Commonsense Legislation Would Protect Canada’s Waterways

Nine hundred billion litres. That’s how much raw sewage was dumped into Canada’s waterways over a five-year period. To put that into perspective, that’s the equivalent of filling 355,000 Olympic-size swimming pools with sewage.

That’s why, earlier this week, I was pleased to speak in support of Bill C-269.

Bill C-269 is a private member’s bill—put forward by former Conservative leader, the Hon. Andrew Scheer—that would prohibit the dumping of raw sewage into Canada’s waterways.

Canada is steward of some 20% of the world’s freshwater resources. Our lakes and rivers are vital to their communities and each represents a remarkable blessing and natural inheritance worth protecting.

In Toronto, sewage gets dumped into beautiful Lake Ontario so often, city officials advise people to stay away from the city’s beaches for two days after it rains.

Here in Manitoba, some 185 million litres of raw sewage have been pumped into our rivers over the past 15 years.

Much of this problem can be attributed to Canada’s antiquated city and municipal water systems. In many communities, older water systems carry both household waste and stormwater through the same pipes. When these pipes are overwhelmed, by rain or melting snow, they tend to be designed to vent the diluted sewage into the nearest waterway.

In other cases, raw sewage is released into waterways to allow cities or municipalities to undertake repairs.

In Canada, our cities and municipalities often lack the necessary infrastructure to deal with waste—waste that will continue to find its way into our lakes and rivers unless we do something about the status quo. This bill does just that.

This bill builds on the work done by our previous Conservative Government. We set new standards for treating wastewater and introduced the Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations. This helped to improve water quality and protect marine wildlife, fish, and their habitats from toxins.

Clearly, that was a first step and there is more to be done.

The Liberal Government likes to talk a good game on the environment—and for that matter on infrastructure—but they have done little of real substance to address this major source of pollution. This antipathy for real action on the environment was typified by one of their very first decisions in office: to grant the city of Montreal permission to dump 8 billion litres of raw sewage into the St. Lawrence river.

Bill C-269 isn’t flashy or showy or as unrealistic as some proposed approaches to environmental stewardship. It addresses a real problem and offers a tangible, achievable, commonsense solution to protect Canada’s waterways.

When we look at Canada’s past, we see the enormous role our waterways played in the development of our nation. For Indigenous peoples, they were highways connecting their communities. For early European explorers, waterways served to guide their paths and help them map out our vast territory. For fur traders, waterways were trade routes – fostering economic activity. For settlers, the path to their new home. The list goes on.

Canadians have relied on our waterways for generations: for transportation, commerce, food, resources, and recreation. The past reminds us of the ways in which our waterways have served us, and it is a reminder that we must serve as stewards of them, as well.