Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-10. Bills respecting marine conservation areas have been introduced in this House for several years.
Today, I will deal with the impact of this bill on Quebec in terms of the province's territorial integrity, duplication, heritage and management of national parks. I will also talk about how Heritage Canada will take over a jurisdiction, and the impact of the distinct society motion, passed in this House, when it comes to approving the way Quebec does things. Regarding this motion, the Bloc members were fully aware that it was an empty shell.
I will also talk about culture and its link with marine areas and I will give a few examples of co-operation on environmental issues and the protection of the marine ecosystem.
In Quebec, the government to two different approaches to dealing with the federal government; first, it established a consultation process through the mirror legislation on the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park, and through the phase III of the St. Lawrence action plan.
Again and again, the Bloc Quebecois opposed such legislation. During the previous parliament, similar bills were introduced and we wanted them to be passed.
This time, the Liberal federal government is determined to introduce a framework legislation allowing it to create 28 marine conservation areas, without having to defend each of its bills before parliament. Moreover, the government wants to make sure it has the power to go ahead without the agreement of provinces or local communities or even native communities.
It was not possible to bring substantial amendments to the bill during its consideration by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. The Bloc Quebecois will therefore continue to oppose, at third reading, the bill respecting the national marine conservation areas of Canada.
During the time that is allotted to me, I want to recap the main arguments that we have made in this House. The purpose of this bill is to provide a legal framework for the establishment, as I said earlier, of 28 marine conservation areas, including 8 in Quebec, representing each of the ecosystems identified to date in Quebec and in Canada.
These marine areas will eventually have to be built by the Department of Canadian Heritage. The Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park is the 29th marine conservation area, but it is not included in the bill before us today because it has already been dealt with in an act of parliament, both in Canada and in Quebec, following a process, as I said earlier, of dialogue and partnership between both governments.
Bill C-10 results from a commitment made by the Prime Minister of Canada, when he spoke at the congress hosted by the World Conservation Union in Montreal, in 1996.
At this congress, as was the case in 1994, the World Conservation Union passed resolutions calling on all coastal nations to put marine conservation measures in place quickly. Also, the United Nations declared 1998 as the year of the ocean; action was needed in that respect.
At the same time, the international community wanted to take outstanding actions following these events—and the Bloc Quebecois recognizes these—such as the adoption of the ocean charter by UNESCO, which is a policy statement in favour of co-operation for preserving oceans and coastal areas.
This charter was presented at the summit of the sea that was held in September 1997, in St. John's, Newfoundland. There was also the universal exhibition of Lisbon, Portugal, from September 22 to 30, 1998, whose theme was “The Oceans, a Heritage for the Future”. The Bloc Quebecois applauds to all these initiatives.
It is in that context that the marine conservation areas were created, with a view to meeting the objective put forward by several international forums or documents, such as the “World Conservation Strategy”, published in 1980, the report entitled “Caring for the Earth”, published in 1991 and drafted by the World Conservation Union, the United Nations Environment Program and the Worldwide Fund for Nature, partly funded by the government of Quebec.
I wanted to highlight those initiatives. If we are opposed to this legislation, it does not necessarily mean, and certainly does not mean, that we are against protecting ecosystems and the environment.
As we have shown, through words as well as actions, we are in favour of measures aimed at protecting the environment. The Bloc Quebecois did not hesitate to support the government when it proposed passing mirror legislation to create the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park and to establish the legal framework for its joint management by the two levels of government.
Moreover, the Bloc Quebecois knows that the Quebec government, for its part, is launching initiatives, the goal and objective of which is to protect the environment, especially the seabed.
Furthermore, the Quebec government is opened to the idea of working in co-operation or in partnership with the federal government on any project which would guarantee or promote environmental protection, as shown by the agreement signed by both governments on phase 3 of the St. Lawrence action plan.
However, the Bloc Quebecois is against Bill C-10 for the following reasons: first, instead of focusing on a dialogue like it did in the case of the Saguenay--St. Lawrence marine park, the federal government now wants to create marine conservation areas without taking into consideration Quebec's expertise in the area of environmental and territorial protection.
Second, Canadian Heritage is proposing a new structure. The marine conservation areas will overlap the marine protected areas of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the designated marine protected areas of Environment Canada. Three departments would be protecting marine areas.
Also, Canadian Heritage wants to create marine conservation areas when it has shown to be relatively inefficient in protecting the ecosystems in the existing national parks. There are several deficiencies in the management of national parks, and we should be much more proactive in that area.
