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 to...fishing 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.