House of Commons Hansard #62 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was federal.

Topics

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act
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12:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

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

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act
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12:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act
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12:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act
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12:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Accordingly the vote is deferred until Wednesday, May 16, at the end of government orders.

Canadian Environmental Assessment Act
Government Orders

May 15th, 2001 / 12:35 p.m.

Bellechasse—Etchemins—Montmagny—L'Islet
Québec

Liberal

Gilbert Normand for the Minister of the Environment

moved that Bill C-19, an act to amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canadian Environmental Assessment Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Kitchener Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Karen Redman Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address the House on the second reading of Bill C-19, an act to amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

I will begin by congratulating the Minister of the Environment for bringing the legislation before the House. Bill C-19 is a continuation of an important effort that dates back 25 years in Canada's history. It would bring environmental factors to the table when government decisions are made.

The proposed legislation is based on the results of a national consultation completed last year as part of a five year review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. It is also based on the Minister of the Environment's personal commitment to improve the federal environmental assessment process so that it can continue to be the best in the world.

I will be clear on what we are proposing. Although Bill C-19 is not a major rewrite of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, it would strengthen the act, an act that has served its purpose well over the past five years and has resulted in notable environment assessment success stories.

The act has had a positive effect on projects ranging from the creation of an inland navigation channel in New Brunswick to the protection of Pukawska National Park in my home province of Ontario. In British Columbia it enabled the Government of Canada, in collaboration with the province, to ensure that the construction of a new road to end the isolation of a first nations community did not have a significant impact on the sensitive grizzly bear population.

Those are just three of the many environmental assessment successes Canadians have achieved over the past five years.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, proclaimed by the Liberal government in 1995, has had a positive and lasting effect on ecosystems and development projects from coast to coast to coast. It has helped integrate Canada's environmental goals with its economic, social and cultural values. In other words, it has moved us down the road toward sustainable development.

Our experiences over the past five years have identified concerns that need to be addressed to make the federal environmental assessment process even stronger, more certain and more accessible. In short, the current process is effective but imperfect.

Coincident with other environmental initiatives, the revised and strengthened Canadian Environmental Assessment Act would help protect and preserve Canada's diverse and sometimes fragile environment. It would assure Canadians of the clean air and clean water they have a right to expect. It would allow Canadians to benefit economically from responsible development in the use of our natural resources.

The purpose of Bill C-19 is to establish a more predictable, consistent and timely process, to improve the quality of environmental assessment in Canada and to strengthen opportunities for public participation. The amendments would ensure that the federal environmental assessment process better serves the interests of all participants in the years ahead, not the least of whom is the Canadian public.

Not everyone may be familiar with the goals and intent of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. I will therefore take a few moments to provide some context for the proposed amendments.

As already noted, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act was brought into force in 1995 with the goal of promoting a healthy environment and economy through sustainable development. The act requires federal departments and agencies to undertake an environmental assessment if they intend to develop projects themselves. It requires them to provide funding or land for such projects and to issue licences or permits for the projects such as might be issued under the Fisheries Act.

One can imagine the scope of such activity. Last year alone 30 federal departments conducted about 6,000 environmental assessments. Many of the projects had the potential to affect the health of local and regional ecosystems for decades to come. The act also touches on billions of dollars of potential investment in Canada each year. For environmental and economic reasons it is important that we get the process right.

The underlying principle and main strength of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is that a project's environmental effects receive careful consideration before development begins. The act is also built on the premise that the Canadian public should participate in the review of development proposals.

Based on the findings of an environmental assessment, the government must decide whether to proceed or to withdraw its support for a project. Depending on the scale of the activity and the type of assessment, the decision may be made at department level or by cabinet.

Environmental assessments often result in recommendations on actions that should be taken to protect the environment or improve benefits to affected people and communities before the project goes forward.

Used as a planning tool for sustainable development rather than a barrier to growth and development, environmental assessment allows projects to be designed in ways that are economically efficient and rewarding but which are also compatible with a healthy environment and a healthy society.

