers to that exponential growth in the use of chemicals.
For years now, as the incidence of cancer has increased, we have struggled with this. I do not know of a family who has not been touched by cancer. More often than not, we are told by the medical community and the establishment that we probably got cancer because of something we did. Perhaps it is our lifestyle, or perhaps we have been a smoker or we do not exercise enough. Those are true, but we have to consider as well the environmental factors, beyond the control of most Canadians, but within the control of members of Parliament, which are adding and contributing to this alarming incidence of diseases.
Let me be clear, our motion today does not deal with agricultural use of pesticides. It does not interfere with herbicides used by farmers or any other commercial application. We are trying to address the decorative, non-essential use of pesticides which represents about 40% of all the pesticides used. Of the 200 million kilograms of chemical pesticides used per year, about 40% is in that category of non-essential, decorative, cosmetic lawns and gardens, golf courses, et cetera. It is unnecessary.
When it comes to pregnant women and children, who are the most vulnerable to the effects of chemicals, surely the precautionary principle must prevail. Up until now, the burden of proof has been on us to show beyond any doubt that a specific chemical causes a specific cancer. It is an impossible test. It is a bit of a mug's game because no one is able to do that given the compounding effect of the many chemicals to which we are exposed. On that basis, the chemical companies have been allowed to continue to sell these products to the point where they are ubiquitous.
Our initiative reverses that burden of proof. It calls for an absolute moratorium on all non-essential, decorative, cosmetic uses of pesticides on Earth Day, April 22 of next year, until such time that each individual chemical manufacturer can come forward and prove to us beyond any reasonable doubt that its product is absolutely safe. Why should be have to prove that its product is hurting us? Why does it not have to prove that its product is absolutely safe? The burden of proof is turned upside down and stood on its head.
Some would argue that there already is a regulatory agency that takes care of the regulation of dangerous chemicals. We argue that the current regulatory regime has been woefully inadequate. For instance, 2,4-D was just recently reaffirmed as an okay chemical to use. I have a report here from the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, published two weeks ago, that overwhelmingly makes the causal link between 2,4-D of not only childhood cancers but also of neurological and developmental disorders and other health conditions.
We know enough now that the precautionary principle should kick in and make every member of Parliament nod their heads. We have to stop this. We have to stop soiling our own nest and contaminating our environment to the point where our children are being exposed. We know enough about early childhood development to know that their little brain cells have thinner walls than ours and that they are much more vulnerable to contamination by the exposure rates. The threshold limits for adults are 10 to 20 times higher than they should be for children. It is children who are exposed by tumbling around on the front lawn.
Over 50% of childhood exposure to pesticides is actually in the house. Chemical agents bond with molecules of dirt and get tracked into the home where they get circulated and recirculated for a much longer lifespan than that same chemical would have if it were left out in the open.
Therefore, we believe this issue is common sense. We have to look at the other contributing factors to our public health. Above and beyond taking care of ourselves and watching what we eat and quitting smoking, we also have to take steps to protect us from environmental contaminations.
Anyone who saw the recent television show on CBC with Wendy Mesley could not help but be moved at the compelling argument she made and how shocked she was at the pervasive nature of chemical exposure and how little regulation there really was. It is almost as if we are interfering with the chemical companies' right to market products if we question them.
Chemical companies are not necessarily our friends in terms of our public health. Their business is to sell product. They do that very capably and have very powerful lobbies to try to stop anyone who may have the temerity to suggest their product is not healthy.
I have seen Wendy Mesley's show repeated three or four times now. She makes the argument, better than I have ever heard, that we have to put the brakes on this. We are irresponsible if we do not do all we can to minimize the exposure, especially of children. We have to do something about the alarming statistic that 50% of our kids will get cancer. That in itself should stop up dead in our tracks.
I know we are going to get pushed back from the chemical companies. Believe me, I have been getting it already in my office. However, I will point out specifically the fault we find with the current health assessment practices of the PMRA, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency.
The PMRA relies basically on animal toxicity studies and human exposure estimates. Many of these studies are never peer reviewed from a scientific point of view. I am not a scientist, but I do understand these studies should be reviewed. Moreover the extrapolation from studies on rats may not be as valid as formerly thought. We now know that rats have genes that do not exist in people, which detoxify chemicals differently than what people do. If we are measuring toxicity and threshold limits in rats, it is not as applicable to humans as we once thought. It is certainly not applicable to children who recent research has shown absorb and are susceptible to contamination by chemicals at a far greater rate than we originally believed.
It has been pointed out that over 90 municipalities, and I believe it is now over 100 municipalities, have already taken these important steps, including the city of Toronto and the city of Halifax. However, many other municipalities and cities have tried and failed, for example the city of Ottawa. Ottawa city council tried for three years to get the cosmetic use of pesticides banned. It was overwhelmed by a forceful lobby from the pro-pesticide use community. The vote failed just recently. It was lost by one vote. Therefore, Ottawa is not protected.
This is why it is appropriate for the federal government to intervene, within its jurisdiction at the regulatory level, to reverse the onus and protect the communities that do not have the wherewithal to fight the lawsuits and the aggressive lobby by the chemical companies.
For the rest of Canadians who are not already protected by their own municipal bylaws, the House of Commons could take action and make this a blanket universal protection. I dearly hope that members of Parliament see fit to do so, whether their own communities are covered or not.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have a chance to speak on this important motion introduced by the NDP dealing with banning pesticides when they are used for cosmetic purposes.
I too want to join with my colleague from Winnipeg Centre and acknowledge the work of our leader, the member for Toronto--Danforth, in spearheading this initiative before us today and to thank him for his leadership on the matter.
