House of Commons Hansard #146 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was endangered.


Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 2.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Western Arctic Northwest Territories


Ethel Blondin-Andrew LiberalSecretary of State (Children and Youth)

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak on Bill C-5. In Canada's north there is a very close relationship between the people and the wildlife. We know from what has been handed down from generation to generation about the different kinds of species in the north, how they live and thrive and where they live. We depend on wildlife in many ways. They are an important part of our heritage.

In Canada's north we are made up of territories and not provinces. In the overall federal strategy to protect species at risk and in the species at risk act itself we are treated as equal partners. Our heritage and connection to the environment and wildlife are well recognized. What is also recognized in this proposed act is the co-operation based approach we take on many issues affecting the north.

By glancing down the list of these motions one might get the impression that there is a move afoot to undo the work of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development.

This is not the case at all. In fact the standing committee has made over 100 amendments to Bill C-5, many of which provide additional clarity to the intent of the proposed act. The government supports most of these amendments, although in some cases the text will have to be cleaned up. Approximately 30 government motions deal with what we can call housekeeping matters to ensure consistency in wording throughout the bill while maintaining the intent of the standing committee amendments.

There are however some significant amendments from the standing committee that change the fundamental approach of the legislation, an approach that we have worked on long and hard with provinces and territories in Canada.

I am not here to provide a lecture on federal-provincial-territorial relations. Nor am I planning on instructing my colleagues on the Canadian constitution, however tempting that might be. However members will see, as I discuss several key government motions, that the urge to deliver both lectures is fairly tempting. I am here to speak in favour of the government motions that restore the co-operative approach with provinces and territories.

Unfortunately, standing committee amendments eliminate the incentives for the territories to complete the development of their own species at risk legislation to meet their commitments under the accord. The standing committee's approach, whereby the safety net is only available in the territories for game species, does not fit at all with the way things are done now. It also contradicts ongoing devolution of federal responsibilities to territorial governments.

Under the standing committee's approach, we end up being hypocrites. Here we are devolving authorities to the territories and doing such things as engaging in self-government talks. We promote the empowerment of people so they can sustain themselves economically, politically, socially and otherwise. However, what do we do? We hamstring them with legislation. We are devolving these authorities but we would be taking them away through the species at risk act. I am sure members will agree this does not work and it is not how we want to act.

We all agree that governments have a responsibility to protect species and their critical habitats in their jurisdictions. That is why the government signed the accord for the protection of species at risk with provinces and territories in 1996.

Canada is a large country and we must work together to protect species and habitats. The accord is key to maintaining good relations with other jurisdictions and it is working. Since it was agreed to, most provinces and territories have introduced or amended their legislation to meet their commitments in the accord.

Bill C-5 is intended to be a key component of the government's efforts to meet its commitments under the accord. If the intent of the bill is contrary to the accord, we are certainly not doing our part. More important, we would be seriously jeopardizing relationships that are critical to wildlife management in Canada.

I was born in the north. I have lived in the north in a largely harvesting conservation family for more than one generation. We have lived with the wildlife species in my area and still harvest after generations the same species because we probably have inherited the gift of knowing how important that wildlife isto us.

We did not need legislation to do that. I am not saying we should not have legislation, but we should remember when we empower those people, governments and districts and give them the levels of authority, then we should respect our agreements.

Changes that diminish the incentive for other jurisdictions to strengthen their legislative base consistent with the accord for the protection of species at risk will not work. Nor should the proposed species at risk act contradict our approach to devolution in the territories.

The standing committee amendments fail to recognize that territorial laws cover more than game species. The government agrees with the standing committee that protection should be effective, however we cannot support amendments that make it a legal requirement to reach federal-provincial-territorial agreement on what this constitutes within six months.

Work is ongoing among federal, provincial and territorial governments to develop bilateral agreements and a policy for determining effective protection under the accord.

The tight timeline of six months on such an important matter is impractical and raises serious concerns. It derides the whole issue of consensus building and getting people to buy into the process and understand it fully. The government motions ensure that the policy is developed in a timely and inclusive manner. It would be more effective over the long term to have all governments sign on together to an agreement that outlines commitments for species and habitat protection than it would be for the federal government to try to unilaterally impose criteria on the provinces and territories.

Our relationship with the federal, provincial and territorial governments is a very tricky dance. It is a very delicate and sensitive issue. We must respect that and guard the progress we have made with them.

It is necessary for the governor in council to have the discretion to make decisions related to intergovernmental issues. That is the way it works in Canada. The governor in council also does not want to be put in a position where a province or territory or the endangered species conservation council dictates that action be taken, action such as applying the safety net, that may have a considerable impact on resources.

Think of what it could mean in a case where compensation might be applied. These are important motions. In no way do they negate or discredit the work of the standing committee. However, within the context of many years of federal-provincial-territorial co-operation on species and habitat, we know otherwise and must make these motions for governor in council discretion on the safety net. Legislation cannot guarantee the protection of species at risk and their critical habitat.

A co-operative approach backed by broad authorities to step in when necessary comes as close as we can to ensuring we achieve the stated purposes of the bill. We have an excellent bill that is the result of much hard work, many years of study, of steady consultation, good will on the part of provinces and territories and a made in Canada approach.

These motions are in keeping with such an approach, and I urge all members of the House to support them.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.


Michel Guimond Bloc Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to take part in the debate on this bill with other colleagues from my party. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate my colleague, the member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, on the work that he has done as the Bloc Quebecois critic on the environment.

First, the Bloc Quebecois recognizes the importance of this matter, as indeed, some species are at risk, to the point where some are close to extinction, which makes the situation very serious, if not critical.

This being said, we need to consider Bill C-5 from two different perspectives. First, we must ask ourselves whether or not Bill C-5 really provides additional protection that can be enforced. Second, we must ask ourselves if it will really contribute to enhancing the protection of our ecosystems and the endangered species that make up these ecosystems.

We believe that the answer to these two questions is no. I would like to use the time provided for me to specify why this bill does not constitute an effective means to act.

First, we must point out that Quebec has already acted in this area over the years, and acted in a very decisive way in the late 1980s. Indeed, Quebec passed the act respecting threatened or vulnerable species in 1989. It also passed the act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife, and fishing regulations.

These three legal supports provide Quebec with all the tools required in order to identify species at risk, to legally designate them as threatened or at risk, to protect their habitat and to develop implementation plans that are tailor made to restore and provide sufficient protection for species and habitat that are in a precarious situation.

As I mentioned earlier, the Bloc Quebecois completely supports the underlying principle of providing additional protection for species. We heard answers from the Minister of the Environment and member for Victoria, in British Columbia, given to questions asked by the Bloc Quebecois regarding the implementation of the Kyoto protocol. He stated that the Bloc Quebecois was opposed to the protection of endangered species, that the Bloc Quebecois does not care about them.

I will forewarn you that he will use what I would term malicious tactics to try to interpret my words as indicative of the Bloc Quebecois position. I will deprive him right away of any chance of doing so—let him listen carefully, I repeat—the Bloc Quebecois is not opposed to the principle of enhanced protection for endangered species. Is that clear?

We do not, however, believe that Bill C-5 can make it possible to protect endangered species any better.

In fact, we are opposed to this bill because we consider this, once again, an intrusion into areas that are wholly under the jurisdiction of Quebec. There is a direct overlap with the Quebec legislation, which has been in place since 1989.

My colleague, the hon. member for Rosemont--Petite-Patrie, has made a public commitment to the Canadian Nature Federation to speak to the Quebec Minister of the Environment on the need to review the 1989 legislation with a view to improving it and bringing it up to date. We acknowledge that between 1989 and 2002, with the changes occurring in ecosystems, with new elements such as acid rain and all manner of climate changes, there is a need for updating the legislation. This is a commitment my colleague from Rosemont--Petite-Patrie has made to the public. He has therefore made a commitment to ask the Quebec environment minister to improve the 1989 statute and to bring it up to speed as far as the serious situation of endangered species is concerned.

We believe that this bill is liable to create more red tape rather than to make it possible for the limited resources to be properly channeled where they can do the most good. We in the Bloc Quebecois are of the opinion that the Government of Quebec is already legislating in the areas addressed by Bill C-5. While acknowledging the urgency of improving the implementation of these statutes, we do not believe that Bill C-5 will make it possible to achieve the results it is claimed to be able to achieve.

While we recognize that the environment is a responsibility shared by the federal government and the provinces, it is increasingly clear to us that the federal government is ignoring this fact by going completely against a true environmental harmonization between the various levels of government. Indeed, instead of assuming as it should its major responsibilities—among other things, implementation of the Kyoto protocol comes to mind—the federal government stubbornly keeps taking over jurisdictions that do not belong to it.

Instead of trying to act effectively where it should, it prefers to invade areas in which the provinces are already doing an adequate job—I did not say perfect, I said adequate—even though there may be room for improvement. This is in fact why the hon. member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie is making representations to the Quebec minister of the environment.

