Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today on Bill .
This bill was introduced by the government on March 4, 2009. It is what I would term an omnibus bill, because it amends a number of environmental statutes. It runs to close to 190 pages and beefs up the enforcement, fines, penalty and sentencing provisions relating to offences against an environmental act. Nine pieces of legislation are amended, including the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (1999), the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, the Antarctic Environmental Protection Act, the International River Improvements Act, the Canada National Parks Act and the National Marine Conservation Areas Act.
We were somewhat surprised when the government introduced this omnibus bill on March 4. What we were expecting from them was not an omnibus bill beefing up the enforcement, penalties and fines relating to offences against the environmental acts, but rather a regulatory framework such as the government had announced with great pomp and circumstance in 1997. Here on Parliament Hill, people were expecting an announcement from the government about regulations and legislation on climate change, an act that would make Canada a contributor to the international efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, particularly as we are leading up to the important conference on climate change to be held in Copenhagen in December 2009. Everyone was expecting the government to come up with a response to this regulatory framework that has been promised since 2007, particularly with a new administration in place south of the border, one that has made a commitment to come to the conference on climate change with legislation aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Also, given the rumours that were circulating in recent weeks, we would have expected the government to announce changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act in order to exempt certain projects from Canadian environmental assessment. However, no climate change bill was introduced. The regulations that were presented to us were hastily introduced last Friday, in a document that was not even published in the Canada Gazette for consultation for 30 days, which is normally what happens. No, instead the government used the fast tracking approach to pass regulations directly by cabinet order.
All this at a time when this government prides itself on balancing economic and environmental concerns. It is extremely disappointing to see that the government refuses to honour the formal commitment made by the just a few months ago in Poznan, Poland. There, in front of the entire international community, this government said that an economic crisis should not hamper Canadian and international efforts to protect the environment. Furthermore, I would remind this House what the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, said. He told the international community that one crisis is not an excuse for failing to take action on another crisis. The fact is, measures to fight climate change, or the absence thereof, demonstrate that this government has chosen to favour accelerated economic development, to the detriment of protecting the environment.
This flies in the face of an international principle recognized in Rio in the early 1990s: sustainable development. What has this government done instead? It has decided to go the old “law and order” route by upping the penalties for those who commit environmental offences and bringing in tougher sentences for those who violate the nine environmental acts.
How? A thorough study of the bill reveals that the government has decided to create a new fine structure and add it to each of the nine acts to set different fines for individuals, corporations, and ships.
Under the new structure, minimum fines would be stipulated for serious offences, and maximum fines would be increased. Fines would be doubled for subsequent offences. The bill would also direct all fines to the environmental damages fund so they may be used to repair the harm done by offences.
Can environmental catastrophes be avoided by increasing fines, sanctions and penalties? Wealthy companies will just end up buying pollution rights because of the government's new structure.
For example, in one particular sector, the oil sands in the west, as recently as February 2009—not so very long ago—Syncrude was charged under the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act and subject to a $300,000 fine or a maximum prison term of six months for dumping toxic substances into tailing ponds used in oil sands exploitation north of Fort McMurray.
This practice is common in Canada's oil industry, particularly in oil sands operations. As a result, 500 ducks died, and the company was formally charged under federal legislation and provincial legislation in Alberta.
Even if the government increases fines for super-rich companies that make hundreds of millions of dollars a year, what is to stop them from buying pollution rights thanks to the new structure?
The government needs to understand that increasing fines and penalties will not fix the problem. Structural changes to the industry are needed. We have to stop giving tax breaks that help polluting industries.
On the one hand, tax advantages are being given to the tar sands industry via a system of accelerated capital cost allowances. Our tax dollars—we cannot call these subsidies because they are clearly the tax dollars of the people of Quebec and Canada—are subsidizing the operations of a polluting industry. On the other hand, fines are being increased.
Penalties need not necessarily be increased; what is needed instead is to engage in an industrial repositioning so that Canada will be responding to the call by the United Nations to be part of the “green new deal”, which recommends that nations reinvest in sectors of activity that will contribute to repositioning the global economy at a time when an economic stimulus is needed. Rather than continuing to subsidize the oil and gas industry and to provide it with tax incentives, what we need is to follow the example of the economic stimulus program presented by our neighbours to the south. The incentive plan that President Obama has presented includes six times more investment per capita in energy efficiency and renewable energies. That is the example to follow.
But the approach the federal government has chosen instead is to increase fines for major polluters, while at the same time continuing to fund them. Basically, the big winner in the end is that industry, which Canada is helping out. The big losers are Canada's ecosystems and its taxpayers.
