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.


Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, once again I am here in the House to talk about Bill C-5, the species at risk act. It is troubling to me that as usual the government is content to forge blindly ahead with legislation without any real idea of what the financial impact of the law would be on the country and the taxpayers.

I would like to spend some time discussing the socioeconomic implications of this proposed legislation. The protection of the environment is a very important priority to most if not all Canadians.

I come from British Columbia, arguably some of the most beautiful territory in the country. Last summer I spent two weeks driving around British Columbia. I put on about 4,300 kilometres just driving to different parts of the province to get a feel, as I often do, for what that province is really all about.

I recall driving up through Cariboo-Chilcotin, in semi-arid desert, Prince George, Prince Rupert, over to Terrace then to the Skeena River, a huge salmon river. I took a ferry across to the Queen Charlotte Islands and spent four or five days there. I recommend that anyone who wants to see what Haida Gwaii is all about should take a trip to the Queen Charlottes and spend some time there. I spent some time at Rennell Sound, at Bonanza Beach, where there are huge expanses of beach two miles long with no one around for miles, with eagles, bear and deer. This is what British Columbia is all about.

British Columbians, maybe more so than anywhere else in the country, understand what the environment is about and how important it is to protect these species. I went into the Kootenays, to the western slopes of the Rockies, to Blue River, and down into the Okanagan, beautiful territory and environmentally sensitive. We understand what that is all about.

However I believe that it is equally important to Canadians that our environment be protected in a way that is economically sustainable. To this end the Canadian Alliance has put forward Motion No. 3 which has been grouped in the third bundle of amendments to Bill C-5. It would require that the socioeconomic interests be considered in the legal listing of species.

The bill would already provide that economic considerations be considered when developing recovery measures. COSEWIC, the committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada, is charged with developing the list of endangered species and habitats from a purely scientific perspective. It is the cabinet which has the final say. This unfortunately opens the door for political considerations to dominate the process. We are saying the economic considerations should be part of the considerations as the list would have a definite impact on the Canadian taxpayer.

The Canadian Alliance has also proposed Motion No. 15. It says 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.

This is closely related to socioeconomic interests because it requires that a balance be struck between the environmental goals and the impact on taxpayers. Without considering sustainable development environmental laws could quickly kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

Consideration for endangered species is something that only prosperous economies can afford because someone must pay for it. As the previous speaker suggested, economic desperation will be no friend to species at risk. Someone must pay for this stuff and if we do not have an economy to support it, it will not be very friendly to the species at risk which it is trying to help in the first place.

Is it not essential that the cost to industry and property owners, not to mention the cost to governments in terms of enforcement resources, be known before the government introduces legislation with such vast implications? In particular, we must know what the bill would cost farmers, fisherman, loggers, ranchers, et cetera, and what the government's compensation provisions would be. Without this information, individuals cannot plan and governments cannot know what costs are being passed along.

One of my staff members in the constituency office of Surrey North is a member of a family that owns one of the oldest ranches in the Nicola Valley outside of Merritt. I had the pleasure to spend about a week on that ranch a couple of years ago. It was during calving season, but that is a whole other issue. It was quite an experience for someone who lives in the city to be on a cattle ranch during calving season.

I talked to my staff member's brother about the co-operation he shows with Ducks Unlimited to preserve habitat on his ranch, as do all ranchers. These folks understand what the environment means to their livelihood.

The government apparently has no idea of the socio-economic implications of the legislation. They could not be made any clearer than in the following statements from the ministry and the minister. The minister's information supplement from October 2001 says:

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 explaining why he could not guarantee compensation under Bill C-5 the minister said at the standing committee on October 3, 2001:

We then got deeper and deeper into this and it became more and more of the proverbial swamp, 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 been given to run the process and that's what we can expect and that's it.

The environment minister was admitting he did not know the costs or the implications. He said he was pretty sure they would be more than $45 million a year. How much more? Has he produced studies? Can he give any idea? He says he does not want to undertake open ended spending commitments. That is fine for the government but Bill C-5 is open ended in terms of what it would cost Canadian property owners. The minister and the government would not pay for it but they would have no problem forcing others to absorb the costs.

The Species at Risk Working Group represents a broad range of environmental and industry groups including the Canadian Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club of Canada, the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association and the Mining Association of Canada. In its presentation to the standing committee in September 2000 it recommended as an amendment that:

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

With these facts in mind I hope the government and the opposition parties see the sense in the Canadian Alliance amendments and vote in favour of them. Otherwise we cannot support the legislation. As I said, we understand the implications of species at risk and the need to protect them, as do all Canadians. However we must consider the implications before we do so.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand in the House of Commons to represent not only the people of Elk Island and Alberta but the people of Canada.

As members know, I am mathematically oriented. I just did a calculation. Today is the 3,069th day since I was first elected. What we have accomplished here? I like to think we have had successes as the opposition. We have had some influence on government policy. However I am increasingly frustrated that the work of committees and parliamentarians is continually being stifled in this place. We see it again in Bill C-5.

