House of Commons Hansard #185 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was species.

Topics

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

May 8th, 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 would ask you to be so kind as to call Notice of Motion for the Production of Papers No. P-33 in the name of the hon. member for Sackville--Musquodoboit Valley--Eastern Shore.

That an Order of the House do issue for copies of all documentation, including reports, minutes of meetings, notes, e-mail, memos and correspondence since 1994 within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans pertaining to the Tulsequah Chief Mine.

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Insofar as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is concerned the Motion for the Production of Papers is deemed unacceptable due to the following practical considerations in responding to this motion:

One, the documentation since 1994 is voluminous and is housed in Ottawa at various current and archived files and other sources: Vancouver and Smithers, B.C., and Whitehorse, Yukon.

Two, the documentation would require an extraordinary length of time to compile, given the various source locations and the need to apply access to information and privacy, ATIP, criteria, which means identifying legal opinions, papers dealing with international relations and possibly affecting future foreign relations, papers affecting federal-provincial relations and requiring consent of the province, and commercial and confidential mining process information provided by a third party. It is estimated that it would take approximately two to three months to compile this information and a further two to three months to have it reviewed by officials of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Department of Justice.

Three, much of the federal documentation is readily available to the public on British Columbia's provincial website, www.eao.gov.bc.ca, and is part of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act public registry.

Four, almost all documentation is in English only and would require translation. The cost would be at least $30,000.

Five, likely this amount of effort toward addressing the motion could cause delay in co-ordinating the department's Canadian Environmental Assessment Act screening reports since the same individuals could be involved in both exercises.

Given the excessive costs and staff time required, we respectfully ask the hon. member to withdraw his motion and submit a more specific request.

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that this matter be transferred for debate.

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

The motion is transferred for debate pursuant to Standing Order 97(1).

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

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

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from April 29 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. 4.

Species at Risk Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast
B.C.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I will state clearly at the outset that our party supports good legislation that would protect species at risk or endangered species. The problem is that we do not have good legislation before us. This is slapped together legislation. After 10 years the government still does not have the ethics counsellor straight so there is no reason it should have the bill straight either.

The committee did outstanding work but its work has been ignored by the faceless string pullers in the office of the Prime Minister. That is unfortunate. It demeans the work of all hon. members and leaves them wondering why they came here. We all believed that by coming here we could work on important issues that mattered to all Canadians. We believed there would be satisfaction in helping develop legislation connected with the issues.

The standing committee had required that stewardship action plans include a commitment to eliminate disincentives and regularly examine tax treatments and subsidies. The Prime Minister wants the words deleted but they are vitally important. They demonstrate that compensation is not only a cash payment but could involve other tax treatments vital to farmers and property owners.

While government always wants to create incentives and programs it must be forced to confront the realities of disincentives, the reasons people do not respond the way ivory tower bureaucrats think they should. Instead of giving property owners real assistance by sharing data about endangered species or configuring their property to protect sensitive habitat, the government might drop them a postcard. We thank the Prime Minister for making our lives so easy.

Environmental protection and the protection of species at risk should be viewed as a full partnership between the legislated and those who write and enact the legislation. That was the attitude of the standing committee but it is not the attitude of the Prime Minister.

The standing committee had another good idea: a review of the act every five years. It seems reasonable. However the drones in the Prime Minister's Office decided it should not be automatic. They said it should be left to parliament to decide when a review is necessary. As we all know in this parliament and most others, this means the Prime Minister could have a review whenever he had a whim. Committee members from both sides thought a five year review was good. However it was not good enough for the Prime Minister or the PMO. What happens if a species flourishes and is no longer in need of protection?

The Prime Minister is wrong to have done that. It would put the onus on parliament and remove an opportunity for greater accountability and public involvement. The Prime Minister only wants public involvement at election time. Come the next election the Prime Minister will be surprised at how involved the public will be. It will involve the government right out the revolving door.

I served as environment minister in British Columbia. I ran as open a department as I could. I wanted to hear the public and employees of my department. I did hear them. I am proud of the things we accomplished during my watch. How many people will be able to look back a few years from now and say they are proud to have had anything at all to do with this legislation?

The Prime Minister has corrupted the committee process and its work by overruling its well studied and well intentioned suggestions for change. Now we hear he has ordered the whip to be cracked. Anyone in his party who does not vote for this bureaucratic nightmare will join the endangered species list. That is a great way to run a government. He appoints members to a committee, lets them work long hours on legislation and then ignores their every recommendation.

