House of Commons Hansard #143 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was compensation.


Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Davenport on a point of order.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wonder whether the eloquence of the hon. member would better apply at the third reading stage of the bill rather than on the amendment before us. I wonder whether his speech is relevant to the item before us.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

I am sure the hon. member is working his way toward a succinct explanation of his reason for opposition to the amendments before the House in Group No. 1, which I recall are the subject of the debate today. We look forward to his comments on Group No. 1 in due course.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, anyone who is familiar with the bill would recognize immediately the relevance of what I am saying to these amendments.

The shoot, shovel and shut up mentality, if I need to explain it, is simply that if some bureaucrat decides that a species is at risk and that species is discovered on someone's land, probably the first thing that person would do is secretly go and shoot the particular animal because that land will be lost for future use if it is discovered that the species is there. After it is shot, it will be buried. That person then would not tell anyone. That is the shoot, shovel and shut up means and that ought to appear obviously relevant to what we are dealing with today.

Any property owner who suspects there is something on his land and who may lose his land will not let anyone know what has happened. That is why it is important we get adequate compensation. Bill C-5 as presently written will work in the same way as the American legislation to which I was referred earlier.

Without full, adequate compensation we have on our hands a piece of legislation that does not help the species. It in fact hurts them.

What gain would a farmer or rancher have by having an endangered species on his land? According to the legislation the gain would just be the warm, fuzzy feeling one gets from helping an endangered species while the family suffers, maybe even starves, because they can no longer make proper use of the land to make a living. That is really some reward. We need more than that.

If the government wants all private landowners and resource rights owners to co-operate wholeheartedly with the legislation, there must be full compensation to them. Bureaucrats must not dole out this compensation on a willy-nilly basis. It should be decided by us, the elected members of parliament, and put explicitly in this bill so that all concerned would know exactly what kind of support they would receive.

Our party has put forward amendments to ensure that compensation is coupled with fair and reasonable financial support to be put into the bill. We see that landowners, farmers and ranchers, as the frontline soldiers in protecting endangered species, need to be considered. These soldiers must be rewarded for their efforts and not punished.

What would happen if our amendments are ignored by the government? Both landowners and the environment would suffer. I described the shoot, shovel and shut up mentality. What is a good alternative? We need incentives built into the bill.

I will address this later, but we need to see what has happened in other jurisdictions and we need to put the proper amendments in here. Property rights must be addressed. This is a big issue. We do not have adequate property rights in the country. They were intentionally left out of the charter of rights in 1982. We must therefore make sure we have the proper amendments here.

I will close with this last quotation:

Without compensation there is no way we can co-operatively leave or turn back our land to a habitat state. If society feels that bulrushes, frogs and ducks are valuable then show us that value in dollars or the land will be growing something that pays.

I hope the government will listen to people who are very concerned about this.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I hope the fact that no member from another party stood up is not an indication that they are disinterested in this topic or that they do not fully understand the ramifications of the amendments before us right now.

The question we are debating right now is primarily that of compensation for landowners and perhaps others who suffer financial loss because of the legislation's enforcement.

I am privileged to have grown up on a farm, and I am old enough to also remember how things were in the good old days. The House may find this extremely surprising I am sure, but when I was just a youngster in my area I remember some of the farmers actually pulled their implements with horses. We did not. By the time I was old enough to see what was going on around me in my life, my Dad already had purchased a small tractor. However implements in those days were very small. I remember implements with as little as six feet. It would take all week to work a field, which by the time I was a teenager we could work in a day. Now my brother, with the large equipment he has, does that same area in an hour or two.

The reason I mention this is because there is a much greater loss to taking a piece of land out of production than just the prorated area of the land itself. When I was a youngster we had little equipment. If there was a slough in the field and ducks, which had a nearby nest, were on the water, we just farmed around it. It was no big deal. We had a little implement so we just circled around it.

There were actually smart ducks and stupid ducks. The smart ducks would take their family rearing responsibilities to the larger ponds and the dugouts that would retain the water until the youngsters were grown up and could move around. The stupid ducks used to set up their families on a slough. They would swim around on the water and had their nests near the little slough. By the time the ducklings hatched the slough was dried up so there was no water for them. Then they had to take a long overland trek to find someplace where there was water for them.

In all instances, when we found a duck's nest we would farm around it if we saw it in time. Regrettably, there were some occasions when we saw it after it was too late. I remember always feeling very badly about that, but after one has gone over a nest with an implement it is too late to undo it. One cannot unscramble eggs. I think, at least in the area we lived, it is built into the farmer's mentality to preserve life because that after all is what farming is all about; it is providing food and livelihood for sustaining life.

With the small implements it was no problem, but nowadays farmers have implements that are from 40 to 60 feet wide. Some are even greater than that. One cannot make little detours for every little slough. As a result, many farmers have undertaken to level off their fields so that these sloughs are no longer there.

What happens when there is an area which can perhaps no longer be used for production? A great and considerable loss is involved. The farmer or the landowner who suffers that loss should not have to bear that loss himself. Again, we can think of different examples. I think of a large corporation that perhaps has an industrial plant.

If it has to put two or three acres of its land aside to preserve a habitat for some endangered species, it can probably afford it. Percentage wise it is a very small proportion of its total operation. This could even apply to someone operating a very large farm. If he or she loses four or five acres, it probably would not be a big deal.

However there are some people for whom it might represent 50% of their income. It might represent enough of their income to drive them from the position where they can survive and thrive on their property to one where they can no longer stay there. Now compensation becomes an issue of great importance because if they are not compensated for it, they lose their livelihood.

I think too of many people living out in the country in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba for whom their land is their retirement fund. All their lives they have put all the money they have earned into the business. They do not have an accumulated bank account or huge RRSP funds or, heaven forbid, a government funded pension plan. They are looking to sell their property when they retire and thereby earn the income they need for their retirement. In the event that their land becomes unsaleable, due to it having been classified, their future disappears. It is unconscionable to even contemplate that there would not be adequate compensation guaranteed.

As the present bill is worded, the minister may provide for compensation. It is strictly at the whim of the minister who happens to be there at the time. That presents us with a huge problem simply because of the things we have observed from the government in the time that we have been here.

If a farmer in a Liberal held riding were to lose some property, it looks to me as though there would be a higher probability of getting compensation than if that property were in a Conservative or an NDP held riding. That would be really terrible. The highest probability would clearly be if the property were in the Prime Minister's riding. That is not the way to run a business.

We ought to have rules in place that apply equally across the board and across the country. We in our party believe very strongly in the equality of Canadians. It ought not matter what political stripe is represented in the particular area. It should be based on principles that are put solidly into the bill. What we propose with our amendments, which I strongly support, is that there be a formula which basically mandates the degree of compensation and the fact that compensation must be paid.

Another thing we have to look at is how the property is evaluated? I think of an acquaintance of mine who farms and whose farm location is such that in the foreseeable future, I would say some time in the next 50 years, his land will no longer be farmland and will become part of a city. That land is worth a great deal more than just the present value of it to the farm operation. Will those things be taken into account? I suspect strongly that there will be some gaps, disincentives and inequities and as a result, as my colleague from Yorkton just indicated, individuals will make decisions which take them out of the loop so they are not involved with this conflict.

I have much more to say, but I see my time is up.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, the report stage of Bill C-5 is very important. The issue of compensation is one that rose again and again in committee. It is a point of contention for any property owner or other individual or company with a vested interest in land.

The key to the success of Bill C-5 is co-operation. We have been stressing this point. The federal and provincial levels of government, wildlife management agencies and property owners must agree to work together in order for species and habitat to be protected.

There is little hope of true success if this co-operation means financial hardship for property owners. I know that in the western provinces, where many property owners are also farmers and ranchers, they are still reeling from the effects of last year's drought. By all indications that weather pattern will continue on into this production year. The last thing these producers need is more financial burden placed on them by the government.

Most of the producers and landowners with whom I have been in contact are having problems. Many feel that the government has abandoned them. They are in need of help and co-operation from the government, yet they do not see this happening.

The bill rests firmly on the government's feeling that it should be trusted. The government will have a hard time selling that kind of policy in most areas of the country. There must be equality in the bill. In particular, equality must be applied to the financial implications of implementing the legislation. Landowners, ranchers and farmers cannot be expected to take on the lion's share of the cost of these measures. The wildlife and habitat that is to be saved would be to the benefit of all Canadians and the cost of the program should then be shouldered by all Canadians.

Property owners should not be subjected to undue financial hardship. Provisions must be made for the mandatory compensation of property owners. This cannot be left to the discretion of the minister. Compensation must be extended not only to property owners but also to those with an interest in that land. This would mean including those with a legal interest, such as the leasing of crown land.

The minister would have us believe that the issue of compensation is complex and requires more studying. The bill can hardly be passed through the House without having clear and definite guidelines for compensation. Once again the government would have us trust it.

Fair market value should be the basis of compensation. This would simplify the issue. Independent review boards or tribunals would make the decision on what this level of compensation would be. To leave this important issue up to the discretion of the minister simply will not work.

When left to its own discretion, we see what happens within the government. It said that we should trust it, that a national gun registry would be efficient and cost effective, and that Canadian agriculture was a priority and that funding would be adequate.

Guidelines for compensation must be included in the bill. Without the promise of fair compensation, the co-operation of the property owners will be limited. This is not to mean that the property owners are not interested in the protection of endangered species. There is, however, little incentive to co-operate when property owners know that the financial burden of this protection is solely that of the property owner or the interested party.

As the protection of species at risk benefits all, the responsibility of ensuring this protection must be shared by all. Compensation only makes sense. If an owner's financial situation is directly affected by someone else's actions, then it is reasonable for the property owner to seek compensation. The government should not be allowed to consider itself exempt from this basic practice.

Many property owners take it upon themselves to be active in the efforts of conservation and protection. Incentives, such as compensation, would go a long way toward securing these efforts. Conservation and protection is not a one time deal. It is an ongoing effort. There are long term losses faced by property owners if their land is used for these purposes. The property owner has the right to expect compensation for these losses.

The farmers and ranchers that I know are environmentalists and conservationists. They have developed and implemented many fine examples for environmentalists and conservationists to look at. We should listen to them and make sure their wishes and wants are looked at before the government proceeds to make this unfair bill law.

Compensation must be a broad base approach. There should be the inclusion of recovery of legal and other costs incurred by property owners outlined in the bill. Not all property owners have the financial resources to defend their position in courts. Compensating legal costs would offer them a level playing field if conflicts arose between themselves and the federal government due to the implementation of the legislation.

Extraordinary impact cannot be the basis for compensation. Any impact on the property owner must be recognized. To limit compensation to severe circumstances will only serve to limit property owners' willing participation in the protection of endangered species and habitat. That is where we get the shovel and shut up theory that has gone on. It has caused lots of problems in the livestock industry.

If left as it is, the outline for compensation being granted only where extraordinary impact occurs leaves us all wondering who will be making the decisions on what constitutes extraordinary impact. Will these decisions be left to the minister? This is far too indefinite. What may be seen as extraordinary to one person may not be seen as extraordinary to another.

The property owners, I am sure, will be far more likely to view impact on their land as extraordinary than the minister would be. This again leaves the property owners at the mercy of the minister. This is neither fair nor just.

