Debates of Sept. 19th, 2000
House of Commons Hansard #117 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was endangered.
- Government Response To Petitions
- Access To Information Act
- Business Of The House
- Questions On The Order Paper
- Species At Risk Act
- Journalist Jean V. Dufresne
- Robert S. K. Welch
- Gasoline Pricing
- Canada Post
- Olympic Games
- Korean War
- Political Parties
- Organized Crime
- International Development
- Canadian Alliance
- Leader Of The Government In The House Of Commons
- Member For Mississauga West
- Member For Kings—Hants
- New Members
- New Members Introduced
- Fuel Taxes
- Organized Crime
- Fuel Prices
- Young Offenders
- Budget Surpluses
- Organized Crime
- Employment Insurance
- Species At Risk Act
- Grain Transportation
- Canadian International Development Agency
- Human Resources Development
- The Environment
- Presence In Gallery
- Youth Criminal Justice Act
- Division No. 1386
- Species At Risk Act
- Income Tax Act
Species At Risk Act
Jim Abbott Kootenay—Columbia, BC
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to stand today to speak to this issue, particularly in light of the concerns the people in my constituency of Kootenay—Columbia have. My constituency has some of the finest, if not the finest, big game hunting, if not in North America, certainly in all the world.
This is an issue that I, quite frankly, despair over in that there seems to be so much misunderstanding on the part of people who do not live in a constituency such as mine. To suggest that people who are concerned about this issue and who are speaking against some of the provisions of this issue are therefore not concerned about the environment is really desperately unfortunate.
I and my family have had the privilege, and I count it as a privilege, of having lived on the shores of a lake in the Rocky Mountains since 1974. When we wake up in the morning the sun is rising over the Rocky Mountains. There are loons, osprey, muskrat, beaver and all sorts of wildlife in the area. I love and respect that part of the country and I really respect the fact that I have had the privilege of bringing up my family in such an idyllic location. I therefore speak with a tremendous amount of passion about this issue.
The people in the cities who take a look at certain television programs or read certain documentation can come to a particular perspective. Sometimes that perspective is accurate but more often than not it is inaccurate. I think for example of the situation where we have had the various extreme ecogroups who have been involved in the so-called B.C. great bear rain forest.
There is no such thing as the B.C. great bear rain forest. It has never ever appeared on a map. It is a pure fabrication and creation for marketing to get more money into the coffers of some of these organizations. Unfortunately, what has happened is that companies which purchase wood products, softwood lumber and items of that type from that area have ended up succumbing to this marketing program. What we are looking at now in the interior of British Columbia is that the American extreme environmental groups are now silently working and coming toward the interior of British Columbia.
I will cite a specific example. I will read from notes I took in two days of meetings last Saturday and Sunday in the town of Revelstoke, part of my constituency. This city has been in existence for 100 years. It has spawned many great citizens, not the least of whom is the member for York South—Weston who was born and raised in Revelstoke. We make note of that very profound event.
All kidding aside, we have 8,500 people living in this city that is completely and totally surrounded. There are basically three valleys which converge at that particular point. We have a static population of 8,500. They traditionally have treated the environment with a tremendous amount of respect because it is the environment from which they sustain their living.
With the changes that there have been, and some very good changes I must say, in the forestry practices that have been brought forward by various levels and various brands of provincial government, we have seen a rollback in the amount of responsible resource extraction in the way of harvesting timber and wood products in the area.
As a consequence, there have been moves to more value added products with less actual fibre being taken out of the bush. However, there is a limit to how many guitar faces or how many violin skins can actually be created and still have an employed work base in the area. However, I should say that on balance it strikes me that there has been a balance between the environmental concerns and responsible harvesting practices.
Because there has been a downturn and because the area is so absolutely spectacular, they have now moved to what we might call ecotourism. We are talking about snowmobile facilities and heli-skiing up on many of the magnificent glaciers in the area. Suddenly, as a result of the federal Department of the Environment red listing the caribou in the area, out of the clear blue sky the ministry of environment lands and parks, MELP, has decided that it is going to effect a closure for the snowmobilers in the area. This is understandable and would be particularly understandable if there was good scientific data and a good base to make these judgments. Indeed, from the notes I read, we have to take a look at the caribou in that area under the issue of habitat impact, disturbance and wildlife.
We keep hearing that the grizzlies are an endangered species, and indeed they are in certain areas of Canada, but in that part of my constituency, as in the far southeast corner of my constituency, the grizzlies are not an endangered species by any stretch of the imagination. They are predators that prey on deer and once they run out of deer they go after the caribou and the elk. What kind of pressure have the wolves as predators brought to the caribou herds? These are questions that MELP does not seem able to answer. However, this came about as a result of a listing by the Canadian Department of Environment.
Did MELP include, for example, the fact that we have Mount Revelstoke National Park and Glacier National Park adjacent to and between Revelstoke and Golden which obviously offer a tremendously undisturbed area for the caribou to go to? Did MELP include in its survey the fact that there was this totally undisturbed area? When we asked that question in the meeting the answer came back “In certain instances, yes, and in certain instances, no”.
What the people of Revelstoke, Kootenay—Columbia and all Canadians who understand these issues want to know is how are we making these judgments, on what basis are we making these judgments and have we taken into account all the impacts.
I also want to speak very forcefully in support of the responsible use of the environment and the species by hunters. I will read something into the record. It says:
If you were to believe the rhetoric of many of the so-called modern environmentalists, hunters are an anachronism.
We are told that wildlife populations are declining while the callous, uncaring hunter goes afield intent only on the kill, giving no thought to the future of the resource.
A newly released survey from Wildlife Habitat Canada puts the lie to this carefully nurtured image.
The survey reveals that over a 15-year period hunters have directly contributed more than $335 million to habitat conservation projects in Canada. While that figure is impressive by itself, the study notes that this does not include the hunter support given to national groups such as Ducks Unlimited Canada and the Nature Conservancy of Canada. It does not include the $600 million in license fees collected from hunters over the same period, nor does it include the $600 million that hunters invest in the Canadian economy each year on equipment, travel, lodging and other related expenses. It is also important to note that these figures do not include the equally significant contributions that anglers have made to the resource.
In British Columbia alone, hunters have, over that 15-year period, invested over $106 million dollars and almost 2.5 million hours of volunteer work toward wildlife habitat conservation.
An impressive record for a group of citizens who are often portrayed by the popular media as a group of uncouth rednecks, blazing away at anything that moves and generally desecrating the environment.
I must speak up on behalf of the people in my constituency, not just the hunters but the people who, like myself, choose to live in the area because we have such a tremendous amount of respect for the environment, the ecology and the species. We must be heard and be part of the process.
When we come forward with this species at risk act, if indeed it is the will of the House for us to come forward with this act, we must take into account all the issues I have brought forward today, and the many more to come, to see that we create a proper balance and that we have an understanding of what that balance should be.
I and many of my colleagues who represent people like the citizens in my constituency will be standing up for them.
Species At Risk Act
Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-33, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada.
My interest in this bill is twofold: first, a concern for the environment and, second, a concern for the effectiveness of this legislation. I am also concerned about how the federal government wants to get involved in areas of provincial jurisdiction and about the centralization process proposed by the federal government in that area instead of achieving true co-operation and signing parallel agreements with the provinces based on what is being done in each of them. As we can see once again with this issue, the federal government has no desire to take into account the particular situation of the provinces.
It is important to realize that biodiversity as a whole is the result of an evolution process that has been taking place on earth for over 4.5 billion years. That process has created a large number of living organisms and natural environments, and it is important to protect them to ensure a balance on our planet.
These organisms make up the ecosystems that we know. They all play a role in the food chain and in maintaining our planet's biological balance. However, in recent years, scientists have been telling us that certain species are increasingly at risk of becoming extinct, and that there is an increase in the number of endangered species or species that are at great risk.
