House of Commons Hansard #113 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was park.

Topics

Canada National Parks Act
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4:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Canada National Parks Act
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4:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canada National Parks Act
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4:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Canada National Parks Act
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The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Canada National Parks Act
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The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

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The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The vote stands deferred until 5.30 p.m. today.

The House resumed from June 12 consideration of the motion that Bill C-33, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada, be now read a second time and referred to a committee; and of the amendment.

Species At Risk Act
Government Orders

June 13th, 2000 / 4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Rimouski—Mitis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part today to the debate on Bill C-33, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada.

A motion was introduced by the Progressive Conservative member for Fundy—Royal, seconded by the hon. member for Shefford, asking that the second reading of this bill now before the House be hoisted for six month, which would be an excellent idea.

On the eve of a possible general election in Canada, I did not have a speech on species at risk on my agenda. I believe that this government is going too far. I cannot but denounce this bill and, at the same time, the government that introduced it.

It is amazing to see that the Liberal government which, I must point out, obtained the support of only 38% of the population of Quebec and Canada in the 1997 general election, is behaving as if political thinking were the same in Quebec and in Canada. Yet, in the House, for the first time in the history of parliament, we find ourselves with four opposition parties. There is in the democratic choices made by the people of Quebec and of Canada a message that the Liberal government does not want to understand.

What is more, this government's arrogance is leading it to hide things and act as if everything were fine. It keeps on introducing bills that do not reflect in the least the political realities in Quebec and Canada, which we represent collectively in the House, with five parties and not one only.

What has this government, which is on the verge of going to the voters for a third mandate, done since 1993? In spite of what it keeps repeating, it has kept none of its basic commitments from the 1993 and 1997 campaigns. The GST is still with us. We are turning increasingly to free trade. The employment insurance reform has been worse than the one announced by the Tories. Every social program has felt the impact of this government's budget cuts, health programs in particular, and this is jeopardizing the universality of these programs.

With the surplus derived from funds diverted to other purposes than those for which they were intended, the government now wants to hire spies who will go and lay down the law in the provinces on health.

Cultural budgets have also been reduced and the new president of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, CBC, is almost at the point of becoming the first CEO of a public federal organization to be out on the street if he continues to cut like he has.

I could go on with the list of promises that were not kept but I would not want to immediately start an election campaign and put the Liberal government on trial. The government will not get off lightly because the moment of truth will come and will have major consequences for those who are showing arrogance today.

In politics, promises must be kept. In politics, the affairs of the state must also be administered as though they were our own affairs and public funds must not be squandered. In politics, the affairs of the state must be administered with great attempts to reach consensus, and not with a confrontational approach, with quarrels and squabbles, as the federal Liberal Party has constantly done since taking office, particularly its leader, who is the specialist of the no, as though he did not have the chance to come out of his first identity crisis, which, in the normal development of a human being, happens traditionally around the age of two.

People are not fooled. They have had enough of this politicking that has been enriching the same people since Confederation. Whether they are liberal or conservative, this does not change anything in the scandals that have marked Canadian politics for so many years, at the expense of the little people who must be content with continuing to pay taxes.

People are starting to get the message. The government does as it pleases, grabs employment insurance funds, gets in bed with the oil companies, enriches the wealthy minority and distributes poverty to most of the people of Quebec and Canada.

That said, let us move on to the debate on the order paper for today, Bill C-33, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada.

Biodiversity, about which we are hearing more and more, represents the result of the evolution which the earth has undergone over billions of years.

That evolutionary process has provided the planet with a broad selection of living organisms and natural environments. These make up the ecosystems we know today, and all of them have a role to play within the food chain, as well as playing a part in the biological equilibrium of this planet.

In recent years, however, the scientists have been reminding us that we are seeing more and more species become extinct, as well as increasing numbers of others being threatened with extinction or becoming highly vulnerable.

The decrease or degradation of this biological diversity affects us all and can eventually have unexpected consequences on the environment in which we live. In Canada, as in a number of other countries in the world, attempts have been made in recent years to slow down this phenomenon.

