Debates of Oct. 7th, 1996
House of Commons Hansard #82 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ocean.
- Child Care
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- Criminal Code
- Oceans Act
Private Members' Business
Yvan Bernier Gaspé, QC
Mr. Speaker, unlike my colleague across the way, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, I must admit that I am not necessarily enthusiastic about speaking to this bill on ocean management.
I must start out by indicating that the Bloc Quebecois disagrees with the government on it, and I will take the next few minutes to explain why.
The lengthy efforts put into it by the standing committee have been referred to, and I must acknowledge that, indeed, much work has been put into it, and the parliamentary secretary is the one who deserves all the credit. However, all partisan feelings, which may be present in this House, aside the ideas and principles defended by the Bloc Quebecois during the committee stage were put forward precisely in order to ensure a better basis for participation by the various provinces in this strategy.
This concept of partnership is necessary if the strategy the Government wants is to work properly. Since the Government has-pardon my expression-closed its ears to those proposals, the Bloc Quebecois finds itself forced to vote against the bill in question.
I must also make it clear, for the benefit of all environmental groups in Canada and Quebec, that the Bloc Quebecois is not opposed to the form and principle of an ocean management strategy. No one can be against virtue. But, precisely in order to ensure that this virtue serves a purpose, we wanted to ensure that the proposals contained in this bill could be implemented in practice.
The partnership of trust required to implement this strategy had to be reflected in the bill, and it was the duty of everyone to get involved in it with honour and enthusiasm. We did not see that notion of partnership in the bill, nor in the final version we have here before us. Nor do we see the attitude that was reflected in committee. It is absent from the bill.
Under these circumstances, people will therefore understand that the Bloc Quebec would be in favour of an ocean management strategy if it were efficient, supported by everyone, and reflecting the views of everyone. Everyone would recognize their rights, and more important, their obligations, as things are not as clear as they seem. This is why the Bloc feels obliged to oppose the bill for the moment. I will therefore have an amendment to propose at the end of my speech, when you indicate to me the point at which I will be able to table this amendment.
As my colleague across the way has just pointed out, Bill C-26, the Oceans Act, contained three parts.
Part I recognizes Canada's jurisdiction over its ocean areas. The content seems to be similar to that of the convention on the law of the sea as drafted by the United Nations and, so far, we have no problem. However, I do not see the need for Parliament to pass a specific piece of legislation since we are only dealing with adapting the vocabulary.
Part II-I will go back over each part later in my speech-mentions a legislative framework to develop a national ocean management strategy, and that is the rub. This is where the Bloc Quebecois is telling the government side that there is a major flaw, something is very wrong, because the foundation, namely the relationship between partners, is not defined in a satisfactory way for the partners, I will discuss this later in greater details.
Part III, last but not least, deals with the powers, duties and functions of the minister, in other words his power to set fees with regard to marine sciences and the coast guard. First, I will say that the fact that the minister intends to grab increased powers in this area does not augur well, it is not reassuring for the Canadian people since, in the absence of regulations, he has already gone ahead this year with making changes to the coast guard fees for navigational aids, against the wish of stakeholders in this area. This does not augur well. I will deal in greater detail with the three parts later on, explaining why the Bloc Quebecois cannot support this government bill.
To amuse this assembly before dealing with part I, I would like to share with parliamentarians part of the preamble to the bill. It makes me smile. I smiled when I read this part. The third paragraph of the preamble states:
Whereas Parliament wishes to affirm in Canadian domestic law Canada's sovereign rights, jurisdiction and responsibilities in the exclusive economic zone of Canada;
Private Members' Business
Some hon. members
Private Members' Business
Yvan Bernier Gaspé, QC
I am happy to see that the Liberal members are quite alert on this Monday morning, but here is the rest of my comment. The last time I heard the former minister of fisheries and oceans, Brian Tobin, pronounce the word sovereignty, it was automatically associated with separation. Big question. Will I read somewhere, or expect the United Nations to declare, that Canada wants to separate from the rest of the world? I see the Liberal members are awake, and I am not sure that this is what they want to do.
Let me seize this opportunity to make an instructive comment: beware people of Canada, sovereignty does not mean separation. Sovereignty means sovereignty in the text you have here; it means the Government of Canada is acting like someone who owns the place and, accordingly, it lays down the rules and takes all the necessary measures to reach its goals. I am happy to see the maturity of Canada in this aspect. When, in a near future I hope, we can talk to each other as mature people, we will remember the meaning of the word sovereignty.
What is also amusing, even though I do not want to insist on this point, is that, at the end of the preamble they say:
Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows:
So first they speak of sovereignty and then they refer to Her Majesty. Excuse me, but I see some inconsistency there. The way I see sovereignty, once you are sovereign, you decide by yourself and you do not necessarily refer to somebody else. This is all I wanted to say about that excerpt. I only wanted to shed some light on this morning's debate.
Now that everyone is wide awake thanks to the quality of my introduction, let me go on to part I, which follows the preamble. As I mentioned, part I only reproduces the text of the United Nations convention on the law of the sea. I do not necessarily see any problem with this definition.
However, despite the fact we proposed amendments to ensure the terminology was correct when we talk about definitions relating to the law of the sea, these amendments were not accepted. The parliamentary secretary held out his hand to us by saying the Canadian government had no intention of infringing upon the rights of the provinces and other parties to this bill.
Since this is probably the last time I have an opportunity to talk about Bill C-26, I must remind the House that the amendments tabled by the Bloc Quebecois and, unfortunately, defeated were aimed at clarifying the scope of the powers and rights of the provinces and the federal government, to ensure everything was very clear in order to establish the partnership relationship right at the beginning.
As these amendments were not passed at the rewriting of the bill, allow me to remain sceptical about what the government really wants. When it is said on one side that it will not hurt and we propose a way of doing things to ensure it will not hurt us and our proposals are refused, I have some difficulty following.