While I am at it, let me recognize the work of the member for Winnipeg Centre, who just a little while ago introduced a private member's bill in this House, Bill C-225, which would do precisely what this motion before us attempts to do, and that is to place a moratorium on the use of pesticides when it comes to caring for our lawns and flowerbeds and when we are talking about cosmetic purposes.
I want to start by referencing an earlier remark made by the member for Kings--Hants, a member of this House who was once a Conservative and then a Liberal and is now an aspiring candidate for the Liberal leadership, and who cannot seem to get his facts straight and is reflecting what I think is a very inconsistent message from Liberals on this issue. That, of course, has to do with attempts by this Parliament for many years to try to get such a ban.
The issue before us is not a new one. It has been discussed in this House and at committee many times. Let me go back to when I was first elected in 1997. I can recall all kinds of correspondence and promises by the Liberal government of the time to deal with it. I know that there were previous private members' motions and bills placed before the House on this matter on a regular basis.
The most recent opportunity we had to actually deal with this issue in a decisive way was back in 2002, when the Pest Control Products Act was up for review before the health committee and this Parliament. At that time, it was recognized that the legislation, which came into effect in 1969, was out of date, old fashioned, had not kept pace with the tremendous influx of pesticides and toxic substances in our marketplace and had to be refined and reviewed.
At that time, the Liberal government of the day in fact promised a massive overhaul, promising that it would bring this legislation into the modern century and address numerous concerns that had been raised by experts in the health field and by individual citizens who had felt the most serious ramifications from pesticides in terms of their own health and well-being. At that time, the legislation that was introduced did not in fact bring forward a ban on pesticides.
This is contrary to what we have just heard from the member for Kings--Hants, who is running for the leadership of the Liberal Party and does not seem to have his facts correct once again. He seems to have gotten himself mixed up first on the income trust issue and now he is not clear about pesticides. I think it is about time that he did some homework and in fact recognized what kind of record the party of which he is now a member has on issues like pesticides. Perhaps when he made the leap from the Conservatives to the Liberals he had not really studied just how good Liberals are at pretending they are going to deal with something but never actually getting down to it.
Goodness knows how many times we have heard in this House from Liberals about how they were going to crack down on pesticides and take up the challenge of banning these substances from use on a cosmetic basis. How many times have we heard that? How many times have Canadians believed that?
Where are we today? There is no ban on pesticides for cosmetic purposes. There was nothing in Bill C-53 in the year 2002, many years after this issue had been discussed on numerous occasions in the House and many years after definitive scientific research was available for all of us to use. Not only was that piece missing from the Liberal bill, the government of the day would not entertain any motions to change the bill to that effect.
On this side of the House in the New Democratic Party, we tried very hard to get Bill C-53 amended to ban pesticides in terms of cosmetic use. No, sir, there was nothing doing by the Liberals at the time, just like so many other issues that we were dealing with at the health committee and on every other level.
So here we are today, years after this issue was raised, years after many Canadians have had to suffer through the worst effects of the toxins found in pesticides today, and we are at square one. We are trying to do something very civilized, humane, practical, commonsensical and realistic and simply ban the use of pesticides when it comes to cosmetic or decorative purposes.
We are not talking about agriculture at the moment, although of course there are a lot of things we should be doing on that front in terms of trying to give citizens the right to know what is being used, in terms of trying to apply the precautionary principle so that disastrous products are not allowed on the market and the health of human beings and animals comes first.
However, today we are talking just about lawns and flowerbeds and banning pesticides that are very toxic and harmful to human beings. Back when we debated this issue in 2002, we heard incredible testimony from individuals and organizations about the dangers that pesticide use in urban areas caused. We heard how the impact on human health is severe and profound and could lead to fetal damage and to long term physical health problems for individuals, particularly those already sensitive to chemicals and other foreign substances. The evidence was in at the time, and it is in today before us.
We are all hoping that finally we can all come together and deal with the issue once and for all, that we can make up for lost ground and years of inaction by Liberals. Perhaps members on the Conservative side, the Conservative government, who sat through those years watching the Liberals on the health committee as they refused to entertain important amendments, are now prepared to actually join forces, make up for the inadequacies of the previous government and do something substantive, concrete and real for Canadians.
I want to refer to the fact that numerous constituents have written to me on this issue, just like other members of Parliament have mentioned. On a regular basis we get e-mails such as the one I just received from Colin McInnes in my riding. He said, “I am writing to let you know that I fully support...[ the] private member's bill [introduced by the member for Winnipeg Centre] to limit the use of cosmetic pesticides...”. He urges me to take whatever action I can.
I want to refer to Barry Hammond, who over the years has written me numerous times on this issue, going back to the year 2000 when he wrote me and the Minister of Health at the time, Allan Rock. He said:
|| Pesticides have been known to be an environmental problem since the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, if not before. Yet we continue to dispense these poisons without full knowledge of which species are affected.
I want to refer to the work of a former member of Parliament for Halifax West, Gordon Earle, who went to great lengths to bring this matter before the House and to table documents and cite studies. I want to refer specifically to documents he circulated from a physician, a Mr. Roy Fox, who documented numerous cases of illness and serious health side effects as a result of exposure to pesticides.
I want to refer specifically to a study by Roy Fox entitled, “The Impact of Chemical Lawn Care on Human Health”. The fact is that he has pointed out that such toxins can lead to “disturbed neurological development” and “hormone mimicry”, and that we are looking at such things as “life threatening complications such as cardiac arrhythmia and anaphylaxis”. He recommends that action be taken because exposure to lawn chemicals can pose serious risks to human health.