Let me be clear on this. The government, through the leadership of the Prime Minister, views environmental assessment as a cornerstone of its commitment to protect our tremendous environmental heritage, our air, water and natural spaces, for the benefit and use of current and future generations of Canadians.

That was a central theme of January's Speech from the Throne. Our government recognizes, and I quote from the Speech from the Throne, that “A healthy environment is an essential part of a sustainable economy and our quality of life”.

Environmental assessment has been and will continue to be an indispensable tool for pursuing the government's environmental priorities. Within this context, our approach to environmental management is being driven by three emerging global trends.

First, human activity is placing unsustainable burdens on the ecosphere, particularly on natural habitat and on our landscapes.

Second, there is a resurgence in public concern about environmental issues and a shift in public values in favour of increased environmental action.

Third, businesses and the marketplace are learning that unsustainable business practices are bad business and unacceptable to consumers. The old tradeoff of the environment versus the economy is ringing more hollow with every passing year.

Those three trends offer an enormous opportunity for change. They call for environmental management which builds on partnerships, promotes incentives and is based on science.

Environmental assessment is an essential part of our efforts to ensure clear air, clean water and the protection of Canada's natural spaces. Project by project and step by step, environmental assessment helps avoid the adverse effects of development. That is why it is important to improve the process by making it more predicable, consistent and timely and by strengthening opportunities for public participation.

These were our goals when the Minister of the Environment launched a public review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act in December 1999. At that time the discussion paper served as a launching pad for an open, comprehensive and public dialogue about how to improve the act.

To convey the scope of our consultation I will share with the House that almost 1,200 people in 19 cities participated in the public meetings and regional workshops. A website to inform Canadians about the review and give them an opportunity to have their say received over 14,000 visits.

We have received more than 200 written submissions about possible changes to the act and the environmental assessment process. The Minister of the Environment received a report and recommendations from a multisectoral regulatory advisory committee established some time ago to provide input on environmental assessment regulations and policies.

The committee brings a unique perspective to issues. It includes representatives of industry, the federal government, provincial governments, environmental and aboriginal groups.

Staff of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency have consulted their provincial counterparts and colleagues from other federal departments. We have received input from several processes, including aboriginal people who have been deeply involved in some of the more high profile and successful environmental assessments undertaken in Canada to date.

The consultation process has been exhaustive. By using electronic means of communication like the Internet we have been able to reach Canadians from all walks of life, in all cities, rural areas, and remote parts of the country. These amendments are the product of one of the most open and thorough public reviews that I have witnessed in my time in government. They represent the consensus view of diverse groups in their intent to move us forward toward the goal of sustainable development, which has been embraced by all elements of Canadian society.

There is always room for argument when developers and environmentalists come together at the same table, but our consultations reveal a remarkable level of agreement on the merits of the existing act and how it can be improved. After hearing from literally hundreds of Canadian businesses, communities, associations and individuals, there is strong national support for an effective and efficient environmental assessment process at the federal level.

Canadians are looking to the federal government for leadership in ensuring that environmental assessment remains an important tool for making decisions in support of sustainable development. I assure hon. members that we intend to provide that leadership.

Our review of the act has confirmed that many strengths of the current environmental assessment process do exist. Canadians have endorsed the fundamental process and the principles of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. They have endorsed the basic structure of the process and the factors that must be addressed when dealing with an environmental assessment. They have given their blessings to the role of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

These features of the act would be retained under a revitalized federal environmental assessment process, but we also heard strong messages about the need for change. I do not intend to review these concerns in detail. They are addressed in the report of the Minister of the Environment to parliament which was tabled on March 20, 2001. Instead I will spend the rest of my time explaining how we intend to address them through the proposed amendments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Our first goal in bringing forward the legislation is to establish a more certain, predictable and timely federal environmental assessment process. This would not only save time, money and effort for all affected parties, but it would build on confidence in the process and improve the climate for investment in Canada. Bill C-19 proposes amendments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act that would provide for a focus on the appropriate projects and would move away from assessments of insignificant matters like window replacements and erecting road signs.

