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.


TaxationOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Canadian Alliance Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs gave us his solution to the crisis in the health care system: tax increases.

Just before the Séguin commission, the minister, as a good Liberal contradicting himself, told Quebecers that they should increase taxes to solve the health care problem, before recognizing the importance of maintaining a low level of taxation.

Is increasing taxes this government's response to the crisis in the health sector?

TaxationOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville Québec


Stéphane Dion LiberalPresident of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member spends too much time reading newspapers. What was reported was not a direct quote. I am not asking the provinces to increase taxes. I am not blaming them for lowering their taxes. I am simply saying that the fact that they are lowering their taxes shows that there is no tax imbalance in Canada.

Softwood LumberOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Prime Minister stated that he was confident about concluding an agreement with the Americans on softwood lumber prior to March 21.

This is not the view of the U.S. ambassador to Canada, who believes that the U.S. administration could, on that date, suspend its decision as a sign of good faith.

The Americans will probably demand that Canada respond in kind.

Will the Prime Minister guarantee us that Canada will not suspend its complaint to the WTO or impose its own export tax on softwood lumber?

Softwood LumberOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis Québec


Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, as I had the opportunity of saying, a moment ago, the option that we prefer is certainly that of identifying a long term policy solution, a solution that will guarantee us access to the U.S. market in exchange for greater transparency and more market-based practices in forest management. This is exactly what we are supporting.

However, at the same time obviously, we are maintaining our request and our complaint to the WTO, and even today I have asked that a NAFTA panel be convened as soon as there is a final American determination, if there is one, in order to—

Softwood LumberOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Winnipeg--Transcona.

TaxationOral Question Period

3 p.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to return to the question my leader asked the Minister of Finance. The minister did not seem to get the point, perhaps because CIBC has been taking lessons from the steamship industry.

The point is not what percentage of tax they pay in Canada on income claimed in Canada. The point is, how do they get to claim so much income outside of Canada?

Surely the Minister of Finance should be concerned about that. Why is he not concerned about that?

TaxationOral Question Period

3 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec


Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, obviously every major company, and certainly including the banks, are audited by CCRA.

The fact is that we want to see Canadian institutions operating in Canada, earning profits in Canada, but also operating abroad. The fact is that they do. Those statements are all published.

Crown CorporationsOral Question Period

February 26th, 2002 / 3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, for years the auditor general has criticized the patronage tainted process that makes crown corporations a dumping ground for Liberal supporters and friends.

Today Liberal MPs helped cover up the scandal by voting against recommendations that would end this abuse.

When the Liberals were in opposition they demanded that a royal commission investigate allegations of government corruption and patronage.

Will the government now take its own advice and order an inquiry into acts of wrongdoing, political interference and breaches of the conflict of interest code by cabinet members?

Crown CorporationsOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario


John Manley LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, I think really the question ought to be framed around the rules of governance that deal with crown corporations.

The member will know that work has been done on that. In fact, a very useful report was tabled last week by the public accounts committee which has a number of comments that are relevant to previous work that has been done by this government with respect to governance of crown corporations.

I look forward to co-ordinating a reply to that report within the time limits prescribed by the rules of the House.

The House resumed 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

3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Andy Burton Canadian Alliance Skeena, BC

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.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dave Chatters Canadian Alliance Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I certainly have been listening with interest for the past number of days to the rationale and excuses being put forward by members of the government to explain why this flawed legislation has once again come to the House for debate. I find it incredible particularly in light of a cross-Canada media survey released on the weekend to determine who Canadians trust. It is no surprise that nurses and doctors were at the top of the list but it was also no surprise that politicians were right at the very bottom of the list, even below journalists

Now the government comes to the House and the majority of its members' comments boil down to a couple of phrases, those being “trust us, we will do what is right” and “because we say so”. Truthfully the whole issue calls to mind another environmental issue that the government is currently trying to address, that being the Kyoto accord. I will address those similarities in a moment.

This group of amendments primarily deals with socioeconomic interests and the need for public consultation. These are two of the key issues within not only this piece of legislation but any piece of legislation. After all, as it has often done, the government can push through any legislation or action the Liberals in their own characteristic style deem necessary in spite of public opinion. We have seen the government do this so many times. Whether the issue is hep C compensation, disposal of nuclear waste or as is becoming apparent, the Kyoto accord, the government just does what it does and if Canadians agree, well that is convenient but it is really not necessary.

