Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on the issue of Bill C-10, an act respecting the national marine conservation areas of Canada.
Before I begin, I wish to congratulate my colleague, the member for Québec, who has spent a lot of energy trying to make the government understand the importance of consultation about this bill. I congratulate her and I say “Well done and continue your efforts. Sooner or later, our position may prevail.” I believe that is a positive way to work and improve bills.
Again, it is unfortunate. Members will recall that I was, for three years, the Bloc Quebecois' environment critic. A similar bill had been introduced during a previous parliament, but it died on the order paper.
During all that time, I thought that the government would have the decency to take into consideration the work done by the committee, in order to see what suggestions we might make regarding a new bill, and thus ensure progress across Canada.
We must admit, however, that this government has not listened to members of parliament, not even its own members. We had very good discussions at the time. We truly were, as is usually said, for the environment, and I believe it is important to be. We were all acting in good faith.
Yet, when I saw the new bill, I said to myself “They have changed nothing. They have changed absolutely nothing from the previous two bills, either Bill C-8 or Bill C-44”. In other words, they have learned nothing.
Consequently, I wish to say to Quebecers and Canadians that this bill, introduced by this government, does not contribute, as my colleague from the New Democratic Party said, to creating harmony favourable to the environmental agenda, namely marine conservation areas. The Liberals are not acting at all, but they are trying, through fine words, to interfere in jurisdictions that do not belong to them.
We must remember that, under the Constitutional Act of 1867, the seabed comes under provincial jurisdiction. That cannot be denied, it is in the Canadian Constitution. With this bill, however, the government wants to take over areas where it should act in harmony with the provinces and talk with them as it did in the case of the agreement it signed with the Quebec government concerning the Saguenay—Saint-Lawrence Marine Park. That was a model to follow.
It is too bad. I was rereading this agreement the other day and I wished the Liberal member had it in his hands. This agreement was made years ago. It has evolved and has now reached phase three. Each government put money in a concerted fashion to advance an issue.
Madam Speaker, I do not know if you have been to my neck of the woods to visit this marine park. I invite you to do so because it is an example to follow. I have always cheered at the fact that we had finally an example of co-operation, of mutual respect, in order to promote very important issues for present and future generations. Instead of taking this agreement as a model, the government is now trying to reinvent the wheel.
This semblance of willingness to do things for the advancement of a society saddens me. As my colleague was saying, I think they are deceiving the population and are deceiving each other. With this bill, not only are they invading areas that are not under their jurisdiction, they are not agreeing with each other.
All the departments concerned with this bill, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment Canada, Parks Canada, have specific jurisdiction and their areas of responsibility clash.
I do not know whether members have read the Auditor General of Canada's report. I read it with interest myself. Nothing has changed, so the 1996 report still applies. The Auditor General of Canada published chapter 31 on the management of national parks by Parks Canada. I would like to highlight what he said in this chapter. It is very important, because Canadian Heritage is the department introducing this bill.
—in the six national parks we reviewed, Parks Canada's biophysical information was out-of-date or incomplete except for La Mauricie.
This is the auditor general. He also said:
—that, on average, the management plans for the 18 national parks were 12 years old, when they should have been reviewed every five years.
He added that:
The park management plans provide the strategic direction chosen for the protection of park ecosystems.
The auditor general also added:
Delays in preparing management plans and ecosystem conservation plans reduce Parks Canada's ability to preserve the ecological integrity of national parks.
I could go on reading quotes by the Auditor General of Canada about Parks Canada all night. I will quote another passage from his report:
We are concerned that Parks Canada's ability to preserve ecological integrity in national parks and ensure sustainable park use will be seriously challenged.
This was the auditor general's conclusion.
There is another reason, which Quebecers and Canadians should know about, with regard to why we in the opposition are opposed to this bill, and that is that there was no consultation. The minister said they sent 3,000 consultation documents to groups in Canada. That is quite something. I was really happy when I heard that.
Sixty-two people replied. Most of them did not comment on the bill; they gave their address so that they could be reached in future. That being the case, on what grounds can the Canadian government say that there was consultation? They will have to try again. Is this consultation?
Nowadays, there is great interest in the environment and ecology. I think that, right now, there are several groups in society interested in really being consulted on issues that will affect future generations. But if this is the kind of consultation they do, I can only say that it falls far short.
When young children fail in school, what do they do? They open up their notebooks again, they open up their textbooks and they start studying again. The Government of Canada should have said, "You are right, we failed. We are going to do our homework over again. We are going to look into why our consultations did not provide us with the results we were looking for. The answer we put down was incomplete for such an important question". But the government did not do this. They continued. They moved forward and said that they consulted.
