House of Commons Hansard #50 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was health.

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Bill C-34. On the Order: Government Orders

May 6, 2004--the Minister of the Environment--Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development of Bill C-34, an act to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994
Government Orders

10 a.m.

Victoria
B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That Bill C-34, an act to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, be referred forthwith to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

I rise today to discuss one of the ways in which human activity is affecting the future of nature, a problem that the bill before us is designed to address.

There are probably none among us here who do not remember the Exxon Valdez disaster in the northeast Pacific and the horrifying pictures of dead fish, birds, seals and other marine life that had no chance against this thick oil on top of the water.

What many here may not know is that more marine birds are killed every year by the oil discharged from ships on our east and west coasts than were killed by the entire Exxon Valdez disaster. These seabirds are killed by the chronic oil pollution in the ocean that comes from the discharge of oily waste from the bilges or ballast tanks of ships. And no, these ships are not supposed to dump this waste into the oceans. It is already against the law. But they do it and the impact is huge.

Some may think that in an ocean environment with millions of gallons of water perhaps a bit of oily waste would quickly disperse and be of little concern, but the opposite is true. It takes only a spot of oil or only a drop perhaps the size of a dime on the feathers of a seabird to kill that bird in the cold waters of the north Atlantic.

Like a pinhole leak in a diver's suit, the oil allows ocean waters to penetrate the natural protection of the seabirds. In the north Atlantic, where waters are frequently just above zero degrees, this means that the bird is soaked with cold water and, over a few hours or at the most a few days, all the reserves of its body fat and muscle are depleted and the bird simply dies.

The birds do not survive, and while we see a few struggling here and there on the beaches, we know for certain that the problem at sea is much, much larger.

It is not a matter of a few birds dying every year, nor even a few dozen or a few hundred. There are at least 300,000 bird deaths every year. Anyone who has seen birds washed up on the shore and struggling for survival can tell you what a sad sight this is. These birds are the ones for which Atlantic Canada is renowned. Some of them are specific to the waters of the North Atlantic: guillemots, puffins, dovekies, and gulls. Anyone who has seen just one of these birds gasping for life on a beach knows what a terrible sight this is, but what we have to realize is that we are not just talking of one specimen, but a bird population the equivalent of the human population of a suburb of a city the size of Toronto.

One reason we have this problem is that the level of penalties does not act as a sufficient deterrent for this kind of activity by shipowners and ship captains. Rather than pay the cost of legally disposing of wastes at port facilities, they simply dump at sea. If caught, some pay the penalty and just consider the cost as a cost of doing business. Fines have been quite inadequate in Canada in past years, even when the shipowner or ship captain is brought to justice.

I draw members' attention to the United States, where there have been some recent high profile prosecutions. Let me tell members about just one. In March, a Norwegian shipping company was fined $3.5 million after one of its ships discharged oil off the United States west coast. It is the largest fine ever levelled for this type of environmental violation. Not only will the company pay the fine, it will also launch a comprehensive anti-pollution program on board all its ships.

We need to be consistent with the United States. We share these coastlines and we share these oceans, and we certainly do not want to be viewed as an area where it is somehow easier to dump oil.

We have an opportunity now with this bill to make amendments to two key environmental laws that will address the tragedy that is birds oiled at sea, and I speak today in favour of these two amendments.

To complement provisions already found in the Canada Shipping Act, the government is proposing amendments to the Migratory Birds Convention Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. These amendments will strengthen their enforcement powers and our ability to deal with this serious offence. With these changes, we can make early and decisive government moves that will provide immediate results and ensure that enforcement and judicial powers have what they need for proper deterrence.

What we are proposing here is not a new strategy nor anything that will be hard to do. It is a fairly simple solution and one that will help us beef up certain existing laws and take prompt action.

During the winter of 2005, it would be good to be able to report lower seabird mortality rates from oil spills, and to know that we made the right choice by putting together the right legislative tools. It would be good to know that, with a simple approach, we have been able to make a difference for the preservation of biodiversity today and in the future.

These amendments place no burden on those who already take their environmental responsibilities seriously, and I will add that most shipowners and ship captains do. There will be no additional responsibilities or obligations for the good citizens in the shipping industry, but what these amendments will do is ensure that those who feel free to pollute Canadian waters now, without thought or care to those 300,000 birds or more that die annually on the east coast, will no longer be able to do so with impunity. These amendments will help establish their environmental conscience.

