An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence

Sponsor

Dominic LeBlanc  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.

Summary

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

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

(a) require that, when making a decision under that Act, the Minister shall consider any adverse effects that the decision may have on the rights of the Indigenous peoples of Canada recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, include provisions respecting the consideration and protection of Indigenous knowledge of the Indigenous peoples of Canada, and authorize the making of agreements with Indigenous governing bodies to further the purpose of the Fisheries Act;

(b) add a purpose clause and considerations for decision-making under that Act;

(c) empower the Minister to establish advisory panels and to set fees, including for the provision of regulatory processes;

(d) provide measures for the protection of fish and fish habitat with respect to works, undertakings or activities that may result in the death of fish or the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat, including in ecologically significant areas, as well as measures relating to the modernization of the regulatory framework such as authorization of projects, establishment of standards and codes of practice, creation of fish habitat banks by a proponent of a project and establishment of a public registry;

(e) empower the Governor in Council to make new regulations, including regulations respecting the rebuilding of fish stocks and importation of fish;

(f) empower the Minister to make regulations for the purposes of the conservation and protection of marine biodiversity;

(g) empower the Minister to make fisheries management orders prohibiting or limiting fishing for a period of 45 days to address a threat to the proper management and control of fisheries and the conservation and protection of fish;

(h) prohibit the fishing of a cetacean with the intent to take it into captivity, unless authorized by the Minister, including when the cetacean is injured, in distress or in need of care; and

(i) update and strengthen enforcement powers, as well as establish an alternative measures agreements regime; and

(j) provide for the implementation of various measures relating to the maintenance or rebuilding of fish stocks.

The enactment also makes consequential amendments to other Acts.

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

June 17, 2019 Passed Motion respecting Senate amendments to Bill C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence
June 17, 2019 Failed Motion respecting Senate amendments to Bill C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence (amendment)
June 13, 2018 Passed Concurrence at report stage of Bill C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence
June 13, 2018 Failed Bill C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence (report stage amendment)
June 11, 2018 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence
April 16, 2018 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence
March 26, 2018 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence

Oil Tanker Moratorium ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2019 / 1:15 p.m.
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Burnaby North—Seymour B.C.

Liberal

Terry Beech LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, on what is likely the last sitting week of the 42nd Parliament, I appreciate the opportunity to outline both the necessity and benefits of Bill C-48, otherwise known as the oil tanker moratorium act. Let me begin by reminding members that Bill C-48 is the fulfillment of an election promise made in 2015. It was later included in both the minister's mandate letter and the Speech from the Throne.

Bill C-48 would provide an unprecedented level of environmental protection for the northern coast of British Columbia and the adjoining Great Bear Rainforest, one of the most pristine and unspoiled places left in Canada, and indeed the world. The Great Bear Rainforest represents approximately one-quarter of the world's remaining temperate rainforest. It is an extraordinarily rich and productive ecosystem that is often described as one of the lungs of the world because of its high oxygen production. The forest is largely intact due to special measures taken by both the federal and provincial governments over many years and by the relentless efforts of local people, including indigenous communities, to protect this extremely valuable ecosystem.

Bill C-48 would be complementary to these efforts, as well as the long-standing and well-respected voluntary tanker exclusion zone agreement between Canada and the United States that keeps Alaskan tankers like the Exxon Valdez far from our coast. Bill C-48 would effectively formalize into legislation a long-standing federal policy dating back to at least the 1970s not to allow large tanker traffic off of the northern coast of British Columbia. In fact, on my first trip to Haidi Gwaii, as the parliamentary secretary to the minister of fisheries and oceans at the time, I procured three posters that were used as fundraisers to campaign for this initial tanker ban in the 1970s, one of which is hanging in my constituency office in Burnaby.

Speaking to local residents, they are concerned about their environment and their way of life. A 2012 study reviewing offshore oil and gas development in British Columbia estimates the total annual benefits of marine-dependent activities in the traditional territories of coastal first nations at more than $30 billion. Unlike other regions in Canada, this policy legacy ensures that there is no existing tanker traffic near this coast. This means that formalizing the moratorium will not disrupt any current jobs or economic activity in the region. In fact, it would help protect existing industries, including fisheries, aquaculture and ecotourism.

Bill C-48 would continue to allow for the shipment of non-persistent oils. What this means is that communities along the north coast of British Columbia would continue to be open to economic development opportunities, including the recently announced $40-billion infrastructure project in Kitimat, B.C. Bill C-48 would not affect the estimated 10,000 jobs that are attached to that particular project. Very importantly, Bill C-48 would help to preserve the cultural and spiritual way of life of coastal first nations. As such, it is part of the Government of Canada's larger commitment to reconciliation with indigenous peoples. As we know, this is something that our government and our Prime Minister consider to be of the highest priority.

Members will recall that Bill C-48 was debated and studied in the House in 2017 and 2018. It was ultimately passed by the elected members of the House of Commons in May 2018, by a vote of 204 to 85. With the support of the Liberal Party of Canada, the NDP, the Green Party and the Groupe parlementaire du Parti québécois, only the Conservatives voted against it.

I would like to take a moment to thank the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, whose riding largely overlaps with the proposed moratorium zone and who has been a long-time advocate of formalizing the tanker ban into legislation. Along with our colleague from Vancouver Quadra, he has introduced private member's bills in previous Parliaments proposing a tanker ban, albeit through a different mechanism. He has been working with our government to secure support for this important bill in the other place, and his co-operation is greatly appreciated.

This bill was referred to the other place on May 9, 2018, and has been studied and debated there until just last week, more than a year before it was passed with an amendment and sent back to this chamber. I am grateful for the work undertaken in the other chamber, particularly during report stage and third reading. If colleagues have not had an opportunity to read or listen to some of these debates, I would encourage them to do so. They will be impressed by the high level and seriousness of the debate. Those debates ultimately led to the amendment that is before us today.

The Senate is proposing to modify Bill C-48 in a number of ways, most substantively by requiring a two-stage review. First would be a regional assessment that would be led by the Minister of Environment under authorities that would be established once Bill C-69 came into force.

The Minister of Environment would be required to invite the provincial governments of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, as well as indigenous communities in the moratorium area, to enter into an agreement or arrangement respecting the joint establishment of a committee to conduct the regional assessment and the manner in which the assessment is to be carried out. This body would then have up to four years after coming into force to complete the report.

This would then feed into the second stage, a parliamentary review, which would take place five years after coming into force, and which would consider evidence gathered by the regional assessment and conduct further study and hearings before presenting its report to Parliament.

Let me begin by first stating we acknowledge that this is a thoughtful, creative and substantive amendment. We also recognize that the Senate's amendment, including the regional assessment component, is a well-intentioned and honourable attempt to find a compromise between supporters and opponents of the moratorium, as well as an attempt to depoliticize what has turned into a very contentious debate on this bill by requiring a more technical, evidence-based study.

In terms of the government's response, we support the Senate's call for a parliamentary review of Bill C-48 after five years. During report stage debate in the other place, Senator Sinclair remarked:

I too have concerns about the bill because it does constitute what appears to be an absolute ban on tanker traffic in an area, for good reason that might be applicable today, but I’m not so sure it will be applicable in the future.

He went on to state:

When it comes to how we can improve the bill, one of the options I want to talk to the chamber about is whether we might consider allowing for communities to change their minds at some point in the future and if they all agree that the ban should be lifted, then we would allow the bill to say so.

A parliamentary review after five years would allow such a conversation to take place. Committees could look at scientific evidence and new developments, hold meetings outside of Ottawa and provide an opportunity for all interested indigenous communities, provinces and other stakeholders to express their views.

However, for a number of reasons, we respectfully disagree with the Senate's recommendation to undertake a regional assessment. First, we feel this is unnecessary, given the requirement for a parliamentary review, as I just discussed. Secondly, there is consultation fatigue, particularly among communities living in northern B.C. and with coastal first nations, after many years of reviews and studies.

A non-comprehensive list of these reviews include the Senate transport committee study of Bill C-48 in 2019, Transport Canada consultations with communities and stakeholders held in 2016 and 2017 prior to the introduction of Bill C-48, the Canadian environmental assessment and National Energy Board review panel of Enbridge's northern gateway pipeline proposal held between 2010 and 2012, the Natural Resources Canada “Public Review Panel on the Government of Canada Moratorium on Offshore Oil and Gas Activities in the Queen Charlotte Region British Columbia” in 2004, the B.C. scientific review of offshore oil and gas moratorium in 2002, the joint Canada-B.C. “West Coast Offshore Exploration Environmental Assessment Panel” in 1986, the federal West Coast Oil Ports Inquiry in 1977 and last, but not least, the House of Commons special committee on environmental pollution in 1970-1971. I was almost tired going through the whole list, never mind the actual reports themselves.

It is important to note that many of the reviews I mentioned were led by regulators and bureaucrats, not politicians. They looked in detail at scientific evidence in a more technical way than parliamentary committees typically do. However, none of them led to a resolution of the fundamental political disagreements over this issue. At the end of the day, many of the scientific questions about whether or not it is safe or advisable to move crude oil in tankers off this particular coast are endlessly debatable. There is no reason to believe that yet another lengthy and expensive study would bridge these differences of opinion, especially one starting so soon after the coming into force of Bill C-48.

To be clear, the amendment proposes to start yet another review only 180 days after Bill C-48 comes into force. At some point, a decision needs to be taken based on the best evidence available and using the best judgment of parliamentarians about what is fair and reasonable, taking into account the wider Government of Canada approach on energy and the environment and on reconciliation with first nations.