We have all been through this in the House. Members on the justice committee, the health committee, the environment committee and many others worked long hours only to see the faceless bureaucrats in the PMO through the ministers on that side eliminate what all committee members had decided were good ideas. The justice minister is shaking his head. When I was justice critic we would get to the end of the committee process, we would all agree and then bang, our work went out the window. It was the same on the health committee.

The immigration committee was the same. Prior to September 11 we recommended scanners at all airports coming into Canada. We told the government to make sure it checked people. The Liberals all agreed with the idea. The day before the report was to come out the government called a meeting and cancelled it through the faceless bureaucrats in the PMO. Shame on them.

One of the government's own members had a private member's bill in the House. It went to the justice committee. It came back with every section blank. Was that fair? The faceless bureaucrats struck again. The government does not trust its own members in the committees of the House of Commons. That is absolutely shameful.

This has never been more evident than in the bill before us. Members on the Liberal side as well as other members in the House worked hard to come up with its many recommendations. What happened when the bill came back at report stage? They had gone. They disappeared. We have not heard any good reasons. We have been told it is what the minister wants. It is what he has been told by the PMO and the lawyers. By God, we need a change. We not only need a change of government. We need to change a lot of the lawyers we have been hiring around this place.

When the current Minister of Health was justice minister we had a bill on extradition. The policy had not been changed in 100 years but she brought in the changes. I got a couple of good lawyers and we tabled 13 amendments. We got them all through committee. I give the lawyers credit for that because they were experts.

I asked them later how we got them all approved in committee. Why had the government not done that in the first place? Why did we have to make the recommendations? The answer was that the government's lawyers like the amendments to be challenged so they can go to court and make a few more bucks for themselves and their friends. Those are the facts. The government should go back and read its bill. The amendments were approved by the committee and the government's lawyers. The government did not recommend them. The lawyers wanted more business. That is what happens in all legislation.

The government does not want to put into Bill C-5 that it would pay fair compensation at fair market value because market value is easy to figure out. The government wants the lawyers to be able to go to court and fight over what it is. Government members should be ashamed of themselves. They want Bill C-5 to have to go to the lawyers. It wants poor people whose land could be expropriated to have to hire lawyers. Does the government not realize the average person is scared to death when the word lawyer comes up? Most people are scared to death when they have to talk to a lawyer. They are scared of walking into a strange office and hiring someone to protect their rights and freedoms.

What is wrong with fair market value? Why is the government so afraid to pay Canadians fair market value for their land? They do it in British Columbia. We set up a program so people could get fair market value. People are allowed to hire their own appraisers. The government hires one. If they do not agree a third is brought in to break the deadlock. However members on the other side do not like that. They do not believe in true democracy. The Prime Minister appoints members to committee, lets them work long hours and then ignores their every recommendation.

A lot of people are focused on the issue of corruption in the government. However I hope Canadians will look carefully at Bill C-5 and realize how flawed it is. The flaws came only after the Prime Minister introduced them. If he had respect for the members of his party who worked so hard on the committee we might have legislation before us of which we could all be proud. It is unfortunate that the Prime Minister would rather spend his time on world jaunts in his new $100 million luxury jets than on drafting thoughtful legislation that would benefit all Canadians. Bill C-5 will haunt future governments almost as much it will haunt innocent Canadians who are caught by it.

I appeal to all courageous backbenchers who have been holding up the bill whether they are Liberal, opposition or whatever stripe. They should stand and fight. The environment is one of the most important issues for our children and grandchildren. Bill C-5 is no good the way it is drafted, and a number of Liberal members know it. I appeal to them not to weaken. They should not succumb to the threat that they will have no nomination in the next election. They should stand and fight. We can all win and give Canadians a good endangered species legislation.

Species at Risk Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, everyone who has participated in the debate on Bill C-5, the species at risk act, agrees on the value of wildlife, the need to prevent species from becoming endangered and the need to protect those already at risk. That is the point of the bill.

Bill C-5 is one of the most complex pieces of legislation. The dynamics between the standing committee, the minister and the department have been quite confusing to say the least. There have been many amendments back and forth. I congratulate the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, my colleague from Davenport who is the chair, and all his colleagues on the committee for the hard work they have put into the bill.