It is somewhat distressing as well that we are holding this debate today, 20 years after an event that led to a real human drama: the wreck of the Exxon Valdez. Twenty years ago, in 1989, a ship whose hull was breached spilled more than 80,000 barrels of oil into the northern waters off Alaska.
We realize today that penalties and fines are not the way to avoid this kind of environmental damage. We are also aware that environmental damage also creates human dramas, from the experience of the northern communities around Alaska after that oil spill 20 years ago.
Some might say it is time to forget something that happened 20 years ago. But we must not forget it. Why not? Because if there was a very slim chance of such a thing happening 20 years ago, and yet it did, the risk will be greater in a few years, particularly with the development of this northwestern corridor. This northwest passage from Europe to Asia will see far more traffic, given the climate changes that are opening up a new passage to the north. As a result, the fragile ecosystems of the Arctic, pristine as they are today, will be at increasing risk in the years to come.
Some people believe that the Exxon Valdez disaster that took place 20 years ago could not happen again. But the truth is that the risk of such a disaster is greater than ever. The Government of Canada wants to extend its sovereignty in the north by extending the 200-mile limit, with these navigable waters and environmental legislation enforcement zones. I have nothing against that, but at the same time, what does this government really want? It wants to make sure that Canadian companies that want to can develop the huge global reserves of natural resources in that extended area. What does that mean for the north? It means that there will be more and more marine activity, more and more oil exploration and development and greater risks to our northern ecosystems.
Will heavier sentences and fines reduce these risks? Penalties are not a bad thing, but we have to work on prevention. We have to make sure that this area of the north can be protected. We have to make sure that the wildlife in our ecosystems can be protected.
That brings us to the sort of enforcement we want to see put in place here in Canada. It is all well and good to want to change the fine structure, but the current laws must be enforced.
I have been a member of this House since 1997, and I have seen a number of environmental laws enacted in Canada, including the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Species at Risk Act. But the fact is that we lack the resources to enforce these acts. We can give officers more power, but there are very few officers on the ground to enforce the law.
Let us look at the enforcement record in Canada. Officials with the Department of the Environment admitted that, on average, they had laid three to 14 charges and obtained one to five convictions a year since 2000 and that the maximum fine of $1 million provided by law had been imposed only once in 20 years. We are not the ones saying that.
What does that mean? We can increase fines, but if the maximum fine has been imposed only once in 20 years, there is a good chance the system and the new structure will not be enforced in Canada.
Naturally we support the bill and are not opposed to it. However, it does not provide a structural solution to environmental issues here in Canada. What was required, as I mentioned earlier, was the tabling of long overdue regulations on climate change. We must establish greenhouse gas emissions ceilings that will make it possible to set up a true carbon market that we hope to have in future. Canada must go to Copenhagen in a few months with climate change legislation that establishes 1990 as the reference year for green house gas emissions reductions. This country must acknowledge that we must limit the temperature increase to 2oC above pre-industrial levels. That is what scientists are telling us.
To reach this objective, we must put in place absolute targets resulting in a reduction of between 25% and 40% of green house gas emissions from 1990 levels, by 2020. But wait. The government has decided to use 2005 as the reference year instead, ignoring all efforts made since 1990 and setting the counter to zero in Canada. In 2006, Quebec firms had managed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 10% from 1990 levels.
What does that mean? It means that we are establishing a system that will ignore all past efforts and the increase in greenhouse gases in Canada generated by the Canadian oil industry. We must not adopt a polluter-paid approach; we must have a polluter-pay approach.
Therefore, we will support the bill before us even though it is clearly inadequate. We would really have liked a climate change bill that introduced structural changes for industrial commitments. That is how we will truly protect our ecosystems.
Mr. Speaker, I, too, rise in the House to speak in support of Bill , but with serious reservations. I look forward to the opportunity to review the bill with the appropriate officials in committee so some of those reservations might be addressed and so I can fully support the bill.
I worked in the field of environmental enforcement for 35 years and had the opportunity to be the first chief of enforcement for Environment Canada. As a result of that work, I count as some of my best friends and most revered colleagues the former chiefs of investigation for each of the regions of Environment Canada, who deserve to be lauded as heroes of the planet. They often go unheralded in our move to protect the environment.
When I taught at Dalhousie Law School, I simultaneously did my master of law. The topic of it, which I would like to donate to the library for everybody's use, was “Effective Environmental Enforcement: the Missing Link to Sustainable Development”. What does that mean? It essentially means there is no point of having laws and policies in place unless there is the political will of the government to actually abide by and enforce those laws and policies. The bill is supposed to be about that.
