Debates of March 21st, 2002
House of Commons Hansard #161 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was species.
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Species at Risk Act
Bob Mills Red Deer, AB
Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to the motions in Group No. 4.
We in our party are in favour of protecting species at risk. However Bill C-5 would do that. It is not a workable piece of legislation. That is why we are opposing it. It should be clear by now that not only our party opposes Bill C-5. All the opposition parties and a great many Liberal members are opposing it. That should tell the government something. It should tell the Minister of the Environment the legislation is not good enough. It would not save species at risk.
The committee met. It brought in witness after witness. We on the committee put forward more than 300 amendments. More than 100 of them were from government members. We listened. We consulted. We talked to experts. We talked to many Canadians. We all talked to people at length in our ridings. We learned a lot about species at risk and what the legislation should be about.
In putting forward our amendments we took into consideration things like compensation in Group No. 1. We talked about mens rea versus due diligence in Group No. 2. We talked about provincial safety nets, sustainable development and socio-economic impacts in Group No. 3. We are now into Group No. 4. We want to talk about the process of creating an action plan and how the government intends to do it.
Everyone worked hard and co-operated to make legislation that would protect species at risk. It was frustrating to come back at report stage to find all the good work we as a group had spent nine months on was changed back by the government. We have a stillborn bill because of what the government has done to it.
The government says it does not want to review the bill in five years. It has eliminated the five year review. I do not know what it is afraid of. I cannot imagine the reason any government could have for not reviewing how well a piece of legislation is working.
I will talk primarily today about our party's Motion No. 127. It is probably one of the major issues in the section. A number of amendments are technical and we agree with some of them. However this issue is the most upsetting to all of us.
Because there are no members here to listen I will walk our viewers through the process and how it might work. Endangered species would be listed. This would be done scientifically by COSEWIC. We trust it would do its job adequately. The list would then go to the political masters. However now that they have amended the bill from what the committee proposed they would not consider the socio-economic impacts. They would not consider the legalities.
Who would then identify endangered species? Let us say the DFO police would do it. It is interesting. In Alberta we have over 20 new Department of Fisheries and Oceans officers. Why are there so many new DFO officers in Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C.? The fisheries department has done such a poor job there are no fish. They had to send the officers somewhere where there were still fish. That is the only reason I can think of.
How these people do their investigations is most interesting. Some minnows were found in a provincial jurisdiction in Alberta and fisheries officers arrived to investigate. They arrived with flak jackets on. They were armed with guns which were drawn. They broke down the door to enter a provincial office. They wore flak jackets, their guns were drawn and they broke down the door because some minnows were found.
Is that the kind of action there will be for our endangered species? That happened. It is not a story. Ask the Alberta environment minister about that. The poor secretaries were shocked when those guys broke down the door and entered the office to seize the files. That is the way DFO may handle the endangered species. I hope not.
To continue, the minister is advised by the officers, whoever they are, that there is an endangered species or some endangered habitat. Remember if a person is found guilty of hurting that endangered species or changing that habitat, it is a punishable criminal offence. The person could go to jail.
Motion No. 127 says that the landowner has to be advised that he has endangered habitat or an endangered species. The way the bill reads now, the minister may decide to not release the information to the public. I can understand that because tourists and all the bird watchers in North America might come to see a piece of property and break down the fences. They might damage the endangered species habitat, so I can understand not making it public. However I cannot understand why the onus should not be on the minister to tell the landowner that there is an endangered species on the land.
When one of the DFO police has decided that is the case, what would be so onerous about telling the landowner that there is an endangered species on the land? I do not understand how we can have a piece of legislation that does not demand that the government advise people that they have an endangered habitat or an endangered species on their land. It defies all imagination. That is why we fought so hard for a mens rea clause. It is why we felt that due diligence was not fair. The farmer cannot do an environmental impact study, cannot know that an endangered species is on his land.
I have gone through the list which includes tiny cryptanthe, a slender mouse-ear-cress, a hairy prairie-clover, a burrowing owl, a sand verbena. How does a farmer or rancher know what a sand verbena is? It is an endangered species in Saskatchewan. I do not know how the farmer will know. The government will not tell him. What kind of legislation is that?
We have to change the bill. We have to defeat some of the amendments and we have to pass some of the amendments we are putting forward if we have any hope of the proposed legislation working.
The making of an action plan is now discretionary for the minister. He may not have to come up with an action plan. He may not have to tell the public about it. He may not have to tell the landowner about it.
The legislation just will not work. Like the other three groups of amendments, some of the Group No. 4 amendments are just technical ones. However we have to change some of the amendments to allow for informing landowners across the country.
Species at Risk Act
Charles Caccia Davenport, ON
Madam Speaker, in this group of amendments a number of items need to be addressed.
The member for Red Deer did his job in condemning a certain approach. I would like to remind him that the mens rea issue was discussed at length and in depth at committee. The conclusion we arrived at after very careful and thoughtful deliberation was that there is a justification for that approach in certain extreme cases but not definitely in cases for which he understandably expressed some concern.
