House of Commons Hansard #169 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was land.


Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the House gives it consent, I move:

That the membership of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be modified as follows:

Rick Borotsik (Brandon--Souris) for Jay Hill (Peace River).

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Is it agreed?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to)

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia


Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I suggest that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members


Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wonder if I could ask for the consent of the House to return to introduction of private members' bills. I have a bill on the notice paper which I know is of interest to all parties in the House concerning riding name changes.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Is it agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members


Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-441, an act to change the names of certain electoral districts.

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations with all members of the House of Commons concerning the names of their ridings. There are a number of requests to change the names of certain ridings and this bill simply implements what has been requested by members of the House from all parties.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Orders of the day.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Canadian Alliance Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would ask that we revisit motions because I have a motion that I would like to move.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to revert to motions?

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members


Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed from March 21, consideration of Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada, as reported (with amendments) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 4.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

Before resuming debate on report stage of Bill C-5, the Species at Risk Act, I would like to make a correction.

One report stage motion was included with technical amendments in Group No. 3 when it should have been included in Group No. 5. Therefore, Motion No. 120, proposed by the Minister of the Environment, is now in Group No. 5.

The vote on Motion No. 116 will be applied to Motion No. 120. A corrected voting table is now available at the Table.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, we are here again this morning to discuss Bill C-5 one more time. As the saying goes, this bill is uglier than 40 acres of burning stumps but we continue to debate it and continue to work our way through it.

The bill has been introduced a number of times. I asked some MPs, who have been here for awhile, how many times they had seen this bill and they said that they were not sure, but it keeps coming back again and again. In fact in a lot of ways this has a longer gestation period than many of the animals that it purports to support.

The bill was introduced last summer and was sent to the committee last fall. It is interesting to note that the committee spent four months working on the bill and did so much work on it. It heard 120-odd witnesses and made over 300 amendments to the bill.

While we opposed the bill from the beginning, we felt that the committee had done some good and strong work and that it had done what it was supposed to have done. The hypocrisy that comes back to the bill through what the government has done to it is enough to appall anyone.

The government members and the opposition members spent months working on the bill. It seems that the committee was used to keep its members busy more than it was to do productive work. I would suggest that the government, and the minister in particular, has shown disregard for the MPs and their work in the House.

Who is setting the direction of the legislation and the government? It is clearly not cabinet. If it was, one would think it would allow the committees to do their work. I would suggest that the bill is being run by the bureaucracy and the bureaucrats behind the scenes. We see that in many other areas as well. One has to do with the new agricultural policy framework. We clearly see that someone other than the minister is running the department.

I would like to quote from an article in the Leader -Post on April 3 that talks about the agricultural framework policy discussions that are supposedly taking place and what a sham they are. The article reads:

Consultations about the most significant shift ever in Canadian agriculture policy are nothing more than a poorly-organized public relations exercise, say angry Saskatchewan farm groups.

The province's agriculture organizations are confused about why it took so long to set up meetings, why they aren't open to the public and why Ottawa hired a “heavyweight” international consulting firm to facilitate the sessions.

[These organizations] also complain they have had little time to prepare for the meetings about Ottawa's plan to overhaul agriculture, currently underway around the country...

Denise Treslan, executive director of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers, said the meetings are so disorganized she found out third-hand that one of the organization's directors is scheduled to appear at a [meeting].

“It seems like a free-for-all,” said Treslan. “We've had no contact whatsoever with the group that is putting together the meetings. We don't know if we are supposed to make a formal presentation or if we show up and it's a roundtable or what.”

Farm groups are also concerned the meetings are not a meaningful attempt at consultation, noting the sessions are coming nine months after the policy revision was announced in June of 2001.

This is a pattern we see in the government. When it comes to consultation, it is not sincere in what it does. We will talk a little about that this morning with these amendments to Bill C-5.

With regard to Bill C-5, farm groups have been under pressure for 10 years to support the bill and most of them have continued to oppose the bill. I have talked to a few of them and they have been told by the minister that they should support the bill because, and these are his words apparently, “It could be worse”.

I am not sure if that is how we make legislation in the country now. Also I am not sure if this is a promise or a threat from him. Either he is saying that he is in control and he can make the bill much worse if he wants to. If that is the case and that is his attitude then it is probably time for him to go. Or he is saying that he cannot control his bureaucrats or the people who are running his department. If that is the case then he probably should be removed from his post.

Yesterday I noticed that he was doing a good job at PR as he spent some time applauding our Olympic athletes. Perhaps that would be a better place for him than to be heading up this bill.

The Group No. 4 amendments deal with two main issues: stewardship plans and public consultation and whether that is an active part of the bill or not.

The committee worked hard to put together a process for planning. It talked a lot in its work about recovery plans, action plans and stewardship plans. From that four months' work, a national stewardship action plan was agreed to.

I have the format in front of me of what that would have been. The national stewardship action plan made commitments to a number of things. It made a commitment to using the tax system, subsidization and the elimination of disincentives to help landowners protect species at risk.

It was a strategy for public education and information sharing. An awards and recognition program was built into the action plan. It had ways to formalize land agreements and provide technical and scientific support directly to landowners and people who were concerned with species at risk. It also had a consultation strategy.

By the time the minister was done with this part of the bill through Motion No. 25 he had done a few things to it. He eliminated the idea of using the tax system to support conservation. That was taken completely out of the bill. He offered to provide information about species at risk but no program of public education. I presume that means people would get government brochures rather than actually having a program of public education.

It committed to share information but not to develop a program to carry it out. It did keep the awards program. The government agreed to provide information about programs related to stewardship rather than to commit to setting up those programs. It agreed to provide information about technical and scientific support rather than providing the support.