Reducing the number of assessments of small, routine projects would free up time and resources that could be put to better use assessing projects that are likely to produce adverse environmental effects. This would be achieved through a new use for class screening reports as a replacement for project specific assessments when accepted design standards and mitigation measures are used on small and routine projects.

Under Bill C-19 the scope of the act would also be expanded to include federally funded projects on reserve lands and would allow regulations to be developed for federal lands leased or managed by a third party such as local airport authorities. These are important gaps in the current legislation that need to be addressed.

Bill C-19 also includes measures that would improve co-ordination among federal departments involved in environmental assessment. Our goal is to reduce delays in project planning and to assure proponents that information requirements and timing of decisions would be more consistent from project to project. The act would be amended to provide for the appointment of a federal co-ordinator for screenings and comprehensive studies.

The co-ordinator's job would be to bring together appropriate federal authorities when necessary and to consolidate the information required for an assessment. For projects subject to the assessment process of another jurisdiction and for large projects requiring a comprehensive study, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency would take the role of co-ordinator.

To increase certainty in the process, which in turn would promote more effective project planning and reduce project delays and costs, Bill C-19 would amend the act to eliminate the possibility that a project may be referred to a panel review even after undergoing a comprehensive study.

The revised comprehensive study process would provide the Minister of the Environment with new powers to set conditions for mitigation measures and follow-up programs, to require more information to bring a comprehensive study report up to standard and to direct that action be taken to address public concerns.

The bill would promote greater use of mediation in dispute resolution and would clarify the powers of federal departments to impose conditions on a project. Another overriding goal of Bill C-19 would be to improve the quality of environmental assessments. High quality assessments contribute to better decisions in support of sustainable development and help build a more accountable planning process.

The amendments contained in Bill C-19 would establish a clear role for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to promote and monitor compliance with the act. Specifically the agency would be given authority to lead a quality assurance program for assessments across federal departments.

Changes would also be made to ensure more and better follow-up of projects after an environmental assessment. Bill C-19 would also propose that the results of regional studies, studies of the effects of several future projects in a region, would be recognized and used in the consideration of cumulative environmental effects; in other words the combined effects of many projects in a region over a long period of time. Finally, it is our intention through Bill C-19 to ensure meaningful public participation in assessments.

The environmental assessment process of the Government of Canada must remain worthy of the trust and involvement of all Canadians. The fundamental value of meaningful public participation in environmental assessments was one of the strongest measures emerging from the review of the existing act.

The legislation would propose to strengthen public participation in three ways. First, Bill C-19 would establish a single, government-wide Internet based registry to provide public access to relevant information. The registry would be administered by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and would replace the existing system in which a seldom used separate paper based registry had been established for each environmental assessment.

Second, we wish to better incorporate the knowledge and perspectives of aboriginal people in the assessment process, particularly where assessments involve reserve lands, traditional territories, or treaty and land management areas. Amendments proposed in Bill C-19 would formally recognize the value and use of traditional knowledge in conducting environmental assessments. An aboriginal advisory committee would also be established to offer advice on assessment issues.

Third, specific opportunities for public participation in assessments would be expanded under Bill C-19. These amendments would clarify that a responsible authority may establish opportunities for public participation at any stage during the screening of a project.

In the case of comprehensive studies, two new opportunities for public participation would be built into the legislation early in the scoping phase of the assessment and during the comprehensive study itself. In addition, the participant funding program now in place for panel reviews would be extended to the comprehensive study review process.

This is a broad overview of the changes proposed in Bill C-19. They are practical, fair and realistic. Bill C-19 would build on the core values of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act as it exists today. These include the notion that environmental assessment should be applied as a planning tool as early as possible in the development process. We are also maintaining the principle of self-assessment by responsible authorities.

The principle of public participation is not only retained, but greatly strengthened under Bill C-19. We are reaffirming the principle of one project, one assessment. The co-operative model of working with other jurisdictions has served us well in the past and would continue to do so in the years ahead. At the same time I assure the House that the federal decision making authority would not be delegated to other jurisdictions.