Moreover, what the federal government calls a double safety net—that is two levels of government operating in the same jurisdiction—waters down the accountability of both and seriously complicates the assignment of responsibilities. Both levels can say “I feel that I am not doing the right thing, but it is the other one's fault”. This is what happens when the government wants to overmanage and overgovern. It is always easier to shift responsibility to someone else by involving a number of stakeholders.

In conclusion, Bill C-5 will only create duplication, at a time when resources are limited and it is important to maximize efforts in this area and channel them properly. We recognize the need to improve the protection of our ecosystems and the endangered plant and animal species that constitute them, but we do not believe Bill C-5 is the way to go.

The Bloc Quebecois opposes the principle of Bill C-5 today.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.


Hélène Scherrer Liberal Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the House as a member of the Standing Committee on the Environment and as a member who has taken part in the debates on Bill C-5 over the past three months. I will start by saying that I do not completely agree with the colleague who spoke before me.

I wish to speak about the need to work with the provinces and the territories in order to protect the species at risk in Canada.

Our constitutional structure means that we must constantly work together with the governments of the provinces and territories regarding any important policy. This situation exists for a good reason, which most members here would describe as fair, practical and, above all, typically Canadian.

The development of the strategy for the protection of species at risk is one of the best examples of how well this system works. The success of this strategy is due to the collaboration between governments, which began a good number of years ago.

I would also like to recognize the joint projects on the protection of species and habitat, in which the federal government and the province of Quebec took part.

A good approach based on co-operation has been in place for a number of years. The province of Quebec attaches great importance to its role in the protection of species and habitat. It plays an active role in the evaluation and designation of wildlife species. The fact is that, last year anyway, the province stepped up its designation process and officially designated a dozen species under the provincial legislation.

The federal departments worked closely with their counterparts in Quebec. A federal-provincial committee on species at risk was set up and includes representatives from Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Parks Canada, who are working with the provincial representatives. Every year, more progress is made in delivering an effective program based on co-operation.

This situation is the same throughout Canada. For decades, the federal, provincial and territorial governments have worked together to manage wildlife species, not just to the benefit of species at risk but to the benefit of all species.

Through the North American waterfowl management plan, the provinces and territories are working with the federal government and their counterparts in the United States to conserve hundreds of hectares of wetlands and protect many waterfowl species.

We have helped each other and we have worked side by side to protect the piping plover eggs laid in the sand. We have met in board rooms to seek the support of corporations and resource-based industries in order to get them to create model forests and protected zones. We have worked together to create thousands of hectares of parks and game reserves.

It is obvious that we are all aware that the issue of endangered species is a national concern, and no single entity can do it all.

We must continue to work together. We must be able to readily cross over the demarcation line between the federal government, the provinces and the territories, a line that makes us good neighbours and good partners.

As a government, we have committed to certain laws and programs. We have made that commitment official in a number of ways including legislation.

It is time for the federal government to make its commitments official within the context of the proposed legislation.

The provinces and territories have worked along with us in drafting Bill C-5. For some three months, we heard from numerous witnesses. This bill reflects their contributions. The success of this initiative absolutely depends on their support.

It is clear that we will not be able to put the endangered species legislation in place without provincial and territorial co-operation. We cannot protect these species without the co-operation of the provinces and territories. They are the ones who administer the land and activities which have an impact on these species and their vital habitat. They are the ones responsible for land management policies, the ones responsible for the delivery of so many programs.

A large part of the lands that many species depend on comes under provincial or territorial jurisdiction. The provinces and the territories have a large part of the resources required to improve habitat and protect wetlands and parks.

Together—and I do mean together—we have laid the foundation to ensure the protection of all species and essential habitat across Canada. That is the reason that we developed the national accord for the protection of species at risk in Canada.

Much has been done in a short time. Quebecers have worked with official representatives from the province and the federal government as well as conservation agencies and other stakeholders.

The habitat stewardship program has developed a preliminary habitat conservation plan for species at risk in the Magdalen Islands and elsewhere. As a part of its conservation strategy for the Sutton mountains, the Ruiter Valley Land Trust has developed a plan recognizing the habitat of species at risk. These are a few examples of co-operation. These examples all contain a significant provincial component, and we cannot compromise this approach.

However, some of the amendments proposed by the standing committee undermine the agreement's underlying principles and compromise commitments that have already been confirmed: specifically, the fact that the committee would unilaterally determine the criteria to trigger the mechanisms for the safety net for essential habitat outlined in Bill C-5 and transfer significant territorial responsibilities to the federal government regarding species and habitat.

Under the agreement, all levels of government made a clear commitment to fulfilling the objective of the changes proposed by the committee. The government's motions eliminate the imposition of criteria that are decided upon unilaterally and re-establish territorial responsibility regarding wildlife species that come under their jurisdiction in order to allow provincial and territorial governments to remain full partners in the protection of species in Canada.

The federal, provincial and territorial governments are currently working on developing bilateral agreements and a policy to determine efficient protection under the agreement. By developing these agreements together, we are ensuring that each government understands its own responsibilities and has the means to trigger the safety net.

This is why the government is proposing amendments to re-establish an approach that is based on co-operation. This is why we must support these amendments.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I wish I could say it is a pleasure to address the amendments that are before us on Bill C-5, but it is definitely not. I have not felt so vehemently opposed to a bill in a very long time.

It should be obvious to the government that virtually all the members we have heard speak today have objected vehemently to the bill, including a government cabinet minister and many Liberal MPs. It behooves the government to take a second look at this legislation and put it on hold. Definitely there are some serious flaws with it. I am going to draw attention to some of them. Before doing that I want to comment on the process.

We do not have nearly enough time to debate this issue. I have quite a number of concerns on this group of amendments alone and it would take much longer than 10 minutes to address them. We should put this bill on hold if for no other reason than to allow us to properly address all the issues that have arisen in this group of amendments.

We have put forward some very good amendments. One of the process objections I have is that when we put forward these amendments very often they are not seriously considered. Rarely does the government accept what we have suggested as a good, positive contribution to a bill. That is something else we should look at in the House. Many members on this side of the House represent Canadians in a way that is a very constructive and helpful in improving legislation. Very often the amendments we work so hard at drafting to improve the legislation are dismissed. That is not right.

For example, I worked on the gun control legislation. We put forward some very constructive suggestions and amendments to the bill. The government completely ignored them and $685 million later, the Liberals realized we were right. They are going to plow how many more hundreds of millions into a system that was supposed to cost less than $100 million originally, because the government does not listen to the opposition.

Hopefully the comments I have made will cause the government to pause and take a second look. I will now address the amendments.

Some aspects of the bill are contrary to 800 years of civil and criminal law tradition which we inherited from Great Britain and our ancestors. That in itself should cause us to take a serious second look at this bill. Let me explain. The amendment we propose would try to correct the flaw in that the bill makes it a criminal offence with a serious penalty to unwittingly do something, to unknowingly commit a crime. That has not been the case in law and the tradition we have had for 800 years. Our amendment says that no person shall knowingly kill, harm or harass. One key word needs to be added to the bill.

As the bill now stands, it is a criminal act to kill, harm or harass any one of the hundreds of endangered species or to interfere with their critical habitat. The fines are steep. The fines are up to $1 million for a corporation and a quarter of a million dollars for an individual. The bill provides for imprisonment for up to five years for an indictable offence. We are talking about something very serious.

I referred to another bill that I have a lot of experience with, the gun control bill. Again the Liberals put into criminal law the same kind of reverse onus. A person could accidentally make a mistake on a form that has to be filled out and could end up in jail for five to ten years. A person has to prove his or her innocence.

It used to be that someone had to be proven guilty and intended to break the law. The same problem exists with this bill. There is a reverse onus and that is not right.

Someone could commit an offence without knowing it and the bill does not require intent or even reckless behaviour to be a factor. Rather it places the burden of proof on the individual to prove that he or she was exercising due diligence should harm come to any endangered species. In this way the bill ignores one of the fundamental tenets of our western legal history: that criminal penalties are only given for offences committed with a criminal mind. The term in Latin is mens rea .

Is it fair to convict a person of a serious criminal offence when the person might have had no idea he or she was in danger of committing one? In order to protect themselves from breaking the law, people would have to become experts at recognizing many different species, such as the sage grouse, the barn owl, the aurora trout, the Atlantic salmon, the prairie lupine, or the American water willow. People would not only have to recognize them but would have to recognize their critical habitat in case they disturbed a place where some of these animals spend part of their lifecycle. If we know anything about our natural environment, we know that is almost impossible to do. Even if animals used to live in an area or might be reintroduced into an area, people could be charged. There are some serious problems with this aspect.

In my last address to the House I spoke about what would happen if we passed the bill as it is. I mentioned the shoot, shovel and shut up principle which we would end up having because of this kind of law. People who discover an endangered species on their land will shoot, shovel and bury it, and then shut up and not tell anybody because of the way the bill is structured.

What is the alternative? It is simply to have incentives built into the bill for people to want to preserve endangered species rather than being made criminals if they accidentally do something or cover up something. That is a flaw with the bill. There is not adequate compensation for those people who have endangered species on their land or come across endangered species on their land.

