Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for for her understanding on this matter and allowing my colleague to split time with me.
I am very pleased today to rise in support of Bill . My remarks will focus on the government's accomplishments under its chemicals management plan, commonly known as CMP. This is relevant to Bill S-5, as these accomplishments have largely been achieved under the authorities of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, or CEPA.
Before I go on, I really want to thank all senators for their important work in the other place to bring the bill to this place so we can further consider it. The government has learned many lessons from the implementation of the CMP, and these have informed areas where the government is proposing changes to CEPA through Bill .
In 2006, the government completed the categorization and prioritization of approximately 23,000 substances on the domestic substances list. This resulted in a list of more than 4,300 substances prioritized for further assessment based on their potential risk to the environment or human health.
Following this prioritization, Canada launched its chemicals management plan. Canada became the first country in the world to triage and announce a plan to systematically address its in-commerce chemicals based on environmental and human health concerns. This approach has gone on to inspire chemicals management approaches around the world, such as in the United States, Australia, Argentina and Brazil.
Nearly all of the approximately 4,300 prioritized substances have now been assessed. Chemicals assessment approaches have evolved since that list of 4,300 prioritized substances was first established. New chemicals have entered Canadian commerce, and our knowledge of risks we can protect Canadians from has grown. Therefore, a new process for prioritizing substances for assessment is required.
The changes proposed by Bill would include working with Canadians to develop and publish a plan of chemicals management priorities, which would, among other things, continue to build on Canada's world-class leadership in science-based decision-making while adopting a more collaborative and inclusive approach to setting priorities for substances to be assessed going forward. This new approach is intended to be flexible, nimble and scalable, and would allow for shifts and adaptations to new priorities as needed or as new information emerges.
The CMP is a science-based approach to substances management. It helps to reduce the risks posed by substances that are harmful to Canadians and the environment in a way that is predictable and transparent. This is accomplished by assessing not only the impact of substances in end-of-pipe emissions or transboundary pollution, but also their presence in food, consumer products, cosmetics, drugs, air and drinking water.
Members of our scientific community apply internationally adopted standards, methods and principles to the work carried out under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. Canada's approach to chemicals management is in line with that of other jurisdictions and is the foundation behind our international reputation of well-respected, science-based chemicals assessment. Bill builds on this foundation rooted in science and positions Canada well among other jurisdictions, both as a leader and as a contributor to chemicals assessment at large. I would caution MPs from changing the risk assessment and risk management provisions of the act.
As part of the CMP, the government overhauled its substances assessment process to include new tools. With these innovations, the government went from assessing just a few dozen substances each year to an average of over 300 per year. Where risks are identified, controls can be put in place. Since the launch of CMP in 2006, the government has developed measures to manage close to 500 substances assessed as posing a risk to human health or the environment.
One of the early accomplishments under the CMP was to help protect newborns and infants from exposure to bisphenol A, more commonly know as BPA. Following a risk assessment under the CMP in 2008, the government announced its intent to prohibit the manufacture, import, advertisement and sale of polycarbonate baby bottles containing BPA under the Hazardous Products Act, an action which continues today under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act. With this prohibition, newborn and infant exposure to BPA, which has the potential to affect brain development, social behaviour and anxiety after birth, declined by 96% between 2008 and 2014.
One of the lessons learned from this risk management action on BPA was the merit of meeting the risk management obligations under CEPA using other federal acts. Under Bill , CEPA would be amended with this practice in mind and would enable the federal act or the minister best placed to manage the risks identified in a CEPA risk assessment for a toxic substance.
In addition to the innovative approaches to risk assessment and risk management since the CMP began, the government has also made advancements in research, monitoring and surveillance that have informed a range of actions taken under the authorities of CEPA. For example, monitoring initiatives funded under the CMP are instrumental for tracking levels of substances in both humans and the environment. Through the health measures survey, the government has obtained nationally representative biomonitoring data since 2007 of over 250 substances in the general Canadian population. These surveys have demonstrated that Canadians' exposures to many toxic substances have decreased over this time.
Biomonitoring can help inform Canadians about the progress that is being made to help reduce their exposure to harmful substances and can help identify new priorities for risk assessment. Bill would require the Minister of Health to conduct biomonitoring surveys as part of the obligation to conduct research and studies in relation to the health effects of substances. An additional amendment to clarify is that such research and studies, including biomonitoring surveys, may relate to vulnerable populations.
