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House of Commons Hansard #23 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was endangered.

Topics

Motions For PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, if you call Motion No. P-3, I will speak to it. The member opposite may also wish to speak to it.

That an Order of the House do issue for copies of all studies which were done prior to the banning of the 2% and 5% solutions of strychnine to show the effect the banning of these solutions would have on Canadian Farmers.

Motions For PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Canadian Alliance Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like this motion transferred for debate.

Motions For PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

The motion is transferred for debate.

Motions For PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the other Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers be allowed to stand.

Motions For PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Is it agreed?

Motions For PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from February 27 consideration of the motion that Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2001 / 3:15 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, when I was concluding my comments yesterday I was addressing concerns that we have about the bill and specifically with the protection for the endangered species habitat.

With regard to the wide discretionary power of the minister to designate an endangered species, one of the problems we have with regard to the legislation is that if he ever does so there is a 30 month time lag during which only the nest, the den or the immediate locale where the species reside is protected. The protection does not extend to the habitat for the entire 30 months.

A prominent environmentalist has been quoted as describing this as protecting a bedroom while allowing for the destruction of the house and the bulldozing of the neighbourhood. It is a very accurate portrayal of one of the weaknesses in the legislation.

It will be our argument at committee where we will seek amendments that to be effective the legislation must make habitat protection mandatory, not discretionary, and that the exercise of that discretion be over a much shorter period of time.

Our second major concern with the bill is the methodology by which an endangered species is listed. COSEWIC, the committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada, has been tracking endangered species and placing them on a list for several decades now. The committee would continue to exist under the new legislation, but even though its decision is based on purely scientific methodology it would not be the final determinant of whether an endangered species is listed under the legislation and receives protection. That decision would only lie in the hands of the minister and may be based on any number of other considerations.

Our concern with this process is that it is subject to wide discretion. In spite of the fact that the bill has a number of provisions about community participation, making information available and claiming to protect vulnerable wildlife, everything hinges on the minister's discretion. There is no provision for how that discretion would be exercised. It does not have to be based on science. It may be based on the COSEWIC list, and then again it may not. There are no provisions for that.

I draw the attention of the House to the fact that there are 354 species on that list. Would they be protected after the bill is passed, assuming it gets passed? The answer is that they would not. There is no provision in the bill to make that already existing list a part of the legislation.

Again this is an item that must be addressed. We will be arguing strenuously both in committee and in the House that the legislation should incorporate that list by grandfathering it in so that species already at risk in the country would become protected immediately.

One other major issue is that the bill contains no provision, no detail or fleshing out around what compensation would be provided to people who are financially disadvantaged once the bill is passed and put into place.

The minister is indicating that perhaps there would be some provision in the regulations, but he is reserving the discretion to himself as to when it would be used. We would argue that we do not have a lot of confidence. A number of other existing pieces of legislation have been in place for 20 to 30 years where at various times it could have taken steps as a government to protect endangered species. It has never done so.

On behalf of the NDP I indicate that we do not believe people should be financially impacted negatively without compensation. Landowners must be assured that they are not facing personal losses if a species is designated on their property. Similarly it is our position that workers in various industries and communities that could be impacted by the legislation should be compensated.

We believe the guiding principle in this regard must be that the cost of protecting endangered species should be shared by all of us, not just the people on whose land endangered species happen to live.

One final major concern we have is with regard to the extent, geographically and jurisdictionally, that the legislation would cover. Let me throw out this one statistic. It will only cover five per cent of the country.

Recognizing that I am almost out of time, I will make one final point. The legislation is extremely weak with regard to protecting our migratory birds and animals. If they cross the border they will probably be protected in the United States but they will not be protected here.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me this honour to participate in this debate. As the Progressive Conservative Party, and as a recognized party in the House, we have a prearranged order for speaking. I would request from the Chair that attention be paid to that particular issue because on other occasions previous members have been missed.

I will now begin my 20 minute speech by saying that it is a pleasure to have a chance to participate in this particular debate. As members know, this will be the first piece of environmental legislation that we have seen before the House in this particular parliament. Members will also know quite clearly that this will be the government's first attempt to pass its first piece of environmental legislation since taking office on October 25, 1993. It is the government's first bill of its own initiative.

Mr. Speaker, you may recall, being the learned individual that you are on legislation, that the previous Conservative government was very proactive with respect to environmental legislation. We delivered to the country an acid rain protocol with the Americans, a packaging protocol that we did in conjunction with industry to reduce waste in our landfills. The Conservative government also pioneered a bill known as the Canadian environmental protection act which was first tabled in 1988.

