House of Commons Hansard #202 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was compensation.

Topics

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Aileen Carroll Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I too have a similar petition wherein the petitioners call upon parliament to protect their children by taking all necessary steps to ensure that all materials which promote or glorify pedophilia or sado-masochist activities involving children are outlawed.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

June 10th, 2002 / 3:15 p.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

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

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

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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

Species at Risk Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, after this slough of petitions, I am pleased to rise again and resume my comments on Bill C-5, the Species at Risk Act.

At the outset of my speech, I was trying to convince the House that there was a major inconsistency between what the provinces and the federal government agreed to on October 2, 1996, under the National Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk in Canada, and what we are debating today in the House, Bill C-5.

While we completely agree with the principles of the accord with regards to conservation—I say this because Quebec has already had an act respecting threatened species in place since 1989, as I stated, in addition to an act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife, and fishing regulations to protect threatened and vulnerable species on its lands—I point out that there is an inconsistency. The principles laid out in the accord clearly indicate that when it comes to protecting species, the federal government is committed to improving its co-operation with the provinces.

Again, the Quebec legislation on endangered species was passed in 1989 by the Liberal government of Robert Bourassa. Some of the Liberal members who supported this legislation are sitting in this House today. They are about to accept the fact that the government will pass a bill that will duplicate a Quebec act, overlap existing measures and create a double safety net, this in spite of what the Quebec national assembly did in 1989.

We on this side of the House can only condemn this blatant violation of the principles of co-operation that underlie the national accord for the protection of species at risk in Canada.

Through this bill, the federal government is trying to set aside the Quebec model of protection, which works fine. Here is what the then Minister of the Environment said in 1996 regarding this accord:

We cannot remain indifferent to the fact that this agreement opens the door to overlap between the future federal legislation—

the “future federal legislation” being Bill C-5 now before us.

—and the act that has been in force since 1989, an act that works well and has already proven useful.

The then Minister of the Environment added:

We risk creating more red tape instead of dedicating ourselves to what really matters to us: the fate of endangered species.

The then Quebec Minister of the Environment was right. We have before us a bill that will allow a federal act to apply on the Quebec territory. This is useless duplication. As I mentioned, the Quebec act already exists in Quebec and has allowed for the legal identification of over 340 species. Not only does this legislation allow us to identify species but, since 1989, a series of measures have been in place to allow for the implementation of recovery plans for endangered and threatened species

Today, in the year 2002, as the federal government is about to adopt a bill that affects the provinces, it was already 12 years ago that Quebec was defining principles to legally establish recovery plans for certain species. Direct enforcement was also provided for.

Certain clauses of the bill, especially 32 and 33, provide for direct enforcement. The proposed legislation would create federal officers responsible for enforcing this federal legislation on lands which would not necessarily be designated federal only or even come under federal jurisdiction. This legislation would allow these officers to take action on lands under provincial jurisdiction, when Quebec has had wildlife conservation officers for years now under its act respecting the conservation of wildlife.

Why duplicate officers? Why add a second group of enforcement officers, when the first is doing its job perfectly well?

This bill goes against the 1996 principles underlying the protection of endangered species in Canada. These principles are about co-operation. With this bill, they are now deciding to dispense with co-operation and bring in powerful legislation giving the federal government authority to interfere directly in areas of provincial jurisdiction.

The federal government is also deciding to make provision for a compensation scheme, but at the same time it is not, because it has just imposed a gag and has given itself permission to again put forward amendments which would alter the committee's decisions. This government could perfectly well have spelled out the compensation scheme. Beyond future regulations, it could have taken this golden opportunity to spell out the compensation scheme for landowners in Canada and in Quebec. But no. It has decided to ignore the studies done by the experts, such as well-known academic Mr. Pearse. The latter proposed that landowners who lost 10% of the value of their property be eligible for compensation of up to in excess of 50% of its value.

The government has decided to bring in legislation, but it is not sticking to its own jurisdiction. It has decided to interfere in provincial jurisdiction. Not only that, but it is refusing to tell us how the compensation scheme will work.

We are disappointed in the government's initiative and we will naturally be voting against it. A number of the amendments in Group No. 5 are, in our opinion, unacceptable. I will come back to this a little later. I now leave the floor to my colleagues.

Species at Risk Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Julian Reed Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, considering that the debate has gone through clauses and so on, I would like to begin by making a remark in response to the member for Red Deer.

I was listening with great attention to what he had to say today about compensation, which is a huge issue for many of us in the House. If I heard him correctly, and I hope I did not, he suggested that the elimination of Motion No. 109 in the bill would somehow eliminate any attempt at compensation in the bill.

The fact is that the reverse is true. If the hon. member were to reread the bill he would find that the elimination of Motion No. 109 means that the government shall make regulations. It is very clear.

I will give him the benefit of not comprehending what is in the bill because I know, as a colleague working on the committee, that we all worked together with the best of intentions. I would hope that perhaps he could correct that at some later time.

One party complains that the compensation scheme will leave landowners stranded. Another party says that the compensation is outrageous and it should be done away with altogether. From one side we heard that the stick in the proposed bill is too soft a stick and that there is too much wiggle room for violators. On the other we hear that it is coercive and that it will not work.

