House of Commons Hansard #149 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was land.


Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

Some hon. members


Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:30 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:30 a.m.


Jean Chrétien Liberal Saint-Maurice, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member for Prince Albert missed the boat because he was looking in the corner. I am watching everything.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:30 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Clearly and respectfully, that is not a point of order.

The House resumed from February 25 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. 3.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

As we begin debate on Group No. 3, I will endeavour where possible to first recognize members who have motions in their name in this grouping.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Canadian Alliance Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, as I start I want to commend you for your Latin and for your translation. I certainly apologize for any inconvenience that created for you, but I believe that there are biologists, scientists and, more important, Canadians who really want to know what is on the list. If there is one question that we are asked a lot it is: What are these endangered species and how we are going to know when we destroy one or when we have one on our land? In past debate I have used some examples from Saskatchewan but I have not seen them from other provinces. While that might have been a long ordeal, Mr. Speaker, and while the Latin probably was not picked up by a lot of people, certainly the English listing was important to Canadians.

I believe that in Group No. 3 we have further insulted our committee and we have insulted farmers and environmentalists. Each of these groups worked very hard on the bill. Our committee worked together very well to try to make it a better bill. Farmers are concerned because they are worried about their land values. They are worried about whether they will be compensated if they lose some of their quality of life and some of their income. Environmentalists are concerned because they want to know that habitat is being protected. They know that a species will not survive without that habitat being protected. They are concerned that the bill does not do that.

In Group No. 1 we talked about compensation, which the government has not put in the bill. In Group No. 2 we talked about due diligence versus mens rea, in other words, one is guilty until proven innocent, and the terrible toll that might take in terms of court costs and how that might eat up the little money available.

We are now debating Group No. 3 and we can talk about sustainable development and the whole socioeconomic impact of a bill like this, which is what I would like to dwell on, not specifically amendment by amendment, but I would like to talk about a few of these amendments and some of the things that I believe are problems in the bill.

First, there are a number of technical amendments in the group. Many of them do not change the bill very much and it is difficult to say anything about them. The biggest problem when it comes to technical amendments is that the government did not have time to do a technical amendment on compensation. Again it has said it will do that in the regulations so all land users out there should just be patient and trust that the government will in fact will include some form of compensation, but saying “trust us” does not go very far. There are not very many landowners or land users who will accept that. It is too bad that there was not a technical amendment covering compensation rather than the government saying it will just leave that to the regulations.

As well, there is no technical amendment that explains to provinces how the federal government will overrule what the provincial government already is doing. Again, the government is basically saying to the provinces “Trust us. We won't impose our federal jurisdiction on your species at risk legislation that is already there”. Again I say that the landowners and the provinces are not very happy with “trust us” when it comes to the technical part of the bill.

Second, co-operation should be there. There is a feeling within government, which we have detected in some government witnesses, some bureaucrats in Environment Canada, that the government knows best, that it can save species at risk and will do it with tough legislation and tough penalties. The government will charge $250,000 if people break the law and throw them in jail for five years and give them a criminal record. That hardly conjures up the idea of friendly co-operation among people.

Then we come to the key issue of the amendments, the socioeconomic impact. We heard many witnesses talk about how government should be concerned about the socioeconomic impact of preserving a species at risk. We listened to members of COSEWIC who said they will establish the scientific list. I believe they have been doing it for some 20 plus years and have probably been doing a pretty good job of establishing the list. Mr. Speaker will appreciate the list because he got to read it both in English and in Latin so he really knows the job COSEWIC has done.

However, the most troubling part of this whole thing is the issue of the group called SARWG, the species at risk working group, which is made up of groups from environment and industry. Let me mention a few of the names: the Canadian Wildlife Federation, the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association, the Sierra Club, the Canadian Nature Federation and the Mining Association of Canada. Let me quote what this group, these environment and industry people, said. I am speaking to Motion No. 15. They stated:

The purposes of this Act shall be pursued to the extent possible while taking into account social and economic interests of Canadians.

That is the key issue. A group of environmentalists and people from industry say that we must be concerned about the socioeconomic impacts of preserving a species. If this is not done adequately the bill will be a complete failure. That is why we have made some amendments, specifically Motion No. 15. We cannot just simply say we will go by the scientific listing. We in fact must consider those socioeconomic impacts.

The second point is this: How much will the bill cost? Environment Canada basically has no idea of what it might cost. When it was questioned we did not get a figure. The environment minister says he has $45 million. The problem with saying $45 million, which seems like a lot of money, particularly to the farmer or rancher out there, is that it could be used up in a heartbeat just on litigation costs around the bill. The money, according to Environment Canada and the environment minister, should be used for conservation projects and for all kinds of stewardship programs, but how many stewardship programs will there be when the government is faced with all the litigation charges resulting from the bill?

I will very quickly mention public consultation. What kind of public consultation will there be? We talk about having round tables. What will these round tables consist of? What I am afraid of is that they will consist of a bunch of political appointees, friends of the party, who will get together to talk about how well the bill is or is not working. The round tables should consist of all of the interest groups: environmentalists, industry groups, farmers and ranchers. All the groups must be consulted. We must get the message out that it is not just due diligence and heavy penalties that make up the bill.

We have put forward Motion No. 4 in which we say landowners must be notified that they have a species at risk on their land. The government does not want to do that until it has its final plan in place and we just think that is wrong.

The whole bill is based on government saying “trust us” and we are saying that is not good enough. There is no compensation in the bill; it says trust us. People are guilty until proven innocent. It is a top down federal control over the provinces through the safety nets. There is total ministerial discretion. There is no communication plan. There is no habitat protection plan. How will this bill ever work? For all these reasons and many more we believe that the bill will in fact endanger the endangered species.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Kitchener Centre Ontario


Karen Redman LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, we have heard much in the last two weeks about the importance of basing the decisions about establishing lists of species at risk to which the act will apply on the best available science. We have heard from some who would want us to believe that the government will refuse to act on the advice of the recommendations of COSEWIC. I think it is important to look at what is actually being done rather than to speculate endlessly about what might happen.

The protection of endangered or threatened species is a responsibility the government takes seriously. We agree that COSEWIC's species assessments must be addressed in a timely manner and the government is taking steps to do just that. The government supports the amendment made by the standing committee to add to the bill a new schedule 1 that contains 198 species at risk.

Mr. Speaker, I must compliment you on providing us a reading of that list yesterday, and not only in both official languages but in Latin. Indeed, the motion to add 198 species to the legal list was proposed by our Minister of Environment during the standing committee review of the bill. This means that the statutory obligations would immediately apply to these species as soon as the act is proclaimed.

However, the government is going even further. COSEWIC has continued its work while Bill C-5 has been making its way through the legislative process. Assessments and reassessments of species with the new and improved criteria have been done and have yielded some very important results.

I wish to speak in favour of the government's motions to add another 35 species to that initial list. This is the list to which the statutory obligations automatically apply when the act is proclaimed. This brings the initial list to 233 species. Every species that COSEWIC has assessed against the new criteria, every single one, not just the cute, furry, fuzzy ones but the lichen, the fish and the slugs, has been reassessed. This is very significant and is an indication that the federal government is committed to species at risk.

Adding all 233 species to the legal list under species at risk legislation clearly demonstrates how seriously the government takes COSEWIC's advice. It demonstrates further our commitment to acting on that advice. The assessment and the listing of species is a perfect partnership. The scientists with the expertise will determine the threats as well as the status, and the elected members of parliament will move forward on actions that address the threats and the status. It is a partnership that will work very well.

We must give both the scientists and the government what they need to get this important job done. As an example, I support the proposed amendments that restore a more workable definition of the term wildlife species. We need to give COSEWIC a definition that can be interpreted and put to good use rather than one that narrowly restricts its work, as the proposed wording from the standing committee would have done.