The process of developing these amendments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act was launched more than a year. Through the dedicated efforts of many people we have come to a consensus on both the need for change and the nature of the change. I ask members of the House to do their part by supporting Bill C-19.

Canadian Environmental Assessment Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to be able to speak to the amendments in Bill C-19 as proposed by the Minister of the Environment.

As the environment critic for the official opposition I have spoken on numerous occasions in the House of my experiences and concerns relating to environmental issues. I have also learned that there is one very important thing to pay attention to when dealing with environmental issues, and that is co-operation. There has to be co-operation with all levels of government and industry as well as with people who are interested in the kind of legislation we are passing.

The federal government is in a unique position to act as a leader in the area of co-operation and to bring all stakeholders together when we talk about the environment. Environmental issues are consistently found at the top of the list when we talk with various stakeholders.

We have often heard people of all ages ask what they can do to help the environment. They then go on to describe their feeling of helplessness and of being overwhelmed by the issues. The federal government has a real lead role to play in co-operation. It should empower Canadians so that they feel active in their communities and can improve their health as well as the ecological system in their areas.

The federal government must also work to provide for the public's best interest and must provide objective knowledge concerning many of these issues. It can act as a facilitator of information and provide venues for the public to engage in the issues. The public must be consulted as often as it possibly can. An informed and empowered citizen is the best friend of the environment.

I have witnessed in the last few years amazing discussions with public groups. We have examples of environmental groups working with industry to bring their joint concerns about endangered species before the environment committee.

In my own community I was part of the parks board for about 10 years. We looked at building a trail system and how that would impact on the potential development of our river escarpment and valleys. The fact that people, industry and real estate people would get involved and work together with city council on that scale made it happen. We are very proud of a parks system which is a selling feature of our community.

No matter where we look, whether it is at endangered species, pollution or water resources, involving people is important. We must get away from the concept that big government runs everything, that it knows best and does not need to consult with people.

Canadians sometimes forget that they can work with industry. They sometimes feel alienated from government and industry. It is incumbent on us, and I believe the bill goes a long way in accomplishing that empowerment and making people feel part of the whole system. Empowerment is an important part of the fabric of a country, a province or a community. Many environmental issues demand government co-operation.

While many think this is only an issue for the federal government and the provinces, we must show people that the bill goes a long way in showing they can be involved. That co-operation is critical.

We must also work on the relationships people have with their government, and I apply that at all levels. The provinces and the federal government must work together to develop initiatives and programs which understand and address the concerns and the very health of people. Whether we talk about the water situation, which we had a lot of discussion on lately, or sewage or whatever, this involvement is so critical and affects people's health.

I believe growing co-operation at all levels is a sign of our observations of the patterns discovered in nature, which we call biodiversity. While competition and combat have an important role in our interactions with each other, humans and nature cannot be reduced to these elements alone.

Co-operation and construction are also integral to the system of nature of which we are all a part. We recognize that we must have both competition and co-operation. Our end goal is what is best for both people and for the natural world that people participate in. With a recognition of the transforming power of both competition and co-operation, the solutions to our concerns are made more apparent.

This brings me to Bill C-19 specifically, the amendments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

First, I will talk about some of the bad news, the competition side of things. Then I will talk about the good news in the bill, which is the areas of co-operation.

The current government continues to have a serious problem when it comes to environmental commitment. It has been said by a number of people that the government is very long on promises and relatively short on action, sort of chameleon-like in approach, constantly changing its colour to fit the surroundings. It betrays the trust of Canadians who once believed that Liberal means environmentally friendly.

As the environment critic for the official opposition, the Alliance Party, it will be my job to show Canadians that we have an environmental conscience and that we care about the environment and the kinds of changes it needs.

The OECD, the Organisation on Economic Co-operation and Development, reported several weeks ago that we were the second worst in the ranking of those 29 countries in terms of environmental progress. That is a rather serious indictment for a country that prides itself in our environment.

The auditor general in his final report released several months ago argued that the current government had significant problems putting words into actions.

