Mr. Speaker, as committee chair, I have taken part in the deliberations and hearings on the marine conservation areas, which started in 1998 and culminated in Bill C-10 and the major amendments at report stage in the House.
I would like to address the following aspects today: the background of the bill, the need for legislation and the benefits of it.
Parks Canada has had a mission in the area of the aquatic environment for the past 15 years. The policy Bill C-10 is based on is the product of intensive consultation over a number of years. In fact, the discussion paper on the bill dates from 1997—four years ago. It was followed by the tabling of Bill C-48 in 1998. Since then, the bill has been the subject of consultation and ongoing discussions.
I am happy and grateful that this bill can finally come to fruition, since it is vital to the conservation of our aquatic resources, to initiate sustainable development within our community and to meet Canada's international obligations.
Over the course of the hearings, the bill received solid support from conservation groups and scientists in the marine sciences, who consider it vitally urgent for the conservation of our aquatic resources.
My colleague from Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys whom I esteem as a member of our committee mentioned the lack of consultation in British Columbia. In the last days of the bill before it went to clause by clause, we had three video conferences: one in Prince Rupert, one in Vancouver and one in Kitimat. Members from British Columbia came before the committee in person. At least 20 people were involved in video conferences, including six mayors or municipal leaders, the B.C. chamber of commerce and the oil and gas industry.
To pretend the bill would destroy the oil and gas industry in British Columbia or somewhere else is a complete negation of the law. It is obvious that the member cannot have read the law, if he says the bill would suddenly destroy the oil and gas industry in Canada, British Columbia or anywhere else.
Under the bill no marine conservation area could be set up without extensive consultations. Any management plan would need to be tabled in both the House of Commons and the Senate and referred to the appropriate committees of both houses.
What about the precedents that have been carried out before? They should satisfy the member from British Columbia that this would not be a takeover. It happened before with the Gwaii Haanas marine conservation park. There was a signed agreement between the province and the federal government before it could go forward.
It was the same with the Saguenay park in the St. Lawrence. The Saguenay park has not stopped shipping in the St. Lawrence or anything else. The province and the federal government agreed and a marine park was created. If they had not agreed it would not have happened.
Right now there are extensive negotiations in the Lake Superior area and the same thing is happening. If there is no consensus by the community involved, nothing will happen. To say the act, which is only a framework legislation, would suddenly destroy the oil and gas industry or the fishery in British Columbia is a total exaggeration. It is a complete negation of the facts and the provisions of the law. It is a lot of nonsense.
We should not be ashamed to say the purpose of a marine conservation area is conservation of the area and its natural resources. I will quote Dr. John Lien, one of our leading marine scientific experts from Memorial University in Newfoundland. He said:
The collapse of the groundfish and northern cod resources in Newfoundland was caused by human error, and that is very important to understand. It was errors of science and it was errors of greed. The effects of these errors were profound on the stocks, because natural sanctuaries that had existed forever simply were gone.
Historically, we could not fish through ice. We couldn't fish at great distances from the shore because we did not have refrigeration. We couldn't take certain kinds of weather because our boats weren't secure, and so on. There were all kinds of areas of the ocean where fish naturally had protection from us, but our technology has changed since the Second World War. We can now catch fish through pack ice, at great depths, in any kind of weather, and at any distance. Fish have no place to hide. So when we make mistakes and when we are greedy, there is no cushion. That has disappeared.
Fundamentally, that's the reason we need marine protected areas, and it doesn't really matter how we get them, under what legislation. We must now artificially restore sanctuaries as a hedge against these kinds of human error. It's not just the fish that need protection, and I want to emphasize this. It is the fish and our coastal communities, because they go hand in hand.
Professor Philip Dearden of the department of geography at the University of Victoria in British Columbia spoke convincingly of the need for this legislation. He told the committee a scientific consensus statement on the value of marine protected areas had been issued by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. That is a prestigious body if ever there was one.
The consensus statement was endorsed by the world's most eminent marine biologists. They set up tests around the world to see what would happen to fisheries if certain areas were declared no take areas. The findings were surprising even to that prestigious committee. It found that after only one or two years of protection population densities were 91% higher, biomass was 192% higher, average organism size was 31% higher and species diversity was 23% higher.
Dr. Dearden added “These same results have been duplicated on the coast of British Columbia. We know for sure that fisheries are one of the main beneficiaries if areas are set aside as marine reserves”.
The scientists who appeared before our committee spoke strongly of the need for conservation legislation. Bill C-10 would also ensure the long term viability of coastal communities. The committee heard from community representatives who consistently had the same message about the importance of marine resources to coastal communities, whether they agreed or disagreed with the bill.
Bill C-10 would provide for long term protection of marine resources and sustainable use through a zoning mechanism. The bill's provisions for public consultation and involvement during every step of the process from identification, evaluation and designation to the subsequent management of the areas would ensure local support, something that is essential to the success of the legislation. If there is no local support marine conservation areas do not happen.
There is an explicit mandate for public education in the bill. Parks Canada is an internationally recognized leading agency in public education and interpretation of natural ecosystems. This would ensure Canadians gain a better appreciation of their connection to the ocean and the need to take greater responsibility in its stewardship.
Bill C-10 is also an affirmation of the importance of marine ecosystems to the preservation of overall global diversity. In 1996 the Prime Minister of Canada made a commitment at the World Conservation Congress to introduce marine conservation legislation. As a signatory to the biodiversity convention Canada is committed to passing such legislation.
Again I will quote Dr. John Lien of Memorial University, who addressed the international implications of the legislation. He said “It's important for you to realize that in an international context Canada is far behind in establishing ocean sanctuaries”. He told us he recently attended a meeting of the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation, under NAFTA, where Mexican colleagues told him 19% of their territorial waters are in sanctuary status and they have an annual budget of $45 million U.S. to manage them.
Dr. Lien added that the U.S. vice-president's commission on ocean policy had received a recommendation that 20% of all U.S. waters be placed in some kind of sanctuary status. President Clinton implemented this under executive order. The steps are already underway to place 20% of America's coral reefs in sanctuary status and the initiative is moving forward.
Dr. Lien said it is not only governments that are coming to this realization. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, probably one of the most distinguished bodies of science in North America, has recommended that 20% of all ocean area be set aside for protection from the kinds of errors we make.
We hear our hon. friends say we need to drill for more oil and gas and exploit every corner of the ocean. What we say is this: Not all corners of the ocean should be exploited for oil, gas or mineral exploration. We need sanctuaries. We need areas of protection. This does not mean oil and gas exploration and mineral exploration cannot go on next door. There is a lot of ocean to do both.
Canada has a role to play in protecting the biodiversity of the planet and this legislation is needed urgently in the effort. Bill C-10 is a forward looking piece of legislation that would give Canadians a closer connection to our great marine environment and protect precious marine resources for future generations.
That is what it is about. It is not about exhausting our marine resources. It is not about repeating what happened on the east coast and part of the west coast when the total fishery disappeared and thousands of coastal communities were out of work.
This bill has noble goals and is well designed to ensure the achievement of those goals. It would ensure conservation of our marine heritage and provide a model for sustainable use.
The bill's strong provisions for local community involvement and consultation would ensure the successful implementation of the act and give Parks Canada new tools to bring knowledge and pride to Canadians about their marine heritage. I urge the House to adopt Bill C-10 for the benefit of marine conservation and for all Canadians.