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.


Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Paul Forseth Canadian Alliance New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, today we are debating Group No. 3, with the main theme of socioeconomic interests and public consultation.

The laissez-faire, wide open approach is not the current situation in Canada, as we do have a multi-level system of environmental laws. However, we need to go to the next step in identifying specific endangered species and finding ways to protect and preserve them. We understand that if we are not careful in creating boundary lines that limit property rights and commercial activity we could ruin the economy and still not significantly help species at risk. It is finding those boundary lines, the system of discretion where we shall impact or limit or may even punish, that the whole controversy is all about. Also there must be a range of incentives to protect and preserve. The consequences of the new act, on balance, must result in species preservation, but if that wrong line is chosen, which it looks like the government indeed has done, then species will not be protected at all.

I note that the Species at Risk Working Group, which had representations from a broad range of environmental and industrial groups such as the Canadian Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association, the Mining Association and so on, recommended as an amendment in its presentation to the standing committee in September, 2000, that:

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

We say that in this section of the bill it is a failure on that count.

There has been a lot of debate around COSEWIC itself. COSEWIC stands for the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. 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. This is where a main controversy erupts. Environmentalists want the scientific list determined by COSEWIC to automatically become the list that is enforced by law. The Liberals want cabinet to have the final decision as to which scientific recommendations are accepted and which are not.

The Liberal government wants to have political control over which species are protected. Then the consequences can be applied, perhaps according to which area gives to the Liberal Party or sends Liberals to the House. In other words, regional differences and influences will be played again by the Liberal government.

In committee, the Canadian Alliance proposed a balanced compromise which was accepted by the committee. The Liberals now want to reverse it. We argue that the scientific COSEWIC list should become the legal list within 60 days if the cabinet does not act to prevent it. In other words, under this approach cabinet would have the final say. Indeed, politicians have to make that final decision but they would have to act to perhaps overthrow or overcome a scientific recommendation with convincing justifications to the public and also with the political consequences that would flow from that. Under the Liberals' approach cabinet could defeat scientific recommendations simply by ignoring them.

How dare this Liberal government ignore the work of the House standing committee and run roughshod over its own backbench members and parliamentary democracy? Why should MPs listen to witnesses or bother finding consensus positions between parties when the government ignores it all anyway?

The House standing committee's balanced approach to listing endangered species proposed by the Canadian Alliance is, I believe, the responsible position. The Liberals want all power to remain with cabinet so they can simply ignore the scientists, and environmentalists would make the pronouncements of unelected, unaccountable scientists the law of the land, but it is cabinet's job to consider the socioeconomic consequences of listing and to determine the proper response to scientific recommendations. Scientists should do science. They should not get into the world of politics. The political decisions should be rightly left to cabinet, but cabinet should at least be required to explain and justify itself and should be publicly accountable if it chooses not to follow a scientific recommendation.

Part of that process is public consultation and public notice. That is a very positive thing. Some of the technical amendments in this grouping are heading in that right direction.

However, protecting endangered species absolutely requires the support of property owners. For this reason, it must be as transparent as possible. People must have the opportunity to make their case before decisions are made. The system must be perceived as responsive to their needs to create co-operation rather than an unpredictable law that is to be feared and perhaps even circumvented.

The bill would preserve the minister's discretionary power. He would decide whether the compensation is given or not and how much. He would decide whether provincial laws are effective or not and, therefore, whether the federal government would step in to impose its laws. This discretion is the opposite of transparency, the opposite of incentives to protect and preserve.

The government has refused to provide any draft regulations about the process for compensation, who would qualify or for how much. These are essential and should be part of the debate before they are finalized.

Where is the technical amendment which would provide a predictable process for property owners to seek compensation? The committee at least said that the minister must draft regulations, but the government wants to do away with that obligation also.

Where is the technical amendment which would set out the criteria which the minister would use to determine whether a province's law is effective or not? The committee put criteria into the bill, but the government wants to take it out also.

The process for action plans and recovery plans must be transparent.

In summary of this section, it appears that the Liberals want a species bill under such a name so they can say that they have one, regardless if it ever saves anything. They want to take total control. This means only one thing, judging by past Liberal government performance on other files. It wants to selectively apply the law which puts political considerations first. If the consequence affects the likelihood of money delivered to the Liberal party, then that factor will probably have sway.

Under the present form of the bill, it will be the Liberal Party first and species and the environment second or even third.

The bill is a classic example of how good intentions get perverted by Liberals, how an environmental need is secondary to interests of the industrial friends of the Liberal party. It is clear that the Liberals cannot manage and this bill is the clear evidence of it.

It will probably take a Canadian Alliance government to eventually bring into the country a nationally fair and workable law that actually saves some endangered species rather than being designed to save the endangered Liberal Party.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dale Johnston Canadian Alliance Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, today in speaking to the endangered species act, Bill C-5, I intend to make the case that the government has not taken into account the socioeconomic impact that the bill would have on Canadians.

