Species at Risk Act

An Act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in November 2003.

This bill was previously introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session.


David Anderson  Liberal


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

March 16th, 2001 / 12:10 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Canadian Alliance Edmonton Southwest, AB

Madam Speaker, I should note that I will be splitting my time with my hon. colleague in front from Surrey Central, one of the most loquacious members in the House.

I am pleased to rise today and speak on Bill C-5, the species at risk act. The government describes the purpose of the proposed act as follows. It aims to protect wildlife at risk from becoming extinct or loss in the wild, with the ultimate objective of helping their numbers to recover. The act will cover all wildlife species listed as being at risk nationally and their critical habitats.

The goal of the legislation is certainly a laudable goal. We in the official opposition recognize that there is a need for effective endangered species legislation. In fact, this recognition is reflected in our official policy statement. Our policy statement states:

The Canadian Alliance is committed to protecting and preserving Canada's natural environment and endangered species, and to sustainable development of our abundant natural resources for the use of current and future generations.

Furthermore, our farm policy states:

For any endangered species legislation to be effective, it must respect the fundamental rights of private property owners.

This entails including just compensation for landowners if habitat must be taken out of production. It also means that the government should strive to be as co-operative as possible with farmers and ranchers rather than using threats and criminal sanctions.

We in the official opposition support effective endangered species legislation. However, we have some concerns with regard to this particular legislation. We do not disagree with the government's goal but we do have some difficulties with the message it is employing to achieve that goal.

Following the lead of our member for Red Deer and the member for Edmonton—Strathcona in the last parliament, who have done yeomen work on the bill, we have attempted to be as constructive as possible in our criticisms.

The following are the criticisms that I would like to highlight.

First, the final listing of endangered species should rest not with the federal cabinet, but with the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Second, the voluntary co-operation and incentives already in Bill C-5 should be stronger.

Third, the bill must include a clearly outlined full compensation scheme.

Fourth, socio-economic analysis should be conducted prior to the development of species recovery plans to ensure that they do play a prominent role.

Fifth, the bill must respect provincial jurisdiction and apply equally to all Canadians.

This is a substantive list of criticism, many of which have been thoroughly covered by my colleagues here in the opposition.

I would like to focus in particular on the need to protect the private property rights of landowners and include fair compensation for landowners if habitat must be taken out of production. The effectiveness of the legislation directly depends on whether or not it respect those fundamental rights. The bill fails to clearly spell out what compensation will be provided for stakeholders who are forced to lose financially in the implementation of the bill.

The environment minister has indicated that he will spell out these compensation provisions in the regulation of the bill after its passage by parliament. That is simply unacceptable.

Furthermore, the Pearce Report, which the minister seems to be considering at this point, suggests that landowners would only receive compensation if economic losses exceeded 10% and that compensation would be limited to only 50% of losses. This is neither full nor fair compensation.

There are therefore two specific requirements that we would propose for compensation. First, the compensation provisions must be clearly indicated in the bill before members of the House so that we as parliamentarians and Canadians can determine whether these provisions are just.

Second, those who incur increased costs or reduced income as a result of the requirements of the bill must have full compensation. Saving endangered species is a benefit to all Canadians. The cost should not be excessively borne by a few landowners, farmers, ranchers, they should be shared by all.

Those are the specific compensation requirements.

I would now like to address the more general issue of the need for the government to respect private property rights. It seems to me that the government, through many of its bills, has encroached further and further into the realm of private property rights. This is a disturbing trend, one that we as parliamentarians ought to watch very carefully.

It is interesting that since the beginning of the session we have been very much occupied with the whole question of parliamentary reform, which is a smaller issue within the larger question of how we pass the laws that govern us.

However, as the famous philosopher Isaiah Berlin pointed out in his seminal essay, “Two Concepts of Liberty”, there is another question which is equally, if not more, important. That is the question of what activities government itself even ought to be making decisions about. It involves that very large question of to what extent we as individuals, citizens, families and communities require or even desire a government to involve itself in our lives.

It is a fundamental question for any political community and yet it strikes me how rarely we in the House even address it. We spend hours debating specific amendments to certain bills, but we spend precious little time debating the larger question of whether the government ought to be expanding its influence in the first place.

This is particularly alarming for me, because I generally believe that those communities which function best over the long term have governments that operate within clearly defined constitutional limits. In these communities, these limits are best set by a constitutional recognition of genuine, classical rights such as the right to own property and not be deprived thereof without just compensation.

Many great thinkers have expounded on the importance of private property and its relationship with liberty and justice. Even the great philosopher Aristotle mentioned it in his works in ancient Greece. The great orator of Roman times, Cicero, is actually responsible for the word property being transferred down to us today. One only has to think of John Locke and his “Two Treatises of Government” and his important discussion of private property rights there, or John Stuart Mill, or even the great American philosophers in the American revolution.

I would like to quote another thinker. Earlier today I was referring to a saint, so I would actually like to employ the words of another saint. These are very good quotes because they have a sort of sanctified presence about them. I would like to quote the patron saint of politicians, St. Thomas More. He linked the foundation and endurance of a civilized community with the proper respect for property, saying “Security of property is the first and all-essential duty of a civilized community”.

In relation to property and the proper limits of governance, St. Thomas More warned that the worst which can happen to the law itself is its overextension, its expansion into fields in which it cannot be competent. What happens then is that disrespect for law in all its capacities will increase.

He stated that:

You may to a certain extent control property and make it subservient to the ideal nature of man; but the moment you deny its rights, or undertake to legislate in defiance of them, you may for a time unsettle the very foundations of society, you will certainly in the end render property your despot instead of your servant, and so produce a materialized and debased civilization.

I should bring this debate back from this abstract discussion and finish in terms of the practical effects of the bill. However, I hope that all parliamentarians would consider the general nature and profound importance of property rights and the need for this legislation to properly respect the property rights of individual landowners. It can do so in specific ways, first, by working with private landowners on a voluntary basis, and second, by clearly indicating in the bill full and fair compensation provisions for those who incur increased costs or reduced income as a result of the requirements of the bill.

I also encourage my fellow parliamentarians to consider carefully the notion of property rights and the limits of government in general.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

March 16th, 2001 / 10:50 a.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the hon. member's discussion on Bill C-5. He added a lot to the debate by providing the PC Party's position on the legislation.

I would like to hear an additional comment from the member, especially on the one issue that I see as a major flaw in the legislation, which is the lack of compensation for landowners. As other opposition members have mentioned, that contributes to the rural-urban split.

I can give an example of that. We in Nova Scotians used to like to say that we had landowners and land users. For years I took that attitude as well. I learned over time, actually about 25 years, that those land users could be our friends. Whether they were birdwatching, hunting or skidooing on our property, if we had a good relationship with them they would be our friends. They would make sure that our cabins were not being broken into, fires were not being set, no one was stealing our Christmas trees and they were not causing a problem.

The legislation will force many of us who are landowners back to resenting the land users because we will be the people who will be paying the bills. I would like the member to comment on that.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

March 16th, 2001 / 10:45 a.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from South Shore for allowing me to share his time on Bill C-5. I will not be sharing it with my colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska. He does not want to speak, so we are okay on this one.

I pay special tribute to my colleague from Fundy—Royal who has taken the lead. He has basically acted as the official opposition with respect to the legislation. He has been extremely effective. He is very knowledgeable about the legislation and in face put forward a white paper that has been more accepted by the stakeholders than the legislation presented by the government. He has spent an enormous amount of time and energy on the legislation and has spoken with great eloquence and great knowledge of the subject.

His white paper was accepted by a rather large stakeholder group encompassing the Canadian Pulp & Paper Association, the Mining Association of Canada, the Sierra Club of Canada, the Canadian Nature Federation and the Canadian Wildlife Federation.

When we look at the people who came forward as part of that group we realize that it is a rather diverse group. It contains representatives from industry as well as environmental activists who sometimes do not get along very well with industry. They said they had to put together an effective piece of legislation that would work, not something that was warm and fuzzy and on the surface looked like the government was doing something. They presented some very good recommendations to the government and, lo and behold, none of them were incorporated into the legislation.

I will talk about some of the deficiencies of the legislation and about why the government has failed miserably in trying to protect something that Canadians want to protect. Since 1993 the government has said that there must be endangered species legislation. It was identified in the 1997 red book. Also the government mentioned it in the last three throne speeches in 1996, 1999 and 2001, but it is still not on the floor in the way it should be in order to protect all endangered species.

Let us talk about a couple of areas in which the legislation falls down quite dramatically. As my colleague mentioned, landowner rights would be impacted quite dramatically by the legislation.

I come from an area that encompasses an urban and a rural community. About 50% of my constituency is rural. The economic backbone of the area is agriculture. Farmers and producers of the area are stewards of the land. In most cases they accept responsibility for stewardship, not only of the land but of the habitat on the land and the endangered species.

Landowner rights are not reflected properly in the legislation. We in the PC Party agree that there have to be more carrots than sticks. That comment was made by my colleague from Fundy—Royal. If we think about it, there have to be more carrots out there than there are sticks.

There is no compensatory opportunity under the legislation to allow producers with endangered species and habitat on their land to continue their operations to the benefit society. People in Montreal, Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver and other urban centres are demanding that producers, ranchers and landowners make sure that the habitat and species are retained, but they are not prepared to pay anything for that to take place. That is absolutely wrong. If landowners are not able to farm, ranch or do what they wish with their property, the species will be endangered even further.

