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

Sponsor

Dominic LeBlanc  Liberal

Status

Second reading (Senate), as of Oct. 18, 2018

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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 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

Opposition Motion—Global Climate Change and Clean Energy LeadershipBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2018 / 11:55 a.m.
See context

North Vancouver B.C.

Liberal

Jonathan Wilkinson LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Edmonton Mill Woods.

I am very pleased to stand in the House today to discuss the motion of my colleague, the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.

I appreciate the call for Canada to be a global climate change leader. I agree, and Canada is. However, this motion fails in a number of areas, including its failure to recognize the actions the government has taken in ensuring that the environment and the economy go together as we build a clean energy economy. Our government has been steadfast in its belief that a strong economy and a clean environment go hand in hand. The NDP motion completely ignores the historic investments that the government has made through successive federal budgets that specifically address Canada's environment, coastlines, waterways, and wildlife, as well as the introduction of government legislation such as Bill C-69, Bill C-68, Bill C-57, and Bill C-74, which would further strengthen our ability to protect the environment and grow the economy in sustainable ways.

Today, I will highlight the global market for clean technologies and the enormous opportunity Canadians are already taking advantage of that is estimated to be in the trillions of dollars, with demand only increasing, and at an incredibly rapid pace.

This is an area I personally know very well, having spent the past almost 20 years as a chief executive officer and senior executive in the clean technology and renewable sector. The clean technology industry presents significant opportunities for Canadian businesses from all sectors of the economy. That is why investing in clean technology is a key component of our government's approach to promoting sustainable growth and to addressing key environmental challenges.

Our government also recognizes that clean technology is a source of good, well-paying jobs for Canadians. Therefore, when it comes to clean technology, Canada has the opportunity to be a true global leader, creating good, well-paying jobs for Canadians, while helping to meet our climate change and other important environmental goals.

Clean technologies are central to Canada’s low-carbon, globally competitive economy that provides high-quality jobs and opportunities for our middle class and those working hard to join it.

Clean technologies are by definition innovative technologies. Our government understands that innovation is a key driver of economic success. That is why we developed an innovation skills plan that will assist in making Canada a world-leading centre for innovation.

Today, clean technology already employs over 170,000 Canadians, and we sell about $26 billion annually in goods and services. Of that $26 billion, about $8 billion is exported.

Clearly, there is a strong appetite for Canadian innovation, but we have only just scratched the surface and there is so much more room to grow. That is why our government set aside more than $2.3 billion for clean technology in budget 2017. For the record, that is Canada's largest-ever public investment in this field. Prior to making this historic investment, we worked closely with industry to develop a comprehensive strategy that will successfully accelerate the development of the sector.

This $2.3 billion will support clean technology research, development, demonstration, and adoption and the scaling up of our businesses.

We know that access to financing fuels the growth of companies and provides the capital needed to hire new staff, develop products, and support sales at home and abroad, which is why we have set aside $1.4 billion in new financing for clean-tech providers. This is in addition to the $21.9 billion investment in green infrastructure, which will create jobs and position Canada for the low-carbon economy of the future.

We have also allocated $400 million to recapitalize Sustainable Development Technology Canada. This fund is helping our Canadian businesses develop world-class expertise in clean technology engineering, design, marketing, and management. To date, the fund has invested $989 million in 381 Canadian companies, supporting projects across the entire country. The funding has helped these companies develop and demonstrate new clean technologies that promote sustainable development, including those that address environmental issues, such as climate change, air quality, clean water, and clean soil.

There is also the Business Development Bank of Canada with its $700 million commitment to help clean technology producers scale up and expand globally. Since mid-January, I am pleased to say that four investments worth $40 million have been made. Through our participation in mission innovation, the Government of Canada will work with the international community to double federal investment in clean energy research and development over five years.

These are very significant and substantive investments, and we will drive for strong results. The government will carefully monitor the results of its investments both in terms of economic growth and jobs, as well as the environment.

Through a new clean-tech growth hub within Innovation Canada, the government will streamline client services, improve federal program coordination, enable tracking and reporting of clean technology results across government, and connect stakeholders to international markets. The clean growth hub is the government's focal point for all federal government supporting clean technology. Since launching in mid-January, the hub has served over 450 companies. This one-stop shop is a major innovative win for government that industry is already recognizing as a key step forward.

The 2017 Global Cleantech Innovation Index, which investigates where entrepreneurial companies are most likely to emerge over the next 10 years, ranked Canada fourth, up from seventh in 2014. Further, in January of this year, the Cleantech Group released a Global Cleantech 100 list. The list recognizes the clean-tech companies that are most likely to have significant market impact over the next five to 10 years.

Under the Harper government, Canada's share of the global clean-tech market shrunk by half. In partnership with the clean-tech industry, we have successfully turned this around. This year, a record 13 Canadian clean technology firms comprised the top 100. All the winning companies are clients of the Canadian trade commissioner service, and seven of the 13 companies are Export Development Canada customers.

We know that is only a small sampling of the innovative clean technology companies that are doing amazing work every day across the country to create economic growth, and solve our most pressing environmental challenges.

For example, in Montreal, GHGSat has developed the technology to monitor industrial greenhouse gas emissions using satellite technology. They launched their first satellite in 2016. In my own province of British Columbia, Carbon Engineering is developing a process to turn carbon dioxide in the air into a clean fuel. I could go on and on, speaking about all of the fantastic and innovative clean technology companies working across the country in so many industries and sectors of the Canadian economy.

In order to ensure their continued success, we will continue to collaborate with all stakeholders and jurisdictions across Canada to meet our climate change commitments and bring innovative and competitive clean technologies to market.

We have developed strong international linkages that promote Canadian technology as solutions to global challenges and attract private sector investment. This government is focused on scaling our great Canadian clean technology success stories, and in the process, helping to solve the world's most pressing environmental challenges.

As we move forward, the Government of Canada will continue to be a strong partner for clean technology producers. Our government is incredibly proud and impressed by the innovative work being done by the entrepreneurial women and men working in this sphere and we will continue to support them and their work, and with their success, generate future wealth for Canadians, while safeguarding the environment for future generations.

Opposition Motion—Leadership on Climate Change and Clean EnergyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2018 / 3:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Robert-Falcon Ouellette Liberal Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, a lot of the environmental programs we see do not have to be a windmill or solar power panels we see outside buildings. In fact, they can actually be about energy efficiency and the things we do on a day-to-day level to ensure that we actually save energy and use the good types of energy.

For instance, our government is ensuring that we are a model for sustainability by greening our government. We are on track to reduce the government's own greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 and by 80% by 2050. Even when I was in the Canadian Armed Forces, there were many times, 20 years ago, when someone would leave the door open. We would be heating the outdoors, because someone thought it was too hot, and we were not able to actually turn down the heat. The government today is actually reviewing a lot of the policies on how we conduct ourselves in our day-to-day operations to see if there are energy savings. It is listening to people on the ground, asking civil servants, and even our military personnel, what we can do to ensure that we can meet that target. That takes a lot of effort, because it is going to be an effort by all Canadians to ensure that we actually get there.

I am proud of our government. Not only are we committed to those agreements but we are intent on actually trying to achieve those targets. It is not simply empty rhetoric. It is actually something we hold in our hearts to be true that we will get there if we work day in and day out, and we are doing that.

We are passing a number of bills that are repairing the damage from the decade of darkness. We are engaging with our international counterparts to ensure that we are going to be meeting those targets. For instance, we are changing legislation through Bill C-69 and Bill C-68. We have also introduced Bill C-74, and the list goes on.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2018 / 6:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Madam Speaker, tonight I would like to focus my attention on the detrimental effects Bill C-68 would have on development. Before I do so, I want to point out to those listening at home that the government has once again moved time allocation.

When the Liberals were in opposition, they absolutely railed at the thought. They used every tactic in the book to disrupt and to stall debate. Now, however, it seems that every time the Liberal government House leader has a chance, she moves time allocation in an effort to limit our free speech.

This bill is completely unnecessary and, as the House has heard from my colleagues, this matter was studied in depth at the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. In fact, it was the minister himself, in 2016, who asked the committee to examine the lost protections in the Fisheries Act.

After months of debate, do members know how many witnesses testified on lost protections? It was none. Zero. Not a single one. Now the Liberals have brought forward this unnecessary legislation, which is already expected to cost close to $300 million to implement. I want to clarify that as part of our previous government's economic action plan of 2012 and in support of the responsible resource development plan, changes to the Fisheries Act were introduced and received royal assent in November of 2013.

The legislative changes we, on this side of the House, made to the fisheries protection provisions of the act supported a shift from managing impacts to all fish habitats to focusing on the act's regulatory regime on managing threats to the sustainability and ongoing productivity of Canada's commercial, recreational, and aboriginal fisheries.

Prior to these sensible amendments, all fish, and consequently all potential fish habitat, regardless of economic or social value, were covered under the Fisheries Act. This created a system that was impossible to manage, and created impediments to the most minor work on ditches, flood prevention etc. This creates an incredible amount of red tape for towns and municipalities, and means completely unnecessary hardship for Canadians trying to simply go about their business, and protect their property, a fundamental Canadian right.

The Liberals' approach to the legislative, regulatory, and policy framework governing infrastructure projects would cause a competitive disadvantage for all Canadian companies and would be felt by local governments across the country. I would also like to point out that the Liberal strategy of layering broad policy considerations into environmental regulations, such as Bill C-68 and Bill C-69, would lead to a marked decrease in investment and competitiveness for Canada's energy sector, as though it could possibly get any worse. This threatens the sector's sustainability and its contribution to Canada's future social, economic, and development objectives.

What the Liberals have done is put forward a piece of legislation with a bunch of “fill in the blanks” or “to be considered” slots, and asked Canadians to trust them. Unfortunately for business, this approach does not work and only serves to undermine industry.

In relation to the authorizations pursuant to the Fisheries Act, it is uncertain as to the types of projects that would require approval and potentially trigger an impact assessment pursuant to Bill C-69. Depending on forthcoming codes of practices and regulations, there could also be the need for additional approvals for low-impact activities, and the result would be a longer process with no different outcome than is achieved under the current legislation.

The unknown of the project specifics that would trigger approvals pursuant to the Fisheries Act is most concerning since it has a strong likelihood to impact all project development, not just those projects requiring assessment by the proposed impact assessment agency.

Former Liberal cabinet minister, the Hon. Sergio Marchi, who is now the president and CEO of the Canadian Electricity Association, has made it clear that he sees Bill C-68 as a missed opportunity. In its press release, the CEA stated:

...Bill C-68 represents one step forward but two steps back.

CEA is particularly concerned that the government has chosen to return to pre-2012 provisions of the Fisheries Act that address ‘activity other than fishing that results in the death of fish, and the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction (HADD) of fish habitat’. In practical terms, this means that virtually any action, without prior authorization, could be construed as being in contravention of this Act. Consequently, the reinstatement of these measures will result in greater uncertainties for existing and new facilities, and unduly delay and/or discourage investment in energy projects that directly support Canada’s clean growth agenda and realize its climate change objectives.

Bill C-68 is a missed opportunity for the federal government to anchor the Fisheries Act on a reasonable, population-based approach rather than focusing on individual fish, and to clearly define fisheries management objectives.

Regarding criteria for project designation, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans heard from the Pembina Pipeline Corporation and were told of a number of alternative measures that could be used to lessen any environmental impact. Unfortunately, it seems any suggestions fell on deaf ears as the committee refused all 20 amendments put forward by my colleagues.

Pembina is a Calgary-based pipeline corporation that has provided transportation and midstream services to North America's industry for over 60 years. Sixty years is not a small amount of time in the span of Canadian history. In fact, it has one of the best integrated pipeline systems in the entire world and transport hydrocarbon liquids, natural gas, and natural gas products all over Alberta.

In its brief to the committee, it highlighted that pipeline associated watercourse crossing construction practices and technology had in fact come a long way over the last few decades. These processes are state-of-the-art, and horizontal directional drilling is a perfect example of a technology that is widely used and eliminates environmental impacts of a pipeline crossing waterways.

I will not go into the complete detail on the briefing submitted by Pembina, but I will say that this bill is unnecessary. It would create more bureaucratic red tape and would only serve to hinder development. In fact, the legislation is so very ambiguous that Pembina cautions that the Liberal government is virtually ensuring future conflict among indigenous communities because it has not considered the complexity of overlapping traditional territories.

On this side of the House, we support the protection of our oceans and fisheries. Our previous changes to the Fisheries Act were enacted to support transparency in the decision-making process and provide a level of certainty to those invested in the act.

The Liberals have done the exact opposite with Bill C-68. As usual, what they say is not actually what they do. They have said that they are restoring harmful alteration or disruption or the destruction of fish habitat. However, they sidestep any obligation to uphold the HADD regulations in the legislation by providing the minister with the ability to exempt certain provisions.

I want to reiterate also that Bill C-68 seems to undermine transparency and due process by allowing the minister to withhold critical information from interested proponents, and this goes against the Prime Minister's commitment to openness and transparency.

There is no way the Conservative Party of Canada will support this burdensome bill that serves no purpose other than to check off an election promise from the Liberals' 2015 red book.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2018 / 6:35 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, it has been entertaining listening to Conservatives talk about Bill C-68. On the one hand, the New Democratic friends say that the government should be doing more. On the other hand, the Conservatives' mentality is that any legislation on the environment is bad. We actually just heard that from the member.

It is much like the pipeline. TMX is going to happen. The previous Harper government failed at getting a pipeline to the market on the coast, but this government has not failed. Would the member not acknowledge that the economy and environment do in fact go hand in hand? We can see that with respect to the success of this legislation and the pipeline, which finally will be built, and not because of Stephen Harper but because we have a government that understands this

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2018 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Madam Speaker, it is no secret that foreign investment has been fleeing and will continue to flee Canada at an alarming rate. I have seen this first-hand in my dear hometown of Calgary, Alberta, where we have seen the exit of organizations and of corporations such as Murphy Oil, ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell, and I can go on and on with respect to the foreign investment that has fled. That is even prior to the installation and royal assent of such damaging legislation such as Bill C-68, which we are discussing today, and Bill C-69. The government has to take responsibility for the investment that is fleeing Canada and ruining the lives of Canadians.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2018 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to be speaking in the House of Commons this evening as we continue debate on Bill C-68. I am sure there will be more commentary as the night proceeds into the middle of the night and then late night, perhaps even early morning. Who knows in this place. It is an honour to serve the constituents of Parry Sound—Muskoka, regardless of the hour of the day. I am sure all colleagues feel the same about their ridings.

We are debating Bill C-68, which aspires to protect our oceans and fisheries. I believe all members of the chamber would want to do this. The issue is whether it does something meaningful in that regard. The answer is a resounding no.

As my colleague from Calgary just mentioned, there were extensive changes to the Fisheries Act under the previous government to ensure our fisheries were protected, and yet at the same time, it was much more user friendly for Canadians. It was important for economic development and it was also ridding the previous legislation of a nuisance factor, where every ditch all of a sudden became a protected area for fish that were too numerous to count.

Clearly, it was overreach in the pre-existing legislation, which the legislation of the previous Conservative government sought to remedy. Now we find ourselves again, with the Liberal government now in its third year, regurgitating legislation simply because there were changes made under the previous Conservative government. I am sure there is no ill will on the opposite side, but I tend to wonder whether the Liberals are simply trying to reinvent the wheel and put their own stamp on legislative priorities.

What happens with legislation like this is that it makes the situation worse for economic development. It makes it worse in trying to balance protecting fish habitat and at the same time moving forward in our communities. That is what we have with Bill C-68.

There are a number of things here. The bill seems to undermine transparency and due process by allowing the minister to withhold critical information from interested proponents. It goes against the Prime Minister's oft stated commitment in national and international fora to openness and transparency.

Let us talk about that for a few minutes. This is a constant theme of the government, that it is more open, more transparent, that the Liberals are the ones who cornered the market on openness and transparency. However, when we look at the record of the government, it is far from that.

In its 2015 platform, the Liberals said that they would fix the Access to Information Act. There was delay upon delay, and finally the President of the Treasury Board stood in his place and said that the government would have a two-pronged approach, that it would pick the fruit that it could pick first, and then it would leave the more difficult issues until later. That was denounced by the Information Commissioner, who had been waiting all these years for changes to the Access to Information Act. It was basically a big disaster for the government because it was not following through on its promises.

There has been a lack of transparency to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, and that is important. The Parliamentary Budget Officer is the person who works for the House, for Parliament, in analyzing the budgetary priorities of the government of the day. I will admit, when we were in government, and I was president of the Treasury Board, it was not exactly pleasant in this place for the Parliamentary Budget Officer to examine and be a pair of eyes over our shoulders.

It is not the most pleasant thing for politicians or bureaucrats, but at the same time, it is necessary. It is necessary for the proper functioning of this place to have that oversight. Because the executive has so much power under our parliamentary system, it is good to have that pair of eyes reporting to Parliament and reporting to the public on issues about budgetary priorities and the true cost of things.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer has been complaining about the lack of information given by the Liberal government. I know that governing is hard. I was there. What I find offensive, perhaps, disconcerting certainly, is when the government and Liberal politicians promise openness and transparency and deliver precisely the opposite, to the detriment of Canadians, and certainly the opposite of what they promised while campaigning in 2015.

In Bill C-68, there is a provision for advisory panels, but no guidance, no limitation, on how they would be used. What are the rights of citizens when we have these advisory panels? What are the property rights of citizens when we have these advisory panels? How do we balance these advisory panels with local interests and local knowledge? The bill is silent. I wish I knew the answer to that before I voted on this bill, but the answer is not forthcoming from the government of the day.

As I mentioned and the previous speaker from Calgary mentioned, there were amendments on these issues back in 2012 that received royal assent and came into force in November 2013. There was a proper balance between protecting fish and fish habitat and measuring the economic and social value so that fish and fish habitat that were at risk would get the protection they needed. However, this was not the case in every case. Not every fish in our environment needs protection. I hope this is not a politically incorrect thing to say.

In some places in our country, I would say to the audience watching television, there are a multitude of fish, and there are protections for them, but we do not need the uber-protections of the federal government deciding that it knows better than local people how to protect the fish in their environment. That is why it was important to have that balance.

Now that balance is gone, and alas, we are in a situation of debating this lamentable bill, which is just another way for the Liberal government to show the world how wonderful it is and how it understands fish habitat and the environment. However, what we are going to get is the national government deciding on fish in a ditch. This is ludicrous. This is the old, oft-used Shakespearean phrase, “The law is an ass.”

On this side of the House, we want to stand for common sense. We want to protect the fish environments that need to be protected, but we are not here just to create laws for the sake of creating laws. I know that the Canadian Electricity Association has said that this bill is two steps back. It is concerned that we are back to the pre-2012 provisions. In practical terms, this makes life tougher for its members.

On this side of the House, we will continue, as Conservatives, to represent and work with the fishers, the farmers, and the industry groups to make sure that their concerns are heard and to make sure that fish are protected but that our economy can move forward. That is why I am a Conservative, and that is why I oppose this bill.

Impact Assessment ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2018 / 7:30 p.m.
See context

Ottawa Centre Ontario

Liberal

Catherine McKenna LiberalMinister of Environment and Climate Change

moved that Bill C-69, An Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed.

Madam Speaker, before I begin, I wish to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Algonquin and Anishinabe peoples.

I am very pleased to once again address the House in support of Bill C-69. This is a key priority of our government. With the bill, we are keeping our promise to put in place better rules to protect our environment and build a stronger economy. It reflects our view that the economy and the environment must go hand in hand and that Canada works best when Canadians work together.

I am going to speak about why our government introduced the bill, and why there is a clear need for better rules to protect our environment and govern how decisions about resource development are made. I will talk about how the bill's balanced approach addresses the priorities of indigenous peoples, stakeholders, and Canadians from coast to coast to coast, and how it delivers what Canadians expect.

I will also describe how our better rules will benefit all Canadians, how they will lead to a cleaner environment for our children, more investment as good projects go ahead, and more jobs and economic opportunities for the middle class and those working hard to join it.

We made a commitment when we formed government to regain public trust and help get Canada's resources to market. We committed to put in place new, fair processes that would ensure major project approvals are based on science and indigenous knowledge, that serve the public interest, and that allow good projects to proceed.

Why is this so important? Madam Speaker, $500 billion in major resource projects are being planned across Canada over the next decade. We need rules and processes in place that will allow these projects to move forward. Under the previous system, people lost confidence in Canada's environmental assessment processes.

Since participation in the review of major projects was limited, some Canadians were not able to contribute their knowledge and expertise.

The decision-making process was opaque, and Canadians began to fear that decisions on projects were being made based on political considerations, not on science and evidence.

Furthermore, after amendments were made to the Fisheries Act and Navigable Waters Protection Act, Canadians discovered that major protections had been lost, leaving Canada's fish, waterways, and communities at risk.

The changes made by the previous government eroded public trust and without public trust, it became very difficult for good projects to move forward. Weaker rules hurt both our environment and our economy.

All these changes eroded public trust, and without public trust, it became very difficult for good projects to move forward. Weaker rules hurt both our environment and our economy. If Canada wants to capitalize on the next wave of resource development, we need better rules that reflect Canadians' priorities and concerns, provide certainty, and foster the competitiveness of proponents operating in Canada, while respecting our responsibility to protect the environment.

Knowing this, we introduced interim principles in 2016 to guide our government in reviewing major projects until we could put the better rules in place.

To rebuild trust in the environmental assessment process, our government launched a 14-month review involving two expert panels and two parliamentary committees. Input from provinces and territories, indigenous peoples, companies, environmental groups, and Canadians from across the country informed a discussion paper released in June 2017 and, ultimately, helped shape the approach set out in this bill. What we heard through those panels and committees is that Canadians want a modern environmental assessment and regulatory system that protects the environment, supports reconciliation with indigenous peoples, attracts investment, and ensures that good projects go ahead in a timely way to create new jobs and economic opportunities for the middle class. We have also heard from industry about the importance of a clear and predictable process.

Bill C-69 would put in place the better rules that Canadians and companies expect. Thanks to indigenous peoples, stakeholders, and Canadians who contributed their knowledge and perspectives, this bill would help rebuild public trust through key improvements that include decisions that are transparent and guided by robust science and indigenous knowledge; project reviews that consider a wide range of positive and negative impacts on the economy, health, indigenous rights, and communities, in addition to the environment; more timely and predictable review processes; measures to advance reconciliation and partnership with indigenous peoples; reduced duplication and red tape through a one project-one review approach; and through amendments to the current Navigation Protection Act, restored protection for every navigable waterway in Canada. It also complements Bill C-68, which proposes changes to the Fisheries Act to ensure it provides strong and meaningful protection for our fish and waters.

As I said, we made a commitment to restore public trust in Canada's environmental assessment system, to restore the protections that were lost, and to make sure that Canadians can trust the review process and its results.

It is essential that we ensure that all decisions are transparent and serve the public interest in order to restore trust. That is exactly what Bill C-69 would accomplish.

Under the previous system, Canadians had no idea how decisions were made. Under our new rules, Canadians can rest assured that all major project reviews are done fairly and based on evidence, that all decisions serve the public interest, and that good projects will go ahead.

Bill C-69 would clarify that project approval would be based on the impact assessment report. Decisions would also have to fully consider the factors that informed the review, as well as key public interest factors, including the project's contribution to sustainability and impacts on indigenous rights. That means all final decisions would need to have a clear basis in facts and evidence.

That alone is a major advance over the previous system, but even this important step is not enough to restore trust if Canadians are not informed about how final decisions have been made. To build that trust whenever a final decision is made on a project, a public statement of the rationale for that decision would be issued. That statement would clearly demonstrate to Canadians how the assessment report formed the basis for the decision and how factors like sustainability were taken into account.

To make good decisions, we need good processes that take into account a broad range of considerations. Bill C-69 provides clarity on the factors that would guide project reviews. We know that the impacts of major projects go beyond the environment alone. Projects also affect Canada's economy, our health, and our communities. They can also affect indigenous peoples and their rights.

Our government also recognizes that not all effects of major projects are negative. They also have positive impacts, like creating well-paying jobs for local communities. That is why under our new rules, both positive and negative consequences, economic, environmental, social, and health, would be taken into account. At the same time, tailored guidelines for project reviews would ensure they focus on factors relevant to the specific project.

These improvements will help improve the decision-making process and enhance public trust. Indigenous people, businesses, and the general public will know ahead of time what factors will guide project reviews. These reviews and the resulting assessment reports will the provide the basis for the final decisions.

Public decision statements will provide Canadians with the assurance that key factors were properly taken into consideration and that all decisions serve the public interest.

Without the support and partnership of indigenous peoples, there is no way to move forward with major resource projects. This is not optional. It is integral to ensuring that indigenous peoples, and all Canadians, can benefit from increased jobs and investment.

That is why Bill C-69 fully reflects our government's commitment to a renewed relationship with indigenous peoples based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership. This has been a focus of our government from the very beginning. We have taken important steps to put that commitment into action.

For example, we announced our full support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, we are working in partnership with indigenous peoples to develop a new recognition and implementation of rights framework, and we are making major new investments in education, health, infrastructure, and indigenous communities.

This bill puts our commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People at the forefront, in the preambles of impact assessment act and the Canadian energy regulator act.

It also states that, when exercising their powers under the impact assessment act, the government, the minister, the agency, and federal authorities must respect the government’s commitments with regard to the rights of the indigenous peoples of Canada.

The new Canadian energy regulator's mandate will specify that it is to exercise its powers and perform its duties in the same manner.

Indigenous peoples, as well as stakeholders and the public, would have meaningful opportunities to participate in project reviews from the start and throughout the process. Recognizing the important contributions that indigenous knowledge makes to project reviews, our bill would make it mandatory to consider this knowledge alongside science and other evidence in every assessment, and would require transparency about how it was taken into account and used. At the same time, it would provide strong protection for the confidentiality of indigenous knowledge across all parts of the bill.

I have said that our better rules are designed to help good projects move forward to get Canada's resources to market. Companies have told us what they need to make sure that happens: clear, timely, and predictable processes that provide certainty at every stage.

Under our proposed legislation, one agency, the proposed impact assessment agency of Canada, would be the federal lead for all major project reviews. This would mean more consistent, more predictable reviews for all projects. At the same time, the agency would work closely with regulatory bodies so that their valuable expertise could continue to inform assessments.

A revised project list would provide clarity for companies, indigenous communities, environmental groups, municipalities, and all citizens on how our new rules would apply. We have consulted with Canadians on the criteria that would guide that revised list, and we will be consulting again in the fall on the proposed list itself.

Our bill would require a new early planning and engagement phase before an impact assessment could begin. This new phase would help companies identify and address issues early on. It would result in a clear set of products to guide the impact assessment. These would include tailored impact statement guidelines that are scoped to reflect the scale and complexity of the project, a co-operation plan, an indigenous engagement and partnership plan, a public participation plan, and a permitting plan.

While a broad set of factors would be considered in early planning, the tailored guidelines would reflect only those that are relevant to the specific project. Following early planning, proponents would be notified if a project is likely to have unacceptable impacts. This would not stop the process. Instead, it would allow the company to make an informed decision about whether, or how, to go forward with the project in the impact assessment process.

As I have said, companies would have a clear understanding of what would be taken into account in the review itself, including positive and negative effects on the environment, the economy, health, and communities. Companies could also be certain about how final decisions are made. They would be based on the assessment report, and on consideration of key public interest factors, including the project's contribution to sustainability. This would be clearly demonstrated through public decision statements.

To provide the timely decisions and reviews companies expect, Bill C-69 sets out clear time limits for each stage of the process, including the new early planning phase. That includes 300 days for reviews carried out by a review panel with input from a life cycle regulator. When justified, more complex projects may take up to 600 days. This is a major improvement over the 2012 Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the CEAA, which allowed up to 120 days for all reviews carried out by review panels.

This bill will also reduce red tape and prevent duplication through opportunities to collaborate with the provinces. It provides for joint assessments in which a single assessment process can meet the requirements of several levels of government. The bill also provides for substitution should a process carried out by another level of government satisfy the federal government's requirements.

Bill C-69 will facilitate a smooth transition toward the new impact assessment system. The bill would set objective criteria to determine which projects will continue to be reviewed under the 2012 CEAA, give companies the option to go through the new process, and confirm that nobody will ever be sent back to square one.

This bill would also provide certainty and help restore public trust by providing opportunities for public participation at every stage of the review process.

When it comes to resource development, public trust and support are essential for projects to move forward. That will not happen if Canadians are not able to take part in project reviews. Bill C-69 would remove the “standing test” imposed by CEAA 2012, so that a broader range of Canadians could contribute their knowledge and perspectives.

With the new early planning and engagement phase, Canadians would be able to make their voices heard from the beginning.

Bill C-69 would provide for the public and for indigenous peoples to participate in a meaningful manner, and would ensure that they have the information and tools they need and the ability to share their thoughts and expertise.

The bill would strike a balance between allowing for meaningful participation and the need for assessments to be completed in a timely manner.

Canadians want projects to be approved based on scientific facts and indigenous knowledge. Our government is committed to adopting policies based on evidence, and Bill C-69 is proof of that.

This bill includes a clear commitment to implementing the act in a way that respects the principles of scientific integrity, honesty, objectivity, rigour, and accuracy. This is perfectly in line with our strong commitment to science and shows that we intend to implement this act.

Bill C-69 also provides for regional and strategic assessments. These studies would inform project reviews by looking at crosscutting issues and cumulative impacts, those that go beyond any one project. To ensure they can play an important role in our impact assessment system, these reviews would benefit from the best available advice and fully take into account indigenous knowledge. We are committed to moving forward with these assessments, beginning with a strategic assessment on climate change.

As we transition to the new system, we will invest up to just over $1 billion over five years to support the proposed new impact assessment regime and Canadian energy regulator; increased scientific capacity in federal departments and agencies; changes required to protect water, fish and navigation; and increased indigenous and public participation.

I am extremely proud of our government's work on this bill. It is the result of extensive public engagement and fulfills the commitment we made when we formed government: to rebuild public trust and get Canada's resources to market sustainably.

I want to acknowledge that many people have contributed to the development of this bill. Of course, I want to recognize the indigenous peoples, stakeholders, and Canadians who participated in our 14-month review process, as well as those who have continued to engage after we introduced the bill.

I also want to recognize the members of this House who have contributed to debate on Bill C-69 and its further development. In particular I want to express my appreciation for the members of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. Their efforts in hearing from witnesses and amending the bill have resulted in important changes that have strengthened the legislation.

Throughout this process, the government and the standing committee worked on adopting a balanced approach that addresses the priorities of indigenous peoples, the industry, environmental groups, and other stakeholders. I think that, together, we succeeded.

Through this balanced approach, our better rules will protect Canada's environment, help good projects move forward, and recognize and uphold the rights of indigenous peoples. I think all of us in the House can support that.

Impact Assessment ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2018 / 10:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to stand this evening to debate Bill C-69. I would like to say a number of things at the outset. The most obvious one is that the Liberals broke their promise with the bill. It has nothing to do with the wording of the bill and everything to do with the size of it.

First, the government said it would not have omnibus legislation and, as my colleagues mentioned earlier this evening, this is a 370-page bill. It cannot be put in any other context than it is an omnibus bill.

The second broken promise is that the bill is not very environmentally supportive by its very voluminous weight. It could have helped, in spite of its size, if it really would improve our environment, but this bill fails to do that.

A number of things have been said about the bill this evening and I will come back to those. However, a whole host of events has taken place around the rhetoric the government has put in this bill. The Liberals talk about trying to improve the environment, to create more jobs, and to improve those jobs, but they have ended up killing two pipelines already. One was the northern gateway pipeline across northern British Columbia to get oil in Alberta over to the west coast. The other one was the eastern access line to move oil to the New Brunswick area for refining purposes in that part of Canada.

Before I elaborate on that, I should inform the House that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Edmonton West. I know he will have much to say about the situation taking place in Alberta.

My perspective comes from the small amount of oil in southwest Manitoba, which happens to all be in my constituency. This is a very important issue to the communities, maybe not to Winnipeg as much, though it is impacted because a lot of income comes out of that area from this oil, and to the people who live in those communities and on the farms in that region as well. A great deal of work is being done by the oil industry in the southwest region, from trucking to the building of lines to the building of batteries to the moving oil from the wells to the batteries to the tracks to the loading facilities. We also have a major pipeline running right through the middle of my constituency, which moves the oil east and down through the United States.

There are thousands of jobs in my little southwest corner of Manitoba because of this industry. That is why it is so important to have certainty in this industry. It impacts the lives of individuals on farms as well. I went through the downturn in the farm economy, particularly BSE in 2003, droughts in 2003, and flooding in 2005, 2011, and 2014. Therefore, off-farm jobs in the oil industry have been a stabilizing factor in many of the family operations in southwest Manitoba.

It is pretty important to ensure there are sound rules so investors in the economy, not just in my area but more particularly in Alberta, Saskatchewan and, to a certain extent in Newfoundland, have the assurance they can make investments and know they will get returns from those investments.

I will refer to my colleague from Carleton when this debate started. He had a good economics lesson, I thought it was Economics 101, about whether the government learned anything from the lesson he was trying to teach about how important it was to have a sound investment process. We know that comes with great difficulty in Canada right now, and there is a lot of concern about it. As he pointed out, and as we all know, the country's debt is three times higher than it was supposed to be this year.

One thing I did not know, and it is worth repeating, is there are overpayments in Ontario's hydro of $176 billion over the last 30 years. That is a tremendous amount of money, when we consider that is a quarter of Canada's debt. The other number we need to bear in mind is that we have already lost $88 billion worth of investment in our oil industry. It has moved out of the country. It has gone south, as my colleague from Calgary Shepard just indicated. Thousands of jobs have gone south, 101,000 jobs in Alberta alone.

There is a little more drilling going on right now in our area of southwest Manitoba, but the bill would not help that economy survive. Bill C-69, this omnibus legislation, and the amount of regulations in it would not make it easier to grow our economy, which puts people to work.

I was the environment critic for seven of the 14 years I was in the Manitoba legislature. I want to put a few things into perspective. When we look at a situation where infrastructure and investment is required, the government always talks about how we can have both, the economy and the environment. That is not new. It is certainly not foreign to anybody in the House or to any Canadian for that matter.

This is about ensuring that Canadians know that the environment and the economy have gone hand in hand probably since oil was found in Canada in the late 1940s, early 1950s. Anyone who does not abide by those rules of trying to ensure the environment is kept as pristine as we possibly can is not paying attention. My colleagues have already stated tonight that we have the cleanest rules for dealing with environmental packages of anywhere in the world, particularly in our oil industry.

Rules have been brought, and not just in Bill C-69 or Bill C-68, the Fisheries Act. We know full that the efforts in Bill C-69 will not help the economy in any way. They certainly will not make jobs.

As I said, I was asked to become the environment shadow minister in Manitoba when I was first elected in 1999. It was either conservation or the environment. As the representative for Arthur-Virden, the constituency receives water from all of eastern Saskatchewan, southeastern Saskatchewan as well as northeastern Saskatchewan, and all of it comes into the Souris River, coming down the Assiniboine, and even through the Qu'Appelle in central Saskatchewan.

We know the impacts of what the environment can do to our province. The current provincial government is spending its infrastructure dollars rather responsibly. It is using them to protect cities like Brandon and Winnipeg particularly, Portage la Prairie, and the shorelines of Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipeg. This is responsible management. Why? It is because the provincial government is spending the money on infrastructure to prevent flooding, instead of paying billions out after the fact in flood damages and devastation.

The Liberals need to heed that example and respect investments, instead of killing investment opportunities like the eastern access and northern gateway. These are important issues.