I would like to address an item in this group of motions that concerns aboriginal people. A motion was made in committee to facilitate and provide a broader basis for consultation with aboriginal people across the country. It was a matter that our colleague, the member for Churchill, espoused quite eloquently in committee. It resulted in an amendment that was made which we all thought was reasonable and desirable but which became the object of a motion by the government which in a sense in Group No. 4 unravels the consensus reached so carefully in committee.
I noticed with some sense of alarm the press release issued yesterday by the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president. The changes made by the government at report stage are the object of the press release. The president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami said the changes--
--do not currently reflect the constitutionally protected relationship between Inuit and the federal government. More specifically, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami feels the federal government has undermined the integrity of the Species at Risk legislation through its report stage motions.
The Inuit Tapiriit president put his finger on an issue we also raised, namely the unfortunate intervention by the government by way of motions. They are undoing the careful work made by way of consensus, intensive negotiations, co-operation and initiatives taken in particular by the member for Red Deer and the member for Simcoe North and others, to arrive at an all party consensus which resulted in the report from our committee.
Coming back to yesterday's press release by the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the last paragraph reads:
Due to these recent events, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, along with other Aboriginal groups, have no choice but to withdraw their support from the Species at Risk Act. ITK will only support Bill C-5 if the federal government reverts wording concerning NACOSAR [National Aboriginal Council on Species at Risk] back to the Standing Committee version, or an honourable compromise can be reached between Aboriginal groups and the federal government.
I hope a solution can be found by way of an honourable compromise and by way of an amendment perhaps later on in this debate.
Too many of the motions, too many of the discrepancies and divergences of opinions that have been expressed during the debate rest on the federal-provincial accord arrived at in 1992 in Charlottetown. These were federal and provincial ministers who were responsible for wildlife and the environment.
What is the Charlottetown accord to which so much undue importance is attributed? It is simply a piece of paper. Those who signed it had no mandate by parliament or legislatures to do so. Since then they have had time to bring that accord back to their respective legislatures and parliament for a good discussion. They have not done so. It is a document that has no parliamentary foundation.
In addition there has been no public consultation on that accord. No parliamentary hearings have taken place. No debates in the House, or to the best of my knowledge in any legislature, have taken place on the Charlottetown accord.
What it has produced is very hard to measure. It is an understanding on loose concepts which has no real significance in the achievement of the goal, namely the protection of endangered species. It is a meaningless document which nevertheless is invoked frequently despite its insignificance.
I am bringing this into the discussion today because it seems to me that rather than being guided by the 1992 Charlottetown so-called accord which has no parliamentary or legislative basis at all, we should instead concentrate on the federal role, the federal responsibility for the protection of endangered species. We should give strong leadership because we have a constitutional base for the promotion of the protection of endangered species. Just with water alone and the species that move in water, we have a tremendous responsibility and constitutional mandate.
The federal government also has the moral authority to take a leadership role. Canadians and the public at large expect the federal government to take a leadership role. This is what should be guiding us in these deliberations.
Industries, specifically the mining industry and the forestry industry, and a number of environmental groups support the key changes the committee made to the bill regarding listing and habitat. This type of coalition is unprecedented. We must also keep in mind that 1,300 scientists have supported a strong bill and have said that the bill should go even further than it does in the protection of endangered species.
Never before have we seen such a broad industry-environment consensus on a major environmental bill. It is extremely unfortunate the government will not go as far as industry is willing to go in the protection of endangered species.
Species at Risk Act
Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK
Madam Speaker, saving species at risk is important to both myself and my party. While we believe that legislation must be in place to secure the future of our wildlife and their habitat, we also believe that serious amendments to the current bill must be made.
The theme throughout these debates has been co-operation. Without the full support and co-operation of property owners and users, there is little hope of the bill being as effective as it should be or could be. Property owners and users must be made partners with various levels of government. They should not be viewed as obstacles to the saving of species, but helpers.
An area that should be discussed is stewardship. Effective stewardship programs need to be established. The punishment and penalties outlined in the bill seem to indicate that compliance is based on the fear of reprisal. This is not the attitude to be taken if we want this legislation to have full effect. Incentives for good stewardship would make better sense. Instead of complying to avoid punishment, property owners should be rewarded for their active participation. These incentives can be more than simple cash payments. Tax incentives are an option.
Stewardship plans should also be made part of the public record. As these plans have the possibility of affecting not only the initiating property owner, but also neighbouring landowners, public access to these plans is necessary. There needs to be an opportunity for public consultation, including all involved stakeholders.
Knowledge and information are key for these stewardship programs to be effective. The government should make every effort to keep property owners, land users and average citizens informed on which species are included, their habitat and plans to protect both of these.
The Liberal motion would see the removal of an amendment that would require a commitment to provide technical and scientific support to persons involved in stewardship activities. This is like giving someone a brand new car but not giving them the keys. Without the proper information, property owners are on their own to figure out the program. The punishment for violating this legislation currently applies equally to the person who deliberately and maliciously endangers species and to the one who inadvertently endangers species.
