Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-5, which we have had the opportunity to examine in committee. A number of amendments were introduced in committee, some of which were rejected and others accepted.
This is an important bill. Hon. members must keep in mind that Quebec has had endangered species legislation since 1990. This was introduced by the Liberal government of Quebec and passed by the Quebec National Assembly with a very large majority, if not unanimity.
To put ourselves in context, Quebec had this legislation from 1990 onward, along with fishery regulations and a wildlife conservation act. So, as far back as 1990, Quebec was in the vanguard as far as the protection of endangered species was concerned, 11 years ahead. As well, as far back as 1996, the provinces and the federal government entered into what was called the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk, which committed them as follows, and I quote:
Federal, provincial and territorial Ministers responsible for wildlife commit to a national approach for the protection of species at risk. The goal is to prevent species in Canada from becoming extinct as a consequence of human activity.
This was signed in 1996, six years after the Quebec endangered species legislation.
We are not opposed in principle to legislation protecting species and habitat in Canada, provided it applies to federal territory, affects crown land and national parks, and we might go so far as having the Migratory Birds Convention, which we acknowledge as federal jurisdiction, come under the federal legislation we are looking at today.
Where we do have a problem is that with this bill, clause 34 in particular, the federal government is preparing what is termed a double safety net. This means that, from the very moment the federal government of its own accord, the national accord notwithstanding, decides that the Quebec legislation, or the province is not protecting its species and its habitat sufficiently, the federal legislation is going to kick in and apply to the entire territory of Quebec, regardless of what has been enacted by the National Assembly, despite its endangered species legislation, its wildlife conservation legislation and its fishing regulations. This is totally unacceptable.
It is also totally unacceptable that certain amendments proposed in committee will end up determining the mechanism that will trigger the safety net. Not only are some of the amendments proposed in committee unacceptable to the Bloc Quebecois, but they are also unacceptable to the Liberal government opposite.
On this subject, I received a missive last week, a letter from the Minister of the Environment, who indicated that some of the amendments proposed in committee strengthened the federal government's ability to determine how the safety net would be triggered.
Some of the amendments will have the effect of giving the federal government more power in determining how the safety net will be established. This will apply despite the fact that an accord was signed in 1996, as I mentioned, to protect endangered species.
The minister's letter specifies that the provisions of the safety net set out in Bill C-5 are there to ensure that, and I quote the minister:
If a province or territory fails to live up to the commitments that it has made under the accord, the federal government will react. However, it is up to the provinces and territories to act within their jurisdiction.
It makes no sense to have legislation that does not apply to provincial lands, yet have in the same bill, based on one single clause, a safety net that is triggered and that would apply to a province. This is somewhat troubling, particularly because Quebec already has its own legislation on endangered species and species at risk.
It is also important to point out that this bill creates what are known as enforcement officers. These federal enforcement officers will be responsible for enforcing the federal act, even in the case where the safety net is triggered in a province.
We can ask ourselves the following question: who will be responsible for the protection of species in Quebec? Will it be wildlife conservation and protection officers under the provincial legislation or federal agents?
The government must not act like a police officer. Rather, it must co-operate and promote harmonization, as is provided in the national Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk since October 1996.
So, it is rather disturbing to see what the government is about to pass in the House, because this act might apply in Quebec if we had not passed our own legislation. However, in spite of the fact that Quebec has its own legislation, the federal government is about to steamroll the work done by the province and this is rather disturbing.
It is also rather disturbing to see that the federal government has decided to assume the authority to protect endangered wildlife species in Canada. It is also disturbing to see that it refuses to give the necessary additional funds and to set up the mechanism through which landowners will be compensated.
As we know, the Pearse report—and the Canadian Alliance member referred to it earlier—recommends that a landowner be compensated when the losses that he absorbs exceed 10%. If these losses reach 10%, a compensation mechanism would come into play and 50% of the property's market value would be paid back.
If the federal government really wants to protect endangered species and make this a priority, it must inevitably ensure that assistance and compensation to landowners reflect its priorities.
Therefore, we will support the first group of motions by Canadian Alliance members, because we feel that protecting species also implies compensating people. So, we will support these motions. I will come back later on in the debate.