House of Commons Hansard #124 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was petro-canada.


Marine Conservation Areas ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.


Louis Plamondon Bloc Richelieu, QC

Pardon me, a Manitoba MP. I would have been surprised if it had been one from Quebec.

Marine Conservation Areas ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.


Ronald J. Duhamel Liberal Saint Boniface, MB

He is confused. There is a difference between Manitoba and Quebec.

Marine Conservation Areas ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.


Louis Plamondon Bloc Richelieu, QC

Mr. Speaker, I ask the member from Manitoba, who will be speaking soon, to tell us just how much he serves the interests of Manitoba's francophones. I sit on the committee for the defence of the interests of francophones outside Quebec and the official languages committee and I have never seen him at this committee, I note in passing.

The people of Granby live in a beautiful region but their spokesperson will be silent from now on.

I know that this lady gave the next general election considerable thought before crossing over. I know, however, that the voters of Granby are now thinking about who they will vote for in the next election.

The situation is the same for the member for Compton—Stanstead. He was here. Why did he criticize everything the Liberal government proposed for three years? For three years he criticized all the bills, including Bill C-20. He rose to say “No, that makes no sense”.

Then after three years, he is prepared to join this party, which has always worked contrary to the interests of Quebec. He is prepared to do so as a member from Quebec. Is that acceptable? Is he serving the interests of Quebec by doing so or is he looking out for his own interests?

I am looking forward to seeing the reaction of the people of this riding, whom I salute in passing, and to whom we offer our full co-operation through our candidate, Mr. Leroux, who was selected and who will make an excellent member.

It saddens me to think of this riding. I remember the two previous members who represented that riding, Mr. Bernier and François Gérin. These were men of their word. They were elected, they worked hard for their riding and they also respected Quebec's interests. Never would they have put their personal interests before those of Quebec.

People in that riding must also be disappointed by the attitude of a member of parliament who claimed to be a spokesperson for Quebec. Now that he has crossed the floor, he never opens his mouth.

I mentioned those two members of parliament but what about the member for Lac-Saint-Louis who is here with us and who is a former Quebec minister of the environment? Would he have accepted such a bill by the federal government? In fact, in 1987 when he was a Liberal minister in Quebec, he introduced an environmental bill that clearly defined jurisdictions.

Would he have let the federal government get involved in a provincial jurisdiction? No. He would have risen in the national assembly and told the federal government “You have no reason to come up with such a bill”. He would have fought as a Quebecer but now that he is a federal Liberal member of parliament he remains silent. Worse still, he supports this interference in Quebec's jurisdiction.

How is that? What is it that they slip the members from Quebec when they join the Liberal Party? Why do they fall silent? Why do they agree to serve Quebec's interests so badly, to serve the Liberal Party, to let its leader—

Marine Conservation Areas ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

An hon. member

Serve his own interests.

Marine Conservation Areas ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Louis Plamondon Bloc Richelieu, QC

—and to let the leader of the party serve his own interests, to serve the friends of the party and to go along with this sham? How is that?

Earlier, I saw the member for Anjou—Rivière-des-Prairies who was appointed by the provincial government of Mr. Bourassa to chair environmental commissions. This member should be the leading spokesperson for Quebec because he is very familiar with the issues. What is more, when he was commissioner he always said that jurisdictions should be respected and that when it came to the environment the best approach was not confrontation but harmony. That was what he always said.

In conclusion, I again appeal to all members from Quebec, whatever their political stripe, that Quebec's best interests are at stake. We must join forces to vote against this bill or at least to amend it so that it serves Quebec's interests.

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11:40 a.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak to Bill C-8, an act respecting marine conservation areas. As the title alone would indicate, why would anyone be against marine conservation areas? When we say it like that it sounds great. We are going to protect conservation areas in the marine aquatic areas.

Unfortunately, it is just the title. Like most other things the Liberal government does, this is another piece of legislation that came out of the south end of a northbound cow. It is simply not strong enough. It is not going to do what it is supposed to do.

There is a bill that is also before the House, Bill C-33, the endangered species act. It is very clear when we speak to people within the environment committee and to people who appeared before the committee that the bill does not protect the habitat of the endangered species. That is what this bill does. It does not do anything to protect conservation areas.

I will digress for just a moment. One of the reasons why the cod stocks on the east coast of Atlantic Canada are down is the massive overfishing through the technology that we use today in dragging and trawling the ocean floor. They completely drag the bottom of the ocean floor and everything comes up with it. Then they throw over what they do not need, dead, to the tune of millions of pounds of fish. Every year in this country and around the world fish are being dumped overboard. As we speak, there is dumping going on in the Georges Bank and in the NAFO areas of the Flemish Cap because they throw overboard the fish species they do not want.

The bill will permit trawling and dragging in these conservation areas. It is absolute madness. If we are going to protect a particular area it means we must have the most sustainable environmental methods of harvesting our dwindling aquatic resources. The bill does not even address that problem. In the entire country, the government did absolutely no consultation on the bill with any fishing communities. I find it absolutely deplorable that people who rely on ocean species for their livelihood are not even consulted on this very important bill.

As well, I cannot help but notice that the Minister of Veterans Affairs is reported in the newspapers today as saying that he wants an expansion of the 200 mile zone to a 350 mile zone.

That sounds great, but what is its main purpose? Is it to protect fishing jobs and coastal communities on the east coast and on the west coast, or is there another reason for it? Are his comments or ideas included in Bill C-8, an act respecting marine conservation areas? Are they even included? I would doubt very much.

We have a burgeoning oil and gas industry off the east coast. We have a beautiful place called Sable Island about 100 miles off the coast of Halifax.

We were told in 1997 that for oil and gas seismic work Sable Island would be a no-touch zone. That means no seismic work would be done on Sable Island because they did not need to do it. It is a no-touch zone.

What happened last year? Seismic cables were drawn clearly across that island, a very fragile ecosystem. They changed the rules. They changed the code of practice in order to get that work done.

I find it absolutely astonishing that one year they say something and two years later they do something completely different. If we are truly interested in protecting marine conservation areas, we should stand by our words and truly protect the aquatic species in Atlantic Canada.

For example, it has cost taxpayers across the country $4.2 billion to readjust the fishing industry on east coast since 1988. Yet the cod stocks are not rebounding. Salmon stocks are in trouble. We heard the other day that turbot stocks may be in trouble. Crab stocks off Newfoundland are in trouble. The bill could have provided some protection for breeding grounds and spawning grounds for many of those species, but unfortunately it falls terribly short.

We on this side of the House know that the government cannot handle certain areas on its own. The federal government does not have the wherewithal or the knowledge to be able to do it on its own. Why would it not include the province, the communities and those people closest to the resource in the decision making process?

I understand why Bloc Quebecois members are so angry. It goes completely against what we voted on in the House earlier in Bill C-7, the Saguenay—St. Lawrence Marine Park model. That was an excellent example of co-operation at all three levels of government to protect a very sensitive area for beluga whales. Now Bill C-8 goes completely the other way. It is absolute madness.

Again we have that top down, bureaucratic, central based government saying to the extremities of the country “We know what is best for you in Ottawa, so be quiet, forget about it and we will move forward”. It is disguised under a nice, touchy-feely thing called conservation of marine areas and protection of the environment, but unfortunately it simply does not work.

Another big problem the government failed to address is that Victoria, British Columbia, and Halifax, Nova Scotia, still pump raw sewage into our oceanways. They are dumping millions of pounds of sewage every year into the waterways and our oceanways. The federal government has refused to act. It refuses to assist the city of Victoria and the city of Halifax in stopping deleterious substances from going into our oceanways and affecting our marine aquatic species. The bill does not even address that issue.