I join with everyone who wants to support this motion and make a difference in this Parliament. I thank members for taking the time to discuss such a serious, important issue.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Battlefords—Lloydminster.
I would like to take a few minutes to describe a major development in the regulation of pesticides in Canada. The new Pest Control Products Act was given royal assent on December 12, 2002. It will be brought into force by an order that will be made by the government once key regulations to support the new act are in place. The act will be proclaimed as soon as possible this year, 2006.
Fundamentally, the new act does three things: First, it supports the strong health and environmental protection practices currently employed by Health Canada; second, it makes the pesticide approval or registration system more transparent and accountable; and third, it strengthens the post-registration controls on pesticides.
I will describe each of these areas in more detail. First, the new act strengthens the health and environmental protection provided by the existing act. In order to legally sell or use a pesticide in Canada, the pesticide must first be reviewed and approved or registered by Health Canada.
The new act formalizes important and current risk assessment concepts to protect vulnerable populations. These concepts include the consideration of: different sensitivities of major population groups, including infants and children; exposures from all sources, including food, drinking water and domestic use of pesticides; and finally, cumulative effects of pesticides that act in the same way.
These concepts also apply an additional margin of safety to protect infants and children from risk posed by pesticide residues in food and when pesticides are used in and around homes and schools, and take into account government policies such as the toxic substances management policy.
While new in law, these provisions do not change current practices. They do, however, make visible to the public the fact that these practices are and will continue to be in place and, therefore, will help to enhance public confidence in the regulatory system. This is a clear benefit of having these provisions in the legislation.
The second thing that the new act does, as I mentioned earlier, is to make the registration system more transparent and accountable. This is the area in which there are the most fundamental changes to the existing act. The new act definitively opens up the regulatory system to allow meaningful participation by stakeholders and the public.
The new act does this in the following ways; with access to information. The new act defines two categories of information: confidential test data and confidential business information. All other information is considered non-confidential information under the new Pest Control Products Act and thus will be publicly available. This includes information about the status of all registered pesticides, the applications received by Health Canada and whether the registration was granted or denied, the re-evaluations and special reviews that are underway and, very important, Health Canada's detailed evaluations of the risks and value of registered pesticides. All of this information will be made available through a public registry, electronically whenever possible.
Confidential test data that are generated by companies and provided to the PMRA will be accessible for examination in a reading room.
The only category of information that will not be made available to the public will be confidential business information. Confidential business information is defined very narrowly in the new act. It includes financial information, manufacturing processes and methods for determining a product's composition and formulants that are not of health or environmental concern.
The identity and concentration of formulants that are of health and environmental concern will be made available to the public on labels and material safety data sheets and through the public registry. A list of formulants and contaminants of concern has already been published.
The public will not be the only ones to benefit from this increased transparency. Under the new act, confidential business information and test data can be shared under certain circumstances with federal, provincial and territorial regulators, regulators in other countries and medical professionals, as long as the information is kept confidential.
This is in addition to all the other information that will be available to them through the public registry. This will make it easier for Health Canada to cooperate with other regulators. This is fundamental to smart regulations.
Under the new Pest Control Products Act, it is mandatory to consult the public before a major registration decision is made final. Major registration decisions include any decision to grant or deny an application for full registration of a new active ingredient or a major new use and any decision to maintain, amend or cancel a registration following a re-evaluation or special review.
The mandatory public consultation process and the public registry will make a great deal of important information available to the public. The public will have access to summaries of the evaluations done by Health Canada scientists which form the basis for proposed regulatory decisions before they are finalized. After a pesticide is registered, the public will have access to the detailed evaluations via the public registry and they will also be able to view the test data on which the evaluations are based. These provisions will support informed citizen participation in the pesticide regulatory system.
The new act also strengthens accountability to Parliament and the Canadian public by requiring that comments received during the mandatory public consultation periods be considered in the final decision to register a pesticide. There is also a requirement for Health Canada to publish its policies, guidelines and codes of practice, among other official documents.
Finally, the act requires that an annual report by tabled in Parliament.
I mentioned at the beginning of my comments that the new act does three main things. The third is to strengthen the post-registration controls on pesticides.
Registration does not confer unrestricted rights respecting the marketing, sale and use of pesticides. On the contrary, the registration includes detailed instructions on how the pesticide must be used in order to comply with the law known as “conditions of registration”.
There is also a continuing responsibility to ensure that the risks and value of a registered pesticide are still considered to be acceptable. This is done through a re-evaluation or special review. The new act strengthens the existing provisions for these programs, notably by requiring re-evaluations of pesticides to be done 15 years after they are registered and by providing the minister with the authority to take action if a registrant fails to provide the data needed to conduct re-evaluations.
The new act provides the authority to remove products from the market or modify their conditions of use upon completion of or during a re-evaluation or special review.
The new act specifies that in determining appropriate actions during re-evaluations or special reviews the precautionary principle must be taken into account. In other words, if there is reason to believe that a registered pesticide is posing threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent adverse health impact or environmental degradation. This would allow rapid interim action be taken to prevent ongoing exposure to the pesticide while a more detailed scientific review is undertaken. Once the review was completed, that action would be continued, modified or rescinded depending on the results of the review.
Another important feature of the new act is that it includes provisions for mandatory reporting of incidents, that is, new information indicating that the health or environmental risks or the value of a registered pesticide may no longer be acceptable. Regulations will be needed to specify the information that must be reported and the timeframes for reporting.