When we look at Bill C-5, the species at risk act we are debating today, we see a number of amendments. It distresses me more than anything that the government has chosen to put forward amendments which would undo some of the work of the committee. It is regrettable.

How do we hold a government accountable when it has a majority as the Liberal government does? I think even the Prime Minister and members opposite want to do what is best for Canada. How can that happen if the government routinely ignores the sage advice of expert witnesses from the scientific world and members of parliament who report the concerns of the constituents they all serve? When members of parliament work hard in committee to come forward with amendments and the government reverses the amendments at report stage we must shrug our shoulders and ask what we are doing here. What is the point?

We have made the presentation. Why does the government not accept some of the amendments? Why does it not use common sense instead of the bull headed approach it insists on using?

We are addressing a number of the Group No. 3 amendments today. We need to listen carefully to what the witnesses and technical experts have said. One thing that concerns me is that information coming to the committee has been ignored, especially information from technical experts. I am concerned that the bill's definition of wildlife species would be amended by one of the government's motions. Bill C-5 currently defines a wildlife species as:

--a species, subspecies, variety or geographically or genetically distinct population of animal, plant or other organism, other than a bacterium or virus, that is wild by nature and

(a) is native to Canada; or

(b) has extended its range into Canada without human intervention and has been present in Canada for at least 50 years.

This is the definition accepted by scientists and most thinking people as acceptable and workable. This was the thinking of the witnesses and the recommendation of the committee.

Lo and behold, when the bill came back to the House the government put forward Motion No. 9 which would go back to the generic, mushy definition of “biologically distinct population”.

What does the government mean when it says biological? I do not know if hon. members remember the biology they studied at university when they were young or whether they did. I distinctly remember studying biology in both high school and university. One of my goals was to become a researcher in neurology. It was one of the things I thought might do although I subsequently changed my mind. As members know, I became a mathematics instructor.

When I was studying biology it was the big group. The term biology includes the animal kingdom and the plant kingdom. Biology means any life. That is what it is. It is about biological organisms. It is not a definition. It is a wide, sweeping scope that does not define anything.

I am going strictly from memory. I did not bother writing this down. I am reaching back 40 years or more since I graduated from university. I cannot believe the years have slipped by so quickly. I distinctly remember that after the term biology in terms of specifications we had a kingdom, then a phylum, a class, an order, a genus and a species. I hope I remember it correctly. My biology teacher would be downright proud of me for having the subclassification system correct after all these years.

When defining organisms we need to get right down to the species. We must be precise in our definition of endangered species and wildlife species. Otherwise we will swim around in a vast sea of the unknown and courts and lawyers will have a heyday trying to figure it out.

I am distressed about another element which would come about as a result of Bill C-5. Farmers, ranchers and other people with an interest in the habitat of endangered species would be harassed. If they went on fishing expeditions they could be charged with destroying the habitat of endangered species. They would have to defend themselves whether it was true or not.

Over and over in the House we from the west have tried to get it into the heads of Liberal members, those who control the government, that there is a major crisis in agriculture in western Canada. It used to be that farmers were struggling to make ends meet with margins of 3%, 4% or 5%. When that margin disappeared the profit level was gone. The ability of farmers to earn a living for their families disappeared. Today more farmers than not are struggling with negative numbers. Their input costs exceed their income due a whole bunch of factors.

Can members imagine the distress our farmers feel? They are being threatened by species at risk legislation which could put them in jail, fine them and cause them to incur huge legal costs to defend themselves. At the same time the legislation before the House lacks clear and precise definitions.

The fact that government bureaucrats came up with the wording four or five weeks ago does not mean it is automatically right the first time. When witnesses in committee advise us of better ways of doing things why do we not humbly accept their advice and make the changes? The committee tried to do so. The all party committee agreed. The bull headed government then said no. It said it would undo it even though it was not there to hear the arguments or listen to the expert witnesses. I find it distressing.

Mr. Speaker, you are signalling me that I have eight seconds left so I have to wind down. I have appreciated the time very much.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. We are debating a very important piece of legislation and I just do not see a quorum in the House, nor have I seen a quorum in the House for quite a while.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

There is a call for quorum.

And there being only 16 members present:

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

There is no quorum. The bells shall not ring for more than 15 minutes.

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Now that we have a quorum, resuming debate. The hon. member for Calgary West.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am so glad to have an audience today. The last member did not have one so I am glad to see all the bright, smiling government faces across the way with even a few ministers in the mix. It warms the cockles of my heart. Many times have I walked down the aisle with them, but this one gives me joy.

For the folks at home who may be watching today and wondering what the shenanigans are all about, it is about legislation the Minister of the Environment is putting forward. It amounts to taking money out of the hands of farmers, fishermen, loggers and ranchers without fair compensation. That is what it boils down to. Let us get to the heart of it.

The bill is based on American legislation that has been in place for 25 years and has wasted millions of dollars. As best as the Americans can figure out, after 25 years and millions of dollars of taxpayer hard-earned sweat-soaked funds, it has saved four species, despite the fact that over 1,154 animals and plants were listed.