Let me describe the present status. There are 340 species at risk in Canada, 15 are extirpated, 87 are endangered, 75 are threatened, 151 are vulnerable and of the 97 whose status is being reassessed, 27 will be closer to becoming extinct in the coming years. The situation is alarming and we must immediately look at what Bill C-33 will realistically allow us to do.
Given the increasing rate of extinction of some species, as I just mentioned, I admit that we are facing a serious problem. The Bloc Quebecois is showing its concern by having several members speak out against Bill C-33. It is imperative that we react quickly but effectively.
Before reacting, though, some questions must be asked. The Minister of the Environment is telling us that the bill cannot be amended. What utter contempt for the committee that will be struck to study Bill C-33. What utter contempt for the opposition. Today, all the opposition parties have taken a stand against this bill; they want some regional issues to be dealt with. Environmental groups are opposed to this bill and they want some specific changes. The Minister of the Environment is ignoring all these objections, as well as those made by industries with daily activities which impact directly or indirectly on the environment.
Some basic questions must be answered. Will Bill C-33 result in better protection and can it really be enforced? Will the bill really help to increase the protection of our ecosystems and of their endangered species? These are the first questions to be asked. For me and for a number of representatives of various sectors affected by this serious issue concerning the survival of endangered species, the answer is no. This is what the Bloc Quebecois, through its objections, wants to say to the government.
The principle of a better protection for endangered species is a principle the Bloc Quebecois can readily endorse, contrary to what the government party would have us believe. Incidentally, government members are quite silent today about Bill C-33.
We are not convinced that Bill C-33 will protect endangered species any better. We are just not sure. Indeed, we oppose this bill because it is a direct intrusion in many areas under the jurisdiction of Quebec and other provinces, instead of an effort to have a true dialogue with the provinces and true respect for what is being done in the provinces.
In fact, it duplicates Quebec legislation that has been in force since 1989, legislation that works just fine and has had a significant impact in Quebec. One again, this bill is granting the federal government excessive powers at the expense of Quebec.
Although the preamble of the bill indicates that the protection of species is a shared responsibility, everything leads us to believe that the minister has the power to impose his vision and the vision of cabinet when he deems appropriate. The minister is also putting himself in a vulnerable position.
We are very well aware that there are various lobbies around whose job it is to represent the interests of certain companies whose actions might pose a threat to certain endangered species. Cabinet and the minister are there to decide whether or not the legislation should be enforced. It is very dangerous.
In other words, its legislation would automatically take precedence over existing provincial legislation, even when habitats are entirely under provincial jurisdiction. We know that such an approach is unacceptable and will do nothing to promote the much desired balance in protecting our threatened species.
Clause 10 says that the minister may enter into an agreement with respect to the administration of any provision of the Act.
More specifically, clause 34(2) under general prohibitions, clearly states:
(2) The Governor in Council may, on the recommendation of the Minister, by order, provide that sections 32 and 33 apply in lands in a province that are not federal lands—
This is where the Bloc Quebecois does not agree. As if that were not enough, clause 34(3) states that:
(3) The Minister must recommend that the order be made if the Minister is of the opinion that the laws of the province do not protect the species.
So cabinet will influence the minister. By extension, the minister and his office may be heavily influenced by various companies that dump chemicals into waterways and lakes. We are therefore unable to support this bill.
We can see how the party in power really operates in this legislation to protect endangered species. We know that it got a D minus and yet it wants to tell the provinces what to do. What a joke.
The government fails to get a passing grade when it comes to protecting endangered species but it wants to tell others what to do, just like the Prime Minister offering advice on poverty at international conferences. His own government, for the last seven years, has torn away the social safety net, has axed the employment insurance program and denied the provinces the amounts they need for social housing, and these are but a few of the measures it has taken. If I were to mention every way in which the federal government has backed out of social programs, the list could be very long. Here we have a government that is trying to teach us a lesson when it is in no position to do so.
That is exactly the purpose of Bill C-33: the government is trying to tell provinces what to do. Some provinces definitely have nothing to learn from the federal government, as they could be leaders and show the federal government how to be more effective on its own lands.
The Minister of the Environment is absolutely inflexible: He will not entertain any amendments to Bill C-33. That is what he said. We know that the pulp and paper industry, some environmental groups, the opposition here today and even some members of the Liberal Party of Canada have told the minister that this bill will bring no real solution without major amendments: They have even said that this bill is seriously flawed.
Two members of the Liberal Party of Canada have also said that this measure disregards a list of 333 species identified by a committee struck in 1978.
So the government wants to give lessons without knowing how the provinces have enforced certain provisions of their own legislation on endangered species.
Species At Risk Act
Lee Morrison Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK
Mr. Speaker, I notice that members opposite seem to be a bit embarrassed about this bill because the Liberals are making no attempt in the House to defend it. I am not really surprised that they do not want to be associated with their handiwork in a public way.
The enforcement and penalties provisions of the bill epitomize the contempt the government has for due process and individual rights. Why does the government always have to use the big sledgehammer to come forward with legislation which, we must admit, has a wonderful intent? I am sure its intentions are fine. I agree with them but not with the means. With what the government is proposing to do and the jeopardy it will place rural people in, our farmers, ranchers and woodlot owners will have to live with draconian legislation which contains provisions contrary to every historical piece of jurisprudence that I can find, and certainly contrary to the spirit of common law.
Why do I say that? Provisions in the legislation for searches without warrants of any building other than a dwelling house are almost word for word the same as in the notorious firearms legislation, Bill C-68. Even the condition that a warrant to search a dwelling may be obtained merely on the basis that there are reasonable grounds for believing that entry will be otherwise refused are incorporated in this bill. This bill also copies the provisions in Bill C-68 that make it a criminal offence to fail to assist an officer searching one's property or to withhold self-incriminating information.
Clauses 86 to 91 must have been written and compiled by the same folks who wrote the firearms legislation because paragraph after paragraph in the enforcement section are absolutely identical in wording to the other bill. This is not a coincidence.
We say that this bill is to protect endangered species. I think it is here to protect a predatory species, namely the lawyers who have written it for lawyers. Lawyers will become fantastically wealthy trying to defend innocent landowners against the provisions of this insane legislation.
Not only are the provisions for search and seizure and all those good things totally contrary to the spirit of Canadian law, but the prescribed penalties for killing, molesting or trafficking in endangered species will be extraordinarily severe. This is a country noted for leniency for most criminal sanctions, but with this legislation an individual may be fined up to $250,000 and/or imprisoned for up to five years, even if he does not deliberately commit the offence. Even if it is through negligence or accident, these penalties are available.
The same penalties are available for “destroying the nest or den of an endangered creature” again even through negligence. A person who accidentally runs over the nest of a bird which is supposedly endangered could be in trouble.
If I go out on my ranch, which incidentally teems with game, to check my cattle and I accidentally run over a species of plant which is deemed to be endangered, or even if my saddle horse steps on such a plant, under the terms of this legislation I can be charged. I can be charged not for some statutory offence, but with a crime. Why does the government want to make criminals of ordinary citizens every time they turn around?
The implications of the legislation for farmers are really alarming. Equally alarming to the possibility that one might accidentally destroy a nest or den is the provision that the penalties I have been quoting can be applied to anyone who destroys any part of the deemed critical habitat of an endangered species. There does not even have to be any endangered species present for this law to come into full force.
I would ask the indulgence of the House to read from an analysis of the bill which was prepared by Mr. David Pope, a prominent Calgary attorney who, as I do, cherishes civil liberty and the common law. Here is what Mr. Pope has to say:
The offences and penalties for actions against plants, animals and organisms that are deemed species at risk and the lands which make up their habitat are unlike any found in Canadian criminal law. These are not offences of murder, arson, theft or rape but are for harming or harassing a plant, animal or organism or destroying a portion of its habitat.
