I am happy to see that the Liberal members are quite alert on this Monday morning, but here is the rest of my comment. The last time I heard the former minister of fisheries and oceans, Brian Tobin, pronounce the word sovereignty, it was automatically associated with separation. Big question. Will I read somewhere, or expect the United Nations to declare, that Canada wants to separate from the rest of the world? I see the Liberal members are awake, and I am not sure that this is what they want to do.
Let me seize this opportunity to make an instructive comment: beware people of Canada, sovereignty does not mean separation. Sovereignty means sovereignty in the text you have here; it means the Government of Canada is acting like someone who owns the place and, accordingly, it lays down the rules and takes all the necessary measures to reach its goals. I am happy to see the maturity of Canada in this aspect. When, in a near future I hope, we can talk to each other as mature people, we will remember the meaning of the word sovereignty.
What is also amusing, even though I do not want to insist on this point, is that, at the end of the preamble they say:
Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows:
So first they speak of sovereignty and then they refer to Her Majesty. Excuse me, but I see some inconsistency there. The way I see sovereignty, once you are sovereign, you decide by yourself and you do not necessarily refer to somebody else. This is all I wanted to say about that excerpt. I only wanted to shed some light on this morning's debate.
Now that everyone is wide awake thanks to the quality of my introduction, let me go on to part I, which follows the preamble. As I mentioned, part I only reproduces the text of the United Nations convention on the law of the sea. I do not necessarily see any problem with this definition.
However, despite the fact we proposed amendments to ensure the terminology was correct when we talk about definitions relating to the law of the sea, these amendments were not accepted. The parliamentary secretary held out his hand to us by saying the Canadian government had no intention of infringing upon the rights of the provinces and other parties to this bill.
Since this is probably the last time I have an opportunity to talk about Bill C-26, I must remind the House that the amendments tabled by the Bloc Quebecois and, unfortunately, defeated were aimed at clarifying the scope of the powers and rights of the provinces and the federal government, to ensure everything was very clear in order to establish the partnership relationship right at the beginning.
As these amendments were not passed at the rewriting of the bill, allow me to remain sceptical about what the government really wants. When it is said on one side that it will not hurt and we propose a way of doing things to ensure it will not hurt us and our proposals are refused, I have some difficulty following.
As I mentioned, part II of Bill C-26 provides a legislative framework. This legislative framework is inappropriate since there are still many grey areas in federal responsibilities concerning ocean management. I repeat, the amendments we had tabled were aimed at clarifying the powers and rights of the provinces and the federal government.
To this day, we have received no guarantee there would be no federal intrusion in the powers of the provinces. There are issues where, even before the inttroduction of Bill C-26, there were grey areas. The environment, for instance.
Since environmental law is a relatively new concept, it has some flaws. I understand how important it is to discuss this concept in developing a management strategy. Since this is recognized as a relatively new area of law, now is the time to look at potential impacts and reassure the partners we will have to deal with. I can see no reference to this in the bill.
Odder yet, and more embarrassing I might add, is the fact that, regarding all the dealings the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is required to have with his colleagues from the various departments in matters relating to the environment, because this must all be done in conjunction with other federal ministers, the respective powers of the fisheries minister and the environment minister have not been delineated.
It is somewhat amusing, in developing an oceans management strategy, not to clearly define what the relationship should be between two brothers from the same party, the government party. It takes some gall, on the government side, to tell us how to run the strategy when they have not even established what relationship should exist between themselves to begin with.
As I said earlier and contrary to what some of the Liberal members who got up this morning may think, the Bloc Quebecois is not against what is right. I repeat again, we are always prepared to discuss a management strategy, but it must be a consistent strategy that will provide for the provinces' active participation. I emphasize again the fact that the success of this strategy rests on partnership because, if the hon. members opposite tell us that this, that and the other needs to be done in terms of oceans management, not having defined from the start their own roles and responsibili-
ties, it will be difficult, first, to establish this policy and, second, to implement it.
