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


Dominic LeBlanc  Liberal


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

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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.


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.


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

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

March 27th, 2018 / 4:35 p.m.
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Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to take us a bit further than Bill C-55. The Minister of Fisheries has thus far dealt with amendments in Bill C-68 and amendments to the Oceans Act in Bill C-55. He has not yet touched on the area that is of profound concern to people who want to see our fisheries areas protected and our oceans protected to protect the fish within those lines in a marine protected area on the map by really dealing with the threat of aquaculture in open waters in open pens.

I wonder if the parliamentary secretary can let us know when the minister and the parliamentary secretary will turn their attention to the threat posed by open-pen aquaculture of not-local species, with the contamination of sea lice and viruses that affect our wild fisheries.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

March 27th, 2018 / 4:35 p.m.
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Terry Beech Liberal Burnaby North—Seymour, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Brandon—Souris and I had an opportunity to work together for a brief period on recreational fish. With regard to the consultation process, we have consulted broadly from coast to coast to coast. We consulted with industry, fishers, coastal communities, indigenous people, and environmental groups.

I do not know exactly what the consultation process was under the previous government, but I am assured that the consultation process we have taken on as part of Bill C-55 has been extensive and thorough, and I am quite confident that it has gone well above and beyond anything the previous government did with regard to consultation.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

March 27th, 2018 / 4:40 p.m.
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Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I normally say what a pleasure it is for me to rise in debate on a specific piece of legislation before the House. That is the case because I enjoy talking about public policy. However, I would be remiss if I did not comment on why we are debating Bill C-55 today.

In fact, I feel bad for our table officers, our parliamentary clerks, and everyone trying to support debate in the House, because it has been a bit sporadic over the last number of days, for one simple reason. That is the fact that the government, which ran on slogans of accountability and transparency, has been desperate to not provide those two things to the opposition with respect to the Atwal India affair.

I have been speaking for some time, so I think my colleagues will see that I am ready for the debate. However, we would not be debating Bill C-55 at all today were the government willing to be accountable, with the same level of disclosure that was provided to the media, be that classified or non-classified, which is very hard to determine after today's question period. MPs should be entitled to that same thing.

In a ruling earlier today, Mr. Speaker, you confirmed that MPs, collectively and individually, are entitled to hear from Mr. Jean, but there needs to be an order of Parliament to facilitate that appearance. Normally, a committee would call on him to provide testimony to appear. However, when the government uses its majority to block Mr. Jean, to block the ability of Parliament to exercise that order, it is stifling debate, covering up the Atwal affair. Whatever they want to call it, the government cannot suggest that it is not violating our right to get to the heart of the matter, based on the fact that it is using its majority to quash proper scrutiny of the major diplomatic incident.

I say that at the outset, because I want Canadians following this debate, both in our gallery and at home, to recognize that we are debating Bill C-55, an act to amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act, because the government is desperate to keep the national security adviser, Daniel Jean, from answering a few simple questions and providing the same level of information he provided journalists.

What I find curious about today's question period is that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety suggested that none of the information he gave is classified, yet a member of the press gallery, during question period, confirmed that the national security adviser said that certain pieces of information could not be shared publicly. They could not write about it. That would suggest the contrary. This is like an onion. Every level we peel away is another layer, and our eyes are watering with tears for the lack of accountability of the government, to keep with that analogy.

Getting to the heart of the matter on Bill C-55, what may look to Canadians like sort of an update of an act, I am going to suggest, is the creeping edge of ideological Liberal policy and ideology creeping into the science of our oceans and our economic relationships with companies that invest capital to develop resources offshore. I will speak to that in a moment.

Overall, the bill is suggested as empowering and clarifying how the minister can establish marine protected spaces and provide a national network of those. That has been done before, but I would suggest, with this bill, that the government takes a very ideological turn.

The bill contains new powers for enforcement officers and new offences for ships and operators that violate nationally protected marine areas. What is also contained in the bill is where the government is really going with this. It would provide the ability to cancel interests, be they economic or others, in a marine area and to compensate for them. Petrological investigation and development, I think, is what is meant by that. Already the government is signalling that it intends to basically pull back on some of the offshore licences many companies have.

I would suggest that members from Atlantic Canada ask some questions. They are already suffering greatly from the Prime Minister's move to try and increase the regulation that led to the cancellation of energy east. I know my friend from Saint John has watched that closely.

The Liberals are already hurting the energy industry in Atlantic Canada, and now, have they consulted with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland? We have provincial-federal boards to regulate the offshore. There is the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, and there is one that was created for Newfoundland and Labrador.

I would add that all of the work with respect to allowing provinces to be net beneficiaries of their offshore petroleum wealth, much like the onshore in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and even in Ontario, Petrolia, Ontario, at one point, all of that security for those Atlantic provinces was provided by Conservative governments, which do not try to chase away investment from the energy industry. They try to make sure Canada benefits to the full extent that our royalty regimes will allow, and to make sure that areas like Saint John, New Brunswick, Halifax, Nova Scotia, and St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador benefit from employment and secondary and tertiary benefits from the offshore. It was the governments of Brian Mulroney and Stephen Harper that provided that.

I was proud to learn all about that at Atlantic Canada's finest law school, Dalhousie Law School, where we studied that approach to the offshore.

Bill C-55 already indicates that the Liberals are going to be pulling a lot of these economic rights back. The members from Atlantic Canada should already be worried about the government's move to ensure energy east did not happen, and about the war on small business, which I know my friend from Saint John watched very closely, because he publicly criticized his government on that. There is a war on job creation in Atlantic Canada, and I see Bill C-55 as the latest arsenal in the Liberal government's attempt to stymie the ability for Atlantic Canada to benefit from its offshore resources.

There is a number of other measures in the bill. Interestingly, it excludes first nations organizations that may have agreements as part of a land claims treaty. If the Liberals really are doing this in the public interest, I wonder why there would be that exclusion. I think our first nations would want to know they were being consulted on part of the decision related to marine integrity.

Finally, there are obvious exemptions for search and rescue, scientific research, and damage response that would allow first responders and others to go into marine protected spaces. It is the odd time I get to speak in the House about my own experience in that regard. When I was with the Sea King 423 squadron in Atlantic Canada, we deployed with our Atlantic navy. We went out into these economic exclusive zones, to the fisheries patrol in the Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap. My crew and I landed on Hibernia, hundreds of nautical miles from St. John's, because we had to train and prepare for evacuations and responses to tragedy. Newfoundland and Labrador knows that from the sad Ocean Ranger tragedy.

Developing a resource and the jobs related to the offshore has its risks. I have seen that first hand, but from living in Atlantic Canada and serving in that role, I have also seen first hand how the economic activity in, for example St. John's and the outports along the Avalon, benefits from this resource development. Bill C-55 is the plan to stop that, to pull back licences and the ability for these resources to be developed responsibly.

I think we are debating this now because of the cover-up in the Atwal affair, but I am hoping that shining a light on Bill C-55 allows some of the Atlantic caucus to speak up to the Prime Minister and say, “Enough is enough, Mr. Prime Minister. We're already going to see jobs at risk and the energy industry impacted by your cancellation of energy east because of the burdens you have put on Trans Canada and other operators. Now, with this, are you forecasting more cuts in offshore oil and gas exploration?”

I hope our friends, particularly my friend from Saint John, asked those tough questions at caucus, because Bill C-55 seems to signal that.

The ideological underpinnings here that really concern me can be found in proposed sections 35 and 35.1 of the act, because it appears to integrate directly the precautionary principle into the legislation, and that should cause some debate. Those sections basically say that we cannot use scientific uncertainty regarding risks, marine health, and that sort of thing, as a reason to be cautious with respect to regulation, or to phase in or to not have regulation until there is scientific certainty.

The precautionary principle, which clearly some ideological adherents in the Liberal Party want to push forward, is that before the science is even clear, let us regulate and remove activity. That is what that says. Some call it the “better safe than sorry” philosophy, but actually it is not, because acting before we have the science will have unintended risks, especially, and learned scholars have written about this, when it comes to economic activity. We would hurt economic activity, because we would be leaning in favour of stopping something before the science was even clear.

As a Conservative MP who had the pleasure of being in government for a short time, including in cabinet—and now we are on our way back there, but we are on this side—one thing I remember clearly at the time was the current Prime Minister's love for such expressions as the Liberals were for “evidence-based decision-making”, that they were going to be a “science-led government”, that they were going to unshackle science. Well, here in the bill, it should concern Canadians that the Liberals are actually saying that they are not going to wait for the science at all. They are going to regulate. They are going to stop development. They are going to stop technological improvement that could address some of the issues at play before the science is confirmed.

