Debates of May 15th, 2001
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.
- Auditor General's Report
- Government Response To Petitions
- Committees Of The House
- Questions On The Order Paper
- Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987
- Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act
- Canadian Environmental Assessment Act
- Canadian Executive Services Organization
- Census Day
- Insectarium De Montréal
- Breast Cancer
- Riding Of Québec East
- Firearms Registry
- Qikitani Inuit Association
- National Marine Day
- Marine Industry
- International Day Of Families
- Police Week
- Missile Defence System
- National Mining Week
- The Economy
- Missile Defence Shield
- National Defence
- North American Free Trade Agreement
- Marine Industry
- Para Transpo
- The Economy
- Missile Defence Shield
- Bulk Water Exports
- Canadian Coast Guard
- Veterans Affairs
- Tomato Industry
- Haroun M'Barek
- The Olympics
- Canadian Wheat Board
- Aboriginal Affairs
- National Defence
- Presence In Gallery
- Canadian Environmental Assessment Act
- Nuclear Fuel Waste Act
- Business Of The House
- Nuclear Fuel Waste Act
- Private Disability Insurers
Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987
Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC
Mr. Speaker, since I became the transport critic, at the beginning of the session, the Bloc Quebecois has supported with reservation the bills dealing with transport put forward by the government, because a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. This time, however, the Bloc will oppose Bill S-3.
This bill concerns the safety of motor vehicle transport. Theoretically, that is a bill designed to say it all, which ends up saying nothing. Why? Simply because the government is basing the whole bill on the National Safety Code for Motor Carriers, which is already in force. For many years, the provinces have been trying to harmonize a series of measures to ensure that road safety standards are enforced.
It is all very well for the government to put on kid gloves and say “Today we are tabling a bill on road safety”, go on about the number of road accidents and claim to be this great advocate of safety in this country, but there remains a harsh reality.
Safety is not only a matter of quality of the work done by truckers. It is also a matter of road conditions. We do not see federal money getting into provincial treasuries to help the provinces put in place an effective highway network in Canada, a network safe not only for trucking users but also for all those who share the road with these huge vehicles.
This safety component, which was intended as a true highway renovation program across Canada, does not originate with this government. I was present at the last meeting of the Standing Committee on Transport when the President of the Treasury Board presented the allocation figures. There is still the same good old figure of $600 million hanging around in the federal government's coffers for the next five years for all highway projects throughout Canada. In the last election campaign, in Quebec alone, the federal government promised $3.220 billion in investments, whereas the total figure allocated for the next five years is a mere $600 million.
A true policy, a true bill on highway safety could have involved the industry but needed to involve government as well, in order to ensure significant investment in the quality of the highways across Canada and, of course and above all, across Quebec. A true highway safety program, a true highway safety bill, should have included a whole chapter, a whole component, on highway renovations.
Returning to this bill, there must also be an understanding of the desire for a Canadian highway safety code, saying “We will harmonize our efforts with the provinces”. A little realism is required about all the work the provinces are trying to do to harmonize their legislation. We are not telling all those listening to us, all the people of Quebec, anything new.
There must be an understanding of the provinces, who have the responsibility for highway safety. Besides, the bill states that safety is a provincial jurisdiction, and declares that all highway safety legislation in each of the provinces is valid.
We have to understand that the provinces are working together to harmonize their extraprovincial transportation standards. As we speak, they still have not managed to agree on a procedure, a modus operandi, that would satisfy all stakeholders.
The government introduces Bill S-3 and says “Here, we are dealing with road safety throughout Canada”. It says in this bill that safety is a provincial responsibility. What it fails to say is that, as we speak, there is still no harmonization between the provinces, between the governments, with respect to a safety system.
Before we, in the Bloc Quebecois, can support such a bill, efforts will have to be made in the field. Mere wishful thinking, introducing legislation and claiming to be the champion of road and highway safety throughout Canada is not enough. The government must at least be sensible and realistic about the implementation problems in the territories and about the will to have a Canadian-wide safety standard.
Of course, what we have to consider, before such a bill is voted on, is harmonizing the definition of basic jurisdiction using as models—and these are only suggestions—the International Fuel Tax Agreement and the International Registration Plan, to state that the basic jurisdiction must be the Canadian place of residence of the carrier or the place where he carries out the most part of his activities.
Thus a base of operations must be designated if carriers are to be held accountable under some legislation. To begin with, we must agree on a definition, which we do not at the moment. In none of the provinces throughout Canada is there agreement on a base of operations for which each administration could be held responsible.
We must also establish, in each administration, rating systems with compatible ratings. It is all very well to say that throughout Canada we have a road safety system. But, to some extent, we must be able to monitor the trucker, the extraprovincial trucker.
We must have an rating system to monitor him in order to rate his behaviour, and this system must be consistent throughout Canada.
So, in this regard, the federal government does not have the authority to implement a road safety regime. This authority rests with each of the provinces. So we must have an acceptable rating system approved by each province before introducing a bill on road safety and saying to good Quebecers and Canadians that we are dealing with road safety.
We must be able to rate the drivers, those who make a living from the system and the industry. We must be able to rate them to ensure that they perform adequately and, ultimately, to make them accountable, and to rate them through a system that is consistent throughout Canada, which is not the case now.
Today, the government is saying to citizens of Quebec “Look, the federal government is dealing with road safety”. The problem is that there is no rating system, no way to find out if a driver is really reliable. There is no process in place by which we could track him, monitor his activities in each of the provinces and set standards that would make it possible for the industry to know what is going on.
It is not enough for the industry to be accountable. The industry must also be able to know what is going on in each of the provinces where some extraprovincial activity is occurring, and that is not the case at this time.
We must develop a tool to assess each and all of the behaviour elements referred to in standard No. 14. They implement a standard, standard No. 14, which the government member praised earlier, but that standard is based on the national safety code for motor carriers and we should be in a position to assess it, at least to some extent.
One must check all the regulations adopted by each of the provincial administrations to be able to follow the carriers and the industries, to be able to rate them, to reprimand them if needed, with some consistency, and that is not provided for in this legislation.
At the present time, there is still no agreement among the provinces, which are responsible for road safety. They are doing a very good job within their territorial limits, but what they have to do is harmonize with each other, which is plainly admitted in this bill. Each province is being given authority for enforcement. This bill gives official recognition to the road safety standards of each of the provinces.
The problem is that, before introducing this bill and telling the Canadians and Quebecers who are listening that there will be one trucking safety code, the government did not look into whether it would be feasible and whether it would be possible to monitor the industry throughout Canada, so that carriers are given the fines they deserve and, if things go well, good behaviour is recognized.
The bill provides for comparable monitoring from one administration to another. Our goal is to have standards that are similar to within about 5%, and to monitor carriers and administrations Canada-wide. In this country, we should always be able to monitor between point A and point B, or between one ocean and the other. We should be able to monitor effectively and have standards that are understandable and understood by the industry in each of the provinces, which is not now the case.
The government is introducing a bill and telling the public “After this bill is passed, there will be one Canadian safety code enforced across Canada”. The problem is that, when it comes right down to it, this is still wishful thinking. This bill will not be enforceable, because this is an area that comes under provincial jurisdiction and the provinces have not yet managed to reach an agreement.
It is not for lack of trying. On the contrary. But there are important industry lobbies in each of the provinces and they are trying to maintain the existing systems. We should give provincial and territorial authorities, and agencies in charge of road safety a chance to set up standards, have discussions and reach an agreement.