Information provided through incident reporting could identify the need for a special review. Under the new act, special reviews can also be triggered by information received from other federal or provincial departments, a ban in another member country of the OECD or a request from the public. In the case of a public request, there is discretion as to whether or not to initiate the special review and policies will be developed to guide this decision.
Before closing I would like to reiterate that the new Pest Control Products Act will strengthen Canada's already stringent safeguards against the risks to people and the environment from the use of pesticides. Canadians will have access to more information and new opportunities for input into major pesticide registration decisions. A modernized, strengthened and clarified law on pesticide regulation will create a regulatory system in which all Canadians can have confidence.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to take part in today's debate. It was very interesting to listen to the member for Malpeque talk about his NDP roots. He said that the NDP would turn back the industrial revolution. His party would have taxed it out of existence. Either way it would have been dead under either one of their watches.
It is quite an interesting motion that is before us. The NDP has the right to bring forward any motion it cares to. The NDP always has some arcane thing that will guarantee its members that spot in the corner in perpetuity and never get close to being in government.
The member for Malpeque was making the case that the motion could be extremely intrusive into the way we farm, animal husbandry and a number of other things. The NDP motion states in part that all pesticides which are regulated pursuant to the Pest Control Products Act should be banned within a dwelling house. That is not bad as not too many people keep them in their basement anyway, but the second paragraph states “on any parcel of land on which a dwelling house is situated” and then the next one states “on any place that is within one hundred metres of a parcel of land described in paragraph (ii)”. That is a dwelling house on a parcel of land.
When we travel through the rural countryside there is a lot of crop land and pasture land that comes up to within 100 metres of the house of the farmer or rancher. The NDP is putting restrictions on that farm yard already. In my case, I have a pasture and hay land connected to my house acreage. It would be criminal intent. God forbid, I have my registered gun in the closet and now I have to hide my 2,4-D.
It just escapes me how the NDP could come up with this type of legislation. I know that the leader of the NDP, who is the past president of the FCM, wants to get back in there and make rules and regulations. He wants to be a big fish in a little pond, where here he is a little fish in a big pond and does not get the recognition, so he has to go back and fight some of these fights.
The provinces and municipalities already have the authority to put bans in place so that dangerous products are not used for cosmetic purposes on lawns and so forth and it is not cosmetic use of dangerous stuff. Certainly the labelling has changed on many of the cans of 2,4-D over the years. There is a lot more transparency and accountability in how products are used. Premixed versions can be bought if people are afraid of the real thing. We have used them on the farm for years and we are quite comfortable with them.
I heard a member from one of the ridings in Winnipeg talk about how 50% of our children in Canada are going to get cancer. Scare tactics go a long way with this type of legislation. Certainly the incidence of cancer may be higher for a couple of reasons. We are keeping track and have better records than we used to and people are living longer. At 90 or 95 people are bound to die of something other than old age. It just happens.
I look at this type of motion that the NDP has brought forward. Anyone who does landscaping and has an office on the premises, anyone who has a turf farm and an office, golf courses with rental shacks could not use any type of chemical or pesticide at all. Some of them have gone the biological route and are doing different things. They are using Javex bleach and other things as well, but they have other consequences.
We are tying the hands of many folks who rely on trade and coming up with a product that they can export to the standards that we have with our trading partners, the United States, Japan and others who have much stronger regulatory regimes than we do. We are already going beyond where we need to with regulations.
I will talk about one particular product, 2,4-D. It is one of the oldest chemicals around. It has been registered since 1946. It has been around for 60 plus years. There has not really been any major problem. People should not mix it with Coke; it is not good for them. Most people are smart enough to realize that they should not gargle with the stuff. They should wear gloves and long sleeve shirts. It is called common sense. Those labels are actually on the can or jug. We read that first. Of course, like all men, we like to read maps to get directions so we always read those instructions first. We know enough to be careful with this stuff. There are a lot more noxious problems out there as well.
I drove in this morning and it is the Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa. There are beautiful gardens of tulips, yet right across the road the city's lawn is polluted with dandelions because the city no longer sprays anything. It has fallen under this regime. It is the city's choice. It is the city's decision and the citizens of Ottawa will sink or swim with that, but it is the city's decision to make.
The NDP, in presenting this motion, wants the criminal law powers of the federal government to trample over everybody's rights and enforce its twisted logic and that somehow if we do all of this, everybody will be better off.
That is okay, but all of this has to be based on some sort of sound scientific process. We have that through the Canadian government in the Pest Management Regulatory Agency. While we may have month by month and case by case battles with that particular agency, it has done a decent job in staying up to speed and getting on top of things. There are a lot of new products out there that the PMRA is very lax on. It is always somewhere between 200 and 400 applications behind. There are brand new, less toxic materials out there that need to get in play in Canada. It is up to the PMRA to move ahead with that, but to totally ban or be able to add to or subtract from this list at the whim of the NDP, or whatever government decides it wants to go there, does not make sound policy.
I know the NDP has a problem with the act that came in four years ago. That act is constantly under review. 2-4,D itself has been reviewed a number of times and always to the betterment of the people using it. The labelling changes, as I mentioned before. There are significant changes in the way we handle and use 2,4-D.
There is a tremendous process that is put in play to register and re-register any of these products on an ongoing basis. The NDP needs to get caught up with that a little. They are always at the forefront, the vanguard of leading the charge on something out there that is going to get us if we do not regulate it out of existence.