To that end, ever since the 1970s, we have seen some international conventions being signed for the specific purpose of limiting trading in certain plant and animal species in order to keep them from extinction.

In 1992, there was the Rio Earth Summit and an important part of the international community, including Canada, signed the Convention on Biodiversity. Signatory countries pledged to develop and implement the legislation and regulations needed to protect endangered species and populations.

When Canada made that commitment, the government was lead by Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservative Party. That was enough for the Liberals to promise, in their red book, a long term protection for the species of our planet.

Following that commitment, in 1995, the then environment minister, the member for Hamilton, tabled a first bill which gave rise to an incredible number of protestations and critics, especially on the part of environmental groups.

In 1996, the federal government proposed to provincial and territorial environment ministers a Canada-wide agreement entitled, “Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk”. In October of the same year, the ministers responsible for wildlife approved the principle of that accord.

At that time, the Quebec government was represented at the table by David Cliche, the environment minister. He signed the accord in good faith. However, he immediately issued an independent press release where he stated very clearly that he could not remain indifferent to the fact that this accord was probably opening the door to overlapping and that it would be necessary to observe closely what ensued.

Just a few weeks later the federal government, through its environment minister, Sergio Marchi, introduced Bill C-65, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species in Canada from extirpation or extinction, a bill which too was harshly criticized by the provinces mainly because of the broad powers it gave the federal government with respect to the protection of endangered species.

Many denounced the minister for his about face as his legislation was flying in the face of comments he had made a few weeks earlier saying he wanted to harmonize federal policies with the provinces instead of imposing standards and overlapping with provincial jurisdiction.

Early elections called by the Prime Minister and member for Saint-Maurice caused bill C-65 to die on the order paper. Now the government is telling us that Bill C-33 is a new improved version of Bill C-65. If the Prime Minister keeps us here in the House long enough and does not again call an early election, we must send this bill back and not pass it under its present form.

We must find a way to respect each other's jurisdiction while finding a real solution to the problem of migratory species, that unfortunately know no border. It is obvious that if we are serious about finding a real solution to the problem of endangered species, a concerted effort is needed both nationally and internationally.

Since this is an area of shared jurisdiction, greater consultation and closer co-operation among various levels of government are needed as it is imperative to improve the protection of endangered species both in Canada and Quebec. Again, this will not happen though confrontation but rather through a consensual approach.

Does Bill C-33 really provide an additional protection that is enforceable? Will it really do something to improve the protection of our ecosystems and of the threatened species that are part of them? What good is it? What is in it?

There is sufficient cause for worry that the bill is suspicious. While lines 25 to 30 of the preamble state that responsibility for the conservation of wildlife in Canada is shared among the various orders of government in this country and that it is important for them to work co-operatively to pursue the establishment of complementary legislation and programs to protect species, the bill's wording does not reflect this. It does not reflect reality, which is that protection of habitats is essentially a provincial responsibility.

Everything in fact suggests that the minister holds the power to impose his vision of protection on the provinces. In other words, his legislation will take de facto precedence over existing provincial legislation, even if the habitats fall solely under provincial jurisdiction.

By doing so, the federal government is assuming the right to impose its own way of protecting species. It is not at all clear that force and fines would always be a province's preferred approach.

Not only does the bill give broad discretionary powers to the Minister of the Environment, but it does not respect the division of powers as stated in the constitution and as interpreted over the years. This bill truly interferes in an area under provincial and territorial jurisdiction and excludes the provinces and the territories from any real and direct input into the process. Existing legislation is totally ignored.

It is true that the protection of species can only be effective if habitats are also protected, but it is the responsibility of the provinces and the territories to manage these issues in co-operation with the various stakeholders.

Even though the minister supports, theoretically, the shared responsibility between the federal government and the provinces with regard to the protection of species, in reality, first, he disregards the division of powers and the provinces' responsibility with regard to the management of habitats and the protection of species; second, he ignores existing legislation; and, third, he assumes very broad powers with regard to the protection of species. By acting this way, the federal government is going against true environmental harmonization between the various levels of government.