Bill would also amend CEPA to require the consideration of vulnerable populations and cumulative effects in risk assessments when information is available, which will improve the protection of Canadians and the environment. As vulnerable populations may be disproportionately exposed to or negatively impacted by harmful substances due to factors such as age, behaviour, health status, geography, culture and socio-economic status, it is important that we understand and take into consideration implicated groups' unique characteristics and needs when assessing and managing risks identified.
The reality is that Canadians and their environment are not exposed to substances in isolation, but to multiple different substances on a daily basis and over a lifetime, which is why it is so important to consider the cumulative effects of substances. Including these considerations in an amended CEPA will also help inform additional biomonitoring work to inform regulations.
To conclude, I urge all members to work together to ensure that this bill gets to committee as soon as possible in order for parliamentarians to start their important work.
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague and good friend, the member for , for sharing his time today. I also thank members of the House for giving me the opportunity to speak this morning.
I am really pleased to rise today in the House to speak to Bill , strengthening environmental protection for a healthier Canada act, particularly to government proposals and Senate amendments relating to a right to a healthy environment in the bill.
Before I get into the substance of our proposal and the Senate amendments, I would like to remind the House that it has taken decades of work to get to where we are today. Discussions relating to a right to a healthy environment have been taking place domestically for many years, with many Canadians, civil society organizations and indigenous leaders advocating for a recognition of a right to a healthy environment at the federal level. There have also been discussions with industry associations supporting recognition in the preamble of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, or CEPA, as it is commonly called.
I would also like to acknowledge the important contribution of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development to these discussions. It is a committee that I was part of and that recognized the need to update the CEPA legislation. I would like to recognize the work of the committee under then chair Deb Schulte, and colleagues Will Amos and Mike Bossio, who also played key leadership roles in this study.
In 2017, our committee called on the federal government to strengthen CEPA to provide greater protection to human and environmental health from toxic substances and unanimously recommended, among other things, that the preamble of CEPA be amended to explicitly “recognize a right to a healthy environment”. I commend our committee for the insights and ideas put forth over the years to enhance the protection of the environment and human health for present and future generations of Canadians. All those efforts brought us to this point today.
The government is proposing to strengthen the protection of all Canadians and the environment from pollution and harmful substances through the amendments proposed in Bill . To that end, the government has proposed to recognize in the preamble of CEPA that every individual in Canada has a right to a healthy environment as provided under the act. This is the first time that this right has been proposed for inclusion in a federal statute in Canada. This is huge.
Recognition of a right to a healthy environment under CEPA is a significant milestone in and of itself. However, the government is doing more to elaborate on this right and its implementation for the purposes of the act. The red chamber made amendments to this part of the bill, as members know, and I look forward to building further on those amendments.
The bill, as amended by the Senate, would include specific requirements of the government with respect to a healthy environment under the act. First is a duty on the government to protect that right when administering the act, subject to any reasonable limits. Second is a requirement to develop an implementation framework to set out how that right would be considered in the administration of the act. Among other things, the framework must include consideration of the principles of environmental justice, the idea of avoiding adverse effects that disproportionately affect vulnerable populations; non-regression, the idea of continuous improvement in environmental protection; and intergenerational equity, the idea of meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. These provisions would mark the first time that the federal government has introduced legislation requiring that it elaborate on the consideration of the principles of environmental justice and non-regression in the administration of an act.
The framework must also elaborate on the reasonable limits to which that right is subject, resulting from the consideration of relevant factors, including social, health, scientific and economic factors. The consideration of factors reflects the fact that no right is absolute, but it must be meaningful and considered in context.
Moreover, the bill would require that the implementation framework on the right to a healthy environment be developed within two years of the amendments coming into force. This would ensure that our commitment to implement this right is delivered on a timely basis while, at the same time, allowing for meaningful input and engagement from all parts of Canadian society, including indigenous groups, civil society organizations and industry. As transparency is key to fostering dialogue and moving forward on environmental protection, the implementation framework would also be published, so it would be available to all Canadians, and it would be reported on to Parliament annually.
The implementation framework is expected to set a path for a progressive implementation of a right to a healthy environment under CEPA and to evolve over time, based on the views of Canadians and the experience gained by the government. It is expected to provide relevant and persuasive guidance to officials to inform the decision-making processes under the act, and is part of interpreting and applying the act.