Another case in point is the Cartagena protocol. The NDP was really supportive of that and wanted to implement it. That is a global definition of the use and non-use of genetically modified organisms. The problem is we have been doing that for 12 years and still a basic definition has not been agreed to globally as to what a modified organism is. Until we get the framework right, we cannot start hanging the drapes and putting the window dressing in place.
That is what the New Democrats tend to do with these types of motions that come forward. They are well intentioned but miss the mark by 100 miles because they tend to trample on everybody else's jurisdictional rights: the provinces, the municipalities, the RMs in the rural areas and those types of things.
What the New Democrats are looking for is that criminal law power. The thing they are missing is the scientific process that leads to the use or non-use of any of these pesticides and chemicals, whether it is for cosmetic use or use down home on the farm.
Certainly we have to be cognizant of the fact that there can be problems. We need to make sure that they are not tank mixed with certain other products that will incite some reactions. There are a tremendous number of problems out there that people can get into. However, common sense should prevail and science should prevail to make sure that we are doing the right things at the right time.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Parkdale—High Park.
There seems to be some confusion among members in the House today. We are talking about the non-essential cosmetic use of pesticides. The use of cosmetic pesticides is an issue that is of great importance to me and to people in the city of London where this issue is currently being debated.
I strongly believe that cosmetic use of pesticides should be banned unless it is proven that pesticides do not pose risks to the health of humans.
I find it most troubling that the pesticide industry keeps on insisting that there is no conclusive evidence that these chemicals are dangerous to humans and animals. It reminds me of the argument used by the tobacco industry when fears about the effects of tobacco surfaced many years ago.
It is an argument that lacks logic. Why on earth would we take a chance? We need to know unequivocally that the products that we use do not pose a threat. There is significant evidence that it is prudent to support a ban.
A study done by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario outlined the major effects of exposure to pesticides on human health and the list is frightening. Some of the possible effects include: solid tumours, including brain cancer, prostate cancer, kidney cancer and pancreatic cancer; leukemia; non-Hodgkin's lymphoma; genotoxic effects; skin diseases; neurological diseases; and an impact on reproduction.
Those most likely to be affected by pesticide use are vulnerable patients, including children, seniors and pregnant women. I would like to make a special note of the impact of pesticides on pregnant women. I know the health of pregnant women is of particular concern to some members of the House.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario stated that “Pregnant women are a special risk group, given the findings showing increased risk of childhood and acute lymphocytic leukemia when women use pesticides in the home and garden during pregnancy”. The health of unborn children should not be traded for a weed free lawn.
Pesticides are used on lawns, gardens, school yards and parks, all places where children play. It should not be surprising then that children are one of the higher risk groups. Exposure to pesticides increases the child's risk of cancer, something no child should ever have to experience.
The Canadian Cancer Society also calls for a ban on cosmetic pesticides and has stated that “appropriate action should be taken to limit the risk to human health. This is especially true when the reason for using pesticides on lawns is to prevent weeds and plants that can be removed in other, potentially less damaging ways”.
Even the federal government has called for a ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides. In a federal report issued by the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, it states:
|The Committee firmly believes that a moratorium on pesticide use for aesthetic purposes is necessary until science has proven that the pesticides involved do not constitute a health threat and some light has been shed on the consequences of their use in urban areas. Pesticide use should only be permitted in an emergency, such as a serious pest infestation which threatens the health of people and the environment.
There have been over 100 municipalities in Canada that have adopted pesticide bylaws and many more which are considering a change. One of those municipalities is London, Ontario. The people of London have been demanding a pesticide ban for four years now and still have no ban.
Federal legislation would benefit my riding and the people of London. A poll done in London this past January found that only 23% of London homeowners currently use cosmetic or non-essential pesticides at home. The poll also found that 60% of homeowners who currently use those pesticides would likely or very likely stop using them if they were provided with information on alternative methods to have a weed free garden and lawn. Furthermore, a total of 61% of London residents surveyed agreed that the city of London should pass a bylaw phasing out the use of lawn pesticides.
Ironically, the city of London, by refusing to move forward on cosmetic use of pesticides, has actually stopped using pesticides in parks. The lawns of Victoria Park remain beautiful and green, drawing thousands of visitors downtown every summer for community festivals, and pesticides are not used.
For those who feel a green, weed free lawn is a priority, there are alternatives that are both safe and healthy. London businesses, such as My Green Garden, provide safe organic alternatives that will not harm our children.
This issue is so important to me and the people in the riding of London—Fanshawe that on Friday, May 5, I launched a petition along with London City Councillor Bill Armstrong calling on the Government of Canada to recognize that human and environmental health should take precedence in legislative decision making, as well as in the product approval processes in every jurisdiction in Canada. The petition also calls on the government to enact legislation banning the use of chemical pesticides for cosmetic purposes until rigorous independent scientific and medical testing of chemical pesticides and parliamentary review of results are conducted for both existing and new products, and to enact legislation applying the precautionary principle in regard to restricting future allowable usage in order to minimize risk to human and environmental health. The petition already has well over 400 signatures from residents of London who want a safe and healthy city.
I think it is important to hear the words of some of the people who have signed on to this petition, people who will be directly affected if this motion passes today. One London resident stated:
|| I fully support a ban on pesticides in the City of London, and have personally practised non-chemical gardening for over 20 years, with no increase in weeds or other pests.
Another resident said:
|| I strongly support the bill. My neighbour sprays and each time he does my property is saturated with chemicals too.
|| We cannot afford to subject our children and grandchildren to the continued barrage of toxins! Given the rising cancer rate, it is best to err on the side of caution, especially for those toxins that serve purely aesthetic purposes!
