Madam Speaker, it is with great interest that I rise to speak today to Bill C-275, a bill tabled by the hon. member for Davenport.
For approximately one year now, I have had the good fortune of sitting on the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development chaired by the hon. member for Davenport. He is so interested in the cause and devotes such effort to it that he is undoubtedly a first rate environmentalist and a true defender of our environment. However, the hon. member is also a staunch federalist, which, in my opinion, makes him lean dangerously towards centralization, which we do not consider an option and which can only have nefarious effects on the environment.
Centralization would burn bridges with the community; centralization would distance us from the community; centralization would make us more out of touch with the community. Therefore, the environment would lose out under an excessively centralized system, because the environment is very much a hands-on field and the local and provincial governments have a bigger presence in this field than the federal government.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that we have to give jurisdiction for the environment to the provinces and to the local governments. Furthermore, I would like to stress that the hon. member stated himself at a press conference this morning that aboriginal peoples should be given full jurisdiction over the area. He seemed to have really been caught off guard by a question that a journalist asked, which was whether the federal government was being hypocritical by denying the provinces the jurisdiction which it wants to give to aboriginal people. Obviously uncomfortable, he muttered that certain provinces wanted national standards.
Therefore, I would ask him the following questions: Will he, who is so big on democracy, impose his standards on the other provinces which do not want national standards? Will he accept that certain provinces refuse to adopt the standards? These are questions which merit a reply and for which the hon. member for Davenport is not very clear.
The summary of the bill indicates that it provides for: "the identification, protection and rehabilitation of flora and fauna in
Canada threatened or endangered by human activity, to provide for the protection of habitat and the restoration of population".
Certainly, nobody can be against the protection of endangered animal species and populations. As inhabitants of this planet, we have the duty of respecting and protecting all species with which we share the planet. Otherwise, we are opening the door to the extinction of our own species. Too often, however, we remain oblivious to the need to protect the environment. More and more species are becoming extinct and more and more are threatened, mainly because of human interference.
Recently, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development sponsored a seminar on wildlife. This very useful and interesting activity gave us an opportunity to become more aware of all the threats to wildlife. Believe me, it was not a pretty picture. Witnesses who were invited to speak on the subject described an alarming situation that required prompt and decisive action. They described the impact of poaching, smuggling and destruction of natural habitat with a lot of expertise and considerable emotion.
They also pointed out the inadequacy of federal action in this field. Not enough financial resources were available to provide for more effective local control of the situations already mentioned. It was clear to us in the Bloc Quebecois that once again, the federal government was not up to the task in this area.
Canada is even incapable of complying with certain international agreements in this sector. One example is the CITES agreement to monitor and stop the trafficking in organs or endangered species. At the seminar, intervenors made it abundantly clear that the federal government failed to allocate the resources to meet its commitments in this respect. As a result we have considerable misgivings about the federal government's desire to protect threatened wildlife and plants and also about its ability to do so.
That is why we cannot allow the federal government to intrude even further in provincial jurisdictions. Although the bill presented by the hon. member for Davenport has its merits, some of its clauses reflect a desire to encroach on provincial jurisdictions, and that we cannot accept. For instance, in clause 8(2), the minister shall secure the carrying out of a recovery program by agreement with the province or municipality concerned. But, and this is the sticking point, the clause includes the phrase: "where possible".
What does the hon. member think would happen if it were not possible? And what about possible agreements with the municipalities? As far as I know, they come under provincial jurisdiction. This clause is typical of the attitude of government members. The Liberals are very good at saying "where possible", although they know perfectly well that very often it would be impossible. If we consider current federal-provincial harmonization agreements, it is clear there are quite a few problems with these agreements.
The federal government has quite simply failed to get the provinces to agree on quite a few issues. The authoritarian approach of the Minister of the Environment has been one of the main reasons why agreements have not been signed. According to our information, the minister has even been challenged at these federal-provincial sessions. I may point out to the hon. member that Quebec, with whom Canada will soon have to negotiate on an equal footing on these matters, recently launched its policy on biodiversity and at the same time asked Ottawa to mind its own business as far as provincial jurisdictions were concerned.
In fact, the Quebec minister of wildlife and the environment, Jacques Brassard, made public his proposed strategy for preserving Quebec's biological diversity, on May 18. In announcing it, he said: "Its actual implementation will be Quebec's responsibility in the end. This was the decision of the Government of Quebec in 1992". I close the quotes by pointing out that the Government of Quebec in question was red and federalist, like those opposite. It was not the wicked separatists.
Mr. Brassard went on to say: "We will be the ones to act. This is why the federal strategy contains no measures and ours has over 200. I do not foresee any trouble, so long as the federal government stays where it is". Make no mistake: the Quebec minister was talking on May 18 about the bill the federal minister was to table, which has since vanished never to be heard of again. To replace what the federal minister withdrew, the government is proposing the bill of the member for Davenport. It decided to give him a bit of rope and to untie his hands. This is a good way to give Liberal members the impression they are useful for something in Parliament.
Moreover, the minister has her hands full at the moment. With all the mail she has to check and even her fictional mail and with everything she says here and there, she and her acolytes have a lot of salvaging to do and corrections to make. The minister has become a great big surprise package. The same rabbit that pops out of the magician's hat could pop out of her mouth. This is farce, burlesque. I think the minister has really missed her calling.
To finish up what I was saying about Mr. Brassard, he told the federal government clearly to focus its actions on areas under its jurisdiction and, more particularly, to regulate international and interprovincial trade and to maintain a constant vigil to stop the illegal traffic in endangered species.
Quebec's message is clear-no encroachment in areas under Quebec's jurisdiction. We therefore oppose the bill proposed by the member for Davenport. In our opinion, it will be the source of confrontation with the provinces. Furthermore, for the federalist provinces, this bill is no pledge of effectiveness in species protection. As I mentioned, the federal government has the unfortunate habit of not applying its environmental legislation.