What are the Liberals really up to? They are all right. They are pretty decent people. In fact some of them in the House today are my friends. However, I doubt very much they have even read the bill. I doubt very much they have even informed their constituents about it.

The bill is very misleading. We simply cannot have that any more, especially on the east coast with a burgeoning oil and gas industry. Many people are very concerned about seismic work off the east and west coasts of Cape Breton Island. There has been no consultation with user groups. The province and federal government, through the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, grant the leases and tell the companies to do an environmental assessment after they get the leases. It is sort of putting the cart before the horse.

The environmental assessment should be done on these areas long prior to any seismic work being done. The government has shifted responsibility from the public sector into the private sector, which could have devastating effects on fishing communities throughout Atlantic Canada. We do not know exactly what is going on in the oceanways. We have cut back in that department in science so much that this does not go a very long way.

The Liberals continuously refuse to discuss these issues in an open manner. They like to rush things through. Input from the opposition or other members of society is simply not acceptable in the Liberal way of things. It is incredible.

The fact is that there are many good things we can do to protect our environment by working co-operatively with all three levels of government, with all five official parties, and with our friends in society who are seriously concerned about having true marine conservation areas on our coastlines to protect aquatic species and to protect the planet for many generations to come.

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11:50 a.m.


Deborah Grey Reform Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand today to talk about the Marine Conservation Act, Bill C-8, which I think is what is on the table. I appreciate the member's remarks and some of the insight from the Atlantic coast.

On the political rant from the separatists, it is easy to go on a rant and the closer we get to an election it seems all the more simple. It seems to me that right now we should be discussing the Marine Conservation Act.

The member across the way from British Columbia will be well aware of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, with which I met earlier this morning. It talks about marine protected areas. We are talking about marine conservation areas. I suspect they are pretty much the same, but when we look at semantics we start to try to decide what it is we are actually dealing with.

We as members of the opposition certainly believe in sustainable development and the management of the environment. Anyone in the country would be foolish not to realize the importance of that in this day and age. We simply must do that. We have to be able to preserve biodiversity and conserve the environment for the enjoyment of Canadians, present and future. There are always generations coming along and it gets more and more important for people to be able to enjoy that whether it is in the oceans, in the Great Lakes or on land.

I question the fact that this bill falls under the heritage department. I am not saying that we do not need to look at marine conservation areas. This may well be important, but I question why it is in the heritage portfolio. Bill C-8 appears to fulfil preservationist and environmental objectives instead of the usual objectives for national parks, historical or heritage sites which generally allow relatively free public access. We need to ask just how much free public access will there be to these conservation areas.

Motion No. 5 would therefore rightfully change the minister looking after the bill from the Canadian heritage minister to the fisheries and oceans minister. Some may ask: “What difference would that make? Is it not just a title?” If we look at national parks or marine parks, as the minister wants to change them, we have to look at the bureaucracy attached to that.

Granted, national parks and their agencies certainly do a pretty good job of looking after and administering national parks. It seems to me that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans already looks after some small areas. Granted, they are not as large as the MCAs the minister is wanting to include, but certainly under the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans there are already marine protected areas. If the whole structure is in place it seems to me it would be wise to make use of it and perhaps put it under the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

I could get skeptical or cynical and say that the same minister of heritage was the environment minister before and maybe is trying to encroach on her old area. It could be just some nostalgia to say that it would be important to look at the whole area of the good old days back in environment. I understand the Minister of the Environment would look after, very specifically, seabirds. To enlarge that area it may not be wise to put it under the Minister of the Environment. Certainly I believe the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans would be a great overseer of one of these marine parks.

We also have concern about some clauses in the bill which would allow the government or the minister to circumvent the usual parliamentary process. When we look at the Henry VIII clauses in the bill, the minister would be allowed to designate new areas under the act without having to steer an amending act through parliament. Whether we agree or disagree with it, parliament is the place where these things should be discussed and at least passed so that even if it is a rubber stamp, at least it got stamped. With the Henry VIII clauses where the minister could bring in sweeping new changes and designate new areas, it would not even have to come back to pass the House.

The key Henry VIII clause, clause 7, delegates the authority to object to the creation or expansion of a new marine conservation area or reserve to a standing committee. The whole House must confirm the committee's objection.

Somewhere in this precinct on Parliament Hill today we see that the government has asked if it could strike a couple of committees early, ahead of the scheduled time next week or the week after, to come up with committee chairs. That is all it wants to do today. It just wants to come up with a couple of chairmen for these committees.

Opposition members went in good faith to the couple of committees this morning, finance and immigration, and agreed to allow it to go ahead so a chair could be established, but there would be no business done, the government told us.

We got in there and all of a sudden it was said: “We are just going to look at these couple of bills today”. We can understand why people are nervous. They are told one thing, and when they walk in there in good faith all of a sudden there are surprises. I love surprises but sometimes after I have made a commitment to something I like it to be what I signed on for. Those kind of surprises are never much fun.

Today before noon we have had the very thing happen we are concerned about. We were told one thing and then something absolutely different happened. That causes us great concern.

Schedules 1 and 2 are to describe the lands to be set aside in marine conservation areas and reserves. In other words, with schedules 1 and 2, the government will make sure it designates the lands. It will tell us about it and have a really good conversation so we know everything right upfront, but no lands are described in schedules 1 and 2.

The government is asking us to sign the cheque and it will let us know what they are later. It reminds me of the Charlottetown accord in 1992 where the government was trying to push a document through. Fortunately it put it to a national referendum, and I give the Tories credit for that. I think it changed the way politics will be done in the country because the people had the power.

To be able to say “we will let you know” and designate it, as in the Charlottetown accord when it said “Just give us the go-ahead on this and we will tell you some of the constitutional changes we want to make later”, I would be considered foolish if I went to my truck dealer, gave him my signed cheque and told him to fill in the amount later. You would never do that in your business, Mr. Speaker. Nor should the Canadian public with this. Canadians certainly have concerns about the whole area of these schedules.

Also it gives the minister too much discretionary power and a lack of adequate public consultation. I have had a briefing from Parks Canada and appreciate the fact that a consultative process goes on. I know they have just been through that up in the Lake Superior area, that there have been consultations.

I say that is great. It is a terrific start. However the area that would cause me the very most concern is the whole idea of federal-provincial negotiations. It looks as though the federal government obviously takes precedence over the provincial government. It has just happened too many times and there are too many awkward situations where the federal government has come in and just stamped out the rights or concerns of the provinces.

With discretionary power the minister would be able to just waltz right into the provinces and say “Thanks very much for that 12 minutes of consultation but, sorry, we are going to go ahead and do it our way”. That works for Frank Sinatra but I do not think so for government policy on marine conservation acts.

I want to speak about the whole idea of prohibitions in the bill. We have concerns with the whole aviation area, that the minister has the right not just to scale back on but to prohibit flights over some of these sensitive areas.

There are a number of float planes on the west coast that fly around out there. Could the minister, as it says in the bill, and the answer would obviously have to be yes, absolutely prohibit some of these small aircraft that may be coming into the area carrying tourists? Aside from any new air traffic that might be coming in, would the minister have the power to absolutely prohibit them? There are piles of scheduled flights every day. There are seaplanes buzzing around all over the west coast.