While I am speaking about definitions I would also like to express my support for the proposed change to the definition of residence. While it may seem like a small change, it is an important one that will re-establish the concept of the residence as a clearly defined place associated with an individual or individuals of the species in question and it will not extend the definition to the broader concept of critical habitat which is covered extensively in other parts of this act.

This is important, as prohibitions against the destruction of the residence of a threatened or endangered species will apply automatically upon listing. Canadians deserve to be able to understand the concept and to identify those residences with some clarity. It is also important for a listed species because it enables the protection of the automatic prohibition against the destruction of a residence to come into play quickly and unambiguously.

The government motions are also intended to delete the new, broad, open ended authority added by the standing committee for the minister to take any interim measures to protect species from the time of listing to the finalization of recovery strategies. This contradicts the transparent and accountable nature of the bill.

It is important that we state as clearly as possible that there is no need to wait for recovery strategies and action plans. The species at risk legislation would contain emergency provisions to give the minister authority to take interim measures between the time of listing and the time of recovery. Moreover, the minister could at any time enter into stewardship agreements to protect species and critical habitat.

Speaking of stewardship, at the farm gate in Saskatchewan there are signs that proudly announce the recovery of the burrowing owl. Woodlot owners across Ontario and Quebec proudly display membership in conservation organizations and talk about such matters when they get together. Fishers in Atlantic Canada invest in different kinds of nets to avoid trapping sea turtles and whales. Ranchers in Ontario and Alberta assist in recovery efforts for the loggerhead shrike. Landowners in the southern Okanagan take time out of their busy lives to participate in the development and implementation of projects to protect habitat and help species.

These people and thousands like them are stewards. They are Canadians who are protecting species at risk. They are people who want to do the right thing and whose actions speak far louder than words. This is a land with an ethic of farmers, an ethic of protecting woodlands, prairies, and waters where fishers have worked for generations. That is stewardship. It is what we know will work as a first step in protecting critical habitat.

I will address the government's position on socioeconomic matters and how they relate to the proposed act.

Bill C-5 is designed to protect and recover species at risk. It is the whole reason we have the legislation before us. Assessments of species are prepared by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. They are based on the best available information about the biological status of species. It is the only information that influences species assessment. Social and economic factors do not, nor would they under the proposed act.

Equally clear is the recovery part of the act. Its objectives have everything to do with biology and nothing to do with social or economic factors. It is important to read the amendments and the act instead of the interpretations of others, interpretations that have not changed while we have listened, adjusted and listened some more. The act says clearly that there would be no interference with science. There would be none.

When would we take economic and social impacts into account? When would we determine how to respond to them? Consideration must be given to social and economic factors. At this phase the process is still truly open and transparent.

We have stated over and over that science is an untouchable piece of the proposed act. We would not allow undue influence over scientists. We have emphasized and continue to emphasize that the people of the land and the waters in Canada are doing the right thing and want to continue to do the right thing. We should not insult them any further by saying they would deliberately avoid doing the right thing. We should read what is proposed in the act and the motions, avoid the spin, and move on with passage of Bill C-5.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams Canadian Alliance St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, now that we are on orders of the day we will speak to Bill C-5. I would rather be speaking to the 15th report of the public accounts committee but that is perhaps for another day.

Bill C-5 is the species at risk act. Today we are dealing with its socioeconomic impacts. The previous speaker said the science was indisputable and the government wanted to do the right thing. Those are wonderful words but we wonder how much they mean. In many cases when it comes to the Liberal government words are empty commitments, promises and rhetoric. They are made only when it suits the Liberals. When it suits them otherwise they stand and absolutely insist things be done their way.

Clause 32(1) of Bill C-5 states:

No person shall kill, harm, harass, capture or take an individual of a wildlife species that is listed as an extirpated species, an endangered species or a threatened species, except in accordance with an agreement, permit, licence, order or document referred to in section 74 or 75.

On page A-11 of today's National Post there is an article about beluga whales dying of cancer at an alarming rate. The article talks about a drug whose full name I will not worry about trying to pronounce. It is called PAH, a carcinogenic compound that appears to be causing cancers in the beluga whales.

We are not sure, but according to my hon. colleague the science is indisputable. It either is or it is not. I have a great concern about ensuring we protect the beluga whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The point is that the science is not indisputable.

The article may be absolutely correct in pointing to PAH as the chemical that is killing the whales. Clause 32 of Bill C-5 says no person shall kill, harm, harass or capture an endangered species. The aluminum plants in the Saguenay are putting effluent into the water and the water may be causing cancer among the beluga whales. That is what they think. If it is true, and I am not saying it is not, we had better shut down the aluminum smelters because no person shall kill, harm or harass the beluga whales.

Apparently we have been spewing out about 200 tonnes of the substance. Through management it has been reduced to 70 tonnes but it exists in the sediments at the bottom of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the whales continue to die of cancer.

I agree that the issue is serious. We should do what we can to protect the beluga whales. It is interesting that while the article says the issue is serious and appears quite confident in its diagnosis, it goes on to talk about people in the area who also happen to be dying of cancer. The article says:

According to Dr. Martineau, humans in the area are exposed to the same contaminants as whales, although no direct link can be drawn between carcinogen levels in belugas and any possible risk to people.

I am at a bit of a loss. They say PAH is killing the belugas. People in the Saguenay are exposed to the same dangerous and carcinogenic chemical so there should be a higher risk of cancer among people in the area. However no direct link can be drawn between carcinogen levels in belugas and any possible risk to people.

What about the science? If PAH kills beluga whales it should kill us too. Do hon. members not think so? Maybe we should get ourselves included in the act as an endangered species. If we keep consuming PAH we may soon go the way of the beluga whale.

I am not trying to make fun of the beluga whale. The point is that the act is draconian. It would shut down the mills. Putting 70 tonnes of the substance into the Gulf of St. Lawrence every year would be a contravention of the act. It is fairly simple stuff. Will we shut down the mills? I do not know. We will have to wait and see.

Clause 32(1) of Bill C-5 talks about an exception:

--except in accordance with an agreement, permit, licence, order or document referred to in section 74 or 75.

Clauses 74 and 75 say permits could be issued. Subclause 74 (2) states:

The agreement may be entered into, or the permit issued, only if the competent minister is of the opinion that

(a) the activity is scientific research relating to the conservation of the species and conducted by qualified persons;

(b) the activity benefits the species or is required to enhance its chance of survival in the wild; or

(c) affecting the species is incidental to the carrying out of the activity.

Aluminum smelters do not meet any of these criteria. No permit could be granted to aluminum plants or smelters in the Saguenay. If we passed the bill we would shut them down.

I do not see any exception or grandfather clause in the legislation that says the stuff should not have been put into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It has already been reduced from 200 tonnes to 70 tonnes. I hope plans are in place to eliminate it entirely but I do not know if it is possible. I am not here to debate the science. According to the previous member's statement the science is indisputable.

What would we do? Would we thumb our noses at a law we passed in this place, or would we shut places down because we wanted to protect people as well as beluga whales? We are pretty sure what is killing the whales but do not know what is killing the people even though they are exposed to the same substance. The science can be disputed. They are saying one thing but not the other because one seems logical and the other illogical. This is the type of stuff we are seeing.

I mentioned another thing yesterday that gets me upset. There is a federal jurisdiction and a provincial jurisdiction. There is a federal sovereignty and a provincial sovereignty. It has been pretty well cast in stone since 1867.

If the minister deemed that a province was not doing its job properly he would have six months to say forget all the provincial laws, we will impose our law in place of provincial law. There would be no mechanism to come back to the House to debate an issue. There would be no place for a province to appeal. The minister would be given dictatorial powers.