Right now the Americans refer to the three esses: shoot, shovel and shut up. That does not solve the problem. Nor will the legislation. We must make sure that fair compensation is provided to landowners, that the necessary dollars are provided.

The legislation would result in an inability to work with the provinces. It deals with federal lands but unfortunately only deals with about 40% of the problem. Some 60% of endangered species and their habitat will not be affected by the legislation. We should work with the provinces to make sure that the legislation is effective, not simply something that would be thrown out by producers or landowners.

Carrots and sticks, protection of critical habitat, partnerships with the provinces and scientific listings are some of the issues. It was mentioned earlier that responsibility for the identification of an endangered species would be given to the cabinet. Politicians, as much as we would like to think otherwise, are not terribly well respected in their abilities to put forward the truth and the necessary intelligence to ensure that the decision is a proper one.

We are suggesting the decision should be based on information from the scientists, the people who know the issue better than politicians. We are asking for decision making to be taken from the cabinet table and put into the hands of the people who know the issue. We should let them make the decisions on the listing of protected species. It is a very important issue.

There must be an accountability mechanism for citizens to ensure the government enforces its own act. If the act is to include an accountability mechanism, the PC Party believes there should be an independent process for the public to ensure the act is being effectively implemented. The process should allow citizens to challenge the federal government and not other citizens. We believe very seriously that it is the citizens who will enforce Bill C-5.

I believe and Canadians believe there is a need for endangered species legislation. The legislation that we are debating right now would not solve the current problems. It will go forward to committee where I ask the government to listen with an open mind. A number of stakeholders are prepared to come forward with some interesting amendments to the legislation. When it goes to committee, I ask the government not to handle it as it does other pieces of legislation.

It is too important for that majority government to ramrod it through. We must make sure that the legislation comes forward for final reading in the House in the proper fashion and is the proper piece of legislation. I look forward to the legislation coming back from committee in a different form.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

March 16th, 2001 / 10:05 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Canadian Alliance Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-5, which is before the House today, is a very significant bill, a bill that I think we would all do well to look at very seriously, because it attacks and has within it a consideration of some of the basic principles that govern and underlie democracy.

I wish to address two parts of the bill. The first has to do with the concept of how the selection of the endangered species at risk is done. The second has to do with the right of private property and how the bill deals with that particular aspect.

I would like to have the members of the public who are out there watching this debate understand exactly what it is we are talking about here this morning: Bill C-5, which is here to protect endangered wildlife species.

I will focus on the purpose of the bill as it is stated in this particular legislation. It reads:

The purposes of this enactment are to prevent Canadian indigenous species, subspecies and distinct populations of wildlife from becoming extirpated or extinct, to provide for the recovery of endangered or threatened species, to encourage the management of other species to prevent them from becoming at risk.

I wish to completely endorse the purpose of the bill. Clearly one of the things we want to be very concerned about in our society and in Canada is that we do protect our wildlife. We do want to create an environment in which wildlife can prosper, live and provide enjoyment for each of us.

It is important to recognize our support of the intent of this particular bill. I want to be sure that everyone out there recognizes that the Canadian Alliance, myself in particular, and its constituents support the protection of wildlife.

What we need to recognize here, though, is how the bill will be handled. I wish to refer to certain provisions in the bill. The first provision of the bill is the selection of the list of species and endangered wildlife that will be registered and protected by the bill.

Clause 14 deals with this particular part of the activities, so I will refer, then, to clause 14, which suggests that a committee be established. It is called the COSEWIC committee and many of the listeners will wonder what in the world we are talking about. That is an acronym for a long title, Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. As shorthand we say COSEWIC. This is really what we are talking about. The committee is established by this particular bill.

I am so happy that there are at least some members opposite in the House listening to the debate, because it is really important. Some of the points we will make are points that the Minister of the Environment in particular should recognize and change in this legislation, and we want the minister and all members opposite to know that the idea of protecting endangered species is indeed an area and an action that we support.

With the establishment of the committee, we need to recognize who its members are. This committee shall carry out its functions “on the basis of the best available information, including scientific knowledge, community knowledge and aboriginal traditional knowledge”. That is what the committee is supposed to do. This is a major issue.

Who are these people? The committee is to be composed of members appointed by the minister after consultation with the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council and with any experts that the minister considers to be appropriate. I would like to underline the word experts. The second part of the clause, subclause 16(2), is extremely significant:

Each member must have expertise drawn from a discipline such as conservation biology, population dynamics, taxonomy, systematics or genetics or from community knowledge or aboriginal traditional knowledge of the conservation of wildlife species.

That is a blue ribbon membership for the committee. These are very significant and very powerful people. They are people who understand the reality of science and understand what it is to use knowledge and to make observations that others can verify. They are not subject to political interpretation or the vagaries of somebody's imagination. They are based on facts and on observations which can be replicated by other people.

The people who are supposed to comprise this committee are independent and objective. This is very desirable and highly commendable. I support the minister in identifying this as the way the committee should be comprised.

One might say that the blue ribbon committee will go about doing its business, but what is the principle involved in creating the list of Canadian endangered wildlife? What are the decision making principles underlying this committee of scientists? The principles involved are truth and integrity.

What are we talking about when we talk about truth and integrity? Truth concerns a clear knowledge of the facts. I am speaking of things that are commonly accepted as being true in fact. They can be believed and acted upon with confidence and courage, recognizing that what has happened before will happen again because the basis on which the decision is made is verifiable by an independent person in an objective and independent manner and the findings can be replicated.

Integrity means that the people on the committee will actually say what was discovered, what has been put there, and that the basis on which those decisions are made is indeed one that is verified by the various observations that have been taken. On the committee we will have scientists who are objective and reach conclusions on the basis of verifiable interpretation, experiments and observations that could carried out by other people.

There is no problem with the committee or with the intent of the bill. Why then is there a problem with the bill? There is a problem with a provision in another clause of the bill. Subclause 27(1) makes a very interesting observation:

The Governor in Council may, on the recommendation of the Minister, by regulation, establish the List of Wildlife Species at Risk and amend the List by adding a wildlife species to the List, by reclassifying a listed wildlife species or by removing a listed wildlife species from the List.

All the work of the committee, all the science involved, suddenly becomes subject to whatever the governor in council decides. This puts into question the whole integrity of establishing a committee in the first place. In this clause we have a group of scientists who are ignored and whose integrity is at least insulted if not denied. The governor in council can do this.

However, subclause 29(2) is an even more difficult area. It follows subclause (1), and I think for clarity I should probably read subclause 29(1) as well:

If the Minister is of the opinion—

The section refers to the minister now, not the governor in council.

The section goes on:

—that there is an imminent threat to the survival of a wildlife species, the Minister must—

It is interesting to note here that it is not that the minister may, but that he must.

It goes on:

—on an emergency basis, after consultation with every other competent minister—

Notice they are all ministers.

—make a recommendation to the Governor in Council that the List be amended to list the species as an endangered species.

There is no reference here to the committee at all. Subclause 29(2) reads:

The Minister may arrive at that opinion on the basis of his or her own information or on the basis of COSEWIC's assessment.

This really creates a dilemma for the scientists and for Canadians who are to place confidence in the Minister of the Environment and cabinet itself.

There is no attempt in this criticism to suggest that we should not have legislation of this kind. That is not the purpose of my criticism. The purpose of my criticism is to recognize that the principle of truth and scientific integrity needs to be observed throughout the legislation. It should be there in a consistent fashion all the way through. I submit to the House that clause 29 does not allow this to happen.

We need to move from there to the next step in the debate, which has to do with why it is so important that we have this truth.

The hon. members opposite are all Liberals and they had a leader at one time by the name of Trudeau who initiated and passed in the House a constitutional amendment called the charter of rights and freedoms. At the end of the charter of rights and freedoms this is what he wrote:

We must now establish the basic principles, the basic values and beliefs which hold us together as Canadians so that beyond our regional loyalties there is a way of life and a system of values which make us proud of the country that has given us such freedom and such immeasurable joy.

Those are wonderful and great words. We are now establishing one of those principles. Surely the right Hon. Trudeau, at the time he was Prime Minister and wrote that paragraph, recognized that one of the foundational principles of a democracy to function properly and adequately is that of truth and integrity.

I will now move into the next step of the legislation. That has to do with the recognition of private property. The bill recognizes clearly that there is such a thing.

Our charter of rights and freedoms does not grant that right in the constitution to individual Canadians, but the basis of liberty is the ownership of private property. It is not just the amassing of property that is the issue. The ownership of material things recognizes the dignity of human beings. It recognizes the basic integrity and beauty of human creativity and the ingenuity and innovativeness of human beings.

That is what private property does. Think about real property, intellectual property, all the novels that have been written, the poems that have been written and the songs that have been written. These are all matters of private property.

That does not mean, however, that the right to private property means we can do whatever we please with that property. Neither do we have the right to amass private property based on cruelty or intimidation or on things of that nature.

It means we must use private property to the interests of the people around us. It does not mean we can use private property to destroy endangered species. The bill makes that clear. If that is the case then the implications of the bill must be looked at.

Does the enforcement of the provisions in the bill have implications for private property? The bill clearly identifies that yes, it is probably true, there probably are implications.

Let me look at subclause 64(1). Subclause 64(1) of the bill clearly indicates:

The Minister may, in accordance with the regulations, provide compensation to any person for losses—

Again I draw to the attention of those listening and of our colleagues in the House, both on the other side and on the opposition side, that the operative word here is may. It is not that he shall compensate; it is that he may compensate.