Obviously that makes me nervous too because we look at some of the things we have already seen. For instance, we saw this minister overlook safety concerns in national parks before when they wanted to close the Banff and Jasper airstrips. They said that was they wanted to do and they were going to shut them down. I do not think we can do that.

Motion No. 22 would put aviation associations and provincial aviation councils on the list of bodies to be consulted by the minister. It seems very reasonable to me.

Finally, regarding resource exploitation or exploring, I know some of my colleagues will deal with this with far more expertise than I will in the hours to come. However, for marine conservation areas which would have their boundaries established, knowing that there would be resource mineral extraction, the government would say “Okay, we will put them over here then”. That works for today but how in the world would it work in future years if we found that we have the technology available to extract some of those resources? Who would have thought we would have ever seen a Hibernia project 15 or 20 years ago? It seemed impossible to be able to make that extraction through a Hibernia project.

Those kinds of things are the areas that we have severe concerns about. I know the member opposite will address those and I am looking forward to her comments and concerns. We want to make sure we do this as well as possible, but when we see red lights and alarms we want to make sure we pay attention to them. I know the government is very pleased to make corrections to address our concerns.

Marine Conservation Areas ActGovernment Orders


Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle Progressive Conservative St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity today to participate in this debate at report stage on Bill C-8, an act respecting marine conservation areas.

First, I want to express the regret of the hon. member for West Nova who is the Progressive Conservative heritage critic. He is unable to be here today to present his views on this second group of amendments introduced at report stage. I know he is truly disappointed that he cannot be here and that he is missing this opportunity to condemn the federal government for going forward with this flawed piece of legislation, despite the very serious ramifications it could have on our coastal communities, particularly communities in and around the Atlantic area.

The federal government's decision to go forward with the bill at this particular time is totally reprehensible. It shows its clear lack of understanding for the potentially explosive situation that presently exists in Atlantic Canada. Violent feelings are running very high in and around the Burnt Church and New Edinburgh areas because of illegal native fishing.

Now in the midst of this very dangerous situation, the Minister of Canadian Heritage has suddenly decided she wants to pass a piece of legislation in the House of Commons which could negatively affect fishermen. It clearly shows the contempt that the Liberal government has for the people of Atlantic Canada.

My colleague, the hon. member for West Nova, was told in committee that extensive consultations had been conducted all over the country prior to introducing the bill. These so-called consultations were more or less confined to sending letters out to fishing organizations advising them of the government's intention to introduce a marine conservation act. The government has interpreted the lack of response as a total acceptance of its plan.

Most fishermen in West Nova and in the Atlantic provinces have never heard of these plans. Frankly, they have much larger problems to deal with and worry about at this particular point in time. It is inconceivable that lobster fishermen in the Atlantic provinces would participate in discussions about a new marine conservation act when their livelihoods are being threatened by the illegal native lobster fishery.

Atlantic Canadians are witnessing the Liberal government's failure to fully enforce the laws of the country by not putting an end to the illegal lobster fishing in Burnt Church and New Edinburgh. This is despite the fact that the federal government received clarification from the supreme court in the Marshall decision and was the recipient of a successful federal court decision in Halifax.

What assurances do fishermen have that designated marine conservation areas will not have a negative impact on their fishery? Why should they expect the Department of Canadian Heritage to protect these areas when the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has shown that it is completely unable to uphold the laws of the country?

If the Minister of Canadian Heritage thinks she can protect these designated areas then perhaps she should take over the responsibilities of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. It is all well and good that the Minister of Canadian Heritage wants to create a marine conservation act. The Progressive Conservative Party has continually shown support for protecting our natural habitat. Our recent support of Bill C-27 is but one of the many examples of our commitment to protecting the environment.

The government should be ashamed of itself for going ahead with this bill without having held extensive public consultations. Of greater concern is the fact that the government is going ahead with this when it knows that fishermen in the Atlantic provinces are preoccupied with the crisis in the fishery. This is but one more example of the Liberal government's insensitivity toward the Atlantic provinces and toward Atlantic Canadians in general.

I was somewhat surprised by the proposed amendment to replace lines 3 and 4, on page 3 to read “Minister means Minister of Fisheries and Oceans”. I respect the hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River, however, does my hon. colleague, or for that matter the Canadian Alliance Party, really believe that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and his departmental officials are capable of protecting newly created marine conservation areas? No, I do not believe they are. I suspect most Canadians would not think so either.

I do not know what the member for Dauphin—Swan River was thinking when he introduced this amendment, but I can certainly tell him that we would not support that kind of amendment. Our party believes that our national parks system must remain under the jurisdiction of the Department of Canadian Heritage. Whether these parks are on land or in water, we believe that they would be better served if they remained under the jurisdiction of Canada's new parks agency.

I have examined the other amendments grouped together at report stage of this bill. Some would appear to be purely a question of semantics while others were introduced to raise questions about provincial jurisdiction. Our party has not introduced amendments because we feel that the whole process for creating this particular piece of legislation was fundamentally flawed right from the outset. Therefore, we urge the federal government to withdraw this bill immediately until proper consultations can take place with the various stakeholders who are interested in this.

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12:05 p.m.


Hélène Alarie Bloc Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, with the introduction of Bill C-8, the Canadian government is following up on the work done in parliament in relation to Bill C-48 on the creation of marine conservation areas, which was introduced last session. Thus we are picking up where we left off, that is at the report stage.

The purpose of federal Bill C-8, which is entitled an act respecting marine conservation areas and was introduced by Heritage Canada, is to provide a legal framework for the creation of 28 marine conservation areas representative of each of Canada's ecosystems. The 29th marine conservation area is the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park, but it is not covered by this legislation because it has its own.

We will be voting against this bill, not as a political rant, as my colleague from the Canadian Alliance put it, but because we have major reasons, reasons relating to the jurisdictions of Quebec and others, the multiplication of organisms in one area.

The Bloc Quebecois is certainly in favour of measures to protect the environment, and I believe that no one can teach us anything in that regard as we are focusing particular efforts on working to protect the environment, particularly in marine conservation areas.

Hon. members will recall that our party supported the bill proposing legislation to create the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park, as well as being involved in initiatives to protect the environment, the seabed in particular. The Government of Quebec is also open to efforts to that same end and has, moreover, shown itself capable of partnership with the federal government as evidenced by phase III of the St. Lawrence action plan.

So why are we opposed to this bill? The answer is very simple. First, instead of focusing on working together, as it did in the case of the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park, the federal government wants to introduce marine conservation areas with no regard for Quebec's jurisdiction over its territory and environment.

In addition, Heritage Canada is planning to introduce a new structure, marine conservation areas, which will duplicate the marine protection zones of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the protected marine areas of Environment Canada.

Bill C-8 ignores the integrity of Quebec's territory, because one of the preconditions for a marine conservation area is that the federal government own the territory where it is to be established.

Subsection 92(5) of the Constitution Act, 1867, makes it very clear that the management and sale of public lands is an exclusively provincial jurisdiction. When is the government going to abide by the constitution it has signed?

In Quebec, the Loi québécoise sur les terres du domaine public applies to all public lands belonging to Quebec, including beds of waterways and lakes and those parts of the bed of the St. Lawrence River and the Gulf of St. Lawrence which belong to Quebec by sovereign right.

This legislation also provides that Quebec cannot create or transfer its lands to the federal government. The only thing it can do is to authorize, by order, the federal government to use them only in connection with matters under federal jurisdiction. Usually, the federal government reads the constitution more than we do, but I think it is reading it too quickly and misinterpreting it.