I could go on about a lot of other shortfalls in the bill. Changes to the National Energy Board is just one of them. It may have needed tweaking, but the government decided it knew best and threw out the baby with the bathwater.

My colleague, the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, certainly has more experience, having a master's in biology, and he has certainly hit the nail on the head with respect to the Fisheries Act and Bill C-68. I have spoken to him about this bill as well.

I just want to wrap up by saying that I will not be supporting Bill C-69 for a number of reasons outlined, particularly by my colleague from Abbotsford today, as well—

Bill C-68—Time Allocation MotionFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 6:45 p.m.
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Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

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

moved:

That, in relation to Bill C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence, not more than five further hours shall be allotted to the consideration at report stage of the Bill and one sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill; and

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

Bill C-68—Time Allocation MotionFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 6:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, here we go all over again. I am going to bring the House back to 2015, when the member for Papineau was campaigning and said that if he were elected prime minister that debate would reign, that he would not enforce time allocation. Here we are, and I believe this is the 42nd time that we are seeing time allocation, and on such an important bill.

The Liberals are saying that they are restoring and fixing Bill C-68, the Fisheries Act, which is a historical piece of legislation, because they are undoing the harmful changes that our Conservative government did in 2012. They are putting back the HADD provisions, yet they sidestep any obligation to uphold the HADD regulations in this legislation by providing the minister with the ability to exempt certain provisions. We know that the Fisheries Act is vitally important. Why is the minister trying to once again limit the debate on such an important piece of legislation for Canadians?

Bill C-68—Time Allocation MotionFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 6:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Hochelaga for her questions.

I also thank the NDP for its support for Bill C-68. I had the opportunity to work with her colleague, the NDP critic. Some amendments were adopted by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, including very positive amendments proposed by the NDP. I think this is a good example of committee members working together. The suggestions made by witnesses and the examples we received from other administrations helped us strengthen and improve the bill. I am very proud of that. I thank the NDP for its important work in this regard.

The time allocation motion should come as no surprise because we made important commitments to Canadians during the 2015 election. We have worked closely with parliamentarians for several months. We conducted extensive public consultations. We held widespread consultations to get Canadians' suggestions on how we could modernize and improve the Fisheries Act.

We think the time has come for the House of Commons to vote on this important bill. What is more, we will have to wait for our colleagues in the Senate and work with them because they too need to study and debate this major bill. I hope we will be able to work with them in a very constructive manner in the fall, if the bill has reached that stage by then.

Bill C-68—Time Allocation MotionFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 6:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, our hon. colleague across the way talked about open and transparent ways and about consulting with Canadians. One of the issues our fisheries committee found when we were studying this was that a lot of communities and a lot of Canadians feel that they have not been truly consulted. By shuttering debate and forcing time allocation, the minister is indeed saying that all the members of Parliament on this side of the House, and all the Canadians, the electors, who elected the opposition, really do not have a say, and their views really do not matter. They are shuttering debate and not allowing all the members of Parliament to have a say on this bill.

It is interesting that the minister talks about the commitment to openness and transparency, because what this bill would also do is undermine transparency and due process by allowing the minister to withhold critical information from interested proponents. It would also give the minister sole discretion to make policy without consultation, something similar to what we are seeing with the surf clams and how that is impacting the town of Grand Bank. Bill C-68 is just another bill that would give the minister the authority to go in and make policy without consulting Canadians, and that is wrong.

Would my hon. colleague across the way not admit that perhaps shuttering debate on a bill that is so fundamental, while talking about openness and transparency, might be just a bit too far-fetched?

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 8 p.m.
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Liberal

Churence Rogers Liberal Bonavista—Burin—Trinity, NL

Mr. Speaker, we cannot take the vitality of our fisheries for granted. The fish and seafood sector is the heart and soul of many rural coastal and indigenous communities across Canada, and indeed of my riding of Bonavista—Burin—Trinity. Fisheries provide good middle-class jobs that draw on traditions stemming back hundreds of years. However, communities need support to meet the challenges of the 21st century. That is why I am proud to support Bill C-68, which would restore lost habitat protections and modernize safeguards to the Fisheries Act.

Our government committed to helping middle-class Canadians and to growing our economy so that more Canadians can join it. The fishing sector plays a key role in rural and coastal communities. In the end, 76,000 Canadians make their living directly from fishing and fishing-related activities. In 2016, Canada exported 87 species of fish, and our total exports grew by 5% between 2016 and 2017. The total export value was $6.9 billion.

Fisheries support important middle-class jobs. Most of them, including self-employed inshore and coastal fish harvesters, are part of the middle class. Fish harvesters, particularly in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, have told us time and time again that they need help to secure their continued independence, and they need support to protect the socio-cultural fabric of their communities.

In many of our communities, the fish and seafood sector is the primary economic driver, as well as the glue that holds people together. In other words, it not only puts food on the table, it also creates fodder for conversations around the table. In coastal communities, talk around the dinner table is about fundamental questions: Will the fisheries provide a living for generations to come, the way it has for us? Can we get a decent return on our investment?

Today we are acting for future generations. Bill C-68 would restore lost habitat protections and would provide for the making of modern regulations to help sustain the fisheries for many generations to come. While Bill C-68 covers many areas, I would like to focus on how it would impact the inshore and coastal fishery in eastern Canada.

Fishing remains one of the region's main industries. In 2016 alone, it generated $2.3 billion in landed value from inshore fleets. However, these impressive numbers cannot be taken for granted. Fish harvesters in Atlantic Canada and Quebec told us that to maintain an economically viable inshore fishery, licences need to be kept in the hands of independent, small boat owner-operators, and the fish harvesters need to be the ones making decisions about and receiving the benefit of their licences.

There are currently no legislative or regulatory requirements in place with respect to the rebuilding of depleted fish stocks. The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, along with the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, has recommended that any revision to the Fisheries Act should include direction for the restoration and recovery of fish habitat and stocks. In addition, environmental groups have also called on the government to adopt measures aimed at rebuilding depleted fish stocks within the Fisheries Act.

That is why the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans recommended improvements to Bill C-68 to strengthen the provisions on the rebuilding of stocks so that the minister implements measures to maintain prescribed fish stocks at or above the level necessary to promote the sustainability of the stock, while taking account of the biology of the fish and the environmental conditions affecting the stock. If a prescribed fish stock does decline to a depleted level, the government will develop a plan to rebuild that stock.

The government realizes that maintaining a stock or rebuilding it to healthy levels may not always be possible for environmental reasons, or in some cases because of the adverse economic effects that some measures may impose on communities.

However, the legislation will require that when these cases arise, Canadians will be informed and provided with the reasons. The aim is to manage fishery resource sustainability for the long-term benefit of Canadians and to help ensure long-term stability of our fisheries for current and future generations. As the Prime Minister stated, we need the right balance between the environment and the economy.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has policies to help maintain a strong and independent inshore fleet. These policies aim to keep the benefits from the inshore fishery flowing to licence-holders and communities that are dependent on the resource. Successive governments have recognized that a licensing regime that supports independent inshore harvesters is crucial to the livelihoods of coastal communities that depend on the fisheries.

Bill C-68 would clarify the authority to make regulations that would support and strengthen owner-operator and fleet separation policies. In so doing, middle-class jobs in our coastal communities would be protected. Specifically, clarified authorities in the act would support the development of much-needed regulations relating to the inshore fisheries.

The department would work with stakeholders on the development of regulations that would seek to strengthen the independence of the inshore fish harvesters in Atlantic Canada and Quebec. The objective of the regulations would help individual inshore licence-holders keep greater control over their enterprises and livelihoods. The regulations could also provide for strengthened rules around how licences are issued. For example, the government could strengthen support for the fleet separation policy by prohibiting the issuance of inshore licences to certain types of corporations. Once regulations are in place, the department would take enforcement actions when there is non-compliance. Licence-holders could face severe consequences, even lose their privileges to hold a licence, if they were to contravene these rules.

Ultimately, the government, through Bill C-68, is acting to create a stable and predictable environment for greater transparency, co-management, sustainability, and accountability. As the bill moves through third reading and the Senate, the government will continue to reach out to all Canadians from all walks of life for their input. The government is earning the trust of all Canadians with respect to fisheries protection.

I am proud to put my full support behind the proposed amendments to the Fisheries Act. I urge all hon. members to join with me so that we can ensure its speedy passage through the House.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 8:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague gave a great speech. He had talking points. It was a speech that was probably written for him by the minister's office, but I have to commend him. It was well delivered.

The fisheries committee studied Bill C-68. There were well over 50 witnesses, as well as written submissions. Not one witness was able to produce any evidence of loss of fish or fish habitat due the changes that the Conservative government made to the Fisheries Act in 2012. Is my hon. colleague aware that not one witness was able to produce any shred of evidence that there was a loss of fish or fish habitat?

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 8:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-68, an act to amend the Fisheries Act and other acts in consequence. I would like to start by stating that the official opposition supports the protection of our oceans and fisheries. Our previous changes to the Fisheries Act in 2012 were enacted to support transparency in the decision-making process and to provide a level of certainty to those invested in that act. Unfortunately, the Liberal government is proposing amendments through Bill C-68 that add additional layers of regulatory uncertainty.

The hon. Sergio Marchi, president and CEO of the Canadian Electricity Association stated that while Canada's electricity sector remains committed to protecting and conserving our natural resources, Bill C-68 “represents one step forward but two steps back”. The Canadian Electricity Association's concerns centre on the government's shortsightedness in choosing to return to pre-2012 provisions of the Fisheries Act that address “activity other than fishing that results in the death of fish” and “the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction”, otherwise known as HADD, “of fish habitat”.

While the Liberals say they are restoring HADD they sidestep any obligation to uphold the HADD regulations in the legislation by providing the minister with the ability to exempt certain provisions. The CEA points out, and rightly so, that virtually any action without prior authorization could be construed as being in contravention of Bill C-68.

The Canadian nuclear agency shares these concerns. In its testimony before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans it stated that the definition of fish habitat has been changed so that the term now means “water frequented by fish”, while retaining the “directly or indirectly” terminology. The Canadian Nuclear Association warned that this has the potential to include waters not designated to support fish, like tailing ponds, or drainage ditches, or waters not intended to be fish habitats, or where no fish are present at any time of the year. As such, it called on the government to revise the term “fish habitat” to exclude these structures.

The Canadian Electricity Association echoed the same sentiment, seeking amendments to provide greater certainty around the definition of fish and fish habitat, focusing on fish population conservation.

Ontario Power Generation agrees. In its written statement to the standing committee it recommended that exceptions, including intake canals and other structures that were constructed for the purpose of facility operations and not intended to be frequented by fish, should also be considered.

All of this is falling on deaf ears. Bill C-68 would also result in greater uncertainties for existing and new facilities and discourage yet more investment opportunities in energy projects, something the government seems to be quite good at.

The Canadian Nuclear Association in its submission to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans stated, “the concept of 'cumulative impact' is not only a key issue with respect to the environment, but also with respect to sustained investment in Canadian energy projects”.

The Canadian Nuclear Association's testimony continued, highlighting the plight of Canada's energy sector, advising that, “Right now, investment in Canada is facing significant challenges - including uncertainty caused by a suite of changes to federal and provincial regulatory policies, trade restrictions, corporate and individual tax rates”. This regulatory uncertainty is shared throughout industry.

The Canadian Electricity Association recommends that the minister be required to consult with any jurisdiction also exercising potentially duplicative, overlapping, or conflicting orders. Regulations are important. No one in any industry in Canada would refute the need for regulations. However, it makes no sense that a company has to go through the same regulatory conditions at every level of government simply to satisfy duplicate regulatory conditions. This costs time and money, and ultimately it costs investment opportunities.

This is at a time when the U.S. President's tariff action against Canadian steel and aluminum remains unfair and a serious threat to workers across the country who rely on this industry to put food on the table for their families, at a time when, according to Statistics Canada, the total foreign direct investment in Canadian oil and gas extraction slumped 7.4% in 2017, down to $162.2 billion.

That is due to a hasty retreat by international oil producers last year, including massive divestment by Royal Dutch Shell, about $9.3 billion, and ConocoPhillips, about $17.7 billion, totalling nearly $30 billion.

The government's carbon-tax scheme threatens to increase the cost of living for every Canadian, emphasized by the new report recently released by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. It found that the Liberal carbon tax will take $10 billion out of the Canadian economy by 2022, while other estimates argue that it could be as much as $35 billion per year, hurting jobs, workers, and families.

The current Liberal government is compelled to introduce bills like Bill C-68, which would add layers of regulatory ambiguity, adding massive uncertainty in an already turbulent investment climate. When will the government realize that investment opportunities are highly perishable prospects?

Bill C-68, like other bills, such as Bill C-69, appears to undermine transparency and due process by allowing the minister to withhold critical information from interested proponents, which runs contrary to the Prime Minister's promise of a more open and transparent government.

The act would require the minister to take into account indigenous knowledge and expertise when it was provided, and all decisions would have to take into account the possible impact on indigenous rights. However, that knowledge would be protected from being revealed publicly, or even to a project's proponents, without explicit permission from the indigenous community or the people who provided it.

The government has announced $284 million in new money to implement and enforce the new law through the hiring of new fisheries officers to enforce the act and educate people about it. There are, however, no timelines or details on when and how many officers would be hired. This bill would allow for the establishment of advisory panels and for members to be remunerated. However, there is no guidance or limitation on their use.

Bill C-68 would expand the reach of a prohibition against anything that alters or impacts fish habitat to all waters where fish exist. As the member for Cariboo—Prince George indicated earlier, the goal of the Fisheries Act is and should remain to protect and enhance Canada's fish stocks while avoiding any unnecessary negative economic impacts on industries that rely on access to Canadian land and water. In 2012, the Conservative government improved fisheries conservation, prioritized fish productivity, protected significant fisheries, and streamlined an overly bureaucratic process. The current government, though, through Bill C-68, would revert to rules that caused confusion, were difficult to enforce, and that negatively impacted farmers, communities, and resource development. The only real winners here would be regulatory lawyers, who would reap the rewards of Bill C-68.

I have no doubt that my colleagues across the way will question our commitment to the preservation of fish habitat. I have said before that we clearly support the protection of our fisheries and oceans. What the current government fails to understand is that they can protect the environment and have responsible resource development. It only makes sense to protect fish habitat if they want a robust fisheries economy, and that is what the current Fisheries Act does.

It is my hope that the government will continue consulting with industry on fish-habitat restoration plans moving forward. The government's knowledge and appreciation for the protection of fisheries is essential. We will continue to work closely with fishers, farmers, industry groups, and communities to ensure that their questions are heard.

I would rather be having a longer debate instead of being under time allocation, but this is the situation we are in. I look forward to questions from my hon. colleagues.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 8:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-68 following the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans' review and analysis of this bill.

We thank the committee members for their careful study of this legislation and their thoughtful amendments. During this review of Bill C-68, my colleagues in committee heard from many different witnesses and experts. I would like to take this time to talk about what they heard. I would also like to share the concrete steps proposed to make improvements and move forward with this legislation.

From the environmental NGO community and members across the aisle in the Green Party and the NDP, the committee heard about the importance of water flow for fish habitat. The government supported the associated amendments put forward in committee.

The committee also heard from industry groups seeking amendments to the rules proposed for the processing of applications for habitat authorization during the transition from the current to the new legislation. In response, the committee adopted the amendment to provide clearer transition provisions.

The committee also heard about strengthening the federal government's legal obligations when major fish stocks are in trouble. This is why the committee proposed the inclusion of requirements, under the legislation, that the minister sustainably manage or rebuild fish stocks that are prescribed in regulation. However, the legislation would require that when such cases arose, Canadians would be informed and provided with a rationale. Our aim is to sustainably manage fisheries resources for the long-term benefit of Canadians.

As members know, in 2012, the previous government decided to change habitat protection without the support of or consultation with indigenous peoples, fishers, scientists, conservation groups, coastal communities, and the Canadian public. In contrast, our government has worked with all Canadians and has encouraged everyone to be part of this process. The proposed amendments to Bill C-68 are part of our government's broader review of environmental and regulatory processes under Bill C-69, an act to enact the impact assessment act and the Canadian energy regulator act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, which was reviewed by the committee.

The Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development also adopted some important amendments, which have been reflected in Bill C-68. These include better protections for indigenous knowledge and clearer transition provisions that would ensure better business continuity.

The changes proposed in Bill C-68 would support several government priorities, such as partnering with indigenous peoples; supporting planning and integrated management; enhancing regulation and enforcement; improving partnership and collaboration; and, finally, monitoring and reporting back to Canadians. This is transparency.

This bill would include the reintroduction of the prohibition against the harmful alteration, disruption, or destruction of fish habitat as well as the prohibition against causing the death of fish by means other than fishing. There are measures to allow for better management of large and small projects that may be harmful to fish and fish habitat through a new permitting scheme, for big projects, and codes of practice, for smaller ones.

The amendments would enable the regulatory authorities that would allow for establishing a list of designated projects, comprising works, undertakings, and activities for which a permit would always be required. We have been, and will continue to be, engaged with indigenous peoples, provinces and territories, stakeholders, and others to capture the right kinds of projects on the designated project list.

Habitat loss and degradation and changes to fish passage and water flow are all contributing to the decline of freshwater and marine fish habitat in Canada. It is imperative that Canada restore degraded fish habitat. That is why we proposed changes to the Fisheries Act that would include the consideration of restoration as part of project decision-making.

The bill is motivated by the need to restore the public's trust in government, which was lost following decisions made in 2012.

In order to re-establish the trust of Canadians in government, access to information on the government's activities related to the protection of fish and fish habitat, as well as protecting information and decisions, is essential. We listened and we proposed, through Bill C-68, measures to establish the public registry, which will enable transparency and access. This registry will allow Canadians to see whether the government is meeting its obligations and allow them to hold the government accountable for decision-making with regard to fish and fish habitat.

The addition of new purpose and consideration provisions will more clearly guide the responsibility of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard when making decisions and 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.

Fisheries' resources and aquatic habitats have important social, cultural, and economic significance for many indigenous peoples. Respect for the rights of the indigenous peoples of Canada, taking into account their unique interests and aspirations in fisheries-related economic opportunities and the protection of fish and fish habitat, is one way we are showing our commitment to renewing our relationship with indigenous peoples.

We listened to Canadians on the need for modern safeguards. That is why we have proposed changes to the Fisheries Act that provide a new fisheries management order power to establish targeted fisheries management measures for 45-day increments where there is a threat to the proper management and control of fisheries or to the conservation and protection of fish. This will help to address time-sensitive emerging issues when a fishery is under way and targeted measures are required.

Proposed changes to the Fisheries Act include a new ministerial authority to make regulations to establish long-term spatial restrictions to fishing activities under the act, specifically for the purpose of conserving and protecting marine biodiversity. This will support our international commitment to protect at least 10% of our marine and coastal areas by 2020. Proposed changes also include authority to make regulations respecting the rebuilding of fish stocks.

As I mentioned earlier, our government reached out to Canadians to help put the bill forward. We listened to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development and the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans and provided direction for the restoration and recovery of fish habitat and stocks. We were pleased with the amendments of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans during its clause-by-clause review. We listened to environmental groups, and the committee proposed provisions aimed at implementing measures to promote the sustainability of the major fish stocks.

In addition, in keeping with modernizing the act in line with other federal environmental law, changes are being proposed to the Fisheries Act to authorize the use of alternative measures agreements.

Through Bill C-68, the Government of Canada is honouring its promise to Canadians. By restoring the lost protections and providing these modern safeguards, the government is delivering on its promise as set out in the mandate letter from the Prime Minister to the Minister of Fisheries.

Since introducing this bill, we have heard support from a broad range of Canadians for these amendments that will return Canada back to the forefront when speaking about fish for generations to come.

I urge all hon. members on both sides of the House to join me in supporting this bill, which is so important.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 8:45 p.m.
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NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak tonight to Bill C-68, the new Fisheries Act. Although I grew up, and still live, far from the coast, my family has 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. Luckily, my mother hated the stuff so much that she did not force it on me and my siblings.

Getting back to the bill, the bill comes from a Liberal promise in the last election campaign when both the NDP and Liberals ran on platforms that included the repealing of Conservative legislation that gutted all of the environmental protections of federal legislation. We are very happy the Liberals have finally acted on this, although I am not sure why it took so long.

The bill would finally restore protection for all fish across Canada. When I say all fish, I would like to point out that under the previous Conservative legislation, all fish were not created equal. Only those fish that were part of a commercial or indigenous fishery were protected, and they were not protected as strongly as they were in the past. I am happy that some of our rarest and most vulnerable fish species, like the speckled dace of the Kettle River, are now protected in this manner once again.

In the past, the Fisheries Act was the strongest piece of legislation that actually protected habitat in Canada. As many here know, I was a biologist in my past life, and I spent a long time working on ecosystem recovery plans and species at risk. Time and again, my colleagues would point out that the only legislation, federal or provincial, that effectively protected habitat, was the Fisheries Act. As a biologist who worked on land, I was always a bit jealous of my fisheries colleagues since there was little or nothing that had the same power of protection for terrestrial habitats.

This habitat protection was at the core of earlier versions of the Fisheries Act. The Conservatives took this habitat protection out in 2012 through Bill C-38, one of their omnibus budget bills. This action resulted in a huge public outcry, and among the voices were four former fisheries ministers, including one of my constituents, Tom Siddon, a former Conservative fisheries minister. He wrote an open letter to the government, urging it to keep habitat protections in the act.

This new act is still deficient in a few ways regarding habitat. For instance, while it talks about the water in rivers and lakes as fish habitat, it does not discuss the amount of that water. That is clearly important. Increasingly, low water levels in our rivers and lakes are causing difficulties for fish. Many of our fish require good quantities of clean, cool water, and more and more often they are faced in late summer with low levels of warm water that can be lethal to fish, especially to salmonids.

This act also does not address the habitat conflict between wild salmon stocks and the practice of open-net salmon farms. We should be moving in an orderly fashion toward closed containment farms to isolate fish health issues caused by the farms that impact wild salmon stocks under the open-net regime.

Bill C-68 empowers the fisheries and oceans minister to make management orders prohibiting or limiting fishing to address a threat to the conservation and protection of fish. Of course, I am fully in favour of this 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 actually been placed on the Species at Risk Act schedules. If a terrestrial species is in trouble, it is generally added to the list as a matter of course. However, but if a fish is in trouble, it is out of luck. This attitude has to change.

As well, the bill would give a lot of discretion to the minister to make decisions based on opinion rather than on scientific evidence. This practice must be limited and only used in exceptional circumstances. I am always concerned when it is enshrined in legislation and seemingly encouraged, as it is here and in other recent legislation, such as Bill C-69 on environmental impact assessments.

I am happy there is a provision in this act to give the DFO more resources for enforcement. I hope some of those resources can be used to rebuild the DFO staff that used to be found throughout the British Columbia interior to promote fish habitat restoration and rebuilding fish stocks.

There are no DFO staff left at all in the Okanagan and Kootenay regions now, despite the fact that there are numerous aquatic stewardship societies across my riding that used to have a great relationship with DFO and its work, and which benefited from that work. Volunteer groups that are devoted to aquatic habitats on the Arrow Lakes, the Slocan Valley, Christina Lake, the Kettle River watershed, Osoyoos Lake, and Vaseux Lake would all benefit through a renewal of those staffing levels. They talk to me regularly about that, and that they miss that help.

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 the problems and solutions, and then work hard to make good things happen. That story is the restoration of salmon populations in the Okanagan. This story involves many players and funding from the United States as well as Canada, but it is mainly a story of the Okanagan Nation Alliance, ONA, the first nations of the Okanagan, who came together to bring salmon back to the valley.

Salmon, or n’titxw, is one of the four food chiefs of the Okanagan peoples, and is central to their cultural and trade traditions. When I was a kid in the Okanagan, salmon were in very low numbers. The Okanagan is part of the Columbia system, and those fish had to climb over 11 dams to get back to the spawning grounds. Most of the Columbia River salmon runs died out, but a few sockeye came back to the Okanagan every year, though maybe a only a couple of thousand in some years. However, after years of work by the ONA and other groups, we often see runs of over 100,000 fish. The Okanagan River is once again red with sockeye in the autumn. The ONA has taken an ecosystem-collaborative restoration approach that combines cultural ceremonies and salmon feasts with technical restoration. They work collaboratively with provincial and federal authorities, and everyone in the region has benefited, with recreational fishery openings, an increase in licence revenues, and local salmon to the public. I enjoy the sockeye out of Osoyoos Lake every year now.

This approach has enabled the ONA to grow to one of the largest inland first nations fisheries organizations in Canada. It has 45 full-time staff, which is probably 10 times the staffing level of DFO in the interior of B.C. It has its own hatchery, biology lab, habitat restoration course, and courses that are even taken by DFO staff.

However, even though they have been working collaboratively with DFO, they have still identified some serious issues to me.

First, there is a need for a harvest sharing agreement between Canada and the U.S. There is no agreement in place to ensure minimum food fishery requirements for first nations, and there is no other place in the Pacific region where there is up to 150,000 salmon harvested between Canada and the U.S. that does not have such an agreement in place.

Second, ONA has asked for support for the Columbia River Treaty renewal and the importance of Canadian salmon. Okanagan salmon are the only Columbia River salmon returning to Canada, and they are directly affected by how Canada stores water in its treaty dams.

Third, it points out the need for support for ONA's salmon restoration in the upper Columbia, which is in the Kootenay region. There are no salmon there now. ONA submitted a proposal to DFO and asked the minister back in September 2017, but it has received no response.

Fourth, the ONA regrets to see the overall exclusion of first nations at the Columbia River Treaty table, which is something that is very important to them.

To conclude, we will be supporting Bill C-68, but there is clearly still a lot of work to be done to protect our fish and our fisheries.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 9 p.m.
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Cape Breton—Canso Nova Scotia

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-68, especially after having come back from committee. I know that my colleagues on committee did an outstanding job. They brought forward some thoughtful amendments, and I believe we have a good piece of legislation. During the review of Bill C-68, my colleagues in committee heard from many different witnesses and experts. I would like to take the time to talk about what they heard, and the concrete steps they proposed to help further improve this legislation for the benefit of all Canadians.

The changes proposed in Bill C-68 support several government priorities and key themes: partnering with indigenous peoples, supporting planning and integrated management, enhancing regulation and enforcement, improving partnership and collaboration, and monitoring and reporting back to Canadians. Canadians want to know what is taking place within the fishery. This bill includes the reintroduction of the prohibition against the harmful alteration, disruption, and destruction of fish habitat, as well as the prohibition against causing the death of fish by means other than fishing. There are measures to allow for better management of large and small projects that may be harmful to fish or fish habitat, through a new permitting scheme for big projects, and codes of practice for smaller ones.

The amendments would enable the regulatory authorities that would allow for establishing a list of designated projects comprised of works, undertakings, and activities for which a permit will always be required. We have been engaging and will continue to engage with indigenous peoples, provinces, territories, and stakeholders to ensure that we capture the right kinds of projects on the designated project list. Habitat loss and degradation, and changes to fish passage and water flow, are all contributing to the decline of freshwater and marine habitats in this country. It is imperative that Canada restore degraded fish habitats, and that is why the proposed changes in the Fisheries Act include consideration of restoration as part of the project decision-making.

This bill is motivated by the need to restore the public's trust in government, which was lost through the changes made in 2012. In order to re-establish that trust, access to information on the government's activities related to the protection of fish and fish habitat, as well as the project information and decisions, is essential. We listened. We proposed, through Bill C-68 measures, to establish a public registry which will enable transparency and access. This registry would allow Canadians to see whether their government is meeting its obligations, and allow them to hold the government accountable for decision-making with regard to fish and fish habitat. The addition of new purpose and consideration provisions would clearly guide the responsibility of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard when making decisions and providing a framework for proper management and control of the fisheries for the conservation and protection of fish and fish habitat, including by preventing pollution.

Fisheries resources and aquatic habitats have important social, cultural, and economic significance for many indigenous people. Respect for the rights of indigenous peoples in Canada, taking into account their unique interests and aspirations in fisheries-related economic opportunities and the protection of fish and fish habitat, is one way in which we are showing our commitment to renewing our relationships with indigenous people.

We listened to Canadians on the need for modern safeguards. That is why we have proposed changes to the act that would provide new fisheries management order power to establish targeted fisheries management measures for 45-day increments, where there is a threat to the proper management and control of fisheries, or to the conservation and protection of fish. This would help to address time-sensitive emerging issues when a fishery is under way and targeted measures are required. This tool might be used to assist in our current protection of the North Atlantic right whale. Proposed changes to the act include a new ministerial authority to make regulations to establish long-term spatial restrictions to fisheries activities under the act, specifically for the purpose of conserving and protecting marine biodiversity.

This will support our international commitment to protect at least 10% of the marine and coastal areas by 2020. Proposed changes also include authority to make regulations respecting the rebuilding of fish stocks.

As I mentioned earlier, our government reached out to Canadians in developing the bill. We listened to the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development and the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, and provided direction for the restoration and recovery of fish habitat and stocks. We are pleased that the standing committee has offered amendments during its clause-by-clause review to improve the bill in this regard. We listened to environmental groups, and the committee proposed provisions aimed at implementing measures to promote the sustainability of major fish stocks.

We also heard from Canadians on other important issues. We have proposed amendments to the Fisheries Act that would prohibit fishing for a whale when the intent is to take it into captivity, unless circumstances so require, such as when the whale is injured, in distress, or in need of care.

In addition, in keeping with modernizing the act in line with other federal environmental law, changes are being proposed to the Fisheries Act to authorize the use of alternative measures agreements. Alternative measures agreements are designed to effectively address contraventions of the act without the need to engage in costly and arduous court processes. Alternative measures agreements are a formally recognized resolution process designed to address offending behaviour. The process focuses on redressing the damage and addressing the root causes of the contravention. Alternative measures agreements provide a cost-effective alternative to the criminal justice system and have been shown to reduce recidivism.

We have been clear on our commitment to make inshore independence more effective. That was a considerable issue in the last Parliament, and I have heard about this issue from Port Morien to Port Hood, all the way down to Little Dover. Proposed changes provide specific authority in the Fisheries Act to develop regulations supporting the independence of inshore commercial licence holders and enshrine into legislation the ability to make regulations regarding owner-operator and fleet separation policies in Atlantic Canada and Quebec.

Through Bill C-68, the Government of Canada is honouring its promise to Canadians. By restoring lost protections and providing modern safeguards, the government is delivering on its promise, as set out in the mandate letter from the Prime Minister to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. Since the introduction of this bill, we have heard support from a broad range of Canadians for these amendments, which will return Canada to the forefront of protection of our rivers, coasts, and fish for generations to come.

I mentioned the hard work of the committee and how its efforts have made a good bill even better. The committee heard about the importance of water flow for fish habitat from the environmental NGO community, members across the aisle, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, as well as the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam. The government supported the associated amendments put forward in committee. We believe they will contribute to the effective management of fish habitat.

In Bill C-68, we strengthened the federal government's legal obligations when major fish stocks are in trouble. The committee built on this by proposing the inclusion of requirements, under the legislation, that the minister sustainably manage or rebuild fish stocks that are prescribed in regulations. Of course, we realize that this may not always be possible for environmental reasons, or because of the adverse economic effects some measures may impose on communities.

Again, I want to thank the committee. This is a good bill made better by the amendments that were proposed by the committee. I look forward to questions from members.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 9:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise this evening with some serious concerns with respect to Bill C-68. While one might think that fisheries legislation would impact only our coastal communities, in actuality this legislation would increase costs for every single town, city, and rural municipality across this country from coast to coast.

That is why it is unfortunate that the Liberals have once again moved time allocation on this very complex and important piece of legislation. By refusing to give us the time necessary to debate this bill, they are, in essence, muzzling Canadians across Canada by refusing to give them a voice through us as members of Parliament who have been elected to represent them in this place. The Liberals have shut down debate on a major overhaul of our Fisheries Act, which will have a huge impact on farmers and municipalities across Canada, as well as on our natural resource development sector. The Liberals have consistently refused to listen to stakeholders, and now they are refusing to listen to parliamentarians. By way of doing that, they are refusing to listen to Canadians.

The Liberals have reintroduced an incredibly onerous provision of the Fisheries Act. This is the blanket prohibition on any work that could cause the death of any fish. As the explanation document on the Department of Fisheries' website spells out, “Fish habitat means water frequented by fish and any other areas on which fish depend directly or indirectly in order to carry out their life processes, including spawning grounds and nursery, rearing, food supply and migration areas.” According to this, fish do not even need to be present in order for this act to apply, which of course is problematic.

I live in Lethbridge, southern Alberta. There is no ocean or a commercial fishery within close proximity. However, my region relies extensively on water management through a system of irrigation channels, reservoirs, and catchment areas. This legislation means that a farmer who so much as changes a ditch on his or her property that is somehow connected to a waterway will be impacted by this legislation. These farmers would have to apply for a permit in order to make any changes to their land. Therefore, the penalties are beyond onerous. The federal government could charge someone up to five years after the work has already taken place.

Family farms are not extravagant operations that can afford a full-time environmentalist or compliance officer within their operation. Therefore, if farmers have to apply for permits every time they take a tractor out to dig a ditch or deepen a slough, we can imagine how difficult it would be for those individuals or those operations to follow this legislation. They will have to worry about whether or not some activist animal rights group will come after them and attack them for taking their tractor out and digging a ditch on their own property in order to accomplish something that is necessary within their operation.

Farmers are among the strongest conservationists on the planet. They are among the people in Canada who advocate and act, a key word here, most strongly in favour of the environment. These are women and men who are doing a whole lot of good for our country, yet the legislation that is before the House would actually punish them. It demonizes them, and that is not fair.

This was an unprecedented year for flooding in both British Columbia and the Maritimes. Large municipalities and small rural communities alike are now realizing the need to significantly invest in flood prevention works. Whether that is as simple as building a higher dike or building dry channels to redirect flood waters at peak times, these works will now cost significantly more money to complete because municipalities are now going to have to hire an army of lawyers, consultants, environmentalists, and so forth, in order to uphold this legislation.

Testimony from Manitoba Hydro provided to the fisheries committee clearly stated that the 2012 changes to the Fisheries Act enhanced and broadened the act's protections for fish and fish habitat by adding the word “activities”. In describing the true effect of the 2012 changes to the act, which this bill is trying to reverse, Gary Swanson of Manitoba Hydro stated:

[T]he addition of the word “activities” in the prohibition against serious harm to fish arguably represents greater protection for fisheries, as do the addition of requirements for reporting all incidents of serious harm, the duty to intervene to address impacts, the extension in the time limitation for laying of charges from two to five years, and the establishment of contravening conditions of licence as an offence.

Let us put that in simple terms, shall we? There is much less certainty as to what this act applies to, which means it is great for lawyers but really bad for small businesses. It means it is great for environmentalists, but it is really bad for municipalities. It is really bad for Canadians, period.

Now the result will be a bureaucratic gridlock as thousands of permits are filed for. However, then it will end up being known that those permits actually are not even required. There will be this process that is incredibly onerous.

The previous Conservative government simplified this legislation because the complete prohibition of any potential harm to any body of water that might possibly host a fish was just simply unworkable. The Conservative approach focused on protecting commercial, recreational, and aboriginal fisheries. That approach focused on reducing significant harm to fish populations where they actually lived. That allowed for a proper balance between protecting fish in our waterways and ensuring that small businesses had the legal certainty to carry on their work and run a profitable business.

Proposed section 8 of this bill also sets out the establishment of fees for quotas, and proposed section 14 would establish the setting of fees for conferral. What does that mean? It means more fees that Canadians will have to pay for permits and authorizations.