We support the goal of protecting endangered species. It is a laudable goal. It is a responsibility we take seriously. However it cannot be done in a heavy handed way as it is in the bill. People want to co-operate but this “got you” approach from the government is adversarial and does nothing to encourage co-operation. People might not know they are harming an endangered species but the government says “we got you”. All people can do is hope that the minister is reasonable in exercising his discretion. This trust me principle is not good enough.

How are companies, for example those involved with mineral or oil and gas exploration, supposed to demonstrate due diligence over operations covering hundreds of thousands of hectares when they do not even control all the external factors involved? It is totally unreasonable to expect that. That is why we suggest proper incentives should be put in the bill. That would be much more effective in meeting the goals of the bill.

There are 70 million hectares of agricultural land, that is over 150 million acres, and 25 million hectares of privately owned forest lands in Canada. How do farmers and operators exercise due diligence over these areas, especially when many are small operations with limited resources and no familiarity with endangered species regulations?

The minister knows this is a problem. At the standing committee on October 3, 2001, in response to a question from the member for Red Deer, the minister said:

It's a legitimate matter for concern. The accident, the unwitting destruction—it is a concern, and we want to give the maximum protection we can to the legitimate and honest person who makes a mistake, who unwittingly does that.

The minister's fine words really do not cut it. His bill would make such an honest person a criminal. We need some protection.

I wanted to address some other concerns and at this time I simply do not have the time to do it. We need to respect provincial jurisdiction and I wanted to speak out on that. I wanted to also talk a bit about the severe penalties and the whole mens rea intention of this bill. I am hoping that the government will put this off so that I have more opportunity at a later date to express a lot more of the concerns I have, just with this group of amendments.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.


Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, NB

Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to take part in the debate on Bill C-5.

The people of Atlantic Canada understand what can happen to fish and wildlife. Many have lived through the dwindling cod stocks and the devastating economic and social costs this represented for many small communities in my region. We have adapted our practices to limit unintentional bycatch of vulnerable species. We have also adapted our land practices so as not to unintentionally harm wildlife.

For example, fishermen from the east coast, with the help of the federal government, are modifying their gill nets to avoid unintentionally entangling right whales and leatherback turtles. Citizens in New Brunswick are volunteering their time and energy to raise awareness about nesting sites of piping plovers on our many beaches.

We are committed to being active stewards of our natural legacy. We want to help find ways to not jeopardize species already at risk. We understand that this contributes to our quality of life and it is the responsible approach to take. Playing the role of stewards of our fish stocks, our wildlife and the lands and waters where they exist is important to Atlantic Canadians. It is essential to preserve many of the natural resources on which we depend for our economic future.

This is why I am speaking today in favour of the motions on the species at risk act that ensure there is a solid, science based process to listing species at risk. I am also speaking in favour of government accountability for the decisions to protect these species.

The scientific listing process ensures two very basic things that are important to me. First, it is scientists who will determine the status of species through a transparent and thorough assessment process. They are the ones best placed to do it. They are the ones with the expertise and the knowledge. I have no doubt that they will do this well.

The assessment process will be at arm's length from government, as COSEWIC maintains an impartial, scientific and expert judgment. These assessments are then presented to the Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council. The COSEWIC list will also be placed on the public registry. The minister will use these scientific assessments as the basis for recommendations to cabinet to add species to the list for legal protection.

If an endangered or threatened species is listed under Bill C-5, then things start to happen. There are automatic prohibitions, for example, against killing or harming residences like nests and dens. If this occurs, mandatory recovery planning proceeds. The government gains the authority to take emergency action to protect habitat.

However, there could be significant social and economic impacts resulting from this protection. I feel strongly that scientists should not make socioeconomic decisions. They are specialists in science and their contribution to this process must be highly valued, but if protection affects people's lives and livelihoods, then elected ministers need to be accountable. That is how the democratic process works and we should not accept legislation that alters this fundamental principle.

For that reason the government must have the ultimate responsibility for making decisions on which species to add to the legal list should the situation arise where there would be serious economic or social implications.

It is not because the government does not want scientists to make decisions. It is because the government has a different role to play. It is responsible to Canadians for its decisions.

I know that the residents of Beauséjour--Petitcodiac want me, as their elected member of parliament, to raise their perspectives on listing decisions. This is the job they sent me to Ottawa to do and I think it would be unwise to hide behind unelected scientific panels. I also know that we should not rush or delay these decisions to fit into an arbitrary timetable. Each species is different and affects different interests. We need to ensure that our decision making process does not restrict unnecessarily our flexibility to make timely decisions but also the right decisions.

I support the government motion that removes the artificial six month timeline on cabinet decisions. In my view, cabinet decisions need to be made in whatever time is necessary to consider all the relevant factors, including science, and the social and economic consequences as well. The new requirement for the minister to respond to each and every COSEWIC assessment within 90 days provides, I believe, the required accountability for the scientific recommendations.

The scientists have their job to do and we, as elected members of parliament, have our jobs to do. Scientists must be responsible for scientific evidence and be accountable to their peer review, but elected ministers must be responsible to Canadians for decisions that could affect their social and economic well-being. That is exactly the balance that this bill achieves.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to say from the outset that I take a great interest in this issue because, as you surely know, I was the Bloc Quebecois critic on the environment for several years. I also want to stress the work done by the hon. member for Davenport, who has long been a champion for the environment. It is important to have people like the hon. member for Davenport in every government.

This being said, when we draft laws, we have to ensure that they will be easy to enforce and that they will be harmonized with the existing laws of other governments. This is not the case with this bill.

I want to give the background of this legislation, because I myself went through it at the time, in 1995 and 1996, when the bill was introduced. That was a long time ago, since we are now in 2002. This bill was introduced in the House and, at the time, the Standing Committee on the Environment reviewed it for practically a whole year.

We heard all kinds of witnesses, including business people, environmentalists, legislative experts and lawyers. We asked questions to every one of them. The Bloc Quebecois and myself moved a very large number of amendments to this bill, because we felt that it would be very dangerous to present and enforce it in its original form.

What happened to this bill? It died on the order paper because the government had other priorities. We went through another election, the bill was brought back and it died once again on the order paper.

Today, it is the hon. member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie who is taking an interest in this issue. I congratulate him, because he too is working very hard. He moved significant amendments to this bill, to make it enforceable.

Let me be clear. Quebec has had since 1989 legislation to protect the habitat of endangered species. We cannot have a situation where the provincial government protects the habitat of species, while the federal government wants to interfere and says “I will protect species and you will protect their habitat”. All this does not make sense.

We asked the government whether it was possible to have certain agreements, certain memorandums of agreement, between us, because the environment is something that goes beyond Quebec. Animals move from province to province, from country to country. There are certain transborder situations, such as lakes between two provinces, or even between two countries, between us and the U.S. Is it possible to have MOAs on certain specific areas, so that environmental regulations can be applied that will meet with everyone's agreement?

We all want to protect the environment, as I think Quebec has demonstrated for a very long time. One need only think of the Kyoto protocol, the work we have done on greenhouse gas emissions, in reducing those emissions. We have been an example to the rest of Canada. We do not want any lectures from the rest of Canada; they have not done their homework.

We in Quebec have done ours, and for a long time. We are in a lead position in this area. What we are asking of the government is that it follow in the footsteps of Quebec. In this and many other areas, Quebec is very much on the leading edge. We are ten years ahead in some areas. The feds could learn a lot from us.

That said, the bill we have before us at this time will not be effective. I cannot understand why they are trying to get it passed regardless. Just looking at the amendments moved by the Canadian Alliance, a huge quantity of them, we know that they will all get rejected here in the House. My colleague has done the same thing, and has made sure that his amendments would create a degree of harmony, to ensure that this bill becomes a piece of logical and workable legislation.

What will happen if we vote in favour of this bill as it now stands? The result, I think, will be wrangling that will drag on for goodness knows how long between the federal government, the provinces and the territories, but long enough so that, in the end, the species will disappear. This is what may happen, and it is not desirable. In any case, it is not what I wish to see.

I am very concerned about the environment. My riding is an environmental one—the riding of Laurentides—where, as one might imagine, lakes must be protected. I am therefore very close to the environment. However, I am also familiar with the whole issue of jurisdictions. When lawyers get involved in this, it will drag on forever.

As for the question of the various departments, there are departments such as Fisheries and Oceans or others which have already developed rules and there will be overlap. There will be wrangling between departments and claims that one party's legislation takes precedence over another's. There will be no end to it.

I find it unfortunate that in all the time we have been talking about Bill C-5, we have been unable to agree on a solid foundation and say “Yes, we are doing something but, at the same time, we respect what is being done already”. The result will be that two departments and two ministers will argue back and forth over whose fish are whose.

This government has not even been able to agree on the necessary amendments—which I think are critical—in order for this legislation to be effective.

Unfortunately, that is how it is with this government. That is what we are up against here in the House. It is as though the ideas we suggest and what we are doing in Quebec are not recognized. Often, Quebec is also penalized in certain situations by bills introduced in this House. It is a one size fits all approach. No account is taken of what is being done elsewhere. No account is taken of the progress we have made. It is all ignored. Only those who are doing nothing right get the attention, and all the rest are punished. This will have to stop at some point, because it cannot be allowed to continue. People have to be able to find solutions that work.