The bill provides for a much welcomed array of expanded tools for enforcement officers, long overdue tools, many of which I recommended to the Government of Canada in 1988. I applaud the government for finally bringing forward this massive bill of almost 200 pages, which is a compendium of amendments of eight bills and the addition of a new bill. However, I have some serious reservations on some of the provisions and the rationale for why those changes are being made, which I wish to address.
When the original Canadian Environmental Protection Act, or CEPA as it is called in short form, was first tabled by the then Hon. Tom McMillan, minister of the environment, he took very profound action and that set a change in environmental enforcement right across this country.
When Minister McMillan tabled the first CEPA, he also tabled in the House an enforcement and compliance policy. This was an historic step. When the minister tabled that policy, he stated to the House:
|| As strong as the Act is, it is not good enough to have only a sound piece of legislation; it must be enforced. To that end, I am releasing today, as a companion to the legislation itself, an Enforcement and Compliance Policy designed to prevent pollution, to encourage co-operation and to deal harshly with those who would violate the Act.
That simple action of the minister tabling the policy in the House set in motion a change across the country and necessitated all provincial jurisdictions and all provincial departments of the environment to do the same. In order for the provinces to claim equivalency under CEPA, which would mean that they could enforce their laws instead of the federal law, they also had to put in place an equivalent enforcement and compliance policy.
What did that do for Canadians, what did that do for Canadian industry and what did that do for enforcement officers? It basically made a clear statement saying: first, they were obligated to obey environmental law; and, second, if they violated this environmental law, then a number of things could happen. It set forth very clearly what the various enforcement measures were available in the legislation and in addition to the legislation so any violator would know what to anticipate. It also set out clearly the criteria for when each of those measures would be used.
There is one thing that I find missing, very sadly, in the hon. minister's tabling of this legislation. Even though it may include a lot of important measures, he has provided the House absolutely no clarity on how those various new tools will be used. When are we going to go to court? When are we going to use administrative penalties? When are we going to recommend that permits be withdrawn? I encourage the minister to come back to the House, before we finally deal with this bill, and bring forward a strategic document. What guidance will be provided to his officials and how they will exercise the various new powers under that law?
In general, I am rising in support of Bill . There is no one more important in Canada right now for the protection of our environment than our enforcement officers. They are often forgotten and they are often at the bottom of the list for additional funds and tools. It is long overdue that they be lauded for the role they play in protecting the health of Canadians and the environment. I rise in the House as well to commend and honour them and the good work they have done for Canadians.
I have some reservations and I look forward to the opportunity in committee, as I have mentioned to my fellow members of the parliamentary committee, to bring forth the appropriate officials from the Department of the Environment, from Parks Canada, and from the Department of Justice, as well as independent environmental enforcement experts, to talk to us about what the implications are of the various measures in the bill, so that we can fully understand the bill before us.
If we deem it appropriate, we can rise and support the bill and it can be expeditiously put forward and made available to the enforcement officers.
First, as did the hon. member from the Bloc who spoke earlier, I want to speak to the irony of the minister tabling this bill claiming commitment to the enforcement of federal environmental laws.
The irony is that the government has issued a full frontal attack on environmental protection ever since it came to power. There are still no enforceable regulations for greenhouse gases or for the countless toxins or pollutants awaiting regulation under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act or the federal Fisheries Act. Therefore, while it is nice to have these enforcement powers, there is not much to enforce.
The government has opposed Kyoto as a socialist plot. When will it come forward with binding regulations, as my colleague said previously, so that the enforcement officers can actually inspect, validate and enforce those laws, even if they are emissions trading rules?
In the fall 2008 Speech from the Throne, the government brought forward basically the same principles it put forward in its Turning the Corner report. Those principles were that environmental laws are simply red tape.
We witnessed just last week the action by the to unilaterally change significant regulations that have been in place following in-depth consultation with regulated industry, members of the public, and provincial and territorial governments, to unilaterally amend regulations without even providing a Canada Gazette notice in advance, essentially violating its own regulation-making power.
This removal of red tape is going to have a profound effect on the people who live downwind or downstream of these projects that the government is fast-tracking without any environmental impact assessment.
The concerns have been raised over and over in the House. The sad thing is that just when we finally get some strong environmental laws in place, including the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which has been in place for many decades, the federal Fisheries Act, which has been updated over time, and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the government moves forward and simply erases most of the laws that are in place to protect the public. Essentially the government is saying it has no interest in enforcing those important measures. Where is the real commitment of the federal government to enforce environmental law?
In its own Turning the Corner report, in its throne speech and in its budget, which has passed, there is absolutely no mention of support for clean energy or renewable power in its proposals for clean electricity. So where are the strong measures that in fact we will put in place to protect people's health and environment?