Third, this bill contains a requirement to conduct research, with studies or monitoring, to support the government in protecting this right. This is intended to ensure the government and future governments can make decisions about how to protect this right based on scientific evidence. This requirement must contribute to efforts to address environmental justice issues. For example, it should involve the collection and analysis of data to identify and monitor populations and communities that are particularly vulnerable to environmental and health risks from toxic substances and the cumulative effects of such substances. In turn, this could lead to new thinking on how to better protect such populations.
These requirements would allow for meaningful recognition, with the opportunity for Canadians to have input into how this right would be considered in CEPA and the path toward its progressive implementation. Applying the lens of a right to a healthy environment to the administration of CEPA is expected to encourage new thinking about how to protect populations that are particularly vulnerable to environmental and health risks and provide continued support for strong environmental and health standards, now and in the future.
In addition to these new provisions on a right to a healthy environment under CEPA, there would be a number of complementary changes to the act to assist in addressing environmental justice issues in Canada.
Certain populations and communities face greater exposure to harmful substances and combinations of substances. They are in areas of concentrated pollution, sometimes referred to as pollution hot spots. Under the bill to amend CEPA, decisions under CEPA would need to consider vulnerable populations, groups of individuals within the Canadian population who, due to greater susceptibility or greater exposure, may be at an increased risk of experiencing adverse health effects from exposure to substances. In addition, our duty to make decisions and exercise powers under CEPA would expressly include protecting the health of vulnerable populations. This would be done, in part, through consideration of available information regarding vulnerable populations in risk assessments.
The would be required to conduct biomonitoring surveys, specifically in relation to the health effects of substances. These biomonitoring surveys could focus on vulnerable populations. These new research requirements are intended to be complementary to the research requirements related to a right to a healthy environment, and the data and information they generate might lead to new thinking on how to better protect all Canadians from pollution and substances. These new research requirements are also expected to contribute to our efforts to better understand real life exposure, including exposures in vulnerable populations, and would assist in providing environmental and health protection for all.
Finally, the preamble of CEPA would confirm the government's commitment to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This aligns with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, which received royal assent on June 21, 2021, and which provides a framework to advance implementation of the declaration at the federal level.
The COVID-19 pandemic has not only revealed, but has also further exacerbated, social, health and economic disparities for indigenous peoples, Black Canadians and other racialized and religious minority Canadians and their communities. We cannot delay efforts to make Canada more just, more inclusive and more resilient. We see these proposals as one of the means to combat inequities in environmental protection in Canada, such as the increased health risks of more vulnerable members of society that can result from the exposure to substances and the cumulative effects from a combination of substances.
These proposals would help advance discussions so that the vulnerability and the impacts of real life exposure are taken into account in environmental and health protection under the act. As the bill moves through the House, we are committed to engaging with colleagues in the days and weeks to come to move forward in support of strong environmental and health standards now and into the future.
I must point out that Bill would be a strong start to updating CEPA. The Senate amendments are strong and must be accepted. However, I believe further amendments, which I hope to see seriously considered at committee, are in order. I recognize CEPA is complex legislation. It would be difficult to update in one effort. I would like to see updates addressing marine dumping, establishing air quality standards and implementing stronger citizen action. If these issues could be addressed, the legislation would be further strengthened, either now or in the future.
Bill would go a long way to updating CEPA. More can be done, both now and in the future. I encourage all MPs to ensure we leave a positive legislative legacy as we update CEPA for the first time in more than 20 years. I look forward to thoughtful debate, the strengthening of amendments and a timely passage of this important legislation.
Madam Speaker, it is my distinct honour to be able to speak to Bill today. I thought I would start off my remarks by pointing out the major differences between the Conservative record on the environment and the Liberal record on the environment.
Conservatives, of course, have a much stronger record when it comes to tackling environmental issues than Liberals. Looking back at the previous Conservative governments and our major achievements, including the clean air act, which was a landmark piece of legislation to tackle various forms of pollution and to develop a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there were massive investments in conservation.
The root word of Conservative is to conserve. That ties in with conservation. The previous Conservative government had many instances where we indicated much of Canada's natural beauty in our landscape for conservation projects to make sure that future generations would be able to enjoy the wonderful environment that has been passed on to us, protecting wetlands and vulnerable ecosystems for both plant and wildlife. That was a hallmark aspect of the previous Conservative government's achievements when it came to environmental action.
Major investments in innovation funds to help tackle some of the challenging aspects of having a robust, industrialized country, while at the same time, minimizing our environmental footprint, ensuring that there are resources available for companies and for not-for-profits to access some of that research funding to come up with better ways of doing things, better ways of making things and producing things here to lower all of the different kinds of impacts on the environment, that was a hallmark piece of the previous government's record on the environment as well.