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

March 15th, 2001 / 3 p.m.
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Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow we will debate second reading of Bill C-5 respecting species at risk. I also hope that tomorrow we will be able to complete second reading of Bill C-14, the Canada Shipping Act, and to send it to committee.

Monday and Tuesday of next week shall be allotted days, with appropriation bills being considered at the end of the day on Tuesday.

Next Wednesday, pursuant to the motion and the special order passed earlier today, and I thank all hon. members for their co-operation, we will debate a motion to establish a special committee to improve and modernize the Standing Orders of the House of Commons.

Perhaps I could also take this opportunity to indicate to all hon. members, pursuant to requests that were made and to commitments made earlier, that it is my intention to seek from the House measures to have a special take note debate on the summit of the Americas to take place on Tuesday, March 27.

I know this is several days ahead, but given the considerable interest of several hon. members I thought I would indicate the intention as it presently stands is to call that order on the evening of March 27 so that all members could make necessary arrangements to participate in the debate should they so wish.

Canada Endangered Species Protection ActRoutine Proceedings

March 14th, 2001 / 3:55 p.m.
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Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-295, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species in Canada from extirpation or extinction.

Mr. Speaker, in briefly introducing the bill I will say that it is intended as such to protect wildlife species in Canada from extirpation and extinction.

Nine years ago in Rio, Canada signed the international convention on biological diversity. The bill reflects Canada's commitment and takes into account reports that in Canada 364 species are at risk of extinction and that habitat loss is the number one cause.

If the bill becomes law it would make the scientific list of species at risk the legal list. It would make it an offence to harm, disturb or kill endangered species or their habitat. It would ensure that provinces implement equivalent legislation through the bill, thus providing mandatory habitat protection to all endangered species in Canada.

The bill is intended to serve as a benchmark for Bill C-5, the legislation introduced recently by the government.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

March 1st, 2001 / 3 p.m.
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Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, immediately after this statement I will be seeking consent of the House to revert to introduction of bills for the purpose of introducing a bill on shipping conferences. I discussed it with other House leaders on Tuesday.

This afternoon we will continue with the allotted day. Tomorrow we will debate Bill C-13, the GST technical amendments.

On return from the break, we will debate the Canada Shipping Act amendments to be introduced later this afternoon if the House gives its consent. This would be followed by Bill C-12, the Judges Act amendments.

I am consulting widely with a view to finding a suitable time in the immediate future to complete second reading of Bill C-5, the species at risk bill. Hopefully that will get done very quickly.

Tuesday, March 13, and Thursday, March 15, shall be allotted days.

As I said, although we are still negotiating, my intention at this point would be on the March 16 to commence the debate on Bill C-4, the sustainable development foundation bill.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2001 / 5:20 p.m.
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Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Madam Speaker, the way we treat nature and our mixed biodiversity translates in many ways to the way we behave as a society and the kind of future we build for our children and grandchildren.

Intertwined with the treatment of nature and its biodiversity is the underlying principle of equity, that is, respect for others, respect for nature around us and respect for the ecosystems that create life and support living.

This is why the bill is so important, even essential, as a tool to protect the environment and nature.

I rejoice that Bill C-5 was reintroduced after two of the previous bills died on the order paper. I also rejoice that the minister brought in several changes to promote transparency and make the bill a better one than Bill C-33.

However, there are still fundamental amendments that need to be made. In presenting the bill the minister said “All reasonable suggestions to further improve Bill C-5 will be considered carefully as the bill progresses through parliament”. I am very glad that the minister is open to amendments being made and I hope several amendments will be made in committee.

I happy to say that there is almost unanimous consent amongst Canadians for this bill. In a Pollara poll done only a very short while ago, over 90 % of the Canadians living in urban or rural areas said they supported a strong and proactive bill on endangered species.

Some time ago, the committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada, known as COSEWIC, brought in for review a list of 339 species that were listed as threatened and endangered. At this point the review is nearly completed. Only 53 species need to be reviewed. By the spring the total review will be completed.

The problem is that we leave cabinet with the discretion of when to list these species and at what point each species will be chosen or not chosen instead of having a startup list in the legislation before it becomes a statute. We have been asking for this very strongly. I do not think cabinet should be left with the discretion of deciding when, where and what species will be listed.

We also want habitat protection to be compulsory in the law instead of being at the discretion of the cabinet. It is like that in several pieces of legislation that the provinces have put forward. There is not one substantive argument that has been brought forward to convince us that habitat protection should not be compulsory.

I believe that habitat protection must be compulsory on federal lands, north of 60 and in areas of federal jurisdiction for cross border species and species that migrate between our country and other countries. In this connection, a letter was sent by the United States senate to the President of the United States on October 6, 1999 by 11 senators of both parties, republicans and democrats alike, including the senate minority leader, Thomas Daschle. The letter pointed out that Canada must ensure that any new bill contains habitat protection for U.S.-Canada shared species on all lands.

I believe that unless we can cover species and habitats on a compulsory basis on our federal lands and on lands north of 60 for cross border species and species that migrate between our country and other countries, our law will be left to the discretion of this government and successive governments that may or may not enforce it and put it into place. We need it very badly because it as an essential tool.

The government has a wonderful chance with this bill, which will soon go to committee. We all know there are only a few areas in the bill that need modification or improvement in order to make it a strong piece of legislation and one for which we can all be satisfied and proud.

I implore the minister and the government to give the committee a chance to work freely. Allow it to amend the bill in the critical areas, such as the listing of habitat protection and coverage on federal lands and in federal jurisdictions, so that we will have a substantive bill and one that has a mandatory safety net. A safety net that leaves discretion to the cabinet is no safety net.

All of us know which areas need to be improved. All we need now is that little push forward, that consent by the minister to do what he kindly suggested to us himself, to let these suggestions come forward so that the bill can be improved. This is my fondest hope.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2001 / 5 p.m.
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Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to the speeches of my colleagues from the Liberal Party and the Canadian Alliance on Bill C-5.

I will begin by quoting a successor of the former Quebec minister of the environment, Mr. Bégin, who said this about Bill C-5 introduced by the Liberal Party: “Another example of useless duplication for Quebec”. These words are from the Quebec minister of the environment, who is also the minister of revenue and the minister responsible for the national capital region, namely, as members know, Paul Bégin.

This is what he said when he looked at the federal government's proposal to pass this legislation on wildlife species at risk in Canada and to create a safety net for the protection of threatened species and their habitat, not only on federal sites, which would be acceptable to Quebec since it would only be normal, but also on the whole Quebec territory, which is much less acceptable. In fact, Mr. Bégin added:

Quebec has always behaved in a responsible and appropriate manner regarding the protection of the most threatened fauna and flora species and intends to keep on exercising its authority in this matter. We will never accept an umbrella piece of legislation covering all the initiatives in this area.

It is out of the question for Quebec to accept federal intrusion on its jurisdiction. This bill must exclude all species, sites or habitats under Quebec's jurisdiction and must only be implemented at the request of the provinces or territories. Quebec has always taken good care of its species at risk and it will not need to use this legislation.

Quebec passed an act respecting threatened or vulnerable species in 1989. It has its own act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife as well as fishery regulations to protect species at risk in their habitat. If I am not mistaken, these two bills were passed under a Liberal government in Quebec. It is the hon. member for Lachine—Lac-Saint-Louis who deserves credit for these two initiatives.

As I will explain later, we can see that these two pieces of legislation have allowed Quebec to address the situation of threatened species very well.

Quebec's minister of the environment reassured us in these terms:

These measures have given Quebec the full range of tools needed to identify species at risk, legally designate them as threatened or vulnerable, protect their habitats, and develop and implement recovery plans.

I would like to talk about how Quebec has been looking after its endangered flora and fauna for the past almost 12 years since the introduction of the bill.

First, I will give an overview of this, to say the least, worrisome problem of the disappearance of species, this symptom of a worldwide problem. It is not just a problem in Quebec or in the national capital region or in Canada; it is a problem the world over.

The acceleration in demographic grow, the unrestrained consumption of the planet's resources, coupled with the occupation of land by human beings, has resulted in pollution, the destruction of natural habitats, and the disappearance of many living species throughout the world.

Quebec has not been spared. The great auk, the Labrador duck, and the passenger pigeon are some of the recent victims of this worldwide problem. These birds have not just disappeared from our region; they have been exterminated from the face of the earth in a few short years.

Certain more fortunate species, such as the elk and the trumpeter swan have disappeared from our region, but still exist in small numbers elsewhere on the planet.

Nowadays, several hundreds of plants and dozens of animals are on the list of threatened species in Quebec.

In order to stem this alarming phenomenon, many measures have been taken since 1978. The Association des biologistes du Québec created a committee for the preservation of endangered species and, in 1984 or 1985, published the initial reports on the status of endangered plant and animal species.

In 1983 the Montreal botanical garden and institute were already publishing a list of 408 rare plants in Quebec. I will not give their names, but I think that the member for Berthier—Montcalm is now consulting the list of these 408 plants at the table.

As hon. members can see, the concern for endangered species is nothing new. Back in 1974 Quebec passed its ecological reserves act, one of its objectives being to protect endangered species.

The Réserve écologique du pin rigide was created in 1978 to protect the pitch pine. It was the first ecological reserve to protect a rare tree. In 1981 came the Parc de conservation de la Gaspésie, created to save a distinct caribou population and its habitat. Thus, parks and reserves are created in order to protect certain exceptional elements of our natural heritage, the heritage of Quebec.

Finally, and this one a major event, the government of Quebec passed, as I have already said, its act respecting threatened or vulnerable species in 1989, as a reaction to the increasing threat to the integrity of the biodiversity of Quebec and in response to the urgent and legitimate demands of the environmentalists.