However I think we can agree on a basic point. The government has been confounded for many years by the question of how to satisfy the many people who have a stake in the lands and waters where these species are found. These people have dedicated their lives to conservation issues and want to see something done in law. They come from different points of view and have different interests. The government has tried to ensure their voices are heard. It has tried to ensure the bill would work in Canada's constitutional context. Above all, it has tried to ensure it is fair and workable.

Some 125 amendments or motions were put forward by the standing committee. The government has accepted 75, which not a bad batting average depending on which amendments they are. I will be looking at the standing committee's amendments as they come forward. I will be supporting some of them. I still have concerns about the compensation issue and the listing process. I hope the government listens again to the amendments and acts on them, but at the end of the day I will be supporting Bill C-5.

Why will I be doing that? After nearly nine years of listening and adjusting it is time to get the legislation in place. While this has been going on species have become more threatened. Some have perhaps disappeared. In my office in Etobicoke North I have a photograph of a majestic grizzly bear in the Khutzeymateen valley in British Columbia. Mercifully, it is not an endangered species but it is time for us to act.

Even if the bill is not perfect and does not satisfy everyone we need to get the legislation in place. We have the co-operative relationships we need to deliver protection on a national basis across the country. Let us get going and provide Canadians with the legislative tools needed to get the job done.

Part of the job involves the people in the Chamber. I will talk about the role Canadians expect their members of parliament to fulfill. When a woodlot owner decides to harvest a section of his property the individual has a number of decisions to make. He must decide how many trees to harvest, the timing of the harvesting based on market prices, et cetera. When a farmer makes a decision about planting or harvesting many factors are taken into account as well. When a rancher closes off a pasture for a year or two it is because it is in the best interests of the land and the herd.

These people elect us as representatives. They expect us to understand the decisions they must make and the lives they live. However they are not the only people who elect us. Others with many different interests are at the ballot box.

Why do I mention who sent us here? It is because we must think of them all. That is our job. They hold us accountable for the decisions that affect their lives so we must design laws that allow us to do our job. We must be accountable.

We are not asking that politicians decide if the right whale is endangered or the piping plover's numbers are decreasing. Scientists alone would make the assessments and decide where species should be placed on the list of those at risk. It would be done through the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

For the first time in federal legislation this organization will be legally recognized as part of the assessment and listing process. The bill before us would include assessments of the status of species that would be scientific, expert and independent. They would be done at arm's length from government and away from any social and economic pressures.

Anyone can see the scientific decisions at any time. Decisions and findings by the committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada would be published in a public registry. The government and elected members of parliament must decide on whether to add a species to the legal list.

The moment it goes on that list a number of processes kick in under the act. For example, there are automatic prohibitions against the killing or harming of listed species and their habitats; there are mandatory plans that are required to be put together within specific timeframes for recovery of the species from dangerously low numbers; and finally, and just as important, the process under the law allows for the authority to take emergency action to protect habitat.

The decisions made under these processes could involve serious economic or social implications, particularly in rural areas that depend on fishing, farming and ranching. As I emphasized earlier, this would be the government's job. We are the ones to make these decisions because we are here to decide on such matters. We cannot ask this of scientists. It is just not fair.

We are the ones who must be accountable to those who put us here. We agree that the decisions must be timely. The bill would place a 90 day timeline for the development of the ministerial response to a committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada assessment. The minister must report annually to parliament on each of the committee's assessments and the minister's response to them. None of this would be done in secrecy. In fact, anyone at any time would be able to see the process in action through the public registry. It is a demonstration of the government's commitment to transparency.

With all these facts in hand concerned groups and the general public could hold the decision makers accountable for action that would be taken as well as action that would not be taken. As further evidence of the seriousness with which the government sees the need for timely action on species assessments from the committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada the government has already added 233 species to the initial legal list. The committee has assessed every single species with its updated criteria in the past few years.

It is time to look beyond the rhetoric. It is time to recognize that in the true spirit of the Canadian constitution we have formed legislation based on partnerships. The assessment and listing is just one such partnership. We rely on the expertise of scientists to determine the threats and status, and the expertise of elected members of parliament to move forward on actions that address those threats and status. Now we must get on with it.

Species at Risk Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Diane Ablonczy Calgary—Nose Hill, AB

Madam Speaker, we are debating a group of amendments to the species at risk bill. There are five groups of amendments and they are grouped to make it easier to debate certain common themes. This debate is on Group No. 4 and there are a number of amendments in this group.