Co-operative mechanisms already exist to protect ecosystems in the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park and in the St. Lawrence River under the St. Lawrence action plan, phase III, which was signed by all federal and Quebec departments concerned, and which provides for major investments in connection with the St. Lawrence River.

We are interested in protecting the environment. We are interested in a partnership but we will not give up what is ours.

Why then have the so far productive partnership ventures I just mentioned been ignored by Heritage Canada? Why is it now claiming exclusive ownership of the seabed? Will the federal government respect the territorial claims of Quebec or ignore them as usual?

There are precedents. I have mentioned two of them briefly and I will go back to them again in more detail.

The Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park is a fine example of consultation and organization with the community respecting who we are and protecting all our rights.

In 1997 the federal and Quebec governments passed legislation to establish the Saguenay—St. Lawrence Marine Park. This legislation led to the creation of Canada's first marine conservation area. One of the main features of this legislation is the fact that the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park is the first marine park to be created by two levels of government without any land changing hands. Both governments will continue to fulfil their respective responsibilities. The park is made up entirely of marine areas and covers 1,138 square kilometres.

In order to promote local involvement, the acts passed by Quebec and by Canada confirm the creation of a co-ordinating committee whose membership is to be determined by the federal and provincial ministers. The committee's mandate is to recommend to the ministers responsible measures to achieve the master plan's objectives. The plan is to be reviewed with the people of the community who are aware of the activities taking place in the marine park. This gives great pleasure to the people of the north shore and the south shore alike. My colleague is from the north shore. I am from the south shore and everyone is happy.

This was a first, a fine example of success, and I do not understand why the 28 other marine parks did not use the same model. Is it because this is a Quebec model? Are people so sceptical? Are they so unreasonable that they will not transpose a success from one place to another part of Canada?

Another interesting example is phase III of the St. Lawrence action plan, which was announced in June 1998 and which also allows for extensive work to be done in the St. Lawrence River. That initiative is also an unquestionable success.

Those are two successful initiatives that should be used as models. Unfortunately the government is proposing an act that creates overlap within the federal administration because we will have Heritage Canada's marine conservation areas, Fisheries and Oceans' marine protected areas and Environment Canada's marine and wildlife reserves. This will generate confusion. It will not ensure a single management structure but rather a lot of discussions, opinions and ambiguity, thus adversely affecting the effectiveness of the decision making process.

I will refrain from talking about the phony and failed consultation process—the participation rate was 5%—about the concerns and the agitation in fisheries, or about the interference in sectors such as transportation in marine conservation areas, public safety and research.

In conclusion, the future is rooted in the past. We have a success story, the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park, and we have a failure in that Heritage Canada is incapable of protecting ecosystems in existing national parks, according to the 1996 report of the auditor general.

In light of this, we wonder if Parks Canada will be able to protect the ecological integrity of our national parks and we wonder why we should not follow the example of the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park.

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12:15 p.m.


Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to add a small point here leaving most of the time to my colleague, the parliamentary secretary to the minister, who will address the substance of the committee report to the House.

Before doing so, however, I would just like to perhaps spend a couple of seconds on the comments by the hon. member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, who devotes his time not to speaking to Bill C-8 but to casting invective at several members of this House, myself included. He has become a specialist in invective. I will not stoop to such an approach, of slinging mud when one has nothing important to say.

The only thing that I will say is that I work very often in committee with the hon. members for Jonquière, Repentigny, Laurentides and Portneuf, and they all know my true character.

I have spoken about the environment here in the House on a number of occasions, sometimes even against my party, the government, when my conscience dictated. People will judge for themselves whether or not what he said is true.

With all due respect for all members of the House, I would like to clarify a very important issue. It was said that Bill C-8 interferes in provincial jurisdiction. But this is not the case, and there was a debate on this in committee.

I chaired the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage when Bill C-8 was being considered and this issue was debated. So that there would be absolutely no doubt about this important issue of provincial and federal jurisdiction, the government agreed to introduce an amendment, which is part of the report tabled in the House, to say that if provincial jurisdiction over the seabed were challenged, a federal-provincial agreement would then be required before there could be any action on Bill C-8.

This therefore means that each province has a veto, and if it does not agree that a jurisdiction is completely federal, there will then be no federal-provincial agreement. There is therefore no possibility under Bill C-8 that any provincial jurisdiction will be affected.

I believe that this is a fundamental point that needs to be cleared up, because all that I heard from Bloc Quebecois members was that the federal government was interfering in provincial jurisdiction. This amendment will clearly completely prevent that. I believe that Bill C-8, as it stands, is a reasonable bill, and I hope that it will become law as soon as possible.

That having been said, I am very happy to turn the floor over to my colleague, who will speak to the House about the substance of the report.

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12:20 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Sarmite Bulte LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, who was the chair of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, for explaining the government's position with respect to creating marine conservation areas.

This bill is about partnership. It is about consultation. It is about people wanting the legislation to occur. The important thing is, when our colleagues from the Bloc Quebecois spoke out that this was a violation of the rights of Quebecers, I would submit that they have not read the legislation at all.

As chair of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage said, the standing committee discussed the concern about what would happen if the province owned part of the seabed. If it does, or if any part of it is contested, the province must enter into an agreement with the federal government to actually transfer ownership of that area of land to the federal government before we can ever proceed with this.

There has been a lot of talk over the Saguenay—St. Lawrence Marine Park model. That is only one model. In that case it was an undisputed fact that the seabed was under provincial control. Where that was the case we passed two pieces of legislation. They were mirror legislation. It is just another way of doing it.

What Bill C-8 tries to do is actually create the framework which would allow us to begin consultations, to work with community groups and coastal communities to ensure that it is in their best interests that these areas are created.

The critic from the official opposition also noted that that party had some concerns about low flying aircraft and the Minister of Canadian Heritage imposing regulations over aircraft. The legislation does not allow the Minister of Canadian Heritage to do just anything she wants. Again if we look at the bill, this is a true bill about consultation and partnership. Before any regulation can be passed, it has to be done in conjunction with the Minister of Transport.

There were other concerns about whether this should be an act that is administered by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans or whether it should be something the Minister of the Environment should administer. All those ministries are complementary to what this bill is trying to do. We are trying to balance conservation with sustainability. The Oceans Act already provides for conservation, as the critic from the NDP has said. The Minister of the Environment is responsible for habitat but the Department of Canadian Heritage is responsible for preserving Canada's heritage.

I would also like to take this opportunity to address the amendments the government has proposed. These amendments are essentially technical in nature. They deal with the fact that the Parks Canada Agency Act has been passed. Our amendments reflect the passage of that bill. As well another motion reflects the passage of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act because at the time the bill was tabled, it had not yet been passed.

There is another minor technical amendment which deals with the recommendation brought forward by the standing committee. I am specifically referring to Motion No. 15 which talks about including traditional aboriginal ecological knowledge in clause 8 of the bill.

For members who are here listening, we are proposing essentially all technical amendments today. I have no further comments on the motions in Group No. 2.

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12:25 p.m.


Dennis Gruending NDP Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to report stage of Bill C-8.

The New Democratic Party wants to restate its support for the principle involved in the bill. However as we have stated previously, we cannot support the bill in its present form. I am going to make a few general comments before getting into the specifics of the motions moved.

Our repeated efforts in committee to improve Bill C-8 were defeated at every turn. We think the amendments would have clarified protection, conservation and jurisdictional issues which were raised by many witnesses, communities and opposition parties throughout the legislative review. However, as in many other times and places in the House the committee process has been frustrated by the government.