As I mentioned, part II of Bill C-26 provides a legislative framework. This legislative framework is inappropriate since there are still many grey areas in federal responsibilities concerning ocean management. I repeat, the amendments we had tabled were aimed at clarifying the powers and rights of the provinces and the federal government.
To this day, we have received no guarantee there would be no federal intrusion in the powers of the provinces. There are issues where, even before the inttroduction of Bill C-26, there were grey areas. The environment, for instance.
Since environmental law is a relatively new concept, it has some flaws. I understand how important it is to discuss this concept in developing a management strategy. Since this is recognized as a relatively new area of law, now is the time to look at potential impacts and reassure the partners we will have to deal with. I can see no reference to this in the bill.
Odder yet, and more embarrassing I might add, is the fact that, regarding all the dealings the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is required to have with his colleagues from the various departments in matters relating to the environment, because this must all be done in conjunction with other federal ministers, the respective powers of the fisheries minister and the environment minister have not been delineated.
It is somewhat amusing, in developing an oceans management strategy, not to clearly define what the relationship should be between two brothers from the same party, the government party. It takes some gall, on the government side, to tell us how to run the strategy when they have not even established what relationship should exist between themselves to begin with.
As I said earlier and contrary to what some of the Liberal members who got up this morning may think, the Bloc Quebecois is not against what is right. I repeat again, we are always prepared to discuss a management strategy, but it must be a consistent strategy that will provide for the provinces' active participation. I emphasize again the fact that the success of this strategy rests on partnership because, if the hon. members opposite tell us that this, that and the other needs to be done in terms of oceans management, not having defined from the start their own roles and responsibili-
ties, it will be difficult, first, to establish this policy and, second, to implement it.
I also mentioned earlier that the amendments put forward by the Bloc Quebecois were only designed to specify and delimit the scope and legal significance of the federal government's authority in relation to possible encroachments. We just had a referendum campaign, during which promises were made for a renewed Canada, new things and a new attitude. I was expecting greater attention would be paid to sparing feelings. Unfortunately, I can see none of that.
Regarding the management strategy and the whole legislative framework around it, two things have happened since report stage, last June. Things have happened regarding the partnership I insist is required, the significance of which is still unknown.
I must first congratulate B.C. members for their premier's initiative in walking out of last June's first ministers' conference because he did not feel he was being listened to. He went on to say-as I understood from the interpretation into French-that he felt he was wasting his time. Imagine, wasting his time at a first ministers' conference. That is saying something.
So you can understand how an opposition backbencher like myself who is trying to talk some sense into other members of this House who, in my opinion, are full of common sense, at least on this side, can be very sceptical.
What I want to bring to other members' attention is that the federal government, the minister of fisheries himself stepped in, probably at the urging of the Prime Minister of Canada, who told him: "There is an urgent need for you to go to B.C. because there is trouble brewing in that province. I got the door shut in my face. They want to talk about fisheries and I did not know what to say about it. Can you go and find out what it is they want?" The premier of British Columbia asked that the impact of the salmon fishery streamlining plan on that province be reviewed because no one in B.C. agreed with the plan put forward by the minister of fisheries. Yet, the minister in Ottawa kept on saying: "Yes, that is what we should do and it will be done". So the premier had to get involved.
What I want to stress is the fact that-and, if I may, Mr. Speaker, I would like to read from the press release: "This agreement in principle is aimed at reviewing the respective roles and responsibilities of the federal government and the province in managing the Pacific salmon fishery and reviving this industry. The review will be conducted by DFO in co-operation with an interprovincial team".
What we must look at is mentioned at the end of the press release: "The responsibility review will be completed in February 1997".
We are four months away from that date. The results may be published a little later, but what I want to draw your attention to is
this: the elements to be reviewed include, but are not limited to, resource management and conservation, licensing, fleet management, resource allocation, habitat rehabilitation and clean-up, the reduction of administrative overlap and duplication, and the improvement of client services.
This is precisely what the Bloc Quebecois sought for all the provinces: to be able to discuss ocean management on an equal footing with the federal government.
I will not mention other related points which have to do with the quantities that can be fished and the available quotas, since another bill was introduced in the House and will be reviewed. The press release refers to an agreement in principle between the federal government and the Government of British Columbia, precisely to review the issues of resource conservation and habitat cleanup. These issues concern all the oceans and relate to Bill C-26, which is currently before us.
I still believe that the rights of the provinces are not respected and that the obligations of the federal government toward the provinces are not fulfilled. This was evidenced by the fact that, when it came to finding out who would do what and how, a provincial premier had to slam the door behind him during a first ministers' meeting before the issue was taken seriously.
It is very important to specify this aspect in today's bill and to give it this spirit. Otherwise, will other premiers have to do the same thing every time? Here is a trick for the other provincial premiers: when you see that the federal government will not budge, slam the door and leave. Then the federal government will propose to negotiate an agreement in principle, in which your rights will be taken into consideration.
Come on. We, as parliamentarians, must show a little more maturity and realize there is a grey area that must be defined.
This issue deserves some attention. We must review the content of these clauses, without obviating the need for a commonly developed management strategy. I want such a strategy to be developed. I do not want a situation where every province will have to bang the door. I want us to clearly define how things will be done.
Another point, and I do not want to belabour it, is that the management strategy lists the partners. What I wanted was for the provinces to clearly define all this, and we would list the other partners that needed to be included and with whom we had to work.
I must say at the outset that I am for the notion of a law-abiding society, a democracy, and that, when the democracy turns to its judges for a ruling, perhaps their word should be followed. I refer
to the most recent Supreme Court ruling, handed down last Friday. I do not yet know what the impact of this ruling will be.
