Mr. Speaker, I am privileged to be a member of the standing committee on the environment. As such I voted for some of the improvements that the standing committee made to Bill C-5. I voted against several amendments which were passed by the committee because I felt they undermined the co-operative and accountable approach of the legislation.
There is no question that our country needs federal legislation to protect species at risk. We need a law that will encourage positive actions and behaviour, an act that will motivate and nurture the will to build upon a strong foundation of stewardship across our country. In fact, at this important point in our federalism the legislation comes at a time and in a manner that co-operation across the country is being achieved so that species at risk and their habitats would be protected.
As parliamentarians we know that building co-operation and partnerships is the most productive way to change things for the better. If we want our citizens to modify their behaviour to achieve a common goal then we should give them the tools and encouragement to do so. We cannot expect to earn this commitment simply because it is mandated by a law.
As a member of the committee I learned that there is much anxiety about endangered species legislation. Our job now is to achieve legislation that Canadians could trust and support and that would result in unequivocal support for legislation that would make all the difference to the 387 species at risk across the country.
Some Canadians are afraid that endangered species legislation could result in the government taking away their land as soon as species are found there. We need to pass legislation that would make Canadians full partners in species protection. We need legislation that would not remove people from nature but instead finds ways to have people and wildlife living in harmony. We should not risk arbitrary legislation but legislation that would encourage co-operation.
Other Canadians are worried that the bill would include too much discretion. They fear that the government will not act. As a committee we added many reporting requirements to ensure that no government would be able to ignore a species at risk in Canada. Every species at risk listed by the independent scientists of the committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada, COSEWIC, would receive the attention of the government within 90 days.
I am proud to support a government amendment to Bill C-5 that would add every single species recommended by COSEWIC for immediate protection to the legal list. This clearly demonstrates how seriously the government takes its job to prevent any more species from extinction.
I also support a government motion that would restore the accountability of the government for decisions to protect species and habitat. Canadians expect that decisions that may affect their lives and livelihoods will be made by the people they elect to represent them. We cannot shirk our responsibility and pass the buck to non-elected scientists to make these tough decisions for us. We need to keep the scientific and political processes separate but co-ordinated and accountable.
At this time when we have already accomplished a better understanding of our shared jurisdictional responsibilities the provinces and territories are concerned that this act would undermine their own work to protect species and habitat. We need to maintain their full partnership for species protection in Canada. They manage the majority of lands where species live and we need their full participation in wildlife protection.
We should not dictate to provinces and territories how to protect species and habitat under their jurisdiction. We need the provinces and territories as equal partners. We need to work with them to find the most effective ways of protecting species and habitat. This is what we committed to do when we all signed the accord for the protection of species at risk in 1996. We need to ensure Bill C-5 is consistent with the co-operative approach that we agreed to under that accord.
We are all in this together. Canadians overwhelmingly support passing the species legislation and they want us to get on with the job of protecting species at risk. We can achieve this by making new partners and improving the partnerships we have already started.
Once passed, Bill C-5 would help us off to a good start and 233 species at risk across Canada along with their residences would be protected by law. Recovery strategies for all 233 species at risk would proceed. When parliament reviews the legislation in five years' time I am absolutely certain that we would look back at the legislation as a seminal period, when we made Canadian wildlife much safer and that we delivered on our commitment to pass along a stronger natural legacy for future generations.