House of Commons Hansard #143 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was compensation.

Topics

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition initiated by Peggy Land of the Religious Society of Friends and the Quaker Movement in Ottawa and signed by hundreds of concerned Canadians. The petitioners note that serious incidents of human rights abuses are continuing in Nigeria despite Canada's recent joint agreement with Nigeria to co-operate in building peace and stability based on universal norms of equality, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

They refer to the case of Safiyatu Husseini, a young Nigerian woman currently condemned to die for having a child out of wedlock. They point out that this is not in accordance with Islamic law or universal norms of equality and human rights which we committed to fostering in Nigeria.

The petitioners call on parliament not to proceed with expanded trade with Nigeria until brutal practices such as those being faced by Safiyatu Husseini are ended.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Janko Peric Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I have the privilege to present to the House a petition signed by close to 200 constituents of my riding of Cambridge. The petitioners wish to draw to the attention of the House that the residential school system was a product of federal government policy.

The Anglican Diocese of Huron has spent almost $1.5 million in lawsuits even though it never owned, operated, administered or contracted to deliver federal government education services at the Mohawk Institute. Therefore the petitioners pray and request that parliament resolve the issue of residential school litigation outside the court system and that the federal government assume full responsibility for the Mohawk Institute lawsuit.

My constituents call on parliament to act before the Anglican Diocese of Huron and other Anglican dioceses are brought to ruin.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

February 18th, 2002 / 3:10 p.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

The Chair has a notice of a request for an emergency debate from the hon. member for Cumberland--Colchester.

Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 52 I request an emergency debate on the softwood lumber crisis which affects every member of parliament in the House of Commons. Every one of us is affected by it and the whole issue is being driven by a small group in the U.S.

The government has tried a whole lot of different approaches and several different remedies. They have all failed. Each time it comes up with a new proposal it fails. It has happened over and over again.

The government has prevented the industry and parliament from being involved in the debate. We in my party believe if parliament is involved in the issue it can appeal to the congress of the United States which has an impact on every member of congress. If we members of parliament can make a connection with members of congress in the United States we can come up with a solution to the problem.

There are only about four weeks left to resolve the issue before we lose our opportunity to debate it. It is an incredible situation. We have already lost 25,000 jobs in Canada. Softwood lumber is our fifth largest export. Every effort by the department has failed. We must try a new approach and it should be debated in the House of Commons.

I am asking for a special debate so we the parliamentarians can become involved and help find a solution where the department has failed over and over again.

Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

The Chair will take the hon. member's suggestion and request under advisement. I can tell the hon. member that I am not disposed to grant the debate this evening. If I did so it would be for tomorrow evening.

I will take the matter under advisement and return to the House later this day with an answer to the hon. member's request and suggestion.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Species at Risk Act
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me to speak to Bill C-5, the species at risk act.

As the House knows, I come from a rural constituency where agriculture is the main engine driving the economic machine. When producers in my riding saw the details of the bill they were horrified. For farmers or ranchers land is the key to making a living. To take their land out of production is like taking a product away from a business owner. It removes the means by which they can earn a living.

Farmers and ranchers care about the environment. However when a piece of legislation crosses the line between helping the environment and infringing on property rights of landowners they draw the line.

I will share with my fellow members in the House and people watching the proceedings on television some of the comments I have received with regard to Bill C-5. The comments were gathered at an agricultural forum I hosted on January 15 in Yorkton. The agricultural forum was broadcast three times on the parliamentary channel the following week, three hours each time, so we know it is an important forum.

Members opposite should listen attentively because these are the voices of real people from rural Saskatchewan speaking up about this piece of legislation. I will quote their comments for the House. One of them said “I feel most farmers have an environmental conscience. However, farmers should not be expected to pay for all the costs of environmental stewardship which would benefit all of society”.

Another person said “There must be compensation for loss of production due to animal habitat”.

Another commented that “When they start tinkering around with our property rights a problem exists”.

That is an important comment because property rights are not adequately protected in our charter of rights and freedoms.

Another person in my riding said “Compensation should not only be adequate but it should be tied to future land values or the cost of living”.

Another said “If we have to lose income to save endangered species we should be compensated like everyone else”.

Is that not common sense?

Another person said “If wildlife has such a high value then compensation should have an equally high value. Has anyone considered that farmers will become endangered species?”

We are not talking about a bill that would be innocuous or not have an effect. It could have a very detrimental effect on farmers and they would like the House to listen to their concerns.

Another farmer commented that “The environment, endangered species and maintaining natural habitat are important. However agriculture seems to be expected to take up the largest load. Those in charge seem to see this as fair play. My respect is dwindling and my suspicion mounting towards those in charge”.

