Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to speak to Bill C-10 to create national marine conservation areas in Canada. This bill comes back to us under a different form that during the last parliament.
First, I must say that the Bloc is in favour of measures aimed at protecting the environment. Speaking of that, we can all recall how successful the creation of the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park was. It ought to have served as a model for this bill to ensure that the necessary consultations were carried out so that, in the end, the measures taken and the management of the marine conservation areas respect the various jurisdictions and the initiatives taken by the various governments.
We have examples of this, such as Vision 2000 and other projects where the jurisdictions were taken into account and where some interesting results have been achieved.
In this case, is it because it is a more general bill, a kind of umbrella act, which will establish a general framework for the management of marine conservation areas, that the consultations do not seem to have been carried out appropriately and to respect what we would like to seeas the bottom line? To those of us on this side, the consultations do not seem to have been carried out properly and do not seem to respect what we would like to see as the bottom line.
As I said earlier, instead of focusing on collaborative efforts, as was the case for the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park, with this bill the federal government will have the right to create marine conservation areas without regard for Quebec's jurisdiction over its territory and its environment.
In addition to having a problem with the provinces as far as jurisdiction is concerned, there are also areas within the bill that are not very clear as far as the future relationship between Heritage Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada is concerned. We have experienced certain rather patent examples of difficulties with Heritage Canada, in connection with management of the ecosystem. This does not necessarily strike us as being very promising for the future.
For example, there is the overlap and duplication of Fisheries and Oceans-protected and Environment Canada-protected zones. This means that, even within the federal government, there is no clear vision of marine area management, because several departments are involved. The wording of this bill does not seem to reflect what we might have expected in terms of qualifying the situation. What we have instead is something that requires more time and more work.
For all these reasons, the Bloc Quebecois considers this bill unacceptable in its present form. It does not respect the territorial integrity of Quebec. For example, one of the conditions essential to the establishment of a marine conservation area is federal ownership of the land where the area is to be established. One of the clauses relating to this states that the minister cannot establish a marine conservation area, unless, and I quote:
—the Governor in Council is satisfied that Her Majesty in right of Canada has clear title to or an unencumbered right of ownership in the lands to be included in the marine conservation area, other than such lands situated within the exclusive economic zone of Canada;
We see in this, therefore, an approach very different from that used, as I was saying earlier, in the case of the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park, where the government agreed to respect provincial ownership of the riverbed and, thus, build a model that was unique and that respected the jurisdictions of each.
We know that, under section 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867, the management and sale of crown lands are matters of exclusive provincial jurisdiction. The bill before us does not totally respect this jurisdiction.
In addition, the same Constitution Act provides that Quebec cannot transfer its lands to the federal government and can only authorize the federal government, by order, to use them under its federal jurisdiction. Finally, the protection of habitats and fauna is a matter of joint federal and provincial jurisdiction, and the Government of Quebec plans to establish a framework for the protection of marine areas in the near future.
I think that, in the context of the consultations, it would have been a good idea to take this plan into consideration, in order to achieve a successful outcome in the end. We spoke of examples of the right of way of doing things. I mentioned the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park, but there is the third phase of the St. Lawrence action plan, another example to follow.
In 1998, the federal and Quebec ministers of the environment announced the third phase of the St. Lawrence action plan, representing a total bill of $230 million to be shared equally by both levels of government. One of the objectives of this action plan is to increase the area of protected habitats by 100% from 12,000 hectares to 120,000 hectares. The third phase follows on the first two phases, in which both governments invested over $300 million.
This co-operation we find in specific projects such as the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park and the third phase of the St. Lawrence action plan, we would also liked to find it in the present bill. On reading it, we did not.
Another important consideration is the fact that jurisdiction over the environment is shared, and so both the provinces and the federal government have responsibilities for it.
For example, section 91 of the Constitution Act provides that “the exclusive Legislative Authority of the Parliament of Canada extends to all Matters coming within the Classes of Subjects next herein-after enumerated; that is to say,—...Navigation and Shipping...Quarantine and the Establishment and Maintenance of Marine Hospitals...Sea Coast and Inland Fisheries...Ferries between a Province and any British or Foreign Country or between Two Provinces”.
This basically sums up the content of the Constitution Act, 1867, as regards the federal government's responsibility.
Quebec's jurisdiction is also recognized in certain sections of the British North America Act, including section 92, which reads:
In each Province the Legislature may exclusively make Laws in relation to Matters coming within the Classes of Subjects next herein-after enumerated; that is to say—...The Management and Sale of the Public Lands belonging to the Province and of the Timber and Wood thereon...Property and Civil Rights in the Province...Generally all Matters of a merely local or private Nature in the Province.
So, some co-ordination is required to ensure that the federal acts respect this jurisdiction. The Constitution Act, 1867, also states that:
In each province, the legislature may exclusively make laws in relation to ( a ) exploration for non-renewable natural resources in the province; ( b ) development, conservation and management of non-renewable natural resources and forestry resources in the province, including laws in relation to the rate of primary production therefrom—
Clearly, this bill should involve some kind of partnership that does not currently exist.
The example of the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park could have been followed as an essential condition to the creation of marine conservation areas, as far as land ownership is concerned. If the bill is passed as it now stands, the federal government could set up marine conservation areas on the seabed that it claims as its property and ignore Quebec's jurisdiction over the environment.
This is not satisfactory for the Bloc Quebecois and it also breaks a tradition I referred to earlier, a tradition of co-operation, which could have led to the establishment of interesting programs.
It is all the more frustrating and questionable, because this is framework legislation, which will define the way the federal government will act in this field. The government is proposing new principles as far as respect of mutual jurisdictions is concerned.
