Friday, October 05, 2007   
  [previous page]

Opposition Motion—Pesticides

Tuesday, May 16, 2021
House of Commons
Source :  Hansard, Vol. 141, No. 24

Hon. Scott Brison (Kings—Hants, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, I rise with pleasure today to support the amendment to the Pest Control Products Act in order to significantly limit the places where pesticides can be used legally in Canada.
    In fact, when we introduced a similar bill in 2002, the purpose was to protect human health and safety, and the environment by regulating products used for the control of pests. The PCPA's primary objective was to prevent unacceptable risks to people in the environment from the use of pest control products. Ancillary objectives included supporting sustainable development to enable the needs of the present to be met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own.
    This bill passed on June 13, 2002, and was given royal assent on December 12, 2002. It was sponsored by the Minister of Health and in fact replaced a 33 year old act first passed in 1969. It controls products commonly called pesticides, but it also encompasses a broad range of products including insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, algaecides, insect repellents, wood preservatives, et cetera.
    The development of the PCPA involved collaboration with the Pest Management Regulatory Agency of Health Canada, the Departments of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Environment, Industry, Natural Resources and Fisheries and Oceans, Canada Food Inspection Agency, and industry stakeholders as well as broad consultations with environmental and health advocacy groups.
    The result of their efforts demonstrated the way Canadians approach sustainable development in terms of policy, legislation and regulations. The bill protects human health, biodiversity, air, water and soil. It protects and promotes the interests of our agricultural industry to ensure a safe and abundant food supply at an acceptable cost, and the productivity of our natural forestry endowments by encouraging the move to the development and use of leading edge, sustainable pest management practices.
    The preamble of the bill states that the regulation of pesticides is to be pursued through a scientifically-based national registration system that addresses risks to human health and the environment both before and after registration. A new product will be approved or accepted only if there is reasonable certainty that there is no harm to human health, to future generations and to the environment under the conditions under which a pesticide has been approved.
    The proposed amendments would strengthen the use of the precautionary principle that refines our views of what constitutes reasonable certainty. The precautionary principle applies in the current version of the PCPA and the principle asserts that a lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent adverse health impacts or environmental degradation.
    Science offers an evolving set of parameters within which we make decisions. Centuries ago our understanding of science allowed us, with reasonable certainty, to believe and act on an opinion, for instance, that the earth was flat. It would appear that some members in the Conservative Party continue to hold that view when it comes to environmental policy and other fairly arcane ideas about sustainable development.
    We support the amendments which strengthen the approach in applying the precautionary principle. The amendments strengthen protection against possible exposure from multiple sources including food, water, home and school. By restricting the legal use of pesticides in specific locations, populations including pregnant women, children, farmers and their families would be protected from cumulative risks that would otherwise exist.
    Due to their smaller size, diet and play habits, children are indeed more vulnerable to the harmful effects of pesticides than are adults. The existing bill recognizes this special vulnerability of children by calling for the application of an additional tenfold safety margin in evaluating a product's health risks. The amendments, as presented, would expand our protections to those in society most vulnerable to impacts.
    The PCPA prohibits pesticides from being imported, sold and used unless they have been registered by the minister. Once registered, their use is carefully controlled. The minister may refuse to maintain an applicant registration where reporting requirements have in fact not been met.


    This is an important protection for Canadians and for our agricultural sector as well. It creates the context for a race to the top among our agricultural sector positioning Canada as a leader in sustainable pest management.


    Environmental policy can be used to create economic growth and opportunities. To do this, tax credits need to be put in place to attract capital and talent to promote research and development in environmental sciences and create a positive context for the marketing of this sort of technical and technological environment.


    It was more than 20 years ago that Harvard professor Michael Porter, in assessing Canada's position in the global marketplace, described a robust regulatory regime for environmental and health protection as “technology forcing”. In fact, it does help when there is multilateral cooperation between governments that not only require consumers and the private sector to develop better long term approaches to the environment, but also help create economic opportunity in doing so.
    We have seen evidence of the ingenuity of our Canadian agricultural and forestry sectors to respond to health and environmental challenges with cutting edge pesticide management strategies. The sectors have adopted a “reduced risk” approach to pest management. Our agricultural sector has collaborated with Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada developing an array of pest management strategies for priority crops and land uses. Some of these strategies create a brand for Canada, a brand in the use among global leaders of integrated sustainable pest management approaches.