I am not against legislation. Nor are my colleagues. On the contrary, we agree that there needs to be something, harmonization policies with the provinces, and that there be some sort of an agreement.

However, we do not agree when the government says to us, “well, children, you are not doing your job”. That does not work anymore. I believe that in Quebec, we have done our job. It is important to keep working, to agree on things, to keep protecting habitat and to keep protecting our environment because it is indeed being threatened.

We are aware of this. This is why we need to develop environmental policies, and not just at the federal or international levels. We are making international commitments that we are not even respecting. We cannot be asked to trust a government that does not even respect its own agreements that it signed, agreements such as the Kyoto protocol.

In Quebec, we decided that we would reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. We decided that we would try to produce clean energy. We conducted research on electric cars. We did research on this, and have made so much progress that the mayor of Saint-Jérôme drives around in an electric car. This research was carried out at the CEVEQ, the centre for research on electric vehicles.

We are on the right track, headed in the right direction. But we most certainly do not need the federal government or the Minister of the Environment to hatch laws for us and throw a wrench in our works. We are doing just fine.

I am asking the government to look at this bill. I understand that my colleagues from the other parties are also opposed to the bill. I am asking the government to go back to the drawing board. Even environmental groups do not support it. The Liberals need to start over again. If, in the end, they come up with something that is consistent with what we are already doing, we will be the first to support them.

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4:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gary Lunn Canadian Alliance Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to represent my constituents of Saanich--Gulf Islands in British Columbia and speak to Bill C-5. I spoke on another section of the bill yesterday and I want to repeat something I said which I think is really important.

There are a lot of people who say we are opposing Bill C-5 and in doing so we are demonstrating our lack of respect for biodiversity in Canada and in the world. Some will say that we do not care about protecting endangered species in the country. I want to set the record straight. That is absolutely false. In fact the contrary is true. We care about the environment and we do so in a realistic and responsible manner. We recognize that legislation like Bill C-5 will fail, and fail badly, if it does not recognize some basic truths.

A lot of the debate today talked about the mens rea element, the mental element of committing a criminal offence, one of the hallmarks of our criminal justice system. Yet the government, in its wisdom, has brought forward legislation which it suggests would protect endangered species. However it would create a system where people who commit an offence may not even know they have, would be subject to very large fines and possibly jail terms, and the burden of proof would be reversed.

Typically in our criminal justice system the burden of proof is always on the crown to prove that someone is guilty. There is a reverse onus here where individuals who are alleged to have committed an offence would have to prove to the crown that they were actually exercising due diligence that no harm could come to an endangered species. It even goes further with respect to their habitats.

I want to throw a different angle on what we are doing here. We would be setting up numerous court challenges like we have seen so many times before in the House. We have spent millions of dollars on court challenges because the government in its wisdom has passed legislation that did not even recognize the very hallmarks of our justice system.

If the legislation goes through without being amended, if the government does not listen to what some of the opposition members are saying as well as members from the other parties, if it does not look at the mens rea element which is the Latin term for mental intent of committing a crime, and if charges are laid we could end up with numerous court challenges all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada costing the Government of Canada millions of dollars defending this. I absolutely cannot believe that the government is proceeding on this one facet of the bill alone.

What will happen? Individual Canadians, farmers who are struggling with large sections and acres of property, who possibly may not even be aware that there could be habitats of endangered species on their land, would be forced to fight these challenges if they could afford it. I would argue that many of them are in dire straits now. They would have to make appeals and who will be on the other side. They would have to pay through their tax dollars for the government lawyers who would be prepared to spend millions of dollars to challenge them. It is fundamentally wrong. I have huge concerns.

Some members opposite are trying to spin this that we are opposed to protecting endangered species. That is the furthest thing from the truth. We are saying to bring in legislation that will do the job and make it more effective.

I must admit that I have a huge concern with this one facet of the bill. We have reversed the burden of proof onto individuals to demonstrate and prove that in fact they did the necessary due diligence. How can we possibly expect the general public to even be aware of some of the species and their habitats? This will be up to the experts.

We should have some species at risk legislation. I do not believe it should be what is coming in Bill C-5. There are a number of NGOs who came before the committee and said exactly the same thing. The species at risk working group on due diligence said before the environment committee in September 2000:

We believe that proving due diligence is potentially very cumbersome and difficult for many resource users and landowners. We therefore recommend that the prohibitions, particularly with respect to their application on critical habitat, be made mens rea offences, shifting the onus to the crown to demonstrate that violations were clearly intentional.

We have no indication from the government that it is even willing to consider this. It did not come from opposition members; it came from the industry, people in the communities and groups that came forward to make these presentations to the committee. The government once again blatantly said, no. I do not know how many examples we must have in the House before it figures out that maybe it should be listening.

One of my Alliance colleagues from Saskatchewan worked on the firearms long gun registry and gave similar arguments to the ones I am making now, namely that the legislation would not work and needs to be amended. Here we are years later with a firearms bill that was supposed to cost no more than $100 million that is now $660 million and growing rapidly. It has failed miserably. It has not done what it was intended to do. It has caused an incredible burden on law abiding citizens. I do not know how many criminals have registered their guns but I would suggest not very many.

The government is once again refusing to listen. Some would ask why the opposition is putting up so many speakers on species at risk when we have things like terrorism and other important issues like immigration. I am not trying to minimize this but there are other issues.

The government puts the agenda forward. It is the one that puts legislation before the House. We cannot do anything about that. We see a bill that is as flawed. It would cost taxpayers millions of dollars and court challenges in the years to come. We see burdens placed upon Canadians. It goes against the very hallmarks of our justice system by shifting the burden of proof.

The last time I checked a parking ticket was where one did not have to have intent. There we can accept that there should not be a mens rea element. However in Bill C-5 fines are being suggested, years in jail, hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, and it is even suggested that there be no mens rea or intent to commit the crime.

It goes beyond the ridiculous that the government would even put the legislation forward. I ask members opposite to pressure their cabinet minister, the Minister of the Environment, and say the opposition may have a point and that they look at making some amendments to the legislation to make it more realistic so it does not end up in the courts.

I would plead with the government to do that. Hopefully, after days of listening to this debate, the government will understand that if the legislation goes through it will fail and fail badly unless substantial amendments are brought forward. Time will be the test and time will prove that we are right.

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4:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure, on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party and on behalf of my dearly beloved colleagues who have formed a broader coalition with respect to my DR colleagues, to speak to the second group of amendments.

We believe, and I think anybody who is reasonable believes, that a scientist is far more capable than a politician of determining whether a species is at risk or not.

Of course elected officials would believe in the very issue that social and economic implications have to be taken into account. They are taken into account in the context of the recovery plan. However, the list should be the list and social and economic implications is a job for elected officials to make sure that aspect is actually taken care of.

The other aspect I will speak about is the provisions that the Government of Canada is taking that actually gut elements and provisions that were made in committee.

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4:20 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

After lots of hard work.

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4:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

As the member for Windsor--St. Clair just said, after an awful lot of hard work. The provinces supported the provisions made by the committee but the government wants to reverse those very same provisions.

Why is it that we do not have mandatory protection of critical habitat on federal lands, or what we believe is federal jurisdiction, yet the bill has provisions to interfere in provincial jurisdiction or perhaps even on private lands?

The Government of Canada has no moral suasion to do that unless it were to protect its own backyard.

Were it advocated in the context of a series of amendments that if a federal law was going to intrude or engage on provincial jurisdiction, it would be only prudent for us to have some criteria that would outline that level of engagement.

This is not only my opinion in the Progressive Conservative Party and my DR cousins. It is the opinion of the NDP. It was the opinion at the committee level of the Canadian Alliance. It is also the opinion level of the provinces.

I quote from a letter that was sent to me, dated December 20, 2001, from the minister of natural resources in the province of Ontario who has cartage of issues pertaining to species at risk. In a letter written by a strong minister in that particular cabinet, the hon. John Snobelen, he states clearly in this particular instance:

The only obligation on the part of the minister is to “consult” with the provinces before making the recommendation.

As members probably know, this is the case in clauses 34, 35 and 61. The minister goes on to state:

However, it is Ontario's position that the wording and the intent of section 34, clearly undermined that the co-operative spirit and willingness of the provinces and territories to enter into the collaborative decision making required to build a strong national program. I appreciate the Standing Committee's suggestions for a criteria regarding the application of the federal safety net.

What is the Government of Canada doing? It is gutting this provision that the province of Ontario supports.

He does go on to say that he believes that the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council should decide on that final criteria. That is exactly what happens in clauses 34 and 35 because of the work of the committee. Now the government wants to gut that out so that the Minister of the Environment can arbitrarily go in whenever he happens to think it is appropriate or not, as opposed to actually setting out actual criteria.

It is not just Ontario that shares this particular opinion. We can look at the Tory government in the province of Nova Scotia which also has a very strong piece of legislation. I might add that it has the strongest piece of environmental legislation on species at risk in Canada.

