Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure today to speak to Bill C-5, the species at risk act. I have moved 19 amendments to the bill at report stage. Several deal with the intent to cause harm to a species as opposed to inadvertent harm. Others attempt to ensure adequate consultation with stakeholders and landowners. One suggests that sustainable development and protection for endangered species is an attainable goal for the legislation.
Three of my amendments deal specifically with the need for mandatory compensation to landowners or resource users in the event that complying with the legislation causes loss of property value, use or enjoyment or even financial costs. I am referring to Motion Nos. 28, 105 and 106.
I know there are other amendments made by other members of parliament that deal with the need for compensation for financial losses incurred as a result of the legislation. I will speak to them as well as to my own.
Many Canadians want endangered species legislation. I for one want to see workable legislation that will help struggling species at risk rejuvenate in numbers. I want to see action plans put forward to bring back species already endangered or even extinct within Canada. However I want this all done in a manner that takes into account Canada's current economic realities and in a manner that respects landowners and resource users.
I believe we can move forward with sustainable development and respect species at risk at the same time. To do so we need to ensure mandatory compensation is included in the bill, or the opposite could very easily happen.
What I see in the bill is an attempt at balance, but I believe a few more changes may make the balance I seek achievable, a balance between industry and environment or between sustainable development and species protection. It is only achievable if mandatory compensation is the philosophy entrenched in Bill C-5.
That is why I propose to amend this bill by including the changes outlined in Motion No. 28 which reads:
That Bill C-5, in Clause 11, be amended by adding after line 29 on page 11 the following:
“(4) The agreement shall provide for fair and reasonable financial or material support, unless there is an agreement otherwise”.
Clause 11 of the bill deals with stewardship agreements which are reached with other governments in Canada or organizations and even persons to provide for conservation of the species at risk.
Subclause (2) goes on to outline the ways in which the agreement may provide for conservation including monitoring the status of the species, developing and implementing awareness programs, recovery programs to ensure protection of not only the species but its habitat, and to undertake research projects in support of the recovery of the species.
Subclause (3) reiterates the need for the stewardship agreements to involve only activities that benefit species at risk.
My amendment would create a new subclause (4) and would require that any agreement reached included fair and reasonable financial or material support, which I believe is not only acceptable but required if the government expects a landowner to go to some of the extents outlined to protect the species and its habitat.
The financial costs of creating and implementing recovery strategies, action plans and managing and monitoring these plans effectively, let alone establishing research projects, is more than what can be expected from anyone regardless of his or her financial or social status.
If the intent of the bill is to save the species at risk in Canada, I would urge members to support Motion No. 28. Without financial help and material support for those Canadians saddled with such an awesome responsibility, I fear that not only will landowners not come forward with news of such species living on their lands but that without Motion No. 28 reaching stewardship agreements with those landowners might be next to impossible in a great many cases.
We must ask ourselves what good legislation without compensation and support will do for species at risk it is supposed to protect and enhance. In other words, we end up with the shoot, shovel and shut up mentality which is not acceptable to any of us.
Further to this motion I should like to point out the merits of Motion Nos. 105 and 106. Motion 105 seeks to amend clause 64 and reads as follows:
That Bill C-5, in Clause 64, be amended by replacing lines 14 and 15 on page 36 with the following:
“with the regulations, provide fair market value compensation to any person for losses”.
It is hard to grasp what exactly I am trying to get at with only a section of the clause being read, but allow me to explain the intent.
Clause 64 deals with the possibility of providing some compensation at the discretion of the minister. The original bill suggested that the minister could provide compensation if he so desired. The committee amended this section to include the need for fair and reasonable compensation. I would like to clarify what I believe is fair and reasonable compensation by specifying that compensation should be based on the fair market value of any losses incurred as a result of complying with the legislation.
This is just an example, but if I were a landowner with several acres of bush that I bought with the intent to log for profit at some point, the value of the property was increased because of the type of timber upon it. As such, the purchase price reflected the market value of the property which took into account the income potential of the land.
Say an extremely rare bird, maybe the sage grouse of the B.C. population, is found on this land of mine and as such several acres are now deemed as its critical habitat. In this bill I would not allowed to touch that land. I could forget about cutting the grass or trimming the trees for better growth, not even raking the leaves, let alone cut down the forest for profit.
Because the federal government legislates that I must protect this now extirpated species and its habitat and maybe even assist in recovery plans, I lose potential income. My property value is decreased as a result and my ability to sell my property for at least what I bought it for is now impossible. If I refuse and cut down the trees anyway, I face hefty and even bankrupting fines, a jail term and a criminal record. All this when all I wanted to do was own some land, make a living and pay my taxes.
This is a prime example of how the legislation, as it is currently written, will affect landowners everywhere in Canada. This situation will not be unique and is certainly not fair to the landowner. My amendment seeks to identify and rectify the situation by ensuring landowners are compensated for fair market value losses incurred as a result of the loss of use of their property.
If Motion No. 105 were supported by the House, this change would go a long way to ensuring that the livelihoods of landowners are not threatened by the cost of protecting a Canadian common resource. That cost should be borne by all Canadians and as such the federal government should bear that cost and compensate the affected landowner in a way that reflects the fair market value of the loss.
Motion No. 106 is similar in that it amends the same section of clause 64, but instead of compensation based on fair market value, it would provide for fair and reasonable compensation to any person for loss of use or enjoyment of property as a result of the legislation.
The loss of use of property can be interpreted to mean that for farmers this bill could force them to keep certain lands fallow for a growing season or longer. They could be forced to wait longer to plant crops because of noise concerns on newborn birds nearby or might be forced to limit or restrict the kinds of pesticides or fertilizers on their lands because they are near a prime feeding ground. These qualify as compensation for loss of use of property and I believe it is necessary to ensure property owners comply with the act and better still, come forward voluntarily with discoveries of endangered species on their lands.
As for the loss of enjoyment of property, this could mean ranches with acres of horse trails and pastures are no longer accessible. This would be a loss of enjoyment of property and I would deem deserves legitimate compensation.
These are all examples that will likely happen more frequently than the minister is willing to admit. To protect the species themselves from further harm and to ensure their habitats are truly left untouched, compensation must not only be at the discretion and interest of the minister, but must be made an integral part of the bill. Without mandatory compensation, the very species which the minister is charged with protecting will suffer unduly. This is simple. It is fair and just. It will encourage not only compliance, but foster positive stewardship relationships between landowners and environmental conservationists.
Compensation can be the win-win that we are looking for in the bill. I urge all members to support Motions Nos. 28, 105 and 106. They would strengthen the bill and provide the needed stability for landowners and eliminate the current fears associated with finding an endangered species on privately owned or leased property.