Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of Bill C-26 and to respond to the concerns raised by the Bloc Quebecois members of the House.
The Bloc Quebecois is concerned that in some way the Canada Oceans Act infringes on the rights and jurisdiction of the prov-
inces. Such concerns are valid concerns for any province to have, but they simply do not apply with respect to the Canada Oceans Act.
On the contrary, the spirit of this legislation is to bring the various stakeholders together to participate in integrated ocean management. The objective is to work in close co-operation with provincial governments and other agencies to create partnerships and to jointly develop concrete plans for managing marine resources.
This is quite obvious if one reads the preamble of the act which states in part that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans will encourage the development and implementation of a national strategy for the management of estuarine, coastal and marine ecosystems in collaboration with other ministers, boards and agencies of the Government of Canada, with-I say with-provincial and territorial governments and with affected aboriginal organizations, coastal communities and other persons and bodies, including those bodies established under land claims agreements.
Obviously the provincial role is central to this act. Clause 29 states specifically that the minister, in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments among others, shall lead and facilitate the development and implementation of a national strategy for the management of estuarine, coastal and marine ecosystems.
There is no exclusion of the provinces. There is total respect for the integrity of provincial ocean territory and there is a specific recognition that the oceans management strategy outlined in the Canada Oceans Act must be the result of concerted efforts between the federal government and the provinces.
Further to this, the provinces are mentioned specifically in the clause dealing with integrated management plans and in the clause dealing with the implementation of these plans. They are key players. Clause 33(1)(a) states:
In exercising the powers and performing the duties and functions assigned to the minister by this act, the minister (a) shall co-operate with other ministers, boards and agencies of the Government of Canada, with provincial and territorial governments and with affected aboriginal organizations-
The provinces are again mentioned in clause 33(2) which deals with consultation. Does this sound like an exclusionary act? Does this sound like an act that wants to take away the rights and privileges of the provinces? No, it does not because it is not. The government would not be here today promoting the act if it were.
Bill C-26 respects the rights and jurisdiction of all provinces and territories. It provides for an integrated strategy of oceans managements developed in co-operation with those provinces and territories. The legislation does not make any changes to the present constitutional framework or to the distribution of powers between the federal government and the provinces. It does not encroach in any way on provincial rights. Any such fears are totally unfounded.
The Canada oceans act is all about partnership. It will make it possible for Canadians to work together to preserve our oceans' resource. In no way, as has been suggested, a grab for more power by the federal government at the expense of any province.
The bill before us today calls on all Canadians to come together to develop that strategy that combines a harnessing of the oceans' economic potential with a respect for the oceans' environmental needs. The national environmental agenda can no longer be separated from the national economic agenda.
Bill C-26 puts in place the fundamentals to ensure the convergence of Canada's economic and environmental agendas for our oceans. Indeed it goes even further than that. It puts in place the fundamental legislative foundation to ensure that Canada's ocean strategy is based on converging environmental, economic, social and foreign policies.
Ocean resources are not finite. We have learned that the hard way. We have learned that human actions can jeopardize fragile ocean ecosystems. We have learned that ocean species and resources are independent. We have learned also that the environmental health of our oceans is directly connected with our country's economic health. If we abuse the oceans we pay the price for that abuse.
The Canada oceans act formalizes Canada's jurisdiction over nearly five million square kilometres of ocean. It creates a 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone for Canada in the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans. What does that jurisdiction mean for Canadians? It gives Canada the right to explore and exploit the resources of the waters, the seabed and the subsoil in this exclusive economic zone. It also gives us the right and the responsibility to conserve and manage the living and non-living resources in that zone.
As all hon. members are aware, if we do not conserve and manage those resources wisely, it will not be long before there will be no resources to explore or to exploit. What the bill now before this House is doing is setting out the legislative framework for new oceans management strategy. That is why the bill consolidates and clarifies specific federal responsibilities for implementing the new strategy. Note I said consolidates and clarifies. There is no question here of a power grab at the expense of the provinces.
Bill C-26 calls for sustainable development of Canada's oceans and their integrated management. It is only through sustainable development and integrated management that we can make our economic and environmental agendas converge.
The Canada oceans act is based on that wisdom. It is based on the philosophy of sustainable development. The bill takes mea-
sures to give life to the principle of sustainable development by putting in place a basis for Canadian action plans for our oceans.
The Canada oceans act will extend Canadian environmental legislation to include the new exclusive economic zones. The act will make the the Department of Fisheries and Oceans the common focal point for co-ordinating federal ocean activities. It will authorize the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to develop marine quality guidelines and to establish marine protected areas.