I also mentioned earlier that the amendments put forward by the Bloc Quebecois were only designed to specify and delimit the scope and legal significance of the federal government's authority in relation to possible encroachments. We just had a referendum campaign, during which promises were made for a renewed Canada, new things and a new attitude. I was expecting greater attention would be paid to sparing feelings. Unfortunately, I can see none of that.
Regarding the management strategy and the whole legislative framework around it, two things have happened since report stage, last June. Things have happened regarding the partnership I insist is required, the significance of which is still unknown.
I must first congratulate B.C. members for their premier's initiative in walking out of last June's first ministers' conference because he did not feel he was being listened to. He went on to say-as I understood from the interpretation into French-that he felt he was wasting his time. Imagine, wasting his time at a first ministers' conference. That is saying something.
So you can understand how an opposition backbencher like myself who is trying to talk some sense into other members of this House who, in my opinion, are full of common sense, at least on this side, can be very sceptical.
What I want to bring to other members' attention is that the federal government, the minister of fisheries himself stepped in, probably at the urging of the Prime Minister of Canada, who told him: "There is an urgent need for you to go to B.C. because there is trouble brewing in that province. I got the door shut in my face. They want to talk about fisheries and I did not know what to say about it. Can you go and find out what it is they want?" The premier of British Columbia asked that the impact of the salmon fishery streamlining plan on that province be reviewed because no one in B.C. agreed with the plan put forward by the minister of fisheries. Yet, the minister in Ottawa kept on saying: "Yes, that is what we should do and it will be done". So the premier had to get involved.
What I want to stress is the fact that-and, if I may, Mr. Speaker, I would like to read from the press release: "This agreement in principle is aimed at reviewing the respective roles and responsibilities of the federal government and the province in managing the Pacific salmon fishery and reviving this industry. The review will be conducted by DFO in co-operation with an interprovincial team".
What we must look at is mentioned at the end of the press release: "The responsibility review will be completed in February 1997".
We are four months away from that date. The results may be published a little later, but what I want to draw your attention to is
this: the elements to be reviewed include, but are not limited to, resource management and conservation, licensing, fleet management, resource allocation, habitat rehabilitation and clean-up, the reduction of administrative overlap and duplication, and the improvement of client services.
This is precisely what the Bloc Quebecois sought for all the provinces: to be able to discuss ocean management on an equal footing with the federal government.
I will not mention other related points which have to do with the quantities that can be fished and the available quotas, since another bill was introduced in the House and will be reviewed. The press release refers to an agreement in principle between the federal government and the Government of British Columbia, precisely to review the issues of resource conservation and habitat cleanup. These issues concern all the oceans and relate to Bill C-26, which is currently before us.
I still believe that the rights of the provinces are not respected and that the obligations of the federal government toward the provinces are not fulfilled. This was evidenced by the fact that, when it came to finding out who would do what and how, a provincial premier had to slam the door behind him during a first ministers' meeting before the issue was taken seriously.
It is very important to specify this aspect in today's bill and to give it this spirit. Otherwise, will other premiers have to do the same thing every time? Here is a trick for the other provincial premiers: when you see that the federal government will not budge, slam the door and leave. Then the federal government will propose to negotiate an agreement in principle, in which your rights will be taken into consideration.
Come on. We, as parliamentarians, must show a little more maturity and realize there is a grey area that must be defined.
This issue deserves some attention. We must review the content of these clauses, without obviating the need for a commonly developed management strategy. I want such a strategy to be developed. I do not want a situation where every province will have to bang the door. I want us to clearly define how things will be done.
Another point, and I do not want to belabour it, is that the management strategy lists the partners. What I wanted was for the provinces to clearly define all this, and we would list the other partners that needed to be included and with whom we had to work.
I must say at the outset that I am for the notion of a law-abiding society, a democracy, and that, when the democracy turns to its judges for a ruling, perhaps their word should be followed. I refer
to the most recent Supreme Court ruling, handed down last Friday. I do not yet know what the impact of this ruling will be.
