Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to have an opportunity to contribute to the debate on Bill C-33. I want to introduce an amendment to the bill a bit later, but at this time I would like to make some introductory remarks.
Perhaps no political party in the House of Commons knows more about species at risk legislation or endangered species legislation than the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. Members may remember back in 1993 when the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada was reduced to just one breeding pair. We were able to develop our own type of recovery plan to encourage Canadians to invest in the environment stock we had elected in 1993. I am very pleased to say today that the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada still may be extirpated from certain regions temporarily, but we are looking to restore a habitat in other regions of the country. From that particular perspective, we have returned a very fine breeding stock to the House of Commons. A testament to that is the fact that Rosemary Kathleen Herron was born just six weeks ago. The Tory species is indeed growing in leaps and bounds as we head into the next election campaign.
Canada has 351 species that are recognized as endangered or at risk. There is no federal law to protect these species. The government's proposed species at risk act, known as SARA, is long overdue. It is a long overdue promise, but it is very disappointing. This legislation is even weaker and less effective than Bill C-65, the 1996 federal endangered species bill, which died before the 1997 election. This new bill is unacceptably ineffective in several key areas, particularly habitat protection.
The main threat facing endangered species is the destruction of their habitat, the places where species breed, where they feed and where they raise their young.
Habitat loss has been identified as the root cause for over 80% of species decline in Canada. Yet, in Bill C-33, saving species is discretionary, even in areas—and I will bet, Mr. Speaker, that you will find this quite shocking—under federal jurisdiction. The bill does not require protection of endangered species habitat. It merely says that cabinet may protect it. This is one of the key weaknesses of Bill C-33.
Perhaps the most evident of the weaknesses in this legislation is that the federal cabinet will decide which species to list as endangered and not the scientific committee known as COSEWIC, which is the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. The Progressive Conservative Party believes that the decision on whether a species is at risk is a matter of science; a scientific fact and not a political choice. Even an all party committee report, including Liberal government members and Reform members, agreed that scientific listing should be the most basic of guiding principles.
The government has argued that if COSEWIC's list is automatically adopted it would open up scientists to intense lobbying. This point we know to be irrelevant, since nothing would preclude them from being lobbied under the proposed bill.
Building successful legislation requires input and support from the affected stakeholders. The Progressive Conservative plan calls for more carrots and less sticks. We believe that it is imperative to encourage, recognize and reward stewardship by offering more carrots, which in the end will result in fewer sticks.
A Progressive Conservative program would be incentive based and not punitive in nature. Merely making criminals out of Canada's best stewards of our lands, the Canadian farmers and our woodlot owners, would not precipitate the positive behaviour that we are looking to create. We believe this can be accomplished by listening to the concerns of stakeholders, working in co-operation with them to build a consensus on effective legislation, and, most importantly, engaging stakeholders in the recovery process.
The Progressive Conservative Party believes that without the support of the provinces, the nation's principal partners, private landowners, resource users and communities, the endangered species legislation will be impossible to institute and will lead to what is commonly known by the people who are following the legislation as a shoot, shovel and shut up mentality.
Members may be aware of a coalition of major environmental and industry groups known as the Species at Risk Working Group, which includes the Canadian Nature Federation, the Mining Association of Canada, the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association, the Canadian Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club of Canada. They have all agreed on the need for strong legislation.
As Hugh Windsor pointed out in The Globe and Mail just a few weeks ago, following the failure of Bill C-65, these stakeholders joined forces two years ago in an attempt to build a common position for an outline of a new endangered species act.
The Progressive Conservative Party has always been a party that builds consensus by working with stakeholders, uniting Canadians and developing sound legislative policy. That is why we chose to support the work of this coalition.
It is also why our position paper, produced last December, two weeks before the government's, has been graded by members of this coalition to be an A, while the government's position paper was graded a mere D. We are working from a position where industry and environmental groups have argued that our position warrants an A, and the basis that formed this legislation is of only D quality.
These stakeholders agreed that, at a minimum, a bill designed to protect species at risk should require habitat protection in all areas of federal jurisdiction and a science based listing of endangered species. These are key components of our Progressive Conservative plan that are absent from the government's Bill C-33.
One has to ask: With a joint industry-environment consensus handed to the government, how is it possible that it ignored this consensus, this work that was done on behalf of the Department of the Environment?
The simple answer, I am sad to say, is that the government is just not listening.
In response to the government's proposal, Pierre Gratton of the Mining Association of Canada said, “We certainly think it could be stronger”. Robert Decarie of the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association said, “We think the federal government could have been much stronger, at least within its own clear jurisdictions”.
I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the solid corporate citizenry of the mining association and the pulp and paper association for their efforts in developing a broad Canadian consensus.
Over 70% of Canada's species at risk migrate or range into the United States. Even the White House and many senators have written to urge Canada to protect the habitat of these shared species. Imagine that. The Americans are now challenging Canada to protect the environment. How things have changed over seven years. Long gone are the days when Canada led environmental battles against the United States.
It was the Progressive Conservative government which took on the Americans and negotiated the country's acid rain protocol in 1987. Now we have the Americans lobbying Canadians to clean up our environmental act. It is important to note, however, that the United States has tough endangered species legislation, but we do not support their all stick and no carrot approach, and neither does the species at risk working group.
Most of the key improvements needed concern internal federal issues which would not be opposed by the provinces or industries. However, a lack of political will to listen continues to hamper any progress on building a better bill.