I do not have a calculator with me. The member right next to me is rather fond of calculators and mathematics though and I am sure he could figure out for me what percentage four out of 1,154 would be. I know it is less than 1%.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

It is three-tenths of 1%.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

I thank the member for Elk Island for informing me that it is three-tenths of 1%.

In other words, in the United States when the legislation was introduced for species that were deemed endangered, three-tenths of 1% were actually positively affected with regard to the legislation. In other words, it has a 99.7% failure rate.

Let me repeat that one more time. I want it to sink in. Maybe it will sink in for the government members across the way. I notice there are a lot less of them now since the quorum call. It is amazing how that works around here. They have disappeared. They are really not that concerned.

There is a 99.7% failure for the American bill on which the one we are debating is based. Let us get this straight. The government is expecting us to toss in millions, possibly hundreds of millions, maybe billions of dollars for a 99.7% failure rate.

I want that to sink in because I will ask a list of questions. I think these questions should be asked with regard to any piece of legislation that comes into this place.

Is it within the jurisdiction of that legislature to deal with it? I would argue in this case that with regard to property rights, mineral rights and all those sorts of things, I really wonder whether or not the federal government should be marching ahead with this given the fact it is not doing the proper consultation with the provinces. There are provinces that have issues with this.

Aside from jurisdictional issues, what sword upholds the covenant? All laws that are made in this place must be enforced if they are to be law or to be effective at all. Otherwise they are nonsense upon stilts, as Jeremy Bentham would have said. What sword upholds the covenant and is the sword just?

When that sword comes down on the necks of farmers, fishermen, loggers and ranchers and takes from them their livelihoods or their prosperity and violates their right to personal and private property, that is an unjust sword wielded by an autocratic and top down demagogic government. It does not help those people who are on the front line for the preservation of those lands because they are theirs, or for the species, the plants and animals that live on those lands. It is an entirely unjust sword the government wields today.

Will what the government is proposing with this third group of amendments solve the problem? My demonstration with my able colleague from Elk Island and his calculator proves that there is a 99.7% failure for the legislation that this bill is based upon. It does not solve the problem.

The question which therefore arises is why the expense to the taxpayers? Why the waste of their time? Why the lack of priority on the part of the government to list a problem, but then when it tries to come up with a solution it chooses one that fails 99.7% of the time. It does not solve the problem. As a matter of fact the American experience with this very law proves that it makes the problem worse.

I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to put yourself in the position of a farmer, a fisherman, a logger or a rancher. It is very tough for some of the members in this place as they stare at me with their patronizing, I think is the word I would use, looks. What they have over there is ego over common sense. What they have over there is elitism over the interests of the average people who will be dealing with this legislation.

For the people, the farmers, the fishermen, the loggers and the ranchers on the front lines of this legislation, it will mean that if they happen to think they have a potentially endangered species on their land, it will either make the land useless to them so that they cannot do anything with it, cannot have it for resale and therefore it will drive the value of the land down. Human interest, the normal affairs of things would say that a lot of people would not respect the government, and I am trying to find the word here, the law being a bit of an arse, they would not respect it. What they would do is they would go ahead and try and liquidate that problem. That is exactly what has happened in the United States.

What has wound up happening is that a lot of endangered species in this case have actually been dealt with harshly because there was not fair compensation.

This does not solve the problem. Actually it is not even neutral to the problem. It actually makes the problem worse.

What fruit will the legislation bear? If the fruit that it bears is that it makes the problem worse, it is 99.7% inefficient or failing and it costs a lot of money and it negatively impacts the people whom it is supposed to directly impact, the farmers, fishermen, loggers and ranchers, who is the government serving? What fruit is this bearing?

The question that flows naturally from it is who wants it? Certainly farmers, fishermen, loggers and ranchers do not want the legislation. By the way, my constituency is largely an urban one. However, on the edge of my constituency there are ranches with cattle roaming about them because it is Alberta. There are people who have their farms at the very edge of my riding, on the outskirts of the city. They do not want the legislation. I have talked with them. I have met them when I travelled around, even in the surrounding constituencies. These people do not want this legislation. Who does it serve?

It probably serves some self-serving Liberals across the way who have it hard written into them with a hard heart toward these taxpayers who pay their salaries that they are going to impose this law on them despite the fact that it does not actually solve the problem. Who wants it? A few Liberals do and frankly, that is not good enough as a test.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

An hon. member

They just do not want private ownership of land.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

That is right. They are opposed to the private ownership of land.

Another question is, does the bill attack a straw man? Yes it does. It is building up this straw man of being able to defend the interests, if you will, of these endangered species.

Actually it falls so short of doing that. In a sense it is flailing at straw because there is nothing there. It tries to make farmers, fishermen, loggers and ranchers into evil beings when indeed they are the stewards of the land.

I have three final questions. How much will it cost? The minister does not know. Who will pay for it? Not the government. Would it pass in a referendum? When we leave it to the people to whom it would directly affect, it would not. It fails by all counts. Shame on the government.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.


Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to speak to the proposed amendments to Bill C-5 that make up the third group. The House will recall that Bill C-5 replaces Bill C-33, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada.

This leads me to comment more specifically on the amendment introduced by my colleague, the member for Rosemont--Petite-Patrie, who is the Bloc Quebecois critic for the environment. He proposes amending clause 56 of the bill, which reads as follows, “the competent minister may...establish...national...guidelines with respect to the protection of” species.

Yet the second statement of the accord signed in 1996 stated that the minister will establish “a Council of Ministers that will provide direction, report on progress and resolve disputes”.

It seems to me as though this government is obsessed with establishing national standards from one end of the country to the other, imposing them in areas that come under provincial jurisdiction. The species at risk act is yet another example.

Clause 56 would allow the government, as I said earlier, to establish codes of practice and impose national standards or guidelines, yet the federal government is not responsible for most of the lands involved and has no power over the resource management in these areas.

Therefore, this clause not only violates the division of powers set out in the constitution and interpreted as such over the years, but it also grants broad discretionary powers to the Minister of the Environment.

This bill interferes directly in provincial areas of responsibility and excludes the provinces from making real and direct contributions to the process. Existing laws are ignored. It is an outrage.

Of course, the protection of certain species is only effective if their habitat is also protected. But it is up the provinces to manage this in co-operation with the various stakeholders involved.

Despite the fact that the minister theoretically supports shared responsibility between the federal government and the provinces for the protection of species at risk, first, he is disregarding the division of powers and the provinces' responsibilities in managing habitat and protecting species; second, he is ignoring laws that already exist; and third, he is assuming extremely broad powers to protect species. The federal government is therefore going against real environmental harmonization between the different levels of government.

I would also like to mention the position of environmental groups and industry which are opposed to this bill. The bill scares them. The main problem, which seems to have been raised by all these environmental groups, is the fact that the decisions on the designation of species will be taken by the minister and his cabinet, and not by scientists themselves.

Will somebody tell me what sort of decision the minister, who does not have the qualifications and has not studied this area, will take? They will truly be informed. He is excluding the scientists who have been studying these endangered species for years. The minister will tell them what to do simply because he is the minister. It is scandalous too.

Quebec's position on this bill has been expressed by Quebec's minister of the environment. When his federal counterpart first introduced the bill he said that it was just another useless development for Quebec. Quebec's minister said that not only was the bill introduced by the federal government designed to put in place a safety net for endangered species and their habitats on sites under federal jurisdiction but also throughout the territory of Quebec.

While the federal government may be responsible for protecting migratory species, it has no Constitutional authority—this government interprets the constitution when it suits its purposes—with respect to the management of habitats located in provincially owned lands. There can obviously be no question of the government of Quebec sitting by while the federal government invades areas of jurisdiction that do not belong to it and tells Quebec how to go about protecting its ecosystems, when Quebec already has legislation to protect endangered species and their habitats.

Quebec's minister said:

Quebec has always behaved in a responsible and appropriate manner regarding the protection of the most threatened fauna and flora species and intends to keep on exercising its authority in this matter. We will never accept umbrella legislation covering all the initiatives in this area.

In fact, the government of Quebec believes that legislation such as that proposed in the bill could be acceptable if it excluded any species or habitat under provincial jurisdiction and if it were applied to provincial lands if, and only if, the province or territory specifically so requested.

The Quebec government would not need to use such a provision, since it passed its own act in the late eighties. Indeed, the Quebec government passed the act respecting threatened or vulnerable species in 1989. It also passed an act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife, and fishing regulations. These three legal supports provide Quebec with the tools required to identify species at risk, to legally designate them as threatened or at risk, to protect their habitat and to develop implementation plans that provide sufficient protection for species and habitat that are in a precarious situation.

The situation is clear. The province of Quebec and its government do not need a federal act to encroach on its jurisdictions.

With the increasing rate with which species are disappearing, the situation is serious. It is true that effective action is necessary, but does this bill really make a contribution to improving the protection of our ecosystems and of the endangered species in it? In our view, the answer to the two questions asked at the beginning is negative.

The Bloc Quebecois completely supports the principle of providing additional protection for species. However we do not think the bill would improve the protection of threatened species. In fact, we are opposed to it because it constitutes a direct intrusion into many jurisdictions of Quebec that I just listed.

This bill is liable to create more red tape, rather than to make it possible for the limited resources to be properly channeled where they can do the most good. The government of Quebec is already legislating in the areas addressed by the bill. While acknowledging the urgency of improving the implementation of these statutes, we do not believe the bill will make it possible to achieve results.

We will not let this bill intrude in our jurisdictions. We already have an excellent act and we want to keep it.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Canadian Alliance Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to address my comments today to the amendments in Group No. 3. The amendments have been divided into several groups. Group No. 3 deals with amendments on the theme of socioeconomic interests and public consultation.