What is key in this issue is the rights of the property owner. These cannot be superseded by the whims of the government. If the principles and goals behind the bill are to truly succeed, the property owner is the first step toward these goals. The bill expects the property owners to be aware of their responsibilities but is negligent in addressing the rights of the property owners. Without landowners' co-operation, there is little hope of success.

Without the necessary amendments, we are left with a bill that amounts only to good intentions. The bill's enforcement and guidelines are far too ambiguous. It lacks the clarity and definition necessary to ensure the adequate protection of species at risk in this country.

The bill must be fair to all participants. Only then will we benefit from its good intentions.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured today to partake in the debate on Bill C-5, the species at risk act.

This is the first opportunity I have had to state to my constituents', mostly my rural constituents, opposition to certain provisions in the new law. We should make no mistake, there is great opposition to the bill in Crowfoot.

Before I proceed I would like to mention that it is absolutely abhorrent that we have waited this long to get this or any other legislation pertaining to an endangered species completed. It has taken six years and two failed attempts at earlier legislation to get to this point. This is not to say that I would agree to fast tracking any of the legislation through. I fully concur with my colleague, the official opposition critic for the environment, that this legislation, any legislation that may have such serious repercussions for landowners, deserves a thorough and complete review.

It is quite obvious that the bill has not been a priority for the government as evidenced from much of its past actions. Agriculture or farming related issues in general are not high on the priority list for those opposite in the Liberal government.

Bill C-5 is the Liberals' third attempt, third try, third strike at passing endangered species legislation. Its previous attempts died when parliament was dissolved for both the 1997 and the 2000 elections. However, despite the fact that the Liberals have had all this for such a long time, they still do not have it right. The bill still falls short. They still do not recognize and respect the fact that ranchers and farmers are good stewards of the land. They certainly do not appreciate nor understand the importance of property rights in this country.

The best way to protect species at risk is to allow for voluntary co-operation and partnership. Protection of endangered species cannot be accomplished through regulation and enforcement without compensation. In my opinion there should be no regulatory or otherwise taking of property without fair compensation.

Nothing in Bill C-5 compels Ottawa to fully compensate landowners at fair market value for their property. It does allow some far away bureaucrat to all of a sudden unilaterally say that certain land is inhabited by an endangered species. Property owners may get less than half of what their land is worth and still less than that if we factor in the future loss of income over a period of time.

Since provincial governments would get no compensation for losses flowing from habitat restoration on crown lands, no one with a grazing lease from the province would be eligible for compensation. The lessee will be left shouldering all the loss.

In my riding of Crowfoot in central Alberta this is not acceptable. We will not, however, know at the time of passing this legislation what exactly the compensation formula will be. We will have absolutely no say in what it will be. Compensation provisions for the bill are to be established in regulations pursuant to the bill.

Something else the Liberal government does not get is that the provinces enjoy exclusive powers over property and civil rights. The 1960 bill of rights, still good law and still applicable to federal legislation, confers a right to “enjoyment of property” on all Canadians as well as a right not to be deprived of that property except by due process of the law.

Although some do and will deem this law unconstitutional, the supreme court's decision regarding the confiscation of property and the regulation of property, for example in Bill C-68, the firearms legislation, shows that a precedent has been set. Be very sure that if the government believes it can take firearms, it believes it can take land.

In the supreme court challenge of Bill C-68, the court ruled that under the federal government's criminal law power it could regulate firearms in shooting clubs.

Repeatedly in the House today and on other occasions colleagues on all sides have referred to the experience in the United States.

Under similar legislation to what we are contemplating, United States farmers afraid of losing their property are clear that they will shoot, shovel and shut up if they spot an endangered species, a wild turkey or a ruffed grouse, squatting on their land.

In the words of a grade 12 student in Delia, who I had the opportunity to speak with last week as I travelled throughout my constituency, Canadian farmers, upon spotting a burrowing owl and faced with the prospect of losing their land, would shoot fast and dig faster.

This legislation would be absolutely contrary to what it is trying to achieve. It would put species at risk in a much greater threat.

With regard to the United States, I have heard that despite its legislation being 25 years old not one species at risk or endangered species has been saved by this type of top down command and control law. It appears, by most accounts, to be a total failure.

If it were not bad enough that we are enacting an unconstitutional law that would steal our property and destroy a farmer's and rancher's livelihood, Bill C-5 would make criminals out of our landowners.

Clauses 97 to 107 in the bill prescribe the offences and punishment for persons harming an endangered species. Clause 97 states:

Every person who contravenes subsection 32(1) or (2), section 33, subsection 36(1), 58(1), 60(1), 61(1) or 74(1) or section 91 or 92 or any prescribed provision of a regulation or an emergency order, or who fails to comply with an alternative measures agreement the person has entered into under this Act,

(a) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction and is liable

(i) in the case of a a fine of not more than $300,000,

It further states:

(iii) in the case of any other person, to a fine of not more than $50,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than one year, or to both;

Clause 100 states:

Due diligence is a defence in a prosecution for an offence.

Clause 102 states:

A court that imposes a sentence shall take into account--

(b) whether the offender was found to have committed the offence intentionally, recklessly or inadvertently;

The bill says that it is up to the landowner, rancher or farmer to prove to the court that if an animal was taken it was done unintentionally. It is not up to the prosecution or the crown to say that they are guilty or should be prosecuted; it is up to the defence, the landowner or rancher, to prove the innocence of their actions. Nowhere in the legislation is it specified upon whose onus the defence lies.

Farmers could and would incur horrific costs proving in a court of law that they unintentionally destroyed or endangered a species or their habitat.

We heard this afternoon the member for Elk Island talk about growing up as a youngster watching his father go around a duck's nest or watching as a cultivator passed over a certain animal. The onus would now be up to the farmer to prove that it was unintentional.

In my opinion Bill C-5 is unconstitutional. It would criminalize landowners, steal their property and destroy their livelihood. For those reasons I cannot support Bill C-5, which is regrettable, because I do support protecting endangered species.

All sides of the House recognize that if we have endangered species we must bring forward legislation to protect them. However the manner in which the bill is prescribed here would do just the opposite. The bill would be more detrimental and would harm those endangered species more than it would help.

We ask that this be recognized and that members vote against the bill. A bill should be brought forward that would do the job.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

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.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Canadian Alliance Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, when listening to the debate today one would think that the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development was a terrible place, with members chattering back and forth and not getting along with one another when debating these issues. But let me assure the House that it was one of the best committees I ever served on. I volunteered for it. The hon. member for Davenport is the chairman. The committee could not have found a better chairman. My party could not have chosen a more astute person than my colleague who is the Alliance environment critic.

Contrary to what the public may think, the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development has done a tremendous job. The committee worked so long and hard with so many amendments, I was surprised and disappointed to learn of what we are dealing with today. It is disappointing.

I wish we had had Bill C-5 when I was a boy. Had there been legislation like this when I was a boy, many of the animals that once roamed the plains would still be there. There would still be such animals as the kit fox.

Canadians have completely changed the demographics of where they live. When most Canadians look out their windows they see a huge urban area. A very small percentage of Canadians see a huge rural area. It is natural when we look at legislation such as Bill C-5 to envisage different sights and different things. This is a big problem for Canadians.

I can recall one incident. I have presented many petitions about the poison for the Richardson's ground squirrel or the gopher. The issue went on and on intentionally. We wanted to change the potency so that it would kill the gophers. One evening I received a phone call in my office. The gentleman said he did not know why we were trying to get rid of all the gophers because they aerate the soil. He said that they were good for the soil. I asked him where he was calling from. He was calling from Vancouver. He did not quite understand.

I relate that story simply because of the difficulties in bringing about this legislation. We are trying to protect endangered species which requires certain laws and that certain criteria be placed on areas where the endangered species exist.

The endangered species exist on the property where about 7% of the population is involved. Therefore the worries of that 7% are sometimes overshadowed by the other 93% of the population.

When the committee reconvenes, it should look at some of the environmental groups. For example, just the other day the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation hired a youth director to get more young people interested in bills such as Bill C-5, to make people more cognizant of the environment. We need to do that, but from a very practical point of view.

There is one thing we must do. With respect to those people who are currently engaged in conservation and protection of the species, we must ensure there is federal money available to assist them.

Most of our problems have come from the compensation area. I will agree that we did not agree on that. We came down very solidly saying they shall be compensated, not may be compensated. That is a bigger area of misunderstanding than one may think. I will give a classic example.

A man not too far from where I live owns title to a section of land. All of the land surrounding his section of land is provincial. The section of land which he owns is worth just about zero without all the government land around it. Let us suppose that most of the land around him was designated as animal habitat. Therein lies the problem. That problem would have to be negotiated in fairer terms than the actual value of the land because his whole livelihood could be destroyed.

I have reason to believe that the government, having listened, would have a more positive attitude toward compensation because Canadians are more cognizant of the value of conserving endangered species and wildlife than they have ever been in our history. There is no question about that. We need to look at this issue carefully and steadily. It is an ongoing issue. We cannot just put it away for a month. We cannot draft legislation and say it will never change. That is nonsense. It changes as requirements change. I expect the government has word of that.

I want to make my last point abundantly clear to both sides of the House. Provincial governments own land. The federal government owns land. Industries own land. Private individuals own land. Natives own land. The hon. member opposite stated that animals do not know when they have come to the end of protected land, which is true.

In order for the act to have the real potency it needs, it must be all inclusive. If a certain species is protected and it has been deemed by scientists that it needs protection, then it must cross over all lands and all people must comply. I do not understand how this would work unless it was all inclusive. I understand that there are provisions for exclusions in the bill.

I look forward to discussing these points further at committee because we are not finished yet. This is a big problem and the Minister of the Environment knows it. As long as the people of Canada know that 7% the population will be making the sacrifices and not the other 93%, then maybe they will take into consideration that we too have a heart and understand firsthand what endangered species mean to us.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today at report stage of Bill C-5, the species at risk legislation.

Before commenting on the group of amendments being considered, it is important to ask the following question: is this legislation really required right now with respect to species at risk in Canada and in the provinces? Does this bill not duplicate—how I like this word, because the government does not understand what the word duplicate means—what is being done with respect to the environment?

Is this government reducing duplication with respect to the environment? Does habitat come under federal or provincial jurisdiction? Will this bill do any good in terms of protecting species at risk? Does this legislation have any vision? Will it allow species that are currently at risk in Canada to survive? Will it allow us to proceed quickly to reduce the number of species at risk? I have all kinds of other questions to ask, but my answer to all of them is no. This bill will not help.

When it comes to environmental matters, the people who live in my region deal with the level of government closest to them, namely the provincial government. For them, anything related to the environment has to do with the province in some way or another. So, they call on the provincial government, which is able to respond, “Yes, in 1989 we introduced legislation dealing with species at risk”. True, it is not perfect and it needs to be improved, but that is why a bill has been introduced that will allow us to progress.

With its bill before us now, the federal government is thumbing its nose at the bill that has already been introduced by the Quebec government, and it is saying, “We will consult with you, but we reserve the right to tell you what to do”. Allow me to get out my dictionary to find out what the word “consultation” means. When you consult someone, it is because you have a question and you want several viewpoints on an issue. The federal government is saying, “We will consult with you, but it is a bogus consultation. You can say whatever you want, we will decide for you”.

