Madam Speaker, it is my intention, in the next few minutes, to demonstrate to those watching that Bill C-275, which is before us today, is a typical example of inefficiency resulting from the overlaps that are caused by poor co-ordination between the federal government and Quebec.
This bill, as was pointed out by my hon. colleague, the member for Laurentides, and I am going to repeat it because it is important, provides for the identification, protection and rehabilitation of flora and fauna in Canada threatened or endangered by human activity-the hon. member for Davenport has provided a fairly impressive list, I believe-to provide for the protection of habitat and the restoration of population.
This is a laudable sentiment, and obviously this bill is interesting because the government is limiting its legislation to federally owned lands. After all, the government is perfectly justified in taking environmental action on lands that belong to it.
But the problem lies in the fact that fauna, understandably, do not stay in one place, and sooner or later appear on sites where the federal government does not have exclusive jurisdiction. There is therefore a need for an agreement with the other governments concerned, including the government of Quebec, all the more so as the latter has already made known its intentions in this regard in a letter sent to the attention of the Minister of the Environment last March 28.
In the circumstances, the least we could expect from the federal government is that it would consult the government of Quebec to find out its intentions and that it would table a bill taking into account the potential conflicts of jurisdiction with Quebec.
With respect to the environment, the distribution of powers is not fully spelled out, adding to the risk of overlap, overregulation and duplication. Let us look more specifically at the somewhat ill defined distribution of powers.
With respect to terrestrial fauna, Quebec has full authority over the species inhabiting the public or private lands held by Quebec.
It may also take steps to protect species and their habitat. The federal government has jurisdiction over land animals on federal land only.
As far as our feathered friends are concerned, the federal government was responsible for implementing the 1916 convention on migratory birds. Since this was an international agreement, the federal government at the time assumed responsibility for protecting these birds.
Today, Quebec is responsible for all bird species, including migratory birds, except on federal land. One wonders what happens when birds are neither on provincial land nor on federal land. Furthermore, following a number of administrative agreements, Quebec is now responsible for enforcing Canadian legislation on the 1916 convention on migratory birds.
Finally, as far as marine mammals and fish are concerned-certain fish species are also on the endangered list-the Constitution Act, 1867 gives the federal government exclusive jurisdiction over ocean and inland fisheries. As of 1922, however, an administrative agreement gives Quebec full responsibility for fisheries management, without any regulatory powers, however.
This delegation of authority has changed over the years, and today, Quebec is responsible for managing freshwater resources and the species they contain, while the federal government manages salt water resources. The division of powers remains a problem.
In the light of the foregoing, it is clear that agreements on the division of powers in environmental matters will require a very sensitive approach. Bill C-275, however, ignores the very existence of this problem, which is why it merely increases the likelihood of overlap and jurisdictional disputes between Quebec and the federal government.
In fact, the Minister of the Environment is well aware of the dangers of overlap and the potential for jurisdictional disputes. In a letter dated March 28, her Quebec counterpart, and I referred to this letter earlier, wrote that the federal bill on endangered species constituted an intrusion into one of Quebec's jurisdictions.
Not only does this government not consult Quebec but there is no attempt to consult within the government itself. In his letter, the Quebec Environment Minister suggested ways to regulate this area, saying that the minister should focus federal action on aspects that were obviously federal in scope, in other words, regulating international and interprovincial trade and exercising constant vigilance to prevent unlawful trafficking in endangered species. The bill before us today, however, does not reflect these suggestions, which means that the Liberal government's spokespersons for environmental matters may not have bothered to discuss the matter. Or even worse, they did and deliberately decided to "invade" an area over which Quebec has specific jurisdiction.
We certainly do not doubt the sincerity of the hon. member for Davenport, and I am sure, because I know him personally through the Standing Committee on the Environment, that the bill he introduced today is based on a genuine desire that is found the world over to protect the environment.
However, despite this sincerity, there is a significant risk that this bill will encroach on Quebec's jurisdictions. Even if the hon. member's motions are sincere, this is something we cannot accept.
I realize, and here I want to add a more personal note, that this is not the first time we rise in the House to speak out against bills or to say that there is a risk of encroaching on Quebec's jurisdictions. Every time we do, we look like troublemakers. I feel a bit like a troublemaker myself when I do this. Quite often, the bills introduced in the House are, to all intents and purposes, good bills.
From time to time, in committee, we draft dissenting opinions on committee reports which, all things considered, were excellent. However, we had to file our minority reports because the majority reports contained some very serious threats to Quebec's jurisdictions.
I think we should consider the demographic evolution of Quebecers since the founding of Canada.
When Canada was founded, the number of francophones and anglophones was about even. Today, we represent only 23 per cent of the population. We used to be one of four provinces. Today, we are one of ten and may become one of 12 or 13, when the territories gain provincial status. Quebecers are one of Canada's endangered species.
That being said, I think we must protect the interests of Quebecers. That is what we were elected to do. I know this bill is sincere and relatively well drafted, but because it represents a
serious threat to Quebec's jurisdictions, we intend to vote against this bill.