Madam Speaker, following the moving of the amendment to the amendment, I would like to rise again today because I believe it is very important that I make the following comments.
Once again today I am addressing the House, not only as a member of parliament, but also as a citizen concerned with protecting the environment.
Like my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois, I am in favour of legislation aimed at protecting the environment and of measures focusing on environments at risk, on land or under water. Is it necessary to remind this House that the Bloc Quebecois supported the bill creating the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park?
Our support, however, is neither blind nor naive. We will continue to support pro-environment bills, but not at any price, not in just in any way. Hence our opposition to Bill C-10.
Our primary objection is that the federal government's intention is to use this bill to appropriate the lands and areas of jurisdiction belonging to Quebec and the provinces by creating marine areas.
As I explained earlier today, for the federal government to be able to take over everything, several critical elements must be present including as a prerequisite that it has clear title on the submerged lands. But it does not own them.
This is not only because the Constitution Act, 1867 says that the management and sale of public lands are an area of provincial jurisdiction, but also because Quebec's legislation on public lands applies to all public lands in Quebec including the beds of waterways and lakes as well as the bed of the St. Lawrence river, the estuary and the gulf of the St. Lawrence river, which belong to Quebec by sovereign right.
The Canadian heritage backgrounder mentions three areas: the St. Lawrence River, the estuary and the gulf of the St. Lawrence. The government wants to apply the bill to three areas under provincial jurisdiction.
The federal government would contravene section 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867, which provides that the management and sale of public lands are within the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces and not the federal government. The federal government cannot use an environmental protection measure to appropriate lands belonging to Quebec and the provinces. Rather it should seek the provinces' co-operation.
This is yet another example of the federal government's stubbornness about a process that works well. Again, the establishment of the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park is the result of co-operation and partnership.
Why does the government refuse to listen to reason? It was the case with the young offenders legislation. The Quebec approach, which is based on rehabilitation and reintegration, has proven effective, but the federal government continues its push for a hard line approach. Today, I realize that the government is using the same process with this bill in that it wants to pass it first and then look at the issues.
I fear for the future of intergovernmental relations because we cannot trust a process that does not respect the public interest and, more importantly, because we cannot trust a government that does not respect its own departments. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans already has a program of marine protection zones in place. I stress the fact that this program is already in effect.
The result of all this is a state of confusion, and particularly of lack of respect. This is a case where the winner will be the one that will manage to gain the upper hand. Within the same government, we could end up with a duplication of tasks and skills. Why do they want duplication? How can the government justify this duplication? Why is it necessary? How many levels are required? How far will the federal government go in its quest for duplication? What worries me about this scenario is the rivalry that will result.
On the one hand, we have the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which has expertise in this area. There is the Department of the Environment, which also has expertise in this area. And, now, we have Canadian heritage, whose mandate is limited to promoting Canadian unity. Which of them can we trust? Which of them should we trust?
Canadian heritage uses the environment for national unity purposes, while fisheries and oceans manages our marine natural resources. Can we trust the federal government to make the right choice in this case? Sometimes, I wonder whether the government has any judgment left, let alone common sense.
My main concern about the bill is the flagrant lack of co-operation within the government itself. I strongly doubt whether such behaviour would reassure the other levels of government regarding the introduction and enforcement of a bill whose intentions are noble, but which really boils down to unhealthy rivalry.
This brings me to another question: who will have the upper hand in the event of conflict? Which department will have the last word? If the federal government answers this, it will be tantamount to revealing its true objective and its true nature as far as the purpose of this bill goes. This could easily become a double edged sword.
On the one hand, the government insists that the environment is a priority, while on the other it takes advantage of this fine principle to flog national identity, using Canadian heritage which, I would remind hon. members, possesses no expertise whatsoever as far as the environment is concerned.
The result is pitiful. Even if we do not go so far as to call it a downright dangerous appropriation of funds and resources, there is confusion, total and insurmountable confusion. There is such confusion that even those in charge of the various departments are lost themselves. There is no way of sorting it out. Confusion reigns among the departments.
If there is confusion amongst the departments, it is easy to imagine what confusion there would be among the key stakeholders. Which department will be the one to really administer this protected zone? Which one will really be in charge of the stakeholders? Which will penalize those breaking the law?
All of these questions remain without answers, and no answers will be forthcoming, for there is no one capable of answering without sinking into a morass of duplicating and overlapping policies.