With no distinction being given to the deliberate actions of the criminal mind and the innocent mind, the government could at the very least offer as much information as possible to enable the non-criminal the opportunity to avoid making these mistakes. Not providing the best information possible only sets the stage for failure and the further endangering of species and their habitat.
There must be real assistance provided by the government to property owners. Mailing information pamphlets will not do. There needs to be an open sharing of information and data to assist property owners in their choices and land use practices.
The public deserves to have access to documentation. The information provided to them is vital in their efforts to help save endangered species. The government would like to exclude all ministerial reports, including listing decisions, from being listed in the public registry. This reduction of transparency by eliminating public access goes against Canadian ideals. We believe ourselves to be living in a free and open democracy, yet the government would see basic information limited.
Canadian citizens should not be burdened with having to submit access to information requests. This is not some top secret military expedition. We are trying to save animals and their habitat. Why the fear of open access to information on the part of the government? I do not know.
The government would see the public held accountable for their actions without having provided them with the information necessary to make wise choices. The penalties are too harsh to not give property owners every opportunity to make wise choices. To not offer all relevant information to property owners and land users in light of the penalties involved would be negligent. If true stewardship is to be promoted then all available resources must be offered to property owners. The government must do its part if it expects the property owners to do theirs.
Along with public participation comes public consultation. The property owners are the grassroots folks in the plan to save endangered species. To exclude their input on how this legislation is working is to exclude a vital component of the plan.
The government seems to thrive on secrecy. What Canada needs is transparency and accountability. To ensure accountability, there needs to be scheduled reviews of this act, a review process that would allow for the active participation and involvement of the public. Legislators would have the opportunity to hear from those with firsthand knowledge on if and how the program is working. Who better to offer ideas on what is or is not working and any changes that are necessary than property owners who are directly affected by this bill?
Asking for five year scheduled reviews is not unreasonable. The government again would see us simply trusting it in that if it deemed a review necessary only then would one be called. This is not acceptable. If left to its own discretion, we can all be assured that no review would ever be called, at least not one with any public input or government accountability.
If this bill is to be truly effective, it must ensure openness and accountability. As I said, the inadvertent actions of an individual carry enormous penalties. The decisions affecting such a person cannot be made behind closed doors. The property owners and resource users are on the frontlines in the protection of species at risk. Their ongoing co-operation is expected. They should be able to expect co-operation from their government as well.
The government seems to be content in snubbing the committee process when it comes to Bill C-5. It also seems content to treat the public in the same way by snubbing the possibility of its input. This attitude is arrogant and unacceptable. The government cannot legislate and then flee the scene. Ongoing public involvement is necessary. This bill will not succeed with the direct involvement and support of the public. It must be included in any consultation processes and deserve to be provided with the best information possible.
Legislators cannot save species and their habitats without the co-operation of property owners and resource users. To think otherwise is arrogant. The majority of Canadians feel it is necessary to help endangered species. Let us ensure that the government works with them, not against them.
Species at Risk Act
Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to again have the opportunity to speak on Bill C-5, the species at risk bill.
We are looking at the motions in Group No. 4. These motions, of course, propose amendments to this bill, but when one takes the trouble to read each amendment—and there are plenty of government amendments—it quickly becomes obvious that these government amendments modify the bulk of the work done in committee. I am pleased that my colleague has already pointed out what examplary work the committee has done, in many ways, by reaching a consensus that was not always an obvious one, but which came after much work. Some of the motions presented by the government change what was done in committee.
I would again remind the House that this bill comes nearly 10 years after the 1992 earth summit and on the eve of Rio plus 10, which will be held in Johannesburg in late August and early September. Today we have a great deal of to-do over a bill that could have had almost unanimous support in this House.
The opportunity was there and was shunted aside. It would have enabled us to turn up in Johannesburg with a bill on which there was consensus. Now we have to admit we have a bill that has managed to create division everywhere. There is opposition from the environmentalists and the opposition—but the government would say that is what the role of the opposition is—but this bill has even led to division within the party in power, within the government.
This bill is totally unacceptable for Quebec. Not that endangered species legislation is unacceptable in itself but rather that the federal government is introducing a bill which includes certain clauses to be applied to Quebec lands, provincial lands. If this were only a federal bill affecting federal jurisdictions, and more precisely crown lands only, for example, those of us on this side of the House would most certainly have voted in favour of the bill, but there are certain clauses that on the contrary apply to Quebec lands.
It must be remembered that in 1989 Quebec passed its own endangered species legislation. The irony is that the sponsor of that legislation is now sitting on the government benches. Now, a mere 12 years later, the federal government is getting ready to pass a bill, when one of its members had a similar bill passed in Quebec that will be overridden by this federal legislation. Yet, it was one of the members opposite who sponsored the Quebec legislation in 1989. And he is not the only one.
