Ms. Angela Vautour (Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, PC)
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to discuss Bill C-15 with reference to one of Canada's most precious natural resources, water. Canada owns most of the freshwater resources in the world. Almost 9% of the world's soft water is on Canadian territory and 60% of Canadian water flows into the Arctic Ocean.
The exportation of bulk water is not a new issue. It is actually a major issue that the Conservative government in 1984 was very much concerned with. We believe it is imperative to protect the interests of Canadians with reference to the export of bulk water. It is why we made sure that water was protected under NAFTA.
Bill C-15 introduces amendments to the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act in order to prohibit bulk removal of water from Canadian boundary waters, including the Great Lakes. The prohibition on removals will apply principally to the Great Lakes and other boundary waters.
Apart from prohibition, the amendments will also set in place a licensing regime for boundary waters projects such as dams, obstructions or other works that can affect water levels and flows. The International Boundary Waters Treaty Act was passed in 1911, implementing the Canada-U.S. Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909. Its main objective was to establish the International Joint Commission, a binational organization.
Canada's border is the longest in the world, with over 300 lakes or rivers that either form, cross or straddle it. It is the Canadian government's responsibility and duty to protect that border.
NAFTA and the WTO generally prohibit restrictions on the exportation of goods subject to certain exceptions, none of which are likely to be applicable to the present purpose. The difficulty lies with the absence of a legal definition of goods. Obviously water in its natural state is not considered a good. Subject to trade agreements, bottled water is.
The purpose of Bill C-15 is to protect water which in its natural state would not then be subject to international obligations concerning trade in goods. From this perspective any possible precedent from a water export project would be limited to the province involved and would arise from the particular legislation that permitted removal for export and not from trade agreements.
If one province's legislation permitted removal of water and a project were to be approved, other provinces could still have legislation that prohibited removal of water. The point is to illustrate that water, in its natural state, is not a good and therefore not subject to international trade agreements.
Water is an integral part of Canada's boundaries. This most precious resource has to be protected and managed in the best interest of Canadians. I can assure the House that the bill will be supported by us.
I want to speak about the importance of communities having good, safe drinking water. That is why I asked the minister today about the safety of water and talked about the federal government's role of ensuring that in this great country, where we have so much water, we are doing everything to make sure Canadians in all parts of the country can drink water safely. We do not want another Walkerton.
Even in my riding every month or two a small community has a boiling order. Do we have an infrastructure problem? Is enough money going to the communities and municipalities to make sure we have the facilities so that our children, seniors and all of us do not get sick from drinking water?
We cannot take it for granted any more. We did that in Sainte-Marie-de-Kent before getting that pig factory installed. We asked for an environmental impact assessment. The federal government had both the responsibility and the obligation to do an environmental impact assessment. It had the obligation. The Liberals lured Metz Farms to Sainte-Marie-de-Kent. It is clear the Liberals in Ottawa were told an environmental impact assessment was not wanted, and that is what happened.
What is happening today? We have communities and families not speaking with each other. On top of that we have a federal government that has realized that maybe we have water problems. Maybe we have communities with health risks. Maybe the drinking water is not safe any more and tests should be done.
We have 30,000 pigs being processed over there. That could have been prevented. Metz Farms invested a lot of money to install this. It was told it could. The federal government said it did not need to do an assessment, that Metz could go ahead and set up. It would not intervene. It would not use what was available to make sure the people of Sainte-Marie would not be at risk.
Definitely the department is on autopilot. It is not even in neutral but going in reverse. We did not have the technology in the past to identify why there were contaminations. We have it now, but we have a federal government that continues to close its eyes to it. This is not acceptable.
The federal government said last week it would do some water testing in Sainte-Marie. The government is now recognizing that it should have done an environmental impact assessment. I say the government should do what the manager of Metz Farms said to do: buy it out.
There is a problem here. Communities are not happy with this. We have our farms. Nobody is against farms. Our leader spoke on farms this week. Our critic spoke on farms and on how the federal government is abandoning our farmers. We do not mind farms, be it cow, pig or sheep. We are not talking about farms here; we are talking about factories. There is a difference.
The difference is that before we had Metz Farms in Sainte-Marie-de-Kent both the farmers and the non-farmers would actually eat together in the morning. They would have coffee together. They liked each other. They would help each other. What do we have because of this factory? We now have family divisions. There is no more harmony. That is what bothers me. No one is against farmers.
Where was agriculture in the mini-budget to make sure our farmers would survive? They do not survive. They are eaten up by the big factories. That is what the Liberal government is pushing for now, the megafactories. They did it with fishing as well. We have to protect our farmers. We have to help our farmers. Our farmers are saying they need what Metz is giving them because that way they get free fertilizer for their lands. That means our farmers are in difficulty. They might need financial help. What does the government do for our farms be they small, medium or big but still not factories?
A farm is not 30,000 pigs. I lived next to a farm that had pigs and one that had a milk dairy. They were great people. It was nice to hear the cowbells in the morning. My fence was electric, so I had no problem buying a home among farms. I like farms. A factory, it has been proven, is an environmental disaster.
Can hon. members imagine that we have actually put a pig factory in the middle of a region where we have invested millions and millions in tourism, aquaculture and fisheries? Let us try to mix the two together. There was a smell over the summer from the piggery. It was not supposed to smell during tourist season, but the pigs could not figure out how to hold it back during the summer months. What happened? We had a bad smell during tourist season.
What about the health risks? Today I was on a call-in show. There were calls from Carmelle, Maria, Lisa, Rhéal, Richard, Raymond, Edmond and more. They called because they were very concerned, and with good reason: they were not consulted. Nobody knew about it. It was a secret deal. Nobody knew this factory would be set up. That is not right. Let us allow communities to talk to about it.