Before I begin my comments directly pertaining to this set of amendments, I would like to point out as so many of our caucus colleagues have already done, that the Canadian Alliance supports sustainable development and protection of endangered species. In fact, these very principles are embedded within our party foundation stating that we are committed to protecting and preserving Canada's natural environment and endangered species and to sustainable development of our abundant natural resources for the use of current and future generations. However, we also believe that for any endangered species legislation to be effective, it must respect the fundamental rights of property owners.

The truth is this legislation fails on all counts to protect the rights of property owners. When we consider the connection between the rights of property owners and the protection of endangered species, it really does not make much sense to sacrifice one for the other. After all, without the support of private property owners, species simply cannot be protected. It is as simple as that. Yet the government is proceeding in a fashion that seems to pit property owners against environmental causes thereby guaranteeing eventual failure on all counts.

It is not difficult to empathize with the difficulties faced by landowners when they are told that their family farm which has provided the entire income for the family and has been in the family for generations actually shares space with rare listed creatures. Suddenly the farmers find themselves in the situation of losing income, property and family history all in one fell swoop. Unless the transparency of this legislation improves, that same farmer may not even be totally sure of how it happened.

When it comes to such critical subjects such as family income, support and structure, the government has a responsibility to do everything possible to ensure transparency of process and to give people the opportunity to be involved in the decision making process.

I particularly noted the comments of the member for Davenport this morning when he suggested we should put aside economic and social concerns in the case of protection of endangered species because we will never get anything done if we do not. I dare say that the member certainly did not stay in this House for some 34 years by not taking into consideration what impact a piece of legislation would have on the social and economic well-being of his constituents. I think that goes without saying.

Having said that, people must have the chance to make their case before decisions are made. The system must be responsive to their needs. There must be a process the people have access to.

We all know that the government does not traditionally follow the approach of think first and act later. In fact the government prefers to go with the highly complicated approach of act first and hope that no one notices later. For some reason Canadians have allowed their government this latitude for many years. It has had dramatic impacts on all elements of Canadian life.

I have a feeling that when farmers, fishermen, loggers, ranchers and oil and gas developers come to the realization that the right to their old way of doing things has suddenly disappeared, and disappeared I might add with little or no compensation, discussion or due process, they may be less forgiving of the government's lackadaisical approach to planning.

When it comes to an issue such as the protection of endangered species, we cannot afford simply to hope for the best. When we consider what is at stake here, it is literally the existence and survival of entire species that hang in the balance. Loose legislation and planning simply will not do.

It should be pointed out that the government has a record of loose planning when it comes to critical environmental issues. All we need to do is look at the recent events surrounding Canada's role in the Kyoto accord. All along the government has been committed to signing the accord. While it keeps promising Canadians a plan, we have yet to see anything that actually resembles a thoughtful, methodical, consistent plan.

Again the government seems to think that the philosophy of “just trust us” is good enough. I am here to say that it is not. How can we expect to just trust the government when ministers are contradicting each other, premiers are breaking ranks and refusing to sign on, the industry is voicing extremely strong reservations regarding the economic viability of signing the accord, and to top it all off, we still do not have a real plan of action.

Regardless of its characteristic arrogant ways, the government still plods on. It is amazing really, the connection between these two issues. Perhaps the lessons we have learned so far from the government's approach to Kyoto should serve as a fair warning on Bill C-5.

For example, the Minister of the Environment has admitted that he does not know what the total cost of compensating landowners will be. He is so unsure of the numbers that the government refuses to guarantee compensation. He has indicated that he believes the costs will be more than $45 million a year but just does not have a firm number to be able to make a real statement or commitment to compensation.

Now let us look at Kyoto. The Minister of the Environment has stated that he believes the total cost of Kyoto to the Canadian economy to be around $500 million per year. However Canadian industry has done its independent studies which state the cost of Kyoto to be anywhere between $25 billion and $40 billion a year. We cannot help but wonder if his estimations of compensation costs for Bill C-5 are equally as skewed. Not that it really matters to the government. After all, since the government refuses to commit to compensation, in the end it will be Canadian property owners who have to face the bill.