Yet another resident said:
|| We need to stop all this contamination before it is too late. Our health, our children and our pets are much more important than having the greenest lawn on the block.
Pesticides cause cancer. Those who do not believe this have their heads in the sand. It is time we came into the modern world, ban pesticides, and start thinking about the health of our citizens. Another resident stated:
|| Healthy humans are more important than lovely lawns. Very few weeds are truly “noxious”; in fact, if many of them were difficult to cultivate, we might actually plant them in our gardens. To a child, who is too young to differentiate between weeds and flowers, a sea of dandelions is a treasure trove of flowers to present to mother...It's all really a matter of what one values most: the health of our family, friends and pets or the appearance of our lawns.
Finally, one London resident it best, “For the health of our country, please enact this ban”.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario stated, “Pesticides are designed to kill something”. That is the problem. They do kill. Why would we want to expose ourselves to something like that, something designed to specifically kill?
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased and proud to stand today and support the motion brought forward by the NDP. I want to congratulate my party for proposing a ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides. This is a very important proposal. I am very pleased to be here in support of this on behalf of my constituents in the riding of Parkdale—High Park.
There is a huge concern about the environment. I have had many people call me specifically with concerns about the environment. I am very proud to be part of a party that would bring forward a measure such as this to deal with pesticides.
Rachel Carson, the author who wrote the book Silent Spring back in 1962, first documented a terrifying record of environmental harm caused by pesticides. This was a groundbreaking work and it led to the modern environmental movement.
We are talking today about pesticides. As others have said, pesticides are not produced naturally. They are synthetic toxic chemicals that are deliberately spread over large areas. They are poisonous to people because they are designed to kill living things.
What are the health impacts of pesticides? Pesticides have been linked to cancer. The incidence of childhood cancer, neuroblastoma, doubles when landscaping pesticides are used around the home.
The Canadian Cancer Society says:
|| Since the ornamental use of pesticides has no countervailing health benefit and has the potential to cause harm, we call for a ban on the use of pesticides on lawns and gardens.
Pesticides have also been linked to skeletal abnormalities and to immune system damage. The pesticide chemical malathion has been shown to weaken white blood cells that attack cancer cells and viral infections.
Pesticides have been linked to neurological damage. Pesticides are often neuro-toxins, adversely impacting brain development. There are reproductive effects. Pesticides can be found in semen and linked to sperm abnormalities. They can be linked to increased miscarriage rates and birth defects. They are linked to difficulty in conceiving and bearing children. Chronic exposure to pesticides can cause infertility.
With the growing evidence that many chemical pesticides are linked to cancer, birth defects and other devastating illnesses, it is time the federal government acted to protect all Canadians and the environment from these poisons.
While these chemicals may keep our backyards and public spaces looking green, the problem is they are seeping into our soil, leaching into our water and being absorbed by our homes, our bodies and our children. That is simply unacceptable. We owe it to our children to ensure they are growing up and playing in the safest possible environment.
The science is in. I just described how pesticides have been linked to cancer, skeletal abnormalities, neurological damage and reproductive effects. Pesticide manufacturers need to prove their products are safe before they can be marketed to the Canadian public.
The time for debate has passed. It is time for concrete action by the federal government to ban the unnecessary use of these chemicals now. Currently, only Australia, Italy, France, Belgium and the U.S. use more pesticides per capita than Canada. Again, remember the Canadian Cancer Society has called for a ban of pesticides.
We are not dealing with agricultural pesticides. We are not dealing with all kinds of pesticide use. We are dealing with pesticides for cosmetic use. Over a hundred municipalities and other jurisdictions have already made the decision to ban cosmetic pesticides. Not one of those jurisdictions has decided to reverse that decision once it has been made.
I am here on behalf of the citizens I represent in Parkdale—High Park to say, as strongly as I can, that we banned the use of cosmetic pesticides in the city of Toronto. I urge the House to ban cosmetic pesticides across Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the debate. It is one that has gone on in the House in the past and it is one that has gripped the public many times. On the surface it sounds very attractive. Pesticides cause cancer is a very scary title. Do the facts bear out that kind of a title? Do the comments coming from the NDP, which are the roots of this motion, rooted in good science and experience? I would submit they are not.
When we go through some of the studies, they show that a lot of the anti-pesticide comments are rooted in fear and fly in the face of common science.
Let us take a look at some of the premises. The first one is cancer rates. Have cancer rates gone up or have they gone down? We all know people who have had cancer and we know many more people have it. The reality is we are living longer. Males living in my province of British Columbia have the greatest longevity of any place in the entire world. Canadians ought to be proud of that. Indeed, Canadian women and men are some of the longest living people.
Cancer, perhaps above all others factors, is a function of age. As we get older, the incidence of cancer rises. Our ability to contract cancer increases with age. It is a function of our genetics, what we have done to our bodies such inaction, poor dietary habits and smoking.
Has the incidence of cancer increased? No. The number of people, per population, who get cancer has remained relatively static over the last 10 years. In some areas it has gone up. For example, the incidence of lung cancer in women has gone up because more and more women are smoking. The incidence of lung cancer in men has gone down. The incidence of cervical cancer has gone down because women have been more adept in having pap smears to monitor cervical cancer. This has saved thousands and thousands of women's lives. Thankfully we have those tools.
Do pesticides cause cancer? The anti-pesticide groups will not tell us this, but 99% of the pesticides we consume are natural.
I will be splitting my time, Mr. Speaker, with the member for Malpeque.