Section 14 of this bill proposes powers for the creation of fees for regulatory processes with no parameters for who might be charged and how much they might be charged. It means higher costs for everyone, for them, for us, for every single Canadian. It means less money in the pockets of Canadian families because it means increased taxation. Municipalities will have to raise their taxes in order to apply for the permits that they require to do the work that needs to be done. As a result, small businesses will have to raise their prices because they will have to apply for permits, go through bureaucratic bodies, jump through hoops, and cut through red tape, in order to do their projects. This is on top of all the tax increases that the Liberal government has already placed on Canadian families, which is to say nothing of the carbon tax that is still to come.

The government has repeatedly stated that this bill is necessary to restore so-called lost protections. My colleague, the hon. member for North Okanagan—Shuswap, has submitted an Order Paper question, asking the government for proof of harm resulting from these so-called lost protections a number of times now. In its response to this Order Paper question, the government said that it cannot produce any proof because the department does not have the resources or the mandate to make such determinations. This is very interesting. This bill is the solution to a problem that has not been proven to actually exist, at the government's own admission. It is ridiculous. It is absolutely ridiculous.

The minister claimed that there were face-to-face consultations when he appeared at the committee on November 2, 2016. An Order Paper question response, dated March 22, 2017, contradicted this by stating that no face-to-face consultations had taken place. In this place, in the House of Commons, we are not allowed to call something a lie or call someone a liar. I will say that the minister certainly told an untruth.

Furthermore, we have concerns with the bill's proposals for the establishment of advisory panels. There is no accountability. There is a blank cheque being signed over, and what will they accomplish?

In conclusion, this legislation overreaches from even the pre-2012 version of the legislation. It includes the ability for indigenous groups to provide secret testimony directly to the minister that cannot be challenged by the person applying for the permit. It also creates a host of paid positions, to which the Liberal minister can appoint his friends with very little actual work required, and no accountability mechanism in place. Combined with the changes to the environmental assessment legislation, it effectively means the end of natural resource development in Canada. On top of that, it adds legal uncertainty to every Canadian, from logger to farmer to miner, about whether or not they are in compliance with the law.

I stand today in this place totally opposed to this legislation because it is bad for Canadians.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 9:25 p.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Lethbridge for laying out how terrible Bill C-68 is, and in particular, how it will unfairly impact our municipalities, especially those in rural Canada.

When I was first elected back in 2004, one of the things I heard from my municipalities over and over again was that they had to deal with the fish police from DFO, and how that slowed down their ability to clean ditches, replace culverts, and provide proper drainage on agricultural lands. What we are doing here is going to duplicate what the provinces already do at home.

I want to thank my hon. colleague for standing up for rural Canada, and standing up for farmers and ranchers, and for all the hard work she does in working alongside the municipalities in her region, because this legislation is terrible.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 9:25 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I always welcome young women to this place, and especially young women with grit and determination, like the young member for Lethbridge. I regret that I disagree with everything she said this evening about Bill C-68.

I do not know if she is aware, but in 2012, the national organization representing municipalities in this country, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, urged the Harper government to remove the sections from Bill C-38 that would weaken the protection of fish habitat. By the way, the motion that was brought forward on the floor of the FCM convention came from none other than a former Conservative fisheries minister, the hon. Tom Siddon, who also joined in an open letter denouncing the weakening of fish habitat protection, which was also signed by another former Conservative fisheries minister, the hon. John Fraser. Bill C-38 was an egregious attack on the fisheries resource.

The fisheries resource and agriculture resource need not be in conflict, and in Bill C-68 they are not.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 9:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, I see that the debate is slowing tonight. I thought I had a few more minutes to prepare, but I am happy to speak about my concerns in relation to Bill C-68.

A number of my colleagues have raised the troubling situation that we are debating a fisheries bill. It has some provisions related to fish habitat. There have been some great comments, including from an NDP member who has some experience as a biologist. That is when our debates here are at their best. Unfortunately, this debate is also under a cloud, considering that the Ethics Commissioner has now added the fisheries minister to the list of ministers of the Liberal government whose actions are going to be examined. It is with respect to the awarding of a fishing-related licence. It is unfortunate, because that is a cloud hanging over this debate.

I have heard on several occasions many members of the Liberal Party suggesting that in a previous government, fisheries management and fisheries licences did not take into consideration aboriginal treaty rights and aboriginal participation in both the traditional fishery and the commercial fishery, despite the fact that evidence shows that this is not true. If we look at some of the press releases and media advisories in relation to fishery licence competitions or proposals and requests for groups to bid, the consultation with and participation of first nations communities was part of that. It is unfortunate that some members, including the member for Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, are making suggestions that are not supported by a cursory examination of what was happening in the last government, and that concerns me.

Bill C-68 is before the House under the cloud of yet another minister being examined for ethical conduct with the awarding of a fisheries licence to a group of proponents that did not have a boat but had a number of connections, both deep and familial, to the Liberal government. That seemed to eclipse consideration of any experience actually on the sea.

As someone who did fisheries patrols with our navy and with our air force on the Flemish Cap, I am proud of our heritage fishing and the fishers engaged in the practice. It is a hard living. As my colleague from British Columbia, our friend the fisheries critic, has highlighted the tremendous work of Canadians, they should know that any group has the ability to bid for these licences, because it is a monopoly. This is a serious power the government has, and now the fisheries minister is the third minister to be examined for how he has used that power.

The first minister to be examined was actually the Prime Minister, the first in both ways. He is the first minister. The finding of his investigation, as we know, was guilty. There is one outstanding investigation involving the finance minister, and now there is the fisheries minister. We cannot forget that in considering this legislation.

There are also two other big parts of Bill C-68 that should concern Canadians. Not only do we already think there is a cozy relationship, with some of the most recent fisheries proponents who were awarded a contract by the minister having close Liberal ties, but the government is enshrining that in Bill C-68 with paid advisory boards to advise the minister. Why is that?

The minister has a department that has done that quite well for over a century, in combination with consultations with stakeholders, industry groups, unions, and first nations. Why this new advisory board needs to be employed and paid and staffed is beyond me. It reminds us of the Liberal approach of surrounding themselves with more friends to tell them that they are doing a great job. They are not, and we are going to hear from the Ethics Commissioner on that.

The minister will have the ability to withhold critical information from bid proponents. Considering everything that has gone on, that should concern Canadians as well.

I am going to speak for the third time, with the remainder of my time, about ideological creep, once again, with the Liberal government enshrining directly the precautionary principle into legislation with very little to no debate. I have raised this before on the Oceans Act and the classification of marine protected areas and its basis. I raised it a few weeks ago with respect to the Federal Sustainable Development Act, and here we are today with the Fisheries Act, another very strategic placement of the precautionary principle.

In proposed section 2.5, “Considerations for decision making”, the first consideration is listed as “(a) the application of a precautionary approach”. That is listed along with a number of grounds. The precautionary approach and the precautionary principle are the same thing.

What is also listed in the considerations for decision-making? This is the government that, when in opposition, used to always talk about science-based and evidence-based decision-making. What does it list in decision factors the minister can take into consideration? The precautionary approach is proposed subsection 2.5 (a). The third consideration, 2.5 (c), is “scientific information”. I guess it is going to have to look at that. Proposed subsection 2.5(d) is “indigenous knowledge”; 2.5 (e) is “community knowledge”; 2.5(g) is “social, economic, and cultural factors”; and 2.5 (i) is “the intersection of sex and gender with other identity factors”.

This is about fisheries and decisions related to fisheries. Beyond science, beyond the people who fish, and beyond our first nations, that should be the factor in decision-making. There is the creeping edge of the precautionary principle, and now we have intersectionality, another political measure, being inserted into this. I am astounded.

Any time there was a decision made in relation to advancing projects related to resource development or other things, the Conservatives were accused of ideological underpinnings driving to support business and tear down environmental considerations. That was not the truth. Certainly we wanted certainty for proponents, but this is now the third bill on which I am talking about a direct ideological approach being embedded in legislation that is not even rooted in science.

I have said before that the precautionary principle being the guiding force has been criticized roundly, in fact, by one of President Obama's most senior advisers, the White House chair of regulatory affairs, Professor Cass Sunstein. He wrote, which I have quoted a few times, “the precautionary principle, for all its rhetorical appeal, is deeply incoherent.” Why is that? It is because it allows people to make decisions based on a hunch, based on a concern, based on a “we had better act”, or as some people have described it, better safe than sorry.

What was talked about when this principle was first advanced, back at the Rio climate conference? It was suggested at that point that it could only be considered when there was serious or irreversible harm demonstrated before precaution might come in. Now the government, through many pieces of legislation, without much serious scrutiny, I might add, apart from the Conservatives raising it from time to time, is embedding the precautionary principle and a list of cultural, social, and other factors where it can make decisions related to the sustainability of fisheries. It is preposterous, and it should concern people. It is giving the Liberals enough wiggle room to do whatever they want based on how they feel.

Where does this come from? One of the big groups pushing for the precautionary principle to govern and actually supersede science was the World Wildlife Fund. We certainly know where its former head is working now. He is the PMO lead. It should concern Canadians that those approaches and those things advocated for are now being systematically put into legislation without any serious discussion, and directly contrary to what science suggests. They are not even putting in an approach that irreversible harm should be the standard before this approach is used.

Liberals are, by stealth, providing an ideological approach to make decisions without scientific certainty. When it comes to our fisheries, we should be proud that under a Conservative government, John Crosbie, we remember, made a tough decision about the cod fishery, based on science, in the face of people protesting and threatening harm, because it was based on science, not on a hunch and not on ideology.

This is the third bill. Canadians should wake up to how ideological and unscientific the government is.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 9:45 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to correct something in the present tense about Bill C-68 and correct some revisionist history. The hon. John Crosbie, fisheries minister at the time, closed down the cod fishery after it was gone. It was officially gone. National Sea Products and Fishery Products International could not find any fish, and at that point, there was a cod moratorium. The minister of fisheries at the time ignored the pleas from inshore fishermen that the fishery was going to collapse.

I would go to the present tense, and what needs correcting is the idea that the precautionary approach has been put on a high pedestal in Bill C-68. I would refer the member to the language in proposed section 2.5. That list of considerations he read out are not mandatory conditions of action. It says, “the Minister may consider, among other things”, then that long list is there. It is hardly tying the minister's hands, and it does not make sure that every decision is guided by the precautionary approach. This is good legislation, and it is about time we passed it. I do agree that it should not be passed under time allocation.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 9:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Madam Speaker, this is a very interesting discussion and there have been some good speeches this evening.

I will start by saying there are two pieces of federal legislation aimed at protecting the quality of Canada's fresh water. These laws implement Ottawa's clearly stated constitutional jurisdiction and responsibility in two specific areas: navigation and the fishery. I am speaking of the Navigation Protection Act, formerly the Navigable Waters Protection Act and soon to be renamed the Canadian navigable waters act by virtue of Bill C-69, which passed at report stage today and is on its way to passing at third reading. The second piece of legislation, of course, is the Fisheries Act. These two laws are really the basis of federal water policy. Often water policy comes more out of provincial jurisdiction, but the federal government has something to say about water policy, and it is through those two main pieces of legislation.

Navigation and fishing were key aspects of life at the time of Confederation and remain significant today in our diversified modern economy. This is no doubt the reason that jurisdiction for both navigation and the fishery were given to the central government, this plus the fact that, as Pierre Trudeau famously said, “Fish swim,” which means they cross provincial boundaries, as do marine vessels for that matter.

Based on the speeches I have heard here and on what I know to be the Conservative narrative, it is fair to say the Conservative opposition does not see these two laws broadly as environmental laws. This is despite the fact that both laws govern and protect the aquatic environments on which vessels traverse and in which fish live. The Navigation Protection Act and the Fisheries Act are part of a grouping of four federal laws that are the basis of federal environmental policy in Canada, a grouping that includes the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which is being renamed the impact assessment act under Bill C-69, and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, which has just gone through its five-year legislative review at the environment committee under the very able stewardship of the member for King—Vaughan.

It was the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the Fisheries Act that the Harper government targeted for revamping in order to restrict their scope and significance for the environment. The Harper government amended the Navigable Waters Protection Act twice, including at one point changing its name to the Navigation Protection Act. The first time it restricted the act's scope was in a 2009 omnibus budget bill, and the second time in a 2012 omnibus budget bill.

I know members find it hard to believe that the Conservative government would ever do that, but yes it did use omnibus budget bills and they were not necessarily encompassing only financial matters. The 2012 omnibus budget bill by the Conservative government removed broad Fisheries Act protections for all fish habitats, stipulating that the act would from then on only prohibit “serious harm to fish that are part of a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery, or that support such a fishery”.

Incidentally, Prime Minister Harper and the Conservative government used the 2009 omnibus budget bill, if I am not mistaken, to also weaken the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which is why the government had to bring in Bill C-69 to strengthen environmental assessment in Canada and to regain the trust of Canadians regarding the federal government's commitment to protecting the environment.

I know the Conservatives are unhappy with government budget bills when they have too many pages, and call them omnibus bills, but there is no comparison—Madam Speaker, you will recall, you were in the House—to the blatant manner in which the previous government stretched the meaning of budget bill to effectively cover everything from banks to canoes and sailboats to trout, shellfish, and crustaceans. That is what the Liberal platform objected to: the Harper government's semantic elasticity with regard to the notion of a budget bill.

Bill C-68 rolls back the changes the Harper government made to the Fisheries Act. As has been mentioned by others, the bill protects all fish and fish habitat. The definition of “serious harm to fish” is also being removed.

Those carrying out projects would be generally responsible for avoiding harmful alteration, disruption, and destruction of fish habitat. However, when proponents are unable to completely avoid harm to fish, an authorization permit with conditions may be issued by the minister to allow a project to proceed without contravening the act. I wonder if the opposition is critical of this ministerial discretion, given its criticism of ministerial decision-making power in Bill C-69.

It is important to note the distinction in Bill C-68 between designated projects and routine projects. I have not heard that distinction mentioned on the other side. Designated projects would always require ministerial approval. These are of course expected to be large-scale projects. Currently, under the bill the previous Conservative government was responsible for, projects requiring authorization are determined on a case-by-case basis, which adds complexity and uncertainty for business.

As for routine smaller projects, published codes of practice would provide advice to proponents on how to avoid project impacts on fish or fish habitat. Although the regulations defining designated projects have not been created, I imagine irrigation canals or flood canals on farms would not be considered major, large-scale projects, like dams. I believe they would be considered routine projects, and farmers could just avail themselves of a guide of best practice and do the best job they possibly could. There is a bit of fearmongering on the other side about what the impact of the bill would be on farmers, who are indeed very much the backbone of a large part of the Canadian economy.

Laws are all well and good, but enforcement is always the key. The government will invest $384.2 million to ensure the capacity to enforce the Fisheries Act. Among other things, this money would go toward increasing the number of front-line fishery habitat officers.

Also worth mentioning, Bill C-68 would empower cabinet to make regulations for the rebuilding of fish stocks. It would also empower the minister to make regulations for the purposes of the conservation and protection of marine biodiversity. Again, I am curious to know whether the opposition objects to ministerial discretion in these cases.

Significantly, the bill requires that the government consider the rights of indigenous peoples and traditional knowledge when making decisions about fish habitats. This supports the government's priority on reconciliation with Canada's indigenous peoples.

Finally, Bill C-68 would ban the capturing of whales, dolphins, and porpoises for the purpose of keeping them in captivity. This should be welcomed by those who hold to the protection of marine wildlife. They are people like the beluga specialist, Dr. Pierre Béland, who is the world's most well-known expert on the beluga whale, and who was actually involved in an aqua-hacking conference in Toronto this past weekend. Aqua hacking is a process by which we look for solutions to problems, like pollution affecting our waterways.

Lastly, it is worth noting that extensive consultation was undertaken to arrive at the measures we are debating today. There have been two rounds of online public consultations, and over 100 meetings with partners, stakeholders, and indigenous groups. In 2016, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans asked the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans to review the previous government's changes to the act. This review resulted in 32 recommendations, which helped shape Bill C-68. This is on top of all the debate that took place in 2012 around changes to the act undertaken within the context of a rather egregious so-called budget omnibus bill.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 10 p.m.
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Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege for me to stand this evening to speak to the bill.

I will take a bit of a different approach because I am from Saskatchewan. As has been mentioned, our lakes are beautiful. We have wonderful fish and all kinds of animal life. It is very pristine and beautiful. We are also a major agricultural source within the country, as well as natural resources.

The Conservative Party of Canada supports the protection of our oceans and fisheries. Our previous changes to the Fisheries Act were enacted to support transparency in the decision-making process and to provide a level of certainty to those who had an investment in this. It is important to note that we were very robust in our expectations in determining whether environmental conditions were being met. However, we worked with the natural resource and the agricultural communities.

The term “the environment and the economy go hand in hand” does not belong to the current government. Back in 2009, that is the exact term I used to express Conservative values when I was running in for nomination. There is no question that on this side of the floor, the environment and the economy are both important, which is why our prime minister understood that Canada's role on this issue had to include a global look at the world. Canada has a responsibility in relation to the rest of the world, not just for the environment but for our economy as well. That is where our ability to work with the environment exists. Some people cannot afford to make a living. More and more we find ourselves in a situation, where investment is running out of the country as fast as it can. We are losing jobs. We cannot compete with the United States. We cannot afford to do a lot of the things that we want to do as a country to ensure our economy is strong while at the same time our environment is strong.

When I was a brand new member of Parliament two and a half years ago, one of the first visits to my office was a young man from an environmental engineers group. I could not say exactly which group it was as I was in a bit of a daze. However, we had an amazing conversation. He said, knowing what was coming from the the government and the likelihood of changes to this very act, that what we had was very good. It was very robust, very challenging, there were huge expectations, and it provided a level of certainty.

We kept hearing how the government just rushed these things through. I did not appreciate what he said to me at the time, but I do now. Certainty enabled resource producers to know the parameters under which they would be working. They hired environmental engineers like himself to ensure they did absolutely everything they could to be prepared to be to meet the requirements for their new projects. His perspective was that certainty made all the difference in the environment and the economy being able to go hand in hand.

That is the case in my riding where we have potash development at this very moment. There is a circumstance there where habitat would be be influenced by the productivity. I have a news flash. It does not matter what we do, whether it is build a house, build a downtown store, put in a new farm building, or whatever, we impact our environment. However, the concept of offsets, which the Saskatchewan Mining Association referred to in its brief, is very important.

It said that it had worked previously with Fisheries and Oceans Canada on the topic of habitat banking, resulting in the 2012 publication “Fish Habitat Banking in Canada: Opportunities and Challenges”. As such, it said that it supported the addition of proponent-led habitat banking into the amended act. Why? The current government would say that it is because it is this evil group that wants to destroy our environment, which is ridiculous. The truth of the matter is that it wants to be responsible. I know it spent millions of dollars in securing other land as the habitat that would be protected to ensure that its business could grow and people all across our province and our country could be employed. We need that balance. I do not see that balance at all with the government.

With Bill C-68, the Liberals have added additional layers of regulatory uncertainty.

We have heard a lot tonight about the impacts on the farmers and how that will deter them in a lot of ways. My fellow member, I believe the member for Foothills, spoke to this issue a while back. He talked about how fish would be found because of floodwaters or whatever and all of a sudden these drainage areas would have to be made into bedding areas for fish, and how difficult that would be for the farming community. The member across the floor, I believe it was a member from Prince Edward Island, said that he was sure that would be dealt with at committee, that it was common sense. That is not what I am hearing from the government at all. The member from across the floor said that it was common sense to enable the Prairies and places where this was overreach to be considered in the bill. Apparently, that will not be the case.

The Liberals have said that they are restoring the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat prohibition, yet they have sidestepped any obligation to uphold the HADD regulations in the legislation by providing the minister with the ability to exempt certain provisions. How will they decide which ones they will exempt and which ones they will not? That is a dangerous place to be. We know Canadians look at what is done in the House and know what politics do. We have already heard tonight about the circumstances where this is being abused. I even wonder about the water systems that will be put in our first nations, which are under water advisories. This is a really good thing. It needs to be done. I have small communities all over my riding that need that as well. What kind of advanced research was done on the implications of putting those systems in? We need to have fairness across the board.

I want to mention one more thing. We are having trouble getting this pipeline built, yet today there was an announcement that stated, “Voisey's Bay Underground Mine Construction To Begin This Summer”. This is in Labrador. Obviously, it is a priority to make that happen. It states:

Three former Liberal premiers were on hand for the official announcement this morning...[and the] agreement was signed.

The project is expected to result in 1,700 jobs...$69-million in tax revenue for the province.

It is an ore mine. However, somehow we cannot get this pipeline built to the coast to enable our provinces, which have wonderful resources, to make a difference in the Canadian economy, and to do it in an environmentally-friendly way. I am very proud of my province. We have a lot to show and teach the government about good environmental standards.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 10:15 p.m.
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NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise to speak on Bill C-68, an act to amend the Fisheries Act and other acts in consequence. As members can imagine, as a coastal British Columbian, I understand the importance and significance of protecting our fish. Where I live, it is not just our food security, our economy, or our culture, but it is integral to everything and is what connects us. It is even in our language. As saltwater people, fish and the protection of fish is given utmost priority. We always say that the health of our fish and our salmon is a reflection of the health of our communities. The importance and significance of this bill would restore the act that needs to be put in place as soon as possible so that we can protect our fish and bring ourselves back to abundance.

One of the key changes made to the Fisheries Act in 2012 that removed protection for fish and fish habitat, and that will be restored, is the harmful alteration and disruption or destruction of fish habitat. It goes further by restoring the definition of fisheries to include all fish. However, it still does not address the conflict mandates, which Commissioner Cohen identified, of conserving wild salmon while protecting harmful salmon practices. This was in the mandate letter to the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. The Prime Minister himself instructed the minister to act on the recommendations of the Cohen commission on restoring sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser River.

In recommendation 3 of his report, Justice Cohen recommended, “The Government of Canada should remove from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ mandate the promotion of salmon farming as an industry and farmed salmon as a product.” DFO is still continuing to promote salmon farming, its industry, and the product. We are concerned that the government has not followed through with this promise. It is impossible for the government to be an agent and also promoting an industry that might have detrimental impacts and effects on our wild fish. The goal and mandate of DFO should be restored to that of just protecting wild salmon and wild fish. New Democrats would like the government to follow through with the promise it made in the 2015 election campaign and that was outlined in the Cohen commission.

It has not done that, and it is something that is raised repeatedly. In fact, the Pacific Salmon Foundation just came out against open net salmon farming. Many groups in my riding are raising concerns about the impact it is having. Many indigenous communities in my riding are raising concerns around the impact of salmon farming. We would like that to be split out so that we can make sure DFO is doing its historic job of advocating for and protecting our fish. That is not happening now, and it is not in this legislation.

It is the first time that rebuilding of depleted fish stocks has been included in the Fisheries Act. However, details on rebuilding this will be in regulations. Those regulations need to be strong, with timelines and targets, and it needs to take into account the impacts of climate change and species interactions. We know in my area that climate change is real. In 2014, it was so dry—and then rained just in time, in August—that we were worried we would lose all of our fish as the streams ran dry at the time when the fish needed to spawn upstream. It is important that is integrated in the legislation, but also setting clear targets and necessary investments. The government keeps talking about its oceans protection plan and its record investments in coastal restoration, but in fact we are not seeing that on the ground.

As I said earlier, the Somass River still has no coastal restoration funds. It is expecting about 350,000 pieces of sockeye salmon this year, which is well below the average of just over a million and the high of 1.9 million. How do we get back to abundance? We need to make adequate investments, and we are not doing that. The salmon industry in British Columbia brings in well over $1 billion, yet we do not even invest $50 million in that sector. As a former business person, I know that is far from adequate in terms of investment in an industry that is so critical to British Columbians, in tourism, the commercial sector of fishing, the recreation sector, and for food security.

It feeds many people, especially indigenous people who rely on that fish, people living in poverty. It is important that the government backs it up with real investment. The bill states the following:

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;

It is concerning that it is still far from free, prior, and informed consent, a specific right that pertains to indigenous peoples and is recognized in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

I am going to quote from the Nuu-chah-nulth's Ha'wiih, who are the hereditary chiefs of the 14 Nuu-chah-nulth first nations on the west coast of Vancouver Island. They have identified five concerns, and one is the purpose of the Fisheries Act, which must include reconciliation with aboriginal people. They said there is no reference to aboriginal people or unique and important ties to the fishery.

The Prime Minister has said that the “failure of successive Canadian governments to respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada is our great shame. And for many Indigenous Peoples, this lack of respect for their rights persists to this day.”

Second, there is another quote from the Prime Minister: “We now have before us an opportunity to deliver true, meaningful and lasting reconciliation between Canada and first nations, the Métis Nation, and Inuit peoples.

Lastly, he has stated before that, “We are all in this together, and the relationships we build need to reflect this reality. In Canada, this means new relationships between the government of Canada and Indigenous Peoples – relationships based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership.”

They would like to see this mean true, meaningful, and lasting reconciliation that includes reconciliation with aboriginal people in the purpose section of this legislation, and say, “We do not submit that Reconciliation is achieved by the Fisheries Act alone; rather, we submit that the Fisheries Act can assist in achieving Reconciliation.”

They would like to see incorporating respect for indigenous law. They say, “We respectfully advise that section 2.5 should be amended by adding the following: the traditional and contemporary laws of the Indigenous peoples of Canada, as provided to the Minister.”

Third, they are concerned about controlling ministerial discretion. They say “that the minister 'may' consider certain named issues when making a decision.” They recommend that the word “may” in section 2.5 be changed to the word “shall”. They say that, “We remain to be convinced that the government of Canada will always be a government that shares the need to preserve the environment, conserve and manage fish species conservatively, and respect the rights, laws, and traditions of Indigenous people.”

Fourth, they would like to see consistency of the reference to aboriginal peoples.

Fifth, with regard to restoring fish habitat, they say, “While we approve of the protections being given to the Fisheries habitat, we cannot concede that enough is being done to restore the habitat and repair the damage done by industry, over-fishing, or mismanagement. We therefore recommend that the purpose of the Act be amended further by adding the following: 2.1(c) the restoration of damage for compromised fisheries and fish habitat”.

They would like to see that in there. They say the time is now for the federal government to take the lead in habitat restoration. This legislation provides the perfect vehicle to do so.

Last, the bill gives a great deal of discretion around decision-making to the minister, allowing decisions to be made based on the minister's opinion rather than on scientific evidence.

In closing, we support the bill. We support restoring fish habitat. We would like to see some of these concerns addressed. These are concerns that are shared widely in my riding of Courtenay—Alberni, that are shared by many of the groups that are doing the hard work, many of the groups that are advocating for our salmon in particular, and our fish.

Many of the salmon enhancement groups have identified that they have not seen an increase in 28 years in many of the hatcheries.

This has been a failure of repeated governments. Hopefully the government will put forward a real plan so we can bring back our fish stock to abundancy.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 10:25 p.m.
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Halifax Nova Scotia

Liberal

Andy Fillmore LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions

Mr. Speaker, I must say it is wonderful at long last to finally hear from a member on the opposition benches in a riding that actually touches the ocean.

As the MP for Halifax, which includes the great fishing community of Sambro, people in Atlantic Canada remember the reckless changes that the Harper Conservatives made to the Fisheries Act during their time in office. We remember the 430-page Conservative omnibus bill, which in 2012 gutted the protection of Canada's fish and fish habitat without consulting indigenous peoples, fishers, scientists, conservation advocates, or coastal communities in any meaningful way whatsoever. Bill C-68 would once again restore those protections that the Conservatives threw aside.

I am glad to hear organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund of Canada, Ecojustice, the David Suzuki Foundation, the Ecology Action Centre speak out in favour of the measures contained in this legislation.

Would the hon. member not agree that Canada needs a strong regulatory authority to protect our fish and fish habitat, as contained in Bill C-68?

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 10:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, my colleague across the hall in the Liberal Party just asked a question about why people from the Prairies were standing up to speak to this act. I guess he did not realize oceans and fisheries is on the Prairies and has an impact on a lot of our municipalities in how they go about conducting their business on a day-to-day basis. The Conservative Party of Canada supports protecting our lakes and rivers and the oceans and the fisheries. There is no question about that. Let us get that on the record right now: We support that and we are behind it 100%.

I love to fish. We have many colleagues who are in our hunting and angling caucus who love to fish. We do a lot of catch-and-release, we use barbless hooks, we take responsibility, and we take the appropriate measures when we are fishing to make sure that a fish, when it is caught, is returned alive and safe and there for somebody else to enjoy in the future. Northern Saskatchewan is a beautiful province to fish in. I know the member for Regina—Wascana has been here all night, and he would agree with me. When we go up into northern Saskatchewan, we see the development and the fisheries there and we see the people and the beautiful landscape and it is a great place to go fishing. I encourage all members to come to northern Saskatchewan and do some fishing with barbless hooks and catch-and-release because that is very important.

Back to the business of today, what the Liberals have done in Bill C-68 is add an additional layer of bureaucracy, and that is very concerning. In 2010 and 2011, we had SARM, the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, coming into our offices, saying, “We need help. We are trying to build a culvert in a dry creek bed, and we cannot get approval from oceans and fisheries”. I remember Bud Strube from the RM of Shellbrook came into my office and said, “We have a bed here that we have to change the culvert in because the beavers have dammed it.” Because they dammed it up it didn't flow last spring, it took out the road, and did harm to the actual stream that the fish would go up and down during the spring season. Therefore, during spring runoff there is water in that culvert. By the time the middle of June hits, there is nothing in that culvert. They change it in July and August when there is nothing in the culvert and then it is there, ready for the next spring. However, they would apply to oceans and fisheries for the appropriate permits and it would sit on somebody's desk. It would be sitting there and it would be July, it would be August, September. November was coming so they were phoning to say they needed to get this done, freeze-up was happening. There would be no response. Finally when they got a response, it was already frozen up. They would go and change the culvert because they had to do it. They had to make sure the culvert was in place for the next spring's runoff. They would spend twice as much money. They are inefficient in how they do it. They cannot do as clean and nice a job in November as they could in July or August, but that is the result of having that type of bureaucracy on the Prairies.

The reality is we can have proper management of the waterways without the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy in this case is an example of where it has gotten in the way. When the government adds a bureaucracy, the first thing it does is try to justify why it should exist. What do the officials do? They start bringing in all sorts of crazy rules and regulations that they interpret on their own to make it tougher to do things. I will go back to my rural municipality example. I had a rural municipality just outside of Arborfield. It had some flooding and the people had to change some culverts. It was no problem, as it was pretty straightforward. Therefore, they thought they should do some mitigation the next year. Again, they were going to go in and put some different culverts in. The rules said they had to put in all these different types of mechanisms in case there should be rain. They spent two to three days putting in these mechanisms in case it should rain, to manage erosion and all that, where it would have only taken them two hours to change the culvert. Who pays for that? I pay for that. The taxpayer pays for that. Every person in that municipality paid for that expense. Where was the common sense? It was not with the bureaucracy.

That is where I get really concerned when I listen to members on the opposite side say, “Farmers are going to be protected here. We know that. We have not seen the regulations. We do not know what the regulations are going to say, but do not worry, it will all be fine.” We have heard that before and we are not going to buy it again. This has a lot of concerns.

One other concern I have is about the transparency of the minister and his role in the decision-making process. When we make a decision, we base it on science; everybody in this House would agree with that. In this scenario, and the Liberals have done this in other areas, they have based it on the minister's interpretation of what he wants to achieve. That is not bankability, that is not predictability, and that is not even logical in a lot of cases. If they have science saying that this is the way something should be done, then that is the way it should be done. I want them to give me a good reason why they would not do that. What scares me even more is the minister does not have to reveal the science. He does not even have to justify his decision to the taxpayer. He can just do it. How does that make sense?

It does not make sense. Why would they put themselves in this scenario? In fact, in this type of scenario with good governance, it would never pass the smell test. It does not work.

If the government is basically telling people who are going to take on a project here are the rules, check all the boxes, and do everything by the rules, but the minister can come in at the end of the day and say, “You did not smile nicely; you didn't wear a nice enough tie. I am not going to approve your project.” That can actually happen, and that is wrong. That should never be the purview of any minister in a Canadian government. That creates a lot of concern.

The Liberals talk about establishing advisory panels. Again, there is no context around what this panel would do, who it would be made up of, what it would consist of, or what the end goal at the end of the day is for that panel. However, some more Liberal members can be appointed to a panel, they would get their per diems, and life would be great. There would be another panel that would make some recommendations, and like I said about bureaucracy, the Liberals love to make rules to give themselves something to do.

What do we think this panel is going to do? I think panels are important. I think consultation is very important. I think it is important that government actually talks to the people who are affected, but when separate panels are created that do not have a vested interest in the project, what is the end game? Why are they there? That is very concerning.

We will work closely with fishermen and farmers. We will do what it takes to make sure that we have a proper fisheries going into the future. We will make sure that our kids and grandkids actually have a place to go fishing, that they will have a sector to work in, and that it will be profitable and bankable. After all, Conservatives know that the environment and the economy go hand in hand. The Liberals should actually take their own advice in that regard. We have to have balance. We have to mitigate the balance. We have to understand that there will be sacrifices once in a while in order to achieve what is better for everybody involved.

That is just the reality. That is part of the decision-making process. I think I will close right there, and open it up for questions. However, I am very concerned with what we are seeing here. We are seeing a reversal of things, and it will not make things better for Canadians. It will make it worse. It will not make us more competitive as a country or a better country; it will make us weaker. It actually will not create a future for our families, our kids, and our grandkids and their kids. It will make it harder. Why would we do this? It just does not make sense, unless there is a Liberal goal at the end of the day.

Again, we stand with our fishermen. We stand with the people in the sector. We will always stand up for them to make sure there is common sense when it comes to doing things in the fisheries.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 10:40 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, although we are debating Bill C-68, I cannot leave the comments the member for Prince Albert just made unchallenged. I participated as an intervenor in the review of Kinder Morgan before the National Energy Board. There were two pieces of evidence. One was from Kinder Morgan that completing the expansion would create 90 new permanent jobs, 40 in Alberta and 50 in British Columbia, and that during construction, it would create 2,500 jobs a year for two years.

The other evidence about jobs came from the largest union representing oil sands workers in Alberta, Unifor. Its evidence was that completing the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion would threaten Canadian jobs and cause a loss of jobs, with a direct threat to the remaining refinery in Burnaby, and losing, through opportunity costs, the jobs that could be created by having the product refined in Canada. Unfortunately, the National Energy Board ruled that jobs were not inside its mandate. It did not want to hear anything about jobs, and refused to hear the evidence from Unifor.

In fact, there is not a single study anywhere, despite all the rhetoric and propaganda, that tells us Kinder Morgan would be a long-term job creator in Canada. Again, the evidence the NEB refused to hear from the largest union involved was that it was a threat to jobs.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 10:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak to Bill C-68.

I will begin by thanking the member for Prince Albert for the important points he made to this debate. I find it disappointing that science is being ignored, and the member for Prince Albert reminded us of the importance of respecting science. Rhetoric and false statements being made in the House to make a point really discredits that party, that individual, when they make false statements.

Regarding Kinder Morgan, the member for Prince Albert reminded us that the decisions need to be based on science and not on protesting, making outrageous statements, and carrying out illegal activities. As members of Parliament in Canada, we have to look at what is good for the country. What do we need to do? The Liberal government decided that energy east was a no-go. It ignored the science and made a political decision that energy east was a no-go, that Ontario and Quebec, the eastern part of this country, will have to continue to import oil from the Middle East. It will have to be tanked up the east coast and brought into Canada from a foreign entity.