People have written on how the precautionary principle, if it is mandated, will lead to economic disruption and stifle technological innovation. We would not have actually assessed the situation properly, and so we are going to run into unintended risks, because we are leaning forward without a proper assessment of the science.

The good thing, the way environmental legislation already reads, is that it generally will regulate where there is science, and it does not have to be absolutely certain. Legislation generally in Canada, the United States, and other countries has been able to regulate in a way that is minimally intrusive, particularly while the science is uncertain. I am not just making this up. These are sections that the Liberals are inserting into two acts of Parliament that already exist. I do not think the Liberals could suggest that there is no regulation of the environment in our oceans. They are acknowledging that the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act exist to do this, but they are going further by inserting this ideological approach to governing. This should concern people, especially my friends in Atlantic Canada who would like the Liberal government, for a change, to lean in favour of jobs. However, the Liberals lean in favour of stopping investment.

Members do not have to just take my word for it. We remember the famous and mildly embarrassing speech the Prime Minister gave introducing President Obama in this chamber, the hallowed ground where once Winston Churchill gave his “some chicken, some neck” speech. The Prime Minister introduced the president of the United States by saying that the Press Gallery and Canadians were going to witness a bromance in action, or “dude-plomacy” as he termed it. I wanted to crawl under the table at that moment I was so embarrassed by our Prime Minister.

What did President Obama's chief official from the office of information and regulatory affairs say about inserting the precautionary principle in legislation? He said, “The precautionary principle, for all its rhetorical appeal, is deeply incoherent.” He acknowledges that it is policy on the fly, so that people could feel good, without clear science.

We have the ability to have science, in terms of the impact of resource development, how to mitigate that. We have science with respect to fisheries, marine life. Why would we not consult the science?

The Liberals are inserting into legislation the ability for government to ignore the science and stop first. Stop and ask questions later. I think, particularly in Atlantic Canada, that should concern a number of people.

There has been criticism of this approach because it is inserting ideological value judgments in place of sound public policy supported by science. The interesting thing is so many of the Liberal candidates, and I am sure the members listening to my speech, probably repeated that “evidence-based decision-making” line. That was one of the Liberals' top hits from the election campaign. Where is that now?

By incorporating the precautionary principle into legislation, the Liberals are saying that they are making a value judgment—their value judgment—rather than consulting the science. That should concern people. I hope people see that in Bill C-55. They might think it is innocuous.

This is ideological creep of the Liberal government. We see it everywhere. I have said that this is a government that, in NAFTA negotiations, did not mention the auto industry or other core sectors of the economy. It said the priorities were going to be indigenous issues, environmental issues, and a number of things that are not even contained in the rules of origin, the market access provisions of a trade agreement. I termed that at the time as “virtue signalling”.

Liberals will say, “Here are our values. Who cares what the science is? Who cares what the trade agreement says? We only want to speak to a certain number of voters.” They are willing to change legislation and prioritize trade negotiations, all to support their voter base.

For a party that was constantly using the refrain “evidence-based decision-making” and “a science-based government”, Canadians should be concerned. This ideological approach we are seeing in this legislation is part of the Liberals' overall virtue signalling. “Damn the science. Let us stop development now. Let us have the ability to cancel interests in the offshore in here, and move on.”

The Liberals are not worried about the science. They are not worried about the impact on local economies in the St. John's area, and in the Saint John area, where our refinery is. There is no concern about some of the offshore support vessels throughout Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, and what a value that is to the regional economy.

People in Atlantic Canada should be saying, “Wait a minute. We have a science-based approach to our offshore.” I still remember the famous case of John Crosbie putting a cod moratorium down, almost getting lynched but saying that the science said we had to do this because the stocks were dwindling, and we were going to do it. It was a science-based, tough decision.

Here we have the Liberal government basically saying, “We are not concerned with the science. We are going to lean forward. We cannot stop what we want to do because of the lack of scientific certainty.” This is an ideological wedge the Liberals have placed in this bill, and I think they are going to put it into others.

I have raised concerns that people in Atlantic Canada should have. I will conclude by asking the government to take that provision in sections 35 and 35.1 out, and to return to its old rhetoric about being focused on evidence-based decision-making. Stop the virtue signalling. Stop the ideological creep. Stop preventing areas of the country from properly and effectively benefiting from their onshore or offshore wealth, because thousands of families are paying the price for this Liberal ideology.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

March 27th, 2018 / 5:05 p.m.
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Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague. It is sad to see the government throwing Bill C-55 at us so quickly today, as a smokescreen, to avoid talking about the things that embarrass them.

What is even more embarrassing, though, is hearing the member caricature the debate by presenting positions that are so predictable that he could put anyone to sleep. Here we have a Conservative who believes that whale conservation is not based on science. We have international obligations in that regard that must be met. We have a duty.

Since my colleague seems so determined to talk about science, I wonder what his response is to the fact that science has proven that belugas are vulnerable. If an oil terminal were to be built in the beluga nursery, what would my colleague have wanted today? Does he think we are correct in guessing that this would cause a problem, or does he think we should have waited for this to be confirmed in black and white?

Many young people are talking to us about these problems, and reminding us of our international obligations regarding the protection of at-risk species. Another whale became beached yesterday in the Magdalen Islands.

Does my colleague think that not building an oil terminal in Cacouna was the right decision?

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

March 27th, 2018 / 5:05 p.m.
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Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Durham for his fine intervention this afternoon. I take lessons from his speaking attributes. It is in admiration that I watch him.

I would ask the member if he sees the trend and traits that have been established by the government with its “we know best” attitude being reflected in Bill C-55, and with its proposed ability to close an area without any lengthy consultation and only one year of previous activity to be included. That trend is following, and we saw it in fisheries committee this morning when we tried to put forward a motion dealing with an issue of poor interaction between the Minister of Fisheries and the Minister of Transport, causing great consternation with fishermen in Atlantic Canada, hampering growth, and hampering activity in Atlantic Canada. We put forward a motion to try and put an end to that and get the two ministries together, but the Liberal members, mostly from Atlantic Canada, shut that down.

I would like the member to comment further on the comments he made about the Liberal government shutting down opportunity for growth, particularly in Atlantic Canada.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

March 27th, 2018 / 5:20 p.m.
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Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to again speak to Bill C-55, an act to amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act.

I had the opportunity to speak to the legislation back in September at second reading. I expressed some serious concerns with the legislation and how it might affect fishers and coastal communities. It was my hope that the government would make some significant amendments to the legislation in response.

It was not just me expressing concern. A huge number of Canadians who rely on the ocean for their livelihoods have voiced their concerns loud and clear, but these concerns have fallen on the deaf ears of the government.

As I stated back in September, the provisions in Bill C-55 will certainly make delivering on the government's campaign promise of increasing the amount of Canada's marine protected areas much easier, but there are costs associated with moving at this unreasonable pace. We are again seeing the government move forward with a timeline that is so strictly tied to a campaign promise rather than having promises that are based on reasonable timelines. This makes for good politics, but it does not make for good policy.

For example, once an area has an interim designation, it will be very difficult to reverse. Once the minister decides to deem an area as an interim MPA, there will be restrictions, regulations, and prohibitions put in place that will affect the use of the area for a full five years. What if, for example, at the end of the five years it is determined that the area should not be deemed to be an MPA? It would appear to me that this is a classic example of the old adage of “putting the cart before the horse”. It would be a much more effective process to examine all evidence in a fulsome process to determine MPAs rather than create a piecemeal approach wherein areas are designated on an interim basis and then reviewed. Again, this is all the result of arbitrary, self-imposed deadlines that are unreasonable and will result in a rushed and, quite frankly, messy process.

At the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, the committee heard time and time again that the government was moving much too quickly and needed to take a step back to ensure the process for creating an MPA was actually based on scientific evidence and proper consultation rather than simply the will of the minister. My colleague, the member for Durham, eloquently explained that lack of science. While the government constantly pretends to base everything on science, quite obviously it does not.

A number of the amendments that the Conservative members of the committee put forward were rejected by the Liberals. These amendments would have made Bill C-55 much more effective and would have ensured that all those who would be affected by an MPA would be properly consulted before it was put in place by the minister.

I would like to take some time to present to the House some of the amendments that were rejected by the Liberal members of the committee, many of whom represent coastal communities by the way. In fact, six of the Liberal MPs on our committee represent Maritime ridings. Their constituents have told our committee constantly that they are not very happy with the lack of consultation and science.

Under Bill C-55, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, without any consultation with stakeholders, fishers, or community members, may implement an interim protected area. The committee heard time and again that an interim designation without any consultation was simply not acceptable.