In line with the spirit of the Sparrow ruling, which has been the precedent for some time now, concerning fishing and subsistence rights for native peoples, the most recent ruling refers to the fact that native peoples would be entitled to fish without permits, for their subsistence, throughout the province of Quebec. Will this also apply to all other provinces in Canada? I do not know. I do not want to get into the merits of the ruling, but I would like to remind the minister immediately that the order of precedence will now have to be borne in mind.
Account will have to be taken of how cohabitation will be managed, because it is now no longer just a question of divvying up fish, but also of isolating responsibilities, or at least of knowing what they think of it, what they can do with us. Without wishing to go into more detail, I think that this is something that Canada has been refusing to look into more deeply for too long now, and I think it would be a good idea, as I will mention a bit later one, to postpone passage of Bill C-26, precisely so that this can be examined more fully, I will therefore limit my remarks in this regard for the time being.
I will now take a look at part III of Bill C-26, which sets out the general powers, duties and function of the minister, followed by his powers, duties and functions with respect to the oceans and Coast Guard services.
I will begin by repeating, because I have probably already said this at the beginning of my speech, that it worries me to see that they are now increasing the regulatory powers of the minister. The minister did not have these powers last June. What happened?
I will take the example of the services provided by the Coast Guard. When they talk about navigational aids, they are talking about the presence of buoys. The minister's intention was to charge duty every time a ship went through our Canadian waters, but look out, this bill, as it stands, applies only to Canadian ships. I did not see, in the description of the minister's functions, the possibility of imposing this tax on all ships.
Lacking the regulatory power allowing him to charge for navigational aids, the minister has decided, at the last minute, to circumvent publication in the Canada Gazette because, usually an order such as this must appear in the Canada Gazette within 30 days. But, instead, he took the other route, which allows him to appear before a Cabinet committee and get approval in one afternoon. One day for publication, and bingo, we have to pay.
What you have to know is that the industry did express its opposition to this bill, not because it refused to pay, but because it wanted to know if these navigational aids are used efficiently, if the fees requested are right and, more importantly, what would be the impact on the Canadian industry in terms of shipping and, also what would be the impact on the people who use shipping services.
The minister chose to ignore all of this, to ignore the recommendations. He went even further stating: "There is a second part coming up, but I will play fair and wait for the impact study before implementing it." Despite the lack of regulatory power to everything, the minister was able to find a way to go ahead, which is far from reassuring, because once he has full power within a much simpler process, he might do worse yet. Do you understand now why we are worried and why this piece of legislation does not really set our minds at ease.
There is another small point I want to make, also about the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard is made up of two divisions. There are the people who deal with shipping, with the huge vessels, and there are the people who deal with smaller, recreational boats.
When they saw that the people who deal with the larger vessels could get a minor regulation passed and make shipowners cough up $20 million, the Coast Guard people dealing with the smaller boats probably told themselves: "We will try to do the same." They made some representations and held consultations last June.
Their objective was to set some kind of registration fees for small boats. For a rowboat, for a pedal-boat, for any kind of craft, the fees would vary from $5 to $35. They decided to travel throughout Canada to find out what the people thought about their idea. That kind of behaviour is worrisome. Where was the feedback process in all of this? The Quebecers and Canadians who were consulted said: "No way, what is wrong with you people this morning? You would have me pay $5 for my rowboat. Who would control all of that? What will it cost?"
So they backed off a bit. It is a good thing that the minister did not yet have the regulatory powers that would have made it very easy for him to implement such a scheme. If this bill had been in force in June, would the coast guard have acted so cautiously? Would it have not gone ahead with its plans? Its unstated objective was to recover $14 million by charging these fees. This bill needs transparency. We need a way to be sure that there will be co-operation.
I just mentioned two instances where the coast guard used its powers to impose its will and people are not about to forget that. We are not off to a good start. It is not reassuring for people to work with the coast guard. Each time they take part in a consultation process, when they think their views are really being taken into account, they realize it was not the case at all.
I even heard the former commissioner-it seems that he has gone to another part of the department-say that there could be a consultation process but the legislation would still be in place by a
certain date. That shows a flagrant lack of respect for the people who pay the government officials' salaries.
People expect us, as parliamentarians, to analyze the pros and cons. When decisions regarding a bill are unilateral and, I would say, arrogant without regard to those who will suffer their consequences, the bill cannot be said to be created with honour and enthusiasm. We have re-establish the notion of relationship.
Again with regard to part III, which deals with the minister's powers, I would like to mention that the government ignored amendments concerning an information feedback mechanism. We are told that the minister will consult with such persons or bodies as he or she considers appropriate to consult-that is how it is defined. What kind of transparency is the government displaying to Quebecers and Canadians?
The bill also says further on that any other regulations or modifications do not have to be published. I do not want to start the debate on the amendments all over again, but I just want my fellow parliamentarians and the people who are watching us on television to realize that we are not headed in the right direction.
We also talked about the way fees for services are set. I remember the amendments proposed by the Bloc and by the Reform Party called for more transparency in that respect. We asked if we could come back to this subject. A three hour debate to determine new Coast Guard fees is not much. I think these fees should not be determined in one party's back rooms. The issue should be discussed right here, because all Canadians will be affected.
I cannot remember which of my colleagues made that request, a fair and reasonable request, but it too was rejected. As far as I know, the government party has a majority. If a request is made to have a bill referred back to committee, well they have a majority in committee too. They can place a limit on discussion, but at least we can discuss it and report to the House. And they have a majority here too.
Once the bill is passed, we know for sure there is no way we can repeal it. We would like to be able to use our right as parliamentarians to express the views of the people on these fees. After hearing all points of view, the government will be able to make a fair and informed decision. But when certain facts are ignored on purpose, the decision will be lacking, in certain respects.
I talked to you then about what the Coast Guard had done concerning navigation aids. I also talked about potential fees and about studies on fees that could be levied on recreational boaters. There is nothing very encouraging about all of that.
