House of Commons photo

Track Robert

Your Say

Elsewhere

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is environmental.

Conservative MP for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette (Manitoba)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 63.10% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I listened with amazement to the speeches of the New Democrats. It must be nice to be on planet NDP.

The New Democrats say that there are not enough jobs and that people are struggling for survival. One of his colleagues said that there was too much oil being shipped on the St. Lawrence and that the shipping should be reduced. They sneer at natural resource jobs, calling them hewers of wood and drawers of water. I represent a constituency of hewers of wood and drawers of water and they are very proud of what they do. They work very hard. We represent the working person here. Those members do not.

Given that the New Democrats claim to represent the working person and many union pension plans are invested in natural resource industries, which they claim to detest, does he have the intestinal fortitude to recommend that union pension plans reduce their holdings of natural resource industries to zero?

Business of Supply October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague from Winnipeg North, who made some excellent points. He opened the door to a question I always want to ask.

Knowing that their economic policies have failed completely and knowing that their socialist left wing ideology has failed, which happened when the Berlin Wall fell, what the New Democrats have done, through their politicization of the environment and science, is look around for something and they settled on the environment.

I have never heard such a rambling, incoherent, disconnected speech on the environment from my colleague in my entire life. She went from ballast water to de-icing fluid, on and on, completely misrepresenting and misunderstanding the situation itself.

Why is her party supporting a motion against this project long before the proposal has even been approved or any assessment has been done?

Business of Supply October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, earlier in this debate, it was noted that the refineries in eastern Canada are supplied by many countries, some in the Middle East that have very questionable human rights records. The energy east program and the development of these pipelines to eastern Canada would displace this offshore oil with Canadian feedstock.

Could my hon. friend, who is from the legal profession and understands the notion of human rights extremely well, talk about the importance of replacing this kind of oil with oil from domestic sources?

Public Safety October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, our Conservative government is standing up for safe and sensible firearms policies, and I was pleased to see the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness introduce the commonsense firearms licensing act this week.

For too long, hunters, farmers, trappers, and sport shooters have been treated as second-class citizens due to failed Liberal policies.

Could the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness please update the House on what our Conservative government is doing to cut red tape for law-abiding firearms owners?

Business of Supply October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I strongly agree with my Liberal colleague across the way. If refineries were to be expanded in Canada, they already would have been built. Refining is a low-margin, highly expensive business. For my colleague to insist that we have to value add every export product we have, that is like saying we will not export wheat out of western Canada, only bread, which is clearly ridiculous.

In the member's comments about the natural resource industry and those big, evil energy companies and oil corporations, I hope she realizes that about 450,000 families from right across the country, some in her constituency, are supported by the Alberta oil sands industry. Why is she so against the workers who make their livelihoods in the natural resources and energy industries?

Business of Supply October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I have a quick comment on wind energy and its environmental soundness. I guess my friend has not heard about the thousands and thousands of bird strikes caused by wind turbines, which is a clear negative environmental impact.

I would like to focus on something the NDP leader said. As early as 2012, in a speech to the Canadian Club of Toronto, the Leader of the Opposition called the shipment of western oil to eastern Canada, a “pro-business, common sense solution”. I just saw a pig fly.

Just a few weeks ago, while attempting to clarify the NDP's position on energy east, the member for Terrebonne—Blainville said, “We simply haven't taken a position yet. We will wait for the project to be submitted to the National Energy Board to do the homework and properly study the file. Then we'll made our position clear”.

Why has the NDP put forward a motion to reject the project prior to its submission to the National Energy Board?

Business of Supply October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier in the House today, this is a clear example of the NDP's anti-resource development bias. The New Democrats want every natural resource development project in the country stopped, and this one is no exception. They go on and on saying that they want this condition, that they want the environment protected. All those things will be considered in due course during the environmental assessment process. Then they say that they want the project rejected, even before the project has been proposed. It is clearly ridiculous.

Business of Supply October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is very important to be precise about what information was provided to the Quebec court.

DFO informed the Government of Quebec that it considered this work and the proposed mitigation measures did not violate the federal Species at Risk Act or the Fisheries Act.

This is a list of the information provided in this case: analysis under the federal Species at Risk; impact of underwater noise generated by the geotechnical study of the Beluga in the area of the point of Gros-Cacouna project; analysis under the federal Species at Risk Act; analysis of the proposed project geotechnical investigation; results of all previous work; results of various previous studies on the impact of noise on aquatic environment; and scientific response 2014/020 impact of geophysics Cacouna Harbour on the St. Lawrence belugas.

If that is not enough information, I do not know what is.

Business of Supply October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am very well aware of the difference in beluga populations across Canada, having done fisheries and marine mammal work in the eastern Arctic myself over a number of years.

Of course species depend on their habitats. One of the key measures that we use is to ensure that any industrial activity is done under very strict guidelines, such as the 500-metre exclusion zone and those kinds of things.

For example, this summer I happened to be on Vancouver Island, on Georgia Strait. I saw whales, a lot of boating activity, and whale-watching tours, and they are all conducted under the same rules. The whales are fine, and the whale-watching industry is fine. It is all about applying and enforcing the right standards so that we ensure both sustained economic development and sound environmental protection.