On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the enactment of this legislation, the government of Quebec proposed a brief overview of its major environmental accomplishments and those of its partners in connection with endangered species.

There are some high points in the implementation of the Quebec legislation on endangered or vulnerable species that merit attention. I will list them if I may.

In November 1988, the Centre des données sur le patrimoine naturel au Québec was established. In July 1992, the government adopted the first component of the endangered or vulnerable species policy. This policy sets out the process to be followed for designation of a species of flora or fauna that is at risk of becoming endangered or vulnerable. In June 1993, the Gazette officielle du Québec , by ministerial order, published the list of species of endangered or vulnerable vascular flora and vertebrate fauna liable to be so designated.

This list, which dates back to 1993, comprises 374 species of vascular flora and 76 species of vertebrate fauna of Quebec. It is the outcome of an analysis of the available knowledge and of consultations with a large number of specialists and environmentalists.

In Quebec we have made protection a real issue. Species designated or likely to become designated have been the object of many actions aimed at ensuring their protection and re-establishment.

Over the years, thanks to numerous studies and inventories carried out throughout Quebec, we have acquired more knowledge of our endangered heritage and its status.

This information permitted the production of reports describing the status of species, that is, their geographic distribution, their habitat, their characteristics, the state and trends of their populations and threats to them.

In Quebec the management of most biological resources is a matter of provincial or territorial jurisdiction, with the exception of migratory birds—we acknowledge and accept that—and marine organisms, which are federal responsibilities.

Even before the passage of Quebec legislation on threatened or vulnerable species, all threatened vertebrates were protected by certain measures under the Quebec laws on the environment and respecting the conservation and development of wildlife and regulations on fishing.

In Quebec, 76 species or animal populations are considered to be in difficulty, over 10% of vertebrate fauna. Most of them are birds or mammals. However, amphibians and reptiles form the category most affected with more than half of their species recorded on the list of species likely to be designated threatened or vulnerable.

Of the 76 species and populations in difficulty, 34 have been studied or specifically inventoried; 19 have been the subject of a status report; 14 have been the subject of a specific plan of action, in co-operation in certain instances with the co-operation of the federal government, bordering provinces and non-governmental partners; 13 are covered by specific measures to protect their habitat; and 10 are in the designation process.

Quebec's flora has not been left out either. All plant species, except for marine plants set out in the Fisheries Act, come under provincial jurisdiction, need I mention. At the moment, there are, as in the case of the animals, no plants either threatened or at risk under federal jurisdiction. The Quebec ecological reserves act and the act respecting threatened or vulnerable species are unique in the area of plant protection in Quebec.

Out of the 374 plant species that are threatened or vulnerable, 178 have been the subject of inventories or specific studies, 41 have been the subject of a status report and an assessment by the advisory committee, 19 were designated as threatened or vulnerable species, and 14 others are in the process of getting designated.

Special measures to protect habitat or stocks were implemented for 55 of these species, including the arisema dracontium, the American water willow and the giant holly fern. Wild leek has also been designated as a vulnerable species, while American ginseng may soon be designated as a threatened species. In the case of these last two plants, it is now prohibited to sell specimens that were taken from their natural habitat.

As for flora, efforts have been made in co-operation with various organizations to inform the public and develop greater awareness. Botanists from the Quebec ministry of the environment and their associates took part in numerous seminars and various botanical inventories and activities to promote awareness. Information and educational documents were published, and many articles and specialized inserts were included in Quebec's major natural science magazines and in some dailies. In the past few months, the Internet site of the Quebec ministry of the environment has been providing information sheets on certain species that are at risk.

Quebec can also count on numerous allies. The study and the protection of threatened or vulnerable species is first and foremost based on co-operation between many government and non-government partners.

Regional county municipalities play an essential role in the protection of threatened species. In recent years, RCMs, as they are called in Quebec, have been asked to take into account the presence of threatened or vulnerable species when they draw up their land use plans, so as to protect critical sites for these species.

In 1997 the Pabok RCM even adopted the Aster anticostensis as its floral emblem. The world's largest population of that species is found on the territory of the Pabok RCM.

The Commission de la protection du territoire agricole and the regional agencies promoting the development of private forests have recently been made aware of the importance of protecting threatened or vulnerable species.

Ad hoc joint initiatives have also been taken by Quebec and Canada, in a positive atmosphere. For example, the Canadian Wildlife Service and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are the main players in the efforts to protect wildlife species that come under federal jurisdiction, that is migratory birds, mammals and marine fish, while Quebec's Société de la faune et des parcs and the Quebec Department of the Environment are responsible for all other wildlife and plant species.

Over the years, these departments have joined forces with a variety of institutions: the Jardin botanique, the Institut botanique, the Biodôme de Montréal, the Musée Redpath, the Jardin de Métis, the Jardin zoologique de Québec, the Jardin zoologique de Granby and the Jardin zoologique de Saint-Félicien, and the Aquarium de Québec.

Organizations such as the Association québécoise des groupes d'ornithologues, the Groupe Fleurbec, Flora Quebec, the Fondation pour la sauvegarde des espèces menacées, the Groupe de recherche et d'éducation en milieu marin, the Société d'histoire naturelle de la vallée du Saint-Laurent, the Société d'entomologie du Québec, the Société Provancher, the Société linnéenne du Quebec, and the Union québécoise pour la conservation de la nature have all contributed actively to these efforts, along with countless scientists, students, university researchers and amateurs from a wide range of backgrounds.

Much of the funding for studies and activities to protect endangered or vulnerable species is provided by the departments responsible and by their partners. The Endangered Species Recovery Fund of the World Wildlife Fund Canada and the partners for biodiversity program of the Fondation de la faune du Québec have made many initiatives possible.

Federal-provincial co-operation, with respect for respective jurisdictions, is possible. As proof, many projects have been carried out under the St. Lawrence Vision 2000 agreement, a federal-provincial program involving several partners.

More recently, an administrative agreement between the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of the Environment and the Société de la faune et des parcs du Québec resulted in join initiatives for the protection of forest species at risk. The contribution of the private and parapublic sectors is also important. Some examples are: Ducks Unlimited, Hydro-Québec, Alcan, and the Montreal microbrewery, Le Cheval Blanc.

Quebec's accomplishments in the area of endangered or vulnerable species are so numerous as to be hard to count. One of the finest of many fine examples is the Centre de données sur les espèces menacées ou vulnérables.

The conservation of endangered or vulnerable species is based on the available scientific data. The Centre de données sur le patrimoine naturel du Québec, created by the Quebec ministry of the environment in 1988, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, and the Natural Conservancy in the United States all make active contributions to the gathering and distribution of information on these species.

Today, the centre is administered by the Quebec ministry of the environment and the Société de la faune et des parcs du Québec. It is far more than merely a focal point for collecting and analyzing data. The information it contains is necessary for setting priorities for the conservation of various species that are in precarious situations. It makes it possible to determine the phenological distribution and the population of these species in a given area. It carries out species censuses of protected areas, natural sites of interest for conservation.

The centre's creation has made it possible to take vulnerable species into consideration within the process of preparing development projects, environmental impact studies and various research projects. Each year, close to 400 inquiries are handled by the centre's specialists and the regional offices of the ministry of the environment and the Société de la faune et des parcs du Québec.

So much for the past. Now for the future. There have been a lot of changes in the past 12 years for certain threatened or vulnerable species. The objective of reintroducing the peregrine falcon has been attained: new nesting sites are being established, which holds promise for the future of this species. Once gone from the St. Lawrence valley, hawks have now reached their previous population levels.

The copper redhorse and its habitat are now protected. Specific protection programs and the application of current standards will make it possible to limit the negative impact of human activities on the populations, migration and spawning grounds of this fish unique to Quebec. The intervention plan for the survival of the copper redhorse is aimed at promoting the reproduction of this fish. Fishways and a wildlife refuge are needed for the Richelieu River.

After a brush with extinction, the St. Lawrence belugas are increasing in number. However, their disturbance, water pollution and sediment continue to cause concern among scientists. Draconian protection measures and the recent creation of the Saguenay—Saint-Laurent marine park permit a more hopeful outlook for the future of this species.

Wild garlic has been designated a vulnerable species. This designation brings with it the prohibition against picking for commercial purposes. Picking it for personal use is highly regulated. Measures of this sort have slowed the decline of populations of this plant.

Ginseng is about to come under the protection of the act respecting threatened or vulnerable species. The fact of its being grown agriculturally may soon mean the demand for this plant with its desirable medicinal properties will be met, while the natural forest populations remain protected.

However, the wild species and their habitats remain under pressure. Much remains to be done to conserve biodiversity. The growing demand for the use of domestic plants for horticultural purposes puts pressure on wild plants in natural settings.

Similarly, the marketing of wild mushrooms is increasing and the loss and alteration of habitats associated with human activities is still the main factor explaining the drop in numbers for certain species.

Forestry and farm operations affect habitats, and so does the constant expansion of highways and cities. Acid rain, contamination caused by the emissions produced by industries and motor vehicles still play a major role in the acidification of soils and waterways, thus threatening plants and wildlife.

Even climatic change force plants and animals to make adjustments that must be carefully examined. In this context, it is appropriate to speed up the review of the situation of endangered species, their legal designation and the implementation of protective measures.

We must also continue the work undertaken and widen the scope of our studies. There are too few studies on invertebrates, molluscs, insects and spiders or non ligneous plants, including mushrooms.