Bill C-10 does not respect the territorial integrity of Quebec and the other provinces. One of the essential conditions for creating a marine conservation area is federal ownership of the land where the area is to be established.
This can be seen in clause 5(2) of the bill , where it is stipulated that the Minister can establish a marine conservation area only if “satisfied that Her Majesty in right of Canada has clear title to or an unencumbered right of ownership in the lands... other than such lands situated within the exclusive economic zone of Canada”. This is what we do not agree with.
Subsection 92(5) of the British North America Act of 1867 recognizes that the provinces have exclusive jurisdiction over the management and sale of public lands.
Furthermore, Quebec legislation on crown lands, passed by the Quebec National Assembly, applies “to all crown lands in Quebec, including the beds of waterways and lakes and the bed of the St. Lawrence river, estuary and gulf, which belong to Quebec by sovereign right”.
In addition, this legislation provides that Quebec cannot transfer its lands to the federal government. The only thing it can do is to authorize the federal government to use them only in connection with matters under federal jurisdiction.
However, the protection of habitats and wildlife is a shared responsibility and the Government of Quebec is planning shortly to create a framework for marine area protection.
According to the notes we have been provided by the Minister of Heritage concerning Bill C-10, marine conservation areas are planned for the St. Lawrence river, estuary and gulf, all three of these coming under the jurisdiction of Quebec. This is a privilege we insist on retaining.
There are, moreover, mechanisms of co-operation already in place to protect the ecosystems of the Saguenay--St. Lawrence marine park, and those of the St. Lawrence itself, under phase 3 of the St. Lawrence action plan, which was signed by all federal and Quebec departments concerned. This agreement calls for the investment of $250 million over five years for various activities relating to the St. Lawrence.
Why is the Department of Canadian Heritage claiming ownership of the seabed where it would like to establish marine conservation areas, instead of encouraging bilateral agreements between the governments of Quebec and of Canada or the other provinces? Why is it seeking one more way of trampling over areas of provincial jurisdiction, in this case that of Quebec, as well as one more opportunity to invade fields that come under provincial jurisdiction, namely education, education on the means of protecting our marine habitat?
The environment, as we all know, is a field of jurisdiction shared by both levels of government, according to the 1867 British North America Act. The governments of Canada and Quebec share jurisdiction over the environment. Accordingly, paragraphs 10, 11, 12 and 13 of section 91 provide that the following powers are recognized by the federal government.
Section 91 provides that the exclusive legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada extends to all matters coming within the classes of subjects next hereinafter enumerated: paragraph 10, navigation and shipping; paragraph 11, quarantine and the establishment and maintenance of marine hospitals; paragraph 12, sea coast and inland fisheries; and paragraph 13, ferries between a province and any British or foreign country or between two provinces.
Furthermore, Quebec also has powers that are recognized by sections 92 and 92(a) of the 1867 British North America Act.
In section 92, we read that in each province, the legislature may exclusively make laws in relation to matters coming within the classes of subjects next hereinafter enumerated: paragraph 5, the management and sale of the public lands belonging to the province and of the timber and wood thereon; paragraph 13, property and civil rights in the province; and paragraph 16, generally all matters of a merely local or private nature in the province.
It is therefore very difficult for us to support the bill before us today.
We have raised another argument in connection with the overlap within the federal government. Bill C-10 creates duplication within the federal government itself. The reasons the Department of Canadian Heritage is proposing to establish the marine conservation areas are set forth in the preamble to the bill. The aim, among others, is to “maintain healthy marine ecosystems” and to provide opportunities for the people of Canada and of the world “to appreciate and enjoy Canada's natural and cultural marine heritage”.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada, for its part, proposed the establishment of marine protected areas. In a discussion paper it released in January 1997, entitled “An Approach to the establishment and Management of Marine Protected Areas under the Oceans Act”, it described the aims of the marine protected areas as follows:
These zones are established to ensure the conservation of commercial and non-commercial fisheries resources and their habitats, endangered or threatened species and their habitats, unique habitats, productive ecosystems and biodiversity, any other marine resource.
Finally, Environment Canada proposed, in turn, to establish, and I quote:
—marine conservation zones, that could also be called natural marine reserves, expanding the notion of the national wildlife sanctuary beyond the territorial sea to the 200 mile limit within the exclusive economic zone under the Canada Oceans Act. These zones are also subject to the Canadian Wildlife Act, but require a different set of regulations.
If we add to the triple overlap at the federal level the overlap with provincial jurisdictions, we have a federal maze where people can get lost.