The 2009 budget was an assault on environmental protection, an assault on renewable power, an assault on scientific research, which was very critical to determining environmental cases, and an assault on the precautionary principle, which is exactly what the Navigable Waters Protection Act is all about and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
What is even more important is that in bringing forward those measures, those changes to our critical environmental laws without providing the opportunity for advance notice and comment by either regulated industry or the public, the very government that says it is getting serious about environment enforcement has abrogated international agreements.
It has abrogated the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation. That is the sidebar agreement to NAFTA, between Canada, the United States and Mexico. Provisions of that agreement require, under article 2, that the government has committed not to downgrade any environmental law for an economic benefit.
In article 3, the government commits to advance notice and comment to any concerned party on any proposed environmental policy.
So the government, by doing that action without even gazetting its regulation, by passing it without any opportunity of advance notice or comment, has also abrogated an international agreement with the United States of America, which it claims to be in co-operation with.
What is in the bill? There are a number of good measures in the bill, and there are also a number of significant measures that are not in the bill. I took the time to look at previous reports of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, which of course includes members from all parties.
The report from 1998 is very instructive. It provided almost 30 recommendations to improve the environmental enforcement system in Canada. There is something very profound and different about that particular parliamentary committee review. For the first time in history they actually brought in the regionally based enforcement officers to testify and to talk about what the real barriers were to effective enforcement of environmental law. Those recommendations are very instructive and I encourage members to reference that report by the parliamentary committee.
Some of those recommendations, to the credit of the government, have been acted on, some long overdue. The government has expanded the powers of enforcement officers, which is very appreciated by them. There is partial response to the recommendation to publish all enforcement data and to table that information in the House.
Provinces such as British Columbia have been doing that for quite some time. It regularly reports to the public online and provides written reports and tabling in the House so that all can know who is violating the law and what kind of action the government has been taking.
Unfortunately the government has chosen to implement only a very small part of that recommendation—the recommendation, by the way, that has been endorsed by many of the 100 member countries of the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement, which Canada participates in.
The government has agreed to table with the public and inform them of parties who are convicted. That is not really a great measure, because anyone can find out who is convicted, by looking at the court proceedings.
The measures it has not included are all violations, all warnings issued, all orders issued, all tickets issued, all agreements and all charges. Those are matters that the committee recommended and has not had action taken on.
The government has strengthened penalties, although there is no rationale for the minimum and maximum penalties, and I look forward to that description being provided in committee. I have yet to see the government table any kind of specific rationale from any kind of independent authority, or even its own government, explaining why it is that we have to shanghai the courts' powers to tell them what the minimum penalty and maximum penalty might be.
The maximum penalty has been increased to $6 million, but who is to say that is sufficient if an entire watershed is destroyed, or perhaps in a situation such as the Valdez, if that should occur in the Arctic? Where the entire food source of people in the Arctic or their ability to continue activities would be completely annihilated, it could be more in the order of billions of dollars lost. So I look forward to elaboration of that in committee and later in the House.
There is a broader array of enforcement tools, and orders are a welcome tool. However, the suspension of licences and permits is a complete mystery to me, because that is generally understood as being a provincial-level power. Perhaps that is what the Liberal critic was speaking to, that his party questions some of the constitutionality of the measures. I suppose the minister and the officials will come and defend that in committee.
The one really critical issue is fettering the discretion of the court. One of the measures in the bill actually fetters the discretion of the court. The court currently in the law has the power when it convicts a party to order that the convicted party actually compensate an affected community, or to actually award moneys to people who have been working to protect the environment and can further that cause. Regrettably, the government has decided that the court may only recommend to the minister those people it may compensate, which introduces some level of ministerial and political interference. It is basically recognized in the environmental enforcement profession as a completely inappropriate interference in the discretion of officers in enforcement. I look forward to the rationale for that provision.
What is not in the bill? A number of critical federal environmental laws are not mentioned, for some reason. The government has decided to consolidate and improve and provide a broader array of powers to a number of acts, but not the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, not the federal Fisheries Act, not the endangered species legislation, and not the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act. It is a mystery to me why on earth those acts are not included. In particular, the federal Fisheries Act is known to be the strongest federal law in existence for the protection of the environment. I look forward to an explanation as to why that is not included.
Among the significant enforcement measures not included as well is a provision that is in the federal Fisheries Act, and that is the right of anyone who initiates a private prosecution or brings forward the charges to receive half of any penalty imposed.
The parliamentary committee had actually recommended that as far back as 1998. I look forward to an explanation as to why they did not carry forward that long overdue amendment.
