Debates of Oct. 3rd, 1995
House of Commons Hansard #236 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was employment.
- Government Response To Petitions
- Interparliamentary Delegations
- Business Of The House
- Questions On The Order Paper
- Cultural Property Export And Import Act
- Business Of The House
- Oceans Act
- Employment Equity Act
- National Family Week
- Automotive Industry
- Nuclear Testing
- Communities In Bloom
- The Environment
- Agricultural Research
- Government Grants
- Canadian Unity
- Referendum Campaign
- Referendum Campaign
- Young Trainees Program
- Maitland, Nova Scotia
- Industry Canada
- Department Of National Defence
- Industry Canada
- Industry Canada
- The Environment
- Industry Canada
- Land Mines
- Operation Unity Centre
- Lac Barriere Reserve
- Defence Industry Conversion
- Association Of Universities And Colleges Of Canada
- Great Lakes
- Employment Equity Act
- Cultural Property Export And Import Act
- Oceans Act
Business Of The House
Some hon. members
Business Of The House
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)
The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Business Of The House
Some hon. members
(Motion agreed to.)
The House resumed from October 2 consideration of the motion that Bill C-98, an act respecting the oceans of Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
October 3rd, 1995 / 10:15 a.m.
Ron MacDonald Dartmouth, NS
Madam Speaker, it is the first time I have spoken from the left side of my chair instead of the right side and perhaps my left leaning ideology may come out a little stronger in this speech than it has in the last speeches I have made in the Chamber.
I hope the bill finds a very broad degree of support by members on all sides of the House. It clearly establishes the framework of a piece of legislation, a commitment given by the government as espoused by no less than the Prime Minister to get a focus in government on the development and management of oceans and ocean policy.
The bill has been a long time in coming and has been awaited with much anticipation by many individuals and organizations dealing with the marine environment. The Canadian Wildlife Fund and many other organizations have pushed for many years for the government to come in with a piece of legislation that would consolidate the administration of all governmental activities related to oceans as well as ensure the number one prerogative and prerequisite of this policy be conservation.
If measures taken by governments respecting management of oceans and oceans policy did not pass the fundamental test of being environmentally sound, they would not be passed.
The bill affirms the commitment of the government to a new approach to oceans management. The preamble clearly outlines the government's commitment to manage the oceans in a sustainable, environmental and ecologically sound fashion.
The bill consolidates and gives impact and full effect to the laws of Canada, not just marine laws but environmental laws in our 200-mile limit. It goes through a whole bunch of definitions of the contiguous zone, the coastal zone, the 200-mile economic zone and all of those things.
In essence it puts in a single piece of legislation the regulatory legislative framework for us to act in the best interests of those who rely on our marine resource for a living. It directs government as to how it should deal with the marine environment.
Part II of the act tries to consolidate a lot of governmental activity with respect to the oceans. I have been critical about the way the government has handled the oceans generally. I have been critical for fairly good reason.
Over the years governments have come to see the ocean as a place to exploit a resource called fish. We can see this very clearly by the difficulties we have on both coasts, more poignantly perhaps on the east coast with the collapse of the ground fishery and over 100,000 people without employment. Coastal communities are dying and a way of life unique to that part of Canada is perhaps facing extinction.
It is all because governments have not been able to deal comprehensively in policy with that ocean resource. Current legislation almost ignores that there is an interrelationship between various policy arms of the government with respect to the health of the ocean resource.
It also ignores that there is an ecology within the ocean that deals with living and non-living organisms. In the last number of years Canada has worked aggressively at the United Nations. It has been one of the states that has promoted to a great extent and has perhaps been the lead nation on some of the major conservation efforts with the United Nations law of the sea.
Canada has talked a lot about the need for some international regimes to deal with oceans, to deal with those fringe areas, straddling stocks, highly migratory stocks. However, there are other issues in the law of the sea convention that Canada had some difficulty with, deep ocean bed mining, for example.
How do we reconcile ourselves as a state to that? Whose resource is this to manage? When we get on to the continental shelf there are laws dealing with our proprietary right and our management responsibilities in the water column. Perhaps they are less clear about which level of government has jurisdiction or whether
the Canadian government has any legal jurisdiction for the sea bed for minerals or deep ocean mining.