Furthermore, there is, in our view, a need for a cooling-off period and a break to allow passions to settle and to take a breath. Coastal first nations have been fighting for a bill like this for almost 50 years. They deserve a break and some peace of mind.

Finally, the proposed approach would result in a lack of clarity over whether the authority provided to the Minister of Environment in Bill C-48 would be inconsistent or in conflict with the authority provided to the Minister of Environment in Bill C-69.

For all of these reasons, the government is proposing to accept the Senate amendment but in a modified form. We accept the adding of a parliamentary review in five years would come into force, but respectfully disagree with the requirement to hold a regional assessment. We feel this is a fair compromise with our colleagues in the other place and will allow them to achieve much, if not all, of what they intended, namely an opportunity to re-evaluate the law after a number of years.

Turning back to the bill itself, much of the debate on Bill C-48 so far has revolved around the question of why legislation is being proposed that effectively bans oil tankers from operating off the coast of northern British Columbia and not elsewhere in the country. Critics of the bill contend that this is arbitrary and unjustified, but I would argue that nothing could be further from the truth.

As the Minister of Transport explained when he appeared before the Senate transport committee, there are a number of factors that, when combined together, account for the uniqueness of the situation in northern British Columbia and the need for special measures to protect it.

The most obvious unique attribute of British Columbia's pristine north coast is the ecological significance of the area. The coastline runs along one of the last temperate rainforests left in the world and, even more rare, one of the very few to remain largely intact. These kinds of forests are unusually productive and support an extraordinarily rich web of biodiversity. The interface between the marine, coastal and terrestrial environments in this part of B.C. is seamless.

The Senate transport committee heard from experts who testified both to the unusually pristine nature of this ecosystem and to its vulnerability to the effects of a major oil spill. Canada has a kind of jewel in the Great Bear Rainforest which needs to be treasured and preserved for future generations. This is a responsibility we owe not only to ourselves but to the world. The precautionary principle, a principle I debated often within my previous role in fisheries and oceans, is fully justified in this case.

A second distinguishing factor is the long-standing policy legacy, at both the federal and provincial levels, of extending special protections to this part of the country. In essence, Bill C-48 would simply formalize an already well-established policy of barring oil tankers from this coast. As such, it would not be disruptive to any existing industries or employment, very much unlike the case if we were to propose such a moratorium off the coast of Newfoundland or Nova Scotia, or for the St. Lawrence for example.

A third factor that differentiates the northern coast of British Columbia is its shear size and remoteness and the navigational hazards of operating in these waters.

Environment Canada classifies the Hecate Strait as the fourth most dangerous body of water in the world for shipping. Winds of 100 kilometres per hour and waves between eight and 10 metres are not uncommon in both the Hecate Strait and the Dixon Entrance. These combine to make spill response more challenging than in more populated, built-up areas like the south coast, the St. Lawrence or the east coast. Although our government is dramatically boosting our capacity to respond to accidents through our $1.5 billion oceans protection plan, resources cannot be unlimited. It will continue to be the case that northern B.C. will present special challenges, particularly during bad weather which is common on these seas.

Last, Bill C-48 is responding to a more than 40-year campaign by local people, and especially indigenous communities, who live along the coast to formalize the moratorium banning oil tankers. While it is true that opinion among indigenous communities is not universal, a clear majority of these communities that are situated in the proposed moratorium area want to pass this law. Most important, the communities that would be most vulnerable to the impacts of an oil spill, such as the Haida and the Heiltsuk, have campaigned persistently for this bill. As such, it is part of our government's larger commitment to reconciliation with the first nations.

While I am sympathetic to the voices of indigenous groups further inland, which might like to participate in the economic benefits of a future, yet highly notional, pipeline that would go to the northern coast of B.C., I cannot disregard what a major oil spill would mean economically, culturally and spiritually to those who would bear the brunt of its effects. They deserve the peace of mind that Bill C-48 would bring them.

I note as well that coastal first nations have been joined by their neighbours in communities such as the city of Prince Rupert, the village of Queen Charlotte, the district of Kitimat, the city of Terrace, the town of Smithers, and the Skeena-Queen Charlotte regional district, which have all passed resolutions or written letters in support of the moratorium. There is also support by the Province of British Columbia.

In the short time that I have been in the House, I have had the opportunity to work on the government's $1.5 billion oceans protection plan, revisions to the Oceans Act in Bill C-55, restoring protections and introducing modern safeguards to the Fisheries Act via Bill C-68 and working to restore our whale population with our $167 million action plan.

We have expanded our marine protected areas from less than 1% under the previous government to over 8%. At the same time, we have reduced unemployment to historic lows, lifted 825,000 Canadians from poverty and Canadians have created more than a million new jobs.

It is the responsibility of any government to work hard to protect and restore the environment while growing the economy and creating more opportunities for Canadians. To do this successfully, we must balance competing demands and constraints, and I believe Bill C-48 would help us accomplish this balance.

I would like to quote a colleague from the other place, Senator Harder, who recently remarked:

...I hope that, one day, the people of the coast will tell the story of when their grandparents came to Ottawa to pass Bill C-48. I hope [we]...tell the story of how Canadians worked together to save the environment at this testing time.

It is time this bill was passed. I hope our colleagues in the other place will join our government in at long last making this a reality.

Oil Tanker Moratorium ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2019 / 1:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Terry Beech Liberal Burnaby North—Seymour, BC

Mr. Speaker, I completely reject the premise of that question. This type of legislation, along with our larger approach for environmental protections and growing the economy, is designed to help bring the country together.

I am not surprised to get those kinds of comments from the Conservative opposition. It is the only party in the House that voted against the legislation in the first place. The opposition has opposed Bill C-55, Bill C-68 and changes that protect by increasing our MPAs.

The opposition has also failed with respect to the economy. The last two Conservative governments have accrued over 72% of the total debt of the entire history of the debt in Canada. We cannot afford to have those guys back in power again.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2019 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to once again be here to talk about the Senate amendments to Bill C-68.

I would be remiss if I did not talk about what we have witnessed over the last three and a half years, this week and last night, with the egregious affront to our democracy. It is pertinent to this discussion, because what we have seen with Bill C-68, Bill C-69, Bill C-48 and Bill C-88 is the government's attempt to subvert democracy to pass legislation that is really payback for the assistance the Liberals received in the 2015 election.

Last night, we had the debate, or the lack of debate, on Bill C-69. There were hundreds of amendments from the Senate, and the government forced closure on that debate without any debate whatsoever. Even the Green Party, in its entirety, stood in solidarity with the official opposition to vote against the government on this. That says something.

Bill C-68 is the government's attempt, in its members' words, to right the wrongs of the former Conservative government in amending the Fisheries Act in 2012. The Liberals said that the Conservatives gutted the Fisheries Act. The bill would replace the wording for HADD, the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat. However, we studied this. We consulted on this, and not one example was given. When pressured yesterday, throughout the last week and throughout the last year, not the minister nor anyone from the government was able to provide one example of where the 2012 changes to the Fisheries Act by the previous Conservative government led to the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat. As a matter of fact, despite the government's assertions that changes to the Fisheries Act are necessary to restore the lost protections for fish and fish habitat, the government's response to Order Paper Question No. 626 showed that the government had no record of harm or proof of harm to fish or fish habitat resulting from the 2012 changes.

On November 2, 2016, the then Minister of Fisheries and Oceans appeared before the fisheries committee and stated that “Indigenous people have expressed serious concerns with the amendments made to the [Fisheries Act]” and that his department was “holding face-to-face meetings with various indigenous groups and providing funding so that they can attend these meetings and share their views on the matter”. However, according to the government's response to Order Paper Question No. 943, DFO did not undertake any face-to-face consultation sessions in relation to the review of the changes to the Fisheries Act in the 2016-17 fiscal year.

The Liberals have stood before Canadians in the House and have been disingenuous. They continue to use the same eco-warrior talking points we see from Tides, Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund, which is essentially an attack on our natural resource sector, whether that be forestry, fisheries, oil and gas, mining or agriculture. That is what Bill C-68, Bill C-88, Bill C-48 and Bill C-69 are attempting to do. They want to shut down anything to do with natural resources.

In the Senate right now, Bill C-48 is being debated. It deals with the tanker moratorium on the west coast, yet we have double and triple the number of tankers on the east coast, but it does not matter. We do not see groups like Greenpeace, Tides and the WWF protesting those ships and oil tankers from foreign nations that have far more egregious human rights issues than what we have here in our country.

Dirty oil is flowing through our eastern seaport, but there has not been one mention of that by the government. Instead, it wants to shut down anything to do with western Canada's economic opportunities, and that is egregious and shameful, and that is why we are here today.

The Senate amendments with respect to Bill C-68 were decent amendments. They folded into Bill S-203, the cetaceans in captivity bill, and Bill S-238, the shark finning bill.

For those who are not aware of the shark finning bill, it would ban the importation of shark fins, with the exception that they must be attached to the carcass. Shark fin is a delicacy in some Asian cultures and is used in soup and medicinal products. We asked officials at committee if shark fin in any form could be imported into our country, and they replied that it could be imported in soup. That was their testimony. When pressed further on this, they said, “soup is soup”.

The whole intent of Bill S-238 is to stop the importation of shark fins so that shark fin soup may be stopped or that at least the fins would be imported into the country with the entire carcass used. That is a fairly reasonable thing to ask.