Other members from Quebec sitting in this House were also members of the Robert Bourassa government. Today they are getting ready to legitimize the government's plan to override Quebec's legislation. Democratically speaking, this is paradoxical. It is all very fine and well for the members to live with their paradoxes today, but it is important for the people of Quebec know that is what they are doing, and we are here to remind them.
Quebec's legislation also dealt with aspects covered by the federal bill now before us with respect to the identification of species, and the necessary recovery plan, which Quebec's legislation also included as a priority. There is the whole issue of enforcement. We know Quebec's 1989 legislation provided for wildlife enforcement officers.
In Quebec, we know what wildlife enforcement officers are. However, people should know that this bill will create federal officers who will basically be at complete odds with Quebec's wildlife enforcement officers as they attempt to enforce Quebec's legislation. The creation of these federal officers as provided for in the bill is therefore duplication of legislation, enforcement and duties.
Quebec made efforts even before the international consensus of 1992. Even before the Rio summit, Quebec passed its own legislation and always felt that co-operation was necessary when it came to the protection of species. Quebec is in favour of co-operation and partnership with the federal government.
This is why, in 1996, Quebec signed the federal accord on the protection of endangered species. I need hardly remind those listening that at the time, six years ago, when he signed this agreement, Quebec's minister of the environment warned that there was a risk, because it left the federal government free to introduce more powerful legislation interfering directly in Quebec's jurisdictions. On October 2, 1996, Quebec's then minister of the environment, David Cliche, said:
We cannot remain indifferent to the fact that this agreement opens the door to overlap between the future federal legislation and the act that has been in force since 1989, an act that works well and has already proven useful. We risk creating more red tape instead of dedicating ourselves to what really matters to us: the fate of endangered species.
That was October of 1996, when the national accord for the protection of species at risk in Canada was signed. There was good reason to be concerned. The minister at the time feared that the federal government would introduce legislation that would interfere in provincial jurisdiction. When we see the bill before us today, we see that he was indeed right.
We cannot remain indifferent. Quebec has not remained indifferent when it comes to protecting species, and it was also proactive in terms of protecting their habitat.
I remember that in 1996, the same year the national accord for the protection of species at risk in Canada was signed, that the Government of Quebec implemented a strategy to protect vulnerable areas. These are the protected areas of Quebec.
This strategy had three objectives. First, it was designed to increase the ecological knowledge necessary for the creation of a network to maintain quality and for the protection of vulnerable or threatened components of natural biological diversity. The strategy's second objective was to establish and maintain a comprehensive and representative network of protected areas to preserve biological diversity, and finally, to strengthen the network of managed conservation areas so as to ensure the protection of biological diversity over a greater area.
Why am I going on about Quebec's strategy for protected areas? To demonstrate that with Quebec's 1989 legislation, with the fishing regulations and the act respecting the conservation of wildlife, in addition to the 1996 strategy for protected areas, Quebec has the tools it needs to protect species and their habitat.
Species at Risk Act
Andy Burton Skeena, BC
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the House at report stage of Bill C-5. We are in the process of discussing the fourth grouping of amendments to the bill at report stage. This grouping deals primarily with portions of the bill that would ensure the federal government and the Minister of the Environment consult with the public and landowners prior to implementing recovery plans, action plans and entering into agreements with groups.
In particular, this grouping includes amendments being made by the government to overturn committee decisions on how the government must consult on the bill. Government amendments in this grouping seek to limit the meaning and usage of consultation mechanisms like the public registry.
More specifically, this grouping includes 12 government amendments, most of which reverse decisions taken by backbench MPs from the government side and opposition members. Many of the government amendments deal with consultation measures and some are purely technical. There is one amendment from the opposition which I have put forward, namely Motion No. 127.
. I will begin my discussion on this grouping with general comments on each of the government amendments and conclude with the reasons I believe all members of the House should support Motion No. 127.
I would remind members of the House that most of the government motions in this grouping are either reversing decisions taken in committee or changing express wording agreed to by the committee members. It would seem the government does not trust its own backbench members to make proper decisions at committee level. It is when the government pulls stunts like this that I find it very hard to believe it is remotely serious about democratizing parliament.
Let us move on to summarizing each government amendment. The first four government amendments, namely Motions Nos. 6, 16, 17 and 20, all seek in one way or another to delete reference to national aboriginal council and replace it with an aboriginal committee. I believe there is no real reason for the government to make these changes. The government wording will have largely the same results as the committee's proposal, except for the name change from council to committee. These changes fail to respect the wisdom of the all party Standing Committee on the Environment.
Even though these changes are minor, it still does not justify reversing the work of the committee. These changes were, after all, initiated by the Liberal members of committee. Why make the changes now? These amendments show the government's contempt for the work of parliamentary committees and for its own MPs.
Motion No. 24 seeks to amend clause 10.1 which deals with the stewardship action plan. Believe it or not, this amendment would ensure that a copy of the stewardship action plan is included in a public registry for all to read. I just cannot believe the government is making the stewardship agreement transparent. There must be a catch because this Liberal government is not known for being transparent.