The government should have called a meeting of all relevant provincial agencies before introducing such an important bill and stating “We now have a safety code in effect throughout Canada; do not worry, we are taking care of you”. The problem is we do not know how this code will be working in each jurisdiction, for the simple reason that harmonization is lacking.
We also need to develop in each jurisdiction a penalty system setting out the action that will be taken against carriers who do not comply, and keep reducing ratings until their permits are eventually cancelled. We need a process to do this. If we want to have a follow up and to ensure the safety of the transport network, we must be able to monitor the industry and the carriers, record their offences and deduct merit points and eventually revoke their permit. That is the way to get a national safety code that will work in all the provinces.
We must find a way to evaluate the efficiency of the assessment mechanism based on the results. If we are to have a national code in effect throughout Canada, we should make sure the provincial agencies in charge have a common harmonized standard, a follow-up plan to monitor the carriers, a penalty system that is complementary and easily accessible for all agencies through electronic means or otherwise, and an evaluation plan.
It is not good enough to say “We are putting a plan in place”. We must do a follow up, determine whether the carriers did something wrong, list these wrongdoings and even cancel licences, if need be. And all the provincial authorities must have easy access to the registry of cancelled licences, because, as I said, they have to enforce the Canadian code, under the terms of the bill. The provinces have the responsibility ,but they do not have a common rating system.
Right now, it will be very difficult for the industry to organize, because the provinces do not yet have a common system to follow up on the carrier and enforce safety standards.
We could use a conformity registry, a negative points system or another similar system that would make the carrier understand that, over a certain number of infractions, he could lose his licence. There is no such system and it is not the federal government's responsibility to implement one. It is the provinces' jurisdiction.
Right now, there is no harmonization. The Quebec government did not harmonize its standards, but it is holding very serious discussions with the neighbouring provinces. There are almost daily exchanges between governments on the harmonization of road safety standards, to protect the public. The industry must understand these laws, there must be a carryover from one province to another.
At the moment, the provincial governments have no objection. They all agree on the need for a uniform standard across Canada that each of them may apply.
The problem is that they have not managed to select a standard and to agree on a way to harmonize it between provinces. The systems must be effective so statistics may be compiled on the carriers, their progress followed, infractions revealed, potentially resulting in the cancellation of their extraprovincial licences. Once again, these licences are given by the provinces and followed by them. So the whole system of harmonization must be in place before such a bill is voted on.
I repeat, this bill was meant to provide for everything, but, in the end, it provides for nothing. This is another example of a government trying to make political hay over highway transport safety. This is a very complex area, and all the provinces daily face the problems that highway transport on the roads of Quebec and Canada can cause. In Quebec, this is a daily concern.
Everyone wants greater safety. It takes a modicum of ability to get it to happen, to ensure it is respected, to ensure it is applied uniformly across Canada, something that is not the case at the moment. Once again, our Liberal federal government has decided to introduce prematurely a bill intended to say it all and, in the end, says nothing. We oppose this bill.
A harmonization table between the provincial governments should have been created, so that the result of its work could have been communicated before the introduction of this bill, whose purpose is to tell Quebecers and Canadians “Look, we have a Canadian road transportation safety code. We just passed an act giving it effect”.
Finally, it will not be possible to implement this code, because there is no harmonization between the provincial administrations responsible for road safety, which is a provincial jurisdiction. The only positive thing about this bill is that it states that road safety is a provincial jurisdiction. If it is a provincial jurisdiction, then the government should wait until the provinces harmonize their systems to be able to closely follow a carrier who does not comply with the standards or breaks the law and, if possible, cancel his licence if he is responsible for too many accidents, or if he commits too many offences under that safety program.
This is the message that the Bloc Quebecois wants to convey. I will conclude by saying that Quebecers, and surely all Canadians, would have appreciated finding in this bill a part dealing with the upgrading of Canada's highways. This infrastructure deserves a lot more than the $600 million the federal government has earmarked for the next five years.
An amount of $600 million to be spent through partnerships across Canada, on a 50-50 basis with the provinces, means that if we only relied on federal investments for highway transportation across Canada, a mere $1.2 billion would be spent over the next five years on a very extensive highway system that deserves a lot more funds.
I repeat that Liberal members knew this very well because, during the election campaign, they promised to invest $3.2 billion in Quebec alone. These investments were to made rapidly. They promised bridges and roads. Finally, they promised to improve the whole system throughout Quebec. Imagine, an election promise of $3.2 billion for Quebec.
However, in terms of appropriations, the federal government only set aside $600 million for 50/50 agreements with some provinces, agreements totalling $1.2 billion of work throughout Canada, despite promises of $3.2 billion in Quebec alone.
This means once again that the government can still fool some of the people to win an election. But with this bill, the Bloc Quebecois will not be fooled.
The government cannot introduce a bill that purports to be the champion of people's safety, when it knows full well that this bill is not applicable in any of the administrations at this time.
Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987
Wendy Lill Dartmouth, NS
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak today on behalf of the New Democratic Party on second reading of Bill S-3, an act to amend the Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987 and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
New Democrats are going to be supporting this bill. It certainly is not perfect, as many other people have said earlier in this debate but it is a start, and we need that.
The bill establishes a framework for harmonizing the way different provinces administer parts of the national safety code for motor carriers. The national safety code pertains to both buses and transport trucks and is administered at the provincial level. It was introduced by the Mulroney government in 1987 in response to safety concerns that arose due to the deregulation of the trucking industry. However federal government left the provinces to adopt and administer the code themselves. So far none have fully adopted it. In essence the national safety code, therefore is nothing more than a set of suggestions which is a major concern for New Democrats.
The framework established in this bill would allow provinces and territories whose safety compliance regimes are compatible with the national safety code to give extra provincial bus undertakings a safety rating and issue safety certificates. This is a nice idea but functionally useless unless all or most of the provinces adopt the code. This does not appear likely to happen in the foreseeable future.
In the words of the Canadian Truckers Alliance, the safety code harmonization framework is “putting the cart before the horse”. Regardless of what administrative framework the federal government comes up with, the national safety code will remain toothless unless the provinces adopt it.
The Liberal government has the constitutional authority to impose the national safety code on the provinces but is not doing it.
Road safety, as was mentioned several times earlier, is the central concern of everyone in the House. We can write all the bills we want, but quite frankly we all know the highways that we drive on are in many cases treacherous at this time of year. They have potholes, cracks and great divides. These are very damaging to our cars and very often cause accidents between trucks and cars on our highways. I am sure Nova Scotia is right up there with Churchill, Manitoba and with many other parts of our Trans-Canada Highway as being a national disgrace.
The question is what is the Liberal government doing about road safety? It is one thing to have this bill but the real question is one of road safety. We need safe highways. We need a real road infrastructure program that is going to at the end of the day make it safe to drive from one end of the country to the other.
For starters, I would suggest in this respect that we need to see some real investment in improving our highways. Every year over 200 Canadians are killed because of bad roads and 16,000 more are injured. These statistics are of accidents caused by bad roads, not by driver error, bad weather, drunk drivers or problems with vehicles. They are accidents caused by problems with the road. Again it has to do with improving the infrastructure and putting money into our roads. These accidents alone kill hundreds of Canadians and injure tens of thousands each year.
Studies have shown that if the government would spend $1 billion a year improving our highways for the next 20 years, the roadwork would pay for itself in the form of lower health care costs because of fewer accidents. It would pay for itself in terms of disability payments and the many additional costs involved in road accidents.