Over the decades ample studies have been done on pesticides. They have shown no increase in the incidence of cancer in populations that have been subjected to pesticides. Most of the pesticides we spray are natural. If we compare synthetic pesticides to natural pesticides, there will be no difference in the statistics of the mortality and morbidity. These chemicals, natural and synthetic, have been exhaustively studied for decades. Large populations have been looked at.
If we were to remove or ban pesticides, which some would like to do, a number of things would happen.
First, the amount of land needed to cultivate the foods we consume would increase. This would result in a diminishment of biodiversity and would affect our environment in a negative way.
Second, the cost of food would go up an estimated 27% if we were to ban pesticides. I know the member is talking about cosmetic pesticides, but it is worth pointing out that many people may be confused by cosmetic pesticides and the desire to ban pesticides in food productivity.
What are the four or five things that have proven to have a profound impact on reducing cancer rates in our country? Working with its provincial counterparts, the provincial ministers of health and ministers of education, the government should be doing the following things.
First, the government should be investing in a smoking reduction strategy. Smoking kills and we need to continue to reduce smoking, especially among young women where smoking has increased.
Second, the government needs to encourage physical activity. We are finding that younger people now are less physically active than ever before. The incidence of childhood obesity has risen to epidemic proportions. Children must get out and play and become physically active.
Working with the provinces, we could perhaps institute an awareness campaign to get adults to play with their children for 30 minutes a day. That would not only benefit the children but it also would benefit the adults. Physical activity is central, not only to physical well-being but to mental health. We just had Mental Health Week. If we were to compare a group of physically active people on anti-depressants to an inactive group of people on anti-depressants, we would find that the first group is the healthiest group.
What also works very well is the Headstart program. For those who are not aware of this program, it is probably the government's best bang for its buck in reducing an array of socio-economic problems. The Headstart program is simple and inexpensive. It is rooted in ensuring that parents have the proper parenting skills and it works on the first eight years of life.
There is a program in Ypsilanti, Michigan, which has been going on for 30 years. If we were to compare the Moncton Headstart program that Claudette Bradshaw started to the healthystart program in Hawaii, we would find that the Headstart program produces enormous bang for a buck, $7 to $8 for every $1 invested. It keeps kids healthier and more active. It reduces the incidents of unemployment later on by keeping kids in school longer. It decreases teen pregnancy rates and it decreases incidents of youth crime. This is a win-win situation for all concerned. The Headstart program is a healthy start program where children can be inculcated into proper dietary habits which in turn has a positive impact on their lives.
The longevity of Japanese children is quite extraordinary and the incidence of various cancers is quite low. One of the reasons for this is their lifestyle. The dietary habits of Japanese children are quite different from children in North America. Their consumption of sweets is quite low while their consumption of healthy foods, such as fish and vegetables, is quite high. These children know the types of foods they are eating and why they are eating them This works well. Studies have shown that these children grow up to become healthy adults. If we look at these kinds of initiatives and behaviours, we will be able to address people's health.
I would submit to the NDP members that their initiative, while well-meaning, is actually misguided and not rooted in fact and science. I would encourage members to look at some of the work that was done by the co-founder and former chief scientist of Greenpeace, Dr. Patrick Moore, who was part of an international panel of cancer experts and wrote some very good articles. Along with Professor Bruce Ames of the University of California, Berkley, Dr. Moore has been trying to tell the world for years that “pesticides in food are not a significant health issue”.
As a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a National Medal of Science recipient for his research in cancer, especially in the area of chemical toxicity, Dr. Ames has found that natural pesticides that plants produce to protect themselves from insects and fungi are just as toxic as the synthetic pesticides in agricultural production.
In short, if we were to affect the health of Canadians, the solutions I have given would be an effective plan of action to reduce cancer rates. Banning pesticides in the manner that the NDP is suggesting will not.
Mr. Speaker, I am extremely concerned about this motion and its implications. The motion is applying a blanket treatment across the country and making a policy decision that is not based on sound scientific reasoning. In fact, it flies in the face of sound scientific reasoning and uses some studies and facts of some people with certain axes to grind.
Yes, there is a legitimate concern out there, but this motion would apply a blanket approach to the whole country on an issue that is extremely complicated and perhaps better applied at the municipal and/or provincial levels because some jurisdictions are different in terms of the use of pesticides and herbicides as they relate to the agricultural community.
While the intent of the motion may be sound, as we are all concerned about health, the decisions we make on this matter need to be based on the best science available. I do not believe an overall ban is the right approach to take if we ban for cosmetic use based on emotion and not on fact, or if there is a misrepresentation of the facts, or if somebody is blaming pesticides for genetic defects in people or health concerns when in fact they may be caused by something else. If we can ban for cosmetic use on those bases, then we basically throw away the ability to make decisions on absolute facts or on the least risk based on sound scientific principles.
If we were to ban the use of pesticides, herbicides, et cetera, for cosmetic use not based on sound science, we would justify the misconceptions of facts related to their use in the country. That would be the slim edge of the wedge moving toward to the agricultural sector and its ability to be productive and produce crops with the advantage of many of the products we gained through the industrial revolution.
As well, if we were to go with this motion, the House of Commons would be justifying the exaggerations about the use of pesticides and chemicals that are in the general community. The right approach is one that is based on good regulation and sound science. I believe the previous government was, as I believe the present government is, moving in the direction of ensuring that the sound science related to the use of these chemicals exists.
As a government, we proposed several amendments to Canada's pesticide regime in 2002. Bill C-8 received royal assent on December 12, 2002. It was scheduled to come into force in 2005 but, as I understand it, has not yet come into force. We should ensure that it moves forward with some haste.
