Madam Speaker, here we go again. In the last parliament it was Bill C-33, the species at risk act. Did the government pass it? No it did not. We have come full circle to Bill C-5. The public should know the government fully intends not to make it work. This is a bill the government understands is clearly unworkable.
That is why my party and all of the opposition parties have introduced 136 amendments. Why? We want to make sure the bill is workable and that we have a bill that will protect endangered species.
The public would also be interested to know that the government has violated its own members. Many members on the committee from all sides, including the government side, proffered good, constructive solutions that if listened to would make the bill strong, workable and ensure that endangered species are protected. However the government has not done that. I read that the Prime Minister's Office and the minister's office have chosen to introduce amendments and changes that would emasculate the bill, so we will have a bill that cannot work.
I was appalled when I went up to the environment committee once and took a look at the bill which is about 3 cm thick. This is a 3 cm thick bill that is so unworkable that it begs for legal problems that will only tie up the courts and will not in the end protect endangered species. There are three areas that we want to focus on in the bill: mandatory compensation, penalties for the intentional destruction of habitats and jurisdiction.
On the issue of mandatory compensation many of us have been proffering that this is the way to go and yet the government has not done that. It has left it up to the jurisdiction of the minister. We cannot save species without enabling mandatory compensation. What has worked in many other parts of the world is they have sat down with the different stakeholders. In fact in Saskatchewan, with respect to the black footed ferret, the provincial government has done an outstanding job by working with farmers and ranchers to set up methods of compensation to ensure farmers would not be done hard by and that critical habitat would be protected. That is a model the federal government should be looking at because it works.
The second issue is one of jurisdiction. We have a bill here that would deal with federal lands which is a small percentage of our total landmass. Endangered species do not know jurisdictions. A bird, a plant, or an animal will go where it wants to with no care of jurisdictions. We have a bill that will not protect endangered species at all.
Why is this important? We have 198 species that are at risk. Those numbers are not going down they are going up. If we rolled back time 50 years we would see the variety of species, the biodiversity of animals and plants that we had then. We are in the worst possible time in the history of the planet. Species are going extinct at a rate that is astronomical. The species we have today will be very different from what we will have in our children's or grandchildren's lives. They will be far more restricted and constricted.
How do we deal with this? First we must list species and habitat on the basis of scientific evidence not on the basis of political expediency. The way to do that is to deal with COSEWIC, committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada. This is a group of esteemed scientists who have put forth an articulate, scientifically based analysis of the species that are at risk. That is what the species at risk should be based on.
There is the issue of protection. The government should work with the provinces and municipalities to protect critical habitat. In that way we protect all of the habitat not a small sliver, which the bill attempts to do but fails in doing. As I explained earlier we should look at the example of Saskatchewan in regard to compensation.
I wish to talk about CITES, the convention on the international trade in endangered species. The public would be shocked to know that the trafficking of endangered species is the second largest trafficking product in the world behind drugs. It is a multibillion dollar industry. Canada is one of the top three centres for trafficking in endangered species in the world. This has been known for years, yet in my eight years of being here I have not once heard from the government any effort to make sure that our obligations as a signatory to CITES would be upheld. In fact, we are known as a country that is completely violating our obligations under this important convention.
The last part deals penalties. A person recently was found trafficking in one of the largest consignments of ivory ever found and received a $10,000 fine. That is absolutely pathetic. We need penalties that are strong, tough and apply to those individuals who wilfully cut the gallbladders out of black bears, destroy herds of endangered ungulates and damage, destroy and pick plants of medicinal value that are threatened or becoming extinct. Heavy penalties must be applied because the profits from the trafficking of these species is huge.
I have two private member's bills that deal with all of these issues. The government needs to look at them and I hope adopt those bills. They would enable us to accomplish good, strong endangered species legislation.
There are two last points on which I wish to speak. First is our international obligation. We have to ensure that Canadian companies working abroad are not wilfully destroying the environment.
There is a situation right now in Belize where a Canadian company, Fortis, is involved in building the Chalillo dam on the Macal River. This dam would destroy the largest area of pristine habitat in Central America. This is being done by a Canadian company through environmental studies that were sponsored by CIDA. When we try to get an answer from CIDA, it twists every which way like a pretzel to not allow the House to have information as to where taxpayers' money was or will be spent regarding environmental studies on this particular project.
The public would be appalled to think that the government is wilfully ignoring evidence that this dam would destroy critical habitat for jaguars, tapirs and numerous tropical birds in Central America. Why should taxpayers fund studies that would not be released but may show evidence that a Canadian company is destroying the largest undisturbed habitat in Central America? Canadians would be shocked if they knew that. Yet the government obfuscates and obstructs any kind of effort to find out that information.
The last area deals with balancing off the interests of the public in terms of endangered species. During my time working in Africa I spent a lot of time in the African bush looking at ways in which the environment could be protected. After my 17 trips there and hundreds of hours in the bush, the best evidence that I have ever seen comes from a place in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Officials married up private interests with habitat protection. They came to the conclusion that animals, plants and habitat must pay for themselves if they are to survive. Wanting these things to survive will not work because these areas need value, and indeed this can be done. Funds can be generated from habitat through culling for protein, hunting for game, and charging large amounts of money as a certain number of game is actually taken out. This can also be done for medicinal plants which can be grown to generate money.
The money generated from this as well as from ecotourism and other opportunities must be shared by two areas. First, some of that money has to go back into the environment, to the game wardens and the parks people that are there to protect the environment. Second, it has to be shared by the people in the surrounding areas. If the people in the surrounding areas do not see value in a particular reserve or park, that reserve or park will be destroyed.
There is a model that I would like to see the government use when it is at the G-8 summit. It is part of the new plan for African development that it is working on. By linking up the Johannesburg summit, the Rio summit and the G-8 summit, and by triangulating those three things we would be able to involve poverty reduction, primary education along with the protection of endangered species and critical habitat.
If we are able to do that we will accomplish the objective of the bill which is to protect endangered species in Canada.