I believe that over the many years and three manifestations of the bill we have actually come up with the Canadian thing. It has involved a good deal of compromise and understanding on the part of everyone but we believe we have something that will at last be workable. I am not talking about a lot of compromises. It is a matter of balance.

The standing committee worked very hard on this over many years. Well over 300 motions were considered and over 120 amendments were passed. The government should be commended for its commitment to work with landowners, land users and resource users in the protection of species at risk.

The promise made by the Minister of the Environment to make compensation regulations shortly after proclamation and the subsequent withdrawal of Motion No. 109 is reflective of this commitment. I say to my hon. friends who are so upset about compensation that they should reread the bill so they can fully understand what is in it.

Motion No. 109 concerned clause 64 which provided for compensation. The effect of withdrawing the motion was that the governor in council will now be required to make regulations necessary for the provision of compensation under the act.

Bill C-5 is built on the principle of co-operation first. We are committed to a co-operative approach. Through the accord for the protection of species at risk signed in 1996 with the provinces and territories, we have already made it quite clear that we agree that co-operation is the way to get things done. After all, laws do not protect species, people protect species.

The protection of species at risk is the responsibility of every Canadian, whether they be rural or urban Canadians. We all have an impact on species and we should all be conscious of that.

There have been enough successes under the accord to show that our approach is right. We studied the United States and its legislation, held up as an example by those who support a different kind of approach, one that is more coercive. What we found was a backlog of court cases and a lot of will. That is not Canadian. It does not fit with our constitution. It is not who we are and it is not how we do things.

The policy development for this bill has taken nearly nine years. We have learned through trial and error and through study and research that the co-operative approach is the one we must lean on, the one we must foster, the one that each amendment must support.

We will see evidence of this in the government motions on voluntary measures to encourage landowners to protect critical habitat. I must commend the landowners in the country who have taken that to heart and are doing so much already.

This means too that scientists identify the critical habitat and activities that could destroy it and pass this along to landowners to try to find common sense solutions to preserve it. We are not living in a dreamworld here. We know there will be times, and we hope that they are few, when voluntary measures will not work. In that case the government will step in quickly and act decisively.

The legislation contains the steps to prohibit activities that could destroy the critical habitat of endangered species. It focuses on building co-operation rather than attempting to coerce action by Canadians. In other words, we are not going to clog the courtrooms and give rise to a new specialty of law if habitat in Canada goes unprotected.

We are going to work to get things done and quickly.This means getting out there on the land, on the waters, in the forests and on the shorelines.

A new general prohibition against any activities that may “adversely affect” critical habitat under federal jurisdiction for these reasons is not acceptable. We cannot have scientists' decisions triggering legal prohibitions. This both removes government's accountability as well as the incentive for stewardship as the first course of action.

The government has to protect critical habitat in its own jurisdiction. The government motions strengthen protection of critical habitat under federal authority.

We are moving to automatically protect critical habitat in national parks, marine protected areas, migratory bird sanctuaries and national wildlife areas.

To further strengthen the protection of critical habitat in other areas of federal jurisdiction, we are proposing mandatory protection if critical habitat is not protected through voluntary or other means within 180 days of identification. The timeline of 180 days provides an opportunity for those using the land or resources to voluntarily protect the critical habitat. At the same time, this approach ensures that critical habitat is protected in a timely manner.

The government and our partners will be working with those who use lands in federal jurisdiction to come up with voluntary measures to protect critical habitat. We are going to work as hard as we can to get stewardship arrangements into place to protect critical habitat within the timeframe.

The government is also proposing that the bill will require all federal ministers who are authorized under other federal acts to issue permits or licences for an activity to consider whether those activities could result in destruction of critical habitat prior to issuing the permits and licences.

The co-operative approach has won the support of many people. They have had a bit of trouble being heard but they are out there and they are already at work. We must ensure the approach we put forward continues a co-operative approach with these partners.

Species at Risk Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, it was interesting to listen to my hon. colleague across the way. I want to start off exactly where he began his speech because I think he referred to clause 64 of the legislation.

He talked about Motion No. 109 that was withdrawn earlier today. It does change considerably the position the committee had which the government brought to the House earlier. I draw the hon. member's attention to the fact that we understand only too well exactly what withdrawing the amendment means. It means that the government, or the privy council, or the governor in council to use the exact technical phrase, shall make regulations.

That word shall is significant. It is something we wanted in the legislation absolutely, but we also wanted something else. While that is a step, it is such a baby step that it does not even take one-half size of a baby's shoe to move forward. The hon. member needs to recognize that putting it in a regulation does not have the same force as if it were in the legislation itself.

Moments ago just before the hon. member sat down he said there was mandatory protection of endangered species if they were not looked after within 180 days. That is in the legislation. That is not in the regulations. We are saying that the species at risk should be protected. However, it is not mandatory that the landowner or the person who suffered from the implementation of the act be compensated.

The only thing that is mandated is that regulations shall be created. It does not say when those regulations shall be created. It does not say what the compensation shall be. Let me read for the record the things the regulations are to cover. They are to cover:

(a) the procedures to be followed in claiming compensation; (b) the methods to be used in determining the eligibility of a person for compensation--

--the eligibility of a person, and that would include a corporation--

--the amount of loss suffered by a person and the amount of compensation in respect of any loss; and (c) the terms and conditions for the provision of compensation.

