Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-33. It was an issue that was on the table during the last election campaign in 1997 and it has now finally been tabled. It is much needed and it is about time.
Listening to some of the earlier debate, it seems that most people are concerned with what is in the bill but for very different reasons. We in the Canadian Alliance are concerned with some of the things in the legislation, and I will try to outline some of those in my presentation.
After many years and almost as many cabinet ministers, it gives me great pleasure to finally be able to speak to legislation protecting species at risk in Canada. I want to stress how important wildlife and nature is to Canadians and the Canadian Alliance.
Canadians value nature for many different reasons. In the past many of our forefathers depended on nature for their very survival. Today we value wildlife for different reasons. Economic dependence has been largely replaced by the view that wildlife should be treasured for its own inherent worth. The affluence of our society is reflected in the 1996 nature survey which found that Canadians and visitors to Canada spent $11.7 billion on nature related pursuits in that year alone.
Wild species are an integral part of our heritage and our identity and attract tourists from around the globe. Indeed, we as humans are dependent on the diversity of species on earth for our own survival.
The Canadian Alliance recognizes this significance in its policy declaration, which states:
We are committed to protecting and preserving Canada's natural environment and endangered species, and to sustainable development of our abundant natural resources for the use of current and future generations. Therefore, we will strike a balance between environmental preservation and economic development.
It is that critical balance that is the only odd issue out in many of the debates from both sides of the House. It is how that balance will be created and how it will be implemented.
Unfortunately, in its last attempt to introduce endangered species legislation, the Liberal government failed to find this balance.
Private property rights were a major concern in the last bill, Bill C-65, which completely ignored the rights of landowners. It was a heavyhanded bill that relied on government regulation instead of co-operation with landowners to protect species. Due in part to the efforts of Reform MPs at the time, the bill never passed. This was the bill referred to earlier as being similar to the one developed in the United States which has not worked, uses a heavyhanded approach and does exactly the opposite for endangered species than what it should.
The Canadian Alliance recognizes that landowners are an integral part of the species at risk equation and, at its founding policy convention earlier this year, the Alliance recognized and affirmed the historic common law right to ownership and enjoyment of private property.
Since the 1997 election, Canadian Alliance MPs have been advocating the creation of responsible endangered species legislation that seeks out co-operation not confrontation, and compensation not confiscation in an effort to protect species at risk. Not surprisingly, the government did not share this view and it shows in this legislation.
The preamble of the bill begins innocently enough, recognizing the need for co-operation among various orders of government and encouraging the stewardship efforts of individual Canadians, but quickly becomes clear that it actually relies more on a heavy hand than on a helping hand.
On the issue of private property rights and compensation, the true environmentalists and the true stewards in this country are the people who deal on a daily basis with the land: our ranchers, our farmers, our natural resource people, people who enjoy the outdoors and realize that nature is as beautiful and as fragile as it is. No one knows more about the fragile aspect of our environment than the people who are on the land every day.
When we look at compensation, considering that this is a key concern for landowners, it is disappointing that the government has only chosen to pay lip service to compensate landowners. In clause 64, it states that “the minister may”, not must, “pay compensation to any person for losses suffered as a result of any extraordinary impact that this legislation may create”.
We heard earlier from the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar that he was concerned that our party was not dealing with the full facts when we talked to landowners and property owners. I would like to ask if it is possible for him to go forward and say to them that there is nothing in this legislation that they must fear and nothing in Bill C-33 that would affect their livelihood. We cannot do that because there are things in here that are of major concern to Canadians. We need to be diligent in dealing with them.
There are no details as to how this compensation will be paid out, only a nebulous reference to a provision which grants the governor in council authority to make the necessary regulations. That in itself leaves a lot of concern in the minds of Canadians. If there is going to be compensation, it should be defined exactly how that is going to take place. The government says that will be in the regulations but it is something that should be in this bill. If it was in the bill then we could have a look at it and look at it in a favourable way. If it is market value and if it will help people when their land is expropriated or taken away, that is something we could consider. The way the bill is structured now, we cannot support it.
The procedures to be followed when claiming compensation must be determined, the methods used to determine eligibility of a person for compensation and the terms and conditions for the payment all need to be mapped out. Again I say there is absolutely no reference to fair market value anywhere in the legislation.
The lack of compensation has been the single biggest barrier to the success of the endangered species act in the United States. The problem with the U.S. ESA boils down to the fact that it creates a perverse incentive for landowners to view species at risk on their properties as a liability. That is exactly what we have to avoid.