I will cite one last comment by a person who said “If humanity wishes to protect plants and animals let them chip in as taxpayers rather than force it on one segment of our population: farmers”.

Farmers are willing to do their part in maintaining the environment and protecting endangered species. However they want everyone to share the load and they want this to be fair legislation. I am delivering that message here today.

Members will have noticed that the underlying theme throughout the comments is compensation, not a one time payment but compensation that takes into account that the land is the necessary ingredient in the way these people make their living. It is not just me speaking here today to this terrible bill. It is my constituents.

On October 3 the minister stated in front of the committee that compensation would be assessed on a case by case basis. In other words, we are expected to read their lips. They are saying “Trust us, we will do what is right”. We have seen this happen before and the people of Canada have been hung out to dry because their rights and privileges were not respected. In other words, the minister has stated that bureaucrats would decide who gets and does not get compensation.

Let me say one thing. Farmers and ranchers have about as much trust in federal bureaucrats as some athletes do in the international figure skating judges. I will give a prime example of what I am talking about. The AIDA and CFIP programs put in place to help struggling farmers have done nothing. Farmers call my office on a daily basis with problems related to these programs. The farmer who really needs help gets nothing.

This is the same government that is saying “Trust us. We will do what is right and compensate farmers”. What has happened is that the hands of federal bureaucrats have destroyed the agricultural producer. We cannot let it continue with this bill as it stands currently.

Let me point out that we in the Canadian Alliance are committed to preserving our country's natural environment, its endangered species and the sustainable development of our rich natural resources so that future generations of Canadians can reap the rewards as much as we have. However we in the Canadian Alliance will not do this on the backs of private landowners and their families. That is wrong.

The United States introduced similar legislation however there was one flaw: no adequate compensation. What happened? It created a shoot, shovel and shut up mentality. I ask--

Species at Risk Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Davenport on a point of order.

Species at Risk Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wonder whether the eloquence of the hon. member would better apply at the third reading stage of the bill rather than on the amendment before us. I wonder whether his speech is relevant to the item before us.

Species at Risk Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

I am sure the hon. member is working his way toward a succinct explanation of his reason for opposition to the amendments before the House in Group No. 1, which I recall are the subject of the debate today. We look forward to his comments on Group No. 1 in due course.

Species at Risk Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, anyone who is familiar with the bill would recognize immediately the relevance of what I am saying to these amendments.

The shoot, shovel and shut up mentality, if I need to explain it, is simply that if some bureaucrat decides that a species is at risk and that species is discovered on someone's land, probably the first thing that person would do is secretly go and shoot the particular animal because that land will be lost for future use if it is discovered that the species is there. After it is shot, it will be buried. That person then would not tell anyone. That is the shoot, shovel and shut up means and that ought to appear obviously relevant to what we are dealing with today.

Any property owner who suspects there is something on his land and who may lose his land will not let anyone know what has happened. That is why it is important we get adequate compensation. Bill C-5 as presently written will work in the same way as the American legislation to which I was referred earlier.

Without full, adequate compensation we have on our hands a piece of legislation that does not help the species. It in fact hurts them.

What gain would a farmer or rancher have by having an endangered species on his land? According to the legislation the gain would just be the warm, fuzzy feeling one gets from helping an endangered species while the family suffers, maybe even starves, because they can no longer make proper use of the land to make a living. That is really some reward. We need more than that.

If the government wants all private landowners and resource rights owners to co-operate wholeheartedly with the legislation, there must be full compensation to them. Bureaucrats must not dole out this compensation on a willy-nilly basis. It should be decided by us, the elected members of parliament, and put explicitly in this bill so that all concerned would know exactly what kind of support they would receive.

Our party has put forward amendments to ensure that compensation is coupled with fair and reasonable financial support to be put into the bill. We see that landowners, farmers and ranchers, as the frontline soldiers in protecting endangered species, need to be considered. These soldiers must be rewarded for their efforts and not punished.

What would happen if our amendments are ignored by the government? Both landowners and the environment would suffer. I described the shoot, shovel and shut up mentality. What is a good alternative? We need incentives built into the bill.

I will address this later, but we need to see what has happened in other jurisdictions and we need to put the proper amendments in here. Property rights must be addressed. This is a big issue. We do not have adequate property rights in the country. They were intentionally left out of the charter of rights in 1982. We must therefore make sure we have the proper amendments here.

I will close with this last quotation:

Without compensation there is no way we can co-operatively leave or turn back our land to a habitat state. If society feels that bulrushes, frogs and ducks are valuable then show us that value in dollars or the land will be growing something that pays.