We intend to fully outline our concerns at third reading. They are concerns the NDP has repeatedly raised on other parks and environmental bills in the 36th Parliament. These are concerns which all too often the Liberal and Alliance parties continue to ignore.

If I may use an analogy, the Liberal promises and talk on the environment are a little like the constitution of Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma. That country has a wonderful constitution but the government's distasteful actions are contrary to the fine language in that constitution. If I may extend the analogy, the Liberal government makes all kinds of sanctimonious comments and promises about the environment, but its actions, or perhaps more accurately its lack of action, give it away.

The Canadian environmental protection bill introduced in the last parliament was derailed by an election, and there may be a parallel here as well. It died on the order paper. In this current parliament a much weaker bill has been introduced. Similarly the species at risk act which was around in a somewhat different form in the last parliament died on the order paper when an election was called and was reintroduced into the House during this parliament as Bill C-33. It is weaker legislation than we would have had with the previous bill.

This is a disturbing trend with the government. It has little or nothing to show on its environmental record, something which I think must give it a bit of pause, or perhaps it will not as we enter the next few weeks.

Finally, the commissioner for the environment reported last spring that the federal and provincial governments had an accord on smog abatement signed about a dozen years ago. He said that nothing really has happened. He also said that 5,000 people a year in Canada are dying as a result of bad air.

This is the general context in which I would like to address the specifics of the bill. I could do well by quoting from the newest member of the Liberal caucus who was once a heritage critic for our party when he spoke to the bill previously. He said:

The Liberal government's repeated statement to Canadians that the high standards of environmental protection are being met is not true. There is continued devolution and abdication of environmental responsibilities. This government can sign a piece of paper and have a photo opportunity for the news. Then the government has a program review and always cuts the budget and at the same time says that things are going great.

This is a quote from the newest member of the Liberal caucus completely panning the record of the party which he now embraces.

I will now speak to the motions in Group No. 2. The NDP supports Motion No. 6, an effort we believe for clarification and continuity between relevant acts. This is another example of legislation that requires improvement at this final stage of the legislative process.

The NDP will support Motion No. 15, an effort to clarify the important contribution that aboriginal ecological knowledge plays in the environment and ecosystem management. The NDP has consistently fought for similar amendments throughout this entire parliament in an effort to recognize the important role that traditional knowledge can play to foster a greater understanding between cultures and the importance of respect for the land and nature's processes and unique relationships.

The NDP notes that the Canadian Alliance Motion No. 35 provides direction for increased public participation with affected aviation associations and provincial aviation councils. We also support this motion.

I want to quickly mention that the government's lack of consultation in air transportation matters is legendary, as was most obviously seen in its granting to Air Canada an effective monopoly over Canadian consumers without any concomitant regulation. This was an abrogation of moral responsibility to passengers. The government has also downloaded safety and operation costs on to small communities by privatizing airports. I might also mention the MOX shipments which have arrived in Canada without emergency clean-up plans when other countries such as the United States deem these shipments as unsafe practices. We point to these as other examples of where the government has not consulted on transportation matters, and that is true in this bill as well.

The NDP cannot support the Alliance's motions that will open marine areas for various facets of development. We believe this defeats the purpose of protecting marine areas for the enjoyment and use of future generations. We believe, unfortunately, that the Alliance does not understand the basic tenet for our national parks, which is long term management and not off and on protection that suits the whims of oil or mining companies.

We would like to draw the House's attention to Alliance Motion No. 52 which proposes to delete the need to take measures to prevent environmental damage. We cannot support this motion. In fact, a precautionary approach to environmental mitigation is really becoming a basic international tenet. We hope that someday the Alliance Party will be able to demonstrate foresight and support prevention measures as well. Prevention makes a lot more economic and environmental sense than cleaning up after the fact or trying to recapture the horses once they have left the stall, as we used to say on the farm. This is common sense and really a basic credo.

Alliance Motion No. 54 provides clarity on reserve scheduling. We think it could help to ensure the federal government continues to settle aboriginal land claims in a fair, just and consistent manner. The NDP will support this motion. We are pleased, in this case, that the Alliance recognizes the need for a timely and prompt settlement of aboriginal reserves, as will be outlined in schedule 1.

As I mentioned, we will be making further comments on the bill at third reading stage. However, to sum up, we think the bill in principle is fine. As in many pieces of environmental and other legislation, for that matter, the bill falls far short of what the Liberals say they intend to do about the environment. They talk the talk but do not walk the walk.

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12:35 p.m.


Michel Guimond Bloc Beauport—Montmorency—Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to this bill on behalf of my party. I would like to take this opportunity to commend our heritage critic, the member for Portneuf, and our environment critic, the member for Jonquière, for their excellent work.

From the outset, I must say that even though the Bloc Quebecois will oppose this bill, that decision must not be taken as evidence that our party is against environmental protection measures, on the contrary.

On behalf of all my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois who are here in the House, I want to state that we certainly can appreciate the work done in our regions by the hundreds of volunteers involved in environmental protection. My riding is home to the Cap-Tourmente wildlife refuge. Other areas also need to be protected, including the shores of Île d'Orléans, the bay near Beauport and the shore in the Beaupré area.

I want to take this opportunity to salute the many volunteers who work for an organization called Ducks Unlimited, which is dedicated to protecting the environment in general and waterfowl in particular. Ducks Unlimited raises funds privately without government grants, makes these funds grow and creates marshes for conservation purposes. Some members of Ducks Unlimited are hunters who are in favour of a reasonable, structured and controlled hunting program, to ensure that the resources will still be there in the future.

I want to stress the fact that even though the Bloc Quebecois is opposed to the bill, it supports environmental protection measures.

There are three reasons why I oppose this bill. The Bloc Quebecois members who spoke before me accurately explained them. Let me first elaborate on one reason in particular, namely the fact that, with Bill C-8, Heritage Canada is proposing the establishment of a new structure, namely marine conservation areas, that will duplicate Fisheries and Oceans' marine protected areas and Environment Canada's marine reserves.

If this bill is passed in its present form, we will be faced with an incredible administrative maze with three departments overlapping and all the costs that such a situation involves. Indeed, these new structures do not appear by magic. They require additional human and financial resources. Now Heritage Canada wants to get involved in this area, even though Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada are already present. This will create an administrative maze.

We also know, given the personality of the Minister of Canadian Heritage, that this is undoubtedly motivated by reasons of visibility. Let us not forget that this same minister launched a flag campaign that cost Canadian taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.

In the end, if we in the Bloc Quebecois are speaking out against this administrative maze, it is not because we are against the public servants who are part of these structures. This is not the point. Whenever a new structure is set up, who is the common denominator when it comes to paying for it? It is always the same one who pays, the taxpayer, who is sick and tired of paying taxes and believes he is not getting value for his money. The fact that the Minister of Finance is bragging about a surplus that will likely reach $157 billion over the next five years is proof enough that the government is taking in way too much in taxes.

This should not be cause for joy. It is proof that, first, the government is no good at forecasting and cannot count, and second, that it collects too much tax. It should cut taxes as we, in the Bloc Quebecois, have been saying for years.

Another reason the Bloc Quebecois is opposed to the bill is that instead of favouring negotiation, as was the case for the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park, the federal government may now establish marine conservation areas regardless of Quebec's jurisdiction over its territory and the environment.

Again I salute the work of my colleague the member for Jonquière, who recognized that the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park was a good thing for her area, the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, because it was to be developed in partnership with the Government of Quebec.