Now, what about the position of environmental groups? How did they receive this government bill?

Those who should be the minister's allies in any attempt to improve the protection of wildlife species find this bill totally useless and even dangerous, and they oppose it. Indeed, there has been much protest and criticism since the minister introduced his bill.

Most stakeholders find the bill too weak. Even organizations representing the industry feel that the bill will not provide greater protection for species or specify the appropriate approach to protecting species living on a site under development.

Also, it must be noted that, in its present form, Bill C-33 is a bit scary for the representatives of certain industries. As for the representative of the Mining Association of Canada, he said that the fines and legal proceedings were excessive in cases where a species was not deliberately killed.

However, the main problem that seems to be raised by all environmental groups is the fact that the decisions on the designation of species will be taken by the minister and his cabinet, and not by scientists.

This has led some activists, such as the president of the Canadian Campaign for Endangered Species, to state that Bill C-33 was a dismal failure and that it will not ensure the protection of Canadian species.

Others, like one of the lawyers of the Sierra Club, made more qualified statements, but still denounced the weakness of the legislation and described as disgraceful the fact that such a discretionary power with respect to the designation of species be granted to politicians.

The sponsor of the bill is being criticized for resorting to a piecemeal approach dictated by cabinet, instead of a set of gentle measures promoting negotiation, but supported by compelling legal measures if an agreement cannot be reached.

For his part, Paul Bégin said that the proposed legislation was just another example of useless duplication for Quebec. Indeed, the Quebec minister indicated that the bill introduced by the federal government sought not only to create a safety net for endangered species and their habitat on federal lands, but also on the whole Quebec territory.

While it may be appropriate for the federal government to legislate to protect migrating species, this government has no constitutional authority regarding the management of habitats on provincial and territorial lands. The Quebec government cannot accept that the federal government would infringe upon areas of provincial jurisdiction and dictate to Quebec how to protect its ecosystems when Quebec already has its own legislation protecting endangered species and their habitats.

In fact, the Quebec government believes an act such as Bill C-33 would be acceptable if it excluded any species or habitat under provincial jurisdiction and applied to a province or territory only if this province or territory had explicitly asked that it did.

Considering the increasing rate of species extinction, the situation is serious and it is true that we must take effective measures. But Bill C-33 is not the answer to the questions I asked at the beginning of my speech.

The principle of providing greater protection to endangered species is in itself one the Bloc Quebecois readily supports. However, the Bloc does not believe that Bill C-33 will improve the protection of species at risk. In fact, the Bloc opposes the bill because it constitutes a direct intrusion into many areas of Quebec's jurisdiction. It even overlaps the act Quebec passed in 1989, which is having good results.

The bill could very well increase the paper burden and it will not allow for an efficient use of already scarce resources. The Quebec government has already legislated in areas covered by Bill C-33 and while recognizing that it is urgent to improve the legislation, the Bloc does not believe that Bill C-33 will give the expected results.

The Bloc also recognizes that responsibility for the environment is shared between the federal government and the provinces. It is becoming very clear now that the federal government is ignoring this fact and is working against true harmonization of environmental issues by the various levels of government. Instead of assuming its major responsibilities in an appropriate way, the federal government is insisting on trampling on other governments' jurisdictions.

I said at the outset that I fully support the motion of my colleagues from the Progressive Conservative Party. Whether or not a general election is called, I sincerely hope that this bill will be postponed indefinitely.

Species At Risk Act
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4:30 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague, the member for Rimouski—Mitis, for her very relevant comments.

She has dotted the i s for the government, which persists in utterly invading areas under provincial jurisdiction. All the negative elements that the member for Rimouski—Métis has noted against this government suggest that this government believes it knows everything.

I would like my colleague to give us other examples that prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, as she says, that this bill should be postponed indefinitely.

Species At Risk Act
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4:30 p.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Rimouski—Mitis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Jonquière. What I find striking in this bill, is that there is overwhelming agreement against it. This is quite something.