Another example of where the government's handling of the legislation parallels that of the Kyoto issue is the area of establishing national standards. In its current form, Bill C-5 would allow the federal government to establish national standards without any consultation required with the provinces. We have already seen how the government is prone to go ahead and act without consulting or considering the provinces. Just look at health care spending.

Certainly the division between the provinces and the federal government was never more clear than when many of the premiers declared their opposition to signing the Kyoto accord. Had there been more consultation and awareness, the government would have known the provinces' position and used the information to promote consultations and compromises. Then again, perhaps the government did know and just chose to ignore it as it has done so many times in the past.

The government has a well documented history of being heavy handed and autocratic when it comes to passing legislation. Regardless of how worthwhile the amendment is, if it comes from the opposition side of the House, the government simply will not consider it. It seems to me that legislation that is critical should be beyond political manoeuvring. Many good ideas were suggested at committee yet the government stubbornly refused to make the needed changes.

The truth is that the protection of endangered species is a worthwhile and necessary endeavour and the Canadian Alliance supports the effort. However the key element missing in this legislation is balance, balance between socio-economic concerns and the protection of species, and the balance between private rights and public protection. Clearly the legislation has not become any more balanced in the seven years that have passed while the Liberals have tried to enact endangered species legislation. Should this bill go ahead without any further changes, all Canada will have is an unbalanced act from an unbalanced government.

Those changes must be made to ensure that we have endangered species legislation that will actually protect wildlife and the rights of landowners. I would suggest that a businessman would be foolish to enter into a contract without knowing what the costs of that contract would be. On behalf of my constituents and all Canadians, Canadians are smart enough not to enter into a contract on this endangered species bill without knowing the costs to Canadians and to the Canadian economy.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Canadian Alliance Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, one casualty of a huge dimension accompanied this bill. That casualty will probably do more harm than the government can ever do by passing this legislation. I am talking about the casualty that was brought upon the committee that worked on the bill.

I volunteered to sit on the committee. Many people will say that members of parliament should never volunteer for anything because that always means a lot of work. However I volunteered to be on the committee because this bill will have huge ramifications where I live. I wanted to make sure that I could act in the best interests and seek the best solutions for my constituents.

The committee was chaired by an outstanding member of parliament. He is a very wise man and a man who has the respect of the entire committee. I also had the honour of working with my party's chief critic, the member for Red Deer. He knows the bill and knows what we are talking about. He has spoken many times in the House.

It was one of the few committees where I saw members on both sides working for the common good. Members worked to make sure the bill would be accepted by the government and the bill with our amendments would be welcomed and accepted across Canada.

It is true that some 127 very qualified witnesses appeared before the committee. We gave them our undivided attention. In their profession as scientists we listened carefully to their suggestions and drafted many of the amendments based on their attendance. There were some 300 amendments.

The casualty came after the break. There were all these outstanding people, from the chairman to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment. People on both sides of the House just slumped down in their seats when they saw what happened. It was my hope, after all the committees I have sat on, that the valuable work of a committee would finally be realized. I really thought that for the first time I would see something produced in the nature of amendments that would fulfill the dream of Canadians from ocean to ocean to ocean. That did not take place.

It seems very strange that somehow the Minister of the Environment can put his hand in his hat and flick out $45 million as a cost for the operation of this bill. We have no idea where he got that number. There is no study. We presented no papers. He just said $45 million. The minister simply cannot do that and make it acceptable to the House.

The government has slashed our amendments and the bill as it is now is a total insult to the scientific community in Canada. The last time the scientific community was completely ignored in Canada was when the scientists told us that we were going too far and that we had better stop the reaping of the cod.

The politicians said they did not have to listen. They did their own business and the fishery on the east coast did its own.

Scientists made it clear that we cannot develop the bill with an open door policy. Having an open door policy on a bill of this magnitude is like having an open door to one's house. The heat and cold can come in. The pets can go out or the kids can come in. Anything can happen with an open door policy.

The government would want all of the power of the bill to remain in cabinet. It would ignore the scientists, witnesses and those who have studied habitat. It wants to take complete control. Scientists want to do science but the government wants to do it its way. These decisions should not be left to cabinet alone. There is too much proof in our history of what happens when cabinet alone makes decisions. We need to listen to scientists.

In committee we heard from various people who would be affected by the legislation, people in industry, people who own private property, aboriginal property, crown land, provincial and federal land. We now find in the bill that there would be some exemptions.