Currently, the Pest Control Products Act states that any pesticide product manufactured or distributed in Canada must be registered with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. These regulations set out what kinds of products can be sold or used in Canada, including what kinds of substances can be used in pesticides. They set out the requirements for the packaging and labelling of products and any safety requirements of pesticides.
The entire focus of the Pest Control Products Act is on things such as the chemical composition of the pesticide, its registration, and determining whether or not it is safe to use. I might underline the fact that it is illegal to use a pesticide in any manner other than that which is stated on the label. We went through some considerable turmoil in the agricultural community over that matter. The fact is that everyone is now required to take training. There are much safer standards around the use of pesticides in the agricultural community than there used to be, for everything from clothing to breathing apparatus and its use and to not spraying pesticides when winds are at certain levels or prior to a heavy rainstorm and so on.
There actually has been a tremendous cultural change in the agricultural community as that community has tried to meet the standards to ensure that when its members are using products it does not jeopardize their health, the community's health or in fact the environmental health of the country.
I might point out as well that the changes that the Pest Control Products Act sought to accomplish were the following: clear requirements for the minister to give special consideration to children and to assess aggregate exposure and cumulative effects; clearer authority for the minister to refuse to consider an application or to maintain a registration if the applicant or registrant does not provide the information necessary to substantiate claims that the risks and value of the product are acceptable; mandatory reporting of adverse effects of registered pesticides; new opportunities for informed public participation in the pest management regulations; and strengthened measures to encourage compliance. Overall, we have the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, which is there to ensure the approval of and compliance with the regulatory regime surrounding the products we use in the agriculture sector.
As for the motion, the NDP certainly has absolutely lost touch with its rural roots, which is where the NDP got its start. It goes to some length to say that the motion will not impact on the agriculture sector. If this motion sets up a system whereby we bring in bans based on emotion rather than basing things on sound science and scientific principles, it will in fact have an impact in fact on everything we do. I have seen that happen in the agriculture sector in Prince Edward Island as we tried to bring in new products.
It will in fact have an impact. Yes, there are fears out there, no question about it, but this motion is put forward on the basis of using the health scare, and to a certain extent that is legitimate, but whatever we do in the final analysis should be based on sound science.
The way the motion is worded, it in fact will, as I read it, affect “any parcel of land on which a dwelling-house is situated”. That would be dwelling-houses in rural areas as well. What about not controlling the weed population for those dwelling-houses in rural areas? Earlier I used the example of up in Peace River country where they are into the worldwide production of seeds, alfalfa seeds and fescue seeds, and if we cannot control those weeds around the dwelling-houses or on vacant property, then we do lose our opportunity to market those seeds elsewhere around the world.
The bottom line is that I strongly oppose this motion because it is not based on sound facts, it is not based on scientific principles and it will be the thin edge of the wedge in the House of Commons in terms of making policy based on strict emotion on matters that really require the judgment of sound science.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Windsor West.
First I would like to thank the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth for bringing this important motion before the House. As he said in his remarks earlier today, this is one concrete step “the federal government can take to protect all Canadians from chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects” and other devastating illnesses.
This is a serious issue that affects our environment, and a serious issue that affects our health, and it must be dealt with on a national level. Citizens across this country have been speaking out about the cosmetic use of pesticides in their communities. Now it is time for the federal government not only to listen but to act.
The cosmetic use of pesticides is something whose time is over. We should not be pouring harsh chemicals on our lawns and gardens to kill a weed or a bug. These chemicals were designed to kill and that is just what they do. They do not stop at only weeds and bugs. Medical studies have shown that exposure to all commonly used pesticides adversely affects health. In fact, there is no class of pesticide free of cancer-causing potential. That alone should warn us away from using them, but it does not. We are given the illusion that some chemicals are safer than others, but again, let us consider this: these chemicals were designed to kill something.
There are much better ways of making our lawns and gardens greener and healthier at the same time. We should be encouraging composting and natural native plantings in public spaces and in our yards across this country. This is something that is already happening in many communities that have realized the negative environmental and health implications of pesticide use.
Citizens across this country from coast to coast to coast have been pushing for bans on pesticides. In the southern part of my riding, there is a small rail corridor known as the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway. It runs along the east side of Vancouver Island from Victoria to Courtenay. Along the way it passes many small and large communities, numerous rivers and streams, small vegetable and dairy farms, forests, several schools, and countless rural backyards.
As everyone knows, the west coast of B.C. is somewhat of a rainforest and vegetation grows quite quickly there, but last year a decision was made to control the vegetation along the rail line with a chemical known as 2,4-D. Many of us in the communities along the tracks were shocked. This was something that was done back in the 1950s, we thought, and surely this could not be happening in 2005, when we know the dangers of such chemicals.
How could this even be considered in such an environmentally sensitive area? Salmon-bearing streams along the route are already in jeopardy due to a host of things such as lack of enhancement, bad logging practices and fast-paced development. What about the wildlife, the deer and bear and elk that live in the forest, and the hundreds of species of birds and small mammals whose lives would be at risk?
Then there is the issue of runoff, another phenomenon of the west coast, where we get a lot of rain. Anything we put on the ground is bound to find its way into a stream, a river, our drinking water and, eventually, the ocean that surrounds us.
One of the small vegetable farms along the rail line is Ironwood Farm, a small organic farm that sells local produce to a local market in the spring and summer. These farmers were particularly concerned about runoff and over-spraying, which would contaminate their wonderful produce and render it unsellable. This would not only damage their reputation as organic farmers but would have a devastating financial impact on the family run business. But--