Therefore, the Conservatives introduced an amendment to require the minister to give a 60-day consultation period before using his or her powers under this act. Given that the government's favourite word on almost any other topic is “consultation”, we naively assumed that this amendment would pass. Unfortunately, the Liberal members of the committee did not agree that it was a good idea for their constituents to have a voice and they ultimately rejected this amendment.

I represent a landlocked riding in Ontario, so the impact of Bill C-55 on my constituency is fairly minimal. However, that does not take away the fact, as I see it, as well as many of the constituents of the Liberal members at the fisheries committee see it, that this would take away their livelihood without any consultation. Nobody should have to put up with that. If this thing were affecting my constituents in Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, they would be screaming bloody murder.

However, it truly boggles my mind that Liberal members at the fisheries and oceans committee would not fight against this legislation. We are supposed to be looking out for the best interests of our constituents, not the Prime Minister or the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

I feel truly sorry for the residents of South Shore—St. Margarets, Miramichi—Grand Lake, Avalon, and all other ridings of Liberal members on the fisheries and oceans committee. In 2015, they thought they were electing their voice in Ottawa. Instead it appears they have elected Ottawa's voice in their community.

Furthermore, the Conservative members of the committee also introduced two amendments that would have required some form of reporting to Parliament by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to update the House on the status of the MPA process and interim designations made under this act. Specifically, the amendment would have called for the minister to report to the House once per fiscal year regarding the administration and enforcement of this act for that specific year. The report would include any MPAs that were designated during that period, the extent to which, in the opinion of the minister, the conservation reasons stated for each designated MPA had been respected, and, finally, any further measures that the minister thought were required for any designated MPAs.

One would think that a party that has spent years in opposition, claiming that the former government had no respect for Parliament, would welcome this amendment with open arms. We were not asking the minister to come out every year and spill state secrets. It was simply to be a quick update on where things were at and where we were going. Unfortunately, once again, these amendments were rejected.

Before I wrap up my comments, I wanted to put on the record some comments that were made by Dr. Larry McKinney, executive director at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at the University of Corpus Christi in Texas. Dr. McKinney is an expert on MPAs and has established a number of them throughout the United States. He told the committee that the MPA process worked best when the identification and establishment of MPAs were driven by the communities that would be impacted by their designation. He stated that the most successful MPAs he had overseen were the ones that were actually identified by local recreational fishers who saw a need for protection and worked with the government to protect these areas.

I always say that anglers and hunters are the true stewards of the environment and true conservationists.

Bill C-68—Time Allocation MotionFisheries ActGovernment Orders

March 26th, 2018 / 1:55 p.m.
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Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for Port Moody—Coquitlam for his and his party's initial support of this legislation. We look forward to working with them and other parliamentarians in committee to see if the legislation can be improved.

As I said when I spoke in this House, as we did with respect to the Oceans Act, Bill C-55, we are constantly looking for suggestions from Canadians, from other parliamentarians in this House and in the other place, for constructive ways we can strengthen this legislation. That is a process we look forward to having in committee. That is why we think it is important for this legislation to progress to committee where the committee can hear from Canadians, environmental groups, associations representing fishers and harvesters around the country. Of course, we look forward to working with parliamentarians as the legislation gets scrutinized in committee and comes back to this House.

I said the same thing in the other place when I had the chance to go to question period there, and it is something that I am happy to repeat here today.

Bill C-68—Time Allocation MotionFisheries ActGovernment Orders

March 26th, 2018 / 4:15 p.m.
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Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is very rich that the minister stands here today and talks about our first nations. We just had an incredible ceremony for the Tsilhqot'in Nation in my riding. He talks about Bill C-68, his ministry, and how he and other ministers are willing to engage with first nations. The Liberals have a lawsuit with one of the largest first nations in the province of British Columbia, the Lax Kw'alaams, specifically over Bill C-68, and the other bill, Bill C-55, the lack of consultation, of listening, and the first nations assertion that the government is taking its direction from foreign ownership third party groups.

I want to offer the minister another chance to clarify his comments. We are standing today because the government is shutting down debate, not allowing the 338 members of Parliament from all sides to stand and voice their concerns for Bill C-68. Indeed, those who have some serious issues like the Lax Kw'alaams have now launched a lawsuit against the government.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

March 26th, 2018 / 5:10 p.m.
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Burnaby North—Seymour B.C.


Terry Beech LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to rise in the House today to speak for a second time to Bill C-55, following the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans' review and analysis of this bill. We thank the committee members for their careful study of this legislation and their thoughtful amendments.

Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act, puts forward provisions that show Canadians our commitment to be responsible stewards of our ocean resources for future generations. Since 2015, we have made excellent progress in achieving our domestic and international marine conservation targets. We have kept our promise of protecting 5% of our marine and coastal areas by the end of 2017. In fact, we are now at 7.75%, up from less than 1% in 2015. Meeting this target has put us on track to reach our international target of 10% by 2020. I know that Canadians are proud of this achievement because it means hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of new protections. In fact, we are up to 446,000 square kilometres to date. To get to 10%, our government is following a clear plan, which is based on science, indigenous knowledge, consultations, and collaboration.

Bill C-55 is an important piece of that plan. It currently takes approximately seven to 10 years to officially designate an Oceans Act MPA. Our partners agree when we say that this is too long for a sensitive marine or coastal area in need of protection to go without. Establishing interim protection would address this gap, while still allowing for the necessary ecological, economic, social, and cultural analysis, as well as consultation and collaboration efforts with all of our various partners.

This bill would require the application of the precautionary principle when deciding whether to designate new MPAs. The precautionary principle means that the absence of scientific certainty should not be used to postpone decisions where there is a risk of serious or irreversible harm. Under this legislation, incomplete information or a lack of absolute certainty could no longer be used as a justification for avoiding the establishment of an MPA where science tells us there is a need for action and where there is a need for protection.

The precautionary principle would be used judiciously. As we know, it is a matter of concern to some industry stakeholders. We have heard the concerns that science resources may be insufficient to conduct the necessary work within the five-year period subsequent to the ministerial order, or that the precautionary approach could provide an excuse for not doing the scientific analysis at all. This, of course, is not true. Our commitment to science and information gathering remains strong. We agree that our foundational principle of science-based decision-making must not be compromised in any way.

In addition, Bill C-55 would update, modernize, and strengthen enforcement powers, fines, and penalties, effectively bringing the Oceans Act in line with Canada's other environmental laws. Such changes to the act would support the people who manage and monitor MPAs. Enforcement officers, for example, would get the tools and authority they need to better protect MPAs, which in turn would improve the effectiveness of the MPAs. These changes would expand and modernize the tool kit for enforcement officers designated by the minister, which may include indigenous people or provincial and territorial partners.

Bill C-55 also proposes amendments to the Canada Petroleum Resources Act that would complement the freeze-the-footprint process of the interim protection MPAs. These changes would provide the competent minister with the authority to prohibit authorized oil and gas exploration or development activities, for example seismic testing, drilling, or production within a designated marine protected area.

During their review of Bill C-55, my colleagues in the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans have heard from many different witnesses and experts on the proposed amendments and what they think should be included in Bill C-55. I would like to take this time to talk about what we have heard through the standing committee on Bill C-55. Several witnesses expressed concerns that the proposed changes may short-circuit the collection and analysis of reliable scientific data or deprive Canadians of the opportunity to meaningfully contribute to the creation of interim protection MPAs. Our commitment to science and to working with our partners remains unwavering. As is our current practice, collaboration is essential to advancing our marine protection work.

We are working with the provinces and territories, indigenous groups, industry, and other environmental stakeholders to establish networks of MPAs and will continue to do so under this new option for interim protection marine protected areas.

Our government knows that the effective management of Canada's oceans depends on an in-depth understanding of the marine environment. We gain this understanding through peer-reviewed science, the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples, and through information shared by the fishing industry and local communities. By balancing the collection of information and consultations with our partners with the precautionary approach, interim protection marine protected areas will offer the needed protections to our important ocean seascape and resources, while still being shaped by science and consultation.

We have heard the call for stronger conservation standards. While Bill C-55 is a targeted response to the length of time that it takes to designate MPAs, we know that it is important to continue the conversation on conservation standards. That is why we have established a national advisory panel that will provide the minister with advice and recommendations on protection standards for future marine protected areas. The panel is to report back with their recommendations. It is essential that we come to the right answers to these questions together, in order to properly protect our oceans for long-term sustainability.

The issue of economic fairness was also raised by a few indigenous groups and fishers during the standing committee's hearings. These are concerns that the new powers proposed could deprive rights holders and others of their dependence on marine resources for sustenance and livelihood.

I want to emphasize that the ministerial order provision is not meant to close the door on economic opportunities. We are committed to working in full transparency with our partners to ensure that our oceans and marine resources support a long-term sustainable economy. In fact, we are of the view that provisions like this will actually make for more abundance so that future generations can have more economic opportunities.