I live very close to the 49th parallel. I watch white tail deer go back and forth. They do not know whether they are in Canada or the United States. Rare species do not know when they arrive at the border. An animal does not know when it is moving from a protected area to a non-protected area.

The government has put restrictions based on racial groups within this bill. That simply will not work. Everyone in committee said that would not work so that was thrown out. The government came back with a better decision.

I do not know why the minister wants to have everything left up to him and cabinet, exclusive of the biologists and those who have studied habitat, especially after we have worked so hard on the bill in committee.

If the government had paid attention to the recommendations of the committee that studied this issue Canadians from coast to coast would be relieved of all the apprehension and all the worry they presently have with the bill. With the slashing of amendments people from coast to coast have more apprehension than ever. I know people in my area have more apprehension than ever.

If we put this bill with Bill C-15, the cruelty to animals bill, and the Kyoto agreement, we have more mistrust than we need.

A great bunch of people worked in committee. I say that in all honesty. The people I feel most sorry for are not those of us who sat in the opposition chairs in committee, but the fine chairman and the people on the government side of the House who watched their dreams and aspirations go down the drain. They put in hundreds of hours and listened to hundreds of witnesses. That should never happen in a democratic society.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Larry Spencer Canadian Alliance Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to this group of amendments that deal with the socioeconomic impact of the species at risk bill. I want to address my remarks specifically to a couple of those proposed amendments that as we well know will not be a part of the law but to indicate something of what we thought should be a part of the law.

We support the idea of protecting the species at risk. We understand that we are stewards of our environment, our nation, our wildlife and resources. We are not against protecting these kinds of things. We believe in the people of the land and how they need to be protected as well.

Motion No. 15 is a Canadian Alliance amendment. It 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.”

That has to do with the economic impact. The endangered species act would give tremendous discretion to the minister to intervene to defend specific species at risk. It does not give any guidance as to what the minister might do to balance that with other considerations, such as, how it would impact the landowners, the land workers and those who are directly involved with that area of the species at risk. We believe that is a tremendous amount of power without proper balance.

The species at risk working group or SARWG had representatives from a broad range of environmental and industrial groups including: the Canadian Wildlife Federation, Canadian Pulp and Paper Association, Sierra Club of Canada, Canadian Nature Federation, Mining Association of Canada. The group proposed this amendment:

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

That of course is not a part of what we expect in the legislation. We are speaking to that and insisting that we remember the impact. It is one thing to be environmentally friendly, to protect the species at risk, but it is entirely another thing to forget those farmers and landowners who must bear the brunt of this. We feel that we must say these things on behalf of our constituents who are expected to bear the brunt of the cost.

COSEWIC, which is an independent scientific panel called the committee for the status of endangered wildlife in Canada, is responsible for maintaining the list of species at risk. It will take into consideration scientific evidence. This is all well and good and as it should be. We would want those species to be named by those who have knowledge of such matters, that it would be from a scientific point of view and not just simply someone's opinion. We applaud that. However it must be balanced against the real live concerns of property owners, industry and the economic well-being of Canadians.

I will take a few moments to tell a story. Some years ago my wife and I purchased a small farm from her aunt and uncle who were retiring. Not long after we purchased the farm a decision was made by the government of that place to run a four lane highway past the front of the farm. The government issued an order to us that it was going to purchase a strip of land which included the house, garden, parking area, garage and the barn. It wiped out the homestead. Every building on the farm was taken away by the decision to put a road in front of the property.

Let me mention another thing that happened to the same farm later. It was discovered that the land was erodible. It did not stand up to the hard rains. It would wash away and it needed conservation practices.

We found out that the crops being produced on that particular land were being overproduced and there needed to be a way of reducing production of that particular crop. We found out that wildlife in the area needed some way of being protected and conserved, that their habitat was being eroded. We also found out there was natural prairie grass in that area that was disappearing from the landscape and would be gone if not protected.

That piece of property went largely to the highway and to the conservation project. As a landowner am I happy about it? Yes, I am happy. Why? Because there was adequate and fair compensation. That does not sound like Canada does it? That was the program in place that enabled the conservation to take place and that is why we are so adamant about believing that it needs to happen in this case.