Let me repeat that because it is a remarkable fact. Fixing our highways could actually save the government more money in health care costs than it would cost to fix the highways.
In conclusion, we support the bill. It is not perfect, but it would be useful some day when we have a federal government with the conviction and the determination to make the safety of Canadian highways a priority and turn the national safety code into something relevant, instead of just a set of suggestions that none of the provinces follow. We will support the bill at this stage.
Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)
Is the House ready for the question?
Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987
Some hon. members
Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)
The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987
Some hon. members
Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)
Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations.
(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)
The House resumed from May 14 consideration of the motion that Bill C-10, an act respecting the national marine conservation areas of Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act
May 15th, 2001 / 11:05 a.m.
Jim Abbott Kootenay—Columbia, BC
Mr. Speaker, the intent of Bill C-10 without a doubt is a very laudable intent. In taking a look at the condition of our oceans and waterways, not only in Canada but indeed around the world, the environment has to be protected. There can be absolutely no question about that. There are many areas of degradation which have occurred and continue to occur.
The intent of the bill is a good one. Coming as it does though under the auspices of the heritage department, we have some idea of what the heritage department is capable of doing, particularly with respect to preservation in parks. We therefore have an idea of some of the challenges that face the department, indeed some of the challenges that have been created by the department for people who also have the laudable intent to protect the environment under parks.
We should briefly take a look at the template or pattern we have. We know Canada's oldest national park, Banff National Park, is under a tremendous amount of pressure, created in no small part by human beings. The resulting pressure, which has been created to the changes of the flora and the fauna, has impacted the wildlife in the area. What has been the response of the park and what is some of the history relative to Banff and indeed the four mountain parks?
If we look at the history of Heritage Canada and Parks Canada, we again realize that with laudable intent they have attempted to create a situation where we could have interaction among human beings and the flora, fauna and wildlife in the parks.
In trying to create that situation, they have taken action which has allowed the build up of ski hills, riding and walking trails and a whole tourist infrastructure over a period of time. If we look at Banff Park as an example, believe it or not the town site generates almost three quarters of a billion dollars a year in gross domestic product. It is a gigantic amount of money which comes into Canada, and in no small part from Europe and particularly from the U.S.
In developing the projects around the park, care was taken over a period of time to get a proper balance to ensure that the park would be preserved for future generations of Canadians. What has occurred though, and it has become clear, is that some of the provisions to take into account the pressure which this would create on the environment within the park have some distinct deficiencies. As a consequence, some gapping holes have been left in what was formerly the very pristine wilderness area, not the least of which of course is the location of the town site of Banff itself. This has a direct bearing.
Under Bill C-10, Parks Canada would be responsible for the enactment for the use of the legislation. As a consequence, if we look at the way it has its work historically on land, what would the results be in terms of marine conservation area?
First, it is a fact that, if we were to take a species like the grizzly within the confines of Banff Park, clearly the habitat of the grizzly has been very seriously negatively impacted. As a consequence there are fewer and fewer grizzlies in that area. Furthermore, with the number of visitors going into Banff Park it is undesirable that there would be an increased amount of interaction between grizzlies and human beings. The two are simply not compatible.
What does that mean relative to Bill C-10? If we look at the number of interests with respect to ocean and Great Lakes areas, we will find that commercial and recreational interests are already in place in many of these situations.
In trying to come to an accommodation of the environment, the flora, fauna and the animals contained within a park, it strikes me that Parks Canada has swung the pendulum absolutely to the opposite end of the spectrum. Instead of now saying we have created the situation where human beings, tourists, from all five continents can come and enjoy what we have, because of these experiences there will be a cost to the wildlife in the area. There is a very strong swing to the entire idea of absolute conservation.
There has been a movement to ban any human interaction into the back country within the four mountain parks of Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay. Yoho and Kootenay are parks that are in my constituency. These back country areas basically account for 90% of the park. If we look at it through a very simplistic lens, it is probably a commendable thing to do, but it really is not because it does a couple of things.
It means that there is far more pressure brought into the remaining 10% of the park with far more wear and tear. I will give an example. Many of us have carpets in our homes or we have seen carpets in commercial areas. If we had people walking over the entire carpet it may last for many years, even 50, 60 or 70 years. Theoretically a carpet could last that long even with a great number of people walking over the entire area. The problem is if we confine them to only 10% of that area we have wear marks and have to replace the entire carpet.
That may be a weak analogy, but it presents a picture of what is currently happening within our park structure. With the correct intention of not wanting interaction in the back country human interaction in over 90% of the area would be excluded. That is a very laudable objective, but it has not been fully thought out because of the wear and tear on the last 10%.
We are trying to learn from what we are doing on land within Parks Canada to see how we might apply these things when it comes to lakes, rivers and oceans. The difficulty is that under the legislation there is a sufficient amount of discretion on the part of the government. We may see government whims gaining speed and decisions swinging back and forth like a pendulum.
People have some very legitimate concerns and a commitment to preserving what we have in terms of aquifer, species, flora and fauna that exist below the surface of the water. These people share the concern of Parks Canada and governments. They are saying that if we have not learned how to correctly do what we need to do on land, what will we be doing with respect to the parks or the water area?
I will be splitting my time with the member for Edmonton North. Taking a look at intent is one thing, but we should also keep in mind the legislation and history. For example, we created a situation in Kootenay National Park, which is in my constituency, that does not make any sense. At one point there was no road there. The road I am referring to is now called Banff-Windermere Highway 93-97. It ends up circling its way down from Lake Louise, up over Storm Mountain, down into the Kootenay River, up over the top and into Windermere.
There is a bottleneck at Sinclair Canyon, which is right between Radium Hot Springs and the town of Radium itself. Sinclair Canyon is exceptionally narrow and only wide enough for a two lane highway. As a matter of fact a river went through the canyon that has rock going about 200 to 300 feet straight up in the air. We put in a two lane highway at that particular point and had to dig the river underneath the highway.
When the national parks built Radium Hot Springs, it encouraged service providers and private industry to build chalets, bungalows and tourist accommodations so people could enjoy the hot springs. These people have ended up having a constant, neverending battle that has been increasing in noise to the point where they are now talking about removing those facilities at a cost of millions of dollars to the taxpayers. Why? They say it is because it is a wildlife corridor.
It could not have been a wildlife corridor in the past, particularly for the larger animals, without the highway there. Putting in the highway meant that the animals could now, at very low traffic times, walk back and forth through Sinclair Canyon while dodging the 18-wheelers and the ore trucks.
We will be spending $4 million to $6 million to buy out the tourist service providers. These service providers are people who have been paying taxes and fees to Parks Canada. Not only will we spend $4 million to $6 million to remove those facilities but in addition we will lose the revenue from the facilities once we have removed them. This is the concern that I have with Bill C-10.
I realize this will be the fifth or sixth time that I have said this but I want to make it absolutely crystal clear that the Canadian Alliance is in favour of the intent of Bill C-10. The difficulty is that once the bill is enacted it would be under the control of Parks Canada which has a history of not managing its assets very well.
For example, there are people on the Queen Charlotte Islands who have seen the establishment of a park on the islands. They have also seen the husbandry of the Department of Canadian Heritage with respect to the west coast trail and all these things. Parks Canada's track record makes people concerned and nervous about the commercial access to the Pacific Ocean, and I understand their nervousness. It does not have a good track record of consistency and of following through on a prescribed course of action.
I have consistently accused Parks Canada of using the word consultation as a noun instead of a verb. It says that it had consultation. No, it did not. It came out and let people talk but it had already made up its mind. Consultation is a noun, not a verb. It is not a form of action. On the basis of the history of Parks Canada, it is with a tremendous amount of trepidation and concern that we look at Bill C-10.