If those kinds of things were couched into what is a reasonable and fair compensation, one could say maybe some of these details ought not to be in the legislation. Something that ought to be in legislation is the principle on which the compensation shall be determined.

There is no doubt that the compensation should be determined on the basis of fair market value, not something that is apparently fair and reasonable. What is the point of talking about fair and reasonable? That gate is so wide open, the road is so wide as to drive us to wherever we want to go. It means absolutely nothing in terms of specifics.

There is no provision either in that particular clause that says it should be done in a timely manner. What is the point of agreeing that a person or company, or whatever, has suffered damage to the tune of several million dollars but there is no indication as to when the several million dollars shall be paid? Would it be paid 180 days after the ruling has come down, would it be 10 days later, or an infinite number of years later? We do not know. It is not there.

Removing this amendment is fine. It is moving a baby step forward but it does not deal with the fundamental principle of justice and the fundamental principle of democracy, and the fundamental principle on which democratic capitalism operates. That is the basis on which private entrepreneurs are to put money on the table to take the risks of developing means of production, means of service and thereby derive a profit, but it also serves the interests and the needs of society at large.

We need to encourage that. With this kind of legislation we want to assure that, but the legislation does not make that absolutely clear.

At this point I emphasize again that the Canadian Alliance and I personally are in no way opposed to the provision and protection of species at risk. We want to protect the species that are at risk. That is fundamental.

The hon. member mentioned co-operation. I agree wholeheartedly with him that many of the fishers, hunters, lumber companies and farmers are the first to take care and to preserve endangered species.

I remember so clearly when my father taught me how to plough on the farm. A burrowing owl was burrowing in one of our fields. My father said “When you plough in that field, you will probably find that burrowing owl somewhere. You have to make sure that you go well around that spot so that you do not disturb what the owl is doing. That is its habitat and we want to protect it”. When I wondered why Dad cared that much, he said “I care that much because that bird has a right to live just like you do”.

That is co-operation. That is voluntarism. That is what I respect and admire very much.

When we get into a position where a government can take away property, can expropriate land, can cause damage to the earning power of a company without adequate compensation, that is very dangerous. It creates a precedent that encourages people to not invest. It is a disincentive. That is what bothers me. That is the issue on which we want to rest our particular case.

There are other issues in the bill that I want to comment on. I want to register clearly and unequivocally that we want fair and reasonable compensation that is determined on the basis of market value, that is the definition of fair and reasonable, that it be in the legislation and that it be timely. We underscore that because until that amendment is made, we cannot support this legislation.

Any government that puts itself in the position of being able to completely ignore the scientific evidence about the species that are at risk, this can become a politicized decision from scientists. I am sure other members in the House know as I do that there is a considerable amount of science that in the first instance has a certain political element. However, when we deliberately create in legislation the potential of a government to take unto itself the power to overrule, that is a very dangerous precedent. There have to be checks and balances in this kind of decision.

I encourage all of us to consider very carefully what it is that removing this amendment will actually do and what the provisions are now. I assure everyone that we want to protect the species that are at risk. We also want to protect landowners and the people who suffer loss because of implementation of the act. We also want to make sure that the science is objective and unbiased and that it is not contaminated by infiltration of political considerations that might cause greater advantage to some people than to other people because of their political affiliation or their contribution to particular political parties.

Species at Risk Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Hélène Scherrer Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, there has been much use of the word “collaboration” within the debate on the proposed species at risk legislation.

This is more than a mere word. Collaborative effort is the very foundation of this bill. It is the very fabric of all parts of the policy.

For example, the proposed legislation addresses all species at risk in Canada, as well as their essential habitat, wherever in the country that habitat may be located.

Collaboration, however, means that the federal government plays an important role, as do the provinces and territories, the landowners, the users of resources and all of us as well.

In the proposed species at risk legislation, this also involves a balanced approach based on nearly nine years of consultations and discussions with all sectors of Canadian society.

This is an approach that is unique to Canada. Not only does it reflect current practice, but it is also the very foundation of our constitution. It is also an approach we know works in the field. That is a fact.

I will give a few examples, if I may. We have a number of them, but I will quickly touch on two very specific ones.

One of these is the wood buffalo, the largest land mammal in Canada. It has already been in imminent danger of extinction. Its status has now improved and it is now in the threatened category.

This is the direct result of collaborative efforts between the federal government, the governments of B.C., Alberta, Yukon and the Northwest Territories, as well as their partners.

It is the outcome of a recovery initiative based on collaboration. This is the term on which the emphasis must be put. The initiative was launched in 1957. It is still in place, and the buffalo population has benefited from it all these years. The wild population has risen from 200 to 3,000 over the past few decades.

Another example is the peregrine falcon. The peregrine was designated as endangered and now it too has moved up to the threatened category.

This too is the result of collaboration between the governments of Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Nunavut and Canada.

We believe there are now 500 nesting pairs in Canada, where there were 34 in the 1970s.

These are but two success stories in the long tradition of co-operation between the provincial, territorial and federal governments regarding species at risk.

In the spring of 1995, in order to improve the protection of species at risk in Canada, the provinces, territories and federal government held public workshops in many places across the country to determine what should be included in a national approach to protect species at risk.