I should mention as well that under the previous Conservative government, because of our strong action on things like emissions and tackling climate change, CO2 emissions actually went down. We actually reduced the amount of CO2 that Canada emitted into the atmosphere under the previous Conservative government. What has it done under the current Liberal government? It has gone up. That is the major difference between Conservatives and Liberals. The Liberals are very good at talking about things. I have to give them credit. They have an actor for a leader and he is very good at getting into the parts and delivering the lines, but when it comes to action, they are not so good. He is very good acting, but not so much at action.
Think about the very first thing the Liberal government did, one of the very initial things, while the ink was still wet on all those cabinet appointments and they were all just learning where their new offices would be and who was going to drive their cars. The very first thing that they did was to grant a permit to the City of Montreal to dump billions of litres of raw sewage into the St. Lawrence. It is unbelievable. After all the talk they did during the election pretending to care about the environment, the first thing they did was grant that permit. How gross is that? We are talking about toxic substances here in this bill. What about the toxic substances that were unleashed into the St. Lawrence and ultimately into the oceans all around the world by the Liberal government? It was the first thing it did.
The government's hallmark piece is a carbon tax that we now know does not work. It has had the carbon tax in place since its first term in office. It has gone up every year, and so too have emissions. It is not an environmental plan at all; it is a tax plan. Remember too that the Liberal government has been completely dishonest with Canadians about that piece. Yes, they were dishonest. I will remind the hon. member for about the dishonesty of one of his former colleagues.
Just before the 2019 election, the former minister of environment, Catherine McKenna, promised Canadians that the carbon tax would not go up. In fact, we Conservatives warned Canadians that we had information from the Department of the Environment that the government was planning to increase the carbon tax. Catherine McKenna, the former environment minister, was deployed to accuse Conservatives of spreading misinformation, saying it is never going to happen.
Of course, their friends in the government-subsidized media were only too happy to carry that message for them. They asked how the Conservatives could make up such a wild accusation that the Liberals might raise a tax, and we said it is because that is what their information and their own documents show and if we look at their modelling, in order to even try to hit the targets they have set for themselves, they are going to have to increase the carbon tax. The response from their friends in the government-subsidized media was that it is not true because the Liberals say so. After seven years of Liberal rule, members will pardon those of us in the official opposition if we do not take Liberals at their word.
In the last Parliament, we were talking about toxic substances. I had a private member's bill to ban that practice of dumping raw sewage into our vulnerable ecosystems, our rivers, lakes and oceans.
Putting an end to the practice of municipalities dumping sewage into our rivers, lakes and oceans is a central element of the environmental plan the Conservatives have been promising since 2019. It is now 2022, and it is time to put an end to this practice.
It is 2022. We have the technology and resources to make sure that municipalities are not doing that with untreated waste water, but the Liberals, the NDP, members of the Bloc Québécois, all voted against that common-sense measure. Members will pardon those of us in the Conservative Party when we receive a piece of legislation that claims to address environmental issues and we have major concerns about everything the Liberals do on this.
Bill is not before this House in its original form. Bill S-5 went through the Senate first, so the piece of legislation that we are dealing with today has been amended by the Senate. There are many concerning things about these amendments and there are some concerning things about the bill in general.
First is the amendment on the right to a healthy environment. Of course, the hon. member for has pointed out the lack of clarity about that, the lack of provisions that would make any of that enforceable or anything that would give Canadians comfort to know that the government would follow up a platitude with a piece of action. It is undefined and very ambiguous, and when legislation is ambiguous, it really sets us up for litigation.
Often there are competing interests when it comes to environmental issues between industry and conservation groups or municipalities that might be affected by one thing or another, and it is essential that we have clarity on these types of things. Otherwise, we get long-drawn-out court battles to decide what word means what and where lines get drawn. If the government was going to bring in this piece of legislation, the least it could have done was clear up that ambiguity and not leave it for the courts and lawyers, but of course Liberals often do things that make lots of money for lawyers to settle things in court.
I also want to touch on another major flaw with the thinking behind the government as it relates to toxic substances. Henry Hazlitt wrote an excellent book about economics primarily, but it is a lesson that we should apply in every aspect of life. The book is called Economics in One Lesson and the main theme of this book is to convince people to think about both the things that are seen and the things that are unseen. In other words, it is to not just look at the superficial aspects of what is being proposed, but to really take a step back and consider all the aspects of what a decision or a course of action might result in. That is not something that the government has done with many of its environmental policies, specifically when it comes to the listing of plastics in one of the schedules of this bill.