There are literally hundreds of examples but I would like to present one or two more.
Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba has an area with a lot of natural grasses. Back in 1910 someone decided to plant some spruce trees. Those spruce trees did very well and grew to be very tall, straight, clear spruce. This wood is almost priceless. Each tree is counted in the thousands of dollars. Then some people from Parks Canada said that the trees did not really belong there, that we should get rid of them. Not only did they chop them down and uproot them, they burned them. Does that make sense? Hundreds of thousands of dollars in trees were chopped up for firewood so the grasslands could be restored.
Let us assume that the Creator did not intend there to be trees there and that someone planted them. By the same token, we could go to Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland, which is an absolute wonder. It is a wonderful place to go and I recommend it to all Canadians if they want to see something absolutely spectacular and be treated wonderfully by the people in Rocky Harbour and Corner Brook. The park has moose like we have never seen before. Mr. Speaker, I know you have very large moose in your constituency but we could have a contest with these moose. They are that big and there are about 7,000 moose.
Gros Morne is kind of interesting. It is like the top of a mountain that has been taken off. It is perfect moose country full of marshland. In its brilliance, in the same way that someone planted the spruce trees, Parks Canada decided to import moose to Newfoundland, a place they should never have been. As a consequence, Gros Morne is literally being eaten into extinction by the moose.
Someone said that there should be a culling of the moose. Heaven forbid, we could never do that. Parks Canada can chop down the trees and burn up invaluable wood, but it cannot have anything to do with the management of that area because moose are animals that walk on the earth. The inconsistency of Parks Canada in its management, as I stated, gives us great pause for concern with respect to Bill C-10.
Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act
Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC
Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to speak to Bill C-10 to create national marine conservation areas in Canada. This bill comes back to us under a different form that during the last parliament.
First, I must say that the Bloc is in favour of measures aimed at protecting the environment. Speaking of that, we can all recall how successful the creation of the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park was. It ought to have served as a model for this bill to ensure that the necessary consultations were carried out so that, in the end, the measures taken and the management of the marine conservation areas respect the various jurisdictions and the initiatives taken by the various governments.
We have examples of this, such as Vision 2000 and other projects where the jurisdictions were taken into account and where some interesting results have been achieved.
In this case, is it because it is a more general bill, a kind of umbrella act, which will establish a general framework for the management of marine conservation areas, that the consultations do not seem to have been carried out appropriately and to respect what we would like to seeas the bottom line? To those of us on this side, the consultations do not seem to have been carried out properly and do not seem to respect what we would like to see as the bottom line.
As I said earlier, instead of focusing on collaborative efforts, as was the case for the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park, with this bill the federal government will have the right to create marine conservation areas without regard for Quebec's jurisdiction over its territory and its environment.
In addition to having a problem with the provinces as far as jurisdiction is concerned, there are also areas within the bill that are not very clear as far as the future relationship between Heritage Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada is concerned. We have experienced certain rather patent examples of difficulties with Heritage Canada, in connection with management of the ecosystem. This does not necessarily strike us as being very promising for the future.
For example, there is the overlap and duplication of Fisheries and Oceans-protected and Environment Canada-protected zones. This means that, even within the federal government, there is no clear vision of marine area management, because several departments are involved. The wording of this bill does not seem to reflect what we might have expected in terms of qualifying the situation. What we have instead is something that requires more time and more work.
For all these reasons, the Bloc Quebecois considers this bill unacceptable in its present form. It does not respect the territorial integrity of Quebec. For example, one of the conditions essential to the establishment of a marine conservation area is federal ownership of the land where the area is to be established. One of the clauses relating to this states that the minister cannot establish a marine conservation area, unless, and I quote:
—the Governor in Council is satisfied that Her Majesty in right of Canada has clear title to or an unencumbered right of ownership in the lands to be included in the marine conservation area, other than such lands situated within the exclusive economic zone of Canada;
We see in this, therefore, an approach very different from that used, as I was saying earlier, in the case of the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park, where the government agreed to respect provincial ownership of the riverbed and, thus, build a model that was unique and that respected the jurisdictions of each.
We know that, under section 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867, the management and sale of crown lands are matters of exclusive provincial jurisdiction. The bill before us does not totally respect this jurisdiction.
In addition, the same Constitution Act provides that Quebec cannot transfer its lands to the federal government and can only authorize the federal government, by order, to use them under its federal jurisdiction. Finally, the protection of habitats and fauna is a matter of joint federal and provincial jurisdiction, and the Government of Quebec plans to establish a framework for the protection of marine areas in the near future.
I think that, in the context of the consultations, it would have been a good idea to take this plan into consideration, in order to achieve a successful outcome in the end. We spoke of examples of the right of way of doing things. I mentioned the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park, but there is the third phase of the St. Lawrence action plan, another example to follow.
In 1998, the federal and Quebec ministers of the environment announced the third phase of the St. Lawrence action plan, representing a total bill of $230 million to be shared equally by both levels of government. One of the objectives of this action plan is to increase the area of protected habitats by 100% from 12,000 hectares to 120,000 hectares. The third phase follows on the first two phases, in which both governments invested over $300 million.
This co-operation we find in specific projects such as the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park and the third phase of the St. Lawrence action plan, we would also liked to find it in the present bill. On reading it, we did not.
Another important consideration is the fact that jurisdiction over the environment is shared, and so both the provinces and the federal government have responsibilities for it.
For example, section 91 of the Constitution Act provides that “the exclusive Legislative Authority of the Parliament of Canada extends to all Matters coming within the Classes of Subjects next herein-after enumerated; that is to say,—...Navigation and Shipping...Quarantine and the Establishment and Maintenance of Marine Hospitals...Sea Coast and Inland Fisheries...Ferries between a Province and any British or Foreign Country or between Two Provinces”.
This basically sums up the content of the Constitution Act, 1867, as regards the federal government's responsibility.
Quebec's jurisdiction is also recognized in certain sections of the British North America Act, including section 92, which reads:
In each Province the Legislature may exclusively make Laws in relation to Matters coming within the Classes of Subjects next herein-after enumerated; that is to say—...The Management and Sale of the Public Lands belonging to the Province and of the Timber and Wood thereon...Property and Civil Rights in the Province...Generally all Matters of a merely local or private Nature in the Province.
So, some co-ordination is required to ensure that the federal acts respect this jurisdiction. The Constitution Act, 1867, also states that:
In each province, the legislature may exclusively make laws in relation to ( a ) exploration for non-renewable natural resources in the province; ( b ) development, conservation and management of non-renewable natural resources and forestry resources in the province, including laws in relation to the rate of primary production therefrom—
Clearly, this bill should involve some kind of partnership that does not currently exist.
The example of the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park could have been followed as an essential condition to the creation of marine conservation areas, as far as land ownership is concerned. If the bill is passed as it now stands, the federal government could set up marine conservation areas on the seabed that it claims as its property and ignore Quebec's jurisdiction over the environment.
This is not satisfactory for the Bloc Quebecois and it also breaks a tradition I referred to earlier, a tradition of co-operation, which could have led to the establishment of interesting programs.
It is all the more frustrating and questionable, because this is framework legislation, which will define the way the federal government will act in this field. The government is proposing new principles as far as respect of mutual jurisdictions is concerned.
It seems that the federal government intends to create marine conservation areas under the responsibility of Heritage Canada, marine protection areas under the responsibility of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and marine wildlife areas under the responsibility of Environment Canada. This covers a lot of territory.
