Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise you that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Louis-Hébert.
I am very pleased to take part in this debate. I would like to congratulate my hon. colleague from Jonquière, who is the Bloc Quebecois environment critic. She has done a lot of work and put a lot of heart into her defence of the interests of her fellow citizens, of everybody in Quebec, and by the same token, in Canada.
I would also like to indicate that I support the amendment by the Progressive Conservative Party. It is clear to us that this bill should be reconsidered, or at least hoisted for six months.
The title of Bill C-33 is an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada. Biological diversity in itself is the result of evolution, which has been going on on our planet for more than 4.5 billion years.
In the last few years, scientists have indicated that more and more species are becoming extinct and that more and more of them are becoming endangered or highly vulnerable.
In 1992, during the Rio summit, a large part of the international community, including Canada, signed the Convention on Biological Diversity. Canada agreed to draft or maintain the legislative and regulatory provisions required to protect endangered species and populations. Needless to say, on this side of the House, we know what the current government's signature is worth. It always claims to be acting in good faith, but in fact, that is not always what happens once it has signed a document.
In 1995, the Liberal environment minister of the day introduced a first bill, which was heavily criticized, especially by environmental groups. We all know what happened to that bill.
In 1996, the federal government, through its environment minister of the day, Sergio Marchi, who has since retired, as mentioned by my colleague from Rimouski—Mitis, introduced Bill C-65, which was essentially the precursor of Bill C-33. Once again, the bill was heavily criticized. The Liberals called an election and, fortunately for them, Bill C-65 died on the order paper.
They still do not seem to have learned their lesson. They have brought this issue forward again by introducing a bill, which they say contains improvements. It is worth noting that the federal government can play a role in protecting wildlife species under certain statutes such as those dealing with fisheries or with our national parks. However, no federal legislation exists for this specific purpose.
If passed, Bill C-33 would be the first Canadian legal instrument dealing specifically with the protection of wildlife species at risk.
Since pollution and migratory species ignore boundaries, a concerted effort is obviously required at the international level. Logically, the same goes on a smaller scale within Canada. Canadian federalism calls for co-operation between the provinces on this issue, since this is an area of shared jurisdiction in our country.
Improved protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada is necessary. The number of known species living in Canada is estimated at 70,000, and apparently many of those exist only in Canada. To date, the committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada has designated 340 wildlife species as being at risk. Of these, 12 are now extinct, 15 are extirpated species or no longer exist in the wild in Canada, 87 are endangered, 75 are threatened and 151 are vulnerable, which means that there are concerns about these species. Of the 97 species whose status was reassessed in the last few years, 26 are now closer to becoming extinct.
Needless to say that without proper federal or provincial legislation, without enforcement measures and adequate resources, the COSEWIC initiatives are insignificant, and their impact is limited. With the increase in the number of species facing extinction, the situation is critical. An efficient response is therefore needed.
But does Bill C-33 really provide an additional protection that is enforceable? Will this bill really ensure better protection of our ecosystems and of the threatened species that are part of them? We do not think so.
I wish to convey to the members of the House the position of environmental groups and industry. Most environmental groups are opposed to the bill put forward by the Minister for the Environment. Those who should be his allies in any attempt to improve the protection of wild species find the bill useless and dangerous.
As a matter of fact, the minister has been facing a lot of protest and criticism since he introduced his bill. Most stakeholders find the bill too weak. Even organizations representing the industry feel that the bill will not provide greater protection for species or specify the course of action they should adopt concerning the protection of the species living where they run their operations.
It is not only the Bloc Quebecois and the bad separatists who are saying this; environmental groups and industry representatives are saying the same thing. If anyone knows what they are doing, working year after year to protect those species, if there are any scientists who are experts in their field, it is the people in these environmentalist groups. And they have voiced strong opposition to and severe criticism of the bill.
We believe, among other things, that this bill intrudes on provincial jurisdiction, in particular the jurisdiction of Quebec, which already has its own legislation. Quebec is one of the few Canadian provinces that has legislated to protect wildlife and species at risk. Why not co-operate then?
This government is stubborn, set in its own ways, and this is especially true of the Prime Minister, who should have a maple leaf stuck to his forehead to satisfy his desire for visibility.
As I am running out of time, I simply wish to read a few lines from a news release issued by the Quebec minister of environment on April 11, 2000. It says:
Quebec has always acted in a responsible and adequate way to protect its most fragile wild animals and plants, and it intends to continue to exercise its jurisdiction in this area.
We will never accept an umbrella legislation for all action in this area. It is out of the question for Quebec to accept federal intrusion on its jurisdiction. This bill must exclude all species, sites or habitats under Quebec's jurisdiction and must only be implemented at the request of the provinces or territories.
Quebec has always taken good care of its species at risk and it will not need to use this legislation.
Why does the government insist on intruding on provincial jurisdictions? It does this in all areas, as for parental leave, right now. Why insist on overlapping and intruding on existing legislation that works?