    Canada could become a world leader in this type of environmental technology, particularly with green technologies, green energy and clean energy, for example. There will be lots of opportunity in agriculture, for example, to develop biodiesel.


    Some of these strategies, that the private sector and our agricultural and forestry sectors have developed, are actually breathtaking in their simplicity. In pear and apple orchards, which are an important ingredient in infant and child diets, pesticide use has decreased in favour of mating disruption techniques thus reducing the typically high pesticide load on this horticultural crop and strengthening the organic farming sector which is one of the faster growing sectors within horticulture.
    Berry farmers have found the chemical controls for weevils to be ineffective, but the parasitic nematode used in a low temperature tolerance strain of berry has in fact produced results that have increased crop yields.
    Canola and potato farmers, whose crops incur a 20% loss due to root maggot and wire worms, are using fungal parasites and meeting their pesticide use reduction goals at the same time.
    There are new approaches to tillage to control weeds in oat, flax and wheat fields. This is contributing to new approaches to protecting waterfowl habitat, and soil and microbial damage and erosion.
    Using pesticides before crops emerge helps to control weeds, deliver low health and environmental impacts, and reduce overall use of pesticides in the long term.
    Cattle ranchers know the blight of the leafy spurge, a non-indigenous species which impacts two million hectares of valuable grazing land and whose sap is toxic to cattle. Chemical treatment of these species is expensive and is inappropriate in terms of being close to water sources in those areas. Canadian farmers are using a biological control, the black spurge beetle, to reduce losses and increase productivity and innovation in their approaches.
    By amending the bill and expanding the application of the precautionary principle, PCPA will protect human health and the environment and drive innovation, productivity and competitiveness in the agricultural and forestry sectors.
    It is important to recognize that Canadians, not only from a short term health and safety perspective but from a long term environmental and economic sustainability perspective, understand the importance of these measures and in general environmental policy.



    There is a lot of support throughout the country for environmental measures, especially in Quebec.
    I would now like to talk about greenhouse gases. It is clear to everyone that Canada, as a multilateralist, has a responsibility to honour its commitments to the Kyoto protocol.
    In addition, it is clear to everyone that the Conservative government does not support the principles of Kyoto.


    It is also important to recognize that we have a huge credibility challenge right now as a country.


    Indeed, we are the only country in the world reducing its environmental spending this year.


    To be the only country in the world that is in fact reducing environmental investment this year is not the kind of club Canada wants to belong to.
    In terms of Kyoto, we have a history as a country where we are respected internationally as a country that keeps its promises and respects its treaties. We have a responsibility to do more. There was a plan implemented by the previous Liberal government and that plan was working. Any plan takes time to have the effect required.
    It has been often referred to that there was a growth in greenhouse gas emissions over the last 13 years of about 24%. It is also notable that during that period of time there was a GDP growth economically in Canada of about 45%, largely driven by some of the worst emitters, the fossil fuels petroleum industry. While technologies are evolving rapidly and importantly in those areas to clean energy production from traditional sources, we still have a long way to go.


    This is why I think it will be very important for Canada to work with the other international partners to develop innovative technologies to reduce greenhouse gases and to create economic opportunities at the same time. Canada could be a world leader in this area and create opportunities for young Canadians to earn a living. In addition, it will have an impact on industries such as green or clean energy, or alternative energies. There will be many opportunities.
    In my opinion, this will be the 21st century's most dynamic sector. So, it is our responsibility as leaders in Canada and the responsibility of the government as well to play a leading role in this area.