It is particularly pertinent to note that the minister refers to this as getting into the proverbial swamp and states that they have been given $45 million a year to run this process, yet they do not know for sure if $45 million a year is sufficient to do that or not.

What I contend is that it will cost a whole lot more than $45 million a year and the rest of the money is to come from the very people whose lands house these endangered species. It is sort of a double jeopardy and a double burden on persons who actually own the land when a law is passed that says they must protect the species on the land, but, if land is taken out of production, they will not be compensated for it. Further it says that they have to do this at their own expense. Basically they are being taxed to provide money to put into these government programs, yet if the government program runs short, then the individual landowner can be expected to pick up the slack.

My contention is that the government needs those taxpayers. It has to be a symbiotic relationship. The taxpayer has to make a living to pay taxes. If the bill is going to be so onerous and so restrictive that they will be hampered to the point where they cannot make a living, the government has to look very closely and earnestly at the possibility that the taxpayers will just throw up their hands and say they cannot make a living. If companies or people cannot use their land for which it was intended, for which they bought or leased it, whether it is for farming, ranching, mining, harvesting forestry products or whatever, then they simply will go out of business and the government will lose more taxpayers.

The government cannot afford to lose taxpayers. When it is paying $40 billion a year in interest rates to maintain the interest on our national debt, the government needs every dollar it can drag out of its taxpayers.

I do not think that the government has taken into account the socioeconomic impact that the bill will have. That can be stated over and over again. I hope the government is listening and taking these things into consideration, but I am afraid it has not because we have put forth all kinds of amendments. I understand that my colleagues were able to get agreement on several amendments in committee, yet that was all washed out once the hierarchy got ahold of it.

Here again we have a committee process that is a sham. It looks good on the outside but when we actually look at the workings of it we discover that the Prime Minister and cabinet dictate what the outcome of the committee shall be.

While it is absolutely desirable to maintain our species at risk, to have them flourish, propagate and multiply in a friendly environment, it is also extremely important that the economic stability of the country be allowed to do just exactly the same; to prosper, to expand, to put people to work so they can make some profit and pay their shareholders and their taxes. If they cannot do that, all the good intentions in the world will be for naught because we simply will not be able to maintain our endangered species and we will have an even worse problem. We would not be able to maintain our industries.

I have said this before in the House that, as a farmer, I have grave concerns that the intention of the bill, as laudable as it is, will not be realized under the parameters as written today. It simply has to be amended to take into account that the people who are paying the bills have to have an opportunity to grow and to thrive or else they simply will stop paying the bills. Then what will happen to our endangered species? There will be no one left to protect them. It is important for someone to speak up to protect the people who are actually paying the bills.

Some of my colleagues have spoken previously about the punitive aspects of the bill as well. In British common law it is tradition that we will be innocent until we are proven guilty. In this bill it appears that that is not the case. It appears that there will be a provision in it that whether a person has acted maliciously, recklessly or with criminal intent will not be taken into the situation at all if it is discovered damage has been done to environment which would impose hardship on endangered species; in other words to ruin the environment of endangered species.

By not having to prove that, the crown should have to prove that people either acted recklessly, maliciously or with criminal intent for those charges to stick. If people cannot defend themselves against that, what possibly could be put up for a defence? Could we say, we did not know that the species was endangered? No, that cannot be said because that is no longer a defence. We cannot say we were not aware that the species was living on our lands because that is no longer a defence.

It could be a total accident. I tried to make this point yesterday. If someone were to hit a whooping crane with a car, which is an unlikely possibility, would that person then be guilty under this act of destroying an endangered species? I do not think there is a person in Canada who would not recognize that a whooping crane is one of the endangered species. It is more or less the poster animal for endangered species. However, if someone were to accidentally bump into it, and more likely run into it with an airplane, would he or she be guilty under this act? From my reading of it, I believe the person would be. That is simply not right.

This is setting a tremendously dangerous precedent. We have to allow people charged with things an opportunity to defend themselves. If they do not have an opportunity to defend themselves, then that shows me that we are headed toward a totalitarian regime. I have been to Castro's Cuba and I have seen that the people there do not have an opportunity to defend themselves. If they are charged with something, they go straight to jail. They have no way of defending themselves.

I would say, as I said yesterday, that the bill will not accomplish the very things that it should and could accomplish if it were written correctly, and it is to the peril of endangered species in Canada.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on this group of amendments before the House dealing with Bill C-5. I want to take up where the Alliance member left off and that is the question of how much the government has moved toward a totalitarian regime which is so evident in regard to Bill C-5.

I take umbrage with the member's suggestion when he likens what is happening here to Cuba. Cuba is a pinnacle of light and a bastion of democracy when we compare that country's operations with the actions of the government.

What we are seeing today is an unequivocal and unparalleled attack on democracy. No wonder Canadians are cynical about politics today. No wonder they feel that governments do not represent them and politicians are not doing their jobs when this kind of deliberate manipulation of the democratic process takes place.