There has been much debate in the last year with the Americans about sedentary species when dealing with the continental shelf. Who has management rights of those species? Who has the right of first exploitation and who has the responsibility to manage? The act seeks to consolidate in a fairly substantial way all the various issues, programs and legislation.
I am pleased with the direction the bill has taken. I am pleased that it gives primary responsibility for co-ordination of the application of these pieces of legislation and regulations to the minister of fisheries. However, I am from Missouri, I am yet to be convinced the bill goes as far as it should to ensure a sharp edge to the sword in the management and policy development dealing with our marine resources.
I am a bit confused that in the bill we give the minister of fisheries primary responsibility for co-ordination. I would rather see a direct line of accountability for the administration of some of the acts which still fall under the purview of other departments and other ministers.
I think back to the dispute we had not long ago when two ministers worked very well together in dealing with the turbot dispute with the European Union, more particularly and poignantly with the Spanish fleet decimating a straddling stock. We almost saw another stock going into the record book as being extinct as a commercial and viable stock on our east coast.
We had the good fortune at that time to have the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans working together on a co-ordinated and combined approach to resolve and put together the Canadian position, making sure the Canadian position was put to the international community very strongly and firmly and that it was accepted by the international community. As a result of that close working relationship, sharing the same goals, we were able to save a species and defuse a difficult international situation that had arisen with respect to the turbot allocation on the east coast.
I am extremely pleased the bill is going to committee. As chairman of the committee, I want the committee to look at whether there are some pieces of legislation currently outside the direct jurisdiction of the minister, although the minister may have the responsibility for co-ordination, where we possibly can make a case that those pieces of legislation and programs should be more properly moved over to the minister of fisheries.
When we talk about downsizing and government and operational review we must look at what makes sense. The policy as stated in the preamble of the bill is one I heartily support and I hope it will be supported by all members of the House.
Part III of the bill talks about the minister of fisheries having primary responsibility for ocean research. It is an absolute given. There is more than fish in our oceans. There is more benefit than exploiting the stocks in our oceans. Ocean science in itself is a generator of wealth and employment which can be exported on our east and west coasts and in the labs of central Canada.
I want to make sure that when the bill is passed the minister of fisheries, as stated in part III, has the tools at his disposal to ensure there is proper direction and proper resources applied to the whole area of marine and ocean science.
In my riding of Dartmouth I am lucky to have the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, a world class centre for oceans research. In excess of 12,000 people produce good products. There is partnering by the scientific community employed by the government and the scientific community in the Halifax-Dartmouth area. Some of that technology is being exported around the world.
In that facility the geological survey is doing incredible work. The work of the labs on the east and west coasts is leading science around the world. People from educational and academic institutions and other governments around the world come to see how we do our research in Canada.
I get concerned, however, that lab is not under the direction of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. It is under the direction of the Minister of Natural Resources. It is not the primary objective or job of that department to ensure that deep ocean science has a pre-eminent position when you deal with where your resources go inside a department.
At the same time, we have provisions dealing with deep ocean dumping, which seems to me should more likely be over with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. Currently, although there would be a requirement in this act to see the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans as the lead, it does not hand that particular responsibility over to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.
We have a chance through committee to show two things. One is that the committee can work. I have an incredibly good committee, and I am very proud as chairman to say that most of the work we do is non-partisan. Sometimes we fall prey to the fact that we are practitioners of the political profession and sometimes we become partisan.
As a chair of a committee I want to let everybody in this place know that I believe there is a proper role for a committee to play with respect to examining legislation. I am hoping that when this bill passes second reading and gets to the committee we in the committee will do a fairly exhaustive review of this bill and will be
able to come back with a bill that is true to the principles and if necessary strengthens the hand of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.
Mike Scott Skeena, BC
Madam Speaker, we have talked in the House about Bill C-98 and the problems we have with it. The problem is that along with the consolidation of government regulations this bill also opens the door for the government to increase what it euphemistically calls access fees, but which we all know is a tax on fishermen. We know that the plans are to raise taxes 400 per cent on a segment of our society that can least afford it.
The minister had a choice. The minister knew his budget was going to be cut and he had a choice. He could cut spending, he could deal with the bloated bureaucracy here in Ottawa and in other parts of Canada where they have these ivory towers, or he could raise access fees or taxes on fishermen. He chose to go after the fishermen. As I said earlier, these are people in our country who can least afford to pay a massive increase at this point in time.