None of this comes without cost, and the Government of Canada will increase its investment by some $2 million to $3 million a year to meet the additional requirements of this bill. The money will give us the surveillance and enforcement tools and people that we need, it will allow us to communicate more with the shipping industry, and it will help us pay for the science we need.

This is not a controversial proposal for the provinces. Indeed, we have moved forward with this initiative with the support of provincial governments on the east coast. I would in particular like to congratulate my colleague, the minister of the environment in Newfoundland and Labrador, for his support. We also expect that those in the shipping industry who understand the importance of environmental protection support the approach outlined here today.

With the support of this bill, we will have more of the tools needed to do the right thing and to urge those shipping interests who feel free to dump their waste in our waters to do the right thing. I urge support for this bill, and I know that all members look forward with me to the day when we can count more birds bobbing in the waves and not those struggling for life because of a thoughtless act.

If I may, I would like to add my appreciation for the members of the opposition on the environment committee who indicated the importance of this bill to them and indicated that they would be favourable to speedy passage of this legislation through the House. I think this type of cooperation will be very helpful in making sure this legislation comes into effect just as soon as it possibly can.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will echo what the minister just mentioned and say that the official opposition will be supporting the bill. When it gets to committee it will be passed quickly, I am sure. However, just to let the birds on the east coast know, the bill, unfortunately, will likely not pass into law before we head into the election.

I do have to chastise the minister just a tad for talking about the early and decisive government action on this topic. He has been the environment minister for approaching several decades now, I would think, and this is the first time we have seen this bill. An early and decisive move to protect these birds, this is not. This is a long overdue bill. I do not know why it was not in here a long time ago.

The bill is now before the House and, as the minister knows, it will pass through quickly. We have one speaker today because the bill is not controversial. The provinces are on side, we are on side and I think everybody is on side. It will go to committee but, unfortunately, it will not get passed into law before the House is dissolved and we go into an election.

Let me reiterate a little of what the minister said. There are hundreds of thousands of birds that face a terrible death. It is very agonizing for the bird and agonizing for us to watch it. The unfortunate part is when birds come into contact with oil and they get to the stage where they are struggling. Although a lot of people try to help, there are volunteers and efforts are made, once the bird is in that stage, seldom do they get saved. The fact is, they are done. We see volunteers scraping the oil off, trying to fluff the feathers and do what they can for these birds. The trouble is, once they have lost that protective natural coating because of their contact with oil, it is almost always a death sentence for them. That is why the bill needs to pass. Eventually, if the bill is not passed in this House, in this Parliament, then I hope early in the next Parliament the Conservative government will bring it forward again and we will get it into law, because it is long overdue.

One of the amendments to the Migratory Birds Convention Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act would make stricter fines possible. The potential fines would be raised to $1 million for shipowners who pump their bilges or put oil into the water. This is a good move and a good idea that we support.

It is interesting that our laws will finally be harmonized with the United States. As the minister himself said, this is a good thing. We share a common coastline and what we do not want are shipowners who might try to make it a few more miles before they pump the bilge. This is not a get out of jail free card but it is certainly an easier and cheaper way to clean the bilge or pump the oil and not as likely to get prosecuted. That has to stop. This will harmonize our laws more consistently with the United States and make it neither profitable nor desirable to dump bilge oil within our 200 mile exclusive economic zone. It is obviously a good thing.

It is a positive example of how harmonizing our laws here in North America is a good thing. I imagine if Maude Barlow were here today in the House, she would be up on her hind legs squawking about the fact that there is a corporate agenda somewhere and it is a terrible thing to work with the Americans. I am sure it is in her mind and in many other people's minds that the Americans are part of an evil empire.

The truth is that the Americans are away ahead of us on this. We are playing catch up here. The fact that we can harmonize our laws with the Americans to make the North American coastline safer and a tougher place to pollute for all of us, is just a recognition that pollution does not know boundaries and good laws, good regulations and sound international law, the rule of law, is a good thing when we can work in harmony for the betterment of all. In this case it is for the betterment of both the environment, certainly the birds, and also our relations with the Americans.

I do think the minister is on the right track here again. Harmonizing these laws with the Americans is a good thing and it is a good thing for all the reasons I mentioned.

The bill also would iron out some of the past jurisdictional problems between the various government departments that claim responsibility for protecting our coasts. The minister mentioned that $2 million or $3 million would be involved in making these amendments workable, and that is a good start.

However we have concerns that the government will continue to augment in other departments the monitoring efforts on all our coasts and not be careful about how it manages both the Coast Guard and our other monitoring methods. No law will work without monitoring and enforcement.

