February 2, 1993 (34th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Philip Edmonston

New Democratic Party

Mr. Phillip Edmonston (Chambly):

The last time I spoke I was as much against the bill under discussion then, a bill authorizing the government to borrow $8 billion, as I am now, I think, in favour of my colleagues'
private members bill, Bill C-281, an act relating to indoor air quality.
The people who are listening to us and following these proceedings may find that an act concerning cleaner indoor air is a bit strange because people think it should be clean and uncontaminated and they may find that we are somewhat paranoid, creating problems where none exist.
This bill is extremely important and there is nothing paranoid about that. It is important for us to pass this bill. The government's representative just said she cannot support the bill. I fail to understand why the government refuses to follow up on the initiative taken by the hon. member and support this kind of bill because today environmental factors are becoming an increasingly frequent cause of illness. Doctors agree that today's diseases of the 21st century are diseases we have created ourselves, whether we are talking about the connection between smoking and cancer or other problems due to the contamination of our water, our food or our environment in general.
There is not a trace of paranoia in this. This bill responds to an increasingly critical need when we consider how contaminated our environment has become today. Consumers in Quebec, in Canada and North America are becoming increasingly suspicious of products that are seemingly harmless, like a glass of water, for instance. I drink from this glass which contains water, but what else? I heard a report on the radio yesterday that a certain brand of bottled water in Quebec contains nitrate.
I remember when I was a member of a consumer protection group a few years ago and someone discovered that Perrier water from France contained benzine. Imagine Perrier being something you can drink or put in your gas tank. Mind-boggling.
So we become increasingly suspicious of products that seem absolutely harmless. I think a bill that calls on the government to develop a comprehensive strategy for improving the quality of indoor air makes good sense. I think it responds to a critical need.
Mr. Speaker, have you ever travelled and had to stay in hotels where the windows didn't open? Did you feel comfortable breathing this artificial air containing God knows what, perhaps filtered, perhaps not? I don't. I feel terrible if I can't have a window that opens so I can more or less control the quality of the air I breathe.
February 2, 1993

What is the air like here in the House of Commons right now? Does it contain asbestos? We don't know. What are the government standards for air quality right here? Have there been any checks recently? Do we have any federal standards for indoor air quality in this building? Where does our air come from?
I know the quality of air circulation varies, but of course we produce our own. Seriously, if we agree that 90 per cent of our time is spent indoors, the problem is a critical one. It is not only about contamination due to poor filtration or certain substances but about the need for clean air because it has a dramatic impact on the health of individuals who work indoors.
I could talk about radon, for instance, a colourless and odourless gas. According to the experts, radon has apparenbly been responsible for 5 per cent to 15 per cent of lung cancer cases. This is a serious problem. And I am not being paranoid about this either. These were figures presented by well-known physicians.
Now we know the problem exists and that the problem of contaminated indoor air has been criticized several times by employees and by other members, what is the federal government doing about this in a comprehensive way?
The hon. member said: We are trying to co-ordinate our efforts. Fine. I couldn't agree more. We also have guidelines, the difference being that the hon. member prefers specific standards. There is quite a difference.
In concluding, I want to say that as a member I am proud to support a bill that really makes good sense. I am proud of this bill. It does not happen very often because I get the impression that there is a lot of talk in the House about things that are not really important, except for last night, when I was also very proud to see my Conservative, Liberal and NDP colleagues support the entrenchment in the Constitution of the recognition of both languages for New Brunswick. I thought that was splendid. I was very proud indeed.
This evening I am equally proud of the hon. member's initiative in tackling a problem that is obvious, serious and far-reaching. And I wish him good luck with his bill.

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