It considerably weakened its commitment to the stewardship action plan through the amendment. It is no longer a plan at all. It ends up being a public relations exercise in the stewardship action plan and that is not adequate.

There is one thing that really bothers me. Where are the Liberal backbenchers on this bill and these amendments? Many of them are extremely concerned about the minister's action with regard to the bill. Many of them have done a lot of work on the bill. They did a good job in committee and had reached a bill that they could support and be happy with.

It went to the minister and came back completely gutted. Yet I hear little noise or attempts to address those issues from the backbenchers of the government. I suggest that they have a responsibility. If the government and cabinet were to bring forth poor legislation and provide poor leadership to Canadians the government backbenchers have a responsibility to have the guts to step forward and say they do not agree with it and that the legislation needs to be stopped. I do not see much of that happening and I am disappointed.

I would like to discuss the second part of the stewardship action plan which is dealt with in Motion No. 29. The amendment removes the requirement that stewardship agreements must be made public so that the public can discuss them. It seems by definition that the stewardship agreement would have to be put out into the public so that consultation and discussion can take place. It is interesting that the minister has chosen to remove the requirement that these agreements be made public before they become legislation.

It is necessary to get broad based support through public discussion. The minister clearly does not allow that in the amendment. That is absolutely unacceptable. Landowners are affected but so too are neighbouring landowners. It is interesting that if wolves were introduced into an ecosystem in a national park people around the park would also be affected. It is important that we take that into account.

I will point out one more amendment that has removed the effectiveness of the bill. There was a five year review built into the bill and amendments were made in committee to have subsequent five year reviews. The minister has clearly chosen to take that out. One review would be allowed and that is it. This reflects one more time the attitude of the government toward working with people.

I opened with a statement about the bill being uglier than 40 acres of burning stumps. At the end of my speech it has as much chance of survival or success as a one-legged grasshopper in a chicken coop. The bill is flawed more now than ever. More now than ever we need to stop it and to do whatever it takes to do that.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Canadian Alliance Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, we are debating the various motions and amendments to Bill C-5, the species at risk act.

This legislation would have a dramatic impact on Canada as a whole in regard to the management of our natural resources and wildlife. It would have an impact on individual Canadians who live on the land and even those who live in the cities who want to enjoy the rural areas and the species living out in the countryside.

The Canadian Alliance is committed to protecting and preserving Canada's natural environment along with endangered species. No one on God's green earth wants to see any species disappear. However, we know that over the millions of years that have passed nature itself has determined that some species would not continue to exist. We must have common sense legislation that within reason does as much as it possibly can to protect our endangered species.

The bill would not protect our endangered species in a common sense way. It may not even protect them in an effective way. The bill relies on the big stick. It relies on criminal sanctions when it should rely on some co-operation and some effort to bring Canadians totally on side.

The government has turned against the very Canadians that are most crucial in protecting species at risk, the landowners and land users where the species actually live. In the big cities like Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, the areas where endangered species live have already been paved over so they are now gone from those areas. They may still exist in some other parts of Canada but the city people have already taken care of that. What is left now are the rural areas in Canada where we are trying to protect these endangered species. We are all in favour of that.

Today we are debating the amendments in Group No. 4. In one particular motion there is no requirement to put compensation in the regulations. This has been one of the binding points with rural people, the landowners, those people who would protect endangered species.

If a cattle rancher were to have a 640 acre square section on which there were particular endangered species or multiple endangered species, the government could come in and say that it should be set aside, fenced off and that there should be no use of that land for the raising of cattle because some species may need some heavier grass which should not be grazed down.

I do not know what the scientists may say about that. However, if that were the case there would be limited or no grazing on that land and yet there would be no compensation given to that rancher for that land which was taken out of production.

The government has asked to be trusted on this and said that it would do something for these people. If that were the case, if the minister's intent were true and believable, then what would be wrong with adding that to the legislation? That would get rid of a lot of problems. It would compensate those Canadians who might incur costs while attempting to save and protect endangered species and their habitat across Canada, which is what everyone wants. What is wrong with doing that simple thing?

It reminds me of Bill C-15B, the cruelty to animals legislation. What was required in that bill was the addition of one simple little legislative entry stating that under the criminal code the normal practices of farmers, ranchers, other livestock users and medical researchers was legally justified and would not be considered cruelty to animals.

The government could bring in good legislation but fails to do it. I do not understand why. It is like it is against farmers and ranchers. It just behooves me. The fine could be as much as $250,000. That is an awful onerous type of criminal sanction on a given farm and ranch. Many of these farms and ranches only net between $20,000 to $100,000 a year and then the government would try to fine them $250,000. That seems like an awful lot.

The government does not even have to let a landowner know that there is an endangered species on the owner's property. If the farmer or rancher were not aware that an endangered species was on the property, and the government did, the farmer or rancher could inadvertently destroy some habitat, or actually destroy the endangered species itself, and be subject to criminal sanctions because the government would not tell them. It is so ridiculous that the legislation deserves to be voted down.

We have some people in this country who are experts and have had experience with the species at risk legislation in the United States. I also have a friend High River, Alberta, David Pope. He is a lawyer and cattle rancher. I have actually seen his cattle ranch and he is a director of the Western Stock Growers' Association.

The directorship of the Western Stock Growers' Association met on April 9, 2002. The government thinks it has all the farmers onside. There are the Dairy Farmers of Canada. I know many members on the government side support the Dairy Farmers of Canada but the Dairy Farmers of Canada on April 3 wrote a letter to the government asking it not to pass the cruelty to animals amendments.

I am waiting to see that vote when it comes up in the House because I expect the Liberals to vote against the cruelty to animals provisions until we can get a decent bill brought in that takes care of our dairy farmers and does not cause them problems like the government is trying to do. Are Liberals the big protectors of farmers and agriculture? I do not think so.

