An Act to amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act

Sponsor

Dominic LeBlanc  Liberal

Status

Second reading (Senate), as of May 1, 2018

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-55.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Oceans Act to, among other things,

(a) clarify the responsibility of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to establish a national network of marine protected areas;

(b) empower the Minister to designate marine protected areas by order and prohibit certain activities in those areas;

(c) provide that, within five years after the day on which the order of the Minister designating a marine protected area comes into force, the Minister is to make a recommendation to the Governor in Council to make regulations to replace that order or is to repeal it;

(d) provide that the Governor in Council and Minister cannot use the lack of scientific certainty regarding the risks posed by any activity as a reason to postpone or refrain from exercising their powers or performing their duties and functions under subsection 35(3) or 35.‍1(2);

(e) update and strengthen the powers of enforcement officers;

(f) update the Act’s offence provisions, in particular to increase the amount of fines and to provide that ships may be subject to the offence provisions; and

(g) create new offences for a person or ship that engages in prohibited activities within a marine protected area designated by an order or that contravenes certain orders.

This enactment also makes amendments to the Canada Petroleum Resources Act to, among other things,

(a) expand the Governor in Council’s authority to prohibit an interest owner from commencing or continuing a work or activity in a marine protected area that is designated under the Oceans Act;

(b) empower the competent Minister under the Canada Petroleum Resources Act to cancel an interest that is located in a marine protected area that is designated under the Oceans Act or in an area of the sea that may be so designated; and

(c) provide for compensation to the interest owner for the cancellation or surrender of such an interest.

Elsewhere

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.

Votes

April 25, 2018 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act
April 25, 2018 Failed Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act (recommittal to a committee)
April 25, 2018 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act
Oct. 17, 2017 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act

Bill C-55—Time Allocation MotionOceans ActGovernment Orders

April 25th, 2018 / 3:55 p.m.
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Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That, in relation to Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the Bill; and

That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Bill C-55—Time Allocation MotionOceans ActGovernment Orders

April 25th, 2018 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House. Today I heard the Prime Minister say countless times in question period that he defends freedom of expression and he would like everyone to be able to express themselves. However, at the first opportunity, the leader of the government announced that there would be a motion to limit debate and prevent members from speaking to Bill C-55, which is very important.

It is unacceptable to say one thing in front of the cameras and do the complete opposite when the journalists have left and when it is just us here in the House of Commons. The government should be ashamed of itself for using this tool to muzzle people who want to defend Canada's fisheries workers.

Why has the government once again chosen to prevent members of the House from publicly and freely expressing themselves on such an important issue?

Bill C-55—Time Allocation MotionOceans ActGovernment Orders

April 25th, 2018 / 4:05 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Minister of Families.

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans did a great job on Bill C-55. That is not the problem. The problems is that the government is abusing the process by repeatedly imposing gag orders in the House. That is undemocratic.

Could the minister please explain to the House why we need time allocation? This is a good bill. It has been amended. It has gone through committee. It should not need to be forced through. We should be able to have the kind of work in this place which ensures that full debate can take place.

Bill C-55—Time Allocation MotionOceans ActGovernment Orders

April 25th, 2018 / 4:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Jean-Yves Duclos Liberal Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member and commend him for his interest and his contribution to the debate. As he well knows, Bill C-55 would correct a major flaw in the current system. The current system has two possibilities, zero protection or full protection, and nothing in between. The in-between matters where we have a presumption that some marine areas need to be preserved and protected. What we would put in place with Bill C-55 would be a regime within which interim protections could be provided. That means that the minister would have five years to consult extensively with Canadians, including indigenous Canadians, and draw upon science in the most fulsome, respectful, and efficient manner, and within those five years, there would be interim protections. After five years, a decision would be made as to whether we wanted to permanently protect the area or not protect it at all.

It is a good way forward. There will be more to come with the contributions of the members in this House.

Bill C-55—Time Allocation MotionOceans ActGovernment Orders

April 25th, 2018 / 4:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is quite dismaying that the minister has said that most of the speeches have been from the opposition side. Where are the 18 B.C. Liberal MPs? Where are their voices on this? Where are the 32 Atlantic Canada MPs on this? Bill C-55 will absolutely be transformative for our coastal communities. It will financially impact those coastal communities in a negative way.

Bill C-55 would empower the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard to immediately designate marine protected areas by order and to prohibit certain activities in those areas while the areas in question are studied.