Canada was a world leader on environmental protection by bringing the international community together in eliminating and reducing the consumption of ozone depleting gases with the Montreal protocol of 1987. The hon. Jean J. Charest was a very proactive environment minister who brought forth legislation with respect to new inroads in reducing pulp and paper effluent. One of the other hallmarks, in addition to the acid rain protocol brought forth with the Americans, was the $3 billion green plan which had an infinite affect on pollution prevention.

Having said that, this is the government's third attempt to bring forth a piece of legislation to protect species at risk or endangered species. Bill C-65 died on the order paper leading up to the 1997 election. The hon. member for Saint John was active in the debate at that time. We also know that Bill C-33 died on the order paper as the Prime Minister chose to call his vanity election three years and four months into his mandate.

The position of the Progressive Conservative Party will largely follow the positions developed by the species at risk working group, which is composed of the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association, the Mining Association of Canada, the Canadian Nature Federation, Sierra Club of Canada and the Sierra Legal Defence Fund.

These are individuals who are normally at each other's throats when it comes to developing legislation of this sort, but they have been able to build an unprecedented consensus, which I believe the government should be utilizing far more than it currently is.

In December 1999, a few weeks after the Progressive Conservative Party tabled its position paper, the government tabled a brown paper, which actually described essentially what its legislation would be composed of. Our position paper was graded A by the environmental community and received accolades from industry groups as well, while the government's position paper received a mere D.

I would like to compliment not only the consensus that was built with respect to SARWG, the species at risk working group, but also the consensus that was built with the Progressive Conservative caucus on this file. It is a unified position built in conjunction with our natural resources critic, the member for South Shore, with our agricultural critic, the member for Brandon—Souris, and with the leadership that we received from the right hon. member for Calgary Centre in ensuring that we had a very comprehensive and team approach to this particular piece of legislation.

We are all well aware that Canada has over 300 species that are at risk or endangered. I believe endangered species are what we could call our canaries in the coal mine. When we continue to lose species from our environment, from the various habitats, it is an indication that our overall environment is starting to decline. That will have a negative effect on the air we breathe and the water we drink.

Here we are eight years after the government has taken office and this is its third kick at the can in trying to deliver a piece of environmental legislation. After all the consultations, after all the homework, one would think we would essentially be reviewing a piece of legislation that would be nearly perfect. As the critic from the NDP pointed out in his remarks a few moments ago, we are far from there.

There are a couple of particular issues I wanted to speak about with respect to the legislation. Clearly, habitat loss is the single largest cause of why species become at risk, become endangered and ultimately become extinct. Habitat loss is responsible for over 80% of species decline in Canada.

Bill C-5 and its predecessor, Bill C-33, are in fact weaker than the first attempt at species at risk legislation that was brought forth, which was known as Bill C-65. Bill C-65 had significant problems, but it did contain stronger provisions for habitat protection, especially on federal lands. This was largely the result of the work of the environment committee.

Bill C-5 does not require protection of critical habitat for endangered species. It merely states that cabinet may protect it. This is a significant shortcoming, especially when critical habitat protection is crucial to survival of a species. Some of Canada's best loved species could potentially become at risk, whether it is the beluga whale, the woodland caribou or even the grizzly bear.

By making habitat protection discretionary, the federal government is abdicating responsibility for major areas within its own jurisdiction, and I will repeat that: within its own jurisdiction. We are not asking the federal government to actually sidestep or make a foray into jurisdictions where it does not have the responsibility. The federal government can and must protect habitat of all species within federal jurisdiction. This is absolutely critical.

Upon review of Bill C-5, members of the House will recognize the fact that there are provisions for the federal government to intervene in provincial jurisdictions to protect species at risk. There are provisions whereby the federal government can intervene on private lands to protect species at risk. However, it is not mandatory under this legislation to protect species at risk within federal jurisdiction, or within federal lands, for that matter.

This is indeed ironic given the response from the environment minister to the last speech from the throne. He said “Any species protection legislation must include provisions for the protection of critical habitat of endangered species. This is fundamental. No habitat, no species”.

We would like to have a piece of legislation that would reflect the minister's own words as spoken in the House.

Building successful legislation requires input and support from affected stakeholders. The Progressive Conservative plan calls for carrots before sticks, for incentives to reward stewardship. We believe it is imperative to encourage, recognize and reward stewardship by offering more carrots and resorting to fewer sticks.

We believe this can be accomplished by listening to the concerns of stakeholders and by working in co-operation with them to build a consensus on an effective legislative design and, most important, engaging stakeholders in the recovery process.