If this is the true meaning of the word consultation, we need to do some rethinking. I think I will demote the federal government to grade one, where children are taught “Consultation is a process used to determine what consensus has arisen from the reflection triggered by this process”. That is not what this government is doing. It consults to suit itself, as my colleague from Joliette has just said, in asking the Minister of the Environment during oral question period what Canada's position is concerning ratification of the Kyoto protocol.

I would remind hon. members that I was the environment critic for the Bloc Quebecois for two years. Ever since the last parliament, I have been hearing constantly that the Canadian government is going to ratify the Kyoto protocol.

Today, the Bloc Quebecois questioned the Minister of the Environment again. We are forced to admit that what I had been hearing for several years is definitely no longer the case. I believe that the Minister of the Environment, for whom I have the greatest respect, having worked with him and prepared some fine documents relating to environmental questions, has been set adrift by his government. He has been told “You are on your own on this issue, because that is not our position”.

What they are doing is to say “We cannot ratify it because consultations are required”. When they do not want to listen, that is when they consult. That is how things are with this government. I can see that a Tower of Babel situation is developing here. It is always the same. When things are going along fine, no consultation is needed. When they are not, then they consult.

Habitat protection is a provincial responsibility and it is not up to the federal government to tell the provinces how they must act together to protect species at risk and their habitat. When we think about it, Bloc Quebecois members are the only ones here who defend the Canadian constitution. This is quite something.

We say “Canada is a beautiful country, but we want to build a country to be on an equal footing”. They do not know their constitution. Habitat and species at risk are provincial jurisdictions. It is not with amendments to a useless and short-sighted bill that the government will help species at risk.

COSEWIC prepared a list of species at risk. That list was made by scientists. The bill says that this list is useless and that we must start all over again. We cannot reject out of hand a list that is the result of studies conducted by scientists over a number of years. Neither the Minister of the Environment nor cabinet is an expert on species at risk in Canada.

Anything that does not reflect their thinking is rejected. They will have to understand that we in Quebec want to protect species at risk, that the habitat is a provincial jurisdiction and that it is up to us to deal with people who have land on which species at risk have their habitat. We must negotiate with these landowners and agree on compensation.

Let us stop putting the cart before the horse. Let us give credit where credit is due. Species at risk, the habitat and the related legislation all come under the Quebec government. I would ask this government to come up with policies on issues that really are under its jurisdiction, such as the Canadian armed forces—the Minister of National Defence is here—trains and airports, because these are all areas under its responsibility. The government must stop interfering and getting involved in areas in which it has no business.

Things would be much better if the federal government spent public money wisely.

It is for all these reasons that the Bloc Quebecois is opposed to the bill.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the constituents of the Surrey Central constituency regarding the report stage debate on amendments proposed to the government's species at risk act, Bill C-5, which used to be Bill C-33 and Bill C-65 in previous parliaments.

I make absolutely clear that Canadian Alliance members are committed to protecting and preserving Canada's natural environment and endangered species. Therefore the argument is not about whether or not we should have endangered species legislation but rather that we have effective legislation.

I commend the chief critic for the official opposition on the environment, the hon. member for Red Deer, who has done extensive work in putting forward reasonable amendments at committee stage. Of 13 motions in Group No. 1 which we are debating today coincidentally all the motions are moved by Canadian Alliance members. Eleven motions deal with the issue of compensation. Therefore I will focus my remarks on the compensation component of the bill.

We are opposed to this piece of legislation that punishes landowners and farmers for accidental harm done to species at risk or their habitat. The incentives this would put in place are totally perverse. They would punish the very groups that the government should be trying to bring alongside.

As it currently stands Bill C-5 proposes to allow for some discretionary compensation to landowners and resource users from extraordinary impact losses as a result of regulatory restrictions. Specifically this may mean forcing farmers to adapt their farming practices to accommodate nesting birds, selectively logging certain areas instead of clear cutting, forgoing logging in certain areas during migration season or not farming sections of land for a number of years.

I have many problems with this approach to dealing with compensation. The first deals with the basic issue in good policy making which deals with ensuring the costs imposed on society are distributed in a fair and even way. On the other side of the equation the benefits should ideally be distributed equitably within and across stakeholder groups. Then all Canadians including our future generations benefit when our natural heritage is protected. This deals with the benefit side of the policy equation.

On the costs side of the equation however the picture is less favourable. This is because the government has set a compensation scheme in place that imposes all the costs of protecting these valuable species at risk on to one particular group, that is farmers and landowners. In fact one could say this is yet another form of hidden taxation.

The government's current approach assumes that landowners and resource users need to be coerced into complying with such a law. In fact nothing could be further from the truth. Resources companies and farmers realize that their profits and livelihoods cannot come at the expense of the protection of species at risk.

Therefore the confrontational approach taken by the government shows that in spite of what it says has been exhaustive consultation with all stakeholder groups, the government is still ignorant of this.

One way of showing good faith in dealing with all stakeholders is to ensure that proper stewardship incentives are in place, including fair and reasonable compensation for economic losses.

One way to build relationships with landowners and resource users would be to establish stewardship agreements based on fair and reasonable support for forgone revenues. The basic economic logic suggests that the costs should be borne by all Canadians.

The government's consultation process seems to favour certain interest groups over others. The riding of Surrey Central, one of the largest in Canada, is largely urban. However a small proportion of my constituents derive their livelihoods from farming and resource related activities. They have already felt the heavy hand of the government as it mismanaged the softwood lumber industry.

The minister indicated on October 3 at committee that compensation provisions would be assessed on a discretionary case by case basis. As per this bill it is not mandatory for the government either to develop a more detailed policy or regulations on compensation. This attitude of just trust us is not acceptable.

This promise has never been put in black and white on a piece of paper. Provisions for full compensation must be outlined in legislation set by elected members, not by bureaucrats. The formula must be clearly spelled out before the bill is passed by the House. If the government is willing to do it, there should be no problem with putting its promise in writing in the bill. Our motions are listed in Group No. 1. Members should just vote for them.

The government may come back with the argument that an amendment passed at committee stage inserted a clause regarding fair and reasonable compensation into the legislation. This is somewhat misleading, however, since the compensation paid out under this provision is not compulsory. It is just case by case. Instead it is still up to the government to determine when compensation is to be paid.

Opinions can differ over what is to be considered fair and reasonable compensation. Also the government has yet to indicate the criteria it will use to decide who gets compensation and who does not. This is a problem that needs to be resolved before the legislation is passed.

While agreeing to pay compensation under certain circumstances is a baby step maybe in the right direction, it is far from clearly articulating and developing a system for calculating and selecting how the compensation will be paid to a given landowner or a farmer. Instead the government seems intent on punishing them in whatever way possible, whether this means not giving agriculture any new money in the budget or paying them for revenues lost due to the presence of endangered species on their lands.

Not only the opposition party is saying this. A well known economist from the University of British Columbia, Dr. Peter Pearse, proposed a compensation scheme whereby landowners would be compensated at a rate of 50% for losses that affected 10% or more of their income. I understand the government is using this report only as a discussion paper.

However I fear that the government is not interested in more discussion. There is every indication that it may impose closure on the debate just to snub what we are trying to say in the House. I believe this is just another example of irresponsible use of delegated regulation making power by the government and its departments.

Many times regulations do not depict the intent of legislation. This legislation is very vague. It has less meat on the bone. However through the back door the government is in the habit of pushing through the regulations which are not debated in the House. Through the regulations the government is coming up with all kinds of misdirections which are sometimes contradictory to the intent of the legislation.

It will not work without guaranteeing fair and reasonable compensation for property owners and resource users who suffer losses. Farmers, ranchers and other property owners want to protect endangered species but should not be forced to do so at the expense of their livelihoods.

The bottom line is that unless the bill provides for mandatory compensation and stops criminalizing unintentional behaviour, it will not provide effective protection for endangered species and we cannot support it as such.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Before we resume debate, it is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Cumberland Colchester, health.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.


Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on Bill C-5. As was the case with Bill C-15B on animal cruelty, the Bloc Quebecois is of the opinion that protection of our wild species is essential.

That protection must not, however, be done just any old way, nor used as a band aid solution. We need concrete measures to ensure that there is additional protection and that it is workable. We need to seek to really enhance the protection of our ecosystems and endangered species.

I could have been really committed to such a bill, because of the unique and endangered ecosystems in my riding. I am aware of the need to find a concrete and workable solution.

We believe, however, that it is possible to create standards with a view to improving and enhancing the status of endangered species and ecosystems while at the same time respecting Quebec's areas of jurisdiction and avoiding needless interference.

As was the case with Bill C-10, we see that there is a proposal to establish additional authorities, thus duplicating what is already in place. Why do so, if not to do away with the possibility of a partnership between the federal government and Quebec?

It seems to us that it would be wiser and more appropriate to direct resources properly toward programs which already are meeting the needs. It strikes us as totally pointless to waste money creating something that already exists and is working, rather than consolidating what is already in place with some tangible and real resources.

The Bloc Quebecois believes that it is essential to point out again that these duplications are not only pointless, but also harmful in that they are perpetuating and increasing the delay, and that is precisely what we do not have: time.

The Bloc Quebecois can see that the environment is one area in which there is a shared jurisdiction between the federal government and the government of Quebec. The federal government must not, however, take advantage of this pseudo-authorization to usurp powers that do not belong to it. That is exactly what the minister responsible for implementing this bill is trying to do. This we cannot accept. This approach is both inconceivable and unacceptable.

This kind of intrusion means administrative duplication, which inevitably results in a very cumbersome bureaucracy that quickly becomes outdated. Such bureaucracy adds nothing to the objectives of the bill in terms of protection, which include, as stated in the preamble, respecting our commitments under the United Nations convention on the conservation of biological diversity, setting priorities and recognizing everyone's role in the conservation of wildlife. But it is only in the last part of the preamble that the word protection is mentioned for the first time. We see a lack of consistency and a lack of vision on that issue.

I find it unfortunate that, on such a sensitive issue, the federal government would choose to serve its own interest instead of those it purports to serve. Of course, it talks about shared jurisdiction but this so-called sharing is more of a one-way street, which is not desirable or beneficial to anyone.

Sharing necessarily implies some form of dialogue, interaction or at least discussion between the parties. However, such is not the case under this bill. In fact, one might think that with this bill the minister is trying to give himself broader decision making powers at the expense of the provinces. What kind of expertise can the minister have that would justify such powers?

I fail to see any sharing in this bill, just interference. The minister is using this bill to give himself considerable discretionary powers without showing any respect for the constitutional division of powers and responsibilities.

Interfering in Quebec's jurisdictions will not help protect species at risk. How else are we expected to react when Quebec's legislation in this area is totally ignored? I think that true sharing would require that Quebec's relevant legislative provisions be taken into account, but that is not the purpose of this bill.

The Bloc Quebecois believes that consultations would have been desirable and beneficial for everyone, but once again, the federal government would rather ignore the established facts and lists, do as it pleases and attempt yet again to centralize powers.

We support measures to provide sufficient protection for species at risk, but we cannot support this bill which denies Quebec and the provinces their unique responsibilities for managing wildlife.