We have toxic waste sites around this country numbering in thousands. We have someone sitting on a hunger strike outside here who is saying that something has to be done about the Sydney tar ponds, the most graphic example of where promises have been made but nothing has happened.

We have raw sewage which is being dumped into St. John's Harbour and into the Halifax and Victoria harbours by a G-8 country, an advanced industrial country. That is not an environmentally good record to have.

The far reaching implications of Kyoto promises and endangered species legislation, if implemented without the proper consideration of costs and benefits by the government, are not the way things should be done by a government. We should know what it is going to cost. We should consider the socio-economic impacts. We should look at the whole picture and work with Canadians to solve those problems.

Important detailed information on voluntary and co-operative programs, said to be the emphasis of the new endangered species act, is not there and creates an uncertainty for landowners. When someone is told that some of their land will be taken out of production, where their family is going to suffer, and compensation is not provided for in the legislation, that is a serious lack of co-operation with the people, the people who we must co-operate with if we want to save something. That is the bad news.

The good news is the co-operation. The federal government, under the PCs, developed this tool for environmental impact assessment in co-operation with government, industry and other levels of government. It was soon entrenched in law as the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Its regulations were a provision for a five year review of the act. This was undertaken last year by the current government with direction from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

The review was close to what a public review can be and should be. It involved the participation of thousands of Canadians from many different walks of life, those involved in non-governmental organizations, the provinces, industry and aboriginals. We called many of them to ask them what they thought about Bill C-19. Many came back and said they had looked at it and listened to us. They sounded somewhat shocked that the bill included what they had said. I compliment the government for doing that.

There were consultations and workshops across the country. There were and continue to be regular meetings with the regulatory advisory committee, a stakeholder group made up of industry, environmentalists, aboriginals and government representatives. The process began with background studies, a government discussion document and ended with a draft bill. This was good business practice and these were good consultations.

Many of the amendments in Bill C-19 addressed the various weaknesses in the original act. That is exactly what should happen when we do a review.

There were some infamous cases of environmental assessment that did not work very well, such as the Oldman River case in my province. There was duplication of effort between provincial and federal governments. There were late interventions. There was a lack of consultation and some rather foolish decisions.

In the winter I had a bridge put in to haul lumber out for Sunpine Forest Products. The bridge was put a way up on the banks so it would in in any way touch the river. Yet, through an environmental assessment called by a small group, the company had to lay off 100 people and the project did not go ahead because the bridge would shade the fish. The problem was that it was only there to be used in the winter. The fish were not swimming or breeding at that time. There was ice and snow on the river. That is the kind of foolish decisions that are sometimes made. Hopefully, these amendments will stop that sort of thing.

The amendments would increase the ability for the public, industry and government to work effectively and efficiently on environmental assessments, saving time and money for all involved, increasing public participation in many cases and aiding in protecting the environment.

I am particularly interested in the environmental assessment co-ordinator assigned to each federal assessment and the possibility of having this co-ordinator there. Often what happens is the public does not know who to talk to and are shifted from one level of government to the other. Having an environmental co-ordinator assigned to a project should end this.

I would suggest several changes as well to make the bill even better. Public participation is essential to quality environmental assessment. There are three improvements that should be made to improve this even further and I will just touch on those.

First, the public and industry want to work together on this issue. Early public involvement means less long term suspicion and delays. The scoping determination must be open to public scrutiny.

Second, while the government is keen on going electronic, and I applaud this effort, it must not forget that many Canadians are still not plugged in. Rather than an immediate switch to an electronic public registry system for access to information on project assessment, this government should go a little bit slower. I have been told that there have been significant problems in the past with an electronic format. Therefore, instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, I suggest working on a new one while keeping the old and relatively reliable format for the time being.

Third, it is essential that there be another review of the act and the effectiveness of these amendments in the next five to ten years. This would be to everyone's benefit and I believe would interest all stakeholders. Co-operation between government departments and other levels of government is critical for the success of environmental assessment in Canada and outside Canada. We must stop the duplication between different levels of government.

