House of Commons Hansard #115 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was liability.

Topics

Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act
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12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act
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12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act
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12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

All those opposed will please say nay.

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Some hon. members

Nay.

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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Call in the members.

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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The vote on Motion No. 2 will be deferred until 3 p.m. this afternoon.

The House resumed from November 19, 2001, consideration of the motion that Bill C-10, an act respecting the national marine conservation areas of Canada, be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment.

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act
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November 20th, 2001 / 12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Laval Centre, QC

Madam Speaker, I am happy that the House is sitting today.

Everybody knows that Quebec and the Bloc Quebecois are in favour of measures to protect our environment. However, they will never accept that, in doing so, Quebec's constitutional rights be reduced, particularly because Quebec, as regards the environment, is a model in several respects.

We all remember that the Bloc Quebecois did not hesitate to support the government when it introduced its legislation to create the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park in 1997. In fact, that legislation and the one passed by the Quebec government provided for the creation of the first marine conservation area in Canada, and we are proud of that.

Through these pieces of legislation, each government continues to fulfill its respective responsibilities in the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park. This park includes only a marine area. Its boundaries may be changed only through an agreement between the two governments, provided there is joint public consultation in that regard. These are some of the main legislative provisions passed in 1997.

The main thing to remember, which the government seems to have forgotten, is that the creation of this marine park is the result of a consultation between the federal government and the Government of Quebec. Unfortunately, the federal government did not think it was useful to follow the same path with regard to Bill C-10. This may be a sign that when things are going well for the federal government, it is time to make some changes.

Other precedents could have been followed, like phase III of the St. Lawrence action plan, which was concluded in the following way.

In June 1998, the federal Minister of the Environment and Quebec's Minister of the Environment released phase III of the St. Lawrence action plan, the financing of which was shared equally between the two levels of government. This is another example of a project that was developed jointly, while respecting the areas of jurisdiction of each level of government.

Should the refusal to apply precedents that have been proven to work be considered as a lack of goodwill, since nowhere in Bill C-10 can we find the slightest element of consultation?

How, then, can the federal government be naive enough to believe that the Bloc Quebecois would support this bill? Instead of focusing on working together, this bill does something dear to this government, namely the unilateral introduction of marine conservation areas without any regard for Quebec's jurisdiction on its own territory and environment.

But there is more. As if this were not enough, far from limiting itself to interfering in Quebec's area of jurisdiction, and apparently believing that ridicule has never killed anyone, the federal government is duplicating its own jurisdiction. As a matter of fact, this bill will confirm the introduction of marine conservation areas, thus creating a new structure at Canadian heritage and bringing about a duplication of pre-existing federal structures, namely marine protection areas under the jurisdiction of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and protected marine areas under the jurisdiction of Environment Canada. This means we are not through with disputes and they will all originate from the same side.

What is clear for everyone is that Bill C-10 totally ignores the territorial integrity of Quebec, given the fact that the federal government is to become the owner of the land where the marine conservation area will be created.

But there is a problem: the 1867 Constitution. Indeed, section 92 provides that the legislature of every province may exclusively make laws in relation to the management and sale of the public lands. Quebec is still a province. Quebec may only be a province, nevertheless it is still a province, nobody will dare say otherwise; a number of Quebecers though would like nothing better than to have a different status.

Quebec legislation on public lands applies to all public lands in Quebec, including the beds of waterways and lakes and the bed of the St. Lawrence river, estuary and gulf which belong to Quebec by sovereign right.

In addition, this same legislation provides that Quebec cannot transfer its lands to the federal government. But the federal government is not intimidated by Quebec legislation, it is a well-known fact. Canadian heritage is planning to establish marine conservation areas in the St. Lawrence, the St. Lawrence estuary and the gulf of St. Lawrence, three areas in which the submerged land is under Quebec's jurisdiction.

Time flies when one is speaking from the heart.

Canadian heritage wants to compel Quebec to give up its exclusive jurisdiction. What a nice example of co-operative federalism. It is very clear that the prerequisite for the creation of marine conservation areas in the St. Lawrence is the transfer of property rights to the federal government. Quebec will never agree to it.

According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the same territory could be zoned three different ways and come under three different federal departments enforcing their own specific regulations, all this under three different pieces of legislation.