We cannot put legislation in place that will in any way be defined or looked at as causing an endangered species to be a liability. We have to structure it in a way that makes it exactly the opposite. If the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finds that there is an endangered species on one's land, one cannot in any way alter the land and there is no compensation. It is not surprising to observe how landowners have responded.
What can Canada learn from the American experience with regard to compensation? Clearly fair and just compensation is essential to ensure the success of any legislation. Landowners must not see wildlife on their properties as a liability. It must be viewed as exactly the opposite.
Compensation will assist the government in securing the co-operation of landowners in fostering a climate of co-operation that will enable private associations to continue on in their work. Many organizations have been very successful in working with landowners to conserve natural habitats and depend upon the continuing good will of landowners to be successful.
I mentioned the Alberta Fish and Game Association and Operation Burrowing Owl. Last summer it was my pleasure to go up to Brooks on a tour with the member for Medicine Hat. The eastern irrigation district invited us to go. Tom Livingston, a member of the board, and some of his staff took us out and showed us the burrowing owl's tremendous wetland that has been developed all of their own will.
It was very impressive. The land is grazed. It has oil exploration and production on it. The land close by is actively farmed. All these things are going on at the same time that burrowing owls are flourishing in this area. They do it all because of their natural love of the land.
Mr. Livingston explained to me that even travelling across the prairies in a vehicle, just driving across the grass at 10 or 12 kilometres ruins one acre of grass. They are very careful about how they drive on it and how they use it. They manage it very well.
Ducks Unlimited is another organization with purchase and conservation agreements. Nature Conservancy of Canada does a lot of good work and needs to be encouraged in stewardship roles.
Compensation also forces the government to be accountable by taking into consideration the social and economic effects of its decisions. That aspect of it alone is very key. If we are to look at reclamation programs and the protection of habitat programs, we have to take into account the social and economic effects of any decisions to do that.
The concern over private property rights extends into other sections of the bill. When we look at property rights we must look at not only the possibility of losing one's land but at the possibility of people encroaching without just cause.
This comes up in the application for investigation. Although the government wisely removed the civil suit provisions contained in Bill C-65, it retains a section in this bill which would allow any person to initiate an investigation by the government. Any person could go to the government and say he or she suspects something is happening and an investigation would have to be started by the government.
Clause 95 requires the minister to report back to the applicant every 90 days during the investigative period with details of the investigation. This provision is taken into account with clause 90 which gives enforcement officers the right to enter on and pass through or over private property without being liable for trespassing. Added to clause 34 which authorizes the federal government to extend its authorities over lands which are not federal lands in a province if the minister is of the opinion that the laws of the province are not strong enough to protect the species, a frightening scenario is created where the private landowner has very few resources at his or her disposal for protection against vexatious actions.
Those are some of the concerns we hear from landowners and people in the resource sector. When these concerns come forward they are legitimate. They have a legitimate concern that their lands are in jeopardy.
I want to talk about some of the things we would like to see proposed. The Canadian Alliance rejects the type of heavy handed approach in this bill. In the little time I have left today and in the debates that lie ahead of us I will outline how we will hold protected species at risk.
Like most Canadians we have always supported the development of endangered species legislation, but we know that in order for it to be successful it must respect the fundamental rights of property owners. We believe that co-operation and not confrontation will achieve the greatest results. We also believe that governments must be accountable for their actions. To this end we believe that the final listing decision should remain with parliament. It alone has a democratic mandate to balance the competing interests of economic and environmental needs.
That is the key. If we have a fully scientific body that does the listing, we must have the accountability of parliament to recognize that list and to enact any actions that are deemed necessary to protect endangered species. We cannot take parliamentary accountability out of the equation or it gets into a whole other area.
Another opportunity I had a little over a year ago was to tour the old growth forest on the west coast with some people who took us there for two or three days. We flew in helicopters and had a look at the logging practices going on there that are environmentally sensitive. We saw some of the changes that had been made and some of the practices to protect endangered species, to protect the land itself from erosion and to protect the watersheds. The industry is more aware of what needs to be done. It is working hard toward that.
We see new coalitions being developed with environmental groups, industry and land users coming together to try to find a solution to this problem. The legislation put forward by the government has to be such that it encourages that co-operation and that it brings these people together in a way that will truly help protect endangered species and our environment in a very substantial way.
If we include all the stakeholders in the process then we can come up with some meaningful legislation, not only in the endangered species area but in all environmental issues, to make the country sustainable in the long run and to preserve what we have for generations to come.