Madam Speaker, I also want to express concerns about the bill, perhaps not the same concerns expressed by my colleague on the right, who is probably not on my right but on my left.
However we have a number of concerns. In order to get them on the record clearly, it will be necessary to read and comment directly on pertinent parts of the bill. Before I do I want to mention a couple of things that my hon. colleague referred to.
He talked about dredging and dragging. I agree to the extent that there are areas which can be damaged by boat practices. However I would hope that if we are going to establish a marine conservation area we are certainly not going to do it in areas where fishers try to make a living through procedures that would include dragging. That would drive a nail into the coffin right off the bat.
In relation to dredging, when one lives in the marine environment, one realizes that there is a constant flow of material due to waves and sometimes river mouth action. Many of the harbours in which fishermen live and constantly fish occasionally start to fill up with silt, sand and the beach moving back and forward because of tide action or river action. The only way that these people can get into their own home ports and the wharves where they tie up their boats is to occasionally have that area dredged so that they do not go aground on the material that consistently moves.
Again, I hope this will be taken into consideration before any marine conservation area is designated. I do not think I can give the government that much credit to think that it would be that far-reaching in its looking ahead process. Consequently, I would be concerned about these two processes.
However, the purpose of the bill as outlined, says that the proposed legislation requires that national marine conservation areas be established for two reasons: first, for the protection and conservation of representative marine areas, and second, for the benefit, education and enjoyment of the people of Canada and the world.
It is pretty hard to argue against either one of those because they are both laudable ideals. However, if we follow through on the process, the question we have to ask is in order to achieve what the bill wants to do, who is going to be rewarded and who is going to suffer because of the way that the suggested conservation areas will be implemented?
We have been provided with basically a map of Canada. On this list are national marine conservation areas, the natural regions. There are 29 natural regions. Collectively they take in practically every inch of coastland around Canada. We have the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Arctic Ocean, the Great Lakes and also the Bay of Fundy as part of the Atlantic Ocean. If all these areas are considered, it means there are intentions to perhaps set up sample national marine conservation areas in every nook and cranny of the Canadian marine environment. Again, that may not be an impractical or impossible thing to do provided it is done properly and with full consultation and involvement of all agencies, particularly the people who live in these areas.
I will throw out a word that we have used fairly often when talking about the fishery and the word adjacency. The prime concern of the government should be the people in the adjacent areas. The government should consult with those people to make sure that they fully understand what is proposed and that they are in full agreement with it before any such marine conservation area is established.
I have major concerns with perhaps not what is in the legislation but how it could be interpreted and the omissions. An area that bothers me is where it says that “subject to section 7 for the purpose of establishing or enlarging” a reserve, et cetera, that within Canada, the Government of Canada may by order in council amend the schedule. That is if we wanted to increase the size of the reserve. Then it goes on to say in another subsection:
Except as provided by subsection (2), no amendment may be made by the Governor in Council to Schedule 2 for the purpose of removing any portion of a reserve.
What that says to me, and maybe I will be educated otherwise, is that the government can at its own whim change, enlarge or add to the reserve at any time by order in council but it cannot take away. If for some reason the people in the affected area, whether it be for fishing rights, exploratory rights or whatever, had good reason to reduce the size of the reserve, it could not be done by order in council.
Another clause that bothers me states:
The Minister is responsible for the administration, management and control of marine conservation areas in relation to matters not assigned by law to any other Minister of the Crown.
The minister referred to is the Minister of Canadian Heritage.
I would think that in selective marine environments the prime minister would be the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. By prime minister, I mean the minister in charge and not the Prime Minister. However, if we are to expect either the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans or the Minister of Canadian Heritage to be responsible for the management and enforcement of these zones, I have major concerns with that.
Let me just mention a few areas where these people are already involved. Let me talk about the management of the fisheries and the protection of the people who procure the fishery.
We have talked about the coast guard. Just a while ago in this honourable House, I expressed concerns about cutbacks in the coast guard. Instead of being there to solidly look after the concerns and the needs of the people who ply the oceans around the coasts of our country, particularly Atlantic Canada, instead of enhancing the infrastructure that is needed to ensure safety and also to ensure proper environment and harvesting standards, the coast guard, under the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, is being cut back.
The department is taking boats out of the fleet, cutting the helicopter fleet in half and automating 11 lighthouses. More lighthouses were automated in the past. Now 11 more are being automated, taking the manned operation away and using strict automation in lighthouses that are located in unique and barren areas of the province of Newfoundland.
In this case of the remote areas, boats plying the area and fishermen fishing from the surrounding communities rely strictly on the lighthouse, the lighthouse keeper and his or her family to provide the type of information, assurance and safety precautions that they want as they venture to sea. They rely on the lighthouse operation more so than they do on the weatherman, or the coast guard or anybody else.
