Mr. Speaker, a few days ago we received a lot of data from census Canada showing that a shrinking number of Canadians live in what is truly called rural Canada.
The vast majority of people in Canada live in a centre of 10,000 plus. As a result of that, one can take a look at many bills that come before the House, certainly Bill C-5 at the present time. Bill C-5 only involves a very small group of people who live in the rural area.
Yesterday we discussed Bill C-15B. Were the people in the ranching business consulted? Was the dairy industry or the hog industry consulted? No. These people were not consulted and yet they are the ones who will be the most affected.
This morning in the veterans affairs committee we had what I considered very good consultation. We had a gentleman who was very knowledgeable about the subject and we asked questions and so on.
The vast majority of people who this bill would affect were never consulted. Today we have a new president of the Saskatchewan Stock Growers' Association. He lives in a little area north of the No. 1 highway in Gouldtown, Saskatchewan. Was the Saskatchewan Stock Growers' Association consulted about the effects of Bill C-5? No. Yet its members own millions of acres of grazing land and they were not consulted.
If we were going to pass legislation applicable to a mass urban area like Ottawa or Toronto, there would be public consultation all over the place but when we deal with basic, rural agricultural problems, it does not matter any more because if we took all the people engaged in agriculture and spread them across Canada there would not be a voting block anyway. It really would not change the composition of members in the House. It is not a big issue except for those who happen to live there.
I was in Guelph, Ontario two weeks ago. The people there asked me to give a talk on how the agri-industry could continue to operate with such bills as C-5, C-15B and Kyoto, especially since it was not consulted on any of them?
I have seen a lot of the government's perception of consultation. Some crown corporations that are going to raise their rates put advertisements in the paper and invite the public to come. Three people may show up. The most common thing heard is that the government will simply go ahead and act anyway.
I am familiar with a provincial government issuing an environmental regulation to a group of people who for years used particular patches of land for grazing their animals.
Instead of telling them they could only use the land for grazing during a certain period of the year, the ruling came down stating that the piece of land had to be divided into three sections and that only one of those sections could be grazed every third year to preserve the nesting of certain birds. In order to make that land worthwhile, they had to put in miles of ineffective fencing.
This is very strange legislation. If a landowner or a land renter accidentally hurts or kills a particular animal, he or she must prove due diligence; that is, that he or she did everything possible beforehand to find out if that endangered species was on the land.
When the Rafferty dam was created in Saskatchewan we found that rare species of animals, animals which had never lived in the area before, moved in because of the water. Some people who graze their cattle near that dam still do not know that those animals are there. Under this legislation they would have to prove that they were guilty without due knowledge of what was happening. That is contrary to every other law we have in Canada which states that someone is innocent until proven guilty.
I know what people will say. They will say that the government would never do that. I know people will say that we would have a logical excuse. However, under this bill, the landowner has to prove that he is innocent.
I really believe that we in rural Canada from coast to coast are being totally ignored. Yesterday we talked about the cruelty to animals bill. The government never once consulted, learned about or asked about established practices that have been going on in this country since before Confederation and yet, under the proposed legislation, it will have the right to give its interpretation of such things as suffering and the right to say that a particular practice will no longer continue even though it never consulted with the people involved prior to the bill coming to the House.
The committee which studied Bill C-5 never heard from the people actually involved in land ownership. We did have good representation from industry and from some cattlemen but we never really heard from the national cattlemen's organization.
The government has never had the courage to say that the practices, such as branding, which have been going on forever in this country, will no longer be required. Instead, it waits. Let it say that a person who has an endangered species without knowing it is guilty of not protecting it. How can we protect something if we do not know it is there?
I found some endangered species on a piece of property and I reported them. The owners of thee property and the environment people were very happy about that. However if an individual visits someone who owns land and a particular endangered species is destroyed unknowingly on that piece of land, such as being ridden over by a horse, or an endangered piece of vegetation was trampled on, then they are guilty. We have to go back and change that part of the bill.