Wednesday, June 07, 2006


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Soil Contamination
Mr. S. Graham: My question this afternoon is for the Environment Minister, concerning public
statements by Bennett Environmental that it will be seeking permission from the government of New
Brunswick to burn PCs, dioxins, and other highly toxic contaminants at a facility in Belledune.
When this facility was first contemplated, many people across the province expressed strong
concerns that this facility would be burning PCBs, but it is our understanding that both the company
and the government stated that only hydrocarbon- and creosote-contaminated soil would be treated
at this site. The company seems to have changed its mind. Has the government changed its position
on the types of contaminated soil that will be treated at this plant?
017 14:05
Hon. Mr. Holder: I welcome the question, because there are some rumours that are going around
in the Belledune region. I want to state very clearly that, currently, the Bennett facility in Belledune
has an approval to construct. It does not have an approval to operate, as I think the Leader of the
Opposition knows. At this point, even if it were given the approval to operate, that would not include
PCBs. In order for Bennett to get that, it would have to go through the whole process and register
a brand-new EIA. Currently, it does not have that ability and would have to go through a whole new
process in order to do that.
Mr. S. Graham: We know that there is a lot of misinformation about the Bennett Environmental
facility in Belledune. We also know that the Minister of Environment is supposed to enforce the
current environmental standards for the facility and all other industrial facilities across the province.
Can the minister assure this House that Bennett Environmental is in absolute compliance with the
licensing provisions thus far that were established when the facility first opened? Can the minister
tell us what measures are in place to ensure the compliance?
Hon. Mr. Holder: As I said a moment ago, the Bennett facility in Belledune has an approval to
construct. As part of that approval to construct, it is currently going through some test burns to see
whether it can have the approval to construct. Right now, it just has the approval to operate.
Sorry. I got that . . . I think the member knows what I mean. Having said that, that is where we are
now. Certainly, the department is monitoring it on an ongoing basis. There is no approval to go
beyond this, and no approval to operate will take place until we are certain that all the conditions
have been met.
Mr. S. Graham: I have another question for the Minister of Environment. On May 31, Bennett
Environmental reported its fourth-quarter and 2005 year-end results. The company reports that it
lost a total of $25 million in 2005, with $15.4 million of that loss due to an asset impairment
associated with its Belledune facility. According to the company:
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During 2005 the plant was idle and did not process any material commercially. The permit
negotiated in 2003 was focused mainly on creosote-contaminated soils. The viability for processing
this type of contaminated soil has become uncertain. Based on this the Company believes that these
assets are impaired. Management believes that over time, positive cash flow will be generated from
this facility to support the revised valuation.
Bennett appears to be seeking a change to its current license to allow it to burn PCBs in order to
generate a positive cash flow. Has the minister received any representations from the company
stating that it needs permission to burn PCBs and other toxins to ensure the viability of this facility?
Hon. Mr. Holder: I think I have been very clear with the Leader of the Opposition. There is going
to be no approval to burn PCBs, unless the company was to go through a whole new process. At this
point, there is no approval to burn PCBs. The people in the Belledune region need to understand
Mr. S. Graham: I recognize the fact that a license to operate has not been given. The question that
I asked the minister that he did not answer was this: Has any permission been sought by the
company to burn PCBs at this date? Has there been any representation from Bennett to the
government on the permission and the process required to burn PCBs and other toxins to ensure the
viability of this project? The minister is correct in his statement, but he failed to answer whether any
application or any verbal communication has been brought forward from Bennett to the government
at this point in time.
Hon. Mr. Holder: When I checked at the end of last week, no.
Mr. S. Graham: In 2003, a senior official with Bennett Environmental stated that since the ban on
the use of PCBs was implemented in 1980, they have seldom been used for heavy industrial. As a
result, there is not much of a market for cleaning up PCB-contaminated soil. We also know that the
Bennett Environmental facility in Saint Ambroise, Quebec, which does have a license to treat PCBs,
is not operating at full capacity. Even if it were operating at full capacity, the company previously
stated that it would transfer material that could be handled at its Belledune facility in order to free
up capacity at Saint Ambroise. Given that Bennett Environmental already has sufficient capacity
to treat PCBs, can the minister give us any information today as to why Bennett Environmental will
be seeking a change in its license for Belledune?