Finding an endangered species on one's land should not mean that all development stops. The key is to manage the land to ensure that a species can continue to survive. We have to do away with the myths that have been spoken about. I am talking about the myth that finding a species on one's property will result in an immediate economic loss. We can reward stewardship. There are many ways to address this particular issue.

The fact is that if a species at risk is found on a woodlot owner's lot, chances are the owner is working under responsible forestry management regimes that actually encourage an environment for the species. If the species did not like it there, it would not be there.

The Progressive Conservative Party believes that without the support of the provinces, private landowners, resource users and communities the endangered species bill will be impossible to institute. Moreover, it will be ineffective. It will breed the “shoot, shovel and shut up” response, which will result in more species at risk.

The Progressive Conservative Party believes that when designing a recovery plan, with stakeholders of course, social and economic considerations must be accounted for. Both objectives can be achieved, both to encourage stewardship and save endangered species. These objectives are not mutually exclusive.

Another glaring weakness, which I would say is the most obvious and which the member for Windsor—St. Clair touched on, is that in Bill C-5 the cabinet rather than scientists will decide whether a species is at risk. The committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada, the scientific body that has been in place for decades, will not have the call on determining whether a species is endangered. This puts at risk the extinction of any species that cabinet opts not to protect and makes the decision a political one rather than one based on scientific fact.

There is an enormous flip-flop from the Canadian Alliance on this particular issue. I am not talking about pensions or Stornoway or anything like that. What I am referring to in this particular circumstance is that we can give solid credit to the member for Red Deer and what he now believes. Although the member for Edmonton—Strathcona who was the previous critic said that it should be a political determination as to whether a species is at risk, I interpreted from the speech of the member for Red Deer in the House on February 21 that he believed scientists, not politicians, should determine whether a species is at risk or not. I find it shameful that the Liberal Party of Canada would be the only party in the House of Commons that would rather resort to a political listing perspective.

I know that my friend who will be speaking shortly on behalf of the Liberal Party was a member of the environment committee that studied this particular issue. An all party consensus was built that the scientific list of COSEWIC should be adopted and that COSEWIC should determine whether a species is at risk or not. Now the Liberal Party of Canada is reneging on its promise on that particular issue. I find that very shameful indeed.

While the Liberals may argue that they do not want the scientists to be lobbied as to whether a species is at risk or not—

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

An hon. member

And the minister won't be.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

And the minister won't be. First, today scientists can be lobbied. That is a case in point. Second, those provinces that have permitted a political listing regime as opposed to a scientific listing regime just do not add new species to their endangered species lists. Species do not get listed. That has been the practice. That is what the witnesses have actually told us before a committee.

The categorical issue is that we believe in order for the Progressive Conservative Party to support this bill we must have mandatory protection of critical habitat on all federal lands and, I might add, within federal jurisdiction, we believe, and we must have scientific listing, not political listing, in order for us to be able to support the bill. That is why we will be voting against the bill at second reading.

However, the committee may have its chance to be able to address these particular concerns, and I will comment that the Minister of the Environment, since the election, has had a far more co-operative approach to this particular issue and to the committee's work than he had exhibited beforehand. So we will take the minister at his word that the committee, in conjunction with all the critics and all members of the House, will have a chance to ensure that we have better legislation which will protect species at risk.

The other aspect I would like to be able to touch upon with respect to this bill is to challenge the Government of Canada to take a harder look at the SARWG position. That particular committee, consisting of the Mining Association of Canada, the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association, the Canadian Nature Federation, the Sierra Club of Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Federation, has built a coalition that we should be celebrating and utilizing to a larger degree than we currently are.

The protection of species at risk is a fundamental issue of public policy that all Canadians want addressed. A government commissioned Pollara poll indicated quite clearly that over 94% of Canadians want strong species at risk legislation to protect our endangered species. Those findings were from all regions, including those regions in rural Canada.

We have seen the provinces take a lead in at least tabling species at risk legislation over the last number of years since the Rio earth summit of 1992, when the Government of Canada at that time really cared about the environment and was a fundamental leader on environmental issues. We have not seen this federal government following suit.

I would like to quote the executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada. She said that if this bill is passed in its current form it would be the weakest endangered species legislation in the world.

There is a framework here that could be augmented and could actually produce a very relevant bill, a very good bill, that would protect our natural heritage in this country.

That is where we are right now. We are speaking from a position of currency at the moment. During the election campaign it was the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and, I might add, the NDP, that actually received accolades on their positions on protecting species at risk in their platforms of the election of November 27, 2000. The Government of Canada neglected to put it this its platform. It was added to its website later on. The government said it had forgotten about it. We are here to remind the government that this is a very important issue of public policy.