In line with the spirit of the Sparrow ruling, which has been the precedent for some time now, concerning fishing and subsistence rights for native peoples, the most recent ruling refers to the fact that native peoples would be entitled to fish without permits, for their subsistence, throughout the province of Quebec. Will this also apply to all other provinces in Canada? I do not know. I do not want to get into the merits of the ruling, but I would like to remind the minister immediately that the order of precedence will now have to be borne in mind.
Account will have to be taken of how cohabitation will be managed, because it is now no longer just a question of divvying up fish, but also of isolating responsibilities, or at least of knowing what they think of it, what they can do with us. Without wishing to go into more detail, I think that this is something that Canada has been refusing to look into more deeply for too long now, and I think it would be a good idea, as I will mention a bit later one, to postpone passage of Bill C-26, precisely so that this can be examined more fully, I will therefore limit my remarks in this regard for the time being.
I will now take a look at part III of Bill C-26, which sets out the general powers, duties and function of the minister, followed by his powers, duties and functions with respect to the oceans and Coast Guard services.
I will begin by repeating, because I have probably already said this at the beginning of my speech, that it worries me to see that they are now increasing the regulatory powers of the minister. The minister did not have these powers last June. What happened?
I will take the example of the services provided by the Coast Guard. When they talk about navigational aids, they are talking about the presence of buoys. The minister's intention was to charge duty every time a ship went through our Canadian waters, but look out, this bill, as it stands, applies only to Canadian ships. I did not see, in the description of the minister's functions, the possibility of imposing this tax on all ships.
Lacking the regulatory power allowing him to charge for navigational aids, the minister has decided, at the last minute, to circumvent publication in the Canada Gazette because, usually an order such as this must appear in the Canada Gazette within 30 days. But, instead, he took the other route, which allows him to appear before a Cabinet committee and get approval in one afternoon. One day for publication, and bingo, we have to pay.
What you have to know is that the industry did express its opposition to this bill, not because it refused to pay, but because it wanted to know if these navigational aids are used efficiently, if the fees requested are right and, more importantly, what would be the impact on the Canadian industry in terms of shipping and, also what would be the impact on the people who use shipping services.
The minister chose to ignore all of this, to ignore the recommendations. He went even further stating: "There is a second part coming up, but I will play fair and wait for the impact study before implementing it." Despite the lack of regulatory power to everything, the minister was able to find a way to go ahead, which is far from reassuring, because once he has full power within a much simpler process, he might do worse yet. Do you understand now why we are worried and why this piece of legislation does not really set our minds at ease.
There is another small point I want to make, also about the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard is made up of two divisions. There are the people who deal with shipping, with the huge vessels, and there are the people who deal with smaller, recreational boats.
When they saw that the people who deal with the larger vessels could get a minor regulation passed and make shipowners cough up $20 million, the Coast Guard people dealing with the smaller boats probably told themselves: "We will try to do the same." They made some representations and held consultations last June.
Their objective was to set some kind of registration fees for small boats. For a rowboat, for a pedal-boat, for any kind of craft, the fees would vary from $5 to $35. They decided to travel throughout Canada to find out what the people thought about their idea. That kind of behaviour is worrisome. Where was the feedback process in all of this? The Quebecers and Canadians who were consulted said: "No way, what is wrong with you people this morning? You would have me pay $5 for my rowboat. Who would control all of that? What will it cost?"
So they backed off a bit. It is a good thing that the minister did not yet have the regulatory powers that would have made it very easy for him to implement such a scheme. If this bill had been in force in June, would the coast guard have acted so cautiously? Would it have not gone ahead with its plans? Its unstated objective was to recover $14 million by charging these fees. This bill needs transparency. We need a way to be sure that there will be co-operation.
I just mentioned two instances where the coast guard used its powers to impose its will and people are not about to forget that. We are not off to a good start. It is not reassuring for people to work with the coast guard. Each time they take part in a consultation process, when they think their views are really being taken into account, they realize it was not the case at all.