In a letter to me dated January 7, the hon. minister, Ernest Fage, writes:

“However, “the safety net” is one of the provisions of the new Act which goes beyond spirit and intent of the Accord as you have stated--

Here he is referring to a letter I had written to him. He goes on to say:

--the lack of clarity around the term “effective” protection is problematic, especially as it relates to “a critical habitat”. We agree that a test for the “effective” protection acceptable to all jurisdictions needs to be developed”.

Guess what? The Government of Canada has gutter that provision as well. It is against Ontario and against Nova Scotia. However, we do have more. When we wrote to the province of Prince Edward Island to tell it about the fact that we had established criteria, it said that it appreciated the establishment of the criteria and the application of prohibitions under the proposed act within the provinces and territories. Prince Edward Island is currently in the process of reviewing the recommendations of the standing committee. The hon. minister in Prince Edward Island who is responsible for this particular file, Chester Gillian, had no problems with the committee's amendments in that instance.

Now we are against P.E.I., against Nova Scotia and against Ontario.

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4:25 p.m.

An hon. member

Does the member have more?

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4:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Yes, I do have one more. The province of Alberta does not really care for this particular act at all. The clauses it hates the most are clauses 34, 35 and 61.

We thought our idea of interjecting criteria was a good one, as did Mike Cardinal, the minister who serves as the minister for resource development, who said:

Although your suggestion provides some further clarity in terms of the conduct of the federal Minister in exercising his authority, they do not alleviate provincial concerns respecting the overall intent of these sections.

He has said that he does not like the bill and, in particular, these clauses, but that what the committee did does provide at least further clarity. The sort of dislike radar is actually decreased in that regard. We have Ontario, Nova Scotia, Alberta and Prince Edward Island all saying the same thing.

With respect to listing, I would like to quote one particular section from the province of New Brunswick regarding scientific listing. Minister Volpé, the minister of natural resources, one of the strongest ministers in that great government of Bernard Lord, actually takes a national approach, meaning the federal government's approach to species at risk conservation, and says:

--to decouple the scientific determination of whether a species was at risk from the recovery or response actions.

The scientific determination on the status of a species should be based solely on science and the best available information. That is the job for scientists. The subsequent actions to respond to the status of species must weigh social and economic consequences against recommended recovery/ response actions. This is the job of elected officials. Bill C-5 as written and amended is not consistent with either of these two underlying premises of the national species at risk program.

Shame on the Government of Canada for not embracing scientific listing and not having the same kind of stewardship that the province of New Brunswick has.

I have heard, and I have to admit that it is only hearsay, that the Minister of the Environment has been saying that the provinces are mad about the committee's amendments. I have just demonstrated in the Chamber that the provinces do support what the committee has done and that the government is reversing amendments that the provinces categorically support.

I say shame on the Government of Canada for the amendments it has in Group No. 2, and shame on the Government of Canada for not respecting the stewardship that the provinces have and for not respecting what the national accord on protection of biodiversity was in 1966.

I was glad to share these letters with my colleagues in this room. This may have been their first chance to hear them so I will be very interested to hear what their responses will be at first blush.

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4:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, before I begin speaking to the bill, I would like to mention that we heard the government time after time today ask why the opposition was putting forward so many speakers to the bill. Is it that there are that many farmers concerned? The question is not how many farmers are concerned but how many less farmers there will be if legislation like this is implemented. There is a huge outcry from farmers and all those involved in agriculture, but the big reason we put this many members up is that we see in Bill C-5 an intrusion into the rights of enjoyment of property. We see an intrusion into property rights as a whole. It is not only a pleasure to rise to speak to the bill but I believe it is my responsibility.

Although this legislation has been around for some time, I have anxiously been awaiting the opportunity to speak to the endangered species bill. The first opportunity I had to speak to the bill came earlier this week, on Monday afternoon, and now again I get the chance to register my constituents' complete opposition to the various provisions of this proposed legislation.

Last week while the House of Commons was in recess I had the opportunity to travel throughout my riding. I attended over 27 meetings. I met with police services boards, the RCMP, a number of town councils, chambers of commerce, learning and sexual assault centres, senior groups, military officers from the Wainwright Training Centre, a number of business persons and public and high school students.

At each one of these stops, particularly at the schools and the chambers of commerce, I provided an overview of what was happening in parliament. I gave a brief account of the anti-terrorism legislation that we put through last fall at breakneck speed, which all members of the House worked together to pass, a bill that responded to the threat of terrorism in our country. I also explained my role to them as a member of parliament, my role as their federal representative and how, whenever and wherever possible, I represented their views, the views of the farmers, those involved in agriculture, those living in Crowfoot and those living here in Ottawa. I used both Bill C-5 and Bill C-15B to exemplify my point and to show how, with certain pieces of federal legislation, the opinions of my constituents vary greatly with the opinions of the government and of the government members' constituents, particularly, I may add, those members who represent urban areas.

Time and again we have witnessed legislation that has been brought forward in the House that has pitted rural Canadians against urban Canadians. This is particularly true with Bill C-5.

Farmers and ranchers represent the rural population in Canada. When I consider the riding of Crowfoot and I think of the huge number of farmers and ranchers who live in Crowfoot and those who are retiring to other communities, they certainly represent the majority of my riding. Ranchers and farmers in Crowfoot farm on average perhaps 1,500 to 2,000 acres of land. Many ranches are 5,000 acres of land or larger. Some farms are smaller. Some have 160 acres and some have 320 acres.

I own a small business and I also own a farm. I am the fourth generation on that farm. I say this to make it very clear in this place that the people of Crowfoot respect the land. They are good stewards of the land. They all have been extremely proud landowners for generations and have looked after their land.

Under the proposed legislation that is before us today, the proud landowners of Crowfoot and other places in western Canada could lose their land if bureaucrats, who are far removed from the situation and from the prairies, designate it as a critical habitat for an endangered species. Nothing in the bill compels Ottawa to fully compensate landowners at fair market value for the loss of their property.

I cannot begin to explain to members of the House who do not represent rural ridings the devastation that has been experienced in farming over the last few years. Parts of my riding of Crowfoot such as Castor, Hanna, Oyen, Consort, Coronation, and Provost to a certain degree, have never been drier than they are right now because they have been affected by the drought. As I travelled through my riding last week, one farmer said to me that if the drought does not finish him off this year the grasshoppers will. This is a very serious problem in Crowfoot.

Farmers do not need made in Ottawa laws such as Bill C-5 to drive them any further into the ground. Many of my constituents are struggling to survive. They are struggling to keep their farms viable so they do not lose their land. Any part of the land, any loss, any number of acres that might be taken out of production can completely drive them under and make their farming unprofitable.

As their representative, I am not willing to stand back. I will not stand by complacently and watch the demise of the family farm in this country happen any faster than it is already. I will do everything in my power to see that farmers of Crowfoot, of Alberta and of all of western Canada survive, and that means voting against the bill in its present form. That means taking a look at bills like Bill C-15B, the cruelty to animals bill. That means looking at other bills that come into this place from the perspective of their effect on the riding of Crowfoot. How will they affect Camrose, Wainwright and other centres and the individuals living there?

As stated earlier, there have been far too many instances where this Liberal government has brought in legislation that pits rural Canadians against urban Canadians. This was particularly evident with Bill C-68, the firearms legislation.

Last week when I explained Bill C-5 to students and explained the fact that their parents could have land confiscated or taken out of production without adequate compensation, for many it was reminiscent of 1995 when the government first introduced the firearms legislation banning a number of commonly owned guns and requiring registration of all long guns in Canada for the very first time.

A senior justice official once said to the committee reviewing previous firearms legislation:

A look at the history of gun control in Canada shows that it developed through several stages in relation--

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4:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. The hon. member for Davenport on a point of order.

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4:40 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, you may want to remind the hon. member to respect the rule of relevancy.

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4:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

When we think of relevancy, we are reminded of something that has a certain amount of flexibility. Certainly other members on either side of the House from time to time on debate refer to other pieces of legislation. I am satisfied at this time that we have not gone beyond the spirit and the intent of that process.

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4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for allowing me to continue. If the hon. member had heard my entire speech, he would have realized the relevancy of what I am talking about when we have a heavy handed government, a government that has been quite willing to put agriculture and property rights on the slippery slope. We support the goal of protecting endangered species. It is a goal worth protecting, but this government, with its heavy handed, gotcha approach, seems to feel it can invade property rights at any opportunity, so the relevancy is very clear.

I will close by saying that during several stages in relation to a changing society we have stood by and watched the government erode our rights. Bill C-5 erodes the rights of landowners. It erodes the rights of the farmers. Parliament has a total lack of respect for rural Canadians. Many farmers and ranchers have abandoned their way of life in the last few decades because they could no longer survive. They certainly do not need another nail in their coffins. The government has the hammer and it has the nail. Is this the nail that will close the coffin for good? Maybe not for every farmer, but it is another nail being put into their coffins, something that we see far too often.