Canada could be self-sufficient if we had energy east. We could ship our oil out of Canada if we had the infrastructure. Right now what we are hearing from the science base is that we move our oil and gas. We leave it in the ground, which means we destroy the standard of living that Canadians enjoy, or we move it by tanker or train, but we are not going to move it the safest way, which is with pipelines. It is bizarre. It is unscientific. It makes no sense when I talk to Canadians. Again, the member Prince Albert reminded us of the importance of respecting science.

I want to give a little history lesson on how we ended up dealing with Bill C-68.

I will go back to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, CEPA. It is a piece of legislation that a lot of regulations for environmental protection was based on. It passed in 1999, the prime minister was Jean Chrétien, and it came into force in 2000. CEPA needed to be reviewed every five years, which is very common with legislation. It came into effect in 2000, and the five-year review would have been in 2005.

Who was the prime minister in 2005? That was Paul Martin. Jean Chrétien's government went from 1993 to December 2003, and in 2003, Paul Martin took over. There was an election in 2004. I was elected in 2004.

I have served my community for 14 years in local government on city council. However, we had trouble even cleaning and maintaining the ditching system so that we would not have flooding, as that was constantly restricted. We heard from not only the local government that I served on but from farmers, and right across the country. Things were not working. Therefore, I was quite excited when I was elected in 2004 and expressed a strong interest in making sure that on the problems we had in the country we could always do better. We can learn from what is not working. Local governments and farmers need to be able to maintain proper drainage systems; otherwise, they plug up. That was very important.

I was really excited in 2006 when there was another election and Paul Martin was no longer the prime minister. Stephen Harper became the prime minister in 2006. I was honoured to be asked to be the parliamentary secretary to the minister of the environment. One of the first things we did was realize that the legislative requirement to deal with CEPA should have been done no later than 2005. It was now 2006.

The past Conservative government kept its promises. It did what was required for good governance. It served Canadians extremely well. The Canadian Environmental Protection Act review was overdue. We began with that and we spent a couple of years of consultation, hearing from Canadians about what needed to be changed. We heard that over and over again. That consultation included experts, scientists, and indigenous peoples. We did not rush it. We got it right. From that we made a lot of changes.

In the discussion that we have heard here, not science-based but rhetoric, where we have the NDP saying that the changes that were made hurt salmon. That is not true. We have heard from the Liberals that the previous government gutted protections without consultation. That is not true. Hansard will support that there were years of consultation to get it right. That is not what we see from the Liberal government where they ram things through using time allocation: “We have heard enough. We have heard from the witnesses who we chose and we wanted to hear from, so now that we have heard what we wanted to hear, we want to move this through.” That is not in the interests of Canada, and it not science-based.

The Liberals have said that they want to restore the lost habitat protection. However, that is not what happened. There were improvements so that the drainage systems across the country could be maintained. People were not being fined. We were being realistic. Yes, we do need to protect our waters. We need to do that.

Those are the changes that were made by the previous government. Now what we have in Bill C-68 is again the rhetoric or statements that are not based on science. The end result will be layers of regulatory uncertainty.

There were over 50 witnesses that came to the committee. Not one of the witnesses could identify any harm that had been done by the previous government. Actually, the committee heard about the good that had happened. There was not one witness who could show by science any support for Bill C-68 and the need for any of the amendments and changes in Bill C-68.

There were over 50 witnesses. One of the witnesses came from the Canadian Electricity Association. With the changes of CEPA, which I spoke of a moment ago, we heard from electricity producers. They said that one of their challenges is that if they put fish into the streams and restock the streams, the habitats change. They want to improve the habitat to make it better and healthier. However, if they hurt any fish by having all of these new fish introduced into the streams and lakes, they will be held responsible for an existing structure. They said if we could provide freedom for them to make those changes, they wanted to do that. It is good for the environment, just like farmers wanting to make things better, so as long as they were not going to be hurt by doing that, they would like to be able to make those changes. That was one of the changes that was made.

Now what the Liberals are saying will restore lost habitats actually will have the opposite effect. That is what the Canadian Electricity Association said, that Bill C-68 represents one step forward but two steps back. Bill C-68 is a missed opportunity for the federal government to anchor the Fisheries Act in a reasonable population-based approach, rather than focused on individual fish, and to clearly identify fisheries management objectives.

What is being proposed creates uncertainty. It puts farmers at risk and it puts infrastructure at risk. What it does, though, is that it keeps a political promise made by the government. That is why we are not hearing science-based information. Rather, we are hearing rhetoric. It is really sad.

It was in 2005, just before there was a change in government, there was a report from the commissioner of the environment. It stated, “When it comes to protecting the environment, bold announcements are made and then often forgotten as soon as the confetti hits the ground”. That is happening again, and that is not in the interests of Canada.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 10:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, in those nine years from 2006 to 2015, when we were in government, there was consultation. There were these changes, and there was a coast to coast tour on salmon. We started on the west coast and ended on the east coast. There is a problem with salmon. It has not developed over one year. It has been over many years. The previous Conservative Parliament was committed to trying to find those answers. Those answers are not only one issue. It is the whole issue of how we are protecting the environment and enhancing the environment.

Unfortunately, Bill C-68 will not solve that problem through rhetoric, because it is not science-based. I believe everyone on this side is committed to doing whatever is necessary to enhance the environment for the salmon, but it is a problem that may take many years of commitment from all sides to find the solutions.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 11 p.m.
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Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer—Mountain View, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak tonight to Bill C-68, an act to amend the Fisheries Act and other acts in consequence, and there are some consequences.

In the 2015 election campaign, the Liberals promised to strengthen the role of parliamentary committees. The Prime Minister promised Canadians that committees would be independent, giving them the ability to better scrutinize legislation and “provide reliable, non-partisan research” through their reporting to Parliament. Two years after the election, the same Liberals introduced Bill C-68, legislation that would bring in a number of changes to the Fisheries Act without considering a single expert's advice from stakeholders or the committee study of the bill.

The proposed changes ignore some of the major findings from a report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans that was presented to the House in February 2017. On September 19, 2016, the fisheries committee agreed to the following motion, which stated:

...review and study the scope of application of the Fisheries Act, and specifically the serious harm to fish prohibition; how the prohibition is implemented to protect fish and fish habitat; the capacity of Fisheries and Oceans Canada to deliver on fish and fish habitat protection through project review, monitoring, and enforcement; the definitions of serious harm to fish and commercial, recreational, and Aboriginal fisheries; the use of regulatory authorities under the Fisheries Act; and other related provisions of the act, and provide its recommendations in a report to the House....

The committee convened 10 meetings in Ottawa from October 31 to December 12, 2016, before presenting the report to the House of Commons in February 2017. Overall, the committee heard testimony from 50 different witnesses during the study and received over 188 submitted briefing notes. It was a comprehensive and fact-based study with experts from almost every province putting forward policy suggestions. If the government were truly committed to strengthening the role of parliamentary committees, this study should have formed the basis for Bill C-68 with all of that consultation.

The Liberals essentially ignored the committee's report, including one of its most important recommendations, which stated:

Any revision of the Fisheries Act should review and refine the previous definition of HADD [the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat] due to the previous definition’s vulnerability to being applied in an inconsistent manner and the limiting effect it had on government agencies in their management of fisheries and habitats in the interest of fish productivity.

Following hours of testimony from the 50 witnesses and briefing notes from more than 180 associations, groups, and individuals, it was agreed that a return to HADD was not ideal, and that, should the government return to HADD, it would need to be refined and reviewed. Bill C-68 ignores this recommendation and introduces a return to HADD.

HADD is referred to in proposed subsection 35(1) of the legislation, which states, “No person shall carry on any work, undertaking or activity that results in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat.” Essentially, this means that any sort of development that could be harmful to, alter, disrupt, or destroy any fish habitat could be stopped or not approved by the government, taking us back to one of the major issues we have seen, especially with municipalities and the concerns they had when they tried to make any type of alterations. They would have to go to DFO and the provincial governments to make sure they were satisfying conditions that they knew, on the ground, were not necessary. It added costs.

I had the opportunity earlier to question the member for Cape Breton—Canso about the concerns municipalities had. He indicated that they are getting so much money that they really do not care whether or not that is the case. Of course, I think they would question just how quickly that money is coming out, but the concerns they have are still there. Going back to a system that does not respect the rights of communities and municipalities, and the concerns about agriculture and different groups that some members discussed earlier, it is no wonder we are having trouble getting different types of projects off the ground. This is a major concern, and hopefully I will have a chance to discuss that later.

As the committee report noted, this section was applied inconsistently and it was unclear. The concern is always that developers are often bogged down in these battles over the vague guidelines. For example, there was no clearly defined outline of what constituted a fish habitat, or what was seen to be harmful, in the previous version of the act. There was no clear path forward, and HADD became an obstacle to development, growth, and investment within the industry. It was becoming a consistent roadblock for projects and growth.

We need to listen to expert advice, instead of politically motivated advice. In the debate over the bill's provisions, stakeholders have been flagging this proposed change as problematic. The reinstatement of these measures will result in greater uncertainties for existing and new facilities, and undue delay. This can very well discourage investment at a time when Canadians and Canadian businesses need it the most. The key component here is certainly.

A few months ago, I had an opportunity to be with the trade committee in southeast Asia, and in some of the discussions we had with fund managers, we wondered how we could, in good conscience, tell people to come to Canada and invest. That is shameful when we think of the tens of billions in project dollars that have already left, and the fact that people are starting to say that Canada is not a place for an investment dollar. It is not as though an oil and gas project is not going to be developed. Otherwise, it will be developed, but it will be developed somewhere else in competition with us. For those who suggest that this is going to help with greenhouse gases and so on, this just changes it from an opportunity for us to use our natural resources, to some other place taking advantage of that.

Certainly, the same situation has occurred with the Kinder Morgan discussion, in which the government used $4.5 billion to purchase a 65-year-old pipeline, and gave that company the opportunity to go someplace else to build pipelines to bring someone else's product into eastern Canada. How is that ever going to change anything?

That is the major concern I have, and people see this as one of the major issues with government overreach, which is certainly the case here.

Let me be clear: Conservatives wholeheartedly support the protection of our oceans and fisheries. Our previous changes to the act brought a fine balance between encouraging growth in the industry and responsible conservation. Our previous changes to the act also enacted provisions that provided transparency in the decision-making process, and provided a level of certainty to those invested in the act. Unlike the Liberals, Conservatives listen to the people on the ground, instead of importing ideas and policies from Liberal insiders, foreign interest groups, and radical eco-activists. As Conservatives, we take our cues from Canadians, and we understand the importance of finding the right balance.

It was for this specific reason that in 2012, our former Conservative government removed HADD and replaced it with the following:

35 (1) No person shall carry on any work, undertaking or activity that results in serious harm to fish that are part of a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery, or to fish that support such a fishery.

This definition was much clearer, and was more universally accepted because it struck the important balance required between development and conservation.

There are also changes within this bill that would undermine transparency and due process by allowing the ministers to withhold critical information from interested proponents. How is that transparent?

Another change I am worried about is the fact that the bill would allow the minister to establish an advisory panel with taxpayer-funded members and panellists, but does not set the guidelines or limitations for its use. Without any guidelines, these panels may be subject to abuse, especially if they are established by politically motivated individuals.

On behalf of the many Canadians and industry experts against the new changes, I join my Conservative colleagues in urging the Liberal government to listen to expert advice and reverse this senseless change, revisit the return of HADD, and amend the legislation to ensure that economic development and environmental protection go hand in hand and not head to head.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 11:10 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have heard referenced a number of times in this place that municipalities across Canada were upset with the Fisheries Act, and that is why the Harper government acted to change it.

I just want to reference this again. I mentioned it earlier in debate. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities dealt with this issue in 2012. They brought before the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' annual general meeting a motion to urge former prime minister Harper to protect habitat and to take those sections out of Bill C-38 that weakened habitat protections. The motion was brought forward by a British Columbian, and former Conservative minister of fisheries, the hon. Tom Siddon, who happened to be an elected official within his own area of British Columbia. It was brought to the floor of the FCM, where it passed.

Where municipalities have weighed in on this issue, they have called for the protection of fish habitat. There is no question that there can be times when there are conflicts for some rural municipalities, but those issues have been largely dealt with in Bill C-68. It certainly has the support of municipalities across the country.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 11:15 p.m.
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Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise and speak on Bill C-68 tonight. The comment that was made earlier this evening from one of my colleagues across the floor was that he was happy that a member from the west coast or a coastal riding was getting up and speaking about this. I am not picking on him for any reason, but I think it highlights one of the issues we are having with this bill. There seems to be a lack of knowledge or scope when it comes to our friends in the Liberal government not understanding the ramifications and implications that the decisions they are making with this bill will have on every region of the country. That is why we are seeing many of the rural members of Parliament from the Conservative side getting up to speak to this bill, because it will have very real and profound consequences on our rural communities.

I want to back things up prior to 2012, when these changes to the Navigable Waters Act and the Fisheries Act were made by the previous Conservative government. I recall I was a journalist at that time in a small community newspaper throughout southern Alberta. I remember covering numerous council and town hall meetings hosted by rural municipalities that were having significant issues when when it came to dealing with culverts, small bridges, drainage ditches, seasonal waterways, and irrigation canals, and the hoops, bureaucracy, and red tape they had to go through to try to complete some of those projects.

Prior to 2012, municipalities had to go through labour-intensive regulatory requirements when it came to areas of what was then called “navigable waters”. They were forced to endure lengthy delays, because the Department of Fisheries and Oceans was inundated with thousands of applications from municipalities that were waiting for it to come and make decisions on their projects, not to mention the length of those delays. It proved extremely costly to these municipalities that were having to endure these very long wait times. I would think many of us who have rural municipalities in our ridings understand that many of these municipalities are extremely small. They simply do not have the financial or staffing resources to be able to handle the workload and amount of paperwork that comes along with a Department of Fisheries and Oceans assessment. Therefore, our rural municipalities were coming to the previous Conservative government with these problems and issues with respect to managing their own lands. That is when the previous Conservative government came up with these changes to try to reduce some of that regulatory burden. We wanted to turn the focus to ensuring that the protections in that legislation focused on the most critical fish and fish habitat in navigable waters. At the same time, we wanted to take some of that regulatory burden off some of the waterways that probably never had fish habitat and would never have fish habitat, but were still under the same regime and regulatory layers of bureaucracy that any river, stream, ocean, or lake would come under, when we were just talking about drainage ditches and irrigation canals, for example.

When we talk about some of the changes that were made, I think we need to highlight that the act maintained a very strong regulatory regime and protected very important fish habitat, but it had more of a practical scope. It reduced that administrative burden on not only municipalities, but also the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. It had now freed up a lot of its time and resources to focus on the most important cases and waterways without having to deal with very minor projects for municipalities. However, it also empowered municipalities to be the environmental stewards of their own waterways. When it comes to those types of projects and waterways, who would be better to be the stewards of those lands than the municipalities, the councils, and their staff, who are on the ground each and every day? They know the history. They have that local knowledge. They know whether it is fish habitat. They know if it is a seasonal waterway. Certainly, they know that better than a bureaucrat in Ottawa. Therefore, I think it was a win-win situation for the municipalities, as well as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Now we are faced with these changes in Bill C-68, which would expand the definition of fish habitat, expanding it even wider and more broad than it was prior to 2012. That is very disconcerting in the fact that it was burdensome and difficult to deal with and almost impossible to enforce prior to 2012. How difficult will this be when not only we restore it to the previous definition, but have even expanded that definition to a much wider scope. It has re-engaged a lot of those same regulations, but it also introduces something that is new, which is designated projects. This will include any projects within a category that could impact any waterway, whether it has a specific impact on a known fish habitat or not.

What is even more concerning for our stakeholders, municipalities, farmers, and ranchers is the fact that there is no definition on what a designated project is. This is really a larger narrative that we have seen from the Liberal government. It rushed through this legislation without doing all the homework and all the background work first so that it tabled a complete document that everyone could understand exactly where they stood. The legislation is very clear. The rules and regulations are very clear. There are still some very large holes in it with which stakeholders are very concerned.

The other issue, which is a large narrative with some of the Liberal legislation we have seen, is the minister would have more expanded and broader powers. This is very similar to what we have seen with Bill C-69.

We now have proponents in the energy sector that are divesting themselves of the energy sector because they do not feel there is a clear path to success. If they do apply for a project, whether it is pipeline, a mine, a forestry initiative, LNG, they could go through the regulatory process, through every environmental review, could pass all of those things, but at several steps during the process, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change would have the authority to step in and tell them to go back to the beginning. The minister could cut it off right there and tell them the project was not in the public interest or it was not something that could be supported. That would be the end of that project.

There is no clear definition of how to reach success or if there is a definitive pathway that people would know their projects would not succeed. We cannot have those types of projects at the whim of one person. That is very similar to what we see in Bill C-68 where the minister would have similar powers.

This is a crippling burden for municipalities that do not have the resources or the infrastructure to deal with these things. Imagine the burden and the impact it will have on farmers and ranchers who absolutely do not have the wherewithal to handle some of these issues.

Prior to 2012, a farmer in northern Alberta explained to me that he had a spring run-off area that went through his field. He would put a couple of 2x4s down during the spring so he could drive his machinery over it when he sprayed or seeded. However, Fisheries and Oceans came to him before 2012 and said that it was a waterway because it could float a canoe or a kayak. Certainly it could for about two weeks in the spring, but the rest of the time it was dry. He had to build a bridge over that seasonal spring runoff area. We are not talking about a river for the last pirate of Saskatchewan to float down the plain. This was simply a spring run-off. He was very concerned that he would have to go back to this. This will very burdensome to him.

Again, this goes back to the narrative that the Liberal government implements knee-jerk legislation, without doing the due diligence, without having an idea of what the ramifications will be and the unintended consequences, or doing the economic impact analysis of these decisions and what they will have on other sectors.

This is again another attack on rural Canadians. It is not science-based, front of package labelling, food guide, carbon tax. These changes will impact our rural communities, farmers, and ranchers who are struggling just to stay in business. Now there is a potential trade war with the United States.

For farmers and ranchers in rural municipalities, their livelihoods depend on healthy waterways, lakes, rivers, streams, aquifers. No one would take better care of these waterways than those who are on the ground, rural Canadians, farmers, and ranchers.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 11:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will begin with a story. I will roll back to pre-2012.

My community of Abbotsford is the foremost farming community in the province of British Columbia. Somewhere in the order of 20% of all farm-gate revenues emanate from our community. Much of that is from two beautiful areas with A1-quality soil, Sumas Prairie and Matsqui Prairie, where there are all kinds of different farming operations under way.

I used to be a city councillor in Abbotsford. One of our farmers, who I will call Henry, was one of the pillars of our community. He was one of the originals in our community, one of the pioneers. He had farmed Sumas Prairie all his life. One day, he came into my office in a real fit of anger. He related to me that he had been on his land cleaning ditches that he himself had dug. A couple of years later, of course, those ditches were filling in with leaves, twigs, and other debris. He wanted to clear them so that his property could drain properly. Anyone who knows Sumas Prairie knows that it is an area that needs to be properly drained. It is a former lake bed, and it needs to be managed properly. However, Henry was in my office very upset, because as he was cleaning his ditch, a fisheries officer had approached him. By the way, he was a fisheries officer with a gun. He had accosted Henry and said, “Sir, don't you dare touch that ditch anymore. You're harming fish habitat.”

Of course, Henry said that this was a ditch he dug for drainage purposes, and there were no fish in this ditch. “It is fish habitat we are protecting”, said the fisheries officer, “and Mr. Farmer, you're not entitled to do anything with that ditch of yours.”

We heard this from farmers across Abbotsford. My colleague, the member for Langley—Aldergrove, who served on city council with me, can verify those facts. Of course, city council had no power. This was federal legislation under which these officers were acting. That is why our former Conservative government, in 2012, stepped up to the plate and addressed this problem. We removed the focus on what at that time was fish habitat, and we replaced it with a focus on protecting fish, because that is what it is all about.

In light of the situation I just described, our government first of all looked at what is called the harmful alteration, disruption, or destruction of fish habitat, or HADD. We said that HADD was the wrong standard to apply. What we should be applying is any activity that results in serious harm to fish, not fish habitat, that are part of a commercial, recreational, or aboriginal fishery or to the fish that support such a fishery. That is the way the new legislation read, and it was warmly received.

My colleague for Saanich—Gulf Islands, the leader of the Green Party, suggested that Canadian municipalities did not support our 2012 amendments at all. That is patently false. What we should do is ask those of us who were in municipal government at that time, or in the years leading up to it, and we can tell members exactly why this legislation was introduced, and we had the strong support of municipalities across Canada.

Another one of the challenges of the legislation we have before us, which is a big step backwards, is the use of what is called the precautionary principle, which is basically better safe than sorry. The precautionary principle sounds great. We should always be safe rather than sorry. The problem is that it does not work in real life.

I refer the House to an article written in 2011 by Jonathan Adler, in which he talks about the better safe than sorry approach, the precautionary principle. He says, “We all accept this as a commonsense maxim. But can it also guide public policy? [Some people] think so, and argue that formalizing a more 'precautionary' approach to...health and environmental...will better safeguard human well-being and the world around us.”

He goes on to say:

If only it were that easy. Simply put, the precautionary principle is not a sound basis for public policy. At the broadest level of generality, the principle is unobjectionable, but it provides no meaningful guidance to pressing policy questions. In a public policy context, “better safe than sorry” is a fairly vacuous instruction.

Taken literally, the precautionary principle is either wholly arbitrary or incoherent. In its stronger formulation, the principle actually has the potential to do harm.

He goes on to say, “Efforts to impose the principle through regulatory policy”, which is what our friends are doing here, but they are doing it in legislation, “inevitably accommodate competing concerns or become a Trojan Horse for other ideological crusades.”

The problem with the precautionary principle is that it becomes a Trojan Horse for ideological crusades. Let me give the House a great example.

We have a government here that has been beholden to the environmental movement. In fact, the chief of staff to the Prime Minister, Gerald Butts, used to lead the World Wildlife Fund in Canada. Think about it. When we have a precautionary principle, it is people that have influence in government that are able to, unnecessarily through their influence, direct decisions in a way that suits their interests. If we have an ideological predilection in a certain direction, like Mr. Butts does, imagine how quickly we would find ourselves in a situation where it is speculation and ideology that replace true science as a basis for making decisions.

This legislation would establish remunerated advisory panels. When Liberals establish advisory panels, especially ones that are remunerated, they are used basically to allow insiders and friends to benefit from government.

Look at the surf clam issue in Newfoundland where the fisheries minister intervened. He provided special gifts to his friends by taking a surf clam licence away from one company that had pioneered the surf clam business in Newfoundland and giving it to another company that had connections to insiders in government and to friends and family.

What was the end result? This new company, which did not even exist and is still not incorporated, had no boat. Imagine that. It had no boat, but was awarded this licence, thereby depriving the people of Grand Banks, Newfoundland, of their opportunity to benefit, to have livelihoods, to have income from this business.

This is what happens when legislation like Bill C-68, which would amend the Fisheries Act, is twisted in a way that benefits the Liberal government, insiders, and friends of the government.

Canada as a country can do better.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 11:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to debate this very important bill, Bill C-68, which deals with changes to the Fisheries Act. I will point out that in general, the government's legislative agenda is floundering. It has clammed up. Liberals are trolling the bottom. They are trying desperately to get through as much legislation as they can, and they are doing it under repeated time allocation. I looked hard, and there are no pearls in this one. The government is putting forward these changes to the Fisheries Act in defiance of good sense.

Now, this bill is very important in my riding. Why do I say that? I represent a riding in Alberta, and there are not a lot of people who earn their living by fishing in Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan. However, the framework that existed before 2012 with respect to fisheries protection and navigable waters protection is quite perverse. Members have spoken about this already. It is the idea that it was pretty easy to get almost anything designated as fish habitat. If my kids are out playing in the yard one day, they dig a hole, it rains, and it fills up with water, maybe that is a fish habitat. All of a sudden, that requires all kinds of processes, consultations, and changes. That obviously does not make any sense.

More seriously, there were issues with farmers, people who were building ditches for drainage, very simple normal activities. Things would fill up with water and all of a sudden get designated as fish habitat, which would invoke all kinds of different protections, regulations, and red tape from the federal government.

I do not think it is rocket science or even fish science to say that we should be thinking more rationally and strategically about how we protect our fish stocks. Rather than having this sort of proliferation of designation of fish habitat—and navigable waters was another issue that was drawing in similar kinds of over-regulation—we would try to be strategic about protecting fish stocks. We would think about what those critical points of protection were. We would have strong regulations in those cases, and, at the same time, we would not be protecting things in the wrong way.

On this side of the House, we favour rational, effective, and, as much as possible, surgical regulation; that is, regulation that does the thing it is intended to do, and the repeal of regulation that does not do what it is intended to do, that is not connected to a clear, rational objective. That is why, for instance, when Conservatives were in government, every time we introduced a new regulation, we developed a structure so that there would have to be a corresponding removal of regulation. Any time that ministers wanted to bring in new regulations, they also had to think about removing other regulations. That is a good approach, because sometimes government fails to think about repealing old, irrelevant regulations, trying to tighten up and smarten the rules. Again, it is not about not having those protections in place; it is about ensuring that those protections are rational and effective, and actually associated with the objectives that the regulation is in fact intended to serve.

In 2012, the previous government brought forward changes that shifted the focus from protecting fairly arbitrarily defined fish habitat to actually protecting and preserving our fish stocks. That was a good approach. It was widely supported by civil society. It was not supported by some voices, but, generally speaking, those who saw the practical problems and the practical need for improvement supported our approach. Some parties in this House waved the flag and said that fewer waterways were protected. We were effectively protecting vital waterways and assuring that the farmer's ditch, that hole that my kids dug in the backyard, did not get designated as a waterway. There was an appropriate level of protection for places where fish actually live, and there was no merit in applying those regulations beyond their usefulness.

Unfortunately, the Liberal government has sort of drunk their own bathwater when it comes to these talking points. They have bought into these lines about how they need to go back to the old regulatory system, which piled on unnecessary red tape and made it harder to do any kind of development, but with no discernible objective.

I did want to say if one wants to talk about what actually is harmful to fish and what is harmful to waterways, let us talk about the decision by the former Liberal mayor of Montreal to dump raw sewage into the St. Lawrence Seaway, and the approval he received from the environment minister to do that. Raw sewage and the environment do not go hand in hand. However, the government wants to make it more difficult to do science-based development. It wants to make life harder for the energy sector. It put all kinds of barriers in the way of energy development and pipeline development. It wants to make it harder for municipalities to develop by putting unnecessary regulatory burdens in front of them, unless one is a well-connected, former Liberal MP who is the mayor of Montreal. Then if one wants to dump raw sewage in there, go for it.

How did the fish feel when that happened? Do fish feel? I do not know, but it was not good for their health, is the point.

I know members across the way are excited about this point but they cannot get around it. Our approach was one that actually protected fish habitat, that actually sought to protect fish stocks. It was science-based, it was consistent, and it was safe and effective.

My constituents often ask me about the double standards they see from the government. On the one hand, it talks about the environment. On the other hand, the government's approach to environmental policy is totally disconnected from reality, such as the piling of hurdles on the energy east pipeline. Again, there was Denis Coderre's strong opposition to the energy east pipeline because there might be some spill, allegedly. That was his line associated with that. At the same time, the government was not thinking about the impact on the fish from raw sewage. This is a floundering legislative agenda, indeed. Someone has heard me repeat that joke. However, they are hearing it for the first time. That is good.

There are a few other provisions in this bill that I want to touch on, in the time that I have left. The bill raises transparency concerns and due process concerns. For one thing it allows the minister to withhold critical information from interested proponents. We have heard a lot of discussion from the government about transparency, about sunny ways, and about how sunlight is the best disinfectant. However, we actually see in reality a consistent refusal to apply this lofty talk on transparency in practice. We see that happening and that certainly is disappointing. Again, we see cases of that in this particular piece of legislation.

This bill, as I said, piles on additional unnecessary regulations. It fails the test of being surgical and focused on achieving any clear, discernible result. This bill allows also for the establishment of advisory panels. These have former Liberal politicians and soon to be former Liberal politicians salivating, I am sure, about the opportunities of joining advisory panels for which they will be, no doubt, richly remunerated. However, there is no clarity around the guidance they will be required to give or the limitations on the use of these panels, or the conditions that they will be subject to.

The government, in creating more opportunities for patronage appointments, is not thinking about the fish. It is only thinking about the well-connected Liberal insiders. At the time of clam scam, one would think that it would want to avoid even the appearance of this kind of problem. Alas, it has not.

There are many concerns that we have with the bill: the problems for development, the troubling mechanisms, and other points I have not had time to get to. In any event, I will be opposing the bill.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

June 7th, 2018 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, we will continue with the report stage debate on Bill C-69, the environmental assessment act.

Following this, we will turn to Bill C-75, the justice modernization act, and Bill C-59, the national security act.

If time permits, we shall start debate at report stage of Bill C-68, the fisheries act, and Bill C-64 on derelict vessels.

Tomorrow morning, we will begin third reading of Bill C-47 on the Arms Trade Treaty. Next Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday are allotted days. Also, pursuant to the Standing Orders, we will be voting on the main estimates Thursday evening.

Next week, priority will be given to the following bills: Bill C-21, an act to amend the Customs Act; Bill C-59, an act respecting national security matters; Bill C-64, the wrecked, abandoned or hazardous vessels act; Bill C-68 on fisheries; and Bill C-69 on environmental assessments.

We also know, however, that the other place should soon be voting on Bill C-45, the cannabis act. If a message is received notifying us of amendments, that will be given priority.

Impact Assessment ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 4:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise here today to speak to Bill C-69, one of the most important attempts to modernize our environmental protection laws in Canada.

In large part, I think it was meant to deal with some of the actions of the Conservative government, which gutted a lot of our environmental protection laws in the previous Parliament through changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the Fisheries Act, et cetera. We dealt with fisheries in Bill C-68, but Bill C-69 is an answer to try to fix some of the other acts that were radically changed by the previous government.

I have to say, off the top, how disappointed I am that the government not only brought in this bill as an omnibus bill, a huge bill, well over 300 pages long, but it moved time allocation in the first debate after only two hours. It moved time allocation on the bill yesterday as well. This is a bill that really should get fulsome debate. I am disappointed that not only did the government move time allocation, but it took so long to bring in this bill.

The NDP originally asked the Speaker to rule this an omnibus bill so that we could deal with it separately. The government agreed that we could vote on the navigable waters section separately. We also asked that the bill be split up for committee study. The first section, on the impact assessment, is ideally suited for study by the environment committee. The central part, which deals with the National Energy Board and the Canadian energy regulator, belongs with the natural resources committee. The navigation protection section, obviously, should have gone to the transport committee.

That division of labour would have provided for a thorough and efficient study. Instead, the whole bill was thrust onto the environment committee, where, with impossible deadlines, many important witnesses could not testify. I was contacted early on by a consortium of Canadian scientists who had studied this and wanted to present evidence before the committee. This was not a single scientist; these were a lot of the important environment scientists in Canada. They were denied access to the committee simply because, I imagine, there were too many witnesses trying to testify before the committee in those tight timelines.

At committee, the NDP submitted over 100 amendments, none of which were accepted. Tellingly, the government submitted over 100 amendments of its own. This tells me that the legislation was clearly rushed into the House and should have been written with more care.

The Liberals are hashtagging this bill #BetterRules, but the Canadian Environmental Law Association, the legal experts who arguably know more about this subject than most Canadians and most politicians, has said that this legislation in neither better, nor rules.

I will quote from a briefing note prepared by Richard Lindgren of the Canadian Environmental Law Association:

[T]he IAA is not demonstrably “better” than CEAA 2012. To the contrary, the IAA replicates many of the same significant flaws and weaknesses found within the widely discredited CEAA 2012....

[T]he IAA does not establish a concise rules-based regime that provides clarity, consistency, and accountability during the information-gathering and decision-making process established under the Act. Instead, the key stages of the proposed impact assessment process are subject to considerable (if not excessive) discretion enjoyed by various decision-makers under the IAA.

At the most fundamental level, for example, it currently remains unclear which projects will actually be subject to the IAA.... [It] contains no benchmarks or criteria to provide direction on the type, scale, or potential effects of projects that should be designated under the new law.

I would like to spend a little while speaking more to the second part of the bill, the energy regulator section.

This section disbands the National Energy Board and creates a new but rather similar body called the Canadian energy regulator. The section opens with a preamble and a statement of purpose. Surprisingly, in this day and age of a brave new world of energy, neither makes reference to linkages between energy and climate. In fact, there is no mention at all of climate in this entire section.

Much of the public work of the old NEB was about regulating pipelines. One could easily come to the conclusion that this is a case of closing the barn door after the horses have left, since it seems unlikely that the new regulator will ever have to review an application for a major new oil pipeline.

The Minister of Natural Resources has risen countless times in this place declaring that the government has restored confidence in the energy regulation system, and that is why the Kinder Morgan pipeline can be built. Unfortunately, he is deeply misinformed.

A couple of months ago, I met with Dr. Monica Gattinger of the Positive Energy group at the University of Ottawa, who studies this very issue of public confidence in energy issues, and Nik Nanos, whose polling firm had asked Canadians about that confidence. Perhaps not surprisingly, Mr. Nanos found that public confidence in the Canadian energy regulation system was at an all-time low. If we thought it was low during the Harper government, it has continued to decline, and now only 2% of Canadians have strong confidence in the energy regulation system. That lack of confidence is shared by members of the public on both sides of the issue: it is lowest in both Alberta and British Columbia. It results in situations like the Kinder Morgan impasse. I should mention that the last time I heard the minister speak on this subject, he did admit that confidence was suddenly a problem in this area.

The Liberals promised during the last election to put the Kinder Morgan proposal through a new, stronger review system, but instead sent a three-member ministerial panel on a quick tour along the pipeline route, giving communities, first nations, governments, and the concerned public almost no advance warning to prepare their presentations. No record was made of the proceedings.

Despite the serious shortcomings of this process, the panel came up with six questions that it said the government would have to answer before making its decision about Kinder Morgan. I will mention only the first three.

First, can the construction of the Trans Mountain expansion be reconciled with Canada's climate commitments?

Second, how can pipeline projects be properly assessed in the absence of a comprehensive national energy strategy?

Third, how can the review of this pipeline project be squared with the government's commitment to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?

I would suggest that none of these questions was answered, even in part, before the government made its decision to approve the Kinder Morgan expansion, and none of them were answered before the government bought the pipeline, which was actually the old pipeline. This leaves a lot of questions about how the government is to regulate itself in getting that pipeline built.

Amazingly, none of those questions are properly answered in the legislation before us, which comes two years after the Kinder Morgan decision. After the government has accepted Bill C-262, which calls for government legislation to be consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, there is no mention of this in the body of Bill C-69. Only after much pressure did the government agree to put it in the preamble, where it would have no legal effect.

We need to restore the confidence of Canadians in our energy regulatory system and in our environmental impact processes. Without that confidence, it will be increasingly difficult for Canadian companies to develop our natural resources, which are at the heart of our national economy.

The Liberals continue to pretend they are doing good, but they are all talk and no action, or as we say in the west, all hat and no cattle. We need bold action to build a new regulatory system that gives voice to all concerned Canadians.

Motions in amendmentFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 10:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 1.

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 2.

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 3.

Motion No. 4

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 4.

Motion No. 5

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 5.

Motion No. 6

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 6.

Motion No. 7

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 7.

Motion No. 8

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 8.

Motion No. 9

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 9.

Motion No. 10

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 10.

Motion No. 11

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 11.

Motion No. 12

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 12.

Motion No. 13

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 13.

Motion No. 14

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 14.

Motion No. 15

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 15.

Motion No. 16

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 16.

Motion No. 17

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 17.