The other Senate amendments to Bill C-68 that are important are with respect to the inshore fishery. We heard time and again that the inshore fishery is important to Atlantic fishermen. Adjacency and the inshore fishery are the same thing, but the language is different on either coast. It is important to our coastal communities and fishermen who depend on fishing for their livelihood.

Another important Senate amendment is with respect to third-party habitat banking. I went into great detail about what third-party habitat banking means in terms of fish habitat. That was a reasonable amendment put forward by a Conservative, and all senators agreed with it.

Interestingly enough, before the Senate finished studying the bill, the minister directed our fisheries committee to study third-party habitat banking. Prior to the fisheries committee getting a chance to study it, the Liberals scrapped any of the third-party habitat banking amendments brought forth by the Conservative Party and agreed to by independent senators. It was an exercise in futility.

Senator Wells, who appeared before committee just the other day, said that by all accounts, it appeared that the only people who were interested in protecting fish and fish habitat were those around the table, and the only people who were against protecting fish and fish habitat with respect to third-party habitat banking were the officials. That is odd.

I want to talk again about why we are here. I spoke at length about the influence of third-party groups at the highest levels of our offices. I will remind the House that the former chief adviser to the Prime Minister, Gerald Butts, was the president and CEO of the World Wildlife Fund. The Prime Minister's new director of policy is a former top executive at Tides Canada.

Why is this important? It is important because these are the very organizations whose mandate is to shut down Canada's resources every step of the way and to tarnish Canada's natural resource sector on the world stage.

It says right on their own websites that they were going to use celebrities, their media and their influence to tarnish Canada's oil and gas and forestry to attack and landlock our resources. They have now permeated every office in this government.

In 2015, 114 third parties poured $6 million into influencing the election outcome, and many of those parties were funded by the U.S.-based Tides foundation. The World Wildlife Fund is deciding fisheries policy on the east coast.

As the shadow minister for Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, I went to meetings with the former fisheries minister, and there were no fisheries stakeholders there. The table was surrounded by environmental groups. We are placing a higher priority on these environmental groups than we are on the stakeholders who make their living and depend on our natural resources for their economic well-being.

Late last night, I took another phone call about another mill closure in my riding of Cariboo—Prince George. I know that colleagues understand our economic plight in western Canada. We have seen a lot of emotion over the last weeks and months about the plight of the west. The reality is that we are losing our jobs, and we do not have other opportunities. It is not that we are against the environment, unlike what a parliamentary secretary said yesterday, in response to Bill C-88, which is that the Conservatives blame the Liberals for putting such a high priority on the environment. That is not true. We blame the Liberals for putting such a high priority on environmental groups, not on the stakeholders, indigenous peoples and our local communities that depend on our natural resources for well-paying jobs to provide for their families.

There are hundreds of workers in my riding and adjacent ridings, and thousands of workers across the province of British Columbia, who are waking up today to more work curtailment and job closures. That is shameful.

When the House hears our emotion and concern when we raise the issues, it is not that we are against the environment, as much as the Minister of Environment would like people to believe that. It is that these policies the government has put forth have shaken the confidence of industry. They have a real impact. They may not impact those members of Parliament from downtown Toronto or in major urban centres, but they impact rural Canadians, and that is the truth.

I am going to close by reminding the House that this House does not belong to any of us who are in here. We are merely vehicles to be the voices of the electors. There are 338 members of Parliament in this House. Last night, we saw one courageous Liberal who stood against what her government was doing. We have been placed here to be the voices of those who elected us.

Despite saying in 2015 that they would let debate reign, the Liberals have time and again forced closure and time allocation on pieces of legislation. In doing so, they have silenced the voices of the electors who have put us here.

I would like to move the following motion, seconded by the member for North Okanagan—Shuswap:

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

“the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence, be now read a second time and concurred in.”

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2019 / 10:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Cariboo—Prince George for his speech on this topic, the Senate amendments to Bill C-68. We have sat together on the fisheries committee for years now. We have seen a government that has totally ignored the restoration of fish stocks across the country. Time and again, recommendations from our committee have called on the current government to take action. It failed to do so.

I also want to speak briefly on comments I got from a fisheries officer, who said that the changes we made in 2012 made it much easier for fisheries officers to do their job. Rather than having to gather incredible amounts of evidence, convince Crown prosecutors and then take cases to court, which would take years to prosecute, with the changes made in 2012 fisheries officers are able to immediately demand restoration where damage has been done. There has been no indication that habitat has been lost or damaged in any of the evidence ever produced by the government or in testimony at committee.

I would like the member to comment further on why the government fails to do anything to restore fish stocks, whether Atlantic salmon or salmon on the west coast, and why it continues to push this ill-conceived bill through the House.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2019 / 10:25 a.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am able to answer a question from my hon. colleague from Cariboo—Prince George.

Yes, Bill C-38, in the spring of 2012, gutted the Fisheries Act. Yes, it was an appalling decision to take away protections for habitat. On the ground, the effect was that habitat officers for DFO were laid off. I got calls all the time. My hon. colleague knows I tell the truth on these things. People would call me to say they called DFO about a beach where a clam licence was allowed that was being over-harvested, and DFO would tell them that officials could not get there and there was nothing they could do. There were times when habitat was being destroyed and people working on stream restoration who lost funding would call DFO to say that habitat was being lost for cutthroat trout and for getting salmon back, and the answer would be that DFO could not help, because there was no law and DFO did not have any manpower.

We need Bill C-68 to be passed. I lament that it was a bit weakened when my amendment that was accepted at committee was removed, but this bill needs to pass. Every single fisheries organization, the economic backbone of my community, wants this legislation passed before we leave this place.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2019 / 10:30 a.m.
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NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to Bill C-68, which would amend the Fisheries Act. I will be splitting my time with my good colleague and friend from South Okanagan—West Kootenay.

It has been a positive week for our oceans. Monday, Bill S-203 was passed, which would end cetaceans in captivity. There was also an announcement to ban single-use plastics, although we are waiting for the details. It has been a progressive week.

Now we have Bill C-68, an opportunity to fix the gutting of the Fisheries Act under the Conservatives. I am glad this place has an opportunity to do even more work to ensure that aquatic environments are safeguarded, which should be our priority as parliamentarians.

The bill would restore protections for all fish across Canada, protections that were previously removed by the Conservatives six years ago. This could have been changed sooner. We wish it had been done sooner, but we are glad it is being done now and we welcome changes to this bill.

Fish stocks are in decline in many parts of the country, as we know, especially on the west coast. It is due, in large part, to the negative impacts of human activity on fish habitat and the health of water bodies overall. Bill C-68 would put back into place legal protections needed to conserve fish habitat and the aquatic environment in a manner consistent with the minister's mandate to restore lost protections and introduce modern safeguards to the Fisheries Act.

With respect to the specifics, Bill C-68 would first and foremost compel the minister to consider any effects that decisions under the Fisheries Act might have on the rights of indigenous peoples of Canada and authorize agreements to be made with indigenous governing bodies. It is so important that the work we do embeds these protections and the rights of indigenous communities.

Pacific salmon are a primary food source for culture and the economy of indigenous peoples and people in coastal communities. The government has taken steps to help incorporate the rights and traditions of indigenous peoples to support their economic and cultural sustainability. I am very proud of the determined and continued stewardship of the indigenous communities in our country, especially on the west coast and in my riding. We really need their input and local knowledge to do this work; it is absolutely essential.

I want to share with the House a couple of comments.

Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council president, Dr. Judith Sayers, said that while Bill C-68 may not be everything Nuu-chah-nulth would like to see, it was a fulfillment of the Liberal promise to undo the damage the previous government did to the act. She said that habitat restoration was critical for their fisheries to remain sustainable so they may continue to exercise our rights and that the inclusion of indigenous wisdom was a start to recognizing their laws and knowledge systems. She did highlight, though, the need for co-management and the need to work toward that.

Eric Angel, the fisheries program manager for Uu-a-thluk, which is a Nuu-Chah-Nulth fisheries program, said:

The changes to the Fisheries Act under Bill C-68 are the most important amendments to federal fisheries legislation in a hundred years. Nuu-chah-nulth are very concerned that these proposed changes become law. The restoration of habitat protection that was stripped out of the Fisheries Act under the Harper government is absolutely critical. We are facing a crisis on the west coast with the destruction of salmon habitat and we desperately need this legislation to be able to force government to do a better job of looking after fish habitat. The proposed act also contains some small but important steps towards recognizing the laws and traditional knowledge systems of First Nations.

It is important to move forward with this. We know water is sacred. We, as parliamentarians, are coming to better understand that. We have a commitment to improve the ecology, especially the habitats that surround indigenous communities in coastal communities, as well as their important rights, ensuring their local knowledge and leadership in their traditional territories are respected. They have taken the lead on water issues. In my riding and many indigenous communities, the bill would directly and positively affect them.

Bill C-68 would also modernize measures to protect fish and fish habitat in ecologically significant areas and establish standards and codes of practice, a public registry and create fish habitat banks initially by different projects. This bill would also allow the minister to establish advisory panels and to set fees, including for the provision of regulatory processes, and allow the minister to make regulations for the conservation and protection of marine biodiversity.

We are happy to see clauses that build greater oversight over what companies do to fish habitats. It would allow the minister to stop companies from putting down anti-salmon breeding mats and protect the stock of coastal salmon.

The New Democrats are pleased to see that after so many years of trying, the bill would prohibit the import and exportation of shark fins. We have been working incredibly hard to ensure this practice is a thing of the past.