Only God knows in which waters fish will feel like swimming. As for bureaucrats, I believe Moby Dick's stomach will not be big enough to house them all when they try to come to an agreement.

Again, since 1993 it is not the first time and certainly not the last time I am faced with a dilemma. If federal departments are unable to work together, how can we expect the federal government to be able to work with the provinces?

Marine conservation areas served à la Canadian heritage are like ketchup: I do not want any.

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12:20 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Châteauguay, QC

Madam Speaker, the Bloc Quebecois wants to protect the environment, but is it necessary to ensure that protection by duplicating jurisdictions and services?

The creation of marine conservation areas meets the objectives of numerous international forums, such as the World Conservation Strategy of 1980. However, how can we not turn away from such an objective, as commendable as it may be, if it has the effect of bypassing the appropriation of our respective jurisdictions? It should be highlighted that Quebec has exclusive jurisdiction over the management and sale of public lands. That is what is provided in section 92 of the British North America Act, 1867. Why redo what has already been done?

It is unacceptable for the federal government to use environmental protection legislation to take over provincial lands and Quebec lands. It would be better to promote and encourage co-operation between Quebec and the federal government. It is time that this government would stop using a steamroller and a centralizing approach.

Besides, in Quebec, the legislation on public lands covers all lands, including the beds of rivers and lakes. Quebec has legislative jurisdiction over this area. It is exercising its legislative power and it respects the Constitutional Act. Why then have some federal legislation that would deny the exclusive jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces? Is Quebec not competent enough to meet conservation objectives?

Let us not forget that the management of the bed of the St. Lawrence River is a Quebec jurisdiction by sovereign right. The protection of habitats and fauna is a matter of joint federal and provincial jurisdiction. In this respect, the Quebec government has already acted by establishing a framework for the protection of marine areas. It is also possible to protect habitats and fauna through co-operation.

The Bloc Quebecois would rather promote an attitude of co-operation, as was shown with the bill establishing the Saguenay-St. Lawrence marine park in 1997. Yet, despite this successful co-operation, once again we are seeing the federal government stubbornly opposing a process that is working well. Why is the federal government once again refusing to respect the Constitutional Act, and Quebec by this very fact?

I am concerned about the future of intergovernmental relations in crucial areas like the environment. How can we trust a legislative process that does not respect the public interest, and a government that does not respect its own departments? Let us not forget that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans already has a marine area protection program, and I want to insist on the fact that this program is already in place. Why are we creating a new one?

This bill is another example of pernicious interference on the part of a centralizing federal government in exclusive jurisdictions of Quebec and other provinces, and another example of the methods used by the federal government, which ignores other partnership experiences that were very successful. Why not follow a process that has worked very well and that would certainly work very well once again? Will the federal government respect Quebec some day?

The outcome of such a bill is obvious: confusion, but above all a lack of respect. It could result in a duplication of tasks and jurisdictions, within a government that does not even see it or that sees it and acts deliberately nonetheless, which is even more worrisome. How can the federal government justify this useless duplication?

How will we find our way through all these terms to protect the environment? With this bill, the government wants to create marine conservation areas through Canadian heritage, when there are already marine protection areas under the responsibility of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and marine wildlife areas under Environment Canada. Again, how will we find our way through all this?

Even the government seems completely lost and conveniently forgets that programs to protect habitats and fauna are already in place.

There is a question that comes to mind: who will take precedence if there is conflict? Who will have the last word? Which department will be the one willing and able to respond to the questions and to deal with the discrepancies in application? The government will certainly not want to answer this, because that would be tantamount to putting one department on a lower footing than another. Would that be the intent of this bill?

Duplication and overlap are double-edged swords to the government. On the one hand, the government insists that environment is a priority, while on the other it exploits the environment in order to use a bill to foster national identity—imagine—and thus deny the true objective of this bill. Who, outside of Canadian Heritage itself, can tell us that Canadian heritage is defined as having environmental expertise?

The confusion that is certain to ensue will lead to a dangerous appropriation of resources, and will quickly become insurmountable. Even the staff of the various departments will be caught up in it. It is mind-boggling. We will not be the only ones to understand not a bit of it. It is easy to imagine just how this overlap is going to lead to confusion among the key stakeholders.

Who, really, will be administering the protective zones? Which department are people to contact in the event of conflict? Which department will really hold the means of dealing with offenders? Who is going to be able to find their way through the labyrinth of duplications, of overlapping departmental policies? These are just some of the questions that remain unanswered.