We have laid out our position. We look forward to working co-operatively with the minister and the chair of the environment committee and to trying to work diligently at the clause by clause stage in order to produce a sound piece of legislation.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Gar Knutson Liberal Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me begin by saying I intend to split my time with the member for Yukon. Other than a few comments I made in last evening's debate, this is really my maiden speech. As such, I would like to begin by thanking the constituents of Elgin—Middlesex—London for honouring me as their third term MP.

I know hon. members will agree that obviously the highest professional honour anyone could ever have is to be elected to parliament. It is simply a tremendous overwhelming honour that they have elected me three times and I am very grateful for that privilege.

I would also like to thank my family for their support and in particular, my wife.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

An hon. member

What is her name?

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Gar Knutson Liberal Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Her name is Christine. She has had to deal with the challenges of being married to a member of parliament over the last seven years and I appreciate her support.

Last, if I may be allowed to stay with the personal issues for a minute, I would also like to thank my parents for their support and, in particular, my father for his guidance. Unfortunately, he passed away just after the election.

As I turn now to the issues of today's debate, we should ask ourselves the question, why should we care? Does it matter in effect that the loggerhead shrike is on the verge of extinction? Does it matter that the passenger pigeon has become extinct? We all know that extinction exists in nature. The dinosaurs have become extinct. In effect, why is this an issue?

The issue of extinction is not the natural rate of extinction, but we should concern ourselves when species, whether they are plants or animals, are becoming extinct at a rate far faster than they would under normal evolutionary circumstances. We should care at a most basic level because extinction of plants and animals may be an early warning of our extinction, that is the extinction of the human race. If not of our extinction, it should at least be an early warning of threats to our well-being.

Endangered species can play the role of a canary in the mine shaft. If all of a sudden our frog population is declining because of changes in the atmosphere which can be a signal that we need to change our ways. It can be a signal that there is tremendous damage being done to the environment, to the ecosystems, to the plants, to the animals and to human beings, which depend on those ecosystems. It is important that we pay attention to these issues.

We should also care because of the importance of biodiversity. By that I mean, having the widest possible variety of plants and animals on the planet earth. We should care for medical reasons. Oftentimes, unthought of medical solutions, whether they are pharmaceuticals or whatever, come from plants that probably have not even yet been discovered or categorized.

We should not only care for practical reasons in terms of our own self-interest, but I believe that we should also care for more basic spiritual or religious reasons. While I do not share an animal rights point of view of the world, I believe our natural world deserves our respect. The unnecessary extinction of plant or animal species is akin to a crime.

I would also like to suggest that Canada has a particular responsibility to deal with this issue. With so much of our population concentrated in a relatively small part of our land mass, habitat protection, which is fundamental to species protection, is relatively easy for us when compared to other countries with larger populations or perhaps fewer resources. If Canadians cannot protect habitat and the species that depend on them, how can we expect other countries to do it? I think it is our responsibility to take a lead on this.

Talking about habitat protection and more specifically, protecting wilderness, His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, stated:

The sorry story of the almost absent-minded degradation and destruction of so much of the world's biosphere is becoming only too well known to millions of people. Every other day there are disturbing stories about the burning of tropical forests, reclaimed wetlands, polluted rivers, lakes and oceans and the growing list of species of animals and plants becoming extinct.

Canada has an almost unique opportunity to ensure that future generations will be able to see examples of the state their land was in before the rush for development and exploitation began. The task is to conserve a whole range of viable ecosystems and habitats covering all the country's natural regions. It is also necessary to ensure that those human activities that impinge directly on the natural environment, such as forestry, farming and commercial fishing, adopt sound conservation practices.

That was in the forward to a book put out by the World Wildlife Fund called Endangered Spaces .

In the same book, William Francis Butler is quoted upon visiting the western plains shortly after confederation. As he stood in an ocean of grass and solitude he said “One sees here the world as it has taken shape and form from the hands of the creator”. He had a profound respect for the land in its natural state.

Before I turn to the details of the bill, let me also just say that a concern for extinction is part and parcel of a more general concern about the environment. It would make no sense at all to concern ourselves with endangered species while not concerning ourselves with, for example, climate change. Any work we do on habitat protection can be wiped out in a matter of months, if not days, by damage from our weather systems. Fundamental to any activity is an appropriate humbleness as we look out upon the world and respect for nature.

On that same theme, again taking a particularly Canadian view, writing in 1944 on a wilderness canoe voyage, Pierre Trudeau said,“I know a man whose school could never teach him the patriotism but who acquired that virtue when he felt in his bones the vastness of his land and the greatness of those who founded it”.