Of course when we read Motion No. 25 it all becomes clear. The minister was not so much looking for transparency in his decision on stewardship in Motion No. 24 because in Motion No. 25 the minister, in a rather sneaky move, makes developing action plans discretionary and not mandatory, as was the case before the amendment. Allow me to explain. This motion extensively modifies the amendments of the standing committee that introduced the idea of stewardship action plans in Bill C-5. This amendment, Motion No. 25, reinforces government amendment Motion No. 24 in that it makes the development of an action plan discretionary and not mandatory.
Although when a minister does in fact choose to develop an action plan, some of the original points of clause 10.2 are left intact, those which expressly dictate which elements must be included in such an action plan.
As if this amendment was not bad enough, it also seeks to remove any mention of compensation. Although the committee did not agree to mandate compensation, it did at least require the minister to commit to regularly examine tax treatment and subsidies and to eliminate disincentives for people to protect species at risk. Motion No. 25 removes any recognition that the tax system might be used to provide incentives for property owners, as well as any recognition that property owners face disincentives to protecting endangered species. This amendment fails to recognize the financial burden that the act potentially places on landowners.
Furthermore, it removes the committee's amendment which required a commitment to provide technical and scientific support to persons engaged in stewardship activities. Instead, the government commits to providing information. With this amendment, landowners can expect a far lower level of support from the government. The Liberal government through this bill is asking landowners to not only assume significant responsibilities but they are being threatened with criminal sanctions for inadvertent errors. Yet the minister still refuses to offer them tangible assistance. If it is not the old “damned if you do and damned if you don't” scenario, I do not know what it is. It is shameful how the government treats landowners.
If the House will kindly take a look at government Motion No. 29, it is once again a modification of amendments carried in committee, quite freely I might add, by the government's own Liberal members on the environment committee. Motion No. 29 deals with clause 13(1), a section dealing again with stewardship agreements and, most particular, the publication of those agreements in the public registry. The committee had agreed that in the interests of transparency and in the spirit of public consultation all draft contribution agreements be made available to the public through the public registry for comment prior to these agreements becoming permanent.
These agreements, as stated in clause 13(1), are for “payment of contributions toward the costs of programs and measures for the conservation of wildlife species”. This clause allows the minister to enter into these agreements with other governments, organizations or a person. Since stewardship agreements can affect not only the landowner but neighbouring lands as well, the committee in its wisdom thought it best to make the draft agreements subject to public scrutiny before signing on the dotted line, and the government is reversing its decision on this amendment.
This is unacceptable. I can think of any number of reasons why proposed stewardship agreements should be made public. One that comes to mind is quite clear. For example, take the reintroduction of wolves back into an ecosystem. Depending on the area in question, these wolves might not only affect the ecosystem of the national park as intended but might also adversely affect the ranchers in that area. This is a specific case that I can think of right off the top where those ranchers should be allowed public input into that stewardship agreement. Motion No. 29 allows the minister to remove that consultation requirement altogether. I believe that is unacceptable.
I will move along to government Motion No. 72 which affects clause 45(1). This motion deals with changes to the recovery strategy and is consequential to government Motion No. 76 and clause 50, which would remove the timelines for action plans. These timelines were specifically imposed by the standing committee to ensure the government could not drag its heels on developing recovery strategies or action plans for species at risk. These motions remove the mandatory timelines set by the standing committee that required action plans to be completed within one year of the completion of its recovery strategy if it were an endangered species and within two years if it were a threatened or extirpated species.
The Canadian Alliance supports the requirement for mandatory timelines on the development of action plans. The Liberal government has been in no hurry to pass endangered species legislation. It made promises in the 1993 red book and since then legislation after legislation has died on the order paper because of two premature elections. It has shown no urgency in protecting species at risk. Timelines would certainly guarantee some progress on protecting endangered species and prevent the government from simply dragging its heels whenever it wishes.
The preparation of action plans is essential to protecting endangered species. To do so requires much study and would, for example, mean collecting data on the socioeconomic impact of those action plans. The government readily admits that it has little or no data on the socioeconomic implications of the bill and yet the minister, through his amendment, is still seeking to remove those mandatory timelines. What about those species at risk? How long can they wait?
Motion No. 126 is a further example of how the minister and the Liberal government is reducing the transparency of the bill. The motion once again removes the amendment made by the standing committee which required that all ministerial reports, including decisions, be listed in the public registry. What is the government afraid of? The amendment significantly reduces transparency and public access to important documents showing the process for how the list of endangered species is developed. Of course the Canadian Alliance will be voting against this motion.
Government Motion No. 130 reduces a review of the proposed act from every five years to only once on the five year anniversary of its coming into force. A mandatory review every five years of the effectiveness of the legislation would not only hold the government accountable for its inaction but would make it clear where the act needed more work.
I will quickly say a few words on Motion No. 127 which currently allows the minister to:
--restrict the release of any information required to be included in the public registry if that information relates to the location of a wildlife species or its habitat and restricting its release would be in the best interests of the species.