    It is embarrassing that we now have headlines such as the one in the Toronto Star this morning that the Minister of the Environment “lacks credibility; Rather than embarrass Canada, environment minister should stay away from UN meeting on climate change”.
    It is not the right kind of signal to be sending to the international community in terms of Canada's seriousness on these issues, that 300 non-governmental organizations from around the world charge at the meeting that the minister ought to step down from her role as chairperson. In fact, the 300 organizations that signed on to the ECO newsletter said the following:
    Avoiding dangerous climate change clearly requires leadership from industrialized countries such as Canada in reducing emissions now and an agreement on deeper reductions for the second commitment period. If you feel, as Chair of these proceedings, that you and your government are not committed to fulfill your obligations under the Kyoto Protocol and that you cannot provide this needed leadership for the future, please, do the honourable thing. Step down.
    That was the communication of 300 international non-government organizations in the environmental community directed to the Minister of the Environment on her chairpersonship of the Bonn conference.
    It is important, whether in pesticide management or in measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, that we work multilaterally. Greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants do not stop at borders. It is important that we work multilaterally, with the United States absolutely, but also with our partners through the Kyoto accord. The fact exists that in the U.S. private sector players are now seeking to put together a trading mechanism that can work because their government has not signed on to Kyoto. They recognize the efficacy of a trading system that would enable them not just to be competitive internationally but at the same time to build a cleaner greener planet.
    Progress has been made within Canada with our private sector, with our oil and gas sector and in fact with our new energy sector. Wind farms are being built and are operating successfully in places in southern Alberta and also in places within Atlantic Canada. We are seeing the development of biofuels. That is good for the agricultural industry and traditional sectors. It is good for rural Canada. What is exciting about this is that some of the intractable regional and rural development issues and some of the intractable and difficult development issues with aboriginal communities can in fact be addressed through what quite possibly will be the fastest growing area in the 21st century economy and that is new energy and clean energy.
    They are not going to be putting wind farms on the corner of Bay and Bloor and they are not going to be developing biofuels on Bay Street either, but the fact is that a lot of these opportunities will provide sustainable economic opportunities to rural Canada, to aboriginal, first nations, Métis and Inuit communities, if we get it right.


    To do this, tax credits must be put in place to attract capital, for example. There is a lot of international capital and many investors wanting to invest in this area.
    Canada can become the world leader in this area.


    It is that kind of vision that can recognize that we can create economic opportunity and it is directly out of environmental responsibility. I think a lot of Canadians in the private and public sectors, and Canadian consumers want to see that kind of leadership. I would urge all members of the House to pursue vigorously and in as non-partisan a way as we can in this quite partisan place, efforts to work together to ensure that Canada fulfills its international commitments but at the same time help create economic opportunities for future generations of Canadians by being environmentally responsible and innovative at the same time.


Ms. Denise Savoie (Victoria, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member mentioned the importance of creating sustainable economic opportunities in Canada. He stated that with respect to the motion at hand there are new approaches, like biological controls and others, that are helping to create economic opportunities in farming. In fact in Victoria, the city that I represent, organic landscaping is one of the fastest growing sectors.
    What does the member think of the Conservative members' faith that they seem to want to continue to place strictly in the chemical industry and to maintain the continued use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes?
Hon. Scott Brison:  
    Mr. Speaker, first of all there is a role for the responsible use of pesticides. We all recognize that and I think the hon. member does as well.
    I would hope that the Conservatives would understand that no one in the House is talking about a complete ban on pesticides. We are saying that as we have more information and more science in these areas, we should be using that science appropriately and responsibly to protect citizens and at the same time, as the member suggests and I agree with her, to create economic opportunities.
    The organic farm movement is only part of it, but there have been significant opportunities created in that sector. In fact what has resulted in higher margin activity in terms of traditional agriculture, some of the organic farming has resulted in people are willing to pay more. The margins are better. It creates an agriculture opportunity that is more sustainable in some ways by being innovative and environmentally responsible at the same time. There is a growing demand internationally for these kinds of products as well.
    As globalization continues, it is going to be increasingly important for Canada to play a role as a multilateral leader in these areas and work with other jurisdictions, including the United States, toward common approaches in some of these areas, including pesticide use, with both the EU and the United States. I would assert that Canada can play a leadership role in moving toward a greater level of cooperation on the regulatory side such that our farmers are not subject to discriminatory practices through the use of one pesticide or the non-use of another. At the same time internationally all governments, all agriculture sectors in every country should cooperate in a way that citizens are protected and economic opportunity is not limited but is created by this kind of approach.
Mr. Laurie Hawn (Edmonton Centre, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague's speech was on Kyoto. I had thought this motion was about pesticides but I guess it is not possible to talk about that for 20 minutes.
    I thank him for highlighting his government's utter failure to meet our environmental commitments in 13 years, but I would like to get back to the topic at hand, at the risk of staying on topic, and that is pesticides.
    I would like to ask the hon. member what his government's approach was to the assessment and evaluation of various pesticides, perhaps the relative success or failure, and what he would recommend going forward in terms of the assessment and evaluation of these products.


