Mr. Speaker, the government's attitude is indicative of its unwillingness to be questioned, even though on this side we are in agreement.
I have been here all afternoon and I notice some inconsistencies in the government's attitude. For instance, with regard to the single food inspection agency, it took the federal government 18 years more than the Quebec government to solve the problem of overlap among its departments with regard to the setting up of a process to replace manganese with ethanol. It is urgent since the impact in Ontario is very significant. This is a matter of great urgency.
The proposal by the member for Burnaby-Kingsway is very interesting and would cost very little. I asked him because he had an assessment made of this. The cost for the implementation of this new measure would be $50,000 for the federal government and $60,000 more if we also applied it to the railway. For a mere $110,000 the federal government is requesting time, more time for a study. This is something they use in the United States, it has been scientifically proven and it will improve the situation.
Once again the government is showing it cannot react at the drop of a hat. It is taking an inordinate amount of time just to study a small measure which would greatly improve peoples' safety. Just
imagine, within five minutes of a call, fire fighters would know if there were hazardous substances in a place.
Let me relate a incident that happened in a company in my riding. Because of the products that were found there, water could not be used to extinguish the fire because it would actually cause the fire to spread. It would have been important to have this type of information. The government side, as always, is procrastinating, asking for time to get involved.
I know the hon. member for Burnaby-Kingsway agrees with the amendment moved by the hon. member for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup. He would agree with it. What he is proposing is an amendment that says "in agreement with the provinces". Why does he propose that? It is simply because fire fighters are under the authority of municipalities in general and municipalities are under the authority of the provinces.
All we are asking the federal government to do is introduce a system that would be used from coast to coast in order to improve the information for firefighters and facilitate their work.
As you know, in large centres, the knowledge and the information available to fire departments can be rather advanced. However, fire departments in small municipalities of Quebec, and elsewhere, are often made up of volunteer fire fighters. These people need a system that is easy to access and to operate, and one that will provide them with the available information. These are not permanent employees. They need a tool of reference to help them do their job and do it better.
It is unbelievable that the government would hesitate, study, ponder and wonder about a measure that would cost $110,000. The costs related to the proceedings of this House during the hour that was just spent on this issue are higher than that. But the government wants to continue to review and analyze the issue. This is unacceptable.
I wanted to make these comments in support of the motion proposed by the hon. member for Burnaby-Kingsway, and the amendment of the hon. member for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup.
Topic: Private Members' Business
Subtopic: Hazardous Materials
Mr. Speaker, on September 26 I rose in Parliament to note the historic signing that week of the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty at the United Nations by 80 countries, including Canada. I should point out that as of today, 111 countries have signed the comprehensive test ban treaty. This treaty will reduce the development of new nuclear weapons because if nuclear weapons cannot be tested, new nuclear weapons cannot be developed.
On September 26, I also noted that several key countries, sometimes known as nuclear threshold states, had refused to sign the treaty. These are countries that have a nuclear weapons program and are trying to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Prominent among these countries which did not sign are India and Pakistan. I should point out that Pakistan was willing to sign if India signed, but India refused to sign.
I would like to point out as well that to bring this treaty into force, it is required that 44 nations which have a nuclear capability must ratify the treaty and deposit the ratifications at the UN.
The signing of this historic treaty, especially by the five nuclear powers, is indeed a great accomplishment for the security of our planet and a great accomplishment for the security of mankind. I might say as well it is a great accomplishment for those of us who have been working for many years to ban all nuclear weapons.
This treaty properly complements the nuclear non-proliferation treaty which was extended indefinitely several months ago.
However the signing of this treaty is not enough. The job is incomplete. Not only is it essential to get the 44 ratifications to bring the treaty into force, but it is also essential to bring on side those nations such as India that have not yet signed. There will be no advance in global security if the old nuclear powers stop testing and reduce their weapons, while other nations continue to test and become new nuclear powers.
India's argument that the present nuclear powers should first commit to a timetable to reduce and eliminate all their nuclear weapons is a good argument, but it does not justify its non-signature nor any future testing or any attempt to develop new nuclear capabilities.
Such countries as Germany, Japan and Brazil, which are also large powerful countries and do not have nuclear weapons, are not blocking the treaty and insisting that these other countries do what India is insisting.
Once again I ask the government, what can Canada do to bring India and other non-signatories on side and to assure the implementation of this important treaty?
Hon. Raymond Chan (Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific), Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, I am very glad to respond to the hon. member's question.
Thanks to Canada, a conference is scheduled to be held some time late in 1999 to discuss the status of the CTBT. This conference is called for in the treaty and is a Canadian initiative. At that conference, signatory countries will review the situation of the treaty and, if it is not yet in force, will seek ways by which they might ensure its early implementation.
Clearly it would be premature to specify what actions might be taken, as what would happen depends on the exact status of the treaty at that time. Also the policies and positions held by countries may change by that time.
It is our hope that those countries which have said they will not sign the CTBT will reflect on their position and eventually sign this treaty and other non-proliferation treaties which they may not have signed yet. Canada will use every diplomatic opportunity to press for universal adherence to the treaty.
Along with Canada, more than 90 countries had signed the treaty by the end of last week, including the five nuclear weapon states: the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France and China. The number of signatory countries increases daily and they already include one of the so-called threshold states, Israel.
The treaty requires that 44 countries listed in the text sign and ratify the treaty in order that the CTBT enter into force. In the meantime, under customary international law, countries which have signed a treaty are obliged to do nothing that would go against the purpose of the treaty.
What about the countries which do not wish to sign the treaty? Canada respects the decision of sovereign nations to take whatever action they see fit, including not signing a treaty which has the overwhelming support of the international community. Canada believes that this treaty, with the strong support that it enjoys, will establish a legally binding international norm against testing and will be a powerful political and moral lever even on non-signatories.