Again, where is the compliance enforcement policy for all these acts that are included in the bill? We need to understand how these new, innovative tools will be used, in particular the proposed new Environmental Violations Administrative Monetary Penalties Act, which has never been used. There is actually no explanation of how that will work in the array of tools.
Where are the long-promised strengthened standards and regulations for air pollutants, toxins and greenhouse gases? Without having regulations in place, frankly there is nothing to enforce. While the Canadian Environmental Protection Act has been on the books now for almost three decades, very little action has been taken by any of the governments in power to actually promulgate the regulations so we have binding standards that can be enforced.
Where, finally, is the tool to require an assessment of the efficacy of the array of tools? The Government of Canada has participated for the last 15 years in the coming together of the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement. One of the most important discussions that the enforcement agencies across the world have discussed is the need for clear indicators of effective enforcement action.
Article 5 of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation under NAFTA obligates Canada to effectively enforce its environmental laws. It has yet to come forward with the clear criteria so that Canadians can determine whether we are effectively enforcing the environmental laws.
Those are essentially the comments I wish to make. I laud the government for bringing forward these improved measures, but I have also raised a number of serious questions that I look forward to having addressed either by the minister in the House on future readings of the bill or in committee.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
A former Conservative premier addressed a crowd of reporters and residents in Walkerton, Ontario, where hundreds of people suffered from drinking E. coli. contaminated water and seven people died. He said, “We have a terrible tragedy here”.
Unfortunately, all could have been prevented. Dr. Murray McQuigge, the local medical officer of health, revealed that the Walkerton Public Utilities Commission knew there was a problem with the water several days before it told the public. Illnesses could have been prevented, in part, if cuts to the environment ministry and deregulation of water testing had not occurred.
The environment minister reported that, “If there is something positive that can ever come out of an event like this, it is that changes be made to ensure that it doesn't ever happen again”.
Bill is an important step to improving the health of Canada's environment. Specifically, it would help enhance and protect environmental health and human health by standardizing and strengthening penalties across all of the federal government's environmental laws and by requiring that violators pay to repair environmental damage beyond paying fines, ensuring that polluting was not just part of the cost of doing business.
The Conservative proudly reports:
|| In the election campaign, our government committed to bolster the protection of our water, air and land through tougher environmental enforcement that holds polluters accountable. Today we delivered...the new measures will provide a comprehensive, modern and effective enforcement regime for Canada.
What assurances can the government provide regarding its ability to implement the provisions? Also, will the newly hired and trained offers be sufficient to do the work that is required to enforce Canada's environmental laws? What accountability measures will be put in place to ensure enforcement? How truly comprehensive is the proposed bill if it fails to address our most pressing environmental issue, namely climate change?
Global warming will in fact impact the very items that Bill aims to safeguard. As a result of climate change, we are already seeing changes in caribou, polar bear and seal populations, changes in permafrost and impacts on traditional ways of life. In the future, climate change will potentially impact migratory birds, their flyways and possibly the spread of avian influenza.
Our country's current climate policies are widely criticized in Canada by external research bodies, parliamentarians, the public and the scientific community.
In contrast, President Obama is recognized for taking global warming seriously and is listening to scientists who tell us that the situation is outdistancing our efforts to confront it. The President said:
|| We all believe what the scientists have been telling us for years now that this is a matter of urgency and national security and it has to be dealt with in a serious way.
President Obama has since called for hard caps on global warming, cleared the way for tougher clean car standards, declared an intention to play a constructive role in international climate negotiations and introduced a serious green stimulus package.
The , however, believes that the differences between the American and Canadian regimes are not near as stark as some would suggest. He said:
|| When I look at the President's platform the kind of targets that his administration has laid out for the reduction of greenhouse gases are very similar to ours.
Climate Action Network Canada and US Climate Action Network, representing 100 leading organizations in Canada and the United States that are working together to prevent catastrophic climate change and promote sustainable and equitable solutions, argue that Canada needs to overhaul its current approach and raise its level of ambition to have a credible climate change policy.
Today the issue of climate change is more pressing than ever as considerable time lags in the climate system mean that many impacts of climate change are already locked in over the coming decades. Today's buildings, power plants and transportation systems continue to produce increased emissions, meaning an even greater delay and increased warming in the future. Moreover, as some of the climate risks materialize, the economic costs will be much steeper than those from the current financial crisis.
Canadians want action on climate change, as recognized by a former Conservative environment minister who said back in 2007, “Canadians want action, they want it now”.
As testament to this fact, during earth hour 2008, Canada had almost 10 million people participating in 150 cities from coast to coast to coast. People in cities across Canada held candlelight dinners, enjoyed time with family and friends, and went on neighbourhood walks. In Toronto, electricity demand dropped by almost 9%, the equivalent of taking 260 megawatts off the grid or approximately 5.8 million light bulbs.