I want to assure the minister that this is consistent with Conservative policy. I want to read for the record, for those watching and for members in the House, exactly what our policy says on this. It says:

A Conservative government will expand oil-dumping detection; prohibit ships from entering sensitive sea areas; legislate ship operators to account for their ships' waste; and offer incentives to dump waste at our port facilities, not in our waters.

A Conservative government will massively increase fines for illegal oil dumping, a practice that kills hundreds of thousands of sea birds every year along Canada's coastlines and is encouraged by current Canadian laws that make profitable the practice of dumping oil in the ocean instead of disposing of it legally at a port. Ship operators caught illegally dumping oil will face criminal charges and be prevented from plying Canadian waters.

In other words, the Conservative policy is a get tough policy for those who would pollute. In fact, it reminds me a bit of the policy of the current Prime Minister when he was the environment critic in 1990. He said at that time that people should face criminal charges for willingly and knowingly polluting Canadian waters with oil. He said that criminals like that should spend time in jail.

We know what has happened since then. The Prime Minister's own company, CSL, has been caught pumping bilge water over the side. Apparently another case is pending. I am not sure who he thinks should go to jail for doing that. However it is interesting to note that in 1990 he had a very tough policy when he was environment critic. I only mention this to point out to the minister that this early and decisive action that he talked about in his speech is getting to be decisive but it is not very early.

Back in 1990, 14 years ago, the Prime Minister said that this should be toughened up. Now, 14 years later, we have a bill that will not pass through Parliament in time and is not as tough as what the Prime Minister wanted 14 years ago.

We will be supporting the bill because it is the right thing to do and because it is a step in the right direction. However I will not be doing cartwheels on behalf of the birds on either coast because the legislation has been a long time coming. It is well overdue. I hope it is not window dressing for the upcoming election, like the headlines we read about the government getting tough on those nasty people who are overfishing on the east coast. I hope this is not another one of these bills where the government wants to show how tough it can be. It will not pass but the government wants to show people how tough it can be.

I hope the government will get tough and that the legislation will pass. The Conservative Party will get tough. We will legislate it as an early and decisive action of the Conservative government. We will not wait for an election call to do it.

This should happen. The bill will go to committee. We will support it and are happy to do so. I again point out that it is part of our strong environmental commitment. It is part of what we want to see happen, not just with CSL but with any corporate or private shipowner who might use our waters improperly. We want to make sure that the good ones have nothing to fear but that the bad corporate citizens and bad shipowners realize that Canada is not a place to dump their pollution.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-34, an act to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

Let me start by saying that the Bloc Quebecois will be supporting this bill in principle, especially since more than 300,000 seabirds are killed each year in the waters around the Atlantic provinces, in the St. Lawrence River and the St. Lawrence Seaway, because shipowners and sailors dump ballast waters there. Obviously, this creates very serious situations.

Earlier, the minister said we all remember the Exxon Valdez disaster. We in the Bloc Quebecois are also thinking about all those poison ships that run aground all over the world, and, too often, get off easy.

That is the situation. While the Bloc Quebecois supports the principle of the bill, it is clear that, in committee, we shall make sure that the owners, companies and officers in particular are held fully responsible for any damage caused.

It is all very well to say in the bill that fines will go as high as $1 million, and that the masters, chief engineers, owners and operators of vessels and directors and officers of corporations will be held responsible, but we want to make sure that it will be possible to follow up, especially with corporations.

We know that the Birchglen , a ship belonging to CSL, changed its flag overnight. It lowered the Canadian flag and raised that of Barbados, while in port at Quebec City. That is typical of this industry.

It is not enough to simply provide for fines in legislation; we must ensure that it is possible to follow up on these corporations and to take the necessary steps so that directors and owners are harshly sentenced and required to pay the fines imposed under this legislation.

A lot of work will be done in committee to ensure that the industry fully understands that we are determined to have the polluter pay. Never again will ships be allowed to dump bilge in the waters of Quebec—the St. Lawrence river, estuary or seaway—thereby causing pollution and leaving death in their wake. Again, some 300,000 seabirds are killed in our waters every year because of ship owners, crew and operators who do not respect the environment.

I repeat, the Bloc Quebecois will support the principle, but the true objective is to make the company owners, administrators and representatives pay directly.

I will indicate to hon. members the concepts with which the Bloc Quebecois agrees in this bill:

to protect migratory birds from the effects caused by deposits of harmful substances, such as oil, in the exclusive economic zone of Canada;

to state that that Act applies to vessels and their owners and operators;

What we are especially interested in is the following:

subject masters, chief engineers, owners and operators of vessels and directors and officers of corporations to a duty of care to ensure compliance with the Act and regulations;

We will insist on the fact that we want the corporation and all related entities—including of course CSL, Canada Steamship Lines, CSL International and all the subsidiaries of the Canada Steamship Lines consortium—to comply with the legislation. This is a model typical of that industry. Indeed, it is not just that they want to avoid paying taxes in the countries where they operate by registering their vessels in tax heavens to sail flags of convenience. They are also doing this to avoid having to comply with the environmental laws in the countries where they operate.

The Bloc Quebecois wants to ensure that all these companies, subsidiaries and consortiums will be accountable and that the managers who run these businesses will be convicted for any damage that they may cause.

Of course, it is said that the bill will:

—expand the enforcement powers to include orders to direct and detain vessels found to be in contravention of that Act or its regulations;

It goes without saying that we agree with the fact that, when this occurs, the vessel can be boarded and put in dry dock in a selected location.

It is also said that the bill will:

—expand the jurisdiction of Canadian courts to include the exclusive economic zone of Canada;

This is, of course, for reasons relating to international law.

We want to ensure that anyone causing damage within our territory will be prosecuted.

The bill increases the amount of certain fines. Members are certainly aware that we are in favour of fines that can be as high as $1 million, but we must ensure that the person who committed the violation can pay such fine.

I repeat, when we see that the Birchglen , this rusty ship sitting in dry dock in the Quebec City port, was able to switch its registration overnight from Canada to Barbados, it gives us a good indication of what the industry could do if environmental crimes were committed. It is amazing to see how quickly a change of flag, a change of allegiance or a change of owner can take place.

We want to make sure that these things are not tolerated and that the parent corporation can be prosecuted for any damage caused by its subsidiaries, even if they happen to be located in tax havens or in countries that do not have environmental regulations.

The bill proposes to permit courts to impose additional punishments in the form of orderscovering matters such as environmental audits, community service and thecreation of scholarships for students enrolled in environmental studies.

We are in total agreement with having corporations do community service in affected areas, on top of having to pay for damages. Of course, here again, if one wants to sentence corporations to community service, someone has to be made accountable.

It is always the same concern. We must make sure that the heads of corporations, their owners, and family-owned consortiums such as Canada Steamship Lines, are not able to escape the law just by changing the country of registration to Barbados, as the Birchglen , that rusty old ship moored in the port of Quebec City, did overnight. In that particular case, it was to avoid taxes. Nevertheless, it could be to avoid environmental responsibility.

We would never be a party to a bill that would allow corporations to avoid facing up to environmental crimes. We will make sure that, at committee stage, the bill is as specific as possible so that corporations, employees, management and all sister companies of a consortium are not above the law.

Of course, as members know, committee work has to follow the rules set by the Liberal government. Even though we agree with the substance of the bill, its introduction just before an election will not give the committee the time to do its job. Again, we are pleased to debate the bill today, but it will not be adopted before the end of the session because of the forthcoming election.

Since the Bloc Quebecois agrees with the principle of the bill, it will take part in the committee's work. We are ready to review the bill without delay so that it comes into force as soon as possible. We want to make sure that owners, board members and managers of corporations or consortiums pay for damages and are made to abide by the penalties imposed on them and that, if they do not, they are made personally accountable to the public for any damage they might have caused.

The Bloc Quebecois agrees with the principle of the bill, but it will defend the territory of Quebec. We will no longer accept the deaths of over 300,000 birds every year in our waters because of shipowners emptying their holds, dumping bilge water, and destroying bird life. All that these birds have done is to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We do not wish to see this happen ever again in the St. Lawrence, the St. Lawrence Estuary or the St. Lawrence Seaway, or indeed in any of the other territorial waters of Canada.

We will be sure to bring the appropriate pressure to bear in committee. Regardless of which shipping company is involved, be it Canada Steamship Lines, Canada Steamship Lines International, or another, be it a consortium or conglomerate, we want to make sure that all shipowners, officers and shareholders will pay for the harm done to birds on the territory of Quebec.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-34, an act to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. At the outset, the NDP very much supports the bill. It will go to committee for further discussion on it.

However, a question was raised earlier by the member from the Conservative Party as to whether the bill, which is so long overdue, was simply a matter of window dressing. There is a very serious question here. Why has the government taken so long to introduce what is fairly straightforward legislation to deal with a longstanding and chronic problem in Canadian waters: the dumping of oily bilge and ballast waters from some of these huge tankers. As we know, the estimates are that on the Atlantic coast alone about 300,000 birds are killed each year. I am from the west coast. We do not know what the estimates are on the west coast, but we know it is also a significant problem.

First, there should be a lot of serious questions. We in the NDP have some pretty tough questions for the government as to why the legislation is being brought in at the last moment. Clearly it appears that we are on the verge of an election and this will likely never be realized as legislation in this Parliament. What a shame. How many more birds will be victims of pollution dumping as a result of a failed environmental agenda by the government?

One of the principles that we have to advocate most strongly is the polluter pay principle, and the bill attempts to do that. Raising the fines up to $1 million is a step definitely in the right direction. However, we also need to have some serious concerns about whether the additional resources required for enforcement, for example, will actually be in existence.

We can have the legislation, we can have the fines laid out, but if we do not have the infrastructure or the resources on the ground to get out and see what is going on and to ensure that these violators are being caught, then the legislation is not worth the paper on which it is written. That will be a question that we pursue in the committee to ensure that the legislation is backed up by the kind of resources that are required to do the job.

The sad reality is that for many of these corporate polluters, it is easier for them to face a fine than it is to stop the pollution and to clean up the pollution. We know for example, from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, that the average fine has been about $16,000. This is far lower than what the violation and cost of cleanup is. Again, it is important to ensure that there are adequate fine levels to send a very strong message to polluters that continually violate our laws.

In the context of the government's environmental record, while the bill is a good individual specific step, it has quite an atrocious record on the environment. Again, being from the west coast, there is huge concern about the government being willing to look at lifting the moratorium on oil and gas exploration off the Pacific coast, something that we very much oppose.

We in the NDP believe the people of Canada are entitled to an environmental bill of rights that gives us the power to protect our environment. We have had some discussion here today in this debate about these tankers. Some people have mentioned the Canada Steamship Lines. Maybe we should focus a bit more on what these tankers are doing and what CSL is doing. Not only have they had an anti-environmental haven, they have also had a tax haven.

The issue of the environment is very much integrated and a part of a broader discussion about our tax laws, about how we treat these corporations and whether we have a green screen, for which the NDP has repeatedly called, through which decisions for the budget, for budgetary priorities or for tax measures or for other environmental measures are seen through.

I say loudly and clearly that I think Canadians, by and large, are very disappointed with this government's record on the environment. While this bill, in and of itself, is a good bill in principle, it really begs the question why the government has waited so long to act.

I was curious to know why the Conservative Party spokesperson on the bill would attack Maude Barlow, from the Council of Canadians. First, here is a Canadian, the voluntary chairperson of the Council of Canadians, who has done probably more than most anybody else in the country to bring public attention, consciousness and awareness to what Canada has actually sold out. It has sold out in terms of its natural resources. Under NAFTA and the FTAA, we basically have moved into an agenda of corporate power that allows resources to be traded without any sense of democratic practice or democracy that would come from elected parliaments.

To attack Maude Barlow is quite unconscionable. She is the person who has made it very clear that Canada should not be allowing the bulk export of our water, just as we have done in the NDP. That has been a major issue for us too, and we have raised this in the House.

Let us get the record straight here and make it clear who the real culprit is. It is that Liberal government. It has in a very lackadaisical way given lip service to protecting our environment. We have not yet fully met our commitments to Kyoto, which is a very basic global commitment to protect our environment and to reduce harmful emission. The government has failed on that record as well.

One way for us to ensure these environmental standards are set and that we do indeed have a green screen through which public policy decisions are made is to ensure there is a strong contingent of New Democrats in this House. It sure as heck will not be the Conservative Party that pushes the government in that direction. If anything, it has limply gone along with the government's anti-environmental agenda.

There are tough decisions to be made for the protection of our environment. It must be made very clear to the corporate sector that violations will not be tolerated, not only in the protection of birds, but in human health as well. We only have to look at things like the Sydney tar ponds or other toxic sites in Canada. Look at the dismal record we have on public transit and the fact that we are pumping more poison and harmful emissions into our air. That is sending more kids to hospital with asthma.

All these things can be traced back to decisions on public policy that emanate from this House and from a political agenda. The government has a choice to make the environment a priority and make it clear that we have strong environmental standards which must be abided by. It has the choice to have public policy decisions that will emphasize green jobs, protection of the environment and transition funds for workers. These are all things for which our party is calling. However, we have not seen any of that from this government.