I even heard the former commissioner-it seems that he has gone to another part of the department-say that there could be a consultation process but the legislation would still be in place by a
certain date. That shows a flagrant lack of respect for the people who pay the government officials' salaries.
People expect us, as parliamentarians, to analyze the pros and cons. When decisions regarding a bill are unilateral and, I would say, arrogant without regard to those who will suffer their consequences, the bill cannot be said to be created with honour and enthusiasm. We have re-establish the notion of relationship.
Again with regard to part III, which deals with the minister's powers, I would like to mention that the government ignored amendments concerning an information feedback mechanism. We are told that the minister will consult with such persons or bodies as he or she considers appropriate to consult-that is how it is defined. What kind of transparency is the government displaying to Quebecers and Canadians?
The bill also says further on that any other regulations or modifications do not have to be published. I do not want to start the debate on the amendments all over again, but I just want my fellow parliamentarians and the people who are watching us on television to realize that we are not headed in the right direction.
We also talked about the way fees for services are set. I remember the amendments proposed by the Bloc and by the Reform Party called for more transparency in that respect. We asked if we could come back to this subject. A three hour debate to determine new Coast Guard fees is not much. I think these fees should not be determined in one party's back rooms. The issue should be discussed right here, because all Canadians will be affected.
I cannot remember which of my colleagues made that request, a fair and reasonable request, but it too was rejected. As far as I know, the government party has a majority. If a request is made to have a bill referred back to committee, well they have a majority in committee too. They can place a limit on discussion, but at least we can discuss it and report to the House. And they have a majority here too.
Once the bill is passed, we know for sure there is no way we can repeal it. We would like to be able to use our right as parliamentarians to express the views of the people on these fees. After hearing all points of view, the government will be able to make a fair and informed decision. But when certain facts are ignored on purpose, the decision will be lacking, in certain respects.
I talked to you then about what the Coast Guard had done concerning navigation aids. I also talked about potential fees and about studies on fees that could be levied on recreational boaters. There is nothing very encouraging about all of that.
That is why we, the members of the Bloc Quebecois, would like to move an amendment. My amendment deals with the following three points, if I were to sum up my remarks. First of all, the concept of partnership with the provinces does not seem to be clear enough as it stands now. I referred to an agreement in principle, a report that should be made public by the end of February involving B.C. and the federal government.
I think we must take into account the spirit in which Canada signed with British Columbia and let the bill reflect that so no other provincial premier is forced to slam the door in order to bring this to the attention of the government.
I must say that I put this amendment forward because there are still grey areas in the text, which will hinder the implementation of the strategy. I am still talking of the provinces, of communications between provinces, environmental matters, which are grey areas. There are grey areas even in communications between the fisheries minister and the environment minister at the federal level. This is one more reason to consider the amendment which I will table.
Finally, I put this amendment forward because part III of this bill increases the powers of the minister concerning the fees charged for services and because there is a lack of transparency and feedback on the efficiency of the services and the price-setting process.
Most hon. members would be well advised to think twice before opposing this amendment, which we want to table, since, as I remind them, the Bloc Quebecois is for virtue, that is to say that it agrees with the establishment of an oceans resource management strategy. We believe, however, that such a strategy should be consistent and efficient, which it will be when the three points I just mentioned will be taken into account.
Therefore, I move:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word "That" and substituting the following:
"Bill C-26, An Act respecting the oceans of Canada, be not now read a third time but that it be read a third time this day six months hence."
I submit this amendment, which is seconded by my colleague for Chicoutimi. I hope that the hon. members who are now here will remember that, with this amendment, the Bloc Quebecois wants to further the spirit of partnership, that the Bloc Quebecois does not want to hinder the establishment of an oceans resource management strategy for partisan purposes, but wants to make sure that such a strategy is efficient and effective.
I will wait to hear about the admissibility of my motion and I will follow gladly the debate on this bill, hoping that most of my colleagues will have understood that the Bloc Quebecois is promoting the cause and not partisan quarrels.