We have it from the great Prime Minister Trudeau himself about respect for nature and respect for the Canadian wilderness. It is part and parcel of respect for habitat which is fundamental to protecting endangered species.

In my remaining time let me comment directly on the bill that is in front of us. The government should be applauded for making some improvements on its previous legislation. Specifically, the compensation part of the bill is going to be essential for having the bill accepted in various parts of the country. It is clear that the cost of changing behaviour should not be borne simply by the landowners. There is a public good at large. Consequently, the public should be prepared to pay for land conservation or habitat protection. I do not foresee this being a tremendous amount of money. It would be money well spent.

However I share with some of my colleagues in the opposition and my Liberal colleagues concerns about the bill. The legislation needs to go further in terms of protecting habitat, particularly in the area of federal jurisdiction. I have concerns about who actually does the listing. I look forward to exploring that issue further in committee.

I also have concerns about the rollover of the list. Currently we have identified some 300 plus plants and animals that are on the verge of extension or are threatened. Most, if not all of the scientific work, has been done. We can make this list part of the legislation itself rather than making it the subject of cabinet regulation.

Those are my initial concerns. I look forward to working with the opposition on this very critical issue. It is part of a broader issue of concern for the environment. As we look forward, the environment will be the issue of the next period of time. This is only one small part of proper environmental stewardship and I am happy to play a role in it.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was very pleased to hear the hon. member indicate his concern that this legislation, as it is currently drafted, does not go far enough in a couple of critical respects.

Could he elaborate on the two most critical areas in particular that have been raised by my colleague, the member for Windsor—St. Clair? The first is the question of habitat protection. The second is who will ultimately have the responsibility for designating which are the endangered species? Will it ultimately be politicians or scientists? Could he comment on those two issues and his intention to seek the strengthening of the bill in those two very important areas?

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Gar Knutson Liberal Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will deal with the simpler question first which is the issue of federal jurisdiction. I have been quite clear that we should have a section in the bill that says that the government or the minister is required to pass regulations that the protect habitat within areas of federal jurisdiction.

Unfortunately, when the Fathers of Confederation wrote the constitution in 1867, environmental concerns were not part of the decisions on which level of government, federal or provincial, had jurisdiction.

There is some debate in the country, on a legal level in the courts and on political levels in Ottawa and provincial capitals, as to who actually has jurisdiction. That is something the committee needs to turn its mind to before making a final decision on this. It is something I have an opinion on but it is not a universal opinion. The committee needs to look at where federal jurisdiction ends and provincial jurisdiction begins.

Regarding the other issue of who makes the final decision, the question is not as simple as it may seem at first. If we are going to give blank cheques to scientists and ask them to tell us what is on the verge of extinction, which on a certain level sounds quite attractive, and if politicians are not part of that decision, they need to follow a close second behind that and question the consequences of the listing.

For example, what recovery plans or socioeconomic costs are we prepared to endure in order that a species might be protected? Is it practical that a particular species be protected? Those are questions that need to be answered as part of a recovery plan or part of a process.

Certainly scientists should be given the opportunity to tell us, from a scientific basis, what should be listed. There is a proposal floating around calling for a reverse onus. Species would be listed and the government would have 90 days, or a similar time period, to take them off the list with an explanation as to why. Perhaps that is a better way to go at it.

Again, this is one of the things the committee needs to turn its mind to, listen to the debate and the various views from the government and others, and make a recommendation either by passing an amendment at committee stage or some other form, depending on what the committee's views are.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, the question I have for the hon. member is quite simple. I believe he was a member of the standing committee that actually studied this particular issue. It produced a report leading up to Bill C-65. The all party report recommended adopting the COSEWIC list, in particular grandfathering the COSEWIC list, as well as using it as the starting point.

I had previous conversations with the member on this issue. Does he maintain that same position on the listing process or has there been some 11th hour revision?

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Gar Knutson Liberal Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Madam Speaker, my colleague's facts are a little off. What was part and parcel of Bill C-65 was a referral to committee before second reading. This was toward the end of the 1993 parliament. From my memory, automatic listing was never agreed on or never passed.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, I am happy to help introduce Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada because during the election I was asked if our government was going to reintroduce the bill.

Today I will make only introductory remarks because there will be much feedback and suggested improvements from constituents to input later when it will be reviewed in committee. For instance, I met with an official of the Sierra Legal Defence Fund. He assures me that he will present its detailed input to the committee.