This hear earth hour falls on Saturday, March 28, with more than 1,500 cities across 80 countries committing to reduce electrical consumption, with more coming onboard every day. Canada currently ranks second for the most city sign ups at 258.
Canadians understand that earth hour will not reverse or reduce climate change but, rather, will raise awareness about the climate challenges the world is facing. Earth hour presents a good opportunity for people to show their federally elected representatives that they support actions to fight climate change.
However, it is worth noting that most Canadian provinces have emission reduction targets that are much more ambitious than that of the federal government. Canada's largest province, Ontario, is moving ahead with the cap and trade system based on absolute caps aimed at meeting its reduction target of 15% below 1990 levels by 2020, with an implementation date of January 1, 2010.
The Conservative government must protect our atmosphere. It must build partnerships with business, consumers, local authorities and the energy sector. It must find abatement solutions and reduce fossil fuel subsidies that currently put a premium rather than a penalty on CO2 emissions.
Many policy instruments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have significant implications for government revenues and expenditures. An OECD analysis provides examples of ambitious emission reductions that can be achieved through auctioned tradable emission permits, with estimates of fiscal revenues reaching over 5% of world GDP by 2050. Although we are talking about domestic policy, it is important to note that tackling climate change requires strong collective action worldwide.
Indications of climate change must be treated with the utmost seriousness and with the precautionary principle uppermost in parliamentarians' minds. Extensive climate changes may alter and threaten the living conditions of much of humankind. They may lead to greater competition for the earth's resources and induce large-scale migration. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world's most vulnerable countries.
In closing, my appeal to the government would be to please listen and reflect on the voices of science and Canadians regarding climate change and, most importantly, to act with determination and a sense of urgency.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to discuss Bill , an omnibus bill we are referring to as the environmental enforcement act. I need not tell members in the House that omnibus bills are sweeping in scope. This bill touches on almost any legislation dealing with environmental protection that has a regime for enforcement and levying fines.
The announcement of this bill seemed to be more about re-announcing old funding commitments from budgets 2007 and 2008, including $22 million for hiring 106 new enforcement officers and $21 million to implement environmental enforcement measures, than about the legislation itself.
As I mentioned earlier, I have concerns with the government's commitment to making sure these new enforcement officers will have the capacity to find infractions and enforce environmental regulations. However, I know these will be brought up by fellow members in this debate.
I am here to discuss the provisions of this bill that alter the Antarctic Environmental Protection Act. I am certain that some Canadians will wonder why legislation originating in Ottawa features any mention of the Antarctic. The reason is our commitment to international law.
Since December 2003, people visiting the Antarctic through Canadian expeditions or tours and those operating Canadian aircraft and vessels are required to apply for a permit from the Government of Canada except when granted permission by another country that is party to the Madrid protocol.
The Madrid protocol came into force in 1998, designating the Antarctic as a natural reserve devoted to science and peace. It is also known as the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty and its purpose is to ensure that countries regulate the activities of their nationals in the Antarctic. The protocol has been ratified by 30 countries. The amendments proposed in this bill update, clarify and strengthen regulations put in place six years ago when the Liberals were on the other side of the House.
This is truly international legislation. One can review the equivalent Antarctic environmental protection legislation of other Madrid protocol countries, including the U.K., Australia and New Zealand, and note they share many similarities. Much can be learned about Canada's own Arctic through the study of the Antarctic. Recent discoveries indicate there are species that inhabit both northern and southern polar regions. Arctic seas share at least 235 species in common. These include migrating birds and grey whales, but more commonly small and elusive sea life including crustaceans, snails and worms.
In order to learn all we must learn about the effects of climate change on polar regions. We must study both poles and as legislators do all we can to facilitate scientific cooperation between the people who have a passion to carry out this research. Last month, I was pleased to see the announce a memorandum of understanding between Canada and the United Kingdom that will see Canadian researchers gain access to British research stations in the Antarctic in exchange for our granting access to British researchers to our stations in the far North.
These opportunities for international cooperation through science provide our researchers with venues to share their knowledge and learn from their colleagues while gaining critical data needed to understand climate change. The Antarctic blocks up about 90% of the world's freshwater. We continue to learn of studies indicating that Antarctic ice sheets are even more sensitive to subtle elevations in greenhouse gases and temperatures than we originally thought they were. We have all seen the maps and models illustrating the dramatic effects that higher sea levels will have on the coastlines and even on the earth's rotational axis.
That is one of the reasons for my private member's bill. The government should look at providing a provision in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to allow for environmental refugees because the predictions are that there will be over 50 million refugees coming as a result of climate change. This is all to say that going to the Antarctic to research is not about romantic adventure. It is about the research that humanity's future depends on.
