Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me to speak to Bill C-5, the species at risk act.
As the House knows, I come from a rural constituency where agriculture is the main engine driving the economic machine. When producers in my riding saw the details of the bill they were horrified. For farmers or ranchers land is the key to making a living. To take their land out of production is like taking a product away from a business owner. It removes the means by which they can earn a living.
Farmers and ranchers care about the environment. However when a piece of legislation crosses the line between helping the environment and infringing on property rights of landowners they draw the line.
I will share with my fellow members in the House and people watching the proceedings on television some of the comments I have received with regard to Bill C-5. The comments were gathered at an agricultural forum I hosted on January 15 in Yorkton. The agricultural forum was broadcast three times on the parliamentary channel the following week, three hours each time, so we know it is an important forum.
Members opposite should listen attentively because these are the voices of real people from rural Saskatchewan speaking up about this piece of legislation. I will quote their comments for the House. One of them said “I feel most farmers have an environmental conscience. However, farmers should not be expected to pay for all the costs of environmental stewardship which would benefit all of society”.
Another person said “There must be compensation for loss of production due to animal habitat”.
Another commented that “When they start tinkering around with our property rights a problem exists”.
That is an important comment because property rights are not adequately protected in our charter of rights and freedoms.
Another person in my riding said “Compensation should not only be adequate but it should be tied to future land values or the cost of living”.
Another said “If we have to lose income to save endangered species we should be compensated like everyone else”.
Is that not common sense?
Another person said “If wildlife has such a high value then compensation should have an equally high value. Has anyone considered that farmers will become endangered species?”
We are not talking about a bill that would be innocuous or not have an effect. It could have a very detrimental effect on farmers and they would like the House to listen to their concerns.
Another farmer commented that “The environment, endangered species and maintaining natural habitat are important. However agriculture seems to be expected to take up the largest load. Those in charge seem to see this as fair play. My respect is dwindling and my suspicion mounting towards those in charge”.
I will cite one last comment by a person who said “If humanity wishes to protect plants and animals let them chip in as taxpayers rather than force it on one segment of our population: farmers”.
Farmers are willing to do their part in maintaining the environment and protecting endangered species. However they want everyone to share the load and they want this to be fair legislation. I am delivering that message here today.
Members will have noticed that the underlying theme throughout the comments is compensation, not a one time payment but compensation that takes into account that the land is the necessary ingredient in the way these people make their living. It is not just me speaking here today to this terrible bill. It is my constituents.
On October 3 the minister stated in front of the committee that compensation would be assessed on a case by case basis. In other words, we are expected to read their lips. They are saying “Trust us, we will do what is right”. We have seen this happen before and the people of Canada have been hung out to dry because their rights and privileges were not respected. In other words, the minister has stated that bureaucrats would decide who gets and does not get compensation.
Let me say one thing. Farmers and ranchers have about as much trust in federal bureaucrats as some athletes do in the international figure skating judges. I will give a prime example of what I am talking about. The AIDA and CFIP programs put in place to help struggling farmers have done nothing. Farmers call my office on a daily basis with problems related to these programs. The farmer who really needs help gets nothing.
This is the same government that is saying “Trust us. We will do what is right and compensate farmers”. What has happened is that the hands of federal bureaucrats have destroyed the agricultural producer. We cannot let it continue with this bill as it stands currently.
Let me point out that we in the Canadian Alliance are committed to preserving our country's natural environment, its endangered species and the sustainable development of our rich natural resources so that future generations of Canadians can reap the rewards as much as we have. However we in the Canadian Alliance will not do this on the backs of private landowners and their families. That is wrong.
The United States introduced similar legislation however there was one flaw: no adequate compensation. What happened? It created a shoot, shovel and shut up mentality. I ask--