With this risk of confusion within one government, one can easily imagine what confusion there will be for other levels of government and for all stakeholders. If departments cannot work together within one and the same government, how will they be able to do so with Quebec and the provincial governments?

It is easy to understand why the Government of Quebec would refuse to co-operate with this bill. First of all, it is in flagrant disrespect of the exclusive jurisdiction of Quebec. Second, it is impossible for the federal government to provide any kind of precise answer as to the reasons this bill comes from Canadian heritage when Fisheries and Oceans already has a program in place.

The Bloc Quebecois is opposed to this bill because the federal government is planning to use it to appropriate lands that fall under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces, by designating them as marine areas.

In addition, this bill does not respect the division of exclusive areas of jurisdiction as stipulated by section 92 of the British North America Act of 1867.

The Bloc Quebecois opposes this bill because it can only lead to endless administrative problems. It can truly be said at this point that the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. The stakes are too high to be taken lightly. The effects are serious and will, in some cases, be irreversible. Therefore, respect for the division of exclusive jurisdictions is essential to preclude all ambiguity. Co-operation must be encouraged to avoid unnecessary and harmful duplication.

The Bloc Quebecois opposes this bill, because Canadian heritage is trying to take over jurisdictions other than its own. It is unacceptable that Canadian heritage should attempt to have legislation passed to acquire land, and under cover of the environment.

In short, the federal government, through Canadian heritage, is once again attempting to meddle in areas of Quebec's and the provinces' jurisdiction under cover of the environment.

Finally, the Bloc Quebecois opposes Bill C-10 because of the duplication of responsibilities among the various levels of government and departments within the same government.

The Bloc Quebecois wants the Liberal government to be forced to work in partnership and in co-operation with Quebec and all the provinces that have legislated in this area, thereby repeating what has already been successful, that is the Saguenay—St. Laurence marine park. In spite of all that, our amendment was turned down. It is for all those reasons that we are opposing this bill.

I would like to add that if we want the federal government to create and establish marine areas, there is an essential prerequisite. The government must own that territory.

As I already said, under section 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867, the management and sale of crown lands are matters of exclusive provincial jurisdiction. Furthermore, Quebec legislation on crown lands applies to all crown lands in Quebec, including the beds of waterways and lakes.

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12:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Red Deer, AB

Madam Speaker, as the chief environment critic for the Canadian Alliance, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-10. I will broaden the base and talk not only about marine conservation areas, but also about the environment as it applies to a bill like this one and as it could apply to other bills.

I start off by commending our critic, the member for Skeena. As a new member he has done a wonderful job of presenting the views of his constituents and of a much broader constituency of Canadians who are concerned about the environment, the marine aspects of that environment and particularly concerned about parks and the creation of parks.

I did not serve on the committee and hear all the witnesses, but I did go through the legislation. Much of the legislation is like a lot of environmental legislation. It is much like the species at risk legislation that we are talking about in the environment committee. We basically say that this is good and we like to have parks. We think we should preserve species. We think we should have marine areas set aside. The problem is in the details. When we actually get into the details of what the government is planning to do, we find where the flaws and problems are. Today I will try to broaden that base and talk about those problems from a broader environmental aspect.

First of all, there is the area of co-ordination, the co-ordination of bureaucrats and acts that are already enacted by the Government of Canada. We have heard others mention that. For the most part overall we could conclude that heritage, environment, natural resources, fisheries and a number of other departments do not really know what each other is doing. There does not seem to be a co-ordinating mechanism. Some members might argue that it is up to the Prime Minister and his cabinet to co-ordinate these activities, but that does not seem to be happening.

We have an Oceans Act that allows for marine protection areas, but obviously that comes under a different minister. The Canadian Environmental Protection Act would allow for the protection of species, for environmental impact studies and for all sorts of things. I believe that is being amended by Bill C-19 which will come before the House soon. It generally is a good piece of legislation which allows the environment minister to do a great deal when it comes to setting up areas like these.

The species at risk bill will be coming before the House for report stage and third reading very soon. The bill very specifically allows for the protection of endangered species. After months and months we have spent in committee listening to witnesses and working on the legislation it certainly is far reaching and allows for the protection of habitat and the protection of any species that might be endangered.