I would also like to note at this time that a Yukon company won a world contract put out by the British to build an airport in the Antarctic and did an excellent job if anyone is looking for further work in the Antarctic. I hope this will serve as an incentive to the government to follow through with its commitments to building research capacity in the Arctic and to do all it can to expedite the creation of the much-discussed new high Arctic research centre.
I noticed that the was in Iqaluit last month and that he announced that the federal government will spend $2 million on a feasibility study to help the government figure out where to build the research station: Pond Inlet, Cambridge Bay or Resolute Bay. I understand the study will take a year and a half to complete.
All I can say is that I hope the three communities, along with all the other northern communities, will receive their share of attention and support from the government regardless of which is selected for the research centre.
I also appreciate the money to upgrade existing northern research infrastructure, which I and my colleagues pushed very hard in the House for the government to come up with.
What the government has been harshly criticized for are the dramatic cutbacks in funds for the researchers themselves. As has been stated in the House, we will have a bunch of research facilities in the north that will be empty because they do not have access to sufficient government funds to continue their research.
As I have already noted in this House, the PEARL research centre in Eureka is in jeopardy. The Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences received no new funding from the Government of Canada in the last budget. Without new funding, CFCAS will be shut down by this time next year taking 24 research networks that are focused on climate change with it. This is insanity.
Does the government not see money spent on climate change research as money well spent? Do we want the opposite of what common sense says we should do? Does the government believe that drought is an important issue facing Canada?
If so, how can the government cut the funding for the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences that funds the only comprehensive drought study ever conducted in Canada? The drought research initiative, DRI, is focusing on drought in Canada, on the prairies, and, in particular, is contributing to the better prediction and adaptation to this crisis.
Does the government support greater resiliency to natural disasters in Canada? How can the government cut funding for CFCAS projects that examine a range of extreme events, such as storms, floods and droughts, over many parts of the country? These projects include DRI and the storm studies in the Arctic, STAR, research networks. DRI was discussed above and STAR is the first ever research project to examine eastern Canadian storms.
Both STAR and DRI are working closely with those affected by natural disasters to increase their resiliency. This includes farmers, water managers, Arctic communities, et cetera. I implore the government to reinstate this critical funding for Arctic and other climate change research.
I find the government all too willing to announce initiatives in support of the north through highly visible events that capture the attention of the media for a day or two and raise the hopes of the people in the north only to go silent for months with no news of progress. We can take our pick, whether it is the deep-sea port at Nanisivik, three icebreakers or supply ships with reinforced hulls or enacting a respectable climate change policy, members of the government are experts at staging photo ops but it is too slow to deliver.
For the benefit of my colleagues and those Canadians with direct interests in Antarctic research, I would like to take some time to outline a few of the changes this bill would bring.
The provisions would ensure that any polluter, whether the person is Canadian or the person is in the Antarctic under a Canadian licence, would be held responsible under Canadian law. This demonstrates that Canada is capable of meeting its international treaty commitments.
Of course, it is not only Canadian scientists who travel to the Antarctic but increasingly large tour groups organized in Canada and elsewhere.
The reasons for the legislation and amendments are summed up well in clause 50.9, which states:
|| The fundamental purpose of sentencing for offences under this Act is to contribute to respect for the law protecting the Antarctic environment and dependent and associated ecosystems in light of the global significance of the Antarctic and the Treaty....
The section goes on to state that the sentencing measures within the act exist to deter the offender, denounce unlawful conduct that puts the environment at risk and to reinforce the “polluter pays” principle by ensuring the offenders are held responsible for effective cleanup and restoration. These were always the objective of the legislation but they are now spelled out in their own section.
I also would point out that sections 30, 32 and 37 would now offer enforcement officers more discretionary powers to compel potentially offending vessels to follow instruction and allow the officer to seize a vessel, regardless of whether or not it is Canadian, if there are reasonable grounds to believe an offence has been committed.
Section 37 states that a foreign state must be notified that a detention order against a vessel registered in that state was made.
Section 44 states that the offending party shall be held liable for the costs of the seizure, so no need to worry our friends at Treasury Board.
Finally, the last amendment of note is clause 51(2), which states:
|| If a Canadian vessel or other vessel commits an offence under this Act, every director or officer of a corporation that is an owner or an operator of the vessel who directed or influenced the corporation’s policies or activities...is a party to and guilty of the offence.....
I am pleased to see the legislation take a strong stand on corporate responsibility.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand in the House to speak to Bill , an act to amend the Environmental Enforcement Act.
