Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise again in the House at the report stage of Bill C-5, the species at risk act, and to speak to my amendment in Group No. 3.
Interestingly, as opposed to some of the other groupings of amendments at report stage of the bill, quite a range of topics have been covered in Group No. 3. Of course the main discussion area in this grouping deals with the need to consider the socioeconomic implications of the legislation or, for that matter, of any action plans or recovery plans as a result of placing a species on the legal list. Some of the amendments also deal with the composition of COSEWIC and its determination of a legal list of species at risk.
Motion No. 79 would amend how the minister deals with national standards, and his counterparts of the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council. Motion No. 120 deals with criminal offences. Several other motions in this grouping deal with public consultation.
Of these five very distinct topics within this one grouping, I will begin by commenting on the need for socioeconomic interests to be taken into account when determining the action plans needed to recover a species and its habitat.
More specifically, I would like to address my amendment, Motion No. 15, which seeks to adjust the purpose of the act to reflect what I believe should be the necessary goal of any endangered species legislation, that is to strike a balance between fostering sustainable development while ensuring the creation of a safe environment for those species at risk.
Specifically my Motion No. 15 states:
That Bill C-5, in Clause 6, be amended by adding after line 12 on page 8 the following:
“(2) The purposes of this Act, outlined in subsection (1), shall be pursued and accomplished in a manner consistent with the goals of sustainable development.”
I believe this is not only an important amendment to the bill, one which I would encourage all my colleagues in the House to support, but I believe it reflects the spirit of the discussions in the House of Commons environmental committee meetings.
In my opinion, Motion No. 15 strives to strike the balance that we all want in the legislation, the balance between the interests of industry and those of the environmentalists. The amendment would require that a balance be struck between the environmental goals of the bill and the needs of taxpayers whose dollars would go to the fund the environmental work mandated by the bill. I believe that without considering sustainable development, environmental laws would quickly kill the goose that lays the golden egg, as they say.
It is my opinion that worrying about endangered species is something only prosperous economies can afford to do because, quite frankly, someone has to pay for it. Economic depression is no friend to species at risk. One just has to look at some of the environmental problems prevalent in second and third world countries. It is certainly no coincidence.
I believe it is essential that we know the cost on industry and property users, as well as the cost on government in terms of enforcement resources before the government introduces legislation with such vast implications as Bill C-5. In particular, we need to know how the legislation would affect farmers, fishermen, miners, loggers, ranchers, and the list goes on. We need to understand what the socioeconomic costs will be of such legislation before we agree to it. Without this essential information, how can landowners or land users plan?
I believe the reason the government has not made these costs public is that it does not know what the socioeconomic implications of the legislation will be.
I would like to read a quote from the minister's information supplement of October 2001 which explains how little the government and the minister know of the cost of the legislation. In particular, the quote refers to the costs of compensation, which I believe is a necessary part of any legislation that plans to adversely affect the market value of a property. It states:
Environment Canada is aware that compensation for restrictions on the use of land is a complex issue that requires careful consideration and innovative thinking. We will need several years of practical experience in implementing the stewardship and recovery provisions of the Species at Risk Act...before we can be precise in prescribing eligibility and thresholds for compensation.
I would like to read another quote, this time by the Minister of the Environment who was answering questions posed to him by members of the standing committee on environment on October 3, 2001. The committee members wanted the minister to explain why he could not guarantee compensation in Bill C-5.
The quote reads:
We then got deeper and deeper into this and it became more and more the proverbial swamp, more and more difficult to do, partly because governments...should not, pass legislation that is open-ended in terms of funding. We have fiscal responsibilities that, as you can well imagine, are fairly strict on us—$45 million a year is what we've been given to run the process. That's what we can expect, and that's it.
I know the quote is long but the minister has essentially said that he does not know how much the implication of this bill will cost but he knows that it cannot cost more than $45 million because that is all he has. This is absolutely ridiculous. By admitting that he does not know the cost, the minister is admitting that he does not know the implications of his own legislation. If a minister does not know the bill's implications, then how can he expect landowners and land users to plan for the future? Has the minister done studies? Can he give any idea of the cost? What about socioeconomic impact assessments for protecting or recovering certain species?
Furthermore, the minister said that he did not want to undertake open-ended spending commitments but that as far as he knew Bill C-5 was open-ended in terms of its implications for Canadian property owners. The minister said that he would not pay for the costs of his legislation but that he had no problem forcing others to absorb those costs.
Although the bill was probably well-intentioned, it certainly has some very major flaws. Only if the government decides to fix them will I support the bill. I and my party, the Canadian Alliance, support the need to protect endangered species but we believe that compensation and socioeconomic impact assessments of recovery plans are essential to preserving a species and essential to good endangered species legislation. This is not good legislation.
I would urge members to support the Canadian Alliance motions on compensation and, in particular, my Motion No. 15 from this grouping which would ensure that the purpose of the legislation, which is to protect species at risk, is accomplished in a manner that is consistent with sustainable development.
I truly believe we cannot have one without the other. To illustrate this point, I would like to tell the House about my home of Skeena, B.C., where I have several large national and provincial parks.
One example I can think of is the Tatshenshini UNESCO world heritage site in the northwest corner of Skeena riding. It is a place of towering mountains, wild rivers and strong and vibrant wildlife. This area was a national park and now, through the United Nations world heritage site program, it is a chunk of land that will forever be set aside for wildlife. Does this not sound like a beautiful success story? What I have not mentioned is that within the boundaries of that site was one of the largest mineral deposits ever found in the world. It had enough ore to put British Columbia back on the map with billions of dollars worth of copper, cobalt and gold.
In the late 1990s, I believe during the 35th parliament, a mining company with legal rights to that area was in the planning stage of developing a mine when the then NDP provincial government and the current federal Liberal government did everything in their power to stop all development in the Tatshenshini in its tracks. Gone were the promises of hundreds of long term, well paying jobs. Gone were the taxes that could have been generated in the form of royalties to the government. The government said that we should not despair as the northwest was protected once again, but at what cost?
The picture I am trying to paint here is not one of perpetual naturalistic bliss but a one-sided victory for the environmental lobby groups that make their homes and live their lives in the grey cement and black asphalt of downtown urban cities like Vancouver, Toronto and New York. Yes, the Tatshenshini is now protected forever, but life goes on in unemployment ridden northwestern British Columbia which would have thrived if only the development of the mine had been allowed. Thirty years of employment was lost in that one mine alone, let alone all the spinoff jobs, as was the potential development of numerous other mining properties.
What I am getting at is the need for balance. Yes, we should have parks and we should do what is needed to protect species at risk from being endangered or extirpated, but we need to do so with balance in mind or it just will not work.
Governments get the money they need to put into place recovery plans and to pay for ecologists, biologists and other scientists to help these species recover. Money is needed to rebuild habitats and to monitor success rates.
Without industry paying taxes, without people working and paying taxes, without goods being sold, being bought and being taxed, we just do not have the ability to protect what is in need of protecting.
In closing, this is why of all the topics Group No. 3 covers, I have chosen to bring to the attention of the House the need for sustainable development. As such, I mean that we need to bring balance to this legislation by including mandatory compensation for landowners and by ensuring the overriding goal of this legislation as set out in its purposes section reflects the need to respect sustainable development. Without it, the economic realities are that as a country we will not be able to afford to protect our wildlife and endangered species.