We are seeing this more and more in the House every day. The government has dictatorial powers. Its members can stand and move that we go to orders of the day rather than listen and debate concurrence motions about issues concerning crown corporations that suggest the government is less than perfect. It shows that members over there are incompetent. They do not want to hear about it. They want to say it is their way or the highway. That is no way to do business.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately in Group No. 3 as in other groups there are certain amendments proposed by the government which seriously weaken the bill as reported to the House by our committee.

The majority of committee members passed good amendments which help to strengthen the bill which is now before us. One example is in the definition of wildlife species for the purpose of listing because listing is crucial and very important. For that reason, after having listened to witnesses from the scientific community, the majority of committee members improved the bill in the definition of species. That definition is one which includes “geographically or genetically distinct populations” as one of the criteria in determining whether a species should be put on the list. That recommendation came from the committee of scientists.

When the committee started to examine the bill, the scientists told us that the government definition was scientifically vague and scientifically inconsistent. I stress that originally they found it was vague and inconsistent with the scientific approach. We therefore amended the definition of species accordingly. The majority of committee members agreed that species should include in the definition “geographically or genetically distinct populations”.

Now at report stage, the government in an amazing display of insensitivity to the advice of the scientific community, has proposed to remove the amendment made in committee by the majority of the members and to water it down with the words “biologically distinct populations”. This is the very same terminology which the scientific community told us was vague and inconsistent.

I must bring to the attention of the House that this is a bad development both in substance and procedure. It is bad in substance because it would weaken the definition of species. It is bad in procedure because it shows disregard for the parliamentary process. I therefore must urge members to vote against Motions Nos. 9 and 10 which would weaken the definition of species.

Motion No. 120 in this group is also bad. I cannot recommend it because it rejects another amendment passed by the majority of committee members.

When we debate Groups Nos. 4 and 5, I will continue to identify motions which undo the work done by the majority of committee members, as I have already done with Groups Nos. 1 and 2.

It should be noted that the committee majority amended the bill in a variety of ways. I will briefly outline the thrust.

Throughout the process of examination and study of the bill, the intent has been to refine the political role on the road to approving the listing of endangered species. There is now a better balance than there was before when the bill was passed at second reading.

Another thrust was to reinforce volunteerism, contrary to what has been said by some in the House.

The third thrust was to set deadlines to ensure results. Deadlines are important. In this particular area time is of the essence in ensuring that a species is protected.

The final thrust was to increase the powers of the present and future Ministers of the Environment, so as to make him or her less dependent upon other departments or on the will of the Privy Council Office.

Those are roughly the thrusts we adopted in amending the bill as it stands before the House. The government unfortunately is trying to undo the work done by the majority of committee members. I must ask for the support of the House to resist such a move.

There was an interesting intervention yesterday by the member for Halton who made an excellent contribution to the committee's work. He was quite right when he said that he was sure that if anyone ran over a burrowing hole with a mower, or a peregrine falcon with his car, there would be no chance of his being charged. I am glad he made that point because it rebuts allegations, assumptions and wrong interpretations made mostly by members of the official opposition who are trying to instill fear and unnecessary concerns on the population by interpreting the bill in a manner that is totally incorrect. I am grateful for that and I applaud him.

I would also like to put to rest the concerns he raised in his speech yesterday. He spoke about the possibility of a polarization between rural and urban Canadians, a split in attitudes. The majority of committee members who voted for the changes which are now incorporated in the bill as reported to the House are rural members.

In the remaining two minutes I would like to rebut, in a gentle form of course, the intervention by the member for St. Albert who spoke about the socioeconomic costs. He has to make up his mind as to whether action is needed, even when it has some economic consequences, because if action is not taken, there are very serious health consequences.

Too often the term socioeconomic costs has been used in a loose manner in this debate. It is also a concept that is inserted too often in the bill itself.

In the context of the bill it means that socioeconomic costs in a certain form are a sword of Damocles. Madam Speaker, you would remember Damocles better than I, not because of age but because of your culture. The sword of Damocles is the economic interest that could take precedence over the decision to declare a species endangered. This is important to remember.

For example, imagine that scientists recommend that cod should be declared as an endangered species because it has been so exploited for socioeconomic reasons that it is now endangered. We can imagine the surprise in finding in the bill numerous references to socioeconomic considerations as reasons for not declaring a species endangered. Unfortunately many clauses in the bill are peppered with this contradiction.

If we lost the cod it would be because of socioeconomic considerations to a point where a moratorium had to be invoked. It would no longer be possible to say we must continue with the cod fishery in order to maintain the socioeconomic conditions of the villages in Newfoundland. At a certain point the resource would collapse.

Therefore to use socioeconomic considerations as a crutch is a very dangerous approach.

The member for St. Albert demonstrated it this morning in his intervention. At a certain point he has to make up his mind. When there are certain situations where the socioeconomic considerations can no longer be invoked because the species, the environment or human health are at such risk, difficult decisions have to be made because the socioeconomic considerations can no longer help us out.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to what the member for Davenport just said. I would like to reply to that at this point. I wish the rules of the House would allow for him to then come back and demonstrate where perhaps I am not correct in some of my challenges to what he is saying.

Suffice it to say that socioeconomic considerations are extremely important when we consider the species at risk bill which we are debating.

The accusation was made by my hon. colleague that we are interpreting the bill in a totally incorrect manner. If there is certain wording in legislation which allows certain groups in society to use that wording in a court of law to further their agenda, they will. It is as simple as that. We have to get the wording in this legislation right so that it does protect the species but also protects those who have an economic interest in the environment and the land on which those species reside. If we do not consider both issues, the issue of the species at risk and the economic impact on the landowner, we will accomplish the exact opposite of what the stated objectives of the bill are.

For example, if as the member has stated we have to ensure that the species is protected, and if in the end there are economic considerations, and we must put the priority on protecting the species and forget about the economic parts of it, I cannot agree with that. If we violate the rights of landowners to be properly compensated and simply plow ahead and say they cannot use that land as they wish and we do not compensate them properly, their property rights will have been violated and they will not go along with the objectives of the bill.

The whole premise that we are trying to protect species is based on whether it is going to be effective. That effectiveness will only happen if proper economic considerations are given to those whose land the species resides on. Therefore I cannot agree with it.

I will give an example of how this works. Right now there is a great debate in the country about the Kyoto agreement and carbon dioxide emissions. If in that agreement we have decided as a country that we will reduce our carbon dioxide emissions, but those objectives are not realistic, we will not achieve them. It is impossible.

It is quite clear that third world countries that are poor and do not have the resources to properly implement many of the objectives of the Kyoto agreement will not. We will actually move in the opposite direction. We have to consider the economic interests because unless the economy is functioning properly, we cannot meet the objectives of the Kyoto agreement.

It is the same with the species at risk bill. We have to have a strong economy. We have to consider the economic situation in order to properly protect species at risk.

That is why I was hoping the hon. member would be able to reply to my assertion that this has to happen.

There is so much I would like to address in the bill. I would like to tell those who are watching on television that we are debating a bill that is to protect endangered species. Our part of the debate is to ensure that the bill truly works because we agree with the objectives of the bill. We want to protect species that are endangered. However we as the official opposition are saying that if we do not get the legislation right, it is not going to happen. Various amendments have been put into groups and we are now debating the third group of amendments.

We are extensively trying to impress on the government that it should listen to us because we are in touch with many of the people who will be greatly affected by this. As I have said back in my riding, if we do not get the species at risk bill right, there will be a group of people, namely farmers, who will become a species at risk because they depend upon proper compensation if their land is deemed to have endangered species on it. That is the point we need to make.