Hon. Scott Brison:  
    Mr. Speaker, in 2002 similar legislation was passed and given royal assent. I almost said rural assent, I guess given the nature of the topic and the nature of my riding. I am very proud to represent my rural Nova Scotia riding of Kings—Hants. Beyond that the legislation required an evaluation period and implementation was to have occurred in 2005. The evaluation within the departments was continuing.
    I would urge the government to support the direction of that legislation, to accelerate the testing process, while being reasonable from a scientific perspective, and to implement the legislation fully. It is already there. This motion strengthens it, but the legislation is already there. It received royal assent in 2002 and was to be implemented in 2005. There is still testing going on.
     I would urge the government to conclude that testing and to move forward with this from a directional and effective perspective.
Mr. Rick Norlock (Northumberland—Quinte West, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I was listening intently to the hon. member when he was discussing in particular the use of alternates to pesticides. I wondered where he was going with some of the other comments near the end of his speech, in particular his conversion from conservatism to so-called liberalism and then his conversion from Kyoto being on the back of a napkin to how wonderful and beautiful and everything around it is now.
    Speaking of conversions, I listened intently to some of his statements with regard to alternatives to pesticides. Having used parasitic nematodes in my garden and having looked at alternate plant species, I wonder if he knows from his riding or from his personal experience how effective or sometimes ineffective some of these alternatives are.
Hon. Scott Brison:  
    Mr. Speaker, first, I welcome the hon. member to the House. He has not been here that long. In my experience as a member of Parliament, I do not have time to grow a garden and I think he will probably find the same thing once he gets settled in. It is a pretty busy life, so he may not be able to further that experience. I certainly do not have personal experience in terms of my gardening prowess. I was elected first in 1997 and I am lucky if I have a chance to buy groceries.
    The member mentioned my position on Kyoto and I appreciate that very much. The fact is I have always believed in the science behind climate change and the importance of addressing it. I was opposed to ratification before there was a plan. The Liberal government implemented a plan that was working, so now I am opposed to a Conservative government that is dismantling that plan. In fact, I am always opposed to the lack of a plan when it comes to addressing environmental issues and my position has remained absolutely consistent on this.
    I also believe in what is neither a left-wing nor right-wing perspective but just a good idea, that economic opportunity can be created through environmentally sustainable and responsible approaches. The fact is it is not a left-wing idea to attract capital to Canada through tax and regulatory changes that make Canada the best place to develop green technologies. It is not a right-wing idea either. It is a good idea. It is a Liberal idea, in fact.
Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to see that the Liberal leadership candidate is supporting the NDP initiative, which is long overdue, as I think he and others have acknowledged in the House. I want to ask him whether or not he is able to say with any certainty if other members in his party also support this initiative.
    It was not too long ago that the NDP tried to persuade his party, then the government, to make significant changes to the Pest Control Products Act and was unsuccessful. There was huge opposition from the Liberals at the time.
    I refer to Bill C-53, which was debated in 2002. The New Democratic Party clearly referenced the fact that the bill missed the mark in terms of controlling, regulating and prohibiting pesticides that were used for cosmetic purposes and were very dangerous on a health basis.
    I want to know if the position he has taken today is a change of heart on the part of Liberals. Can he say with any certainty that there will be 100% backing from his caucus for this important initiative?


Hon. Scott Brison:  
    Mr. Speaker, today's NDP motion was in fact consistent with the legislation that the Liberal government passed and which was given royal assent in 2002. In 2005 it was scheduled to have been implemented fully. There is still testing and work being done within the departments in that direction. I would urge the Conservatives to conclude those and to move forward.
    While it may move further than the initial legislation, because there have in fact been changes in the science around that, it is consistent with the original legislation which was introduced by a Liberal government and presumably supported by the New Democrats.

CPAC -Cable Public Affairs Channel
Current Poll
There are currently no active polls. Please check back soon.
Constituency Office
360 Main St., Suite 12
Wolfville, NS
B4P 1C4

Tel: (902) 542-4010
Toll Free (NS): 1-888-585-0550
Fax: (902) 542-4184

Office Hours:
Monday to Friday
9:00 to 12:30
1:30 to 4:30