It is natural for people to be suspicious of new changes, especially when these changes significantly alter the way they must think about how things have been done for so long. The environmental assessment has been around for some time now and it is time for all federal departments to act in co-operation through the leadership of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, so that environmental assessment can be done well and with a strong public input.

Crown corporations in particular have been very slow to rise to the challenge of environmental assessment. While there are provisions in these amendments for developing environmental assessment regulations for some of these corporations, the public must have input into these regulations and have an opportunity to respond to drafts. There must be assurances that Canadian standards are not different in some places or for some departments or corporations.

Co-operation with the provinces, I repeat, is critical. While the amendments to Bill C-19 reflect several suggestions made by the provinces, there is still significant discretion on the part of the responsible minister regarding key elements of decision making. Turf wars are one of the most serious problems between the two levels of government. I would like to see the provinces consulted before the minister's discretionary powers are invoked in sections 25 and 28 of the act. This would demonstrate to the provinces that the federal government is truly working with them and not against them.

I congratulate the Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency for their work. I also sincerely congratulate all those who have spent much precious time on developing these amendments, those in the public who gave their time in public consultations and workshops and those who have given their time to work on the regulatory advisory committee. All of them deserve many thanks for their commitment to this process and this country.

I started this speech by talking about how environmental legislation best works. It is first through co-operation with the citizens and all levels of governments. It is through empowering people with information, with venues for dialogue, with support for dialogue, involvement and action. It is through the federal government taking the lead, setting the example and co-ordinating the efforts.

Too often the government has failed in keeping its many words regarding action on the environment. It has failed many times to consult Canadians, has failed in some basic business practices and has said “just trust us”. However suspicion wins when government fails to be up front. The health of Canadians, the economy and the environment suffer if we are not up front with this information.

The five year review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, while certainly not perfect, was a successful exercise in consulting with Canadians. Such success means better environmental assessment, better co-operation, better government, and the government, industry and citizens will protect the environment better. It means time saved, money saved and human health and the environment saved. Environmental assessment is a good tool to work toward sustainability. There is still much room for improvement, but I have indicated where some of that can come from.

In conclusion, I suggest that the government use the five year review as a model of what can be achieved with other environmental issues such as global warming, species at risk, space preservation and other environmental issues. Taking the lead through co-operation first with all of the citizens of Canada is the very best way to guarantee human health, environmental health and protection for now and the future for all of us.

Canadian Environmental Assessment Act
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1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I want to say that the Bloc Quebecois is opposed to the bill before us, Bill C-9, an act to amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Being opposed to Bill C-19 is in line with the position traditionally taken by representatives from Quebec.

Since 1992 and even before that, the federal government has been trying to get involved in environmental assessment, an area that falls under Quebec's exclusive jurisdiction and in which the province is doing very well.

Quebec has the Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement, which does environmental assessments based on criteria that were accepted and approved by successive legislatures in Quebec.

Once again, we must speak up in the House. It is not an easy task, but it is not easy either for all those who are watching us, particularly Quebecers, who do not often have the chance to see the kind of duplication that a bill dealing with environmental assessment can create.

Quebec has always been and still is at the forefront in the area of environmental assessment. What the bill before us says is that, whenever the federal government invests money in the form of loans, loan guarantees or direct grants, or whenever it leads a project, an environmental assessment will necessarily be done.

All that in spite of the fact that Quebec has its own Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement, a concept that is totally independent from political decision makers. We saw the BAPE in action recently with regard to major projects by Hydro-Québec. The BAPE went against the major orientations of the agency. This is a system that works well in Quebec.

Once again, here we have federal duplication. If there was no representation by Quebec at the public hearings that were held, there was a good reason for it. There has been none since 1992 purely and simply because, that year, the government of Robert Bourassa had passed a unanimous resolution in the National Assembly, stating as follows, and I quote:

That the National Assembly strongly disapproves of the federal government bill—

I have dropped the number.

—, an act to establish a federal environmental assessment process—

This was an act identical to the one introduced today. The resolution continued:

—, because it is contrary to the higher interests of Quebec, and that the National Assembly opposes its passage by the federal Parliament.

