Mr. Speaker, I will clarify where the Canadian Alliance stands in respect to Bill C-5, the species at risk bill. The Canadian Alliance is committed to protecting and preserving Canada's natural environment and endangered species, let there be no mistake on that.
Alliance members do not believe Bill C-5 would work without guaranteeing fair and reasonable compensation for property owners and resource users who suffer losses. We have farmers and ranchers in our constituencies. These individuals want to protect endangered species, but they should not be forced to do so at the expense of their own livelihood.
We have insisted along the way that criminal liability must require intent. The act in this case would make criminals out of good people who may inadvertently and unknowingly harm endangered species or their habitat. This is unnecessarily confrontational and makes endangered species a threat to property owners. We need of a co-operative approach, not the confrontation that seems to be a part of Bill C-5. We need co-operation with the provinces.
The 1996 national accord for the protection of species at risk was a step in the right direction. It needs to be developed co-operatively. Instead, Bill C-5 would give the federal government the power to impose its laws on provincial lands. Since it is left completely at the minister's discretion landowners do not know if and when the shoe would drop. Instead of working with the provinces and property owners the federal government seems to be producing uncertainty and a climate of resentment and distrust as well.
The government wants to amend along certain lines only. In effect it is reversing many of the positions taken by Liberal MPs on the environment committee. Unfortunately that is another example of some top down control of bureaucrats who wanted a particular way. It shows a contempt or a disregard for government members and members across the way in the opposition benches as well.
The government has no idea what the socioeconomic implications of the legislation are and what the costs would be over time. In the minister's information supplement of October 2001 the Minister of the Environment said:
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 (SARA) before we can be precise in prescribing eligibility and thresholds for compensation.
In speaking to the standing committee on October 3, 2001, the minister explained why he could not guarantee compensation in Bill C-5. He said:
We then got deeper and deeper into this and it became more and more of the proverbial swamp, and more and more difficult to do partly because, of course, governments should not pass legislation which is open-ended in terms of funding. We have fiscal responsibilities which, as you can well imagine, are fairly strict on us. Forty-five million a year is what we've given to run the process and that's what we can expect and that's it.
Any fair minded person in hearing this today would understand that would be a red flag. Is it not essential that the costs on industry and property users, the cost on government in terms of enforcement resources, be known before the government introduces legislation with such far reaching implications?
In particular, we want to know and have a little more close approximation of what the bill would cost farmers, fishermen, loggers, ranchers and so on. We want to know what the government's compensation costs would be as well. Without that information individuals cannot plan and government does not know what costs are being passed on.
The Canadian Alliance proposes in Motion No. 15 that:
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 is very important. That is closely related to socioeconomic interest because it requires that a balance be struck between the environmental goals and the needs of the taxpayer. Without considering this important aspect of sustainable development environmental laws could quickly become the goose that lays the golden egg so to speak.
Worrying about endangered species is only something that prosperous economies can afford to do because someone must pay for it. Economic desperation will be no friend to species at risk so we must put that forward.
The species at risk working group was made up of representatives from a broad range of environmental and industry groups among them the Canadian Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association and the Mining Association of Canada. When they appeared before the House standing committee in September 2000 they said the purpose of the act should be pursued to the extent possible while taking into account the social and economic interests of Canadians. That is a reasonable amendment that should be accepted by the House.
We put forward Motion No. 3 which would require socioeconomic interests to be considered in the legal listing of species. The bill would already provide that it be considered in developing recovery measures.
Another great concern is the minister's discretionary power, and that can be a scary thing. The minister can decide whether compensation would be given or not. He would have the power to decide how much compensation would be paid. The minister would decide whether provincial laws are effective or not and whether the federal government would step in to impose the law. That is the kind of wide powers the minister would have and that kind of discretion is the opposite of transparency.
The government has refused to provide any proper draft legislation about the process for compensation, who would qualify and how much one would receive. Those are pretty critical and essential points.
Where is the technical amendment which would provide a predictable process for property owners to seek compensation? The all party committee of the House said that the minister must draft regulations but the government wants to stay away from that obligation. Where is the technical amendment which would set out the criteria the minister would use to determine whether a province's laws would be effective or not? The committee put some criteria into the bill, but the government wants to take that out as well.
The process for action plans and recovery plans needs to be transparent and so must the process in other areas as well.
I find most distressing the fact that farmers and ranchers and those kind of people can be some of our best allies. Providing incentives for habitat protection by promoting good management practices is a good thing. The Canadian Alliance supports stewardship and incentives for protecting habitat. We strongly believe that farmers and ranchers are some of the best conservationists. Their stewardship initiatives must be acknowledged and encouraged.
I speak for farmers in my constituency of Saskatoon--Wanuskewin when I say that farmers understand the importance of maintaining a healthy environment. Farmers, ranchers and agricultural people are primary stakeholders and as such their rights need to be respected in the bill before us today.
There is no myth, confusion or misinformation about Canadian Alliance policy. We are committed to protecting and preserving Canada's national environment and endangered species as well as the sustainable development of our abundant natural resources for the use of current and future generations.
The Canadian Alliance maintains that for any endangered species legislation to be effective it must respect the fundamental rights of private property owners. We believe that co-operating with land owners and resource users, the environmental frontline soldiers, is critical to the success of protecting endangered species. Full co-operation means full compensation and that is only fair and just support. Full compensation provisions must be clearly spelled out in the bill and the regulations. Land owners and resource workers across this country are hurting and cannot take any more economic hardship from the federal government.
Politicians should have some say on the legal listing of species but the public needs to be able to review and comment on it. We have concerns about criminal liability and moving so quickly on people. We need to have that better defined. For these and a number of other reasons we unfortunately will not be able to support the bill.
Bill C-5 does not measure up, as we would say, and therefore the Canadian Alliance is vigorously opposed to Bill C-5 in its current form. We unfortunately cannot support it because we believe that some day we will rue the day because of the implications and the fallout from this particular bill.