I can list dozens of examples where the lighthouse and the lighthouse keeper and family members prevented wrecks from occurring, prevented other types of marine disasters, effected rescues, helped people who had been wrecked by keeping them at the lighthouse location until they could be picked up, et cetera. I can go on and on. There are numerous daily occasions when they relate to marine travellers, particularly fishermen, the weather conditions, ice conditions and ice flows, which have stranded many people fishing in rural areas, and other concerns that these people would have.
Lighthouses are also a major part of our culture and heritage. Many of them have been designated national historical sites. What are we doing? We are downplaying them to save money. We do not seem to concern ourselves with saving lives. We are more concerned with saving money.
Are those the types of protective services that we would see in relation to marine conservation areas? Would we be creating all of them as if the coastline of Canada were something that we could put in a front room and monitor from our chesterfield? It is not that easy. Canada is a big and wild country. To dream is tremendous but to dream the impossible dream is something else. This is perhaps what the minister is doing. He does not know what he is getting into.
I will give a couple of other examples. What about fisheries management generally? Fisheries would now get involved in managing marine conservation areas. It cannot even manage its present job. If there ever were a completely and more poorly managed industry it is the fishery in every respect. We are asking for trouble if we add anything to the duties of the minister.
Let me zero in on the Minister of Canadian Heritage and talk about wildlife protection. The first people the committee should talk to are the wildlife enforcement officers, as they used to be called. They do not know what to be called now because they have a mixture of wildlife and forestry officials who have been given the same duties. They now look after our forests and wildlife. They do not have a clue what they are doing or what they are being ordered to do.
The problem is the extremely poor management of our parks and wildlife areas. With the legislation today, we would create a whole new environment by bringing in people to manage in a marine environment. Perhaps we should talk to the park wardens who have expressed concern about how well the department understands their duties and responsibilities and how well they are supported by the department.
The track record of the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is not one that we would like to use as an example of how to properly manage marine conservation areas. They do not seem to give the necessary assurance to people in the conservation areas, particularly the people in rural parts of Canada and Atlantic Canada where the fishery is so important. They are telling them not to worry about the marine conservation areas as they will not affect them. The legislation says otherwise.
There are a number of other issues. I talked about the minister's administrative capabilities. Subclause 9(1) of the bill says:
The Minister shall, within five years after a marine conservation area is established, in consultation with relevant federal and provincial ministers and agencies and affected coastal communities, aboriginal organizations and bodies established under land claims agreements, and with any other persons and bodies that the Minister considers appropriate, prepare a management plan for the marine conservation area including provision for ecosystem protection, human use and zoning, which shall be tabled in each House of Parliament.
It would be done in consultation with everyone who should be consulted, but the operable words are “five years after the establishment”.
I do not know whether that makes sense to anybody else but it certainly does not make any sense to me. My hon. colleague says it is a postdated cheque, which is exactly what it is. Subclause 9(2) states:
The Minister shall review the management plan of a marine conservation area at least every five years—
What it is saying is that if a mistake is made we should not worry because every five years the minister would review it.
—and any amendments to the plan shall be tabled with the plan in each House of Parliament.
Who decides what changes and amendments would be made? Subclause 9(4) states:
Provisions of a management plan respecting fishing, aquaculture, fisheries management, marine navigation and marine safety are subject to agreement between the Minister and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.
The people who would decide how the affected people in the rural communities would live through all this are the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of Canadian Heritage.
With the examples that I gave earlier, I do not think too many fisherpersons in Port de Grave, St. Barbe or St. Mary's are wondering tonight when those ministers will go there and establish a marine conservation area.
As we know, attempts were made to establish a marine conservation area in Newfoundland a few years ago but the people and the agencies involved were not convinced that it would be a good thing for them.
We have absolutely no problem with the word conservation. If we had been conscious of conservation years ago we would have been better off today, and Newfoundland certainly would have been a lot better off.
We have no problems with management. In fact, we wish the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans would manage the fishery much better than he does. Let me give an example. People watching CPAC tonight may be thinking that the government probably would not interfere. When the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans walks into the House, snaps his fingers and gives quotas for shrimp, crab or anything else—and I am thinking particularly of last year's shrimp—to anybody without any consultation with the players involved, what does it say about the government?
If the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, along with the Minister of Canadian Heritage who is responsible for the management of our parks and wildlife, are the two people who would secure our heritage, our culture, our fisheries and our marine environment, then I am extremely concerned.
The bill goes on to state a number of other things of concern to individuals, especially in marine environments. Clause 13 states:
No person shall explore for or exploit hydrocarbons, minerals, aggregates or any other inorganic matter within a marine conservation area.
I have no problem with the marine conservation areas being established beforehand with an agreement, but in many of our coastal environments we are only now beginning to understand the potential that we have.
It is too bad that my time is up because there are still a number of issues that I would like to talk about, but perhaps on another day.