Lastly, we have heard from some of our indigenous partners that we need to renew our relationships to ensure that their voices are being heard. We are open to conversations on co-management, and providing a greater role for indigenous partners in the management of our oceans. We are committed to reconciliation and are striving to work more closely with indigenous groups, including Inuit communities, to inform the process and make the most of their traditional knowledge.

We have listened to many important proposed amendments to Bill C-55 and the committee has worked diligently to reflect carefully on all of them. We particularly support the proposal made by the member for Nunavut, supported by the member for Northwest Territories, which amends the bill to ensure that our approach to interim protection MPAs is consistent with land claims agreements. We understand that conservation is integral to the indigenous way of life, but a balance with sustainable use is necessary to ensure that our communities are able to continue to thrive. As I have said, interim protection MPAs will not be established without constructive conversation, and it will be a collaborative effort.

We are not looking to move ahead without our partners, but to offer protection where it has been identified by our partners as necessary to ensure the long-term health of the marine environment. Bill C-55 is a powerful step toward better protection for our oceans, advancing reconciliation and moving towards a nation-to-nation dialogue, and continuing to work together on the shared objectives that Canadians care deeply about. We have a shared duty to protect our oceans for generations to come, and this bill helps us do that.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

March 26th, 2018 / 5:20 p.m.
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Terry Beech Liberal Burnaby North—Seymour, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by addressing the statement that we misrepresented the actual progress that has been made with regard to marine protected areas. Up until the last election, less than 1% of our oceans and marine ways were protected, despite the fact that we are five years into a 10-year commitment to get to a protection level of 10%. Our government has doubled down our efforts and now has reached a point of 7.75% protection, representing hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of new protection, which I know for a fact Canadians are proud of.

Also with regard to transparency, what we will see, not just in the changes to the Oceans Act in Bill C-55 but also in the changes in Bill C-68 to the Fisheries Act, and Bill C-69, is that our government is sticking to and increasing our commitment to provide transparency. In the Fisheries Act, for example, a registry is being created. This is to make sure Canadians have all the tools they need to understand what the government is doing so that they can hold us to account. It is also to make sure people who are doing projects, whether big or small, have certainty around timelines and the like. That is the kind of transparent work that our government continues to do on these important bills.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

March 26th, 2018 / 5:25 p.m.
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Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. parliamentary secretary knows I support Bill C-55. I am very pleased to see the amendments to the Oceans Act. I am also very grateful that amendments I made in committee were accepted by the committee and supported by the government.

Certainly, we know it takes a long time to establish national marine protected areas. By way of example, in my riding, what is still called the southern Strait of Georgia national marine conservation area, or as we call it the Salish Sea, was initially put forward so long ago, in the 1970s, that it was endorsed by Jacques Cousteau. We await the creation of this protected area. I wonder if the hon. parliamentary secretary can shed any light on how he sees the timing for the Salish Sea national protected area, adjacent to the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

March 26th, 2018 / 5:30 p.m.
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Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is truly a pleasure for me to rise and to consume about 30 minutes of this House's time on this issue.

I will couch my opening remarks by saying it was a privilege for me at one point in time in my life to earn a zoology degree in fisheries and aquatic sciences from the University of Alberta. I worked as a fisheries technician and on many fisheries experiments. I worked as a national park warden in Parks Canada enforcing the Fisheries Act, among other things, and of course as a conservation officer in the province of Alberta doing much the same, so I have a little working knowledge on this. I am proud to have folks like Dr. David Schindler as one of the professors I learned something from. If I told people when I was going to school, that would probably date both of us and I do not think that is a particularly constructive thing to do at this point in time.

Suffice it to say, I remained active. I was a fishing guide in the Northwest Territories while I was going to university. I spent a lot of time on Great Bear Lake, and of course on the north coast where the Coppermine River flows into the Arctic Ocean. I have maintained my love of the outdoors as an avid hunter and angler ever since. These kinds of issues are near and dear to my heart, especially when it comes to recreational fishing, or as it is more affectionately known, sport fishing.

These issues are very important. I will start by making some comparisons. When I was going to the University of Alberta years and years ago, there was a plan at that time by the World Wildlife Fund and the Canadian wilderness societies and so on that they wanted a 12, 75, 12 plan. They wanted to have 12% of all the land mass in Canada protected under the same kind of statutory protection a national park would have. That meant there would be no opportunities to do anything, no development and so on. There would be complete protection for that area. I do not want to call it conservation. I call it a preservation type of protection that they would have in these areas.

The other 75% of Canada would be considered areas that would be managed, like forest management areas. These would be areas where we would have human activity that would go on, but there would be zoning. Activities would be permitted, but they would be heavily regulated by the federal, provincial, or municipal government. Then about another 12% of our land mass at that particular point in time would be a complete disturbance areas. This would be areas for our cities, roads, major industrial developments, and so on.

I remember asking the question when I was in university if 12, 75, 12 was going to be enough. That adds up to 99, but members will get the point. As we have seen evolve through time, those numbers no longer hold true today with what certain groups are asking for. They are asking for more of that preservation land. They are asking for stricter regulations on the 75%. Of course, nobody wants to take responsibility for the 12% because that would mean we would have to tear down cities and do all those kinds of things in order to restore it back to its natural habitat, which is not a reasonable thing to ask people to do.

Who bears the burden then every time somebody asks for more protection? We have to take that protection out of that 12% or out of that 75% to add to the 12%. I am talking about the preserved areas. Who suffers the consequences of that? I am using this as an example on land to make my point later on about the protected areas and the marine areas. Who bears that price? It is everybody who lives in rural Canada. It is everybody who farms, everybody who relies on forestry, and everybody who is a fisherman, or a fisher person, or fisher peoplekind, depending on what the moniker of the day is.

The point is that everything we ask to happen in the natural environment generally happens outside the confines of city limits. This is not an aspersion on folks who live in cities, and I live in a city myself. However, having grown up on a farm, I understand every time somebody has to pay a price out in our so-called natural areas that price is borne by the people who live there or make their livings in these rural, remote, or non-city areas.

The same is going to actually hold true for those who earn a living in our marine areas. This would be our commercial fishermen. This would be anybody who does any tourism, anybody who does any type of business, and of course first nations people who earn a living off the coastal waters of our country. We have seen the absolute damage, the economic damage, that can be done to these communities when we do not get things right.

As we know, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is tasked with maintaining fish stocks. We know in Atlantic Canada, going back to the early 1990s, some of the issues that happened there when we applied a purely political decision over good science and technical information. I am referring specifically to the collapse of the cod fishery.

I was a fairly young man at the time. I was studying in university in the late 1980s and early 1990s at about the same time that the cod fishery was closed. I believe it was in 1993 when it was closed. It was closed because it was mismanaged. At that time there were over one million seals in the Atlantic Ocean. Today we have six million or seven million seals there. It was a big problem. The fishermen had to move to other resources, such as herring, lobsters, and other fisheries. They had to adapt to overcome the loss of the cod.

To this day we have had a moratorium. I want to talk about what it means. The moratorium on the cod fishery means that no one is allowed to do it, so the cod for all intents and purposes are preserved. The cod population stocks are under a preservation style of protection. Have the cod stocks actually come back? No, they have not. We have moved this from a managed fishery into a completely protected class and even that movement in and of itself has not had the desired effect or outcome that we wanted.

We have not stopped any of the other activity that happens off of the east coast. There are still ships coming in and out. I would argue we have lots of ships with foreign oil coming into the east coast. It would be nicer to have a pipeline going from Alberta to our friends in the east, but I digress. It is a much easier thing to manage than tankers full of oil coming in on the east coast. It would be interesting to see if we had a tanker ban on the east coast the same as we do on the west coast. It seems to be a bit of a double standard there, but I am getting off topic and I will come back to marine protected areas.

When we moved from a management mode of the cod stocks into a preservation mode, it did not solve the problem. I am not saying it was not the right decision, but it did not solve the problem because all of the other aspects of managing the cod fishery have now fallen by the wayside. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, rather than restoring the cod stocks or managing the cod stocks, and I am not saying they are not doing some of that work, but now it is more interested in working the fisheries currently before it.

Now the Liberal government has proposed moving to a massive increase of the marine protected areas in our coastal waters. I was lucky to be a member of the fisheries committee in previous Parliaments because of my experience. As a matter of fact, people used to laugh when they found out a farm boy from central Alberta was a member of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans for all those years, until they found out I actually knew a little about fisheries, other than how bad a fisherman I am.

Notwithstanding that, I learned a ton over the years and I was very honoured to go with the standing committee on a trip up north. We went to places like Prince Rupert, Inuvik, Tuktoyaktuk, and Paulatuk. We talked with the people who are going to be impacted by these marine protected areas there. The impacts and concerns are very real. People from local hunting and trapping associations up north came in droves to those meetings and made their voices heard. They are very concerned because they feel there has not been adequate consultation regarding some of the areas being proposed. There are very good questions about the risks of what is going to happen in the marine protected areas.

This is where we get to the conversation about what the international standard for a marine protected area is and how Canada is going to define a marine protected area. If we ask someone from the United Nations, that person would consider the marine protected area to be a no activity zone whatsoever. This is complete protection or what I referred to earlier as that preservation mentality. I am not saying it is right or wrong; I am just saying that is the mode most people would see when they hear about a marine protected area. They would see it as having the same protections that a national park would have.

Everyone knows that we cannot hunt in a national park. We cannot drill for anything in a national park. As a matter of fact, I have been an MP for 12 years and resort owners and so on in our national parks have not seen any changes over the last 12 years because it is so hard to get approval to get anything done in a national park. I am not saying it is right or wrong; it is just very difficult to do that because of the mandate Parks Canada has on its preservation, ecological integrity, and the other types of goals and ambitions that are laid out in the Canada National Parks Act.

Those same goals and ambitions are laid out in the legislative changes that are currently before the House with Bill C-55 and Bill C-68, which the government opposite just moved time allocation on, a bill that might be disastrous for the Alberta economy. It is just another straw on the camel's already broken back when it comes to the energy sector. However, I digress again and must return to Bill C-55.

With Bill C-55, the aboriginal groups, the Inuit, the people at the Prince Rupert Port Authority, the first nations groups, the Lax Kw'alaams and all the other groups we talked with out there are very concerned. PNCIMA was brought up. They are very concerned about the amount of foreign money that is coming in to influence policy decisions. The money coming in has been used by some aboriginal or indigenous groups out there to inadvertently stop what they thought was going to be an increase in the conversation. They realized they have sided with people who took money from a bunch of organizations that actually have a completely different mandate than what the first nations have. There is a court action happening right now where first nations groups in B.C. are raising funds to take the Government of Canada to court, citing all of the barriers it has put in place in the name of standing up for first nations, which will deprive them of economic opportunities going forward. This is something that is of very legitimate concern with Bill C-55 and the marine protected areas.

We have a tanker ban off the northern part of the west coast. Most people think that the entire west side of B.C. is coastal, but it is not. Just a little over a third of the west side of the province of British Columbia has access to the coast. The rest of it is in Alaska. We would have to go through Alaska in order to get some things done if we wanted to use the coastline in that case. We have a very small area to use along the British Columbia coast to begin with, and now a significant part of that coast is denied access, depending on what one is trying to ship or move.

I might be a bit cynical, but this is what the folks on the west coast and on the north coast who we met at committee are thinking. The folks up north want to be able to continue to hunt whales. One of the marine protected areas that the government is considering putting in place is right in the mouth of the Mackenzie River and the delta where it comes in. That happens to be an area of shallow water where the belugas come in. It is a safe place for the Inuit hunters to go. They go there every year to hunt belugas. If it becomes a marine protected area to protect the belugas, which seems to be a noble cause, it would exempt the Inuit from harvesting in that area. They would have to try and find those belugas somewhere else in order to maintain their traditional hunt. That is a problem for the first nations people there.

Are we going to create marine protected areas in Canada that do not actually meet the international standard of what is expected of us with respect to marine protected areas, or are we going to have a made-in-Canada solution, forgo our international obligations and then do our best? I am not sure what the government's intentions are with respect to that. It would be great to see. However, we seem to have a lot more questions than we do answers, and the legislation is not particularly clear on some of these questions.

I will go back to the port in Prince Rupert. We met with the port authorities there. They are already very much concerned. Most people in Canada do not know that most of the container goods that we see going through the western part of Canada on their way east—and a ton of containers that come to the west coast come in through Prince Rupert, which has a great container ability—go by rail through Canada all the way down to Chicago. This is supplying goods from the Asia-Pacific marketplace into central North America as a distribution hub. It is an amazing facility. It is a very small community. It is a great provider of jobs. There are great economic opportunities there.

There was a proposal for an LNG terminal in Prince Rupert. We know what happened with the LNG proposal. That seems to have gone by the wayside. Given the fact that there will be a tanker ban, there is no way anybody would even consider moving forward with an LNG terminal in that area.

If I were the kind of person who wanted to be bitter and vindictive about making sure that the tanker ban held its way for all time, I would consider putting a marine protected area across the Dixon Entrance and across the Hecate Strait. This would pretty much mean that particular area, depending on the provisions that were put in place for the marine protected area, could shut down shipping altogether in those areas, or at least really restrict what one is able to do.

This again brings me back to my point. What is a marine protected area supposed to do? Is it supposed to protect the water? Is it supposed to protect the species living in the water? Is it supposed to protect the benthic area directly below the water column along the sea floor? These are all questions to which we do not have answers.

If we look at the sunlit zone, which is the area where the human eye can see sunlight at the top of a water column, there is not a whole lot of activity there. There are some fish species, some algae, and some plankton. However, all of the stuff is very much moving as currents move in and out. Does it make any sense to try and protect a wave while it is a-wave? It does not make any sense at all. These things are going to move around the ocean. Are we protecting that area? Some would say yes. Some would say no.

Are we protecting a rearing area for whales or other types of migratory species that use the water? Are they going to be birds, fish, aquatic mammals, or terrestrial animals, where a certain part of their life cycle relies on the marine environment? Are we adequately taking into consideration where those protections should be best placed?

Are we taking a look at the littoral zone, and are we going to protect it? Are we going protect the benthic zone? Are we going to shut down commercial fishing, for example? Are we going to be shutting down dragging or trawling along the bottom of the sea for fish species? That is maybe a good thing, but maybe it is not. I happen to believe that, in certain cases, if it is done in the right place, protections on the bottom of the sea floor are great. They are great for the groundfish that live there, especially if it is an area rich in groundfish that usually stay in that area. An area of refugia actually creates species all around it.

I will go back to one of my jobs as a park warden, which was to patrol the north boundary of Jasper National Park on horseback. Why I ever gave that job up in the glorious Rocky Mountains riding horses, to this day I do not understand. However, my job was to protect the park boundary from poachers. Where did everyone go hunting for trophy rams or bighorn sheep? Well, they would go hunting where the rams were. The rams were in the national park, because they understood the refugia, and they would go back into the park any time they felt threatened. They knew where the boundary was. It was an interesting thing to watch. That area of refugia continued to populate the sheep populations as they migrated out, which is the same thing with other species.

This is not necessarily bad policy, but it is not an effective one-size-fits-all policy. It is going to work well for some species of groundfish, but it is not going to do anything for some species of fish that might migrate through or that do not use the area on a regular basis. We have to ask the question of whether the marine protected area is in the right spot.

I have a lot of questions about this proposed legislation and what the consequences of it might be. I have highlighted the fact that the cod fishery, taking the protectionist approach, has not exactly worked if we are not taking a serious look at management. When we put things into that category of preservation, it becomes very difficult to do any management, because we have to get double approvals for everything.

Imagine if Parks Canada said we need to shoot grizzly bears, wolves, and mountain lions in order to protect caribou. It is not unfathomable that this might be a desperation policy at some point down the road, as growth of the wolf, grizzly bear, and mountain lion populations continues to explode in the eastern slopes region of Alberta. These animals are everywhere, so much so that, in some cases, we cannot find any ungulates anymore. Rather than stopping economic activity such as oil and gas exploration or forestry, we are going to shut those industries down and not do anything at all about predator control.

I do not see some of my colleagues from Atlantic Canada who were here earlier, but I know that a lot of them, even though they might not say it in front of a microphone, hear the same things that I hear. I have been there many times with fisheries, and they are asking for control of the seal population in order to allow the cod stocks to come back. However, imagine a situation where we create a marine protected area around some of the islands where grey seals or harbour seals rear their pups. It comes down to the point that someday somewhere, someone will say we have to have the courage to manage these populations and do what is right.

Imagine trying to manage predator control in a protected area where the needs of the wildlife are put before the needs of everybody else, a fishery, or whatever the case might be. I have news for members. It is romantic to think we have the ability to have these protected areas and that they can operate in isolation from the rest of the world, but that is not the case. The bill before us could seriously limit the ability of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and other organizations to effectively manage wildlife populations and allow other economic activities to grow. Therefore, the bill should not be rushed through Parliament. It should be given every opportunity, which is why I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following therefor:

“Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act, be not now read a third time but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans for the purpose of reconsidering all of the clauses.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

March 26th, 2018 / 6:05 p.m.
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Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to provide those who are watching, and members, with a number of points about what we do and do not support in the legislation. The bill would provide some new legal tools that would speed up the creation of marine protected areas, but it falls far short of Canada's international commitments to protect our marine biodiversity.

The bill fails to set minimum protection standards, and I will speak a little more about that, and targets for zoning for marine protected areas, which renders the designation inconsistent at best and meaningless at worst. It would give the minister far too much latitude to decide what activities would be permissible in an MPA. If oil and gas exploration can take place in an MPA, what is the point of the designation? Those are some of our concerns.

I want to talk about the NDP's proposed amendments at the Standing Committee for Fisheries and Oceans. We had five major themes. All were supported by witness testimony.

Our first theme was focused on establishing minimum protection standards. It makes sense that if we do not have a minimum basic standard with respect to protection, it gets very hard for either industry or for those concerned about protection, such as governments, nations, and first nations, to know exactly what is the definition criteria and how they meet a minimum basic level of protection. The government could focus a lot more on that.

The second theme was maintaining ecological integrity as the primary objective of an MPA, or marine protected area. That is critical and achieved through networks and other areas of protection, either federal designations, or at provincial or indigenous levels. All can play part in a constructive network of protection and protected areas. Maintaining that ecological integrity is critical for the whole concept behind an MPA.

The third theme was creating co-governance with indigenous peoples and establishing the authority of indigenous guardians. This is a critical element today of managing our resources, our oceans, our lands, and our watersheds. We just saw on the floor of the House of Commons an unprecedented ceremony recognizing those wrongs that were made prior to Confederation, but now being acknowledged by the government, and how our new relationship with first nations must be, which must include co-management. When we talk about marine protected areas, we must recognize a new way of managing and protecting our oceans.

The fourth theme was establishing no-take zones. This is a critical element to which the international community has drawn. I will speak more about that in a minute, about the importance of having some areas within the MPA. It does not have to be the entire area, but scientific evidence shows the more areas that are no-take or that have the highest level of protection flourish the best. There will be protection of sensitive ecosystems when no-take zones are established. Canada falls far behind when looking specifically at no-take zones.

Finally, the fifth theme was to facilitate the implementation of a network of MPAs, not just specifically looking at the protected areas off and on land. We look at parks, but on the water we call them marine protected areas. Like on land, we need to provide connectivity. Establishing networks of MPAs is a critical element.

Other elements touched on similar themes. I will highlight the ones we heard at the standing committee. Ecological integrity, network ability of MPAs, and the recognition of indigenous rights were passed at the committee stage. Our proposed amendments were stronger, and it was regretful that they were defeated.

Many witnesses at committee supported the bill, but they also supported our proposed amendments. On November 23 of last year, Linda Nowlan, staff counsel at West Coast Environmental Law testified:

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.

On November 21, Bill Wareham, the science projects manager of the David Suzuki Foundation, testified about the need to strengthen the bill with respect to indigenous protected areas. He said:

I think the other area of the act that needs strengthening is the area of indigenous protected areas. Many indigenous peoples have a longstanding 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.

On November 9, Susanna Fuller, senior marine conservation coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre, testified the following:

It makes no sense not to prohibit open net-pen aquaculture, for example, in a protected area that includes an important river for wild Atlantic salmon. It makes no sense to allow seismic testing and oil and gas drilling in areas that are important for marine mammals, or that are closed to bottom fishing to protect deep-sea coral and sponges. Essentially, our Oceans Act MPAs are lacking in some key ground rules that, perhaps, could not have been foreseen when it was drafted 20 years ago.

Third, the current lack of standards in this Oceans Act, and more broadly the lack of standards across all of the tools used to protect the marine environment—National Marine Conservation Areas, Fisheries Act closures—means that there is confusion at the ground level, which is not necessary. Canadians expect that in our terrestrial protected areas industrial activities will not be permitted. In the marine environment—and I think you've received our brief already that we put together with several other NGOs from across Canada—we're strongly advocating that activities like bottom trawling, oil and gas exploration and development, open net-pen aquaculture, and seabed mining should simply not happen in our marine protected areas. This does not preclude other low-impact human uses, like fishing with low-impact gear, ecotourism, and marine transportation.

The scientific evidence clearly demonstrates that bottom trawling has significant damaging impacts to sea floor ecosystems, and that no-take fishing areas are a key component of effective MPAs. Research shows that MPAs that permit varying levels of fishing and other activities are less effective at achieving biodiversity than fully protected areas.

International best practices suggest MPA core no-take zones should encompass 75% of a given MPA. Canada is nowhere close to reaching that high bar. Remember, this is the international community looking at examples in countries around the world that say they have the most success when there is the establishment of large no-take zones within the MPAs. Again, it is a very small fraction of a country's economic zone in the ocean. We are talking about a small sliver of the ocean.

Right now, the minister has the discretion to determine what activities are allowed in an MPA and how restrictive each zone in an MPA can be. So far, Canada's fisheries minister has implemented a no-take zone in only five MPAs, and those areas are tiny when compared to the overall MPAs. Canada should follow international examples and make no-take zones the rule rather than the exception when it comes to MPAs.

We believe that reconciliation should be a part of all legislation. Additional designations are welcome tools, but it does not make sense to exclude explicit recognition of indigenous rights in the Oceans Act. Given the implications of MPAs for indigenous constitutional rights, it is irresponsible. The federal government's commitment to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and working in true nation-to-nation relationships with Canada's indigenous peoples, consistent with the Canadian Constitution, should be reflected in the Oceans Act.

Marine protected areas are an opportunity to forward the cause of reconciliation, but Bill C-55 fails to include specific provisions to accomplish this. There are already successful examples in Canada of co-management that the government could look to for inspiration. There is the co-management agreement between the Haida Nation on the west coast of Canada and the Government of Canada on the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, or Parks Canada's co-operative management model in the Arctic. Those are a couple of examples. Best practices should be the rule and not the exception.

There has been some discussion about going too far or not far enough. Let us remember, if we go back to 1992, when the international community came together, that Canada signed on to a commitment to protect 5%, and then 10% of our oceans. That was over 25 years ago. Therefore, when I hear the Conservatives say that this is going too fast, or that we are protecting too much, we have to look at the context and talk about how we are doing. It is only just recently that we have managed to surpass 5% protection, and many of those MPAs do not enjoy strong protection of things like no-take zones.

If we look from the perspective of where we are, many countries are much further ahead than Canada is. Given that they have done much more since 1992 to look at protection of their oceans, Canada has a long way to go. This is a move in the right direction. Consultation is critical. We need to get it right. I do not argue at all when it comes to taking the time to get it right, in terms of consulting, whether it is with territories, provinces, first nations, industry, or environmental organizations, those who are really concerned about our oceans and marine ecosystems, but at some point, we need to move forward with achieving the protection that is needed in order to provide a healthy, flourishing ocean.

The bottom line is that our oceans are in serious trouble. I remember reading a report back in 2012 from the United Nations top marine scientist, who pointed out that the major predators in our oceans are in steep decline. For instance, we are losing sharks at a phenomenal rate. Back then, I read that we are losing between 38 million and 70 million sharks a year.

The scientific knowledge has increased since 2012. Scientists are finding that up to 100 million sharks a year are being killed for their fins. Those predators play a key role in maintaining ecosystem balance. That is just one example of what is happening in our oceans.

When we look at marine ecosystem issues, we are swimming in oceans full of plastics. In some areas, it is microplastics. They are a huge problem. When we look at the issue of climate change, our oceans are changing rapidly. Ocean acidification is happening at an alarming rate.

These issues have to be dealt with. The world needs to come together. Canada needs to play its part. Protecting portions of the ocean in the exclusive economic zone is a way to do that. This is one tool in the toolbox. We need to do more. We need to move faster.

Again, I appreciate the comments about consultation, because it is critically important that all who have an interest in our oceans and ocean ecosystems are included in important decisions.

I hope the legislation moves forward. I hope the government listens to the amendments and the concerns. It hope it incorporates them to get this bill right, because that is what is needed. I hope that the Liberals listen to the NDP's thoughtful and optimistic comments about what we heard from many witnesses who testified, not just at the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans but in general in writing to me over the years.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

March 26th, 2018 / 7 p.m.
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Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, this will be the second time that my speech is cut in half because of debate closure for the day and I have to continue the next day.

This will be my first debate without a prepared speech, so I will be taking a bit of time to pause to make sure my thoughts are coherent.

First, I want to talk about the timeline of what has taken place over the last year and a half on the study of marine protected areas and this legislation.

I looked at the mandate letter to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and I saw a comment there about protecting Canada's coastlines. This was also a Liberal promise. The Liberals did not make any commitments. They only made promises, which they continue to break. There was a promise in that mandate letter to protect Canada's coastlines.

In December 2016, I put forward a motion in the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans that the committee undertake a study to look at the criteria and the process for establishing marine protected areas in Canada, to determine whether the process that had been taking place was an efficient and effective way of doing things. As members have mentioned, it sometimes took seven to 10 years for a marine protected area to be established.

The committee finally started that study in April 2017. We travelled north to Inuvik, Paulatuk, and Tuktoyaktuk, and talked to people there. They have established MPAs that were put forward by the communities. Those MPAs are supported by the communities, and they have been very effective. We also travelled to Prince Rupert.

In the fall of 2017, we travelled to eastern Canada, and what we saw there was a totally different story. Marine protected areas were being proposed or established by government without any consultation with the local fishermen or the local communities that depended on access to the resources in those areas. There is the odd one that was proposed by the community, and it is working, but we saw opposition to the way this was being put forward. There was no good consultation with the fishermen, who felt that their livelihood, their families, their boats, and their communities were being put at risk by the imposition of government over them. We have seen this process play out over and over, particularly with this government, with its “trust us; government knows best” attitude.

We are getting into a really scary situation. We see it with the values test in the Canada summer jobs program. We see it with Service Canada not being able to refer to individuals as Mr. or Mrs., Sir or Madam. These are values tests being imposed by a government that says Canadians should trust it because it knows best. Canadians are concerned with that. I am concerned with that. My constituents are concerned with that.

Conservatives truly care about the environment. My background is in conservation. That is how I arrived in the House of Commons.

My first interest in politics showed up in the 1990s, when a former Liberal government introduced a long gun registry. I owned one older deer hunting firearm. I went to the local fish and game club and asked what I would have to do to comply with a government that thought it knew best.

An older gentleman in the club said that I should become a member. Not being one to sit back and keep my mouth shut, within a few months someone said I should become a director. A couple of years later, people said that I should become vice-president. I worked my way through that organization, through the regional branch of the BC Wildlife Federation, and eventually became president of the BC Wildlife Federation for two years.

In that time, I found conservationists and Conservatives hand in hand. They were firearms owners, guys working with boots in the streams, doing wild game counts, actual work on the ground for fish, wildlife, and habitat. We did not dream about locking it up. We thought about using it so we were getting something from those resources to put back into them.

What the Liberals are proposing, without consultation, is identifying huge swaths of the ocean and locking them up, doing this only in consideration of one previous year of traditional use or existing use. In our travel to eastern Canada, we heard from fishermen who were now fishing halibut in an area where there had not been halibut in five to seven years. If an MPA had been established there as a no-take area to protect the halibut, people would not be allowed to fish.

The government is proposing to draw lines on a map to protect an area when everything is changing. Fish move, water currents change. The government would protect an area through a space on a map and a line on a map without taking the time that had been taken in previous governments and in previous roles. Sometimes it was seven to 10 years. That is not a very fast process, but when they were done, they were done well and they worked. That should not change. If it takes that long to do something right, then do it. A slap-happy, push it forward, bulldoze it through method is not the right way to do things.

I will get back to the committee and the study it undertook on marine protected areas. That study has now been pushed back and delayed. It may never see the light of day because of the time allocation. The Liberals have called time allocation on Bill C-55, to amend the Oceans Act, which deals with marine protected areas. They are calling time allocation on Bill C-68, to amend the Fisheries Act. Both of those acts will have to come before the committee. The committee has not been able to wrap up its study on marine protected areas, so the Liberals are bulldozing, steamrolling over a committee process that was put in place. Now is it going to be totally ignored by a government that simply tell us to trust it because it know best. The Liberals do not want to hear about the consultation. They do not want to hear the testimony that concerned fishers and communities have put forward. Why?

Are they pushing back because we have asked for half an hour with the public safety adviser? I propose that may be the case, but that should not be the way government operates. Governments should listen to the people. In this case, the Liberals are shutting us down. We are not going to be able to finish our study at committee and make the recommendations to the government. I imagine there would have been a long series of recommendations from that study. We have a number of members on that committee from Atlantic Canada. I do not think they liked what they were hearing about the proposed process either. The previous process may not have been perfect, but the proposed process really concerned them the most. They were going to be shut out. They were going to be disallowed from their current areas of access and from their current process.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

October 16th, 2017 / noon
See context


Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to compliment the member for Bow River on his motion. I was happy to second it. The speech I am about to give relates quite closely to the wonderful motion he has introduced.

I am pleased to rise in the chamber to speak to Bill C-55, an act to amend the Oceans Act and Canada Petroleum Act. Essentially, the proposed bill will allow the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard to designate interim marine protected areas for five years while the government consults and studies whether the MPA should be permanent.

The Liberal government arrogance knows no bounds, given that the fisheries committee was charged with studying this very topic, and is in the middle of its study. However, the government is going ahead without the benefit of advice from the fisheries committee. I had the honour of sitting on the fisheries committee for nearly seven years. It does great work. People from all parties get together to conserve our fisheries resources and provide good advice, yet the government chooses to go ahead without the benefit of that advice.

Before I get into debating the merits of whether the bill will achieve its desired results, all of us believe in the protection of our coastal waters, and we have a deep connection with the environment. In my own career as a fisheries biologist, I have been involved with environmental conservation for 35-plus years.

When it comes to the preservation of parkland and the protection of our oceans, our Conservative government made giant steps to reconcile the divide between what was best for the environment and the people who lived there and used it. I would again refer to the previous motion. People who live on the land are the best conservationists. People who use our waterways and catch our fish care more about the environment and conservation than just about anyone else.

Our government took consultation seriously and strived to ensure everyone had a say. In 2009, Parliament unanimously passed legislation resulting in a sixfold expansion of the Nahanni National Park Reserve, bringing the park to 30,000 square kilometres in size. A year later, after a parliamentary review, the Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site became the first marine protected area to be scheduled under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act, which was another great project of our Conservative government.

In a global first, this new marine protected area, along with the existing Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site, to this very day protects the connecting area that extends from alpine mountaintops right down to the bottom of the ocean floor, a rich temperate rainforest and its adjoining marine ecosystem that is now protected for the benefit of future generations. All of this was accomplished as we worked hand in hand with the local communities that were most affected by this. That is the proper way to establish a marine conservation area.

It is important to note that our government not only worked to protect large or remote natural areas such as Nahanni, Gwaii Haanas, and Sable Island. We also worked to protect the endangered habitat and species, and to conserve some of the last remaining natural areas in more developed settings.

I am extremely proud of our Conservative government's track record when it comes to the environment. We were about action, about making the necessary changes for the betterment of all of our citizens. On our watch as a Conservative government nearly every environmental indicator in our country improved. From sulphur dioxide emissions, nitrous oxide emissions, etc., and the amount of land protected, nearly every environmental indicator improved.

A large part of our tremendous environmental track record was under the national conservation plan that Prime Minister Harper announced a few years ago, which unfortunately the current government is letting slip away. Under the NCP, we had the natural areas conservation program, which conserved 800,000 acres of highly-valued conservation land in Canada's developed areas.

One program I was especially proud of was the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program. In that program, our government partnered with the angling community and the recreational fishing community. About four million Canadians love to angle. We worked with these fisheries groups to fund about 800 projects to improve fisheries habitat right across the country. Unfortunately, this program is sunsetting under the Liberal government. It is a travesty that we are losing the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program, and all the expertise and enthusiasm the angling community has generated. We did work on invasive species. We did important work in toxic site remediation. Randle Reef in Hamilton harbour comes to mind.

We streamlined and made a more efficient project review process without harming the environment in any way. We streamlined the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. We rewrote the Fisheries Act. None of this had any negative impact on the environment, but served to promote and encourage natural resource development.

The Liberals and the Conservatives are very different when it comes to environmental policy. The Liberals and the New Democrats, their fellow travellers on the left, are all about environmental process. The Conservatives are about environmental results. The two are very different.

Getting more specific about marine protected areas, they are a very challenging program to implement. It is much easier to implement protection in terrestrial areas such as our national parks, wildlife management areas, and so on. It is easy to say “protected” when we talk about marine protected areas, but from what? In terms of MPAs, the devil is always in the details.

Let us just visualize what a marine protected area would look like. Visualize the water column, which is a three dimensional slice of the ocean. We look at the surface, the water itself, the volume of water underneath that surface area, and the bottom, the benthic area where the benthic organisms live. Fish migrate through this water column at different times of year. Tides change the currents on a daily basis. The challenges with MPAs actually are much greater than the challenges with terrestrial areas. There are a multitude of activities in that water column, for example, human activity, ships going over the top of the water and recreational fishing. Marine protected areas are quite difficult. It is very important the government gets this right. If it does not, human activity will be disrupted, with very little improvement on the environment.

That is why I find this a bit difficult to support. One one hand, the Liberals say that they will consult with provincial governments and interested and affected stakeholders, yet time and time again witnesses at the fisheries committee testified that these consultations were not taking place. When they did take place, they were sorely lacking.

Leonard LeBlanc, the managing director of the Gulf of Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board, said:

The process DFO used to approach harvester associations and consult on the areas of interest for designation was unorganized and totally not transparent. This consultation process on the area of interest for MPA designation in the Cape Breton Trough perpetuated the lack of trust between industry and DFO. The lack of inclusion and answers during the consultation phase, the lack of [any] real scientific evidence for reasoning behind the area of interest, and the lack of guarantees that traditional fisheries could continue all led to further distrust of DFO's consultation...

Ian MacPherson, the executive director of the Prince Edward Island Fishermen's Association, said:

...we have concerns surrounding the tight timelines to accomplish these goals. Prince Edward Island is a small province driven by small fishing communities. The displacement of fishers from one community to another as a result of an MPA would shift the economics of the island.

A gentleman named Jordan Nickerson has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in a crab fishery. He talked about how well it was going. He said:

Our crab was landed in pristine quality...As a company, we were...relieved, as it looked as though we might actually achieve our dream and see a possible return on investment [but the MPA program has hit]...we were all too quickly familiarized with the concept of MPAs...and marine conservation targets, by DFO and the Government of Canada. Abruptly, our access grounds was being called into question, thereby adding more complexity to an already strenuous situation.

Mr. Nickerson went on to say:

Canada should be a leader in listening to its people and taking the time to listen and spend the money and do the proper science before coming to a huge decision such as establishing...MPAs supposedly based on science. These decisions will take time, but they should be Canadian decisions based on Canadian timelines, not offhand commitments made to international arenas void of any voices of those who will be impacted most and who are most informed...We should all understand the importance of saving and protecting the environment; however, environmental groups don't depend on the fishery to put food on the table and tax dollars to work. They are using their campaigns to maintain their future funding strings and their own future.

Christina Burridge, executive director of the BC Seafood Alliance, said:

On the west coast, we're not seeing a lot of evidence-based decision-making. It's beginning to look like political decision-making....

Closing large areas to fishing off the west coast does little for biodiversity, little for conservation, little for the men and women up and down the coast who work in our sector and who are middle class or aspire to [be] middle class and little for the health of [citizens], who deserve access to local, sustainable seafood.

Jim McIsaac, the managing director of the BC Commercial Fishing Caucus, said:

We need to engage stakeholders from the start, not bring stakeholders along at the end. We have to set outcome objectives, and the process should fit the objectives.

On and on, throughout the hearings, stakeholders, people who live and work on the sea, complained bitterly about the lack of consultation and, quite frankly, the lack of science.

Sean Cox, a professor of fisheries from Simon Fraser University, said:

Looking at some of the previous testimony, there was a claim that there was overwhelming scientific proof that MPAs are beneficial and widely successful. I think that was misrepresentation of the actual science.

Callum Roberts said, “If you want to build on a process of trust and goodwill, you don't then ignore what your stakeholders say and consult on only a minority of the protected areas that were being recommended” or we will end up without “a network of protected areas.“

Chris Sporer, the executive manager for the Pacific Halibut Management Association, said, “The MPA process needs to take into consideration and evaluate the ecological consequences of displacing fishing effort.”

Mr. Sporer talked at length about the fact that halibut fishing would be much more difficult and perhaps threaten non-target species if they were, “kicked out” of some of the prime halibut fishing areas.

Again, unfortunately for those making a living off of the ocean, the Liberal government has a pattern of broken promises and has continually put its own partisan interests above what is best for its citizens. To be honest, it makes me question why the Liberals are pushing the bill so hard. Could it be they are merely trying to appease the international community to score points for a much-touted Security Council bid?

With respect to the bungling by the current government in managing our environment and resources, nothing quite comes close to the bungling that happened on the energy east project. I am going to quote from an article by Dennis McConaghy, a former TransCanada Pipeline employee who designed pipelines. The title of the article is “I helped plan Energy East, and I know the government's excuses are bunk”, a very telling statement by a person who was on the ground. The article stated:

The vast majority of the $1 billion in Energy East development costs went to pursuing regulatory approval....Since TransCanada first filed with the National Energy Board in late 2014, the project has had to cope with litany of regulatory dysfunctions.

This may not seem related to MPAs, but it is all part and parcel of the government's approach to local communities, economic development, and our natural resources industries. He went on to say:

...regulatory dysfunctions ranging from protracted information requests beyond the initial filing, recusal of the original NEB panel to be replaced by a panel of limited pertinent regulatory experience, failure to use the existing regulatory record prior to the recusal, inadequate security arrangements for attempted public hearings and, worst of all, the recent decision to “re-scope” the issues to be addressed in the hearing itself.

From when TransCanada first conceived this project internally in late 2011, accumulated development costs have exceeded $1 billion, the vast majority relating to the pursuit of regulatory approval. No private sector entity would ever have expended such a vast amount of capital seeking regulatory approval if it had known the dimension of the regulatory and political risk....

The last straw was the re-scoping decision taken by the current NEB panel, and supported by the [Liberal] government. This decision concerned whether carbon emissions generated by the production process of the oil to be moved by Energy East were consistent or not with Ottawa’s carbon policy. To be clear, these are not emissions generated by the Energy East pipeline directly, but are emissions TransCanada is not responsible for....

Over the past week, the Trudeau government has offered various sophistries to obfuscate the basic point that it bears culpability for a dysfunctional regulatory system and its failure to clarify basic elements of Canadian carbon policy. Lamest of all is the government invoking changed commodity-price conditions

—as the natural resources minister always does—

as the cause for Energy East’s demise, while it proudly points out that Trans Mountain and Keystone XL are still alive, despite these projects facing the same commodity-price environment.

Again, the dysfunctionality, I think I may have coined a new word here, of the government when it comes to regulatory affairs, managing our natural environment, and consulting with local people, is clearly abysmal. I would like to go back to Mr. Jordan Nickerson, who has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in his small business. Just as he is about to show some success, his fear is that his access to his fishing-grounds will be compromised. Not only that, there is the small business tax program coming down upon him.

Of course, we were all treated to the excuses by the finance minister in not disclosing the fact that he owned a French villa. Having what he has, I would definitely excuse him from that. As well, there was his use of the phrase that it was caused by “early administrative confusion”. Should any of us ever be audited by the CRA, because the finance minister used that excuse, we could state the same excuse of “early administrative confusion”. We can say we have the finance minister's backing on that. I can see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries. I am not going to say he agrees, but I think he is enjoying this particular example.

The small business tax will make life harder for fishing families like Mr. Nickerson's. Throw in the MPA designation, throw in a potential carbon tax, and one wonders why somebody would ever take that risk, hundreds of thousands of dollars to set up a fishery in this risky environment created by the current Liberal government with its dysfunctional regulatory approach.

Again, we are concerned that this is another tax grab and a way to thwart the ambitions of people like Mr. Nickerson. We know that Liberal tax hikes are making it more difficult for entrepreneurs like Mr. Nickerson to maintain and grow their businesses. The previous Conservative government created a low-tax competitive business environment that drove investment and created hundreds and thousands of private sector jobs. In terms of the Liberals' small business tax proposals, Jack Mintz from the University of Calgary, said, “This is just one more way to discourage entrepreneurship, on top of all the tax increases in the past two years.”

Kim Moody, the director of the Canadian tax advisory at Moodys Gartner stated:

What the government will do here is stifle entrepreneurs who have been the backbone of Canada's growth … and all in a 75-day consultation period, held mainly over the summer, when everyone, including the government bureaucrats supposedly listening, are on holiday.”

It is my hope that we can work together on the issue of MPAs and that the government will listen to the members of the fisheries committee, and to local communities. As I said, I have been involved with fisheries conservation for many years and natural resource conservation, and I sat on the fisheries committee for nearly seven years. The conservation of Canada's natural resources is of paramount importance. It is vital that the government listen to the people who are on the land.

I am constantly astonished. I have the honour of representing Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa. In my riding, I have commercial fishermen, farmers, ranchers, trappers, tourist operators, hunters, and anglers. My particular constituency could be considered a model of natural resources development with people working in harmony with their environments. I have the honour of owning a little 480-acre farm south of Riding Mountain National Park. The biodiversity in my region is truly phenomenal. It is maintained by people on the land.

To conclude, it is very important that the government listen to people who commercially and recreationally fish. It is critical that they get the MPA program right.