David Pope said the Western Stock Growers' Association believed that the vast majority of the people involved in raising cattle in Canada would not support a law which would allow their federal government to confiscate their land without fair compensation under the guise of protecting habitat of a species at risk, as well as other issues.

Mr. Pope was born in the United States. He came to Canada and was a teacher, cattle rancher and lawyer. He is well travelled and well experienced. He said the legislation in the United States was terrible. There are many components in the legislation we are trying to pass that contain some of the same defects that were in the American legislation.

He said the federal government would have the legal authority to confiscate land without fair compensation, whether it was private land or crown provincial grazing land, under the guise of protecting the habitat.

A forced reduction of the number of cattle grazed on either private or crown land would not be fairly compensated. This backs up what I said a few minutes ago. We have an economic problem with agriculture. The cycles of prices, and commodity prices in particular, go up and down. Mr. Pope pointed out that as a result we end up with the necessity, when the government negatively impacts agriculture, that it provide some compensation for it.

The federal government is creating new crimes against landowners with fines of up to $50,000 or one year in jail. It would be double that if there was a second conviction. Any of us could easily be convicted of one of these offences without the government having to prove criminal intent.

Bill C-5 is along the lines of the Firearms Act. It would create a whole bunch of rules and regulations. They would be so many and so complex that Canadians could not possibly obey them all. With a vindictive government like this one and the present health minister who is a former justice minister, we would see that vindictiveness come forward and hurt Canadians.

I thank the House for the time to speak today. I will be trying to rise and speak to the bill later.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to reconvene my participation in the debate on Bill C-5, a bill the Progressive Conservative Party has categorically panned.

The bill is weak with respect to four principal points. First, politicians and not scientists would be responsible for establishing the illegal list. I am struck by the fact that the government does not understand the socioeconomic implications of the action plan. It would have been a gift for the environmental community and individuals interested in preserving biodiversity.

Second, I do not know if hon. members are aware of this, but Bill C-5 would not provide for mandatory protection of critical habitat on federal lands. How can the federal government claim the moral fortitude to intervene on provincial or private lands when it would not be taking care of its own backyard? If a species at risk was in a national park, on a military base or north of 60 the Government of Canada would not be obliged to protect it.

Third, Bill C-5 does not include a provision for the protection of migratory birds which are cross boundary species in the purview of the federal government.

Fourth, the bill offers no clarity on the compensatory regime, something of which we in my party and our friends in the Canadian Alliance have been stalwart defenders. If the government had its act together on the compensation issue it would have tabled the regulations simultaneously with the bill.

I will refer to the Group No. 4 amendments for which the Liberal government is under assault by the first nations community. The committee wanted to entrench the consultative process to empower first nations and give them a role in how the act would be applied. There was nearly unanimous support for this by committee members from all five parties of the House of Commons. They said first nations and traditional knowledge should be taken into account not only when advising COSEWIC which provides information on habitat and listing. They should have a role on a permanent council with direct input to the minister, almost like a standing committee.

The Government of Canada has watered down that provision. The first nations community has written to the Minister of the Environment. A letter from the Inuit community to the Minister of the Environment dated February 20 refers to the gutting of the provision that would have allowed first nations to consult directly with the minister. The gutting of the provision goes against the whole spirit of what Bill C-5 was intended to do.

The hon. member for Churchill River is a strong environmental MP although he was stronger when sitting with the NDP than he is with the Grits. He has tabled a compromise known as the Amendment to Motion No. 20. The Government of Canada should follow it. Its language is extremely modest. It revisits the provision that the minister be advised by a council and that first nations have direct input to the minister.

We will categorically vote against Motions Nos. 6, 16, 17 and 20 in which the government goes against the will of the committee. We will support the compromise amendment tabled by the hon. member for Churchill River.

In Motions Nos. 24 and 25 the Liberal government has tried to, shall we say, augment a Progressive Conservative amendment tabled at the committee pertaining to clause 10.2. The amendment pertains to a national stewardship action plan that would: foster stewardship; ensure proper mechanisms such as tax incentives were in place to reward responsible behaviour, a tool which could be used to collect and share information between first nations and provincial governments or between various levels of government; regularly examine tax treatment and subsidies; and eliminate disincentives for actions that protect species at risk.

The government's language for the most part augments our party's amendment. I applaud the wordsmiths of the Liberal backroom who are listening intently to my remarks. It would have been more helpful if the government had kept part H. We in my party are inclined to support the government's augmentation of our amendment because it would blend the language better. Although is ironic, I compliment the government for not taking out an amendment the committee had overwhelmingly endorsed. We in our party think fostering stewardship and co-operative behaviour is a step in the right direction and should be enshrined in the bill. The government has done just that.

The hon. member from Churchill made a complementary amendment that we will support. It has better wording with respect to ensuring the traditional knowledge of first nations is included in the act.

I will also speak to Motion No. 76 which refers to clause 50 of the bill. The government has gone to great lengths to say it needs a consultative process with different levels of government including provinces and first nations. There is a point in the bill where the government would need to implement a recovery plan to provide accountability after the strategy is fully developed. However the committee said if something cannot be measured it cannot be managed.

We set a timeline for implementing the recovery plan and getting it off the ground. We and members of the committee thought a calendar year should be sufficient. However the Government of Canada hates to have accountability for anything where it would have to perform or provide action, so it took out the timeline. That is quite sad.

I will take a moment to refer to Motion No. 114 in which the government says it intends to consult provinces, territories and aboriginals for advice in developing strategies and plans. This refers to clause 69 of the bill. It was argued at length in committee that the provisions made at committee level could not be changed or reversed because it would break the consultative spirit the government had with the provinces.