First, the member for Hamilton East introduced a bill that was a complete failure. Nobody wanted anything to do with it. But they did not learn their lesson. Her colleague, Sergio Marchi, also introduced a bill. He had time to retire before it was passed.

An elections was held and now we are presented with a third bill, by another minister who has no more understanding than the other two, which tends to prove beyond a doubt, that in Canada, ministers are nothing but puppets. Those who really count are the deputy ministers. They stay, while ministers move on.

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4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise you that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Louis-Hébert.

I am very pleased to take part in this debate. I would like to congratulate my hon. colleague from Jonquière, who is the Bloc Quebecois environment critic. She has done a lot of work and put a lot of heart into her defence of the interests of her fellow citizens, of everybody in Quebec, and by the same token, in Canada.

I would also like to indicate that I support the amendment by the Progressive Conservative Party. It is clear to us that this bill should be reconsidered, or at least hoisted for six months.

The title of Bill C-33 is an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada. Biological diversity in itself is the result of evolution, which has been going on on our planet for more than 4.5 billion years.

In the last few years, scientists have indicated that more and more species are becoming extinct and that more and more of them are becoming endangered or highly vulnerable.

In 1992, during the Rio summit, a large part of the international community, including Canada, signed the Convention on Biological Diversity. Canada agreed to draft or maintain the legislative and regulatory provisions required to protect endangered species and populations. Needless to say, on this side of the House, we know what the current government's signature is worth. It always claims to be acting in good faith, but in fact, that is not always what happens once it has signed a document.

In 1995, the Liberal environment minister of the day introduced a first bill, which was heavily criticized, especially by environmental groups. We all know what happened to that bill.

In 1996, the federal government, through its environment minister of the day, Sergio Marchi, who has since retired, as mentioned by my colleague from Rimouski—Mitis, introduced Bill C-65, which was essentially the precursor of Bill C-33. Once again, the bill was heavily criticized. The Liberals called an election and, fortunately for them, Bill C-65 died on the order paper.

They still do not seem to have learned their lesson. They have brought this issue forward again by introducing a bill, which they say contains improvements. It is worth noting that the federal government can play a role in protecting wildlife species under certain statutes such as those dealing with fisheries or with our national parks. However, no federal legislation exists for this specific purpose.

If passed, Bill C-33 would be the first Canadian legal instrument dealing specifically with the protection of wildlife species at risk.

Since pollution and migratory species ignore boundaries, a concerted effort is obviously required at the international level. Logically, the same goes on a smaller scale within Canada. Canadian federalism calls for co-operation between the provinces on this issue, since this is an area of shared jurisdiction in our country.

Improved protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada is necessary. The number of known species living in Canada is estimated at 70,000, and apparently many of those exist only in Canada. To date, the committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada has designated 340 wildlife species as being at risk. Of these, 12 are now extinct, 15 are extirpated species or no longer exist in the wild in Canada, 87 are endangered, 75 are threatened and 151 are vulnerable, which means that there are concerns about these species. Of the 97 species whose status was reassessed in the last few years, 26 are now closer to becoming extinct.

Needless to say that without proper federal or provincial legislation, without enforcement measures and adequate resources, the COSEWIC initiatives are insignificant, and their impact is limited. With the increase in the number of species facing extinction, the situation is critical. An efficient response is therefore needed.

But does Bill C-33 really provide an additional protection that is enforceable? Will this bill really ensure better protection of our ecosystems and of the threatened species that are part of them? We do not think so.

I wish to convey to the members of the House the position of environmental groups and industry. Most environmental groups are opposed to the bill put forward by the Minister for the Environment. Those who should be his allies in any attempt to improve the protection of wild species find the bill useless and dangerous.

As a matter of fact, the minister has been facing a lot of protest and criticism since he introduced his bill. Most stakeholders find the bill too weak. Even organizations representing the industry feel that the bill will not provide greater protection for species or specify the course of action they should adopt concerning the protection of the species living where they run their operations.

It is not only the Bloc Quebecois and the bad separatists who are saying this; environmental groups and industry representatives are saying the same thing. If anyone knows what they are doing, working year after year to protect those species, if there are any scientists who are experts in their field, it is the people in these environmentalist groups. And they have voiced strong opposition to and severe criticism of the bill.

We believe, among other things, that this bill intrudes on provincial jurisdiction, in particular the jurisdiction of Quebec, which already has its own legislation. Quebec is one of the few Canadian provinces that has legislated to protect wildlife and species at risk. Why not co-operate then?

This government is stubborn, set in its own ways, and this is especially true of the Prime Minister, who should have a maple leaf stuck to his forehead to satisfy his desire for visibility.

As I am running out of time, I simply wish to read a few lines from a news release issued by the Quebec minister of environment on April 11, 2000. It says:

Quebec has always acted in a responsible and adequate way to protect its most fragile wild animals and plants, and it intends to continue to exercise its jurisdiction in this area.

We will never accept an umbrella legislation for all action in this area. It is out of the question for Quebec to accept federal intrusion on its jurisdiction. This bill must exclude all species, sites or habitats under Quebec's jurisdiction and must only be implemented at the request of the provinces or territories.

Quebec has always taken good care of its species at risk and it will not need to use this legislation.

Why does the government insist on intruding on provincial jurisdictions? It does this in all areas, as for parental leave, right now. Why insist on overlapping and intruding on existing legislation that works?

Species At Risk Act
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4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of all my colleagues, I want first to congratulate our colleague from Drummond for her rather enlightening presentation. I think that our colleague from Beauce also agrees with the warning that the hon. member for Drummond gave—

Species At Risk Act
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4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Claude Drouin Beauce, QC

Not at all.

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4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

My colleague says he does not agree.

I want not only to congratulate our colleague but also pay tribute to our environment critic, for she has worked very diligently and seriously in committee. She worked very hard to defend Quebec's interests. In fact, that is the difference between government members and Bloc members.

We can rise and on each issue and dedicate ourselves exclusively to the interests of Quebec, because we do not have to work out compromises for Prince Edward Island, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

I want to ask my hon. colleague, who is obviously a seasoned parliamentarian since she has been here since 1993, like me for that matter, if she could tell us why a bill like this one is harmful to Quebec and give us many examples of the federal government's absolutely despicable reflex of interfering in areas of provincial jurisdiction.

Before yielding to my hon. colleague, I could refer to health. In this area, the government wants visibility. It has no principles. It has no respect for provincial prerogatives because it wants to do what it calls nation building.

There is in this House a former minister of the environment in the Bourassa government. Under a rather austere exterior, he is a rather nice man. I believe he broke away from his party during the language crisis.

I would like to make a wish before giving the floor back to my colleague. Could we count on the support of all the Quebecers in this House, regardless of their political convictions? It is not a matter of nationalists versus federalists. I am convinced that when it comes to the environment, our debate can rise above partisanship and we can decide on general directions for the future, which will be in the best interest of Quebec.

Therefore I am asking my colleague, based on her seven years as a parliamentarian, if she could show how this government has steadfastly refused to stay within its own jurisdiction and has shamelessly infringed on Quebec's jurisdiction?

Species At Risk Act
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4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Hochelaga—Maisonneuve for his very relevant remarks. I also want to congratulate him. He highlighted the good job the Bloc members have been doing in the House since 1993. He is one of those who has been doing an excellent job defending the interests of the people of Quebec.

My colleague asked me to give a few examples of infringement and overlap. We have seen quite a few since 1993. This government is always trying, with every new bill, to encroach on and stick its foot in areas of provincial jurisdiction. It has been its leitmotiv across Canada. This is what it was seeking with the social union. When they signed the social union agreement, the provinces sold out their birthright. They are now realizing it with the health care issue.

Health care is one example. If there is an area of exclusive provincial jurisdiction, it is health care. We can see what the government is doing these days.

Education, with the millennium fund, is another example. We have been a prime target in Quebec. It took a number of interventions and a great deal of efforts on the part of the Bloc Quebecois to denounce this state of affairs. And what about parental leave.

Now we have this environment bill on endangered species.