We believe that we must act quickly to protect species at risk, but the federal government will not succeed by appropriating powers unduly. We believe that an active and productive dialogue between the federal government and Quebec is necessary to try to find an appropriate solution to this urgent situation. We will not give blind consent just because they have proposed legislation on the issue. This bill must meet the needs of the situation.

Given that reference is made in the preamble to national identity, I have to wonder how the bill is appropriate. I see it as an attempt by the minister to appropriate powers, thereby breaching the division of powers as defined in the constitution.

I hope and wish for concrete measures to be implemented to protect species at risk, but before I give my support, the objectives need to be clearly identified and prioritized. This is not what I see in Bill C-5.

I will wait for a bill that respects jurisdictions and contains an objective to preserve before giving my support. Because of the disrespectful wording and the underhanded objectives of Bill C-5, I cannot give it my support.

It is clear that the primary purpose of this bill is political. The first line of the preamble equates Canada's natural heritage and our national identity. Yet, natural heritage existed well before we arrived and will be there long after we are gone.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Canadian Alliance Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of my constituents of Yellowhead.

I will begin by saying that this is very important legislation for us in our constituency. In the spirit of true debate, which I hope is what we have here even though I would be somewhat surprised if that is what we have, nonetheless I will give it my best shot, I hope the words we say today will actually be listened to and that the people of Canada will understand and discern just how important the legislation is to them and the generations that will come after them. The legislation has some serious flaws and we really need to consider that.

We are here once again to discuss what will happen with the good ideas from caring, concerned citizens to implement legislation that is designed by Liberals and Ottawa bureaucrats.

Bill C-5 is very good and well intended legislation to protect species at risk. I do not think anyone wants to injure those that are most vulnerable in our world as far as species. There is no question that our habitat is very important to all of us. I do not think anyone here would intend anything but good. However the legislation we are discussing today would perhaps have dire consequences for its intention.

The reality is that the bill would do very little to protect at risk animals. It would probably do the opposite and speed up their decline and perhaps even damage our environment at the same time. We need to seriously debate the amendments that would make this flawed legislation into an effective tool to really protect endangered species.

For most of the last century, the protectors of our lands have been those who have a vested interest in the long term sustainability of the environment: the farmers and the resourced based industries like forestry. They have taken it upon themselves to protect the land, partly out of concern for the environment and partly because of clearly defined environmental laws that promote wildlife habitat. We can see that in the forest industry where there have to be so many setbacks, like not cutting right up to banks of streams and having to leave certain blocks of trees for habitat on to roads and such. These pieces of legislation are there and in place and the habitat co-exists with industry. The implementation of this comprehensive legislation to protect endangered species has become so misguided.

We have seen other examples of this kind of legislation. I refer to the well intended Bill C-68, legislation that was intended to make our streets and citizens safer. Instead of making them safer, the legislation did absolutely nothing to take guns out of the hands of criminals but it has cost $700 million so far. We have well intended legislation that has missed the mark. I would suggest that Bill C-5 would do exactly the same thing.

Although Bill C-5 is well intended to save species at risk, without some amendments it would do the opposite. I am very concerned about that and I am not alone. I believe most of the citizens I represent feel the same way.

The Canadian Alliance is committed to protecting and preserving Canada's natural environment but it is very important to make changes to the legislation. If we do not, we will have serious problems. I think many of the members in the House will discuss and debate the kinds of changes that are needed today. Bill C-5 is an example of top down, controlled legislation coming from the Prime Minister's Office that again shows the contempt the government holds for members of parliament.

At the very least, the bill should be put to the test of free votes in the House. This check on the legislation has been discarded in the name of Liberal partisanship and the threat of the Prime Minister's Office has been looming down over backbench Liberals for many years. This is legislation that should go beyond that because Canadians are not interested in partisan wins. They are interested in legislation that is good for the country, not legislation that is flawed or deficient.

The Canadian Alliance is committed to supporting good legislation at any time and pointing out the flaws of bad legislation to make it better for the citizens of our country. That is what I hope will happen with this legislation.

I would like to talk about some of the good things in the legislation. Protecting endangered species is a worthwhile goal. The Canadian Alliance will do its bit to prod the species at risk legislation into accountability so that we can determine which species are to be protected based on a scientific decision and not on politics.

We were encouraged by the snowmobile clubs and associations from across the country with regard to the legislation and to changing criminal activity to accidental activity. This is a very important issue for me because I come from what is termed the snowmobile capital of Alberta, which is Whitecourt. We know very well how devastating this piece of legislation would be on the tourism and snowmobile industry if it came forward in its present state. We would not want to see steep penalties because of accidental harming of an endangered species and most snowmobilers would not want to see that either.

One of the greatest downfalls of Bill C-5 is the lack of guarantee for fair and reasonable compensation for property owners, farmers, ranchers and resource users who are sure to suffer losses. To be forced to do so at the expense of their livelihood is absolutely ridiculous. Over the past year, citizens of my riding of Yellowhead have repeatedly raised the issue. The way Bill C-5 is currently written would bring devastation to the industries that are already suffering from crippling Liberal policies.

In Yellowhead it is not one industry that will suffer from C-5, many will. Not only is there the agriculture sector, but there is also the resource sector, including forestry, which has vast tracks of land. It is very important that they be heard in this piece of legislation.

There is already legislation, whether provincial or federal, with regard to some of the things that need to be taken into consideration when it comes to looking after some of the species that come onto these lands. I am not saying we do not need other legislation but we certainly need to consider the implications of this one.

The farmers of Yellowhead who are already on the brink of collapse cannot face the economic responsibility of protecting the endangered species of Canada without assurances of some fair compensation. As the legislation is currently written, it is in the self interest of farmers to make their land inhospitable to wildlife to ensure endangered species are not found on their property. I am very fearful that farmers may do some of the worst things, which would be to remove habitat that endangered species usually like to get to, because of this piece of legislation. They may remove the species or their habitat before looking after the species.

Why would I say that sort of thing? I would like to tell the House what happened on my farm just a year ago.

We are very excited when the bald headed eagle comes onto our farm. Every year we set the clock to the arrival of the bald headed eagle, which is March 21 every year. Last year when the eagle came back, our cattle were calving. My son ran out to check one of the cows and the bald headed eagle was feeding on the calf as it was being born. It was a terrible situation. He chased the eagle away and ran back in.

It was 4.30 p.m. He called the wildlife department to see what he could do with the bald headed eagle as it was an endangered species, but everyone had gone home. He left a message saying he would have to shoot the eagle. Right away the wildlife officer called back and said not to shoot at the eagle rather shoot into the air. That is what he did. I do not know if there were any feathers when he shot into the air.

We cannot expect a farmer to lose his livelihood over protecting an endangered species. This legislation is prone to do that and we have to understand the damages that would result from it.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to participate in the report stage debate on Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada.

Often we have to make comparisons with what we have seen the federal government do in other areas with respect to issues as important as this one. We cannot but notice that every single time Quebec is ahead because it has taken the lead, because it wanted to be a pioneer in areas it believed were of paramount importance, it ends up being penalized for being a pioneer, for acting faster than the federal government in areas under its jurisdiction, be it shared or sole jurisdiction, especially when we know what is happening in health care.

When the GST and the QST were harmonized back in the mid 1980s, Quebec took the lead. We thought it was a good way to make sure that businesses could see their way through a double taxation system where some goods were taxable and others were not. As a matter of fact, this harmonization was never completed because the federal government has not seen fit to help us out with it. We have nevertheless managed to harmonize the GST and the QST to the maximum.

A few years later, the federal government announced it was going to harmonize the provincial sales tax in the three maritime provinces with the GST and gave them $900 million in compensation. Quebec had taken the lead and was penalized for it. It had not demanded any money to harmonize the GST and the QST when it did it without help from the federal government.

It is the same thing with the Kyoto protocol. In the 1970s, as a result of the energy crisis, the Quebec government decided to go green. Today we are faced with the following situation. If you look at what is happening in Quebec, it has the best performance in America with regard to greenhouse gas emissions. Once again, we have to pull the rest of Canada along to have the Kyoto protocol implemented and move forward to protect our resources and the environment.

Once again, Quebec is being made to pay for having led the way, for having made a commitment to the environment. While we were footing the bill for that commitment, while the continuation of extremely polluting practices in the rest of Canada are now being debated, these are costs that companies in the nine Canadian provinces will not have to assume, with the result that the costs of what is produced in the Canadian provinces do not reflect the true damage to the environment. Because we took the initiative, we are once again being penalized, because the rest of Canada is dragging its heels on the environmental protection issue.

In addition, when one looks at the fiscal imbalance in the 1960s, we—I am talking about Quebec—asked the federal government for tax points, because we were sure that that was the best way of restoring some sort of balance between the federal government and the Government of Quebec. But, in those days, this was not what the other provinces wanted. It took another 12 years, until 1977 to be more precise, for the provinces to understand that it was in their interest to obtain tax points in order to fund the various health, education and income security programs. Once again, we led the way.

With Bill C-5, we find ourselves in the same situation again. In 1990, over 11 years ago, the Bourassa government passed legislation on endangered species, on wildlife conservation, and on fisheries resources practices and conservation. We made this commitment to protect endangered species and their habitat 11 years ago in Quebec. Now we find ourselves in a situation where the federal government is not respecting what was done and wants to impose pan-Canadian legislation on endangered species, with no regard for provincial jurisdiction.

In 1996, my colleague, David Cliche, then Quebec's minister of the environment, agreed to sign a federal-provincial accord on the protection of endangered species on the following condition.

I think things were clear back then. That one condition was that the agreement should not ignore Quebec's jurisdictions, it should not ignore what had been done since 1991, and it should ensure a degree of complementarity regarding the protection of species at risk and their habitat, based on what was done by Quebec and the other provinces and by the federal government in their respective jurisdictions.

We have nothing against a federal act on the protection of the environment, to the extent that it applies strictly and exclusively to areas where the federal government has full jurisdiction such as, for example, Parks Canada. It goes without saying that migratory birds come under federal jurisdiction. But jurisdictions must be respected when we come up with an act that deals with all the species that are endangered or at risk, with wildlife conservation in general, and with fisheries conservation.

Clause 32 of the bill is particularly dangerous, since the federal government may decide alone that a province, for example Quebec, does not fully respect its vision concerning the protection of species and wildlife habitat. We know that, for the past 10 years already, the Quebec government has been actively involved in wildlife conservation, and in the protection of endangered species in particular, through a good and well thought out piece of legislation.

With this clause, the federal government could create some incredible duplication in an area that is already well looked after by the Quebec government. For example, the bill refers to conservation officers. They are actually called federal enforcement officers. But it is the same. The federal government could invoke clause 32 to say “Quebec is not doing its job properly”. We know how members opposite can resort to demagoguery. The federal government could say that Quebec is not doing what it should the way the federal government wants it to be done and use clause 32 to appoint federal enforcement officers who would work alongside with conservation officers governed by the Quebec act.

It could also put into place plans for the restoration of animal habitats, as the Quebec legislation, which I would remind hon. members has been in place for 11 years, is capable of doing. We have the experience and the resources to do so. The Quebec legislation already has provisions for habitat restoration.

