Madam Speaker, to a certain degree it is with a little bit of trepidation that I rise on this because I was not involved in the committee that studied this issue to the extent that perhaps some other members were.
However I am a member of parliament and must vote on the bill. Therefore I must understand it, take time to study it and look at all the ramifications. As members of parliament we all have an obligation to stake out our positions, whether in support or against the government or whether in support or against the committee.
The previous speaker made a statement and I think he said that absolutely nobody supports the government bill. That is simply not true. Perhaps he heard that statement. I would not accuse that member of saying something that was untrue but it is just not factual.
For example, much to my surprise, the cattlemen's association and the mining association supported the government approach on compensation. I would have thought that those were two groups to which many people, particularly from the west or from mining communities, would listen. There is some support there.
Provinces such as Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba and New Brunswick and all territories are all concerned about the committee amendments that change the balance between federal and provincial jurisdiction. There are members on the committee other than some of the ones who have spoken who will support the bill.
Let me talk, if I might, in terms of the criticisms levied against the government because members of the government caucus disagree with the government's position. It is always an interesting conundrum to hear members opposite and the media say that Liberal backbenchers must stand up and show some spine, that they have to be prepared to take positions against the government. What happens when they do? There are three particular members who have spoken or will speak on this issue for whom I have a lot of respect when it comes to environmental issues. I will listen to their arguments and judge whether or not I agree with them.
Just because I respect their knowledge or positions does not mean that at the end of the day I am always going to agree. Today we are dealing with amendments most of which I will admit are housekeeping but some of which are substantive, When those members stand to speak and stiffen their spines as they are encouraged to do particularly by members opposite people will stand up in this place and say, is it not awful the government will not listen and will not allow their respected members to continue speaking.
We know full well that the opposition would obviously rather listen to a distinguished member of the Liberal Party speak against the government than another member of the opposition. We understand that. That is not rocket science. If I were sitting over there I would probably want to do the same thing. The reality is that these committee members did their work, they put forward their arguments and the committee came forward with recommendations. Now it is up to the government to make a decision.
I am the vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. We just released our committee report this morning in a press conference at 10.30. Members from the government side were forced in many instances to put some water in our wine as it related to that particular bill. There were members in our caucus who spoke out against that particular bill several months ago when it was introduced, when the regulations were introduced, particularly as they relate to things like retroactivity and the new grid that would be used.
I only use this as an example to compare it to this particular bill and to these amendments. If we were to decide at the end of the day that given the rejection of the government of certain recommendations that we as backbenchers in the Liberal government have made, that as a result there is no way in our good conscience we can vote for the bill, then we should stiffen our spines. I have no difficulty with that and I know the government has no difficulty with that.
However in reality this is what we need to do because this is the art of the possible. Is it better to have no bill in this instance? Is it better not to have a process in which endangered species can be offered protection? I think of a place like the Oak Ridges Moraine. One of the recent speakers said this is largely a rural issue. In fact there are many parts of this great country that are going through the transition from rural to urban. The Oak Ridges Moraine in the greater Toronto area is a classic example. If rampant developments were allowed to take place there would be drainage of the water table that would destroy habitat. It would make it impossible for certain species to find food, to reproduce and to survive. With all due respect it is not just a rural issue.
I will grant that in most parts of rural Canada we will find more endangered species because there are fewer of us intruding upon their habitat, but it is still a factor in our own communities. In the Credit River valley, going right through the heart of the city of Mississauga, a city with over 600,000 people, I can assure the House that there are endangered species in that valley ecosystem that we would want to protect.
We need some rules. We need some understanding. We need a process.
I personally had a run in with an endangered species. I have a property in the Parry Sound area where I wanted to build a road. The MNR, the provincial ministry, came in and discovered the nest of a red-shouldered hawk, much to my surprise, on my property within 30 or 40 feet of the right of way where I wanted to build the road. Guess what? We were well along in the process and all of a sudden it was stopped. One red-shouldered hawk put an end to me having reasonable, easy access to my property. I must go by boat to get there as a result of that hawk.
I must say I had mixed feelings. At first, since I was getting older, I wished I could have this. Someone said I could take care of it, but I would not do that. At the end of the day this made my property that much more sacred to me. As a result we found a second nest. This is a very rare hawk which is in danger of extinction. I support the re-establishment of the committee that would come up with the definitions, scientific data and research that is needed to determine whether or not the red-shouldered hawk should in fact be put on the endangered species list. That is what the bill would do.
If we want to throw out the baby with the bath water, or the red hawk with the nest, then by all means trash the bill, but let us face it and look at some of the statistics. There were 334 motions tabled during clause by clause review. I know how grueling that is, having sat through at least that many in terms of the immigration bill, Bill C-11. I know how taxing it is. The committee passed 125 of the 334 motions tabled. That is a lot of work, research, and debate. Of these the government supports 75. The ministry requirement to have an assessment by the committee within 90 days is a substantial improvement to the situation.
I understand the passion and the feelings of those folks within the government caucus who will not be able to vote in support of the bill.
In this business one learns to put some water in the wine. There are victories that can be achieved by working through the committee process, the caucus process and perhaps even at report stage in this place. However at the end of the day a decision has to be made and my decision will be to support the bill.