We could for example end up with one site with several zonings, each one of these departments considering that there is, according to its own criteria, a marine reserve or marine protection area for Fisheries and Ocean Canada, a marine reserve for Environment Canada or a marine conservation area for Heritage Canada. Then, in each of these cases, there would be three monitoring levels, three jurisdictions for three different departments.
Perhaps I could give an example. If Heritage Canada felt that certain wrecks in the St. Lawrence River had a historic role that deserved to be recognized and the environment was part of the conservation area, but Environment Canada wanted this same location recognized as a marine reserve for fauna, and there were a contradiction between the two, it is clear that the bill does not contain the desired logic to settle the matter.
Is it not fair to wonder today whether, ultimately, this bill will not create even more confusion?
We believe that it will. We believe that the fact that the bill allows each of the federal departments to maintain its jurisdiction over marine conservation areas may end up creating total confusion. As we explained earlier, with three departments having jurisdiction and being able to define marine conservation areas according to their own different objectives, the final results might not be consistent.
The bill also provides that, when the Department of Canadian Heritage deems it appropriate, it may, in co-operation with the minister concerned, pass regulations, in respect of a marine conservation area, which differ from the existing provisions. In such a case, the amendment arrived at between Heritage Canada and the minister concerned takes precedence over the other regulations passed under the Fisheries Act, the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act, the Canada Shipping Act, the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act, and the Aeronautics Act.
In other words, despite the fact that this is framework legislation, there is provision for the Department of Canadian Heritage, through its minister, to negotiate a piecemeal situation such as this, when it deems appropriate, and for the results to take precedence over all the legislation mentioned.
This discretion should be controlled very differently to make sure that it will not lead to squabbles between departments. It would also be subject to a change in ministers. If a minister from the Atlantic or the Pacific region has his own priorities in that area, he could use his powers under the act to put pressure on the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans or another minister, to demand some kind of acknowledgment of marine conservation areas not included in the planning by existing departments.
This section of the bill provides for a fourth way to create marine conservation areas, very specifically, on a case by case basis. I do not believe that framework legislation should provide for something like that.
We are all the more concerned by this situation that in the past there has been very severe criticism from the auditor general, among others, about the inability of Heritage Canada to protect ecosystems in existing national parks. Now that they want to get involved in marine conservation areas, are we going to be faced with the same kind of situation?
Very concrete examples can be found in chapter 31 of the auditor general's report, which states:
In the six national parks we reviewed, Parks Canada's biophysical information was out-of-date or incomplete.
The report states further:
Although monitoring the ecological integrity of the ecosystems in national parks is a high priority according to Parks Canada policies and guidelines, in many national parks the Department has not monitored ecological conditions on a regular, continuing basis.
How can we trust a department that was the subject of such comments in relation to existing parks, when there are plans to establish new parks in an even more unclear situation, where the government will not be accountable for its actions?
In another comment, the auditor general said:
In almost all of the parks visited by the auditor general, there was no link between business plans and management plans.
In the end, it meant a lack of co-ordination in the activities listed in the business plans to make the parks better known and help them reach their public, as well as in day to day management, to make sure the services that are in demand and that are offered to the public can be provided. If park visitors do not get this kind of service, it is inappropriate to give this responsibility to a department which has had big problems in the past.
Last spring, the panel on the ecological integrity of Canada's national parks made its report public and urged the government to put ecological integrity back in the centre of its missions. The panel found that the integrity of ecosystems was at risk.
For example, the panel found that, in some national parks, the stress on the resource was so great that some species were disappearing. All the more so in marine areas, where we can have this type of situation if they are is not properly managed.
In Fundy park, in New Brunswick, three species have disappeared since the park was created, in the 1940s. Only one of the 39 national parks of Canada does not experience this stress. The situation is worse than what the panel of scientists expected.
Given all this information, one really has to wonder how Parks Canada will manage to preserve the marine areas of conservation, when it does not seem to have the wherewithal to protect existing parks.
There are more reasons to oppose this bill. Consultations before the introduction of the bill have been more or less a failure. A consultation paper was made public and sent to 3,000 groups across Canada, but unfortunately there has been no real consultation on the report.
For example, the Bloc Quebecois had asked for a copy of the 300-page report, which was really only 73 pages long, the large majority of which constituted the reply-coupon joined to the consultation paper. That was very succinct as a consultation result. We could hardly use it to improve the bill.
We must also realize that the decision concerns the fishing industry, which is in turmoil. In the past, we have witnessed tremendous failures in the federal policy dealing with stock management. Entire areas of Quebec and Canada saw their regional economy suffer badly.
Clause 10(1) of the bill states, and I quote:
10.(1) The Minister shall provide opportunities for consultation with relevant federal and provincial ministers and agencies ... in the development of marine conservation area policy—
How are they going to ensure that there will be consultation in the fisheries area in order to avoid an unacceptable outcome, when we are already aware of the failure of the federal fisheries stock management policy?
The way this bill is worded, the information given does not provide assurance, despite reassurances by departmental officials, that the objective will be attained, i.e. that marine conservation areas will be better protected. We have no assurance that Quebec's jurisdiction will be respected.
When the application of this bill is reviewed in another five, ten or fifteen years, we will probably find it was just one more failure. This review will probably show that the Bloc Quebecois was justified in what it has said about the bill being passed within a context of insufficient consultation of the provinces and insufficient co-ordination by the various federal departments involved. By then, we will have one or two examples available in which the discretionary power conferred upon the minister will have been used to solve problems in a specific region, not necessarily within the spirit of the law.
Given all these facts, the Bloc Quebecois invites the House to vote against the bill. We do not feel it is acceptable at this stage.
Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act
Deborah Grey Edmonton North, AB
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise again on Bill C-10, which is going through another life cycle. At the beginning of the 36th parliament it was Bill C-48 and at the end of the 36th parliament it became Bill C-8.
I was pleased to be critic at the time for Canadian heritage and I spent some time on the bill. However it now rises again. These things seem to die on the order paper fairly regularly. The bill originated in 1988 when the Mulroney government introduced the National Parks Act that would permit the establishment of marine parks.
I will not go through all the details but I will hit a few high points about the intent of the legislation. I do not think anyone in the House or across the country would disagree that environmental protection and sustainability are paramount. Whether they pertain to national parks, marine areas or regulating the pollution of large companies, environmental protection and sustainable development are very important issues.
However these issues do not fall specifically within the jurisdictional power of the Minister of Canadian Heritage. We talk about ecosystems, fish, aquaculture and so on. It would be wise to place some of the responsibility for these issues with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. We could then talk about the Department of the Environment and how important it is to look at environmental sustainability in the whole area of marine conservation parks.
I also sense frustration with the amount of input parliament would have. I am not sure if this place is becoming more and more irrelevant.
Bill C-10 would pare down anything parliament would have to say on the issue. It would limit parliamentary input by giving cabinet the authority to create marine conservation areas on crown land without going through the normal legislative process. The question is, why bother with this place at all? Cabinet might as well get together, have coffee, bring up an order in council and throw a dart and pick a marine conservation area.
A lot of people and advisory committees have done an incredible amount of work on this issue. I have seen the maps and the areas and they seem well thought out. However the whole idea of going to cabinet and just zipping something through in a morning session, or maybe not even that long, maybe even before coffee, is no good. The House of Commons is where such debate should take place.