The government has not looked at all of the social and economic impact of the bill on Canadians and it must do that. The minister came before the committee and was asked what kind of costs we would see from the bill. The minister said it would cost about $45 million but he was not sure.

We must have some idea of how much this will cost and we must have the funds in place to properly compensate people. If that is not part of the study that is done before the bill is passed and if that is not part of the consideration after the bill is passed, then it will not work. There has to be proper resources available to compensate farmers, ranchers or anyone who has land on which an endangered species resides.

Has the minister taken into account the costs of enforcement? Have the costs that will be placed on the industry and property users been properly investigated? At this point we see no evidence of that.

I agree with the member who just spoke. The standing committee in the House of Commons that examined this legislation quite clearly made recommendations and the government ignored them. We have concerns as well because so much of what we do as MPs is in committee. That is where we ensure we get the legislation right. If we do all that work and ensure that the committee has the proper recommendations but then those are ignored by government, we are wasting our time. I would agree with the member that we have to place importance on what committees have done.

The minister stated in committee that the legislation was open-ended in terms of what it would cost property owners. Property owners have to know. We cannot just leave it open-ended.

Compensation must be made available to property owners who lose their land due to the bill. To alleviate the social and economic costs of this bill, it is absolutely imperative that adequate compensation must be made. I may sound like a stuck record but that has to be part of the bill. We have to know what kind of compensation provisions will be made so that farmers and ranchers can plan for any expected costs and for the government to know what the total cost of this legislation will be.

The bill as it currently stands would preserve the minister's discretionary power. He would decide if someone would get compensation. He would decide whether provincial laws were effective or not, giving him the power to impose federal laws in provincial jurisdictions. This will never work. If there is no proper consultation, if there is no respect for lower levels of government which are closer to the people, this legislation will never be effective.

I had a great deal of experience with the gun control bill. Because the federal government plowed ahead with legislation and did not properly consult those affected, the provinces, the real stakeholders in this, the legislation will collapse. It is collapsing at this point already because of the huge error rate. However the costs have escalated and the non-compliance has made it that way.

We will have non-compliance with this legislation unless we get it right. We have talked about shoot, shovel and shut up. I will not go into that again but that is what will happen if we do not take into account the socioeconomic impacts this will have. This power in the hands of one person, namely the minister, totally eliminates any transparency in the bill. Dictatorial powers are being given to one person. If there is not a check and balance in this, it will simply not work.

I have gone through one-fifth of the notes that I have which express concern about the bill and I know that my time is just about up. However we have to have some kind of a balanced approach when it comes to listing endangered species. We cannot have the final decision resting with one person. There has to be checks and balances within the system.

We have committees and they should be allowed to do their work. I have heard that expression so many times from the government. This is an example of where it is not allowing the committee to have its say and to do its work.

National standards, developed in co-operation with the provinces, are absolutely imperative. We need some kind of accord or consensus agreement. The Canadian Alliance supports national standards that emerge from these sorts of consensus negotiations, but we reject that the federal government can create national standards all by itself. I hope at some further point I will be able to address this.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to address the proposed amendments to Bill C-5 that are part of Group No. 3.

It is of course the third time that I rise in the House, following the various stages that the bill went through. As members of the Standing Committee on the Environment, we had ample opportunity to discuss this bill.

I would like to point out a number of reasons why the Bloc Quebecois is opposed to this federal legislation, which will inevitably, through some of its clauses, apply to Quebec.

Let me say from the outset that we are not opposed to legislation to protect threatened species. Why? Because a commitment was made at the Rio earth summit, in 1992. As we know, in a few months, that is in early September, the international community will meet at the Johannesburg summit. It is important to remember what decisions were made ten years ago in order to see if Canada has achieved its objectives regarding the protection of species.

At the 1992 Rio summit, Canada signed the convention on biodiversity. What did the convention have to say about threatened species? Let me quote an excerpt:

Each Contracting Party shall develop or maintain necessary legislation and/or other regulatory provisions for the protection of threatened species and populations.

So, in 1992, Canada pledged to adopt legislative provisions, to pass an act to protect threatened species. It is rather paradoxical to see, just a few months before the Johannesburg summit, Canada come up with a bill, as if its objective were simply to be able to show up at this summit with an act to protect species.

Quebec did not take long to ensure that the protection of species on its territory became and remained a priority. In 1989, even before the earth summit and the Rio summit, Quebec passed an act on threatened species, regulations on fisheries and an act on wildlife conservation to protect threatened or vulnerable species on its territory. Even before the international community came to an agreement in 1992, Quebec had been proactive and had passed its own legislation.

Now, the federal government has come up with a bill which we feel should, in principle, apply only to federal jurisdictions, including federal territory and, at the most, migratory birds, but should certainly not jeopardize a bill which was passed by the national assembly under the government of Robert Bourassa.

This bill was sponsored by the federal member for Lac-Saint-Louis, then Quebec's minister of the environment. Now, he is part of the government team, whose goal it is to have the House approve amendments and clauses in this bill which will, for all practical purposes, destroy the work done by his own province.

This is ironic, because Quebec passed its own legislation in 1989, the earth summit was held in 1992, and in 1996 Quebec signed the accord to protect endangered species on its territory.

I mention this because we now expect the federal government to make an effort at co-operation. We do not want the Government of Canada to play a policing role. I use the word policing because in the bill the government makes provision for federal enforcement officers, who will duplicate the work being done by our wildlife enforcement officers.

We want a government that works co-operatively, not a policing body. We feel that the government should respect the spirit and the principle of the national accord for the protection of species at risk in Canada, signed in Charlottetown in 1996.

What did this accord do? It established a mechanism for co-operation among the federal, provincial and territorial governments. One feature of the accord was that it committed governments to complementary legislation and programs to ensure that endangered species are protected throughout Canada. The idea was to have complementary, not overlapping, programs, which is what we see in the spirit of the bill before us.

Why have a bill that will create overlap with what Quebec is doing? For let us not forget that while the federal bill provides for recovery plans for endangered species, so does Quebec's 1989 legislation.

Whereas the government of Quebec has put a system in place for law enforcement by its wildlife officers, under the Quebec wildlife conservation legislation, with this bill, the federal government and its own officers will be duplicating the work done by ours. This is duplication; here we have a government policing and refusing to co-operate or collaborate. What is more, the legislation sets out offences, as of course the Quebec law did already.

In my opinion, this bill is contrary to the first principle of the national accord for the protection of species at risk. I would remind hon. members of one of the objectives on which the federal government had made a commitment, which is that the governments are to enact regulations and complementary programs to guarantee protection of endangered species everywhere in Canada.

What is more, a council of ministers was created to establish the directions to be taken, report on progress and resolve disputes. That was the second aspect of the accord.

This leads me to set out the reasons behind our decision to introduce an amendment, the one moved my colleague from Mercier, which is found in Group No. 3 and amends clause 57 of the bill, which reads as follows:

  1. The competent minister may, after consultation with the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council and any person whom he or she considers appropriate, establish codes of practice, national standards or guidelines with respect to the protection of critical habitat.

So we have the competent minister establishing national standards for species protection, when the second statement of the accord signed in 1996 stated that the minister will establish “a Council of Ministers that will provide direction, report on progress and resolve disputes”.

In my opinion, clause 57 is contrary to the second principle contained in the national accord. In addition, I believe that clause 34, which creates a safety net for species protection, is in direct contravention of the first principle set out in the 1996 accord.

