Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak to this very important topic.
I say to my hon. colleague from the Bloc Quebecois Party that protection of the environment should never be in isolation. The problem occurs with cross-border pollutants and cross-border migratory species, et cetera. The best way to protect our planet's species and everyone else involved in that sphere should be co-operation at all levels. To do it in isolation simply will not work.
Our party vehemently rejects this legislation because it is quite simple. It is absolute nonsense to say we will protect animals and not protect their habitat. The bill does nothing to protect habitat.
The policies of the New Democratic Party will be the following ones:
Identification and listing of species at risk by an independent committee of scientists, wherein scientific evidence is the primary consideration and not political interpretation of data; and
Comprehensive, nationwide natural habitat protection, including protection for species that range or migrate over Canada's domestic and international borders; and
Inclusion of stakeholders in development of species recovery plans, provision of adequate support to those whose livelihood is disrupted by a species recovery plan and provision for just transition to workers and communities affected by the recovery plans.
That is a much more proactive approach to species at risk.
I will delve into a little story of an area just outside my riding called the Liscomb Game Sanctuary. Two-thirds of that game sanctuary is already logged. When asked by a group trying to protect it, DNR officials in Nova Scotia said “Don't get us wrong but our job is to protect the wildlife and not the habitat”. That shows the nonsense of officials in the bureaucratic governmental level who do not understand that if we do not have a healthy, vibrant habitat for species at risk then we simply will not have any species. Bill C-33 will just not allow that to happen.
It is unfortunate that the minister, who I believe is well meaning, does not understand that aspect of it.
A while ago the International Fund for Animal Welfare gave every member of parliament in the House a species to identify with. Mine of course was the bottlenose whale, a whale with a fairly large forehead but a very endearing smile. I thought that was quite nice. Every member in the House received one.
What that organization was highlighting and saying to every member of parliament was that it was our responsibility to do everything we could to protect the particular species identified. If we work together, if we do it from the ground or the waters of the ocean up then we can do it. We can do it very successfully, but if it comes from the top down there will be rejections and a very futile effort on the part of government when it argues about it. Meanwhile the destruction of our planet carries on.
As we speak, in Washington state just south of Sumas in the Abbotsford area of British Columbia, there are plans to set up a new power plant. Its emissions into our environment would equate to about 480,000 vehicles every day. What does our government do about it? Absolutely nothing.
There are many legal avenues that our government could pursue. It could send it to an arbitration board. It could ask for better clarification. Yet our government sits there and tells the state of Washington nothing. If this plant goes ahead I have very dire predictions for the environment, for the health of British Columbians and even for the people of the state of Washington for wherever that ill wind will be blowing.
We can also look at the history of past Conservative and current Liberal governments in terms of the fishery species. It is not an accident that salmon on the west coast and salmon on the east coast, cod, and crab stocks off Newfoundland are depleting at a very rapid rate. Many independent scientists are now saying that cod off our coastline may never recover.
Yet as we speak there are still terrible ongoing harvesting methods. We are still dragging the bottom of our oceans. We are still dumping millions of pounds of fish over the sides of boats every year. That is an abysmal policy of the government.
To say that we will now protect species at risk is simple nonsense. The government and the previous Conservative government have no idea what it takes, the leadership that it takes to protect our planet. When we protect the flora and fauna and other plants and animals, in essence we are protecting ourselves as well.
It is most unbelievable that the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board issues leases through the province and gives out lease permits to oil and gas companies to do seismic work off the coastlines of Cape Breton and Nova Scotia. Once it gives out a lease it says the company has to do an environmental assessment. It is simple nonsense.
The government is saying that the company has to do its own environmental assessment, report back, and nine times out of ten proceed as normal. A full independent, complete environmental assessment should be done of those areas first. Based on the discussions and on the parameters of that assessment, leases could then be granted if they will not harm ocean or fish habitats.
The mandate of the DFO and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is quite clear: the protection of fish and fish habitat. However basically the cart is before the horse when it gives away jurisdiction to an independent board that grants leases before an environmental assessment is done. There is nothing in the legislation that reverses that practice. Thousands of fishermen in their communities are very concerned about it.
I am not saying that oil and gas exploration and fisheries cannot coexist, but we need hard core, scientific, independent environmental evidence first to ensure that all fish and all fish habitat are protected by the burgeoning oil and gas industry.
At this time I would like to mention one of the top three books I have read, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring . Unfortunately many people in the House probably have not read it. I know government officials have never read it. It was written in the early sixties by an American environmentalist who predicted what is happening today: the decline of species, the increase of asthma in children, and the rampant use of agricultural pesticides on crops and products throughout the world.
It is no coincidence that on Prince Edward Island there are fish kills every year related directly to agricultural pesticides in its potato fields. What is done about it? Nothing, absolutely nothing.
We do not want to upset farmers. The salmon river groups and the fishing groups are saying that they do not want to upset farmers either. We have to work together not only to be able to yield a sufficient crop in the potato industry but to protect the waters and the habitat of fish. It does no good to promote one industry at the destruction of another. That kind of attitude needs to change and a more co-operative level has to happen.
At this time I wish to thank some great organizations throughout the country that do a tremendous amount of good in protecting our habitat for future generations. The Sackville Rivers Association in my riding does a tremendous job of river cleanup, habitat protection and everything else, on a shoestring. The Atlantic Salmon Federation is trying to promote sustainable recreational fisheries for salmon. As well it is trying to protect their rivers and breeding grounds and ocean stocks in order for the salmon to return.
I also thank the people of the Burns Bog Society in Steveston, Richmond, British Columbia. Those people are trying to protect the Burns Bog area for migratory birds species. Unfortunately all levels of government are not really listening to them, but I thank those people for their efforts in protecting those species.
Also I thank a wonderful group in Nova Scotia called the Ecology Action Centre. It is a great group of environmental people doing it on a shoestring, trying to protect specific areas in Nova Scotia like the coral reefs and forested areas so that many generations from now can enjoy the benefits of those beautiful areas.
I also thank the David Suzuki Foundation for the great work it does not only within Canada but internationally, and of course the Nova Scotia Nature Trust. The Nova Scotia Nature Trust was started by a gentleman in Chester named Rudy Haase. Basically it purchases lands from people and tries to protect them for future generations.
I say to the government and other opposition members that if we do not protect the habitat of the specific species we are talking about, it is simple nonsense to talk about the back end and say we will protect the species without protecting their habitat. It can be done co-operatively with the use of aboriginal knowledge, especially of the north. It can be done with the municipalities, the provinces, industry, workers and all associated groups in that level working together not only to protect our country but to protect our planet.