We know in the years we have been here that the amount of discussion and the power of parliament itself has been pared down. Members have also witnessed incredible growth in government. Budgets have ballooned. The debt has certainly ballooned and hopefully we are starting to control that. The annual deficit is somewhat under control. That is probably a good start.
Let us look at the amount of governing that would occur under marine conservations areas. Once a marine conservation area is established the minister may maintain and operate the facilities, conduct scientific research and monitor and carry out studies based on traditional ecological knowledge of the areas.
That is a nice tidy sentence. We can all guess where it may lead. It could lead to mushrooming bureaucracies, advisory committees and all kinds of studies and scientific research. Such things are essential but if they are not monitored they could fly loose. The legislation could be an entity unto itself. When members see the mushroom cloud it places under the government, a cloud with no checks or balances that will only get bigger and bigger, they should be careful.
This whole area unnecessarily expands the minister's domain to areas that fall outside her ministerial responsibility. The minister talks about marine conservation areas, which is again a nice thought and something that perhaps needs to happen sooner or later to a degree, but it is by order in council and should be under DFO control as much as anything else.
What about the Minister of the Environment? The bill would require the heritage minister to establish a management plan for marine conservation, ecosystem protection, human use and zoning. Somewhere in there surely the Minister of the Environment and his department should be involved. We then start saying that it is this department or that department and the whole thing blows loose because it gets bigger and bigger rather than adopting tighter checks and balances.
In addition, each marine conservation area would require the establishment of a management advisory committee to review and implement management plans. For every marine park or conservation area there needs to be a whole advisory committee. I am not necessarily questioning the wisdom of that. A lot of people have a lot of expertise in the area and I do not. I certainly respect the ability of advisory committees to review and implement plans.
However where does it stop? That is the question. This thing will get bigger and bigger. There must be rules and regulations and the government needs to come forward with them. Unfortunately we see no checks and balances in this piece of legislation.
Ministers have all kinds of power, which we have certainly seen. I could digress and talk about Bill C-15, the enormous omnibus justice bill, but there is no point in getting into that right now. It is certainly before the House. It is an unbelievable piece of legislation and an example of phenomenal ministerial power. I hope it gets chunked down into bite size pieces so we can deal with each section on its own.
Regarding ministerial powers and perhaps overuse of powers, the minister states that commercial fishing and shipping would be appropriate in conservation areas. I would like an expert to tell us those things rather than the minister.
In the last bill we talked about whether the minister would be able to curtail or eliminate commercial flights over marine conservation areas. What would that do to small charter companies that fly over the ocean three-quarters of their lives on the B.C. straits?
The clauses would allow commercial fishing according to the minister's will. All aquaculture fisheries management, marine navigation and marine safety plans would then be subject to the approval of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of Heritage. Do we not see the thing getting bigger and bigger? It looks like mushrooming to me.
The whole idea of putting regulations into place is essential. However, how do we enforce them? We have seen all kinds of legislation over the years where regulations were put in place and not enforced. How do we enforce regulations? That is the frustration we see with the National Parks Act.
My colleague talked about Kootenay Park, Banff, Jasper and Yoho. The parallel is that the National Parks Act does not give park wardens sufficient authority to enforce the law. Park wardens drive around in their brown trucks. We see them all the time. I live very close to Elk Island National Park. It is 45 minutes east of my home in Edmonton. Lew and I ride out there a lot. We see park wardens and we know they are people we ought to respect.
I am a law-abiding citizen. When I see the rangers' authority I do not try to pull anything on them. We have gone around and around the block in the House about sidearms for park rangers. If a person is up to no good or wants to poach moose, elk or bison, they know park wardens are fairly powerless. The government is very irresponsible in terms of the National Parks Act.
The parallel can then be drawn: What would the government do with the marine conservation act? The director of Parks Canada has suggested allowing the RCMP to get involved. That is good, but there are lots of parks where the RCMP is more than a 12 minute drive away. Park wardens should have all the power and authority vested in them by the government and the minister to protect both wildlife and public safety.
For marine conservation acts the record is not stellar. We must ask what would happen. Would people be chased around in boats? Is that what enforcing the regulations would come to?
Let us look at the history of the legislation. This is the third swing around. Who knows when it might get passed? Is the government really committed to the legislation? It has died on the order paper a couple of times, as I mentioned. Will we put regulations in place that the minister will live by, or is this a grandiose plan that will not be enforced?
Many think parliament is irrelevant. A proposed amendment structure in the legislation would allow 20 days for amendments and a three hour debate on them. Such amendments may affect shipping lanes, commercial fishing, sport fishing, aquaculture, commercial flights, and who knows what. Recreational boating may not be allowed in some areas. If an amendment is put forward there would be only three hours to debate it. That is almost an admission that parliament is irrelevant and does not matter. Decisions would be made around the cabinet table.
The legislation would severely limit the ability of parliamentarians to consider all options when new marine areas are set up. The bill would give the Minister of Canadian Heritage free rein to create unlimited advisory committees for each marine conservation area. We know where that could go when people are absolutely unchecked.
Limitations on the size and structure of each committee must be established in the legislation. We need to make sure the parameters are in place. If we get an unlimited number of people with unlimited amounts of salary, and it looks like a big pot out of which we can draw cash, we all know that it could go on for a very long time. It may need to be studied for a little longer and, because it is important, we may need to bring in 15 experts. The thing needs some parameters in place but unfortunately we are not seeing that at this time.
I will wrap up by drawing a parallel with the land national parks and some of the things going on there. The parks of Banff and Jasper are absolutely glorious. They have a lot of building projects going on. The minister took her first swing out to those parks last summer or the summer before and was able to see first hand how fabulous these parks are and how important it is that we balance economic and sustainable development with environmental protection.
We want to make sure there is a balance in nature. We may not be able to please both sides of the equation but if I want to go to a park or spend money on a hotel or in a restaurant, I want to be able to do that. If I have the money to go camping in Jasper Park, I want to be able to go there and enjoy the pristine wilderness, have a campfire outside my camper and enjoy the campground. I am not sure that anyone ought to be telling me that I cannot do that.
It would be the same if we were talking about a marine conservation area. It is important that I am able to make use of that area but at the same time I do not want heavyhanded regulations. I want wisdom, not advisory committees. This may sound foolish, coming around in boats, but there needs to be absolute common sense from the government. I do not think we see that to this extent with some of the things I have discussed. I hope the government takes into account, when it swings through the legislation again, that too many rules and regulations certainly are unwise. At the same time, this just cannot be an open can or basket for people to help themselves.
I am really nervous about the fact that the minister would have far too much power and that it would be essential for joint ministries to work together. If we look at heritage we see that we have a marvellous heritage. We can also look at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Department of the Environment. I certainly hope that no one is just trying to make a legacy for themselves. That would surely be unwise and people would be able to see right through that.
Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)
The member for Lac-Saint-Jean.
Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act
Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would first like to point out that my riding is Saint-Jean. There is a big difference between Lac-Saint-Jean and Saint-Jean. They are two very beautiful regions. When you can, I invite you to come and visit my riding. The French immersion school is in my riding, but I know your French is excellent. Nevertheless, I extend a personal invitation to you; you will always be welcome in my riding.
I am making a point of speaking to the bill before us because I think it important for Quebec to express its opinion on all bills.
I am immediately struck by the title of the bill, which concerns national marine conservation areas of Canada. I understand that, in the context of nation building and the great and beautiful Canada, national means Canada. The proof that there is some authority there is that all provincial legislatures are called legislative assemblies, with the exception of Quebec's, which is called the National Assembly.