Let us talk about access for a minute. I think that is an interesting subject, given that this government is supporting an aboriginal fishing strategy on both coasts that allows special access to a resource based on race. The aboriginal fishing strategy, this government policy, sets people apart. It treats them differently, gives them different rules to live by, and it creates a gulf between people. It creates a mentality of us versus them. It creates divisions in our society that we do not need and we have not seen before, but which are growing as a result of government policy such as this.
Not only does this set people apart by race, not only does it give different treatment to Canadians on the basis of their racial origin, it is profoundly anti-democratic at its very roots. The cornerstone of democracy is that all people within a democracy can expect equal treatment before the eyes of the law. They can expect to be treated the same as all other citizens in the democracy, in the country. This is no longer the case in Canada. We now treat people differently.
I suggest that this is playing to a deeply rooted sense of tribalism. I suggest that both of these cannot co-exist within a democracy, this idea of tribalism where you have people who suggest they have special rights and should be treated differently, on whatever basis, whether it is racial origin or whether it is sexual preference, it does not matter, you name it. It is the cornerstone of democracy that we do not treat people differently, that everybody gets the same treatment in the eyes of the law. That is not happening here.
The fishermen on the west coast and east coast who are being asked to pay a massive increase for access to the resource look across the way and see their neighbours and fellow Canadians getting access to the same resource on a completely different basis. It is fundamentally unacceptable, I would suggest, in a democracy that we proceed with that kind of policy.
We will hear members opposite say the courts made us do it. I suggest very strongly that there is no basis in law, no basis in our Constitution. There is not one legal case that has said that the aboriginal people of Canada should have special access to any resources on a commercial basis. It is completely unsupported. But these members opposite, other members before them, and other fisheries ministers have said that the Sparrow decision is what creates this aboriginal fishing strategy. It is faulty and not supported. I would suggest that by government following this policy it is just creating divisions in our society that we do not need.
I would ask how the minister and this government can, under Bill C-98, contemplate and suggest that they are going to raise access fees to ordinary Canadian fishermen who remain in the commercial sector by some 400 per cent while at the same time they support and maintain an aboriginal fishing strategy that provides access to the resource on a completely different basis.
I suggest that what the government is doing here is not supported in the industry. It certainly is not supported from the point of view of the Atlantic Canadian fishermen I have had the opportunity to meet in recent weeks. I believe there are many members on the opposite benches who are going to have a difficult time going back to their constituents to explain why they are supporting this bill in its present form, because their constituents do not support it. Their constituents are very unhappy with what the government is proposing.
In closing, I would like to say that the Reform Party is opposed to Bill C-98. We are opposed because we see the minister increasing taxes on fishermen rather than cutting his own budget and his own spending. We know there are significant cuts that can be made within DFO at the top, which would probably increase the efficiency of the organization by 400 per cent. This would get the whole fishery on a more economically sustainable basis. It is unthinkable that we continue to pump the kind of money into DFO that we do based on the value of the fishery.
I know the members opposite, particularly the member for Dartmouth and the member for South West Nova, are going to have difficulties in their ridings when they go back and try to explain to their constituents and the fishermen who live in their communities why they are supporting this legislation.
I am here today on behalf of the Reform Party to say we are not supporting this legislation. We will not support these kinds of massive tax increases wherever we find them. This bill is fundamentally flawed because of this very important move by the government to increase those fees.
John Maloney Erie, ON
Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-98, an act respecting the oceans of Canada. I welcome the opportunity to chat for a few minutes about why I support the bill before us.
I think it is clear to everyone at this point that there is a great need to move away from what the National Advisory Board on Science and Technology called the haphazard, ad hoc, and short term measures currently employed in the management of our ocean resources. The patchwork quilt strategy is ineffective and inefficient. The national advisory board called for Canada to develop a proactive oceans policy that allows for us to plan for the future instead of just responding to crises as they arise.
Our ocean resources are far too important in this country. We need a management process that works better and serves the interests of all of us in the long term. We cannot afford to continue to make decisions on the management of our fisheries or the management of our other marine resources in isolation from those having to do with shipping or those having to do with environmental protection, and vice versa. Decisions on one have an impact on all others.
We need to bring all these elements together under one roof. This legislation will accomplish that by asserting our national jurisdiction over a 12-mile contiguous zone in which all our national laws regarding fiscal, immigration, customs and environmental matters will apply, while at the same time creating an exclusive economic zone to assert our right to protect and manage all our resources out to a 200-mile limit, including all fish and also including all other resources.