Government Motion No. 114 would gut the provision under clause 69 of the bill which says the minister shall consult the provinces, territories and first nations. We are now back to May again. It is again a made in Ottawa solution.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the amendments in Group No. 4. I have been able to touch upon some of them. We look forward to defeating the bill come third reading.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, my speech today on Group No. 4 will be based upon the same premise on which I have spoken to the other report stage amendments.

I really appreciate the tremendous amount of hard work that was done by members of the committee in taking a look at the bill which had some pretty significant deficiencies when it left the House after second reading. The work they did was not all in unanimity. As a matter of fact, as I understand it, there was a tremendous amount of debate during the course of the work of the committee.

However there was a very strong feeling, certainly on the part of the Canadian Alliance members, which continues to this day, that we do require a bill that will truly protect the environment.

The difficulty with this species at risk act, Bill C-5, is that the government is moving away from the ability to achieve that environmental protection that the Canadian Alliance wants and many members on the Liberal backbenches want.

The work done by members of the committee was in the area of receiving input from very diverse groups. They worked through it, if the House will pardon the expression, in almost a Solomon-like way of managing to come to balances of interests and opinions among people. When the bill came back to the House it was in a very distinctly improved stage from the way in which it left.

I find it reprehensible that the front bench of the government, the cabinet ministers and the Prime Minister, would have treated the work of a parliamentary committee, the standing committee on environment, with such a tremendous amount of disrespect.

I will take a look at some of the specific motions that the government has brought in, the first being Motion No. 16. I will read the clause as it is presently written. Clause 7(1) and (2) state:

  1. (1) The Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council consists of the Minister of the Environment, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and ministers of the government of a province or a territory who are responsible for the conservation and management of a wildlife species in that province or territory.

(2) The role of the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council is to

(a) provide general direction on the activities of COSEWIC, the preparation of recovery strategies and the preparation and implementation of action plans;

(b) co-ordinate the activities of the various governments represented on the Council relating to the protection of species at risk;

This is what the motion deletes:

...and (c) seek and consider advice and recommendations from the National Aboriginal Council on Species at Risk.

The amendment, which deletes that last phrase, deletes the reference to aboriginal council because the government wants to introduce mention of a national aboriginal committee in clause 8. There is no reason for the government to make the changes it proposes in Motions Nos. 6, 16, 17 and 20. The government wording would have largely the same result as the committee's proposal, except a name change from council to committee.

It does not justify reversing the work of the committee. These changes were, after all, initiated by Liberal members on the committee. It shows the government's contempt for the work of the parliamentary committees and its own MPs.

We will be opposing this motion because it fails to respect the committee.

Motion No. 17 by the Liberals is to delete the following:

7.1 (1) The National Aboriginal Council on Species at Risk consists of the Minister of the Environment, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and six representatives of the aboriginal peoples of Canada selected by the Minister based upon recommendations from aboriginal organizations that the Minister considers appropriate.

(2) The role of the National Aboriginal Council on Species at Risk is to provide advice and recommendations to the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council.

Again this amendment deletes a reference to the national aboriginal council because the government wants to introduce mention of a national aboriginal committee in clause 8 making this clause redundant.

Again there is no reason for the government to make the changes that it proposes in Motions Nos. 6, 16, 17 and 20. The government wording will have largely the same result as the committee's proposal except the change in name from council to committee. This does not justify reversing the work of the committee. These changes were, after all, initiated by members of the Liberal Party on the committee. It shows the government's contempt for the work of the parliamentary committees and even its own MPs.

Again our party will be opposing the motion because it fails to respect the committee.

This does get a little repetitious but my point is that the government keeps bringing in motions that fail to respect the committee and its work.

Government Motion No. 20 would insert clause 8.1 under national aboriginal committee on species at risk. The motion reads:

The Minister may establish a committee, to be known as the National Aboriginal Committee on Species at Risk, consisting of six representatives of the aboriginal peoples of Canada appointed by the Minister based on recommendations from aboriginal organizations that the Minister considers appropriate. The role of the committee is to advise the Minister on the administration of this Act.

The motion undoes the work of the standing committee and the motion by the Liberal member for Churchill River by replacing the National Aboriginal Council on Species at Risk with a national aboriginal committee on species at risk.

Again there is no reason for the government to make the changes it proposes in Motions Nos. 6, 16, 17 and 20. The government wording will have largely the same result as the committee's proposal except to change the name from council to committee. It does not justify reversing the work of the committee. The changes were, after all, initiated by Liberal members of the committee. It shows the government's contempt for the work of the parliamentary committees and for its own MPs.

Again we will be opposing the motion because it fails to respect the committee.

Government Motion No. 24 concerns clause 10.1, stewardship action plan in public registry. The motion reads:

son. A copy of the stewardship action plan must be included in the public registry.

Consistent with other transparency provisions in the bill, the motion proposes that a copy of the plan be included in the public registry.

Let me say that the government is not all bad because this is a positive amendment. It increases the flow of information to the public. We will be supporting it because of its increased transparency.

Government Motion No. 25, under clause 10.2, would create a stewardship action plan. I ask members to bear with me as this is a little complex. At present clause 10.2 reads:

The National Stewardship Action Plan shall include, but is not limited to,

The government motion to amend clause 10.2 reads:

The stewardship action plan must include, but is not limited to, commitments to

The motion goes through a whole series of additions and deletions in clauses (a), (b), (c), (d), (e) and (f). Because of the complexity of this I will not read into the record the inclusions and deletions but again the motion extensively modifies the amendments by the standing committee that introduced the stewardship action plan to Bill C-5. The amendment reinforces an earlier government amendment that makes the development of an action plan discretionary, not mandatory, although when the minister chooses to develop an action plan this motion will still dictate some elements to be included.