I want to thank my colleague and friend, the hon. member for Port Moody—Coquitlam, for his tireless efforts to make this happen, both in Bill C-68 and through Bill S-238. I also want to thank the members of the fisheries and oceans committee, who have taken the time to look at the issue closely.

The fact remains that shark populations, both in Canada and abroad, are at significant risk. My office has heard from many ordinary citizens, as well as conservation experts, who feel strongly about the effort to protect shark populations from needless slaughter. We have spent enough time over several parliaments looking at the issue and this is a critical juncture for us to act.

Along the same vein, this bill would further enshrine the ban on the capture and captivity of cetaceans, which I mentioned earlier. I am so grateful to the House for its support of Bill S-203 on Monday. It shows that the House is an active participant in changing the dialogue on marine conservation, and also on animal rights. I am pleased this bill gives us an opportunity to reaffirm that participation.

Bill C-68 would strengthen the enforcement powers and establish an alternative measures agreements regime, which includes $284 million over five years to enforce the protection of habitat wherever fish are present. This bill would allow the minister to stop or limit fishing for a period of 45 days to address the threat to the proper management and control of fisheries so the conservation and protection of fish is maintained.

Bill C-68 goes beyond just restoring the protection and habitat that were removed in the changes to the Fisheries Act in 2012. It goes as far as to include all fish in the definition of “fisheries”, and would include the rebuilding of depleted fish stocks in the Fisheries Act.

All that said, the latest suite of amendments proposed by the Senate presents some setback to the work that the House has been doing. The biggest thing that comes to mind are the changes that touch heavily on third-party habitat banking.

The creation of habitat banks has been poorly executed in the past, where first nations, municipalities and conservation organizations saw damage accumulated in their territory or watershed and the habitat bank in a neighbouring first nations territory or watershed. Therefore, it was disappointing to see these amendments, calling for the proposal of third-party banking. There was no consultation with indigenous groups, which mostly oppose it.

While I am happy to see the Liberal government is listening to some of these concerns and has proposed to remove these amendments, I am disappointed in the Liberal government for not taking the opportunity to really make a difference in protecting water flows, both upstream and downstream.

Back in the spring of 2018, when Bill C-68 was before the fisheries and oceans committee, the hon. member for Port Moody—Coquitlam proposed several amendments to strengthen the bill. These amendments included proposals that explicitly recognized that the quantity, timing and quality of water flows were vital to ensuring the free passage and the protection of fish and fish habitat. These important amendments were passed by a majority vote during the clause-by-clause review.

The Senate has not taken the issue of water flows seriously. It proposed that the addition of upstream protection was unimportant and that companies that obstructed the flow of water should do the bare minimum required to conserve populations. This was something the industry wanted. We worked with conservation groups to find a solution to water-flow issues, but the Senate only listened to the lobbyists, who cannot be bothered to be proactive partners in conservation.

What is more, the Liberals are on board with this amendment, despite the expert advice of the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat, which pointed to the absence of legal protections for environmental flows, resulting in a situation where fisheries resources, fish habitat and the supporting freshwater ecosystems may not be consistently protected across Canada.

I am sure I could speak for a lot longer on this, but this is a great step. I have to commend the government for working together with us to repair so much of the damage left by the previous government. However, if we are to walk the path to restoration, it will take many more steps.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2019 / 10:40 a.m.
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Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will forgive the member for falling off topic here. What we are debating today are the Senate amendments to Bill C-68, and he did not touch on those, not that I can pick out, at any point during his intervention. Therefore, I would like to bring him back to that. I forgive the member for it, because he has only been part-time on this committee over the past three and a half, four years.

Why would the Liberal government reject sensible amendments from a Senate committee that would actually see a net gain in fish habitat and fish habitat values, from the third party habitat banking? The Liberal government seems to refuse to do anything that would increase or improve fish habitat. That is the amendments that the government is kicking aside.

The member for Courtenay—Alberni seems to have ignored all of that in his intervention. Why?

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2019 / 10:45 a.m.
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NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak to Bill C-68, an act to amend the Fisheries Act and other acts in consequence. Today, we are debating the Senate amendments to the bill, as was just mentioned. I initially spoke to this bill at report stage almost exactly one year ago today. I will be covering some of the same ground as I did then, but today I want to spend a little more time speaking in general terms about fisheries conservation.

Although I grew up in the Okanagan Valley far from the coast, my family has a deep history in coastal fisheries. My mother's family, the Munns, once controlled the cod fishery of Labrador. My great-uncle William Azariah Munn was what one might call a cod liver oil baron. He was also an amateur fisheries biologist and historian. W.A. Munn not only researched the Viking sagas but was the first to suggest that Vineland was located on the northern peninsula of Newfoundland, which was subsequently vindicated by the findings at L'Anse aux Meadows. He wrote the first detailed account of the annual migration of codfish in the Newfoundland waters in 1922. I found that out when I was reading the assessment report on northern cod when it was declared endangered. It was cited in the report.

I will mention in passing that I am wearing my Memorial University tie this morning to honour that part of my heritage and history. I thank Bill Kavanagh for that.

Although I grew up in the interior, like most kids of that era, I grew up fishing, in my case, catching small rainbow trout in a small creek near our house. I knew the importance of cool waters and deep pools in a stream shaded from the summer sun, good fish habitat in my part of the country.

The Fisheries Act has long been the strongest piece of legislation that protected habitat, terrestrial or aquatic, in Canada. I used to be a biologist in my past life. I spent a lot of time working on ecosystem health, endangered species recovery and time and again my colleagues would point out that the only legislation, federal or provincial, that effectively protected habitat outside parks was the federal Fisheries Act. This habitat protection was at the core of earlier versions of the Fisheries Act. Conservatives took out that protection in 2012 with Bill C-38, one of their omnibus budget bills.

The action resulted in a public outcry. Four former fisheries ministers, including one of my constituents, Tom Siddon, wrote an open letter to the government urging it to keep habitat protections in the act. I saw Tom last weekend at an event in my riding and I am happy to say that he is still standing up for the environment.

This act still is deficient in a few ways regarding habitat. For instance, while it talks about water in the rivers and lakes as fish habitat, it does not discuss the amount of that water, the flow. That is clearly a problem as water is obviously the most important ingredient in fish habitat. Those deep, cool pools I fished in are becoming shallower and warmer. Bill C-68 would empower the fisheries and oceans minister to make management orders prohibiting or limiting fishing to address a threat to the conservation and protection of fish. I am fully in favour of that power, but I wonder how often it would be used despite the fact that it would likely be recommended on a regular basis by scientists.

Fish are consistently treated differently from terrestrial species in conservation actions. As an example, of all the fish species assessed as threatened or endangered in recent years by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, less than half have been placed on the Species at Risk Act schedules. A bird or mammal in trouble is generally added to those schedules as a matter of course, but fish are out of luck. This attitude must change.

I am happy to see the Senate amendment that includes shark-finning laws proposed by my colleague from Port Moody—Coquitlam over the years and Senator Mike MacDonald in the other place. I am very happy to see those private members' bills rolled into this new act in the Senate amendments.

I am also happy to see there is a provision in this act that would give the DFO more resources for enforcement. I hope that some of these resources can be used to rebuild the DFO staff that used to be found throughout the interior of B.C. to promote fish habitat restoration, rebuild fish stocks and watch what is happening on the ground. There are no DFO staff left at all in my riding in the Okanagan and Kootenay regions, despite the fact that there are numerous aquatic stewardship societies across the riding that used to have a great relationship with the DFO. Volunteer groups that are devoted to aquatic habitats in the Arrow Lakes, the Slocan Valley, Christina Lake, the Kettle River watershed, Osoyoos Lake and Vaseux Lake could all benefit through a renewal of those staffing levels.

I would like to close with a good news story that shows what can happen when Canadians take fish conservation into their own hands, identify problems and solutions and then work hard to make good things happen. That is the story of restoring salmon populations in the Okanagan. This story involves many players from both the United States and Canada but it is mainly a story of the Syilx people, the indigenous peoples of the Okanagan, who came together to bring salmon back to the valley.

Salmon, n’titxw, is one of the four food chiefs of the Syilx and central to their culture and trade traditions. In fact, that is true for many other first nations in the B.C. interior and Yukon, indigenous communities hundreds or thousands of kilometres from the ocean that rely on salmon, that have always relied on salmon and whose cultures are inextricably tied to salmon.

When I was a kid in the Okanagan, very few salmon came up the river from the Pacific. The Okanagan is part of the Columbia system, and those fish had to climb over 11 dams to get to the Okanagan River and back to their spawning grounds. Most of the Columbia salmon runs died out after huge dams like Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph were built and blocked its free flow. The Okanagan flows into the Columbia below Grand Coulee, so a handful of sockeye came back to the Okanagan every year.

However, after years of work by the Okanagan Nation Alliance and other groups, we often see runs of over 100,000 fish, occasionally 400,000 or more. The Okanagan River is once again red with sockeye in the autumn. In most years there is a successful sports fishery for sockeye in Osoyoos Lake.

The ONA has spearheaded significant restoration projects on the Okanagan River, restoring natural flows to small parts of the river and creating ideal spawning beds in others. They organize cultural ceremonies and salmon feasts that bring the broader communities together to celebrate the cycle of the salmon.

The ONA has grown to be one of the largest inland fisheries organizations in Canada with 45 full-time staff. Compare that to zero for the DFO in my area. It has its own state-of-the-art hatchery and fish virology lab.

