Mr. Speaker, I will go back to endangered species and to my support for the general concept of a federal species at risk bill. Over 80% of Canadians are concerned about species at risk and support efforts to prevent species from becoming extinct.
I am part of that 80%. My home province of Saskatchewan signed on to the concept of federal species at risk legislation several years ago. The plan it signed on to was a complementary and co-operative process with the provinces. However today I stand before the House as a concerned member of parliament. I represent a concerned province and concerned constituents.
The proposed legislation goes far beyond the intent of the accord signed by the provinces and the federal government in the late 1990s. Saskatchewan like many other provinces has serious concerns about the direction in which this species at risk legislation is headed.
I hope that through talking about Saskatchewan's experience with this type of legislation it would be clear to all members of the House how important co-operation is. This legislation cannot be effective without co-operation.
I strongly oppose the clause in Bill C-5 that allows the minister entirely, at his own discretion and without any criteria, negotiation or accountability, to impose federal law on provincial jurisdiction. This will not facilitate the co-operation about which I have spoken extensively. That is wrong. It will bring confrontation and will ultimately be unworkable. The species at risk in my province and my country deserve better than a piece of ineffective legislation.
I understand the necessity of the federal species at risk legislation. We have seen the importance of it when the federal government passed the Migratory Birds Convention Act in 1994, but we need to have a balance between federal and provincial jurisdictions to meet the two extremes of each power. There needs to be negotiation with the provinces.
I strongly encourage the government to look at Bill C-5 on the aspect of jurisdiction. The bill should not be passed until this key aspect has been considered.
I spoke briefly about this topic when I was in the House yesterday and today I need to reiterate what I said then. The way in which Bill C-5 would delegate jurisdiction between the federal and provincial levels encourages confrontation rather than co-operation with the provinces.
Bill C-5 would give the federal government's Minister of the Environment the power to impose its laws on provincial lands completely at the discretion of the minister. However it may be necessary to give the federal government some measure of power to impose its laws on provinces that are not behaving with an adequate respect for these species, but using discretion as a measure of power given to the federal minister is hopelessly vague. It is unfair to leave decisions falling into the realm of jurisdiction up to the discretion of one person.
In our criminal justice system the decision on whether or not to convict someone of a criminal offence lies in the hands and discretion of twelve people and not one. When a decision such as this one is left up to discretion we open the door to one's moral, ethical and even religious dispositions to come into the mix. This is something sure to spark endless debate.
We need strict guidelines on when the federal government can impose its laws on the provinces so that the provinces and the landowners know what to expect in terms of interference from the federal level.
Since Bill C-5 leaves the power of the federal government completely at the discretion of the minister responsible, landowners do not know if or when the federal government can or will impose its laws on provincial lands. Instead of working together with the provinces and property owners the federal government is introducing uncertainty, resentment and distrust.
The federal government must be responsible for ensuring that it consult and co-operate with the provinces when making these considerations.
Somewhat ironically, in a 1999 independent study commissioned by the federal government, a review of national accord gap analysis, nine out of the twelve provinces and territories scored higher than the federal government regarding wildlife conservation. In fact, the federal government scored 44% on the test whereas all of the prairie provinces scored in the top five with marks ranging from 64% in British Columbia to 85% in Alberta.
How can one not see the irony in this? Under these conditions which are found in a study commissioned by the federal government itself, it still insists that federal wildlife officials be allowed to peer over the shoulder of its provincial counterparts to ensure that they are doing their jobs. The provinces are obviously doing a better job of wildlife conservation than the federal government.
Why does Bill C-5 not recognize the federal government's own shortcomings in this area? Rather, it adopts an arrogant attitude ensuring a dominating and coercive attitude toward the provinces. Each province and territory of Canada is different in regard to the species that inhabit their boundaries. This is why legislation protecting endangered species, such as Bill C-5, should encourage feedback and co-operation with the provinces.
Similarly, officials from the government of Saskatchewan expressed concerns in a number of areas covered in Bill C-5.
First, they are of the impression that it does not adequately allow for provinces to take an ecosystem approach. What is good for one species in the grasslands may not be good for another species inhabiting the same environment. Bill C-5 is fairly narrow-minded. It does not adequately allow for the provinces to take a diverse and open-minded perspective toward wildlife conservation.
Second, the government of Saskatchewan is worried that it does not have the adequate resources or the timeframe to meet all of the provincial requirements outlined in the bill.
Moreover, Bill C-5 is diverging from the spirit of the national accord for the protection of species at risk signed in 1996 by most provincial and territorial ministers responsible for wildlife and by the federal government. The accord lays out a variety of commitments to protect species at risk. By its terms, the governments recognize that intergovernmental co-operation is crucial to the conservation and protection of species at risk, that the governments must play a leadership role in complementary federal, provincial and territorial legislation, regulations, policies and programs.