In closing, we support the legislation in principle. It will now go off to committee. We will examine the bill closely in committee, given the opportunity to do so. We will work very hard to ensure that resources required to ensure the enforcement is met under the bill does take place so violators will be caught and prosecuted. We will ensure that a strong message is sent out that on this score we will not see any further killing of migratory birds.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak and outline the NDP position on this matter.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Sydney—Victoria
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Mark Eyking Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Agri-Food)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Minister of the Environment for bringing this very important marine issue to the House today. I am from Cape Breton Island which is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. We have so many different breeds of sea birds and too often we see them damaged by pollution.

Since the hon. member across the floor mentioned another issue that we have in Cape Breton, the tar ponds, I would like to mention that the Minister of the Environment has been at the forefront in the last few years in dealing with the tar ponds. It was evident in the budget and it was also evident this week in the negotiations that we are going to clean up this mess.

A silent disaster takes place every winter off the coast of Atlantic Canada. Hundreds of thousands of sea birds die every year in the winter. They experience a slow and struggling death, all because of the discharge of oil waste from ships that are making their way through the ocean waters. The ships are not permitted to discharge their waste in the ocean but many do. Let me explain what happens to the murres, the puffins, the dovekies and the gulls that share these waters with the big ships.

A spot of oil no bigger than the size of a quarter, as the minister stated before, can penetrate the natural defences of the birds against the cold waters of the Atlantic. We can liken this to a pinhole in a diver's suit. Over several days the cold soaks the birds and zaps their reserves of body fat and muscle.

Yes, there are laws against discharge of waste by ships at sea, but the problem has been that the fines for violating these laws do not provide a sufficient deterrent. It would seem that the polluters have concluded that it is cheaper to pay the penalties than to pay for disposing the waste in a legal manner. In other words, the way things work now, it is the cost of doing business.

We are proposing to give our enforcement officers the tools they need to do the job by the anti-pollution clauses of the Migratory Birds Convention Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. We are also proposing that we make sure that those who purposely pollute our ocean waters and are responsible for the deaths of our marine life are brought to justice.

There are members here from Newfoundland and Labrador. They are also surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and have also seen the problem first-hand.

With the fairly simple proposals in this bill we could, within a year, be able to look back at the winter of 2004-05 and say that we have taken the action that was needed for fewer deaths of sea birds from oil. We could say that we have done the right thing by putting together the legislative tools. We could say that we have taken action on conserving biodiversity and have addressed an ongoing problem. We could say that we have lived up to our domestic and international commitments.

One of the most important parts of the legislation will be to make the investment needed to find the polluters who discharge the waste illegally and bring them to justice. We do not need to invent anything and we do not need to come up with much that is new. The technology is there. Satellites and technology on board aircraft can spot the oil slicks trailing behind the ships very soon after the discharge has been made. Acting swiftly in bringing these violators to justice will send a very strong message.

With the changes in this proposal before us, we could increase surveillance. We could partner with the Canadian Space Agency and use the RADARSAT technology as an eye in the sky. There is something quite fitting in using technologies for this purpose. Human activity is the reason our waters get polluted, but humans are also the creators and inventors of the high technology solutions.

Support of this bill to implement these legislative amendments will signal to all of Canada that we are committed to a conservation regime that works with industry, but also one that is backed by a strong legislative mandate and enforcement of the law. It is an essential move to ensure our natural legacy.

I urge members to support the bill, to reverse the yearly losses from the silent disaster of the oiled birds at sea.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to speak on this bill, which is overall an interesting piece of legislation. It imposes harsher penalties on shipping companies that illegally dump toxic substances at sea. When we get to committee, moreover, we will have to examine the issue very carefully to make sure there are no loopholes. We have already seen the loopholes that were left in Bill C-28, loopholes relating to tax perks for the shipping industry. We need to be sure that the same thing does not happen with this bill, and that there are no possibilities for certain companies to get around the law.

This bill also confers considerable authority on game officers when it becomes necessary to intervene with respect to shipping companies behaving in a manner that may or may not be illegal. Human rights must be protected, however. In committee, we will pay particular attention to these particular aspects of the bill.

Obviously prevention is also important. The focus should be less on the ability to clean up after an oil spill—take the Exxon Valdez for example—and more on imposing conditions to prevent this type of accident from happening. Constraints have to be strong enough to prevent companies from being in a major environmental disaster situation.

Nonetheless, I would have liked this bill to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act to address other issues as well. In my riding, for instance, the environment minister is currently trying to eliminate sanctuaries for geese that use the banks of the St. Lawrence as a place to stop on their migration north or south, depending on the time of year. The federal government had set up sanctuaries to keep hunters out of certain areas, L'Islet, in particular, where the sanctuary ended up being set up in a schoolyard. Hunters are particularly unwelcome in that setting because reopening the hunt would be dangerous for the children and the entire community.