This bill will also extend our authority out over the continental shelf. Bill C-29, passed by the House last year, established our right to protect and manage the so-called straddling stocks of fish that move in and out of the current 200-mile limit. This legislation will reinforce that measure by exerting our authority over the continental shelf itself and the resources found on the shelf.
Canada has always been a world leader in matters to do with the wise management of our ocean resources. We were one of the primary movers urging the UN to focus on the importance of this issue. Successive governments have made the case to our international partners that ocean states can and should have the right to control and protect their coastal waters. We have 250,000 kilometres of coastline, more than anyone else in the world. As such, it has always been in our national interest to seek recognition of our rights in the waters immediately off our shores.
The second thing this legislation does is to put overall responsibility for the creation of oceans management strategy in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. We can proceed in a more organized and cost efficient manner to deliver oceans programs in a more coherent manner. The goal is sustainable development of these vast stretches of our waters. We want to exploit the oceans for ourselves, but we also want to make sure that in doing so we do not damage them for future generations of Canadians or for current and future generations of people in other countries either.
Eight years ago the concept of sustainable development was first introduced in a report of the World Commission on Environment and Development chaired by the current Prime Minister of Norway, Mrs. Gro Harlem Brundtland. The principles of the Brundtland report are supported in theory at least by almost every nation in the world.
The previous government agreed with the principles in the Brundtland report and in fact made a commitment to bring in a Canada oceans act. However, no such legislation was ever introduced by that government. I congratulate this government for doing so.
Under the terms of this legislation we have before us, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans will be responsible for the development and enforcement of a new oceans management strategy. It is going to be done with a different approach from that used in the past. It is the government's stated intention to work in partnership with oceans industries and the people in them, the various resource extraction industries and the people involved there, with environmental groups and indeed with anyone who has an interest to come up with the best plan possible.
An example given of this kind of partnership is the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council which brings together industry, educators and governments to advise on conservation in the Atlantic. The council has played an instrumental role in helping the government move to the fishery of the future. The government wants to expand this kind of partnership because it believes that these kinds of partnership approaches will bring the best results. That includes using the best scientific information from as many sources as possible.
It is not going to be a matter of the federal government determining everything itself. It is going to work with other levels of government, the private sector, educators, scientists, environmental groups and all interested parties to make sure that Canada remains on the cutting edge of research and knowledge in this critical area and more important, that Canada uses that knowledge to make the right decisions about how best to manage our ocean resources.
Hon. colleagues will also know that the government has already moved to integrate the coast guard into the department of fisheries. I think this move makes a lot of sense. Bringing together these two fleets of ships and aircraft will save the government money. This is always good news for taxpayers. It is very welcome news for my constituents in the riding of Erie. More than that, it also gives them the opportunity to use all their vessels and aircraft for both
purposes, that is fisheries and resource management as well as the traditional coast guard duties of search and rescue, ice breaking service, marine weather warnings, patrolling our coastal waters and so on.
In addition, the regional offices of both will be consolidated into an enlarged and improved service which means further savings and a much better co-ordination of all activities that have to do with our ocean waters.
Provision is also made in the act to allow the minister of fisheries to carry out scientific research in support of the ocean management strategy. It gives the minister the legal right to produce charts, reports and scientific data and to provide that information to those groups, organizations and individuals who have an interest in these issues. Also included is a new authority to provide guidelines under which foreign vessels can conduct scientific research in Canadian waters.
For the first time the act will give government, following discussions and advice from scientists and other interested parties, a new authority to create protected marine areas, to safeguard ocean biodiversity and to safeguard endangered species.
We all know that our oceans, particularly in our coastal communities, face a great deal of environmental stress as well as the depletion of the ocean resources through the destruction of habitats essential to the survival and growth of certain species. We need to protect these areas from further destruction. I welcome the inclusion of this provision in the act and encourage the minister to use it when scientific evidence demonstrates that it is necessary.
The point has been made by others that passing the legislation by itself does not guarantee that our oceans will be safe from all environmental damage or resource depletion for all time. If it were that simple, I am sure we would have passed a law against the common cold many years ago.
The bill puts a framework in place that will help us reach those goals. It also makes clear that we have to promote our own strategy with all the countries in the world that share oceans with us. In other words we have to make it clear that each of us is responsible for protecting them.