I have also received a letter from Juri Peepre, executive director of CPAWS Yukon, which highlights three key areas: strong mandatory habitat protection, public accountability, and a very creative compromise ensuring science based lists and the ultimate role of cabinet. I forwarded the letter to the minister and to the committee chair.

Senator Ione Christensen, the other half of the Yukon caucus, and I often work together on initiatives and this is no exception. Senator Christensen has distributed Bill C-5 to such Yukon organizations as the Yukon Outfitters Association, the Yukon Chamber of Mines, Minister Dale Eftoda, Grand Chief Ed Schultz, the Yukon Conservation Society, the Yukon Chamber of Commerce and the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce.

Notwithstanding the fact that parliament has been receiving and incorporating input on the main elements of the bill for seven years, I will forward any feedback I receive from those other organizations to the minister and the committee chair just as I have with the CPAWS letter. It is very exciting to be part of an effort to help preserve some of the species we share the earth with.

Members who were here through the first two iterations know it is not easy to come up with common ground for such a huge variety of stakeholders, some of whom want weaker legislation than that presented today and some of whom want stronger legislation. Because there are species that inhabit virtually every metre of our nation, there are obviously a myriad of stakeholders and interests with whom to try to build common ground.

In my constituency in Yukon there are first nations governments, territorial governments, municipal governments, land use planning bodies, farmers, miners, loggers, trappers, sports and subsistence fishermen, big game outfitters, tourists, wilderness adventurers and campers, boaters, naturalists and snowmobilers, et cetera. Our challenge as a parliament is to come up with a bill that protects species and is as acceptable as possible to the many elements of our diverse society.

Bill C-5 incorporates a number of new suggestions from individuals and groups as refinements to previous drafts. The following are some highlights.

It prohibits the killing, harming, harassing, capturing or taking of species officially listed as threatened, endangered or extirpated, and the destruction of their residences. It includes a public registry and a scientific assessment of species at risk.

There will be mandatory action plans and recovery strategies, including the ability to enforce critical habitat protection. It provides the authority to prohibit the killing of endangered or threatened species and the destruction of their critical habitat on all lands in Canada.

It provides emergency authority to protect species in imminent danger. It uses three mechanisms: positive incentives, which we hope will be used in most cases; strong legal protections; and, if absolutely necessary, the Government of Canada can act alone.

It complements and works together with first nation, provincial and territorial governments. It involves landowners and land users. It uses traditional aboriginal knowledge.

It complements the stewardship program in which Canadians can take voluntary actions to protect habitat. It fulfils Canada's obligations to the court for protection of species at risk. It unifies the efforts of the provinces and territories.

There will be some compensation which will act as a positive incentive to assist in implementation. Budget 2000 provided $90 million over three years and another $45 million thereafter.

Some work has already been done. Under the new habitat stewardship program the Government of Canada has contributed $5 million toward 60 partnership projects with communities and regional organizations. In the government implemented ecological gift program Canadians can use capital gains for ecologically sensitive lands and easements for the protection of habitat, a measure I support because habitat is a concern in my riding. It recognizes the role of boards established under land claims agreements such as the UFA in Yukon.

I will also use the debate to highlight a relatively new process in the federal government, the rural lens. It is one of the initiatives of the Secretary of State for Rural Development. Any new initiative by the federal government should be examined through the rural lens to see how it affects rural Canadians in ridings such as mine in Yukon.

Bill C-5 has been carefully vetted through the lens in its development. I would encourage all members of the House to support the use of the rural lens for all programs, services and legislation. It is very helpful to Yukon residents and to rural Canadians in all ridings to have new initiatives viewed through their eyes.

We hope the bill will bring stakeholders together in support of the common goal of saving species. The bill shows respect for property owners by having many co-operative and voluntary recovery possibilities and compensation if need be.

I will, however, fight to ensure that the rights of rural Canadians and Yukoners are reflected in this and other legislation. Yukoners often live on the land with these species, sometimes at -50°C, and all have learned to survive together.

The proof is that at the present moment, according to the Sierra Legal Defence Fund, of the 364 COSEWIC listed species there are no species in the endangered category in Yukon.

We could not tolerate the dictums of an urban created myth that does not reflect our rural reality. We hope all parties will support the legislation and help Canada live up to its international obligations.

Nine provinces and territories, including Quebec, have laws to protect species at risk. Bill C-5 is structured in such a way as to complement these laws and not to create overlap.

A number of provinces and territories do not have comprehensive legislation and, in the long run, the bill is a safeguard to filling those gaps. Any time two governments work toward the same noble cause, in this case preserving species, they may on occasion run into overlap. However, if it came, for instance, to saving a species of whale, I would rather have overlap than a gap because failure is irreversible.