In my opinon, the bill before us today can be summed up in three words: centralization, centralization, centralization. If some are pleased with this type of legislation, it is most certainly officials from the Queen's Privy Council or from the Council for Canadian Unity. For these people, this type of legislation promotes nation building. Let me explain.
Earlier, I talked about centralization. I think we all agree that, when Canada takes part in treaties such as the FTAA, other types of international agreements or international forums, such as a forum on the environment where the topic may be marine areas, it must often deal with the fact that there may be two levels of jurisdiction involved, and sometimes even three, when municipalities have a say. The federal government often speaks on behalf of the provinces, and this is where the problem lies.
Over the past several years, Canada has undertaken a major centralizing operation. When it speaks at these international forums, Canada wants to do it on behalf of everyone, but it knows full well that it is not that simple. In Quebec, there is a national assembly, just like there are legislative assemblies across Canada, and these bodies have their own jurisdictions.
The federal government told itself “In the coming years, we will have to centralize as much as possible”. How? By intruding in the provinces' jurisdictions, with or without their agreement.
The bill before us is an invasion of a provincial jurisdiction, particularly in Quebec, since we have jurisdiction over, among other things, the river, the estuary and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Quebec has jurisdiction over the bed of these waters. But through its centralization process, the federal government is taking over part of that jurisdiction.
How is the government going about this? Not just through bills, but also with its spending power. If conservation areas are strictly federal entities, the government will use its money to do it, as it does in other areas.
For example, in the case of young offenders, the government will use its money to do this. In the health sector, where it is more and more tempted, the government is using its spending power, a ploy which has been approved by the highest court, the Supreme Court of Canada. The government has the right to spend, even in jurisdictions that are not its own. It does this all the time.
Worse yet is the way in which it has managed to arrange things so that it can invade the jurisdictions of Quebec and of the other provinces. First, as everyone agrees, it did this on the backs of unemployed workers, but it also did it through transfer payments. The government decided, using an analytical grid based on the capacity to generate wealth, that it would reduce its contribution to postsecondary education, health and social programs and that it would send a little less money to the provinces, and much less to Quebec.
It rakes in the money and then turns around and uses its spending authority to invade provincial jurisdictions. That is what the bill before us today is all about. It is the same logic that was used with respect to the issue of young offenders, where Quebec has excellent legislation which has proven its worth. The consensus in Quebec is that the federal government should not invade this jurisdiction, that rehabilitation is working in Quebec and has done so for some time. But the government is obsessed with centralization and keeps on invading provincial areas of jurisdiction.
Another example is parental leave. The Government of Quebec is saying that it is capable of providing better parental leave for young Quebec mothers. The federal government disagrees and says that this should come under the employment insurance plan and that that is where it will put the money. It is not interested in hearing about our plans to improve our parental leave plan.
The same goes for privacy. The government has introduced a privacy bill, even though we already have privacy legislation in Quebec.
We can see that the federal government, with the money it has managed to extract from the provinces by decreasing transfer payments, is encroaching on Quebec's areas of jurisdiction.
This is one of them. As I have said, it is one because as far as jurisdiction is concerned, the beds of rivers, the bed of the St. Lawrence, the bed of the estuary, the bed of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, are all a provincial jurisdiction.
The federal government is telling us “We are going to establish a new area of jurisdiction, a marine conservation area”. This will likely be against the wishes of the Government of Quebec, which has not been consulted in any way whatsoever. The notes on partnership I have before me indicate that it was a very simple matter to put paid to partnership, and to say “Here we are, and this is what we are going to impose”.
This is totally deplorable, which is why it is important for me to ask all these questions. The Quebec National Assembly would surely object to a law of this kind. When I say object, this would likely be by consensus. Even the federalists in the Quebec National Assembly understand that Quebecers have a different way of thinking than the rest of Canada.
The nation building mentality of Canada does not make any differentiation, however. To it, there is but one nation in Canada: the Canadians. It renounces and closes its eyes to the nation of Quebec. This is totally deplorable. This is the type of bill which, if presented to the Quebec National Assembly, would most likely be rejected by the Quebec Liberals, because they would realize that their jurisdictions are being eroded.
Perhaps there is a consensus elsewhere in Canada. Social union is perhaps another example where the rest of Canada agrees with what is proposed and says “Fine, let us go ahead with the social union. We need the federal government's money, so we are prepared to relinquish part of our sovereignty over jurisdictions such as health”. Whether it is homecare or daycare, the government is always trying to intrude further in these provincial jurisdictions.
This is exactly what the bill before us does. Quebecers feel that the integrity of their territory is jeopardized. Canadians should know what a threat to the integrity of a territory is. They are making every possible effort to protect their territorial integrity, including in the context of issues concerning national defence—I am my party's critic in the matter—such as patrols in Canada's far north, etc.
The integrity of the Canadian territory must be respected. However, when it comes to the integrity of the Quebec territory, the federal government does not seem to really care. It constantly uses themes such as “Quebec's separation” or “Quebec's partition”.
It is very clear that the Government of Canada, in its obsessive nation building, completely forgets the importance of its partners, of Quebec in particular, when it comes to areas of jurisdiction, marine conservation areas and other issues.
I think that things are pretty clear with regard to the integrity of Quebec territory. The government has no say with respect to the floor of the St. Lawrence, the river, the estuary or the gulf. And yet, it shows up with a bill that says “Well, I will do it”.
There is no shortage of good examples. In the case of the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park, the federal government acted properly. It announced its intention to the Government of Quebec and they held consultations and agreed on it. They wondered whether they were capable of doing the job while respecting each other's jurisdictions, and they reached an agreement.
But with this bill, there is nothing about consultation. The government's aim is to impose once again, to intrude into Quebec's jurisdiction, the environment, river beds, and the floor of the St. Lawrence, the estuary and the gulf. Clearly we must object to that.
Now, there are other more internal reasons, which include overlap within federal jurisdiction even. Because there are other departments in this great government, including Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment Canada, each of which has its protection areas.
I find this to be a typical example, within the big federal machine, of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. Some say they will create marine conservation areas, but others say that such areas already exist, which means that there is a possibility of duplication between different departments within the federal government.
The government seems to be dealing with this issue hastily. It prefers to cut corners, so to speak. It does not care about what goes on at Fisheries and Oceans Canada or at Environment Canada. National parks are the responsibility of Canadian Heritage. There are some forty national parks in Canada, but only a few in Quebec, which is another issue. Quebec often criticizes the fact that there are very few national parks in that province compared to the rest of Canada.
What I want to say is that Canadian Heritage is totally incapable of protecting ecosystems in national parks. Now it wants to interfere with provincial jurisdictions and create whatever it wants without looking at what goes on at Fisheries and Oceans Canada or at Environment Canada. Canadian Heritage is not even looking at what goes on in its own department with regard to national parks.
Certain parameters require that Canada conduct studies every five years. In certain parks, these studies have not been conducted for 12, 13 or 14 years. Some species of flora and fauna are disappearing.
It needs to be understood that, when a national park is created, people visit it. It is a place where people can go. There is a real danger for the flora and fauna in the park. A way must be found for nature and humankind to co-exist. When human visitors are numerous, when they do not stay on the paths, this can endanger certain species.
The government should do this follow-up. I think that the government is in a poor position to push this sort of bill through. When people are not reaching their own objectives within a department, they should not be asking for even more work so that they can make an even worse job of it. People should start with getting it right in their own jurisdiction and then they can think about extending their reach.
