Madam Speaker, the Bloc Quebecois wants to protect the environment, but is it necessary to ensure that protection by duplicating jurisdictions and services?
The creation of marine conservation areas meets the objectives of numerous international forums, such as the World Conservation Strategy of 1980. However, how can we not turn away from such an objective, as commendable as it may be, if it has the effect of bypassing the appropriation of our respective jurisdictions? It should be highlighted that Quebec has exclusive jurisdiction over the management and sale of public lands. That is what is provided in section 92 of the British North America Act, 1867. Why redo what has already been done?
It is unacceptable for the federal government to use environmental protection legislation to take over provincial lands and Quebec lands. It would be better to promote and encourage co-operation between Quebec and the federal government. It is time that this government would stop using a steamroller and a centralizing approach.
Besides, in Quebec, the legislation on public lands covers all lands, including the beds of rivers and lakes. Quebec has legislative jurisdiction over this area. It is exercising its legislative power and it respects the Constitutional Act. Why then have some federal legislation that would deny the exclusive jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces? Is Quebec not competent enough to meet conservation objectives?
Let us not forget that the management of the bed of the St. Lawrence River is a Quebec jurisdiction by sovereign right. The protection of habitats and fauna is a matter of joint federal and provincial jurisdiction. In this respect, the Quebec government has already acted by establishing a framework for the protection of marine areas. It is also possible to protect habitats and fauna through co-operation.
The Bloc Quebecois would rather promote an attitude of co-operation, as was shown with the bill establishing the Saguenay-St. Lawrence marine park in 1997. Yet, despite this successful co-operation, once again we are seeing the federal government stubbornly opposing a process that is working well. Why is the federal government once again refusing to respect the Constitutional Act, and Quebec by this very fact?
I am concerned about the future of intergovernmental relations in crucial areas like the environment. How can we trust a legislative process that does not respect the public interest, and a government that does not respect its own departments? Let us not forget that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans already has a marine area protection program, and I want to insist on the fact that this program is already in place. Why are we creating a new one?
This bill is another example of pernicious interference on the part of a centralizing federal government in exclusive jurisdictions of Quebec and other provinces, and another example of the methods used by the federal government, which ignores other partnership experiences that were very successful. Why not follow a process that has worked very well and that would certainly work very well once again? Will the federal government respect Quebec some day?
The outcome of such a bill is obvious: confusion, but above all a lack of respect. It could result in a duplication of tasks and jurisdictions, within a government that does not even see it or that sees it and acts deliberately nonetheless, which is even more worrisome. How can the federal government justify this useless duplication?
How will we find our way through all these terms to protect the environment? With this bill, the government wants to create marine conservation areas through Canadian heritage, when there are already marine protection areas under the responsibility of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and marine wildlife areas under Environment Canada. Again, how will we find our way through all this?
Even the government seems completely lost and conveniently forgets that programs to protect habitats and fauna are already in place.
There is a question that comes to mind: who will take precedence if there is conflict? Who will have the last word? Which department will be the one willing and able to respond to the questions and to deal with the discrepancies in application? The government will certainly not want to answer this, because that would be tantamount to putting one department on a lower footing than another. Would that be the intent of this bill?
Duplication and overlap are double-edged swords to the government. On the one hand, the government insists that environment is a priority, while on the other it exploits the environment in order to use a bill to foster national identity—imagine—and thus deny the true objective of this bill. Who, outside of Canadian Heritage itself, can tell us that Canadian heritage is defined as having environmental expertise?
The confusion that is certain to ensue will lead to a dangerous appropriation of resources, and will quickly become insurmountable. Even the staff of the various departments will be caught up in it. It is mind-boggling. We will not be the only ones to understand not a bit of it. It is easy to imagine just how this overlap is going to lead to confusion among the key stakeholders.
Who, really, will be administering the protective zones? Which department are people to contact in the event of conflict? Which department will really hold the means of dealing with offenders? Who is going to be able to find their way through the labyrinth of duplications, of overlapping departmental policies? These are just some of the questions that remain unanswered.
With this risk of confusion within one government, one can easily imagine what confusion there will be for other levels of government and for all stakeholders. If departments cannot work together within one and the same government, how will they be able to do so with Quebec and the provincial governments?
It is easy to understand why the Government of Quebec would refuse to co-operate with this bill. First of all, it is in flagrant disrespect of the exclusive jurisdiction of Quebec. Second, it is impossible for the federal government to provide any kind of precise answer as to the reasons this bill comes from Canadian heritage when Fisheries and Oceans already has a program in place.
The Bloc Quebecois is opposed to this bill because the federal government is planning to use it to appropriate lands that fall under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces, by designating them as marine areas.
In addition, this bill does not respect the division of exclusive areas of jurisdiction as stipulated by section 92 of the British North America Act of 1867.
The Bloc Quebecois opposes this bill because it can only lead to endless administrative problems. It can truly be said at this point that the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. The stakes are too high to be taken lightly. The effects are serious and will, in some cases, be irreversible. Therefore, respect for the division of exclusive jurisdictions is essential to preclude all ambiguity. Co-operation must be encouraged to avoid unnecessary and harmful duplication.
The Bloc Quebecois opposes this bill, because Canadian heritage is trying to take over jurisdictions other than its own. It is unacceptable that Canadian heritage should attempt to have legislation passed to acquire land, and under cover of the environment.
In short, the federal government, through Canadian heritage, is once again attempting to meddle in areas of Quebec's and the provinces' jurisdiction under cover of the environment.
Finally, the Bloc Quebecois opposes Bill C-10 because of the duplication of responsibilities among the various levels of government and departments within the same government.
The Bloc Quebecois wants the Liberal government to be forced to work in partnership and in co-operation with Quebec and all the provinces that have legislated in this area, thereby repeating what has already been successful, that is the Saguenay—St. Laurence marine park. In spite of all that, our amendment was turned down. It is for all those reasons that we are opposing this bill.
I would like to add that if we want the federal government to create and establish marine areas, there is an essential prerequisite. The government must own that territory.
As I already said, under section 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867, the management and sale of crown lands are matters of exclusive provincial jurisdiction. Furthermore, Quebec legislation on crown lands applies to all crown lands in Quebec, including the beds of waterways and lakes.