Mr. Pope then describes the listed environmental crimes as “strict liability offences”. That is to say that an accuser need only say that the offence was committed and the person accused must then prove that he did not do it. This is called, in legal terms, reverse onus. It is almost never used in criminal law. In the past it has been virtually unheard of, and the test for conviction is much less than the usual standard of the criminal law. This is a dangerous change, especially when one realizes that it is aimed directly at ranchers and farmers who are usually not seen as criminals in Canadian society.
The competent minister has authority to appoint eco-police who have the same powers as a peace officer but no training. These eco-police only have to justify themselves to the minister.
Finally, since I see my time has nearly elapsed, there is a provision in Bill C-33 for anyone 18 years or older and resident of Canada to start an investigation against a rancher or farmer for any of the offences that we have been mentioning. Any special interest group or anyone with a grudge against a particular farmer may launch such a prosecution and can do so in complete anonymity.
As a matter of fact, the act states that the minister may not release the name of the plaintiff. Anyone else in a criminal court in Canada is allowed to face his or her accuser. Even murderers have that right, but someone who may have accidentally or negligently damaged an endangered species habitat does not have that right. He or she cannot bring an accuser into open court face to face.
I do not know how the bill can be fixed in its present state. We would have to eliminate so many sections to bring the enforcement and penalty provisions into line with Canadian custom and other Canadian law that we would virtually gut the bill. I would respectfully suggest that that is what should happen. Perhaps that is why government members are not defending the bill. Maybe that is their intent. I pray that it is.
Let us go back to the drawing board. Let us get it right. Let us protect endangered species without beating up on our own citizens.
Species At Risk Act
Jean-Paul Marchand Québec East, QC
Mr. Speaker. it is with pleasure that I rise today to speak to a bill as significant as this one.
This bill does not deal with the issue of endangered species such as the members of the Progressive Conservative Party or the NDP. As a matter of fact, it deals with endangered wildlife species, an issue that is extremely important.
Today, we are debating Bill C-33. This is a very significant bill. Its content and purpose meet a desperate need. As hon. members are aware, there are some 340 wildlife species at risk in Canada. A number of these species are already extinct. Others are in a rather critical state. There are 87 species that are considered endangered, while 75 are threatened and 151 are vulnerable, for a total of some 340 wildlife species at risk in Canada.
We know that this is an important issue not only in Canada, but also all over the world. There were several conferences, including the 1992 Rio Summit, which brought together representatives from different countries who looked into the issue of endangered species.
Environmental pollution, combined with all the issues related to water and atmospheric pollution, plays a role in the extinction of animal species. We ought to make every effort to ensure their preservation. That is why there was a summit in Rio in 1992 and why Canada signed the convention on biological diversity.
In fact, that is what prompted Canada, in 1996, to hold a conference to reach an agreement on the environment with the provinces. This was the agreement on the protection of endangered species, which led to the introduction, by the Minister of the Environment, of Bill C-65, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species in Canada from extirpation or extinction.
This legislation formed the basis of the bill we are examining today, Bill C-33. It is more or less the same bill with a few changes. In fact, this is the first time that the federal government has tried to pass legislation to address the issue of endangered species.
This is the government's first bill, but it completely misses the mark. We even wonder why the federal government introduced such unclear legislation which has drawn so much criticism from all sides.
Even when the former version of the bill, Bill C-65—and the federal government was aware at the time of criticism that the bill was inadequate—was introduced, opposition to it came from all of the provinces, not only from Quebec, but also from Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. Everyone in fact was opposed to the principle that seems to be reincarnated in Bill C-33, namely the lack of harmonization with the provinces.
The bill represented an approach that did not respect provincial jurisdictions and lacked harmonization between federal and provincial jurisdictions. We do know that the federal government has powers in this area, it has legislated this area, but so have the provinces. The provinces have the tools to better protect the habitats of endangered species.
The federal government does have some degree of jurisdiction, but the ideal would be of course to have some degree of harmonization between both levels of government. However, once again the federal government seems unable, even when it would be very important to do so, to agree with the provinces. Quebec is not the only province to criticize the approach of the federal government under Bill C-33. One must wonder whether it is not always trying to create federal-provincial conflicts, as illustrated by this piece of legislation.
There is a fair amount of opposition to this bill. Without referring to all the clauses—there are 141 of them dealing with various definitions—I can say there are two major issues that bother us, and that bother all the opposition parties, all the environmental groups and even some Liberal members. The federal government wants too much power to enforce this law, and this puts into question the effectiveness of the law and may even threaten wildlife species at risk.
The federal government wants to impose its vision, a vision which, once again, does not respect provincial jurisdiction and which seems to imply that the federal law will take precedence over provincial jurisdiction.
The government is off to a bad start, obviously, because a law cannot be effective when it is creates a problem in federal-provincial relations. It is obvious that the government is not at all on the right track. This is not a political matter. It is a matter of responding to a need other countries have been aware of for years. Time is of the essence. The more we wait before enforcing such legislation, the more endangered species will vanish. That is the problem.
Once again, in this bill, the federal government does not respect provincial jurisdiction, is seeking too much discretionary power and even, which is totally absurd, wants to let cabinet rather than experts, people who know this field, determine which species are endangered. It is totally crazy to play politics with a bill that deals with very scientific data.
It is good to involve people who are familiar with the situation. People who are in the know about environmental issues and the protection of endangered species are opposed to this bill. All, or very nearly all, environmental groups are totally opposed, because it is ineffective. It is useless, even dangerous, they say. It is dangerous in the sense that it does not respond to the need to effectively protect endangered species because instead of protecting them it creates a federal-provincial conflict once again.
Even stakeholders such as the pulp and paper industry and the mining association are opposed to this bill as well. Imagine, there are even Liberals on the government side who have examined this bill, and not just any old Liberals. The member for York North, for instance, was one of them. On June 12, 2000, she said “We will do nothing to protect species at risk unless this bill leaves committee as a good, effective piece of legislation”. However, the minister has already said he had no intention of making changes to the bill.
The hon. member for York North, who is incidentally very involved in environmental issues, also said “The House must support legislation that is strong, fair, effective and makes biological sense. Unfortunately Bill C-33 is wanting”. These are the words of the member for York North.
That same day, June 12, the member for Lac-Saint-Louis who, in another life, served as Quebec's minister of the environment under Premier Bourassa, said “Instead of being recognized as being the final list produced by scientists of the highest repute who have worked tirelessly over the last two decades, the list will now be subject to the discretion of cabinet”. What business does cabinet have interfering in these decisions, which must obviously be based on scientific experience? It is only common sense that the experience required should be scientific in nature.
The member for Lac-Saint-Louis went on to say “I find that terribly ironic—We are not even starting with the roll of the list of the 339 species identified.”
That is a glaring fault in the law. Without a list, there can be no protection against this approach, which was why the Sierra Club said that, if the bill were passed, it would be an international embarrassment to Canada. I would also point out that all the opposition parties are opposed to the bill, as well as the government of Quebec obviously. Once again, we feel there is duplication and interference. The federal government does not seem to know where its jurisdiction ends. This bill must be killed.
Species At Risk Act
Leon Benoit Lakeland, AB
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be speaking to this bill today. I agree with many of the comments made by my Bloc colleague, particularly in the area of interference on the part of the federal government in areas of provincial jurisdiction. We share a lot of those concerns in that area. The government quite frankly does not respect provincial jurisdiction as is set out in our constitution. That is very unfortunate because it is not particularly productive.
We are talking about protecting species at risk. I know that I and the people in my constituency certainly take that seriously. I know my colleagues in the Canadian Alliance also take this issue seriously. We are concerned about protecting species at risk. The approach the government has taken will not do that. It will not be effective in any way in protecting species at risk because instead of using a co-operative approach, instead of ensuring that there will be fair compensation for any loss of property or loss of use of property, the government has taken a heavy-handed approach with large penalties and fines and large potential jail sentences for those who do not act in the way that it lays out in the legislation. It has used a big stick rather than a true co-operative approach which would by far be the most productive approach.