I urge the government and the minister to continue to make Canada's voice heard on issues such as ocean dumping, conservation of straddling stocks, the proper management of our coastal zones, circumpolar management and all other issues that have an impact on the oceans of the world.
The legislation gives us as a nation the opportunity to lead by example, to demonstrate to the world that Canadians care deeply about their ocean resources, that we want to preserve and protect them, and that we are willing to put our money where our mouth is by taking long term action to do so. The oceans act signals a renewal of Canada's leadership in ocean management. I am proud of this initiative asserting Canada's role as a world leader.
Before I conclude I should like to address one point raised by the previous Reform speaker on cost recovery. The oceans act authorizes the minister to fix fees, to recover the cost of services and activities provided for under the act, for example ice breaking, traffic management and hydrographic charts. Access fees for commercial fishermen are established under section 8 of the fisheries act, not under the oceans act. The two pieces of legislation are entirely distinct.
I hope every member of the House will consider the legislation as a very positive step in the right direction and give it their support. I certainly do.
Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak on Bill C-98, the oceans act, an act to ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
I will mention what I agree with and what I disagree with. I will give some constructive suggestions to make our oceans better, to improve our resource management and to ensure we have safe, clean oceans with viable populations of flora and fauna within those oceans for now and forever more.
Unfortunately we will create another level of bureaucracy with this act. There are aspects of it that actually improve, streamline and make the system more efficient, for example with the amalgamation of the coast guard. We completely agree with that. However we have created in the oceans management strategy a whole new level of bureaucracy to monitor people monitoring other people when in effect we should just be acting.
Unfortunately we continually study, report and analyse aspects not only within this ministry but within many others when the actual facts are already there, waiting to be dealt with. Sadly with this bill we see the same situation. Historically we can see the consequences of continuing to act, continuing to report and continuing to study.
We have seen the decimation of our oceans and the fish populations within them. The disaster on the east coast has been a profound tragedy for all people living in the maritimes. On the west coast unfortunately the fish stocks are facing an impending disaster. For years the west coast fisheries of many species have been decimated. The reason is not El Niño, not mackerel, not warm water, although they can have a contributing effect. The primary reason for the decimation of fish stocks on the west coast is poaching, poaching and poaching. That is the cold, hard reality of
what has happened on the west coast. It also happened on the east coast before.
Unfortunately the ministry has been unwilling and unable to deal with it. It is not because DFO officers did not want to enforce the law but because middle management bureaucracy meddled in the ability of the DFO officers to enforce the laws which protect the environment and species for generations to come. These individuals are hiding behind their ethnic origins and using the aboriginal fishing strategy to poach and pillage our fish stock. Those are the facts.
The colour or race of persons do not matter. If they are poachers, they are poachers and they should be dealt with in the same way as other people. This ministry has been unwilling and unable to do that. We see aboriginal people poaching up and down the Fraser River. DFO officers are unwilling to enforce the law because they are afraid of being shot. On Vancouver Island Vietnamese people have been decimating the shellfish stocks in full view of other people and the DFO officers have been unable to deal with it. They have been told by the bureaucratic masters above them that they should leave well enough alone.
There are too many nets in the water. Seiners are going out into the straits of Juan de Fuca and are vacuuming the oceans. The DFO must take a leadership role to decrease the number of nets.
The aboriginal fishing strategy is a disaster. Furthermore it is illegal. Court cases in the B.C. Supreme Court have determined that it is illegal. The Sparrow case my hon. friend mentioned proved there was no legal jurisdiction for the AFS.
We should have one commercial fishing strategy for all people. It does not serve the law-abiding aboriginal people who care about and fish the resource. Nor does it serve anybody else to allow people within their community to hide behind the AFS and poach fish. The ministry has put people who are some of the biggest poachers in British Columbia in charge of the aboriginal fishing strategy. The aboriginal people know that and they are quite angry at the DFO for doing it.
As I said before, there is widespread poaching of shellfish. Widespread poaching of abalone was stopped in 1989, but everyone who lives on Vancouver Island knows that abalone is being poached.