That is why we, the members of the Bloc Quebecois, would like to move an amendment. My amendment deals with the following three points, if I were to sum up my remarks. First of all, the concept of partnership with the provinces does not seem to be clear enough as it stands now. I referred to an agreement in principle, a report that should be made public by the end of February involving B.C. and the federal government.
I think we must take into account the spirit in which Canada signed with British Columbia and let the bill reflect that so no other provincial premier is forced to slam the door in order to bring this to the attention of the government.
I must say that I put this amendment forward because there are still grey areas in the text, which will hinder the implementation of the strategy. I am still talking of the provinces, of communications between provinces, environmental matters, which are grey areas. There are grey areas even in communications between the fisheries minister and the environment minister at the federal level. This is one more reason to consider the amendment which I will table.
Finally, I put this amendment forward because part III of this bill increases the powers of the minister concerning the fees charged for services and because there is a lack of transparency and feedback on the efficiency of the services and the price-setting process.
Most hon. members would be well advised to think twice before opposing this amendment, which we want to table, since, as I remind them, the Bloc Quebecois is for virtue, that is to say that it agrees with the establishment of an oceans resource management strategy. We believe, however, that such a strategy should be consistent and efficient, which it will be when the three points I just mentioned will be taken into account.
Therefore, I move:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word "That" and substituting the following:
"Bill C-26, An Act respecting the oceans of Canada, be not now read a third time but that it be read a third time this day six months hence."
I submit this amendment, which is seconded by my colleague for Chicoutimi. I hope that the hon. members who are now here will remember that, with this amendment, the Bloc Quebecois wants to further the spirit of partnership, that the Bloc Quebecois does not want to hinder the establishment of an oceans resource management strategy for partisan purposes, but wants to make sure that such a strategy is efficient and effective.
I will wait to hear about the admissibility of my motion and I will follow gladly the debate on this bill, hoping that most of my colleagues will have understood that the Bloc Quebecois is promoting the cause and not partisan quarrels.
Private Members' Business
The Deputy Speaker
The amendment by the hon. member for Gaspé is admissible. From now on, debate is on the amendment, which is seconded by the hon. member for Chicoutimi.
Private Members' Business
John Cummins Delta, BC
Mr. Speaker, is this on the amendment or on the bill?
Private Members' Business
The Deputy Speaker
The debate is now on the amendment, the amendment having been ruled receivable. I will indicate further to help that since it is a six-month hoist amendment it should not change or alter his intended intervention.
Private Members' Business
John Cummins Delta, BC
Mr. Speaker, as this House gives consideration to Bill C-26, the oceans act, I would like to make reference to the statement of the chair of the fisheries committee when the bill was initially before his committee:
Many times a piece of legislation is passed, and for the people who sit around this table it's clear as crystal. Then two years later, when regulators get at it and they start reinterpreting it, it's not in the same interpretation. It's not interpreted in the same way as it was meant when it was debated in the House-.
That's one of the problems when language is unclear, and that is really one of the reasons the legislative process-[is] so important.
The members of the fisheries committee from both sides of this House made improvements to the original bill and should be congratulated for their work. Work by my colleague, the member for Skeena, was most notable. He made several amendments during report stage which attempted to ensure consultation and strict adherence to the user pay, user say principle.
He insisted that fees be implemented only after a full socioeconomic impact analysis had been carried out, that fees reflect the level and cost of a specific service and that they be implemented in a fully transparent manner with full ongoing consultation with affected resource users. The amendments he proposed endeavoured to accomplish these goals. Unfortunately our amendments were not accepted and as a result the ocean act remains unchanged in this regard.
Reformers view full and ongoing consultation with resource users and grassroots Canadians as essential to good government. Implementing marine service fees without first completing a socioeconomic impact analysis is what this Liberal government stands for and what we oppose.
I would like to address what are for me several key aspects of the bill. With the exception of Australia, Canada is perhaps more affected by oceans than any other nation. When I first looked at the oceans act I assumed it dealt equally with the waters on our three coasts. Unfortunately that is not the case. Perhaps a third of the waters of Canada are in the area adjacent to the Nunavut land claim. Nunavut waters do not come under the act in the same way that the waters off Nova Scotia do.
When this bill was before the committee, the main Inuit organization in the Nunavut territory advised the committee that certain sections of the bill were ultra vires given the Nunavut land claims agreement.
For instance, the Inuit organization suggested that the bill be amended to acknowledge that the governor in council could not make regulations under the act unless they were approved by the Nunavut land claims authority. Clearly the Nunavut interpret their treaty as limiting federal authority over legislation affecting Arctic waters within the Nunavut settlement area.
The response of the government was to acknowledge that federal authority in Arctic waters is limited by the land claims agreement. I quote from section 2.1:
For greater certainty, nothing in this Act shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from existing aboriginal or treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
The Governor in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, may make orders exercising any power under section 35 on an emergency basis where the Minister is of the opinion that a marine resource or habitat is likely to be at risk to the extent that such orders are not inconsistent with a land claims agreement that has been given effect and has been ratified or approved by an act of Parliament.
That is to say, the government has conceded that land claims agreements may constrain the ability of the Government of Canada to protect a resource owned by all the people of Canada.
The implications for British Columbians are significant. Land claims agreements when negotiated are likely to cover virtually the whole of the west coast. The Nisga'a land claim agreement was only the first. The wording of land claim agreements has diminished the authority of the federal government in an area completely under its control.
This bill simply acknowledges what the government and its officials have negotiated and continue to negotiate away. Land claims must never again be rushed through Parliament. They must receive thorough review and debate on the implications of their entrenchment within the Constitution.