I could cite dozens of examples from around the world, including here in Canada and in the United States, where a co-operative approach has been extremely successful in protecting a species which a particular group has decided should be protected. It has been proven to be effective.
United States endangered species legislation has proved that this heavy-handed intrusive approach with large penalties does not work. It does not work because people who may find they have a species at risk on their property or on property that they are using will not report that and will not work with government in protecting those species because of the fear of losing their property or losing the right to enjoy it or losing income from it.
I have been here seven years and this is the government's third attempt to put forth legislation. In spite of the fact that it failed twice before to put forth legislation to protect species at risk, it has taken the same approach again, a failed approach and an approach which does not work.
I want to talk a little about my background and where I am coming from in terms of my most urgent concerns with this legislation. In my constituency of Lakeland, in east central Alberta, there are many farms. It is a rural constituency. Also, there is an oil and gas industry which is a resource industry that is very concerned about this particular legislation as well.
I grew up on a mixed farm by Lloydminster. I bought a farm in 1974. I took agriculture at university. I have a bachelor of science in agriculture degree. I bought a farm with 100% financing, so I know what it is like to try to make a living on a farm. I know it is extremely difficult. I know there were years when I wondered whether I was going to make it another year.
I also worked as a farm economist and a business management consultant with farmers, first seasonally and then even on a full time basis as I farmed to help support this farm. Too often I was at a kitchen table where the children and their mother were in tears and where the father was there with a vacant look in his eyes because they knew they were about to lose the family farm. Too often I was at the kitchen table in situations like that.
I made a promise to myself at that time that it would be my mission to make sure that things improve for farmers so that it did not have to be like that any more. It is still my mission today.
I am not going to stand by and allow a piece of legislation which takes a heavy-handed approach which will cause farmers should it go ahead to lose their farms when otherwise they would not and one which will cause a loss of income to farmers which they cannot afford. I am not going to stand by and allow that to happen because I came here to fight on behalf of farmers and others against legislation such as this. We all want legislation which will work to protect species at risk. This bill will not. It will make things worse.
Farmers have proven over the years that if we co-operate and work with them, they will do everything they can to protect species at risk. They have done that and proven it. This legislation is going in the wrong direction.
Farmers have told me privately that if this legislation goes through what it will lead to. If they should identify a species at risk understanding that they could lose their property without compensation or should they lose the income from a part of their land which has been designated as the habitat for a species at risk, knowing that could happen, they are not going to want to be particularly co-operative. There is no guarantee of compensation and there is certainly no guarantee of compensation at market value.
In fact, it will be counterproductive and will lead to them ignoring that species at risk or worse. It will be a negative thing and that is not what we are looking for. The legislation simply is not productive. It is not a positive way of dealing with this problem. It has failed twice before because of that and now the government is introducing the same type of legislation again. It will fail again and that is not what we want.
I talked about farmers and those in the resource industries who will be impacted by this legislation should it pass as it is. I would like the environment minister to explain the situation to his friends. They may have cottages or may have finally, after years of work, managed to build the house they want on a shore someplace in an ideal spot. They have worked their lifetime to finally achieve this and they value it so greatly. What would happen if a species identified at risk was an found on their land? I want the minister to explain to those people whom he does not know what would happen if a species at risk was found on the land around their cottages or on some other property they own or use to earn a living. I would like the minister to explain to them what would happen in terms of compensation.
This minister has refused, despite being asked so many times, that should that situation arise, should that property be confiscated or should the use of that property be limited as a means to protect a species at risk, to guarantee that there will be compensation at fair market value.
The message has come across very clearly that there will not be compensation at fair market value. I want him to explain to his friends when they lose their cottages or lose the right to enjoy it or lose their property or the right to use it for the purpose of their business, why he thinks they should lose that right and lose their property without at least a guarantee of compensation at fair market value. Yet no such guarantee has been forthcoming. In fact, the message is very clear that there will not be compensation at fair market value.
In a vague way, the legislation talks about the possibility for compensation. It does not say there will be compensation and nowhere does it guarantee that there will be compensation at fair market value.
What I want put into this legislation, not in regulation, before it ever passes this House, is a clause which guarantees, in an ironclad way, that should anyone lose property or lose the right to enjoyment of property or to income from property as a result of a plan to protect species at risk, that they will be compensated at fair market value. Along with some other changes that will help lead to a co-operative approach to dealing with the problem. Under that kind of situation, we can protect and will protect species at risk in a meaningful way.
Species At Risk Act
Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to add some comments to this bill which is important and timely. There are few people in the country and in the Chamber who would not have a soft spot in their hearts for species at risk in this country.
This particular bill aims at its very root to prevent wild species in Canada from becoming extinct or lost from the wild and to in many ways move towards securing their recovery in their natural habitat.
A small background to this bill, in 1992 the former Progressive Conservative government signed what was then and went on to become the first industrial country to ratify the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. That convention included in its body the commitment for legislation and/or regulatory provisions for the protection of threatened and endangered species. It was certainly a worthwhile cause then and is equally so today.
In 1996 the Liberal government introduced legislation to fulfil the commitment made earlier by the Progressive Conservative government. That commitment came about through Bill C-65, the Canadian Endangered Species Protection Act. That bill was roundly criticized by environmentalists, scientists and landowners at the time. Sadly, because of parliament recessing, it died on the order paper at the House committee stage.
Bill C-33 is modified and renamed from Bill C-65. It represents the second legislative attempt by the government to fulfil Canada's commitment that was made earlier. According to the government, Bill C-33 is intended to complete and complement existing provincial and territorial legislation on endangered species. It would also fulfil the federal government's commitment under the federal-provincial accord for the protection of species at risk, signed in 1996.
The substance of the bill calls for protection of various species that are named and identified as being at risk of extinction. It prohibits the killing, harming, harassing, capturing or taking of species officially listed on a document. That list is there to signify those species in Canada that are endangered or threatened with the destruction of their own being or of their residence.
The species at risk legislation provides for emergency authority to list types of species and to take action to prohibit the destruction of critical habitat for those listed species and those that are identified as in some imminent danger. It will also provide for the recovery, the strategy and the action to identify the critical habitat of threatened or endangered species.
Obviously there is a need for a holistic approach that will identify the species being threatened. It goes hand in hand to say that we have to identify where they live in a strategy to prevent further harm and to preserve and complement their recovery.
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada is given legal status under this act. It will continue to operate at arm's length from the government. It will assess and classify the status of wildlife species. There is a great deal of ability for outside participation beyond simple government control. These assessments will be published and will be brought about in the form of a basis for the minister's recommendations to cabinet on the list of wildlife species at risk.
From the Progressive Conservative Party's perspective this is where the bill falls down to a large degree. The final determination as to what species will appear on the list is still very much entirely in the hands of cabinet. It is entirely at its discretion. That is fine in some areas, but in this instance it is specialized and in need of particular input from non-governmental bodies outside government to make this determination. Yet the government has retained exclusive control over this list and the determination of this list.
I will refer to who comprises the working group that is very much opposed to the government's preservation and exclusive jurisdiction over this decision. It includes the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association, the Mining Association of Canada, the Sierra Club of Canada, the Canadian Nature Federation and the Canadian Wildlife Federation.
Their position is that they are in much better position to determine which species should or should not appear on that list. They feel that by cabinet retaining control over this exclusive decision it very much remains a political issue when it should not be such. It should very much be based on science, on tangible evidence that can be documented and put forward to determine whether species fit into the specialized category of being on the verge of extinction.
The mining and pulp and paper industries and environmentalists are often at odds with one another. Some would go so far to say they are often at each other's throats. If they can come to an agreement and a consensus that they can work together to make the list viable, it is in the country's interest and very much something the government should defer to this group.
