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

Sponsor

Dominic LeBlanc  Liberal

Status

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elsewhere

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

Votes

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

Report StageExport and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2018 / 7:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is an interesting debate in that there are rare occasions when I agree with the government. There are elements of Bill C-57 I am in agreement with, but I am going to talk about some concerns about the ideological creep of the Liberal Party into the legislation of Canada. By “ideological creep”, I do not refer to any hon. members. I refer to a creeping barrage of ideology that is actually not rooted in science. The Minister of Environment and Climate Change is seemingly unaware of global concerns with respect to some of the things being put in legislation.

Why I agree with elements of Bill C-57 is that they are rooted in the work of the last Conservative government. In 2008, as my colleague from Perth—Wellington mentioned, the Conservative government passed it. There was a lot of good work done by John Baird at that time, and it has been continued. That is the basis of the Federal Sustainable Development Act. It is based on the sustainable development goals the United Nations started with the Rio declaration, right through to the UN agenda 2030. We certainly see a benefit to many social and economic considerations going into the sustainable development goals of a country.

When looking at an environmental plan, considering economic aspects of that plan, the impact on communities, and social development is prudent as one is planning. There are many departments within the federal government planning to meet the sustainable development goals articulated by the UN, and they are coming up with plans to do that.

I would note that the government has appointed a commissioner, who I wish well in her role, Ms. Julie Gelfand. We all wish her well in terms of working with federal government departments, particularly the Department of National Defence, which has large tracts of green space and lands in Canada, to make sure that we minimize the impact on the environment, make our operations sustainable, and operate with the future in mind of handing over the country we inherited to our children. There is a lot of agreement on that, and I will agree with those goals in this legislation.

I have three areas of concern I am going to keep my remarks to, because I do not like spending too much time on agreement with Liberals in this place. My friends will start questioning my loyalty.

The first area is the typical Liberal approach. There has been concern expressed by my colleague, the member for Abbotsford, and others that it seems the minister is going to continue to expand the paid advisory councils the government will rely upon. We know, going back to the days explored by Justice Gomery, that when there are gatherings of advisers, on a range of issues, being paid and being dependent on contracts and the goodwill of the government, it actually breeds a lack of accountability. We have already seen that, with the Prime Minister being the first sitting prime minister in Canada to have been found to have violated ethics legislation that governs this case. The finance minister has two pending investigations.

We do not think there should be that approach, with these friends of the Liberals being paid advisers. That should be arm's length, and we should rely upon Ms. Gelfand and her department to provide that advice. We have exceptional civil servants, so I do not like the approach we see the Liberals resorting to too often.

I commented that there are elements I said I agree with in Bill C-57. They are certainly rooted in the work done by the Conservative government, such as instilling the polluters pay principle and a number of tangible things that will have benefits. They will show that everyone in our country, including corporations, will need to be good and responsible stewards, and those principles enshrine that.

However, there has been a lot of window dressing from the government when it comes to the environment. We almost groan when we hear the minister say that the environment and the economy go together. It has just become rote language. However, I want to show how it is now also window dressing.

The minister herself said, in debate on Bill C-57, that the bill “would shift focus in the Federal Sustainable Development Act from planning” to reporting results. If we are looking at reporting results when it comes to our environmental goals and sustainable development, what were the comments of Julie Gelfand in her first appearance at committee on Bill C-57, and later, her comments with respect to the government's environmental plan?

If we are trying to say reporting results is what the government wants through this legislation, what did the Commissioner for Sustainable Development report on the government's progress on the environment? Here is her report on results:

We concluded that Environment and Climate Change Canada...measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions contained in this plan had yet to be implemented.

She went on to confirm that the government “did not make progress” with respect to any of its greenhouse gas emission targets. This is another case of the Liberals talking a very good game—whether in legislation, whether in debate outside of the chamber—but if we look at results, which is what the minister wants the bill to do for all departments of the federal government, we see they are failing. The commissioner actually reported a failing grade to the government.

If we combine that with the Auditor General's most recent report, which says that under this government there is basically no ability to implement projects, it should concern all Canadians. I know it concerns many of the civil servants who have had trouble getting paid and families having to help out their children, but it is a fundamental thing when the Auditor General in such strong language calls out the Liberals' inability to actually implement projects.

I hope the minister moves beyond the rhetoric of “the environment and the economy go together”, because we want to see results. Rhetoric we get enough of. We want to actually see some tangible results, and if Bill C-57 can do that, I am very happy that it will be part of our sustainable development discussion for the next number of years.