The same kind of situation exists at Trois-Saumons. Everyone in the field agrees that the sanctuaries should be maintained in the future and that the federal government should withdraw its proposal to make them disappear. At one time, it was said that there were too many snow geese. The new spring hunt has taken place for several years and has brought things into much more reasonable proportions. It is as if the bureaucratic machinery had had the goal, three or four years ago, of using the disappearance of the sanctuaries as a way of decreasing the flocks of snow geese. Today, we no longer need this measure.

I would have liked this bill to give us much more serious guarantees. Of course, there is the question of maritime accidents. Action could be taken, nevertheless, under the bird protection legislation. They move from country to country; they have no borders. Therefore, I think it would have been relevant to have more of an omnibus bill covering other aspects of this field.

The same thing is true of the spring hunt. An experiment has been conducted and the results so far are clear. The pilot project could have turned into a provision in the law. Indeed, it has an interesting economic impact and an interesting ecological impact. The species had truly multiplied too rapidly and that could have created health problems for entire flocks. There is also an impact on the land where the geese stop over—obviously a negative impact—especially on farmland.

In recent years, there have been a number of problem situations. The UPA has had to argue frequently to ensure that, when the geese are migrating, the farmers are compensated for their losses. The explosive growth in the flocks has meant that the geese go farther and farther inland. They land in cultivated fields. In half a day they can easily destroy all possible production in that field. For a farmer, this has a serious economic impact.

There are currently programs to compensate farmers. However, we should have taken the opportunity provided by this bill to improve these programs and to involve farmers in the environmental operation that we are conducting. This could be done in a more concrete fashion and we must ensure that the federal government truly does its share in this regard. Indeed, it is ironic that, while the federal government wants to get involved in many areas in which it has no business, there are other areas—such as migratory birds—in which it is not fulfilling its responsibilities.

Earlier, I gave the examples of the sanctuaries that they are trying to eliminate. This is a bad decision. Incidentally, the whole community in my region shares this view, whether it is people from l'Islet, Saint-Jean-Port-Joli or, more generally, from the l'Islet RCM.

It is the same thing regarding the whole issue of spring hunting. The federal government is not doing enough. It should do more.

This is a bill which, on the whole, is interesting, but it should be much broader in scope, it should be a kind of omnibus bill to improve the Migratory Birds Convention Act.

Also, when the bill is reviewed in committee, we will have to take a closer look at the issue of overlapping jurisdictions. It is important to respect provincial jurisdictions. Incidentally, we are told that the Quebec Liberal Party, which is not a sovereignist party, recognizes the existence of a problem in this regard. A document on the priorities of the Quebec Liberal Party includes a strong commitment to this effect. It says that the provincial government will have to:

Negotiate with the Government of Canada to obtain jurisdiction over Quebec's freshwater bodies (lakes, rivers, bogs, wetlands), which will allow us to better monitor aquatic activities.

This is a jurisdiction where things must be clearly defined. We must ensure that the federal government discharges its responsibilities without encroaching upon Quebec's responsibilities. Therefore, if the measures contained in this bill ever had an impact on areas under Quebec's jurisdiction, there would eventually have to be an agreement on what is acceptable. We must not create a situation where, on the one hand, the federal government legislates and, on the other hand, provincial governments are faced with court cases for something that is not their responsibility in the first place. Obviously, it will be very important to ensure that this kind of legal wrangling does not occur.

It is absolutely essential that we focus on prevention to avoid spills. We must ensure that rules set out to prevent spills, the fines and the various actions that can be taken are so clear and precise that all ship owners will understand perfectly that it is much better for them to make the necessary investments and take all the required safety measures than to have to suffer the consequences of a spill that could cause considerable environmental damage.

It is certainly very spectacular but, above all, very sad when environmental mishaps occur because adequate measures were not taken to prevent them.

Hopefully this bill will cover all possible situations. Hopefully there will be no loophole allowing people to get off scot-free. Nobody in the shipping industry should get special treatment.

In this respect, let us hope that the past will not be an indication of the future. Certain harmful behaviours proved that the federal government had granted special treatment to corporations. In so doing, it weakened the law making it less credible and less viable.

I hope that, at committee stage, we will meet witnesses who will tell us what should be changed in the bill. I hope the government will be open to amending the bill. I dare hope that it will even be open to broadening its scope to make it an omnibus bill and include changes to the legislation on migratory birds to answer the questions I raised before. I hope to see that kind of attitude on the part of the federal government.