Business of Supply October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, our government relies on the scientific expertise of our fisheries biologists and researchers to ensure the effective management, sustainable development, and protection of our aquatic resources.

Our government has ensured that funding to science has remained consistent in recent years. DFO has made a number of important investments, such as refurbishment of over a dozen laboratories, construction of three science vessels for the Coast Guard, mapping of the continental shelf for Canada's UNCLOS submission, support to commercial fishing in the Arctic, research to support a sustainable aquaculture sector, and research on oil spill behaviour and effects.

I would be remiss if I did not mention one of my favourite programs, the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program, which provides $25 million to work with local communities to improve, protect, and enhance fisheries habitat. The funds will be expended on some 400 fisheries conservation projects across the country, surely a remarkable achievement.

Our government is committed to making sure this science is accessible to Canadians and that our record is solid. For example, over the past two years, DFO scientists participated in more than 600 media interviews in addition to approximately 1,000 science-based media inquiries in writing. That is some muzzling.

As well, DFO issues approximately 300 publications each year, documenting science advice and government research for the management of Canada's fisheries and oceans, and our government will continue to make decisions based on the best science available and ensure that it is accessible to Canadians.

A key component of DFO's science program is the peer review process. This is a fundamental principle that allows scientists to thoroughly challenge and validate scientific information and associated conclusions.

At DFO there is a rigorous peer review process in place. DFO's Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat coordinates the peer review of all scientific advice for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. This process is transparent, as all of DFO's science advice is published to its website and made publicly available to Canadians.

DFO is well aware of the importance of the St. Lawrence beluga, most notably for the tourism and whale-watching industries.

Belugas in Canadian waters have been grouped into seven populations, and six of them live in the Arctic. I should note that in my home province of Manitoba, every summer thousands of belugas gather in the Churchill River. I would recommend to members, if they have the opportunity, to go and see this remarkable natural sight. The remaining beluga population lives in the St. Lawrence Estuary.

The beluga is a typical cold-water marine mammal. It has a long life expectancy, bears young at an older age, and produces relatively few young. An adult beluga can weigh up to 1,900 kilograms and grow to between 2.5 and 4.5 metres in length.

The beluga whale is a predator. Its diet consists of many species of fish and invertebrates. In the St. Lawrence estuary, there are a number of key species available to it as prey, including Atlantic herring, sand lance, squid, capelin, Atlantic cod, hake, and redfish.

Our government has done and will continue to do considerable work on the beluga whale and on the St. Lawrence population in particular. For example, fisheries researchers do regular monitoring and assessment of this population. As recently as the fall of 2013, DFO scientists have been reviewing the status of the population. To continue work on studying this population, DFO conducted a population survey in the summer of 2014, and the results will be available in 2015. This information will allow DFO scientists to track any possible trends in population growth or decline.

When a population assessment is completed, DFO scientists also look at the various factors that may affect the population. These factors include food availability and environmental conditions.

This is clearly a complex ecosystem, which is why DFO scientists are working on important research questions to increase our knowledge of this species. DFO has also supported a long-term necropsy program for beluga whales conducted by the University of Montreal. This information will allow DFO to better understand the cause of any beluga mortality, and any results will be considered in future DFO science advice.

Conscious of the importance of achieving recovery objectives for the St. Lawrence beluga and conscious that a growing and healthy population is key to the species' recovery, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans initiated a research project to investigate the birth rate in wild female beluga. To support management decisions, DFO scientists analyze the most recent data available and, to the best of their ability, aim to provide the best available science advice, using their data and the data of others, while at the same time factoring in uncertainty.

Over the years, DFO scientists have produced dozens of scientific publications on the St. Lawrence beluga covering all aspects of its biology, such as its distribution, abundance, population trends, diet, key habitat use, cause of mortality, recovery potential, and many more. In addition, DFO scientists, as well as many researchers from other federal departments and academia, have added and continue to add to our knowledge of the St. Lawrence ecosystem and factors affecting it. This information is accessible and used by DFO when providing advice related to the beluga whale.

Our government is focused on taking real action to protect beluga whales. Last spring, based on DFO's expert advice, strict conditions and mitigation measures were given to TransCanada to adhere to in order to undertake exploratory drilling and seismic testing.

Such conditions included a requirement for an exclusion zone of 500 metres, meaning that all work was required to stop if a whale was observed in this area. Beyond 500 metres, the sound level is too low to cause harm to marine mammals.

Another important condition with regard to seismic work was to cease operations by April 30, before the whales return to the area.

We have been clear that we are focused on ensuring that projects are safe for Canadians and the environment. Based on the expert science advice available, our government set strict conditions for work and ensured they were followed. The science work done at DFO on the beluga whale is substantial, and our government is confident in the quality and value of this work. The work is transparent and available to all Canadians, either in publications and science journals or on the DFO website.

Today I have demonstrated the critical role that expert transparent advice has with our government when it comes to the management of fisheries. This expert science is the backbone of all management decisions taken. DFO will continue to add to Canada's understanding of the St. Lawrence beluga population and the factors affecting it in order to ensure that this species continues to thrive for the enjoyment of future generations of Canadians.