Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak on Bill C-7, the short title of which is the Saguenay—St. Lawrence Marine Park Act.
I am pleased to announce at the outset—and this will not come as a surprise either—that the Bloc Quebecois supports this bill.
On December 12, 1996, the governments of Quebec and Canada announced they were tabling a bill on the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park before the Quebec National Assembly and the House of Commons respectively, to implement the April 1990 agreement between the two governments.
At that time, the two ministers responsible for the bill, that is to say Canada's Minister of Canadian Heritage and Quebec's environment and wildlife minister, stressed how important their two bills were. While identical in many respects, these bills take into account each government's jurisdictions.
These bills were Bill 86 in Quebec and Bill C-78 in Canada. They are aimed at enhancing the level of protection of the ecosystems in part of the Saguenay River fjord and the northern St. Lawrence estuary to ensure conservation, while at the same time promoting its use for educational, recreational and scientific purposes, for the benefit of present and future generations.
At the time these two bills were tabled, the Minister of Canadian Heritage described the legislation as, and I quote:
—the result of several years of concerted efforts between the Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec.
As for the hon. David Cliche, then Quebec's environment and wildlife minister, he stated:
We are proud of the positive result of our consultations and are convinced we have met the expectations of the public and of the many partners who will be associated with a project of this magnitude.
What therefore was the purpose of the agreement that led to the establishment of this marine park, which is located in an internationally recognized tourist sector and which will boost an already strong and lasting tourist industry?
The marine park project was apparently launched in 1985. On June 3, 1988, Canada and Quebec agreed that they should sit down together and talk about establishing a marine park in the Saguenay.
The parties recognized, and I quote:
The importance and the urgency of protecting and preserving for the present and for future generations the exceptional flora and fauna of the marine territory at the confluence of the Saguenay River and the northern half of the St. Lawrence estuary and of developing said flora and fauna.
It was to be almost another two years before the two governments worked out an agreement, which they signed on April 6, 1990. Under this agreement, both governments undertook, within the limits of their constitutional authority, to cause to be passed legislative or regulatory measures for the purpose of, and I quote:
(a) establishing a marine park to be known as the Saguenay Marine Park located at the confluence of the Saguenay River and the northern half of the St. Lawrence estuary;
(b) preserving the aquatic flora and fauna, and maintaining the integrity of ecosystems in this territory;
(c) protecting the territory and other resources;
(d) developing these resources for the benefit of present and future generations;
(e) creating public awareness of these resources.
In addition, this agreement created a joint committee that was to report to each government within six months of the signing of the agreement, in other words around October 1990, regarding the legislative or regulatory measures they should pass.
In article 2, the agreement set out the provisional boundaries of the Saguenay Marine Park and both governments gave themselves four months to agree on a detailed description of the park's provisional boundaries, and a maximum of nine months within which both governments would carry out a public consultation prior to defining the permanent boundaries of the park.
Article 3 of the agreement confirmed the rights and authorities of each of the governments, which became, as it were, co-owners of the park. Thus, under this agreement, the Quebec government maintains ownership of the sea floor and of surface and subsurface resources, whereas the federal government continues to exercise its jurisdiction in matters including navigation and fisheries.
This is in fact a first in Canada, since this park will be under joint federal-provincial management, and neither party will have to relinquish anything to the other.
With an increasing willingness to co-operate in the best interests of taxpayers who are always seeking an end to useless duplication and overlap, the two governments have agreed to harmonize their initiatives and the initiatives of their respective departments and agencies. They have even agreed, under article 4 of the agreement, to share present and future infrastructures, facilities and equipment in the marine park, provided that one of the governments makes such a request to the other.
In addition, the two governments have created a committee with two representatives from each of the governments, whose task will be to find ways to further harmonize efforts. The committee's mandate is to harmonize initiatives by Canada and Quebec, especially in the areas of planning, research, management plan development and programming activities, consultation with concerned individuals and groups, integration of development efforts, arrangements for sharing existing and planned infrastructures, facilities, and equipment, scheduling, personnel exchanges, communications and organization of seminars, symposiums and exhibits, marine fauna and flora and public security.
This proposed marine park innovates in three main areas. To begin with, it is the first time in Quebec that a park is given the mission of protecting a marine environment. Furthermore, it is the first time that the governments of Canada and Quebec work together to establish a park. And finally, there has never before been such an innovative consultation process.
In this regard, I wish to draw the attention of the House to the fact that this project originated at the grassroots level and evolved to finally reach Parliament, contrary to numerous projects that are of a centralizing nature and that originate with the government and are imposed on the population. The Reform Party must be very pleased with this, because the establishment of this park reflects exactly what the population of this region wants.
I would like to give a broad outline of the consultation process. In December 1990, the two governments held joint public hearings to determine the park's boundaries. Following that, they set up an advisory committee including representatives from the regional county municipalities affected by the project, from the scientific community, from the Quebec union for the conservation of nature and from the coalition for the Saguenay—St. Lawrence Marine Park.
