House of Commons Hansard #23 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was endangered.

Topics

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River
Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions For Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River
Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that you call Notice of Motion for the Production of Papers No. P-3 in the name of the hon. member for Lakeland.

Motions For Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I cannot recognize the hon. member for Lakeland. He is not dressed for speaking. I gather the hon. parliamentary secretary will call one of these notices of motions.

Motions For Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, if you call Motion No. P-3, I will speak to it. The member opposite may also wish to speak to it.

That an Order of the House do issue for copies of all studies which were done prior to the banning of the 2% and 5% solutions of strychnine to show the effect the banning of these solutions would have on Canadian Farmers.

Motions For Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like this motion transferred for debate.

Motions For Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

The motion is transferred for debate.

Motions For Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the other Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers be allowed to stand.

Motions For Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Is it agreed?

Motions For Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from February 27 consideration of the motion that Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Species At Risk Act
Government Orders

February 28th, 2001 / 3:15 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, when I was concluding my comments yesterday I was addressing concerns that we have about the bill and specifically with the protection for the endangered species habitat.

With regard to the wide discretionary power of the minister to designate an endangered species, one of the problems we have with regard to the legislation is that if he ever does so there is a 30 month time lag during which only the nest, the den or the immediate locale where the species reside is protected. The protection does not extend to the habitat for the entire 30 months.

A prominent environmentalist has been quoted as describing this as protecting a bedroom while allowing for the destruction of the house and the bulldozing of the neighbourhood. It is a very accurate portrayal of one of the weaknesses in the legislation.

It will be our argument at committee where we will seek amendments that to be effective the legislation must make habitat protection mandatory, not discretionary, and that the exercise of that discretion be over a much shorter period of time.

Our second major concern with the bill is the methodology by which an endangered species is listed. COSEWIC, the committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada, has been tracking endangered species and placing them on a list for several decades now. The committee would continue to exist under the new legislation, but even though its decision is based on purely scientific methodology it would not be the final determinant of whether an endangered species is listed under the legislation and receives protection. That decision would only lie in the hands of the minister and may be based on any number of other considerations.

Our concern with this process is that it is subject to wide discretion. In spite of the fact that the bill has a number of provisions about community participation, making information available and claiming to protect vulnerable wildlife, everything hinges on the minister's discretion. There is no provision for how that discretion would be exercised. It does not have to be based on science. It may be based on the COSEWIC list, and then again it may not. There are no provisions for that.

I draw the attention of the House to the fact that there are 354 species on that list. Would they be protected after the bill is passed, assuming it gets passed? The answer is that they would not. There is no provision in the bill to make that already existing list a part of the legislation.

Again this is an item that must be addressed. We will be arguing strenuously both in committee and in the House that the legislation should incorporate that list by grandfathering it in so that species already at risk in the country would become protected immediately.

One other major issue is that the bill contains no provision, no detail or fleshing out around what compensation would be provided to people who are financially disadvantaged once the bill is passed and put into place.

The minister is indicating that perhaps there would be some provision in the regulations, but he is reserving the discretion to himself as to when it would be used. We would argue that we do not have a lot of confidence. A number of other existing pieces of legislation have been in place for 20 to 30 years where at various times it could have taken steps as a government to protect endangered species. It has never done so.

On behalf of the NDP I indicate that we do not believe people should be financially impacted negatively without compensation. Landowners must be assured that they are not facing personal losses if a species is designated on their property. Similarly it is our position that workers in various industries and communities that could be impacted by the legislation should be compensated.

We believe the guiding principle in this regard must be that the cost of protecting endangered species should be shared by all of us, not just the people on whose land endangered species happen to live.

One final major concern we have is with regard to the extent, geographically and jurisdictionally, that the legislation would cover. Let me throw out this one statistic. It will only cover five per cent of the country.

Recognizing that I am almost out of time, I will make one final point. The legislation is extremely weak with regard to protecting our migratory birds and animals. If they cross the border they will probably be protected in the United States but they will not be protected here.