To make a difference, to change our country and our communities for the better, we must have a vision for a better future. The Syilx vision includes healthy lakes and rivers filled with salmon, salmon that enrich the entire ecosystem and enrich the lives of everyone in the region. I share that vision. The vision includes restoring salmon not just to the entire Okanagan system, but to the upper Columbia River as well, reviving the salmon culture in the Kootenays.

That small creek I used to fish in as a kid now has more than rainbow trout. Every year a few chinook salmon, the big guys, make it into that creek after their epic trip up from the Pacific. That is beyond my wildest dreams.

If we take care of our lakes, our rivers and even the smallest creeks, we can keep this country healthy and beautiful. As the Syilx Okanagan song says, “We are beautiful because our land is beautiful.”

The bill before us could have been bolder and more effective, but it is a chance to take a small step towards that end, towards that vision.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2019 / 12:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Dan Ruimy Liberal Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak today to the message from the Senate regarding Bill C-68, an act to amend the Fisheries Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts. Once enacted, this bill will repeal the changes that the former Conservative government implemented when it gutted the Fisheries Act in 2012, and restore lost protections.

I would like to thank the Senate for its work on this bill, as well as the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, who is continuing the great work of the Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs, who first introduced this bill when he was at Fisheries. Of course, we hope for his quick recovery.

I will be splitting my time with the member for North Okanagan—Shuswap.

Since I was elected, I heard this message loud and clear. As a new MP, the challenge to find sustainable solutions was daunting. After much consultation, I zeroed in on what I felt should be the starting point, the Fisheries Act, which, as I had been told by the people I work with, had been gutted over the years so that fish and fish habitat no longer had the strong protections that were once there.

For two and a half years, I worked with groups such as the Alouette River Management Society, the Kanaka Education and Environmental Partnership Society, the Katzie and Kwantlen first nations, streamkeepers, the cities of Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge, as well as people like Julie Porter, Ken Stewart, Jack Emberly, Greta, Cheryl, Lina, Sophie, Ross, Doug, and the list goes on.

These are not political or partisan people; they are folks who care deeply about their community. They all helped me to better understand the importance of these changes, and I thank them very much. Together, over the course of two years, we identified and discussed key pieces of legislation in the Fisheries Act that could be improved. I submitted my report to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, with recommendations on how we can further strengthen the Fisheries Act and restore some of the lost protections, and here we are today.

I would like to speak to the specific changes we are seeking through the motion. We will be accepting a majority of the amendments made by the Senate, including many that were moved by the government through Senator Harder, and we will be respectfully rejecting just three amendments.

The first amendment we are rejecting is an amendment that was made to the definition of fish habitat by Senator Poirier. In her amendment, the senator reduced the scope for the application of fish and fish habitat provisions by deleting “water frequented by fish” from the definition of fish habitat. By narrowing the scope of fish habitat, this amendment goes against the very objective of this bill to provide increased protections.

We are also amending an amendment by Senator Christmas so that the language used in relation to section 35 and aboriginal treaty rights is consistent with the rest of the bill. On this amendment, the minister has received support from Senator Christmas.

The other amendments we will be rejecting were made by Senator Wells, regarding habitat banking and collecting fees in lieu of offsets. These amendments were initially proposed by the Canadian Wildlife Federation, which has since written a letter to support the removal of the amendments, as significant consultations are required and it would be premature at this time to include the amendments.

This motion takes full consideration of the amendments made by the Senate, and I hope all members can join us in passing the bill.

Bill C-68 has many important components that Canadians across the country support. I would like to speak about the fish stocks provisions proposed in Bill C-68, which are aimed at strengthening Canada's fisheries management framework and rebuilding depleted stocks.

The fish stocks provisions would introduce legally binding commitments to implement measures to, first, manage our major fish stocks at or above levels necessary to promote their sustainability and, second, to develop and implement a rebuilding plan for a major fish stock if it becomes depleted. Maintaining stocks at healthy levels and rebuilding depleted stocks are essential to the long-term economic viability of our fishing communities and the health of our oceans.

That is why, in the fall economic statement, the Government of Canada announced an investment of $107.4 million over five years, starting this fiscal year, as well as $17.6 million per year ongoing to support the implementation of the fish stocks provisions.

This new funding will help accelerate the implementation of the fish stocks provisions for the major fish stocks in Canada. As many members are aware, a number of important fish stocks in Canadian waters have shown significant declines over the past couple of decades and some more recently. This new investment will enable the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to implement these strong legislative tools for all key stocks.

As robust science is the bedrock of our fishery management system, the largest share of the investment will go to science activities. We will make targeted investments to increase the number of at-sea science surveys, so we can better and more frequently assess the state of our fish stocks across a broad range of major fish stocks and marine areas.

As well, we will hire additional fisheries scientists to carry out these new survey activities, analyze the data from these at-sea surveys and prepare science advice for our fisheries managers through our world-class peer review process. As a result, we will be more effective at detecting changes in the health of fish stocks and provide more robust science advice to manage these stocks to achieve sustainability goals. We will also be able to develop a better understanding of the threats facing our depleted fish stocks, which will allow us to take a targeted approach in our rebuilding efforts.

This funding will enable external groups, including indigenous groups, academics, industry and non-government organizations, to participate in fisheries data collection and the scientific assessment of Canada's major fish stocks. Additional support will be provided to establish and enhance existing partnerships and help develop scientific and technical capacity within these external groups.

With this funding we will also make investments to increase the capacity in fisheries management to develop precautionary approach management measures and rebuilding plans to meet the fish stocks provisions in collaboration with indigenous groups and stakeholders. It will also enhance our capacity to carry out socio-economic analyses to better understand the potential impacts of proposed management measures and the costs and benefits of different management options that are aimed at rebuilding fish stocks.

Over the next five years, the government has committed to making the majority of the 181 major fish stocks subject to the fish stocks provisions. Canadians have told us that sustainable fisheries are a priority, and we agree. This investment is essential in order to prescribe the major stocks as quickly as possible to the protections offered by the fish stock provisions.

We are also developing a regulation to set out the required contents of rebuilding plans so that all the plans are comprehensive and consistent. Under the proposed regulation, a rebuilding plan must be developed and implemented within two years of the stock becoming depleted.

Our government believes it is our collective responsibility to exercise our stewardship of Canada's fisheries and their habitat in a practical, reasonable and sustainable manner. The proposed fish stocks provisions and other measures in the amended Fisheries Act restore protections for fish and fish habitat, and introduce modern safeguards while facilitating sustainable economic growth, job creation and resource development.

With these stronger legislative tools to help keep our fish stocks healthy, and the funding to support their implementation, Canada's seafood sector, which employs over 76,000 people and contributed a landed value of $3.4 billion in 2017, will have a brighter future.

It is no doubt that this bill will implement changes that Canadians have long been waiting for. These amendments will restore lost protections and ensure that our fisheries are sustainable for future generations. The Senate made a number of amendments, and while we cannot support all of them, I believe we have put forth a reasonable motion that I hope all members can support.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2019 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I that we all want to see healthy fish stocks, prosperous fisheries and a thriving economy, and I believe all those are possible at the same time. We can achieve that by using Canadian technology, Canadian ingenuity and Canadian investment. We can do all that and rebuild our declining fish stocks.

We have national conservation organizations, like Ducks Unlimited, the Canadian Wildlife Federation, local fishing game clubs and stream keeper organizations ready to create and improve fish habitat. Using Canadian technology, Canadian ingenuity and Canadian investment in proactive ways that would actually see fish habitat increased and improved in advance of projects would ensure prosperous fisheries and a thriving economy. This could all be made possible under the third-party habitat banking amendments being put forward by the Senate.

Before the Senate had even voted on sending these amendments to Bill C-68 back to this House of Parliament, the fisheries minister basically gave a directive to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, FOPO, to do a study on third-party habitat banking. Imagine that. I say it was a directive, because although the parliamentary committees are supposed to be free to set their own agenda, that committee has a majority of Liberal members who would dare not deny a request from their own minister.

Therefore, on June 10, as a directive from the fisheries minister, we began a study of third-party habitat banking. Also on June 10, we finished a study on third-party habitat banking. We started and finished in one day, in two hours. It was an abomination of a study, with no mention of a report back to the minister and no report to the House of Commons. It was of almost of no use at all other than perhaps being able to say “we consulted”, part of the fake consultation I have seen with the government time and again over the past three and a half years.

However, I say almost nothing out of that study, except what we heard from witnesses that day. They spoke about third-party habitat banking, saying that it would be a good thing to incorporate, that the difficult details around third-party habitat banking could be worked out through the regulations and orders in council. The regulations need not be fully ironed out in order for Bill C-68 to be amended and passed. We also heard testimony from multiple witnesses that third-party habitat banking could create net gains to habitat. Imagine, conservation organizations and local angling clubs being able to work proactively to create an enhanced fish habitat.

It should be the dream and goal of any fisheries minister to increase and improve fisheries habitat. However, as we have seen so many times over the past three and a half years, Liberal fisheries ministers fail to do what is right and instead give deals to their buddies and relatives, getting caught up in scandal. They fail to deliver and fund restoring fish stocks.

We also heard in testimony during that short “but we can say we consulted” meeting on June 10, that during the Senate study of Bill C-68, the only witnesses who spoke against third-party habitat banking were the minister and DFO staff, undoubtedly under the direction of the fisheries minister.

Why would every other witness support third-party habitat banking and the minister's department oppose it? Why would a minister not want to see net gains to fish habitat? Why would a minister ignore and cast aside testimony, ideas and proposals that would be good for fish, fisheries and the economy?

I can only surmise that it is because the fisheries minister, like his Liberal predecessors, are out of touch with Canadian fisheries and the Canadian way.