Again we will be opposing the motion because it strongly waters down the committee's changes and, in particular, omits mention of tax treatment and subsidies to eliminate disincentives.

That was just a small section of what we are allowed in a 10 minute period. Although there was one positive amendment that would strengthen the act, overall the entire impact of the government and the Prime Minister of the country was to substantially undo the excellent work of the committee. For that reason we will be opposing the amendments that I have read.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


Ghislain Fournier Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Quebecois members will never accept umbrella legislation from the federal government in the form being presented at this time, when the Government of Quebec has already taken the necessary steps on the issue being addressed today, that is an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada. I am therefore pleased to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-5, which concerns species at risk.

I would like to make it clear that long ago, in 1989, the Government of Quebec long ago enacted legislation respecting threatened or vulnerable species. It also enacted legislation respecting the conservation and development of wildlife, and fishing regulations. There can obviously be no question of the federal government invading areas of jurisdiction that do not belong to it and telling Quebec how to go about protecting its wildlife species at risk, when Quebec already has legislation in this area.

First, I would like to briefly put the bill in context. The federal government must first ask itself if this bill will provide additional protection that is enforceable. Will this bill truly help improve the protection of our ecosystems and of the threatened species that are part of them? The Bloc Quebecois believes that the answer is no.

Of course, the Bloc Quebecois fully agrees with the principle whereby our species must be given even greater protection, but we are opposed to this bill, because it constitutes direct intrusion into many of Quebec's jurisdictions and it directly overlaps the legislation enacted by Quebec in 1989. This bill could very well increase paper burden, instead of allowing for an efficient use of already scarce resources. As I mentioned earlier, the Government of Quebec government has already legislated in the area targeted by this bill. We do not think that the government's proposed measures will improve the situation of endangered wildlife species.

Even though the preamble of the bill provides that the protection of species is a shared responsibility, the bill is not worded accordingly and does not reflect the reality, namely that habitat protection is primarily a provincial responsibility. The whole bill is drafted in a way that leads us to believe that the minister will have the authority to impose on the provinces his own vision of that protection, if he deems it appropriate to do so. In other words, the minister's legislation will prevail over existing provincial laws, even though habitat is entirely under provincial jurisdiction.

Also, the federal government should have dealt properly with the control and evaluation of toxic substances, including, for example, the evaluation of the effects of genetically modified organisms on ecosystems. It could also have dealt with cross border pollution and migrating species.

Biodiversity as a whole is the result of the earth's evolution over more than 4.5 billion years. This process created a wide selection of living organisms and natural environments on our planet. Together, they form the ecosystems we know today. Each one plays a specific role in the food chain and contributes to the biological balance of the planet.

However, in recent years, scientists have been warning about the disappearance of species in increasing numbers, as well as the rise in the number of species facing extinction or extremely vulnerable species.

This is a stark reminder that our planet's natural heritage is under threat. The rate at which species are disappearing from our planet is an indication of the overall health of our environment and ultimately our own human health.

The Bloc Quebecois is aware that Quebecers and Canadians are concerned about protecting species at risk, about protecting and maintaining the environment generally. We recognize that the fragile balance of our ecosystems must be protected and maintained.

To date, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, COSEWIC, has designated 340 wildlife species in Canada as being at risk. Of that total, 12 are extinct, 15 others are extirpated in Canada, 87 are endangered, 75 threatened and 151 vulnerable

Given the increasing rate at which species are disappearing, the situation is serious. Effective action is therefore necessary. But will this bill really help better protect our ecosystems and the endangered species in them?

Unfortunately, the government and the minister are wrong about what their real role is in designing a realizable plan to provide such protection.

The government is but one of the many stakeholders, and it has not yet figured out that its true role is to build bridges between the various stakeholders, not walls. That is what the true task of the government is when it comes to endangered species, a task at which it has failed. The bill on species at risk the Liberals have now introduced will polarize and divide stakeholders far more than it will unite them.

Every action plan to protect species at risk must be based on respect, that is on respect for the species living in our waters and on our lands, and respect for those to whom those waters and lands belong.

This bill is full of provisions providing discretionary power. In true Liberal fashion, Bill C-5 officially sets up COSEWIC, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, as the ultimate authority in determining which species are endangered. At the same time, the bill prevents COSEWIC, which makes decisions based on scientific data, from determining which species are in fact protected by law. COSEWIC determines which are the endangered species, but will not be allowed under the bill to take steps to protect these species and to draw up a list of them.

What threatens species most is the loss of their habitat, where they live, reproduce and feed. Habitat loss is responsible for 80% of species decline in Canada. Again, Bill C-5 fails in this regard. Under the provisions of his bill, the protection of a species is up to the discretion of the Minister of the Environment.

Not only does the bill give broad discretionary powers to the Minister of the Environment, but it does not respect the division of powers as set out in the Constitution and as interpreted over the years. This bill interferes directly in an area of provincial jurisdiction and excludes the provinces from any real and direct input into the process.

The main problem with this bill, which seems to have been raised by all environmental groups, is the fact that the decisions on the designation of species will be made by the minister and his office, rather than by scientists.

In conclusion, the Bloc Quebecois recognizes the need to improve the protection of our ecosystems and the endangered plant and animal species that constitute them. But we do not believe Bill C-5 is the way to go. We oppose the principle of this bill today. However, we will examine it more thoroughly in committee and we will then be able to better define our position on this issue.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Charlie Penson Canadian Alliance Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have the opportunity today to again speak on the endangered species legislation. I would remind the House that some of us who were elected to parliament in November 1993 saw this legislation shortly afterward in a different form. The bottom line is that this legislation, in some form or another, has been kicking around parliament for seven years. I ask the rhetorical question, why has it taken so long to get it through? Who in this country could possibly stand against trying to save endangered species, the species that are at risk of becoming endangered and extinct? I do not know anyone who is against that proposal or principle. In fact we would be hard pressed to find anyone in the entire country who is, so what is the problem with getting this legislation through?