Hon. Mr. Holder: Except for speculation, I have no reason to believe that Bennett will be seeking
that approval. At such time, it would register a project, and it would go through that process.
Anything other than that is premature. I know it is safe to say that nothing has been registered at this
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018 14:10
Mr. S. Graham: We are raising this issue today because any time this issue is given to the press late
on a Friday afternoon, it does raise a point of concern. It is my understanding that it was following
a board meeting with Bennett that this information became public. That is why we are looking for
clarification from the government today. The license to construct was based on hydrocarbons and
creosotes. It was not based on polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, as the minister indicated. My
question to the minister is very clear. Will he give a strong statement today, and a commitment to
the House, that there will be no change to the license for Bennett Environmental without a full
environmental impact analysis, including public consultation and a third-party review of the
scientific documents. The third-party review is very imperative.
Hon. Mr. Holder: There are no plans at this time. If there is a change in the operation, there will
be an EIA that is appropriate for that facility, and it will involve public consultation, as the member
opposite has indicated.
Mr. Arseneault: In 2001, the government authorized ex gratia payments of $20 500 to each of the
44 members of SODA New Brunswick to compensate them in respect of various health problems,
which, they allege, developed as a result of spraying herbicides for NB Power sometime during the
years 1950 to 1967. That amount totalled $982 000, which was paid out by the Department of
Justice. Following this settlement, two other individuals have advanced similar claims, based on
similar facts. On September 22, 2004, the government authorized payments of $20 500 each to the
two individuals and instructed RDC to provide the funding and to recover the amounts of these
payments from NB Power.
My question to the Minister Responsible for the Regional Development Corporation is this: Since
these claims are similar to those presented in the past, which were paid out by the Department of
Justice, why is RDC paying out legal claims instead of doing what its mandate states, which is to
create economic development in New Brunswick?
L’hon. M. Volpé : Je suis étonné de voir que le député de Dalhousie—Restigouche-Est me pose
cette question à la Chambre, étant donné que j’ai répondu à toutes ses questions et que je lui ai
apporté toute l’information.
Les cas ont été évalués en 2002, et un groupe de personnes avait reçu une compensation. Toutefois,
il semblerait que deux personnes avaient été oubliées dans le processus, mais l’intention était de les
compenser eux aussi. À savoir d’où vient l’argent, je peux vous dire qu’il provient du gouvernement
du Nouveau-Brunswick. Prenons-nous de l’argent du gouvernement général pour le donner au
ministère de la Justice pour payer les personnes en question ou provient-il de la Société de
développement régional? On a déjà eu des cas semblables en ce qui a trait à la compensation de
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certaines personnes lors d’autres occasions. L’intention est que deux personnes avaient été affectées.
On a reconnu qu’elles semblaient avoir un cas légitime, et elles ont reçu une compensation.
Mr. Arseneault: My concern is not necessarily with the claim itself. It is what RDC has to do with
this file in the first place. When RDC tried to recover these payments from NB Power, it received
a letter with instructions from David Hay stating:
NB Power was not consulted on the two recent payments of $20,500 . . .
NB Power, as you know, settled the SODA claims in the early 90's. NB Power has had several
requests for funding from various individuals, (one of which may have been . . .)
—one of the two individuals—
since the settlement. NB Power has made no further payments.
My question to the minister is this: RDC got involved in a matter that concerns NB Power and the
Department of Justice. RDC paid out $41 000 to two individuals without consulting with NB Power,
which has made it clear that it will not reimburse RDC. Why is his department involved in a case
that it has no business being in? Why did Cabinet order RDC to pay and not the Department of
Justice, as it did in 2001?
L’hon. M. Volpé : Je trouve cet argument tellement absurde que j’essaie seulement de comprendre
la question. Êtes-vous pour ou contre la compensation? Si les parlementaires du côté de l’opposition
sont en faveur de la compensation, je pense que la question est la suivante : de quel ministère
provient l’argent?
À la fin de l’année financière de 2002, des montants d’argent ont été transférés du gouvernement
général au ministère de la Justice pour payer une compensation pour une quarantaine d’anciens
employés d’Énergie NB. Deux ans plus tard, deux autres personnes nous ont dit qu’elles aussi
devraient être compensées, parce qu’elles travaillaient dans le même secteur. Une évaluation a été
faite de leur cas, et la décision du gouvernement a été de les compenser elles aussi. Alors, j’aimerais
savoir une chose : êtes-vous pour ou contre cela? Indépendamment d’où vient l’argent, celui-ci vient
du gouvernement.
019 14:15
Devrait-on prendre l’argent du gouvernement général et le transférer au ministère de la Justice pour
payer ces gens-là? La raison, c’est qu’on voulait avoir une décision rapide. La décision a été prise,
et la Société de développement régional, qui est une corporation de la Couronne, a compensé les
deux personnes, à la satisfaction de celles-ci.
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Mr. Arseneault: Today’s Telegraph-Journal states:
Robyn Gregory, who formed SODA NB, said he has been contacted by three individuals who say
they were left out of the original settlement.
He said two individuals contacted him about three years ago to find out if they could be
compensated and he referred them to the provincial government. He said they weren’t included in
the original group because they didn’t come forward until the settlement had already been reached.
Two of those individuals have now been compensated, as we just found out. My final question to
the minister is this: Since RDC has given up on job creation and is now doing the work of the
Department of Justice, has it been contacted by the third individual for similar compensation for a
similar claim, or has it been ordered by Cabinet to pay out other claims?
L’hon. M. Volpé : Le cas de ces personnes a été évalué et dans deux des cas, il semblait avoir
justification pour une compensation, et elles l’ont reçue. Ma question au député de
Dalhousie—Restigouche-Est, qui ne m’a pas répondu, est celle-ci : êtes-vous pour ou contre? Les
parlementaires du côté de l’opposition sont sur la clôture.
L’hon. M. Volpé : C’est exactement la question. La question est tellement ridicule et absurde. On
a compensé des gens qui semblaient avoir un cas légitime. Le député de Dalhousie—Restigouche-
Est nous demande pourquoi l’argent ne vient pas du ministère de la Justice au lieu de la Société
d’aménagement régional. Cette dernière est une corporation de la Couronne, et c’était la façon la
plus rapide pour compenser ces gens-là. Au lieu de faire des transferts à partir du gouvernement
général au ministère de la Justice, et de là, à ces employés, on a donné directement les montants, soit
quelque 40 000 $. Si le député de Dalhousie—Restigouche-Est s’occupait des dossiers de sa région
au lieu de s’occuper des niaiseries comme celles-là, peut-être qu’il aurait plus de succès à attirer des
emplois chez lui.
Étude d’impact sur l’environnement
M. V. Boudreau : Jeudi dernier, le ministre de la Santé a rendu public les résultats de l’étude
environnementale d’échantillonnage de la région de Belledune, réalisée par la firme d’expertsconseils
indépendants Jacques, Whitford & Associates. L’étude comprenait l’échantillonnage de
poissons, de mollusques et de sols servant au jardinage et de fruits et légumes de potagers en vue
d’obtenir des données plus à jour de la foulée de l’étude sur la santé de la région de Belledune.
L’étude conclut que les concentrations de plomb et de cadmium dans le sol servant au jardinage sont
conformes aux recommandations élaborées par le Conseil canadien des ministres de
l’Environnement. Puisqu’il existe plus d’une catégorie de recommandations ou de normes en
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provenance du Conseil canadien des ministres de l’Environnement, ma question pour le ministre de
la Santé est la suivante : peut-il confirmer contre laquelle des catégories de recommandations ou de
normes les données de l’étude ont été comparées?
Hon. Mr. Green: The levels that are set by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment
with respect to presence of lead or cadmium in soil are not related to health risks. Those levels are
established by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment to determine when an
intervention may be necessary or when remediation may be necessary. What was done in the case
of the sampling study for the Department of Health was to look at the presence of lead and cadmium
in the soil in several gardens in the Belledune area, to take that information, and to put it into the
health risk assessment to answer a very basic question: Is it safe for people in that area to plant
vegetables and then to consume them? The results of the work and the health risk assessment
determined that yes, it is safe.
M. V. Boudreau : Je veux réitérer ce matin que l’opposition officielle n’a jamais accusé ce
gouvernement de causer le problème entourant la situation à Belledune, mais il reste que c’est ce
gouvernement qui a maintenant le droit d’agir et de trouver des solutions, mais nous craignons que
les choses sont parfois prises à la légère. En effet, il existe quatre différentes catégories de normes.
Il existe des normes résidentielles, agricoles, commerciales et industrielles. Le gouvernement a
utilisé les normes résidentielles en comparant les données des fruits et légumes venant des jardins
plutôt que les normes agricoles qui sont beaucoup plus basses. Nous parlons quand même de plomb
et de cadmium, une question qui est très sérieuse.
020 14:20
Au moins une famille de la région a reçu une lettre disant que tout était correct en utilisant les
normes résidentielles, alors que les normes agricoles placeraient cette famille bien au-delà des
normes acceptables, soit le double. Le ministre peut-il s’engager à faire vérifier ces résultats à
nouveau en utilisant les normes agricoles plutôt que simplement les normes résidentielles lorsque
nous parlons des jardins dans la région de Belledune?
Hon. Mr. Green: The work that has been done by the Department of Health has been related to the
health of the population of the Belledune area. What we need to determine is whether or not it is safe
for the residents of the Belledune area to have vegetable gardens in their backyards and to eat the
produce that they raise. Another component of the study was whether it is safe to eat fish that is
caught in that area. We also looked at mussels. Everyone knows that mussels in that area cannot be
consumed. The wild mussel beds have been closed by the federal government. There is no issue
there. The results of the recent testing indicate that there are no health issues associated with the fish.
Also, in using the residential standard of 140 mg per kilogram, taking the results, and putting them
into the human health risk assessment, the result was that it is safe to raise and consume produce in
the Belledune area.
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M. V. Boudreau : Le ministre vient de confirmer qu’on a utilisé les normes résidentielles. Nous
demandons tout simplement de prendre ces mêmes chiffres et de les appliquer aux normes agricoles.
Le ministre a avoué lui-même que les résultats de cette étude ne font rien pour identifier pourquoi
le taux de cancer est plus élevé dans la région de Belledune. Cependant, les résultats semblent
indiquer que les échantillons de sol et de fruits contiennent plus de plomb et de cadmium plus nous
approchons le site, soit Lower Belledune et le lotissement urbain numéro 2. Puisqu’il existe une
assez grosse différence entre les normes résidentielles acceptables et les normes agricoles
acceptables quant aux niveaux de plomb et de cadmium dans les fruits et les légumes et puisque le
ministère n’a pas fait cette distinction dans les lettres envoyées aux résidants de ces régions, le
ministre peut-il au moins s’engager à communiquer à nouveau avec ces citoyens et leur expliquer
la différence assez énorme qui existe entre les deux séries de recommandations ou de normes, soit
agricoles et résidentielles?
Hon. Mr. Green: The member opposite is fixating on levels that are set by the Canadian Council
of Ministers of the Environment. We, in the Department of Health, have taken these results and put
them in an overall health risk assessment. How does the level of lead and cadmium that one could
consume by eating backyard-raised vegetables contribute to one’s health risks, along with all of the
other sources of those chemicals in our environment? We can inhale them. It is dermal and absorbed
through the skin. There is a long list, not only in Belledune, but everywhere. The results of our
testing have shown that it is safe. There are certain precautions that people should take: Wash your
hands after you have been in your garden, do not track dirt into your home, and wash the vegetables
before you eat them. One final point: The member also raises the much broader and more important
issue of why there is a higher incidence of certain diseases in this part of New Brunswick,
particularly cancer. That is the question that remains unanswered. We are currently working with
a research team from Memorial University, whose mandate will be to find out just that.
Mr. Foran: I am sure that all members of this House are aware of 9/11. I am sure that all members
of this House are aware of the acts of terrorism that are being committed throughout the world today.
We all know that Canada is engaged in a conflict in Afghanistan, basically to fight against terrorism.
However, we saw the tentacles of terrorism reach into Canada itself last week. Recently, a number
of people were arrested, and an investigation is ongoing. Suspected terrorists and actual targets were
named. My question is for the Minister of Public Safety, the minister responsible for the safety and
security of New Brunswick, commonly known as New Brunswick’s top cop. We know that there
are potential targets that were put on a list in a national strategy. What, if any, action has the
minister’s department taken to reevaluate our position in New Brunswick in the wake of this new
possibility of attacks in Canada? What is he doing to ensure the safety and security of the people of
New Brunswick?
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021 14:25
Hon. Mr. Steeves: We continue to work with all forces across Canada. We work with CSIS New
Brunswick and CSIS Canada to make sure that we are in control and that nothing is being attacked
in the province.
Mr. Foran: I realize that the province of New Brunswick works with other departments and other
provinces in Canada. My question for the minister is this: Were you even briefed, as Minister of
Public Safety, about the latest threats in Canada? What have you done, as Minister of Public Safety,
to ensure and reevaluate our position here in New Brunswick, to see that nothing happens in New
Brunswick? We should now wake up and realize that this could happen right here in New
Brunswick. There are a couple of very serious targets in New Brunswick which would be of interest
to terrorists. What I would like to know from the minister is this: Has anything happened since this
happened in Canada? Has he done anything with his department to reevaluate our position and to
assure the citizens of New Brunswick—not Canada, but New Brunswick—that we are on top of the
Hon. Mr. Steeves: Yes, I certainly have been briefed. As I said before, we feel that we are on top
of the file. It is not just because of what took place in Toronto. We have been on top of the file since
9/11. We continue to work with the forces to make sure that we are on top of the file.
Cash Stores
Mr. Murphy: My question is to the Minister of Justice. Payday loan companies are trying to
determine whether the province of New Brunswick will support an amendment to section 347 of the
Criminal Code of Canada. These cash stores, as they are called, charge interest at 107%, on average,
after 10 days. In other words, if you take out a loan of $100, then after a week or a week and a half,
you owe $214. I feel that these stores are, at times, frequented by those who are most vulnerable.
I am just asking the Minister of Justice what the government of New Brunswick’s position is with
regard to supporting the federal government, with regard to an amendment under section 347 of the
Criminal Code of Canada. As I understand, British Columbia and Alberta support it, and Ontario
does not. I would like to know what the minister’s intentions are.
Hon. Mr. Fitch: As a matter of fact, there are 25 payday outlets in New Brunswick, and about 15
of these are members of the Canadian Payday Loan Association. We have been in discussion with
that group. We have also been in discussion, back and forth, with the federal Minister of Justice, Vic
Toews. We were trying to arrange meetings with Minister Toews to discuss this issue. We, as the
member opposite knows, have been here in the House, doing the business of the province of New
Brunswick. Minister Toews and I have tried to arrange a meeting on a number of dates, to discuss
the importance of payday legislation and the amendments that are being proposed federally. As soon
as the House rises, and as soon as it is convenient, Minister Toews and I will get together to discuss
that very issue.
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Mr. Murphy: I received an e-mail from someone who was very concerned about this, who said,
among other things: I have seen among several friends and a family member what damage this is
causing to the financial stability of our people. We need to have someone to look out for the interests
of our people, to take a look at how these companies are operating and the damage that they are
causing to our families.
This is one of the many concerns that New Brunswickers have. My question is to the minister, who
was a financial planner, and I know he understands how incredible these interests rates are.
Sometimes, per annum, they can be calculated into 1 000% to 2 000%. I am asking the minister
whether he is going to consider amending existing legislation to regulate these payday loan
companies, or whether he is looking at the possibility of enacting new legislation.