Motion No. 18

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 18.

Motion No. 19

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 19.

Motion No. 20

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 20.

Motion No. 21

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 21.

Motion No. 22

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 22.

Motion No. 23

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 23.

Motion No. 24

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 24.

Motion No. 25

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 25.

Motion No. 26

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 26.

Motion No. 27

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 27.

Motion No. 28

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 28.

Motion No. 29

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 29.

Motion No. 30

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 30.

Motion No. 31

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 31.

Motion No. 32

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 32.

Motion No. 33

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 33.

Motion No. 34

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 34.

Motion No. 35

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 35.

Motion No. 36

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 36.

Motion No. 37

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 37.

Motion No. 38

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 38.

Motion No. 39

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 39.

Motion No. 40

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 40.

Motion No. 41

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 41.

Motion No. 42

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 42.

Motion No. 43

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 43.

Motion No. 44

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 44.

Motion No. 45

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 45.

Motion No. 46

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 46.

Motion No. 47

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 47.

Motion No. 48

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 48.

Motion No. 49

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 49.

Motion No. 50

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 50.

Motion No. 51

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 51.

Motion No. 52

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 52.

Motion No. 53

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 53.

Motion No. 54

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 54.

Motion No. 55

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 55.

Motion No. 56

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 56.

Motion No. 57

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 57.

Motion No. 58

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 58.

Motion No. 59

That Bill C-68 be amended by deleting Clause 59.

Mr. Speaker, it has been a fun day. This is the third time I have stood to speak on a piece of legislation today.

I do not know who they are, but there are people in the gallery who, for maybe an hour or so, have watched the festivities. All of us in the House should applaud the people in the gallery who are sitting through these festivities and thank them for paying attention to what we are doing. I am sorry it has not been riveting but very boring, but I thank them for being here. It is important.

Right now, we are talking about Bill C-68. Some of my colleagues across the way have said this is probably one of the most fundamental pieces of legislation we could debate this session, and perhaps even in the last decade. My comments will ring true from previous interventions on it. Bill C-68 is, from a policy perspective, another unnecessary piece of legislation aimed at making Canadians feel good, but without any basis in science. I already know what my colleagues are laughing at. It is the line I used, “unnecessary piece of legislation”. That was to elicit that response.

As part of the economic action plan in 2012 in support of the responsible resource development plan, the previous Conservative government put forward changes to the Fisheries Act geared to strengthening the act and removing unnecessary bureaucratic red tape. I have sat in meetings at the fisheries committee time and time again, at which DFO officials talked about fish stocks. In successive governments, some of these officials from the department have appeared before, for example on the northern cod fishery, which we know is still at critical levels. Twenty-six years ago, it was identified as a critical fish stock. One of the things we have been challenged by, whether it is policy, a department, or management, is with how to grow our most critical fish stocks in Canada.

Back in 2012, as part of the economic action plan, the previous government decided it needed to do things a little differently. It needed to start thinking about removing some of the red tape and looking at ways to create more fish. Our changes supported a shift from managing impacts to all fish habitats. People will ask what that means. We heard previously that any body of water that a tube or some type of vessel could be floated on could be deemed a fish habitat, which means that a tailings pond or a pond on a construction site filled with rainwater could be deemed a fish habitat. The previous government focused on the regulatory regime and managing threats to the sustainability and ongoing productivity of Canada's commercial, recreational, and indigenous fisheries.

Instead of listening to experts in this process, the people who use our waterways and fish our rivers, the people who actually depend on our fisheries and waters to make a living, our indigenous peoples, the current government is turning a deaf ear to practicality and pushing forward through the use of time allocation, no less. As I said today, this is the 41st time it has moved time allocation. Again I go back to the Liberals' campaign promise that they would be the most open and transparent government in Canadian history and that they were going to let debate reign. What we have seen, instead, is that if they do not like the way things are happening, if they do not like the way the opposition is pressuring them, they just shut down the debate.

It has been probably two hours since I reminded Canadians who are listening and reminded colleagues across the way that the House does not belong me. It sure as heck does not belong to the folks across the way. This is not their House. This is Canadians' House. The 338 members of Parliament have been sent here by great Canadians to be the voices of those electors.

By shuttering debate on such an important piece of legislation as Bill C-68, what are the Liberals doing? They are saying to every opposition member of Parliament and all those Canadians who elected them that their point of view does not matter. The only ones that matters are the folks on the government side of the House.

Time and time again at committee, when we were studying the bill, we asked experts, academics, environmental groups, fishers, and industry whether the changes in 2012 really had damaging effects on our rivers, lakes, streams, and fish habitat. We asked for proof. How many witnesses came up with examples of lost protections or any examples of harmful alteration or disruption? There was not one witness who came forward with any evidence of that.

As a matter of fact, what we saw were the environmental groups, the usual suspects, who talked about how the Harper government members were ogres on the oceans and the environment. I beg to differ.

The Prime Minister, in the 2015 campaign, with his hand on his heart, said that our indigenous people were going to be our most important relationship. He said it not only then but before and all the way through this last little while, yet we have indigenous communities from coast to coast to coast that say that the consultation was a sham. It was not like the clam scam that we could talk about right now, and in my last discussion I did talk about that, where the minister arbitrarily took 25% of quota and allocated it to Liberal friends and families.

Bill C-68 is another feel-good piece of fluff to satisfy the environmental vote the Liberals were going after during the 2015 election. That was what they had to do. They were beholden and had to make sure that they followed through on their promise, but there was no evidence of any damage from the changes in 2012.

We asked industry at committee if any of those changes made it easier for projects to be approved. If we listen to the environmental groups and the Liberals, it was walk in one day, and an hour later, they had their permit and were tearing up everything. Industry made it clear to us that to move forward, it did not make it easier. As a matter of act, in some cases, it made it harder, but it was clearer.

Not only was it clearer for industry and stakeholders, it was also clearer for DFO to enforce. With that, I will rest.

Motions in amendmentFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 11 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, I sit with the gentleman on the fisheries and oceans committee. I thought we did an awfully good job on Bill C-68. We went back and forth, we discussed amendments, we accepted some of each other's, and worked it right through. We were fixing years of neglect and cuts, cuts to science. Yes, it was easier for the DFO to administer the old act because the Conservatives gutted DFO's ability to do anything by cutting it back. It is pretty easy to follow the rules when there are only a few rules.

Does the member remember the testimony we heard from first nations, reflecting upon the fact that back in 2012-2013 it was very clear that the only voices the Conservatives heard in that consultation were the voices of industry, which showed in full measure in the bill they produced? Maybe the member can recall what we heard from indigenous people who felt totally shut out by that earlier process.

Motions in amendmentFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 11:05 p.m.
See context

Burnaby North—Seymour B.C.

Liberal

Terry Beech LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in support of the amendments to the Fisheries Act.

For far too long we have taken our oceans for granted. This was demonstrated when, in 2012, the previous government decided to change the habitat protections without the support of, or proper engagement with, indigenous peoples, fishers and anglers, scientists, conservation groups, coastal communities, or the broader Canadian public.

By comparison, our government has listened to and worked with all Canadians and has encouraged everyone to be a part of this process. This bill is the result of that good work.

Bill C-68 has several key themes: partnership with indigenous peoples, supporting planning and integrated management, enhancing regulation and enforcement, improving partnership and collaboration, and monitoring and reporting back to Canadians.

During their review of Bill C-68, my colleagues at committee heard from many expert witnesses from right across the country. I would like to take this time to talk about what they heard and the concrete steps they proposed to help improve the legislation even further for the benefit of Canadians and the benefit of future generations.

From the environmental NGO community and members across the aisle, the committee heard about the importance of water flow for fish habitat. The government supported the associated amendments put forward at committee, and we believe they will contribute to the effective management of fish habitat.

The committee also heard from industry groups seeking amendments to the rules proposed for the processing of applications for habitat authorizations during the transition from the current legislation. In response, the committee adopted an amendment to provide for clearer transition provisions.

The committee also heard about strengthening the federal government's legal obligations when major fish stocks are in trouble. That is why the committee proposed the inclusion of requirements, under the legislation, that the minister sustainably manage or rebuild fish stocks that are prescribed in regulations. Legislation will require that when exceptions are made for environmental or socio-economic reasons, Canadians will be informed and will be provided with a rationale for those decisions. As with every decision, our aim is to sustainably manage fisheries resources for the long-term benefit of all Canadians.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the committee for their contributions to Bill C-68.Their previous study engaged Canadians right across the country and led to 32 recommendations, all of which are included in this legislation. Their further work after second reading has again contributed significantly to this bill, and Canadians will surely benefit from their diligence and their hard work.

This bill includes the re-introduction of the prohibition against the harmful alteration, disruption, or destruction of fish habitat, otherwise known as the HADD provisions, as well as the prohibition against the death of fish by means other than fishing. There are measures to allow for the better management of large and small projects that may be harmful to fish or fish habitat through a new permitting program for big projects and through codes of practice for smaller projects.

These amendments will enable the regulatory authorities that will allow for establishing a list of designated projects, consisting of works, undertakings, and activities for which a permit will always be required. Our goal is to streamline processes and provide greater certainty while protecting the environment, and we have engaged with indigenous peoples, provinces and territories, and other stakeholders to make sure that we capture the right kind of projects under this designated project list.

Habitat loss and degradation and changes to fish passage and flow rates are all contributing to the decline of freshwater and marine fish habitats in Canada. It is imperative for Canada to restore degraded fish habitats. That is why amendments to the Fisheries Act include the consideration of restoration as a part of project decision-making.

One message that we heard clearly when we engaged Canadians in developing this bill was that much of the public trust in government was lost through the 2012 changes. Throughout the review of the changes to the Fisheries Act, a common message received was the need for improved access to information on the government's activities related to the protection of fish and fish habitat as well as access to project decisions and information. We listened and we introduced amendments to establish a public registry, which will enable transparency and open access. This registry will allow Canadians to see whether their government is meeting its obligations and to hold us accountable for federal decision-making with regard to the protection of our marine ecosystems. The new considerations under the amendments to the Fisheries Act seek to more clearly guide the responsibility of theMinister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard when making decisions.

The addition of new purpose and consideration provisions 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.

As we all know, fisheries resources and aquatic habitats have important social, cultural, and economic significance for many indigenous peoples. Respect for the rights of indigenous peoples of Canada, as well as taking into account their unique interest and aspirations in fisheries-related economic opportunities, and the protection of fish and fish habitat is one way we are showing our commitment to renewing relationships with indigenous peoples.

Amendments to the Fisheries Act include ministerial authority to make regulations to establish long-term spatial restrictions to fishing activities under the act, specifically for the purpose of conserving and protecting marine biodiversity and supporting our international commitment to protect at least 10% of our marine and coastal areas by 2020.

As I mentioned earlier, our government has reached out to Canadians in developing this bill. We listened to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development and the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, and provided direction for the restoration and recovery of fish habitat and stocks.

We listened to environmental groups and adopted measures aimed at rebuilding depleted fish stocks by requiring decisions affecting a stock in the critical zone to consider whether measures are in place aimed at rebuilding the stock and when habitat degradation is a factor in the decline of the stock, whether measures will be in place to restore such habitat. We have presented in this bill the appropriate safeguards to sustain the health of our oceans and fisheries for our future generations.

We have also heard from Canadians on other important issues. We have proposed amendments to the Fisheries Act that would prohibit fishing for a cetacean, whales, when the intent is to take it into captivity unless circumstances so require, such as when the cetacean is injured, in distress, or is in need of care.

Over 72,000 Canadians make their living directly from fishing and fishing-related activities. Many are middle-class, self-employed, inshore harvesters. The minister has been clear on his commitment to make inshore independence more effective. Amendments speak to a specific authority in the Fisheries Act, rather than policy, to develop regulations supporting the independence of the inshore commercial licence-holders and will enshrine into legislation the ability to make regulations regarding the owner-operator and fleet separation policies in Atlantic Canada and Quebec.

By restoring the lost protections and providing these modern safeguards, the government is delivering on its promise, as set out in the mandate letter from the Prime Minister to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.

Since introduction of this bill, we have heard support from a broad range of Canadians for these amendments, which will return Canada to the forefront of protection of our rivers and coasts, and fish for generations to come. I urge all hon. members on both sides of the House to join with me in supporting the bill.

Motions in amendmentFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 11:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I want to apologize to the House for my excitement. I am excited when we are talking about Bill C-68 and anything to do with fisheries. However, as our hon. colleague was speaking, a player who I coached in my community of Prince George, Brett Connolly, and his Washington Capitals just won the Stanley Cup. I am very happy for one of our players. He is a great kid.

I may not get a chance to congratulate him, but maybe our hon. colleagues could join me in actually wishing Brett Connolly and the Washington Capitals congratulations.

Motions in amendmentFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 11:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Terry Beech Liberal Burnaby North—Seymour, BC

Mr. Speaker, my congratulations to any Capitals fans out there.

Today, we are discussing Bill C-68. It is interesting. For the last month or so, I have been answering these unsubstantiated claims in the House on the surf clam issue. In fact, the member opposite found a way to bring it up on a previous bill we were debating some 10 to 15 minutes ago.

I understand why the Conservatives do not want to talk about the improvements we are making to the Fisheries Act, because this is broadly supported by Canadians. The reason it is broadly supported by Canadians is because we consulted broadly, from coast to coast to coast. Canadians are proud of the fact that we are restoring protections, that we are installing modern safeguards, that we are taking steps to bring in hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of new marine protections to ensure those 72,000 jobs, those middle-class jobs that are provided in the fishing industry right across the country, grow to maybe 100,000 jobs or 150,000 jobs.

That is what this government is focused on, and that is what we will continue to focus on.

Motions in amendmentFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 11:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Terry Beech Liberal Burnaby North—Seymour, BC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-68 would restore lost protections, including the HADD protections, and it would strengthen the role of indigenous communities.

When I was first made Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, one of the things I did in my first summer was make sure that I went out and visited as many indigenous communities as I could get to. Most indigenous communities had not had a parliamentary secretary or a minister of fisheries and oceans visit for maybe one or two generations, if at all.

This legislation would strengthen the role of indigenous communities. It would provide an increased role in decision-making, policy-making, and monitoring. It would go right alongside our investments in indigenous communities, including $250 million to give more indigenous communities access to the fisheries. That is going to cause generational changes that will be very positive for all Canadians, especially indigenous communities.

Motions in amendmentFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 11:20 p.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am also pleased to be one of the British Columbians to whom my friend referred. It seems this is a fully British Columbian night.

I am proud to speak in support of Bill C-68. I want to salute the enormous work and contribution made by our fisheries critic, the hon. member for Port Moody—Coquitlam. This bill goes a long way toward restoring lost protections to the Fisheries Act and introducing some modern safeguards.

We believe that the legislation to restore the HADD prohibition, which is the prohibition against harmful alteration, disruption, and destruction, should have been introduced immediately following the last federal election. Then we could have been working together to modernize the act from there. However, we did not see that from the Liberals. Therefore, the modernization that we could have supported earlier took a bit of time to get in place, and of course we still have to enact it. I believe that Bill C-68 is okay, although it could have been a lot better, for reasons I will explain.

We introduced a series of amendments to further strengthen the Fisheries Act. Although we were successful in seeing a couple of them pass, the ones that were defeated were also important, for reasons I will come to. They would have strengthened the act and had positive impacts on the health and sustainability of the fish populations and their habitats for generations to come.

Bill C-68 restores much of what was lost under the changes made by the previous Conservative government in 2012, and it introduces a number of positive provisions that we support. I would like to talk about those before I come to some of the deficiencies, in our view.

First, returning the prohibition against the harmful alteration, disruption, and destruction of fish habitat, and its applicability to all native fish and fisheries, as well as the prohibition on causing death of fish by means other than fishing, were critical. The fact that they were restored is an excellent feature of this bill.

Second, including in the act key provisions to strengthen how it is interpreted is important, such as a purpose statement, along with considerations for decision-making and factors to inform the making of regulations under this bill that reflect key sustainability principles.

Third, the bill introduces provisions that address the rebuilding of depleted fish populations. We talked about that earlier.

Fourth, it would establish a public registry to support the assessment of cumulative effects and to enhance the transparency of decision-making.

Fifth, strengthening provisions with respect to ecologically significant areas would move us from concept to action, at last.

Sixth, there is greater recognition of indigenous rights and knowledge, particularly in light of the historic commitment of the House in Bill C-262 to enshrine the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Finally, the fact that there is going to be a statutorily mandated review every five years is also an important evergreen provision in this bill.

The bill was amended at committee. One of the important amendments was the rebuilding of fish stocks section, because the core function of Fisheries and Oceans Canada is to manage our fish populations for the long term so that we have a sustainable fishery. That is what this is all about. If they are not at a sustainable level, we will not be able to allocate the fish because we will not have the fish to allocate. That is obviously important. For the first time in 150 years, Bill C-68 recognizes the importance of rebuilding overfished stocks by creating a legal duty to develop plans aimed at moving stocks out of a critical zone. I think that this is really important, if, as I suggested earlier, regulations are actually made to do the work that is necessary.

These are welcome and long overdue. I think we have to be sober about the state of our fisheries. Since 1970, over half of the biomass of our fisheries has disappeared. By some estimates, only slightly more than one third of our stocks are still considered healthy in this country. At least 21 of Canada's fish stocks are in the critical zone, and our fishing industry is precariously balanced on the continued abundance of only a few species.

Therefore, these changes are important, and I salute the government for bringing them in. However, I also have to flag some concerns. First, the minister can make exceptions to these requirements under certain conditions. We have to make sure that this discretion to exempt fish stocks does not get abused. Second, the law only applies to what are defined as “major fish stocks”, a phrase that will only be defined in future regulations. This creates a situation in which the government could circumvent the intent of the legislation by dragging its heels indefinitely on adding fish stocks to the regulations, thereby not requiring sustainable management measures or a rebuilding plan. These concerns were raised by my colleague at the fisheries committee, and I want to put them on the record again this evening.

The NDP introduced a number of amendments to Bill C-68, 22 of them to be exact. A few of those improvements are still valid. First, the NDP submitted amendments to broaden the information base so that the public registry captures all projects, and to ensure compensation for the residual harm to fish habitat caused by small or low-risk projects. Those amendments, unfortunately, were defeated.

Second, explicit protection for environmental flows and fish passages was an issue, and we proposed amendments to strengthen those provisions for the free passage of fish and for securing the environmental flows needed to protect fish and fish habitat. I am happy to say they were passed at committee and are part of the bill.

Third, I have already alluded to the recognition of indigenous rights and knowledge. The committee heard testimony, for example, from Matt Thomas of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. New Democrats believe that reconciliation should be a part of all legislation. A true nation-to-nation relationship with Canada's indigenous peoples, consistent with our Constitution, should be fully embraced and reflected in the Fisheries Act. The amendments along those lines were defeated.

Fourth, on measures to increase transparency and accountability, the committee heard eloquent testimony from Linda Nowlan from West Coast Environmental Law, who made some great suggestions to increase transparency and accountability. The NDP made amendments to that effect, but they were all defeated.

Fifth, provisions to apply owner-operator and fleet separation policies to all coasts were proposed. Some of the most compelling testimony we heard was from young fishers from the west coast, and yet the section in the act talks about an independent inshore commercial fishery as being in “Atlantic Canada and Quebec”. Canada's New Democrats fully support putting owner-operator and fleet separation policies in the Fisheries Act, but we wonder why we did not do the same thing for our Pacific coast. First nations and independent fishermen on the west coast want the same policy as Atlantic Canada. New Democrats moved an amendment to open that door, but the door was closed and the amendment was defeated.

I want to make one further point before I conclude. We support the bill. We recognize the need to protect fish habitat, but I cannot let the opportunity go by of talking about the impact that the Kinder Morgan, now Government of Canada, tanker project will have, and the possibility of its destroying, with a devastating spill of diluted bitumen, the essential habitat and aquatic ecosystems that our fish depend on.

Motions in amendmentFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 11:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Dane Lloyd Conservative Sturgeon River—Parkland, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Victoria asked, and as the good book says, “Ask and you will receive”. We have a member from Alberta here, standing to represent another province in this great debate.

I hope members will indulge me while I quickly mention my friends and colleagues, Andrea Khanjin, Lindsey Park, and David Piccini, who won their seats this evening in the Ontario election. It was a pleasure serving with them in Ottawa and knowing them as friends. I am very proud of them tonight, and I want them to know that.

I rise to speak on Bill C-68, an act to amend the Fisheries Act. For my whole life, from the Fraser River all the way to Ontario's Rideau Lakes, my passion for fish, fishing, and preserving and sustaining fish stocks is very important to me. I am passionate about preserving and sustaining fish and fish habitat, but I see little reason to support Bill C-68, a flawed bill that will over-regulate and would solve a problem that does not really exist.

Canada has strong protections in place to ensure the preservation of fish and fish habitats, but there is always room for improvement. However, the Liberal government has rejected any amendments from the committee, amendments that would ensure the best legislation for Canadians.

The government introduced Bill C-68, which introduces a number of changes to the Fisheries Act. However, it ignores some of the major findings from a report from the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans that was presented to the House of Commons in February 2017. On September 19, 2016, the fisheries committee, including Liberal members, agreed to the following motion. They would:

...review and study the scope of the application of the Fisheries Act, and specifically the serious harm to fish prohibition: how the prohibition is implemented to protect fish and fish habitat; the capacity of Fisheries and Oceans Canada to deliver on fish and fish habitat protection through project review, monitoring, and enforcement; the definitions of serious harm to fish and commercial, recreational, and Aboriginal fisheries; the use of regulatory authorities under the Fisheries Act; and other related provisions of the act, and provide its recommendations in a report to the House.

The committee convened 10 meetings in Ottawa, from October 31 to December 12 in 2016, before presenting this report to the House of Commons in February 2017. Overall, the committee heard from 50 different witnesses during the study and received over 188 submissions and briefing notes. It was a comprehensive study, which, if the government were truly committed to strengthening the role of committees in this Parliament, would have formed the basis for Bill C-68. However, Bill C-68 essentially ignores the committee's report, including one of the most important recommendations contained in the report. This recommendation stated:

Any revision of the Fisheries Act should review and refine the previous definition of HADD due to the previous definition’s vulnerability to being applied in an inconsistent manner and the limiting effect it had on government agencies in their management of fisheries and habitats in the interest of fish productivity.

Following testimony from 50 witnesses and briefing notes from more than 180 associations, groups, and individuals, it was agreed that a return to HADD was undesirable and that should the government return to HADD, it needed to be refined and further reviewed. However, Bill C-68 ignores the recommendation completely and introduces a return to HADD.

Now HADD is referred to in subsection 35(1) of the legislation, which states, “No person shall carry on any work, undertaking or activity that results in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat.” Essentially this means that any sort of development that is harmful, alters, disrupts, or destroys any fish habitat could be stopped or not approved by the government.

I have friends who have personally experienced the overzealous regulation of the Department of Fisheries in its enforcement of HADD. A dear friend of mine, who has played a senior role in the air cadets in western Canada, told me of how much trouble he had dealing with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans a number of years ago before the Conservatives made reforms. My friend needed to renovate a firing range for the air cadets. This was a public range that was used by private individuals and the air cadets to practice. He was required by new government regulations to renovate this range in order to make it live up to the codes that the government had set for it.

In the process of dealing with this one set of government regulations, he quickly ran afoul of another set of government regulations. Every spring, during the snow melt, a small stream would form and run straight through the range. For 10 months of the year, one could hardly tell that a stream existed. There was no water, as it would dry up. However, once DFO officials got involved, they discovered traces of a common fish that could have been in the stream. They immediately halted the renovations to the gun range, which had operated for decades, because of the possibility that a fish habitat existed on the range. It could only have been there for less than two months of the year, because that is the only time there was water.

Because they were not able to renovate the range because of these old DFO regulations the Conservatives had removed, they were unable to recertify the range. Effectively, they shut down the range, depriving air cadets and private individuals of a facility necessary for their training and improvement.

That is a personal story of how some regulations, although they are intended to do good things, can really impact the everyday activities of Canadians in a way that does not really achieve the accomplishment. That is why we need to review and make clear what HADD really means.

As the committee report noted, this section was applied inconsistently and was oftentimes very unclear. Developers were often bogged down in battles over what constituted fish development, and it was an inconsistent roadblock for projects. Therefore, in 2012, the Conservative government removed HADD provisions and replaced them with the following:

No person shall carry on any work, undertaking or activity that results in serious harm to fish that are part of a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery, or to fish that support such a fishery.

That is a very broad way of putting it. It captures a lot of the environmental effects, but it also introduces a certain level of judgment. There is a balance between the environment and the economy, and when we have that judgment, we just cannot have something that says that nothing will be done if it does any harm to fish. We need to look at whether it is a serious harm or not. When we introduce that level of judgment, it allows us to get to the best decisions.

This previous Conservative law had a very clear and more universally accepted interpretation. It was accepted, and it struck an important balance between development and conservation. I submit that this is the right balance.

The committee report we did together with the government recognized this by cautioning against a return to HADD provisions. However, although the Liberals want to talk a big game about empowering committees, they ignored this recommendation.

The consultation was done for the government. As I said earlier, there were more than 50 witnesses at the committee and more than 180 submissions. All the Liberals needed to do was read the report, and they would have seen in black and white that a return to HADD provisions was not favourable among stakeholders. Not one single individual or organization was able to present the committee with any scientific proof of harm that resulted from the elimination of HADD in the 2012 legislation. Therefore, I think we must assume that the 2012 legislation was working quite well.

The government refused to listen to a committee and rejected all the amendments. The government's approach to legislative, regulatory, and policy frameworks governing infrastructure projects, from a gun range to the way local farmers manage their property, will cause competitive disadvantages for Canadian companies across Canada and a massive regulatory headache for everyday Canadians.

We will not have a chance to make the necessary adjustments on this side of the House, but I urge our colleagues in the other place to take a long, serious look at Bill C-68 and make any necessary recommendations to this flawed legislation.

Motions in amendmentFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 11:45 p.m.
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Burnaby North—Seymour B.C.

Liberal

Terry Beech LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's speech intently, particularly the story about the gun range. We heard similar stories about fields and drainage ditches and the like.

We know that industry wants certainty on their timelines and on their requirements. We also know that we have to start addressing cumulative effects, because we know that the effects of many small projects can be just as significant as the effect of one large project. To balance this, we have developed what we call codes of practice. Does the member opposite support the codes of practice as laid out in Bill C-68?

Motions in amendmentFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 11:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise tonight to speak to Bill C-68, an act to amend the Fisheries Act, a lengthy bill that would have a number of impacts on fisheries and fish stocks across Canada. The bill would also have wide-ranging implications for economic development for farmers, rural municipalities, and others.

I am from an Ontario riding. While members may not think there are a lot of fish in Ontario, we have a thriving fishing industry in the Great Lakes and also in many of our smaller communities. In fact, right down the road from my farm is a fish hatchery that supplies fingerlings across the world. Fish and fish habitat is important to all of us in Ontario as well.

It is my understanding that the fisheries and oceans committee conducted a full study of the 2012 changes made to the Fisheries Act, and conducted a full study of changes brought in by Bill C-68. I would like to focus most of my comments on the testimony heard during the committee's study of the 2012 changes.

The committee started its study in October 2016 and presented a report to the House in February 2017. The committee heard from 50 different witnesses during the study and received over 188 submitted briefing notes. It was a very comprehensive study, and it would have been a useful tool for the government to use when it was drafting this legislation.

The study looked directly at the changes that the previous government, our Conservative government, made in 2012 to the Fisheries Act, changes that significantly improved it.

One of the significant changes that was made in 2012 was a shift away from what was commonly referred to as HADD, which stands for “harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat”. It is contained within subsection 35(1) of the bill where it is stated, “No person shall carry on any work, undertaking or activity that results in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat.” Essentially, this means that any sort of development that could be seen to be harmful to, altering, disrupting or destroying fish habitats would be subject to an immense amount of review and red tape, and could be stopped or completely prohibited.

It is unclear, however, about what constituted a fish habitat. It was found that the DFO applied this definition in a inconsistent manner, and others played fast and loose with this term and used it broadly to apply to waterways that really had no impact at all on fish stocks. The system was ineffective and was a nightmare for development. Worst of all, after all this red tape and bureaucratic interference, it had no measurable success in protecting or preserving fish populations.

The changes in 2012 brought in a much simpler and effective definition to ensure fish were protected but that reasonable projects could still move forward. The definition at that time was “No person shall carry on any work, undertaking or activity that results in serious harm to fish that are part of a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery, or to fish that support such a fishery.” This definition is much more effective and provides certainty and clarity for developers, for farmers, for fishermen, for first nations, and for others.

In the report from the fisheries and oceans committee, the third recommendation stated, “Any revision of the Fisheries Act should review and refine the previous definition of HADD due to the previous definition’s vulnerability to being applied in an inconsistent manner”. This is the heart of why HADD was changed in 2012. It was applied in such an inconsistent and subjective manner. The recommendation went on to say, “and the limiting effect it had on government agencies in their management of fisheries and habitats in the interest of fish productivity.”

I am confused as to why we are now seeing what looks to be a return to HADD in Bill C-68. It does not make any sense. The committee testimony is there in black and white, and it was heard time and again when the committee studied Bill C-68.

We all know that when the previous government brought in the 2012 changes, environmental associations and others threw their hands up in the air and screamed that these changes would be the death of all fish in Canada. However, the proof is just not there.

It is my fear here that the government is simply returning to the pre-2012 provisions to appease these groups.

One impact that is not always clear to many is the impact that farmers face due to the Fisheries Act, and it will be 10 times worse under a system that uses the HADD definition. When farmers are looking to expand their farm or develop their farmland, they can get caught up in reviews of their projects under the Fisheries Act. A return to HADD would make the lives of farmers much more difficult.

When testifying before the committee, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture stated that prior to 2012 there were “lengthy bureaucratic applications for permitting and authorizations”, but the 2012 changes “drastically improved the timeliness and cost of conducting regular maintenance and improvement of activities to their farm.”

That is so crucial, because farmers can get caught up in this red tape and actually be prevented from moving forward with improving their farmland or construction of buildings.

The CFA expanded on this by stating that:

It is CFA's position that a complete revert to reinstate all provisions of the Fisheries Act as they were would be unproductive, would re-establish the same problems for farmers, and would provide little improvement....

This was again reiterated during the study of Bill C-68 at the fisheries and oceans committee.

Farmers do not want to return to a pre-2012 system. In fact, no one but those who oppose development want a return to the pre-2012 system. The government should stop catering to these interest groups and abandon this plan.

It is not just farmers who have concerns, though. The Canadian Electricity Association has said that Bill C-68 is “one step forward but two steps back.”

They went on to state:

CEA is particularly concerned that the government has chosen to return to pre-2012 provisions of the Fisheries Act that address 'activity other than fishing that results in the death of fish, and the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction (HADD) of fish habitat. In practical terms, this means that virtually any action, without prior authorization, could be construed as being in contravention of this Act. Consequently, the reinstatement of these measures will result in greater uncertainties for existing and new...energy projects that directly support Canada's clean growth agenda and realize its climate change objectives.

To make a long story short, this is bad news for Canadian development and will have no positive impact on the protection of fish populations in Canada.

The government had an opportunity to make this legislation work when it was offered reasonable amendments during the committee clause-by-clause study. Unfortunately, again, as in so many instances when the Liberals talk about being open and amenable to amendments, when it comes to the actual committee work, committee members are always overpowered by the majority of Liberals on the committee, who refused the amendments.

As we have witnessed time and again, the Liberals do not care about rural Canadians or development. I only hope Canadians will listen to our message of positive change and send them packing next October.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

March 29th, 2018 / 10:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-68, an act to amend the Fisheries Act. Before I get into the bill itself, I want to share with the House that my riding has various communities that benefit directly from fisheries. We have the Eastern Passage area, which is a very big community focused on fishing, and then we have other communities as we move down toward the eastern shore. Down in Seaforth and then into Chezzetcook we see all kinds of fishing taking place.

This is a very important bill, because we need to make sure we restore the protections that were cut back in 2012 by the former Conservative government. One wonders why those cuts were made. It is obvious, in the three years I have been here, that the Conservatives had a lot of difficulty balancing investment in the economy and the environment, which is so crucial.

The Conservatives moved forward to make those changes. It is important to know how they made those changes. Did they consult? Did they check with the fishers? Did they consult with environmentalists? Did they consult with the various coastal areas and harbours? No, they put it into an omnibus bill so that it was hidden. There was no consultation, and they just put it in there to slide it through and make cuts to various protections for the fisheries. It affected all the coastal communities, as well as the environment, and people had no opportunity to express themselves in any way, shape, or form.

However, this government took a very different approach. We consulted with Canadians. All Canadians had the opportunity to participate in this consultation. We also had two round tables, where Canadians could participate and offer their advice, suggestions, and comments. They could share some of the key areas where they had concerns.

Furthermore, our Minister of Fisheries suggested to the permanent committee on fisheries that it could have various witnesses come in and share their opinions on this important topic. This exercise allowed for 32 more recommendations to come forward. All those consultations and the feedback from Canadians in various forums allowed the minister, his staff, and the government to put forward legislation that would solidly ensure that we are protecting our fisheries and that we have some standards and safeguards in place, but also that we can do business, which is crucial for our economy.

We have invested over $284 million in that initiative. We have invested as well in the ocean supercluster. We have invested $1.5 billion in the oceans protection plan, and $325 million in the Atlantic fisheries fund. That is a clear indication.

I would like to point out that these cuts were comparable to all of the other cuts made by the Conservative government, such as those that weakened our official language communities.

I will go back to the first point, which is the restoration of these protections to ensure that we are protecting our fish and fish habitats, which is crucial to protecting the resource. That resource is precious and important to all Canadians. We benefit from that resource, and we cannot afford not to protect it. In the House, not too long ago, I presented a petition from my constituents Blair Eavis and Walter Regan about the conservation funding for the partnership program, which is important to continue as well.

Also in the legislation are some guidelines about issuing permits. There have to be guidelines, and they are very important. If it is a major project, we have to have a permit process. If it is a small project, then we would basically have a code of practice. This would actually help the industry, because the people in the industry would know there is a process in place. If they are going to bid on projects, they would know that these steps need to be taken, and therefore they would consider that when they put out bids. That is important, but it was not in place in the process.

When the minister considers issuing those permits, he has to consider what effect that would have on the fishing industry and the habitat, and whether there are alternate ways we could do these types of projects to ensure that we are balancing the economy, our resources, and the environment, which the Conservatives never did. That is a crucial issue that the past government did not do.

The minister would also be responsible for ensuring that the fish stocks are not depleted, and if they are depleted there has to be a plan in place to replenish that industry, because it is crucial. That is what it is all about: monitoring and making sure that we are safeguarding our resource, which is crucial.

To go further and continue with the transparency that our government has put forward since the beginning, we would have an official public registry. That registry would show what plans are in place to support, protect, and safeguard our industry. That would be public, so people would be able to see the plans and give feedback on those plans, which is crucial. Also, in that public registry we would see any permits that were issued, and on what conditions.

We would also see, which is very important, any agreements that may have been signed between the federal government and the provinces or the indigenous peoples. That is crucial. There is a very important piece about indigenous peoples' rights in this legislation, which was not considered by the past government in the last 10 years prior to our being here. This is what open and transparent government will bring, and we have done that on many occasions. Of course, we also had the political financing, which is another transparency legislation that we brought forward. There is access to information as well and the mandate letters that were made public. They were made public so that people would have an opportunity to speak on those issues.