The member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord was happy too. But in the days when he used to sit at the left of the Bloc Quebecois members, on the Progressive Conservative Party benches, he used to say to us regularly “We Quebecers should stick together. We should not let the Liberal government get away with what it is doing. It does not make sense to be governed by such nincompoops for another four years”. We are far too young to have Alzheimer's disease; we remember well what the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord used to say.

Now he sits by the curtains in the last row. Exactly six and a half weeks have passed between his resignation from the Progressive Conservative Party and his first visit to this House. I have made note of this. We have a fine motto in Quebec “I remember”. The hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, who is now sitting by the curtains, stayed away from the House for six and a half weeks. Surely he was working hard to represent his constituents. But the people of Chicoutimi sent him to this parliament to defend their interests.

Why am I talking of the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park—which brings me to the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord? Because apparently the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord—this was in the news at noon—is tempted to join the Liberal Party. A token investment in an aluminium processing research centre should be announced this weekend, followed by the announcement that the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord has sold his allegiance for a mess of potage.

I want to tell the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord and the people of Chicoutimi who are now listening, the people of Ville-de-La-Baie, Chicoutimi, Saint-Honoré, l'Anse-Saint-Jean and Bas-Saguenay, that I hope they will remember that this turncoat who had their confidence to defend an allegiance let himself be bought to join a government he had criticized and condemned. The rules do not allow me to repeat here what the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord said about the prime minister. The British tradition and our rules keep me from repeating his words, but we will bring them up in due course.

If the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord really intends to do this, whether it is as an independent, a Conservative or a Liberal, the people of Chicoutimi will be waiting for him just around the corner and will have a chance to correct the error they made on June 2, 1997, when they elected the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord.

In closing let me say that the third reason we from the Bloc Quebecois, are opposed to this bill is because Heritage Canada wants to establish marine conservation areas while it is unable to protect the ecosystems in the existing national parks.

I repeat that the Bloc Quebecois is in favour of measures to protect the environment. That is why we supported the establishment of the marine park.

Moreover, the Bloc Quebecois is fully aware that the Government of Quebec is taking steps to protect the environment and, in particular, the seabed.

The Government of Quebec is also willing to work toward this goal with the federal government, as evidenced by phase III of the St. Lawrence action plan, and the shoreline municipalities in my riding of Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans can also appreciate this.

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12:45 p.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, as a matter of fact, what I am about to say exactly matches the last remarks of the previous speaker, my colleague the hon. member for Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans.

Before becoming a member of parliament I worked in parks and recreation at the municipal level. I was a recreationist. I had studied in this field. Over the course of many years I visited a number of national parks in Canada.

For example, this summer I visited Fundy National Park. One can say that there are really incredible and beautiful natural attractions there. I do not wish, like my colleague, to say that the employees of Parks Canada are not doing their work properly and that they are not taking the time to do it right, but the fact is they do not have the resources they need.

I would like to quote from the 1996 report of the auditor general. In chapter 31, on the management of national parks by Parks Canada, the auditor general makes the following statement after studying a sample:

In the six national parks we reviewed, Parks Canada's biophysical information was out-of-date or incomplete except for La Mauricie.

It seems that everything is fine in La Mauricie Park. Curiously, it is in the Prime Minister's riding. It seems that there was considerable effort and investment in this riding by the federal government; sometimes the investments are made in businesses, sometimes, invoices are missing, but I will not go into that.

It is a beautiful park. It appears that, with the exception of this park, there are problems. According to the report:

Monitoring the ecological condition of the ecosystems in national parks is a high priority, according to Parks Canada policies and guidelines. However, in many national parks, the ecological conditions are not monitored on a regular, continuing basis.

It also states that management plans for 18 national parks were an average of 12 years old, even though they ought to be reviewed every five years.

The report goes on:

The park management plans provide strategic direction for the protection of park ecosystems.

The auditor general added:

Delays in preparing management plans and ecosystem conservation plans reduce Parks Canada's ability to preserve the ecological integrity of national parks.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage wants to create a new structure because Parks Canada proposes a new structure, the marine conservation areas, which will duplicate the Fisheries and Oceans Canada marine protection areas and the Environment Canada protected marine areas.

I can claim some knowledge in this area, even a considerable amount of knowledge about parks. I studied that field at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières. Parks were part of the curriculum and we had access to data. I have retained my interest in this area and have continued to meet with experts in the field.

People may wonder what the differences are between “marine conservation areas”, “Fisheries and Oceans marine protection areas”, and “protected marine areas”.

Judging by what we heard from public servants, the Fisheries and Oceans people were getting their terminology all mixed up.

Now that there finally was some kind of consensus with regard to fisheries management plans, these people are not too happy about this new structure that could create duplication within the federal government. We in the Bloc Quebecois have often said that the federal government should be careful not to duplicate structures that already exist in Quebec, that it should work in partnership with us instead, as in the case of the Saguenay park. In that case, it was done through special legislation that dealt specifically with that park. It is a good example that should be followed more often. It is a good example of governments working together.

Instead of that, there is infighting in federal government. The right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. Three departments are involved. I do not know if this bodes ill or well for the future of fish in Canada.

I thought the Department of Canadian Heritage was mainly responsible for culture and history. I understand there is such a thing as a natural heritage, but structures, like those at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, already exist within the federal government to deal with the protection of wildlife. It goes without saying that protecting the fisheries and all marine species means protecting the sea floor. We must protect the shores and the flora of the St. Lawrence River as well as those of Canada's oceans.

However, when committee members and public servants themselves voice concern, we too should be concerned. These days, with the 300% increase in the surplus announced by the Minister of Finance, some bills just reappear, like Bill C-8, formerly known as Bill C-48. We have heard about it for many years and now, here it is again. It suddenly becomes important to invest money or to promise to invest money before the election. In the end, they are unable to clean things up within the federal government and between the various departments. What a waste. What a bad example the federal government is giving the provinces.

When the government cannot respect jurisdictions and creates duplication, confusion or dissatisfaction, it is going against the principles of good business management. What would big business do? Some businesses merge and amalgamate to prevent duplication and unnecessary spending. Some experts even say they go too fast in some cases. The federal government is establishing three structures that will in essence deal with the same thing, plant and animal life. Now it is trying to add a heritage dimension on top of all that. I hope that it does not want to turn the fish into objects to be put in a bowl once they are dead. I hope this is not what they want to do.

I know the people well, but I do not want to make jokes about a serious matter. Environmental and wildlife protection is a very serious matter. My colleague from Jonquière keeps bringing up this issue in caucus meetings. Each time she rises to speak—we sometimes find it annoying, but we must give her credit for her strong commitment—she tries to drive the point across that this issue must be given priority. I agree with her. Members will understand that, as a former director of parks and recreation, I am very much interested in that issue.

Since my time is almost up, I will conclude by saying that before investing in new structures, setting up new programs, doing new things and spending new moneys, the federal government should streamline and clean up its own act. It should develop better conservation plans.

It should do what the auditor general said it should do in 1996. Four years have passed already, and it has not acted on it yet. People in the environment community, public servants, volunteer organizations, such as Ducks Unlimited Canada, and every environmental group in Canada, all those people are concerned.

We are more concerned about Quebec, but we think the government should work in closer co-operation with provincial governments, particularly that of Quebec. That government too has jurisdiction over that area, as well as programs and structures.

I hope the Liberal government will pay attention to what we are saying.

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12:55 p.m.


Dave Chatters Reform Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. As a result of all party consultations, I would ask that you seek unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That the motions on the notice paper to amend Bill C-8, standing in the name of the hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands, be deemed moved and seconded, and before this House for debate in Group No. 2.