This initiative led to the development of the accord to protect species at risk. This accord got the support of the Canadian ministers responsible for wildlife.

The accord recognizes that protecting species at risk is a shared responsibility and that a single jurisdiction cannot, alone, effectively protect species at risk. Species do not recognize jurisdictions.

No government has all the legal, political and other means to ensure adequate protection to species. Again, co-operation is essential.

The proposed Species at Risk Act is part of the federal government's contribution to the implementation of the accord.

This approach is in compliance with the commitment made under the accord by all the provinces and territories to protect species and their habitat, to the extent that they come under their jurisdiction.

This is an approach that emphasizes co-operation, so that we can ensure its success.

The provinces and territories took part in the development of the safety net of the bill and they co-operated in this regard.

This approach was expressly designed to provide provincial or territorial governments with the first opportunity to protect the essential habitat of a species that comes under their jurisdiction.

Given these facts, how could we possibly support amendments to the bill that would undermine this approach, which is based above all on co-operation? We also know that in order to change behaviour, we need incentives. We also know that there needs to be a great number of cases pending in the system. This is why we must re-establish obligations so that each government is responsible in its own jurisdiction, while allowing enough flexibility for the federal government to intervene anywhere, if it deems it necessary. This is the safety net. It is a delicate balance by which the proposed Species at Risk Act can provide protection for all species and for all essential habitat in Canada, while protecting the co-operation between different levels of government that is absolutely essential for the successful protection of species and their habitat on private land.

The government motions also clarify territorial responsibilities. Canada's three territories are responsible for all of their wildlife species, not simply species that are considered game, as set out in the current version of the bill.

The government believes that the protection provided by the provinces and territories must be effective in order to avoid resorting to federal prohibitions.

However, we insist that the policy must be developed in an open and inclusive manner, instead of through legislative measures. The work on this has already begun with the provinces and territories. The government motions ensure that this initiative based on co-operation is not compromised by the imposition of any unilateral program.

Some critics proposed that we adopt an approach similar to the United States' Endangered Species Act. This act takes an authoritative and controlling approach, which orders people to act at their own expense. It hardly leaves room for co-operation.

Here are a few examples of remarks made by American officials who were commenting on what they are now doing. Representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for example, said that they had lost control of the species protection process because they were overloaded with the huge number of court orders. They reported that their 2001 budget for listing species was spent on enforcing compliance with settlement agreements and court orders.

The home secretary said “For a long time, we spent precious money on lawyers' fees and fighting in the courts instead of protecting species and fighting to bring them back from the brink of extinction”.

This fall, it was estimated that 240 court orders have not been implemented by the U.S. government because the resources were used in legal battles.

Because of this atmosphere of mistrust between landowners and the U.S. government, which is made worse by the hostile approach of the U.S. legislation, no information is available concerning the situation of over half of the endangered or threatened species living on private property in the United States.

When species at risk legislation is unduly focused on penalties and prohibitions, it is remarkably difficult to enforce. Is that really what we want here? Absolutely not.

The co-operative approach of the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk is already working. Since it was approved, most provinces and territories have introduced or amended legislation in order to respect the terms of the accord.

The federal, provincial and territorial governments are now working on bilateral agreements and a policy to establish effective protection under the accord. By working together on our accords, we ensure that each government understands its responsibilities and what triggers the safety net.

Before this bill is passed, we must do our work under the accord. We should be a world leader. We should not be fighting with each other. This bill deserves our support.

Species at Risk Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise during report stage of Bill C-5 to speak to the amendments in Group No. 5.

I have been listening to and following the debate. A number of issues have been raised by the government to which I and other members in the House take exception. Part of the responsibility of the government is to pass legislation that is workable and recognizes the diversity represented not only in the House but across the country. Recognizing diversity will be necessary to protect species at risk.

As a number of government members have said, it has been a nine year process so far. Quite frankly, it has been a process of trial and error. From what I have seen it has involved mainly delay, obfuscation and deception. We have still ended up with a less than satisfactory piece of legislation. We have seen the government force closure 76 times in the House. It is now doing so again.

I will speak directly to the amendments. I will use an example of a species representative of all species at risk in Canada to illustrate the government's lack of political will to do anything about species at risk in a workable, concrete or coherent manner.

The fact that Motion No. 109 has been dropped is commendable because it allows the hard work done by the committee to be noticed. The amendment was brought in with the consent of committee members including a number of Liberal members. It is nice to see the motion back in the legislation.

Motion No. 75 would enable the minister to make regulations for critical habitat for aquatic species or migratory birds on federal lands. It would remove the enabling authority for aquatic species and migratory bird protection through regulations. It would allow the minister to recommend regulations to the cabinet for the protection of critical habitat at which time the cabinet could choose whether or not to act. That is totally unacceptable. Either we protect wildlife in Canada or not, but we should not leave it to cabinet to decide.

The committee was uniform in its declaration that there should be a third party scientific agenda. It is not a problem. It is a simple issue. Protecting endangered species or habitat in Canada is absolutely no problem. The only problem is lack of political will. The government has come up with a fantasy that the co-operative approach would somehow work. Co-operation is fine and important. In the long run it may be the key to successful legislation. However the legislation must have teeth. There must be a reason for private landowners and people to buy into it.