We in the Canadian Alliance will continue to oppose the legislation until the government brings back a bill and gets it right. Looking at Bill C-5 and the amendments, the government does not have it right.

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4:40 p.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise with great honour today to recognize my hon. colleague from Windsor--St. Clair, colleagues from Fundy Royal, York North, Lac-Saint-Louis and Davenport and others who did outstanding work on the committee. They brought to the forefront a very technical and very difficult bill, with all those recommendations and concerns, were able to get input from provinces, industry, environmental groups and politicians together and come up with something that has broad based support.

One would assume that when politicians can get competing sides to agree on something they would want to run with it. Unfortunately this government, with its agenda, will gut the bill completely.

I tremendously appreciate the efforts of the member from the Alliance Party who just spoke in support of the small family farm. I think it is a good tribute to him to do that, but at the same time that he talks about drought his party does not want Kyoto. He talks about money for farmers and agriculture but it was his party in a previous election that was going to gut hundreds of million of dollars from the agriculture department. I wonder if he told the people in his town halls and his riding that when he was talking to them. That is the last thing I will say about it.

The problem is that the environment minister stood here in question period and said that we cannot move on Kyoto until we have consultation. Kyoto has been around for five years and now we are to have consultation. What have the Minister of the Environment, his department and his government been doing for five years? Absolutely nothing.

Now we have a bill supported by the Liberal members on the committee along with other members of the opposition. They worked their guts out on the bill, only to have the government, in a very backhanded, very mean and vindictive way, tell its own backbench members of parliament that their work does not mean anything. All the money they spent, all the time and all the effort mean absolutely nothing. That is unacceptable in a parliamentary situation. If the Liberals treat their own members that way, no wonder they treat the rest of us in parliament the way they do.

We have talked about species at risk. The reality is that the committee considered over 330 amendments to the bill and tabled its report with over 125 of them. The bill in its current form, prior to the government getting its hands on it, represents the absolute minimum in terms of what we are willing to accept and falls far short of what was originally called for.

The bill that was brought back to the government is the minimum. What is ironic is that this is a government that downloads everything in sight to the provinces, but when it comes to classification of endangered species, oh no, it does not want scientists or experts to talk about that. It wants bureaucrats and politicians to decide on what is an endangered species. That is absolutely unbelievable.

I represent riding that is very suburban but very rural as well. I can assure the House that many of these farmers, fishermen and people in the logging industry support initiatives that protect endangered species. Everybody knows that for every species we lose or that becomes endangered, be it plant or animal, that goes up the food chain until it finally reaches us. Every time we lose an animal or we lose a plant or we lose a valuable protected space for habitat, we are signing our own death warrants. That is a fact.

The bill done by the committee was the bare minimum that people were willing to accept and the government has the audacity to just rip it up and have its own agenda. That is absolutely unbelievable.

Off the coast of Nova Scotia is one of the most beautiful underwater canyons on the planet, the Sable Gully. For close to three years the government has been dithering around on whether to make it a protected area or not.

The government cannot decide. The oil and gas industry is saying to protect it. The fishing industry is saying to protect it. The provinces are saying to protect it. However what do we have to do? We need to have more studies. For three years we have been asking for this to be protected. There are 15 species of whales. It is an area larger than the Grand Canyon. Many varieties of fish and plant life live in the gully. All we are asking is that it be protected. What does the government do? It waits and waits. The environment cannot wait. The people of our country, and for that matter people from around the world, require legislation that is broad based and protects spaces for our endangered species and other species to inhabit. We share the planet and ecosystem with many other species. Our role is not to dominate and rape and pillage the planet on our own.

If we continue on this path, the government's eight year legacy will be a scorched earth policy. When the Liberals get out of government, and one day they will, what will happen is that the people of Canada will ask them what they did for the environment. Absolutely nothing. The government looks at other species and just ignores them. It wants to give control of this and the scientific listings to bureaucrats and politicians. It is absolutely unbelievable that the Liberals could do that.

For the absolute life of me I do not understand how a government could treat nine members of its own committee in this way. However, I remember very well the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans a few years ago, which was chaired by the member for Gander--Grand Falls. We spent over $180,000 on the east coast fisheries report. We consulted widely and broadly across the east coast. We told the people of those fishing communities that we would bring their recommendations to the House of Commons. All five political parties on the committee spent a long time on it.

It was the first time that five political parties in the House of Commons unanimously agreed on a report, word for word, and as we know, in committee it is difficult to get unanimity on most things. This report would have protected an awful lot of fish stocks. It would have protected coastal communities. It would have done an awful lot of good. Nine Liberals signed that report. We moved consensus for the report in the House only to have those same Liberals stand up and vote against their own report. They did not do it with just the east coast report; they did it with the west coast report as well.

Therefore, what we basically told the people of Canada is that we will fly on luxury aircraft to their communities, talk to them, promise them the moon and the stars, go back to Ottawa and write a report. However, unbeknownst to the people of Canada, especially people in rural Canada, the Liberals do not tell them that they have an agenda that completely ignores their future needs.

The day will come very soon when the people of Canada will wake up and understand that, because every species we lose, be it plant or animal, brings this closer to us ourselves. If the government and the Prime Minister want to leave a legacy for the people of Canada from coast to coast to coast, I will tell him now and I will tell the Liberal Party that I would support their initiatives if they did the following: if they made their legacy one of leaving the country in a very healthy condition, a condition in which we can drink the water, breathe the air, eat the natural food and maintain a livelihood from the labour and sweat of our brow for farmers, fishermen, loggers and so on.

I encourage the government to reverse itself, to accept the recommendations of the all party committee and to move forward in a positive light to protect the fellow species we share the planet with.

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4:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the people of Surrey Central to take part in the report stage debate on the Group No. 2 amendments to Bill C-5.

About 35 amendments in this group mainly deal with issues relating to jurisdiction such as ministerial power or discretion to pass judgment on provincial laws; federal or provincial co-operation; and the role of the federal government in protecting our wildlife on provincial lands. Issues such as criminal intent are also raised among others such as public input, consultation and public notice; timelines; negotiations with landowners; criteria for effective legislation; mens rea offences. There are also technical or housekeeping changes.

The government has not yet developed more detailed policy or regulations. There are some verbal promises but nothing has been put on paper in black and white. This trust us attitude is totally unacceptable. “Trust me” or “read my lips” is just not good enough.

We strongly oppose Bill C-5 because it lacks fair and reasonable compensation. The other important reason is it permits the minister entirely at his own discretion and without any criteria, negotiation or accountability to impose federal law on provincial jurisdiction. This is wrong. It is confrontational and unworkable.

This does not mean we believe that jurisdiction must be entirely provincial. The federal government via its criminal law power can be legitimately involved in protecting endangered species on provincial lands. We require a balance between the two extreme views, a balance that encourages co-operation and negotiation.

I will now deal with some of the amendments in Group No. 2 in the limited time that I have.

Motion No. 2 intends to place the protection of habitats and species on provincial lands entirely in the hands of the provinces.

Motion No. 33 gives the minister the discretionary authority to develop, in consultation with the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council, a stewardship action plan under Bill C-5. However, it does not require that the minister do so.

If the basis of the bill is supposed to be voluntary stewardship programs, then it is entirely reasonable to expect that the minister will set out a plan for accomplishing this. Further, this plan must spell out the incentives and measures which will be used to support stewardship action plans. The minister should be required to do this and should not be allowed to simply say “trust me”. Therefore we must oppose this motion also.

Motion No. 35, which was put forward by the Liberals, is a complete reversal of the approach taken by the standing committee toward the establishment of the legal list of species at risk. The committee had placed a reverse onus on the government that if cabinet did not act within six months, then COSEWIC recommendations would automatically be added to the legal list. This is dangerous since it is necessary to maintain a balance between giving unaccountable scientists full power to determine the list and giving cabinet the power to ignore objective scientific recommendations.

Instead, we believe that the final say must rest with the elected cabinet. After all, placing a species on the list of endangered species triggers the provisions of the act with serious criminal sanctions and potentially heavy economic costs for landowners and resource users.

The process must be transparent. The people affected must have the ability to argue their case. It is inappropriate for scientists to exercise political discretion in having to balance these competing social and economic policy objectives.

The committee struck this balance properly by giving the cabinet the final say on the list but requiring it to act in a timely fashion. This amendment tips the balance back toward cabinet discretion too far and potentially undermines the expert work of the scientific panel.

Motions No. 39 and 44 on the other hand require that to be found guilty of a criminal offence under the act, a person would have to have knowingly done harm to endangered species.

Bill C-5 would make it a criminal offence to kill, harm or harass endangered species or to endanger their habitat. Fines would be up to $1 million for corporations and $250,000 for individuals, and even up to five years for an indictable offence. The bill ignores one of the fundamental tenets of western legal history called mens rea. This Latin phrase means that criminal penalties are only given for offences committed with a criminal mind. It is very clear.

We support the goal of protecting endangered species. It is a laudable goal and a responsibility we take very seriously, but it cannot be done in a heavy-handed way.

