Mr. Speaker, at this time we are addressing a bill about the protection of endangered species in Canada. I believe, as the previous speaker has said, that all of us subscribe to the principle that endangered species must be protected. It is a principle totally endorsed by the Bloc Quebecois. This morning, moreover, the hon. member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie reiterated this.
The question we must ask ourselves, and is being asked of us, even with the first set of amendments introduced today is this: is Bill C-5 the right answer to the problem all of us here in this House have identified?
The Bloc Quebecois response—as the hon. member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie said this morning, is this: We do not believe that Bill C-5 is the right answer to the problem identified, namely the protection of endangered species, and there are two main reasons for this.
The first is that Bill C-5 does not in any way improve the protection for endangered species. Moreover, as all major environmental groups have pointed out during consultations, this bill is pointless, in a way, in that it contains major weaknesses. As well, its approach is a piecemeal one, a criticism that has been made on several occasions. It contains no overall vision.
Furthermore, and this is what is most pernicious in this legislation, there is the discretionary power granted to the Minister of the Environment and the cabinet when it comes to the overall enforcement of the legislation. This is apparent, for example, in the amendments that were moved today. We are told, “There will be compensation. But we do not know what kind. We will talk about it after the bill has been passed. It will be in the regulations”.
Each time the government does this type of move, Canadians and Quebecers end up losing.
Let us take clause 27, which allows the cabinet, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, to establish the list of endangered species and to amend it if necessary, by regulations.
How can the minister make the list of endangered species? Does he have the required education? No. Which is perfectly understandable; we are chosen to represent the population, not for our degrees. One does not necessarily become Minister of the Environment because one is a biologist.
Therefore, an independent organization should establish this list, because it appears as though—and we are used to this—this list will be based more on political considerations than scientific ones. We had yet another good example of this today during oral question period, when the Minister of the Environment, when asked if he would be ratifying the Kyoto agreement, skirted the issue, gave some argument and tried to avoid the question by saying that he was consulting with the provinces.
This is not the case for all kinds of other treaties; let us take the negotiations for the free trade area of the Americas. The Bloc Quebecois asked on a number of occasions—we even moved motions for the House to debate the issue—that civil society be consulted and that the provinces be involved. There was no problem; each time, the Liberals rejected it, because, clearly, they had to make progress, this was an economic issue, it was extremely important, and it was important for our southern neighbours too.
This was the bulldozer approach. There was no need for the executive or the Minister for International Trade to consult, they just did what they wanted and the governing party is perfectly fine with that.
Why, in the case of Kyoto, does the Minister of the Environment tell us that consultation is necessary, that the opinion of the provinces is important? Because the environment is involved. It is perhaps less important for the current government than economic issues and issues that allow industrial sectors to make profits at the expense of the environment, as we unfortunately all too often see.
There is another case as well. When the North American Free Trade Agreement was ratified by the Liberal government, a number of provinces did not agree and at least two domestic co-operation agreements came under provincial jurisdiction. This did not prevent the government from ratifying the agreement. That having been said, obviously, because provincial jurisdiction was involved, a certain number of provinces had to be in agreement with these co-operation agreements.
So, this is one very specific example today. It is not something from the distant past. Just today, we saw the Minister of the Environment use sophistry to postpone answering the very simple question put to him: Does he intend to ratify the Kyoto accord, yes or no, and when?
The discretionary power provided for in Bill C-5, including in clause 27, makes the bill unacceptable from the word go. I think that any parliamentarian, whether a Quebecer or a Canadian, should object to the discretionary power being given the minister and the cabinet.
As a sovereignist, as someone representing the interests of Quebec in the House, there is a second aspect that strikes me as just as fundamental as the first: not only does the bill fail utterly to improve protection for endangered species, and give cabinet discretionary power, but it also interferes directly in Quebec's areas of jurisdiction. It is another pointless overlap with corresponding legislation in Quebec which has been around 1989.
According to the bill's preamble, the Minister of the Environment intends to respect provincial jurisdiction, but the entire thrust of the bill would suggest otherwise.
Not only is the discretionary power given to the minister very broad, as I mentioned earlier, but the bill does not respect the division of powers, as established in the Canadian constitution and as interpreted over the years. This bill truly interferes in a provincial jurisdiction, particularly in Quebec, and excludes the provinces from any real and direct input into the process. Finally, existing laws, such as the one that Quebec has had since the early nineties, that is for almost 11 years, are being ignored.
I would particularly like to draw attention to clauses 53 and 71 which state that existing provincial or territorial laws, or any other document, may—not shall—be incorporated by reference in the regulations. What is provided for in the act is not the requirement to take into consideration the provinces' know-how or existing laws, not the requirement to get the provinces and territories involved in the whole process, but the possibility to do so, depending on the will of the Minister of the Environment and of the government in office.
Given the oft demonstrated desire of the federal government to centralize powers in Ottawa—the social union agreement, which Quebec did not sign, for good reason, is a prime example of that—there is cause for concern about clauses 53 and 71.
This bill completely ignores existing laws, particularly the Quebec act. If the federal government ignores this act, how can we believe that it will respect provincial jurisdictions and Quebec laws?
It seems to me that there are three things wrong with Bill C-5. First, it ignores the division of powers and responsibilities between the provinces regarding the management of habitats and the protection of species. Second, it ignores existing laws. Third, it gives the federal government extremely broad powers regarding the protection of species.
The federal government is going against true environmental harmonization between the various levels of government. It is doing exactly the opposite of what it is saying in its speeches.
In spite of the amendments that have been made, Bill C-5 must be rejected because it is useless, does not meet the needs—and I believe there is a consensus in the House that endangered species should be protected— directly interferes with Quebec's jurisdictions, and ignores the Quebec act. The Bloc Quebecois will oppose this bill.