It is nice of the minister to look after the best interests of the species but this must be balanced with other interests. My amendment would restrict the public release of that information only and therefore guarantee that the minister must advise the affected landowner of the presence of the species.
How can the government on one hand prosecute landowners for contravening the act and on the other hand withhold knowledge of the presence of the species? I find it outrageous.
I urge all members to support Motion No. 127
Species at Risk Act
Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON
Madam Speaker, the proposed species at risk act is becoming one of the most widely debated pieces of legislation the House has considered in some time. As much as we would like to say all decisions associated with species at risk and habitat protection are cut and dried, black and white and easy to decide I think everyone in the House would agree that is not the case.
Some members may agree on the compensation approach but not the listing approach. Some like the notion of government accountability but do not care for the way ministers would make decisions. Some support the co-operative approach. Others think there should be a more heavy handed approach.
This is only what we hear in the Chamber. Outside the Chamber even more has been made of the bill. Would it protect enough? Would it protect too much? Would it be better to move with what we have or have nothing at all?
I am not making light of the controversy. We need to acknowledge and even revel in it because it is democracy in action. However we need to understand why the government has been so insistent on its approach to issues concerning species at risk. It has stuck with them. It has introduced and reintroduced them. It has understood the political liabilities of some of them and still stuck to its positions. Why? It is because they are the right positions.
This is not arrogance. The government's position is based on the best available research. Bill C-5 is the result of exhaustive consultations. It is the result of nearly nine years of looking at what works and what does not. It is the result of studying the American example in the Canadian context, looking at precedents for compensation, and learning from 25 years of scientific expertise under the COSEWIC process.
We did not begin fully armed with policies. We built the bill one step at a time, with many amendments, and on the basis of the best experience in modern and up to date federalism. This is the Canadian co-operative approach. The provinces and territories must be involved. The territories must be treated as full partners in the protection of species at risk. There is a significant amount of federal land in the territories but under the legislation they would not be treated as little brothers or sisters. They would be treated as equals.
We must continue to ensure this full partnership is not undermined in any way. The approach must be one of joint actions and not heavy handed, top down law. Balance is what we must strive for. That is an absolute certainty. That is exactly what has been achieved in Bill C-5.
Our overall strategy for protecting species at risk is to ensure the federal portion of the responsibility is met. Bill C-5 is one element of the strategy. It would complement the work of other levels of government. It would build on the partnership approach of the federal provincial territorial Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk. It would reinforce the stewardship component of that strategy.
The accord is one of Canada's commitments to protect species. We also have commitments through international and domestic agreements such as the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity and the Migratory Birds Convention Act.
Unfortunately standing committee amendments eliminate the incentive for the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut to complete the development of their own species at risk legislation to meet their commitments under the accord. That is not good news for wildlife.
We should all be proud that for the first time in any piece of federal conservation or environmental legislation we are entrenching the role and importance of traditional aboriginal knowledge. These are the people whose traditions tell us about the habits and patterns of birds and animals. These are the people who know because they have been told by their parents and elders going back generations that certain plants can thrive in certain situations. Such knowledge could help us protect species and plan effective recoveries.
We are incorporating aboriginal traditional knowledge into our assessment and recovery process in a formal way. This is quite unique. We are supporting steps to establish a formal aboriginal committee that would recognize the enormous contribution aboriginal groups have made in the formation of these policies. It would be an enormous step forward. It would formally recognize and acknowledge our partnership and the valuable contribution of aboriginal people to the protection of species at risk.
The policy intents of Bill C-5 were not arrived at overnight. They came from years of study, consultation, discussion and examination. The co-operative approach is the Canadian way. It is the only way. It is already working. The time to act on the legislation is now.
If protecting endangered species is a significant step toward giving future generations a sustainable legacy in the natural environment then whatever the imperfections of Bill C-5, perceived or otherwise, it is the best and perhaps last chance to finally make a beginning.
Species at Risk Act
Larry Spencer Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK
Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Souris--Moose Mountain for giving me this time slot. I am quite sure he will be speaking after question period.
In my childhood I had a recurring dream which illustrates a point I have been hearing over and over. Members have been addressing the fact that the government has ignored many of the recommendations brought forward in committee or come back and tried to reverse them. My dream was in the context of the farm where I used to feed cattle, chickens and the different animals my family had. In the dream I was walking around with a five gallon feed pail in each hand. I had the notion that if I stepped into the bucket and pulled up on the handle I could fly. The harder I pulled the higher I could fly. It was a lifting experience. I enjoyed the dream whenever I had it but it was not realistic.
The government continues to dream of producing good legislation while ignoring parliamentary committees, MPs and other levels of government. Perhaps it is dreaming beyond its potential.
The government's approach to Bill C-5 has been to reduce the challenges of protecting species at risk by basing almost every decision on political discretion. Its approach has been to say “trust us”, an approach which has satisfied few outside government. Because of this significant changes were made to the bill as it went through committee stage.