From a legislative point of view, greater complementarity between federal and Quebec laws would be beneficial. I insist on the notion of complementarity, which is more conducive to success than intrusion and duplication. The recent agreement on endangered species helps promote greater federal-provincial co-operation in this area.

In conclusion, as I tried to show, Quebec is doing very well with threatened species. The member for Lachine—Lac-Saint-Louis, when he was the minister, gave us an act that is effective in this respect, and we must think in terms of complementarity instead of duplication and intrusion when it comes to these threatened species.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2001 / 4:50 p.m.
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Karen Kraft Sloan Liberal York North, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak to Bill C-5. My sentiments on the various incarnations of endangered species bills have been aired many times in this House. I will address a few particulars of this legislation, but as one who has followed this issue closely for many years, I would like to begin with some broader thought.

To set a context for my comments, I will borrow a few words from Wendell Berry, the noted farmer, poet and writer. In an essay entitled “The Conservation of Nature and the Preservation of Humanity” he tells us:

When we include ourselves as parts of belongings of the world we are trying to preserve, then obviously we can no longer think of the world as “the environment”—something out there around us. We can see that our relation to the world surpasses mere connection and verges on identity. And we can see that our right to live in this world, whose parts we are, is a right that is strictly conditioned. There is simply nothing in Creation that does not matter. Our tradition instructs us that this is so, and it is being proved to be so, every day, by our experience. We cannot be improved—in fact, we cannot help but be damaged—by our useless or greedy or merely ignorant destruction of anything.

This small quotation touches upon a number of important themes in the debate around the protection of endangered species. First, it emphasizes that we all too often and conveniently view ourselves as disparate from the natural world. What possible relationship can we have with nature, one might ask, as we hurtle along a superhighway wrapped in an SUV with our ear pressed to a cellphone? If we cannot see nature and we cannot hear it and we cannot feel it, then it becomes easy to believe that it is something that is not us, something that we engage in on our terms perhaps when driving through a national park gate.

I believe that intrinsically most of us know that this is not so. We are not so far removed from an age when we were more aware of being of nature. This awareness has been buried deep within us by the mechanism of modernity. The challenge therefore becomes one of how can we reanimate this? How can we bring ourselves to a place where the world ceases to be defined in our minds as that which we have created, to a place where the term environment is no longer a category, a compartment, a file but instead includes us as part of this broader natural world? Such a reanimation would help us to abandon the current focus on, as Berry put it, our connection with the world and lead us to an emphasis on our identical identity. Were we to identify with nature rather than objectify it, who knows what wonders we might achieve.

Second, Berry wisely asserts that because we are of this world there are conditions to our participation in it. The conditions of every other species' participation are determined by the laws of nature. We alone among species get to set many of our own rules. For example, we can kill any species, anywhere at any time. We can kill for fun. We can kill deliberately or we can kill accidentally. We can kill quickly and efficiently through direct action or we can kill a species over a long timeframe by altering the conditions that it requires for survival. We can even kill from great distances.

Surely some responsibilities come with such apparent exceptions to the rule of nature. Most fundamentally, if we are in nature and nature is in us, then the unconditional application of our authority is nothing less than its unconditional application against ourselves.

That brings me to Berry's third point, that our destruction of anything in nature, whether intentional or through ignorance, damages us. Actually, he puts it better: “We cannot be improved” through such behaviour. The superficial and immediate rewards of destruction may tempt but by other measurements we are poisoning our own larder. By way of example, let me ask the human focused critics; which of our present species of plants would prove to contain ingredients essential to future medicines, vaccines and cures? We cannot know this now, hence we must accept as a condition of our participation in the world that we not eradicate them.

When I spoke on the previous version of this bill last June, I noted that on an issue of such fundamental importance to Canadians as the environment, when those concerned with its preservation and restoration rise to speak, few are really ready to listen. Many in this place say they care and many make fine speeches themselves, but words are a poor substitute for action. All of the rhetoric in the world will not save a river, a fish, a forest, nor will it protect a child from a hazardous contaminant.

Our words will not protect species at risk; only our actions can. Discretionary authorities to act may be political deal makers but they risk becoming convenient barriers to action in the hands of those who do not recognize a duty to protect the common. When we respect nature we can begin to understand the incredible services it provides. For those who must, putting a monetary value on nature's services is difficult for many reasons. What price can be assigned to the last drop of water or the last gasp of air?

On the task at hand, Bill C-5, let me first commend the Minister of the Environment for implementing several changes to the bill since its last appearance as Bill C-33. Most notably, the decision to recognize the current COSEWIC list as a scientific list of species at risk in Canada is laudable. However, in order to trigger action, the species must be legally listed. Currently the decision for legal listing resides solely with governor in council. Canadians from all walks of life, including industries, scientists, conservationists and environmentalists are concerned that this will therefore be a political and not a scientific decision.

The political listing approach has proven to be ineffective in other jurisdictions. The proposed round table meetings every two years to discuss species at risk are a welcome addition to the bill, as are changes to what will placed in the public registry.

The safety net provisions in Bill C-5 allow the federal government to step in if a province fails to protect species. However, the safety net is also subject to cabinet discretion. In other words, even if a province fails to protect species there is no duty for the federal government to act.

While the scope of the safety net provisions in a former endangered species legislation, Bill C-65, were more narrow than in Bill C-5, they contained a mandatory requirement for the federal government to act to protect species if provinces failed to do so.

One of the things that makes the public debate around the bill vastly different from those around other so called environmental bills is that a coalition of industry, environment and conservation groups have come together and worked for years on the legislation. I cannot tell the House how unusual this is. I congratulate them for their efforts in this area. The group is known as the species at risk working group.

Along with many other Canadians, the working group has raised concerns that the bill does not go far enough to protect species. It will be the role of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development to hear from this group and from a wide range of Canadians on how we can improve the bill.

We will do nothing to protect species at risk unless the bill leaves committee as a good, effective piece of legislation. The House must support legislation that is strong, fair, effective and makes biological sense. It must be enforceable and it must be enforced.

Let me close with a few more words from Wendell Berry:

In taking care of fellow creatures, we acknowledge that they are not ours; we acknowledge that they belong to an order and a harmony of which we ourselves are parts. To answer to the perpetual crisis of our presence in this abounding and dangerous world, we have only the perpetual obligation of care.

I call on all members of the House to care about species at risk.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2001 / 4:40 p.m.
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Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, the Minister of the Environment is to be congratulated for reintroducing the bill. It is urgently needed.

As we all know, Canadians care about endangered species, as proven by the many conservation projects across Canada, and the minister has provided funding to support current and future initiatives in this respect.

His promotion of stewardship is a major improvement over previous bills. In addition, the measure to provide a safety net, should the provinces fail to enact similar provisions, is also a fine improvement on the 1996 version, namely Bill C-65.

The minister should also be commended for some changes to Bill C-33. His changes include definitions in the bill, so amended to be consistent with those used by the committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada, a scientific committee. His changes also include the publication of specific documents in the public registry set up under the act, to provide greater openness, transparency and accountability.

Let me now describe some of the shortcomings of the bill, which could be corrected in committee. As regards the initial list of species, cabinet may, on the recommendation of the minister, establish the list of wildlife species at risk, but it may not. The bill does not even guarantee that there will be an initial list.

Scientists have appeared before the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. They expressed a serious concern. There are currently approximately 185 species that have been reassessed by scientists. As I recall the discussion, we were asked that the reassessed scientific list, currently at 185 species, come into force at the moment the legislation is proclaimed so as to make it the starting list. I support that proposal. Earlier this afternoon, the member for Elgin—Middlesex—London put forward another proposal which I think has a great potential.

As to future changes by scientists to the list of species at risk, it is important to note that the provincial record, because of reliance on political listing, is very weak. Only 12% of endangered species have made it onto the legal list in Quebec; only 23% in Ontario; and only 32% in Saskatchewan. The abysmal provincial record shows how little protection may be given to species when politicians decide about listing.

The poor provincial record also underlines how crucial it is for Bill C-5 to ensure that the federal safety net will apply should a province fail to protect a species identified at risk by scientists. I commend the minister for having included this net. It is worth noting by contrast that in Nova Scotia the scientific list automatically becomes the legal list under the legislation. We should follow the Nova Scotia example.

Another weakness with the bill is that it contains too much discretion. In too many instances the minister may make a recommendation to cabinet, but he or she may not. Then there is the hurdle posed by the fact that cabinet may decide to enact crucial provisions of Bill C-5, but it may not. This means there is uncertainty in the implementation of the act affecting those who use the land. Landowners and other interested parties would not be given a clear indication of how they are to improve their practices to protect endangered species because of the uncertainty surrounding the implementation of key provisions of the bill.

Next, as we all know, the primary cause of the loss of species in this country is the loss of habitat, therefore, the importance of critical habitat. There is very strong public support for mandatory habitat protection. I received over 1,500 postcards and letters urging the government to provide mandatory habitat protection and I am sure my colleagues have too.

In the bill there is no mandatory habitat protection to species even within federal jurisdiction. Provisions against destroying the critical habitat of an endangered species would apply only where specified by cabinet even on federal lands. Similarly, regulations to implement necessary measures to protect critical habitats on federal lands are left to the discretion of cabinet.

By contrast, in the earlier bill, Bill C-65 which died in the 35th parliament, the responsible minister had the authority to regulate or prohibit activities that would adversely affect the species or its critical habitat. Why should cabinet be required to determine every component of the critical habitat to be protected for every species? Why not give the authority to the Minister of the Environment alone?