I would like to affirm what all other members who have spoken have affirmed and that is that all Canadians would like to see species at risk preserved and protected for our future, our children, the protection of our environment and our own enjoyment. This is a bill that Canadians have an interest in, not only for now but for the future. The Canadian Alliance supports the intent of the bill which is to protect endangered species.

Unfortunately the bill is flawed. It fails to strike a reasonable balance between the interests in Canadian society of protecting endangered species and their environmental habitat, of protecting the legacy and the livelihood of many people in Canada, and the interests of the economic realities of any action taken by government.

I would suggest the House consider that the flaws in the bill are linked to the fact that government and officials in government have a poor track record of properly and satisfactorily administering some of these government activities. It is up to members of parliament to ensure that any uncertainties, any lack of proper balance in the way the government proceeds are addressed in the bill. We know from bitter experience that unless legislation is clear, unless proper balances are struck immediately in the legislation, that sometimes unintended consequences can take place.

I refer, for example, to today's auditor general's report on three contracts which were administered by the government, contracts for $0.5 million, $0.5 million plus $50,000, and $0.5 million plus $75,000. The auditor general found that the government, in administering just these three contracts, and the senior public servants responsible for managing the contracts, demonstrated an appalling disregard for the Financial Administration Act, the government contracts regulations, Treasury Board policy and the rules designed to ensure prudence and probity in government procurement.

The auditor general said the government files on the three contracts were so poorly documented that many key questions remain unanswered surrounding the selection of the contractor and the basis for establishing the price and scope of work for the contracts.

The auditor general's opinion was that the government did not receive much of what it contracted and paid for. This is just one example that was tabled minutes ago in the House of how government bureaucracies and government ministries completely fail to protect public interest or even follow their own rules when they are dealing with public moneys.

I emphasize that this is just one example giving us reason as members of parliament to ensure that flaws in a bill which can affect the livelihood, the future and the families of people involved in legislation are protected as strongly as possible.

Unfortunately in Bill C-5 that is not the case. I would like to suggest some of the concerns that we have with the bill. For some reason many of the recommendations made by an all-party committee dominated by Liberal members were ignored by the government. Many of the amendments that we are dealing with are efforts by the Prime Minister's Office to reverse the work of our members of parliament.

Members of parliament should take this extremely seriously. This is our work. This is our judgment that is being overruled, overturned, and interfered with by civil servants who, as the auditor general just said, demonstrated, in the case she investigated, an appalling disregard for the legal rules that they were supposed to follow.

We should become concerned when we see the same situation with respect to overturning the judgment, the work and the proposals of members of the committee. Many of these amendments are overturning legitimate work and judgments made by hard working, dedicated, and concerned members of parliament on an important issue, endangered species.

We have, for example, a rather odd determination by these amendments to overturn a recommendation that a national aboriginal council be set up. It would now be a national aboriginal committee. We have a whole bunch of amendments in this group to change the word council to committee. Why? Who knows why? It has never been explained.

The House committee which had a predominance of Liberal members suggested, proposed and recommended one way but all of a sudden it needed to be another way.

Then we have something called stewardship action plans which omit the committee recommendation to look at tax treatment and subsidies as a component of compensation for landowners who are affected by the legislation. Some individuals have decided they do not want to look at tax treatment or subsidies, so that is being taken out in these amendments. Looking at disincentives to comply with the legislation has been ruled out. The recommendation that we examine disincentives and deal with disincentives to comply is being taken out by one of these amendments.

We have an all party recommendation that the government provide technical and scientific support to people whose lands and activities would be affected by the legislation. However, the government does not want to give them scientific and technical support. It wants to give them information, not scientific and technical information, just information. It could be anything. It could be a letter saying that everyone is on their own and that it is hoped no one is jailed for breaching the regulations in the act. We do not know what information means but that word is good enough for the government.

We have a requirement agreed to by all members of the committee that the legislation be reviewed every five years. We are dealing with people's livelihoods, with changing ecological conditions, and with changing movement in the numbers of endangered species, and yet the government does not want to review this every five years. It wants to let the thing go on and on, on auto pilot, without considering the rapidly changing circumstances that would be inherently coming about as the bill is in effect.

We have a whole list of amendments that deal with public consultation and publishing of action plans. We feel there will not be the kind of transparency, openness and public input that Canadians have a right to expect in a mature democracy. We must recognize this when we are dealing with people's legacies. Many people that would be affected had ancestors and families that homesteaded the land. Their families have been on the land for decades if not centuries. They have farmed the land and they have ranched the land. This is their legacy. Their roots are in this country and yet we are asking them to be responsible for government activities with no clear compensation plan.