We have old acts such as the Migratory Birds Convention Act and the Fisheries Act. Both are very powerful acts which are used within Canada and which can be used right across the country and certainly would apply here.

There seems to be a turf war between various ministers who have to get pieces of legislation put on the table so they can lay claim to some aspect or other. I do not know whether it is a power trip or like a university professor who has to turn out so many papers every year. That is almost what the bill appears to be. It seems to be that heritage has not done much for a while so it had better come up with a piece of legislation that can be put before the House and the minister can then take credit for it.

Most Liberal members and most people who consider themselves Liberals think they have halos around their heads when they talk about the environment. The problem is that we see very little action. We hear lots of talk about the environment, that they are going to do great things about the environment, that yes, they care about the environment and yes, they are environmentalists but then they do not do anything.

There is all this confusion. There is a lack of consultation with coastal communities, provincial governments, scientists, the aboriginal society and so on. There is all this vague posturing with halos on but we see very little action.

When it comes to the environment it always comes down to trade-offs. We talk about natural areas versus a quality of life situation. I often use the comparison that there are two extremes in environmental concerns. There are those who would say let us keep everything natural and let us not impact on anything. Of course if we really wanted to carry that to the extreme, I guess all of those people would prefer to live in a cave and not have all of the modern conveniences that we enjoy. On the other side there are those who would probably pave the entire world and really would have no care for our air, water, soil and so on. Those are the extremes. I think most members of the House would agree that somewhere in the middle is the right ground and the ground Canadians would like to have.

It is like when we talk about oil exploration. We all could say that environmentally we are opposed to that. Yet when we have strict regulations that are enforceable, when we have the new technology and are conscious of the timing and the safety precautions, probably we could allow some of that exploration which then adds to our quality of life and does very minimal damage to natural areas.

As well we have to put forward in the House that we as small c conservatives care about the environment. All too often it is said that one has to be a fanatic, or sometimes a socialist, to care about the environment. That could not be further from the truth. It is a totally wrong concept.

Looking around the world we can find major coalitions where environmentalists together with corporations and with conservatives have done a great deal and have actually formed governments. We might look to Vincente Fox in Mexico. It was a coalition between him and the conservatives that resulted in the Government of Mexico that does care about the environment and has in fact put forward a great many environmental conditions.

I got back from Germany rather late last night. It is a perfect example. The green party is in coalition. The minister of the environment, whom we met with for three days, is actually from the green party. There are various coalitions around the world which put the environment into an important role. To try to label people as being pro or anti environment obviously is very wrong.

Again the Liberals talk a lot, but the Liberals do not do very much. I have a good example. Last month I was in a city in B.C. talking to a group of citizens about the Sumas plant which is being built in Washington state. There were no Liberals present at those hearings. The project affects a great many people in the Fraser Valley and in the Vancouver area. No Liberals were there, yet that was the perfect issue where they could have been involved.

What we have then is Liberal legislation coming forward with little consultation. The Liberals basically leave the details to the regulations and very little details in the bill itself. It is a concept of trust them, trust their bureaucrats and there is nothing there.

What we really need to talk about is consultation, co-operation and compensation. I move:

That the amendment be amended by adding:

“and that the committee report back to the House no later than the first sitting day in 2003”.

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12:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I believe the amendment is acceptable.

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12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Ghislain Fournier Manicouagan, QC

Madam Speaker, as the member for Manicouagan, I am pleased to rise today to support my Bloc Quebecois colleagues regarding Bill C-10, an act respecting the national marine conservation areas of Canada.

First, I want to reiterate the fact that our party supports environmental protection measures. I should mention that the Bloc Quebecois fully co-operated and supported the government when it introduced the act establishing the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park. This is an example that should be followed.

Also, the Quebec government initiated actions to protect the environment and the seabed.

It only makes sense to protect the environment, but all stages must be completed in co-operation with provincial governments. This time, contrary to what it did with the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park, the federal government is about to decide alone the rules to establish marine conservation areas, without taking into consideration Quebec's jurisdictions over its territory and its environment.

This is one of the fundamental reasons the Bloc Quebecois is opposed to this bill. The government does not seem to take into account the whole issue of partnership. The government, through Canadian heritage, is now proposing to set up a structure, namely marine conservation areas, that will interfere, as my colleagues pointed out, with marine protection areas in Quebec. We are talking about fisheries and oceans and marines areas, but there is the whole issue of ecosystems in existing national parks, which Canadian heritage is currently not able to protect.