We are not talking about a few amendments that the committee presented and that the government then vetoed. We are talking about 125 amendments that came from a committee of the House that worked long and hard for weeks and months. We can go back years on this issue of protecting wildlife species at risk in Canada. This was a committee that was actually working. It was doing the job we all expected committees to do when we were first elected.

It is something I cannot imagine because I am used to a committee system where the minister responsible tells the committee what to do so that we become mere puppets and we are managed and manipulated by the government of the day. I am speaking of the health committee. I do not need to tell members how much that committee has been managed by the former minister of health, I cannot speak for the present one but certainly the former minister of health. We have not been able to contribute to the issues of the day because of that kind of manipulation. My perspective is certainly coloured by the experience I have had for the last five years on the health committee. I hope we can correct that.

It is mind-boggling to think that when we finally have a committee that works, where all parties come together and bring forward a unanimous report to the House, the government of the day can turn around and say forget it. It said to never mind all the hard work, never mind the fact that the committee dealt with some very difficult divisive issues and came together, compromised and made recommendations. We are talking about a committee that looked at 330 amendments. It took a lot of time and effort and then returned with a report with 125 amendments to the present bill that we are dealing with.

That was the result of hard work on the part of the committee members. This was years and years of work by expert groups and concerned citizens across the country who were pressuring, pulling, prodding and pushing the government to finally do something on this vital of area of species at risk, an issue that was long overdue for action.

We can talk about a decade of stalling and dithering by the government of the day on something as fundamental as environmental protection and ensuring that species at risk do not become extinct. We are talking about something very fundamental and basic to our society today and our notion of being a civilized nation. What is more reflective of a civilized nation than what we do in terms of species that are at risk of becoming absolutely extinct?

It is absolutely harmful to the democratic process for this to happen. It is harmful to the whole process involving citizen participation. That is one issue we have to come to grips with in this place.

Let us once and for all deal with this matter in this place. Let us stop the games, the charades, the manipulation of parliamentarians and committees. Let us start to value and treasure the work that we do as parliamentarians, especially at those rare moments when we can come together with one voice and impress upon the government that there are suggestions that can be pursued that were overlooked. There are constructive propositions that are worthwhile and ought to be considered. That is one very important issue.

The other is what this means in terms of the task at hand. The real test of the bill is to protect Canadian indigenous species, subspecies and distinct populations of wildlife from becoming extirpated or extinct. Does Bill C-5 do the job? Does the bill help us as Canadians to ensure that species do not become extirpated or extinct?

By all accounts the bill does not because the government has watered down the bill, ignored the recommendations and bypassed the good work of the committee. What we have before us today is a government that has decided to scrap the work of the committee, scrap the good recommendations and go back to a watered down bill that does not do the job. The bill does not do what is required. It does not do the bare minimum to ensure that species at risk are protected and we as a country do not face the extinction of rare and valuable species.

We can look at a number of aspects of this group of amendments as they pertain to the ability of the bill to protect wildlife species. I will focus on one particular amendment that is covered in the group we have before us today. This has to do with the question of extra protection for the preservation of habitat where wildlife is threatened.

It is very interesting to note that the committee recommended an amendment to Bill C-5 which would provide for broad discretionary interim measures so that the government would have the ability to protect species that were in immediate danger. This is a provision that gives the government some wherewithal, a mechanism to take immediate steps should information be made available and some development occur requiring that kind of immediate intervention to protect the species.

My colleague from Windsor--St. Clair has worked long and hard on this whole process, like others around the House from all sides. He tells me that the government chose to come back with Bill C-5 scrapping entirely this amendment. The government is stripping the bill completely of this provision in order to ensure that the minister and a competent minister would be able to take those steps if necessary.

Why in the world would government, any government, do that? Why would the government give up that ability? It is not something that would be used on a random basis or a whim or at will, but it would be there in the event that immediate action was necessary to protect a species on the verge of becoming extinct.

One can only assume that the government is bent and determined on catering to the demands of industry, landowners, or big developers. We do not know who. The government is catering to someone out there who is putting pressure on it to water down and weaken the bill. It is inexplicable and makes no sense.

What is required of us today is to do two things. First, we must stand up for democracy. That means sending a message to the government that it is absolutely unacceptable for it to veto, bypass, scrap or diminish the work of a committee of the House when it has arrived at a decision that is based on unanimous consent and based on months of hard work.

Second, we must stand up for strong legislation and at least force the government to put back in place those amendments recommended by the committee because they toughen Bill C-5 and ensure that we have got some framework to deal with a serious and growing problem.

The only way we can do both is to oppose this group of amendments, to oppose Bill C-5 as amended by the government, and have returned to us a much tougher, more meaningful bill as recommended by the committee of the House.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gerry Ritz Canadian Alliance Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and speak to Bill C-5, the species at risk act. This is the third or fourth try by the government to bring the legislation to the floor. It seems to create more controversy than substance in a lot of these situations.

Patrick Moore, one of the founding members of Greenpeace, was speaking at the Saskatchewan Cattle Feeders Association meeting in February. He said:

I made the transition from the politics of confrontation to the politics of building consensus.

That is a tremendous quote. That is exactly what the government should be doing with legislation like this. It needs to build consensus with the provinces, landowners, land users and so on in order to make this type of legislation palatable.

Mr. Moore is a native of Vancouver Island. He went on to say that the federal government's proposed species at risk act should be a positive program that should reward not punish farmers for living near these species. He is absolutely right. That is at the crux of the debate. He stated that costs for such programs should be borne equally by both urban and rural people. We all want to protect these species at risk.

This fellow has the right idea on this legislation. He has seen situations where people on Vancouver Island spent huge amounts of time and energy saving eagles. They did it; it worked out very well. They were able to bring back that population of eagles. It is just tremendous to watch them flying around.

The unintended consequence was that the eagles started feeding en masse on blue heron nests. The blue heron was of course an endangered species. They corrected one problem and the eagles started redirecting their feeding habits on to the blue herons so that now they have another problem on their hands. It looks like mother nature is more than able to take care of a lot of this on her own and when people get involved we have these unintended consequences.

I woke up the other morning to the radio and the announcer was talking about flocks of up to 4,000 crows around the city. Everybody knows that a crow is a bit of a pest. They do not just wake us up early. These birds are predators that feed on songbirds. They feed on the nests and the young. We have saved the crows. We are not allowed to shoot them any more or use poisons. Now we have these huge flocks of crows feeding on songbirds, the very birds we want to entertain and bring into the city. When we start to muddle with things there can be unintended consequences.

SARM, the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, is having its annual meeting coming up between March 4 and March 6. There are a number of resolutions that have come forward that speak to these unintended consequences.

I know that my counterpart from Selkirk--Interlake this morning talked about a Ducks Unlimited project that was having an adverse effect on areas of his land. He has less hay land to farm. He has plovers that are now endangered because their habitat is being flooded.

We see loons in Saskatchewan being moved off Lake Diefenbaker where the water rises and lowers so much because of the dam at the head of it that there is not a loon population there any more. We have seen adverse effects and unintended consequences.

The RM of Rodgers submitted one resolution. It claimed that some municipalities were concerned about the risk of prairie fires that non-grazed or uncut long grasses presented, and neither the RM Act nor the Prairie Forest Fire Act gave the RM specific authority to direct owners of such land to create or maintain satisfactory fire guards to prevent the spread of fires. They wanted the act to be changed so that the RM would have some intent or some excuse to go in and look after that.

That is directed at some of the areas that are going back to habitat, that species can then carry on in.

There was a resolution submitted by the RM of Three Lakes. It claimed that the best use for arable land in Saskatchewan was for agricultural purposes. Much of the land owned by Ducks Unlimited and the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation had uncontrolled weed growth, and non-arable land was much better suited for the purpose of Ducks Unlimited and the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation. They wanted some laws or some sort of regulatory body to control where Ducks Unlimited and the wildlife federation could expand.

We are having problems with weed growth in some of these untended areas where the seeds are blowing out across the rest of the arable land and creating a problem. The species at risk bill does cover grasses and weeds as well so there are unintended consequences there.

The last resolution came from the RM of Langenburg and the RMs of Spy Hill and Churchbridge. They claimed that the municipal land tax base was gradually being eroded by the conversion of agricultural land to wildlife habitat whereas the North American waterfowl management plan, and that is what the member for Selkirk--Interlake was talking about, identified five million acres of land in western Canada that was to be returned to wildlife habitat. That is not all bad. We do have an excess of crop grown in our country.

A lot of people have talked about taking arable land out of production and putting it back into grasses and so on. Perhaps there is something good there. They are also saying that this North American waterfowl management plan has budgeted $2.7 billion Canadian for this task. No one can bid against these folks. They have only spent 21% of the money that is allocated to secure 46% of their target. With a 60 cent dollar, that land is very accessible and very easy to buy out. No one can bid against them.

The work is being done by local and international conservation groups such as Ducks Unlimited, the largest single landowner in the province of Saskatchewan. Farmers and the provinces are making the changes without threat or punishment from the federal government.

Statistics Canada reports an excess of $6 billion benefit to the economy from wildlife and related activities. That has been harmed a little with the long gun registry. The hunters are not out there the way they used to be. It is great to create all these habitat and wildlife areas, but unless there are actual hunters out there, we end up with an excess.

There is a huge problem in Saskatchewan at this time. The chronic wasting disease, CWD, which infiltrated our domestic elk herds has now shown up in wild deer. Hunters and wildlife federation officers are eradicating whole herds of deer. When we start to mess with mother nature, these unintended consequences start to boil over.

We saw that with the government deregulating the use of strychnine to control pocket gophers. There was a huge resurgence of gophers. A family of these little guys will clear off a tonne an acre of forage. We talked about that issue here. We passed a motion to reinstate the use of strychnine to control gophers. I hope the government will follow through on that on the spring seeding. We are looking at another drought in western Canada and gophers are going to be a huge problem again. We will have to have unlimited access to that strychnine in order to get on top of the problem.

There are some unintended consequences when we start to play with poisons. There was a huge hue and cry which actually shut it down the first time. Eagles, hawks, swift foxes and ground owls were feeding on the same poisons. It is very hard to prove that was actually happening.

Studies have been done. A lot of them were done by Senator Herb Sparrow who is a known environmentalist. He has won awards. He has done studies which say that a hawk would have to eat seven to eight gophers at one sitting in order to be harmed by that amount of poison. It is physically impossible. They just cannot digest that great a number. A fox or a coyote would have to eat 35 or 40 gophers. The bulk of them die in the hole so they would not be accessible to begin with.

We have regulated a huge problem in western Canada with respect to the gopher by taking away strychnine because some people said it was poisoning carcasses and that coyotes and the odd eagle were dying. If that is happening, then go after the bad guys. Hit them with every law on the books that can be thrown at them, but please do not throw the baby out with the bath water and regulate us all.

That is what Bill C-5 seeks to do when we do not talk about proper compensation and when we talk about criminal liability and that people are guilty before they have a chance to prove themselves innocent. It is a huge problem.

Years ago I had a lumberyard and I had a truckload of lumber coming from the west coast to my lumberyard. While going through Banff National Park, an elk bull jumped out in front of the truck. The last thing the truck driver wanted at two o'clock in the morning was to have an accident but it happened. Who was at fault? He was on the highway and the elk jumped out of the ditch. It took out the radiator, the front tire and the bumper of my truck. They are expensive repairs when it is a Kenworth truck. The driver spent more time filling out paperwork for the elk that committed suicide than it took for me to get the truck parts from Calgary, bring them out and put the truck back on the road.

The elk is not an endangered species. It just happened to be in the park. That type of thing happens.

The criminal intent outlined in the bill is that a person is guilty until the person can prove that he or she is innocent. We see no compensation and the usage of land is being taken out from underneath the farmer, the rancher, the woodlot owner, the miner, the oil patch and so on.

We really have to look at some of the amendments that have come forward and which are rightfully placed. They are non-partisan in nature. Let us get the government back on track with the right purpose here, to protect endangered species, some of which are farmers out in western Canada.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on Bill C-5 with a number of concerns. I do not think there is anyone in the House let alone in Canada who does not have concerns in regard to a species that becomes endangered and how to help rectify that if it is possible. Bill C-5 goes far beyond that. If we are to look at this issue in a reasonable way, surely we have to look at the socioeconomic impact.

I am not that old. I am only 56. I was brought up to believe that there was such a thing as private property rights in Canada. A person could go out and spend their hard-earned money, their life savings, or maybe an inheritance that had been left to them by their mother, father, or grandparents, on a piece of property where they could raise their family or perhaps start a small woodlot. That property was theirs. As the old saying goes, that person was a king in his home. As long as the person did not infringe on his neighbour's well-being, everything seemed to be fine.

Then something like Bill C-5 comes forward which does not seem to take into account at all what the social impact will be. This piece of legislation will allow the government to deem a species on a person's property to be endangered and therefore the landowner will be held responsible for the upkeep and well-being of that species for the rest of his existence on that piece of property. Right away would a landowner in a free society that believes there is such a thing as private property rights not think that the government would help offset the cost or look after it itself? Naturally he would. However not in Canada. Not under this legislation. We have to look at the absolute stupidity of this whole philosophy.

I am very proud to be from British Columbia. Forestry is a major industry not only in British Columbia but right across Canada. Let us say we have a large section of forest in British Columbia, 90 square miles. In that industry in that one section perhaps 3,000 people as a rough average are employed. All of a sudden someone comes along and says that there is a little bug that lives in the forest and the whole forest has to be shut down. All of those people will be out of work which will impact on all their families and there will be no compensation.

Let us take that one step further. If a company had invested in that forest, had made its bid, paid its penalties and fees to the government and then was shut down, what would happen? There is no compensation from the government. It could go bankrupt, whether it was a big company or a small company. There are a lot of small companies in the forest industry. Under this legislation, the way it is written, that is exactly what could happen.

Even when the committee looked at it and put forward well over 140 amendments to the government to address some of these concerns, the government turned a deaf ear. What is happening?

It does not matter where people live. It will impact upon them, even if they live in the city. If there is an endangered species in the city, it will impact upon people in the city too. They will be held responsible. If people have a summer home or cottage on one of the lakes in Ontario, this bill could impact upon them. Their neighbour or somebody could decide that a species should be looked at because it could be endangered and the landowner could be held responsible for it.

Will a young person growing up in Canada invest in this great country when there is this type of hammer over his or her head? I could spend $500,000 on a piece of property and two days later somebody could decide there is an endangered species on my property. It would drop the value of my property from $500,000 down to where nobody would want to touch it because they would be responsible for the endangered species.

It becomes a major question with regard to what is going on. We cannot, point blank, pass a piece of legislation like this without looking at the consequences. What will the government do to our farmers, the people who supply our food? What will the government do if it decides there is a species of plant life that has to be saved at all costs? Will it shut down all the farms with no compensation?

I have heard that the government in some countries totally controls everything and no one is allowed to make a living unless the government says they may do so. Is this where we are going? Is this really where the government wants to take us?

Government members can shake their heads all they want. You never addressed one of the amendments put forward by all parties in the House. Not one have you tried to address.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

We addressed 70.

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5 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Not one--

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5 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order. There are some very strongly held views on either side of the House on this issue, but please do not forget the Speaker.

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5 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will not forget the Speaker. I only wish the Speaker had been in on some of the committees. Maybe then we would have legislation put forward here that made some sense.

The government members do not care about the concerns of the people. They do not care about the concerns of the property owners. They do not care at all about anybody other than themselves.

The minister himself says that he does not know what the cost will be to implement the legislation. He says it will cost at least $45 million. I heard this once before on Bill C-68. It is now up to well over $700 million and there is still nothing happening on Bill C-68. We are going down the same route again.

I am afraid that government members have become so arrogant in their attitude to the people of this country. They do not care how much it costs. They do not care how much it hurts. They do not care what the effect will be on the family lives and employment in this country. They really do not care about anything outside of making sure their own paycheques are signed so they can cash them at the bank. That is all they care about.

They have done very little consultation on this bill. They are again stepping on provincial jurisdiction in many areas.

I want to assure members opposite that everybody has concerns with regard to endangered species. The government should consult. It should look at it reasonably and act with the people upon whom it will impact for a change. Please, at least do that with this piece of legislation.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to participate in the Group No. 3 round of amendments but before I do so it would be completely inappropriate if I did not compliment you on the extraordinary Latin you advanced in the House yesterday evening.

We in my party have a problem with four principal planks of Bill C-5. First, the compensatory regime lacks clarity. If the government had its act together it would simultaneously table the regulations.

Second, the bill would not provide for mandatory protection of critical habitat on federal lands. How does the government have the moral suasion to deal with private and provincial lands when the minister is of the opinion that it should not look after its own backyard?

Third, transboundary species such as migratory birds are not included in the bill. That is a serious mistake.

Fourth, leading to your latin lesson of yesterday, Mr. Speaker, I find it odd that we are debating whether the list of species at risk should be determined by science or politics. Social and economic implications should come into play in the recovery plan but we should not hide behind the list. Is it not ironic that the some 233 species listed yesterday are being accepted automatically by the Government of Canada but it will not have scientific listing in the future? If it was good for 233 species at one pop why would it not be good on an ongoing basis? The government has contradicted itself 233 times in the bill.

I will speak to the motions we have in play in this group. I will start with Motion No. 5, a motion proposed by the Canadian Alliance. It aims to remove the capacity of the federal government to protect aquatic species. That should be maintained under the purview of the federal government, so Motion No. 5 is not worthy of support.

The Progressive Conservative Party and our DR cousins will support Motions Nos. 7 and 8, the government technical amendments. We have no problem in that regard.

We wholeheartedly have a problem with government Motions Nos. 9 and 10. The government is trying to gut a provision the committee made that would have protected a subspecies of the endangered species community. The amendment would have used a more biologically accepted term by adding the words variety or genetically distinct. This is the language utilized by COSEWIC, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, which thought it was a step in the right direction.

Certain species have evolved over time and through natural selection into different species, whether different communities of wolves or the ponies that live on Sable Island. These animals have developed into genetically distinct species in their own right and their biodiversity should be maintained. The Government of Canada is removing an amendment the New Democrats, the Progressive Conservatives and a myriad of learned Liberal MPs supported. It has chosen to capitulate, gut a good provision and insult the good work of the committee.

Motion No. 14 is an amendment we have a problem with in the same regard. We will therefore not be supporting Motion No. 14.

We will not be supporting Motion No. 15. The hon. member is advocating that the phrase take social and economic implications into account. This speaks to the purpose of the act which is quite clear: to protect endangered species. We should be talking about the bill's socio-economic implications and recovery plans but we should not distract from its primary purpose.

We are on board with the government's technical amendment in Motion No. 19 which would clear up some language.

Motion No. 30 is a technical amendment which we support. We also support Motion No. 32, Motion No. 34 which is a government amendment, and Motion No. 36.

We have a serious problem with Motion No. 35. It would take back one of the principal benchmarks of the Government of Canada with respect to the listing provision that says the government must comment on whether or not species would be added within a six month time frame.

