MASSE IN THE HOUSE: M-502, Trent-Severn Waterway Deepening & Straightening

MASSE IN THE HOUSE: M-502, Trent-Severn Waterway Deepening & Straightening

October 6, 2014

    Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP): Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise to speak on Motion No. 502, the motion put together by the member for Simcoe North. I can say I shared an office floor with the member and know how hard he works and the diligence of his work. I praise him for actually bringing an issue before us that includes the Great Lakes. As critic for the Great Lakes for the NDP and Canada-U.S. border relations, I can tell members that the Great Lakes are going to frame much of our relationship with the United States for the next 10 years. Whether it be on fresh water, whether it be on invasive species, whether it be pollution, there will be a lot of discourse, and there has been, and I will highlight some of that in my speech.

    However, I want to touch on Motion No. 502, specifically, right now, because it is an important issue for the community and is an important issue that we have to look at, with regard to infrastructure, with regard to planning, and with regard to ensuring that our natural resources, when they are affected, will be done so appropriate.

    Motion No. 502 looks to study the Georgian Bay and the westerly limit of the Trent-Severn Waterway, at Port Severn, a channel that is not living up to the needs of the current boating culture that wants to use and exercise the channel, because it is too small.

     There are a number of challenges, specifically, that people need to know about when we look at expanding this channel. The channel is currently rock-faced, it has sharp turns in the channel, it is narrow and not wide enough for vessels to pass each other, and it is subjected to unexpected swift currents, as well. Why these things are important is because of the tourism industry, in particular, and also the boating culture that needs to use this facility, and it does not do itself any justice anymore.

    In fact, the Canadian Coast Guard also provides navigation devices and aid.

    There have been some attempts to work with the current infrastructure, but it is so challenged that it does need a review. It is hurting the economy and tourism in the region by deterring boaters from actually making use of the channel. That is a loss to, not only that local community, but also to the entire Great Lakes. One of the things I want to focus on is the challenges in the Great Lakes, which are significant. We have proposed a series of things that correlate to this. It is about planning. It is about having a plan.

    One of the first things to talk about is the lake water levels. We have tabled a motion in the House of Commons that calls for a study of the lake water levels in the Great Lakes. We saw this last winter, being a better winter for the Great Lakes, but prior to that, in a series of different years, we saw the lake water levels lowering, and that has actually hurt this facility as well, and which Motion No. 502 addresses.

    The key thing is that we need planning. Every year, when the lake waters go down, a number of different communities scramble with different types of resolutions, asking for federal funds and provincial funds, to deal with dredging and other types of work. There is a problem with that because we go from crisis to crisis, as opposed to actually having a sustainable fund or a sustainable business plan to deal with the lake water levels rising and lowering and then also understanding that when we do dredge, we cannot actually be disturbing some of the sediments and contamination in the actual sediments. So, we are conflicted in terms of how we can actually deal with that.

    What we are proposing, as New Democrats, is that we study those levels and then, on top of that, we create a business plan that comes into operation, depending upon what takes place. We have a natural ally in the international joint commission, the binational commission, which has done wonderful work for many decades, and which continues to do some really good work on a series of different things. It could really be an asset. For example, if lake water levels go down again this year, we identify the number of the communities that are affected by say maybe two or three centimetres, we know those target spots, and those organizations and those municipalities, also the different docks and even cottages and other types of regions where they can be honed in on, in terms of having to deal with those problems, as opposed to just waiting for them to respond to us out of emergencies and crises.

    We are hoping the motion actually gets passed.

    It is also about our economy. Obviously the shipping community has to deal with it as well. It depends upon the type of aggregate that is coming and going into different ports, and what type of infrastructure construction is actually taking place across, Ontario, Quebec and other parts of Canada that use the Great Lakes as a shipping and movement distribution vehicle to get those materials to those projects. Again, it is about having a business plan to deal with this.

    If we are more efficient in terms of our economy with regard to our shipping, it is also going to help us environmentally. Again, we will know what the consequences of these actions are going to be.

    There is a couple of other things that we have pushed for that are really important to note on the Great Lakes. In the transition that is taking place, there is an issue with regard to microplastics right now. We have had some good meetings with the industry.

     Microplastics and microbeads are in a lot of things, like toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner. They are the little plastic beads that are added to products because the other types of materials used are rough on the skin. Consumers like the microbeads because it makes products feel smooth. When it is used in toothpaste, there is no roughness in the mouth.

    The problem, however, is the microbeads then end up going down the drain into our municipal water treatment systems and up into the Great Lakes. Once they get to the Great Lakes there are consequences. First, sometimes the fish and other wildlife mistake it for algae, and then digest and eat them. It then becomes part of the food chain. Later on when people are fishing in the Great Lakes, that will be part of the experience of fishing.

    I was not aware of this until somebody starting doing some research on this but, alternatively, some of the microplastics wash up in the sands, in the shoreline, and because it is plastic it becomes a heating source with the sun on them. It can change the ecosystem of the beach and other areas that are affected.

    There is a campaign to ban microbeads. Some industry leaders have been really good on this, and I think there is some change there.

    I know it has affected Canada-U.S. relations. Illinois, as well as New York, has passed a resolution, defining the actual size and shape of what can be in these products. I know a lot of states, as well as members of Congress and the Senate, are concerned about this issue. The industry is open to and is looking for a Canada-U.S. solution.

     I am hoping the government actually takes some initiative on this. There seems to be some positive will to move forward on this. I am meeting with some groups this afternoon about this issue.

    There are alternatives that can be used in those types of consumer products that would not cause the damage, whether it be to the beaches, shores or wildlife. There can be natural remedies. These are things that could even be beneficial for our economy, because products could be manufactured in a way that is good for the environment when they break down.

    I do want to touch on a couple of other issues just briefly, with regard to the importance of this motion and other issues in the Great Lakes. There is the issue in Kincardine right now, where they want to build a repository for nuclear waste. We are fighting against that. We believe it is wrong and hope the government does something about it. It is hurting Canada-U.S. relations, because the U.S. has legislation that nuclear waste cannot be stored within 10 miles of the Great Lakes, and we are trying to put it within 1 kilometre.

    I tabled a bill here in the House last week on invasive carp getting into Canada. We are calling on the government to let the CBSA officers of this country stop and refuse invasive carp that comes in if it is not eviscerated, cut and gutted. If this species gets into our lakes and our inland water systems, it is going to have a significant impact and a loss of fisheries. This is an invasive species that should be stopped, and the government can do at no cost.