If the government could be more respectful of jurisdictions, I think that the Bloc Quebecois would be more inclined to support this type of bill. But this is not what has happened: quite the contrary. There is overlap. Heritage Canada is not able to do its job with its existing responsibilities, and it is looking for more.
The worst thing for the Bloc Quebecois is that there is a lack of respect for what is going on in Quebec and in the provinces. The National Assembly of Quebec would oppose this kind of bill because it is an intrusion in Quebec's areas of jurisdiction.
For all these reasons, it is clear that, unless major changes are made to the bill, the Bloc Quebecois will oppose it. I appeal to my Canadian colleagues. When they introduce bills, they should bear in mind that there is a National Assembly in Quebec, that there is a second people, a second nation, the one in Quebec.
When they want to take things away from that nation, the Bloc Quebecois, whose main purpose is to defend Quebec's interests, can be counted on to oppose such bills, and will be opposing this one.
Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act
Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central, I am pleased to participate in the second reading debate on Bill C-10, the Liberal government's attempt to create national marine conservation areas.
The objective of establishing marine conservation areas is to protect and conserve marine ecosystems found in the ocean environments of Canada and in the Great Lakes. The purpose of the bill is to establish rules that would allow the creation of national marine conservation areas.
The bill is actually unfinished business from the last Mulroney government. It took the weak Liberal government more than 13 years to tinker with the idea of creating marine conservation areas. It is still at step one after feeble attempts to introduce legislation in previous parliaments, namely Bill C-48 and Bill C-8. It shows the lack of commitment of the Liberals to protecting and conserving our environment.
In addition to preserving marine areas for the benefit and enjoyment of Canadians, the bill strives to establish a framework for regulating marine ecosystems and maintaining biological diversity. It is important to note that while environmental protection and sustainable development are important issues, they do not fall within the administrative responsibility of the Department of Canadian Heritage.
The bill makes provision for two schedules that are intended to include the names of marine conservations areas and reserves. The minister has identified 29 marine conservation areas and the intent to create new national parks, but in Bill C-10 the two schedules are blank. The actual locations of all 29 parks have not been identified.
As a past co-chair of the scrutiny of regulations committee I would imagine these lists could be filled in by regulation and we would find the 29 locations somewhere in the thousands of pages of regulations that no doubt accompany the bill. That is governing through the back door, not through the front door and not through the voices of elected members in the Chamber. The bill should describe the location of each park and that information should be inserted in the two schedules. I hope the matter is fleshed out during the committee hearings.
Bill C-10 would limit parliamentary input by giving cabinet the authority to create a new marine conservation area on crown land without going through the normal legislative process. Currently the government is required to come before parliament any time a new national park is to be established or an existing park is to be changed. The legislation would remove the power from parliament and would allow parks to be created or changed by order in council. That is ridiculous.
The minister states that activities such as commercial fishing and shipping would be appropriate in conservation areas. However all fishing, aquaculture, fisheries management, marine navigation and marine safety plans are subject to the approval of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of Canadian Heritage.
Similarly regulations affecting navigation or safety rules under the responsibility of the Minister of Transport must be made on the recommendation of both the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister of Transport.
Disposal regulations pertaining to sections 127 and 128 of the Environmental Protection Act require the joint approval of the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister of the Environment.
What is to be done about these contradictions and overlapping responsibilities? Clause 13 of the bill would limit or prohibit the exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons, minerals, aggregates or any other inorganic material in all marine conservation areas. I anticipate hearing from stakeholders about this clause at the committee hearings.
There are considerations with respect to private property and reasonable search and seizure. Clause 22 of the bill states that, in the discharge of their duties, marine conservation area wardens, enforcement officers and persons accompanying them may enter and pass through private property. This is an invasion of the property rights of law-abiding citizens.
The weak and arrogant Liberal government has shown its pattern of disrespect for privacy rights and interference with personal property. We have seen that in Bill C-5, the endangered species legislation, where the arrogant Liberal government refused to offer fair compensation to Canadians.
Enforcing regulations is a serious issue and it is not addressed in the bill. In reference to Parks Canada, the director of the organization suggested that the RCMP be allowed to be involved in enforcement activities. Currently Parks Canada is involved in a labour dispute with its park wardens over personal safety. The bill contains the same deficiencies as the National Parks Act. It does not give park wardens sufficient authority to enforce the law.
Since 1993 there have been three separate reports recommending that sidearms be issued to wardens in order to fulfil their responsibilities. With park wardens off the job and other law enforcement agencies overburdened with enforcing criminal code violations, wildlife is being slaughtered in our national parks. The bill does not address any of these situations.
The Canadian Alliance affirms the federal government's role in the preservation of Canada's natural and historical heritage such as national parks. It supports sustaining and developing national parks and marine conservation areas that exist for the benefit and enjoyment of everyone. It also supports sustainable development and environmental protection regulations that have been fully debated by parliamentarians, not through the back door but through this Chamber.
The bill would strengthen the power of cabinet while diminishing the effectiveness of elected representatives. The bill is virtually unnecessary because the regulatory framework already exists to accomplish what the bill purports to achieve. It is just a power grab by a department that understands that it has a weak minister who does not understand that the new regulations are not required.
The legislation would clearly limit the ability of parliamentarians to consider all options when new marine areas are introduced or existing areas are expanded, with no input whatsoever when new parks are being created. The weak and arrogant Liberal government, time and again, abuses the Chamber and uses elected members as a rubber stamp. It does not give enough opportunity for debate by elected officials. There is no reason for this tight fisted form of control and undemocratic manner of proceeding. Like the bogus changes the government is proposing to Bill C-9, the Elections Act, Bill C-10 is also virtually anti-democratic.
The scope of the bill, as it relates to fishing, aquaculture and transportation, is such that changes to any schedule should require an act of parliament. Affected communities would be at the whim of the minister. The bill would give the Minister of Canadian Heritage a free reign to create unlimited advisory committees for each marine conservation area.
Limitations on the size and structure of each committee should have been established in the legislation. Will the committee that hears the bill allow these limits and rules to be established? I doubt it very much.
These advisory committees would give the government an opportunity for patronage in the way membership is composed and would serve no other purpose than that of a rubber stamp under the guise of public consultation. What we have here is yet another job creation program for failed Liberal election candidates and their supporters.
If marine wildlife and ecosystems are to be protected, park wardens should have exclusive jurisdiction in the enforcement of laws and regulations relating to each conservation area. Unfortunately, wardens are increasingly finding that they cannot do a proper job due to interference from Ottawa.
The decision by Parks Canada management to transfer responsibilities from park wardens to law enforcement agencies like the RCMP is Ottawa's way of centralizing tight fisted control away from the frontline officers who have the practical experience to know what does and does not work in Canada's national parks. What a shame.
The bill is a mess. It is as much an assault on our environment as an assault on the stakeholders in the regions that will be affected by it. My heart goes out to my colleague the Canadian Alliance heritage critic because I cannot see how the bill can be fixed or amended during committee stage.
On the one hand, the bill is not required because everything it does can already be done under regulations. On the other hand, it is a power grab by the minister and should be stopped 100%. Those concerned about preserving the environment can see that after 13 years of trying to bring the bill forward for debate in the House the government does not care about the environment.
I hope the bill looks significantly different when it comes back before the House following committee hearings. However, knowing the government's record, I doubt it. I hope the minister's secret agenda of power grabbing is exposed. I hope Canadians see clearly how little the government cares about the environment.
Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act
The Deputy Speaker
Is the House ready for the question?