Companies continue to dump their garbage into the oceans on the west coast and on the east coast. The ministry has been unable and unwilling to deal with it. It should be working closely with the Ministry of the Environment to develop a system to identify the people who are polluting our oceans, to enforce the law and to penalize them. Furthermore, so that it does not cost taxpayers money, the government should levy the costs for cleaning up the dumping and the pollution on the shoulders of the groups or companies that are doing it. It should not cost the taxpayer any money whatsoever to do that. The full cost and beyond should be borne by the polluters themselves.
I also encourage the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans to work closely with the Ministry of the Environment and various universities across the country that are doing very interesting research in the oceans. They are also developing systems with strong commercial properties that can be sold internationally.
We as a country can be a leader in areas such as aquaculture, resource management, fisheries and oceans management. All we need to do is have the courage to identify these sectors, promote them and capitalize on them for our economy and our country. We have been far too lame and non-aggressive in this area.
I suggest that we do the following. We should give DFO officers more autonomy and stop letting them be hamstrung by middle management. I strongly encourage the minister to look at what is happening in middle management. Some of them are telling him what he wants to hear, not what is actually occurring.
When the minister went to the west coast he did a very good thing by sitting down with the DFO officers and speaking with them in a forthcoming fashion. I think he found that productive. I know they did. I strongly encourage him to continue the practice.
The sad byproduct of that meeting unfortunately is that some of the DFO officers have been penalized for being forthcoming and as a result have been removed from their positions at great cost to the ministry and at great cost to the fisheries. This is completely unfair.
We must make enforcement a priority. We must allow DFO officers to continue to do their job. We must allow them to enforce the law as it is written and arrest and penalize anybody who poaches regardless of whom they happen to be.
I put forth to the minister about a month and a half ago a new idea by which we can improve our fish stocks and generate funds for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. It involved using salmon hatcheries.
A recent study indicated that salmon hatcheries, many of which are inefficient, do not need to exist. I gave the minister a way for the department to pay for the hatcheries and to earn revenues from them. They would become self-sustaining and would not be a lodestone around the taxpayer's neck.
I hope he pays careful attention to it. A model of it will be on the Sooke River in my riding of Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca. It is a well thought out plan and will make the hatchery self-sustaining in the future.
The hon. minister should look at new ways to manage our oceans and new ways to increase our jurisdiction beyond the 200-mile zone. The reality is that we cannot even manage our oceans in the 2-mile zone, let alone the 200-mile zone. We have to show more courage in this way. I am hoping with the amalgamation of the coast guard we can use the coast guard more effectively to arrest individuals who are poaching.
I warn once again that a lot of people are coming over from the United States of America to poach in B.C. waters because their waters are completely closed to fishing. The DFO has been completely unable to do anything about that.
The officers should also be given the ability to work overtime and the ability to do night patrols and weekend patrols when a lot of poaching occurs.
There are ways in which to generate money from something like this, so it will not cost the ministry more money. I strongly encourage the minister to look at these matters. My colleagues and I would be more than happy to help him in the endeavour to have one fishery for generations to come.
Len Taylor The Battlefords—Meadow Lake, SK
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on Bill C-98 respecting the oceans act. It implements many of the key recommendations in last year's report called "Opportunities from our Oceans" by the committee on oceans and coasts of the National Advisory Board on Science and Technology.
As government members opposite have already noted, this piece of legislation does three things to implement a strategy to better manage the environment and resources of Canada's oceans. First, the act establishes Canadian sovereignty over the ocean areas and resources of a 24-nautical mile contiguous zone and a 200-mile exclusive economic zone, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which Canada signed in 1982 but never ratified. Second, the act develops and implements a national oceans strategy based on the sustainable development and integrated management of oceans and coastal activities and resources; this would include establishing protected marine areas. Finally, the act provides for the powers, duties, functions, and responsibilities of the Minister of Fisheries to manage Canada's oceans.
This is an important bill which could move us forward toward managing both our natural resources and our fishery in a manner that is more sustainable for future generations. The idea of an oceans act is certainly overdue. I am supportive of the bill in general and pleased that Canada will finally implement one of the key provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
There are areas where the act could be improved. I wish to focus my remarks today on some of those improvements and on the fact that other legislation the government has on the Order Paper may limit the effectiveness of Bill C-98.
Clause 35 of the bill allows for the minister to establish protected marine areas. However, the bill states that these areas are only for the conservation and protection of fishery resources and their habitat. These protected areas should not be limited just to the fishery. The act should also be broader so that the protected marine areas protect other endangered species and different habitats and ecosystems, not just the fishery. This would recognize the importance of biodiversity in the complex ocean environment. There should also be no take zones within these areas.