I also want to point out the fake and disingenuous consultations by the former fisheries minister from Beauséjour undertaken during his tenure. I do wish to send best wishes to the former fisheries minister regarding his health.

While he was minister, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, FOPO, undertook a study on changes to the Fisheries Act. While that study was on the book, three different news releases went out on the consultation process, three conflicting news releases under that minister's watch.

The first one, on October 16, 2016, stated that all briefs received during the consultations would be provided to the committee for its study. The next one, on November 16, 2016, again stated the feedback heard would be shared with the committee for its study. However, that feedback never reached the committee in time.

After multiple requests from indigenous groups and committee members to extend the timeline of the study, the Liberal members refused to extend that time so we could incorporate the briefs solicited and paid for with taxpayer dollars.

In the end, over $2 million was spent for indigenous groups to provide briefs to the committee for study. Over $1.2 million of those briefs for consultation and input for the review were not received before the Liberals closed off the study. Those taxpayer dollars were not received by the committee in time for the study. Imagine what $1.2 million could have done for fish habitat in the hands of conservation groups and organizations.

I can imagine that because my background is in conservation. My first interest in this was with fish and game clubs, putting boots on and getting in the streams creating spawning habitat. What our clubs could have done with $1.2 million, which the Liberal government wasted because it could not get that information to the committee on time.

Now here we are up against time. The government has called time allocation on debate on these Senate amendments after minimum time back in the House. It has taken the government three and a half years to get the bill this far and it is still not right.

Dozens of amendments came from the Senate on Bill C-68, most of them tossed aside by the Liberal government, amendments that really could make a difference in the streams, creating more fish habitat, creating more fish, creating more opportunities for fishermen and creating a strong and vibrant economy.

It is really disappointing to have debate cut short. Ten minutes for me to speak to this is really less than half the time I would have liked in a full speaking time of 20 minutes.

I have talked about how the FOPO study was denied extensions. We have talked about briefs being received after the report deadline. We have heard testimony many times that there was no proof of any harm to fish habitat from the 2012 changes to the Fisheries Act.

One of the first things I did in this parliamentary session was to put in an Order Paper question asking for any proof of harm or loss of habitat as a result of the 2012 changes to the Fisheries Act. More than three years later, not one piece of evidence has been provided. Therefore, the fisheries minister and the current government are being deceitful, if I can use that word, to the Canadian public and this Parliament. I have lost respect for them because of that.

I thank the House for the time to be able to discuss these amendments, and I will welcome questions.

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June 14th, 2019 / 1:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on the Senate amendments to Bill C-68, an act to amend the Fisheries Act, a terribly flawed piece of legislation that erodes the rights of Canadians.

I wish to acknowledge and thank, on behalf of all Canadians, the research team of the Ontario Landowners Association for the work done by the group on Bill C-68, particularly Elizabeth Marshall and Tom Black. The report they prepared but were not able to present to the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans has been highly informative. Canadians will understand, after my remarks are finished, that when we are working with bad legislation, all the tinkering in the world will not fix the wrong assumptions that are at the heart of this bill.

The Liberal Party is attempting to violate the Constitution by artificially extending its jurisdiction in contradiction to its constitutional limits. It is also trying to do indirectly what it cannot do directly, which has been struck down in the Canadian courts. The federal government does not have the constitutional jurisdiction to expand environmental protection through the Fisheries Act, as this is in violation of provincial jurisdiction, as well as in violation of private rights established under common law, the Constitution Act, 1867, and the letters patent / Crown grant.

Though many laws regulate water and water use, the Fisheries Act remains the only legislation that directly addresses the protection and conservation of fish and fish habitat. Enacted in 1868, the act is one of Canada's oldest pieces of legislation. In 2012, the Fisheries Act was significantly amended.

I am now going to turn to the Senate testimony. We had the OPG, Ontario Power Generation, look at its generation portfolio on hydro power. It determined that it would take an up to 80% increase in instantaneous passage of flow as a principle for meeting the objectives of the new definition of “fish habitat”, and that it would no longer be peaking and holding back water or meeting grid demands, outside of the greenhouse gas emissions impact, which would bear out. That was very important.

The amendments of the Senate involved a move from protecting fish generally to focusing on only prohibiting serious harm to fish that were part of a commercial or aboriginal fishery. That is what the 2012 amendments did. These amendments were common sense in application and were done after listening and acting on the concerns of stakeholders.

The 2012 Conservative amendments respected the Canadian Constitution. It was my pleasure to recommend to the committee reviewing the Conservative amendments a witness to provide practical observations as to why the Fisheries Act needed to be amended.

Jack Maclaren is a multi-generational orchard farmer from my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. Jack had the unfortunate experience of having a ditch, hand dug by his grandfather and great-grandfather to collect and direct water to their orchard, declared a navigable waterway after he started to clear a blocked culvert that was flooding the road to his farmhouse.

Needless to say, Jack and many other farmers just like him welcomed the Conservative common sense amendments passed by our government in 2012. The Liberal Party, under the guise of protection of so-called “fish habitat” in unlikely places like Jack's ditch, is actually looking to use the Fisheries Act as environmental legislation, when the federal government has already protections established under the Canada Shipping Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

What really caught my attention on Bill C-68 was the addition in committee of a new concept in Canadian law, the concept of water flow or, as it is referred to in other documents, environmental flow. It was added in subsection 2(2) to amend the act.

Water flow is a hot topic in my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. The spring of 2019 now has the dubious distinction of being the worst in recent memory for flooding along the Ottawa River. My constituents are skeptical when the Prime Minister and the member from Ottawa blame every significant weather event on climate change.

They do not believe the Liberal Party leader when he claims a new tax on Canadians, the Liberal carbon tax, will stop the Ottawa River from flooding. The residents of the Ottawa Valley have a suspicion that recent flooding has been caused by either government policy or human error, or some combination of both. They want answers.

The question now being asked is whether the federal government caused the flooding. Were the dam operators instructed to hold back water when they should have been releasing water to meet the federal government's new definitions of fish habitat? These are questions my constituents feel can only be answered by an independent inquiry, an external review.

Expert testimony before the standing committee, which I referred to before, certainly seemed to confirm that the Government of Canada was planning to make flooding on the Ottawa River an annual occurrence, judging by the question asked by a senator to a representative of Ontario Power Generation, which operates the dams on the river. The expert said:

When OPG, Ontario Power Generation, looked at our generation portfolio on hydro power, we determined that we would take an 80 per cent instantaneous passage of flow as a principle for meeting the objectives of the new definition of “fish habitat.” We would no longer be peaking and holding back water or meeting grid demands, outside of the greenhouse gas emissions impact which would bear out.... Everyone can remember the spring of 2017 in Ontario and the Ottawa Valley. We had a once in a generation flood event. We had the capacity to hold water on the watershed with our water management plans. We have detailed some impacts. One of the outcomes was that the city of Montreal would have been under a metre more of water if we had not had the ability to store water on the watershed because of flooding in the Great Lakes.

The first thing that jumped out at me was the comment that Montreal would have been under an additional metre of water had Bill C-68, as it was voted on and passed in the House of Commons by the Liberal Party, been enacted.

The next thing that jumped out while listening to the expert testimony given to that Senate committee on the decision by the Liberal Party to bring forward legislation like Bill C-68 was the limitations that would be placed on one of the cleanest, most renewable and most reliable sources of electricity. It produces almost no greenhouse gases. Canadian hydroelectricity is the envy of the world. Why would Canadians want to throw away that advantage?

A representative from Quebec, who is the president of WaterPower Canada, an organization that represents more than 60% of all electricity produced in Canada, stated:

If Bill C-68 is passed in its current form, its impact on our industry’s ability to operate its current stations and build new ones will be catastrophic.

This led me to do some research on who was lobbying for proposed subsection 2 (2) in Bill C-68, and I then discovered that the controversial clause added during committee was proposed by the Green Party. It was then supported by the Liberal majority to be included in the legislation.

Why was the Liberal Party on the House of Commons committee voting in favour of an amendment put forward by the Green Party that would be so disastrous for Canada? Is the Liberal Party really that afraid of losing votes to the Green Party that it would shift that far left?

I was then introduced to the name of a lobbyist who was on the payroll of the controversial Tides foundation. These foundations are recognized as threats to Canadian democracy. The Tides foundation is a foreign-funded organization that has been identified, among other activities, as funding a campaign to block Canadian pipelines.

Canadians lost $20 billion last year by being held a captive seller to American big oil interests. Tides Canada's American parent foundation, the Tides foundation, from which it receives funding, has been funding dam busting in the western United States, so it is no surprise that the U.S. foundation would fund similar activities in Canada.

Registered as a lobbyist for Tides Canada, Tony Maas could count on some powerful friends in the Liberal Party, starting with the now disgraced former principal secretary to the Prime Minister, Gerald Butts. Tony Maas worked for Gerald Butts when Butts was at the World Wildlife Fund. With the puppet master on his side, Maas figured he could get anything he wanted.

Maas had moved from the World Wildlife Fund to run a project funded by Tides Canada on water. In that capacity, the decision was made to use the Liberal campaign promise to make amendments to the Fisheries Act to move forward with a radical agenda on water by introducing a totally new concept in Canadian law on water flow. This was done by avoiding fisheries departmental scrutiny when Bill C-68 was first introduced to the House of Commons and waiting until committee, after second reading, to inject proposed subsection 2(2) into the bill. By doing this, checks and balances that normally occur in a department before legislation is introduced could be avoided.