We are prepared to make them permanently liable, even if they never knew they were breaching or never intended to breach the provisions of this act. Worst of all, this is being done to Canadians in the face of recommendations of members of parliament from all parties in the House. The government is simply overruling some of the common sense recommendations of our own House committee.

I would certainly urge members of the House to uphold not only the spirit but the clear intent of the House committee on the legislation.

Species at Risk Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I am please to speak to this bill today. For those listening, it is important to recall that we are debating the Species at Risk Act at report stage.

I am going to explain why the Bloc Quebecois is opposed to this bill and to the government's approach, which has taken the form of the various groups of amendments considered at report stage.

The bill's preamble reads as follows, and I quote:

the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council is to provide national leadership for the protection of species at risk, including the provision of general direction to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada in respect of that Committee's activities and general directions in respect of the development, coordination and implementation of recovery efforts,

In other words, with a bill which we are told respects provincial jurisdiction, we have a situation where the federal government once again wants to interfere in matters which do not concern it. It wants to tell the provinces how to go about things, without necessarily seeking their consent. That is why the Bloc Quebecois is opposed to this bill. It also opposed a number of amendments put forward by the government so that, ultimately, we could have a bill respecting provincial jurisdiction.

The wording of the bill is not such as to respect provincial jurisdiction, or the essential aspects of the protection of habitat in so far as the provinces are concerned. In fact, all indications are that the minister has the power to impose his vision of protection on the provinces when he deems it necessary. It is a bit paternalistic. Under this approach, if a province does not reach the same conclusions as he does, he will decide that his conclusions are the right ones; he will be a sort of umpire between the provinces. This is exactly the opposite of the spirit in which we wanted to see this sector managed.

In other words, this legislation will take de facto precedence over existing provincial laws, even when the habitat is fully under provincial jurisdiction. All this confirms that the bill interferes into areas of provincial responsibility and because of this, it is unacceptable.

In the section on general prohibitions, it states clearly that, and I quote subclause 34(2):

The Governor in Council shall, on the recommendation of the Minister, by order, provide that sections 32 and 33, or either of them, apply in lands in a province that are not federal lands—

The next subclause then states:

The Minister must recommend that the order be made if the Minister is of the opinion that the laws of the province do not effectively protect the species—

This describes the paternalistic approach that is unacceptable in this bill.

Similarly, clause 36 requires that when provinces classify certain species as endangered that are not listed on the COSEWIC list of designated species, they must apply the same prohibitions to these species as those that apply to the designated species. In doing this, the federal government is claiming the right to dictate how the provinces must go about protecting species. Restrictions and fines may not always be the route that a province wishes to choose.

As such, there is a contradiction when it comes to responsibilities. There is also a contradiction when it comes to the different approaches to ensuring protection. Throughout the bill, the federal government tries to impose its way of doing things, even if provincial legislation already exists.

As regards recovery strategies, the choice of themes is also troublesome when it comes to provincial jurisdiction. In fact, clause 39 sets out that “to the extent possible”, the recovery strategy must be prepared in co-operation with the appropriate provincial minister.

It is this type of phrase that will lead to fighting between the provinces and the federal government, and perhaps to litigation before the courts. A business or an individual caught breaking the law could invoke this flaw, this possible conflict between federal and provincial laws. Either way, we would all lose and end up without the desired results. Even though this bill was introduced some time ago and has gone through the different stages, it seems to have been botched. For the most part, it gives the federal government the right to interfere in this, which is unacceptable.

We are also aware that most environmental groups are opposed to the bill. Even those who should readily support any attempt to improve the protection of wildlife species find the bill useless, even dangerous.

A lot of things are totally unacceptable in this bill. The need to amend it and make the significant changes the government did not make is obvious.

However, the main problem raised by all environmental groups is the fact that the decisions on the designation of species will be taken by the minister and his cabinet, and not by scientists.

Beyond the jurisdictional conflict, that is the conflict of authority between the federal government and the provinces, there is the fact that, since decisions will be made by a minister and his cabinet, and that the minister will be subject to a great deal of pressure, environmental groups are afraid that the same thing will happen as in the case of the management of marine species and fisheries, where the government gave in to political pressures for many years, with the result that some species have nearly or totally disappeared. I believe that, in this respect, environmental groups have an important point.