The issue hinges on compensation. It is the key to the legislation. However the issue has not been addressed. If we provide compensation for landowners who must take land out of production because an endangered species is found on it we will have found the key to a successful piece of legislation.

The public has bought into the idea of protecting endangered species. However Bill C-5 would not provide the tools to do so.

I said earlier that I would like to take one species to show what the inaction of this government has done toward making that single species extinct, because it is still barely hanging on. There is still just a little bit of a gene pool that allows a few Atlantic salmon, which is the species I am talking about, to actually return to the rivers in Atlantic Canada, spawn, go out to the ocean, come back and spawn again. It is inconceivable that the government, in the time it has been here, has done as little as it has done to protect Atlantic salmon.

Atlantic salmon are extinct now in 14 rivers in Nova Scotia's southern uplands, the area of Nova Scotia that I represent. When I was a kid those rivers had thriving populations of Atlantic salmon. We are talking about one generation here. We are not going back to the turn of the century or the 1850s. We are talking about 25 years ago when there were thriving populations of Atlantic salmon.

Those rivers today have 10% of their salmon remaining, the ones that are not extinct that is. Another 50 rivers in Nova Scotia are in serious danger and have seriously threatened salmon populations from acid rain. While salmon stocks remain in some of the rivers, it is a barely viable population base and has been recognized for some time as a species at risk.

In their own brochure, the Nova Scotia Salmon Association criticized the government. It wanted to show the negative impact of acid rain on fish stocks, which it called the silent killer. The association notes state that like the canary in the coal mine, Atlantic salmon is the biological indicator that signals loss in water quality. If we do not have good freshwater quality, we cannot have Atlantic salmon reproducing.

What has the government done about Atlantic salmon? It has shut down the hatcheries in Atlantic Canada, in New Brunswick and in Nova Scotia. There is no such thing as restocking the rivers unless it is strictly a private restocking effort. It has done enough genetic research to find out that the Atlantic salmon stocks in the rivers in the inner Bay of Fundy are distinct species, a subgroup of Atlantic salmon, and it has done nothing to protect the critical habitat for that subspecies.

The Atlantic Salmon Association, a privately run organization, raised $500,000 to study the genetic make-up of those salmon in the inner Bay of Fundy. The government, which is supposed to protect endangered species, managed to find $150,000 to dedicate to the project and it has not even given the money over yet. It is scandalous.

In 1960 we found out Nova Scotian salmon, eastern Canadian salmon migrated to the west Greenland Sea and overwintered there. In the late sixties, early seventies, eighties and nineties, the fishery that developed in the offshore made that whole group of species nearly extinct.

In 2001, 40 years after we found out where the salmon were going, Greenland set its harvest at 200 tonnes of salmon, or approximately 70,000 salmon. However low numbers and low prices resulted in a catch of only 40 tonnes, representing 15,238 salmon, 9,800 of those salmon were from Nova Scotian and eastern Canadian rivers. Nothing has been done. This is just one species. We can name a dozen.

My point is that one species alone tells the story and sets the record of the government on protecting endangered species.

Species at Risk Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Murray Calder Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me to rise and speak to Bill C-5, the species at risk act. As the chair of the national rural caucus this is something with which the rural caucus has been very involved.

Before I go into my speech I would like to take the time to help the member for Red Deer. I understand he has a television show to do on this subject tonight. I listened to his facts and some of them are wrong. This all hinges around clause 64 within the bill.

Subclause 64(1) basically gives direction to the minister for compensation and subclause 64(2) now states that a governor in council shall develop regulations for compensation. The confusion for the member for Red Deer was the fact that Motion No. 109, had it carried, would have changed the word “shall” to “may”. The rural caucus found that totally unacceptable.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, the member for Kitchener Centre, can verify the fact that we repeatedly went after her on this issue of “may” versus “shall”. I commend the minister. I believe he had three meetings with the rural caucus on the issue and the parliamentary secretary had a couple more. Two of the members of the rural caucus who were very active in this included the member for Churchill River, who was very concerned about the issue, and the member for York North.

The minister saw fit to listen to our arguments on Motion No. 109 and withdrew it. The rural caucus was very appreciative of that because it helped us out very much on the compensation aspect. I believe it has taken us in the right direction.

The people of rural Canada have been heavily involved in the development of the legislation that we are considering today. They support Bill C-5's emphasis on stewardship. They have had a big role in the formation of our policy in this area and for a very good reason. They know how important stewardship is because they have acted as stewards for generations and generations.

I was a farmer in my other life and I was taught by my father that if we were to see a killdeer's nest out in the centre of a field we would immediately stop the tractor, set up stakes and make sure the nest was not destroyed. I was taught that as a child and it has stayed with me as an adult.

Farmers and people in rural Canada are very good stewards and they were naturalists long before it came into vogue. That is the reality of the people who live in rural Canada.

This work is being done through small actions and huge projects but it all conserves Canada's rich, national heritage. We need to make sure that these people see that this work is valued, that it is essential and that it is at the very foundation of Canada's approach to habitat and species protection. If we delay, we send a message that this work is not good enough. No one here intends to do that. If we act now we let rural Canadians know that their contribution is the foundation of our policy on species at risk and habitat protection.

Let us not delay on that message any longer. Let us get on with it. Let us put federal species at risk legislation in place in Canada. It is the least we can do.