We can see where things are headed. It could have been so simple. It would seem that simplicity is anathema to the federal government. It is incapable of doing anything simple. The more complex things are, the happier it is. The more likelihood of stirring up disputes, the happier the people over there are. It can be seen with all the matter of tax imbalance how the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs is exhibiting shameless cynicism and just brushing aside the opinion of leading Quebec specialists and organizations. He even dares to take excerpts from their brief and quote them out of context, in order to make them appear to say the opposite of the general thrust of the brief.

We can see how those on the other side have the capacity to be what the miners call powder men, the ones who set off explosions. Once again, here we are in a situation where it would have been easy to say, “We are going to respect jurisdictions. We are also going to respect existing legislation. In Quebec you have been at this for 11 years. You have been protecting endangered species with three very specific pieces of legislation with teeth”. They could have said, “We respect that“. The federal legislation could have been limited to federal jurisdictions. But no. It is way easier to stir up trouble, as is the wont of those people over there.

As soon as there is an opportunity to impose a clear desire for still greater centralization, they go ahead and do it. As soon as there is an opportunity to stir up federal-provincial squabbles, they go ahead and do it. As soon as they see a situation with the potential for literally crowding out the government of Quebec or the provinces, even in areas under their jurisdiction, they go ahead and do it.

Who do these guys think they are? How can people who contribute, as they do in Quebec, some $40 billion in various kinds of taxes, accept having such troublemakers across the floor from us?

We are going to fight this unacceptable bill. We, the Bloc Quebecois, are going to win that fight.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Canadian Alliance Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to make some preliminary comments. I am from Saskatchewan and my riding is largely a rural one. The signals sent out by the government are not friendly toward rural Canada or are not perceived as friendly. There seems to be a total lack of sympathy by the government toward the plight of Canadian farmers and producers.

I noticed in the budget run-up the Minister of Finance noted that the average per capita contribution of Americans toward agriculture was $350 per person whereas in Canada it was less than half at $168. I was expecting some initiative in the budget but I did not see any. I guess this is more of the same with the government.

Bill C-68 was another piece of legislation that was perceived as a hostile step by rural Canadians. They cannot see any logic or reason behind the legislation. They see a total waste of money coming out of the legislation and they cannot see one single benefit other than maybe more job creation in this town for public servants.

The cruelty to animals legislation seems to be driven by the fanatics in the cruelty to animals industry. The last thing my constituents need is this sort of thing to enter their part of the world, with the aid of all the resources of government on its side, and harass people who are having a difficult time making a living, paying their taxes and supporting their families.

The endangered species legislation is just another intrusion in the lives of my constituents and they do not feel it is necessary either. When Liberals go around the country trying to determine why they are not very popular in rural Canada, they just have to look at their actions. The actions are the reason why there is this feeling of alienation in that part of the world.

In the fall we debated Bill C-36 and much hot air was let out over sunset clauses. We would be better served in the House if we started evaluating existing government policy with sunset clauses to determine whether they are achieving any useful results or not. We would probably find that a good part of what we have created is irrelevant, useless and we could do away with. We could simplify the world.

The reason I raise this is that the majority of members on the other side of the House believe that if there is a problem in society they can make it go away by passing a law.

Generals do not win wars by ordering a result. They win wars by having a solid strategic plan in place and having motivated, well equipped personnel who can carry out the plan. Anyone can order a result. The members over there could get a private member's bill or something that orders a result but that does not mean there will be a result. Getting and achieving results is something totally different than just ordering them.

Good laws, like success in the military field, require a plan that will work along with the resources necessary to complete the plan. It involves the co-operation of the necessary participants. The bill is a miserable failure on just about every count that we can look at. It totally overlooks two levels of government, municipal and provincial. The government has a bad habit of ignoring them. It likes to go right over their heads and ram something through without considering the impact.

The recent kerfuffle in Russia over the Kyoto accord is another example of how the government is out of touch with the people of this country.

This bill ignores one of the most important participants required to make the legislation work, the landowners. The Liberal government has continually shown contempt for property rights. When it brought home the constitution it absolutely refused to comprehend that the charter of rights should include some protection for property rights. Just about every other country that has something like that does entrench property rights or some recognition, but the Liberals did not. The Liberals had an opportunity to patch up their omissions with the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords, however they failed there as well.

Most people I know are involved in their businesses or their careers. They devote a huge part of their week toward creating income for themselves, their families, their communities and their government. In my province, government consumes something like 50% of all such income. At the end of the day, only a small portion is left over and people use that generally to acquire property and equity in property. We are no different.

Last spring the Liberals, with much enthusiasm, voted for a pay increase. Why did they want a pay increase? To buy a better boat, get a better home, get a better car or take a nice trip. Basically, what they were after was trying to materially improve their standard of living as Canadians, that is, property.

Everyone appreciates that the government, in trying to carry out its obligations or responsibilities, from time to time must interfere with property rights. No one is arguing with that belief. However, we do object to a government that ignores due process, and fair and reasonable compensation.

That is why the Liberal government, back in the early 1980s, refused to recognize property rights in our charter of rights. It did not believe in due process when it dealt with property rights. It did not believe in fair compensation to citizens who had their property robbed or damaged by government action. Maybe it was the Trudeau effect on liberalism. A little of that left wing, socialist mentality has crept into its way of thinking and is flourishing today in this society.

The Liberal government has a good track record of interfering by imposing obligations on Canadian citizens without providing compensation such as: the Canadian Pension Plan, EI, GST, fuel taxes, and payroll deductions. It imposed these obligations on businesses and put onerous responsibilities on them. It made them become its bookkeepers and tax collectors and, in most cases, there was absolutely no compensation whatsoever for doing these things. Again, it showed a wanton disregard for property rights and the economic interests of Canadians.

What really takes the cake, from the Magna Carta to where we are today, is that the British-American Anglo justice system says that it takes a guilty mind not just a guilty act to create a criminal offence. The government has a consistent track record of chipping away at that concept and turning things into strict liability. I do not know why it wants to do that because when it gets people in prison, no sooner does it get them in prison and it wants them out. It is a crazy system. Just about everyone else in the world recognizes mens rea, mental elements and so on and the government ignores it.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I will say that the grouping of these motions defies logic.

Group No. 1, which is supposed to deal with compensation, does not include clause 64, the main clause dealing with compensation. This clause is included in Group No. 5, in Motion No. 109. It makes absolutely no sense. How is it possible to talk about compensation without talking about the provision in the bill dealing specifically with compensation?

Group No. 2 deals with federal-provincial relations. It is about deadlines and federal-provincial agreements.

It is a misleading title because Group No. 2 refers to the critical part of the bill regarding listing and habitat. I do not know why we should not call it listing and habitat. I think it is a delusion to call it deadlines and federal-provincial relations to imply that if we encroach on federal-provincial relations in the bill the amendments produced by the committee are not valid.

I remember the beginning of endangered species legislation. I am very sorry I was not able to take part in the workings of the committee this time, but I was there when the minister of the environment at the time proposed endangered species legislation for the federal government. I was a parliamentary secretary. It was the first time ever the federal government was going to move to this area of legislation, backed by a huge majority of Canadians. Since then we have had Bill C-65 under the succeeding minister, then Bill C-33, and now the present one, Bill C-5. Every time, it seems to me, we have slipped down the slippery slope.

If we want to talk about compensation, let us talk about compensation. The whole issue is whether we will be firm and mandate from the government that the bill means to be implemented with obligation on the part of the government or whether it will be discretionary. If there is a thread running right throughout the bill it is the tremendous discretion given to the government on every section, whether it be listing, whether it be habitat, whether it be compensation, whereas the committee had suggested that the government shall produce regulations to set out the criteria for compensation and that it should be fair and reasonable.

I look at the arguments produced for saying that the committee was not valid in its conclusions. The argument states that the standing committee amendments remove governor in council discretion. I would suggest that there are stacks of pieces of legislation where governor in council discretion has been removed, because this is the intent of laws: to bind the government to certain things. Do we not remove governor in council discretion when we mandate as a House that legislation will be or shall be reviewed every five years, as is the case with several pieces of legislation here? There is no discretion there. Is there not discretion, for instance, in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act where we mandated that certain listings be carried out within fixed timetables, that regulations be issued within fixed timetables? There was no discretion there.

I see that regarding compensation the committee also required the mandatory development of detailed compensation regulations. What is wrong with that? This is what Canadians want. They do not want it to be left to the discretion of this government or that government according to the will of the day or the discretion of the day. This is why there are mandatory provisions in legislation binding government to certain specific acts. I see nothing wrong or untoward with the provisions that the committee set out to bind the government to an obligation that regulations must be produced and that compensation must be fair and reasonable. What is more, we are talking about compensation in Group No. 1 without examining the key item of legislation, clause 64, which deals with compensation. This is something completely illogical if ever there was.

Besides, the section on compensation refers to clauses 58, 60 and 61, and it happens to be that clause 58 has been completely gutted by the government in this bill. We are talking about compensation referring to a certain set of criteria under clause 58 as amended by the committee, but now clause 58 is a completely different animal.

How can we talk about compensation on one side and have another grouping for listing and habitat when all of these things are holistic and interdependent? I would suggest, first, that the way we have grouped these things is completely illogical. I do not know how it was done in the first place, whether it was produced at the request and instigation of the minister or the ministry, but it does not make any sense at all.

If we discuss compensation we should be in the main section of the bill and deal with it within Group No. 1. Also, if we are to deal with the subject of compensation, which is of course a big issue for a lot of members here, as we have witnessed by all the speeches made in this regard, then obviously we have to tie it into the key sections of the bill regarding habitat and listing, because all of it is together. We cannot just separate one from the other.

I would suggest that we give a lot of time to having the bill debated, that we do not bring forward any closure which would prevent discussion on Groups Nos. 2 and 3 and the others. There is no way we can deal with the bill in a piecemeal fashion, looking at compensation completely separately from the other key items of the bill. If we are to abide by the rules of the House, then we have to talk about the groupings one by one.

I hope we will have a lot of time to speak about Groups Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5, but especially Group No. 2 about the critical subject of listing and habitat, where the committee recommendations, worthwhile and completely constructive and objective, have been gutted. If members look at clause 58 they will find that the whole page has been gutted and replaced.

I am very sad. On the eve of Rio Plus 10 we will have a bill that will look like a great bill. It will have a wonderful title. It will be very thick. Then around the world we will be able to produce the fact that we have an endangered species bill, but I suggest that really it is a hollow little book. There is not much in it except for discretion and it is discretion from a to z . It is sad.

The whole question of compensation is a good example of what I am saying, because we have replaced some obligation on the part of the government, completely legitimate, by total discretion, and we know what discretion leads to.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams Canadian Alliance St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to compliment the member for Lac-Saint-Louis for his comments because here we have a government member speaking out against the government's bill. It is heartwarming for the opposition, not in a partisan way but because the member has read the bill and has taken exception to some of the clauses and this whole notion of discretion. The government has become far, far too heavy handed.

I will read to the House one clause from Bill C-49, which is the budget implementation act. Members may ask what has this to do with the environmental bill, but this is an example of the government's heavy handedness. It refers to the creation of the Canadian air transport security authority.