This bill, to amend the Fisheries Act, would allow us to keep the fishery strong, but also to ensure that the environment is safe for a long, long time. These changes were crucial, and I am very proud of our government's commitment and our promise to move forward on this issue. In only two years, we are here with this legislation, which is extremely important.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

March 29th, 2018 / 10:15 a.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by acknowledging we are on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people, and express gratitude to them for their generosity and patience. Meegwetch.

I also want to thank the hon. member for Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook for sharing his time with me, and acknowledge this shows a spirit of respect toward opposition benches from the current Liberal government. I am grateful for the opportunity to speak, although I still must object to the use of time allocation and reducing time for debate in this place. However, the respect shown in shortening time but still allowing a member such as me to have at least one crack in second reading to this very important legislation is appreciated. It is particularly appreciated when I stand to speak, with shared time from a Liberal member, with the intention of attacking Liberal legislation, which I have done recently with shared time.

Today is a different occasion. Bill C-68 would repair the damage done to the Fisheries Act under former budget implementation omnibus bill, Bill C-38, in the spring of 2012, as the hon. member for Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook was just referencing. This bill goes a long way. Within the ambit of what the Minister of Fisheries can do, it would repair the damage done by omnibus budget bill, Bill C-38, in relation to the Fisheries Act. I want to speak to that, as well as the one aspect where it would not fully repair the damage.

This is definitely a historic piece of legislation. The Fisheries Act was brought in under Sir John A. Macdonald. Canada has had a fisheries act for 150 years. That act traditionally dealt with what is constitutionally enshrined as federal jurisdiction over fish, and some people may wonder where the environment landed in the Constitution of Canada and the British North America Act. Where was the environment? The fish are federal. The water is provincial if it is fresh water, and federal if it is ocean water, so there has always been a mixed jurisdiction over the environment.

Over fish, there has been no question. Fish are federal. In the early 1980s, this act received a significant improvement, which was to recognize that fish move around and they cannot be protected without protecting their habitat. The Fisheries Act was modernized with a real degree of environmental protection. It had always been a strong piece of environmental legislation, because if we protect fish then we tend to protect everything around them.

In this case, the Fisheries Act was improved in the early eighties by a former minister of fisheries, who by accident of history, happened to be the father of the current Minister of Fisheries. It was the Right. Hon. Roméo LeBlanc. We use the term “right honourable” because he went on to be our Governor General. He amended the Fisheries Act in the 1980s to include protection of fish habitat, requiring a permit from the federal Minister of Fisheries if that habitat was either temporarily or permanently harmed or damaged. This piece of legislation is the significant pillar upon which much of Canada's environmental regulation rested.

What happened in Bill C-38 in the spring of 2012 was a travesty that remains in the annals of parliamentary history as the single worst offence against environmental legislation and protection by any government ever. It was followed up with a second omnibus budget bill in the fall of 2012, Bill C-45, which took an axe to the Navigable Waters Protection Act. In the spring, Bill C-38 repealed the Environmental Assessment Act and replaced it with a bogus act, which I will return to and discuss. Bill C-38 also repealed the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, the National Roundtable on Environment and the Economy, and gutted the Fisheries Act.

Rather than go on about that, the hon. member who was just speaking referenced the changes made. I can tell people some of the changes that were made, and I was so pleased to see them repealed. When one opens a copy of Bill C-68, the first thing one sees is subclause 1(1), “The definitions commercial, Indigenous and recreational in subsection 2(1) of the Fisheries Act are repealed.” This is not a scientific thing. This is what Bill C-38 did to our Fisheries Act. Fish were no longer fish. They were only fish if they were commercial, indigenous, or recreational. That language came straight from a brief from industry. It did not come from civil servants within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. It came from the Canadian Electricity Association. That is repealed.

This bill would bring back protections for habitat. It goes back to looking at some of the foundational pieces of how the Fisheries Act is supposed to work, and then it goes farther.

I have to say I was really surprised and pleased to find in the bill, for the first time ever, that the Fisheries Act will now prohibit the taking into captivity of whales. That was a very nice surprise. It is proposed section 23.1. I asked the minister the other day in debate if he would be prepared to expand this section with amendments, because over on the Senate side, the bill that was introduced by retired Senator Wilfred Moore and is currently sponsored by Senator Murray Sinclair, and I would be the sponsor of this bill if it ever makes it to the House, Bill S-203, would not only ban the taking of whales into captivity but the keeping of whales in captivity. I am hoping when this bill gets to the fisheries committee. We might be able to expand that section and amend it so that we can move ahead with the protection of whales.

This bill is also forward-looking by introducing more biodiversity provisions and the designation of areas as ecologically sensitive, work that can continue to expand the protection of our fisheries.

I will turn to where there are gaps. Because I completely support this bill, while I do hope for a few amendments, they come down to being tweaks.

Where does this bill fail to repair the damage of Bill C-38? It is in a part that is beyond the ability of the Minister of Fisheries to fix. That is the part about why Harper aimed at the Fisheries Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act, and the Environmental Assessment Act.

There was not random violence in this vandalism; it was quite focused. It was focused on destroying the environmental assessment process so that we would no longer be reviewing 4,000 projects a year. Of those 4,000 projects a year that were reviewed under our former Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, most of them, about 95% of them, were reviewed through screenings that were paper exercises, that did not engage hearings, and so forth. However, it did mean that, at a very preliminary level, if there was a problem with a project, a red flag could go up, and it could be booted up for further study.

There is a reason that the Fisheries Act habitat provisions were repealed. They were one of the sections listed in our former Environmental Assessment Act under what was called the “law list”, where a minister giving a permit under section 35 of our former Fisheries Act automatically triggered that the decision was subject to an environmental assessment.

Similarly, why did the former government take a hatchet to the Navigable Waters Protection Act? Like the Fisheries Act, it is an act we have had around for a long time, since 1881. It was not an act that had impeded the development of Canada or we would never have had a railroad. Since 1881, we have had the Navigable Waters Protection Act. The previous government took a real axe to it. The current Minister of Transport has gone a long way toward fixing it under one portion of Bill C-69.

This is why. Navigable waters permits also were a trigger under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Do members see where I am going here? This was synchronized action. It was not random.

The current government has pledged to fix all of the damage done by the previous government to environmental laws. Where the failure to fix things is evident is in what is called the “impact assessment act” in Bill C-69. It has abandoned the concept of a law list altogether. It has abandoned the concept of having permits and environmental assessments required whenever federal money is engaged. In other words, the Harper imprint of going from 4,000 projects reviewed a year to a couple of dozen will remain the law of the land without significant improvement to Bill C-69. In particular, the decisions the Minister of Fisheries makes should be subject to an EA, just as the decisions of the Minister of Transport should be subject.

In my last minute, I want to turn our attention to something I hope the Minister of Fisheries will take up next, because he is doing a great job. I hope he will take up looking at open-pen salmon aquaculture. It must end. It is a threat to our wild salmon fishery on the Pacific coast. It is a threat to the depleted wild Atlantic salmon stocks on the Atlantic coast, where I am originally from. There is no Atlantic salmon fishery because it has been destroyed. However, there are still Atlantic salmon, which could restore themselves if they did not have to compete with the escapement of Atlantic salmon from fish farms in Atlantic Canada, and the destruction of habitat by those farms. On the west coast, these are not even indigenous species that are escaping and threatening our wild salmon.

Let us close down open-pen fisheries, give aquaculture to the Minister of Agriculture, have fish in swimming pools on land, and let the Minister of Fisheries protect our coastal ecosystems.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

March 29th, 2018 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to speak to Bill C-68.

Bill C-68, from a policy perspective, is another piece of unnecessary legislation aimed at making Canadians feel good. It is filled with fluff. It is all about pandering to environmental groups. It is all about making sure that those that backed the Liberals in the 2015 election get their due, much as what we heard earlier when the member of Parliament for Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook spoke.

If those who are in the audience were falling asleep previously, they should stay tuned, because I promise it is about to get more lively in the short period of time that I have to speak.

The member of Parliament for Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook talked about how proud he is of the government investing in fisheries and investing in areas within his region. His own family has just received a lucrative surf clam quota worth hundreds of millions of dollars. People heard that correctly. I am looking right at the camera and I am going to say that again. The brother of the Liberal member of Parliament for Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook just received a lucrative surf clam quota worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and all on a bid that has lots of questions about it.

Therefore, I would beg to differ in terms of some of the points that have been put forward about being open and transparent, and how the minister seems to be doing the right thing. Well, he is spending a lot of money; there is no two ways about it. He is spending a lot of money, but is value going to come out of that money? Who is benefiting from the money that is being spent? I would hesitate to say that Bill C-68 is going to be the stopgap for the changes the government is putting forth that it says are going to have such a profound impact on our waterways and our fisheries.

I sit on the fisheries committee. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard has been before us numerous times. We heard just last week that our northern cod is at near decimated levels. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard likes to throw money at things, but it does not like to throw money at things that are going to have an impact on those who are in the communities. It has not done anything that is going to help create more fish so that we have fish not only for today, but for the future.

The Liberals say that former Prime Minister Harper absolutely gutted the Fisheries Act. I will be the first to admit that the Fisheries Act has been around for 150 years. Maybe it needed some modernization, but the changes the government has put forward are more fluff than anything else.

As a matter of fact, numerous witnesses came before the committee, including academics, environmental groups, or NGOs that are a steady stream into the minister's office. We had local fishers and people in those communities who said that with the Conservatives at least they knew they had the ear of the ministers. Now they have to go through the NGOs to get to the ministers, because the ministers place greater importance on the NGOs than on those who actually matter the most, the communities and the Canadians that the policy impacts the most.

It is interesting that the member of Parliament for Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, the Prime Minister, and the Minister of Fisheries stood up to talk about the surf clam and said that it was all about reconciliation, yet the winning bid had no first nations, no multiple first nations partners. This was a critical component of the bid criteria. There were no first nations partners, until after the bid was announced.

Three weeks later, there was an announcement of the first nations that were there. The bid actually included just placeholders, which said, “Hey, trust us, we'll get that done”. Guess what? The brother of that member of Parliament, or the group that got the bid, was not even incorporated. It was not even a legal entity. It did not have a boat, a vessel, and did not have a facility to do this.

This leads people to believe that this just does not smell right. As a matter of fact, it sounds very corrupt. Therefore, it is very rich to have that member of Parliament stand in the House and preach about his open and transparent government that he is so proud of. Obviously, he is proud of it, because his family is benefiting from a quota worth hundreds of millions of dollars. That is unacceptable.

As we know, it is open and transparent if one is a Liberal insider or family member, and one would get the appointment. If one is a Liberal insider or family member, one would get the job. If one is a Liberal insider or family member, guess what? One would get the quota. That is what we are seeing.

Today, with Bill C-68, it is interesting that people are saying that Prime Minister Harper absolutely decimated the fishery. I will tell members that this is more of an attack on Prime Minister Harper by folks who dislike him than it is on his policy. That is shameful. Not one witness who came to our committee to testify on this could demonstrate any loss of fish habitat because of what was done in 2012, and that includes academics, environmental groups, fishers, and industry experts. Conservatives want to make sure that we have the appropriate balance between the economy and the environment. We do not want to see our rivers, lakes, and streams ruined.

I am a hunter and a fisher. My family has farmed, logged, fished, and hunted our property in the Cariboo Chilcotin for generations. We want to make sure it is there for future generations. It is shameful how we get this holier-than-thou attitude when all the Liberals are doing is pandering to special interest groups.

Members can tell I am a little heated, and I will tell them why. I was in Grand Bank, Newfoundland, earlier this week and I talked with Edgar, Brenda, Barbara, Bernice, Barry, Tom, and Kevin. I talked with people who are impacted by the policy decisions that the minister has made, which impact that community. With 300 years of fishing history, they have had their ups and downs, but they have had consistent economic viability. They have been okay for about 27 years in terms of the surf clam fishery.

This arbitrary decision to take away 25% of the quota from that community is not acceptable. They are going to see job losses. Edgar told us that he does not want to go on EI. He wants a job. He had 52 weeks of work this year, and with this decision, it looks like he will lose 17 weeks of work. He does not want EI. He wants to work. We heard that time and time again.

Shamefully, it seems that the minister is more intent on looking after his Liberal family and friends than the families of Grand Bank. It is disappointing and, frankly, it is shameful.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 29th, 2018 / 12:30 p.m.
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Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon the House will continue second reading debate of Bill C-68 concerning the Fisheries Act. The House will then adjourn for the Easter break and allow members to return to work in their constituencies and also spend some time with family and friends.

Upon our return on April 16, we will commence second reading debate on Bill C-74, the budget implementation act, and continue that debate for the remainder of the week.

I want to take this opportunity to wish all my colleagues, their families, and everyone who works and helps us in this place a happy Easter and a pleasant break.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

March 29th, 2018 / 12:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Nick Whalen Liberal St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that open-ended question which allows me to continue with my earlier remarks.

One of the main pillars of our election campaign was to revisit the nature in which environmental assessment and protection of our natural resources are undertaken in Canada. In that context, there was a review of transportation, natural resources, environment and climate change, and also the Fisheries Act. When I look at Bill C-68, I consider it in the context of changes that are also put forward with respect to CEAA . I look at it in the context of the broader national consultation that was undertaken with the NEB, the offshore petroleum boards, the CEAA process generally, and of course our international obligations and our commitment to protect 10% of offshore resources under our Aichi targets.

This is really a national undertaking. When people think of fisheries in Canada they think of the north, British Columbia, the Great Lakes, Quebec, the maritime provinces, and then of course Newfoundland and Labrador. It is really the sum of what makes Canadians Canadians in understanding that we have a place in the world, that we have a role in protecting our natural resources. There are changes in this legislation that would both allow us to protect our national resources and also to develop them sustainably so we can enjoy the high standard of living that we have.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

March 29th, 2018 / 12:40 p.m.
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West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country B.C.

Liberal

Pam Goldsmith-Jones LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, this is a day that the citizens of West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country have been working toward and waiting for. Bill C-68 is an act to amend the Fisheries Act and other acts in consequence. The consultation effort itself has strengthened engagement with Canadians, enhanced transparency in fisheries activities, and improved the health of fish and fish habitat, and we are just getting started.

This new legislation and our debate will go a long way to help restore and strengthen the public trust so badly damaged by the previous government with regard to the Fisheries Act. In 2016, our government initiated a consultation process that engaged thousands of Canadians. Citizens expressed grave concern about lost protections. They spoke out about the importance of science and academic freedom. Indigenous peoples offered voices of experience, traditional knowledge, and ways of working together that we have been missing. Commercial fishers said they wanted to be included in decision-making.

The amendments we are debating today fundamentally recognize that decisions must be guided by the principles of sustainability, by the precautionary principle, and by an ecosystem management approach. This provides hope to many British Columbians for whom Roderick Haig-Brown, named in Campbell River this summer as a person of national significance to Canada, is a source of inspiration, a guide, and a mentor. He wrote:

The salmon runs are, in truth, the wealth of the Pacific Ocean brought readily back to the hand and use of man. For his part, man has used them and abused them, injured and restored them. He knows enough to multiply them even beyond their original abundance—and he is threatening them with total destruction.

Haig-Brown wrote this in 1959, almost 60 years ago. I take his words very seriously.

Fundamental to a robust Fisheries Act, important amendments include protection for all fish and fish habitats, at last, restoring the previous prohibition against harmful alteration, disruption, or destruction of fish habitat, known as HADD. These protections were taken as immutable, and yet they were stricken from the legislation in an act of callous disregard by the previous government. l am very grateful to the many who fought for this to be put back into the Fisheries Act.

Other important amendments include that indigenous traditional knowledge would inform decisions that impact habitat. The legislation would strengthen the role of indigenous peoples in project reviews, monitoring, and policy development, and will honour traditional knowledge. It would put short-term measures in place to respond to threats to fish that may suddenly arise. It would restore a prohibition against causing the death of fish by means other than fishing. It would provide full transparency for projects, including a public registry of projects.

The legislation promotes restoration of degraded habitat and the rebuilding of depleted fish stocks, and strengthens the long-term protection of marine refuges. The bill clarifies and updates enforcement powers to address emerging fisheries issues and to align current provisions in other legislation.

Bill C-68 demonstrates that our government is proactive in protecting wild salmon stocks and the diversity of fish and fish habitat in Canada. It is vital that we support and pass this legislation. We need every aspect of Bill C-68 badly. We also need to look ahead and be visionary by drafting a separate but related national aquaculture act. A national aquaculture act would facilitate a regional approach to aquaculture and should include how we can transition away from open net pens to closed containment salmon aquaculture on the west coast of Canada.

In collaboration with indigenous peoples, the Government of British Columbia, hundreds of stewardship groups, and industry, a national aquaculture act would provide a way to ensure an increasingly profitable and productive aquaculture industry.

On behalf of many on the west coast, I am here to represent the view that it is time to transition British Columbia's open net pen salmon aquaculture industry to closed containment. Momentum is gathering globally and close to home to develop a profitable, productive aquaculture system and sector through closed containment.

In Washington state, a bill has just passed through the state Senate to phase out open net salmon aquaculture by 2025. As licences expire, they are not being renewed. If an operation is in violation of the lease, it is shut down. Senator Kevin Ranker introduced the bill. I spoke with him, and he said he had never seen anything like the support that came together from all 29 treaty tribes in the state, commercial fishers, and recreational fishers. Senator Ranker's constituency is the same as many of ours in British Columbia because it encompasses, in Senator Ranker's words, the magical, majestic Salish Sea.

From a business perspective, the global open net pen salmon aquaculture industry is operating in an increasingly unpredictable environment. The biological costs to control sea lice and viruses are rising. The industry is not able to control stock losses or escapes. Licenses are very difficult if not impossible to secure. Public support for the status quo is attenuating and capital is being actively invested in closed containment facilities globally. Governments are paying attention.

From an environmental perspective, there is evidence that sea lice and viruses are transferred from farmed fish to wild salmon stocks. Norway has put a moratorium on open net farms due to the sea lice problem. Add to that the recent complete net pen collapse in Washington state and it is obvious that we simply cannot stand by and allow these threats to wild salmon and wild salmon habitats to continue.

From a trade perspective, British Columbia and Canada should also not concede our strong role in the industry, our knowledge, and our brand to the first movers who know that the status quo will simply not allow for the growth of the sector and who are gaining market advantage over us to research, innovation, and investment.

Canada is a trusted global leader in high value, safe, secure, sustainable food and we have the potential to develop our agri-food sector, particularly in light of recent trade agreements and supercluster announcements. Through technology and innovation in the sector, Canada can bring more high-quality farmed salmon to global markets, create jobs, and strengthen the economy.

Social innovation presents the potential for industry and first nations to be enterprise partners. Transitioning to closed containment is a way for nation-to-nation collaboration in pursuit of business opportunity, trade, and a healthy aquatic environment. In just two and a half years, our government has made it clear through our actions that we are committed to strengthening engagement and transparency and to rebuilding trust with Canadians.

Last year, the government invested $1.4 billion in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, in their base budgets, as a result of a program integrity review that revealed the magnitude and devastation of the Harper government cuts. This is in addition to our historic $1.5 billion investment in the oceans protection plan to further protect the marine environment from coast to coast to coast. As the minister has stated, to preserve, protect, and help restore our environment, we need a Fisheries Act that Canadians can trust. We must continue to build a relationship based on respect for the protection of our shared environment.

I would like to thank Canadian citizens for their ongoing commitment to volunteering, studying the science, advocating, and leading. The people of West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country have certainly played a major role in the proposed Fisheries Act legislation we are considering today and that will continue no doubt. I am very grateful for their wisdom, spirit, and tenacity in getting us to today.

Our government is taking great strides to protect fish and fish habitat and the environment. I ask my colleagues in the House to please join me in supporting these important amendments and in passing Bill C-68 and then let us take the next step toward a national aquaculture act.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

March 29th, 2018 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, less than seven hours of debate is being allowed on Bill C-68, a really important piece of legislation, limited by the Liberal government. I am sorry that closure has been invoked on the bill.

I want to ask my colleague about the Cohen commission recommendations. For her riding, as in mine, this was a hot election issue. Coastal people are passionate about wild salmon and were very encouraged in particular by the Liberal government's commitment to implement the Cohen commission recommendations, and specifically, by the mandate letter to the fisheries minister with specific instructions to implement the Cohen recommendations.

Recommendation three was to break the conflict of interest, which has been repeatedly observed of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, in that it is both the regulator of the salmon industry, protector of wild salmon, and the promoter of the farmed salmon industry. Those are in conflict. Certainly wild salmon and farmed salmon open net pen Atlantic salmon farming are in conflict.

I would like to know if my colleague shares my concern that the Liberal government has still failed to act on Cohen commission recommendation three.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

March 29th, 2018 / 1:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

Mr. Speaker, those codes of practice that are currently in place were put in place by the previous government, and there is no need to actually change them. The entire campaign that the member and all of his colleagues ran on was based on falsehoods and misinformation to the public about what the changes in the Fisheries Act of 2012 were all about. If the member does not believe me, if he wants to waltz around this issue, I will give him a waltz: one step forward two steps back. However, those are not my words. That is a statement by the Canadian Electricity Association on Bill C-68:

...one step forward but two steps back.

CEA is particularly concerned that the government has chosen to return to pre-2012 provisions of the Fisheries Act that address “activity other than fishing that results in the death of fish....

Those were not my words, but the words of job creators and employers who are actually helping to pay down the debt that the hon. member keeps voting in favour of increasing.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 10:05 a.m.
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Beauséjour New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc LiberalMinister of Fisheries

moved that Bill C-68, an act to amend the Fisheries Act and other acts in consequence, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is a great privilege for me to speak in the House of Commons on this important legislation. You, Mr. Speaker, are a former minister of fisheries and oceans yourself and will understand the significance of the Fisheries Act in communities like the ones you and I represent, so it is a privilege for me to have this opportunity to stand in the House.

Canada is uniquely blessed with an abundance of freshwater and marine coastal areas that are both ecologically significant and linked to the economic prosperity of Canadians. Our government knows that we have a responsibility to steward these resources for future generations while maintaining economic opportunities for many people and communities who depend on them.

In my mandate letter, the Prime Minister asked me to restore lost protections and incorporate modern safeguards into the Fisheries Act. In 2012, the government got rid of a number of fish habitat protection measures without engaging indigenous peoples, fishers, scientists, conservation groups, coastal communities, or the general public in any meaningful way and without their support. What made that decision even more unacceptable was the fact that the changes were buried in a 430-page omnibus bill in the hope they would slip by unnoticed. Canadians definitely noticed.

Indigenous and environmental groups were especially concerned with changes made to the act and rightly perceived those amendments as weakening what should be of shared concern for Canadians: the protection of fish and fish habitat. Industry partners were thrust into uncertainty with regard to their responsibilities under the act.

Our government has worked and consulted with a broad range of Canadians, and we encouraged everyone to be part of this important conversation. Provinces, environmental groups, fishers associations, indigenous groups, and thousands of Canadians helped shape the amendments currently before the House of Commons.

The proposed amendments to Bill C-68 are part of the government's broader strategy to review environmental and regulatory processes and cover several key themes, including partnership with indigenous peoples; supporting planning and integrated management; enhancing regulation and enforcement; improving partnerships and collaboration, including with industry; and monitoring and reporting back to Canadians.

The Fisheries Act is one of Canada's oldest pieces of legislation. It was enacted shortly after Confederation. It has been amended very little since that time, which is why it needs to be updated and modernized. To that effect, Bill C-68 adds new provisions dealing with the objectives and considerations that must be examined in the decision-making process under the act. The proposed objectives seek to create a proper management and control framework for fisheries and the conservation and protection of fish and fish habitat, particularly through pollution prevention.

The new considerations under these amendments are designed to clearly guide the responsibility of a minister of fisheries and oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard when making decisions under the act. Bill C-68 proposes amendments that would restore protections for fish and fish habitat to ensure that these protections apply to all fish. We are reintroducing the prohibition against the harmful alteration, disruption, or destruction of fish habitat, as well as the prohibition against the death of fish by means other than fishing.

We are also introducing measures that would allow for the better management of projects that may be harmful to fish or fish habitat through a new permitting scheme for big projects and codes of practice for smaller ones, so that industry partners, as well as everyday Canadians, can be certain about their responsibilities but not unreasonably burdened when undertaking small, local projects.

In the past, uncertainty in the act has caused some uncertainty among project proponents with respect to their obligations and responsibilities. The proposed amendments create regulatory authorities that will make it possible to establish a list of designated projects, including the commitments and activities that will still require a licence.

Our goal is to streamline these processes, and we will be engaging with provinces and territories as well as indigenous peoples and stakeholders to decide which kinds of projects should be on the designated project list.

We are also formalizing the creation of a proponent-led habitat banking regime. Habitat banking is an international best practice for offsetting project impacts where a freshwater or marine area is created, restored, or enhanced by working to improve fish habitat in advance of a project's impact.

Habitat loss and degradation as well as changes to fish passage and flow are all contributing to the decline of freshwater and marine fish habitats in Canada today. It is imperative that Canada restore degraded fish habitats. That is why amendments to the Fisheries Act propose requiring the consideration of restoration as part of project decision-making.

These amendments provide clearer, stronger, and easier rules to establish and manage ecologically significant areas and provide stand-alone regulations to protect sensitive or important fish habitats. Given the important ecological characteristics of sensitive areas, certain types of work and activities may be prohibited and others may be identified as being subject to a special information gathering under a new authorization regime.

During the review of the 2012 changes to the Fisheries Act, we heard over and over again about the need to improve access to information on government activities related to the protection of fish and fish habitat. Indigenous communities, industry associations, environmental groups, universities, and my colleagues on the House of Commons standing committee all talked about the importance of transparency in the decision-making process under the act.

In order to re-establish public confidence, we are proposing amendments to establish a public registry, which would be available online. By enabling greater transparency, the registry would allow Canadians to hold the government to account in its federal decision-making with regard to fish and their habitat.

Fisheries resources and aquatic habitats have important social, cultural, and economic significance for many indigenous peoples. The respect for the rights of indigenous peoples as well as taking into account their unique interests and aspirations in fisheries-related economic opportunities and the protection of fish and fish habitat are important means of renewing our relationship with indigenous peoples.

For instance, the Fisheries Act is being amended to require the minister to consider any potential adverse effects resulting from decisions the minister might make in accordance with the rights of Canada's indigenous peoples, as set out in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

In addition, our government recognizes the importance of the traditional knowledge of Canada's indigenous peoples in sound decision-making regarding fish and fish habitat.

Indigenous peoples across Canada, and other Canadians from coast to coast to coast, can rest assured that the government will act to protect the confidential traditional knowledge that indigenous people would share with the government under the provisions of this legislation.

Many indigenous communities are in close proximity to areas where projects that may affect fish and fish habitat are proposed, and many communities see new roles for themselves in how these decisions are made.

We have proposed long-overdue amendments that would provide for the making of agreements with indigenous governing bodies to further the purposes of the act, as we have done in the past with provinces and territories.

There are currently no legislative or regulatory requirements in place with respect to the rebuilding of depleted fish stocks.

The commissioner of environment and sustainable development, as well as our colleagues on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, have recommended that any revisions to the Fisheries Act should include direction for the restoration and recovery of fish habitat and fish stocks.

Environmental groups have also called on the government to adopt measures aimed at the rebuilding of depleted fish stocks within the Fisheries Act. This is why we are proposing amendments that would require decisions affecting a stock in the critical zone to consider whether there are measures in place aimed at rebuilding that stock, and, when a minister is of the opinion that habitat degradation is a cause of the decline of the stock, whether measures are in place to restore such habitat.

This positive obligation on governments and greater transparency, we believe are essential to strengthening the Fisheries Act.

We also heard Canadians' views on other important issues related to the Fisheries Act. Although the number of aquariums that keep cetaceans in captivity for public display has fallen overall, this is still a sensitive issue that Canadians are deeply concerned about.

Our government recognizes that it is now wrong to capture these magnificent creatures for public display. Consequently, we are proposing amendments to the Fisheries Act that would prohibit the capture of a cetacean when the intent is to bring it into captivity, except in circumstances where the cetacean is injured, in distress, or in need of rehabilitation.

The Senate has, for a long time, done good work in respect to this important issue. I want to salute former Senator Wilfred Moore of Nova Scotia and others in the Senate who have continued to press this important issue in the minds of Canadians.

Some 72,000 Canadians make their living from fishing and fishing-related activities. Most of them, including self-employed inshore harvesters, are part of Canada's growing middle class. In many places across Atlantic Canada and Quebec, the fishery is the economic, social, and cultural heart of communities. As the fisheries minister, one of my duties is to ensure that these important traditions endure. However, threats remain to this way of life. Fish harvesters, particularly in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, have told us time and again that they need greater protection for their economic security, and they need help to ensure their economic independence.

It was clear to me that these important policies, like the owner-operator and fleet separation policies, were being circumvented by controlling agreements, which threaten the independence of the inshore and midshore fleets by removing the control of licences from individual harvesters to larger corporate interests. The amendments we are proposing would entrench existing inshore policies into law, with all the legal enforcement power required to protect small coastal communities and independent inshore harvesters.

I stand firm in supporting the economic and cultural fabric of these coastal communities. Our government has recognized that a licensing regime that supports independent inshore harvesters is critical to the economic livelihood of these communities and the families and Canadians who depend on them.

As I said, we looked at ways to strengthen the independence of the inshore sector and enforce the act more robustly. That is why we are proposing amendments that enshrine a specific power in the Fisheries Act, rather than a policy, in order to develop regulations that support the independence of inshore commercial licence holders. The amendments proposed today would entrench into law the power to make regulations on owner-operator and fleet separation policies in Atlantic Canada and Quebec.

In so doing, this act helps to protect middle-class jobs in our coastal communities by ensuring that present and future fisheries and oceans ministers may consider the preservation and promotion of the independence of licence-holders in commercial inshore fisheries in the decision-making process.

I want to thank a number of organizations that have played a key role in these amendments with respect to owner-operator and fleet separation. The FFAW, the Maritime Fishermen's Union, le Regroupement des pêcheurs professionnels de homard du sud de la Gaspésie, the Gulf Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board, the Prince Edward Island Fishermen's Association, and the Canadian Independent Fish Harvester's Federation have been instrumental in this important work.

Fishing can be a dangerous occupation, involving many risks not only for fish harvesters, but for the marine environment as well.

With the unprecedented death of 12 North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence from June to September last year, we know that Canadians expect prompt and urgent action by their government. This is why we are proposing amendments to the Fisheries Act that provide a new fisheries management order power to establish quick and targeted fisheries management measures. These measures will be used for 45-day increments where there is a recognizable threat to the conservation and protection of our marine ecosystems. The proposed fisheries management order power is meant to address emerging issues when a fishery is already under way and when time-sensitive and targeted measures are also paramount.

In my mandate letter, I was asked by the Prime Minister to increase the proportion of Canada's marine and coastal areas that are protected to 5% by the end of 2017, and to 10% by 2020, which is the target we are now on track to achieve. I am pleased to report to the House that we have not only achieved our 2017 target, but we will continue to work diligently to ensure that we surpass the 10% commitment through the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.

To help us fulfill these international commitments and obligations, we are proposing amendments to the Fisheries Act that provide ministerial authority to make regulations to establish long-term spatial restrictions to fishing activities under the act specifically for the purpose of conserving and protecting marine biodiversity.

We are also proposing amendments that will strengthen the act. During the many public engagement sessions that were held, Canadians made it clear that they wanted to see more fishery officers, conservation officers, and patrols, as well as more offenders being caught and punished.

To incorporate modern protection mechanisms into the act, some amendments are being proposed to clarify, strengthen, and modernize enforcement powers under the act, for example by empowering fishery officers to intercept any vessel or vehicle and require it to be moved to a place where an inspection can be carried out.

The proposed amendments also seek to increase the authority of the courts with respect to seizure and forfeiture under the act, and allow the use of alternative measure agreements to address certain contraventions.

As I mentioned earlier, the Fisheries Act is one of the oldest and most important environmental laws in Canada. It was passed in 1868, just one year after Confederation, and did not change much until the late 1970s, when habitat protection provisions were first added by one of my predecessors, who, coincidentally, was my father, Roméo LeBlanc.

Then, as now, the act remains a model among Canada's environmental laws. That is why we have ensured the amendments we have introduced to the Fisheries Act include updated and modern tools that are the hallmarks found in other environmental legislation. We are proposing modern provisions such as the power to create advisory panels, fee-setting authorities, and provisions respecting the collection of information.

I consider myself privileged to stand in this House, as my father did in 1977, to introduce amendments to the Fisheries Act that served his generation. I hope that this new modernized act will live up to my father's legacy and do for our generation what he and the previous Parliament did for theirs.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 10:35 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure to stand in the House and speak about the new Fisheries Act. I have had numerous interactions with the minister over my time in Parliament and I know his heart is in the right place. I do have some issues with the new Fisheries Act, however. My background is in fisheries. I have a graduate degree in fisheries biology and have been active in the field of fisheries science for over 20 years.

I also sat on the fisheries and oceans committee in the previous government and for two years of the current government and was involved in the hearings regarding the new Fisheries Act.

The Fisheries Act was written in 1868 and had three fundamental functions: the proper management and control of fisheries, the conservation and protection of fish, and the protection of fish habitat and the prevention of pollution. It was considered one of the strongest pieces of environmental legislation that Canada had, but it evolved over the years to such a point that when we were in government we had to make some changes to the old Fisheries Act.

The courts had determined that what was considered fish habitat was expanded and expanded so that almost all of Canada became fish habitat. Therefore, the act became quite unwieldily and these were some of the problems with the act. This is from a paper that I wrote in 2001 for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy where we looked at the current Fisheries Act. That was about the time when, what we called back home, the “fish cops” descended on prairie Canada and wanted to inspect every drainage ditch that every producer had put in place. The old Fisheries Act created a lot of uncertainty and created more uncertainty in the development process in prairie Canada, especially for rural communities. It was very unclear as to who had jurisdiction over natural resource development.

It had a wide scope. The definition of fish habitat under the old act included entire watersheds and extended the reach of the federal government to policy areas such as watershed and land use planning, areas where DFO clearly lacked expertise. Again, we are going back to this old regime. The program removed any regulatory discretion since all fish habitat was considered important. There was no ranking of significant fish habitat versus habitats that were less significant.

Canada is a very large place. In my province of Manitoba, for example, we have 100,000 lakes and no one can know everything about all these water bodies. I think Ontario has 250,000 lakes. We look at our coastlines, and the amount of fish habitat and fisheries water in Canada is absolutely enormous. Most of these fish populations are fairly poorly studied, and because of that, all water bodies are presumed to be fish habitat until proven otherwise.

Under the old act and again with the new act, the costs of compliance are not considered and for poorer rural municipalities the costs of compliance under the old act and probably under the new act will add a major burden. It also adds to the regulatory burden. The new act is layered on top of other regulations and I am going to return to this very important point later.

Ironically, the old Fisheries Act actually threatened existing conservation programs. There are many angling groups that work very hard to enhance and improve fish habitat. When a fish habitat is enhanced and improved, I guess that is an alteration. For example, in my constituency the walleye is considered the most valuable fish. One way to enhance walleye populations is to take trucks on the ice in the middle of winter, put gravel on the ice, and when the ice melts the gravel sinks and voila, there is a new walleye spawning area and it increases the population of walleye. One wonders if that is an alteration of fish habitat. I guess it is, but again, this will inhibit very important conservation programs. Again, we think that the new act would have these same attributes.

As I said in my question for the minister, in 2009 the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development conducted an audit under the old Fisheries Act. Again this is the regime we are going back to and this is what the auditor found in 2009:

Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment Canada cannot demonstrate that fish habitat is being adequately protected as the Fisheries Act requires. In the 23 years since the Habitat Policy was adopted, many parts of the Policy have been implemented only partially by Fisheries and Oceans Canada or not at all. The Department does not measure habitat loss or gain. It has limited information on the state of fish habitat across Canada—that is, on fish stocks, the amount and quality of fish habitat, contaminants in fish, and overall water quality. Fisheries and Oceans Canada still cannot determine the extent to which it is progressing toward the Policy’s long-term objective of a net gain in fish habitat.