The environment minister's proposed endangered species legislation will only protect 4 per cent of Canada's total land base. A broadening of the protected marine areas therefore would signal that even if the government does not intend to protect endangered species in most of the country, at least it will protect them in our oceans.
This shows that when we look at what the government is doing to protect the environment, it is important not to look at this legislation in isolation from other government statements and initiatives on the environment.
Last week I listened to government members opposite talk about how wonderful things in this bill would lead us toward sustainable development and how the bill's regulation would extend our jurisdiction to manage and protect ocean resources and our environment. They seem to be blissfully unaware that just last week the Minister of International Trade, a minister in their own government, said that Canada will have to cede its sovereignty and environmental standards to achieve freer world trade and that the environment will increasingly be subject to harmonization under international trade agreements. So which is it? Will Bill C-98 be used to protect and sustain our oceans, or will the environment of our oceans be sacrificed on the altar of free trade?
As they talked about sustainable development and environmental regulations, the Liberal members also seemed to be unaware that their government has introduced two pieces of legislation, Bill C-62 and Bill C-83. Those bills could effectively gut the regulations in this bill and therefore prevent us from knowing if the government's oceans management strategy will ever lead us to sustainability.
Just to remind members opposite, Bill C-62 is the regulatory efficiency act, and it does two things. It allows the government to sign compliance agreements with business, waiving the terms of
compliance with designated regulations. It also allows designated regulations to be administered by any government, Canadian or foreign, or by any other person.
The proposed oceans act states that existing Canadian laws will apply to the exclusive economic zone. This would include the two most important federal environmental protection laws on the books, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Since these laws are effected mainly through their regulations, how can Canada exercise environmental jurisdiction over its oceans if Bill C-62 effectively guts the regulations of CEAA and CEPA and gives the power of environmental regulation to private corporations or indeed foreign governments?
There are also parts of Bill C-98 that simply will not work without the regulations. I refer specifically to clause 16, which establishes the fishing zones of Canada; to clause 25, which establishes the outer limit of the exclusive economic zones and makes regulations concerning a marine structure and the application of federal and provincial laws; and to clause 35, which establishes protected marine areas.
It is technically possible that compliance agreements under Bill C-62 would replace some of these regulations. In short, Bill C-62 allows the possibility that the federal power in Bill C-98 could be administered by other authorities, including other provincial and national governments.
As my final point I would like to mention that Bill C-83, which establishes a commissioner of the environment and sustainability within the Office of the Auditor General, could also limit how effective Bill C-98 will be.
I spoke at length about this bill two weeks ago and how the environment committee recommended that the environmental auditor be given the mandate to evaluate whether government policy was leading us toward sustainability. Government members opposite did not lift a finger to defend the committee's report. You may remember that the government completely ignored the important recommendations of the committee's report; 11 out of 17 of those recommendations were completely ignored.
Now clause 30 in Bill C-98 bases the national oceans management strategy on two principles, sustainable development and the integrated management activities in Canada's sovereign waters. How are we going to know if the management strategy developed under Bill C-98 is sustainable, effective, or even desirable if the new environmental commissioner cannot look at policy established by the government?
The powers of the minister under the oceans management strategy in clauses 32, 33, and part III of this bill illustrate the clear need for an independent environmental auditor who can act as a watchdog and examine whether policies and actions are meeting environmentally sustainable goals.
In conclusion, although I welcome the intent and objectives contained in Bill C-98, its passage is not enough to protect the resources and marine environment off our coasts. If the government were really serious about protecting our natural environment, about ensuring sustainable development strategies, about preserving and enhancing environmental protection regulations, about pollution prevention, and about protecting biodiversity and endangered species, it would do a number of things in addition to passing Bill C-98.
The government would amend Bill C-83 so that the environmental commissioner can evaluate policy. It would immediately withdraw Bill C-62 from the Order Paper so that environmental legislation already on the books in this country is not gutted. It would bring in real effective endangered species legislation protecting habitats and it would implement the excellent recommendation in the environment committee's latest report, a review of CEPA entitled: "It's About Our Health! Towards Pollution Prevention". May this latest report of the committee fare better in the hands of the government than the last one.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)
Is the House ready for the question?
Some hon. members
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)
Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members
Some hon. members
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)
All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.