How much authority will this authority get? Let me refer members to subclause 36(3) on page 11, and I will quote. This is the authority that the government will give itself if the bill passes, and the governor council is the cabinet:

The Governor in Council may require air carriers to transfer to the Authority, on such terms as the Governor in Council considers appropriate, their rights, titles, interests or obligations under any contract respecting screening specified by the Minister, despite any contractual restriction on the transfer of those rights, titles, interests or obligations.

What could be more heavy handed than that? Despite any contractual restriction on the transfer of rights, titles, interests or obligations, if the government says they will be transferred to the government they will be transferred.

Here we have on this environmental bill the government saying “On our discretion we may, if we feel it appropriate, pay compensation”. The government has an obligation to parliament to explain what it actually means. If it is going to write some regulations from here on in explaining what its discretion is, then I think it has an obligation to table these regulations right here in this place before we vote on the bill.

It seems only appropriate, but then of course this is not the first time the government has treated the House with contempt. The government will again treat the House with contempt on the bill, as it is treating with contempt not only the House but the private sector and anybody who has anything to do with air transport security. The government will say that despite whatever protection there is in law it is irrelevant and “you will do what we say” because the House will pass a law saying “we will give the government whatever it wants”.

Now, of course, there is this discretion. We heard the member for Red Deer talking earlier today about how the bill on the environment says a person is guilty until he can prove himself innocent. This trashing of the whole system of democracy that has been built up over a thousand years shows up time and time again and it has to come to a stop.

I live in the country. I am sure there are more members than I who live in the country and enjoy the country, but unless there is an environmental impact assessment certifying that there are no endangered species on the property, people cannot walk around on their own property with the freedom to enjoy it. They might step on something and kill it, and that is against the law.

I cannot overemphasize my disgust at the way the government brings in legislation through the House, expecting a rubber stamp after one day or two days of debate. If there are more than three days of debate it brings in closure and says “Enough of that, we have to get on with the work”.

It is not so. We read in the Hill Times today about a motion that is coming up for a vote, maybe next week. The former Clerk of the House of Commons is saying, and we have the title, “Parliament 'abandoned' constitutional responsibility”. This is in the Hill Times of February 18.

The government treats this place with disrespect. We are trying to stand up in an open forum and say on behalf of all Canadians that they need to know what the government is doing. If government is passing a piece of legislation it has to be exact and specific, but compensation at its discretion, if it is of the mind to do so, cannot be approved. I hope the House will reject the bill and reject these particular clauses. We must recognize that if we are to earn the respect of Canadians for being here, then we had better start exercising the authority they have given us. We had better start telling the government it cannot have this authority and amend this legislation before it gets approved.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada. There are days when we have to wonder what we are doing here in this House.

I will try to enlighten those Quebecers and Canadians who are watching us on the reasons why we are discussing a bill on the protection of wildlife species in Canada. Why should we be discussing that in Quebec when the Quebec government has been taking its responsibilities in that regard since 1990?

At the time, under a Liberal government, the National Assembly passed, with a big majority, a piece of legislation entitled an act respecting threatened or vulnerable species. Then, in 1990, it passed an act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife, followed by the fisheries regulations.

All these laws and regulations are enforced by wildlife conservation officers, women and men who work very hard to ensure the protection of species, including wildlife species at risk. They sometimes risk their lives to enforce the standards adopted by Quebec.

If, in Quebec, we enforce our own legislation with the help of wildlife conservation officers, men and women who enforce this legislation, we wonder why this parliament should discuss and pass a bill that duplicates what is already being done in Quebec and elsewhere. For the information of Quebecers, the reason is that all provinces do not enforce the same way their legislation on species at risk and other environmental legislation.

The federal government is trying to demonstrate to all stakeholders in Canada, to all those responsible for the protection of species at risk that they should protect more vigorously some of these species.

Obviously, this bill never mentions that, in Quebec, the existing legislation already provides for what is at stake in these regulations. The government spokespersons themselves admit that this bill provides for a second line of protection, because the Quebec legislation will apply, but Bill C-5 will be a second protection.

Why should we have two lines of protection when, in Quebec, the federal government would just need to discuss it with the relevant Quebec government department if it wants to have a particular species protected. It is that simple.

The Quebec government has never refused to protect an endangered species. It has never happened in the past. But the federal government wants two lines of protection. That is called duplication, and that is what really drives up the costs of the Canadian federation.

While the government is sinking money in bills such as this one, health, education and the real issues that people want to hear about are not being addressed.

A responsible dialogue could have been established between the departments involved, the federal department and the one in Quebec, to determine which species if any require protection, or Quebec's wildlife conservation officers might have been involved—we know that ministries across the countries are often underfunded; why not have included in this bill a good intention: to divide between governments, to share with the government of Quebec, the burden of enforcing all of the legislation regarding species at risk?

Why not use the additional funding from the federal government to hire more wildlife conservation officers in Quebec with more responsibilities, so that they can better enforce the law?

No. This bill will create federal enforcement officers, another category of players to duplicate and overlap what is being done in Quebec.

This is why it is often difficult to speak to bills where we wonder, yet again, what is going on. Energy and money is being spent where there is already work being done. As I said earlier, since 1990, the Quebec government has had its own legislation. I am repeating this so that Quebecers will fully understand.

In Quebec, we have the act respecting threatened or vulnerable species. What is the difference between this act and the species at risk act in Canada? Probably the word “Canada”, because you will not find it in the Quebec legislation. There is also the act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife. These acts have been in place in Quebec since 1990.

In 1996, Quebec's environment minister signed with the federal government and the other provinces an agreement to protect species at risk. What is the difference between that agreement and the act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada? Is it the fact that the words “wildlife” and “Canada” are not included?

In 1996, under an accord signed by the federal and provincial ministers of the environment, everyone was going to respect his own area of jurisdiction. No one was going to interfere. However, a press release was issued at the time by the Quebec minister of the environment saying that all this had to be monitored, because it could open the door to overlapping.

The then Quebec minister of the environment was right on, because in 2002 there will be overlapping. Once again, the federal government will come and stick its nose into an area that is very well managed by Quebec, without any exclusion clause for that province, and without any specific agreement to invest or help the Quebec wildlife conservation service.

The government could have acted in good faith by investing additional money. If it does not do so in the areas of health and education, it could have used this bill to help Quebec hire other officers, other women and men, for its conservation service, so as to reduce the workload of those who are currently working very hard. But no. Once again, the federal government will create its own network of federal enforcement officers. The bill refers to federal enforcement officers. Such is the harsh reality of this federation.

I agree with the Liberal member for Lac-Saint-Louis. In the end, this bill makes no sense to me, a true Quebecer. It makes no sense at all. Moreover, on the issue of compensation, he is quite right to say that compensation could have been possible. When we decide a habitat is essential in order to protect a specie at risk, a compensation scheme is a must. Again, the federal government should have loosened up its purse strings and provided compensation for land owners and any stakeholders incurring losses as a result of the implementation of this bill or just the implementation of Quebec laws.

The federal government could have shown great openness, and contributed to the wildlife conservation network, the wildlife conservation officers network in the province of Quebec or announce a compensation scheme for the land owners who, because of the establishment of an essential habitat on their land, could face a drop in its value because it can no longer be used. We could have had a real compensation scheme. But no, once again not a word from the federal government.

We never hear from the federal government when it is time to pay up. But when it comes to imposing new norms and establishing additional requirements for the provinces, getting everybody to work hard, having the provinces put more money into health or education and, once again, make them work even harder to protect wildlife, we can always count on the federal government. It is very good at making others spend their money. But when the time comes to spend its own money, it is never there.

Again, this is what I am trying to explain to Quebecers and Canadians who are listening this afternoon. We have to be careful. I am seriously wondering what we are doing today here as Quebecers discussing a bill that is already in place in the province of Quebec.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


Karen Kraft Sloan Liberal York North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I share with members of the House and indeed Canadians who are watching this afternoon a remarkable event which took place in the standing on environment. Members on all sides of the House, indeed in all political parties, put aside partisan differences and worked together in an unprecedented spirit of co-operation.

In the spirit of co-operation members around the table worked hard to find common ground to improve the original species at risk act, Bill C-5. The resulting amendments put forward by committee reflect testimony from the scientific, conservation and industry witnesses which the committee heard.

In his ruling this morning on Bill C-5 the Speaker stated that many motions were proposed to make further changes which were substantial modifications by the committee or to reject the committee's modifications. While I had some reservations concerning these motions, arguably these motions ought to have been resolved in committee, the Speaker decided to go ahead with them.

I suggest that these matters were resolved in committee by members who represent all parties of the House.

The matter before us is the issue of compensation. Yet I do not see Motion No. 109 included in this grouping. This is the government's motion. If this group deals with compensation, why are we not dealing with the government motion?

Motion No. 109 by the government reverses the committee amendment regarding clause 64 on compensation. During the committee's deliberations on clause 64 on compensation very important issues were raised with regard to landowners, farmers and ranchers. All committee members applauded the efforts of farmers and ranchers in their activities to protect species and their habitat.

No one expects any one individual to bear the full cost of species protection. I was very concerned about this issue as I did not want to set a precedent in legislation to pay people not to break the law. However I feel it is important to be clear about our commitments to Canadians in legislation. I felt it was important to ensure clarity in this provision. In co-operation with other committee members I supported an amendment to make regulations for compensation mandatory. The government decided through Motion No. 109 to reverse this decision.

A document was produced by the government regarding the rationale around some of the committee amendments. The government says that it partially supports nine of the committee amendments, some of which strengthen the legislation including one dealing with compensation regulations. It is not clear to me why on one hand it says that it supports compensation regulations but it wants them to be discretionary.

This is not the only example of discretion in the bill. Virtually every major decision point in the original Bill C-5 is discretionary. With the over 60 government amendments that have come forward it has reversed the committee amendments so the bill is essentially back to its original state, particularly in key areas.

Now we have a bill that is highly discretionary. This includes the listings of species, prohibitions against killing them or destroying their residence on non-federal lands and prohibitions against destroying their habitat even on some federal land. We therefore cannot claim that under the legislation we will protect species and their habitat. In truth, we may decide to protect a species at risk or we may not.

I raise another issue with regard to the grouping of amendments that was brought forth by the member for Lac-Saint-Louis when he spoke about the grouping of motions in Group No. 2. These amendments are dealing with deadlines and federal-provincial jurisdiction in relations.

The amendments are not merely about deadlines. They deal with the heart of the legislation. It is unfortunate we do not have an opportunity in the debate to rise on questions and comments because I would like to know why we are dealing with the most important aspect of the legislation which is deadlines. We are dealing with listing decisions, general prohibition safety net decisions, and protection of critical habitat. We will hear throughout the debate, as we have heard in committee time and time again, that if we do not protect the habitat of species we do not protect the species.

We have international commitments. We do not want Canada to be the laughingstock of the globe because we do not provide mandatory habitat protection and critical habitat safety nets. These are important issues yet they are hidden. Why are they being hidden?

More importantly, as members of the House we must ask ourselves who we represent. We represent Canadians. I represent the constituents of York North, not just the people who voted for me but everyone who lives in York North. As a member of the House, the Parliament of Canada, I also represent Canadians. All 301 of us represent the people in our ridings as well as the people of Canada. When the committee undertook this important work in a unique atmosphere of co-operation, putting aside partisan interests to do something important for the environment, it was reflecting the concerns of Canadians.