When land claim negotiations are complete in the Arctic and Pacific coasts, the applications of the Oceans Act to these waters is likely to be greatly diminished. A patchwork application of Canadian marine and environmental law to Canadian waters does not inspire me with confidence. While this bill would give the minister of fisheries and cabinet broad powers to manage and protect Canada's marine resources, the government has decided to cut the coast guard on the west coast by one-third.
I want to quote from a department of fisheries document written in early September which details the folly of these cuts at a time when the government is asking for more authority to manage and protect the marine environment. The document was discussed earlier last week by my colleague from North Island-Powell River, therefore I will not give the whole document but I would like to mention some points.
The cuts will have an impact on our ability to manage the resource. For example, Canada is required to collect data and enforce provisions of specific fisheries agreements in the Pacific salmon treaty. The data is critical to stock assessment biologists in Canada. Canada and the United States have agreed to provide specific levels of enforcement patrol of shellfish closed areas to protect consumers from contaminated and toxic shellfish. The United States provides the largest market for British Columbia commercial bivalve fisheries.
Will this cut to inspection hurt our sales in the United States? What happens if an outbreak of shellfish contamination occurs? Surely the U.S. market will dry up overnight if it is undetected.
The ability of vessels to remain away from home on a regular or sporadic basis is critical to both fisheries enforcement and management. Coast guard currently plans to replace vessels in Tofino and Bamfield with a 47-foot class lifeboat with no accommodation for crew or shore based fisheries officers. This demonstrates an expectation that there will be little opportunity to participate in fisheries patrols in remote areas.
Another matter that these cuts are going to affect is this. Uncertainty about vessel support from multi-tasked vessels or insufficient vessels will result in fewer fisheries. The new initiatives implemented to rationalize the salmon fleet, the Mifflin plan, will be compromised.
There is currently a demand for increased habitat investigation and monitoring of projects in remote areas as a result of the Oceans Act, which we are discussing today, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and agreements made with First Nations by Aboriginal Fishing Strategy and land claims initiatives. Yet the cutbacks will impact on the ability to live up to obligations.
Fisheries notes that developing a highly motivated and effective marine fleet is essential for fisheries patrol. A marine enforcement program within the coast guard has the potential to boost enforcement capability in specific areas. Current tasking and restrictions on fleet movement will limit the overall effectiveness of this part of the coast guard program. It is not likely that priority areas for fishing enforcement will always coincide with search and rescue zones.
Again, this is how these cuts will impact and this is the direction this government is taking. I doubt very much it will be able to live up to the commitments under the Oceans Act.
There is a huge list of deficiencies and ways in which the cuts will impact on the ability to manage the fisheries. The one to which I would like to refer is the ability to act under the Oceans Act.
What if a major emergency like the one that nearly occurred last August near Campbell River occurred? The issue to which I am referring was the near collision between a passenger ship and a barge loaded with propane and dynamite. Currently we lack the ability to respond to such a disaster, and yet the government is imposing even further cuts on the coast guard. It is horrifying to imagine the implications of these cutbacks.
Furthermore, international boundary enforcement patrols are of significant concern and the reduction in patrol capability will limit DFO's ability in the area. The international grey zone in the lower straits and in the north are of particular concern to us.
The language of Bill C-26 gives the minister and the cabinet the power to legislate. They will write the oceans law and policy under the regulation making power in the bill.
For many years after Confederation legislation typically defined not only the objectives and principles of government policy in a particular area, but also the precise details. This is true of the current Fisheries Act. For example, section 28 states that no one shall hunt or kill fish or marine animals of any kind by means of rockets or explosive materials. Section 29(1) states that no one shall erect, use or maintain any net, weir or other device which duly obstructs the passage of fish. The current act states in section 32 that no person shall destroy fish by any means other than fishing. Section 33 states that no person shall purchase, sell or possess any fish that has been caught in contravention of this act or the regulations.
It is clear. The fine tuning is in the regulations but the law is clear in the act. The oceans act lacks such clarity in what is prohibited. Everything is up to the minister, even the generality of oceans law and policy.
It has been said that the present practice is for legislation to outline the policy to be followed in an area and to delegate the authority to prescribe the details of the law to the cabinet or the minister.
The bill would, for example, in part II, the oceans management strategy, mandate the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to develop and implement an oceans management strategy. The bill does not
say what the oceans law is to be, it says that the minister has the authority to write one after he consults a long series of groups which may have an interest in oceans law. The writers of the bill obviously do not know what the law or policy ought to be, only that it is needed and that it ought to have the force of law once the minister decides what it ought to be.
If this were a bill for the Minister of Finance it would undoubtedly authorize him to set tax rates after he had consulted various groups. If it were taxes we would instinctively know that the bill was ridiculous. If the Minister of Finance wants a new tax he must come to Parliament to obtain specific authorization.
I would have preferred to have seen some detail in the oceans act. What is the oceans law and policy which the minister wants to implement? Under this bill Parliament effectively loses control of lawmaking. In effect, the government is given a free hand to do as it sees fit in the realm of oceans law and policy.
Such problems are not new. A very distinguished former member of the House, Stanley Knowles, gave a caution that is even more valid today in regard to the oceans act than it was when initially spoken in the House. He stated:
It is our experience in Parliament time and time again to think we know what we passed when we gave final approval to a piece of legislation, only to find months later that things were being done or restrictions being imposed of a kind we did not believe appeared in the bill at all. We try to find out what happened, and we discover that we had given authority to the Governor in Council to make regulations for the carrying out of the purposes of the act and that under this authority restrictive regulations were passed, or restrictive definitions introduced of such a nature as to produce quite a different result from the result we thought had been intended.
The aboriginal fishing strategy is clearly an unexpected and unintended policy created by regulation under the Fisheries Act. Even though the Fisheries Act is, for the most part, very traditional legislation with a fair amount of detail, the government has been able to twist the meaning of the act to create a native only commercial fisheries law as regulations under the act.