It is almost trite to say that the Progressive Conservative Party recognizes that extinction is forever. There is no turning back when a species has been eliminated from the planet. As such, we believe that all Canadians very much support strong legislation that will preserve a species and in some cases will take very drastic measures to ensure the preservation of a species.
The status that has been given or would be designated is something that is a matter of scientific fact and not political choice. This is the reason the Progressive Conservative Party believes that to be effective the legislation has to take action based upon science and based upon evidence. This is not something that is political or partisan. This is an issue of utmost importance. It has to be placed in the hands of those best able to make the determination of what species may be at risk.
We are also committed to protecting the rights of landowners and users who believe that no single individual or entity should bear the burden of recovery when the benefits of a species' protection for all society are to be appreciated. There are occasions when the natural habitat of a certain species may be very much in the hands of a private landowner. There has to be some accommodation and perhaps some compensation involved when the government steps in and makes a determination that everything in its power has to be done to preserve the species and to ensure that their habitats are safe.
This is why we as a party believe the bulk of the decision should be left to the stakeholders when designing this recovery plan and not to cabinet. The party also recognizes that if an endangered species is found in a given area, landowners must be doing something right and should in some instances be given the tools to continue doing so or in some instances to make that environment right.
We agree, support and recognize that many volunteers and voluntary measures have fully endorsed the stewardship as a means of providing protection for species in their critical habitat. We endorse a graduated approach to the stewardship and a full tool kit of materials designed to engage the stakeholders positively in the process. There must be an ongoing process of examination of factors such as examination of the habitat of the species and monitoring of the numbers of a certain species.
Once again it is obvious that this will be based upon scientific evidence that can be gathered in the field by those who have very specialized training in some instances. It is very obvious to me, and I suspect to all, that persons have spent virtually their entire lives studying certain species. I know that this is true in the maritime provinces of certain species of fish. I suspect it is true all over the world that individuals have made a very clear and very strong commitment to the preservation of some of our most natural and beautiful species on the planet.
The Conservative Party believes that simply making criminals out of landowners will not save endangered species. We have to include the stakeholders, scientists, landowners and governments in a role of enforcement. We cannot leave this decision simply in the hands of political masters.
This is one instance where it should be taken out of the political realm and based solely on science and individuals who have the know-how, the appreciation and the understanding of the status of species that may be literally on the verge of extinction from the planet.
These are four components of the bill, but there are certainly problems and areas in which there could be improvement. I hope and certainly expect that we may hear from the minister on the issue in the very near future.
One contentious element has been the minister's intransigence and unwillingness to yield on this point. He has said publicly that under his stewardship there would be no amendments to the legislation, that it would be an all or nothing approach. Early indications now are that he is recanting that position. We look forward to working with him at the committee stage and improving this important bill.
Species At Risk Act
Paul Mercier Terrebonne—Blainville, QC
Mr. Speaker, despite the fact that the preamble to the bill states that responsibility is shared between the two orders of government in matters of species protection, the bill is not drafted in these terms. It does not reflect the reality, namely that habitat protection essentially concerns the provinces.
Indeed, this legislation would automatically take precedence over existing provincial legislation even when habitats are entirely under provincial jurisdiction.
An example. Clause 34 provides clearly that “The Governor in Council may, on the recommendation of the minister, by order, provide that certain sections apply to lands in a province that are not federal lands”. In addition, the minister must recommend that the order be made if he is of the opinion that the laws of the province do not protect the species. Of course, the bill provides as well that the minister does not recommend that the governor in council make an order until he has consulted the appropriate provincial minister. Nevertheless, only the word consultation is used.
Here is another example. The choice of terms with respect to recovery strategies is also of some concern as it applies to the jurisdiction of the provinces in the matter. Indeed clause 39 provides that the competent minister will prepare the recovery strategy with the appropriate provincial minister to the extent possible.
The same applies to action plans, in which case again, it is provided that co-operation will be to the extent possible. More particularly, the entire section on protecting the critical habitat allows the government to develop codes of practice and impose national standards or guidelines, when the federal government has no legal authority over most of the lands concerned and no power over the management of the resources in these areas.
This bill encroaches squarely on the jurisdiction of the provinces and excludes their making any real and direct contribution in the process. Existing laws are ignored.
This is just the way it is with so many other recent laws and will be the same with future ones, we have no doubt. This law does not respect provincial jurisdictions.
Another point needs to be raised. Most environmental groups are opposed to the bill introduced by the Minister of the Environment, even though these groups should be the minister's allies.
Most stakeholders feel that the proposed legislation does not go far enough. Even organizations representing the industry think that this bill will not provide greater protection for species and will not help them determine what they should to protect species living on the sites of their operations.
But the main problem raised by environmental groups has more to do with the fact that the decisions concerning the designation of species will be made by the minister and by cabinet, rather than by scientists.
A lawyer from the Sierra Club strongly condemns such an approach. She condemns the fact that such discretionary power about the designation of species is given to politicians, not to scientists. The minister is being criticized for resorting to a piecemeal approach dictated by cabinet, instead of a global approach supported by compelling legal measures if an agreement cannot be reached.
What is the position of the government of Quebec, which is directly concerned, on Bill C-33? As soon as the federal Minister of the Environment introduced his bill, his Quebec counterpart, Paul Bégin, said that the proposed legislation was just another example of useless duplication for Quebec. Indeed, the Quebec minister indicated that Bill C-33 sought not only to create a safety net for endangered species and their habitat on federal lands, but also on lands all over Quebec, regardless of whether the lands are under federal jurisdiction or not.
Although it is a federal responsibility to pass legislation to protect migratory species, the federal government has no constitutional power over habitat management in provincial territory. Obviously, as far as Quebec is concerned, there is no question of the federal government invading areas of jurisdiction that do not belong to it and dictating what approach is to be used to protect Quebec ecosystems when Quebec already has legislation aimed at protecting endangered species and their habitat.
The government of Quebec believes in fact that legislation such as that proposed by Bill C-33 might be acceptable if it were to exclude any species or habitat under provincial jurisdiction and were applied to provincial territory if, and only if, the province or territory were to specifically request it.
The government of Quebec passed its own legislation on this in the late 1980s. In fact, Bill C-33 represents a direct overlap with Quebec legislation which has been in place since 1989 and is working well, with conclusive results already evident.
This bill therefore represents a risk of creating more red tape instead of making it possible for limited resources to be properly channelled into the right things. The government of Quebec already has legislation in the areas addressed by Bill C-33.
While we recognize that the environment is a shared responsibility, it is becoming increasingly clear to us that the federal government is ignoring this fact, flying completely in the face of genuine environmental harmonization between the various levels of government. It is introducing legislation in an area which is outside its jurisdiction and liable to again bring about unnecessary duplication in areas which are already handled by the provinces and which affect their lands and resources.
What the federal government calls a double safety net, for example, two levels of government operating in the same area of jurisdiction, in fact waters down the accountability of both and needlessly complicates the assignment of responsibilities.
There is nothing new under the sun in Ottawa. With its arrogance, incompetence, and scorn for provincial jurisdiction, Bill C-33 is typical of traditional Liberal policy. But let us be fair. Whales, a protected species, seem to be beyond the reach of those whom Ottawa claims come under its exclusive jurisdiction, provincial jurisdiction notwithstanding. This was an oversight I am sure. Henceforth, I suppose that whales will sport a maple leaf. The oversight has been corrected.
I need hardly point out that our party will be voting against this bill, with its fresh demonstration of this government's incompetence and arrogance. Only sovereignty can save us from the mess of Canada's federal system.
Species At Risk Act
Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK
Mr. Speaker, the world series is approaching and the government has thrown the third ball. It is the third time it has tried legislation like this and it is the third time it will strike out.