The proposed species at risk act ensures that there is involvement of the people closest to the species and to the land. That is something rural caucus fought for and received, and we thank the minister for that. This involvement stems from an overall co-operative approach. We did not just happen across this approach. In fact we set about developing it after much studying, many discussions and after an examination of what works and what does not in other countries and situations. We know that this one will work.

Fundamentally, we have to remember that our constitutional structure is such that we must work at all times with the provinces and the territories on any major policy.

There is a good reason for this structure and most everyone here would agree that it is one that is fair, workable and, above all, Canadian.

There are few examples as good as the development of the strategy for the protection of species at risk to show how well this system can work. There was co-operation among governments, co-operation that began many years ago, to set the stage for a successful strategy. That success can be found in the federal-provincial-territorial agreement called the accord for the protection of species at risk. Under this accord, we have all committed to protecting species, their habitats and to bringing in legislation and programs.

For decades the federal, provincial and territorial governments have been working together on wildlife management. Rural Canadians have been directly involved in this approach in many ways. This is not just for species at risk. All species benefit.

Stewardship, such as that under the North American waterfowl management plan, where provinces and territories have joined the federal government and their counterparts in the United States to preserve hundreds of hectares of wetlands and protect species of waterfowl. Farmers, hunters, landowners and conservation organizations have worked side by side to make this happen. Clearly we all have to recognize that species at risk is truly an issue of national concern and nobody can do it all alone.

We need this continued co-operation. We need to be able to lean over the fence between the federal government and the provincial or territorial governments. That fence makes good neighbours and it makes us partners. That neighbourly spirit brought us the accord in 1996, the accord that commits governments to legislation and programs. These are commitments that many of our provincial and territorial partners have met. These are commitments that the federal government must meet.

The accord formed the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council which has met a number of times and is working on an assessment and recovery planning that is so essential to meet the needs of the species.

The accord provides for the early identification, protection and recovery of all species at risk throughout the country.

Considerable progress has been made by the provinces and the territories in improving a legislative base for the protection of the species at risk in Canada since the endorsement of the accord.

Now it is our turn. The provinces and territories worked with us in developing Bill C-5. The proposed bill recognizes their contributions. Their support is absolutely critical to the success of the bill. We cannot protect species at risk throughout Canada without the provinces and the territories. It is they who manage most of the lands and the activities that affect the species and the critical habitat. They set the land management policies, direct the development laws and deliver many of the programs. Provinces and territories control a significant amount of land and many species rely on these lands. They have had many resources that we need to deliver the habitat enhancement and the protection, including the protection of wetlands and parklands.

Together we set a course for the concept of a safety net that ensures that no species will fall through the cracks before a government has failed to act. That safety net ensures that all species and critical habitat are protected everywhere in Canada. That is the work we need to do and that is the work we are doing.

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4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Andy Burton Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, I find myself with mixed feelings standing in the House during report stage of the species at risk act to address the motions in Group No. 5.

I am of mixed feelings because the government has forced through a motion to limit debate, meaning it has had enough of listening to the legitimate concerns brought forward by members of parliament as expressed to them by their constituents. The government in its wisdom has decided to ignore the concerns we and many Canadians have raised about the bill. Instead the Liberals have decided to use the power of their majority government to ram the bill through. They will crack the whip, defeat opposition amendments and pass a flawed bill.

I remind the House that the Canadian Alliance supports legislation to protect species at risk. The government would have Canadians falsely believe Bill C-5 is designed to protect species at risk even though mandatory compensation, a major component to ensuring species are protected, has been left out. Canadians should therefore disregard the Liberal government's false claims of heroism toward species at risk. Bill C-5 would not protect such species unless it included compensation.

In an effort to rectify the many flaws evident in Bill C-5 the opposition has moved some 60 amendments at report stage. The government has also moved many amendments which I find quite unorthodox. The government had every opportunity to ensure the bill was properly crafted before introducing it in the House of Commons. It introduced similar legislation on two other occasions but has still failed to get it right.

The government has failed to such an extent that the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, an all party committee dominated by Liberal MPs, had to do additional drafting work and spend several months fixing the bill. The committee reviewed over 300 amendments to Bill C-5. Yet the government has seen fit to introduce nearly 60 amendments at report stage. As a legislator I cannot help but compare the current bill as amended by the committee to what it would look like if the government's many motions at this stage of debate were accepted. The government amendments to the bill at this late stage in the process seek to reverse most of the work done by the committee.

Canadians must find this ironic coming from a government which prides itself on its wish to democratize parliament and make it more accountable to constituents. The government claims to allow MPs to vote the wishes of their electorate before those of their party leader, yet in this case it is doing exactly the opposite of what it promised to do. Not only is the government backing down on its promise to respect the wishes of Canadians as represented by their MPs. By limiting debate as it did earlier today it is effectively saying “Democracy is okay, but it has its limits and we are tired of democracy now”.

This is exactly the kind of make up the rules as it goes along tactic one could expect from a Liberal majority government. The Canadian Alliance, I am proud to say, not only respects species at risk. It respects the wishes of MPs to represent their electorates first. Partisan politics aside, I hope the government will see fit to support our amendments. They would result in more protection for species at risk, which is what we are here to debate today.