The native only commercial law stands against 150 years of Canadian history and law. The Supreme Court this year in the Nikal decision held the policy of the crown, both before and after Confederation "was to treat Indians in the same manner as non-Indians with respect to the allocation of fishing grounds for commercial use". The native only commercial fishery law has wrecked havoc on the west salmon fishery.
If the courts ever get the opportunity to consider the native only commercial fisheries regulations I believe they are likely to strike them down as being incompatible with the intentions of Parliament when it wrote the act.
If the government can get away with native only commercial fishery for fours years, we can only guess what will happen with a very open-ended act like the oceans act. Virtually anything could be done.
Some legislation in only a shell that enables the cabinet to write its own laws. In the past bills were substantive and the regulations involved only technical standards, such as the size of a net or the variety of fish. Sadly we often find that it is the regulations where substantive law is found.
In 1993 in the last Parliament a subcommittee of finance, the then subcommittee on regulations, spoke with clarity about the problem that occurs when parliamentarians demand too little and give too much in legislation they approve. I commend the members of this House who in the last Parliament wrote this report.
The subcommittee noted the "tendency, beginning with energy legislation in the early 1980s to enact framework legislation, leaving substantive provisions to be set out by regulations. The new regulations often affect the rights, duties and obligations of citizens. This contrasts with the more traditional approach under which only technical standards and details tended to be left to regulations".
In the first chapter entitled "Inadequate Legislative Overview" the report reminds us that "under our system of government, Parliament is supreme, subject to limits imposed by the Constitution. In concrete terms this implies that the cabinet cannot raise taxes that Parliament has not sanctioned, or spend money that Parliament has not approved".
It goes on to warn "that regulations promulgated by government departments- have the force of law just as primary legislation does. They can be promulgated lawfully only if appropriate authority has been delegated under a statute that Parliament has passed. However, when the delegated authority is broad and use of that authority is not adequately supervised by Parliament, the implied parliamentary control is absent and the supremacy of Parliament is undermined-The cabinet's formal accountability to Parliament for regulation making amounts in practice to a dead letter".
The oceans act is a shell. It authorizes the minister and the cabinet to write their own law after they have decided what it is they want. It would be better parliamentary practice, I submit, if after the government decides what it wants for an oceans law and policy for it to come back to Parliament and submit a bill to Parliament.
I am anxious to get good environmental legislation on the books. But is this good environmental and oceans law or is it just another Canadian Environmental Protection Act? What ought to have been our basic environmental law has left the development of the law to the government to be done through regulation.
Let me tell members from firsthand experience in Delta why I have some doubt about this approach. The Tsawassen Indian Band in my riding has developed a condominium project in an environmentally sensitive area. As of late it has also built a sewage plant on an intertidal marsh, class 1 habitat.
When the sewage project was under consideration, I hoped that our basic environmental law would require that an environmental assessment be done. Lots of games were played but no real environmental assessment was done. We were told that since no government money was directly involved, none had to be done. Perhaps no government money in the bricks and mortar of the condo project, but lots of offshore money. So much for what environmentalists and others had called our foremost piece of environmental legislation.
With regard to the sewage project, the Minister of the Environment in a letter to me dated July 17, 1996 acknowledges the weakness of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. He said: "My department has no decision making responsibilities that would require it to initiate an assessment in accordance with the act".
In the same letter the Minister of the Environment admitted the involvement of his officials was through the Fisheries Act, not the Environmental Assessment Act. He stated: "Given the shared responsibilities between environment and fisheries with respect to the Fisheries Act, officials from my department are working with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on this review".
Let me read from fisheries documents that I received under the Access to Information Act: "We are concerned there will be a sewage discharge into what is a very ecologically important habitat. This project has the potential to adversely affect an internationally important area for migratory birds, particularly migrating and over wintering waterfowl and shore birds. Intertidal habitats can be extremely sensitive. There is insufficient information provided to demonstrate that fish protection requirements will be met".
There was a hole in the law, a loophole so big that the law, we were told, did not apply on Indian reserves. Why? Because the regulation affecting reserves had not been written yet. Now who would have thought that the law did not apply to all of us equally and that the minister could write a separate law for natives? How did this happen? Because the legislation was deliberately vague. It did not say what was prohibited. It left it to the discretion of cabinet. It encouraged behind the scenes influence peddling.
When the band went about bulldozing an environmentally sensitive area to make room for the sewage plant for the condo project, I did not spend much time on the Environmental Assessment Act. I went to the Fisheries Act. I went to the kind of environmental legislation that works, that has teeth. When we read it, we knew where we stood. We did not have to check to see if the minister has made a policy statement or what the regulations say as there is nothing much in the act.
I complained to the fisheries department that someone was quite possibly breaching the act by destroying environmentally sensitive fish habitat. The department did its job, though not before some environmental destruction had occurred.
I am concerned that the same hole exists in the oceans act with regard to environmental issues, especially if natives are involved. Let me show one reason why the Fisheries Act worked and why the oceans act will not and why the Environmental Assessment Act does not.
Section 35 of the Fisheries Act does not say that the minister may make regulations or make a policy after consulting everything that moves. Instead it says: "No person shall carry on any work or undertaking that results in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat". How is that for clarity? No mumbo-jumbo, no weasel words. Destroy fish habitat and the act kicks in. No special exemptions for environmental destruction by a province or native bands. The act leaves an out. The minister can authorize the destruction of habitat. If not, the law has been broken.
As an aside, some would trash the Fisheries Act and the fisheries department and turn the job of fish habitat protection over to the environment department or the province. I am not one of them. The Fisheries Act and the fisheries department can, when push comes to shove, do what needs to be done. I would say to those in Victoria and Ottawa who would trash the fisheries department authority to protect fish habitat: You are no friend of fish. If it works do not trash it.
