Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I want to mention that I will share my time with my charming colleague from North Island—Powell River.
Bill C-68, an act to amend the Fisheries Act and other acts in consequence, has been a long time coming. The NDP is very happy that this bill has finally been introduced. All of the environmental bills being introduced this week and those that were introduced last week should have been introduced and implemented much more quickly. The Liberals promised to do so, and then waited two years. I understand that they had to consult the public, but they could have implemented some of the provisions without taking all this time for consultations. We are a bit disappointed in this.
Nevertheless, this bill is extremely important, because it implements a number of the recommendations the NDP made in its dissenting opinion during the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans' review of the amendments made to the Fisheries Act in 2012. I remember that sad day in 2012 very well, when the Conservative government rammed the hundreds and hundreds of pages of its infamous Bill C-38 down our throats. This bill contained a number of amendments that weakened our environmental laws. As my colleague from Trois-Rivières pointed out, these amendments are unfortunately still in effect.
The Liberals endorsed Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline project even though the public does not support it. Furthermore, since the assessment was a total farce, two of our country's wonderful provinces are now in a dispute.
There are some good things in this bill, of course. The government will once again protect fish and their habitat from activities that could kill fish. With respect to this bill, many people have commented that we must not protect only fish used by humans. We must not forget that biodiversity is an ecosystem. Fish eat each other, and if we do not save the other fish, then those we eat will have nothing to feed on. That is why taking several fish species off the protected species list was so ridiculous. That protection will be restored, which is a good thing. The HADD provision on harmful alteration, disruption, or destruction of fish habitat will be restored.
In addition, the government will for the first time include recovery of depleted fish stocks in the Fisheries Act. That is a very good thing. There are some aspects of the bill we are concerned about, though. A number of my colleagues have mentioned that the bill gives the minister far too many discretionary powers. The Liberals have said they would make evidence-based decisions. However, if the minister is allowed to do whatever she wants regardless of science and ancestral indigenous knowledge, everything will depend on the minister's opinion rather than science. That is what we find so problematic about this aspect of the bill.
As I was saying, the Liberals should have reinstated fish habitat protections as soon as they took office, rather than waiting.
I must mention that many of these measures came from amendments proposed by the NDP.
Congratulations to everyone who worked on improving this bill. I commend the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam, who did excellent work on this. He worked to reinstate solid protections for fish habitat, to put forward suggestions on how to replenish fish stocks and ensure their viability, to advocate for establishing a public registry, which is very important, and to take into account indigenous knowledge.
Before I continue, I would like to talk about the very important report of the Cohen commission, which deals with Fraser River sockeye. The report recommended that the government, which is currently a Liberal one, act on the commission's recommendations to restore sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser River. In the third recommendation of the report, Justice Cohen wrote:
The Government of Canada should remove from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ mandate the promotion of salmon farming as an industry and farmed salmon as a product.
In that regard, I would like to come back to the excellent work done by the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam. We know that, unfortunately, the Liberals defeated Bill C-228, which was an excellent bill that sought to transition to the use of closed containment facilities and protect the jobs of workers in that sector so that nobody would lose out. It was a very good bill but, unfortunately, the Liberals voted against it.
Right now, many Canadians, including many of my constituents, are questioning the Liberals' intentions, since they also voted against the bill introduced by the member for Sherbrooke, who is another excellent MP. His bill had to do with the mandatory labelling of GMOs.
As the Liberals were voting against the mandatory labelling of GMOs, they secretly approved the farming and sale of genetically modified salmon in Canada. In fact, Canada remains the only country in the world whose citizens have eaten genetically modified salmon. We do not know who ate it. We do not know where it was purchased. We do not know the circumstances, since labelling is not mandatory, but there is absolutely no question that we unfortunately ate it.
Meanwhile, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, or ACOA, has invested over $3 million in the company that produces genetically modified salmon.
Once again in secret, genetically modified salmon is being produced in Prince Edward Island, even though there has been no environmental assessment on the potential dangers. Genetically modified salmon could escape from their enclosures during storms and other severe weather conditions that could occur. The potential impact of such an accident on Atlantic salmon populations has not been assessed. As we know, the wild Atlantic salmon stock is already threatened.
We will support this bill for all the reasons mentioned. However, we are very disappointed in the Liberal government's efforts relative to what could have been done to improve aquaculture on the Pacific coast, as well as the labelling, sale, and farming of genetically modified salmon. Canadians are angry. We need to take action on this, and we will.