I believe the government has deliberately designed the bill to promote confrontation. Nobody in his or her right mind would design a bill that confronts the people in my constituency and in the constituency of the hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands, who did an excellent job of making this presentation. The bill is as ill-fated as the two former attempts. It will bring about the same animosity among innocent people as did Bill C-68, I can ensure hon. members of that.
Canadians from coast to coast agree that it is important to protect our wildlife. Canadians are enraged when people overfish. They are enraged when animals are hunted out of season. They are enraged when animals are hunted at night. Canadians aim for conservation. These same Canadians are delighted to work with any government to protect endangered species. This agreement must not come from the top down as this legislation has.
This bill will make criminals out of people who are completely innocent. Within my constituency there are huge areas of ranch land. I suspect that without the knowledge of the person who has running cattle on that land, there could well be endangered plant species. If by chance that same rancher puts up a new fence and unknowingly drills through one of the endangered plant species, he is automatically a criminal. That is the way the bill is written.
Contrary to most laws, although the individual knows nothing about the offence, he has to attempt to prove himself innocent. This is not like ordinary law where all people are innocent until proven guilty. The fines are so outrageously heavy that if they were enacted, the individual would not only have to sell his entire herd, but he would have to sell his ranch as well.
Because a lunatic went mad and shot some girls at École Polytechnique, the government overreacted and brought in Bill C-68. To this day it has had no value to anyone except to make criminals out of a lot of duck hunters across Canada. It has not solved one crime. However, some innocent young fellows were denied the right to have FACs for their rifles because their divorced wives said they were dangerous people. The government brags about taking the guns away from these nasty people who have never even had a traffic offence in their lifetime.
This legislation is going to fail. The legislation will use the government's criminal law powers on innocent people. I wish all Canadians would listen to the fear expressed by some environmentalists who probably have never seen one of those plants. This small group has encouraged the minister to bring this bill in. Where did the minister choose to announce the legislation? He made the announcement not in the prairies, not in a city, not when parliament was sitting, but in the new territory of Nunavut during the summer.
The last time the bill came before the House, Dan Gardner, who is on the Ottawa Citizen editorial board, wrote “Any government that is serious about saving endangered species has to compensate landowners for economic losses. To do otherwise is to pit people against animals and when that happens animals lose every time”.
I would like everyone who is concerned about this to recognize that if the bill is passed, co-operation is gone. If the government takes the bill back and consults with people who will be affected by the bill, it will get wholehearted co-operation.
Right now the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, in facing confrontation, is preaching co-operation. This bill does not co-operate. No farmer, no rancher, no farm organization, no cattle organization to my knowledge were ever approached by the government before it brought in this legislation. As a result of that, it is going to fail.
In an area not too far from where I live ground owls are nesting. The farmer took down the endangered species sign because he knew this bill was coming and he would ultimately lose that property. That is not co-operation; that is dictatorship.
I plead with the government to not pass this bill. No amount of amendments will make the bill palatable. Read the bill and see what powers it gives to the government. It could destroy people's lives overnight. Property could be seized overnight.
I beg hon. members, backbenchers and all, to read the bill and then have the guts to stand in the House and vote against it for the sake of humanity and for the sake of the people in agriculture and for the sake of all people who could innocently be incarcerated because of the bill. Am I being extreme? Not at all. I urge members to read the bill themselves.
When this bill comes for a vote, I pretty well know that a good number of the members opposite will probably be whipped into shape, forcing them to vote for the bill. In talking to many of them, I know they do not agree with the bill.
For the sake of our livelihood, for the sake of our country, for the sake of wildlife, let us take aim at conservation. This bill takes aim at confrontation and that is why it is doomed to fail.
Species At Risk Act
Maurice Dumas Argenteuil—Papineau, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today at second reading of Bill C-33, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada.
Before I start my remarks, I would like to mention that the International Fund for Animal Welfare held a precursory event when this bill was introduced in the House.
They allowed MPs to officially adopt an endangered species. Dr. Rick Smith, the Canadian director of the international fund for animal and plant welfare, gave each MP a certificate on an endangered species and an information booklet on its habitat and the dangers threatening its survival.
He told members about the following survey: a Pollar survey conducted in May of 1999 confirmed that 97% of Canadians believed that laws to protect endangered species are important. In addition, 85% felt that Canada's legislation should be the most rigorous and complete in the world. The survey results were consistent across Canada.
I myself received an adoption certificate making me responsible for protecting the Anticosti aster, a species whose survival and recovery depend on global and stringent legislation on the protection of species at risk. The Anticosti aster is one of the 313 Canadian species in danger of disappearing.
I would point out that two of our eminent colleagues from the other side of the House adopted well known mammals: the beluga and the blue beluga. For the two of them, the war of the belugas would obviously not have happened. The members have only to consult their list.
Biodiversity as a whole is the result of the evolution of the earth over close to 4.5 billion years.
It is to be noted that the secretariat of the convention on biological diversity has had its head office in Montreal since November 1995. The decision was made at the second conference of the parties, held in Jakarta.
The secretariat follows up on the decisions made regarding the protection of biological diversity when the convention was signed. By signing the convention, the nations of the world pledge to preserve the biological diversity of our planet, to use biological resources in a sustainable way and to share genetic resources fairly.
Starting in the 1970s, international conventions were signed to restrict the trade of certain species and to limit the trade of those threatened with extinction or that are highly vulnerable.
In recent years, scientists have been telling 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 UN report on biodiversity mentions several factors explaining the decline in biodiversity. One of these factors is the increase in population and economic development which, in their own way, contribute to the depletion of biological resources.
The increase in human migration, travel and international trade is also a threat to biodiversity, as is the increase in pollution.
It should be noted that the government has already introduced Bill C-65, an act respecting the protection of species at risk in Canada which died on the order paper.
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.
It is estimated that close to 70,000 known species have their habitat in Canada, many of which are found only in Canada. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, or COSEWIC, has designated 340 wildlife species as at risk in Canada.
This organization, established in 1978, is composed of representatives from every government agency, province and territory, as well as four national conservation agencies. It is the main player in the protection of species and it is responsible for establishing an index of the endangered species in Canada.
As well, through clause 36, the bill forces the provinces who identify some species as threatened species not listed as endangered species by COSEWIC to apply the same restrictions to their own species as those imposed on designated species.
By doing so, the federal government is assuming the right to impose its own way of protecting species. By giving discretionary powers to the Minister of the Environment, the bill does not respect the division of powers as stated in the Constitution.
Bill C-33 interferes in an area under provincial jurisdiction and excludes the provinces from any real and direct input into the process. The protection of species can only be effective if habitats are also protected, but it is the responsibility of the provinces to manage these issues in co-operation with the various stakeholders.
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 lands.
The Quebec government cannot let the federal government infringe again upon areas of provincial jurisdiction. Quebec already has its own legislation protecting endangered species and their habitats.
The principle of providing greater protection to endangered species is in itself one the Bloc Quebecois readily supports. However we do not believe that Bill C-33 will improve the protection of species at risk.
In fact we oppose the bill because it constitutes a direct intrusion into many areas under Quebec's jurisdiction. It even overlaps the act Quebec passed in 1989.
The bill could very well increase the paper burden. The Quebec government has already legislated in areas covered by Bill C-33.
We recognize the need to improve the protection of our ecosystems and the endangered plant and animal species that constitute them, but we do not believe Bill C-33 is the way to go. The Bloc Quebecois is opposing the principle of this bill today.
In closing, I will repeat the opinion expressed by the Liberal member for Lac-Saint-Louis on June 12 of this year, and I quote:
We are not even starting with the roll of the list of the 339 species identified by COSEWIC. That is a glaring fault in the law. Without a listing there cannot be protection.
Species At Risk Act
Ted White North Vancouver, BC
Mr. Speaker, I will speak briefly to Bill C-33 because for the people who live in cities and are really driving this bill it is very easy to legislate away someone else's property.