We as parliamentarians can do better. We must demand more. We receive poorly written shells masquerading as potential legislation because we have demanded too little and the government has been allowed to safely ask for too much authority.
Private Members' Business
George Baker Gander—Grand Falls, NL
Mr. Speaker, listening to the members from the Reform Party and the Bloc, one would think that this was a terrible piece of legislation we have before us. One would wonder why the Government of Canada would introduce such a terrible piece of legislation according to the official opposition.
The fact is that the bill before the House today is the first of its kind. It is a historic event in the House of Commons because Canada for the first time in its history will actually pass a law, if the majority of the people in the Chamber vote for it, to put into law that Canada has an exclusive economic zone.
It took the present Liberal administration under our Prime Minister to bring in this act. The act was brought in by the minister, the MP for Bonavista-Trinity-Conception in Newfoundland, a rear admiral, a man who knows more about the ocean than perhaps any other member of Parliament knows. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans represents a riding that perhaps has more fishermen than any other riding in Canada has.
As well, the parliamentary secretary is a learned and extremely well educated colleague. I do not know of anybody ever in the Chamber who has received the education that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has. He has a masters in law. He is on the judicial committee at the Hague. He knows international law inside out and upside down.
The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is bringing in this bill, which the opposition does not want to praise him on because there is too much in the bill that is good politics, good for Canada and good for our fishermen. Where else would we find such terms as contiguous zone, Canadian waters, continental shelf, exclusive economic zone, territorial sea?
Never before have we ever seen that in legislation before this Chamber. Why is that? The reason is quite simple. Never before have we had a government that has brought in a piece of legislation that outlines two things, one of which is conservation and the other of which is proper management.
The Bloc stood in the Chamber today and put on the record how bad the management of DFO has been over the years and how terrible it is that it has not been able to manage the resource properly. I suppose one could agree with that statement if one looked at what happened under the previous Tory government.
There was no logic behind the management decisions made by that government. It led to the destruction of the northern cod stock off the east coast of Canada. It led to the destruction of the fish stocks that the northern cod stock fed on. It led to the destruction of the pelagic resources of our oceans. It led to the destruction of some of the greatest spawning grounds for fish in the entire world.
I remind the hon. member who spoke for the Bloc to look at the great spawning area for mackerel off Quebec's coast, the greatest spawning area perhaps in the world. For year after year after year when those mackerel at the end of May were trying to get in from the ocean to the Gulf of St. Lawrence to go to those great spawning areas, the Government of Canada, then led by the Tories of course, assigned foreign quotas to block the migration of those mackerel into their spawning grounds off the coast of Quebec. That was done simply because of poor management decisions by the Government of Canada.
However, under this legislation and under the actions of this government, the minister and the parliamentary secretary in bringing this legislation forward, that will no longer be possible to do. In other words, for the great resources of the fishery off the coast of Quebec, especially along the north shore of Quebec where the great spawning areas are for those fish that were blocked from their migration pattern on to those spawning grounds, never again will there be quotas assigned. Quotas were assigned under the previous Tory administration to Norway, to Sweden, to Denmark, to Cuba, to Japan, to the Russian states, in order to block that migration on to the coast of Quebec.
It is a two-way street, is it not? Not only did the mackerel disappear from the coast of Quebec where they spawn, but they disappeared as well off the coast of Nova Scotia where they were on their way into the spawning ground. They disappeared along the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador because that is where the mackerel go after they spawn at the end of May. It takes them until about September to become eight or nine inches long as they travel up around the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador and go out into the ocean again.
That migration was prevented. It was stalled. It was stopped by those quotas to foreign nations in Canadian waters, assigned by the Tory government. That is perhaps the blackest mark we have on our fishery. It was poor management.
Under this legislation the minister and the parliamentary secretary are bringing forward today, fisheries management takes top priority. Conservation becomes the most important thing in the decision of quotas and the assigning of them.
As well, it operates both ways for the fishermen of Quebec. The hon. member representing the Bloc should remember that the squid disappeared in the early eighties off the Quebec north shore. The reason they disappeared was that the squid which are prevalent on Canada's east coast are not born like the mackerel are along the coast of Quebec. They are born way down in Florida. Their migration path is almost like the Trans-Canada Highway of the squid. They go up past the east coast of Nova Scotia.
What was happening there under the poor management of the previous administration, the Tory governments of this country? We had vessels from Cuba, Japan, the Soviet Union and from other nations with licences from the federal government to block that annual migration of squid in the month of July.
All of a sudden the squid did not show up on the coast of Quebec or on the coast of Newfoundland or on the coast of New Brunswick
or Prince Edward Island. Why? It was poor management, poor decision making. That would not be possible under the legislation passing this Chamber today. Why? The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is bound to consult and not only consult, but the fishermen themselves and the industry itself will have to have an input.
On the same argument, as far as the Quebec coast is concerned, at the same time in the early eighties there was the tragic disappearance of the capelin, a very tiny fish that does not spawn as the mackerel does on the coast of Quebec, as the squid does down in Florida; it spawns off the coasts of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and off the south coast of Labrador.
Due to poor management, because it did not have an act of Parliament like this at the time, what did the previous Tory administration do? In 1980 the Tory government gave a quota to the Soviet Union for over 100,000 tonnes of capelin. That is more than has ever been caught in any one year in Canadian history by all Canadian fishermen put together. Why? The Government of Canada was not bound by an act like this. The Government of Canada was not bound by these regulations.
I point out to the member from the Bloc what has happened in the past under previous administrations because they did not have this bill. They did not have the Liberal government we have today. They did not have that before, and what happened to his shore, his coastline, was that yes, the mackerel were prevented from going to their spawning ground at the end of May; yes, the squid disappeared at the end of July and were not seen anymore after 1980 because of the decisions of the federal Tory government at that time; yes, the capelin that spawn off Newfoundland and southern Labrador and Nova Scotia were never seen again because all of their biomasses were practically eliminated by overfishing licences given by the federal government.