There is a high likelihood that I will be speaking again on Group No. 4.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Canadian Alliance Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Madam Speaker, once again we are debating the species at risk act, Bill C-5. I would like to make an initial comment about yesterday when the Speaker was reading the list of endangered species. It was quite a benefit for members of the House to hear and be forced to recognize that there is a long proposed list of endangered species. That is what the debate is all about. The problem up to this point is that it has not been brought home personally to individual MPs. I think the effort initiated by the Canadian Alliance yesterday had a beneficial effect even though some doubted the sincerity of the effort.

I would like to talk about my personal area of Manitoba for a moment. In Manitoba we have the eastern loggerhead shrike. This bird is considered to be endangered, as the Speaker mentioned yesterday. The Manitoba Cattle Producers Association is working with local ranchers and farmers and environmental groups to take care of and improve the habitat for that endangered species. I mentioned that because the idea of co-operation as opposed to the big stick of government is what will make it work for the birds, animals, flowers and for the human component, and also the socioeconomic impact that bad legislation can have.

All of us on the opposition side are trying to bring in amendments that will improve and make the legislation work.

In my area, where my ranch is, we have the piping plover. I was aware of this one and did not need the Speaker to tell me. However we have a funny situation with it. We have a place called North Shoal Lake. My ranch is on the edge of that. I made the effort and fenced off the shoreline of that lake area, as did many of my neighbours.

At the north end of the lake, in the swamp area, Ducks Unlimited has put in a large project called the Vestfold project. I assume it is designed to have several cells that will hold large amounts of water for the benefit of ducks. The fact is that I do not think there are very many ducks that nest there anymore. I think they still mostly nest along our fencelines and in other small potholes.

Ducks Unlimited wants to keep that full of water. The RMs have been more than happy to oblige. They have dug big drainage ditches which have put a lot of water into the project.

When we get more rain and it is not managed properly, the excess water overflows the weirs out of the Vestfold project into Shoal Lake. The habitat of the piping plover, which is an endangered species, is being flooded by excessive water. There is no outlet for Shoal Lake but right now they are considering digging a drainage ditch.

While saying it is environmentally good, mankind is ruining the habitat of the piping plover endangered species because the water levels are so high in Shoal Lake. Piping plovers require a lot of beach and sand to properly nest or have what is described in the bill as a residence. I find that term strange. However the nesting area is being ruined.

We have one environmental group, Ducks Unlimited, on one side and the legislation, which is to protect the piping plover, on the other side. What should be done? The only solution is to have a decent drainage ditch from North Shoal Lake into Lake Manitoba with a control structure that would allow the lake to be at a lower level.

What is the problem and why have we not done that? For the simple fact that the government has not put up two cents worth of infrastructure money. None has flowed significantly outside of the big cities like Winnipeg to the countryside to allow us to do drainage work. We have managed to get a few town water supply projects out of it, but there has been massive underfunding. That is our problem with the piping plover.

These endangered species are not just an easy thing to figure out. We have to be careful that the one hand does not ruin what the other hand is trying to do in government. I see a lack of co-operation between government departments in this whole area.

This brings up the other point of lack of co-operation. I spoke of this the other day so I will not go into any great detail on it.

We have the Department of Fisheries and Oceans protecting fish habitat. While it is protecting fish habitat, it has said that we cannot dig the drains because there are little grass minnows and such in that area. If a drain is dug, it wants us to do a big environmental study with biologists involved. It is holding up the protection of the very habitat of these piping plovers because those water levels should be lower.

If the farmers and ranchers in my area, myself included, had our druthers we would like to see everything the way it was before Ducks Unlimited came in and let nature take care of the ups and downs of the water in that lake. That way the species would be much better off.

Another example of mankind is the provincial government of Manitoba. The water levels are being kept so high in the big lakes such as Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba that it is ruining the habitat in the delta marshes. At the south end of Lake Manitoba is a big delta marsh which is internationally renowned as a habitat for many water species. These species include birds, plants, animals, crustaceans and all kinds of species which live in the mud. Due to massive hydro projects in Manitoba, the water levels are constantly being kept at such a high level that it is ruining the marsh. This is a major issue in Manitoba. Therefore, by not using co-ordinated and well thought out plans, governments right now are in fact probably creating more endangered species which will have to be added to these lists.

I mention these things because I do not think that members of the House realize that this act is impacting on average Canadians like myself and my neighbours. In fact, every family across the country will be impacted.

I was in Kamloops, British Columbia the other day. While I was there, a local rancher told me that a local environmental group had an idea to reintroduce the badger. The group managed to get some badgers from the prairies, where there are a lot, brought them back and put them on crown lands. The dumb old badgers did not know any better and the first thing they did was migrate from government lands to private lands. Now the farmers and ranchers have badgers digging great big holes on their lands. I do not know if members have seen badger holes but they are quite large. However they now have to protect that habitat for the badgers. They cannot just tell the badgers to head back on to crown lands because they do not seem to understand English very well.

I am making light of it, but the fact of the matter is the protection of habitat and the idea of reintroducing species has to be kept in the context of the socioeconomic impact of the area. While we hate to see any particular species become extinct, it seems as though the act is suggesting the following. A species might be doing pretty good in western or southern Ontario, which is its main habitat area, but the fringe of the area is in Manitoba. However the fringe area is an area where the habitat has never been particularly good for these birds or animals. The government can tell us that there was a particular endangered species there 500 years or 100 years ago and that it wants to reintroduce it. Now the habitat has to be saved. Some common sense and reason has be used in the legislation.

When it comes to the costs, I have a real concern. Material has been given to me by my chief critic, the member for Red Deer. I note that on the whole socioeconomic interest area, the environment minister was questioned about the costs. It really makes me worry a little about who will incur the costs and pay the bill. Right now, with no explicit compensation in the act for farmers, ranchers, land users, it looks like those very people could end up carrying the majority of costs as opposed to society as a whole. Obviously that is dead wrong. I cannot believe that the government is not putting in full compensation for economic loss due to protection of endangered species.

Here is what the minister had to say in October, 2001, and it may have changed by now. He said that Environment Canada was aware that compensation for restriction on the use of land was a complex issue. He went on to say “We then got deeper and deeper into this and it became more and more of a proverbial swamp”. With that comment, the government is demonstrating once again that it is only capable of developing the proverbial swamp.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Madam Speaker, I begin my comments today on Group No. 3 by referring to a letter I received from a constituent as the SARA legislation was brought forth to the House.

My constituent is a teacher. He was recognized and received an award as being one of the best teachers in the country in 2001. That is a rare award. He was rewarded primarily, if not exclusively, for all the work he has done in the classroom, the school and the community on environmental issues. He has taken a whole generation, if not a generation and a half now, of students through their education process and imbued in each one of them in a very enthusiastic way a love for the natural environment and a sense of responsibility of protecting, as each one of us have, in a stewardship fashion that natural environment. He writes:

Amendments made by the environment committee would have strengthened mandatory habitat protection in areas of federal jurisdiction, and would have provided--

And this is relevant to Group No. 3:

--an independent scientific panel the opportunity to determine which species in Canada are endangered.

I am deeply troubled that the bill being brought forward for third reading rejects the work of Canada's parliamentarians, and chooses to do next to nothing to protect Canada's endangered plans and animals.

That commentary is a reflection of how a great deal of the people who have worked on the legislation from all walks of life feel. We constantly hear that it is just environmentalists complaining about the nature of the gutting of the bill by the government. That is not true. It is people from all walks of life.

The comment I read from his letter is reflective of the attitude. Some 60,000 to 65,000 people have signed petitions asking the government to not proceed with the amendments that it is proposing, but to allow the amendments that the committee prepared and put into place at committee stage. He goes on to say in his letter:

Failure to reconsider these proposed amendments will result in international embarrassment for Canada when it attends the Rio plus 10 Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa in the spring of 2002.