My final concern is the ideological creep that I see with the government, because in a similar fashion to Bill C-55 on the oceans act, this bill also creeps the precautionary principle into federal legislation. The old approach of the Conservative government enshrined the polluter pay model, and it is very obvious what that is: if there is an impact on our environment that is negative and it is clear who the polluter is, the polluter will pay to remediate that impact on our environment. The polluter pay principle is in this legislation, but Liberals are inserting the precautionary principle, and that is troubling because it is pseudoscience. The precautionary principle actually says, “Let us not wait until we have final scientific evidence to make public policy; let us just make it if we feel good.”

I will illustrate this with a quote. I know the front bench of the Liberal Party enjoyed their trip to see President Obama. They were downright giddy. What did Obama's chief scientific adviser say about the precautionary principle? He said that the precautionary principle, for all its rhetorical appeal, is deeply incoherent.

If we are talking about sustainable development and goals, we should be talking about science-based evidence. That was something the Liberals used to say in opposition a lot, but now in several pieces of federal legislation they are enshrining a policy principle that is not rooted in science. It is rooted in rhetorical appeal. It is rooted in feeling good. It is virtue-signalling, something we see every day from the government.

We should see a science-based approach. Whether it comes to sustainable development, our oceans, or marijuana, we should not be legislating and regulating because of an ideological view. While I support the goals of Bill C-57, it is this creeping barrage of Liberal ideology that they are secretly inserting into things. They have a condescension of the left that is troubling to people who have worked in the private sector, people who rely on science and evidence, as I do. Their attitude is that if we do not agree with them, we are somehow un-Canadian, or wrong, or as the Prime Minister says, we are being partisan. Is it partisan to ask for science before making decisions?

I would say in overall support that I am happy that there are elements to work together on, but I would like to alert Canadians to this ideological creep of the Liberal Party, which will set Canada back in the long term.

April 26th, 2018 / 9:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Okay.

Is it okay if I use your first names?

I appreciate both of your testimony.

When we hear first-hand from fishers—those who make their living or those whose family makes their living off the water in the communities that are going to be impacted by policy—it's very important for us. Sadly, sometimes I think 10 or 20 minutes is not enough.

Can you tell the committee, were either of you consulted on Bill C-55?

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

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

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was from Linda Nowlan of West Coast Environmental Law.

Another quote was from the David Suzuki Foundation:

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

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

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

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

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

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

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

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

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

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

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

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

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

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

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

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

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

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

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

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

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

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

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

With that, I am willing to take some questions.

The House resumed from March 27 consideration of the motion that Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act, be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment.

Bill C-55—Time Allocation MotionOceans ActGovernment Orders

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

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

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

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

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

Bill C-55—Time Allocation MotionOceans ActGovernment Orders

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

Jean-Yves Duclos Liberal Québec, QC

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

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

Bill C-55—Time Allocation MotionOceans ActGovernment Orders

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

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Minister of Families.

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

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

Bill C-55—Time Allocation MotionOceans ActGovernment Orders

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

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

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

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

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

Bill C-55—Time Allocation MotionOceans ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I move:

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

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

April 24th, 2018 / 8:45 a.m.
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Beauséjour New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc LiberalMinister of Fisheries

Thank you, Madam Chair. Thank you, colleagues.

Thank you for inviting me to appear before the committee again. I am always pleased to be here with you.

If you are having a hard time understanding me, it is because I have had a cold for about two weeks. My apologies.

Madam Chair, I want to congratulate you on being elected chair of the committee. You are very familiar with fisheries issues since the fishing industry is so important in your riding.

My sincere congratulations. I look forward to working with you and the members of the committee.

As you said, Madam Chair, I am joined today by two senior officials of our department, Philippe Morel and Mark Waddell. When you have very technical questions on particular sections of the legislation, rather than my trying to answer in a way that may mislead you, I would obviously want them to join in and provide you with that information.

On February 6, our government introduced in the House of Commons an anticipated piece of legislation that will bring some much-needed changes to one of Canada's oldest environmental laws.

Once again, I'd like to thank this committee for the study they did on the 2012 changes to the Fisheries Act. I have said before that I believe that a great deal of what our government has suggested as amendments was inspired by the work of this committee, so I want to thank you. Your hard work helped shape the legislation you have before you today, which was voted on at second reading in the House of Commons, and as a government, we look forward to working closely with this committee.

We reached out to all Canadians to hear their ideas about how to restore and modernize the Fisheries Act and I think we listened. The response was incredible. We received thousands of letters and emails and held hundreds of meetings with partners, stakeholders, and indigenous groups. Tens of thousands of Canadians participated in online surveys through two phases of public consultation.

We have worked very closely with our provincial and territorial partners and with indigenous groups across Canada to make sure we hear their concerns and take them into account.