It is quite shameful that the government is gutting this amendment that was passed by members of the committee including New Democrats and Liberals. A compromise amendment was supported by the Canadian Alliance although I may want to check my facts. The government is gutting a provision it could have kept instead of capitulating to backroom bureaucrats who thought for some reason that gutting it was a better way to go. It is an insult to the democratically elected individuals who spent a lot of time at the committee level reviewing those aspects of the bill.

Motion No. 66 is the one we have a major problem with. It would change a clause that deals with enabling legislation to give the competent minister the capacity to make interim measures. It would enable the minister to make interim calls about whether or not a species was at risk. It would give ministers the capacity to protect habitat on an emergency basis. It would enable them to do these things but does not say they would have to. The government has said no, we do not want any responsibility whatsoever so we will take out the provision.

There are other amendments in the group but we in my party think Motion No. 66 is the greatest problem. The provision it proposes to change was supported in committee by members on both sides of the Chamber. It is quite sad that the government has decided to gut it.

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5:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to the Group No. 3 motions concerning Bill C-5, an act to protect endangered species. I had the chance to work quite intimately on the bill when I was environment critic for our caucus.

We in the opposition have serious concerns regarding the last few groups of motions. A number of my colleagues have spoken quite diligently to all the motions in Group No. 3. I commend the last speaker who spoke to all the motions. He knows the issue quite technically and has followed it closely. The government is wise to listen to the things he has to say. I congratulate him for his intervention today.

For the public who loves to tune in and listen to what we do and talk about in this place the technicality of the motions can be somewhat confusing. I wanted to put the motions in a general category so people at home could follow the themes we may be concerned about with respect to the bill on endangered species.

As I have mentioned in the past, it is clear that Canadians across the nation believe we need endangered species legislation. More than 90% of Canadians want effective legislation when it comes to endangered species. However they have concerns as well. They are concerned that property rights should be protected; criminal intent should be clearly defined; and the various interests of landowners, environmentalists and all stakeholders should be brought together. This is a concern many of my colleagues have raised. It not been dealt with by the government.

The prior groups of motions dealt specifically with compensation. This is an issue about which landowners who are the volunteer stewards of the land have a great concern. The question has not yet been answered with a clear equation. It is not clear how compensation would dealt with if land were confiscated because an endangered species was found on it.

The Group No. 2 motions deal with jurisdictional and criminal intent issues. There are concerns about whether the legislation would affect the jurisdictions of provinces. Would we need a national accord to streamline the environmental policies of provinces in relation to the federal government? Concerning criminal intent, if someone accidentally destroyed habitat on their private land they would be guilty until proven innocent. Even if it was an accident it would be difficult to prove in some cases.

In the Group No. 3 motions some of the main themes concern socio-economic interests. There is also the issue of COSEWIC and how the process of listing species would be determined. Motions Nos. 30, 32, 36, 68, 136, 137 and 138 deal with COSEWIC in some form or another. How we would set national standards ties into the provincial jurisdiction issue. Motion No. 79 deals with the issue. There may be a few others.

We spoke about criminal offences in Group No. 2 but Motion No. 120 makes reference to changes when it comes to punishments and penalties. Public consultation is an important issue to all members of the House if not all Canadians. They should all be able to have input on the bill. Motions Nos. 4, 7, 19 and 36 all deal with the idea of public consultation.

Instead of speaking to the specific motions I have identified I will address the general themes I spoke about and the concerns we in the opposition have with the bill.

Mr. Speaker, you are no stranger to this place. You know the importance the official opposition puts on fiscal responsibility. It is one of our biggest concerns and we have raised it over and over again.

Some of my colleagues spoke about this earlier today. As I tuned in to some of the riveting debate, I heard some of my colleagues say that they were not concerned about the costs associated with the bill. One of my colleagues talked about the gun registration bill and the fact that the government told us one amount that it would cost for gun registration when in fact the actual cost of administering that bill was outrageously overbudget.

Are we going down the same road with this bill? We do want endangered species to be protected and we do want effective legislation but we need to be honest about the cost. We hear different numbers right across the board from provinces and from the federal government which say that it could be more than $45 million a year, but we need to know how much it will really cost. When it comes to the socioeconomic interests of all Canadians, this is something that we fundamentally need to address.

There is another area that has caused a number of concerns for environmentalists. I touched on the motions pertaining to COSEWIC, for which environmentalists definitely have a concern, but it does directly affect this place. The concern is about how we will put together the list when it comes to establishing what constitutes an endangered species and what does not.

While dealing with this particular part of the bill, I remember there was much debate on how science should be left to the scientists and it should be removed out of this place completely. Politics should not be involved in the listing process nor in the actual recovery plans associated with deciding what constitutes an endangered species and what does not.

If I am not mistaken, one of the motions put forward by the official opposition tried to come up with a balance to this problem. This is exactly what we had proposed when we said that we should leave science to the scientists. They could put together a list of endangered species that this place could look over and evaluate, and especially cabinet because ultimately it should have the final say in evaluating the resources attributed to going through the whole recovery plan when it comes to dealing with protecting endangered species.