How are oil and gas companies supposed to show due diligence over operations covering millions of hectares of land with very limited resources? Moreover they have no familiarity with endangered species or the regulations. The minister knows this is a serious problem. The bill would make many honest people into criminals.

The bill is part of a pattern of the government's dealings with rural Canada. Its heavy-handed approach to registering long guns utterly fails to consider everyday living in rural and northern Canada. The Kyoto accord potentially will add heavy costs to agricultural producers across Canada. Now the endangered species legislation threatens to criminalize farmers and property owners who may have every intention of helping endangered species. These people are supposed to be our allies in protecting endangered species. How can we declare them criminals?

Until the government commits to negotiate with the provinces to establish criteria for the application of federal law to provincial lands complete with a timeframe and provisions for compensating property owners for losses, we are forced to oppose the current legislation. It is bad enough for the federal government to assume the right to intrude in provincial jurisdiction. It is even worse that this intrusion will be completely discretionary and therefore increase uncertainty for the provinces, for landowners and for users across the country. Since there is too much discretion for the minister and not enough public input, we must oppose that motion.

My Canadian Alliance colleagues support effective endangered species legislation. While politicians should have the final say on legally listing species, the public must be able to review and comment on the government's reasons not to include a scientifically listed species. To ensure co-operation, criminal liability must be changed from strict liability to reckless offences. People should not be scared of prosecution for accidently killing species or disrupting habitat. The provinces must be consulted and agree to application of the federal law to provincial lands and species. The endangered species roundtable must be representative of all stakeholders. The species at risk act must apply equally to natives and non-natives irrespective of race and ethnicity.

Protecting endangered species is both an urban and a rural issue. Endangered species legislation in other jurisdictions, for example the United States, has not been successful primarily due to a lack of emphasis on co-operation and voluntary initiatives and incentives. Therefore we will not support this legislation and we cannot support the amendments I have mentioned until they are changed.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Charlie Penson Canadian Alliance Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak to Bill C-5. We have seen quite a few versions of this bill in the last several years. I have been in the House nine years and I am not exactly sure when the bill was introduced. It seems like a lifetime ago and it has not really gone anywhere. There is a huge debate in the country, not about whether we should have endangered species legislation or co-operation but about what is the best way to carry that out to get the result we all want.

Some people on the other side of the House seem to indicate that people in rural areas, farmers, ranchers, oil companies and forest companies, do not have any concern about endangered species or their habitat. That is a sad statement from the Liberal side of the House because it simply is not true.

My wife and I and our children have a 2,000 acre grain farm in Alberta. We enjoy the wildlife and habitat as much as anyone else but we feel it is pretty unfair that 30 million Canadians share the view that we want to be able to build up our numbers of endangered species.

I can think back to the 1950s when a fellow in the Grande Prairie area single-handedly took on the task of renewing the trumpeter swan population. The numbers were pretty low at that time. He had co-operation from landowners and he was able to bring that about. There was no heavy-handed legislation which said $250,000 for this and $500,000 for that. That is not to suggest that it cannot work but I do not think it would have worked in that case. Co-operation is a far better method.

It is a little ironic that a lot of people in cities and members who represent city ridings seem to be suggesting that we want to keep these endangered species and habitat but we want landowners to pay the full price for doing that. That is not a workable solution. It never has been and never will be. We know that in the United States it was not. If there is no co-operation from the people who are going to be directly affected in trying to maintain the habitat and species, it simply will not work.

I agree with the Liberal government that this is a laudable goal. I do not think there is a person in the House that would not agree with that. No one wants to see a species become extinct. I cannot think of one person I know who would want that to happen. But what is the best method of achieving our goal? By all means it is not a heavy-handed approach.

As I have said, we have seen the example in the United States. If landowners are not compensated, are they expected to bear the burden for 30 million Canadians? In western Canada there are about 200,000 grain farmers. Are they expected to bear the brunt of all of this? It would appear so. It is an unworkable solution.

In my riding of Peace River there are 10 million acres of agricultural land alone. That does not include the forestry and oil and gas operations which include much more land in terms of size. How can this be policed? It cannot be.

There has to be co-operation from the user groups to make it effective. It seems that common sense has flown out the window on the Liberal side by not including co-operation and compensation. It is simply not workable. We must be a little more enlightened about this. We must come to a better solution.

How many species of flora and fauna do we see in our major cities? I would suggest not many. It is hypocritical in the extreme that members representing urban ridings are trying to tell the rest of us in rural Canada, which takes up 99% of the land base, that we should do this on our own because they have wrecked theirs. There are not too many endangered species in downtown Toronto. A lot of them are gone. That is not their habitat. Their habitat is largely in rural areas.

We have a lot of moose, deer and wildlife in my rural area. People who live in the cities have to take a more enlightened approach to this. We all have the same goal in mind but they had better start paying their share of the cost.

I will use an example of what in my view is a good solution. It is a practical solution that has been used for quite a number of years. I refer to the Ducks Unlimited program. Ducks Unlimited expanded across the country. It is very successful in saving habitat for waterfowl. It started with the ducks and geese and has a pretty enlightened approach. It pays landowners to allow ducks and geese to stay in their natural state so they have an area to nest.

I was a grain farmer for 25 years and participated in the Ducks Unlimited program before coming to the House of Commons. I saw it as being beneficial and was willing to do my part, but I could not afford to do it all on my own. The Ducks Unlimited program paid us to leave our fields in ground cover so the ducks could hatch. It was successful, and its program has been expanded across the country. We now see more ducks and geese than we used to.

I am familiar with the program of the Alberta government which has feeding stations at harvest time. Grain is bought from grain farmers. It is spread out in certain areas so that ducks and geese have something to eat without raiding the crops of people and destroying their livelihoods. It is a very successful program.

Why would the government ignore a successful program like Ducks Unlimited and instead use a heavy-handed approach of legislation that has huge fines? It will not be successful. It is as simple as that.

We talk about criminal intent in Group No. 2. I suggest that if this is not a reasonable law that people feel they can comply with, there will be criminal intent. We saw it happen in the United States. Species were destroyed, which was the exact opposite of what the powers that put that policy in place expected and wanted. We have seen it happen before.

Farmers and ranchers cannot carry the burden of this for society. They are already struggling with very serious financial conditions, and we have a government that seems to be telling these people that for the good of the country they have to provide the habitat for endangered species. It will not work. It will have the opposite effect of the intent. It is criminal in the extreme to be putting forward programs like this that will actually cause, in my view, more endangered species to become fewer in number as a result of public policy.

After seven or eight years of discussing the issue, has the government not learned anything? Did it not learn anything from talking to people in the United States that had the heavy-handed approach with fines? I suspect not because it just keeps blundering on and pushing this forward.

I have outlined what I think is a workable solution. If we have the same goal in mind between rural and urban people, why not share the cost of protecting habitat for endangered species? It is a laudable goal and it is something we need to work on together.

I wonder about people in Montreal or Toronto who have residences with nice lush lawns. What if all of a sudden earthworms in their lawns became endangered species and the people were not able to fertilize their lawns, spray them with organic chemicals or others? What if they were told that their lawns had to be three feet high to protect the habitat. It simply would not work because there needs to be an incentive for people to do that.

I am calling for a better understanding by urban people as to the threat. The threat is that we will completely go down the wrong road on this in spite of examples that have taken place in other parts of the world, such as the United States. The goals will not be achieved.

After listening to debate on this for five or six years, it seems to me that any government that has not really heard this message is not listening. The government is holding hearings but it is not listening. It is not hearing what will take place and it is doomed to failure. I suggest this policy should be withdrawn and the minister should put forward a more co-operative approach that will be successful.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Madam Speaker, the issue before us is critical, certainly for people in my riding. I come from central Manitoba which is predominantly a farm area. However we are blessed with a number of other natural features in our riding. The world's second largest waterfowl staging area is in our riding as well. It is not agricultural land of course, but there are private landowners. Any legislation that is not perceived to be fair to landowners will not work.

We could go back to many examples, but the one that comes to mind was during the 1970s in Africa. There was serious concern about the depletion of the elephant population. Different jurisdictions tried different approaches. In some jurisdictions they tried heavy penalties. They tried criminal law consequence. They tried to impose those kinds of things as a deterrent to the excessive loss of the elephant population, and they failed miserably.

However, other jurisdictions used different approaches. They gave landowners the right to harvest the tusks of those elephants that passed away of old age. In essence, those landowners became stewards of the environment because they were given the right to protect and the reward for protecting a species that would be depleted in the absence of some government regulation. The intelligent approach was one that rewarded landowners, not one that punished them. The intelligent approach is the one that works.

In this case as my colleague just said, the government is trying to inflict the obligations on the landowner without the presence of any kind of potential reward apart from the great feeling that all of our countrymen get when they protect a species that is endangered. That is a wonderful feeling and we all share that goal.

The best conservationists I ever met are farmers. My dad backed up the swather a lot of time in the fall when he was harvesting just to protect the nests of birds. He would relocate them in the bush. I watched him do this many times.