This bill, as has been stated previously, would amend environment bills and create one new act. The purpose of the bill is to stiffen penalties for environmental offences. This is the first step in the right direction.
In the past, the effectiveness of Canada's environmental legislation and regulations has been hampered by the lack of an adequate enforcement regime.
Mr. Speaker, before I go forward, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
Bill attempts to address the shortcomings of the current laws and puts in a stronger enforcement regime. It introduces stiffer fines, penalties and new sentencing powers, and strengthens the government's ability to investigate and prosecute infractions. Canadians do need to know that there is an effective environmental enforcement regime. They need to know that polluters, poachers and wild life smugglers will be punished or will be fined and will pay for it.
Bill would not only introduce enforcement tools like fines but also sentencing. The drafting and architecture of the environmental enforcement was accomplished in many stages during three successive Liberal governments, and I am glad to see that this has been carried forward.
Climate change and its impact on the population is a well-known fact. Climate change is a global phenomena and is affecting every country.
Today I was at a breakfast meeting with the deputy minister of Jamaica. He stated that the Caribbean Islands are facing the wrath of climate change. He stated that, as a young man, hurricanes were very rare, once in 10 years, and that now hurricanes hit the islands and surrounding area on a regular basis. This has had a devastating impact on their economy.
Countries that rely on agriculture have seen their crops fail badly or totally destroyed. We have seen devastating results in our own country. In Canada, we have had droughts on the prairies and rivers dry up or overflow. Our rivers are being polluted making the water undrinkable, unsuitable for swimming or anything else and for sea life as well. We have seen the impact of climate change on the northern communities. Their way of life is threatened. The snow is melting and the polar bears are in danger.
The elephant in the room, as we discuss environmental enforcement legislation, has to do with what the government is doing to address the issue of climate change. The government has no regulatory framework for climate change.
The government has made claims that its plan would reduce GHGs by 20% by 2020 but the C.D. Howe Institute, the RBC Dominion Securities and 11 independent groups stated that the government's plan will not work. In fact, at the public accounts meeting, the Commissioner of the Environment stated that the government had achieved nothing with some of its tax credits, for example, the TTC tax credit, which was a waste of $635 million with zero reduction in GHGs, or the Eco-Fund, which is a $1.5 billion boondoggle. There is no accountability, no help in reducing GHGs and nobody knows whether any of the provinces or territories have drawn down the money or have done anything to assist with the greenhouse gas reductions.
The government still does not have a plan. Its Clean Air Act, which was introduced in the last Parliament, was a disaster. The U.S., on the other hand, under President Obama, is moving forward with an aggressive climate change policy because they realize that the science of climate change is real.
We should just look at the desertification in the Sub-Sahara. In many parts of the world, the impact of climate change has led to a lack of water and lack of arable land which has led to conflict and human tragedies.
Therefore, my question is, where is the government's plan on climate change?
With the evaporation of the clean air act from the last Parliament and its being rewritten and greatly strengthened, the government did not like it and therefore, it censored debate. Now the government is waiting for the U.S., but Canada is a sovereign state. Is there an envoy or timeline?
If we are desperately in need of environmental enforcement, we are desperately in need of a climate change plan. What will we do when the temperature increases? What are the crises that will occur?
The line of questioning that I hope will be pursued when the bill is sent to committee is: what about climate change? Where is the government's plan? What has motivated the government to move in the direction of environmental enforcement without moving to put in a proper climate change plan?
The government has put in an aggressive agenda. We would like to ensure that all parties send the bill to committee for better study.
There are 38,000 to 40,000 contaminated sites at the moment. How will environmental enforcement deal with the pre-existing liabilities for the municipalities, cities, towns and regions across the country that have these toxic sites? Who will clean up those toxic sites? How will they clean up brownfields, blackfields, et cetera? It is a troubling issue and therefore it is important that the government work with the provinces, territories and municipalities to come up with a strategy on how to compensate and restore these sites. Those questions have to be answered.
The registry of environmental offenders, which was referred to previously, is a good idea, but how will the government move forward with it? I hope the government takes its time to do a deeper study.
This bill, which relates to environmental enforcement, will bring in specific improvements to the previous legislation. A new structure of fines will be added, and nine acts will be brought under one act. The bill will bring in minimum sentences. Those are some of the positive things about the bill.
It will consolidate nine acts, bring in new enforcement regimes, new sentencing regimes. We need those regimes, but the root question which still remains is, what are we going to do about the climate change crisis? How is the government going to address these issues in the environmental enforcement bill? How will it ensure that we have in place the proper regimes, compensation and methods to clean up our contaminated sites?
With that, I would suggest that the bill be sent to committee for review and sober second thought so that people can have a proper look at it.