As members know, I have moved some 19 amendments to the bill at report stage. Several deal with intent to cause harm to a species as opposed to inadvertent harm. Others attempt to ensure adequate consultation with stakeholders, landowners and land users. One seeks to add in the preamble that sustainable development and the protection of species at risk should be the main goals of legislation. Others deal with the need for mandatory compensation to landowners or resource users in the event that complying with the legislation caused loss of property, decline in property value, loss of use or enjoyment of the property, or financial costs.

I have moved two motions in the group before us today, namely Motion No. 21 and Motion No. 26. Both motions touch on voluntary agreements, recovery strategies, and action and management plans for the preservation of species at risk and their critical habitat. These are all important endeavours. The Canadian Alliance supports these objectives of Bill C-5.

As currently written the bill would allow the minister to enter into agreements with other governments or environmental groups but does not specify the possibility of entering into agreements with landowners. Motions Nos. 21 and 26 would add this as an explicit option for the minister. Landowners, lessees and other users should be specified to send a signal that the government is open to a co-operative approach to implementation.

My amendment in Motion No. 21 would provide that a proposed agreement be made public 30 days before being finalized and that the minister consult with all people affected. This is to give legislative certainty that the minister would respect the rights of property owners and involve them in discussions.

The Canadian Alliance believes every opportunity should be taken to stress that property owners, resource users and others with a direct or on the ground interest in the administration of the species at risk act are involved in every step of the process. At this time the legislation does not allow for hands-on involvement by landowners. We in the Canadian Alliance are trying to fix that with the amendments in Group No. 5.

As I mentioned earlier, the government has made numerous amendments to the legislation. Although many of the government motions in Group No. 5 are of a technical nature, a few pose serious concerns. Motion No. 75 seeks to eliminate accountability of action plans. Motion No. 109 would have eliminated requirements for the minister to develop regulations for compensation. The government withdrew it, thank goodness, a small step in the right direction we were thankful to see. Motion No. 116 would reduce the requirement for the minister to consult. Motion No. 131 would cause jurisdictional concerns with the provinces over delegation of authority under the act.

Government Motion No. 131 specifies that the minister may delegate his powers under the act to any other minister of the crown in right of Canada, meaning any other federal cabinet minister. This would narrow the clause to prevent delegation to provincial ministers. The motion is unnecessarily restrictive. It would prevent possible avenues of co-operation between the federal and provincial governments. Given the bill's huge potential to trespass on provincial responsibilities it is highly inappropriate that provincial ministers be excluded. Provincial ministers are included in other sections, so why not here?

Government Motion No. 38 says that if the minister added a species to the list on an emergency basis COSEWIC would have to submit a written status report on the species to the minister within a year and put the report on the public registry. This is positive. It would allow landowners and other interested parties to see the scientific justification for the new listing.

This high degree of ministerial discretion means landowners would need a clear process for protecting their interests and definite rules for compensation should they incur losses. Unlike municipal rezoning there would be no public process in which landowners could have input. Being at the mercy of the minister they would have to be able to put their confidence in firm, transparent rules. I commend my hon. colleagues opposite for a positive amendment. It is too bad there are not many more.

Government Motion No. 43 would make drafting amendments to subclause 32(1) by removing a phrase that is not necessary.

Motion No. 75 introduces an amendment to clause 49. Subclause 49(1) currently says action plans must include a whole list of things such as:

(e) an evaluation of the socio-economic costs of the action plan and the benefits to be derived from its implementation--

The government seeks to change this. Socio-economic cost benefit analysis should be part of any all-encompassing bill like Bill C-5. How can the government introduce such sweeping legislation and not know the costs of implementing it as well as the costs of not protecting a species? This lack of knowledge would impede the government's ability to determine adequate compensation plans. It is inconceivable that the government would want to delete the entire section, but it would do so with Motion No. 75.

Finally, Bill C-5 does not adequately deal with the issue of compensation. Compensation is not an extra. It is essential to the entire framework of protecting species at risk. It would not only ensure landowners and resource users did not bear all the costs of protecting species single-handedly. It would send an important symbolic message that the government understood their fears and recognized the need to take account of their interests. Compensation at fair market value should be an integral part of any species at risk legislation.

In conclusion, without explicitly mandating compensation the legislation it would stand to harm landowners and the species it was designed to protect. For struggling landowners compensation is often the only incentive for protecting species at risk. It is human nature for landowners to resort to the shoot, shovel and shut up method of dealing with species at risk. Quite frankly, without compensation Bill C-5 would encourage that kind of behaviour.

We do not want to see that. If we are all committed to protecting species at risk we will make this change to the bill. I urge all members of the House to support adding compensation to Bill C-5, the species at risk legislation.

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4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I will focus my remarks today on the aboriginal issues and opportunities in the proposed species at risk act. The way opportunities have been seized in the development of the legislation is quite a story. It is a story we have ignored in a long debate that seems to have only two sides and no middle.

I will highlight some of the opportunities the proposal presents and some of the roads that have been taken. In developing the proposed legislation an important opportunity was seized and new ground was broken with respect to the involvement of aboriginal peoples and aboriginal knowledge.