The Standing committee on Environment and Sustainable Development finished its study of amendments to Bill C-5 at the end of November. The Canadian Alliance worked hard to achieve several key changes to the bill. Most important of these was the reverse onus listing. It would give cabinet the final decisions about the listing of species but it would have to make them within a limited time. Listing decisions it did not make within the allowed time would default to the list compiled by the scientists.
Good science in this context must include socio-economic issues. It must take into account whether species are at risk because of human causes, natural causes or changes the animals themselves have made. When I last spoke to Bill C-5 in the House I mentioned that in Regina we protect peregrine falcons as an endangered species. I have since learned there are thousands of them in different locations. They have merely changed their patterns of flight and habitat. They are not an endangered species at all. Sometimes we need to investigate a lot of things.
We did not achieve a lot of our key goals in committee. We continue to believe strongly that when all other forms of negotiation fail there cannot be full co-operation without full compensation for landowners. Without full co-operation species across Canada would suffer instead of being helped. We fought hard for this. However our friends across the way voted down our motions while all opposition members voted to support them.
We debated the issue in the House of Commons in February and March. I have no doubt we will be back to debate it in April at report stage so all Canadians can understand how important compensation is for the protection of endangered species.
I will turn the attention of the House to Motion No. 29. The motion would extensively modify the standing committee amendments that would introduce the stewardship plan to Bill C-5. It is one of the reversal amendments.
The committee did not mandate compensation but at least it required that the minister commit to regularly examine tax treatment and subsidies and to eliminate disincentives for people to protect the species at risk. Motion No. 29 would remove any recognition that the tax system might be used to provide tax incentives for property owners as well as any recognition that property owners face disincentives to protecting endangered species. This would fail to recognize the financial burden that this act potentially places on landowners.
It would remove the committee's amendment which required a commitment to provide technical and scientific support to persons engaged in stewardship activities. We oppose it since this strongly waters down the committee's changes and in particular omits the mention of tax treatment and subsidies to eliminate disincentives.
We argued in committee that those who accidentally kill a species, its residence or its habitat, must not be liable for prosecution. Liability should be reserved for intentional trespasses against the act. The committee vote resulted in a tie. The Chair decided the vote and this part was done away with. We brought this change to report stage to discuss the importance of limiting liability to intentional acts, not to accidental acts.
It is so easy in some cases to accidentally spoil habitat in a farmer's field or on his property or perhaps even accidentally kill an animal or wound an animal. We need to ensure that we include criminal intent and not just simply an accident that might happen.
We believe that taking into consideration the costs and the benefits of planning options would make for a much more effective bill. If precious money were wasted, species would be hurt because of it. The government must better consider economic realities and develop more formal ways of choosing the program that is the best bang for the buck. The committee rejected these arguments. Committee members believed that species would be worse off because of the lack of these things.
The Canadian Alliance is committed to protecting and preserving Canada's natural environment and our endangered species. However, we do not believe the act will work unless it includes fair and reasonable compensation. It will not work unless criminal liability requires intent. We believe that we need co-operation and not confrontation with the provinces and other levels of government. We believe that the government wants to amend Bill C-5 to reverse many of the positions taken even by its own Liberal MPs on the environment committee. This is another example of top-down control from the Prime Minister's Office and shows the contempt in which the government holds members of parliament.
Unless the bill provides for mandatory compensation and stops criminalizing unintentional behaviour it would not provide effective protection for endangered species. This is the reason why we cannot support the bill.
I remind members of that little story, of the insistence the government has to dream on and on. My city dwelling friends have a better vantage point for dreaming. Perhaps some have spent too much time in the CN Tower to really get down to earth and realize what happens on the ground out on the farm where people will have to bear the burden of the cost of protecting these species. We need to protect them. As has been said in many ways in many days in the House our prairie farmers are an endangered species themselves. We need to give them every tool to survive but also every tool they require to protect the endangered species they might find on their properties.
Species at Risk Act
Joe Comartin Windsor—St. Clair, ON
Madam Speaker, all sorts of amendments have been brought forth by the government to dramatically alter the work done by the environment committee. A great deal of them are offensive but none more so, I would suggest to the House, than the amendments that are part of Group No. 4. They attack the sections that would expand the ability of the first nations to have input into the implementation and total application of SARA.
Just before the House resumed today a press release from the president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami Association speaking on behalf of the Inuit in the north attacked the government indicating clearly that the Inuit were no longer in a position to support the amendments as proposed. The Inuit were particularly interested in subsection 7(1) of the act which had the effect of establishing a council that would allow direct participation by the first nations.
The press release indicates that various attempts were made by the Inuit to approach the Minister of the Environment to ask him to reverse his position, go back to what the committee had proposed and to allow the first nations in the country meaningful participation. As of yesterday there was no response from the minister and today the Inuit issued this release indicating that there is no longer any willingness on their behalf to support the SARA legislation as amended by the government.
It is my understanding from contacts that we have with first nations across the country that the position taken by the Inuit is generally supported by most first nations in the country. It is another example of how out of touch with reality and relationships the government is with the first nations.