The act will give the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans responsibility for conducting and facilitating marine research. The act will give the minister the authority to lead in co-ordinating the activities of all Canadians in the development of a shared Canadian oceans strategy. The act will enable the minister to enter into new partnership agreements, to share ocean information, to share ocean research and to share ocean planning and ocean management.
That is why this bill is about sharing. It is only through working together that we can reduce duplication and conflicts. It is only through working together that we can increase the effectiveness of measures to protect the ocean environment. It is only through working together that we can adopt a comprehensive ecosystem based approach to comprehensive ecosystem problems.
The Canada oceans act recognizes that efforts to promote sustainable development of our oceans cannot take place in isolation. Sustainable development of our oceans is not the sole responsibility of the federal government. It requires efforts on the local level, the provincial level, the regional level, the national level and the international level. It requires efforts by all of us, acting both individually and together.
We absolutely need national goals and national priorities. We also need community based planning and meaningful local decision making. We also need provincial planning and decision making. None of us can do the job alone.
The Canada oceans act is not a federal power grab. It is far from it. The Canada oceans act represents the federal government's taking its obligations to our oceans seriously and responsibly. A critical aspect of those obligations is the creation of a legal foundation to enable provinces and territories, businesses and environmentalists, fisheries and ocean industries to pull together and to pull in the same direction.
We all want Canada's oceans to be productive, safe and healthy. We can achieve that only by making Canada a world leader in ocean and marine resource management. We can achieve it only if we manage our oceans in close co-operation with one another.
The Canada oceans act is very precise and very detailed in describing Canada's new oceans jurisdiction. It is very precise and very detailed in describing the reorganization and the renewal of federal responsibilities for our oceans. However, it is quite open ended with respect to the precise elaboration of the new ocean management strategy. That is because we must build the strategy together. We need to draw on each other's strengths and we need to be sensitive to each other's aspirations.
As we travel through Canada's provinces we find concentrations of knowledge and skill. We find not only ocean scientists, engineers and business managers, we also find people in fishing communities with generations of accumulated knowledge about currents, salinity, water depth, temperatures, tides and navigational routes. That knowledge is important in the development of a national ocean marine strategy.
A major challenge in building a new strategy is to make certain that we link all that knowledge together and share it with one another. We need to understand what we know and what we do not know. We need to understand how each of our ocean regions is unique and how our ocean regions are interdependent. We need more incite into all aspects of our oceans and their resources. That will take a tremendous effort and amount of co-operation; a multidisciplinary effort. It is going to take a long time.
The Canada oceans act will facilitate the process by allowing the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to make federal research and scientific data widely available across Canada. The bill will also give the minister the power to enter into new agreements to promote ocean scientists' research. The bill will also enable the minister to work co-operatively with all ocean stakeholders in marine resource management. Thus we are poised to enter a new era of domestic conservation, management and enforcement agreements for the wide range of ocean resources made available to Canadians through jurisdiction over the exclusive economic zone.
Let us also note that Canada's ocean marine strategy must place the highest priority on marine safety. The Canada oceans act confirms the merger of the Canada Coast Guard and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. This is a key common sense action to meld ocean responsibilities with ocean safety.
Our aim is to work in harmony to develop even better safety enhancing technologies and navigational systems as we forge a future of ocean sustainable development. This legislation makes it possible to form new domestic agreements to assist ocean trade and commerce. We can work co-operatively to transfer technologies from government and academic researchers to the private sector. We can work co-operatively to improve resource assessment and inspection. We can harmonize regulations and guarantee services
provided by different levels of government to meet the needs of our sea coast communities and ports effectively.
The Canada oceans act makes it possible for Canadians to work together to shape the best national answers and the best local answers for the sustainable development of our very precious ocean resources. It provides for the components of an integrated ocean strategy. Those components are a better understanding of oceans, better resource management, better environmental management, increased safety and increased trade and commerce. That is what the Canada oceans act is all about. It is about sharing and working together.
If we are to have a future at all, if we are to have oceans with resources for future generations to develop, we must learn to work together as partners.
In no way can it be asserted that in this bill the Government of Canada is assuming the right to legislate unilaterally on Canada's maritime regions. On the contrary, the spirit of this legislation is to bring stakeholders together to participate in integrated oceans management. The objective is to work in close co-operation with provincial governments and other agencies to create partnerships and jointly develop plans for managing marine resources.
As I said earlier, Bill C-26 respects Quebec's territorial integrity and the territorial integrity of every province and territory in this country. It respects the rights and the jurisdictions of the provinces and territories. It provides for an integrated strategy of ocean management developed in co-operation with the provinces.
I urge all hon. members of this House to support the Canada oceans act.