The auditor went on to point out, “There has been little progress since 2001, when we last reported on this matter.” Therefore, the old way of doing business clearly failed.

We are going back to the old definition of fish habitat. Bill C-68 says that fish habitat means spawning grounds and any other areas, including “nursery, rearing, food supply and migration areas, on which fish depend directly or indirectly in order to carry out their life processes.”

The key word is “indirectly”. Ultimately, every drop of water, unless it is evapotranspired, flows into a smaller waterway, then to a larger waterway, and then eventually to an area where fish exist. The word “indirectly” means that basically all of Canada would become fish habitat. The lawn on Parliament Hill would be fish habitat. Therefore, clearly, such a wide definition of fish habitat would give great licence to fisheries officers or as we call them back home “fish cops” and could cause some grave difficulties for communities and municipalities.

This wide definition of fish habitat was emphasized over and over by witnesses at the fisheries and oceans committee, of which I was a part of. I sat through every single meeting during the revisions to the Fisheries Act that the government was proposing.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture is the largest farm group in Canada. Mr. Ron Bonnett is the president and also an active farmer in Ontario, and these are his comments regarding the pre-2012 Fisheries Act:

The experience that many farmers had with the Fisheries Act, unfortunately, was not a positive one. It was characterized by lengthy bureaucratic applications for permitting and authorizations, and a focus on enforcement and compliance measures taken by officials....

Many farmers were then relieved when the changes that were made just a few years ago [by the Conservative government] drastically improved the timeliness and cost of conducting regular maintenance and improvement activities to their farms as well as lifting the threat of being deemed out of compliance.

Mr. Bonnett went on to point out:

There are also many accounts of inconsistency in enforcement, monitoring, and compliance across Canada with different empowered organizations, which led to a confusion and indiscriminate approaches to enforcement and implementation. Even at the individual level, there were different interpretations of the act based on one's familiarity with agriculture....

It is CFA's position that a complete revert to reinstate all provisions of the Fisheries Act as they were would be unproductive, would re-establish the same problems for farmers, and would provide little improvement in outcome for the protection and improvement of fish habitat. Human-made water bodies such as drainage ditches simply should not be treated as fish habitat.

He went on to talk about the Fisheries Act of 2012 that we put in. He said:

The current streamlined approach is working far better for all and efforts should continue this approach....

Overall, any changes to the current Fisheries Act [2012] should be considered as to how they will support outcomes-based conservation rather than a process-oriented approach.

This is a very important point. Here is a farmer saying that the old Fisheries Act actually inhibited conservation projects that the agriculture community wanted to implement on their own land. The old act, which sounds like the new proposed act, was process and process, and enforcement and enforcement. If we really want to improve fish habitat, then we should get out there and improve it, but it is going to be very problematic whether projects like these will be allowed to continue.

Again, regarding the changes that the Conservatives made, Mr. Bonnett said, “There are still some challenges when you have multiple jurisdictions working on that”, but again, he says the Conservatives Fisheries Act 2012 “has improved dramatically from what it was.”

Regarding the old act, Mr. Bonnett had this to say:

...we saw a lot of inconsistency, depending on the DFO office. One would come in and say, no, there's no problem, go ahead. Another one would come in and it would be a whole bureaucratic process that you had to go through. I guess that would be the caution about just putting HADD back in place without having some clear and enforceable guidelines that spell out how you treat a municipal drain.

It is important to talk about the issues agriculture had with the old Fisheries Act. I and many others on this side of the House represent agricultural communities. I saw first-hand, prior to my becoming a member of Parliament, the problems the act created.

What did we do to modify the former Fisheries Act? In the old Fisheries Act, there was equal consideration of all fish species and all fish habitat. We focused on the sustainability and ongoing productivity of commercial, recreational, and aboriginal fisheries and on effective management of key threats, such as aquatic invasive species.

Going back to the old act, all projects were reviewed for any impacts on fish and fish habitat, and advice was provided on a project-by-project basis. We went to the effective management of projects linked to fisheries of commercial, recreational, and aboriginal importance through the adoption of tools.

In the old act, there was duplication and overlap between federal and provincial review processes. Our act, the Fisheries Act from 2012, relied on best place delivery and partnerships with third parties.

As I said, it goes back to the old way of doing business. Interestingly, in 1986, the department wrote “Policy for the Management of Fish Habitat”. I gather that it is still DFO's fish habitat policy. It is a great piece of work, done when Mr. Tom Siddon was the minister.

The 1986 fish habitat policy talks about the national application of the Fisheries Act. It says:

The policy applies to those habitats directly or indirectly supporting those fish stocks or populations that sustain commercial, recreational or Native fishing activities of benefit to Canadians.

That was the vernacular in 1986. Fisheries and Oceans Canada recognized its responsibility to protect and increase fish stocks. That first sentence is interesting. Our act, the Fisheries Act from 2012, is directly in line with the fish habitat policy in 1986, which talked about specific fisheries being protected through the protection of their habitat.

It goes on:

In addition, Fisheries and Oceans recognizes its responsibility to protect and increase fish stocks and their habitats that have either a demonstrated potential themselves to sustain fishing activities, or a demonstrated ecological support function for the fisheries resources. In accordance with this philosophy, the policy will not necessarily be applied to all places where fish are found in Canada, but it will be applied as required in support of fisheries resource conservation.

Our Fisheries Act of 2012 was actually in line with current departmental policy. This is why the act, as we wrote it, was well received by industry groups, rural communities, farm groups, angling groups across the country, and many others.

When we held our hearings at the fisheries committee, we asked a clear question of many of the witnesses who were obviously not in support of the Fisheries Act, 2012. We asked them if they could prove that there were any impacts on fish populations in Canada as a result of the changes made by the Fisheries Act, 2012. Naturally, there was a lot of hemming and hawing and saying they did not have enough information and that there was not enough time. On and on it went, but not a single witness could point to any fish population in Canada that was negatively affected by the changes embedded in the Fisheries Act of 2012.

Again, I am going to talk about the pros of the Conservative approach to fisheries conservation. We much prefer the direct approach to enhancing fish habitat. We created a program that was actually enabled by the Fisheries Act of 2012, called the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program, through which we partnered with fisheries conservation groups across the country. They provided half the funds for the work and the RFCPP provided the other half. Well over 800 fisheries enhancement projects were undertaken and successfully completed across the country.

I would note that the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program is being sunsetted by the current Liberal government. Is “sunset” not a nice word? It implies sitting on the beach with a cool one and watching the sun go down. Actually, this program has been shot down and is going down in flames. There are hundreds of angry groups across Canada whose mission is to do direct conservation and enhancement of fisheries across the country that will now not be provided with support.

I would point out something about Atlantic salmon, a fish that is obviously near and dear to the minister's heart, I would hope. Our fisheries and oceans committee did a major study on Atlantic salmon, and not a single recommendation from that study has been implemented. We recommended a seal reduction program. We recommended a significant increase in the striped bass harvest. We also recommended that diplomatic action be taken against Greenland for overfishing our Atlantic salmon. Nothing has been done.

Here is a clear case of the minister talking a good game about caring for fish, but there is a fish right in his backyard, the Atlantic salmon, of importance to thousands of anglers and businesses in his region, and nothing is being done to help that particular fish species.

However, over $200,000 or $300,000 is going to the fish cops. I would rather see direct programming that would help Atlantic salmon stocks, and other stocks across the country, to rebuild.

I am pleased that there is a provision in the proposed act to talk about rebuilding stocks. I like the habitat banking portion. Hopefully the government will be open to some amendments on that and open to some ideas on how it could be done, because a number of us have a few thoughts on that. Again, all that money is going to enforcement when there are groups, like the Miramichi Salmon Association, which I belong to, and the Atlantic Salmon Federation, that do things like create cold water refuges for Atlantic salmon so the fish can summer better and survive better than they would otherwise. We hope that projects like that could go on.

Bill C-68 is part of the Liberal plan to kill development. The Prime Minister's principal secretary, Mr. Gerald Butts, once said: “The real alternative is not an alternative route, it's an alternative economy. We don't think there ought to be a carbon-based energy industry by the middle of the century.” I am sure the thousands and thousands of middle-class Canadians who work in the energy industry will be very disappointed to know that this is the thinking in the Prime Minister's Office. The ultimate agenda is to severely restrict Canada's energy industry.

I want to quote the Canadian Electricity Association. It is headed by the hon. Sergio Marchi, who said:

In practical terms, this means that virtually any action, without prior authorization, could be construed as being in contravention of this Act. Consequently, the reinstatement of these measures will result in greater uncertainties for existing and new facilities, and unduly delay and/or discourage investment in energy projects that directly support Canada's clean growth agenda and realize its climate change objectives.

Of course, the other shoe to drop is how investment is leaving Canada. Suncor CEO Steve Williams said, in a headline that reported what Suncor's activities will be, “Suncor to shun major new projects amid Canada's 'difficult' regulatory environment”.

I had the honour of working in the oil sands in 2009-10. I lived in a camp for an oil sands project. There were people from all walks of life. People talk about the industry as if it were some kind of bad word. The industry is workers and people. There was a young dad saving for his child's education, a young couple saving for a down payment on a house, and a senior couple saving for a dignified retirement. These are the kinds of people who work in the energy industry. These are the kinds of people who will be hurt by this excessive regulatory process that is killing energy and natural resources jobs across the country. I am afraid the new Fisheries Act is just part of that, so I will be unable to support it.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 11:05 a.m.
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NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak in favour of Bill C-68, an act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence.

I would like to point out at the onset that we welcome the legislation to restore HADD, harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat, to the act. We believe the Liberals should have done this immediately following the last federal election. There is no excuse for waiting.

Back in 2012, when the Conservative government gutted habitat protection from the act, 600 scientists and four former fisheries ministers, including two Conservatives, wrote to the government, stating that the changes in the act “would be a most unwise action, which would jeopardize many important fish stocks and the lakes, estuaries and rivers that support them.” They were right.

Over the past six years since these changes, the number of charges relating to a violation of the new section 35 under the weakened Fisheries Act legislation was zero. That means since 2012, there have been no charges. This, despite the fact that according to documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun in 2016, there were almost 1,900 complaints.

The vague language in the Conservative bill made it impossible to prove that a project would kill fish. Once habitat protections were restored to the act, we believed a thorough review to improve and modernize the Fisheries Act would engage Canadians, would be based on science, indigenous, and community knowledge, and the precautionary principle would have been undertaken, immediately after the 2015 election. That would have been the responsible thing to do, but here we are today, two years later, and finally we have this legislation.

The Fisheries Act is the key federal law for fish habitat protection and one of the key laws for marine biodiversity, and is an essential part of Canada's environmental safety net.

When announcing this legislation, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard said that he was open to amendments that would strengthen the bill. Therefore, we will be proposing amendments for consideration.

In Bill C-68, the definition of fish habitat is improved by referring to the water fish need for survival. However, the proposed amendments do not include explicit legal protection for environmental flows, the amount and type of water needed for fish and aquatic ecosystems to flourish.

What are environmental flows? The Brisbane Declaration provides the most widely accepted and applied definition. It says, “Environmental flows describe the quantity, timing, and quality of water flows required to sustain freshwater and estuarine ecosystems and the human livelihoods and well-being that depend on these ecosystems.” Another document, which discussed the Brisbane Declaration, stated, “environmental flows are essential for providing both direct and indirect benefits on which current and future generations rely.”

We heard from Linda Nowlan of West Coast Environmental Law about the importance of protecting environmental flows at fisheries committee. She testified:

....the act must protect key elements of fish habitat, including environmental flows. The Fisheries Act should provide a legally binding national flow standard to conserve the quantity, timing, and quality of water flows, also known as environmental flows.

CSAS scientists point to this issue as a deficiency in the current regime and say that a national standard is needed. The act should define conditions of flow alteration that constitute HADD based on science advice from the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat and used by DFO. Our brief contains more information on that. These are key changes, and if enacted, they will demonstrate the government's commitment to modernize the act.

I certainly agree with her, and on this would encourage the government to review West Coast Environmental Law Association's brief, “Habitat 2.0: A New Approach to Canada's Fisheries Act”, which includes an entire section on the importance of environmental flows.

One of the greatest disappointments of the legislation is that it would not remove the promotion of unsafe salmon farming practices and farmed salmon as a product from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans mandate, which in turn would lower impacts to wild salmon.

The government should be commended, however, for its commitment to the precautionary principle but it needs to show it with action.

The precautionary principle recognizes that in the absence of scientific certainty, conservation measures can and should be taken when there is a lack of knowledge of a risk of serious or irreversible harm to the environment and/or resources using the best available information. Under this principle, the trigger for government action to protect wild salmon is for science to demonstrate the existence of more than a minimal risk.

In my province of British Columbia, the evidence has been piling up. Graphic videos have surfaced of virus-laden bloody discharge from farmed salmon processors spewing directly into the ocean, where wild salmon migrate, blood which has been confirmed to be infected with the highly infectious virus piscine reovirus, or PRV.

CTV's W5 covered first nations' occupation of open-net salmon farms on the west coast, as the minister knows. It showed footage that contained graphic images of deformed farmed salmon and spoke about the disastrous effects of spreading disease, which, on an industrial scale, has an impact on our wild salmon population.

The documentary relayed the struggle of environmental activists to remove open-net salmon farms from wild salmon migration routes, highlighted how the farms were spreading dangerous viruses like PRV to wild salmon, and how their expansion had correlated to the dramatic decline of B.C.'s wild salmon fishery. Further, the documentary showed how the salmon farm industry colluded with government to deny what DFO had already confirmed, and that is that PRV is present in farmed salmon and is spreading to wild salmon.

In British Columbia, Gary Marty, the head scientist-veterinarian in charge of testing for disease also co-authors industry-boosting papers with Marine Harvest, the largest player in the B.C. industry.

Clearly, the federal government is in conflict because the department's mandate contains a provision to promote the salmon aquaculture industry. This goes against the Cohen Commission recommendations, specifically recommendation 3, which says, “The Government of Canada should remove from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ mandate the promotion of salmon farming as an industry and farmed salmon as a product.”

In the W5 documentary, the minister said that the government was committed to not expanding the industry until the science was settled. Even the department's own scientists have shown PRV and HSMI have entered the wild in the Pacific Ocean. How much more risk do we need to demonstrate before it takes action? Clearly, this industry presents more than a minimal risk. It is time to get these diseased-ridden farms off of the wild salmon migration routes.

Last week, I was copied on a letter to the Prime Minister from Chief Ernest Alfred of the 'Namgis First Nation. He wants the Prime Minister to know why they walked out of his town hall meeting in Nanaimo. It is an important message that everyone in government needs to hear. I would like to read it onto the record. It states:

Open letter to the Government of Canada

Dear Mr. [Prime Minister],

I've been asked to provide an explanation as to why our People walked out of the Town Hall in Nanaimo. Important statements needed to be made to your Government, and on behalf of our People, I'd like to strongly express our total frustration for not getting the chance to address our serious concerns.

Representatives of numerous First Nations can be clearly seen seated in front of the giant Canadian flag. I am dressed in a Peace Dance Headdress. One that we use to show our peaceful welcome, and resolve. I am also wearing a woven cedar bark tunic used in war. My peace headdress was quickly removed after we left the building. A symbolic act to show the total lack of respect being shown our Nations. In our territorial waters off the Broughton Archipelago, war has been declared against us, and the livelihoods of our coastal People.

168 days ago, we started Occupations on the fish farms in our territories. Our mission has been to peacefully record, report and protest the illegal practices in our waters. This mission is not a new one. Our People have been demanding the removal of these feedlots for over 30 years. Until now, we have never had an investigation into fish farm operations in this manner before. This self-regulated industry cannot be trusted with such important information. To be very frank, we have become more than frustrated and impatient. During the last 168 days, we've seen Fisheries Officers only twice. There is no problem with Piscine Reovirus, and that is because the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has been trying to hide it. [The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans] has teamed up with Marine Harvest and is fighting us in Court. It seems to me that the Government of Canada is attempting to reconcile with Norway but using our territory to do that. That is wrong! Our waters have never been surrendered, neither has our lands and our hereditary rights to oversee them.

The very status of fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago have come into serious question. A Norwegian Invasion has taken place in our waters and we have been forced to act to defend our investments in wild salmon. Eviction notices have been given, heavy RCMP involvement, arrests, B.C. Supreme Court proceedings, lost aquaculture industry status and reputation, Government reviews and investigations have had little or no influence on the reckless practices of the aquaculture industry, within our territories. In fact, the companies have restocked almost all the fish farms in our waters, against numerous warnings of serious consequences. We have had enough!

First Nations People, environmental groups, ecotourism organizations, and countless wild salmon economy contributors, from one end of the Province to the other, have shown us their full support and solidarity. Emails of support continue to pour in from all over the world. It seems as if British Columbia's fish farm industry has the world's attention. Meanwhile, I find it troubling, sad and embarrassing that we do not have the attention of the Federal Government of Canada. We are all saying the same thing.

Our wild salmon economy must be protected. The jobs that fish farms provide will still be there when the farms are moved to shore using closed containment technology. The economy that is so important to your government will return along the west coast. Fish farms do not create jobs - Fish farms have killed jobs along the coast!

The Federal Government must remove the open net fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago that have remained in the territories of 6 allied Nations without the consent or consultation for over 30 years. Immediate action is required if the Federal Government has any hopes of reconciliation in our territories.

With all due respect, stand with us!

Sincerely, Kwakwabalas

Chief Ernest Alfred

Swanson Island Occupation--'Namgis First Nation

Clearly, first nations have had enough. How can a government that purports a true nation-to-nation government relationship with first nations ignore these pleas for action? It is shameful. I implore the government to listen. No more studies, no more words, it is time for action. Please meet with them.

In 2017, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans studied the Fisheries Act. The New Democratic Party of Canada submitted recommendations to be incorporated into the Fisheries Act in order to fully modernize it. We recommend that in order to advance the nation-to-nation relationship with first nations, a new modernized fisheries act should: one, recognize indigenous rights in the act; two, move beyond delegation to work with first nations as full partners in fisheries management; three, recognize first nations' right to commercial trade and barter opportunities; four, include guiding principles of reconciliation that allow for and promote consent-based shared decision-making processes, for example, co-management or co-governance with first nations, and that have the flexibility to reconcile pre-existing sovereignty and first nations jurisdictional authority; five, expand factors considered in decision-making to include principles of sustainability, including ecological integrity and cultural sustainability, indigenous law, protection of inherent aboriginal rights, and the principles found in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and finally, ensure meaningful consultation, accommodation, and a consent-seeking process with first nations to build new regulations.

I hope those recommendations can be incorporated into Bill C-68 at the committee stage.

Another concern we have is that Bill C-68 gives the minister too much arbitrary power to authorize harmful development and industrial projects. I hope the government will consider amendments to update language in the bill to require decisions based on scientific evidence rather than the minister's opinion. Let us put science in and keep the politics out.

Martin Olszynski, an assistant professor in law at the University of Calgary, an expert in fishery law, agrees. He is quoted in DeSmog Canada as saying:

[T]here's an unfortunate use of "discretionary language, meaning that many components of the proposed legislation are basically up to the opinion of the minister—and requiring no specific evidence.

He went on to say:

For example, there's a section about implementing measures to manage the decline of fish stocks. The newly amended legislation includes the phrase “if the Minister is of the opinion that a fish stock that has declined to its limit reference point or that is below that point would be impacted.” That's not satisfactory for some.

In the same article, Brett Favaro, research scientist at the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University said:

I was hoping for a line that was not “if the minister is of the opinion that a fish stock has declined”, but “if the fish stock has declined as determined by the best available evidence then there should be measures in place aimed at rebuilding the stock.”

I am hopeful that we will be able to clean up some of these language issues at committee.

Bill C-68 also enacts the NDP recommendation to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans on rebuilding. We recommended that in order to prioritize the protection of fish and fish habitat, a new modernized Fisheries Act should mandate rebuilding fish stocks when they have fallen below healthy levels and mandate a report annually to Parliament on the status of Canada's fish stocks and the management decisions made for stocks in critical zones.

In October 2017, Oceana Canada released a comprehensive review of the state of Canada's fisheries and the first annual assessment of how the government is managing them. The results were alarming. They revealed that Canadian fisheries are in serious trouble with only one-third of stocks considered healthy and 13% of those in critical condition. Further, 36% could not be determined due to insufficient information.

Although the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada reported 19 Canadian marine stocks in critical condition, Oceana found 26 in its analysis using the same sources of information. At the time of the report, Dr. Robert Rangeley, director of science, Oceana Canada stated, “What's more concerning is that there are only three plans in place to rebuild these 26 dangerously depleted populations."

It is shameful that Canada lags behind international standards of sustainable fisheries management. In countries where governments are legally obligated to rebuild, fish populations have bounced back. The numbers are impressive. Mandatory rebuilding in the United States has meant that in the last 20 years, 43 stocks have been rebuilt. Those stocks now generate on average 50% more revenue than when they were overfished.

This is the first time rebuilding of depleted fish stocks has been included in Canada's Fisheries Act; however, details on rebuilding will be in the regulations. This does concern me, but if those regulations are strong, with timelines and targets, and if they consider the impacts of climate change and species interactions, we will be on a path to success.

I will finish with a quote by Susanna Fuller from the Ecology Action Centre, who agrees. She stated:

We will continue to advocate that the regulations require timelines and targets as well as an ecosystem approach to rebuilding, taking into account impacts of climate change and species interactions.

I am—

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 11:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very important speech and his comments to the government which really does not listen.

I wonder if the member could comment on a statement by the Hon. Sergio Marchi from the Canadian Electricity Association. He is a previous Liberal cabinet minister. He said that Bill C-68 “represents one step forward but two steps back”. He went on to say:

In practical terms, this means that virtually any action, without prior authorization, could be construed as being in contravention of this Act...will result in greater uncertainties for existing and new facilities, and unduly delay and/or discourage investment in energy projects that directly support Canada’s clean growth agenda and realize its climate change objectives.

Here we have a government that is not listening to the conservation side of things, first nations, and is not listening to the business side of things.

I wonder if the member could comment on how much work has to be done in committee to get the bill right.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 12:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman.

First, I would like to highlight a comment made by my colleague from the Lower Mainland. He said that they wanted to make the act even better than it was before. I agree with him. It was pretty good. Back in 2012, the changes we made under our previous government were substantive.

Being the parliamentary outdoor caucus co-chair, we deal a lot with fishing, specifically recreational fishing. If people were lucky enough to get out last weekend to do some ice fishing, good for them. I did not have time. However, a lot of the time we have as families together, we to do exactly that.

However, it always seems a little disingenuous of the Liberals across the way when they cannot just say that they are doing something good for fisheries or they are doing something positive in Bill C-68 without giving us a shot. I would like to argue about that and defend our record.

We started a very substantive program, the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program. We provided millions of dollars to basically local organizations to help people who were interested in seeing their own rivers and tributaries have a sustainable fishery for recreational fishers.

An article from 2015, which references the OFAH, a non-partisan group, states:

...the largest the largest non-profit charitable fish and wildlife conservation organization in Ontario, applauds the federal government’s decision to substantially increase the funding to the highly successful Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnership Program by providing an additional $15 million over two years.

When it mentions the federal government, it is referring to the Conservative government. This is just one announcement of many. The article goes on to say, “Ours was one of 96 projects from across Canada funded in the first year of the program.” We are talking about millions of dollars.

Some people think that just the odd person goes out and fishes on a weekend, but recreational fishing generates over $8 billion in annual economic activity. Frankly, we like the heritage part of it. Personally, I like going out to fish. However, the economic activity is something to support, and that is what we did in the previous government.

For the Liberals to say that Bill C-68 is a great saviour of recreational fishing in Canada is a stretch. A lot was done before. Can a lot be done? Absolutely. We are all concerned about the numbers of fish we see in certain tributaries off the west coast and east coast, and we want to do all we can. The Conservatives and Liberals can agree upon that. To say that the previous government did nothing is not true.

I want to speak a little about Bill C-68 and what it seeks to do. This is where the previous government had it right.

The Liberals always seem to want to increase bureaucracy. They are talking about funding different groups to study what is normally done by volunteers right now. A group in Valemount does a great job of establishing salmon and fish habitat in the rivers and doing what it can to build fish ladders, etc. A lot of it is done by volunteers. It is done by local people who are interested in fishing or who just want to see a healthy fish habitat in their local community of Valemount.

However, the Liberal government is now seeking to dump a bunch of money into funding different target and study groups, spending money on what is already being done by volunteers today. Again, I would question its logic of funding things that work quite well on their own right now, being driven by volunteers. Volunteers are a good thing. They are there because they are interested and want to make our rivers and streams a better place for fish. Again, why are the Liberals throwing more money at a situation, which does not always make it better?

We see a number of challenges with returning stocks, depending on the rivers. We see efforts needing to be made. With Bill C-68, the Liberal government is maybe trying to do something that is better, but building a bigger bureaucracy will not help one fish in one river, especially in my home province of British Columbia.

We support a strong conservation effort generally. I know the member who will speak after me is an avid fisherman. Most of our speakers grab a rod and reel, so we really do care about preserving the numbers, especially the returning fish. We absolutely support any efforts that would substantively increase the numbers returning and substantially help recreational fishers access particular lands.

One item of concern, which is not really related to Bill C-68 but does relate to recreational fishing in Canada, is marine protection areas that the current government is seeking to challenge for recreational fishers in the province of B.C.

The Liberals say that they are for fisheries, et cetera, but fisheries are meant to be used by the people. Any kind of restriction of that fishery is a concern for Conservative members on this side of the House. We are definitely concerned for the long-term future of recreational fishing, the history that it brings, and all the great experience families have. We fished a couple of years ago with my kids and they all caught a fish. It was a great experience. It was one of those memorable moments of our summer of 2016.

I wish the government would spend money where money is well-received, which is literally by the fish in streams. Back in the mid-1990s, I had the pleasure to work as a carpenter on a fish ladder in a fish creek area to the north of where I live. I saw the effort that went into that by people who cared about the stream and having a sustainable fishery. A lot of that effort was done by people who were volunteering and doing it out of the goodness of their hearts, not just for a paycheque.

The government should look at what works in the current system with conservation groups in British Columbia, my home province, in Atlantic Canada, and across the Prairies. In whatever province, there are people who like to fish. I would look at what is already working. The government should do more of that as opposed to trying to change the whole regime. I do not think that is a great way to spend money and it is not a great way to have a sustained fishery in our country.

The goal for everybody in here is to try to achieve a sustainable fishery so our kids, our grandkids, and our great-grandkids can fish well into the future. I know that is the goal of our members and I know it is the goal of some across the way. Again, we want to ensure that when the government spends taxpayer dollars, it spends them wisely, not just throwing dollars at a problem expecting them to stick, and not fix it.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 12:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the fact that the member's kids fish. That is a great example of why we want to keep fishing a viable thing in Canada and ensure we can have it for our future generations.

There is a key part to this conversation on Bill C-68 and that this great legislation will be a fix-all of all the problems. I have been reading multiple articles, but one article said that it was not a matter of legislation; it was a matter of implementation. If we need to fix our implementation to ensure that better results will ensue, we need to look a bit closer at what that would look like, rather than throw money at a completely different group, do something completely different, expecting to have a great result. Implementation is the issue here and we need to get to the bottom of how to implement a good process in Canada.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Mr. Speaker, again, the previous government, which the member was a part of, as was I, as members of the British Columbia caucus, saw great rollouts in the salmon foundation and other really great initiatives.

Then we see where politics enters the fray. When we have something that is understood to work, where we have volunteers on the ground making this thing work in British Columbia, Bill C-68 and the rationale behind Bill C-68 should be to fund it some more, because it is going to work so let us keep it going. We have seen the opposite happen with the Liberal government retracting funding for things that do work. It is a strange thing that is hard for British Columbians in general to understand.

Does the current government understand what recreational fishing is, and not just recreational fishing but preserving fish, and not so that nobody can ever fish again? Again, we are getting concerned with marine protected areas that actually protect areas from people fishing. That is not what our goal should be. Our goal should be to protect the fish so we can go fishing, not the opposite.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise on Bill C-68 today to talk about the changes to the Fisheries Act.

People are probably wondering why a prairie boy from Manitoba is getting up to talk about fisheries. I want to remind everyone here that I am the proud representative of Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, which is home to Lake Winnipeg, Lake Manitoba, the Winnipeg River, Lake St. Martin, and the communities around them.

I represent over 1,000 commercial fishers, fishing families that make their living off that freshwater fishery. Lake Winnipeg is a three-season fishery. Fishers are on the ice in the winter, spring, and fall. Those families depend on the fishery. There are 23 small craft harbours on Lake Winnipeg alone. This is a great natural resource that deserves protection.

That is why Conservatives, I in particular, support protecting fish habitat and we support protecting the commercial fishery and the recreational fishery, which are also important to my riding. People come from all over the world to enjoy catching trophy walleye and northern pike. Some of the best channel catfishing in the world takes place in the north Red River in my riding. We are quite proud of the area. It is a fishery that we want to protect.

I have grave concerns with what the Liberal government is proposing. The Liberals have gone back to the future, to the old days when it was going to use a stick to hammer users of the land, hammer communities, to hammer down and whack-a-mole, so to say, any farmer, any municipality that was trying to do any improvement or developments.

The Liberals are also going to penalize clean energy like hydroelectric power. In my almost 15 years as a parliamentarian we have been dealing with the impact on protected fish habitat of doing hydroelectric generation in the development of those dams and the impact of federal regulations on them.

It is a stick here rather than a carrot. When the Conservatives were in government, we were proud to work with stakeholders, recreational fishers and commercial fishers. We were proud to work alongside municipalities to adopt best practices and to provide the enhancement dollars needed to protect fish habitat. We saw the greatest benefits using a carrot rather than a stick to reward good behaviour, to enhance fishery protection, and to protect natural ecosystems. That generated results.

The Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard announced $284 million for enforcement, for putting more fisheries and oceans inspectors out across the Prairies to tell municipalities they cannot do this, to stop farmers from draining their flooded fields, and to try to protect some fish habitat in the bottom of a ditch.

That did not work back in the nineties. It did not work in the early 2000s, and that is why the Conservative government put those enforcement officers where they were needed the most, where we saw overfishing, where we saw destruction of habitat, especially in British Columbia, where they enforced the legislation the way it should have been enforced, not by harassing municipalities, farmers, and other resource users.

We do not need more bureaucratic red tape. What we need is a government that understands the needs of all stakeholders and that wants to work together collaboratively to provide the best habitat and the best environment to protect our fishery.

The Liberals may have introduced more dollars for bureaucratic red tape but they cut spending from existing habitat protection programs. The member for Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa and others in our caucus worked long and hard to bring about the recreational fish habitat protection program, a program that provided dollars to little wildlife organizations to protect habitat, mainly for angling, and a lot of it happened in our little lakes and estuaries along the bigger waterways. That program benefited both the commercial fishery and the aboriginal fishery. They were able to capitalize on the increased fish stocks and the habitat protection that happened, the natural groins going into our lakes, rivers, and oceans that allow that nutrient load to be soaked up through the marshlands and the swamp.

The Liberal government killed the wetland conservation program, which was really important, not just from the standpoint of fish habitat protection and protecting the habitat for upland game birds and wetland game birds like geese, ducks, and prairie chickens, but it also provided dollars to encourage land-use owners to keep those wetlands, because they are not just the kidneys but the main reciprocals for aquifers across this country, to feed the groundwater and build it up. It is shameful that the government is virtue signalling, telling people it is going to do more to protect fish habitat, when, in actuality, it has killed programs, reduced the dollars available to enhance and protect fish habitat, and will be spending more taxpayers' dollars on more red tape and bureaucracy.

There would be regulations, but we do not know what those regulations are going to look like yet. We have a case where the government is going to place more rules and regulations on municipalities, rural communities, first nations, and resource users, including clean energy producers like hydroelectric power, and in Manitoba, Manitoba Hydro, rather than adopt best practices. That is what Conservatives encouraged when we were in government. If municipalities were going to have to clean ditches, they would be told this is the time of year to do it and this is how to do it. They did not have to file a whole bunch of paperwork and hire engineers or environmental consultants to do these environmental assessments to get through the DFO checklist.

We also know that there are going to be more costs on municipalities. Every project they have to do would require them to do duplicative work and provide background documentation to the federal and provincial governments. There is no clarity in the bill as to how to get rid of the redundancy and all of the costs that are going to be borne by the municipalities, cash-strapped municipalities trying to serve their ratepayers.

I am an agriculture producer and my son-in-law is a grain farmer and one of the greatest things we deal with in my riding of Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman is flooding, excess precipitation, whether it is from snow runoff, excessive rain, or downstream flooding coming down the Red and Assiniboine Rivers from the United States and western Canada. We are at the bottom of the Lake Winnipeg basin, so we have to deal with this excess moisture. Farmers have to have the ability to drain their lands, do flood mitigation, and stop the harm and damage that happens.

We lived through this in the 1990s under the Chrétien government. When farmers tried to dig drains to draw the excess moisture away from their fields, which was drowning their crops and livelihoods and that could possibly bankrupt them, DFO was there to hammer them over the head with a big stick telling them they could not do it. They were fined and penalized and their projects were stopped. We have to adopt best practices to ensure that people can live on the land. I am scared that this is just another Liberal policy that is anti-farmer and anti-rural municipalities.

Finally, fishers have not asked for these changes. We already know that under the old system, we saw no results, the system the Liberals had back in the 1990s and early 2000s. We are going back to the future, where this is not resolved. My friend just said that there are no metrics on how to manage the actual result. If there are no results, then how would this benefit commercial fishers? How would this benefit aboriginal fishers and commercial fishers who enjoy angling and our waterways?

I ask the government to look at this in detail to ensure that it is not being overly bureaucratic, that it is not adding more red tape to an already very onerous system, and to ensure that rural Canadians and communities, whether they be aboriginal, agriculture producers, or fishers, are all able to benefit from this, and that extra costs are not being layered upon municipalities and provincial governments, so there can be drainage, flood mitigation, and flood protection unhampered by an overzealous federal government.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 1:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to Bill C-68, an act to amend the Fisheries Act and other acts in consequence.

I would first like to extend my best wishes to the fisheries minister. It is good to see him here in the chamber as he perseveres through the health challenges of life. Even though we may exchange barbs and strong differences at times, at the beginning and end of each day, we are all Canadians with families, friends, and loved ones. I wish him well.

I would also be remiss if I did not also wish my good friend and colleague, the member for Cariboo—Prince George, a speedy recovery. We all know his determination will drive his recovery as he continues to advocate for his constituents and all Canadians.

Much of what is in Bill C-68 is aimed at one objective for the Liberal government, the perpetuation of the idea of lost protections. I propose that this idea is based on false and unsubstantiated claims, and I will speak today to how those claims have not been proven or substantiated.

The Fisheries Act is one of the oldest federal statutes in Canada dating back almost 100 years. Amendments have been made to the act from time to time, and whether the act actually included a purposes section or not, the overall principle of the act has been to manage and protect our fisheries.

As we know, Canada is a vast country with coastlines and fisheries on three different oceans covering a multitude of species, some sedentary and others very migratory. Canada also has a vast array of fisheries, varying from small local clam beds to fisheries for cod and salmon extending over hundreds of thousands of square kilometres. Managing all those fisheries is complicated by the very fact that some of the most sought after species are very migratory. Some fulfill their life cycle over vast expanses of oceans, while others migrate from freshwater to marine environments and back again.