There is an error there. The conference will actually take place in the fall of 2002. He goes on to say:

Canada proudly signed the international biodiversity protocol at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, becoming the first country in the world to endorse this convention. With our failure to pass a strong, effective endangered species act, we also will fail in our commitment to protect the web of life internationally.

He is very accurate in that last statement. We will be embarrassed with the legislation because it does not go far enough. It does not deal with real protection for the environment.

In Group No. 3 there is a glaring inconsistency in the government's position that shows up in some of the proposed amendments. I am referring specifically to Motion No. 136. We heard from the parliamentary secretary today that this was a good development on the part of the government.

Motion No. 136 would provide that the existing list of species developed by COSEWIC, the scientific body that has been responsible for this for more than two decades now, would be incorporated holus-bolus into the act in one fell swoop.

That was a change on the part of the government because originally it was not even going to do that. The Minister of the Environment came to the committee before it got to the end of clause by clause and announced that he would do this as his one concession to the committee. As a committee we had been pushing for a holus-bolus acceptance of the list. It only made good sense because of all of the good work that COSEWIC had done over the years on that list.

The inconsistency arose when the minister accepted the list from this independent and qualified body. What did he then do? This goes back to some of the amendments in Group No. 2. He said that he did not trust them to do it on an ongoing basis. All the work done over the last 20 years, which the government recognized and incorporated into the bill in an amendment we fully support, was good enough but it was not good enough on an ongoing basis.

Nothing has changed. The way scientists are appointed to the board has remained the same. If anything it may be a little better as more aboriginal and first nations people are brought into the group, using some of their traditional knowledge. This is a positive development by COSEWIC and it should be praised for showing more progressive thinking in that regard than the government.

There is a glaring inconsistency. We urge the government to withdraw the amendments in Group No. 2 with regard to that and follow the pattern established in Group No. 3.

I want to recognize one thing that does appear in one of these amendments. It is in Motion No. 134. A bill was passed in the House last year, I do not believe it has become law yet, that would create marine conservation areas in the country, something again the government has been slow about doing. That bill is also wanting in a number of ways.

The positive part is that the government recognized that its federal jurisdiction should be extended into these marine conservation areas as we develop them. There are four or five, perhaps as many as ten, that are close to being developed, both on our shores in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans as well as in the Great Lakes area.

The amendment, which we support, would extend the SARA legislation to those marine conservation areas. That is a good development and I applaud the government for it.

I want to go back to some other concerns we have with this group of amendments. There are a number of amendments in Group No. 3 that would allow the government to do nothing, if I can put it that way. The environment and sustainability committee recognized it in the original draft of the bill. In a number of ways it tightened up the bill significantly by putting limitations on the government, imposing in some cases time limits and using in many cases specific wording as opposed to general wording.

There are a series of amendments that would gut all that work and gut the bill. Taking out that type of specific language and replacing it with generalities would allow the government, as it has in so many other areas of environmental legislation and action, to do nothing.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Karen Kraft Sloan Liberal York North, ON

Madam Speaker, before I speak to the amendments in Group No. 3 I would like to dispel a couple of myths about the committee's work on the bill.

First, is the myth that the standing committee's changes would make Bill C-5 more coercive. This word is being applied to any change to the bill agreed to by the committee that is contrary to the government's position.

As I noted the last time I spoke the committee fully supported the co-operation first principle. It was foremost in virtually every discussion we had in the many months of our study. The committee sought to inject clarity and predictability into the bill. Most Canadians would believe this is a good thing but we are being told such things are coercive.

Even the committee's version of Bill C-5 is heavily laden with discretion. Every consultation mechanism and opportunity for private stewardship would remain in the bill. They were in fact strengthened by the committee and are available in black and white for anyone to read. I challenge those who claim that the reported version of the bill would be coercive to stand in the House and point to those sections of the amended bill that would support this thesis.

Second, is the myth that 80% of the committee's amendments have been accepted. I do not know what system of accounting produced this figure, but I suggest that the parties involved in this calculation have a brilliant future ahead of them with Enron. A precursory examination of the government's motions clearly indicates that little of the substantive work of the committee has been accepted, including virtually every amendment the committee made to the core issues of the bill.

Furthermore, there are numerous government motions entitled technical motions that are in fact reversing motions. In case after case they change every committee amendment to a particular clause, save for one minor syntactical change. Yet these are described as supporting the intent of the committee and called technical amendments.

As someone who sat on the committee for the duration of the study I am well placed to tell the House what its intent was. The intent of the committee was to improve the bill to reflect the input of the witnesses we heard, to reflect the diversity of views around the committee table, and to improve the biological basis of the legislation. Many of the government motions in no way support this intent.

I will speak to the motions at hand. Government Motion No. 9 and Motion No. 10 would delete the words geographically or genetically distinct from the definition of wildlife species. The committee inserted the language to make the definition consistent with COSEWIC's practice. The original version of Bill C-65, the precursor to Bill C-5, defined species to include geographically distinct populations. This was the government's language. The government changed its mind in Bill C-5. It deleted the reference to geographically distinct populations and replaced it with biologically distinct, which is self-evident, narrower and certainly far more confusing.

Dr. Geoffrey Scudder, former president of the Canadian Society of Zoologists and fellow of the royal society testified before the committee as follows:

The term “biologically distinct population” is vague. It does not make any sense at all to me as a biologist.

There are good reasons for protecting geographically distinct populations. Geographically distinct populations are typically genetically distinct as well and preserving genetic diversity is a key objective of the convention on biological diversity, a convention to which is Canada is a signatory.

On the current reassessed COSEWIC list a number of species, as we heard last night are geographically or genetically distinct populations. They are identified as such on the list. With the rollover of the list we have a contradiction between these subspecies on the COSEWIC list and what the government wants to do to the definition of species.

The government's definition is inconsistent with COSEWIC's definition and its longstanding practice which has been to list geographically distinct populations of a species, for example, the St. Lawrence beluga whale, the eastern cougar, et cetera. One might ask, is this just the committee's opinion? No. COSEWIC itself disagrees with the government on this definition and wrote in its brief to the committee:

The geographic, as well as biological, distinction of populations is a key criterion in the recognition by COSEWIC of an evolutionarily significant unit.

It is not just the standing committee and the broader scientific community the government is ignoring, but it is ignoring COSEWIC itself, as it has on numerous key issues in Bill C-5, including the listing process. This is the same COSEWIC that the government tells us it will listen to with great attention.

I turn now to government Motion No. 66. This motion guts the committee changes to clause 37 which pertains to recovery strategies. The committee agreed to insert language granting the minister discretionary authority, and I stress discretionary authority, to take interim habitat conservation measures for a species between the time it is listed and the time the decision is made whether or not to protect its habitat, a period that could last for a year or more.

The government has said that this power already exists in the bill in the form of emergency orders. Yet this is available only if there is an emergency that threatens a species' survival, a very rare situation and one requiring cabinet approval.

There will likely be many situations of threats to a species or its habitat that are serious but that do not necessarily threaten the survival or recovery of the whole species. For this reason, the government's arguments ring hollow. It clearly does not understand its own bill.

Without interim conservation authority, Bill C-5 will create a perverse incentive. If a logging company, for example, knows that a species has been listed and its habitat may, and that is only may, eventually be protected, it will have an economic motivation to accelerate logging of that habitat in order to avoid legal restrictions if the bill's habitat protection measures kick in. To avoid this, authority to create effective interim measures is required.

The committee agreed, yet the government has decided to gut this. It argues that this contradicts the bill's principles of transparency and accountability. In numerous other clauses of the bill, the government is gutting committee amendments that insert criteria, that insert public consultation, that insert reporting mechanisms. Yet in this case, it claims that the committee is blurring these lines.

