Mr. Tom H. Goode (Burnaby-Richmond-Delta) moved
that Bill C-49, respecting environmental control, be read the second time and referred to the Special Committee on Environmental Pollution.
He said: Mr. Speaker, in October we observed Canadian Environment Week for the first time. Scarcely more than one year ago it was just a dream of many active and aware citizens of Burnaby-Richmond-Delta who saw the potential of such a week and the impact which could be created by focusing the environmental concerns of the total population of this country within a specific timeframe. That dream became a reality on March 30 of this year when Bill C-25 received royal assent. The credit for the passage of Bill C-25 lies not with me but with all the members of this House and of the Senate.
Last March, Mr. Speaker, when we passed Bill C-25, we gave the lie to the detractors of this chamber who claim that we are always putting petty, partisan disagreements ahead of the needs of this country. I reject such charges, Mr. Speaker, for in the consideration of Bill C-25 the House of Commons put aside party labels, put aside personal differences in a spirit of co-operation which demonstrated clearly that the struggle against pollution is one of the priority concerns of members from every corner of this House. In that same spirit of co-operation, and as part of that same anti-pollution struggle, I ask the House to give favourable consideration to the bill before us this afternoon.
Bill C-49 seeks to establish an Environmental Control Council of Canada which would have the responsibility of recommending minimum anti-pollution standards and generally advising on the methods and means of improving Canada's environment. Hon. members will note that this bill closely resembles the Economic Council of
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Canada Act which was passed in 1963. This resemblance is intentional. I feel that there is need for an independent council to provide the kind of advice in environmental terms that the Economic Council does in economic terms. The environmental council, like the Economic Council, would be non-governmental in nature. The latest annual report of the Economic Council of Canada contains a section describing the origin of the council. Within it is the following statement:
-there was also a growing awareness that efforts to deal with these problems on an ad hoc basis, with attention focussed mainly on short-term considerations, could result in the continuation, recurrence or perhaps even intensification, of some of these problems in the future.
The problems referred to are, of course, economic but I suggest that a similar danger exists today with respect to environmental problems and that the same statement could express the basis for the establishment of an Environmental Control Council of Canada.
As a planning body, the Economic Council has set out an average growth-path for the Canadian economy which it regards as a feasible and desirable target at which to aim. It uses this target growth-path as a means of judging current economic performance. Similarly, the environmental control council would develop long-range plans to improve the quality of the environment. It would advise and recommend to the government minimum standards for air, water and land quality in order, in the words of the bill, "that Canada may enjoy a high and consistent rate of pollution free air, water and land." Among other things, the guidelines and projections of the environmental council would be valuable as benchmarks against which to measure our progress in the war against pollution.
The primary function of the Economic Council is in the field of research. The need for reliable knowledge and intensive study into the area of economics was felt by many persons, in particular senior economic policymakers and administrators. The council has more than adequately supplied this need. Likewise, research into the complex problems of environmental management and control would be a primary role of the environmental control council.
The urgent need for research to discover solutions to our pollution problems cannot be disputed. No restrictions would be placed upon the council's power to initiate whatever research projects it deemed necessary. The environmental council would study how technological change may affect Canada's environment as a whole. It would be in a position to initiate discussions with labour, management and consumers aimed at exploring in depth the consequences of and cures for industrial pollution.
The Economic Council of Canada has become an instrument of public information and instruction. Its annual review, which receives extensive coverage by the mass media, serves to broaden the understanding by Canadians of the greater economic issues facing our country. This is good because it must be recognized that economic policy cannot be far in advance of general public understanding. Thus, the positive role of instructor adopted by the Economic Council has played an important part in raising the level of understanding of those of us who are not economists.
In similar manner, Mr. Speaker, the environmental control council, providing accurate, unbiased and therefore credible information on the present and future state of our environment, could be of immense service. As in the realm of economics, before progressive environmental legislation can be enacted we as a people must be fully informed and aware of the situation in order that we may appreciate, accept and support necessary antipollution controls.
In my view there is always a place for independent evaluation of existing governmental policies and practices. An over-all view is necessary because of the natural tendency of those who have been involved in the creation and administration of policy to lose the ability to assess objectively the effectiveness of those policies. They tend to become blind to the need for new departures. The Economic Council has sought to satisfy such a need in the area of economic policy. An environmental council would do the same in the field of ecology. Being independent, the environmental council would be in a position to freely criticize government policy, should this be necessary, and bring new views concerning general or particular policies and programs to the attention of those who must bear the ultimate political responsibility for them.
Indeed, under the terms of this bill the council would be required to seek maximum consultation with both senior levels of government. Too often in the past, technical difficulties over governmental jurisdictions have hindered the implementation of environmental control legislation. It would be my hope that the council would help to replace this tunnel-vision with a bridge of co-operation.
The time has come, Mr. Speaker, to establish an environmental council in Canada. In fact, the time is overdue. Over a year has passed since I introduced this bill. During that time a number of individuals and organizations have called for the establishment of such a council. Among these have been the Conference on Ecology and Responsibility, the Canadian Wildlife Federation and the Science Council of Canada. Unfortunately, the only positive step to date has been the announcement of the pending appointment of an environmental advisory council to brief the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Davis). As the bulletin of the Canadian Wildlife Federation points out, no matter what merits this private advisory council might possess, "it would be no substitute for an independent environmental council studying issues much broader than the responsibilities of any one department of government and reporting publicly on its findings and recommendations."
In recommending to the government the creation of an environmental council, the Science Council of Canada in its report "This land is their land" has this to say:
A major step in planning for the future would be the creation of a non-political organization sponsored by the government which would have, as its basic role, the provision to the public of facts about their environment upon which they may base adequate value judgments. The cost of sacrificing even immediate material welfare for a quality environment may not be high, but if it is, Canadians deserve to have the facts and a chance to make their choice-
An independent Crown corporation, with a directorate representative of environmental interests and a small professional staff, is suggested. A suitable name for such an organization might be an Environmental Council of Canada. It would conduct and pub-
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lish studies and forecasts of environmental problems in Canada, and make analytical reviews of environmental questions which are the subject of public interest. It should strive to become a major source of informed opinion on environmental problems.
The council should be a valuable adviser to government. Ideally, it should stimulate particular ministries to an appreciation of the interrelationship between resource uses and the necessity for considering problems in a larger context; it should draw attention to gaps in the support for environmentally-oriented research; it should provide the inspiration and leverage for new kinds of activities in government departments.
I submit, Mr. Speaker, that Bill C-49 fits the description given by the Science Council, that the need for an Environmental Control Council of Canada has been demonstrated and that the time to act is now. Bill C-49 is not perfect. Neither was Bill C-25, yet we were able to hammer out the problems in committee and come up with a bill which was a credit to the people of Canada. We have done it before, we can do it again. Let us send the bill to committee and get to work.
Topic: PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS
Subtopic: ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS