In Question Period today, I raised concerns about the health impact of contamination by lead and other heavy metals in Winnipeg at sites in St. Boniface, Point Douglas and Weston. I also table information which shows that more children and youth are receiving prescriptions for drugs used to treat brain health conditions like ADHD in areas adjacent to the St. Boniface site than in other areas of Winnipeg and Manitoba.
You can see my question and the government's response on video at this link -
The full text of my questions and the government's responses is below:
Lead Contamination in Soil - Health Effects on Children
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, successive NDP and PC governments have known for decades of dangerous levels of lead in neighbourhoods across Winnipeg, including St. Boniface, Point Douglas and Weston.
We know where the contamination is. We know there can be serious health impacts from lead as well as other medals. The Minister of Sustainable Development has dropped the ball on this issue. It now falls to the Minister of Health.We know there's been lead contamination. The question is whether this government has asked for any assessment of the health of children and youth in the contaminated areas.
Hon. Rochelle Squires (Minister of Sustainable Development): I'd like to correct the member's preamble where he stated that the Minister of Health is taking action now on matters of health. And, well, that's exactly what he is doing. We are putting back public health in terms of the Health Minister is now responsible for matters of public health.My department is responsible for matters of environment, and we work together as a team. That is exactly the way it should be. The NDP reversed direction. They pulled public health away from the environmental process so that the environmentalists were offering public health. It never should have been that way, and we're setting it right. We're working as a team and getting action for Manitobans.
Madam Speaker: The honourable member for River Heights, on a supplementary question.
Mr. Gerrard: Madam Speaker, the Manitoba Liberal caucus submitted a request to determine if areas of St. Boniface impacted by contamination were showing different levels of illness. Children and youth living in postal zones around the St. Boniface contaminated area show higher levels of prescriptions for drugs related to mental health than in the rest of Winnipeg and in Manitoba. I table that report.These findings are of concern. They could indicate that children and youth in that area may be more likely to have ADHD, which can be treated with such medications.
Will the minister and his department investigate these findings and study whether the health of children and youth in St. Boniface, Point Douglas and Weston and other neighbourhoods have been adversely affected by years of government inaction?
Ms. Squires: Speaking of years of inaction by the government, that was under the NDP. They hid the report. In 2007, they had a report. In fact, they had a draft press release.In fact, they had that press release ready to go, and their minister said, no, we don't want to put this out. It might affect the election that we're going into. So they buried the results from 2011 all the way until 2017. That information was concealed.
Our government is taking action. I'd also like to table the results from the most recent analysis that my department undertook, and that is exactly what we're going to do. We're going to continue to work on this issue so that we can ensure Manitobans have a safe, clean environment for all.
Madam Speaker: The honourable member for River Heights, on a final supplementary.
Request to Release Reports
Mr. Gerrard: Madam Speaker, we've heard from people in affected neighbourhoods. They don't want finger pointing. They want action to make them save, and to clean up. We can't continue to have a culture of inaction when tests showing lead contamination were known and withheld from the public.
There needs to be a full investigation of why the information remained hidden for so long. This is a matter of serious public concern, and the answers are available but out of reach because they're available only in the advice to ministers and Cabinet confidences.Will the Premier and the Leader of the Official Opposition (Mr. Kinew) give consent to release the relevant documents from Cabinet confidence so a proper investigation can happen?
Hon. Brian Pallister (Premier): So let's be clear: the member doesn't want finger pointing, but he wants a full investigation and points the finger at the previous government, Madam Speaker, and the current government.This is the typical Liberal approach: blame everybody and don't take responsibility. Madam Speaker, this government takes responsibility.
The reality is soil tests were conducted 10 years ago. The reality is the results were covered up by the previous administration. The reality is the results were released; they were made public. The reality is retesting was ordered by the minister. The reality is the minister went the extra mile to get the information to the people of the area.
The fact is the people of Wolseley, Logan, Minto, St. B and Point Douglas were not protected by the previous government, but they are by this one.