For instance, the bill expands the area over which the law applies. It will be possible to inspect and search a vessel and direct it to a Canadian port if the offence took place within the 200 nautical mile limit. The current legislation is limited to 12 miles. I see that as an interesting improvement. The 12 nautical mile limit is the limit for the fisheries. It would be interesting to have a larger one for migratory birds.

The bill is also designed to deal with the uncertainty regarding the three departments that are involved when a polluting vessel is stopped. If things can be clarified it will simplify operations and it would be good to do so. In fact, it will allow for more coherent actions and will give much more satisfying results in the end.

As a whole, this bill is interesting. It remains to be seen if it goes far enough to make owners of vessels accountable. We believe that it is essential to get expert opinion. The shipping world is full of numbered and intermediary companies in charge of managing vessels. This opens the door to a lot of loopholes. The criminal responsibility of corporations must be very clearly defined.

There must be a balance between the powers given to game officers and the protection afforded by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In conclusion, the bill is worthy of our support. It is important to send it to committee as soon as possible. We expect the government to be open-minded so as to make this a truly airtight bill that will cover all possible situations to prevent environmental accidents linked to waste being dumped by vessels.

Walk for Hope
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Sunday, May 2, I attended the eighth annual Walk for Hope in aid of Rwandan children, held in my riding of Parkdale--High Park.

This event was an opportunity to raise funds in support of the Hope for Rwanda Children's Fund Scholarship Program which is helping many Rwandan children to reach their full potential in life.

This year also represented the 10th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda. The recent declaration by the United Nations to recognize the 10th anniversary of the genocide brought heightened awareness to the importance of this year's event.

Significant work to commemorate the anniversary was organized in the GTA through the Remembering Rwanda Project, spearheaded by Dr. Gerald Caplan and Dr. Carole Ann Reed.

I wish to thank and congratulate all those individuals, community organizations, schools and association that have provided humanitarian assistance through the years to the young people who are supported through this very important scholarship program.

Fisheries
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, yesterday three ministers, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Natural Resources, now known as the three stooges, called a news conference to tell the world that DFO had issued--

Fisheries
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Fisheries
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. The hon. member knows he cannot apply names to hon. members that are inappropriate. I think he knows that calling a member a stooge would not be parliamentary. I know he will want to withdraw that term.

Fisheries
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, they called a news conference to tell the world that DFO had issued two citations to foreign vessels for breaking the rules in the NAFO regulated area off Newfoundland and Labrador.

This is similar to the RCMP calling a news conference to say that it had issued another warning ticket to a perpetual speeder.

Foreign fishing vessels are contravening the law day after day on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks. Over the past 10 years over 300 citations have been issued. These vessels are supposed to be reprimanded by the home port, but nothing happens. This week's action was no different from the past. Citations were issued and no action taken.

Why then did we have a press conference by three ministers? Could it be that we have an election on the way?

Caledon
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Murray Calder Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commend the Town of Caledon in my constituency for being named one of the two greenest towns in Ontario. On Earth Day last year, Caledon tied with Orillia for that honour. On this year's Earth Day, the two communities faced off again in a broadcast on TVOntario.

The judge, Colin Isaacs, again declined to break the tie. With all respect to my hon. colleague, the member for Simcoe North, I understand that Caledon did have the edge.

Caledon has moved aggressively to fight unnecessary use of pesticides. At the same time it recognizes that pesticides are necessary in some situations, such as agriculture. Community groups such as the Environmental Advisory Committee, the Caledon Countryside Alliance, and the Weedgie Kidz are working hard to raise environmental awareness in my riding.

I wish to congratulate Caledon.

Aboriginal Affairs
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Rick Laliberte Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to speak about the International Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples from 1995 to 2004. It was proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 21, 1993. This was to address such areas as human rights, the environment, development, education and health.

The theme for the decade was “Indigenous People: Partnership in Action”. With this the United Nations couches the request to the member states to strengthen the role of the indigenous population groups.

These groups are the original aboriginal nations of Canada. The proper respect and recognition, and preservation of the aboriginal nations was the true fiduciary responsibility of our Canadian government through the Crown that flowed from the creation of the peace and friendship treaties. That is the foundation of our proud nation we call Canada.

Let us celebrate the final year of this decade. I call on my brothers and sisters of all aboriginal nations to gather as nations and show the world--

Aboriginal Affairs
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell.