Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise to speak to Bill C-441, an act to protect wildlife species in Canada from extinction. Ninety-four per cent of Canadians, an overwhelming majority, support protection for endangered species. Estimates of extinction range from two to three species a day to three to four species an hour.
In 1992 Canada signed the International Convention on Biodiversity. Under the terms of the convention Canada made a commitment to protect threatened species and habitats. Under article 8(k) it had to develop the necessary legislation to provide that protection. Sadly, six years later we were without any legislation. It is soon to be seven years.
In October 1996 Canada's 10 provinces and two territories and the federal government all signed a national accord for the protection of species at risk. It committed each jurisdiction to establish an effective endangered species program. To date, four Canadian provinces have laws in place that specifically protect species at risk. They are Ontario, New Brunswick, Quebec and Manitoba.
While only a few provinces currently have plans in place, most notably a federal plan remains outstanding. We wonder why it is taking so long. The solution is simple. The federal government has to introduce a bill that identifies species needing help, that does not allow for them to be killed, that gives them a home and helps them recover. Bill C-441 proves it can be done. Any bill introduced by the minister should follow its lead and achieve at least the following goals.
Ideally a Canadian law should apply to all federal lands with complementary legislation from the provinces. It should have a specific listing of the species at risk and the habitat required for survival. It should automatically prohibit the destruction of the species and its critical habitat. It should require a recovery plan within one year for endangered species, two years for threatened species and three years for vulnerable species from the time of listing. This will prevent what I call the 911 approach to species protection.
If we invest in the earlier years when species are vulnerable, we can actually protect them from entering the more costly stage when they become endangered and we may not have the resources or the time to address the issue.
We also must require protection for critical habitat and require the advance review of projects that may adversely affect the protection or recovery of an endangered or threatened species or its critical habitat.
The federal government already had a chance to put forward a bill that could have accomplished these basic goals. To date it has failed to do so.
The government introduced Bill C-65 during its past mandate but it was widely criticized for several key weaknesses. It protected species on federal lands only. It protected them from direct harm, or harm to the nest or den only, which was known as a residence. The bill required recovery and management plans but never required them to be implemented. Cabinet, not scientists, was given the authority to list a species as endangered. That was a tragedy. It required action only after the species had hit a crisis situation, again the famous 911 approach.
Nonetheless the bill was sent to committee for a lengthy review process. I know firsthand about lengthy review processes of a bill. We just endured six months of reviewing the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
The bill that returned from the committee was significantly stronger but it still had key weaknesses. The bill still only covered federal lands and waters and cabinet still only did the listing of endangered species.
Due to many problems identified by both industry and environmental NGOs, Bill C-65 was allowed to die on the Order Paper at the dissolution of parliament in 1997. Since then the Liberal government has been promising a new bill that will hopefully address these concerns.
Bill C-441 certainly does. It addresses the crucial weaknesses identified in Bill C-65 and meets all the ideal criteria for a new federal law. Although it has not been deemed votable, I can assure members that Bill C-441 is the standard against which any future federal legislation should be measured.
The goal of any endangered species legislation should be to create an atmosphere where the landowner will act in a way that positively contributes to habitat protection. Allow me to say it again. The goal of any endangered species legislation should be to create an atmosphere where the landowner will act in a way that positively contributes to habitat protection so that existing endangered species are protected and future endangered species are prevented.
This does not necessarily mean taking over land management of private property. If an endangered species is found on private land, then the landowner must be doing something right and should be encouraged to continue.
Encouraging stewardship programs will create an atmosphere where the benefits of biodiversity are valued and recognized. This is the approach the Canadian Nature Federation has taken. It ensures that landowners, industry and environmental NGOs are actually advancing in a common cause the best, well balanced piece of legislation possible. The work that Sarah Dover has been doing on behalf of the Canadian Nature Federation and the coalition should indeed be acknowledged.
Legislation that recognizes the rights and responsibilities of landowners and resource users is the most effective way to achieve co-operation. Without the co-operation of the provinces, landowners and resource users, the most stringent criteria of an effective endangered species act will be impossible.
Legislation should implement stewardship, including recognition and compensation programs across the country to ensure that landowners and resource users would consider land management practices that protect species.
Critical to the success of the upcoming bill the government plans on introducing is it should not be restricted to the residence of a species. It should include its core habitat. Survival of a species depends on its having a place to sleep, eat and breed.
The vast majority of Canadians want the federal government to implement strong endangered species legislation. It will set a standard for the provinces to achieve.
Information sharing is also critical. It is essential to species recovery. Effective species recovery is not only dictated by limited resources but also by limited knowledge. Endangered species protection legislation must focus on encouraging the use of information to protect species. Imperfect information can result in underestimating or overestimating the value of a habitat and will result in negative net benefits.
Information from the scientific community, traditional knowledge and landowner concerns must be considered when deciding how an endangered species will be protected.
Information sharing should also be used to alleviate the fears of landowners who will lose their property rights should they become involved in the recovery of a species. The wildlife department must show that all of society will bear the cost of endangered species protection.
We also need to ensure that we are rewarding stewardship activities. It is far more effective than outright control of private property. Simply purchasing land in most cases is not the most effective method of protecting species. The economic benefit brought from the land is lost and other unforeseen problems can arise. But there is a moral hazard in purchasing land because the landowner benefits while the rest of society pays.
In the time remaining, I would like to outline some of the other initiatives which have been done around the world.
American legislation is known as command and control approach legislation. It is largely ineffective and does not have the support of the resource users or landowners. It does actually promote the shoot, shovel and smile approach which we do not necessarily want to advocate. We want all of society to show leadership in protecting species at risk.
The British legislation actually has some innovative approaches in terms of having land preservation or specific areas where a species is provided a core habitat. It is something that should be included.
In conclusion, regardless of which plan the government decides to introduce, it is imperative that the legislation work. The American law is strong but ineffective. We do not want the same thing to happen in Canada.