Farmers are like that. Farmers are in touch with nature. They are close to nature. They understand the cycles of nature. They understand birth and death and they understand the partnership they have, not just with their livestock if they are in that industry, but with the natural creatures that are around them. They see that, they feel it and they live it.

I remember watching my dad many times in the spring when the frost was coming out of the ground, smelling the earth, feeling in touch with it and sensing it as a man does who depends upon that earth for his life and for his family's life and security.

What concerns me with this legislation is that it will not work because it is unfair and it punishes the very people who it should be encouraging, rewarding and respecting. That is why it will not work.

I want to talk about the criminal intent aspects of Bill C-5. It creates a criminal act and subjects landowners potentially to penalties of up to $1 million. The key problem is that people could commit such an offence without even knowing they were committing such an offence. The bill does not require intent. It does not even require reckless behaviour. It places the burden of proof solely on the individual to prove he or she was exercising due diligence. The problem with that should be pretty obvious. That is a double standard. There is a term in law that people refer to called mens rea, which means a person has to be of a criminal mind if the person is to be found guilty of a criminal charge.

I will use an example of the Minister of National Defence. The Minister of National Defence is using as his defence against charges of wrongdoing that he is ignorant. He is saying that ignorance and confusion mean that he cannot possibly be guilty of being devious in any way, shape or form because he was just puzzled. If the Minister of National Defence on the government frontbench can use ignorance as a defence, why can landowners not use it? It does not make sense to me. Ignorance is no excuse for farmers, but it is a heck of a good and convenient excuse for a minister of the government. That does not make sense to me.

The government does not require competence of its ministers. I use again the example of the Minister of National Defence. He is a member who was not sure when the JTF2 troops were going over. He was not sure when they left or when they got there. He was not sure what they were wearing or what anyone else was wearing. He was not sure how they should be clothed. A man who was not really sure about every important aspect of our involvement in Afghanistan has clearly built a case for incompetence relative to the charges he faces right now.

That matter is before committee at the present time so I do not want to refer to it specifically, but rather in a general sense only. I refer to it because I see it as a tremendous contradiction. This is a government that will allow a minister to plead ignorance to legitimate concerns expressed regarding his conduct, but will not allow a landowner to be unaware of all the incredible detail about the biota and flora and fauna that exists on their farm.

As this government knows, its policies have led to the growth in the size of family farms, corporate farms, et cetera. They are getting bigger and bigger all the time. I grew up on a half section of land and we knew every square foot of that land. Nowadays, farmers farm 5,000 acres.

Not only are farmers expected to take the risk of producing what they grow, research and understand crop selection, herbicides, pesticides and marketing, but the government now expects them to understand botany, biology and all the other aspects commensurate with understanding species at risk. That is incredible. The onus that the government is putting on farmers and their families under this legislation and the potential for criminal wrongdoing and significant fines are remarkable.

I ask members to consider this. Is it fair to convict people of serious criminal offences when they might have had no idea they were in danger of committing one? They not only have to recognize and understand in detail the species at risk, but they are expected to recognize their critical habitat in case they disturb a place where some of these animals spent part of their lifecycle, or where they used to live or where they might be reintroduced.

Let us think about migrating waterfowl. I will not give a specific species, but just suppose there was one species of migrating waterfowl that was in danger. Every spring and every fall just about every acre in my riding is used by migrating waterfowl. The flocks are enormous. In some cases those species would not be a problem. The problem would be the species that was near extinction, the species that was at risk. What would we do to protect them?

Of the 17,000 square kilometers of mainly farmland in my riding, which acres would be potentially used by these migrating waterfowl as habitat for part of their lifecycle? I would submit that this potentially puts a serious burden on landowners in a very dangerous way. I am concerned about it. It is particularly significant at a time when our family farms are under attack. That is something all of us should pay more attention to.

A case could be made for rural Canada becoming an outpost or a second class part of the country with respect to some of the legislation the government has brought forward, whether it be the lack of initiative in agriculture, the depletion of the agricultural budget or the reduction in agriculture research. The gun control legislation is a prime example. I suppose most urban Canadians would assume that a .22 was a weapon, but we in rural Manitoba and in rural Canada see a .22 as a tool. People who live in rural communities have a different perspective on things than people who live in urban ones.

In my riding farmers have led the way in soil management. Conservation districts have been established. I think of the Delta agricultural conservation co-op. I think of the work, as mentioned by the member for Peace River, of Ducks Unlimited. Throughout my riding, farmers have given of their time and sacrificed their efforts and dollars to preserve the environment. They are capable, diverse and knowledgeable people, and they are under stress.

I believe the legislation disrespects them and places them under even greater stress. The number one concern I have is that we should have legislation that works. This would provide a perverse incentive because what it would do is make it less likely that the environment and the species that we would like to protect would be so protected.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, as we debate Bill C-5, the species at risk legislation, I want to speak to the Group No. 2 amendments before us.

I continue to be amazed that even with this third attempt by the government the minister continues to upset so many different groups of people including the standing committee members, the agricultural community and those who would describe themselves as active environmentalists. That certainly takes some kind of special talent to anger so many groups at once. Unfortunately it is a skill that I do not have nor do I desire to have it.

However as we look at these amendments I would like to take a few minutes to look at them in greater detail. Motion No. 2 states that the preamble be amended by adding the phrase “the protection of habitats and species on provincial lands is entirely under provincial jurisdiction”. While my colleagues in the Canadian Alliance have long advocated the full recognition and differentiation between federal and provincial jurisdiction, the amendment is simply not true. For example, certain migratory birds are already protected by the Migratory Birds Convention Act of 1994.

We strongly oppose Bill C-5 in part because it would permit the minister, entirely at his own discretion and without any criteria, negotiation or accountability, to impose federal law on provincial jurisdiction. This is wrong, confrontational and in the end really unworkable. However we do not agree that jurisdiction must be entirely provincial. There are some cases where the federal government by way of its criminal law power, as set out in section 91 of the constitution, can legitimately be involved in protecting endangered species on provincial lands.

I believe that Motion No. 23 is a key part of what we are debating today. The amendment would give the minister far too much power under the act. While the standing committee gave this issue full and fair debate, making recommendations to the minister, he has now turned around and usurped his own committee's recommendations. What a shame that is and what a slur it is on the democratic process.

The motion would give the minister the discretionary authority to develop, in consultation with the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council, a stewardship action plan under Bill C-5 but it would not require him to do so.

If the basis of the act is supposed to be voluntary stewardship programs, then it is entirely reasonable to expect that the minister would set out a plan for accomplishing this. Further, this plan must spell out the incentives and measures which would be used to support stewardship action plans. The minister should be required to do this and not allowed to simply ask to be trusted. Unfortunately Canadians have seen too many bad examples of the government asking people to trust it without really knowing all of the facts.

Under Motion No. 35 the minister has again ignored the standing committee's debate and recommendations. The amendment, like the original bill, would mean that the cabinet must actively choose to place species identified by the expert scientific panel on the legal list. If it does nothing, the panel's recommendation has no effect.

The committee placed a reverse onus on the government. If cabinet did not act within six months then the COSEWIC recommendations would automatically be added to the legal list. It is necessary to maintain a balance between giving unelected and unaccountable scientists full power to determine the list, as some of the environmental groups wish, and giving cabinet the power to ignore objective scientific recommendations.

Placing species on the list of endangered species would trigger the provisions of the act with serious criminal sanctions and potentially heavy economic costs for landowners and resources users. Because of these implications the process must be transparent and the people affected must have the ability to argue their case. It is inappropriate for scientists to exercise political discretion in having to balance these competing social and economic policy directions; indeed, few of them really want that job.

The committee struck this balance properly by giving the cabinet the final say on the list but required it to act in a timely fashion. The government amendment would tip the balance too far back toward cabinet discretion and potentially would undermine the expert work of the scientific panel.

Motion No. 48 would delete clause 34(1) which would open the door for the minister to recommend that a governor in council order apply the federal act on provincial lands.

I cannot accept the position of my hon. colleagues from the Bloc Quebecois that the federal law should never apply in a province. We believe that the federal minister and cabinet should not have sole discretionary power. Therefore until the government commits to negotiating with the province to establish criteria for the application of federal law to provincial lands, complete with a timeframe and provisions for compensating property owners for losses, we will oppose the current provisions. In short we need to have some restrictions on the ministerial discretion.

Motion No. 53, if deleted in its entirety, would reduce or possibly even eliminate public input. I believe that the criteria developed by federal and provincial ministers for the application of the act on provincial lands should be made available for public comment. This would be a vital step in the development of a national program to protect endangered species that has the support of all governments and stakeholders.

My colleagues and I will be supporting Motion No. 54 which would eliminate the provision that the act would be applied on provincial land should the minister and the provincial ministers not reach an agreement within six months. We have no objection to the application of the act if it is done with the agreement and involvement of the provincial governments.

Many motions introduced by the government overrule the work that was done by the standing committee therefore usurping the role and the power of the committee. What a sad statement on democracy as we see it in the House today, perhaps even sadder than the amendments themselves. For this and many reasons we will be opposing the bill and supporting some of these amendments.