Provincial endangered species laws make habitat protection mandatory, and thus are stronger in this proposed species at risk act. The Progressive Conservative Party has always believed in co-operative federalism. The Progressive Conservative Party believes that a federal law should act as a safety net. This means that a federal act would only apply in provinces where no equivalent protection exists. This was made clear under the terms of the national accord for the protection of species at risk signed in 1996 by all governments. We maintain our commitment to this plan.
Equivalent legislation would be defined as including, at a minimum, scientific listing and the protection of critical habitat through agreements, laws, permits and effective enforcement using the federal-provincial framework. In addition, other elements of equivalency would be established and negotiated on a species by species basis, utilizing the framework of the national accord for the protection of species at risk.
It is easy to prove that the government is clearly not committed to co-operative federalism. When I went to Calgary for the announcement of the government's position paper in December, I contacted the hon. Gary Mar, who is a very learned environment minister in this country. Government officials never took the courtesy to contact Minister Mar to let him know that the federal government was making the announcement on the position paper at the Calgary zoo. In fact, no members of parliament from Alberta took the courtesy to inform Minister Mar.
If the government wants to build co-operative federalism, if it wants to work with its provincial partners, it should have at least let the provincial ministers know when the position paper was coming out and given them a political heads up.
Overall the bill was a chance for the Liberal government to improve its poor environmental record. It was another chance for the Prime Minister to improve his poor, dismal environmental record. Perhaps the only thing more endangered than the 351 species at risk on the endangered species list is the government's environmental record. Bill C-33 indicates that the environment is still a low priority for the government. In fact, I might add that it is not even on the radar screen.
To illustrate, the Liberal Party has now been in government for seven years and has yet to pass one piece of environmental legislation of its own. Last year it pushed through amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, revisions that were also widely criticized for their key weaknesses. While the original CEPA introduced by the Progressive Conservative Party was a pioneering bill, the revised edition contained modest improvements.
This is a good example to show what a good environmental record is. It was our party when we were in government that negotiated an acid rain protocol with the Americans. It was our party that delivered the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. It was our party that led the world community in developing the Montreal protocol on ozone depleting gases. It was our party that actually helped to make our landfill sites even more environmentally friendly with the national packaging protocol. We worked with industry in a co-operative fashion. In contrast, in seven years the Liberal Party has had no bills of its own from the legislative framework.
While our environmental record is solid, this bill fails to even live up to the government's promise in the throne speech. It promised legislation to ensure that species at risk and their critical natural habitat are protected.
What is the good news here? The good news is that the federal government is finally introducing long overdue endangered species legislation. The bad news is that the rest of the bill does not have very many positive things in terms of protecting species at risk, especially in relation to stewardship.
Bill C-33 attempts to recognize the need to encourage and reward stewardship. However the funding provided, about $10 million to $15 million a year, is only a fraction of what is needed to help recover existing species at risk, which is about $50 million a year.
Again the tax and spend Liberals do not know what incentives are. Tax incentives could be brought forth which would actually help stewardship. They would help the stewards of our land, the farmers and woodlot owners, in terms of actually encouraging their positive behaviour through their own goodwill.
The Progressive Conservative Party believes that Bill C-33 should not be another Kyoto where the provinces are forced to implement a plan imposed on them by the federal government. The provinces should be provided with sufficient resources to address recovery plans and ensure effective enforcement. In order for this legislation to work, the federal government must work co-operatively with all stakeholders, the provinces, private landowners, industry and environmentalists alike, to ensure that no single party bears the burden of the recovery on its own when there is a clear shared reward for species recovery.
Finding endangered species on one's land should not mean that all development stops. The key is to manage the lands to ensure that the species can continue to survive.
In addition to those rare cases where protecting endangered species could impose costs on the landowner, the government should provide direct financial assistance.
I was talking with the hon. member for Lethbridge about this issue a while ago. One weakness is that the bill is too vague. It is not clear and it breeds more anxiety about the compensatory regime that is going to be required to reward positive stewardship to protect species at risk.
The Progressive Conservative Party believes that when designing the recovery plan with stakeholders, social and economic considerations must be accounted for and a balance can be achieved that both encourages stewardship and saves endangered species.
In addition, Bill C-33 does not use Canada's existing endangered species list as an initial list for this new act, even though the 1996 bill did. The government is going backward. A better approach would be to start with the existing COSEWIC list and then allow future changes if necessary, as was done in the 1996 bill.
I would like to take this opportunity to move an amendment. This is my rationale. When the bill was tabled in the House of Commons in April, the minister warned that if the committee made changes, the bill would meet a similar fate to the previous one which died on the order paper three years ago. It was reported in the Montreal Gazette on April 12 that the minister said, “If you destabilize this legislation, it is probably gone, just as the previous legislation was gone”. With these threats, the minister is effectively telling the committee not to do its job. The minister is insulting the democratic process of the House.
I urge the government to take the bill back and listen to the stakeholders who have come up with a collaborative and workable compromise. I might add they are very close to reaching a very workable compromise. Listen to the Mining Association of Canada, the Canadian Nature Federation, the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association, the private woodlot owners, the farming community, the Sierra Club and ranchers alike. Canadians want a bill that works. This bill will not.
The bill can be saved with the necessary changes I outlined. If the committee will not be permitted to make changes, then I urge the government to make them. Therefore, I move:
That all the words after the word “That” be deleted and the following be substituted: “Bill C-33, An Act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada, be not now read a second time but that it be read a second time this day six months hence”.
There is overwhelming public support to have this legislation. In fact, poll upon poll states that Canadians want—