Hon. Mr. Fitch: I thank the member opposite for the vote of confidence. Yes, I was involved in the
banking and financial planning business. I know that people can get in trouble with their credit,
regardless of the institution they deal with, whether it is a payday institution, a chartered bank, a
caisse populaire, or a credit union.
022 14:30
Consumers need the protection that we are anxious to put forward. One of the things that ministers
of consumer affairs did right across Canada was to give a working group, the Consumer Measures
Committee, a mandate to look into the payday legislation. We are anxious to see the results of the
reports that have been done by that committee. There is an expectation that in the fall of this year,
there will be a ministers’ meeting that will receive those reports and move on from there.
Mr. Murphy: We know that the minister was involved in the banking business, and we hope that
he will be back in the banking business in the near future.
My final question is this: The e-mail refers to a letter to the former Minister of Justice six months
ago. The department was looking into it at the time; that was the response from the minister of the
day. I would like to hear from the minister whether he agrees that this must be done in a very timely
fashion. These outlets are spreading out across the country and throughout New Brunswick. They
have absolutely incredible interest rates, and it is individuals with no other form of credit available
to them who go to these stores, which are sometimes open 24 hours a day.
Can the minister tell us whether he will be enacting legislation or coming to a resolution on this this
Hon. Mr. Fitch: I want to thank the member for Moncton North for that vote of confidence in the
job we are doing here. I think he is doing a reasonable job in opposition, and I will do everything
in my power to keep him in his job in opposition.
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This is a serious matter, though. I have dealt with individuals and their financial matters for years,
and I know how difficult it is in some situations, when they are overburdened with debt. We, in this
government, are certainly committed to helping consumers, to giving them protection from the types
of situations that have been described by the member for Moncton North.
For this term, the docket is full when it comes to legislation. I am anxious to meet with the other
ministers—my counterparts. I have a meetings arranged with the President of the Canadian Payday
Loan Association. I plan to meet with Minister Toews on this subject, and at the appropriate time,
perhaps in the fall session, if legislation has to come forward, that would be the date I would aim
Home Care Workers
Mr. Doherty: My question is directed to the Minister of Family and Community Services. Standard
care for people over 65 with disabilities seems illogical. The program should enhance the quality
and help to reduce the burden of growing old. It should not increase the stress or increase the amount
of money that seniors are forced to pay for services. The policy has changed recently from payments
at the beginning of the month to payments are the end of the month, and that is creating hardships
for clients. The department is not providing assistance to get clients through the lag period from the
time the payment is issued at the beginning of the month to the time the new payment is issued at
the end of the month.
Madam Minister, the question I am asking you is this: Will you agree to review the standards of care
for people over 65 with disabilities, with regard to the payment of their home care workers?
L’hon. Mme Dubé : Je peux certainement m’asseoir avec le député d’en face et étudier
spécifiquement la situation qui le préoccupe. Cependant, je peux vous dire que cela me fait
extrêmement plaisir de me lever à la Chambre pour rappeler encore une fois toutes les choses que
nous faisons en tant que gouvernement avec les collègues, le ministre des Finances et le premier
ministre, parce que nous offrons des services de qualité. Nous avons des employés partout dans la
province qui donnent des soins à tous les résidants qu’ils ont à charge. Que ceux-ci aient 65 ans et
plus ou 65 ans et moins, nous offrons une panoplie de services pour répondre à divers besoins, et
ce, partout dans la province.
Nous continuons à investir sous forme d’argent et sous forme de foyers de soins où nous faisons des
rénovations. Nous continuons à investir dans la formation, dans l’augmentation du nombre de
personnel, dans l’augmentation des recettes des diverses agences offrant différents services et des
soins à domicile, et j’en passe. Un des services extrêmement chers aux yeux de la population, de
ceux dans le besoin et de ceux qui sont handicapés, est des services directement à domicile. C’est
ce qu’ils veulent : Demeurer à la maison. Encore une fois, différents services nous assurent que nous
évaluons chaque cas. Nous voulons nous assurer que les résidants peuvent rester dans leur milieu
familial, dans leur environnement, avec le soutien nécessaire.

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