The concept of water flows, or environmental flows, comes from the 2007 globalist document the Brisbane declaration. Like many globalist documents, the words written do not match with reality. While it is next to impossible to build any new hydroelectric power dams, as identified by the president of WaterPower Canada, the declaration envisages the eventual removal of existing dams in favour of flood plain restoration and the return of free-flowing rivers.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2019 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

North Vancouver B.C.

Liberal

Jonathan Wilkinson LiberalMinister of Fisheries

moved:

That a Message be sent to the Senate to acquaint Their Honours that, in relation to Bill C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence, the House:

agrees with amendments 1(b), 1(c), 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 14 and 15 made by the Senate;

respectfully disagrees with amendment 1(a) because it is contrary to the objective of the Act that its habitat provisions apply to all fish habitats throughout Canada;

proposes that amendment 3 be amended by deleting “guaranteed,” and, in the English version, by replacing the word “in” with the word “by”;

proposes that amendment 9 be amended by deleting section 35.11;

respectfully disagrees with amendment 11 because the amendment seeks to legislate in respect of third party, or market-based, fish habitat banking, which is beyond the policy intent of the Bill that is to provide only for proponent-led fish habitat banking.

Mr. Speaker, it is with great privilege that I rise today to speak to Bill C-68, an act to amend the Fisheries Act, which will restore lost protections to fish and fish habitat and incorporate modern safeguards into the law.

Before I highlight how Bill C-68 brings forward important improvements to the Fisheries Act, I would like to thank my predecessor, the Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade, the member for Beauséjour. It is due to his leadership that we are here today debating this bill which, once passed, will fulfill a promise we made to Canadians in 2015 and will ensure that our fisheries are sustainable for future generations. We all wish the minister, our friend, a very speedy and full recovery.

On this note, I would also like to extend my thanks to Senator Christmas, who is the sponsor of the bill in the other place, for his work on moving Bill C-68 forward, for his commitment to the protection of fish and ensuring that the voices of indigenous peoples are well represented. I note that he made a number of amendments that will strengthen the indigenous components of the bill that we will be accepting.

I also want to thank the other place as a whole, in particular the committee, for its study of this bill.

Today, I will begin with an overview of the bill itself, and then I will speak to the amendments proposed by the Senate.

In summary, we will be respectfully rejecting the amendments in relation to the definition of fish habitat, as well as rejecting the three amendments related to third party habitat banking.

On a minor amendment, I have already sought the agreement of Senator Christmas to make a technical change to one of his amendments so that the language reflects what is already in the bill with respect to indigenous rights.

Canadians elected a Liberal government because they knew that the Liberal Party had a plan for growing the economy and for protecting our environment. Today, we are debating an important part of that plan. Bill C-68 will restore lost protections to fish and fish habitat and ensure that the government has the tools to manage our fisheries so that they are sustainable and healthy for future generations.

The previous government gutted the Fisheries Act, made cuts to science and reduced the number of fisheries officers. These are not the types of actions Canadians want and that, in part, is why those members are sitting on the opposite side of this chamber. The Conservatives have no plan for the environment and no plan to protect our fish and fish habitat. On the other hand, this government does have a plan and that plan is working.

Bill C-68 amends the Fisheries Act to fulfill our government's commitment to better protect Canada's freshwater and marine fisheries, helping to ensure their long-term economic and environmental sustainability. The amendments we are making will modernize the act. These amendments include a new purpose clause and considerations when making decisions under the act that will provide a framework for the proper management and control of fisheries and for the conservation and protection of fish and fish habitat, including by preventing pollution.

Factors to consider when making decisions with regard to potential harm to fish include the application of a precautionary approach and an ecosystem approach, community knowledge, indigenous knowledge, and social, economic and cultural considerations.

As well, key to the proposed changes to the act are the new requirements for stock rebuilding, which will introduce legally binding commitments to implement measures to manage Canada's major fish stocks above levels necessary to promote their sustainability.

Maintaining healthy stock levels and rebuilding those that have been depleted is critical to coastal communities and to their economic viability. That is why our government in the fall economic statement announced an investment of $107 million over five years and $17.6 million per year ongoing to support the implementation of these stock rebuilding provisions. There are a number of important fish stocks that have shown declines in recent years, which is why we have committed these funds to accelerate our actions to ensure sustainability. Over the next five years, this government is committed to making major fish stocks subject to the provisions on rebuilding.

Furthermore, key to the government's commitments are the measures for the protection of fish and fish habitat with respect to works, undertakings or activities that may result in the death of fish or the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat, or HADD. First, we have expanded the scope to apply to all fish and fish habitat. Second, we have removed reference to serious harm, which, as many in the chamber know, was put forward by the previous Conservative government when it gutted the act in 2012. This new Fisheries Act will restore the application to HADD and would prohibit causing the death of fish by means other than fishing.

The new habitat provisions will also address major projects so that the proponents know which projects require permits. In response to industry concerns, we have also established codes of practice to guide best practices that minimize the impact on fish and fish habitat for smaller and routine projects. This will be especially critical for farmers and those in the agricultural industry who often undertake minor, routine works that relate to water.

Finally, the proposed Fisheries Act would enable ministerial regulations for the purposes of conservation and protection of marine biodiversity as well as the addition of other vital new tools, such as fisheries management orders, to quickly address threats to the proper management and control of the fisheries and the conservation and protection of fish.

Also, upon royal assent, the amended Fisheries Act will include a number of greatly needed updates, such as empowering the minister to establish advisory panels, set fees under the act and enter into agreements with indigenous governing bodies. Most importantly, the proposed legislation introduces a non-derogation clause as well as protections for indigenous knowledge when such information is provided to the government.

Bill C-68 also, very importantly, preserves the independence of our inshore fish harvesters by enshrining into law policies that support fleet separation. The legislation recognizes that when making decisions under the act, the minister can take into account social, economic and cultural factors, and the preservation and promotion of an independent inshore commercial fishery in Atlantic Canada and Quebec.

These amendments are critical if we want to ensure that our stocks are sustainable for future generations and for the communities from coast to coast to coast who depend on our fisheries and on the health of our oceans.

Under the former Conservative government, there was no plan to rebuild our depleted stocks, just like the Conservatives had no plan to protect our oceans. It is under this government that we have now successfully protected over 8% of our marine and coastal areas, up from less than 1% under the former Conservative government. We now have a clear path to achieving our 10% target by 2020.

Canadians know that this government has a plan that will protect our oceans all the while ensuring that our communities continue to benefit and that our economy continues to grow.

This bill is a testament to meaningful engagement and consultations, and we heard from many Canadians, from coast to coast to coast. Consultations were extensive and public, on key issues for industry, non-governmental organizations, provinces and territories, and indigenous peoples across Canada.

During the fall of 2016, the department participated in more than 90 meetings with indigenous groups, communities and organizations, and resource management boards established under land claims agreements.

In the spring of 2017, there was a second phase of public engagement. During this second phase, Fisheries and Oceans Canada provided approximately $900,000 to 89 indigenous groups to support their participation and engagement. The department also held over 70 meetings with indigenous peoples and nine more meetings with resource management boards, who, in turn, provided more than 170 written submissions.

The government has listened and has been responsive to many of the concerns that have been raised during parliamentary review. Both the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans and the other place have provided robust and very constructive recommendations, as well as amendments that have been supported by the government. With regard to some concerns raised by industry, particularly regarding the adoption of the amendment deeming water flow fish habitat, the government was responsive to concerns raised that the new definition's application could be unnecessarily broad and that the core intent was already captured in the bill. Consequently, the government agreed to the removal of the deeming water flow fish habitat provision from proposed subsection 2(2).

Industry also expressed concern about the provisions for the permitting of major projects under the proposed act. The government recognizes that regulatory certainty is important to industry and to Canadians and that designated project regulations may capture portions of projects that are not related to fish and fish habitat. Not all works, undertakings or activities that form part of a designated project require permits under the Fisheries Act, as many have no impact on fish and fish habitat. This is why we have introduced amendments from the government on designated projects, which gives the minister the ability to identify and make the final determination on which works, undertakings or activities will require a permit.

The intent of these amendments is to bring clarity to project proponents on which projects require a permit, and to avoid duplication with the federal impact assessment process. Providing greater certainty and cutting red tape while ensuring that fish and fish habitat are protected is very much the intent of this legislation.

This government, through Senator Harder, also proposed important amendments that were adopted by the other place that relate to two Senate public bills: Bill S-203 and Bill S-238. Bill S-203 is commonly referred to as the ending captivity of whales and dolphins act. Bill S-238 is commonly referred to as the ban on shark fin importation and exportation act. These two bills respond to increasing public concern about the well-being of cetaceans held in captivity in Canada solely for public display, as well as concerns about the impact and the nature of the practice of shark finning. I am pleased to say that the government shares these concerns and is demonstrating leadership on these issues.

This government believes that the practice of keeping whales in captivity solely for the purpose of public display should be phased out.

I believe that the amendments proposed to Bill S-203, and the coordinating amendments in Bill C-68, will help us effectively phase out and restrict the captivity of whales.

Bill S-238 proposes to amend the Fisheries Act to prohibit the practice of shark finning and to amend WAPPRIITA to prohibit the import and export or the attempt to import or export into and from Canada of shark fins or parts of shark fins that are not attached to a shark carcass.