A great deal of the work I have done in putting forward amendments to the bill was based upon public consultations in which I engaged in my own constituency on the subject of Bill C-5. This is a bill which has a different kind of impact and a different kind of response in rural areas as compared to urban areas.

My constituency of Lanark--Carleton is divided almost 50:50 rural-urban, so it seemed appropriate to me to consult with people in my constituency and inquire on how they felt about the bill. I had a tremendous amount of feedback and many suggestions and ideas which I tried to incorporate as best I could into amendments to the legislation, including some amendments in Group No. 3 and in some of the other groups. I believe I have put forward more amendments to the bill than any other member of the House.

Rather than speaking directly to any one amendment I thought I might deal with the theme of this group of amendments as a whole and the government's general treatment of this theme. Then I will speak to how it could be improved as a general thematic discussion.

I will start by talking a bit about the government's approach and the minister's approach to the theme of the bill's impact on socioeconomic interests. To frame that discussion I will be quoting somewhat extensively from the hon. minister's commentary before the Standing Committee on the Environment on October 3 of the year past. On the issue of compensation he said the following:

We then got deeper and deeper into this and it became more and more of the proverbial swamp, more and more difficult to do partly because, of course, governments should not pass legislation which is open-ended in terms of funding.

Do we not wish that were true with some of the other things to which the government commits? He continued:

We have fiscal responsibilities which, as you can well imagine, are fairly strict on us. Forty-five million a year is what we've been given to run the process and that's what we can expect and that's it.

A few days ago in the House it took us about 10 minutes to pass $16 billion of expenditures, so one wonders why there is this tremendous concern about adding $45 million in potential compensation costs to the government's budget.

This is indicative of the whole attitude of the minister toward the bill. It is an attitude which clearly could be dealt with, by the minister's own admission, for the very modest cost of $45 million. That is modest for a government which measures its expenditures in the tens of billions of dollars and the liabilities it has imposed upon future generations of Canadians in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

Nonetheless, it is a matter that could be dealt with if we were to adopt some of the amendments that have come forward with regard to the bill. If that were done, the bill would transform from being something unpopular among farmers and rural landowners to something they could support.

We should not forget that no one is more naturally friendly to that environment than those who live in it. Those who live surrounded by our woodlands, our fields and our lakes are those who have the deepest and most profound attachment to woodlands, fields, lakes, plains and mountains. They more than anybody else want to enjoy the direct personal benefit of knowing they are husbanding and protecting endangered species.

The proposed solution can be found thematically described best in a piece of private member's legislation from a previous parliament. It was a piece of legislation proposed by Herb Grubel, former member of parliament for West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast. He was one of the most intelligent members of parliament to serve in the House in recent decades and one of four members of parliament when I was a researcher who I thought had the most profound grasp and intellect.

The other three included the current member for North Vancouver with whom I worked on issues relating to direct democracy; Preston Manning with whom I worked on issues relating to national unity; and our former national unity critic for the then Reform Party, Stephen Harper, who had an extraordinary intellect. He was a truly remarkable man and I am sure hon. members will appreciate having him in the House soon.

Herb Grubel and I worked together on a piece of legislation known as the balanced budget and spending limit act which in the 35th parliament was under the title of Bill C-213.

That piece of legislation contained a compensation provision which would serve as a thematic guide for the government in this piece of legislation or indeed in any similar piece of legislation where the government considers engaging in what the Americans refer to as a taking, that is to say, some kind of restriction upon property rights possibly in the form of actually taking that piece of property from the private owner and placing it in government hands, moving it to some agency or simply restricting the use of that piece of property.

In the case of environmental legislation the most difficult kind of taking is a restriction upon use. One cannot, for example, cultivate a field, clear a woodlot or develop a subdivision because it is perhaps a nesting site. These are not unreasonable restrictions if some form of compensation is provided. By the government's estimate around $45 million in compensation would be necessary to protect the various animal, bird, reptilian, plant, mollusk and fish species, et cetera.

Under the bill that Herb Grubel put forward this kind of obligation was referred to as a transferred burden, that is to say, a burden of expenditure which the government has taken and transferred to a private individual.

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11:25 a.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. With all due respect to the hon. member, while it is extremely interesting to hear what a former colleague proposed with respect to a bill I draw attention to the fact that we are dealing with a group of motions.

The hon. member may want to address the substance of the group of motions before us rather than the substance of a private member's bill proposed by a previous member of the House.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I am sure the hon. member will tie in his previous remarks to the substance of the bill in the minute and a half he has left.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Canadian Alliance Lanark—Carleton, ON

Unfortunately it will be much harder to tie them in because of the fact that some of my time has been eaten up by the intervention of the hon. member. The point I was driving at was that this former piece of private member's legislation served as a thematic link to the amendments I have proposed in this group as well as some other groups of amendments.

The point I am attempting to make is that in that piece of private member's legislation, which is the ancestor of some of the amendments I put forward, the idea was that a transferred burden could be placed by the government on an individual if that burden were transferred along with compensation. Specifically under the bill the following wording occurred:

A party on whom a transferred burden is imposed is entitled to full and prompt compensation in an amount equal to the cost of the transferred burden.