This was a resolution unanimously passed by the Quebec National Assembly in 1992, under the Liberal government of Robert Bourassa.

It is, therefore, a matter of integrity and honesty for all Quebecers in this House, to defend the interests of their constituents.

The federal government is too quick to interfere in provincial jurisdictions for all kinds of political reasons.

The only thing that should guide a government when adopting a legislation is the protection of the interests of the citizens. In this case, the interests of the citizens are well protected by the Quebec government's Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement which, I repeat, is a non political, arm's length organization. Historically, it has had a very good record and rendered very good decisions.

It is difficult to understand how Liberals representing Quebec can defend a bill which constitutes a direct interference into Quebec's jurisdiction.

The federal government has so much money that it could invest to help develop road infrastructure. We have an infrastructure program in which the federal government, the Quebec government and municipal governments pay one third each. This program was announced with great pump by the federal government, and received the support of the provinces, the Quebec government and the municipalities.

Once again, that infrastructure program will cover projects in this area.

Since the federal government is contributing one third, through subsidies, to several of these projects, environmental assessments will be made by it, even though Quebec has its own environmental assessment service, namely the Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement. This is a striking example of duplication that is extremely costly to Quebec taxpayers because we already have a good service.

As I said, in 1992, the National Assembly, under the leadership of Robert Bourassa, unanimously adopted a motion rejecting a similar bill, which was to be passed in the House of Commons at the time. That motion was adopted unanimously.

During the public hearings on this bill, no one came to represent Quebec, for the simple reason that we have our own environmental assessment service.

It is because of examples like this one that an increasing number of Quebecers are fed up with the federal government. It interferes in jurisdictions in which it has no business. The federal government should let Quebecers do their own thing, since they have an environmental assessment system that reflects their needs and that has proven successful. The Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement, or BAPE, is very helpful because it conducts environmental assessments for many projects. It is a Quebec agency that works well and that Canada is trying to copy for the benefit of the other Canadian provinces. That is fine with us, but leave Quebec alone with its own resources and structures.

We have something that works well, namely the BAPE. Why impose a new level of assessments that will generate additional costs? Instead, the government should put that money in the tripartite infrastructure programs involving the municipalities, the Quebec government and the federal government. Or let them invest more than the mere $600 million they said they would invest in highways throughout Canada. In the election campaign, this Liberal government promised Quebec alone over $3 billion in investment, when there is only $600 million in the federal budget. We have just looked at the votes in the Standing Committee on Transport, and only $600 million is available for the next five years.

Rather than waste energy and money and spend resources on adding another service to the one that is very well operated in Quebec, the government should keep this money, invest it in municipal infrastructure projects, and government highway infrastructure projects in Quebec and Canada. It should leave the organizations and institutions that work well in Quebec. The Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement is one Quebec institution that works well.

It is hard for the public, for Quebecers watching us, to hear us discuss a bill that has a pleasing title, the act to amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, except that it pleases the Canadian provinces that do not have environmental assessment procedures in place.

We in Quebec do have one. We are proud of it. I repeat, in 1992, the government of Robert Bourassa, unanimously called on the federal government to withdraw from this area of jurisdiction, environmental assessment, because it is a provincial jurisdiction.

There is good reason no Quebec organization appeared before the various committees studying this bill. The Bloc Quebecois cannot support this bill, which is a blatant example of interference. It is because of measures like this one that an increasing number of Quebecers no longer believe in this Canada. The federal government is only investing in an attempt to gain political popularity. It is trying to achieve that by duplicating services that are already provided by Quebec agencies. This is unacceptable.

I cannot understand why Liberal members in this House, who are aware of the problems associated with infrastructure programs and the constant needs of municipalities and of Quebec's road network, support a bill that will create a new level of environmental assessments.

Whenever the federal government will invest, lend or guarantee even the smallest amount, it will be in a position to set up an environmental assessment program that will be in addition to the one that already exists and that works so well in Quebec. There are such aberrations in this Canada. I hope people will remember that, and the sooner the better.