I am speaking to Motions Nos. 32 and 34.

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12:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to adopt the motion by the hon. member for Athabasca?

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12:55 p.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to)

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September 28th, 2000 / 12:55 p.m.


Lee Morrison Reform Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK


Motion No. 32

That Bill C-8, in Clause 16, be amended by replacing lines 14 to 16 on page 10 with the following:

“(j) for the control of aircraft to prevent danger or disturbances to wildlife and wildlife habitat, respecting the”

Motion No. 34

That Bill C-8, in Clause 16, be amended by deleting lines 6 to 9 on page 11.

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12:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Those two motions are now before the House as are all the other motions that we are debating in Group No. 2.

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12:55 p.m.


Maurice Dumas Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in this House to speak to Bill C-8. At the start of my remarks I would like to pay tribute to the hard work done by the member for Jonquière to protect the environment.

Bill C-8 concerns the creation of a network of national marine conservation areas, the marine equivalent of national parks. This network would be representative of 29 marine regions in Canada, covering the waters of the Great Lakes, inland waters including swamps, the territorial sea and the 200 mile exclusive economic zone.

With this bill, the government will set the boundaries of the marine conservation areas in all the regions in Canada, in consultation with the people of the area. This phrase is very important.

Bill C-8 gives the governor in council, on the recommendation of the Ministers of Fisheries and Oceans and Canadian Heritage, the right to limit or prohibit activities in commercial zones in order to protect marine resources.

It also gives the governor in council, on the recommendation of the Ministers of Transport and Canadian Heritage, the right to limit or prohibit transportation in marine conservation areas.

It is important to note that 1998 was set aside as the year of the oceans by the UN.

The most important activities held to draw attention to this event include the world's fair in Lisbon, Portugal, and the adoption of the ocean charter by UNESCO in September 1997 in St. John's, Newfoundland.

The government claims it is important to preserve the natural marine ecosystems and their balance to maintain biologic diversity. It says there is a need to establish a representative network of marine conservation areas, whose scope and features will ensure the maintenance of healthy marine ecosystems.

The Bloc Quebecois supports environmental protection measures. We have always given our support. It gave its support when the government introduced legislation to establish the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park.

In addition, in my riding of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, the Argenteuil Parti Quebecois and the PQ subcommittee on the environment for the Laurentian region submitted briefs to the BAPE. People wanted to show their support for the protection of the environment, particularly ecosystems in the groundwater, marine conservation areas, forests and other areas.

In 1986, the federal government launched the marine conservation area program. In 1988, the National Parks Act was amended to take into account the establishment of temporary protected marine areas. Since then, the following areas were created: Fathom Five National Marine Park in the Georgian Bay, the Gwaii Haanas marine conservation reserve in British Columbia, and, of course, the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park.

The park is over 1,100 square kilometres and has a unique tourist component, the importance of which we are just beginning to grasp. This marine park was 14 years in the making. Its management is shared by the provincial governments and, yes, the federal government.

The project began in 1985. It took quite a long time to create the park because of the public consultations, environmental studies and negotiations that were required. That precedent should have served as a model for the federal government in establishing other marine conservation areas.

It should be pointed out that co-operative mechanisms already exist to protect ecosystems in the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park, and in the St. Lawrence River, under the agreement entitled “St. Lawrence action plan, phase III”, which was signed by all federal and provincial departments concerned and which provides for an investment of $250 million over five years in various activities relating to the St. Lawrence River.

Therefore, the Bloc Quebecois is opposed to this bill, first because it is not clear whether Quebec's territorial integrity will be respected. Second, the Bloc Quebecois is opposed to this bill because Heritage Canada is proposing the establishment of a new structure, that is the marine conservation areas, which will simply duplicate Fisheries and Oceans' marine protected areas and Environment Canada's marine wildlife reserves. There are many people doing the same thing.

Quebec's jurisdiction is recognized under the British North America Act of 1867. So, there is overlap within the federal government. With the bill, the government wants to establish marine conservation areas under the responsibility of Heritage Canada, marine protection areas under the responsibility of Fisheries and Oceans and marine wildlife areas under the responsibility of Environment Canada. As I said before, three cooks might spoil the broth.

The same site could have more than one designation. It could be designated as a marine conservation area by Heritage Canada and as a marine protection area by Fisheries and Oceans. In both cases, it is said that the local population will have a major role to play in the establishment of marine protection areas. The Bloc is concerned about problems related to the bureaucracy.

The same area, according to Fisheries and Oceans, could fall under different categories and be subject to different regulations. We know that when more than one department is involved in a project, there are difficulties and additional costs to the taxpayers.

I think the government would have been better to make sure that ecosystems are managed by one department only. The departments involved should sign a framework agreement to delegate all of their responsibilities over ecosystems to the same department while respecting constitutional jurisdictions.

I also want to mention the fact that the preliminary consultations were a failure. Furthermore, during hearings by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, almost all groups from coastal areas heard condemned the bill on the grounds that the system proposed by Heritage Canada would duplicate part of the work done by Fisheries and Oceans and create confusion.

On February 11, 1999, Patrick McGuinness, vice-president of the Fisheries Council of Canada, told the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage that it was simply inefficient, cumbersome public administration. I remember because I was there. In his view, bringing forward this marine conservation area initiative in its own act under the responsibility of a separate minister and a separate department was unacceptable. His conclusion was that the bill should be withdrawn.

Jean-Claude Grégoire, a member of the board of directors of the Alliance des pêcheurs professionnels du Québec, which represents almost 80% of all professional fishers in Quebec, also told the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage that there were numerous problems. In his testimony, he mentioned that because such an area is scientifically inaccessible, you tend to work a lot more with unconfirmed data or assumptions of what exists than with actual scientific knowledge of what you are dealing with.

Lastly, I want to point out that the Bloc Quebecois believes that the consultation conducted by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Quebec with respect to the introduction of marine conservation areas was also a failure.

Furthermore, the Bloc Quebecois knows that the Government of Quebec is also engaged in initiatives to protect the environment and submerged lands and water in particular. Bill C-8 does not respect Quebec's territorial integrity.

In conclusion, the Bloc Quebecois is in favour of measures to protect the environment, but opposed to Bill C-8 for all the reasons I have mentioned.

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1:05 p.m.


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-8 at report stage.

I am sorry that this government has introduced such a bill. In my opinion, it is a bill that should never have seen the light of day. Why? Because the Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec had finally managed to innovate with the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park. This park is located in my riding. It is a very beautiful park. I urge all Canadians to come and visit it. It was through the framework agreement on the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park that the two levels of government set a precedent. Where did this precedent come from? From the community.

For years, people in my riding worked together to really make something of this enchanting site. Everyone got together and said that they must do something. They called on the provincial and federal governments.

As a result of the community's efforts, the two levels of government sat down and said “Why not do something really special?”

This was the model that the federal government should have used, if it wanted to create 28 new marine conservation areas. It could have said “We have a model, so we are going ahead”. But no. What did it do? It decided to reinvent the wheel and introduce a new bill, even though we already had a good one.

I think that one of my colleagues was right when he said that, in this government, the right hand does not know what the left one is doing. I think that this government is deaf and blind, but not silent. It is always reinventing the wheel. It never learns. I do not know why.

It seems to me that there are some very serious problems in Canada today requiring a major investment of funds. There is poverty, and all the issues to do with young people. But the government wants to put millions into creating parks. That is not what is needed right now.

I think this government is out of touch with reality. I think it is suffering from self-importance.