There is a reason I mentioned those three species of fish for the benefit of the hon. fisheries critic for the Bloc. Those are the three fish that form the main food supply of what the hon. member has been so concerned about, codfish. They are the main food supply of the cod.
One would think that if we catch the food of the cod we would actually affect the codfish. According to the scientific evidence that was available at the time the Tories were in office, that conclusion could not be drawn. This was the reason they claimed it could not be drawn. They said we would have to have fishing of this food for about a year and then non-fishing, fishing of that food stock and then non-fishing, to be able to compare it year after year. A common sense thing like that. That is why this bill allows the minister to take certain measures in consultation with the fishermen and the industry to ensure this does not happen.
The main food supply of the cod was destroyed through mismanagement under the previous Tory administration. With this bill we
will have brought in a measure by which the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans will be able to step in to prevent that from happening in the future.
The other point which the hon. member from the Bloc did not consider was that the bill will also allow the minister, more than ever before, to step in as far as types of fishing gear are concerned.
We could imagine the effect of factory freezer trawler dragging the bottom of the ocean, ripping through a spawning area where fish accumulate at a certain time of year to reproduce. Imagine the effect that would have on the fishery. Imagine the common sense which went into the decision which said "yes, you can use that type of equipment". Where was the common sense? It just was not there.
This bill will enable the minister to make decisions based on consultation with fishermen. They would never allow that to happen. It amazes why this problem was created in the first place. When we look at all the scientific evidence which is available on how codfish and groundfish spawn it is amazing that the Tory government would ever have allowed those types of licences to be issued.
The scientific studies all point to the same thing. They say that during that four week period when fish are in the process of and preparing for their spawning season that even a little food cannot be dropped among them because they will disperse. There were studies done which used gigantic fish tanks to examine the spawning habits of various types of groundfish. When the studies reached that four week period the fish could not be fed. No food could be dropped into the tanks during the four week spawning season. Why was that? The fish would then swim at such a speed they would collide with the sides of the tank. If we disturb a groundfish in the process of spawning it will not spawn.
This bill will enable the minister and any future minister of any future federal government in Canada to look first and foremost to conservation and then to management. There must be management committees. They must consult with the fishers, as it is stated in the bill and as my learned, educated and civilized friend, the parliamentary secretary, pointed out a few moments ago.
The hon. member for Vancouver Quadra has written 23 books and co-authored another couple of dozen, all concerning an aspect of this bill, international law, the law of the sea.
The Speaker is telling me I am out of time.
Private Members' Business
Actually, my colleague, you had about 15 seconds left. I was worried you were going to start using that act as a prop of some kind. I have never known you to use props in this House before.
I rushed in to get the tail end of your speech. You will have one brief question before we go to Statements by Members.
Private Members' Business
Yvan Bernier Gaspé, QC
Mr. Speaker, I note that the hon. member for Gander-Grand Falls is in his usual fine form this morning.
He has given us a brilliant lecture on the food chain. I would even add, although I have said I was going to attempt to be non-partisan, that-and I shall offer him a pun in his own language-to listen to him, one would believe that the mother of the cod is a Grit.
Private Members' Business
Some hon. members
Private Members' Business
Yvan Bernier Gaspé, QC
What I wish to emphasize here, and what I have already stated this morning, is that, with respect to part II of this bill, I am in agreement with the creation of an ocean management strategy. But-and I shall be as brief as possible here, returning after the question period-in order to protect against the return of the Conservative party, may I just ask the hon. member for Gander-Grand Falls whether he remembers how the Liberal premier of Newfoundland and the Conservative Prime Minister in Ottawa used to be at each other's throats?
When Brian Peckford made his pilgrimage to Ottawa, no one would listen to him. How will things be any better for his successor, if the powers of the provinces are not protected in this bill? That is the question.
We are very much aware of the situation with the capelin, and the mackerel, that the cod are after them, but what are you after?
Private Members' Business
My colleague, I know if I could ask for a yes or a no answer, I would be all right. However, I want to give you every opportunity to answer this member. We will now go to statements, but if you will only come back after question period, I will stay here to see what you have to say.
Prince Edward Island
Statements By Members
George Proud Hillsborough, PE
Mr. Speaker, these are hard acts to follow. However, I am pleased today that the 1996 annual conference of the Transportation Association of Canada is to be held in my riding.
Delegates arrived in Charlottetown yesterday for the conference, which continues until Wednesday. This year's theme is cost effectiveness through innovation. I find it very fitting that this conference is taking place on the island.
As many already know, the fixed link, which has recently been named Confederation Bridge by the hon. minister, will significantly alter the transportation industry of Prince Edward Island.
As an island, P.E.I. is greatly affected by any small change in that industry. Further to next year's opening of the bridge, islanders are analysing the situation surrounding our four major seaports in light of legislation before this House.
I welcome the delegates to the island. I trust that they will enjoy their stay in the birthplace of Confederation.
Statements By Members
Gérard Asselin Charlevoix, QC
Mr. Speaker, this past July, several areas of Quebec, including the Charlevoix region, were struck by torrential rains and unprecedented flooding.
Thousands of people had to be evacuated, some as a preventive measure, and others because their lives were really in danger. A number of lives were lost in this tragedy, and many saw what they had worked for all their lives carried away by the wild flood waters.
There has, however, been other devastation as well. A number of seasonal workers face significant reduction in their chances of drawing employment insurance, in some cases, their chances are nil.
I am requesting, personally and on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, that the new Minister of Human Resources Development proceed as quickly as possible with measures to make employment insurance more flexible for workers in the regions affected by the disaster of this past July 19 and 20.