Could our hon. colleague across the way please inform the House what provisions are in place through Bill C-55 for any economic losses incurred by the communities and industry in those areas adjacent?

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

April 25th, 2018 / 5:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to remind everyone that I am splitting my time with the hon. member for Yellowhead. I believe that puts my time down to about a minute.

Speaking to Bill C-55, the legislation goes way above and beyond what the government tried to pretend it wanted to do. It cuts into areas where fishermen have big concerns.

At the end of the day, this affects all the good changes that were made to improve the Fisheries Act in 2012. It seems to be the government's modus operandi that no matter what the item is, if the previous government did it, then it has to be reversed, instead of coming up with some good new legislation.

I wish the government would get back to dealing with some good ideas. Maybe if the Liberals sit down and think about it, they might even come up with something themselves.

With that, I am willing to take some questions.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

April 25th, 2018 / 5:20 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, as a member from an ocean coastal riding, I welcome Bill C-55. The hon. member may be interested to know that there is a proposed protected area for a national marine conservation area in my riding. It is still called the Southern Strait of Georgia proposal, although everyone in my area calls it the Salish Sea. It was initially proposed and supported by Jacques Cousteau in 1972, and it still has not been enacted. Therefore, I welcome anything under the Oceans Act to speed up protected areas.

I wonder if my hon. colleague, who does not touch the ocean, might agree it would be a good thing to get an important area like this protected.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

April 25th, 2018 / 5:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Madam Speaker, it is good to rise today and speak to Bill C-55, even though our time is going to be limited because of the actions of the Liberal government. I have been here four other times trying to get this conversation going, and I will try to get it done today.

I rise in the House to speak to Bill C-55, an act that would empower the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to designate, without consultation, marine protected areas and prohibit activities in those areas for up to five years. After five years, the minister would be able to permanently designate that area as a marine protected area, or an MPA. The bill would also give the Governor in Council the authority to prohibit fishing, as well as oil and gas activity in MPAs. For a government that constantly praises itself for listening to Canadians and for public consultation, I was surprised when I read Bill C-55. I was surprised because the legislation completely ignores any kind of consultation.

I sat on the environment committee and was part of the study “Taking Action Today: Establishing Protected Areas for Canada's Future”. I want to mention a comment by one of the witnesses, Paul Crowley. He said:

I think the most important thing is to do this transparently. What are the economic benefits? What is the baseline management that can be handed over to communities? Have that up front right away and across the board, being fair and not renegotiating from one space to the next, from one community to the next, or from one land claim to the next. Start at the highest level right off the bat, and get to “yes” very quickly.

He said that, but he was saying that we need to negotiate, and here we have a government that says it is going to enact this quickly and study it afterwards. Once again, the Liberal government is putting environmental activists ahead of our economy, and the local people whom these decisions would impact the most will suffer. According to fishermen in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and British Columbia, they have not been consulted about the impacts of Bill C-55 at all. Why should we expect that they would be consulted, when the Liberals want to turn their regions into protected areas as quickly as possible to reach a personal mandate by that party?

The Cape Breton Fish Harvesters Association representative said, “I think we are more upset by the process. It was not done the way it should have been done. It should have been done more respectfully.”

The director of Gulf Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board, a fishermen's group, said that “the consultation process was not well planned, organized, or transparent”, and that it was disorganized even within the fisheries department.

The Chief of the Pictou Landing First Nation said that they have received very little information about the consideration of their region as an MPA. She also said that her community depends heavily on the revenues from snow crab and the lobster fishery. That is a $70-million lobster and snow crab fishery that has supported their small coastal region in Cape Breton for many generations, and it could be at risk because of Bill C-55.

Mr. Gordon MacDonald, a Fourchu fisherman in Nova Scotia, put it best when he said, “It’s more likely to be damaging than beneficial but it satisfies a need to be seen as doing good, as being a world leader in protection and conservation....”

Some of the locations being proposed are not in danger. They are being fished in a sustainable manner. That is exactly why our government enforces quotas: to protect these areas. Bill C-55 would require that when deciding to establish an MPA, the minister apply a precautionary approach: when in doubt, add it to the list, without any consultation.

First, if the government consulted with the people on the ground, it could avoid a lot of uncertainty. Second, if the government imposes an MPA that is unnecessary, even for five years, it would destroy the local economy, with little gain for the marine environment. However, as Mr. MacDonald said, the Liberals would look good on the international stage.