Therefore, under the various laws, the Government of Canada is proposing to create marine conservation areas, marine protection zones and natural marine reserves. According to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the same territory could find itself with several different zonings under different regulations that could confuse the user.
We can see the potential for problems when a territory is a marine protection zone, a natural marine reserve and a marine conservation area, each with its own regulations. Indeed, the bill provides that each of the federal departments will keep its jurisdiction over the marine conservation areas.
The government would have been better advised to have a single department oversee the protection of ecosystems and the departments concerned conclude a framework agreement delegating their responsibilities to the one chosen to be accountable in this regard.
I now come to another argument on the protection of the national parks by Canadian Heritage.
In the spring of 2000, the panel on the ecological integrity of Canada's national parks published its report and urged the government to once again make ecological integrity central to the parks' missions The panel found that ecosystem integrity was at risk.
In some national parks, the stress on the resource was so great that some species were disappearing. In Fundy park, in New Brunswick, three species have disappeared since the park was created, in the 1940s. Only one of the 39 national parks of Canada is not experiencing this stress.
The situation is worse than what the panel and its scientific researchers expected.
There is a dramatic shortage of scientists to analyze the ecological system in the national parks. Ecological principles are not applied consistently.
The minister's answer was a bit tepid. She merely created a position of executive director in charge for ecological integrity and prepared a charter for Parks Canada Agency, without providing the necessary resources. In light of this information, we have to ask ourselves how Parks Canada will be able to preserve marine conservation areas when it does not even seem to have enough resources to protect the existing national parks. That is the question.
A fourth argument deals with consideration of the bill by the committee.
As I said earlier, the Bloc Quebecois firmly believes in environmental protection measures. This should not be forgotten. We are not opposed to the creation of marine parks, on the contrary. We supported the government when it introduced legislation to establish the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park. We did so because we believed in building partnerships first and foremost.
We did so because we believed that future marine conservation areas in Quebec should be patterned on the above mentioned model. In order to make this possible, Ottawa would have to agree not only to consult the provinces but to negotiate with them and obtain their agreement. Amendments to that effect were proposed by the opposition before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage but, for all intents and purposes, they were all rejected.
Our amendment read as follows—we also asked that a proposal from the Bloc Quebecois be agreed to—:
Where a provincial legislature has adopted an act to protect marine areas, the federal government must negotiate with that province an agreement allowing the federal government to establish a marine conservation area in the province.
The wording of our amendment opened the door to negotiations for each marine conservation area, whereas the bill includes 28 marine areas. Under our amendment, if the federal government wanted to establish a marine conservation area, it would first have to come to an agreement with any province wishing to exercise its shared jurisdiction over the environment, even when the area comes under federal jurisdiction.
If another province agreed to let the federal government go ahead in this fashion, I do not see why we would want to object, but this is definitely not the case of Quebec.
Quebec wants to establish its own framework for the protection of marine areas. Since the protection of habitats and fauna is a matter of shared federal and provincial jurisdiction, we want to ensure that on Quebec's territory nothing can be done by the federal government without the agreement of the provincial government, without transferring to the federal government the rights relating to the sea floor, as the government wants to do under Bill C-10.
The Bloc Quebecois wants the government to follow the example of the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park and to negotiate a partnership with Quebec whenever it wishes to set up a specific marine conservation area. That was the purpose of the amendment proposed by the Bloc Quebecois but the amendment was rejected.
It is interesting to note that the Bloc Quebecois asked that the federal government not be required to act in partnership with a province unless that province had legislated with regard to the protection of marine areas. In other words, the provinces that so wished could leave it up to the federal government. This is typical of flexible federalism, as it would allow the partners in the federation to act in the best interest of their respective populations.
One cannot but see there the centralizing focus of the federal government. Moreover, if the government members had voted for that amendment they would have been consistent toward Quebec. We must remind them that on December 11, 1995, the Prime Minister succeeded in having a symbolic resolution adopted in this House. We referred to it as an empty shell. Under that resolution, the House recognized Quebec as a distinct society within Canada. The motion read as follows:
Whereas the People of Quebec have expressed the desire for recognition of Quebec's distinct society;
(1) the House recognize that Quebec is a distinct society within Canada;
(2) the House recognize that Quebec's distinct society includes its French-speaking majority, unique culture and civil law tradition;
(3) the House undertake to be guided by this reality;
What happened to that reality? The motion also provided:
(4) the House encourage all components of the legislative and executive branches of government to take note of this recognition and be guided in their conduct accordingly.