Over the years, federal governments have taken different strategies on managing Canada's fisheries. Some management strategies have been successful, while the failure of others has been self-evident. What has been consistent is that successive governments have attempted to maintain the health of our fisheries so they are all conserved and managed in ways that allow perpetual value to be drawn from our oceans and fisheries resources. Our prosperity as Canadians depends on the sustainable management of these resources to support fishers, harvesters, and the communities that depend on them for the benefits of their subsistence.

Changes made to the Fisheries Act in 2012 and amendments in 2013 were developed to address long-standing weaknesses evidenced by the inconsistent interpretation and application of the pre-2012 Fisheries Act. In studying the 2012 changes to the Fisheries Act, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans heard from Canadians that the pre-2012 act required amendments to modernize it and make it more relevant and functional for those who live under the act every day.

Input from Ducks Unlimited Canada stated that under the previous Fisheries Act, many of its conservation projects and activities that sought Fisheries Act changes to restore, enhance, or manage wetland habitat were deemed to be “fish habitat destruction” by DFO. In other words, these projects that could have improved our habitat and fisheries were not allowed under the pre-2012 definition. As such, the effect of the previous Fisheries Act limited this conservation organization's ability to “deliver new conservation programming designed to protect and conserve habitat that is essential to waterfowl and other wetland-dependent species, including fish.”

This is the reality of the previous prohibitions of the Fisheries Act. These are prohibitions that the government is seeking to restore in the bill. What we are presented with in Bill C-68 are proposals to amend the Fisheries Act, including some seeking to restore the previous elements of the act that had proven to be dysfunctional. The bill has a significant number of proposals. In fact, there are 58 pages of proposed amendments, not including the 13 pages of explanatory notes and revisions.

In poring over the bill over the past week, many questions have come up, which will likely take time to be answered by the ministry, by the minister, or eventually by the courts.

As parliamentarians, we are provided technical briefings on bills that come before the House. It is a privilege that we do not take lightly. These technical briefings are meant to provide us as legislators answers to some of the difficult questions that are hidden within draft legislation.

I must say that after attending a technical briefing on Bill C-68 earlier this week, there are more questions than answers received. I have heard from stakeholders, Canadians who live under the Fisheries Act across Canada, who also have a significant number of questions, and as a result, reasonable concerns related to the bill.

How will habitat banks be established? There seem to be no parameters. Much of this is left to be within regulations that no one has seen any drafting of at this point. How will those habitat banks be monitored and validated? Again, there is nothing specific in the proposed act, and it is all left open to what it might be down the road. There are many questions but so few answers.

What class of projects will qualify as designated projects, meaning which ones will or will not have prior approval? There are no answers.

What is the definition of an “ecologically significant” area? I found the definition within Bill C-68 to be very vague. There was no specific direction as to what might or might not be considered an ecologically significant area. Would this be an area that may hold a few goldfish or would it be a key component to a spawning area for some of our precious salmon stocks? There are no definitions within the act.

What information factored into ministerial decisions will the minister be able to withhold from Canadians with a direct interest in the decisions? We see portions of the proposed act that say information to the minister may be held confidential and not released. What about the proponent whose project is held up and has no access to know what information or what area of information might be withheld from them?

Who will be able to establish laws over fisheries and oceans? How will consistency be ensured to ensure that a patchwork of legal regimes is not created across Canada? There were provisions in the previous act where laws regarding fisheries were shared with the provinces under agreements. We also see this now as a possibility with first nations. We welcome the involvement of first nations in the management of our fisheries, but with the multitude of different first nations across the country, there are questions from people who may potentially be impacted by this as to how they would monitor these new laws that might be in place. Who would oversee them in general?

Again, on the new laws that may come into place, who will enforce laws of the various jurisdictions that the bill proposes to recognize? We do not know whether that would be under the laws of Canada, under the laws of the provinces, or under the laws of other bodies that may be created to create laws, which the bill would enable them to do.

Again, how will those laws be applied and enforced beyond Canada's 200-mile economic zone to the entire continental shelf? I do not know if anyone has addressed that point in the debate on Bill C-68. It proposes that the Fisheries Act apply to all waters on the continental shelf, beyond Canada's 200-mile economic zone. These are the types of questions that may only be determined through committee work and the further development of regulations, but this may eventually end up in the courts, and it could be years down the road before we have answers.

There are many proposals in this bill related to indigenous communities and their participation in the management and conservation of fisheries. The Conservative Party of Canada's policy declaration clearly supports the economic sustainability of indigenous communities. I believe that the fisheries could be a driving factor in sustaining those indigenous communities. However, the ambiguity of this bill's provisions for indigenous communities is not helpful. In fact, it may be counterproductive.

First nations, harvesters, and processors all need certainty of access to the resource to retain investments and to remain competitive in what is an ever more competitive world market. I have been meeting with stakeholders over the past few months, and their biggest concern is certainty of access to the market, but more so, certainty of access to the product, whether it is fish products, finfish fisheries, aquaculture, or other types.

Already I am hearing from indigenous organizations that work in fisheries that this bill is deficient in defining the essential details of what it proposes for indigenous communities. It is safe to say that the government's response will be something along the lines of, “Just trust us.” We have seen what the government does when we agree to just trust it. It has a Prime Minister who has been found guilty of breaking Canadian law four times, yet there are no consequences.

A significant number of indigenous governments and fisheries organizations have valid reasons for doubting the sincerity of the government. I will share with the House one example of how the government undermined the trust of indigenous peoples in the review process that led to this bill.

In 2016, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard directed the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans to undertake a study to review the 2012 changes to the Fisheries Act and to table a report early in 2017. As such, a motion was passed to undertake a study and to table the report by January 30, 2017. Once the study was under way, it became very clear that the deadline imposed by the government was insufficient for the task at hand or for the process of consultation created by the government. The minister's office even put out a news release stating that feedback from public consultations would be provided to the committee for consideration in its report. That news release was revised a second and third time, but the original said that all feedback would be provided to the committee.

Opposition members of the committee tried repeatedly to pass motions for an extension of the study deadline. The government members on the committee eventually agreed to add four meetings, or two weeks, to the deadline. Indigenous fishery stakeholders were invited to participate in consultation sessions and to submit briefs for the committee's review of the Fisheries Act. In fact, through a participant funding program alone, 54 different indigenous groups received funding to assist in the preparation of their submissions to the committee. These 54 groups received over $900,000 to produce their briefs. What happened to their input? How did the government treat their consultations? Sadly, due to the government's refusal to extend the committee study deadline, these 54 briefs arrived after the committee held its last meeting for the study on December 12, 2016.

This is how the government has undermined the relationship with indigenous communities in the review process that led up to this bill. Indigenous Canadians deserve better. The government has repeatedly stated that this bill is necessary to restore so-called lost protections. I have asked the government for proof of harm resulting from these so-called lost protections numerous times. In response to one particular Order Paper question, the government indicated that it could not produce any proof, because the department did not have the resources or the mandate to make that determination. There we have it. This bill is meant to restore something the government cannot produce any proof of.

The minister made claims of face-to-face consultations when he appeared at the committee on November 2, 2016, yet an Order Paper question response, dated March 22, 2017, months after the minister stated that he was having face-to-face consultations, contradicted this, stating that no face-to-face consultations had taken place. So much for consultation, transparency, and accountability, a trend we see with the Liberal government.

Why should Canadians, indigenous or non-indigenous, trust the government's motivations in this bill? The proposed alternative measure section states:

No admission, confession or statement accepting responsibility for a given act or omission made by an alleged offender as a condition of being dealt with by alternative measures is admissible in evidence against them in any civil or criminal proceedings.

This is an absolute disconnect with accountability. The minister or ministerial staff do not have to disclose information or consequences to proponents. This is a case of a law being implemented with no consequences for breaking the law. Tie this to the fact that the Prime Minister has been found guilty of breaking the law on four counts, yet there are no consequences laid out in the law.

I also have concerns about the establishment of advisory panels, which would be remunerated and paid expenses. This sounds like typical Liberalism: creating additional layers of bureaucracy with no stipulations developed regarding membership, frequency and location of meetings, remuneration amounts, or any of the usual measures put in place to avoid runaway spending and lack of accountability.

Proposed subsection 8(1) of the bill sets out the establishment of fees for quotas, and proposed section 14 establishes the setting out of fees for conferral. In other words, more fees would be passed on to permit or authorization holders. Proposed section 14 would also create the ability to have fees for regulatory processes, with no parameters given as to who may be charged and how much. Proponents should open their wallets, because the government wants to empty them before anyone starts.

There are significant sections in the 2012 revisions to the act that gave the minister the ability to designate ecologically significant areas. This section has been retained. Many pieces of the 2012 legislation have been retained in this act. However, it will take more time to flesh them out and see what was done in 2012 that has been retained and is recognized as good work.

Sections 4.1 to 4.3 of the 2012 revisions provide the legal framework to guide future agreements with provinces to further the purposes of the act. They also allow the Governor in Council to declare that certain provisions of the act or its regulations do not apply in a province if a federal-provincial agreement provides that a provincial law is equivalent to the provisions of the federal regulations. This segment is retained in Bill C-68 and would be further extended to situations where there is an agreement with a recognized indigenous governing body.

The standing committee also heard from the Mining Association of Canada on the changes made to the act in 2012. I quote from Justyna Laurie-Lean, of the Mining Association, who said that the changes in 2012 have, “in practice, broadened the circumstances in which the section 35 prohibitions apply and increased the circumstances in which an authorization and offsets are required.”

These are only some examples of why I say that claims of lost protections are false and unsubstantiated. Many of the recommendations of the standing committee have been implemented. One of them, recommendation no. 3, was that the original definition of HAAD be revised before being reinserted.

As members can see, there are many more questions about this bill. I look forward to questions from my colleagues and to furthering this document in committee.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 1:25 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I note that my hon. colleague mentioned technical briefings to understand Bill C-68. I assure him that I did not need a technical briefing. I was so relieved to read legislation that made sense again.

When I was in this House in 2012, when Bill C-38 was tabled at first reading, it was over 440 pages long and changed 70 different pieces of legislation. We were never offered a technical briefing. There was a rush to push it through. Former fisheries ministers, two former Conservative fisheries ministers and two former Liberal fisheries ministers, ministers Fraser, Siddon, Dhaliwal, and Anderson, were united in saying that what was happening was the gutting of the Fisheries Act.

I would ask my hon. colleague to reflect that perhaps this legislation coming forward to re-establish the protection of fish habitat and to re-establish fundamental notions that we protect our fisheries and fish, regardless of whether they are destined for human consumption, would be an improvement in Canada's ability to steward the natural environment. We, as Canadians, hold an obligation to take care of these living marine resources far better than we have in the past.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 3:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today, but I am not pleased about the topic or Bill C-68. This is a large bill that would have huge impacts on fisheries and fish stocks across Canada. The bill would also have wide-ranging implications for economic development, farmers, rural municipalities, and more, and I will get into that in detail.

As a relatively new member of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, I was not on the committee when it studied the 2012 changes that were made to the Fisheries Act. However, I would like to focus a good chunk of my comments on the testimony that was heard during those hearings.

The committee started its study in October 2016 and presented a report to the House in February 2017. The committee heard from 50 different witnesses during the study and received over 188 submitted briefing notes. It was a very comprehensive study and I think would have been a useful tool for the government to use when it was drafting this proposed legislation. The study directly looked at the changes that the previous government made in 2012 to the Fisheries Act, which were changes that significantly improved the Fisheries Act.

One of the significant changes made in 2012 was a shift away from what is commonly referred to as “HADD”, which stands for harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat. It is contained within proposed subsection 35(1) of the bill, where it states:

No person shall carry on any work, undertaking or activity that results in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat.

Essentially this means that any sort of development that could be seen to be harmful, altering, disrupting or destroying fish habitats, would be subject to an immense amount of review and red tape and could be stopped or prohibited. Furthermore, it is unclear what constitutes fish habitat. It was found that DFO and others played fast and loose with this term, and used a broad definition to apply this to waterways that really had no impact on fish stocks. This system was ineffective, a nightmare for development, and had no measurable success in protecting fish populations.

Of the things that were affected the most by this, I have some on my farms. They are waterways after a very heavy rain or first thing in the spring runoff, but other than that, they are dry and able to be farmed the rest of the year. However, the same things applied to them as what would apply to, say, the St. Lawrence River, which is totally ridiculous.

The change in 2012 brought in a much simpler and effective definition to ensure that fish were protected but that reasonable projects could still move forward. This new definition was as follows:

No person shall carry on any work, undertaking or activity that results in serious harm to fish that are part of a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery, or to fish that support such a fishery.

This definition is much more effective and provides certainty and clarity for developers, farmers, fishermen, first nations, and more.

In the report from the fisheries and oceans committee, the third recommendation stated that:

Any revision of the Fisheries Act should review and refine the previous definition of HADD due to the previous definition’s vulnerability to being applied in an inconsistent manner and the limiting effect it had on government agencies in their management of fisheries and habitats in the interest of fish productivity.

Therefore, I am slightly confused as to why we are now seeing what looks to be a return to HADD in Bill C-68. It does not make any sense. The testimony is there in black and white, and that testimony, of course, came from witnesses.

For example, as I mentioned, the committee heard from 50 different witnesses and received more than 188 submitted briefing notes. Not one single individual or organization was able to present the committee with any scientific or legal proof of harm that was a result of the changes made in 2012. We all know that, at the time, the environmental associations and others threw their hands up in the air, yelled, screamed, and kicked that these changes would be the death of all fish in Canada, but the proof is just not there. Six years later, I think our fish are doing pretty good. However, it is my distinct fear that the government is simply returning to the pre-2012 provisions just to appease these groups.

The return of HADD in Bill C-68 would undoubtedly be used as a way for opponents of projects to prevent development projects from moving forward. Just look at the pipeline that was discussed in depth yesterday. By returning to this system, a system that had proven to be ineffective, the government is playing right into the wheelhouse of those who seek to halt, delay, and do whatever they can to stop all forms of development in the country. That has to end.

One impact that is not always clear to many is the impact farmers face due to the Fisheries Act, and it will be 10 times worse under a system that uses the HADD definition. When farmers are looking to expand or develop their farmland they can get caught up in reviews of their projects under the Fisheries Act. A return to HADD would make the lives of farmers much more difficult.

When testifying before the committee, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture stated that prior to 2012 there were lengthy bureaucratic applications for permitting and authorizations, but the 2012 changes drastically improved the timeliness and cost of conducting regular maintenance and improvement activities to their farms. CFA expanded on this by stating that it is the CFA's position that a complete revert—which we are getting from the government now—to reinstate all provisions of the Fisheries Act as they were, would be unproductive, would re-establish the same problems for farmers, and would provide little improvement. That goes back to the example I used of intermittent waterways on our farms being treated like they were fish habitat.

What is ironic about the attack on farmers in the bill is that today is Canada Agriculture Day. As we should be doing every day, let us recognize the important work that farmers do and ensure that their voices are heard. Farmers do not want to return to a pre-2012 system. In fact, no one but those that oppose development do. The government should stop catering to these interest groups and abandon this plan.

The reason these changes came about was members of Parliament from all parties came together for the rural caucus to come up with ways to improve things overall, whether it was agriculture, rural health care, or whatever. The changes that came from the bill in 2012 came out of discussions there. Just because the government has groups of people who are against anything going on in the country, to appease them, to try to get their vote, it is saying, “Okay, we'll give you what you want.” That is not the way to do business or to govern.

It is not just farmers that have concerns though. The Canadian Electricity Association said that Bill C-68 is “one step forward but two steps back”. It went on to state:

CEA is particularly concerned that the government has chosen to return to pre-2012 provisions of the Fisheries Act that address “activity other than fishing that results in the death of fish, and the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction (HADD) of fish habitat”. In practical terms, this means that virtually any action, without prior authorization, could be construed as being in contravention of this Act. Consequently, the reinstatement of these measures will result in greater uncertainties for existing and new facilities, and unduly delay and/or discourage investment in energy projects that directly support Canada’s clean growth agenda and realize its climate change objectives.

To make a long story short, this is bad news for Canadian development, and will have no positive impact on the protection of fish populations in Canada. I urge the government to revisit the return of HADD and amend the legislation to ensure that economic development and environmental protections go hand in hand and not head to head.

I sit on the committee with my hon. colleague, the member for Avalon. I know he has the best interests of fish at heart, but I would ask him to consider agriculture in this. The examples are these intermittent waterways that are put back in the way they were before, which is just not right. It is a direct attack on agriculture and does not do anything for the environment, fish, or any other thing.

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February 13th, 2018 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, the easy answer to my colleague's question is that yes, this will cause negative problems. It will cost the consumers, who are Canadian taxpayers, more for the product, in this case hydro.

The changes in 2012 were done for a specific reason. They were done to still have a process where approvals could get done properly, but there were timelines put on them. I always point people who are opposed to anything and everything, and in this case, the people behind this bill, to the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. For 25 years the government, environmentalists, and other organizations held up businesses who were willing to invest in the project. Really, all that the government was saying in 2012 was to set a reasonable timeline and tell the companies yes or no, not maybe. Tell them one way or the other, and if the answer is no, they will accept that. Then they will take their money and invest it in other Canadian projects, which is only good for jobs, business, and the economy. That is what this is about. However, Bill C-68 reverses that and makes it longer and more onerous.

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February 13th, 2018 / 4:30 p.m.
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NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague across the floor for her work on this, and for bringing in both Bill C-68 and Bill C-69.

My riding of Kootenay—Columbia was Conservative for 21 years. Quite frankly, it was the Conservative government's attack on environmental legislation, including the Fisheries Act, Navigable Waters Act, and the Environmental Assessment Act, that led to the change in my riding of Kootenay—Columbia.

I was a regional manager with Fish and Wildlife for southeastern B.C. from 2002 to 2009. At the time, there was a DFO office in the Kootenays that had four staff working in it. They showed me a staffing chart. They were supposed to go to 12 staff, but by the time 2015 came along, there was not one DFO staff left in the Kootenays.

Would the member support re-establishing a DFO office in Kootenay—Columbia in the southeastern part of B.C.?

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February 13th, 2018 / 4:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a real privilege to speak to Bill C-68 and its amendment to the Fisheries Act, especially given the opportunity I have had for the past two years to serve on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

I want to take a moment to salute all of my colleagues on that committee, because all of them have demonstrated deep concern for the health of our fisheries and the communities that rely on them. We could have different views on what should be done or how it should be done, but the collegial approach to our deliberations has produced recommendations that will stand the test of time. In fact, all of them in one way or another are reflected in this legislation.

I also particularly want to salute our friend and colleague, the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George, who may be watching, bored to tears, as he is on the mend from a significant health scare. We certainly look forward to getting him back into the saddle again.

A year ago this month, our committee tabled in the House its sixth report, titled “Review of Changes Made in 2012 to the Fisheries Act: Enhancing the Protection of Fish and Fish Habitat and the Management of Canadian Fisheries”. The study was prompted by ongoing concern from a broad range of stakeholders about decisions made by the previous government that, to many, had the effect of stripping habitat protections from 98% of Canada's lakes, rivers, and streams.

Coincidentally, the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, on which I also sit, examined the changes the previous government had made to the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Again, most stakeholders reacted to those changes with concern, in the belief that various works could have taken place without environmental reviews.

Throughout these studies, efforts were made to understand the reasons behind the changes made by the Harper government. We felt it was important to ensure that, where appropriate, measures that improved processes while preserving safeguards were maintained in the interest of modernizing the oldest legislation in Canada.

However, our review did shed light on a couple of critical issues.

One of the notable changes made to the act in 2012 was that of focusing its protections on the productivity of fish that are part of a commercial, recreational, or aboriginal fishery, or fish that support such a fishery, rather than on all fish and fish habitat, as was previously the case.

In addition, prior to the 2012 legislative changes, the act contained prohibitions against killing fish by any means other than fishing, and against carrying on any work or undertaking that results in the harmful alteration, disruption, or destruction of fish habitat, a prohibition commonly known as HADD. In 2012, those two provisions were replaced with a single new prohibition against carrying on “any work, undertaking or activity that results in serious harm to fish that are part of a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery”.

As a term, “serious harm” struck many as being very subjective. The committee heard from witnesses who said that it created confusion, leading to uneven application of the regulations at best, or at worst possibly allowing damaging activities to take place.

The 2012 amendments to the Fisheries Act removed the protection for fish habitat from subsection 35(1). Witnesses submitted that this amendment shifted the focus from fish habitat protection to fisheries protection, which offered substantially less attention to fish habitat. Many believed that applying the term “serious harm” only to fish could allow the disruption and non-permanent alteration of habitat.

According to Dr. Kristi Miller-Saunders, a research scientist at Fisheries and Oceans Canada's Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, B.C., the requirement for the death of fish to be deemed “serious harm” created a problem. Dr. Miller-Saunders noted that fish that are stressed in one environment could become physiologically compromised but might not immediately die within the habitat where the initial stress took place. Their compromised state could leave them unable to adapt or thrive as they move to new habitats, disconnecting the original stress from the weakening or death of fish.

Dr. Miller-Saunders noted that the 2012 changes might not protect fish stocks that were once abundant but became degraded to the point that they were unable to support a commercial, recreational, or aboriginal fishery. In essence, the fear was that once a stock was no longer useful to humans, it might be left on its own, unprotected.

Our committee heard a great deal about the degradation of the DFO's ability to do the necessary science and to monitor compliance with protection regulations. Thus, when the time came to make changes, yes, indeed a lot of the science would not necessarily have been there.

The hon. member for Beauséjour, Canada's fisheries minister, reported that the number of fish habitat protection officers had been reduced from 63 to 16 in the previous government's final years. He noted that from 2010 to 2015, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' budget was cut by $35 million, which led to the loss of almost 1,100 positions, including over 300 scientists.

Remediating that situation started two years ago, with the government's initiative to hire 135 scientists to boost the DFO's capacity, and the allocation of an additional $197 million to the department in budget 2016.

Let us go now to Bill C-68 itself. After extensive consultations, and with the standing committee's recommendations, this legislation establishes new criteria for decision-making, one of the key ones being an increased reliance on scientific information, but information bolstered by the traditional knowledge of our indigenous peoples and the experience of our fishing communities. This decision-making would look beyond the commercial factors that appeared to dominate the previous government's approach, to include the social and cultural impacts of the choices we make.

Clearly, this means that we have to talk among ourselves more often: scientists, academics, advocacy organizations, and the people whose livelihood and quality of life depend on our fisheries.

Just as we have to have broad-based processes above the waterline, we have to maintain care and concern beneath the water, care and concern beyond the commercial considerations, to entire ecosystems. Every fish, every plant needs to matter.

A potent tool at the disposal of the DFO and the minister in their decision-making is the application of the precautionary principle, understanding that we may never know conclusively what is behind an emerging situation in the ecosystem, and appreciating that an emergency usually cannot wait for the science to lead us to the fine points of a response. The precautionary principle mandates action.

The government's response, even before Bill C-68, was Bill C-55, which would give the minister the authority to designate interim marine protected areas, allowing time for science to reconcile evidence that we have a potential crisis on our hands.

Of course, Bill C-68 itself would restore protections that were perceived to have been either lost or seriously weakened by the changes in 2012. No longer will we focus on the subjective matter of “serious harm to fish”. No longer will our care and concern extend only to fish that are useful to humans. No longer will we be uncertain about how and where habitats will be protected.

Prohibitions are restored against causing the death of fish other than by fishing, and the harmful alteration, disruption, or destruction of fish habitat. In our standing committee's study, we often heard that we simply cannot consider the impact of each individual project or activity but have to consider the cumulative effects of industrial activities, public works, and recreational projects such as private docks on fish, their habitat, and the freedom to navigate.

At the same time, our committee considered the need to avoid causing undue delay to important municipal works, for example by requiring full environmental reviews for repairs to existing infrastructure. Bill C-68 introduces measures that allow the minister to issue permits for designated project types and to establish standards and codes of practice to provide proponents with more certainty in the planning, scheduling, and implementation of their projects.

I have selected only the issues that stood out in the notes I took at our standing committee's hearings, but many other important and positive aspects of Bill C-68 will undoubtedly be covered by my colleagues as this debate continues.

There is a lot to celebrate in this legislation, and as much as I am privileged to have made a contribution to its creation, I believe that once the process is done, this whole House will be justifiably proud of its passage, because so many of us care so much about the future of our lakes, rivers, streams, and oceans, and all the creatures and people they serve.

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February 13th, 2018 / 4:50 p.m.
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NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I want to mention that I will share my time with my charming colleague from North Island—Powell River.

Bill C-68, an act to amend the Fisheries Act and other acts in consequence, has been a long time coming. The NDP is very happy that this bill has finally been introduced. All of the environmental bills being introduced this week and those that were introduced last week should have been introduced and implemented much more quickly. The Liberals promised to do so, and then waited two years. I understand that they had to consult the public, but they could have implemented some of the provisions without taking all this time for consultations. We are a bit disappointed in this.

Nevertheless, this bill is extremely important, because it implements a number of the recommendations the NDP made in its dissenting opinion during the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans' review of the amendments made to the Fisheries Act in 2012. I remember that sad day in 2012 very well, when the Conservative government rammed the hundreds and hundreds of pages of its infamous Bill C-38 down our throats. This bill contained a number of amendments that weakened our environmental laws. As my colleague from Trois-Rivières pointed out, these amendments are unfortunately still in effect.

The Liberals endorsed Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline project even though the public does not support it. Furthermore, since the assessment was a total farce, two of our country's wonderful provinces are now in a dispute.

There are some good things in this bill, of course. The government will once again protect fish and their habitat from activities that could kill fish. With respect to this bill, many people have commented that we must not protect only fish used by humans. We must not forget that biodiversity is an ecosystem. Fish eat each other, and if we do not save the other fish, then those we eat will have nothing to feed on. That is why taking several fish species off the protected species list was so ridiculous. That protection will be restored, which is a good thing. The HADD provision on harmful alteration, disruption, or destruction of fish habitat will be restored.

In addition, the government will for the first time include recovery of depleted fish stocks in the Fisheries Act. That is a very good thing. There are some aspects of the bill we are concerned about, though. A number of my colleagues have mentioned that the bill gives the minister far too many discretionary powers. The Liberals have said they would make evidence-based decisions. However, if the minister is allowed to do whatever she wants regardless of science and ancestral indigenous knowledge, everything will depend on the minister's opinion rather than science. That is what we find so problematic about this aspect of the bill.

As I was saying, the Liberals should have reinstated fish habitat protections as soon as they took office, rather than waiting.

I must mention that many of these measures came from amendments proposed by the NDP.

Congratulations to everyone who worked on improving this bill. I commend the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam, who did excellent work on this. He worked to reinstate solid protections for fish habitat, to put forward suggestions on how to replenish fish stocks and ensure their viability, to advocate for establishing a public registry, which is very important, and to take into account indigenous knowledge.

Before I continue, I would like to talk about the very important report of the Cohen commission, which deals with Fraser River sockeye. The report recommended that the government, which is currently a Liberal one, act on the commission's recommendations to restore sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser River. In the third recommendation of the report, Justice Cohen wrote:

The Government of Canada should remove from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ mandate the promotion of salmon farming as an industry and farmed salmon as a product.

In that regard, I would like to come back to the excellent work done by the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam. We know that, unfortunately, the Liberals defeated Bill C-228, which was an excellent bill that sought to transition to the use of closed containment facilities and protect the jobs of workers in that sector so that nobody would lose out. It was a very good bill but, unfortunately, the Liberals voted against it.

Right now, many Canadians, including many of my constituents, are questioning the Liberals' intentions, since they also voted against the bill introduced by the member for Sherbrooke, who is another excellent MP. His bill had to do with the mandatory labelling of GMOs.

As the Liberals were voting against the mandatory labelling of GMOs, they secretly approved the farming and sale of genetically modified salmon in Canada. In fact, Canada remains the only country in the world whose citizens have eaten genetically modified salmon. We do not know who ate it. We do not know where it was purchased. We do not know the circumstances, since labelling is not mandatory, but there is absolutely no question that we unfortunately ate it.

Meanwhile, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, or ACOA, has invested over $3 million in the company that produces genetically modified salmon.

Once again in secret, genetically modified salmon is being produced in Prince Edward Island, even though there has been no environmental assessment on the potential dangers. Genetically modified salmon could escape from their enclosures during storms and other severe weather conditions that could occur. The potential impact of such an accident on Atlantic salmon populations has not been assessed. As we know, the wild Atlantic salmon stock is already threatened.

We will support this bill for all the reasons mentioned. However, we are very disappointed in the Liberal government's efforts relative to what could have been done to improve aquaculture on the Pacific coast, as well as the labelling, sale, and farming of genetically modified salmon. Canadians are angry. We need to take action on this, and we will.

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February 13th, 2018 / 5 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened attentively to the remarks of my colleague from Drummond. Despite the bill's few merits, there is one element in particular that caught my notice, and I would like to hear what he thinks about it. The Liberals seem to be borrowing, or carrying on, the Conservatives' tendency to use bills to grant more and more power to ministers.

The Liberals had assured us that decisions would be based on scientific evidence, but the current bill says that the minister will have the power to make basically whatever decisions she wants. Then, when I check the registry of lobbyists, I see more lobbying of companies than of scientists themselves.

Is there not a risk that the government will give in to pressure from big lobby groups and depart from the goals it is setting out with Bill C-68?

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February 13th, 2018 / 5:05 p.m.
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NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am here to speak to this particular bill because it is so important to the people I represent in North Island—Powell River. It is a very large riding, covering half of Vancouver Island and parts of the mainland as well, so it is really important to me as I serve coastal communities. These communities have a long history of resource economies, and in our resource-rich area the ocean is a large part of our economy.

In these changing times, many people from across my riding have spoken to me about the challenges that they face. Many members of the communities I serve have spoken to me about increasing challenges to make a living fishing in our region. Licences are getting increasingly expensive, leaving the smaller family-owned businesses struggling. Most concerning is the growing scarcity of wild salmon in our region.

It is important for me to discuss legislation like Bill C-68, an act to amend the Fisheries Act and other acts in consequence, as it touches so directly and profoundly on the lives of residents of our coastal communities. The Fisheries Act is a key federal law for fish habitat protection, one of the key laws for marine biodiversity, and an essential part of Canada's environmental safety net.

On October 25, 2017, Oceana Canada released a review of the state of Canada's fisheries and how the government is managing them. Most concerning to me was how the results told the story of serious concern. In Canada's fisheries, only one-third of the stocks are considered healthy and 13% are in critical condition.

Canada's fishing industry employs more than 79,000 employees and exports more than six billion dollars' worth of seafood annually. In my riding, we have businesses that focus on seafood processing, like Keltic Seafoods in Port Hardy. These local businesses are an important factor to the economic backbone of these regions. They hire local people, keep jobs in the areas that need them, and are so close to the resource of seafood. When our marine stocks are in trouble, this has a significant impact on businesses like these.

It also has impacts on the tourism businesses in our region that flourish due to the natural habitat. Be it in Telegraph Cove, up Bute Inlet, in Gold River, Campbell River, Tla'amin, or Sonora, just to name a few of the robust tourism communities, if people want to experience the beauty of whales, wild salmon, eagles, or bears we have them all and all of them rely on the marine stocks.

The other concern that I have been hearing from the indigenous communities that I have the pleasure to represent is the lack of access to seafood resources for the traditional foods of the people. Many of these communities rely on the food of their ancestors, and as it becomes harder to access, many people are struggling. Visitors to my riding do not have to be there long before they understand the importance of the water, how the ocean and inlets provide a livelihood for the people who live there. They are our water highways and roads for jobs.

It is so easy in our fast-food, plastic-wrapped world to forget the food chain, from the food on our plates back to the earth and the waters, to the farmers and men and women who fish. It is too easy to disconnect ourselves from where our food comes from and how much that food needs to be healthy, safe, and enjoy the protection of good laws and regulations. This is the vital role that the federal government plays.

We saw with the previous Conservative government a disrespect for our fish habitat. The government gutted provisions that offered protection. Changes made to the Fisheries Act in 2012 removed protection for fish and for habitat. I am not surprised that four former ministers who wrote the former prime minister to oppose the changes all came from British Columbia. We on the west coast know its importance. Two of those ministers, Siddon and Fraser, were members of the former prime minister's own Conservative Party but he did not listen to them.

In fixing the loss of that protection, it is important to recall the huge public outcry then opposing the Conservative government legislation. More than 700 scientists wrote the government urging it to keep habitat protection in the act. First nations communities in my riding and across British Columbia spoke out against the changes. Conservative organizations, recreational fishers, and concerned citizens joined first nations demanding that we do everything possible to protect fish habitat.

As Jeffery Young of the David Suzuki Foundation notes:

Without healthy habitat, fish can’t survive. These changes are important tools to fight badly degraded habitat from resource development across Canada as well as prevent species extinction.

My party and I welcome this legislation. We give our support now for second reading. The progress we are making in protecting our fish habitat is happening in part from the good work of the New Democratic Party in committee, including the amazing advocacy of my colleague from Port Moody—Coquitlam. This bill would implement some of the recommendations made by the NDP in our dissenting opinion to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans' review of changes made in 2012 to the Fisheries Act and the management of Canadian fisheries.

This legislation is a good start, but I fear the government does not go far enough to address protection. Let me state first what I like about the changes proposed in this legislation and then what needs to be better. It is good that we again are more specific on what we must be on guard against. It is good we are talking now about the harm, alteration, disruption, and destruction of fish habitat, and that we are again restoring the definition of fisheries to include all fish.

Now, when making a decision under the Fisheries Act, the minister will have to consider any adverse effects the decision may have on the rights of the indigenous people of Canada, recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982; include provisions respecting the consideration and protection of traditional 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.

This is long overdue. This respects and begins the process of a nation-to-nation relationship between governments. This is something we will all be watching very closely.

These changes will 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 to their harm. We will need to be vigilant on the regulations still to come to ensure that an ecologically significant area will truly be protected. There are several such ecological areas that are significant and sensitive in my riding. There can never be too much protection, given the human, financial, and ecological consequences from any accidents. I find that the expertise in my region of local sport fisheries and indigenous communities is key here. The benefits of hearing those voices, who care so deeply for the habitat and the success of our marine life, will assist in making good policy. I hope the minister remembers to use that local knowledge.

So much of whether this law will lead to good practice will depend on the regulations. Susanna Fuller, Ecology Action Centre, has said, “It is a big step that the new Act includes that the minister must take into account whether or not rebuilding measures are in place for depleted species, however, details on rebuilding will be in regulations.”

Even with this progress in fish habitat protection, I still have concerns on whether this legislation has gone far enough. I am concerned that this bill still does not address the conflicting mandates that Commissioner Cohen identified of conserving wild salmon while promoting salmon farming. This needs to be clarified and it is still not being addressed.

Another concern I have is the need for strong regulations that follow the passing of this legislation. This will need to be clear with timelines and targets, and take into account the impacts of climate change and species interactions.

I note the bill would give a great deal of discretion around decision-making to the minister, allowing decisions to be made based on the minister's opinion rather than enshrining the necessary strong guidelines in the law. This has me concerned and vigilant, along with many who are at the forefront of protecting our fish habitat. I am concerned too that this legislation does not look at protecting environmental flows. This is so important.

With this bill, we would see undone the bad laws of the previous government. Let us ensure we do everything to make sure this a good law, the best possible law and regulations to truly protect our fish habitat. The activists, scientists, businesses, and first nations communities are asking for a better bill.

In closing, the people of North Island—Powell River rely on the strength of our coast to provide recreation, beauty, and economic development. Protecting these investments is so important today and into the future.