Species At Risk Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me this honour to participate in this debate. As the Progressive Conservative Party, and as a recognized party in the House, we have a prearranged order for speaking. I would request from the Chair that attention be paid to that particular issue because on other occasions previous members have been missed.

I will now begin my 20 minute speech by saying that it is a pleasure to have a chance to participate in this particular debate. As members know, this will be the first piece of environmental legislation that we have seen before the House in this particular parliament. Members will also know quite clearly that this will be the government's first attempt to pass its first piece of environmental legislation since taking office on October 25, 1993. It is the government's first bill of its own initiative.

Mr. Speaker, you may recall, being the learned individual that you are on legislation, that the previous Conservative government was very proactive with respect to environmental legislation. We delivered to the country an acid rain protocol with the Americans, a packaging protocol that we did in conjunction with industry to reduce waste in our landfills. The Conservative government also pioneered a bill known as the Canadian environmental protection act which was first tabled in 1988.

Canada was a world leader on environmental protection by bringing the international community together in eliminating and reducing the consumption of ozone depleting gases with the Montreal protocol of 1987. The hon. Jean J. Charest was a very proactive environment minister who brought forth legislation with respect to new inroads in reducing pulp and paper effluent. One of the other hallmarks, in addition to the acid rain protocol brought forth with the Americans, was the $3 billion green plan which had an infinite affect on pollution prevention.

Having said that, this is the government's third attempt to bring forth a piece of legislation to protect species at risk or endangered species. Bill C-65 died on the order paper leading up to the 1997 election. The hon. member for Saint John was active in the debate at that time. We also know that Bill C-33 died on the order paper as the Prime Minister chose to call his vanity election three years and four months into his mandate.

The position of the Progressive Conservative Party will largely follow the positions developed by the species at risk working group, which is composed of the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association, the Mining Association of Canada, the Canadian Nature Federation, Sierra Club of Canada and the Sierra Legal Defence Fund.

These are individuals who are normally at each other's throats when it comes to developing legislation of this sort, but they have been able to build an unprecedented consensus, which I believe the government should be utilizing far more than it currently is.

In December 1999, a few weeks after the Progressive Conservative Party tabled its position paper, the government tabled a brown paper, which actually described essentially what its legislation would be composed of. Our position paper was graded A by the environmental community and received accolades from industry groups as well, while the government's position paper received a mere D.

I would like to compliment not only the consensus that was built with respect to SARWG, the species at risk working group, but also the consensus that was built with the Progressive Conservative caucus on this file. It is a unified position built in conjunction with our natural resources critic, the member for South Shore, with our agricultural critic, the member for Brandon—Souris, and with the leadership that we received from the right hon. member for Calgary Centre in ensuring that we had a very comprehensive and team approach to this particular piece of legislation.

We are all well aware that Canada has over 300 species that are at risk or endangered. I believe endangered species are what we could call our canaries in the coal mine. When we continue to lose species from our environment, from the various habitats, it is an indication that our overall environment is starting to decline. That will have a negative effect on the air we breathe and the water we drink.

Here we are eight years after the government has taken office and this is its third kick at the can in trying to deliver a piece of environmental legislation. After all the consultations, after all the homework, one would think we would essentially be reviewing a piece of legislation that would be nearly perfect. As the critic from the NDP pointed out in his remarks a few moments ago, we are far from there.

There are a couple of particular issues I wanted to speak about with respect to the legislation. Clearly, habitat loss is the single largest cause of why species become at risk, become endangered and ultimately become extinct. Habitat loss is responsible for over 80% of species decline in Canada.

Bill C-5 and its predecessor, Bill C-33, are in fact weaker than the first attempt at species at risk legislation that was brought forth, which was known as Bill C-65. Bill C-65 had significant problems, but it did contain stronger provisions for habitat protection, especially on federal lands. This was largely the result of the work of the environment committee.