Statements By Members
Colleen Beaumier Brampton West—Mississauga, ON
Madam Speaker, yesterday an ad appeared in the International Herald Tribune signed by over 250 dignitaries highlighting the suffering that the Iraqi people have had to endure due to sanctions imposed on their government. It also denounced the smart sanctions plan proposed by the U.S. and the U.K.
The proposal is not the solution to the economic and social problems. It is a grim perpetuation of a failed policy and a violation of internationally recognized human rights and humanitarian standards. Smart sanctions are still sanctions.
The proposal is an attempt to shift the blame for the Iraqi people's suffering away from the U.S. and Britain. Moreover, U.S. support for smart sanctions reflects the Bush administration's recognition that there is no support for the currently policy.
I urge the Canadian government to take the initiative at the security council by initiating the process of de-linking humanitarian sanctions from military sanctions and establishing a diplomatic presence in Baghdad. The global conscience--
Statements By Members
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)
The hon. member for Nanaimo--Alberni.
Statements By Members
James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC
Madam Speaker, the Canadian Alliance has undergone a major metamorphosis as we carried the question of leadership and the future direction for our party to Canadians from coast to coast.
Last night members chose a new leader. I am pleased to rise in the House today on behalf of my friends and colleagues in caucus to welcome and acknowledge Stephen Harper as our new leader. Stephen brings a wealth of experience in the policies and principles that founded our party and movement.
We also applaud our former leader, the member for Okanagan--Coquihalla who campaigned tirelessly and passionately. We look forward to working with him in caucus alongside our other leadership candidates, the members for Calgary--Nose Hill and Macleod.
We are determined to regroup and retool as a unified caucus. We call on our members from coast to coast to pull together. It will take all of us and a lot more. It will take an openness for honest discussion and scrutiny of issues.
We welcome Stephen and congratulate all the candidates. Working together let us build a revitalized Canada and a better future for our children and all Canadians.
Marine Conservation Areas
Statements By Members
Peter Adams Peterborough, ON
Mr. Speaker, March 24 is the 13th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. In this parliament I was pleased to support Bill C-10, an act respecting the national marine conservation areas of Canada. The bill would allow for the protection of national heritage in Canadian waters that extend the area of our huge country by 50%. It would allow the extension of our great national parks system out into the ocean.
Among other things Bill C-10 would allow the establishment of a Gwaii Haanas national marine conservation area reserve proposed in an agreement that was signed in 1988, the year before the Valdez spill. This reserve, on our sensitive west coast, would allow for the protection of rare ocean species. It would be a sanctuary for them just as our national parks on land are a sanctuary for plants and animals.
I urge all members to support the extension and strengthening of our national parks system on land and offshore.
World Poetry Day
Statements By Members
Sarmite Bulte Parkdale—High Park, ON
Mr. Speaker, March 21 is World Poetry Day. This day was declared by UNESCO in 1999 to celebrate poetry and to lend recognition and provide impetus to poetic movements around the world.
World Poetry Day thus gives us an opportunity to reflect on the human need for expression, and for art and beauty that provides inspiration and promotes healing. A world without poetry, art, theatre or literature would be extremely boring. Poetry gives a voice to all peoples.
Poetry is one of many ways in which we as Canadians celebrate our lives, express our diversity and share our vision and values with the world.
The Government of Canada is proud to support and promote all artistic and cultural activities in Canada, including the poems and the poets whose words are thought provoking, amusing or inspiring. Let poetry continue to be read, heard and felt in all our libraries and schools, but above all in our hearts and homes.
Association féminine d'éducation et d'action sociale
Statements By Members
March 21st, 2002 / 2 p.m.
Carole-Marie Allard Laval East, QC
Mr. Speaker, for several years now, women from across Canada have been getting together to unite their strength and their voices, whether for solidarity purposes, or to actively promote their ideals.
Twenty thousand Quebec women are members of the Association féminine d'éducation et d'action sociale, a non-profit organization whose goal is to improve women's living and working conditions, and to defend their rights. The AFEAS has been working to that end in 430 Quebec towns for close to 35 years.
I am asking the House to join me in welcoming the representatives of the Association féminine d'éducation et d'action sociale who are here today. These women are leaders in their communities. They are here to take part in a colloquium organized by Communications Canada.
I welcome them to Ottawa, and I wish them every success in their endeavours.
Statements By Members
Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC
Mr. Speaker, every year in April, the Canadian Cancer Society and thousands of its volunteers lead a huge campaign to raise funds for research to beat this terrible disease.
Daffodil Day has been a tradition in Quebec since 1961. This anticipated event signals the arrival of spring and the return of life. It expresses support for those who are affected by cancer, in one way or another. More than 125 cities and towns in Quebec take part in this operation.
The fight against cancer is not over. We are all affected, directly or indirectly; 134,100 people died from the effects of cancer in Canada in 2001. In Quebec, more than 12,000 volunteers will pool their efforts for a cause that concerns every one of us.
The Bloc Quebecois invites all Quebecers to encourage volunteers on Daffodil Day in order to give back hope to those who are living with cancer.