Failure is irreversible. We respect the agreement on harmonization, because the intent of this legislation is to complement the efforts made by the provinces and territories.

If a province has a combination of its species at risk and other complementary legislation in place so that everything is protected, then this or other complementary federal legislation will not have to kick in.

I think that Bill C-5 is effective and in keeping with the Constitution of Canada.

As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment said the last time around on May 11, 2000 “We have examined and benefited from the experience of other jurisdictions, other provinces, other nations”.

I have a short note on the compensation percentage under the legislation. The deal will be covered in regulations. It will be thought out and studied carefully over the next several months and will be ready in time for the bill to be passed.

The time to act is now. As the NDP member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar said on May 29, 2000, in the previous debate, “Worldwide we are experiencing the largest extinction since the time of the dinosaurs. Historically on average about two to three species a year went extinct due to natural causes but currently two to three species go extinct every hour”.

As the Bloc member for Jonquière stated on May 15, 2000 “I would like to state the position of the Bloc Quebecois since species are disappearing more rapidly, the problem is serious and we must take effective action”.

The Alliance member for Edmonton—Strathcona said, on the same day, “I am confident there is nothing partisan about endangered species and nothing partisan about protecting endangered species”.

That said, I hope we will be work together to pass this bill.

In 1623 a British parliamentarian said that if a clod of earth washed away from Europe then Europe would be less. It would be fitting, in that context, to say that if a species dies out then we are diminished because we are involved with them.

In this House of great bells, a parliament I respect, the bells will soon be calling us to vote. If we do not enact legislation to protect species at risk, then heed the words John Donne wrote in 1623:

If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Madam Speaker, I congratulate the member for Yukon who just spoke. However I could not help but notice a contrast between what the member for Yukon said, which sounded like he was very supportive of the bill, and what the member with whom he was sharing time said, which was that he had concerns with the bill and was looking to make some changes.

I have a specific question for the member for Yukon. In reading the bill our concern is that it does not cover the federal government's core jurisdiction, especially north of 60, with which the member for Yukon will be a lot more familiar than me. It does not cover the habitat of migratory species and does not apply on federally owned lands north of 60, which incidentally make up about 95% of federal lands.

Would the member for Yukon comment on what I perceive to be a deficiency in the bill?

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, with regard to the member's initial comment, I too mentioned the same concerns as the previous member but I mentioned them in the context of those who have more information than I do.

The Sierra Legal Defence Fund will comment on those very issues at the committee meeting. The CPAWS Yukon branch, and Juri Peepre's letter, which mentioned the issues of habitat protection and scientific listing, will be at the committee meeting. I look forward to those issues and concerns being brought to the committee.

If a province or territory does not act, even if it is not in a federal jurisdiction, there is provision for the federal government to act to save a species. The member raised a very important point relating to federal lands in Yukon. There was a deficiency in that area in the last round, but I have been told it has been changed in this round.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Murray Calder Liberal Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to the speech made by the member for Yukon. I am still an active farmer. What happens if farmers do find an endangered species on their farm? What type of compensation will be in place for them so they will not have to resort to what I refer to as the three s 's: shoot, shovel and shut up? Could the member tell us what type of compensation package would be available?

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, the federal government is emphasizing conservation actions before compensation. I listed a number of available programs and projects in which Canadians have voluntarily and through community projects protected a number of habitat. I also mentioned the amounts of money, $90 million and $45 million, that were available for those programs.

The destruction of critical habitat, especially on private land, is a last resort and hopefully in most cases it will not come to that.

The Pearse report had some very detailed direction on compensation. It will be studied by the department and the compensation will come out in the regulations. That is why we have made no comment on the exact percentage. The Pearse report had recommended 50%, but we still need to study in detail the ramifications and what would be the best compensation framework. It is a very complex issue and the exact details will be handled in the regulations.

In order to allay some fears that members on the other side might have, I would like to say that expropriation is not envisaged. The minister has been on record as saying that he does not think it would ever come to that and that other methods would be used to ensure habitat protection.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Paul Forseth Canadian Alliance New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, I am splitting my time. I am pleased to address the topic of endangered species again in the House of Commons. My party supports the government bringing in this bill early in the legislative calendar. Our party members from coast to coast have repeatedly voted at national assemblies for the creation of such legislation if it works in a pragmatic way to find the balances needed to be a viable law.

The specific purposes of the enactment are to prevent Canadian indigenous species, sub-species and distinct populations of wildlife from becoming extirpated or extinct, to provide for the recovery of endangered or threatened species and to encourage the management of other species to prevent them from becoming at risk.

The committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada, commonly known as COSEWIC, is an independent body of experts responsible for assessing and identifying species at risk. COSEWIC's assessments are to be reported to the Minister of the Environment and to the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council. It authorizes the governor in council to establish by regulation the official list of species as risk based on that process.

The legislation requires that the best available knowledge be used to define long and short term objectives in a recovery strategy for endangered and threatened species. It provides for action plans to identify specific actions. It creates prohibitions to protect listed, threatened or endangered species and their critical habitats. It recognizes that compensation may be needed to ensure fairness following the imposition of the critical habitat prohibitions. It creates a public registry to assist in making documents under the act more accessible to the public.

The government claims it is consistent with the aboriginal and treaty rights and that it respects the authority of other federal ministers and provincial governments, as the legislation has a shared federal-provincial jurisdiction.

Our party has a principled approach to the bill. The written constitution of the Canadian Alliance, under point no. 10 in the addendum under statement of principles, states:

We believe that government must act for the benefit of future generations as much as for the present, maintaining policies that will nurture and develop the people's knowledge and skills, preserve a stable, healthy and productive society, and ensure the responsible development and conservation of our environment and natural heritage.

Further in the party's published declaration of policy about the balance between environmental protection and economic and social development, paragraph 44 states:

We are committed to protecting and preserving Canada's natural environment and endangered species, and to sustainable development of our abundant natural resources for the use of current and future generations. Therefore we will strike a balance between environmental preservation and economic development. This includes creating partnerships with provincial governments, private industry, educational institutions, and the public, to promote meaningful progress in the area of environmental protection.

Paragraph 45 states:

We believe responsible exploration, development, conservation and renewal of our environment is vital to our continued well-being as a nation and as individuals. We will establish a unified and timely “single-window” approval process, and will vigorously enforce environmental regulations with meaningful penalties.

Paragraph 46 states:

Canada's water is an especially precious resource over which we must maintain complete sovereignty. Any federal legislation dealing with this resource will respect that jurisdiction is shared with the provinces.

My assertion is that the Canadian Alliance is a lot greener in character than portrayed in the media.

Significantly, we temper our environmentalism with responsible attention for the pragmatic. We will not be tempted to propose things that cannot be realistically delivered, unlike what all the other parties have done from time to time. The government talks a great line but has done little in substance on the environmental front since 1993. Certainly its accomplishments do not match up to its overreaching rhetoric.

A sticking point with the bill will be cost. When action is taken to change human behaviour for the national and international good, we must organize ourselves so these broad objectives are indeed broadly shared in cost. We can probably look to the case law around expropriations for guidance rather than the current suggested formulas. Certainly the mechanics must be placed in the bill rather than left to uncertainties and the changeableness of regulation. In my view, it is the major shortcoming of the bill.

The government is to be commended for again attempting the bill. However if there is no receptivity to amendments at the upcoming committee and report stage, then the whole world will know that what is important to Liberals is the name of the bill. They can then say that they actually have a bill, rather than putting in place a workable set of rules that will actually save species. I do not think the current form of the bill will do it.

There is also a huge body of additional expertise available to find a better balance which must be incorporated if we as a society are going to save anything.

In conclusion, I am claiming that a Canadian Alliance government would be proactive on environmental issues in a responsible way. While being a leader, we would work most diligently at the international level to bring our neighbour states along because in many respects protecting endangered species knows no borders.

The government has not told the truth to Canadians about the ramifications of the Kyoto agreement. Therefore I am not so sure that it is entirely sincere with its endangered species bill either. That remains to be seen.

We will work to make the bill more effective in a pragmatic way, for the earth is our home for now and we have stewardship responsibilities for all it contains. The public will is there to do good things. Let us hope that the government will also find it.

Species At Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dale Johnston Canadian Alliance Wetaskiwin, AB

Madam Speaker, I listened intently to my colleague talk about judicious stewardship of endangered species and pragmatism. I am a farmer. We have some land in Alberta with a creek running through about 80 acres. When my wife and I bought the land we also bought the land adjacent to the creek and we pay taxes on it. It is not excluded from our title.

Now there may or may not be some endangered species of wildlife or flora on that land. I know there are a few bush partridges. I fret about their existence and wonder if they are endangered.

Would my colleague like to speak to the effectiveness of the bill? If someone finds that I have an endangered species on that land, will I have to forfeit the use of the land? As it is, our cattle go down to the creek to drink. Are there provisions in the bill that would compensate me if I had to set land aside for some endangered species to flourish? Does the bill provide for that? If not, what would my colleague suggest to improve that situation?