I hope the government will listen to people who are very concerned about this.

Species at Risk Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I hope the fact that no member from another party stood up is not an indication that they are disinterested in this topic or that they do not fully understand the ramifications of the amendments before us right now.

The question we are debating right now is primarily that of compensation for landowners and perhaps others who suffer financial loss because of the legislation's enforcement.

I am privileged to have grown up on a farm, and I am old enough to also remember how things were in the good old days. The House may find this extremely surprising I am sure, but when I was just a youngster in my area I remember some of the farmers actually pulled their implements with horses. We did not. By the time I was old enough to see what was going on around me in my life, my Dad already had purchased a small tractor. However implements in those days were very small. I remember implements with as little as six feet. It would take all week to work a field, which by the time I was a teenager we could work in a day. Now my brother, with the large equipment he has, does that same area in an hour or two.

The reason I mention this is because there is a much greater loss to taking a piece of land out of production than just the prorated area of the land itself. When I was a youngster we had little equipment. If there was a slough in the field and ducks, which had a nearby nest, were on the water, we just farmed around it. It was no big deal. We had a little implement so we just circled around it.

There were actually smart ducks and stupid ducks. The smart ducks would take their family rearing responsibilities to the larger ponds and the dugouts that would retain the water until the youngsters were grown up and could move around. The stupid ducks used to set up their families on a slough. They would swim around on the water and had their nests near the little slough. By the time the ducklings hatched the slough was dried up so there was no water for them. Then they had to take a long overland trek to find someplace where there was water for them.

In all instances, when we found a duck's nest we would farm around it if we saw it in time. Regrettably, there were some occasions when we saw it after it was too late. I remember always feeling very badly about that, but after one has gone over a nest with an implement it is too late to undo it. One cannot unscramble eggs. I think, at least in the area we lived, it is built into the farmer's mentality to preserve life because that after all is what farming is all about; it is providing food and livelihood for sustaining life.

With the small implements it was no problem, but nowadays farmers have implements that are from 40 to 60 feet wide. Some are even greater than that. One cannot make little detours for every little slough. As a result, many farmers have undertaken to level off their fields so that these sloughs are no longer there.

What happens when there is an area which can perhaps no longer be used for production? A great and considerable loss is involved. The farmer or the landowner who suffers that loss should not have to bear that loss himself. Again, we can think of different examples. I think of a large corporation that perhaps has an industrial plant.

If it has to put two or three acres of its land aside to preserve a habitat for some endangered species, it can probably afford it. Percentage wise it is a very small proportion of its total operation. This could even apply to someone operating a very large farm. If he or she loses four or five acres, it probably would not be a big deal.

However there are some people for whom it might represent 50% of their income. It might represent enough of their income to drive them from the position where they can survive and thrive on their property to one where they can no longer stay there. Now compensation becomes an issue of great importance because if they are not compensated for it, they lose their livelihood.

I think too of many people living out in the country in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba for whom their land is their retirement fund. All their lives they have put all the money they have earned into the business. They do not have an accumulated bank account or huge RRSP funds or, heaven forbid, a government funded pension plan. They are looking to sell their property when they retire and thereby earn the income they need for their retirement. In the event that their land becomes unsaleable, due to it having been classified, their future disappears. It is unconscionable to even contemplate that there would not be adequate compensation guaranteed.

As the present bill is worded, the minister may provide for compensation. It is strictly at the whim of the minister who happens to be there at the time. That presents us with a huge problem simply because of the things we have observed from the government in the time that we have been here.

If a farmer in a Liberal held riding were to lose some property, it looks to me as though there would be a higher probability of getting compensation than if that property were in a Conservative or an NDP held riding. That would be really terrible. The highest probability would clearly be if the property were in the Prime Minister's riding. That is not the way to run a business.

We ought to have rules in place that apply equally across the board and across the country. We in our party believe very strongly in the equality of Canadians. It ought not matter what political stripe is represented in the particular area. It should be based on principles that are put solidly into the bill. What we propose with our amendments, which I strongly support, is that there be a formula which basically mandates the degree of compensation and the fact that compensation must be paid.

Another thing we have to look at is how the property is evaluated? I think of an acquaintance of mine who farms and whose farm location is such that in the foreseeable future, I would say some time in the next 50 years, his land will no longer be farmland and will become part of a city. That land is worth a great deal more than just the present value of it to the farm operation. Will those things be taken into account? I suspect strongly that there will be some gaps, disincentives and inequities and as a result, as my colleague from Yorkton just indicated, individuals will make decisions which take them out of the loop so they are not involved with this conflict.

I have much more to say, but I see my time is up.