This is why environmental activists like the leader of the Canadian campaign for the protection of endangered species said that Bill C-5 was a total failure and would not ensure the protection of Canadian species.

Moreover, like one of its lawyers, whose statements are more balanced than that, the Sierra Club is criticizing the bill for being too weak and giving such disgraceful discretionary power to politicians with regard to the designation of species.

The minister is being criticized for favouring, through his bill, a piecemeal approach, left to the discretion of cabinet, rather than a comprehensive approach soft on negotiation, but supported by binding legal recourse, should agreement prove impossible.

The federal government chose to adopt a paternalistic attitude, as I said earlier, by imposing its ways of doing things, controlling how things will be done, and giving sweeping powers to the political arm of the government. This issue is linked to the interpretation of the law and nature with respect to biological situations, the behaviour of various species and situations well beyond the scope of political cabinet decision making. For this reason, I believe it was absolutely necessary that the bill be amended, and this did not happen.

As for the Government of Quebec, it stated, through its environment minister at the time, Paul Bégin, that the bill was just another example of useless duplication for Quebec. He said that Bill C-5, introduced by the federal government, was aimed at creating a safety net for the protection of threatened species and their habitat not only on federal sites, but also on the whole Quebec territory. Mr. Bégin said, and I quote:

Quebec has always behaved in a responsible and appropriate manner regarding the protection of the most threatened fauna and flora species and intends to keep on exercising its authority in this matter.

In other words, the federal government's intervention comes at a time when Quebec has already assumed its responsibilities and done part of the job. In this sense, the new federal bill is useless and may even create complications with regard to interpretation and lead to decisions that will not result in better management of species at risk.

The Government of Quebec believes that legislation such as that proposed in the bill could be acceptable if it excluded any species or habitat under provincial jurisdiction and if it were applied to provincial lands if, and only if, the province or territory specifically so requested.

In closing, instead of having a bill that reflects the reality of Canadian federalism, we have a bill that reflects the government's centralizing approach even on the issue of species at risk.

For all these reasons, we believe that this bill is unacceptable. Even with the groups of amendments, several aspects of the bill would have to be improved to make it acceptable. The essential condition would be that the provinces be allowed to make their own decisions with regard to their own territory, which is not the case in the bill as it stands now.

Species at Risk Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Erie—Lincoln, ON

Madam Speaker, some rather important themes have been running through the debate on the proposed species at risk legislation. They are themes, some of them rather subtle, that we must recognize.

First and foremost, and perhaps the area where we see the sharpest divide, is over a coercive approach versus a co-operative approach. We looked at both and studied both. We talked to experts and to people in other countries. We talked to conservationists and to our aboriginal peoples. We listened to everything that was said.

We looked at all this in the Canadian context, within the traditions and laws that support Canada's constitution. What we found, and the premise on which the legislation is designed, is that the key to effective species at risk legislation is the support and co-operation of those Canadians who depend on the land for their livelihood. It is as simple as that.

We have prolonged this debate while the same things are said: It is too strong or it is not strong enough. Who is right? Neither.

Because the bill has co-operation as the first approach, underscored by strength, it is truly Canadian. It is time now to pass the bill in the House and send it on to our colleagues in the other place.

Who has helped us decide co-operation is the most workable approach? All Canadians have helped us to decide. In some way we are all connected to the land but it is even more so for Canadians who live in rural Canada. The land is their livelihood. It is their past and future. It is at the very core of their lives. It is the rural Canadian who plays such a huge role in the protection and recovery of species at risk in so many different ways. Many of these people are stewards of the land already and have been for generations. They know the importance of conservation and of sustainable activities. They are partners and they are allies.

I would like us to remember that as we consider the issues of critical habitat connected to the proposed species at risk legislation. It is here that the co-operative approach is crucial because it is already working. It has already been successful, especially for rural Canadians. We must not undermine this and we will not undermine this.

The vast majority of lands in Canada are under provincial and territorial management and private ownership. If we want to stop the destruction or degradation of habitat, then partnership and joint actions are crucial.

This is about working with the provinces and territories, with private landowners, conservationists, local authorities, aboriginal peoples, farmers, foresters, fishermen, ranchers and voluntary organizations.

There is plenty of strength in the enforcement and prohibition sections of the proposed species at risk act. Protecting critical habitat will work best, in fact it will only work when we stress co-ordination, complementary action and inclusion. That is what Canadians do best.

Species at Risk Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Calgary West, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wonder if we have quorum.