The Liberal government ran a campaign on transparency, yet there are serious questions about the transparency with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, both in this legislation and in decisions he has made in the past. Let us go back a few months. The minister awarded one quarter of the Arctic surf clam quota to a partnership between Premium Seafoods and the Five Nations Clam Company. However, neither the Liberals nor the Five Nations Clam Company would say which indigenous groups were involved, until weeks after the decision was made.

Apparently, at the time of the application, not even the applicants knew who was involved, but they got the contract. There were only reserved spots in their proposal for indigenous groups, and it was not until after the quota was awarded that they filled those spots. It smells a little fishy, not to mention that the president of Premium Seafoods, which won the contract, is the brother of a current Liberal member and has contributed thousands of dollars to the Liberal Party. The president of one of the Five Nations partners is also a former Liberal member.

The minister needs to stop playing politics with our fisheries and come up with a real plan that would support high-quality, well-paying jobs in our coastal communities. This bill would not only impact commercial fisheries, but also hurt people who fish for sustenance, as well as negatively impact tourism in these areas. For example, when the International Pacific Halibut Commission met this year to determine the catch limits for the year for Canada and the U.S., it could not come to an agreement and determined to keep the 2017 restrictions in place.

When the recreational fishing industry in British Columbia reached its quota early in the year, it had to close for the season, with just 36 hours' notice from the government. This meant that fishing charters were either out of business for the rest of the year or forced to lease quotas from the commercial fishery. Either way, this cost the fish tourism business a lot of money.

What would happen when the government suddenly decides to make a region a designated area, without consultation, and enforces a five-year ban on fishing in the area? The companies that rely on sport fishing and tourism would be completely out of business, never mind closing early or having to lease quotas. They would not even be able to leave the docks for five years.

Where is the compensation for the lost income? It is not in this bill. The livelihood of Mr. MacDonald's family depends on the region's bounty of lobster, crab, and other species. He calls the proposed MPAs a “human exclusion zone”. He said, “They’re trying to eliminate humans as if that’s a form of conservation.... True ocean health, within the part that humans have control, will involve greater human time and investment, not absence”.

The Liberals' plan to protect 10% of marine and coastal areas by 2020 would undoubtedly result in inadequate consultation and large areas from coast to coast to coast being closed to commercial and recreational activities.

I am not opposed to the creation of MPAs. In fact, the Conservative Party has championed conservation and marine protected areas in the past. Our previous government focused on building on existing international markets and introducing new ones, while making significant investments in areas like marine research, harbour infrastructure, lobster sustainability, aquaculture innovation, and indigenous participation.

Rather than consulting the communities that would be most impacted by the Liberal government's plan on MPAs, the minister has chosen to fast-track this process in order to meet these self-imposed political targets.

A balance between the protection of marine habitats and the protection of local economies that depend on commercial and recreational fishing must be struck. This cannot be achieved without extensive consultation and a concerted effort to prioritize the needs of local communities.

I challenge the government to answer why it is abandoning consultation and transparency. This bill has the potential to do a lot of damage to local fisheries, and it is not an example of the economy and the environment going hand in hand.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

April 25th, 2018 / 5:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Madam Speaker, proper consultation with the indigenous peoples of the area and local ranchers who are dealing with agriculture leases for range land, and stuff like, has to be done. We need to work with the local ranchers. We need to work with the local counties and local indigenous groups and plan ahead.

I am going to refer back to my favourite report, “Taking Action Today: Establishing Protected Areas for Canada's Future”, because I sat on that committee. We had the environmental groups come and tell us that they wanted to protect all this land. Then we had the natives from northern Canada, the Northwest Territories, and the Inuit come in and say, “Slow down. We want to be involved in the consultations. We want to talk about what's best for the land we live on. We want to know how we are going to protect the economy for our future but also protect the environment.” That is what it is about. Bill C-55 is fast-tracking to put these protected areas in immediately. They will do the consulting or negotiating after.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

April 25th, 2018 / 5:35 p.m.
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NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Madam Speaker, if there is time, I will be sharing it with my colleague, the member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay.

Last year, I had the fortune to work with the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development during its study of protected areas across Canada.

Our committee heard from 81 witnesses and received briefs from another 27 individuals and organizations. We also travelled to areas where national parks and marine protected areas are already in place, including the west coast, to meet with communities affected by these areas. The outcome of that study was the committee's fifth report, entitled “Taking Action Today: Establishing Protected Areas For Canada's Future”, which was presented to the House just a year and one day ago, on March 24, 2017.