There is legislation in place. I know farmers are worried that if we put forth too much legislation it would hurt the farmers. I believe we have the legislation in place now. We had a minister of DFO who could have requested an environmental impact assessment to make sure that what we are seeing now would not have happened. The mechanism is in place. We do not have to add any extra burden to our regular farmers. This is not what we are talking about. We are talking about a pig megafactory that has tremendous potential impact in terms of health, economics and the environment.
Even this week the Liberal government announced $19.5 million in tourism for Atlantic Canada. That is nice, and we will take it, but how do we balance it off with developments like the pig factory?
It could have been put somewhere else. It was a terrible location. There are other areas. The two just cannot be mixed together. At some point there will have to be a decision made on whether the government will keep investing millions in tourism and aquaculture or keep investing in pig factories. I do not think they blend.
Right now people are saying we cannot risk thousands of jobs in the fishing and tourism industries for a few jobs in Sainte-Marie-de-Kent. We cannot gamble that.
I believe we needed both an environmental impact assessment and a socioeconomic assessment. We needed to have this studied before it happened, but no, it looked as though it just went through. All of us in government have to sit together right now and fix this.
The people of Sainte-Marie-de-Kent, Saint-Paul, Saint-Lazare, Sainte-Anne, Fond-de-la-Baie, Bouctouche, Saint-Antoine and Saint-Joseph deserve better. All levels of government need to sit down and look at the situation. People deserve it.
I believe the solution is to compensate Metz. Metz has told me that if it gets the money it will close its doors. Let us compensate. For the few millions it will cost to close Metz we will save millions in the fishing and tourism industries. That is not counting the health bill. The health of the people of that region is at risk.
The government has to look at that option. People from the communities are telling me they want it closed. People working in Metz are telling me as an MP to find the money and it will close its doors. At the end of the day that will be the only option.
It was wrong from day one. The government does not know where it started or when it started. We know all of this started several years back. As was said on the radio talk show today, it really does not matter who brought it. We are stuck with the problem. We are stuck with a health problem, an environmental problem and an economic problem. This has to be addressed.
I do not agree that communities have to take it upon their shoulders the way they are doing. They have no choice. One politician alone cannot solve this problem because one politician alone did not bring it there. To be honest, it was two.
They need help and support. They need to know that the government will recognize that it failed big time when it could have intervened, when it could have requested an environmental impact assessment because of the possible impact on our fish habitat. It could have, but it closed its eyes to it.
That is not right. The government recognized it this week by requesting testing. What will it do if it finds the water is contaminated? What will the minister do? Will he close it then?
The assessment would have proven that the water would eventually be contaminated and would affect the fish habitat and all the money we have invested in aquaculture, in our fishing communities. We have communities that are practically totally dependent on the fishing industry and tourism.
At one end we have a government that says it will cut EI and people have to be working all the time. At the same time it is bringing in facilities going against what we are trying to do, which is work as much as we can. As usual there is no plan.
We need a regional development plan. We need environment ministers to agree to it and abide by it. Communities need to be consulted. No longer can we have facilities like this one. There are 30,000 pigs being processed per year in a community.
The one thing we do not talk about, and maybe one of the least important things for a lot of people, is the value of the homes. What about the value of the family? Many families have told me about being outside for barbecues and all of a sudden smelling it. They have to get into the house, close their windows and shut everything tight. That is not right. What about the value of their homes?
Sainte-Marie-de-Kent is a place where everybody would like to live. I remember going for drives there all the time and saying to my husband, “My God, it's nice in Sainte-Marie”. Unfortunately, a lot of people are not saying that any more. It is not because we do not have nice people. We have great people in Sainte-Marie.
Sainte-Marie is not the only place that has the smell. I live in Buctouche and the smell is there too. How about the golf course? How many millions does it take to build a golf course? We did not even look at the impact on the golf course but we are putting money in there too into pays de la Sagouine. It just goes on and on. It is a decision I will never understand.
I will never understand provincial politicians apparently lobbying to have this factory set up there, the same politicians who invested money in both tourism and the fishery. I will never understand why they believed that bringing in this factory would benefit our region. I hope someday that they will participate in the call-in, such as the one we did this morning where they refused to comment. I believe it was because they could not explain it or did not want to. However, I would like to see the day when they will explain that decision. It was a terrible decision. I have to say I do support the community and I do understand their frustration.
They talk of communities working very hard to develop their region, but not of the private sector. How many people have invested their own money, in a campground or in cottages, in starting up a fish plant or in many other things? Did anyone consult these entrepreneurs and ask them “Is this going to hurt your business?” No. No one consulted them. Everyone has to be consulted. The government cannot go on making decisions for communities at the expense of the people living there.
I had a call from a man who had to leave his work to go and care for his children because the spreader had gone by his house. It makes no sense for this man to leave his work for such a reason. This week, a truck was taken off the road. But were the people who did the inspection not within their rights? The truck was taken off the road. It was not allowed on the road because it failed to meet the requirements of the Department of Transport. How many other things are not right? I congratulate the committee. I congratulate the pool patrol for all their work.
It is true that all the communities, with our help, and all levels of government must sit down together and reach a solution. I hope that other people will insist that the government compensate Metz Farms, and close it down to save jobs in the tourism sector and to protect the health of our families, children, seniors and young children, who often have asthma, as Maria said when she called me.
Mr. Speaker, I thank you. It has been a pleasure for me to sit here these past three years, five months and few weeks. I know you will not be coming back to the House, and I want to wish you not only good luck, but success in your future endeavours. Thank you again for your patience, knowing that those of us who had arrived recently needed a little advice. I look forward to our next meeting.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: International Boundary Waters Treaty Act