The government must do more for property owners, farmers and others who gain their livelihoods from the land and whose prosperity could be affected other than simply saying to trust it. It must stipulate that the commitment to protecting endangered species would be cost effective and respect the economic interests of Canadians.

Motion No. 14 is another amendment put forward by the Canadian Alliance. It reads:

That Bill C-5, in Clause 6, be amended by replacing lines 7 to 12 on page 8 with the following:

“becoming extinct as a result of human activity, to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened as a result of human activity.”

The bill would provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity. That is a laudable goal. However we feel that it also needs to be a part of choosing and deciding what would be protected, that is, is it a result of human activity?

We believe that all categories should be qualified by the phrase “as a result of human activity”, not just the recovery of those species. We would like to identify and minimize harmful human impact and not necessarily interfere with the natural evolutionary trends that work on species independent of human influence.

Species of special concern should, like the extirpated, endangered or threatened species, be mentioned in the clause and be protected against becoming endangered or threatened as a result of human activity that is in our control.

I was always taught to accurately count the cost before undertaking a major project. What is the cost to the real rural economy? What will be the cost to rural families? What will be the cost to the taxpayer? We have no way of knowing. Is it perhaps something like the cost of registering the farmer's duck and gopher guns? Will it forever rise in exponential numbers? Will it too oppress the already depressed farmer? Has the cost really been counted?

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have the opportunity to speak to the bill with respect to Motion No. 3 which includes a number of amendments regarding exactly how the program would be paid for, who would pay for it, how much it would cost, what the effects would be, et cetera.

Last week I had the opportunity to go across the prairie province of Alberta to visit a number of farmers in areas such as Grande Prairie in the north and a small town called Vulcan in the south. A number of farmers, landowners and different types of agricultural people were present to speak to the committee about the difficulties they face in their professions.

I heard comments regarding the situation in a number of areas where people are having a difficult time with the price and control of their products. They are often unable to transport them because of the costs. An area that comprises part of my riding of Wild Rose and extends into other parts of southern Alberta is suffering a great deal of drought. Many farmers are quite concerned that as we move into a third year of drought there is a good probability many of them will have to close up shop and discontinue growing crops and providing much needed commodities in the land. They are quite concerned about all these things.

Behind all these major concerns was Bill C-5. One farmer commented that it was as if they did not have enough headaches and problems in their business already. These people live on the land, are in charge of being good stewards of the land, and use arable land to produce commodities that are needed not only in our own country but in countries around the world. The almighty ivory towers of Ottawa have once again put together a piece of legislation that indicates what the government thinks of these people. They are having shoved down their throats--

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3:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment.

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3:50 p.m.


Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I appreciate the passion with which my hon. colleague is speaking but I wonder when he will bring it all into line with the motions before the House regarding species at risk.

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3:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I think the hon. member was on his way to attaching the comments he has made to the bill we are debating at the moment, Bill C-5. We are anxiously awaiting his statements.

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3:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is too bad the hon. member is so impatient because that was my next comment.

The impatience of the Liberal government is nothing new. The government was impatient to bring in a gun registration program that would only cost $85 million. The government is impatient to bring in legislation to protect endangered species when it does not even know what it would cost. It cares even less because it would pass the costs on to the landowners and users of the affected areas. These people are doing their best to make a living and provide a commodity the country needs desperately. This in turn provides jobs to many Canadians.

The lack of a complete study of the socio-economic impact Bill C-5 would have on the agricultural industry is a disgraceful way to treat taxpayers and citizens of this land. It is absolutely disgraceful. It ignores the fact that most landowners work hard to produce commodities that are necessary in Canada. The government has never set agriculture as a priority. It never has and never will. It does not believe it is important because there are not enough votes in it.

One day the government will wake up and realize how important the agricultural industry is. In the meantime it hinders it with legislation that does not provide answers in terms of what it would cost and the impact it would have on farmers' lives and livelihood. The reason is that the government does not give a darn.

The minister for gun registration is saying give it to them. I know what he is thinking. He was thinking the same thing when he went to the public and asked whether they believed in gun control. Everyone believed in gun control and we therefore had to have legislation called registration which no one in these areas supported. Some 82% of the population supported gun control but did not support registration.

When the government came to this legislation--

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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The hon. member for Davenport.