Then we come to the protection of the critical habitat of species within federal jurisdiction. That includes species on federal lands, migratory birds, aquatic species and cross border species. Here again the critical habitat of species at risk within federal jurisdiction may or may not be protected, depending on the will of cabinet, not of the responsible minister alone. Why leave such a key decision, clearly within the federal government's jurisdiction, to the entire cabinet and not to the Minister of the Environment alone as is very often the case with other important key legislation in other sectors?

Moreover, prohibitions against destroying critical habitats may apply to species on federal lands in the exclusive economic zone of Canada or in the continental shelf of Canada. Cabinet may make regulations to protect critical habitats only on federal land. These sections of the bill need to be strengthened to include all federal jurisdictions, namely all federal lands, migratory birds, cross border species and aquatic species.

The Minister of the Environment made a strong commitment when he said in the House on February 19: “These species, the species at risk, and their critical habitat will be protected whether they are on federal, provincial or territorial or privately owned land”.

However there are too many layers of discretion in the bill to facilitate the implementation of the minister's commitment. There are two other ministers whose approval is also needed. Then there is the whole cabinet that needs to be persuaded to act. The likelihood that the federal government will apply habitat protection even on federal lands is slim as the bill is written at the present time.

As to chances that the federal government will provide a safety net are even smaller. Where the minister finds that the province or territory is not protecting the critical habitat, the minister must make the recommendation to cabinet after consulting with the territorial or provincial minister. There is no time limit on these consultations. They could go on for a long time. Added to this is cabinet discretion. Conditions make it unlikely that habitat protection provisions will be put in place in the provinces or territories when needed.

The same can be said about the general prohibitions against killing a species or destroying its residence. Such provisions would apply on lands of a province or territory only to the extent that the federal government may specify after the minister has consulted with the province or territory. Obviously Bill C-5 would be more effective with a time limit for consultations and a time limit for the minister to make his or her recommendation.

I strongly urge the government to make the necessary amendments, so as to give the Minister of the Environment the tools he, or she, may need in the future to do what he said he would do, when he said in the House:

Make no mistake, where voluntary measures do not work, or other governments are unwilling or unable to act, the federal safety net will apply.

As to the discretionary federal powers, make no mistake. We all know these powers, which address cross border or federal-provincial environmental problems, have existed for many years. They are included in the Canada Wildlife Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Canada Water Act, et cetera. However, federal discretionary powers have not been used. Why rely on their use for providing effective protection of endangered species if in reality there is no record of the use of such powers?

I am splitting my time, Madam Speaker, with the member for North York. Canadians place high expectations on this government for protecting endangered species. The legislation offers great potential for co-operative management and stewardship of our land and wildlife but amendments are needed. Hopefully, after hearing witnesses the committee the government will decide to make the necessary changes.

I will conclude by saying that we need strong legislation to halt the continued slide toward extinction of endangered species before it is too late.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2001 / 4:25 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Canadian Alliance Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and speak to this bill today. The idea of a bill to protect endangered species has been kicked around Parliament Hill for a long time. It has gone through numerous ministers. The only continuous factor has been the chairman of the environment committee, the member for Davenport, who has been through all of it and is certainly an advocate for strong environmental laws.

We support the protection of endangered species. My colleague from Red Deer said the other day that polls have indicated that 95% of Canadians support some kind of legislation to protect endangered species. He wondered why it was not 100% and why anybody would not want to do that? We agree that it needs to be done, but it needs to be done in a way that is fair and that deals with some issues that we feel are not being dealt with in this bill.

We will support the bill but we will put forth some amendments. We are hopeful that the government will, at some point in time during the bill's process through the House to become law, look at those amendments. We are also hopeful that the government will listen to the people of Canada and make the changes needed to make the bill work properly.

We cannot have the three s' s, shoot, shovel and shut-up, in Canada. It happened when some strong handed legislation was introduced in the United States and it did not work. We need to deal with co-operation, compensation, partnerships and working with stewardship initiatives in the private sector.

Compensation and scientific integrity are two issues in the bill for which we will have a lot of input. Scientists should decide what species are at risk. They should create the list and that is it. There should be no political interference in who decides what an endangered species is. It should be done scientifically and then presented to the House.

However, I feel, and I am sure this has been stated by others, that if any action is taken on that list it will require dollars and the intervention of some body with authority, which should be the duty of the elected politicians.

We have to be very careful that the co-operative efforts put forward already and the stewardship initiatives that we see across Canada are supported, enhanced and rewarded. We have a huge concern with that issue. We have to ensure that the people who are working so hard on their own to create habitat for endangered species and to preserve habitat that exists are recognized.

I had a great opportunity the summer before last to go up to the eastern irrigation district around Brooks. I was invited up there by a fellow named Tom Livingstone. There is a huge tract of pure virgin prairie grass that is being used for grazing. It is managed very well. There are oil and gas wells on this land.

Among all of this is the burrowing owl habitat. I was able to actually see a number of owls living there and raising their young right in among the cattle and the other development. The people there do things very carefully. They make sure that when the species need to be left alone, they are left alone. There is a huge tract of water that is used for wildlife and fowl. It was incredible. There were antelope and all kinds of ducks and geese there. It was quite a thing to see. These people have done that as an irrigation district to preserve what was on the prairies when we first came.

So in regard to this idea that we need to have heavy-handed legislation to bring our ranchers, our oil and gas exploration companies and our farmers into line, I do not think it needs to be done. If we work co-operatively with them and show them some support for their initiatives, we can go a long way to really doing this thing in a proper manner.

We have to make sure of something: people have told me that they want to have input into the bill. They want the committee to sit. After the committee gets Bill C-5, people want it to hear witnesses from all sectors of society. They want the committee to travel, to get out to parts of Canada, to get into the north. The member from the Yukon has issues in his area. People on the east and west coasts have issues. All across Canada people should have the ability to come to the committee to present their ideas to help make a bill that will work well. I encourage the members of our caucus on that committee and the others to work that way, to get out and go across this country to get that input that is so rightfully needed.

My party feels the compensation issue has to be in the legislation. To say that it will be worked out in regulation afterward is not something that we can live with. We certainly do not support the position presented by the Pearse report that one does not receive compensation until over 10% of one's livelihood has been affected and then one is only compensated for 50%. We would like to see full compensation. If we do it that way, we will encourage landowners and others to really take an active part in this. That has to be in the legislation. It has to spelled out very clearly that compensation will be given and that it will be given to the full extent that the landowner is affected.

The idea that all Canadians feel something needs to be done for the protection of endangered species brings us to the fact that all Canadians should be part of the cost of any mitigation implemented to preserve habitat. If it is a cost to society in general, then let us put it into the legislation and let all Canadians have a look at what that means. Certainly the elected officials have to be the people who are responsible for any spending of dollars that go into the protection of endangered species.

When I was on the environment committee we talked at length about residual powers, as we have here, about who should have effect over whom or which level of government and provinces should. A lot of the provinces have strong endangered species legislation. We have to work hand in hand. We have to receive the input from the provinces. We must make sure they understand that this is going to be a co-operative effort and that the end result will be to the benefit of the endangered species in the country.

We saw some really unusual coalitions formed when the bill was introduced last time in the House. We saw environmental groups get together with industry. We saw the mining industry come forward with the pulp and paper people, the Sierra Legal Defence Fund and the Canadian Wildlife Federation. Seeing all these people getting together to work together for the common good of endangered species was very encouraging. That is something that we as a country have to build on.

We have to encourage these types of partnerships and coalitions to get together to come up with the right plan that will work. If we have them all involved, if we have input from everybody and if we come up with the proper balance, there is no reason why we cannot have a law in place that will do the job but will allow us to go on with our lives.

Members know that we need to preserve what is here. I have children and grandchildren and I certainly want them to have the ability to see the things that I have seen in my life. We need to do this as a country.

In regard to the whole idea that it will not work, the idea that one part of society will go against the other and it will not come to be because we cannot come to an agreement, I do not buy into that. I think there are ways we can do it. If we have the compensation in the bill, if we work hard at the co-operative level to reward stewardship and reward the programs in place today—and enhance them if need be—if we show that we are willing as a government, as a body of elected officials, to receive input from Canadians in all parts of society, we will have support. We will have a bill that we can work with.

One of the things I experienced in the environment committee when we went through some other legislation was the wish of some to take out any reference to the word economics. If we were looking at social and economic reasons for doing something, people said let us not worry about the economics. However, I think we need to. When we are talking about the livelihood of people on the land and on the waters of the country, we need to bring that into the mix, into the formula.

Let us put the compensation aspect into the bill, let us work co-operatively, let us listen to all Canadians and let us come up with a bill we can all be proud of.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2001 / 3:55 p.m.
See context


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, I am happy to help introduce Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada because during the election I was asked if our government was going to reintroduce the bill.

Today I will make only introductory remarks because there will be much feedback and suggested improvements from constituents to input later when it will be reviewed in committee. For instance, I met with an official of the Sierra Legal Defence Fund. He assures me that he will present its detailed input to the committee.

I have also received a letter from Juri Peepre, executive director of CPAWS Yukon, which highlights three key areas: strong mandatory habitat protection, public accountability, and a very creative compromise ensuring science based lists and the ultimate role of cabinet. I forwarded the letter to the minister and to the committee chair.

Senator Ione Christensen, the other half of the Yukon caucus, and I often work together on initiatives and this is no exception. Senator Christensen has distributed Bill C-5 to such Yukon organizations as the Yukon Outfitters Association, the Yukon Chamber of Mines, Minister Dale Eftoda, Grand Chief Ed Schultz, the Yukon Conservation Society, the Yukon Chamber of Commerce and the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce.