Obviously, we want less plastic in our oceans and we want less plastic in our waterways, but we have just come out of a pandemic where plastic was essential in protecting Canadians. Plastic was essential in packaging to keep germs out of everything from utensils to pieces of equipment. Lots of aspects of PPE have plastics in them.
Imagine where we might be in the future if many of the pieces of this legislation are enforced and make it harder to access those types of what we now know to be life-saving materials. We urge the government to take a closer look at that aspect of it.
When we look at plastics around the world and in our oceans, it is Canada that has been leading the way for years to reduce our output of those pieces of material. In fact, 93% of the plastic that ultimately ends up in our oceans comes from just 10 rivers. Ten rivers around the world are responsible for 93% of the plastic in our oceans. How many of those rivers do my colleagues think are in Canada? The answer is zero. The hon. member for got it right. None of those rivers is in Canada. Seven of them are in Asia, including the Yangtze in China, and two are in Africa.
Why is that important? When we take a step back and look at the government's entire environmental policy, we see policies designed to drive production out of Canada, where we have high environmental standards and rules about what can be put in landfills and dumped into rivers. Those policies drive production to other jurisdictions around the world that do not have those measures in place.
The carbon tax is the biggest culprit in that. The carbon tax raises the cost of making things here in Canada, and our competitors around the world, specifically China, which does not have a carbon tax or anywhere near the environmental protection Canada has, go out and bid on contracts to make things. When they do, when those plastics are manufactured in China, in Asia, in developing countries that do not yet have our robust regime around environmental protection, then more things get produced there and more things end up in our oceans.
Liberals might go around and feel like they are doing something for the planet because they brought in a carbon tax and they are banning plastics here in Canada, and the net result of that is more plastic in the ocean. Their policies are actually doing more harm than good. They also do not look at the entire life cycle of alternatives to plastics.
A landmark study was done in 2018 by the Independent Institute, based out of Oakland, and it found that plastic bans can actually have a negative impact on the environment as people substitute other products that have more emissions involved in their life cycle. For example, the difference in manufacturing between a plastic straw and a paper straw is very significant when we look at the amount of energy needed and the amount of CO2 emissions produced.
It takes 39 kilojoules of energy to make one plastic straw. In the entire life cycle of that straw, production, usage and all that, it emits 1.5 grams of CO2. For a paper straw, it takes 96 kilojoules to make it. That is more than double the amount of energy. Because the methods involved in all the aspects of producing that paper straw are more energy intensive, it actually produces 4.1 grams of CO2. A plastic straw produces 1.5 grams and a paper straw 4.1 grams of CO2.
Again, on the one hand the Liberals say they are trying to take action on reducing emissions, and on the other hand they are bringing in policies that actually increase emissions. That is the hallmark of Liberal governments in general. They offer simplistic, sloganistic solutions, and the effects of their policies do more harm than good.
Conservatives are going to be studying this piece of legislation very carefully. We are going to be working very hard at committee to make improvements to the bill on many of the problematic amendments that came from the Senate.
I hope my colleagues across the way will remember one thing. If they truly care about things like reducing emissions, then now is the time for them to abandon their carbon tax. It has been so ineffective. So many Canadians want to see real action on climate change, and the carbon tax is not just making things more expensive; it is actually driving production out from here in Canada. That production then moves overseas and emissions go up.
A molecule of CO2 does not need a passport to travel around the planet. A unit of CO2 that moves away from Canada and doubles because of the lack of protection in countries like China actually results in more CO2 in the atmosphere.
Because the Liberals are so locked in on this failed policy of imposing this new tax on Canadians, they are not taking the meaningful action that they could take. It is called an opportunity cost. They have all the people at the Department of the Environment enforcing this tax and imposing it on provinces that have not adopted it, and because they are using all those human resources and all the government's time and energy on a failed policy that is only resulting in higher emissions, they are not taking other measures that could actually lower emissions.
If they truly care about the environment, now is the time to scrap the carbon tax, especially when we link it to the affordability crisis, because it is not just the carbon tax of today. It is not just that Catherine McKenna was lying when she said that they were not going to increase the carbon tax in 2019. It is that the Liberals are going to triple the carbon tax in the coming months and years. It means that the affordability crisis that is hurting Canadians so much is only to get worse, and the environmental crisis that the Liberals claim they are trying to address will only get worse as well.