That was the motion to be debated. Its adoption did not prevent the federal government from implementing policies that do not reflect the infrastructures and programs existing in Quebec.
There is the young offenders legislation, on which the Senate has not yet voted, and which does not in its present form respect the jurisdiction of Quebec or its way of doing things. Then there are the millennium scholarships, and what a battle the Bloc Quebecois had to wage over them in order to get the message across that they were not wanted by the community. They stubbornly stuck with them, however.
Then there is the aid to the homeless, not that we did not want that money. It was the way the federal government went about it that we did not like. A promise was made, however, a bit before Christmas, “the minister's Christmas gift” we called it. How much time did it take before it was put in place and before the provinces were consulted?
Before funding is announced, perhaps the gouvernment ought to have a look at how things are done in Quebec. Then there might be less criticism from the public. This seems to be viewed as a squabble between two levels of government but it is far more than that. The people are often the ones who bear the brunt of it.
In this area, as in many others, Quebec either has in place or has plans for programs that take the specific needs of Quebec into consideration, such as the parental leave program. We have our own way of doing things. It is great that there are $560 million available but we do not know how Quebec's way of doing things, infrastructures and programs will be respected. Often for petty political reasons, our way of doing things has been turned totally topsy-turvy.
Six years have now passed in which, if it had really wanted to put some flesh on the bones of its distinct society resolution, the federal parliament could have allowed Quebec to opt out of new federal initiatives with full compensation, so that it could improve the services available to Quebecers still further, rather than seeking to either replace or duplicate what we are doing.
With this resolution, the House was committing to allowing itself to be guided by this reality. With the marine conservation areas, once again the House is missing out on a fine opportunity to allow Quebec to do things in the way that suits it, or to at least work in partnership with it.
We could carry this logic even further. Since the bill speaks of marine conservation areas, is Canadian Heritage not the department for culture, without being called that? Why could Quebec not have been allowed to opt out of this bill with financial compensation, since culture is a provincial matter.
Even former Prime Minister Trudeau had agreed to this in the amending formula for the Constitution Act, 1982, in section 40. Of course we are not taking about amending the Constitution here, but the spirit is the same, namely the right to opt out with financial compensation in the area of culture. I am not inventing this. The former Prime Minister said so. What he said is often quoted.
In short, the federal government had a number of reasons to co-operate with Quebec where marine conservation areas were involved, namely in the case of Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park, shared jurisdiction over the environment, the motion on distinct society and the principle of opting out in the field of culture.
Do not think that the Bloc Quebecois is alone in opposing allowing the federal government to act unilaterally in creating marine conservation areas. Other parties have advocated not only consultation with the provinces but the need for their agreement. The Canadian Alliance called for an agreement with the provinces and local communities in all cases. There may be slight distinctions but it is there in all cases.
The Progressive/Conservative Democratic Representative Coalition requested that the government not be able to act if its jurisdiction over the territory is contested. This is where the problem lies. Nowhere in the bill is there provision to the effect that, if the federal government's jurisdiction is contested, if the federal government considers that it can proceed and is entitled to do so, it will create the marine area.
The Liberal members have systematically rejected these amendments, including our own, alleging that they involved a provincial veto, even when the territory is under federal jurisdiction. This is, however, a restriction parliament could decide to include in its legislation on the creation of marine conservation areas.
The government refused all these amendments claiming that section 5(2) provided sufficient protection for the provinces. However, this section does not cover cases where a province or a first nation challenges the jurisdiction of the territory in question. Therefore, with the federal government acting as both judge and jury, and history has shown this, if it is convinced that it has jurisdiction or it undertakes negotiations to solve land claims with aboriginals, even if these negotiations fail, it can go ahead.
This is where we have problems with the bill. When the bill was before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage the government rejected amendments that would have made it acceptable. This, despite the fact that the Bloc Quebecois was acting in good faith and was open to considering certain types of amendments.
We agreed to support some of the amendments the government was making but we could not support improving the bill because it was the very essence of the bill that was in question. We wanted to create marine areas. The bill does not include a guarantee to consult and negotiate partnerships. These are easy words to understand but they are not to be found in the bill.
We do have principles. We figured that in general the government amendments should have been along those lines, that is: involving the provinces and consulting with local and aboriginal communities; reducing the role of Heritage Canada, which should not be interfering in conservation; reducing the number of stakeholders involved because the Departments of the Environment and Fisheries and Oceans also deal with marine conservation areas; harmonizing the regulations with those of Fisheries and Oceans Canada; and ensuring that as a rule the environment takes precedence over economic considerations.
However the improvements brought about at that stage were inadequate.