The intent of the proposed amendments to Bill C-68 related to shark finning is consistent with the legislative policy objectives of Bill S-238 to address the practice of shark finning, which is the practice of removing fins from sharks and discarding the carcasses at sea. There is no doubt that shark finning and the illegal trade in shark fins have had a devastating impact on global shark populations. In fact, over 63 million sharks are killed every year, many for the global shark fin trade.

Canada has demonstrated international leadership on the conservation and management of sharks and was one of the first countries to develop a national plan of action in that regard. Canada continues to work with its partners, including regional fishery management organizations, to adopt effective management measures to regulate the capture of sharks in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Without these amendments in Bill C-68, Bill S-238 is likely not going to pass due to the short time remaining in this sitting. This amendment will ensure that shark finning and the export and import of shark fins will be banned in Canada.

I would now like to turn to the proposed changes from the other place to Bill C-68.

The first amendment that we will be respectfully rejecting was made by Senator Poirier in relation to the definition of “fish habitat”. Senator Poirier's amendment would change the definition of “fish habitat” from “water frequented by fish and any other areas on which fish depend directly or indirectly to carry out their life processes, including spawning grounds and nursery, rearing, food supply and migration areas” to “any area on which fish depend directly or indirectly to carry out their life processes, including spawning grounds and nurseries, rearing, food supply and migration areas”.

The original text of “water frequented by fish”, in addition to “areas on which fish depend directly or indirectly on”, increases the scope for the application of the fish habitat protection provisions. By removing “water frequented by fish”, this amendment goes against the objective of the bill to provide greater protection to fish and fish habitat across Canada. Therefore, we will not be supporting this change.

With regard to another proposed amendment, as part of the changes initially proposed, the government introduced provisions that would allow for proponent-led habitat banks. The department has been encouraging proponent-led habitat banking since 2013. Bill C-68 would enshrine this policy approach into law and provide new incentives to use habitat banking credits to offset impacts on fish and fish habitat caused by human activity. This represents an important evolution in the implementation of measures to help improve the conservation of fish and fish habitat.

Some stakeholders and senators have argued that we should go further, by expanding habitat banking to third parties and to allow cash payments in lieu of offsetting. Expanding habitat banking to third parties would allow any organization to earn credits through restoration or conservation projects. These credits could then be sold to project proponents that do not wish to create their own offsets prior to project development.

Payments in lieu of offsetting would allow project proponents to pay a fee up front instead of investing in offsetting projects prior to development. The intention is that revenues from these payments would be dedicated to aquatic habitat restoration. Third party habitat banking has its merits and is currently practised in some countries, including the biodiversity banking and offsets scheme in Australia and the wetlands mitigation banks in the United States.

However, there are important considerations and actions that we need to undertake prior to establishing third party habitat banking and fees in lieu of offsetting regimes here in Canada. First, it is the government's view that in order to offset the residual impact from a project, conservation projects created to acquire habitat banking credits need to benefit the specific fish populations and areas that would be affected by that project.

Second, this government believes that where aquatic species at risk are present, opportunities to undertake conservation projects involving the creation, restoration or enhancement of the habitat of aquatic species at risk should be given priority.

Third, in the freshwater and inland areas of Canada, provinces own the land and are responsible for resource management. In some cases, indigenous communities or governments may be responsible for resource management. Since habitat banks could certainly implicate these lands, the creation of a habitat bank requires that implicated stakeholders be consulted regarding the area in which the bank would be created. Consultation with other federal departments, provinces, territories, indigenous groups and landowners would be necessary to establish agreements to authorize these transactions. Due to these considerations, the proposed amendments to Bill C-68 to expand habitat banking would require regulatory initiatives that would, if not properly designed, present risks to the conservation community, indigenous groups and other land or rights holders.

In summary, although third party habitat banking and fees in lieu of offsetting are schemes that have significant potential for application in Canada, those in comparative jurisdictions are based on complex and lengthy legislative and regulatory framework development. The current proposed model is inadequate in this regard and would likely result in unintended consequences in its current form. Further, any such provisions certainly would require significant consultations with provinces, territories and others.

Due to the legal complexity and public policy considerations that the government would need to address prior to establishing and implementing such regimes in Canada, we will not be adopting the habitat banking amendments proposed by the other place. However, going forward, the department will commit to evaluating the performance of proponent-led habitat banks and to assess offsetting policies adopted elsewhere, including third party habitat banking and payment in lieu of offsetting.

Additionally, in light of the discussions on third party habitat banking as they relate to Bill C-68, I have asked the House fisheries committee to study this issue. This government has always been of the view that polluters should pay. It simply should not be free to harm our environment. I believe there is significant merit in further examining third party habitat banking.

I would also note that the Canadian Wildlife Federation, which proposed these amendments through Senator Wells and which does great work advocating for the protection of wildlife habitat, has indicated its support for the removal of the these amendments at this time. It understands that more work needs to be done before we can move forward fully in this area. In addition, we are making a technical amendment to an amendment made by Senator Christmas to ensure that the language used with respect to section 35 rights, as well as aboriginal treaty rights, is consistent with language used in the rest of the bill. I have spoken to Senator Christmas about this amendment and he has agreed to this change.

Bill C-68 is restoring lost protections that Canadians elected this government to do. Changes in this bill will help rebuild fish stocks and in turn support the communities that depend on them.

When the Conservatives were in government, they did the opposite. They watered down fish and fish habitat protection when they gutted the Fisheries Act in 2012, and they made deep cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans by slashing the operating budget by $100 million. They also made staff cuts to critical areas, such as the Pacific region habitat management program, which helped support the management of our wild salmon.

I am proud to be part of a government that is taking the right approach when it comes to protecting our environment and our fish stocks. That is why last fall, in partnership with the Government of British Columbia, I announced $142 million to create the B.C. salmon restoration and innovation fund to support the B.C. fish and seafood sector, and to ensure the sustainability of wild Pacific salmon and other B.C. fish stocks. This government has also invested in science, small craft harbours across the country and whale research. As many Canadians know, it was this government that invested $1.5 billion in the oceans protection plan that has supported research, opened new rescue boat stations, increased Coast Guard capacity and restored coastal habitats. Canadians can count on this government to make the right investments in our environment while growing our economy and creating good middle-class jobs.

This bill has also been before both chambers for over a year now. The Conservatives will say that their move backward in 2012 to reduce protections may not have had a negative impact on the environment; they will argue that their changes were somehow merited.

Canadians know not to wait until stocks collapse before taking action. Canadians know that the Conservatives do not support science or a precautionary approach. That is why, under their watch, they muzzled scientists and made dramatic cuts. Canadians know that Bill C-68 will help protect our fish and fish habitat and is an important piece as we move forward with a plan that will protect our biodiversity, oceans, and ensure our fisheries are sustainable for future generations.

It is truly time to get on with passing Bill C-68. In response to the message from the other place, we are accepting many amendments, while rejecting just three amendments and amending one. Again, the Canadian Wildlife Federation that originally proposed the habitat banking amendments, through Senator Wells, has indicated its support for the removal of that amendment. I would also note that Senator Wells was one of just three senators who voted against the bill, effectively against the very amendments he put in at third reading. Further, as I had indicated, Senator Christmas supports the minor technical amendment that we are proposing.

I certainly hope that all members in this chamber can join with me in ensuring quick passage of this bill, so that our fish and their habitat can be assured of the protection they so desperately need.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2019 / 4 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to offer my support for Bill C-68 on behalf of my constituents who widely condemned the previous Conservative government's changes to the Fisheries Act. I am glad to be able to stand in this place and to fix the damages of the past.

That being said, however, I am very disappointed with the minister supporting Senate amendments 1(c) and 7 with respect to environmental flows. He should know why I am disappointed about this. It is because of the Cowichan River and the Jordan River in my riding. Yesterday, the Cowichan River was reported to be flowing at a rate of five cubic metres per second. This is in early June.

I do not know how the minister can stand in this place and not recognize that environmental flows are critical to fish habitat. I was on the river last month, helping to rescue salmon fry. There are huge swaths of the river that are now being affected. Loss of habitat is very widespread. We had a golden opportunity in this legislation that was passed by the House to have environmental flows enshrined in the legislation.

The minister knows that this is a big problem for rivers on the coast. I do not know why he is supporting that when the evidence is abundantly clear that environmental flows are absolutely critical to maintaining proper fish habitat.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2019 / 4 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Jonathan Wilkinson Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Madam Speaker, it is very important for fish harvesters. Certainly they have made that abundantly clear in the conversations they have had with me.

It is an important initiative on behalf of the government to strengthen owner-operator and fleet separation through Bill C-68. It is an integral set of policies for underpinning our coastal communities and the economic viability of our coastal communities. We are very pleased to be moving forward with something that we think is extremely important for many Atlantic Canadians and fish harvesters in Quebec.

It will be a happy day for all of us when we get that done and passed.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2019 / 4:05 p.m.
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NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans for his speech. New Democrats will be supporting the passage of the bill. It is an important piece of legislation.

I would like to thank him for the part of the legislation related to shark finning, and I certainly thank my good colleague and friend from Port Moody—Coquitlam for his bill on ending the import and export of shark fins. It is very important. It is nice to see that he has been able to roll it into Bill C-68. We have heard from Canadians from coast to coast to coast that they want to see an end to that practice.

One thing that concerns me is that there are no provisions here about aquaculture. It is a concern the minister has heard from me recently. I want to thank him for taking steps to commit to testing for PRV in fish on salmon farms, but we do not have answers on what will happen if fish test positive.

Has he made a commitment that fish will not be transferred to open-net fish farms should their tests have a positive result? He knows how important this is to coastal communities, and they are calling for this to stop.