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Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I appreciate the synthetic indignation on the part of the hon. member across the aisle who feels he should expand the scope of his intervention, but we are in report stage. We are dealing with specific motions and we are still anxious to hear him address the specific motions before the House.

The rule of relevance should apply to the hon. member as it applies to all of us in the House.

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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Yes, a while ago I somewhat sympathized with the hon. member but this time I would ask him to come back to the substance of the bill.

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Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, we do not know what the project would cost any more than we knew what the gun registry would cost. The expert told us it would cost $85 million. That is hogwash. The expert does not know what he is talking about. Even the Minister of the Environment has said he has no idea what the cost would be. He says it could be this much or that much.

We know one thing. Putting Bill C-5 into place would not necessarily look after the needs of the people expected to administer it and look after endangered species. We would not worry about them. We would see what kinds of punishments the government would bring upon landowners if they failed to meet their commitment to the legislation. It would not even be their commitment. It would be forced down on them from the great mighty towers of Ottawa telling them to do it or else. That is the attitude on that side of the room.

The government says there is no connection between what the legislation would do and the suffering that goes on in the agricultural community. That is false. We would be bringing things down on people who do their utmost not only to produce good products from the land but to protect the very endangered species the government is talking about in the legislation. They have done so for years without any legislation or top down enforcement. They have been doing a good job.

The government should give producers credit for what they have done. It should work out co-operative measures to encourage them to continue to do good work and do it even better without penalizing them. However the Liberal government is incapable of doing so. Bill C-5 absolutely shows that.

Our amendments are coming in loud and clear. The government had better start taking care of the people whom it expects to take care of endangered species. When it cannot recognize the problems they are going through because it does not give a darn, what can it expect?

I am fed up with a government that does not care about the people who pay the bills for this place. They are the ones who foot the bill. I have seen producers raise their machines over areas and let crops grow wild because there are nests of endangered species they want to protect. They do not bother trying to get more crops off the land. They do their job. Why can the government not work in a co-operative manner with these people? Why can it not encourage them to continue doing what they have done in the past rather than order them to do so in such a draconian fashion? I say welcome to Canada, the dictatorship of the world.

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3:55 p.m.


Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada.

First of all, this bill reminds me of the early 1980s, when I was the mayor of a small municipality of about 4,000 inhabitants. When plans were made to create a national park in an area containing endangered species, our municipality had to invest considerable money in attaining its objectives, with the help of Parks Canada, of course.

The municipality had to clean up its water, because used water was being discharged into the St. Lawrence River at the proposed site of the park. At the time, I, as the mayor, and the council members were seen almost as cranks, people who were going to squander the taxpayers' money to save threatened bird species.

Twenty or so years ago, the environment was perhaps not the important concern for most people that it has become over the years. The bill before us today, which has a very specific objective—to protect species at risk—has undoubtedly been requested by taxpayers. Unfortunately, we cannot support this bill because, once again, the federal government is interfering extensively in provincial jurisdictions.

However, we should perhaps keep in mind the impact this bill may have on endangered species in our societies. We should perhaps also recall how the planet has evolved, how our environment has evolved since there was first life on earth. In fact, the situation today is the result of 4.5 billion years of evolution.

Man, humankind, is undoubtedly the creature which appeared last, but which has had the greatest impact. Over the years, man, by acting as he has done on this planet, is perhaps the being that has contributed the most to the destruction of his environment. Let us not forget that the evolutionary process has provided the human beings on this planet with a large selection of living organisms and natural environments.

We have only to look around us here. Leaving this House, we can go out to parks, along the Ottawa River, into Gatineau Park, and everwhere are surrounded by natural environments we often neglect to pay any attention to.

A decrease or degradation of biodiversity affects us all, and can have unexpected consequences for all human beings, for our living environments, and for our health in particular.

In Canada, as elsewhere, attempts have been made for some years to control the phenomenon of environmental destruction. Since the 1970s international conventions have been signed in order to control the trade in certain animal and plant species, in order to protect them from extinction.

Again this week, television news reports have shown us how certain species are disappearing, in Africa in particular, where people are engaged in trade involving endangered species. At the Rio summit in 1992, a number of countries in the international community, Canada included, signed the Convention on Biodiversity and made the commitment to initiate or maintain the existing legislative and regulatory provisions necessary to protect threatened species and populations.