In my part of the country, when we say someone is self-important, it means that person no longer believes that he or she can trust other people and listen to them.

I think that, with this bill, the federal government is showing that it is self-important. Right now, the federal government has some cleaning up to do in its own backyard. This bill will allow the heritage minister to interfere in other departments, including Fisheries and Oceans Canada. I know that Environment Canada's staff as well as its budget have been cut for a number of years.

Why not take the money the government is willing to spend with this bill and use it to meet crucial environmental needs? We hear constantly that the environment has always been a low priority for this government. However, we know that during the next election campaign the Liberals will claim that the environment will be their second priority, after health, as the prime minister has already told us.

Canadians will not buy that because by bringing forward such bills the government is showing us that it could not care less about the environment.

Let us just take Bill C-33 as an example. I examined the documents that were given to me by the Bloc Quebecois heritage critic. Bill C-33 is aimed at protecting species at risk. Fisheries and Oceans Canada already has legislative authority to act in order to protect species at risk.

With Bill C-33, the government is trying to interfere in other federal departments and in the provinces' ministries.

The lack of harmony orchestrated by this government is obvious. When faced with such lack of harmony, one has to stop and say “Let us sit back and see where to invest the money that is needed”.

This is a joke. The environment is an ever increasing concern in the heart, mind and daily life of people.

As parliamentarians, for the sake our future, our children's and grandchildren's, we do not have the right to let the environment be put on the back burner.

This must be a concern to us. The concern right now is to find money to invest to deal with our listeners' main concern.

It makes no sense to blow up balloons and say “Look how nice my balloon is”. At home we call this cellophane. I do not know if it is how you call it. Cellophane wrinkles easily and then it is ruined; however when you stretch it, it becomes smooth, and then there is nothing left.

I believe we must act in a responsible manner. Being responsible is part of what is expected of us as parliamentarians.

The government is not acting responsibly with Bill C-8. The parliamentary committee spent many hours studying a bill that should never have been introduced to begin with. We have the striking and magical example of the agreement on the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park. Again, we have to start with things we already have instead of reinventing the wheel.

This bill deals with environment and the protection of marine areas. We must give Canadians and Quebecers areas of which they will be proud. They will then be able to say “We wanted to have those areas and the governments have met our expectations”.

I do not believe that the consultations on this bill have allowed people to voice their concerns properly.

It is important for this government to consult Ducks Unlimited and several other environmental groups and say to them “We will listen to you: what do you expect us to do for your environment?”

If they do not understand, they should come to my part of the country. We will show them what we have accomplished and what it is important to do in order to develop areas that future generations will be proud to have.

The Bloc Quebecois will vote against this bill. The environment must be a concern for us, but we should not spend money where it is not necessary.

Marine Conservation Areas ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


John Duncan Reform Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have spoken to this bill before when it was called Bill C-48, in 1998-99. I have attended some of the committee meetings where the bill was discussed. I have ensured that we had some witnesses from the west coast because essentially their voices were not being heard and had not been heard in the so-called consultation process.

I thought that somehow I could help to have their voices heard in the committee process, but I still have a thing or two to learn about the process. Even though I had witnesses from the west coast at committee, they certainly were not treated with the deference that I thought witnesses should be treated with. Their input basically was rejected as being inadequate for the process the government had set up, which is a ridiculous posture and a ridiculous point of view to take.

That point of view was promoted by the chair of the committee. I took issue with the chair of the committee with regard to how the witnesses were being treated. Rather than achieving what I thought was neutrality from the chair, I ended up being lectured as well. I have not had happy experiences with the bill.

The last time I talked about the bill I complained about the fact that 29 regions in the country were going to get these trophy marine conservation areas under the Minister of Heritage, previously the environment minister. This is an environmental bill, not a heritage bill. We did not know where these 29 areas were.

How can we respond to the government? How can industry groups and other groups respond to a piece of legislation without knowing the specifics?

When I challenged the government to do that, the parliamentary secretary suggested that I was somehow being very controversial and asked if I could name a single area where I would object to a marine conservation area. My response at that time was that if the parliamentary secretary could tell me which industry would be targeted by the Americans as a result of the government's then split run legislation which was so ill considered, I would be able to return in kind and that would be a good barter. Of course neither myself or the parliamentary secretary were prepared to take that any further.

At this point we have received a lot of information from the coastal perspective. A marine conservation bill obviously has to consider the coastal stakeholders. We have heard from some stakeholders from Nunavut, from the Atlantic provinces and from the Pacific coast. Overwhelmingly they talk about the negative consequences of this proposed legislation.

I can talk about mining, for example. We cannot create areas that restrict activity except by special permit when we have not even done an inventory to see what is there. As one of the proponents for undersea harvesting said, if we had had this kind of legislation a long time ago Columbus would have never sailed to America, because it is so exclusionary in terms of what activities are allowed and what activities are not.

When we look at the potential mineral resources and other resources on the seabed, it is not right to restrict activity. One of the proposals has taken some shape since the last debate in the House of Commons. We are talking about 9,000 square kilometres of lake bed in this case, I think, in the Great Lakes. Without an inventory we do not even know what we are locking up. Locking it up pre-empts an inventory in a sense, because why would anyone bother? This has been pointed out.

I want to very quickly make reference to some of the witnesses we heard from in committee. Mr. Ainsworth from the west coast is the one I was referring to in my Columbus point. He said:

Columbus would never have left port if constrained by this principle. We would never embark on an airplane to soar en route to Ottawa with ozone-eating exhaust gases, injected right into the base of the stratosphere, if we really believed in the precautionary principle.

The precautionary principle is behind the way the legislation has been brought forward.

We heard from the mayor of Prince Rupert at the time, who said that west coast residents were not aware of any areas that required conservation on the north coast. He said that there was only consideration of an extension of South Moresby Park on the Queen Charlotte Islands, and that without adequate consultation the federal government has made north coast residents very suspicious. The park the mayor mentioned was created without the need for proposed legislation.

We heard from Pat Green, who is with the regional district in that area. Despite very good intelligence in terms of what the government was thinking of proposing in the way of marine conservation areas there, despite the fact that Mr. Green tried to give some shape to that in the discussions, despite the fact that the very bureaucrats responsible for administering this were available to the committee, there was a complete denial that there was any shape or form or contemplation of a marine conservation area for that part of the world.

That marine conservation area, if it proceeds in the way this legislation conceives of it, would pre-empt what has been a traditional fishery, the gillnetters and some of the other fishing activities in that area, without special permit. It would pre-empt what is looking to be more and more like a project that British Columbians will decide is a viable and worthwhile project, that is, north coast oil and gas.

This is very large area of concern. The concerns that have been expressed by industry, by local politicians and by the stakeholders really have not been brought into this whole discussion. They need to be. Here is a statement from the testimony at committee, which illustrates what I am talking about. This is from somebody with the International Council on Metals and the Environment:

To my knowledge, in western Canada in the industry, I'm the only person I've found who knows Bill C-48 [the predecessor to Bill C-8] in any way, shape or form. It's interesting to note as well that I don't see anybody from the Maritimes here on the witness stand. I don't know if that reflects the selection of witnesses at all, but I know there is concern in the Maritimes for the use of mineral potential in the offshore environment.

There has been undue haste, on the one hand, to make sure that this piece of legislation goes through this place without criticism. On the other hand, the government has been very slow to push it ahead because it knows there is a lot of opposition to it.

Marine Conservation Areas ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Marine Conservation Areas ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Marine Conservation Areas ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on the motions in Group No. 2. The question is on Motion No. 4. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?