The Liberals added clause 5(3), which states that the government may remove a conservation area if a court finds that the government does not have clear title to the territory. However the government is under no obligation to do so. It “may” do it. When one “may” do something that does not mean that one “will” do it.
Liberal members extended the period for parliamentary review by parliamentary committees for changes to the list of marine conservation areas, changes to their boundaries or the addition of new areas. However there is some scepticism regarding the possibility that the government could sidestep the process if the changes are submitted at a time when the committee is unable to examine it. When this is the case, the changes would be considered accepted and the government could go ahead with the order in council. Several cases that we could mention show that we are right to have our doubts.
The Liberals amended section 10.1 to require the government to consult with “the relevant federal and provincial ministers and agencies, with affected coastal communities, aboriginal organizations and aboriginal governments”. This may be an improvement over the former wording, in which the government was encouraged to consult. Now, according to the bill, the minister will consult instead of encourage consultation. However this consultation will not prevent the federal government from acting as it sees fit if there is disagreement.
This reminds me of an old saying, which I will paraphrase for the occasion today. In a dictatorship “you have nothing to say”. In a democracy “you can say whatever you want”. In other words, it is hardly a real consultation if the government has no intention whatsoever of listening to its partners.
We know all about this. We sit on committees. There will be a list of witnesses who often appear before us and give us their opinions, and amendments are proposed by the different opposition parties. It would be impossible to say that the government listens to us.
We provided an example to follow, the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park. This is the example that the Bloc Quebecois proposes instead of this bill. We deplore the fact that the government did not use this as a model and allow Quebec to opt out with compensation. We know Quebec was acting in good faith and wanted to negotiate with the federal government. Why is the government imposing this type of legislation on Quebec? Why is the government imposing its way of doing things and interfering in provincial jurisdiction by transferring submerged lands to the federal government?
In order to encourage local involvement, the legislation passed by the Quebec and federal governments under the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park mirror legislation confirms the creation of a co-ordinating committee whose composition will be determined by the federal and provincial ministers. It therefore cannot be said that Quebec is acting in bad faith.
The committee's mandate was to recommend to the ministers responsible measures for attaining the management plan's objectives. This plan was to be reviewed jointly by both governments at least every seven years. All the provisions were there. Why set a precedent? Keeping a friend sometimes means making a few concessions.
Any exploration, utilization or development of resources for mining or energy protection purposes, including the building of oil lines, gas lines or power lines, is prohibited within park boundaries. This agreement contains provisions for protecting ecosystems. It is all there. That is why the Bloc Quebecois is saying that it will protect the environment. We believe in this. Our environment critic often gives the government ways of looking at the environment protection issue.
Under their respective legislation, the governments of Quebec and of Canada will be able to determine measures for protecting the park's ecosystems and resources and for protecting the public. More specifically, they will be able to define how each category of area will be used and for how long such use shall apply.
This first partnership initiative should have served as a model to the federal government for the creation of other marine conservation areas. Rather than demonstrating open-mindedness and co-operation, the federal government is still taking an arrogant, aggressive, invasive approach that overlaps other jurisdictions and that is hardly calculated to encourage us to work with them another time.
Phase III of the St. Lawrence action plan could have served as another model. Let us look at what actually happened.
On June 8, 1998, the environment ministers of Quebec and of Canada announced phase III of the St. Lawrence development plan. This is another example.
In conclusion, we will be voting against the bill mainly because it interferes in the jurisdiction of the province of Quebec and of other provinces when they are concerned, and because Quebec cannot operate under such a system. I do not think that the government has got it yet.
Given the goals of the Canadian government, we have been quite open concerning the management of the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park. We regret that the government did not draw any lesson from this.
The federal government should not go against the will of the Quebec government to create marine conservation areas. We advocate partnerships in this area.
We have more reasons to oppose the bill. It provides for a new structure under Heritage Canada that will duplicate what is being done in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Department of the Environment, and also what is being done in Quebec.
Things are getting confused. Heritage Canada is getting involved with marine conservation areas when it is not even doing its own work properly with the national parks. We have mentioned the shortcomings in the management of national parks.
We wonder how this department could do this work properly when it is not capable of protecting ecosystems on the ground, in the national parks.
We are very disappointed with the lack of openness of the government concerning Bill C-10. It would have been nice if for once the government had agreed with Quebec and supported its way of doing things. We did our homework as far as co-operation and partnership is concerned.
This is far from over. There is still strong support in Quebec for sovereignty and sovereignty means respect for the Quebec way of doing things.