It would be great for all of us to list the endangered species but the reality is that we need the resources to have an effective recovery plan to protect those endangered species. Cabinet has a role to review the potential list of endangered species but it should not be a political game.

We see a lot of political games from the other side of the House which may be why some environmentalists get concerned about this process. We need a list that is produced scientifically. We need cabinet to review that list and to put together a recovery plan cost analysis on which endangered species can be covered right away and which need some obvious time.

The long term effect is to protect as many endangered species as possible but we cannot do that with the resources we have. We need to be diligent about it.

I would argue that cabinet does have a final role but it should be strictly a resource based role and not a science role. We should not question that. COSEWIC's job is to put together people for that committee or group who can evaluate endangered species.

In the motions I mentioned, we proposed an amendment to find that balance between protecting endangered species and realizing the costs associated with that.

I get quite passionate about endangered species but we need to make the right decisions. Sometimes it is difficult to make decisions in this place that will achieve the best results.

I want to quickly touch on the national standards issue, one that is so important when it comes to how we in this place can effectively produce legislation that does not duplicate what is currently happening in provinces but instead works together with provincial governments to achieve the goals that all Canadians feel are so important.

I hope the government will be encouraged to heed some of these suggestions today because that is the only way we will bring all stakeholders together on this very important bill, which hopefully will achieve the goal of protecting endangered species and not the divide and conquer mentality that the government has.

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5:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to add some comments to the debate. I appreciate the comments by my hon. colleague, which were deeply heartfelt, as are the comments that all members make in the House about this issue. I think protecting species at risk is a broad based concern shared by all Canadians.

In terms of this particular amendment to the bill and others that have been presented, our concerns are based on the desire to see legislation that works. We are concerned with results and to achieve those results one has to consider the socioeconomic aspects of the bill.

To suggest that we will achieve the desired goals we have for the legislation without being fair in terms of the socioeconomic impact this will have on our partners in the use of the environment, the resource companies, the individual producer and the agricultural producers, which is a major concern for my riding, is to suggest something that is unachievable.

The reality is that landowners and farmers deal with these issues on a daily basis. They are the frontline people. They run their businesses in an environment in which they are in partnership with nature. They recognize not only the risk that nature presents to the, but the risk it presents to the species with whom they share the land. In my experience it has been people like those in my constituency, farm families and rural inhabitants, who have been the frontline troops in the battle to preserve our species at risk and their natural habitat.

Many of the projects that have taken place in my riding, such as soil conservation projects, grasslands preservation projects, wetlands conservation projects and the like, have been successful only because of the participation of people in that region who believed these projects were fair, reasonable and that they would work. They involved themselves in a sharing manner in making these projects work. The bill fails to do that and because of that it is flawed.

My dad used to say that some people were so smart they were stupid. What I am referring to is the basic fact that all the scientific data in the world will not change the fact that if people on the land, people who depend on the land, perceive this bill as something that punishes them or is unfair to them, all the brains in the world and all the beautiful laws we write here will not succeed in getting the result we want.

I cannot help but contrast the problems in this bill with the problems facing our Minister of National Defence right now. I am glad he is here with us. In his case he was briefed on an issue but has asserted that he did not quite understand that briefing. He said that he came to a fuller realization of the briefing as the week went on. What that speaks to is a failure to communicate and a failure to understand. That is paralleled by this bill.

I know many groups made submissions to the committee in the preparatory stages of the bill. They were asked to make submissions and did so in good faith. The World Wildlife Fund, the mining industry, the pulp and paper industry, even the Sierra Club all agreed that socioeconomic impacts needed to be considered and considered seriously if the bill were to succeed. The problem we have is that the briefing did not take place and the reality is that the information did not seem to stick. It is the same kind of thing--

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5:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry but I must interrupt the member. He will have approximately six minutes remaining whenever this matter comes before the House again.

The House resumed from February 22 consideration of the motion that Bill C-27, an act respecting the long term management of nuclear fuel waste, be read the third time and passed; of the motion that the question be now put.

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February 26th, 2002 / 5:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the recorded division on the previous question at the third reading stage of Bill C-27.

Call in the members.

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

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6 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

The question is therefore on the main motion for third reading of Bill C-27.

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6 p.m.


Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think you might find if you ask that there is consent that those who voted on the previous motion be recorded as voting on this motion now before the House with Liberal members voting yes.

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6 p.m.

The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this fashion?

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Some hon. members


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Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, Alliance members present will vote in the same manner that they did on the previous motion.

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

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The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

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6 p.m.

The Speaker

It being 6.01 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

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6 p.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been discussions among the parties and I believe if you sought it you would find unanimous consent for the following motion: That the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights be the committee designated to review the mental disorder provisions of the criminal code, pursuant to section 36.1 of the said act.

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6 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons have consent of the House to propose the motion?

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6 p.m.

Some hon. members