Mr. Speaker, I too have serious concerns about Bill C-5. Our critic, the hon. member for Red Deer, has been working diligently to point out to the government the shortcomings of the bill. Unfortunately there does not appear to be much attention on the government side to what is being said. I hope the government realizes it is not only the opposition that is saying these things. We are speaking on behalf of a large number of Canadians. Canadians in rural Canada would be the ones most affected by the bill. It would in many cases trample and trash their individual rights.
One of the rights it would trash is provincial rights. We have a constitution in Canada that says there are two sovereign parts. The federal government is sovereign in its areas of jurisdiction and provincial governments are sovereign in their areas of responsibility. It is clearly spelled out in the constitution. As far as I can tell, Bill C-5 is another attempt by the federal government to steamroll over areas of responsibility that belong to the provinces as their sovereign right under the constitution. The federal government is saying “Step aside, we are taking over”.
Species at risk do not always respect political boundaries. They may cross into Saskatchewan, Alberta or somewhere else and we may not even notice. Since they do not vote I do not think the Liberal government would notice either.
However that is not the point. The point is that we cannot ignore and trash provincial responsibilities and sovereignty. It is a thing we have debated for many years in Canada. We have gone through painful wranglings, first ministers meetings, constitutional rounds, referenda and so on about provincial sovereignty, rights and responsibilities. The government thinks separatism in the province of Quebec is waning and that it can go back to the old trick of saying “Who cares what they think, we will do what we want to do”. I hope the government realizes this is not the way of co-operative federalism. It should sit and negotiate these things with the provinces to get them onside.
The provinces have a heart as well as the federal government. I am not sure about a Liberal heart, but the federal government has a heart. It cares not just for the people but for species at risk. I think all Canadians care about species at risk. The question is, how will we do it? Will we trash people's rights to preserve the rights of species at risk? These are the things that should be debated.
I will go back to Bill C-49. It does not have much to do much with species at risk but I always like to quote a paragraph because it demonstrates the attitude of the government. I will show how the attitude pervades Bill C-5 as well. Subclause 36(3) of Bill C-49 deals with the federal government taking ownership of items currently owned by the private sector. It states:
The Governor in Council may require air carriers to transfer to the Authority, on such terms as the Governor in Council considers appropriate, their rights, titles, interests or obligations under any contract respecting screening specified by the Minister--
This is the important part:
--despite any contractual restriction on the transfer of those rights, titles, interests or obligations.
The whole body of jurisprudence and legislation we have built into contract law, civil law and everything else that guarantees a contract is a contract is refuted in one simple clause of Bill C-49. Not one of them is worth the paper they were written on because the governor in council says “On our terms you will transfer it to us”. What an attitude that is.
Let us look at what the government would do to Canadians under Bill C-5. On page 51, subclause 87(2) deals with seizing things. If the government could not figure out what it was seizing it would call it a thing. Whatever the government seized it would call a thing.
Under Bill C-5 the government could take people's property. If the owners could not prove within 30 days that it was their property the government could destroy it and that would be the end of it. Thirty days is all people would have. They may not even be in the country to know the government has taken something off their land. They would have 30 days to prove it was theirs. If they could not, that is too bad. It would be gone.
Bill C-5 is a fairly simple, draconian and arrogant piece of legislation that should not be tolerated by Canadians. Subclause 87(3) of the bill talks about perishable things seized by the government:
If the seized thing is perishable, the enforcement officer may dispose of it or destroy it, and any proceeds of its disposition must be paid to the lawful owner--
The government could seize goods that were perishable, notice they were starting to smell and decide to destroy them. How much would it pay the rightful owner? It would pay absolutely nothing because it destroyed the goods and did not sell them. It would have no responsibility to compensate the person who owned the stuff. That is a draconian, arrogant and wilful trashing of people's rights.
Clause 89 deals with investigation. In the world of criminal prosecution we have the police. It costs us millions of dollars a year to pay for the police. They go in, investigate crimes and lay charges. The cases end up in court, people may be found guilty, judges levy fines which are sometimes just a slap on the wrist, and that is the end of it.
For some reason or other under the species at risk act we would not only get fines of up to $1 million, which is more than a slap on the wrist. One would have to pay the costs of inspection, seizure, abandonment, forfeiture or disposition of the stuff seized. Not only would one get a fine. One would have to pay for the investigation.
Murderers, bank robbers and people who take property, trash it, destroy it, steal it and sell it do not have to pay a dime for the investigation. However there is something special about species at risk. As well as paying a fine people would have to pay for the investigation, seizure, abandonment, forfeiture and disposition. Perhaps hon. members would agree it is lopsided. These are the types of things that are in the bill.
Clause 90 deals with people walking all over private property. It says enforcement officers could go onto anyone's property when they liked, as they liked and so on with no right of objection whatsoever by the owner.
Let us say that is okay. Not only would property owners have to let enforcement officers on their property. They would have to give enforcement officers all reasonable assistance to enable them to carry out their duties. Bill C-5 would deputize property owners as law enforcement officers.
When someone is committing a bank robbery or whatever crime the police tell us to phone them and they will look after it. They say not to worry. If someone is running around with a gun they tell us not to get involved. They tell us to stay out of trouble and they will look after it. Under Bill C-5 if people were running around the countryside with guns shooting endangered species, whatever those may be, one would have a legal obligation to help enforcement officers even one did not have a gun. On and on it goes.
I have only spoken about two or three clauses of the bill. There are many more. I would like to go through the rest but surely I have given an idea of why we in my party object to the bill.