Government Motion No. 120 removes permitting from the penalties section. I remind the House that there is no mandatory habitat protection of any kind in the bill, either within areas of federal jurisdiction or without. It is all discretionary. It is perfectly possible that a species could go from the beginning to the end of the process that the bill lays out and never have its habitat protected. This is a critical failure of Bill C-5 and the reason it cannot be said to have a biological foundation.

The committee agreed that the government should be required to protect habitat in federal jurisdiction. One way to do this would be via the permitting section.

In the original Bill C-5, the competent minister has the authority to enter into an agreement or issue a permit to people authorizing them to affect a listed species, its residence or its critical habitat. If the terms of such an agreement or permit are not met, or if the permit or agreement is never obtained, what are the repercussions under the original Bill C-5 vis-à-vis habitat protection? There is little or none.

The committee agreed that this should not be the case. In the context of changes to clause 74, which will be debated in Group No. 5, the committee agreed that there should be repercussions. For this reason it amended the list of penalties in clause 97 to include the failure to obtain or comply with an agreement or permit under amended clause 74(1). Government Motion No. 120 eliminates this as a penalty.

It disproves the suggestion that Bill C-5 is heavy on volunteer initiatives at the front end backed up with solid legal protection in the event that those initiatives fail. There is nothing solid about this motion and its intent. There is no penalty if a person does not get a permit and if a person does get a permit, there is no penalty if it is not complied with.

I call on all members of the House to defeat these motions.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege to speak to the Group No. 3 amendments to a bill that needs to be defeated, the species at risk act.

I am sure the government would like us to relent and allow the bill a quick passage through the House but the government does not realize, appreciate or respect how adamant we are about protecting the interests of our constituents. We will not stand by and allow the government to criminalize the hard working and law-abiding farmers and ranchers. We will not stand by and allow the government to trample on the property rights of landowners, nor will we stand by and watch the government run roughshod as it intrudes into provincial jurisdiction.

The official opposition will do whatever it takes to prevent the bill from passing in its present form. Members need to look at the amendments that are being brought forward and ask how they can make the bill better. Then we can ensure that we will move forward with the bill because we want to protect endangered species.

As the legislation is now, it will not protect endangered species. It will not protect species at risk. It will not work because the approach is not one of balance. Balance has not been struck between the rights of property owners on one hand and the endangered species that are inhabiting their land on the other hand.

We need legislation that is based on fostering co-operation and mutual respect. We need legislation that minimizes the socio-economic impact of those who work and earn a living off the land.

The government does not yet know the cost. What is the cost to this bill? What is the cost to implement and maintain these new laws? The government does not know, despite saying that governments should not pass legislation which is open ended in terms of funding. The government would say we need to be sure that legislation is not open ended but then it tries to implement a bill that is.

The Minister of the Environment has estimated that the cost of the bill could be $45 million a year. In the past however, when governments have estimated the costs of bills, such as Bill C-68, a cost of $60 million to $80 million has ended up being close to $700 million. The government also does not understand the socioeconomic implications of the species at risk act. It is totally irresponsible for the government not to know what the exact cost or the socioeconomic implications are, yet it decides to forge ahead.

We are proposing a technical amendment to have cabinet, before developing the legal list, consider and explain the socio-economic implications. It has to consider what the costs will be to the farmers, ranchers and landowners.

We have spent numerous hours already debating the bill and the derogatory effect it will have on landowners. I do not recall any mention in this place, although it may have been mentioned at committee, about presentations that were made to the standing committee by some organizations, specifically the snowmobile organization.

I have received many cards, letters and e-mails from snowmobilers in my riding stating their concerns regarding Bill C-5. Last Friday I received an e-mail message from Mr. Herb Whitten of Stettler in which he wrote:

I and thousands of other snowmobilers like me, are very passionate about our sport. We are also concerned about both our environment and any potential loss of trails or riding areas. As a member of a primary winter recreation group, I request your active support in ensuring that snowmobiling and its social, recreational and economic benefits receive consideration--

I have assured Mr. Whitten that we are attempting to protect the interests of this particular organization while also protecting the endangered species and their habitat. It is balance.

As stated earlier, we think it is extremely important that that same balance be struck. The interests of all those who are concerned or impacted by this legislation must be given equal and thoughtful consideration.

Most important however, very careful consideration must be given to the landowners who earn a living off the land producing the high quality of food we have come to take for granted in this country. So many challenges face our food producers these days. We keep hearing back home to please not increase the challenges by Ottawa made challenges.

As I stated in the House this week, Canadian farmers already face extremely adverse conditions. Some are so insurmountable that our food producers and suppliers are barely surviving and our food supply is being jeopardized.

Last month the Western Producer stated that the minister of agriculture was downplaying the significance of his department's projections that net farm income will fall sharply in 2002 largely because of lower program payments. When the minister of agriculture downplays farmers' net incomes falling off sharply, it has to be of great concern. Canadian Federation of Agriculture president Bob Friesen has said “Just looking at projections and the reality out there, there will be some thinning of farm numbers this year”.

When individuals talk about the thinning of farm numbers, they are talking about farmers going broke, farmers selling out, communities being hurt. Not only are they first and second generation farmers, but many times they are third and fourth generation farmers. Mr. Friesen also stated that 2002 will be a much worse year for farmers due to a number of contributing factors and that farmers will need more help this year than programs will provide.

Last year livestock producers were forced to sell cattle because of the lack of affordable feed and the lack of water. That still occurs now. According to the Western Producer , this year cattle producers are being negatively affected by the devaluation of the Canadian dollar. We watch our cattle go across the border. Sometimes we say that because of the low dollar they are taking our cattle. However, the fact is that the dollar has been devalued and we are receiving less value for our cattle than we were receiving a number of years ago.

Despite the hardships many rural Canadians are facing, hope remains that communities can band together to look for tools and ideas to revitalize their towns. We have seen it with marketing clubs in local communities and in other ways to help the farm situation.

Farmers across the country are also counting on each other to improve and preserve rural life, including the preservation of some species whose populations are dwindling.

I appreciated that the member for Selkirk--Interlake talked about the piping plover. Farmers gathered together through volunteering to see that this particular species made it on to the list as an endangered species.

A project to transfer ring-necked pheasants to Ontario from Saskatchewan is also talked about in the Western Producer . Not only is this saving the wild pheasant whose population has dwindled to a remnant of what it once was, but it is also building friendships between rural residents of Saskatchewan and farmers and like-minded people from Ontario.

According to the article, ring-necked pheasants are not native to North America. They were introduced from Europe in the early 1900s or late 1800s. Some quickly adapted to their new environment but in Ontario only a small remnant of the early wild population remains. It is hoped that the 200 birds from Saskatchewan will increase the numbers in Ontario.

Shelter areas were created by farmers and those who were working to save these naturalized species. Food was distributed before these pheasants were released into several hundred acres of former pastures in Ontario. Why were they doing this? They were doing this because they had concerns about that particular bird and that it be preserved. They were volunteering and making sure that it was looked after.

That is a prime example of farmers across the country who are working together with wildlife federations to create habitat, encourage breeding and protect disappearing species.

The government should attempt to work with and not against farmers and ranchers. This means implementing legislation that encourages co-operation and voluntary compliance.

I therefore encourage all members on all sides of the House to vote in favour of these amendments, and if these amendments do not satisfy the legitimate concerns of all members in the House, I say that we vote against Bill C-5 and bring forward a piece of legislation that will have a positive impact on the preserving of these species at risk.

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1:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Canadian Alliance Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, it is good to be able to again speak to the bill. We have spoken to the previous two sets of amendments and this Group No. 3 deals with the social and economic interests and the public consultation process.