This bill shows to what extent the federal government is about to get involved in provincial jurisdictions, even though the beds of waterways largely belong to the provinces. By this I mean that they belong to the provinces affected, namely Quebec.

Bill C-10 does not respect the territorial integrity of Quebec. As the hon. member for Châteauguay pointed out, the Constitution Act, 1867, provides that “the management and sale of crown lands are matters of exclusive provincial jurisdiction”. It could not be clearer.

Furthermore, Quebec's legislation act on public lands provides that the bed of the St. Lawrence river and gulf belongs to Quebec by sovereign right.

This act provides that Quebec cannot transfer its lands to the federal government. As for the protection of habitats and fauna, it is a matter of joint federal and provincial jurisdiction. As a matter of fact, the government of Quebec plans to establish a framework for the protection of marine areas in the near future.

Moreover, according to Canadian heritage backgrounder on the bill before us, marine conservation areas are planned for, first, the St. Lawrence river, second, the St. Lawrence estuary and third, the gulf of St. Lawrence. These are three areas in which the ocean floor is under Quebec's jurisdiction.

Moreover, this bill will create a real cacophony because there is a lot of overlap. The federal government wants to establish marine conservation areas through Canadian heritage, marine protection areas through Fisheries and Oceans, and marine wildlife areas through Environment Canada. We would see the establishment of several superimposed areas; it does not make any sense.

I would like to highlight the rather skewed consultation process conducted by Canadian heritage. We are told that a consultation paper was sent to 3,000 groups across Canada. According to Canadian heritage, over 300 pages of answers and comments were submitted. But when the Bloc Quebecois asked for a copy, we only received 73 pages.

On top of that, the government is planning to pass framework legislation allowing it to establish 28 marine conservation areas without referring back to parliament. Opposition parties are asking that each future marine conservation area be put to a vote in parliament.

It should also be noted that the three opposition parties put forward amendments to prevent the federal government from acting unilaterally. But the Liberal members rejected these amendments alleging that they involved a provincial veto, even when the territory is under federal jurisdiction.

The Bloc Quebecois asked that the federal government be required to work with the province, which is normal, if that province has legislated with regard to the protection of marine areas as was the case with the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park.

A number of other amendments were put forward by a coalition made up of all opposition parties. The government turned down every single one of them.

Essentially, the federal government is attempting to appropriate marine subsurfaces, submerged lands under the St. Lawrence and in the gulf.

I believe that my colleagues have amply highlighted the fact that we should be following the example set by the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park, which, at the time of its creation in 1997, was the first marine conservation area in Canada. This marine area was created following the adoption of what is known as “mirror legislation”, by the federal and Quebec governments. In this exemplary case, the park was created by both governments at the same time, without any transfer of territory.

As well, both governments continue to oversee their areas of responsibility. A co-ordinating committee was struck, made up of federal and provincial ministers. The Bloc Quebecois believes that this first marine conservation area should have served as a model for the federal government in establishing other marine conservation areas.

The Constitution Act, 1867 clearly sets out that the environment is a shared jurisdiction between the federal and Quebec governments. Furthermore, this bill by Canadian heritage comes at a time when there is a severe criticism of the rationalization of the fishery, which fails to take into consideration the needs and the reality of the industry and the communities affected by the fishery moratorium. I know something about this, because the people in my riding of Manicouagan depend on the fishery as one of their mainstays for survival.

Yet, the industry still remains unaware of the Minister of Fisheries and Ocean's vision as regards its future. How many people will remain employed? The government has also been criticized for its poor management of the fishery and for its responsibility in the collapse of ground fish stocks. So just how does the government intend to get coastal communities to co-operate in order to find viable solutions to establish marine conservation areas, zones and marine wildlife reserves?

In order to protect ecosystems, the government will need to have the co-operation of coastal communities, including the residents of my riding. First, the people of Manicouagan need economic assistance in order to survive and to feed their families, then they will be able to think about co-operating in establishing marine conservation areas.

This bill will not serve the interests of marine conservation areas and will only create disorder among all of the stakeholders.

For these reasons, the Bloc Quebecois will be voting against the bill.