The mandate of the committee was to advise planners on, first, the way the park project was perceived in the area and, second, the content of a development proposal. The committee and the representatives of the ministers concerned were able to bring to the fore the issues involved and to show the interest the people had for a marine park.
In April 1993, both governments made public the boundaries of the park and announced at the same time public consultations on the development proposal. Two months later, at the end of the consultations, the governments had received 63 submissions which were thoroughly reviewed. A report was submitted in December 1993.
The governments had everything they needed to prepare the master plan for the marine park, which was released at the beginning of 1996. This major consultation effort produced at least two changes: the name was changed from Saguenay Marine Park to Saguenay—St. Lawrence Marine Park and the area covered went from 746 square kilometres to 1,138 square kilometres, almost double the original area.
After more than 10 years of talks and negotiations between the governments in Ottawa and Quebec, the National Assembly made the project official on June 5, 1997, by passing Bill 86 which had been introduced on December 12, 1996. However, the Quebec legislation will only come into force once Bill C-7 receives royal assent.
However, Bill C-78, which was introduced in the House of Commons in December 1996 at the same time as the bill in Quebec City, met with a very different fate. Last April, during the 35th Parliament, the Bloc Quebecois, which at the time was the official opposition, feeling it was becoming increasingly obvious that the Prime Minister was going to ask the Governor General to prorogue the House and call a general election, made representations on several occasions to the government to speed up the process and pass the Saguenay—St. Lawrence Marine Park Act as quickly as possible before the general election. Instead, the government chose to let it die on the Order Paper.
The long awaited Bill C-7 before the House today at second reading is the result of many years of joint efforts on the part of the governments of Quebec and Canada.
The establishment of the Saguenay—St. Lawrence Marine Park provided for in this bill is also the result of the co-operation between the many organizations already active in surrounding areas, local and regional communities, environmental groups, native peoples and the scientific community. Thanks to this co-operation, they were able to set joint objectives for the management and protection of the area's rich and diverse marine resources, particularly to better protect an endangered species, the beluga.
The management plan tabled in February 1996, after extensive public consultation, mentions the existence of a consensus on the conservation of marine ecosystems and the development of the park. The Canadian and Quebec acts creating the Saguenay—St. Lawrence Marine Park are mirror images. Both pieces of legislation have the same objectives, namely the conservation and development of the marine environment. The two bills complement each other, without losing sight of the constitutional jurisdiction of each level of government.
Without going into detail, I will recall the main elements of the bill as outlined in the summary. This bill creates the Saguenay—St. Lawrence Marine Park. It will be the first federal-provincial salt water marine park.
It sets out the role the federal government will have to play, mainly with respect to managing the park in conjunction with the Government of Quebec. However, a provision in the bill allows the minister responsible for Parks Canada to enter into agreements with the other levels of government or with organizations, if this is necessary to insure maximum effectiveness in establishing innovative partnerships that will help achieve management objectives for the future.
It implements the 1990 federal-provincial agreement.
It deals with the water column within the park boundaries.
The bill provides for joint management of the parks and the creation of committees for that purpose. Among other things, the governments will jointly establish a harmonization committee to coordinate their respective planning and management activities. The legislation also provides for the creation of a co-ordinating committee, which will give members of the community the opportunity to participate in the improvement of the protection measures and the promotional activities for the park. That co-ordinating structure involves both levels of governments, the regional stakeholders and the band council of the Essipit Montagnais.
Furthermore, the management framework included in the management plan published jointly by both governments under the title “Crossroads of Life, Site of Exchanges, Wellspring of Riches” states that this plan has created a co-ordination zone. The document defines that zone as follows:
The marine park territory and the surrounding regions form the co-ordination zone. Besides the territory of the park itself, the zone stretches from Chicoutimi to Tadoussac and includes all municipalities bordering the fjord. Along the north shore of the St. Lawrence, the co-ordination zone stretches from Saint-Fidèle-de-Mont-Murray to Les Escoumins and includes the territory of the Essipit aboriginal community. On the south shore, municipalities along the estuary from Kamouraska to Trois-Pistoles are part of the zone.
The co-ordinating committee will be composed as follows: one representative for each of the north shore regional county municipalities adjacent to the marine park, that is Charlevoix-Est, Fjord-du-Saguenay and Haute-Côte-Nord; one representative only for the three south shore regional county municipalities concerned by the park, that is Kamouraska, Les Basques and Rivière-du-Loup; one representative of the scientific community; one representative of the groups concerned with resource conservation and preservation as well as with education in natural environment and its interpretation; one representative of the Department of Canadian Heritage; and one representative of the Quebec Department of Environment and Wildlife.
The bill requires that management plans be prepared and laid before Parliament. It provides that a management plan shall be laid before Parliament within one year after the establishment of the park. Afterwards, the management plan will have to be reviewed at least once every seven years and laid before Parliament.
The bill creates a procedure for changing park boundaries. As presently provided, its territory contains 1,138 square kilometres and covers a representative part of the marine environment of the fjord and the estuary. This territory includes the Saguenay River from the mouth of the river up to Cap de l'Est, located about 40 kilometres east of Chicoutimi, as well as the north estuary of the St. Lawrence River from Gros Cap à l'Aigle, located about 10 kilometres east of the town of the same name, up to Pointe Rouge or Les Escoumins.
The boundaries could be changed by order in council, provided that the Government of Quebec has given its approval and that both ministers of both levels of government have jointly consulted the public on this issue.
It is interesting to note that, in this bill, the public is directly involved in the management of the park, since both the federal and the provincial minister must encourage the people to take part in the development of the park's policies and management plan and in the examination of all major related issues.
The bill reaffirms the protection of natural and cultural resources and of the park's ecosystems. Is also includes measures to protect the health and safety of all visitors inside the park.
The bill also stipulates the offences and penalties for every person who contravenes this legislation or its regulations. It gives the park wardens the same powers of arrest granted peace officers in the Criminal Code.
Anyone found guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction is liable in the case of a natural person, to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to both, and in the case of a corporation, to a fine not exceeding $100,000.
Anyone found guilty of an indictable offence is liable in the case of a natural person, to a fine not exceeding $20,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or to both.
In the case of a corporation, the maximum fine is $500,000.
The bill will complement existing federal legislation that could be affected by its provisions, such as the Fisheries Act, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, and the Canada Shipping Act.
The bill is quite clear. All resource exploration and development activities in mining and energy production will be prohibited within the park's boundaries. Oil and gas pipelines and power lines will also be prohibited.
The bill describes clearly all the management and planning activities that will be necessary for proper operation of the park. The Saguenay—St. Lawrence Marine Park will benefit the whole area. Local residents will be provided with the means to conserve this area, and its flora and fauna. The park will generate jobs in the areas of nature conservation, site development, territory protection and tourist industry.
During the development phase, there will be jobs in infrastructure construction and site development. Scientists will certainly contribute to the supervision of environmental aspects of this work. In the longer term, there will be job creation for conservation officers involved in the protection of the park and the security of visitors, for employees in charge of the maintenance of the park and its various sites, and interpreters to help visitors enjoy the park.
The marine park will be a new attraction that will bring new tourists in this area and keep those who had already been going there for a longer period. These tourists will generate new benefits for the accommodation industry, restaurants, and cultural and leisure activities.
The establishment of this park will especially help preserve, for future generations, a precious and unique regional ecosystem that is found nowhere else in Quebec or in Canada. It is Heritage Canada's job, through Parks Canada, to assign resources to the protection of the environment, just as Quebec's environment and wildlife department does in Quebec.
Quebec has always been protective of its territory and has always reluctantly accepted to let Canada settle on its land. Today, the Department of Canadian Heritage has given Parks Canada the mandate to manage two national parks in Quebec, Forillon and la Mauricie; a national park reserve, the Mingan Islands; four navigable historic canals; 21 historic sites; and a development program of approximately a hundred commemorative plaques.
Through its environment and wildlife department, the Government of Quebec already manages 50 ecological reserves and 17 parks, and it has reserved 18 territories in the north with the intention of turning them into parks.
In the issue before the House today, the Government of Quebec has worked in good faith with the Government of Canada because it wanted to establish this park, because it did not want to give up any rights—the Saguenay—St. Lawrence Marine Park does fall under the jurisdiction of both governments—and, consequently, the government could not act alone. It had to act in co-operation with the Government of Canada.
Of course, if Quebec were a sovereign state, the Saguenay—St. Lawrence Marine Park would probably have been established by now. The establishment of a new partnership with the Government of Canada meant that the Government of Quebec had to initiate a whole process of discussion, of consultation, of co-ordination and of planning before going ahead with this marine park. If Quebec had acted alone in creating this park, there would certainly have been less discussion, less compromise, no jurisdictional problems and, most of all, no need to wait for Ottawa to pass this legislation.
But, for now, Quebec is still part of Canada. The adoption of this bill will allow Quebec to go ahead with the joint project to create a marine park and to recover some of the tax money it pays each year to the federal government.
I call upon my colleagues from all parties to co-operate in order to ensure speedy passage of Bill C-7, the Saguenay—St. Lawrence Marine Park Act.
In closing, I would like to read another excerpt from the management plan to which I was referring earlier. I quote:
The Saguenay—St. Lawrence Marine Park is a product of the richness and diversity of its natural and cultural components as well as the interest expressed by the public in their increased protection—. Today, our society is looking to renew its interest in the marine environment and all the memories it holds. Like yesterday's explorers and hunters, today's visitors relive the excitement of an encounter with marine mammals; they become image hunters. A good look at the long-term human intervention in the area of the Saguenay—St. Lawrence Marine Park will reveal the importance of the marine ecosystem in humanity's heritage.