In addition to protecting fish and their habitat, we recognize that certain fisheries management measures have to be modernized for the long-term survival of our fisheries. The amendments proposed in the bill before you are as follows:

new tools to conserve and protect important species and ecosystems through modernized fisheries management measures; measures that will help rebuild depleted fish stocks and make habitat restoration a priority prior to the development of major projects; and amendments that will help clarify, strengthen, and modernize enforcement powers under the act.

If passed, the proposed amendments will also provide the power to implement regulations on owner-operator and fleet separation policies in Atlantic Canada and Quebec and will give force of law to these essential policies, which have existed for over four decades. This in turn, as you all know, will support the independence of inshore and midshore harvesters, which is critical to their economic livelihood as well as that of the families and coastal communities who depend on these important economic actors.

Our government promised to listen to Canadians about how to update the Fisheries Act, and I believe we've kept that promise. We've also listened to the concerns expressed by our parliamentary colleagues, with an aim to further improve, clarify, and strengthen this legislation. During the debate in the House on February 13, I took note of some of the concerns that were raised by our colleagues in the House of Commons. They included but were obviously not limited to a heavier regulatory burden placed on industry and major natural resource development projects; a need to protect environmental flows, which refers to the quality and quantity of water in rivers and how it contributes to the ultimate protection of fish; an unease about DFO's dual mandate to conserve wild salmon while promoting salmon farming, especially on the Pacific coast; and once this legislation is passed, the need for strong regulations around the rebuilding of fish stocks that have clear definitions and also consider the impact of climate change and species interactions.

I'd like to express my hope that we can work together again in the spirit of co-operation that I think this committee has always exhibited. Your committee did, we think, important work in improving Bill C-55, an act to amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act, in which five opposition amendments were accepted and passed by this committee. Those, in my view, made the legislation better.

I hope the legislation you currently have before you proceeds in the same spirit of collaboration. Obviously I would be happy to work with all members of the committee, if you have particular suggested texts of amendments. If there's any way that our department and the Department of Justice can work with you beforehand to ensure that, from our perspective, the text achieves what a particular member hopes, it's sometimes easier than having at the last minute some confusion whereby the Department of Justice says to us that a particular text, for whatever reason, is technically not achieving what the particular aim is. If any colleagues at this table want, in the spirit of co-operation, to share with us some ideas and we can help in any way, obviously we would be happy to do so.

As you have seen, Madam Chair, the proposed amendments in this bill that will have an impact on fish and their habitat are intended to better protect our natural resources for future generations, while preserving economic opportunities for the many individuals and their families and the communities that depend on those resources.

The proposed amendments will help reduce the regulatory burden on the industry while giving major project proponents greater certainty, which will improve the transparency and predictability of federal environmental assessments.

For small projects, the codes of practice will be published in part I of the Canada Gazette and will provide clear direction on how to avoid harmful effects on fish and their habitat. The same is true for agriculture and small municipal projects. People often say that they do not want to harm the fish and their habitat, and that they want to obey the law. So we are trying to find a simple way of balancing those aspects.

Another example is DFO's commitment to rebuild fish stocks. In 2017, our department launched a plan to put into effect rebuilding plans for 19 fish stocks on a staggered basis over four years. We have policies that set out requirements regarding stock rebuilding plans, including objectives and timelines aimed at rebuilding these stocks that take into account factors such as ocean conditions, species interaction, and habitat.

I believe that there are a lot of positive elements in this legislation that reflect input from numerous parties, including this committee, indigenous groups, industry, environmental groups, provinces and territories, municipal organizations, and the fishers themselves.

I've always thought that our collective responsibility as parliamentarians is to steward our environment with care and in a way that is practical, reasonable, and sustainable. I believe that the proposed amendments strike that important balance by safeguarding environmental protections for fish and fish habitat, something that Canadians are deeply concerned about, while also ensuring that mechanisms are in place for sustainable economic growth, job creation, and resource development.

As I look around the table, I see many colleagues here, Madam Chair, yourself included, who represent communities that depend, in some cases overwhelmingly, on the economic impact of Canada's fisheries. That's why this legislation, from our perspective, is an important piece of environmental legislation. It's also an economic piece of legislation in the sense that if we get that balance right, we can ensure the long-term economic prosperity of the communities that many of you represent, for generations to come.

Thank you, Madam Chair. Those are just a few opening comments, but obviously, I look forward to questions from colleagues.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

April 19th, 2018 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon we will debate the Senate amendments on Bill C-25, business frameworks.

Monday, we will continue second reading debate of Bill C-74, on the budget.

Tuesday and Thursday shall be allotted days.

Wednesday, we will resume third reading debate of Bill C-55, on ocean protection.