I would suggest that there are several problems. To go back to the genesis of this and the timing of discussions at the Rio de Janeiro conference in 1992, the then government of the day, Brian Mulroney's administration, not only agreed to protect endangered species through the agreement on biodiversity but agreed that greenhouse gases were polluting the planet and should be addressed as well. Out of that, the Liberal government of the day inherited these two issues and, I would suggest, has done an absolutely terrible job in managing these issues. If there is a need to protect the planet from the warming problem presented by greenhouse gases and if there is a need to protect endangered species, I would suggest that it has been very badly handled by the Liberal government.

Let me move on to talk about how I see the Liberals operating. Why has it taken seven years to get the bill through? Because, I believe, they are very insincere about the total motive in presenting this. I would suggest that not only does it show up here. They like to put window dressing on it and instead of looking at it as a serious problem they pretend they are doing something when in fact they are not. We have seen it with Kyoto and that will fail. They waste the public's time and a tremendous amount of money by putting forward insincere proposals with window dressing to make it look like they are doing something when in fact they are not.

Why are they having a problem getting the endangered species legislation through? I will raise this again: because they do not have co-operation from the user groups in the country, the very people who have to be part of the solution to this problem, the farmers, ranchers, forest companies and resource development agencies. Also, they do not have the co-operation of aboriginal people in huge areas of the country where the co-operation is needed. In fact, in the Group No. 4 motions on the bill we now see that they have rejected the idea of an aboriginal council. They have rejected the idea of co-operation with user groups such as farmers.

My riding of Peace River is mainly an agricultural riding. The second largest industry is forestry and the third is the oil and gas sector. They control huge parts of the Peace River riding. We are talking about over 100,000 square miles. If we do not have co-operation on this kind of legislation from user groups, how on earth are there going to be enough regulatory and police authorities to regulate the industry in that area of northwestern Alberta? It is simply not possible.

Let us look at the alternative. The alternative is to have co-operation, not confrontation. We know there are certain systems at work. We have had the example of the Ducks Unlimited approach by a group of sports hunters. This group started in the United States and has expanded to Canada and is saying that there is a reduced amount of waterfowl, of ducks and geese.

The people who wanted to hunt said they recognized there was a big problem and there had to be some kind of plan for conservation of these species or otherwise they would be gone. They worked with landowners, with ranchers and farmers, and asked them to take some of their land out of production for a year to allow for waterfowl to nest in those areas. They offered to pay them for doing that and found they had a great amount of co-operation. I suggest that if we do not have co-operation, if we expect the landowners, the few farmers and ranchers left in this country, to carry the burden of the total cost of this program, it will not work.

If 30 million Canadians want to protect endangered species, and that seems to be the goal, should not 30 million Canadians share the cost of doing so? I think they should. I think that is a workable program. It is a proven formula that Ducks Unlimited has used. It is a proven formula that was used in the United States and Great Britain where there are huge trusts and land is bought to protect the environment and the species there. Individuals pay into those trusts and help to administer them.

Why do we not use that kind of an approach instead of the heavy-handed approach that the government seems bent on using? It is a failed model from the United States. We have seen 30 years of failure in its endangered species legislation because it has used the heavy-handed approach with the stick rather than the carrot. We know that it has actually backfired. Some endangered species have been sped to that fate along the way because the very people administering the program, the user groups, are saying that if they are to be hit with a $1 million fine, there will not be any endangered species on their land. The old story is that they get rid of them. It is exactly the wrong approach to use. The Liberal government seems to have learned nothing from the United States. The government still seems bent on this confrontational approach, which will not work.

I want to give the House an example of one approach I have seen first-hand in the farming area I represent in the Peace River country of Alberta. Our farm is just outside of Grande Prairie. Ten years ago the power company wanted to build a huge high voltage power line to service some of the oil industry. The Alberta government said the power company could use that route, but there was a problem. The trumpeter swans nest on the lake there. When the cygnets are learning how to fly they go out and fly their circuits with their parents to build up their wings in order to make the flight deep into the United States to Texas.

By the way, this bird was on the endangered species list at one time. Dr. Bernard Hamm, a naturalist living in our area, single-handedly started a co-operative approach to protect that very bird. The population was down to 50 worldwide. Dr. Hamm and others, working with the farmers and ranchers in the area in a co-operative effort, have restored the trumpeter swan to tens of thousands in number now in just over 50 years.

The Alberta government told the power company that was going to build that huge transmission line that it could only build the line along the lakeshore if it planted some trees there. In other words, when these young birds are learning how to fly they have to be able to clear the power line. The company was told to begin by planting trees that would not grow too high, then taller ones and then even taller ones so that the flight angle would be such that the birds could clear the power line. The power company said it could plant the trees there. I remember when they brought in the big trees and spades and planted all the trees. Five years later, what had happened? Because this is a very low, boggy area along the lakefront, all the trees died. In the meantime the power line is there. The power line will never go away. The power company complied with a silly regulation.

I think that is an exact example of the silly regulation that the government is pursuing, regulation that is not designed to get co-operation from the users who have to be part of the solution. Instead of addressing this issue in a manner that is designed to protect the species, the government has decided to be part of the problem by using a confrontational approach. There is no compensation for landowners who are not only protecting the species on their land but protecting the habitat. Does that make any sense?