Bill C-5 does not require protection of critical habitat for endangered species. It merely states that cabinet may protect it. This is a significant shortcoming, especially when critical habitat protection is crucial to survival of a species. Some of Canada's best loved species could potentially become at risk, whether it is the beluga whale, the woodland caribou or even the grizzly bear.

By making habitat protection discretionary, the federal government is abdicating responsibility for major areas within its own jurisdiction, and I will repeat that: within its own jurisdiction. We are not asking the federal government to actually sidestep or make a foray into jurisdictions where it does not have the responsibility. The federal government can and must protect habitat of all species within federal jurisdiction. This is absolutely critical.

Upon review of Bill C-5, members of the House will recognize the fact that there are provisions for the federal government to intervene in provincial jurisdictions to protect species at risk. There are provisions whereby the federal government can intervene on private lands to protect species at risk. However, it is not mandatory under this legislation to protect species at risk within federal jurisdiction, or within federal lands, for that matter.

This is indeed ironic given the response from the environment minister to the last speech from the throne. He said “Any species protection legislation must include provisions for the protection of critical habitat of endangered species. This is fundamental. No habitat, no species”.

We would like to have a piece of legislation that would reflect the minister's own words as spoken in the House.

Building successful legislation requires input and support from affected stakeholders. The Progressive Conservative plan calls for carrots before sticks, for incentives to reward stewardship. We believe it is imperative to encourage, recognize and reward stewardship by offering more carrots and resorting to fewer sticks.

We believe this can be accomplished by listening to the concerns of stakeholders and by working in co-operation with them to build a consensus on an effective legislative design and, most important, engaging stakeholders in the recovery process.

Finding an endangered species on one's land should not mean that all development stops. The key is to manage the land to ensure that a species can continue to survive. We have to do away with the myths that have been spoken about. I am talking about the myth that finding a species on one's property will result in an immediate economic loss. We can reward stewardship. There are many ways to address this particular issue.

The fact is that if a species at risk is found on a woodlot owner's lot, chances are the owner is working under responsible forestry management regimes that actually encourage an environment for the species. If the species did not like it there, it would not be there.

The Progressive Conservative Party believes that without the support of the provinces, private landowners, resource users and communities the endangered species bill will be impossible to institute. Moreover, it will be ineffective. It will breed the “shoot, shovel and shut up” response, which will result in more species at risk.

The Progressive Conservative Party believes that when designing a recovery plan, with stakeholders of course, social and economic considerations must be accounted for. Both objectives can be achieved, both to encourage stewardship and save endangered species. These objectives are not mutually exclusive.

Another glaring weakness, which I would say is the most obvious and which the member for Windsor—St. Clair touched on, is that in Bill C-5 the cabinet rather than scientists will decide whether a species is at risk. The committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada, the scientific body that has been in place for decades, will not have the call on determining whether a species is endangered. This puts at risk the extinction of any species that cabinet opts not to protect and makes the decision a political one rather than one based on scientific fact.

There is an enormous flip-flop from the Canadian Alliance on this particular issue. I am not talking about pensions or Stornoway or anything like that. What I am referring to in this particular circumstance is that we can give solid credit to the member for Red Deer and what he now believes. Although the member for Edmonton—Strathcona who was the previous critic said that it should be a political determination as to whether a species is at risk, I interpreted from the speech of the member for Red Deer in the House on February 21 that he believed scientists, not politicians, should determine whether a species is at risk or not. I find it shameful that the Liberal Party of Canada would be the only party in the House of Commons that would rather resort to a political listing perspective.

I know that my friend who will be speaking shortly on behalf of the Liberal Party was a member of the environment committee that studied this particular issue. An all party consensus was built that the scientific list of COSEWIC should be adopted and that COSEWIC should determine whether a species is at risk or not. Now the Liberal Party of Canada is reneging on its promise on that particular issue. I find that very shameful indeed.

While the Liberals may argue that they do not want the scientists to be lobbied as to whether a species is at risk or not—

Species At Risk Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

An hon. member

And the minister won't be.