I will share a little about how many Canadians care about endangered species. I am referring to an article from the Ottawa Citizen dated January 29, 2001. I am sure things have not changed all that much a year later. The article says more than 90% of Canadians would support a law to protect endangered species. More importantly, it says Canadians not only care about endangered species but understand what must be in the legislation.

This initiative is second only to the Spanish fishing trawler incident of 1995 when Canada seized a fishing trawler accused of illegally fishing on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. This is an important issue for Canadians.

A survey conducted by Pollara focused especially on rural Canadians who are closest to the land and would be most affected by measures to protect species and their habitats. Of the rural Canadians surveyed, 92% said they supported endangered species legislation. They said they wanted effective legislation, not legislation that might or might not protect species. They wanted legislation with real measures to protect species the way they deserve.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Peter Goldring Canadian Alliance Edmonton Centre-East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the species at risk act and, most important, to the motion put forward by the Canadian Alliance. The motion asks:

That Bill C-5, in the preamble, be amended by replacing lines 22 to 24 on page 2 with the following:

“landowners should be compensated for any financial or material losses to ensure that the costs of conserving species at risk are shared equitably by all Canadians,”

The rationale of the motion is that the bill's preamble currently says there are circumstances under which the cost of conserving species at risk should be shared. The amendment would replace the weak statement with a stronger affirmation containing two points: first, that since species conservation is of benefit to society broadly its costs should be shared broadly and not fall on one group; second, that landowners should be compensated for losses suffered as a result of implementing endangered species legislation.

A while earlier my colleague from Yellowhead mentioned a circumstance where a bald eagle attacked one of his neighbour's cows that was having a calf. Having lived on a farm as have many others in the House I know this is the reality on a farm. The farmer grows his herds by the newborns and it is absolutely imperative that they be allowed to grow and mature.

Who would be held liable if the farmer reacted to save his livestock? Would he be criminally liable for the act? I have another basic question. If the species at risk is a predator that was hitherto not in large numbers in the area, why should the farmer be financially responsible for the loss of his herd yet unable to defend his herd or livelihood? These are all questions that ultimately come down to the situation of compensation. Yes, compensation is the issue.

Bill C-5 includes the notion that the minister may pay compensation. It does not say shall. May means maybe yes, maybe no. The bill should say shall or will compensate. The bill says the government may pay compensation. That is a step in the right direction but it must be further defined. It is an improvement over the Liberals' earlier version of the endangered species bill, Bill C-65, but it is not good enough yet.

Under Bill C-5 compensation would be entirely at the minister's discretion. There is no requirement that it must be paid and no recognition that landowners and users have rights as well as responsibilities. At committee the Canadian Alliance won a large victory when it was agreed that compensation should be fair and reasonable. However the bill says compensation should only be for losses suffered as a result of extraordinary impact arising from the application of the act. What does extraordinary impact mean?

In a government commissioned study Dr. Peter Pearse, a University of British Columbia professor, suggested landowners should be compensated for up to 50% for losses of 10% or more of their income. Is this what the government intends? It should at least have the courage to say so if this is what it means.

Instead of coming clean the minister pleads that compensation is a complex issue and more time is needed to study it properly. No cost estimates for different compensation scenarios or discussions of how many people might be affected have been released. This contributes to great uncertainty and reinforces the perception that government environmental programs are brought forward with no planning or preparation.

The Canadian Alliance won another victory at committee when it was made mandatory for the government to develop regulations for compensation. On October 3 the minister told the standing committee he was proposing to develop general compensation regulations that would be ready soon after the legislation is proclaimed. He said it would be done as an interim measure until comprehensive guidelines could be developed.

In other words, the minister probably has the regulations drafted and sitting on his desk. Why does he not table them now so we can all judge whether his idea of compensation would be fair and reasonable for Canadians?

With regard to shared responsibility for common goals, the federal government has signed the United Nations convention on biological diversity and should therefore incorporate its principles into any legislation to conserve species and ecosystems. Article 20 (2) of the convention states:

The developed country Parties shall provide new and additional financial resources to enable developing country Parties to meet the agreed full incremental costs to them of implementing measures which fulfill the obligations of this Convention--

Clearly the United Nations convention recognizes that because the objective of maintaining bio and ecosystem diversity is so important costs must be equitably borne by everyone and not just developing countries. We expect the same principle to apply to Bill C-5. Protection of endangered species must be recognized as a common good.

The species at risk working group is composed of leading industry and environmental representatives. It wrote in September 2000:

SRWG strongly urges Parliament to implement key amendments that firmly recognize that the protection of species at risk is a public value and that measures to protect endangered species should be equitably shared and not unfairly borne by any individual, group of landowners, workers, communities or organizations.

There are lots of examples of compensation working in other jurisdictions. Brian O'Ferrall, a Calgary energy, environmental and expropriation lawyer, told the standing committee in May 2001:

--quite apart from expropriation, there are statutes which provide for compensation where land is not taken but where it is injuriously affected (depreciated in value) by either a public work or structure erected adjacent to the land.

In his opinion,

Providing for compensation should be mandatory, not discretionary. That is, the Minister should have to provide for compensation for the impacts, costs or losses which a landowner incurs as a result of the prohibition against destroying habitat. As the legislation is currently proposed, compensation is not even mandatory in cases where regulatory restrictions have had an extraordinary impact on the landowner's use of his land.

Adequate compensation is the incentive to cooperate. Absent adequate compensation, the landowner will have no reason to cooperate because then he is being asked to bear a disproportionate share of the cost of protecting endangered or threatened species.

Compensation to private landowners for regulatory restrictions which protect endangered species and preserve biological diversity is practised in jurisdictions around the world. From Tasmania to Switzerland, Scotland and the United Kingdom, compensation corresponds with the basic principles of the economic market. If the value of my property is diminished because of someone else's actions I expect to be compensated. This strengthens certainty and leads to greater confidence in the marketplace.

Having provisions for full compensation in legislation acts as a disciplinary device for governments. It restricts random regulations, makes governments more careful in planning and respects private property, the basis of our economic system. Compensation or full support is absolutely necessary to achieve full co-operation of landowners and healthy species populations.

I could go on and on but I see my time is coming to an end. I will close by saying I fully support the motion of our party.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, if I had a single message today I think it would be that all parties in the House would commit fully to protect and preserve Canada's natural environment and our endangered species. That is clear. That is motherhood. However there are obvious differences in the way we would approach the issue.

I was in the House when the member for York North who sits on the environment committee was speaking not too long ago. She talked about the international commitments we must make on endangered species and other environmental issues. While I agree with that statement, it is also very important that Canadians recognize, because the rest of the world certainly recognizes it, that Canada's land stewardship is world class. We have every reason to be very proud of much of what we pursue. I think in particular of our broad landscape activities such as agriculture, ranching, forestry and other industries which obviously have a major influence on our landscapes.

Canada, by virtue of being a vast country with a small population, has become the victim of negative campaigns launched both internationally and domestically by groups that denigrate Canadian practices as a matter of mission for their own self-serving interests.

I certainly agree that Canadians care deeply about the environment. Rural Canadians do not need a lesson from anybody on land stewardship. They have a deep commitment to the environment. I have children as do most of us. I remember reading a book to my children about the city mouse and the country mouse. Country mice certainly do not need lectures from the city mice about land stewardship. It is true the other way around as well.

Half the problem could thus be summarized as one in communication between Canadians, as well as between Canadians and the international audience. Canada has the optics internationally of being a vast wilderness. Somehow that sets a higher standard for Canada than it does for other nations. We have accepted that is the way it is. In accepting that, we have set a different standard for ourselves for a long time which is all very positive.

We can learn things from others. We should learn from what has occurred with endangered species legislation in the United States. The Americans have ended up with a very unhealthy situation in many areas. They have gone to a system based on penalties rather than on incentives. They do not have what we would call land managers so much as they have legal managers. It has created a legal mess. The court has become the arbiter of how land will be managed.

That is very destructive and leads to a lack of creativity and progress. It is so polarized that in the western states for example some fur from an endangered species was planted into the ground to demonstrate that that species must be there and therefore activities on that land could not take place. That issue has become very messy. It was demonstrated eventually that it had been a covert activity to utilize the planted material to try to influence land management behaviour. We do not want to go there.

There have also been major confrontations and demonstrations in the last couple of years because of the draught in the western states which has created a real problem both for the agriculture industry and for what is called the sucker fish which is an endangered species. Thousands of people have lost their livelihood because of legislation that did not seem to recognize common sense behaviour and compromise as being another way to go.

The lessons we need to take from that are very clear. We want land managers who are land stewards. We do not want legal messes and a place where lawyers rather than land managers will thrive.

I spent 20 years as a land manager. I managed tens of thousands of hectares of forest land in British Columbia. That land was predominantly owned by the people of British Columbia. It was crown land. I spent five years at university preparing to do that. I am very proud of the land management activities I carried out. I am proud of the accomplishments. I operated primarily under a system of incentives rather than penalties. I am worried that is going to change.

During that time, prior to running for politics and changing my career, I spent some time in Washington and Oregon on a postgraduate mature student program. It was for a period of 12 weeks over the course of a year. The spotted owl controversy was going on in that part of the world. It was totally polarizing and totally destructive. It led to panic clear cutting of huge swaths of land. It led to tremendous legal actions. There was chaos and destruction in small forestry towns in those states. It was totally unnecessary. A much better resolution could have been derived and it all was lost in the fog because it became a fight among law makers, politicians and lawyers.

In summary, we still have a problem with the legislation. Unless there is mandatory compensation and no criminalization of unintentional behaviour, we will not achieve our goal of effective protection of endangered species.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, this bill is very important to my constituents. It is important to me personally because I have chosen to live with my family for over 25 years in an area of British Columbia in the Rocky Mountains. Our home is on a small lake. There are all sorts of eagles, osprey, muskrat, white tailed deer, and elk. We have everything around our family home. This issue is very important to me personally and to my constituents.

For the most part people choose to live in Kootenay--Columbia because they highly value all of the species that there are. From time to time there are conflicts between domestic herds and herds of elk, for example, which are in transition.

There are also potential conflicts between various species and open pit mining and other activities. Believe it or not, over 20% of all the metallurgical coal that is consumed in the world comes from my constituency. I know what it is to have that activity combined with a desire and love of endangered species, the love of all species. That love is shared by many people who are involved in rod, gun, fish and game clubs. They are hunters, sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts.

A balance must constantly be worked at between the land required for a potentially endangered species and the ability to do resource extraction in a responsible way. For the most part the balance has been achieved between forestry companies such as Tembec, formerly Crestbrook, Wynndel Box and Lumber, JH Huscroft, Downie Street Sawmills in Revelstoke, and mining companies such as Cominco, Fording and Teck. The balance has been maintained by all of these companies. In my judgment it has been absolutely exemplary in the world. After all my constituency with no exaggeration is the big game hunting capital of the world. We have a balance that we are very proud of.

I cannot think of any other issue that could come before this parliament that could potentially have the emotional impact and real impact that Bill C-5 has on my constituents and on my own choice of lifestyle.

Of the 301 members of parliament, there are members from urban, suburban and rural Canada which can create difficulties. It is understandable that some members, frankly very few of whom have spoken to the debate today, have a lack of understanding that there is a compensation issue which is absolutely key to the success of this legislation.