On our farm there are wild crocuses growing. Who knows, they could be on the endangered species list next year. They have spores that fly all over the place and root in different spots. If that means that they root in areas of my land we currently cultivate, then that land is no longer available to my family and me because we then would have to protect that endangered species and its habitat. Our family is expected to bear the brunt of taking hundreds of acres of land out of production so that others can enjoy this endangered species. I see nothing wrong with that if others are prepared to pay, but they are not, not under this legislation.

I think if we used a co-operative approach we would find out that taxpayers in this country are prepared. The Liberal government is taking the wrong approach with the confrontational approach. We should be able to pay landowners to compensate them for protecting the very species we all value.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will address the motions in Group No. 4 on the species at risk legislation.

I want everybody to understand that there is absolutely nobody that I know of who is not in favour of saving endangered species. It does not matter where we go in Canada or whom we talk to, everybody agrees that in areas of risk, the species should be looked at. That is not the point of concern. The concern is with regard to the whole bill and what is happening.

Let us take the consultation aspect as an example. It was supposed to come forward in the bill. Through an amendment by the government that has been taken out, after the committee recommended strongly that it be left in. A few on the government frontbench decided it this was not the thing to do and it would be better not to tell people what is or what is not on their property or to give them a hand in looking after it. I have a lot of difficulty with this.

I grew up on ranches in Canada. One of the main things that was instilled in us as children was to work very hard to accomplish something and to buy the land; buy land, buy land, buy land. This gave us ownership of the land, a place we could call our own and an opportunity to contribute to society.

Bill C-5 makes everybody wonder whether we should even own land. Who would want to own land in a country that proposes regulations that fall under a dictatorship? If I were a young person saving for my future, I would have to consider whether or not to invest in land which at any time at the whim of the government, it could be decided that the land is worthless without compensation to me as the landowner if there was an endangered species on that land.

We have moved from being an open democratic society to a more socialistic dictatorship with regard to the whole system. The land and ownership of land was the foundation that brought many of our forefathers and foremothers to this country in the first place. Through legislation like this bill the government is taking that away.

We have to wonder what is going on in this great wonderment of parliament and in the whole country of Canada. As far as I am concerned and for many other people, not only is this a direct intrusion into provincial areas, it is a total invasion.

Let me explain to the people who are watching the debate one of the problems they are going to face with this legislation. I will say this from a ranching point of view, having grown up on ranches.

The ranches in the area where I grew up are on very mountainous land. There are valleys, mountains and a lot of range land. People buy 1,200 or 1,400 acres for a ranch which is a large chunk of land. In many cases on that land there is swampland, small lakes and a couple of fairly large lakes that are full of fish and people used to fish on them. We would fence off many of the marshlands because we did not want our cattle calving there nor did we want to have problems pulling cattle out of the mud which often happens.

Also, people who live in that part of the country share that land with the moose, elk and deer which have a tendency to walk through fences or try to jump over them and take them down. If someone decides that all of a sudden the landowner's part of the marsh has an endangered flower, weed or frog living on it, the landowner will be held responsible for it and will have to bear all the costs. The cattle and the wildlife run there. If a moose or something else destroys the fence and the cattle gets in, the landowner will be held responsible for it. It makes absolutely no sense to me. Who can say whether it was a moose or the cattle that did it? I can see court cases coming from all over the place.

What will be done on range land? Range land is where the provincial government decides to lease to ranchers so much range land per head of cattle. If it is determined that something living on the range land is endangered, and there are six, seven or maybe 12 different people running cattle in that area and a cow damages the foliage or whatever is to be protected, would all the ranchers be held liable for that or just one? How would we prove which head of cattle did it? Was it Joe's, Tom's, Susan's or Mary's? What should they do, start taking hoof prints of their cattle so that they can prove which one it was that caused the damage? I think not.

Those are some of the areas the government has not even bothered to look at. We hear the government members say all the time “We will consult”. They will not consult. They will not even tell the landowners whether or not there is a problem or an endangered species on their land. The landowners will have to bear that total responsibility. It will not be on scientific findings either. That right will be left to the legislators. That is very hard to understand.

There is a reason the government decided to take land out of private property. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as private property rights in Canada today. I really have to wonder why. Is it because the government does not want people to own land, or is it because it has a fear that if people own land they have something of value and they do not have to depend upon the government for anything? This is probably where it is headed with all of this type of legislation the government is trying to put in here.

I try to explain to people that the biggest fear to any government is people who can stand and say that they are independent. If people can do that, it means they no longer have to depend upon the government for anything and therefore those in government cannot depend upon them to vote for them to keep them in their jobs.

I really question the motives behind pieces of legislation such as Bill C-5. The government cannot afford to allow the people of Canada to own land because that might make them independent. They will no longer depend upon the government to help them so they will no longer have to vote for the government of the day. The government will go to all sorts of lengths to create that scenario. I would like to say that I find that very disgusting, but it goes beyond that; for when the initiative and incentive for young people to buy and invest in their own country is taken away, just exactly where does the government think it will wind up?

I would like to talk for a long time on this subject but I am out of time. What the government is doing to the people of Canada is a total disgrace.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to follow the intelligent comments of my colleague. Before I get into specific comments on this package of amendments, I want to review some of the fundamental concerns we have with Bill C-5.

First, it needs to be said that the Canadian Alliance is totally committed to protecting and preserving Canada's natural environment and our endangered species. Our dedication to that cause is reaffirmed constantly by the consultations we have with our constituents who, if we added up the land holdings of the members of the Canadian Alliance, are representative of a significant portion of the land base of the country. It is the landowners and to a great degree the people who use crown land who are impacted very much by the bill.

We do not believe the act will work. Our reason for opposing it is simply that. We do not believe that an act which does not guarantee fair and reasonable compensation for the owners of property, for the resource users who lease property, is going to work. Those people need to be protected. The compensation that should be in this bill, that should be itemized and clarified, which would protect those people who make use of that land, is not there. Therefore, people may suffer losses.