It seems that the federal government intends to create marine conservation areas under the responsibility of Heritage Canada, marine protection areas under the responsibility of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and marine wildlife areas under the responsibility of Environment Canada. This covers a lot of territory.
We could for example end up with one site with several zonings, each one of these departments considering that there is, according to its own criteria, a marine reserve or marine protection area for Fisheries and Ocean Canada, a marine reserve for Environment Canada or a marine conservation area for Heritage Canada. Then, in each of these cases, there would be three monitoring levels, three jurisdictions for three different departments.
Perhaps I could give an example. If Heritage Canada felt that certain wrecks in the St. Lawrence River had a historic role that deserved to be recognized and the environment was part of the conservation area, but Environment Canada wanted this same location recognized as a marine reserve for fauna, and there were a contradiction between the two, it is clear that the bill does not contain the desired logic to settle the matter.
Is it not fair to wonder today whether, ultimately, this bill will not create even more confusion?
We believe that it will. We believe that the fact that the bill allows each of the federal departments to maintain its jurisdiction over marine conservation areas may end up creating total confusion. As we explained earlier, with three departments having jurisdiction and being able to define marine conservation areas according to their own different objectives, the final results might not be consistent.
The bill also provides that, when the Department of Canadian Heritage deems it appropriate, it may, in co-operation with the minister concerned, pass regulations, in respect of a marine conservation area, which differ from the existing provisions. In such a case, the amendment arrived at between Heritage Canada and the minister concerned takes precedence over the other regulations passed under the Fisheries Act, the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act, the Canada Shipping Act, the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act, and the Aeronautics Act.
In other words, despite the fact that this is framework legislation, there is provision for the Department of Canadian Heritage, through its minister, to negotiate a piecemeal situation such as this, when it deems appropriate, and for the results to take precedence over all the legislation mentioned.
This discretion should be controlled very differently to make sure that it will not lead to squabbles between departments. It would also be subject to a change in ministers. If a minister from the Atlantic or the Pacific region has his own priorities in that area, he could use his powers under the act to put pressure on the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans or another minister, to demand some kind of acknowledgment of marine conservation areas not included in the planning by existing departments.
This section of the bill provides for a fourth way to create marine conservation areas, very specifically, on a case by case basis. I do not believe that framework legislation should provide for something like that.
We are all the more concerned by this situation that in the past there has been very severe criticism from the auditor general, among others, about the inability of Heritage Canada to protect ecosystems in existing national parks. Now that they want to get involved in marine conservation areas, are we going to be faced with the same kind of situation?
Very concrete examples can be found in chapter 31 of the auditor general's report, which states:
In the six national parks we reviewed, Parks Canada's biophysical information was out-of-date or incomplete.
The report states further:
Although monitoring the ecological integrity of the ecosystems in national parks is a high priority according to Parks Canada policies and guidelines, in many national parks the Department has not monitored ecological conditions on a regular, continuing basis.
How can we trust a department that was the subject of such comments in relation to existing parks, when there are plans to establish new parks in an even more unclear situation, where the government will not be accountable for its actions?
In another comment, the auditor general said:
In almost all of the parks visited by the auditor general, there was no link between business plans and management plans.
In the end, it meant a lack of co-ordination in the activities listed in the business plans to make the parks better known and help them reach their public, as well as in day to day management, to make sure the services that are in demand and that are offered to the public can be provided. If park visitors do not get this kind of service, it is inappropriate to give this responsibility to a department which has had big problems in the past.
Last spring, the panel on the ecological integrity of Canada's national parks made its report public and urged the government to put ecological integrity back in the centre of its missions. The panel found that the integrity of ecosystems was at risk.
For example, the panel found that, in some national parks, the stress on the resource was so great that some species were disappearing. All the more so in marine areas, where we can have this type of situation if they are is not properly managed.
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 does not experience this stress. The situation is worse than what the panel of scientists expected.
Given all this information, one really has to wonder how Parks Canada will manage to preserve the marine areas of conservation, when it does not seem to have the wherewithal to protect existing parks.
There are more reasons to oppose this bill. Consultations before the introduction of the bill have been more or less a failure. A consultation paper was made public and sent to 3,000 groups across Canada, but unfortunately there has been no real consultation on the report.
For example, the Bloc Quebecois had asked for a copy of the 300-page report, which was really only 73 pages long, the large majority of which constituted the reply-coupon joined to the consultation paper. That was very succinct as a consultation result. We could hardly use it to improve the bill.
We must also realize that the decision concerns the fishing industry, which is in turmoil. In the past, we have witnessed tremendous failures in the federal policy dealing with stock management. Entire areas of Quebec and Canada saw their regional economy suffer badly.
Clause 10(1) of the bill states, and I quote:
10.(1) The Minister shall provide opportunities for consultation with relevant federal and provincial ministers and agencies ... in the development of marine conservation area policy—
How are they going to ensure that there will be consultation in the fisheries area in order to avoid an unacceptable outcome, when we are already aware of the failure of the federal fisheries stock management policy?
The way this bill is worded, the information given does not provide assurance, despite reassurances by departmental officials, that the objective will be attained, i.e. that marine conservation areas will be better protected. We have no assurance that Quebec's jurisdiction will be respected.
When the application of this bill is reviewed in another five, ten or fifteen years, we will probably find it was just one more failure. This review will probably show that the Bloc Quebecois was justified in what it has said about the bill being passed within a context of insufficient consultation of the provinces and insufficient co-ordination by the various federal departments involved. By then, we will have one or two examples available in which the discretionary power conferred upon the minister will have been used to solve problems in a specific region, not necessarily within the spirit of the law.
Given all these facts, the Bloc Quebecois invites the House to vote against the bill. We do not feel it is acceptable at this stage.