Notwithstanding the fact that parliament has been receiving and incorporating input on the main elements of the bill for seven years, I will forward any feedback I receive from those other organizations to the minister and the committee chair just as I have with the CPAWS letter. It is very exciting to be part of an effort to help preserve some of the species we share the earth with.

Members who were here through the first two iterations know it is not easy to come up with common ground for such a huge variety of stakeholders, some of whom want weaker legislation than that presented today and some of whom want stronger legislation. Because there are species that inhabit virtually every metre of our nation, there are obviously a myriad of stakeholders and interests with whom to try to build common ground.

In my constituency in Yukon there are first nations governments, territorial governments, municipal governments, land use planning bodies, farmers, miners, loggers, trappers, sports and subsistence fishermen, big game outfitters, tourists, wilderness adventurers and campers, boaters, naturalists and snowmobilers, et cetera. Our challenge as a parliament is to come up with a bill that protects species and is as acceptable as possible to the many elements of our diverse society.

Bill C-5 incorporates a number of new suggestions from individuals and groups as refinements to previous drafts. The following are some highlights.

It prohibits the killing, harming, harassing, capturing or taking of species officially listed as threatened, endangered or extirpated, and the destruction of their residences. It includes a public registry and a scientific assessment of species at risk.

There will be mandatory action plans and recovery strategies, including the ability to enforce critical habitat protection. It provides the authority to prohibit the killing of endangered or threatened species and the destruction of their critical habitat on all lands in Canada.

It provides emergency authority to protect species in imminent danger. It uses three mechanisms: positive incentives, which we hope will be used in most cases; strong legal protections; and, if absolutely necessary, the Government of Canada can act alone.

It complements and works together with first nation, provincial and territorial governments. It involves landowners and land users. It uses traditional aboriginal knowledge.

It complements the stewardship program in which Canadians can take voluntary actions to protect habitat. It fulfils Canada's obligations to the court for protection of species at risk. It unifies the efforts of the provinces and territories.

There will be some compensation which will act as a positive incentive to assist in implementation. Budget 2000 provided $90 million over three years and another $45 million thereafter.

Some work has already been done. Under the new habitat stewardship program the Government of Canada has contributed $5 million toward 60 partnership projects with communities and regional organizations. In the government implemented ecological gift program Canadians can use capital gains for ecologically sensitive lands and easements for the protection of habitat, a measure I support because habitat is a concern in my riding. It recognizes the role of boards established under land claims agreements such as the UFA in Yukon.

I will also use the debate to highlight a relatively new process in the federal government, the rural lens. It is one of the initiatives of the Secretary of State for Rural Development. Any new initiative by the federal government should be examined through the rural lens to see how it affects rural Canadians in ridings such as mine in Yukon.

Bill C-5 has been carefully vetted through the lens in its development. I would encourage all members of the House to support the use of the rural lens for all programs, services and legislation. It is very helpful to Yukon residents and to rural Canadians in all ridings to have new initiatives viewed through their eyes.

We hope the bill will bring stakeholders together in support of the common goal of saving species. The bill shows respect for property owners by having many co-operative and voluntary recovery possibilities and compensation if need be.

I will, however, fight to ensure that the rights of rural Canadians and Yukoners are reflected in this and other legislation. Yukoners often live on the land with these species, sometimes at -50°C, and all have learned to survive together.

The proof is that at the present moment, according to the Sierra Legal Defence Fund, of the 364 COSEWIC listed species there are no species in the endangered category in Yukon.

We could not tolerate the dictums of an urban created myth that does not reflect our rural reality. We hope all parties will support the legislation and help Canada live up to its international obligations.

Nine provinces and territories, including Quebec, have laws to protect species at risk. Bill C-5 is structured in such a way as to complement these laws and not to create overlap.

A number of provinces and territories do not have comprehensive legislation and, in the long run, the bill is a safeguard to filling those gaps. Any time two governments work toward the same noble cause, in this case preserving species, they may on occasion run into overlap. However, if it came, for instance, to saving a species of whale, I would rather have overlap than a gap because failure is irreversible.

Failure is irreversible. We respect the agreement on harmonization, because the intent of this legislation is to complement the efforts made by the provinces and territories.

If a province has a combination of its species at risk and other complementary legislation in place so that everything is protected, then this or other complementary federal legislation will not have to kick in.

I think that Bill C-5 is effective and in keeping with the Constitution of Canada.

As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment said the last time around on May 11, 2000 “We have examined and benefited from the experience of other jurisdictions, other provinces, other nations”.

I have a short note on the compensation percentage under the legislation. The deal will be covered in regulations. It will be thought out and studied carefully over the next several months and will be ready in time for the bill to be passed.

The time to act is now. As the NDP member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar said on May 29, 2000, in the previous debate, “Worldwide we are experiencing the largest extinction since the time of the dinosaurs. Historically on average about two to three species a year went extinct due to natural causes but currently two to three species go extinct every hour”.

As the Bloc member for Jonquière stated on May 15, 2000 “I would like to state the position of the Bloc Quebecois since species are disappearing more rapidly, the problem is serious and we must take effective action”.

The Alliance member for Edmonton—Strathcona said, on the same day, “I am confident there is nothing partisan about endangered species and nothing partisan about protecting endangered species”.

That said, I hope we will be work together to pass this bill.

In 1623 a British parliamentarian said that if a clod of earth washed away from Europe then Europe would be less. It would be fitting, in that context, to say that if a species dies out then we are diminished because we are involved with them.

In this House of great bells, a parliament I respect, the bells will soon be calling us to vote. If we do not enact legislation to protect species at risk, then heed the words John Donne wrote in 1623:

If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2001 / 3:25 p.m.
See context

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me this honour to participate in this debate. As the Progressive Conservative Party, and as a recognized party in the House, we have a prearranged order for speaking. I would request from the Chair that attention be paid to that particular issue because on other occasions previous members have been missed.

I will now begin my 20 minute speech by saying that it is a pleasure to have a chance to participate in this particular debate. As members know, this will be the first piece of environmental legislation that we have seen before the House in this particular parliament. Members will also know quite clearly that this will be the government's first attempt to pass its first piece of environmental legislation since taking office on October 25, 1993. It is the government's first bill of its own initiative.

Mr. Speaker, you may recall, being the learned individual that you are on legislation, that the previous Conservative government was very proactive with respect to environmental legislation. We delivered to the country an acid rain protocol with the Americans, a packaging protocol that we did in conjunction with industry to reduce waste in our landfills. The Conservative government also pioneered a bill known as the Canadian environmental protection act which was first tabled in 1988.

Canada was a world leader on environmental protection by bringing the international community together in eliminating and reducing the consumption of ozone depleting gases with the Montreal protocol of 1987. The hon. Jean J. Charest was a very proactive environment minister who brought forth legislation with respect to new inroads in reducing pulp and paper effluent. One of the other hallmarks, in addition to the acid rain protocol brought forth with the Americans, was the $3 billion green plan which had an infinite affect on pollution prevention.

Having said that, this is the government's third attempt to bring forth a piece of legislation to protect species at risk or endangered species. Bill C-65 died on the order paper leading up to the 1997 election. The hon. member for Saint John was active in the debate at that time. We also know that Bill C-33 died on the order paper as the Prime Minister chose to call his vanity election three years and four months into his mandate.

The position of the Progressive Conservative Party will largely follow the positions developed by the species at risk working group, which is composed of the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association, the Mining Association of Canada, the Canadian Nature Federation, Sierra Club of Canada and the Sierra Legal Defence Fund.

These are individuals who are normally at each other's throats when it comes to developing legislation of this sort, but they have been able to build an unprecedented consensus, which I believe the government should be utilizing far more than it currently is.

In December 1999, a few weeks after the Progressive Conservative Party tabled its position paper, the government tabled a brown paper, which actually described essentially what its legislation would be composed of. Our position paper was graded A by the environmental community and received accolades from industry groups as well, while the government's position paper received a mere D.

I would like to compliment not only the consensus that was built with respect to SARWG, the species at risk working group, but also the consensus that was built with the Progressive Conservative caucus on this file. It is a unified position built in conjunction with our natural resources critic, the member for South Shore, with our agricultural critic, the member for Brandon—Souris, and with the leadership that we received from the right hon. member for Calgary Centre in ensuring that we had a very comprehensive and team approach to this particular piece of legislation.

We are all well aware that Canada has over 300 species that are at risk or endangered. I believe endangered species are what we could call our canaries in the coal mine. When we continue to lose species from our environment, from the various habitats, it is an indication that our overall environment is starting to decline. That will have a negative effect on the air we breathe and the water we drink.

Here we are eight years after the government has taken office and this is its third kick at the can in trying to deliver a piece of environmental legislation. After all the consultations, after all the homework, one would think we would essentially be reviewing a piece of legislation that would be nearly perfect. As the critic from the NDP pointed out in his remarks a few moments ago, we are far from there.

There are a couple of particular issues I wanted to speak about with respect to the legislation. Clearly, habitat loss is the single largest cause of why species become at risk, become endangered and ultimately become extinct. Habitat loss is responsible for over 80% of species decline in Canada.

Bill C-5 and its predecessor, Bill C-33, are in fact weaker than the first attempt at species at risk legislation that was brought forth, which was known as Bill C-65. Bill C-65 had significant problems, but it did contain stronger provisions for habitat protection, especially on federal lands. This was largely the result of the work of the environment committee.