I would like to speak today to Bill C-55, legislation which would expand the power of the Ministry of Fisheries to speed up the creation of new protected areas, in the context of what our committee saw and heard and the recommendations we made in our report.

The purpose of the bill is to expand the power of the minister to speed up the creation of new marine protected areas by making amendments to the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act. It would increase ministerial powers to terminate private resource interests in MPAs, and create stronger penalties for those found violating the rules of MPAs.

The bill does not, however, define minimum protection standards for marine protected areas or legislate timelines or targets. Thus, the new powers would not have the teeth necessary to protect ocean biodiversity. The bill would provide some new legal tools to speed up the creation of it, but falls far short of Canada's international commitments to protect our marine biodiversity. It fails to set minimum protection standards and targets for zoning in marine protected areas, which renders the designation inconsistent at best. It gives the minister far too much latitude to decide what activities are permissible in an MPA. If oil and gas exploration can take place in an MPA, what is the point of the designation?

As many parliamentarians know, Canada has fallen far behind in meeting our international commitments to preserve important wild areas across our country. In our environment committee's 2017 report, it states that Canada committed to a set of 20 targets known as the Aichi targets, established under the Convention on Biological Diversity. Target 11 commits parties to an aspirational goal of protecting at least 17% of terrestrial and inland waters and 10% of coastal waters by 2020. As of today, we have protected only 10.57% of terrestrial areas and 1.5% of marine areas, 3.5% once Lancaster Sound MPA is approved, which is a far cry from the targets we have set for 2020.

Bill C-55 does introduce a framework that could improve the number of marine protected areas in Canada, and that is good. However, the environment committee heard that quality is just as important as quantity. The World Wildlife Fund told the committee:

While large MPAs are important, we must not simply designate vast expanses of the ocean that are not at risk from human use or that provide unproven or questionable ecological benefits at the expense of developing proper MPA networks. Canada's progress on MPA networks has to go further than developing a collection of sites without meaningful consideration of how they connect and complement each other, and without including representative coastal and offshore sites within all three oceans.

Arising from that testimony and the testimony of other witnesses, the committee recommended that the Government of Canada focus the expansion of protected areas not only on the quantity to meet the targets, but also to protect terrestrial and marine areas with the highest ecological value in the country.

Even more important than the issue of quality over quantity is the question of what uses may take place in a marine protected area. Bill C-55 fails to restrict the activities within MPAs, nor does it provide minimum protection standards. The rules are inconsistent and broadly permissive, allowing, for example, environmentally damaging bottom trawling, and allowing oil and gas exploration within MPAs.

Two key witnesses attended the fisheries committee discussion on this matter. One of them said:

The law is currently very inconsistent. As you've heard and will probably continue to hear, people are astonished to learn that oil and gas exploration, undersea mining, and damaging fishing activities are all possible in the tiny fraction of the sea that we call marine protected areas. That's why an unprecedented 70,000 Canadians, members of the public, spoke out about one of the proposed new MPAs, Laurentian Channel, and said that we need to keep harmful activities out of these areas.

That was from Linda Nowlan of West Coast Environmental Law.

Another quote was from the David Suzuki Foundation:

I think the other area of the act that needs strengthening is the area of indigenous protected areas. Many indigenous peoples have a long-standing interest in conserving resources and protecting areas of their traditional territory, and there's an opportunity to enable the government to accommodate indigenous protected areas, which are determined, managed, and governed by indigenous people. This amendment would not only facilitate additional conservation of natural resources, but would take Canada further down the path of reconciliation with indigenous communities.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN, stated that in a marine protected area we need a “clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values”.

It goes on to name the essential characteristics that a marine protected area needs to have, including being nature conservation focused; having defined goals and objectives; having defined boundaries; be a suitable size, location, and design; having a management plan; and, of course, the resources and capacity to implement it.

It also specifies, “Any environmentally damaging industrial activities and infrastructural developments with the associated ecological impacts and effects are not compatible with MPAs.”

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

March 27th, 2018 / 4:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a sad day here when members cannot have their question of privilege heard in this House. I respect your position, but when we have members standing on a point of order and simply being shut down, it is a dismal day for democracy in Canada. What we have seen this week with the government shutting down debate and calling time allocation on multiple bills has to make one wonder what it is that the Liberals are trying to change the channel on, and it is disturbing.

I will start on a lighter note, noting that this is the second half of a 20-minute time slot that I was allowed. I had 10 minutes yesterday. It has now been almost 24 hours to carry on this section of the debate. I was debating whether I should wear the same clothes so if the two videos get clipped together it does not look like I did a Superman change. Oh, pardon me, that would be a super-person change, or a super-people change.

It has been almost 24 hours since I began my speech to Bill C-55, so I want to recap a bit of what has taken place. In December 2016, I saw what the current government may intend to do with changes to the way marine protected areas are established in B.C., so I put forward a motion at the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans that the committee undertake a study on the criteria and process for establishing MPAs in Canada. That motion was accepted and approved by the committee members. We eventually got around to starting that study in about April 2017. We travelled to the north and to the west coast in June. We travelled to the east coast in the fall. As I said yesterday, we heard differing testimony on how the MPA process was working.

We heard that with the process that is taking place right now, in some cases, it took seven to 10 years to establish an MPA. That is a fairly lengthy time, but we heard that those MPAs that were created under that process were accepted by the communities and in fact in many cases were put forward by and promoted by the communities that were most affected. What we heard was that the proposed changes that Bill C-55 could bring forward would eliminate the opportunity for those fishers and those communities to have input into how those MPAs are created, and it was quite discerning. We heard that many times in Atlantic Canada and yet the current government, with full representation in Atlantic Canada, has chosen to ignore the testimony that we heard there.

The committee study on MPAs has been kicked aside and sidelined many times. We started a study on small-vessel licensing, which kicked the study aside. Now we are going to see legislation on Bill C-68 coming to the committee so the study on MPAs will be further kicked aside. I question whether the Liberals may be causing this because they do not want that testimony exposed to the public, and the recommendations that may come out of that committee study. The recommendations we would have seen would have indicated the problems with the new proposed process, so for some reason the Liberals are pushing aside that MPA study and the report that would result out of it, kicking it aside and fast-tracking by time allocation the debate on Bill C-55 so that we have no process of really exposing the issues and the problems that are in the bill. Again, it is an affront to democracy and just an example of the arrogance that the government has been showing over the past couple of weeks. It is really disturbing to me and should be disturbing to all Canadians.

There is another part of this scenario that we can only speculate on. Is there another reason that the fisheries minister wants to get this legislation out there and get it in front of the committee to tie up the committee's time? That may be because Conservative members on the committee have started to expose the surf clam scam.

One may ask what the surf clam scam is all about. The fisheries minister decided unilaterally to expropriate 25% of the surf clam quota from a holder in Newfoundland. He then issued that quota to a non-existent company that was established by close Liberal friends and family members. Unbelievable. The threads are starting to unravel on that surf clam scam.

I project that perhaps time allocation on Bill C-55 and Bill C-68, an act to amend the Fisheries Act, may be a cover-up process to take attention away from what really should be concerning, that being a perceived conflict of interest.

That takes us all the way back to the mandate letters that were provided to Liberal cabinet members by the Prime Minister, which indicated that there should be no actual or perceived conflict of interest and yet we have seen it happen time and time again with the government, not just perceived conflict of interest but actual conflict of interest. The finance minister was found in conflict. There are still questions around the Prime Minister, who was found guilty of breaking the law four times and had to address that with the conflict commissioner.

I will get back to Bill C-55 and some of our concerns, which I touched a bit on yesterday regarding wildlife management, fisheries management, totally protected areas, and no-take zones as they are being referred to in reference to the Oceans Act and MPAs.

Similar things to those no-take zones have been put in place on land and in parks across Canada and they have created problems. They have also taken place in the U.S. and we have seen problems. We heard testimony from a U.S. scientist at committee who explained what had happened with the California MPA process. It was absolutely devastating to the recreational fishery and the supporting sectors down there. There was a 20% drop in licence sales and vehicle sales relating to towing equipment for boats. It was absolutely devastating for that process. We cannot afford to see that same process take place here in Canada. We need full consultation.

This legislation would give the minister overarching power to decide to close an area on extremely short notice, only taking into account one year's previous activity within that area, not going back eight to 10 years to see what might have been there. I also spoke a bit about this yesterday. I spoke about how a halibut fishery had recovered and was going back to an area in Nova Scotia. Fishermen had not been able to fish there for five to 10 years but suddenly the halibut were starting to come back, so they were going back to fish in that area. As I said, fish move, fisheries move, and ocean currents change.

This legislation proposes to eliminate all of the background information that can be gathered, the process of consulting with local fishermen, local communities, and the science community for establishing what should be a well-received and well-accepted MPA, as has been happening in the process already.

We have also heard that there are other processes for protecting our oceans and a lot of those are in place already in Canada with rockfish conservation areas on our west coast.

Those areas are not MPAs, but now some are saying that just to meet our targets we should include those. I do not disagree with that. That is a good process. However, those conservation areas need to be established, have long-term goals, but also the long-term background, which the bill fails to allow.

It has been interesting to have make the same speech almost 24 hours apart.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

March 27th, 2018 / 4:15 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, while I lament that we have interruptions and a loss of time for debate, overall the bill is quite welcomed. It is well constructed. It is overdue. The initial Oceans Act was passed well before the Harper administration, but unfortunately it has never really been fully implemented. It has a lot of opportunities to improve adjacency, that local fishing communities have more say in the fisheries management adjacent to them. The bill also focuses on long overdue improvements to creating national marine protected areas.

While I understand my hon. colleague's frustration with the interruptions, such is the nature of work around here, particularly lately, I hope the House will pass Bill C-55 expeditiously.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

March 27th, 2018 / 4:20 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, what a rare chance to be able to thank my friend from South Okanagan—Shuswap. He is quite correct. I had earlier today jotted down that we were moving to Bill C-55 this afternoon, and things do move quickly. We are on Bill C-68. Therefore, I regret that the Fisheries Act is moving so quickly, with time allocation on it. However, I support the bill.

I am so relieved to see the restoration and the protection of fish habitat in the bill. We have had the Fisheries Act since 1867. Protecting fisheries, including fish habitat, was a provision brought in by the current fisheries minister's father, the late and much respected Romeo LeBlanc. He also served as our governor general. Having those sections ripped out of the Fisheries Act in the spring of 2012 in an omnibus budget bill of over 420 pages that changed 40 different acts, with no consultation, not a single amendment allowed, and no proper hearings, was an abomination in this place. I am glad to see at least this part of it repaired.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

March 27th, 2018 / 4:20 p.m.
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Burnaby North—Seymour B.C.

Liberal

Terry Beech LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to rise for a third time to express my support for Bill C-55 and to speak against the proposed amendment to refer the bill back to the standing committee for the purpose of reconsidering all of the clauses.

The Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard has been given a clear mandate to protect Canada's three oceans, our coasts, our waterways, and our fisheries to ensure they remain healthy for the benefit of future generations, something I thought about today when I saw so many young people in our gallery. This is a commitment that I take very seriously and very personally.

As I said previously, when we debated the bill at second reading, I am extremely honoured that my first piece of legislation as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard is for such a worthy cause.

The Oceans Act is a fundamental tool that Canadians rely upon to ensure the future health of our marine ecosystems. I truly believe that at the end of the day, a pristine and abundant environmental ecosystem is our greatest underlying economic driver.

Specific to today's debate, the Government of Canada has committed to Aichi target 11 under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. As well, I just returned from the World Ocean Summit, where I was able to share the leadership that Canada had once again taken to protect our oceans.

In addition to this bill, we are returning lost protections and incorporating modern safeguards into the Fisheries Act through Bill C-68. We have committed to making the protection of our oceans a pillar of our G7 agenda. This includes leadership in four key areas, including ocean health, sustainable fisheries, addressing plastics, and building resilient coastal communities. We were applauded for making such significant progress on our targets.

As a government, we are committed to protecting 10% of our oceans and marine areas by 2020. When we took office, less than 1% of these areas were protected, but today we have protected 7.75%, representing hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of new protections, protections of which I know Canadians are proud.

Our three oceans are complex webs of ecological and human systems that need to be understood, protected, and in many cases restored. Marine protected areas and marine protected area networks preserve these ecological links and protect diverse marine ecosystems and species. We will continue to establish marine protected areas through science-based decision-making, transparency, and in a manner that advances reconciliation with indigenous peoples.

It currently takes an average of seven years to designate an Oceans Act marine protected area. It requires time to undertake scientific assessments and socio-economic studies, as well as conduct consultations with governments, indigenous groups, and stakeholders. These are important steps that cannot be eliminated as they ensure that a marine protected area achieves its intended objectives while supporting local culture, the economy, and other needs. That said, a very clear understanding of what needs to be protected typically emerges well before all of the data is compiled.

Amendments to the Oceans Act under Bill C-55 propose solutions that will help us protect critical and unique areas of our Canadian oceans faster, without sacrificing the necessary science and consultation processes. The amendments ensure collaboration continues, requiring provinces, territories, indigenous groups, industry, and other stakeholders to be part of both the establishment and management processes.

Essentially, Bill C-55 proposes amendments to the Oceans Act to provide an additional tool that will allow for interim protection of specific areas through a ministerial order. This interim protection will be done following initial science and consultations, which would take around 24 months.

Following this step, the full federal regulatory process would continue to formally designate the marine protected area within the next five years. These amendments would ensure that when needed, an interim marine protected area could be put into place. New activities that risk further harm to ocean ecosystems, habitat, or marine life would not be allowed to occur in these interim protected zones.

These amendments not only respect current activities but also the need to conduct comprehensive consultations and scientific research before the final marine protected area is established.

Therefore, the time frame to fully establish a marine protected area may still take up to seven years, but there could be some interim protections in place within the first two. No longer can a lack of 100% scientific certainty be used to delay or prevent the protection of a sensitive marine area. Right now there is no protection until there is full protection, which is a problem these amendments are effectively solving, a problem that is amplified by an ocean that is so quickly changing, along with our climate. This policy is entirely in lockstep with the precautionary approach, which is a founding principle of conservation in Canada.

To put it another way, an interim marine protected area would freeze the footprint of ongoing activities. Under this concept, only ongoing activities, which are those activities occurring one year before the interim protection is in place, would be allowed to continue. For example, current fishing activities, or fishing activities where a moratorium is in place but licences are still held would be considered ongoing activities.

To further support this new concept, which is integral to the creation of an interim marine protected area, Bill C-55 also includes amendments that would require application of the precautionary principle when deciding whether to designate new marine protected areas. That means incomplete information or lack of absolute certainty would not be justification for avoiding protection where there would be a risk to the marine ecosystem.

Bill C-55 also includes modernized, updated, and strengthened enforcement powers, fines, and punishments under the Oceans Act.

The proposed amendments to the Oceans Act have received broad support during outreach efforts to discuss the bill. Canadians recognize the amendments would not short-circuit the development of sound science or cut off people's opportunity to collaborate and be consulted in the development of marine protected areas. Instead, they would ensure protection would be put in place quicker, in the interests of all Canadians.

We would be able to act on initial science and information to help these areas safe while additional research, engagement, and regulatory processes would be worked through.

Supporting the health of our ocean is necessary to ensure that future generations will be able to rely on the unique and precious marine ecosystems and resources that underline our environment and economy. It should go without saying, but Canadians are counting on us to protect our oceans, a resource that at times we have too often taken for granted.

I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to congratulate the fisheries and oceans committee on the great work it has done on this bill and on additional studies it has taken on, including several fisheries and MPAs, which was raised by the previous member. An example of its extraordinary work is visible in Bill C-68, amendments to the Fisheries Act. The committee made 32 recommendations after examining the changes made to the act by the previous government. We now know all 32 recommendations were not only considered but incorporated into the act.

I was also very impressed by the committee's deliberations and thoughtful consideration of Bill C-55. It consulted broadly and incorporated amendments from colleagues on both sides of the House. This is the primary reason sending the bill back to committee does not make any sense. The committee has considered the legislation clause by clause and now it is time to pass it for third reading.

I invite everyone in the House to support Bill C-55, an act to amend the Oceans Act, and to oppose the Conservative amendment.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

March 27th, 2018 / 4:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Terry Beech Liberal Burnaby North—Seymour, BC

Mr. Speaker, if I recall correctly, I believe the committee passed a motion, when it was considering Bill C-55, that all witness testimony determined during the MPAs could be utilized when determining Bill C-55. I might be wrong about that, but that is my recollection.

The party opposite seems to want it both ways. On one hand, it wants to say that it set these targets, despite the fact that it only made it to less than 1% of protections during its time in office. It wants to say that somehow by 2020 it will meet the target of protecting 10% of our oceans.

This is a difficult task that our government has taken on wholeheartedly since the last election, and now we are at 7.75%. As I have said, that is hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of new protections. In fact, in total I believe that represents 446,000 square kilometres of protections. We are committed to hitting our Aichi targets and we are going to continue to do so.