Not long after, moreover, the government made the promise in its red book to commit to long term protection of the species that populate our planet. In that same vein in 1995, the Minister of Environment of the day introduced a first bill.

This provoked an incredible number of protests and criticisms—from environmental groups in particular, and others—that the environment had not yet really entered into our collective mores.

One of the main criticisms regarding this bill was that it was limited to federal lands. Environmental groups reproached the federal government for only intervening on lands that it owned, when it should have been intervening on all lands that required it. Once again, I repeat, such interventions would have to be done with the agreement of the provincial governments, including Quebec, which already had major legislation in place that protected species at risk to a great extent.

It is important to remember that at the time, only four provinces had laws to protect endangered species. Environmentalists pointed out that it was important for the government to act across the country. Once again, it is important to note that there were only four provinces, including Quebec, that were equipped with legislation to protect endangered species. As usual in the Canadian federation, Quebec was ahead of the others. This is nothing new, this is the case in a host of areas.

In 1996, the federal government proposed a Canada-wide agreement to the provincial and territorial ministers of the environment. This lead to the bill now before us. That agreement was the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk.

In October 1996, the ministers responsible for wildlife gave their agreement in principle, which means that they finally accepted the principle of the bill and came to an agreement. At the time, Quebec environment minister David Cliche signed the accord, but he did not agree with, among other things, the federal government's interventions, which did not take into account provincial laws and regulations on the protection of threatened species.

In fact, our position and that of Quebec are the same as the one that the Minister of the Environment, Paul Bégin, stated as soon as his federal counterpart's bill was tabled, namely that this legislation was mere duplication. This is why we will vote against the bill.

Again, we agree in principle with the objectives of the bill, but we cannot accept it, since it creates duplication in provincial jurisdictions. In our opinion, this bill is not very useful to Quebec, considering that we already have regulations and laws protecting threatened species.

When the bill was introduced by the federal government, the Quebec minister indicated that this legislation sought not only to create a safety net for the protection of threatened species and their habitat on federal sites, but also on the whole Quebec territory. And we cannot agree with such a measure. We agree that the federal government must be able to take action to protect threatened species. It must do so, but by agreeing with the provinces, by accepting Quebec's jurisdictions, by accepting that Quebec is already ahead in this area, and by working with provincial governments.

The main criticism that we have regarding this bill is that it creates duplication, in that the federal government is once again duplicating regulations that already exist in Quebec. Instead of co-ordinating its efforts, of investing with the province to protect threatened species, the federal government is duplicating, it is creating a new structure and it is adding a new army of public servants to protect threatened species, while Quebec already has the necessary instruments.

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Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the report stage of Bill C-5. Enforcement penalties of the bill are of great concern to me and my Canadian Alliance colleagues. I am speaking about government Motion No. 120, clause 97. The government seems to be continuing a trend of making criminals out of law-abiding citizens and turning its back on Canadian agriculture.

First, we have gun registration. That program has out of control costs and no realistic benefits. A farmer owning a shotgun is now a criminal.

Next, the government's cruelty to animals legislation is another example of turning farmers into criminals. Through the definitions outlined in that legislation, farmers and ranchers are at risk of prosecution over necessary and ordinary farming practices.

Now we have Bill C-5, yet again the ordinary Canadian has the opportunity to become a criminal. Due to the language of the bill, the crown does not need to prove intent or even reckless behaviour. Instead, it is up to the accused to prove that he or she has acted with due diligence.

Bill C-5 makes it a criminal act to kill species at risk or damage their habitats. In theory this is a worthy goal. It is the practising of the theory that has me concerned. There is a definite need for protection of these animals and species.

Species at risk legislation is something with which we agree, however there needs to be a balanced approach in the conviction and sentencing of offenders.

According to the bill as it currently stands, one would be required to be an expert in recognizing all species on the list of those that are at risk. It is not the average Canadian citizen who is aware of every one of these animals, let alone who has the ability to identify them and their habitats. To not be aware of every one of these animals and their particular habitats leaves one open for prosecution. I am not saying that ignorance is a defence. What I am saying is that accidents happen.

The enforcement and penalties within the bill must be based on one's reckless behaviour. To make criminals out of innocent people is not the place to start if we truly desire species and their habitats to be saved and protected. However, we do have the government's assurance that the minister will use his own discretion in laying charges. Again, we are asked to trust the minister. To leave the laying of criminal charges to the minister's discretion is not acceptable.