A person from urban Canada would possibly look at buying or renting a piece of property that would be 33 feet wide by 100 feet long. However, when looking at what the bill will do if compensation is not taken into account satisfactorily, we are not worried about a piece of property that is 33 feet by 100 feet, we are worried about larger pieces of property. We are looking at pieces of property that are tens, hundreds, or thousands of acres, pieces of property that are measured by the quarter mile, the square mile, pieces of property that encompass all sorts of topography and geography where a value has been assumed over a period of time for the holder of that property, be it an individual or corporation. That value has become part of the assets of that individual or company.

Faced with the possibility of having that asset value, which in some cases is not just in the millions of dollars but in the hundreds of millions of dollars, wiped out with the discovery of an endangered species, the human temptation to shoot, shovel and shut up will be there.

We have seen the triple-S in action in the United States under the endangered species act. At various times in my constituency we have had clashes, particularly with regard to aquatic life, between the interests of people who are using the U.S. endangered species act and those who wish to have access to continuing to see the aquatic life on the Canadian side of the border. We continue to work through that process.

I was impressed when I happened to be sitting on the environment committee in September 2000 and SARWG, the species at risk working group, came before the committee. It made the following submission:

SARWG strongly urges Parliament to implement key amendments that firmly recognize that the protection of species at risk is a public value and that measures to protect endangered species should be equitably shared and not unfairly borne by any individual, group of landowners, workers, communities or organizations.

I was particularly impressed when the group came before parliament speaking as one voice. I was astounded at the competition of the species at risk working group. The group did not just consist of people who classified themselves as environmentalists or industrialists. With the exception of the recreational user of our great lands, every group that has an interest in our environment and in the protection of the endangered species is a part of the species at risk working group.

At the conclusion of the group's submission, which was insightful and valuable, I asked its industry members and its environmental members if they spoke with one voice and they answered that they did.

I recall coming away from that meeting thinking that all the environment minister and Liberal government had to do was enroll or engage recreational users, get their input to the submissions that SARWG made and we could have a law that would be acceptable, workable and create the kind of balance that I could proudly talk about in my constituency of Kootenay--Columbia.

As was pointed out by the member for York North, we had a situation, on a distinctly non-partisan basis, where there was co-operation among members of all parties on the environment committee. We are now talking about SARWG's co-operation and the various interests involved there. We had co-operation and a bill that was workable and now the environment minister and the Government of Canada are putting their boots to it. That is not good enough.

The bill is not reflective of what is needed to protect endangered species in Canada.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Paul Forseth Canadian Alliance New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, if I were to premise my remarks with regard to the species at risk act, Bill C-5, I might say that Liberal duplicity is exposed. I wonder if the bill, when it is finally proclaimed, will protect or save anything at all.

It must be perfectly clear that the Canadian Alliance is committed to protecting and preserving Canada's natural environment and endangered species. The bill will not work without guaranteeing fair and reasonable compensation for property owners and resource users who suffer losses. Farmers, ranchers and other property owners want to protect endangered species but they should not be forced to do so at the expense of their livelihoods.

We can look at all kinds of other references or examples of compensation working in other jurisdictions. Quite apart from direct expropriation laws, there are statutes that provide for compensation where land is not taken but perhaps where it is injuriously affected or has depreciated in value through either public work or a structure erected adjacent to the land.

Provisions for compensation should be mandatory, not discretionary. The minister should have to provide compensation for the impact, costs or losses which a landowner incurs as a result of the prohibition against destroying habitat. That is fundamental.

As the legislation is currently proposed, compensation is not even mandatory in cases where regulatory restrictions have had an extraordinary impact on the landowner's use of his land. That is a fatal flaw in the bill.

Adequate compensation is the incentive to co-operation. Without adequate compensation the landowners will have no reason to co-operate because they are being asked to bear a disproportionate share of the cost of protecting endangered species. In other words, the individual bears the cost of a national objective. Compensation for private landowners for regulatory restrictions imposed for protecting endangered species and preserving biological diversity is practised in jurisdictions around the world so why not in Canada?

Compensation also corresponds with the basic principles of the economic market. If the value of a property is diminished because of someone else's actions, there is naturally an expectation to be provided with some compensation. It strengthens certainty and leads to greater confidence in the marketplace. It supports the prospect of foreign and domestic investment and without it that kind of investment will be placed on hold. We know the problems with the lack of aboriginal settlements in British Columbia and how that has affected foreign investment.

Having provisions for full and fair compensation in the legislation acts also as a disciplinary device for governments. It restricts random regulations and makes the government more careful in planning. It also respects the principle of private property. It is the basis of our economic system and provides economic order in the country.

We have all heard the stories of bureaucrats descending upon some hapless citizens. We have a lot of examples of that. The current bill also leaves open the abuse of the system upon the rights of the individual.

Compensation or full support is absolutely necessary to achieve full co-operation from landowners and to have healthy species populations. The United States is facing that difficulty but it is not directly parallel. However, without proper incentives, compensation and the other range of help that might be available, people depending on their land for their livelihood will act in ways perhaps counterproductive to saving species at risk.

While many landowners have in the past co-operated in species recovery programs without compensation, I think we can clearly say that the majority of these cases involve those who can either afford the changes to their practices or are willing to make sacrifices for species. We believe there are those who may not be so willing or, especially in these economic times, may be seriously financially impacted and who are already experiencing very difficult financial circumstances. They have the desire and the will but not the economic capacity to do so.

For the helpless species and in the name of putting people at the centre of legislation, those people must be fairly compensated or supported, and that means fair market value.

We can draw upon the experience of land trespass and the resultant devaluation from the compensation process that surrounds the oil exploration and extraction regime. It is a good model to follow but the government has heard all those things and in the face of it has completely ignored it.

The other thing I would briefly mention is that criminal liability must require intent. We have the concept in law of mens rea, having a guilty mind. This also was a point that was brought to committee and the government is not providing for that.

The act would make offenders out of people who may inadvertently and unknowingly harm endangered species or their habitat. This is unnecessarily confrontational and would make endangered species a threat to property owners. As a result of this, co-operation would be gone and goodwill would evaporate.

Also, we need co-operation not confrontation with the provinces. The 1996 national court for the protection of species at risk was a step in the right direction. Instead, Bill C-5 would give the federal government power to impose its way on provincial lands. However, since it is completely at the minister's discretion, landowners do not know if or when. Instead of working together with the provinces and property owners, the federal government is introducing uncertainty, resentment and distrust.

The final insult is that the government is amending Bill C-5 and reversing many of the amendments voted by its own Liberal MPs who worked on the environment committee. The committee, which had the spirit of co-operation, and in view of sound evidence from the experts of the world who testified at committee, the government is riding roughshod over the process. That is another example of top down control perhaps from the Prime Minister's Office and unelected officials there. It looks as though the Prime Minister has completely failed in this regard and again shows the contempt in which the government holds members of parliament in this place.

What is the point of having a committee stage in the legislative process at all or even involving parliament in the process when the Liberals will simply govern by edict. The report stage reverses the work of the committee so why have it? Why go through this process at all?

The bottom line is that unless the bill provides for mandatory compensation and stops criminalizing unintentional behaviour, it will not provide effective protection for endangered species and we cannot support it.

I would ask some of the members who were on that committee, the member for Lac-Saint-Louis, the member for North York, the member for Davenport and perhaps even the member for Kitchener Centre, if they would stand in their place for the courage of their convictions and vote against the legislation. I call upon them to do so.

The overall process shows that the Liberals cannot manage and certainly, as a flagship piece of legislation, the minister himself has failed.

In summary, the Liberals abuse parliament and, on the administrative side of government delivering, they also fail to wisely administer on behalf of all Canadians.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will take a couple of minutes on this group of amendments to voice my very deep sense of concern and anger at the decision of the Liberal government to reverse the important work that was done by the standing committee on the environment. I want to pay tribute to the chair of that committee, the member for Davenport, a longstanding and very respected member of the House and a former minister of the environment, as well as all of the members of that committee from all sides of the House who worked long and hard to arrive at a consensus.

The debate around that legislation was vigorous even within our own caucus. We came to the conclusion that we could support it because of the fact there had been significant improvement in two key areas of the legislation, the area of habitat protection as well as the in the area of the very important decision around who would have the final word, scientists or politicians. There was significant improvement and strengthening of those provisions in response to representations from environmentalists and from Canadians across this land.

With those improvements, we were prepared to support the legislation, recognizing full well that in many important respects a lot more work could have been done to protect endangered species. Canadians wanted to see endangered species protected. That compromise was arrived at in good faith after literally hours and hours of intensive work, dialogue and hearings of the standing committee on the environment.

As well, that compromise was one that was supported by the Canadian Alliance. The representative of the Canadian Alliance on that committee voted in favour of the bill at report stage precisely because of the fact that they were able to arrive at that consensus. It was a consensus that included industry as well. It was quite extraordinary that they came on board and they did. Some of the major heads of industry together with Elizabeth May from the Sierra Club, the David Suzuki Foundation and others were prepared to say, yes, that this was a bill they could live with. While it was not perfect they were prepared to live with. That is all too rare.

What happened? The Minister of the Environment, my colleague from British Columbia, and quite obviously the Prime Minister's office as well, came in and said to hell with this agreement and to hell with all the work the committee did on these profoundly important issues and, in particular, on the key issues of the listing and scientific basis for that and the issue of habitat protection.

The member for York North, a hard working member of that committee from the government side, pointed out very eloquently that the government tore up that consensus, which is one of the most disgusting displays of contempt for parliament that I have ever witnessed. I have been here for a few years, but seldom has there ever been that kind of gross contempt for the work of a group of dedicated members of parliament from all parties.

I appeal to the government, even at this late stage, to recognize that it has made a serious mistake and to go back to the original legislation. I appeal for it to recognize, as I said before, that while it does not represent a perfect bill, 80%, 85%, 90% of Canadians believe deeply in the importance of protecting endangered species. The bill that came out of committee was one they and we as New Democrats could support.

Where did the pressure come from that government caved in in such a crass and appalling manner and voted non-confidence, not just in the many witnesses who appeared before the committee but in their own colleagues and in the chair of the committee? As I said before, the chair is a dedicated, respected member of this House and he is an environmentalist. Members, like the member for Lac-Saint-Louis and the member for York North, have spoken out courageously against these amendments? It is a dark day for democracy when we see what has happened to Bill C-5.

I appeal, if not to the government, then perhaps to Liberal members of parliament to reject this weakening of the legislation, to stand up not only for the environment and endangered species, but to stand up for the integrity of parliament itself. That is what this is about. It is about a government showing contempt for the work of an all party committee and in doing that contempt for the views of Canadians from coast to coast to coast. These Canadians said that they wanted to protect endangered species and that they believed this was a significant way of advancing that.

On behalf of my colleagues, we are terribly disappointed and angered at the betrayal by the Minister of the Environment, by the parliamentary secretary and by the government of the work of that committee and of the work of dedicated Canadians who want to protect endangered species.

The NDP will reject in the strongest possible terms this attempt to water down the legislation. If these amendments, which would weaken and erode the protection in the bill, are adopted, we intend to oppose this legislation.