Bill C-5 does not require protection of critical habitat for endangered species. It merely states that cabinet may protect it. This is a significant shortcoming, especially when critical habitat protection is crucial to survival of a species. Some of Canada's best loved species could potentially become at risk, whether it is the beluga whale, the woodland caribou or even the grizzly bear.

By making habitat protection discretionary, the federal government is abdicating responsibility for major areas within its own jurisdiction, and I will repeat that: within its own jurisdiction. We are not asking the federal government to actually sidestep or make a foray into jurisdictions where it does not have the responsibility. The federal government can and must protect habitat of all species within federal jurisdiction. This is absolutely critical.

Upon review of Bill C-5, members of the House will recognize the fact that there are provisions for the federal government to intervene in provincial jurisdictions to protect species at risk. There are provisions whereby the federal government can intervene on private lands to protect species at risk. However, it is not mandatory under this legislation to protect species at risk within federal jurisdiction, or within federal lands, for that matter.

This is indeed ironic given the response from the environment minister to the last speech from the throne. He said “Any species protection legislation must include provisions for the protection of critical habitat of endangered species. This is fundamental. No habitat, no species”.

We would like to have a piece of legislation that would reflect the minister's own words as spoken in the House.

Building successful legislation requires input and support from affected stakeholders. The Progressive Conservative plan calls for carrots before sticks, for incentives to reward stewardship. We believe it is imperative to encourage, recognize and reward stewardship by offering more carrots and resorting to fewer sticks.

We believe this can be accomplished by listening to the concerns of stakeholders and by working in co-operation with them to build a consensus on an effective legislative design and, most important, engaging stakeholders in the recovery process.

Finding an endangered species on one's land should not mean that all development stops. The key is to manage the land to ensure that a species can continue to survive. We have to do away with the myths that have been spoken about. I am talking about the myth that finding a species on one's property will result in an immediate economic loss. We can reward stewardship. There are many ways to address this particular issue.

The fact is that if a species at risk is found on a woodlot owner's lot, chances are the owner is working under responsible forestry management regimes that actually encourage an environment for the species. If the species did not like it there, it would not be there.

The Progressive Conservative Party believes that without the support of the provinces, private landowners, resource users and communities the endangered species bill will be impossible to institute. Moreover, it will be ineffective. It will breed the “shoot, shovel and shut up” response, which will result in more species at risk.

The Progressive Conservative Party believes that when designing a recovery plan, with stakeholders of course, social and economic considerations must be accounted for. Both objectives can be achieved, both to encourage stewardship and save endangered species. These objectives are not mutually exclusive.

Another glaring weakness, which I would say is the most obvious and which the member for Windsor—St. Clair touched on, is that in Bill C-5 the cabinet rather than scientists will decide whether a species is at risk. The committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada, the scientific body that has been in place for decades, will not have the call on determining whether a species is endangered. This puts at risk the extinction of any species that cabinet opts not to protect and makes the decision a political one rather than one based on scientific fact.

There is an enormous flip-flop from the Canadian Alliance on this particular issue. I am not talking about pensions or Stornoway or anything like that. What I am referring to in this particular circumstance is that we can give solid credit to the member for Red Deer and what he now believes. Although the member for Edmonton—Strathcona who was the previous critic said that it should be a political determination as to whether a species is at risk, I interpreted from the speech of the member for Red Deer in the House on February 21 that he believed scientists, not politicians, should determine whether a species is at risk or not. I find it shameful that the Liberal Party of Canada would be the only party in the House of Commons that would rather resort to a political listing perspective.

I know that my friend who will be speaking shortly on behalf of the Liberal Party was a member of the environment committee that studied this particular issue. An all party consensus was built that the scientific list of COSEWIC should be adopted and that COSEWIC should determine whether a species is at risk or not. Now the Liberal Party of Canada is reneging on its promise on that particular issue. I find that very shameful indeed.

While the Liberals may argue that they do not want the scientists to be lobbied as to whether a species is at risk or not—

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2001 / 1:45 p.m.
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Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Madam Speaker, although I have addressed the House on a few occasions and have asked some questions, this is the first opportunity I feel I have had to recognize the results of the November election: the support and confidence that was placed in me by the constituents of Windsor—St. Clair.

I acknowledge their support and all of the work my supporters did for me, the canvassing and phone calling. It is difficult to put that into words. There are certain specific groups I would like to acknowledge as well. I will start with my family, my wife of 31 years and my three children who were very active in my campaign and have been strong supporters of mine both in this past election and in the two previous times that I ran. I acknowledge that publicly.

A couple of other groups were of particular support to me. The labour movement in the city of Windsor is very strong and a great deal of those members came out and supported me, both on election day and in the campaign leading up to the vote.

There is another group I specifically want to mention. I promised that I would give it credit as one of the significant groups that made the difference in the outcome in my winning or losing since the results were very close in my riding. That group is the citizens who at one time worked in the United States but then came back to live in Canada in their retirement years. They were faced with a significant change in the tax regime put in place by the government. They feel very keenly about this travesty of justice and intend to pursue it. I will also pursue it on their behalf until that travesty of justice is remedied. I wish to acknowledge those people who supported me throughout the campaign and voted for me on election day.

I rise today to speak to Bill C-5, which in common parlance has become known as the endangered species legislation. This is not the first time the legislation has been before the House. In fact the original bill was put before the House in 1994. The government in both its red books and throne speeches has constantly promised the legislation. Here we are seven years down the road, in fact eight years from the time it was first elected, and we still do not have the legislation.

This procrastination and inaction unfortunately is all too typical of the government's record on the environment. It is not a good record whatsoever. We have not seen any new environmental legislation since 1993. There have been some amendments but no dramatic changes in the regime governing and protecting our environment.

We have absolutely no legislation right now that in any meaningful way protects our endangered species. That is interesting. If we look at the polling the government has done, there is extremely strong support in Canada for legislation to protect our endangered specifies. A recent poll conducted by Pollara, which was commissioned by the federal government, found that 94% of Canadians in all regions support federal endangered species legislation. More important, one should note that 74% of people living in rural communities support mandatory, not discretionary, habitat protection legislation.

In spite of the fact that we have broadly based support from environmental groups, labour unions, scientists and industry spokespeople calling for strong and effective endangered species legislation, we still have none as of right now.

The bill before us in the form of Bill C-5 is basically, with minor changes, the same bill that was before the last parliament as Bill C-33. Interestingly both Bill C-5 and Bill C-33 are substantially weaker than Bill C-65 which was introduced by the government back in 1996.

Based on good, solid scientific evidence at the present time we have 354 endangered species. It is a stark reminder that our natural heritage is under threat. The rate at which species disappear is historically at an all time high.

Worldwide we are experiencing more extinctions of natural species at any time in our history since the disappearance of dinosaurs. The current extinction rate is over 10,000 times the natural rate. To put it another way, historically an average of two to three species per year became extinct due to natural causes. Currently this year and in the previous few years about two to three species disappear every hour, all because of human causes. At the present rate scientists are telling us that we could lose 25% of the earth's species in the next 30 years.

Let us take a look at Canada. We have our own problems. In the past 150 years 27 species have become extinct. Let us compare that to the figure I gave earlier. At present 354 endangered species or at risk of extinction are on our list. The list is growing every year. An additional 40 species have been added in the last two years, since 1999.

As a country we have been waiting for almost a decade for the legislation. In 1992 at the earth summit, Canada committed to establishing legislation that was specifically aimed at protecting our vulnerable species. Canada was one of the first signatories to that accord. Yet here we are in 2001 and we are still reviewing the legislation.

In addition, the bill before the House is fundamentally weak. Let me turn to one of the major weaknesses of the legislation. We were promised by the Liberal Party and by the government that the legislation would protect the species at risk. What we have now is not a shall bill, that is we shall protect, but a maybe bill, that is we may protect them.

The bill contains rampant discretion in favour of the minister and the cabinet. All that it requires the government to do is to consult and report. It does not require it to protect when push comes to shove even one species. They could take these consultations from the scientific community, from the rest of the country, and could ignore them. Given their history, that is likely what they will do.

Bill C-5 is much weaker than the legislation of our partners in the United States and even in Mexico.

I will go back again to some of the public surveys on what the country is prepared to accept in the legislation. Most Canadians have told us that they are prepared to accept economic consequences in order to protect our natural species. Eight out of ten Canadians advocated placing restrictions on industries that pose a threat to endangered species and they are willing to accept the limitation of activities, such as forestry, mining and even tourism.

I will digress for a moment and talk about my own region. In the riding beside mine we have the smallest national park. About 10 years ago it became obvious that we had to limit the number of people allowed into that park. We had to cut the number in half because of the danger it posed to some of the fauna in the park. The public accepted that. There was an educational process and the general community understood the risk the park was at and they accepted the fact that they would have to curtail their activities in the park and the number of times they could go there. It was not easy for them to do but they did accept it. I suggest that is true for the rest of the country. We are prepared to take those losses.

I will now go to the three points that I wish to cover in terms of the weakness of the legislation. The first and foremost weakness is the lack of habitat protection. It is estimated that humans are responsible for almost all the species extinctions that occur, but that within that framework habitat loss is responsible for over 80% of the species' decline in Canada.

If this legislation is passed it will not protect habitat at all. I will compare that situation to the United States and Mexico. In both cases they have passed legislation that not only protects the species but also protects their habitat. Our legislation is simply proposing to make that protection discretionary in the hands of the minister and the government. If species are deemed worthy of protection then we should be protecting them.