Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate, at third reading, on Bill C-26. As you know, the Bloc Quebecois is opposed to this bill, which, like several others introduced in this House since the beginning of the second session of the 35th Parliament, does not at all take into account the interests of the provinces.
More specifically, this bill makes no attempt whatsoever to get the provinces involved in the management of fishery resources. During the debate at report stage, in June, the Bloc Quebecois tabled numerous amendments proposed by the hon. member for Gaspé, who sits on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, precisely to ensure that the provisions contained in the bill would force the federal government to take into account the provinces' interests regarding the management of marine resources.
The bill does refer to the provinces, but merely to put them in the same category as any other organization such as a municipality, a public or private law entity, an aboriginal organization, or a coastal community.
In spite of the nice rhetoric used by the Prime Minister and his lieutenants on progressive and co-operative federalism, the fact is that this government, like its predecessors, is unable to renew federalism because federalism is not renewable.
So, in June, the Bloc proposed amendments to the bill that would have allowed the provinces to get involved in the management of marine resources even though, according to the Constitution of 1867, oceans comes under federal jurisdiction. A true federal-provincial partnership could have been established to ensure the sound management of our marine resources.
Instead of promoting such partnership, the government preferred to turn a deaf ear and flatly rejected all the requests made by the Bloc Quebecois. Clearly, the government is adamant about holding on to these areas of jurisdiction and has no intention of sharing them with the provinces.
What are the arguments used by this government to continue to refuse to share this responsibility with the provinces? One is the requirement to comply with the UN convention on the law of the sea, which came into effect on November 14, 1994. According to the comments made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans during the June 10 debate, our proposed amendments went against this international convention.
In fact, on June 10, 1996, the parliamentary secretary said, as we can see on page 3606 of Hansard , and I quote:
Bloc Motions Nos. 15 and 16 regarding the continental shelf make the same erroneous implications, namely that the continental shelf could be within the boundary of a province. The continental shelf is well beyond provincial boundaries. To amend this bill as proposed by the Bloc would make Canada's new ocean statute contravene international law. This is neither proper nor legally correct.
It is important to note, by the way, that it is always easy for government members to accuse us of making erroneous implications rather than debate the real issues.
However, in the United States, the federation closest to Canada, at least physically, the central government shares with the States its responsibilities over part of its coastal territory. That does not mean that the United States are contravening international law. It does not prevent the United States from exercising unfettered jurisdiction over their coasts and territorial waters. It is rather a new vision of federation.
Another argument used to refuse to clearly state the role provinces could play in the management of marine resources is that it would go against the Constitution of Canada and it is not up to this House to make constitutional amendments. But that is nothing new. For the federal government, everything that is in Quebec's
interest goes against the Constitution. Again, I find such an argument rather astonishing.
Since the throne speech last February, the Prime Minister keeps on saying that Canadian federalism is constantly evolving, that we do not need constitutional amendments for the provinces to become more involved in various areas, that administrative arrangements are the way to go in the future.
In fact, when the time comes to adopt clear legislative provisions, when the time comes to share jurisdictions with the provinces or even to respect the provinces's jurisdictions, the federal government rejects Quebec's demands and falls back on a Constitution that is cast in stone.
Indeed the federal government shows little respect for the Constitution when it wants to interfere in areas under provincial jurisdiction. That was the main point I wanted to make concerning this bill which, like many others, does not show any willingness to co-operate with Quebec and the other provinces on the part of the federal government.
This government is showing us once again that it does not want things to change, and Quebecers will clearly express their feeling about that the next time they are consulted about Quebec's future.
Of course, I am concerned about other aspects of this bill, particularly about the impact they will have on Quebec ridings that have a port.
First of all, concerning the whole issue of fees for services provided by the Canadian Coast Guard, we feel the government is acting much too fast. The maritime industry is not totally opposed to some charging of fees, but it does want studies in order to find out the effects this would have. This is the reason the great majority of witnesses heard by the fisheries and oceans committee have called for a moratorium on coast guard fees. The impression we get from the government's attitude is that it wants to get its hands on considerable amounts of money without any regard for the consequences.
Another aspect of this bill which affects all ridings is the fees for pleasure craft. If such fees were charged, organizations in all ridings would be affected.
Non-profit organizations concerned with preserving the flora and fauna of our rivers and educating the public about these issues would be affected.
Funding of these organizations is partially public and partially private, and they will have to face the consequences. A group can own 10 war-canoes, 120 canoes or 20 kayaks, while another has 10 rowboats, 26 pedal boats, and so on. They will be affected by the fees provided for in the bill. The survival of these groups, which have always played an important role in the economic and social activities of the communities in which they are located, will be compromised.