Being charged with a criminal offence is not something that any one of us would take lightly. The bill must contain reasonable guidelines, enforcement and penalties. It is not reasonable to pass a bill like C-5 that has holes and gaps in it. The government would have Canadians be content with the trust me attitude, that the gaps will be filled in by the minister at some later date. This is not acceptable.

If charges are to be laid fairly, the very least that should be provided is basic education and training for property owners and users. They should be entitled to know what their responsibilities are. A basic education plan for property owners would provide them with additional tools in the protection of species and habitats. This would be a benefit to all involved. To leave them in the dark and then charge them later with a crime they do not know they committed is horrific.

The penalties outlined in the bill are severe. There is a fine of up to $250,000 or up to five years in jail for an individual. These are very harsh punishments. Let us say, for example, that a farmer is out in the field and in the course of working the land ploughs under nests belonging to birds listed under the legislation. Is this an indictable offence? Is the farmer truly guilty? What were his or her intentions? Were his or her actions reckless? I do not think this farmer intended to destroy this animal's habitat. Is it worthy of criminal charges? I hardly think so. The farmers and ranchers I know are not about to plough up a bird's nest without thinking.

The legislation must be examined with some common sense. Making criminals out of innocent citizens is not the way to enact this legislation. If the government desires the willing participation of property owners in Canada, the threat of hefty fines and jail time is not the way to involve them. Co-operation is the key to this legislation being effective. Co-operation is possible when all parties involved are viewed as equal. Taking a heavy-handed approach will not work, like this bill.

Farmers and ranchers are among some of this country's finest conservationists. Most of these people understand the necessity of saving endangered species. They understand how fragile our ecosystems are. It would be to the benefit of species at risk to keep farmers, ranchers and landowners as partners in the plan for species protection. Enforcement and penalties need to be included in this legislation, but they need to be applied to those whose behaviour is reckless, whose actions are negligent and whose destruction of species and habitat is intentional.

For example, an individual is driving his or her car through a school zone. The driver is obeying the speed limit and is aware and alert, but suddenly a child darts into the street to retrieve a soccer ball. The driver slams on the brakes but is unable to avoid hitting that child. Is that person viewed as being as guilty as the individual who is driving drunk and at a speed well over the posted limit in that same school zone? Should the punishment for the alert, sober driver be the same as that for the intoxicated speeding driver? A civilized society would say no, that the second driver's behaviour was reckless and showed no concern for the welfare of others.

The bill rejects the thinking of a civilized society. The penalties in the bill must be applied with reason. Assurances of the minister's discretion are not good enough. Penalties must be adequately addressed in Bill C-5 before it is passed.

To have the responsibility of proving one's innocence, and in this case due diligence, flies in the face of western law practices. The onus of proving guilt has always been on the crown. We expect to enter into legal confrontations being innocent until proven guilty. The federal government is now changing those basic practices. A Canadian citizen must now prove due diligence in the face of allegations. This is an awkward approach. The mentality behind it will alienate the participation of the very people needed to help implement this legislation: the property owners.

The enforcement of the bill is also in question. A document released by Environment Canada suggests a need for additional personnel and resources. This request is being made without the bill having been implemented. What will the requests be once it is? As enforcement capabilities by Environment Canada are limited already, what actions will be taken once the bill is passed? This government is notorious for not being able to estimate the costs of its own programs.

The federal gun registry was to have a minimal start-up cost and be self-sustaining afterward. It has now cost the Canadian taxpayers over $700 million. Will RCMP officers now be committed to enforcing environment legislation? The government has cut resources to the RCMP drastically. How can it be expected to enforce this bill?

The majority of property owners in my riding are also farmers. They are good, law-abiding citizens. To think that any one of them could be thrown in jail for inadvertently killing an endangered animal or damaging their habitat frightens me. Farmers and ranchers in the country continue to face hardships. We have seen their determination in the face of challenges such as drought conditions and low commodity prices in recent years. These individuals do not have the financial resources to fight changes that could occur through this present legislation.

The rights of property owners cannot be ignored or overshadowed by the legislation. We must make sure that penalties and fines are applied where necessary. I maintain that there must be the element of reckless behaviour or intent present. Accidents happen and mistakes can be made.