What is important to say about this bill is that it has nothing to do with partnerships, nothing at all; it does not involve governments; it does not consult with the population as a whole.
Back home, people use the Saguenay—St. Lawrence Marine Park. People go to see it. This opportunity to create a park came from the grassroots.
I would like everyone to come and see it. We are talking about extraordinary spaces. It is a wondrous area. It is like being in another world. There are valleys and mountains that connect with the St. Lawrence; it is incredibly beautiful. We have no reason to envy other countries given what we have.
This came from the needs of the grassroots. People got together and called on governments and the governments sat down with them, which led to a phenomenal success.
Why not do the same thing with this bill? If the government wanted to draft another bill, why did it not use this model? This was a success. I am sure that for the 28 marine conservation areas that the government wants to create, there would surely be 28 local groups that would have sat down with them to keep their identity. That is important. We managed to maintain the identity of our beautiful little piece of country in Quebec. That is what we managed to do. But this bill works against any real consultation.
Today, November 19, is my colleague's birthday, the member for Châteauguay I wanted to take this opportunity to wish him happy birthday.
Today, we realize that what this government is doing is inappropriate. Sometimes, I ask myself if it is there to fulfill its election promises, to bring about progress in society or simply to reintroduce old bills and to ease its conscience.
It is not true that we should ease our conscience on environmental issues, particularly it they concern marine conservation areas. I do not go into the forest, I am not a fanatic, but I have an only daughter, and it is important to her. Madam Speaker, I am sure it is important for your children to preserve our natural sites, to develop them in their natural environment that evolved during many generations.
That is not what this bill is doing. I have seen and heard so many things. My colleague, the member for Québec, told me what happened in committee. What did the people who appeared before the committee say? That it is impossible that three departments can say that they have the same job to do.
Heritage Canada wants to look after marine areas. Environment Canada is also in charge of ecosystems, and DFO is involved in this as well. The fishing industry is now in a state of great turmoil in Canada. DFO and HRDC have a project that creates an uproar over the nationalization issue, a project that is ill adapted to the real needs of the industry.
With all this going on in the fishing industry, they would like to do the same for conservation areas. The government will have to do its homework, as the Canadian Alliance member is asking in his amendment, which provides that the government should withdraw this bill, and send it to committee so that it can do its homework. I do not agree with this amendment because I support their position, but because the government should do its homework.
Ministers keep talking about September 11. Every time they are asked a question in the House, they talk about September 11 and say that everything has changed since then. It is true everything has changed. So maybe this bill should be approached differently, in a different light.
Let us have discussions to come to an agreement so that all members end up saying more or less the same thing. The Canadian Alliance is defending a certain position. The Bloc Quebecois cares about the environment and wants to protect the exclusive provincial jurisdiction over submerged lands. The New Democratic Party agrees with our views to a large extent. That is our position.
So, how is it that all of a sudden the truth is in the hands of the Liberal members? I do not think anyone knows the truth after what we experienced on September 11. No one knows the truth anymore. I think we have work to do in the communal sense, for the people and we must make it known to this government, not because we do not want marine areas.
It is not that I do not agree, because we succeeded in Quebec, in partnership with the federal government. The agreement is there. I will get you a copy, Madam Speaker, because it is important. You are a member of the Liberal government. I am sure you wonder about this bill. I think many of your colleagues do so as well. I think we should base ourselves on texts people spent years drafting to ensure we reach a positive conclusion.
I never dismiss out of hand an initiative from the community. That community had an idea and, over the years, was able to get the attention of both levels of government. The governments said “Your idea makes sense. We must sit down together to put that plan into action”. That is what they did, and I congratulate them for having succeeded in doing that.
But why then is the government doing the opposite with this bill? I think we have not seen the last of this government's tricks. One day it says yes, the next day it says no. It is too important. There is a lot of money involved in environmental issues.
That is why the Bloc Quebecois is totally against this bill and is asking the government to go back to square one. It has plenty of time to do so; this is not an urgent matter. It will have to resume consultations. It will have to speak to stakeholders and to come to an agreement with the provinces. It has a lot of work to do.
At this time, it is impossible to make any progress. There is simply too much division. I think we should be able to talk and to agree. If the government does what it can to achieve that, I will be the first one to congratulate it.
But congratulations are certainly not in order today. On the contrary, I am accusing the government of being a source of confrontation, of interfering and of not doing what should be done to protect our environment.