In a moment I will read into the record a letter I received from one of my constituents, Earl Campbell, who will be greatly affected once Bill C-33 is passed. He wrote a very good letter to the minister on April 25.
It is a pity we do not have the same rights to property as American citizens have. Our constitution, unfortunately, does not give us property rights so it is possible for a government, like the Liberal government, to just run roughshod over people's property rights. It can take away something for which people may have spent their whole lives saving to purchase some sort of land that they could retire on only to find that a government can take it away without even giving reasonable compensation.
I will now read Mr. Campbell's letter into the record which was sent to the Minister of the Environment on April 25, 2000. Mr. Campbell indicated that he had read the bill which he had located it on the Green Lane website. He read again the executive summary from December 1999 provided by the government and the material in a folder that had been sent to him by the minister, obviously promoting the bill.
Mr. Campbell wrote:
My main objections to the detailed wording are still the same. The enclosed editorial from the National Post says it rather well. Any individual rights are totally abrogated.
I will read the National Post editorial in due course, but I will continue with Mr. Campbell's letter at this point.
It is clear that you do not expect that this land use legislation is going to affect you personally, or restrict your future income or lifestyle, or you would be more concerned with the draconian nature of the regulations already proposed, and the absence of any appeal process.
All the talk in the world about what you or the Canadian government may do for the environment still leaves me in the same unenviable position; namely, some of my property is used seasonally by species listed in the lists in Sec 129 under regulations so far established, ironically enough because I protected some of their habitat under my control.
Bill C-33 says the minister may compensate individuals whose property use may or will have to be changed, making an economic difference to the individual owner. Nowhere does it say the Minister must compensate private individuals, adequately, completely, and promptly, for loss of use or benefits of their lands. Nor is there any provision for compensating the landowner for the costs arising from any damage caused by empowered officials entering or crossing private property as an access to other property which they may wish to enter or inspect; nor other costs.
This difference may be small to you.
It is not small to me. It is the difference between careful modest enjoyment of my retirement years and a penurious existence.
I am sure that I am not alone in this position.
Further, there are powers in the proposed bill which allow the Minister (or apparently even persons delegated by the Minister of Environment) to make further regulations from time to time. These would not necessarily ever be publicly debated, either. Potentially more dangerous.
I have already seen the effect of such omnibus powers as used by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Clearly, any individual landowner has to be both vigilant and lucky not to have some perceived infringement under these regulations cause a major problem with some enforcement officials.
I have little expectation that you, the minister, will ever see this letter—
Today, because I am reading it into the record, the minister will get it firsthand.
—or that it will in any way change the course which you and the Liberal government have embarked upon.
That is why my faint praise is on page 2.
I think that you may be making an honest effort, not just a political one, to do some real habitat protection for at least some of the threatened and endangered species.
Further, I agree that the government must make the final judgement on which species, and even which portions of a habitat, must be protected and conserved. To that degree, I think the introduction of socio-economic factors into the factors affecting any decision is prudent. The absolute protections as found in the United States laws, while they may soften the criticisms of the wildest environmentalists, offer no chance for rational decisions about the greater public good. It will still be a political can of worms to even discuss a decision to abandon some protection somewhere, for anything, I am sure; but the option needs to be open.
That is a heartfelt letter from someone who will be directly affected by this bill. There is something wrong with a proposal for a government to take away something that a person has worked his entire life to produce: a retirement farm that could be taken from him at a moment's notice, especially when he has taken the trouble already to provide habitat for a protected species.
As I mentioned, the position he took was backed up by a National Post editorial dated April 14, 2000. I am not sure I will have time to read the whole editorial but I will read it as far as I can. It is headed “Unsustainable” and reads:
Protecting endangered species and their habitats makes sense educationally, aesthetically, ecologically, even spiritually. But for a rancher or logger who finds such a species on his land, his immediate thoughts turn to personal risks. Will he lose economically if the government finds out he is working in an endangered habitat? Will his land be seized? Or just as bad, will he be allowed to keep his land, but forbidden to use it?
These are not just theoretical concerns. In the U.S., heavy-handed legislation has led to a “shoot, shovel and shut-up” mindset, where property owners view endangered species as creatures to be destroyed, not preserved.
Any workable conservation effort must recruit property owners to the environmental cause.
This is just like my constituent. From the tone of his letter, he clearly supports the idea of protecting these endangered species. All he asks is for reasonable and fair treatment by the government. The editorial compares the situation with the new federal species at risk act. It says:
Compensation for landowners is specifically not guaranteed: The bill says the government “may” choose to pay a landowner for taking his property—not “must” or “shall”. This is no trifle; it is the only line a landowner has to read to know that endangered species are his economic enemy.
As with the colleague who went before me from the Canadian Alliance, I would beg and plead with the government representatives to please read the bill. They should think about what it would do to people in their ridings who have saved their entire lives to buy property to prepare for their retirement and now find themselves faced with the possibility of seizure of their land without any reasonable compensation. I ask them to vote against the bill and send it back for revision.
Species At Risk Act
Pierre Brien Témiscamingue, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on Bill C-33, the Species at Risk Act.
The public is far more concerned about the environment when the economy is doing a little better. Fortunately this is the case in a number of regions of Quebec and of Canada. This concern ought to be an ongoing one and everyone agrees on that. There must however be effective legislation and measures that have a connection with reality.
First of all, I must admit to not having done an enormous amount of work in this area, but I do have some familiarity with it. My colleague from Jonquière is the one who handled this issue for the Bloc Quebecois. I was extremely surprised, seeing all the material on this issue, that the government has not managed after all this time, for this is not the first time it has tried to get such legislation, to get any more support for a bill which ought normally to respond to some practical objectives.
Protecting endangered species is a worthy cause, but what it has managed to do instead in this case is to unite people against it. A number of provinces—if I remember correctly, Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, and others I cannot recall, there is a sixth I believe—already have legislation to protect endangered species.
If there is federal intervention, it ought not to have a negative impact on what is already in place, or occupy a space that would make it possible to better protect our environment and our ecosystem and provide all the environmental protection necessary. Like many others, the government of Quebec is not really comfortable about this because it looks like another case of duplication.
All this is not because everyone keeps saying it is less pertinent. For individuals, organizations, all those involved in the field it is not easy to figure out what is going on when there are two different pieces of legislation to deal with. Which one takes precedence? Which addresses which particular aspect? It is not a very simple matter. If the information is simple and understandable, people will be more careful and more informed, and a very healthy pressure will be put in place.
If the federal government also wanted to deal with what is under its jurisdiction, it could do many things in environmental matters. It too could set an example by the way it takes care of the environment. It could be more open in its approach to the citizens.
This brings to mind the MOX that the government tried to transport on the sly: the less people are informed, the better. My colleague and some people in her constituency managed to make the plan public and called for a halt to it. The government was forced to say that it would have to abide by its own principles. If it had not been for the vigilance of a few people this might have been done on the sly. The federal government's behaviour is not exemplary.
Speaking of the environment in the broader sense, people in my region as well as in northeastern Ontario are very concerned by what is coming up. When we talk about Témiscamingue, that is the Quebec side, but there is also Timiskaming on the Ontario side, with a similar name because of Témiscamingue Lake which straddles the border.
Northeast Ontario will have the great honour of hosting the largest dump, or almost, in North America. Out of generosity, the city of Toronto has decided to send its garbage to a former open-pit mine in northern Ontario; three other regional municipalities will do the same, Peel, York and Durham. A minimum of 20 million tons of garbage will be sent to northeastern Ontario, close to rivers flowing directly into Témiscamingue Lake.
For those who do not feel concerned, I mention that Témiscamingue Lake flows into the Ottawa River and eventually into the St. Lawrence River. It is located at the watershed. We live at the north-south divide, in an area where two watersheds meet. This project will be in the southern watershed, just at the very edge of that watershed.
I will explain briefly. They will put the garbage in the mine pit. Sure, they are going to put sand all around to protect the exterior walls of the mine. They will pray that there is no leak in the ground. Then, they will pour into the pit water from the surface and use it to rinse the garbage, pump it back up and treat it. This water will then go back in the rivers. To sum up, they are going to contaminate pure water and treat it afterwards. This, at a time when people worry so much, and rightly so, about drinking water.
Mr. Speaker, this project is an environmental disaster, and so far the federal government has not made a single comment about it. It did not state its position, when its own legislation would allow it to do so, because there are interprovincial considerations involved and the aboriginal people have land claims over the area. It should look after its own jurisdictions instead of always trying to duplicate what is being done elsewhere and to extend the areas where it can step in. It would be nice if it started to use its own powers more efficiently.
Incidentally I am taking this opportunity to raise the awareness of the Liberal members from the Toronto region, because I know that several of them are interested in this idea of shipping all that waste to our area.
When we talk about the environment we must emphasize the notion of recycling. The city of Toronto and three neighbouring communities will get a bonus for having signed a contract with a private contractor. They guaranteed 20 million tons and, if they exceed this amount, they will get a $1.50 rebate for each ton.
Do you think that these municipalities will put pressure on people to recycle? Do you think they will use common sense? They are locked into a 20 year contract with a private contractor who will become a major waste manager.
Southern Ontario sends its refuse to the north and does not care one bit. It gets rid of the bad odours, etcetera.
This also has a major impact. It is related to the whole issue of the protection of species. What would be the consequences on our ecosystem, on our environmental balance, not just on our waters, of having a mega-dump, the biggest dump in North America, in a region like that? I can predict that our region will also end up having the largest concentration of seagulls and pigeons in North America. These birds also travel and contaminate other areas.
People back home are extremely concerned. We are very concerned about the Ontario provincial government, which seems to care little about the environment. We are also concerned about the federal government which has so far remained silent on this project.
When I see a debate like today's, where the government wants to assuage its conscience and pass a bill to protect wildlife species at risk in Canada, when six provinces are present already in this field trying to do the job—it may not be perfect what they are doing, but they are trying to follow the right path—when I see the federal government introducing a bill that does not even satisfy environmental groups that are very attuned to the issue, I say to myself that this is definitely not a step in the right direction.
I will not repeat the arguments made by my colleagues earlier. I would, however, like the government to be a little more realistic. It should pass legislation that is practical, and existing laws, such as the environment law, which allows the federal government to intervene when necessary, should be used too, when there is opposition such as is found in northeastern Ontario and northwestern Quebec, which is back home.
Just to give members a sense of proportion, where I come from, 5,000 people signed a petition. They oppose Toronto's proposal to ship its garbage out. Five thousand people at home represents a third of the population. In Toronto, it would take a million people to make the equivalent. I challenge members to find one million people to support the proposal to ship out waste.
I am happy to see that the government is talking increasingly about the environment. It will eventually also have to talk about real problems, our over-consumption of certain resources. We are not contributing either to maintaining a healthy balance for our environment, and our actions are not helping protect the species needed to protect our ecosystem.
It takes more than the passage of laws of limited scope and considerable confusion rather than positive solutions to go in the right direction.
I conclude by asking the Liberal members to awaken their conscience. They have to take real action. I hope that in the next stages of considering the bill, the government will return to a more realistic approach.
Species At Risk Act
Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak to Bill C-33. If there is one thing Canadians hold very close to their hearts it is the concept of endangered species. They feel that this is a legacy not only that they have inherited but one that they need to pass on to their children and their grandchildren.
The government has had at least two opportunities to deal with this pressing issue. Again, unfortunately, in Bill C-33 it has failed. As my colleagues have pointed out throughout the course of this discussion, a number of loopholes in the legislation will not enable us to protect the most vulnerable species within our midst.
It is important for us to understand the scope of the problem. In my province of British Columbia only six per cent of the temperate rain forests is actually protected. In our country today nearly 350 species are in danger of extinction. This situation unfortunately will only get worse.
The reasons are multifactorial but can be best summed up by habitat loss, the use of pesticides, agricultural practices and clear-cut forestry practices. We have seen this perhaps most dramatically on the prairies where large swaths of indigenous lands have been destroyed. The outcome of this has been the destruction and decimation of many species, from the great ox to the passenger pigeon.
We have an opportunity to deal with this matter in a very comprehensive fashion, and I will deal with the solutions one by one. The first and most pressing issue is the protection of a central habitat. My colleagues and I would love to see the government take a more aggressive stance in this regard by balancing off the protection of habitat with the understanding that landowners and property rights have to be protected also.
What is interesting is that property owners, and indeed the private sector, very much would like to see the government come up with a distinctive plan to deal with it. They want rules under which they can function. They also want fair compensation for land that is taken away from them.
The private sector is very committed to wanting sensitive habitats protected, but it also wants to ensure that its land will not be taken away by the government in a willy-nilly fashion. Fair compensation is what my colleagues have called for, for a long time. Perhaps the most reasonable way of doing it is by basing compensation on fair market value.
It is not always necessary, in fact only in a minority of occasions is it necessary, to take away land from the private sector. As we have seen in Saskatchewan, most farmers and other private landowners would like to work with the government in ensuring that their land is protected and that the land can be used reasonably without endangering the endangered species.
Journalist Jean V. Dufresne
Statements By Members
Raymonde Folco Laval West, QC
Mr. Speaker, in the past few days, the Journal de Montréal has been dealt two heavy blows.
The attempt on the life of Michel Auger was followed by the death of former Montreal journalist Jean V. Dufresne of lung disease, this past Saturday morning.
Mr. Dufresne was a gifted writer with a long career in both the print and broadcast media. He was on the staff of the three French-language Montreal dailies: La Presse , Le Devoir and Le Journal de Montréal . He was also on Radio-Canada. The quality of his work earned him the respect of his colleagues and of his readers and listeners.
Jean V., as he was known to his collegues, retired from Le Journal de Montréal five years ago.
I would like, on behalf of myself and my colleagues, to express most sincere condolences to Mr. Dufresne's family, friends and colleagues.
Statements By Members
Ken Epp Elk Island, AB
Mr. Speaker, let us look at the facts of the Canadian Alliance solution 17. Under our solution 17 a family with a mom and a dad and two kids would pay no income tax at all on the first $26,000 of income. The Liberals are squeezing $6 billion per year from these families.
Let us compare two families under our proposal. One family earns $60,000 and with solution 17 their taxes would go down to about $6,000. However families with a $30,000 income will have their taxes go down all the way to $680, one-half as much income but only one-tenth as much tax. That is a fair progressive system, and those are the facts.
This plan will work. It is affordable. It is good for families. It is good for the economy. Careful scrutiny shows that our plan is far superior to the Liberal plan. Canadians will find the truth and when they vote for us that truth will liberate them from years of PC and Liberal tax slavery.
Robert S. K. Welch
Statements By Members
Walt Lastewka St. Catharines, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am saddened but honoured today to pay tribute to a great individual who passed away this summer, Dr. Robert S. K. Welch.
It is difficult to put into words the tremendous achievements of such a respected and accomplished person. Dr. Welch was an educator of our youth, a political leader, a well respected member of his community and loved husband, father and grandfather.
Dr. Welch had a long history of public service and deep roots within the Niagara community. Over the years he held the posts of chancellor of Brock University, Ontario minister of education, deputy premier of Ontario and an officer of the Order of Canada that he received in 1994.
Robert Welch was a loved and respected man whose work and dedication will be missed. I extend my condolences to his children Robert, Beth Kerley and Mary-Jayne Mete, and to his four grandchildren.
The memory of Robert S. K. Welch will remain in our hearts and minds and in many manifestations of his life of dedication to home and community.