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House of Commons Hansard #161 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was endangered.

Topics

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have been listening with great interest and intent. I am having a very difficult time relating this to Group No. 3 amendments. I am wondering if my hon. colleague could show some relevance to what is before the House.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I am sure that with the three minutes that the member has left he will tie in his remarks to the subject at hand.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was coming to the climax of my speech which deals completely with the issue of socioeconomic interests. I thank my hon. friend from the government for basically laying the ground for the hard hitting points at the end.

Group No. 3 deals with socioeconomic interests. We have a great opportunity here because three things are happening this year: the G-8 summit, the new plan for African development and the Rio summit 2 taking place in Johannesburg. We can make a linkage between all three.

The province of KwaZulu-Natal in Africa has managed to merge the issue of sustainable utilization of resources in game parks and share the generation of moneys from hunting, eco-tourism, sustainable fishing, sustainable utilization and growth of medicinal plants, which is a multi-billion rand industry in South Africa alone, with the parks and with the people in the surrounding areas for primary health, education and economic development.

This is a sustainable model that works well. It marries sustainable environmental utilization and development for the primary needs of people in the rural areas. The benefit is sustainable, long lasting and rejuvenates. It will also retard the urbanization taking place on that continent. However this model can be applied everywhere, particularly in Canada where our parks are having tremendous trouble finding even small amounts of money for research. I have met people in the parks department who cannot even find $100 for lights so they can do their anti-poaching work. This is an egregious situation.

I ask the government to look at this model, apply it to the G-8. It will save many lives. We will have sustainable utilization of resources. Better yet, the bottom line principle is if game reserves, parks and wild spaces cannot generate moneys to provide for themselves, they will sadly disappear. There are models that work.

I ask the government to please look at them. We are very happy to help the government with a strong sustainable species at risk act. All we ask is that the government adopt the wonderful amendments, particularly those in Group No. 3.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

Noon

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I take a particular interest in this issue. In 1988, one of the last things I did as Quebec's minister of the environment was to introduce in the national assembly the first act protecting threatened species in Quebec.

Sure, this act is not perfect. It needs—as a Bloc Quebecois member pointed out—to be improved regarding habitat protection. At the same time—1988 was quite a number of years ago—the Quebec act, like the acts of other provinces, was implemented over 15 years ago. Today, at the federal level, we are still discussing an act on threatened species. All these years have gone by; three bills have been introduced, this one being the third one. Unfortunately, it is sad to see that this third bill may be the weakest of all, because it is so discretionary.

Let me give some examples taken from Group No. 3. In Quebec, we have the beluga whales that live in the St. Lawrence River. This is a most important species, because it is unique. There are belugas elsewhere. There are some in the north, but they are not as threatened as those in the St. Lawrence. There is clear evidence that, in the St. Lawrence River, because of the pollution generated by factories, the beluga whales have had to fight for their survival for years, even decades. At one point, it was mentioned that there were only some 600 belugas left and they could barely survive.

A friend of mine, Pierre Béland, who works for the Institut national du Saint-Laurent and who follows the evolution of the belugas, told me that the survival of these belugas is still in jeopardy, because they are so intoxicated by all the emissions that are unfortunately released into the St. Lawrence River.

An amendment that was proposed in committee would have enabled the federal government, which has clear jurisdiction over waters and is a direct partner of the Quebec government in the Saguenay--St. Lawrence marine park, to settle this issue. In this instance, Bloc Quebecois members cannot argue that the federal government does not have jurisdiction.

Therefore, the committee submitted, with good reason, an amendment to protect species that are threatened geographically or genetically. Separate geographical protection means that if, in a given geographical region, for example the St. Lawrence River, belugas are affected, but that they are not affected in another location, then, according to the act, those that are threatened must be protected.

It seems to me that this provision makes perfect sense. It makes so much sense that all the biologists to whom we talked said it is essential. Could someone give me just one reason as to why the government should withdraw this protection?

It seems to me if we want geographic protection for certain species in one area where they might be affected and not in another area where they may not be affected, surely this makes a tremendous amount of sense for a government that wants to protect a particular species.

I cannot conceive of one reason that this amendment is viewed to be superfluous, to be bad for the common good of the public, for the protection of species. I challenge the government to give me one good reason why this amendment is flawed, why it makes no sense. It is a part of a feeling that the committee has gone beyond its powers. Yet what the committee has done is it has made a feeble bill a little less feeble, a little stronger. Certainly the bill can be viewed as so drastic as to upset the people who are not strict environmentalists like myself.

There is another example of why the government has gone beyond the norms to set aside all the logical amendments that were brought forward by the committee. It has to do with interim measures, which make a lot of sense, if a long space of time occurs between the time a species is declared endangered and the time an action plan happens.

The committee rightly gave the minister discretionary powers to institute interim measures to protect the particular species between the time it was listed and the time an action plan happened. These powers would be discretionary. We did not put compulsory and mandatory powers on the shoulders of the minister. We gave the minister the discretion to use these powers. If the minister for a particular reason, jurisdictional or other, did not choose to use the interim powers, then they would not be used.

Even that was viewed to be going too far. Yet who will ensure that interim protection if this power is not given to the minister?

If I were the Minister of the Environment, I would love to have additional powers to protect species because that is the objective of the law. I would have asked for these powers if the committee had failed to suggest them itself. I would have put them in the original bill anyway. But had I not put them in the original bill, I would have welcomed the committee's idea to insert them in the bill so that these discretionary powers would be in my hands if I chose to use them at any time. But no, even a mild change such as this was viewed to be too outlandish and had to be reversed.

Then there is the question of permitting. In the original Bill C-5 the minister has the authority to enter into an agreement to issue a permit to people which authorizes them to affect the listed species, its residence or its critical habitat. The committee judiciously and logically amended the bill so that there would be consequences if this was not followed.

With the government amendment it means there is no penalty if a person does not get a permit and there is no penalty if it is not complied with. What is the incentive for enforcement? What compels somebody who wants to endanger a species if there is no compulsion at all under the bill, not the slightest desire to enforce it by the government or the minister?

There again it is totally illogical that the government should choose to refuse such limited powers under the bill which would give it far more space, far more latitude to comply with the objectives of the bill which are the protection of species. We wonder whether it was some wish by the minister or the government to--

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Order. Resuming debate, the hon. member for Fundy--Royal.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Madam Speaker, I would gladly give up some of my time to let the hon. gentleman finish, if the Chair agrees.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

There has to be unanimous consent. Is there unanimous consent?

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Bakopanos)

Is the hon. member for Fundy--Royal rising on a point of order or for debate? He has already spoken to Group No. 3.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Madam Speaker, I am the member for St. John's West and I have not spoken to Group No. 3.

Let me first express my concern about the fact that we were hearing a tremendous debate by the member who just spoke. All of us could have learned from it. He had a few other key elements left in his speech which all of us could have benefited from hearing. It is unfortunate it was his own party that refused to give unanimous consent for him to finish. That is a complete and utter shame. There are few people in the House for whom I have more respect than the hon. gentleman. His contribution to the debate will enrich the knowledge of every member in the House.

Having said that, let me also express concerns about the bill. Bill C-5 is supposed to protect endangered species within our country. One concern is that this bill has been scrutinized by people who are extremely concerned with this topic and it has come up wanting. The members of the committee, the species at risk working groups and groups and individuals throughout the country who have major concerns with this legislation have all pointed out that if amendments from the committee had been accepted, we could have had a great piece of legislation with which we could all be satisfied.

What happened? Government in its almighty knowledge refused to accept the amendments. Consequently, if this bill as it is presently constituted is passed, we will have a very bad piece of legislation.

Species at risk by its name alone dictates to us that most of what we discuss relates to rural Canada rather than the large urban areas. It is provinces like Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador where most of these species will exist. It is ironic that the government concentrates very little on its own back yard, on the public domain in the country. It is wrong for the bill to have provisions allowing for federal interference on private and provincial lands without specifically containing mandatory protection of critical habitat on federal lands.

Many of the lands in rural Canada are privately owned. Many of the species that are considered to be endangered exist on those lands. What protection is there for the owners of the land, whether it is compensation for land that might be confiscated or whether it is a concern about charges for damages that might occur to endangered species by the owners of the land? In many cases the owners would have no knowledge that the species were endangered or would not know that the species existed on their land.

There are so many elements in the bill with which so many disagree. I read one statement recently which said that no one supports the bill. I suppose we have to say that is not true because apparently a number of government members support the bill or are being told to support the bill.

The Government of Canada has failed to do its homework. It has foolishly ignored the consensus of the species at risk working group. There is now further gutting to an already weak bill not supported by environmental groups, industry and the provinces. A broad coalition of major environmental groups together with the Mining Association of Canada and the Forest Products Association of Canada agrees that at the very least a scientific listing process and habitat protection in federal jurisdiction should be in the species at risk legislation.

We support the capacity to ensure there are complementary safety nets in place. We received statements indicating that while the provinces did not support Bill C-5 prior to it being tabled certain committee amendments do provide increased clarity. Amendments are made that would satisfy many of the concerns across the country but they are rejected. I sometimes wonder what the House is all about and why we have committees.

People who sit on committees are people who have a specific interest in a particular area. They are informed individuals who are in contact with agencies throughout the country concerned about any topic with which we might be dealing. Committee is a forum where these people can get into the nuts and bolts of legislation. It is a place where we hear the concerns, the feelings and recommendations of people from across the country. What happens when these recommendations are brought back to the government? They are rejected. It is hard to understand why something like that could happen.

Right in the middle of this discussion we saw one of the most experienced parliamentarians in the House, one of the most concerned individuals in the House with regard to our country and to species at risk, not get the courtesy he deserves from his own colleagues to finish his debate. I have never seen such a discourtesy given to an experienced individual in all my life.

When it comes to species at risk we should also pay a lot more attention to a number of other species. We should be concerned about Atlantic salmon which are close to being put on the species at risk list.

When I was a young individual, 5 or 10 years ago, I used to stand by the side of the road with many of my friends and count the number of salmon jumping in the harbour on their way up the river. We do not see them anymore. That is not just a story. It is a true fact in Renous and on the great southern shore of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is a true story in almost any part of Atlantic Canada. Atlantic salmon are going the way of the dodo bird.

One of the reasons is the same reason why our fish stocks are disappearing. It is because of the uncontrolled growth of another species, the seal. Some years ago Canada had a million seals and everybody became concerned about the size of the herd. We now realize that the seal herd has reached seven million. They are purported to eat 40 pounds of pollock a day. If they were to eat just one pound of pollock a day they would consume 2.55 billion pounds of pollock in the run of a year. As one of our former MPs from Newfoundland once said, they certainly do not eat turnips. They live on fish from the ocean. If we multiplied seven million by 40, 365 times, it would give us an idea of the magnitude of the volume of fish consumed by a growing seal herd that is out of control and which the government fails to regulate.

We have in our own hands in this honourable House the power to do something about species at risk, whether it be Atlantic salmon, birds, or whatever else throughout this country. We have the power to ensure that affected people such as landowners have protection in relation to species that might exist on their land.

We should have the power to develop legislation that all of us would say is good legislation and the only way people are affected is in a positive way. That is not the way we are headed. Unless the government wakes up we in the House will also become an endangered species because our contributions as politicians will become less and less effective.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Madam Speaker, to a certain degree it is with a little bit of trepidation that I rise on this because I was not involved in the committee that studied this issue to the extent that perhaps some other members were.

However I am a member of parliament and must vote on the bill. Therefore I must understand it, take time to study it and look at all the ramifications. As members of parliament we all have an obligation to stake out our positions, whether in support or against the government or whether in support or against the committee.

The previous speaker made a statement and I think he said that absolutely nobody supports the government bill. That is simply not true. Perhaps he heard that statement. I would not accuse that member of saying something that was untrue but it is just not factual.

For example, much to my surprise, the cattlemen's association and the mining association supported the government approach on compensation. I would have thought that those were two groups to which many people, particularly from the west or from mining communities, would listen. There is some support there.

Provinces such as Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba and New Brunswick and all territories are all concerned about the committee amendments that change the balance between federal and provincial jurisdiction. There are members on the committee other than some of the ones who have spoken who will support the bill.

Let me talk, if I might, in terms of the criticisms levied against the government because members of the government caucus disagree with the government's position. It is always an interesting conundrum to hear members opposite and the media say that Liberal backbenchers must stand up and show some spine, that they have to be prepared to take positions against the government. What happens when they do? There are three particular members who have spoken or will speak on this issue for whom I have a lot of respect when it comes to environmental issues. I will listen to their arguments and judge whether or not I agree with them.

Just because I respect their knowledge or positions does not mean that at the end of the day I am always going to agree. Today we are dealing with amendments most of which I will admit are housekeeping but some of which are substantive, When those members stand to speak and stiffen their spines as they are encouraged to do particularly by members opposite people will stand up in this place and say, is it not awful the government will not listen and will not allow their respected members to continue speaking.

We know full well that the opposition would obviously rather listen to a distinguished member of the Liberal Party speak against the government than another member of the opposition. We understand that. That is not rocket science. If I were sitting over there I would probably want to do the same thing. The reality is that these committee members did their work, they put forward their arguments and the committee came forward with recommendations. Now it is up to the government to make a decision.

I am the vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. We just released our committee report this morning in a press conference at 10.30. Members from the government side were forced in many instances to put some water in our wine as it related to that particular bill. There were members in our caucus who spoke out against that particular bill several months ago when it was introduced, when the regulations were introduced, particularly as they relate to things like retroactivity and the new grid that would be used.

I only use this as an example to compare it to this particular bill and to these amendments. If we were to decide at the end of the day that given the rejection of the government of certain recommendations that we as backbenchers in the Liberal government have made, that as a result there is no way in our good conscience we can vote for the bill, then we should stiffen our spines. I have no difficulty with that and I know the government has no difficulty with that.

However in reality this is what we need to do because this is the art of the possible. Is it better to have no bill in this instance? Is it better not to have a process in which endangered species can be offered protection? I think of a place like the Oak Ridges Moraine. One of the recent speakers said this is largely a rural issue. In fact there are many parts of this great country that are going through the transition from rural to urban. The Oak Ridges Moraine in the greater Toronto area is a classic example. If rampant developments were allowed to take place there would be drainage of the water table that would destroy habitat. It would make it impossible for certain species to find food, to reproduce and to survive. With all due respect it is not just a rural issue.

I will grant that in most parts of rural Canada we will find more endangered species because there are fewer of us intruding upon their habitat, but it is still a factor in our own communities. In the Credit River valley, going right through the heart of the city of Mississauga, a city with over 600,000 people, I can assure the House that there are endangered species in that valley ecosystem that we would want to protect.

We need some rules. We need some understanding. We need a process.

I personally had a run in with an endangered species. I have a property in the Parry Sound area where I wanted to build a road. The MNR, the provincial ministry, came in and discovered the nest of a red-shouldered hawk, much to my surprise, on my property within 30 or 40 feet of the right of way where I wanted to build the road. Guess what? We were well along in the process and all of a sudden it was stopped. One red-shouldered hawk put an end to me having reasonable, easy access to my property. I must go by boat to get there as a result of that hawk.

I must say I had mixed feelings. At first, since I was getting older, I wished I could have this. Someone said I could take care of it, but I would not do that. At the end of the day this made my property that much more sacred to me. As a result we found a second nest. This is a very rare hawk which is in danger of extinction. I support the re-establishment of the committee that would come up with the definitions, scientific data and research that is needed to determine whether or not the red-shouldered hawk should in fact be put on the endangered species list. That is what the bill would do.

If we want to throw out the baby with the bath water, or the red hawk with the nest, then by all means trash the bill, but let us face it and look at some of the statistics. There were 334 motions tabled during clause by clause review. I know how grueling that is, having sat through at least that many in terms of the immigration bill, Bill C-11. I know how taxing it is. The committee passed 125 of the 334 motions tabled. That is a lot of work, research, and debate. Of these the government supports 75. The ministry requirement to have an assessment by the committee within 90 days is a substantial improvement to the situation.

I understand the passion and the feelings of those folks within the government caucus who will not be able to vote in support of the bill.

In this business one learns to put some water in the wine. There are victories that can be achieved by working through the committee process, the caucus process and perhaps even at report stage in this place. However at the end of the day a decision has to be made and my decision will be to support the bill.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is the House ready for the question?

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The question is on Motion No. 3. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The recorded division on Motion No. 3 stands deferred.

The next question is on Motion No. 4. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.