Some amendments to this bill includes similar provisions. If such provisions were included there would be almost no opposition in rural areas among farmers, fishers, and others in Canada to this piece of legislation. I strongly urge members of the House to consider adopting some of the amendments which include this kind of compensation provision.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the great people of Sackville--Musquodoboit Valley--Eastern Shore to address our serious concerns about the government's approach toward what should be one of the most important pieces of legislation the House ever sees.

Unfortunately the government decided to ignore its own parliamentary committee, the nine Liberals who sit on that committee. We appreciate that it will ignore us, but the fact is that it ignored its own people. The report of that committee was unanimous in its concurrence in terms of the proposed amendments.

The individual MPs did not do it on their own. They heard evidence from many learned people across the country who have serious and grave concerns about the condition of our environment and the species within that environment. They worked very hard.

I speak for my colleague from Windsor--St. Clair and for all other MPs from various parties who worked on that committee to hash it out. Anyone who works on committees, as I do on two full committees, knows it is very difficult to come to consensus or to put together a report that is unanimous in terms of its recommendations or the concerns it wants to move forward. This is what that committee did, only to have the government turn around and reintroduce its own amendments.

The government has made a grave mistake. The original bill came to the committee and the “deeming” section on page 7 read:

For the purposes of the definition “ wildlife species” in subsection (1), a species, subspecies or biologically distinct population is, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, presumed to have been present in Canada for at least 50 years.

The all party committee changed that to read that the definition of wildlife species now covers:

--a species, subspecies, variety or geographically or genetically distinct population of animals, plants or other organism.

That was not good enough for the government. It brought forward a motion in the name of the Minister of the Environment which reads:

That Bill amended by replacing the following lines 11 and 12 on page 7 with the following:

“cies, variety or biologically distinct population of animal, plant or”.

Basically that means the government could say it will protect the Beluga whale in the St. Lawrence. However it will forget to tell us that there is a distinct population of Beluga whales in Hudson Bay. That population is genetically different and distinct from the one in the St. Lawrence. The Belugas in Hudson Bay are very seriously threatened by extinction. This amendment by the government will do nothing to protect them.

The government could say that it will do some protection in the St. Lawrence. It would be utter nonsense. All species in Canada should be treated with the greatest care. I just returned from a committee tour of the east coast. It was most unfortunate once again to hear very serious evidence of the raping and pillaging of our ocean resources in terms of fish stocks.

The government has not learned a thing from the cod crisis. Now the Atlantic salmon is in crisis. The turbot, the same fish Mr. Tobin bragged about in 1995, is clinging on by its fingernails. He is right now; it is hanging on. Another species, the redfish, is now in serious trouble.

What does the government do to protect those stocks? Absolutely nothing. It has learned nothing from the collapse of the cod stocks. Yet it calls itself fiscally responsible. After the collapse of the cod stocks $4.2 billion Canadian were spent readjusting the east coast fishery. It is still spending more. More and more species of fish are in serious decline. One of the greatest reasons for this is the serious overfishing within and outside the 200 mile limit of Canada's economic zone.

The other day we heard about a Russian trawler fishing within our waters and catching moratorium fish. We heard that Icelandic ships, which had a 67 tonne quota on shrimp and which should have taken no more than a couple of weeks to catch, were fishing for over 100 days on the Flemish cap. That can only result in a very serious decline in the shrimp stocks as well.

We found out the government knew in September that was happening. The former minister of fisheries, now the Minister of Natural Resources, and the former minister of industry, Mr. Tobin, knew very well that very serious infractions were happening on the east coast of Canada and they did absolutely nothing stop it. Thousands of people go unemployed, the biodiversity of the fish stocks is suffering as we speak and the government says nothing.

It pains me that the government ignores nine of its own members but it also pains me that it also ignores the scientific evidence of someone like David Schindler, a leading scientist and environmentalist in the country. He is not one for flippant remarks. When this man speaks he speaks wisely and cautiously. The government even ignores people of that stature.

It is unfortunate that we in the federal New Democratic Party cannot begin to even support the bill because of the serious flaws. We can only assume two things. Either the bureaucracy surrounding that department is completely inept and so out of touch that it is unbelievable, or the bureaucrats are giving clear information to their political masters and their political masters, because of their complete ignorance toward the protection of species within our environment, are overriding anything they are saying.

The tragedy of all this is that for every species we lose it brings us closer up the food chain to ourselves, and that is a tragedy and a legacy that we should not leave for our children's children.

It is unfortunate that the government continuously stalls, delays and thwarts any concentration of a consortium of effort of people working together to come up with long term solutions to protect the health of our country and the biodiversity of all the species within our country. I am simply beside myself as to why the government does that. Why is it so ignorant and arrogant when it comes to the aspect of this particular bill?

The people from that committee came forward with some wonderful amendments. They hashed out the bill and brought it back to the government only to have the government again thwart their very efforts. I have been on the environment committee many times and I can only imagine the frustration that those Liberals and the other opposition members who worked very hard on that must feel.

Why do we hear people from the Alliance constantly getting up and saying that committee work is a sham? In many ways they are right. I would like to disagree because I think committee work is a very valuable part of a parliamentarian's work.

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11:35 a.m.

An hon. member

It should be.

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11:35 a.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

It should be. The hon. member is right.

When we see things like this going on we can only shake our heads in full dismay.

In conclusion, I want to thank my hon. colleague from Windsor--St. Clair, all the members of the environment committee and all the people who presented to the committee, to the Government of Canada.

I only plead and beg for the government to stop this nonsense, accept the amendments brought forward by the environment committee, move quickly to protect the species within our country and move forward to a proper balance of our environment for all our children and their children's children.

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11:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, with your indulgence, before I speak to the bill and to the motions I want to acquaint you with the fact that I just received a telephone call from a constituent who raised a very interesting point. He is a senior in my constituency. He raised the point, with respect to the indexing of government pensions, that now we have a very peculiar situation in British Columbia.

As a result of the downloading of the government in Victoria, many of the costs, prescription and otherwise, that are facing him now are putting him in a position where he will be looking to the federal government for assistance to help him meet these costs. It is a very interesting situation in which we find ourselves when we have a complication between the federal and provincial governments.

Speaking specifically to the motions in Group No. 3, the issue of socioeconomic interests in public consultation is one that is exceptionally important in my constituency.

I will reacquaint members with the fact that I live in one of the most beautiful parts of Canada. It is right in the Rocky Mountains on the southeast corner of the province of British Columbia. We have caribou, moose, grizzly bears, lynx and cougar. We have every imaginable kind of animal in our area.

I take a look at the issue of the government deciding relative to COSEWIC, which stands for the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, and take a look at some of the decisions that COSEWIC has already made in my constituency as it specifically relates to socioeconomic interests, particularly in the city of Revelstoke.

Revelstoke is a very interesting city with 8,500 people, nestled down between three valleys. They are isolated to the east. One goes over Roger's Pass to Golden which is an hour and a half drive. To the west one drives for approximately an hour to another small community called Sicamous. To the south one drives for the longest time over a ferry and on down to Nelson, about a two and a half hour drive. This is a community of 8,500 people who are completely isolated in one of the most pristine and beautiful parts of Canada.

The community has been hit a number of times economically by virtue of the fact that there are more responsible and sustainable logging practices that are now being practised. As a consequence, there has been a downturn in the level of employment available to the people. I commend the industry, by the way, for the fact that it has adapted very readily to these more sustainable logging practices and they truly are sustainable.

However, in picking up the slack, investors came in. Because of the exceptionally heavy snow load, which is typical for the Revelstoke area, and the beautiful snowmobiling terrain, investors came in with millions of dollars and invested in lodges right in or immediately around this isolated area of 8,500 people and were ready for the snowmobilers to come. They created a service, an availability for this recreation.

All of a sudden, out of the clear blue sky, we had COSEWIC looking at the issue of the mountain caribou in the area. It changed the listing of the caribou and suddenly many of the trails were eliminated immediately.

For anyone to suggest that I or anyone in my party is not concerned about red listed or endangered species would be completely inappropriate because we are. The mountain caribou are a very special species of animal.

The fact of the matter is that there are many pressures on the Rocky Mountain caribou, not the least of which are predators. A predator eradication program used to be in effect in that area but the program no longer exists. As a result, the cougars, the wolves and coyotes just go after the caribou. It is something that simply is not taken into account.

Something else that is really very interesting is that as COSEWIC and other organizations have attempted to get a handle on exactly what is involved with the caribou, they have been flying in and dropping nets over the caribou herds. The caribou thrash around in the net until the helicopter can land and the members of these organizations can shoot the caribou with something that puts them under. They radio collar the thing, take the net off and then fly away in the helicopter. It is rather interesting that the caribou now are spooked by helicopters.

One of the other very responsible recreations in that area is helicopter skiing. All of a sudden people are saying that part of the problem here is the helicopter skiing. Excuse me, if they are going to spook the bejabbers out of the caribou by doing these types of studies, I guess they will run when they hear a helicopter.

We have another one in terms of endangered species and socioeconomic interests. In the far southeast corner of British Columbia is an area of primary growth forest. It is an area that is overpopulated with grizzly. Anyone who does not know anything about it will say that the grizzly are an endangered species and then they get into a whole list of prohibitions. In that particular part of my constituency there is an overabundance of grizzly. They are literally crawling all over each other.

Studies are being done on the grizzly, fortunately not by helicopter, whereby, through the genetic coding of hair taken from the grizzly which happens to be on their scratching trees, the number of grizzly in that area can be determined. However that is not good enough. We have the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society that is proposing a total preserve in this area to protect the grizzly. Why would it do that ? I believe I just said that we have an overabundance of grizzly. There has been responsible resource extraction in the area by the forestry and mining companies. There are open areas for the forage of the grizzly, which can then go over the U.S. border without going through customs, get into Glacier National Park in the United States or go over the Alberta border and not pay any more provincial sales tax and they get into the Waterton Lakes area which is primary forest.

All of a sudden we have a situation where we have people, who I can only presume are well-meaning, saying that we have to protect the grizzly when there is an overabundance. I have said it before and I say it again, like Yogi Berra said, “If it ain't broke don't fix it.”

Are there problems with grizzly in other areas even within my constituency? Yes, there are. There are problems with grizzly because of the encroachment of human beings into an area. There are problems with grizzly because of the imbalance of the predator to prey situation that has occurred because of human management.

With respect to this Group No. 3, the whole issue of taking a look at the socioeconomic relationship before there is any movement to take definitive action against people and against human activity that is under the species at risk bill is totally inappropriate. I say that on behalf of the people of Kootenay--Columbia who live and experience the wonderful wildlife that we have in Canada.

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11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams Canadian Alliance St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I was so much enjoying that speech about helicopters, grizzly bears, caribou and so on that I wonder if there is unanimous consent to give the hon. member another 10 minutes so we can hear some more.

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11:50 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is there unanimous consent?

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Some hon. members


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11:50 a.m.

Some hon. members


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11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to discuss Bill C-5 and the motions in Group No. 3. I would like give some background on the tragic history of Bill C-5 and how the government has utterly failed in its responsibility as a federal institution to move legislation forward to protect our endangered species, and on the environment file, it has failed miserably.

On the aspect of endangered species, the federal government had the responsibility to put forth strong legislation. It waffled and waited, despite the good work from members across party lines and the committee which proffered constructive solutions to save our endangered species.

When the bill was put forth in the last parliament, it was unworkable and despite that, it was pushed forward by the minister. Blessedly so, it did not go to a vote because of an election call.

Now the bill has been brought back. Despite an incredible amount of work on the part of the department and the good committee members, this bill is again unworkable. That is why the Canadian Alliance put forth amendments to strengthen the bill so it will protect endangered species.

Another aspect is the socioeconomic interests and public consultation. If we are going to protect endangered species, we need the buy-in by the individuals who will be the guardians of this. Take for example, private landowners. Our party has said that the government must negotiate not only with the provinces but with private landowners in the protection of critical habitat. If no agreement can be reached, then a financial remuneration for the loss of use of critical habitat must be obligatory and not optional. We cannot go and unilaterally take over land. We must provide fair and reasonable compensation for critical habitat.

The other aspect is the bill unfortunately only deals with a very small chunk of land for which the federal government is responsible. I would make a lot more sense for the federal government to work with the provinces and the municipalities and develop an agreement with private landowners at large. That would be a way to protect critical habitat across Canada. As we know, endangered species do not recognize boundaries. Birds, fish and mammals do not recognize provincial boundaries. The problem is really quite severe.

We have more than 300 species that are at significant risk of disappearing. Never in the history of our species have we ever seen the catastrophic decline in the biodiversity within the world today, and we are no different in Canada.

Canada is culpable in the decimation of species across the world. We are the second or third largest conduit for the products of endangered species in the entire world, animals from as far away as the Far East such as the big cats: the Siberian tiger, the Chinese tiger, the Amir tiger, the Sumatran tiger and the Bengal tiger. Then there are large mammal species such as the black rhino in Africa, the Javan rhino and the Sumatran rhino. Then we can move to snow leopards. We can talk about birds from all over the world. We can talk about plant species, which are disappearing at a rapid rate because of the hunger for the species for medicinal uses, for example, that do not work at all but are based on myth.

Sadly we have not seen action on this and it is tragic. Our ports individuals, the police, are grossly undermanned and underserviced and do not have the tools to do the job. As a result, international traffickers know full well that Canada basically has an open door to being a conduit to endangered species around the world. By doing so, Canada has become part of the problem. Knowing full well that this is happening, the federal government has failed to institute measures that would secure our borders in a more reasonable way.

The other aspect is the identification of species. We have asked that the identification of species at risk not be a political issue but be based on COSEWIC, which is as group of scientists who could identify species at risk based on scientific criteria, not on political expediency.

We are also asking that land be identified based on scientific criteria that is considered to be critical habit and that there be obligatory compensation for landowners in the absence of use of the land that is destined for critical habitat.

The government has an extraordinary opportunity. It needs to work with other countries around the world to stem the trade in endangered species products. This is the third largest contraband in the entire world behind small arms and drugs. Small arms, drugs and endangered species product sales form the three top contraband entities on which organized crime banks. The amount for endangered species products is in the billions of dollars which go primarily into the pockets of organized crime. Individuals from around the world pay the penalty and worse, species are disappearing at an astronomical rate.

I would ask that the Minister of the Environment work with the Minister of Foreign Affairs. There is a great opportunity this year. Three things are happening. First, the G-8 summit will be taking place in Canada. Second, there is the new plan for--