Farmers, ranchers and other property owners should not be forced into a position where they are penalized for protecting species at risk. Criminal liability must require intent. The act would make criminals out of people who inadvertently and unknowingly might harm an endangered species or the habitat of that species.

Also, we do not like the tone of the bill in terms of the way the federal government has dealt with the amendments that came from committee, reasoned amendments. The reasonable and well thought out packages of amendments that were dealt with at committee, and which have been disrespected by the minister and by the government in bringing this legislation forward, would strengthen the bill, not weaken it.

By ignoring the work of the committee members, the minister has not only shown disrespect to them and to their capabilities, but he has shown disrespect to the people who came and presented their views to that committee. That is something we do not accept.

This is reflective of a very top down approach. We are disappointed in that. We think this legislation is far to important to have been dealt with in such a manner.

I would like to address a couple of aspects of this package of amendments. The first is the five year review component.

The mandatory review of legislation is something that could have strengthened this piece of legislation. It could have made it more open, more accountable. It could have made it a piece of legislation which would have been more subject to change over time to better reflect and better deliver on the promise of protecting species at risk.

Five year reviews, mandatory reviews, are not perfect by any stretch but they are a mechanism that would allow further debate and intelligent debate to take place involving the people most affected by the legislation. It would involve the Canadian public, the landowners, the people who would be profoundly impacted, not just in terms of their desire to see species protected but in terms of their partnership with the land, people who would be impacted in a negative way inadvertently under the legislation as a consequence of even unintended acts. The need for a review is clear.

When I served in Manitoba as a legislator I had the opportunity to co-chair a red tape review committee. We examined all the regulations, and there were thousands of pages of them, of the Manitoba government's regulatory framework. We were able to go through all of those regulations in partnership with people in our bureaucracy, in our government's service, and in partnership with people from the private sector. We evaluated each of the regulations.

Through that review process we were able to stream out, eliminate and remove duplication and clean up wording that was confusing. We were able to introduce better processes for dealing with regulations that were being developed. Also, we were able to implement a better process for review of existing regulations as a consequence of that activity we engaged in.

In Manitoba we have implemented a process whereby many new regulations are sunsetted. A sunset clause of course means that the regulation dies after a certain period of time unless it is subsequently reintroduced. An act must be reintroduced to continue to be effective. In too many cases we found old pieces of legislation, the result of concerns of 50 or 70 years ago, still on the books, still taking up space, still utilizing the resources of the taxpayer but unnecessarily so.

An extreme example of this is the regulations that required companies that employed more than 10 female persons to have a matron on staff to, I presume at the time these were drafted, guard the chaste character of said females on staff. It is a regulation that at the time it was drafted fit in with the customs and mores of the day, but certainly it lost its meaning a long time ago. We also ran into a regulation that required spittoons. It actually regulated the size, design, shape and location of said spittoons in public establishments. It was important at the time. It was a critical piece of legislation.

I am not suggesting in any way that spittoon legislation is on the same level with species at risk legislation. What I am suggesting is that regular reviews of such legislation are an intelligent pursuit and make good sense. A regular review of any legislation that can profoundly affect the people of a country is especially important.

Through our process in Manitoba we introduced various strategies. Some of them required, for example, the pre-notification of legislation and regulation, pre-notification of affected people, and obviously consultation on bills at the provincial level. In Manitoba, for example, open committee meetings are held on every bill. Every aspect of a particular bill is exposed to public involvement. The public has the chance to come in and speak to the legislation being proposed to make their input and views known.

Such could have been the case with this piece of legislation, but Bill C-5, although purportedly using a process of full consultation with full input from a wide variety of people, failed at one stage, the stage at which it got to the minister's office. All the good deliberations as a consequence of the input the committee received were largely ignored and dismissed.

I am very concerned about the five year review. I think it should be brought back into the bill itself. I am also concerned about the aspects of the government amendments, Motions Nos. 6, 16, 17 and 20. These deal with the changing of the proposal that came from the committee, the proposal that would have created a national aboriginal council.

In my capacity with new responsibilities as the chief critic for aboriginal issues, I feel it is important that I address these specific issues. The national aboriginal council that the committee proposed would have provided the opportunity for aboriginal people, people who are in particular so knowledgeable and so close to the land themselves, to have consultation mechanisms and formal input into the ongoing aspects of the legislation. The impact it would have on aboriginal people could be profound and I think it is important that the national aboriginal council motion that the committee brought forward be restored.

I know that a number of members on the Liberal side of the House feel the same way and I encourage them to make sure the committee's work on this issue is done and done well. So many people from the aboriginal communities came forward. I understand that an aboriginal working group on species at risk was established. It had representation from the Assembly of First Nations, the Métis National Council, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, the Métis National Council of Women, the Native Women's Association of Canada and the Inuit association of Canada.

These representative groups have an important role to play and an important contribution to make to this kind of legislation because it is so profoundly important, not just to indigenous peoples, clearly, but to all people of Canada. The opportunity for regular input on a formal basis would have been a useful thing. We do not want to see the work of the committee reversed. Certainly in respect of aboriginal peoples, the legislation, I believe, should not be amended as the government is now proposing to amend it.

In closing, too often the problem with the government is that it imposes urban based solutions on rural people. The farmers in my riding are certainly hard done by in many respects right now and they do not need an added burden. I understand that city people might want to escape the chaos of their frenzied lives and get the peace from rural life. City people envy farmers, but I recognize that they do not envy them to such an extent that they take advantage of the continuous opportunity to become farmers. I would like to remind them that it is the Canadian farmer and the people of our rural communities who have the greatest interest in preserving species at risk.