So it should be. The lands and waters on which a large number of species at risk depend are inhabited and managed by aboriginal peoples. Many species at risk such as the wood bison are valued by Canada's first peoples for their ecological role, cultural importance and use as a traditional food source. There was an opportunity and we took it. We took it in partnership with Canada's aboriginal peoples to ensure their participation in the development of the new law. This was unprecedented.

I will explain. In the four years prior to the tabling of the proposed species at risk act discussions were held with all the national aboriginal organizations and most of the regional aboriginal organizations across the land. Emerging from the discussions was the Aboriginal Working Group on Species at Risk, a working group representing national aboriginal organizations. The group was established in 1998 and continues to meet on a regular basis. Once again it was a matter of opportunity.

The aboriginal working group has provided advice on the development and implementation of the proposed species at risk act. It has provided a significant advisory capacity by helping us fully understand aboriginal stewardship of the land as well as the issues, needs and capacities of aboriginal peoples to help in the protection of species at risk. One result of this hard work is that the proposed act explicitly recognizes the essential role of aboriginal peoples in the conservation of wildlife.

This was more than a matter of opportunity. As the government came to understand, it was a matter of necessity. I will further explain how the aboriginal working group helped the government understand its opportunities with respect to the proposed legislation.

Under the proposal before us aboriginal traditional knowledge would have to be considered in decision making. There would be strong requirements to co-operate with aboriginal peoples in recovery efforts. The government would establish a national aboriginal council on species at risk.

I will discuss each of these accomplishments and seized opportunities in turn. The fundamental basis on which decisions are made was altered by the inclusion of traditional or community knowledge as criteria for decision making. In the past the status of wildlife species as well as wildlife management decisions such as determining quotas and access to wildlife were often based solely on scientific information. Aboriginal traditional knowledge is the knowledge base of the indigenous peoples of Canada who depend on the land for their long term survival. Through observation and experimentation holders of this knowledge continue to develop a dynamic and innovative knowledge base of the land, the environment and the species within it.

Like aboriginal peoples we derive results through observation and experimentation. However the means of interpretation and recording are different. For example, scientists are trained to interpret results according to set standards in a written form to facilitate communication and understanding in the academic community. Aboriginal traditional knowledge holders use different methods to interpret results for presentation to their community in an oral form. We would be losing the chance to paint the fullest possible picture if we did not do it both ways. That is why the proposal includes this type of knowledge.

Further, the proposed species at risk act would explicitly require COSEWIC to consider aboriginal traditional knowledge in its deliberations. It would provide for a subcommittee on aboriginal traditional knowledge to be established to facilitate the consideration of aboriginal traditional knowledge in decision making. Efforts to set up the subcommittee are already underway, led by the aboriginal working group and supported by COSEWIC.

These are opportunities we cannot turn away from. We cannot lose these important additions to the body of work already underway on species at risk in Canada.

There is another opportunity in the stronger requirements for aboriginal involvement in the recovery efforts. The bill contains the requirement for co-operation with aboriginal organizations in the preparation of all key recovery documents, recovery strategies, action plans and management plans.

We have said for nearly nine years that we all share in the responsibility of protecting wildlife. Perhaps no one group represents or demonstrates a commitment to that responsibility more than Canada's aboriginal peoples. Under this legislation the establishment of a national aboriginal council on species at risk will set into law a partnership that already has produced many positive results. It will be in keeping with the kinds of discussions and advice that went into making this legislation. Its establishment will be consistent with the Government of Canada's commitment to strengthen its relationship with aboriginal peoples. This is an enormous step forward. By establishing such a mechanism for aboriginal involvement, we are recognizing and putting into law the importance and relationship of aboriginal peoples to land and wildlife.

With the national aboriginal council, with this legislation, with the incorporation of aboriginal traditional knowledge into the assessment and recovery of species, we are moving forward. The proposed legislation is groundbreaking in its regard of the knowledge of the generations of aboriginal peoples who have lived on the land as part of the process in determining species at risk and the appropriate recovery efforts. The establishment of the national aboriginal council is formal recognition and acknowledgment. It is a formal partnership that will be workable for and valuable to all parties. It is a partnership we are working hard to foster with others: landowners, farmers, fisherman, conservation groups, and those in the resource sector who will be greatly aided by the proposed species at risk legislation.

The incorporation of Canada's first people and the knowledge they have built up over generations will be an excellent addition to the bill. It will cover parts of the country where first nations still have stewardship of the land and will add particular knowledge that we can use in other parts of the nation.

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4:30 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I rise to speak to Group No. 5, I note that it is interesting to hear some of the members from the opposite side of the House putting a political spin on this legislation that is significantly different from what we saw in prior incarnations of this debate on the earlier groups. I think we will see even more of that when we get to the debate on third reading.

What we have to keep in mind in addressing these specific Group No. 5 amendments is that in fact there are no major changes on the part of the government and no major recognition on the part of the government of the democratic process within the committee structure of the House. The reality is that the committee did its work and it made the amendments, with all party support in a number of cases. When that came back to the House at report stage, we were faced with an overwhelming number of amendments from the government, including a good number of them in Group No. 5, which gutted the work that the committee did.

We have before us 20 amendments in Group No. 5, 15 of them government amendments striking down all the work the committee did on those amendments in those sections, with one exception, which we heard about just today, when the government backed off and dropped Motion No. 109.

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4:30 p.m.

An hon. member

A PC amendment.