Before I get into some of that I want to refer to, the member for Davenport and also the member for York North, both members from the government side of the House, spoke up and brought to the attention of Canadians the fact that a lot of the amendments that the government has brought forward at report stage are to reverse agreement on amendments brought forward at committee. There was the committee doing its work and bringing forward witnesses to explain the detail of the bill and give their opinions. The committee members worked together to formulate some amendments to improve the bill. Then when it came back to the House at report stage, the government introduced amendments to reverse all that. If that is considered democracy in this day and age, there is something definitely wrong with the process.

We cannot support the bill if it does not address fully the issue of compensation for affected landowners. If this is not in the bill we will not support it. It is critical to the protection of endangered species. If we do not do this, we will be endangering endangered species more than we will be helping them. There was also the mens rea issue that we dealt with in Group No. 2 about how a person is guilty until proven innocent in that a person who unknowingly alters the habitat of an endangered species is guilty. Some means in the bill has to absolutely reverse that so that a person found guilty must be shown to have had some intent in mind when he went out to destroy an endangered species or the habitat. Those two issues are vitally important to our party and to the people we have been talking to.

Quite early this morning when I was in my office I got a phone call from a rancher from back home. It was two hours earlier for him. He had just come in from feeding his cattle and phoned me to see how the bill was progressing. He has had an interest in this issue since it was first talked about many years ago. This gentleman was raised and educated in the United States and he knows what has happened in the United States with the heavy-handed type of legislation there. He knows that it has not worked. He has kept on top of this issue and he is so fearful that if this happens in Canada we indeed will be putting species at risk instead of helping them. All Canadians are supportive, as our party is, of species at risk legislation that truly works and will truly protect species and their habitat.

I want to address some points about the social and economic interests. We have put forward Motion No. 3, which would require the socioeconomic interest to be considered in the legal listing of the species. The bill already provides that, to be considered in developing recovery methods. We think it is important that these issues all be balanced off. As we always see in legislation that comes before the House, it is a balance of social issues, economic issues, protection of the environment and the concerns of Canadians. We must bring in all of that and make a bill which brings in a balance that can work.

The Canadian Alliance also proposed in Motion No. 15 that:

The purposes of this Act...shall be...accomplished in a matter consistent with the goals of sustainable development.

That is absolutely critical. Where else but in an environment bill should we have legislation that deals with sustainable development? If a bill does not promote that then it is not doing its job. This is closely related to socioeconomic interests because it requires that this balance be struck between the environment and the needs of Canadians. As we know, it would be easy for all of us to move back into caves and not carry on the kind of lifestyle we have developed, but we have to do things another way. We have to be able to live the lifestyle we have developed and deal with environmental issues, together. If we do not do that then we are going in the wrong direction.

Often when I am speaking to high school and grade school classes I feel that my generation and the generation before us have done a very poor job on the environment and I encourage them as young people to pick up that issue, bring it forward and try to maintain something that perhaps we can start here. I encourage them to realize that we cannot go on affecting the environment the way we have in the past. We have to come to terms with living with the environment.

I refer again to the rancher who phoned me this morning. I do not believe there are any better environmentalists in the country or the world than the people who make their living from the land. Farmers, ranchers, fishermen and resource people know more about what needs to be done and how to do it than anyone else does, more, I would suggest, than people who live in the concrete jungles.

It is essential that the costs to industry and property users and the costs to the government in terms of enforcement resources be known before the government introduces legislation with such vast implications. This has been alluded to many times in other presentations, but we need to know these issues up front. We need to know the costs. Canadians have to be clear on the costs this legislation would bring into effect before they and we can honestly and with a clear conscience support the measures. In particular, we must know what the bill will cost the farmers, fishermen, loggers, ranchers and even the cottage owners and people who live in the country. Many people now choose a rural lifestyle and have a few acres. They have to know how this bill would affect them and what the government compensation provisions would be if it is implemented.

Here I come back to the whole issue of compensation if one's lifestyle and means of income change. I believe that all of society supports protecting species at risk and that all of society should be responsible for the costs of doing so. However, at this time the government has no idea of the total socioeconomic costs of the bill, so those avenues need to be explored and clarified in a lot more detail.

Then we get into COSEWIC, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, and I think everyone knows about it now. It is a panel of scientific experts appointed by the minister whose chief function is to classify species at risk and to recommend to determine the scientific list of endangered species. Quite frankly, that is who should decide what the endangered species are: people who are experts in the field. They should bring forward that list.

I want to go further with this. This is where the main controversy erupts. Environmentalists want the scientific list determined by COSEWIC to automatically become the list that would be enforced by law. The government wants cabinet to have the final decision as to which scientific recommendations are accepted and which are not and the government wants to have political control over which species are protected.

In committee, the Canadian Alliance proposed a balanced compromise which was accepted by the committee and has now been reversed at report stage by the government through an amendment. We argued that the scientific COSEWIC list should become the legal list within 60 days if the cabinet did not act to prevent it. That is a bit of a reverse onus, but under this approach cabinet would have the final say and would have to act to overthrow a scientific recommendation. That would mean that cabinet would have to say that the scientists have given it the list but cabinet does not believe it. As it exists now, by not acting, the list goes astray. We felt that was a really good method of putting in place the whole issue of government and cabinet responsibility. We felt it would force them to act, but if they were to act they would be acting against the scientific listing.

Then there is the whole issue of public consultation. When we started with this process many years ago compensation and consultation were two things that were very key to us. We feel that the Canadian public must be engaged at all times in this process if we indeed are to come up with a bill that will be acceptable to Canadians and that will work to protect endangered species.

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1:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, a few years ago as I was travelling from Maple Creek to my home in Frontier, I crossed the top of the Cypress Hills just as a blizzard hit. The wind was blowing from the west, snow was drifting and visibility eventually became absolutely zero. The only way we could see was to put our heads out of the window and watch the yellow dots on the highway go by. When the dot looked faded, because in Saskatchewan the highways are not that great and a lot of times there is no paint in places, we wandered all over the highway. We actually hit the ditch a couple of times, but because we had four wheel drive we were able to back out of the ditch and keep on down the highway. It took us about 2 hours to go 15 miles that night.

It strikes me that the government is every bit as confused and lost as we were that night, particularly in dealing with this legislation. I guess it is no wonder that the government comes up with legislation like this. I would like to suggest today that--

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1:25 p.m.

An hon. member

It's in a heavy fog.

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1:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Absolutely. It is in a heavy fog for a number of reasons.

I would suggest that first it is partially because it is wallowing in corruption. We see that the Prime Minister does his legal work on a table napkin. We understand that ministers regularly look for jobs for their friends--

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1:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Order, please. I have not referred to the relevance of the debate, but in the past each of the Chair occupants has referred to relevance. I do believe you will get to your point on the amendments in Group No. 3.

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1:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Absolutely, Madam Speaker. I will talk about the socioeconomic impacts of the legislation in a minute, as soon as I have finished talking about some of the reasons why the government comes up with such poor legislation and why the Alliance and the other parties have to hold it accountable.

The second reason we have legislation like this, I would suggest, is incompetence. We see ministers who apparently cannot tell Monday from Friday when they are discussing their portfolios. We see a billion dollars at a time disappearing through different divisions such as HRDC. We have ministers who can only imagine things happening in Canadian communities. We also have ministers who are so unsure of where they live and do their work that they do not even know where to vote.

The third reason we see legislation like this is, I would suggest, arrogance. We see it in the $2 billion infrastructure slush fund to be set up and administered.

As a person who is interested in agriculture, I found it interesting yesterday that the Prime Minister would let us know--

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An hon. member

Oh, oh.