House of Commons Hansard #185 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was public.


Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all other Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed from April 29 consideration of Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 4.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast B.C.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian AllianceLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I will state clearly at the outset that our party supports good legislation that would protect species at risk or endangered species. The problem is that we do not have good legislation before us. This is slapped together legislation. After 10 years the government still does not have the ethics counsellor straight so there is no reason it should have the bill straight either.

The committee did outstanding work but its work has been ignored by the faceless string pullers in the office of the Prime Minister. That is unfortunate. It demeans the work of all hon. members and leaves them wondering why they came here. We all believed that by coming here we could work on important issues that mattered to all Canadians. We believed there would be satisfaction in helping develop legislation connected with the issues.

The standing committee had required that stewardship action plans include a commitment to eliminate disincentives and regularly examine tax treatments and subsidies. The Prime Minister wants the words deleted but they are vitally important. They demonstrate that compensation is not only a cash payment but could involve other tax treatments vital to farmers and property owners.

While government always wants to create incentives and programs it must be forced to confront the realities of disincentives, the reasons people do not respond the way ivory tower bureaucrats think they should. Instead of giving property owners real assistance by sharing data about endangered species or configuring their property to protect sensitive habitat, the government might drop them a postcard. We thank the Prime Minister for making our lives so easy.

Environmental protection and the protection of species at risk should be viewed as a full partnership between the legislated and those who write and enact the legislation. That was the attitude of the standing committee but it is not the attitude of the Prime Minister.

The standing committee had another good idea: a review of the act every five years. It seems reasonable. However the drones in the Prime Minister's Office decided it should not be automatic. They said it should be left to parliament to decide when a review is necessary. As we all know in this parliament and most others, this means the Prime Minister could have a review whenever he had a whim. Committee members from both sides thought a five year review was good. However it was not good enough for the Prime Minister or the PMO. What happens if a species flourishes and is no longer in need of protection?

The Prime Minister is wrong to have done that. It would put the onus on parliament and remove an opportunity for greater accountability and public involvement. The Prime Minister only wants public involvement at election time. Come the next election the Prime Minister will be surprised at how involved the public will be. It will involve the government right out the revolving door.

I served as environment minister in British Columbia. I ran as open a department as I could. I wanted to hear the public and employees of my department. I did hear them. I am proud of the things we accomplished during my watch. How many people will be able to look back a few years from now and say they are proud to have had anything at all to do with this legislation?

The Prime Minister has corrupted the committee process and its work by overruling its well studied and well intentioned suggestions for change. Now we hear he has ordered the whip to be cracked. Anyone in his party who does not vote for this bureaucratic nightmare will join the endangered species list. That is a great way to run a government. He appoints members to a committee, lets them work long hours on legislation and then ignores their every recommendation.

We have all been through this in the House. Members on the justice committee, the health committee, the environment committee and many others worked long hours only to see the faceless bureaucrats in the PMO through the ministers on that side eliminate what all committee members had decided were good ideas. The justice minister is shaking his head. When I was justice critic we would get to the end of the committee process, we would all agree and then bang, our work went out the window. It was the same on the health committee.

The immigration committee was the same. Prior to September 11 we recommended scanners at all airports coming into Canada. We told the government to make sure it checked people. The Liberals all agreed with the idea. The day before the report was to come out the government called a meeting and cancelled it through the faceless bureaucrats in the PMO. Shame on them.

One of the government's own members had a private member's bill in the House. It went to the justice committee. It came back with every section blank. Was that fair? The faceless bureaucrats struck again. The government does not trust its own members in the committees of the House of Commons. That is absolutely shameful.

This has never been more evident than in the bill before us. Members on the Liberal side as well as other members in the House worked hard to come up with its many recommendations. What happened when the bill came back at report stage? They had gone. They disappeared. We have not heard any good reasons. We have been told it is what the minister wants. It is what he has been told by the PMO and the lawyers. By God, we need a change. We not only need a change of government. We need to change a lot of the lawyers we have been hiring around this place.

When the current Minister of Health was justice minister we had a bill on extradition. The policy had not been changed in 100 years but she brought in the changes. I got a couple of good lawyers and we tabled 13 amendments. We got them all through committee. I give the lawyers credit for that because they were experts.

I asked them later how we got them all approved in committee. Why had the government not done that in the first place? Why did we have to make the recommendations? The answer was that the government's lawyers like the amendments to be challenged so they can go to court and make a few more bucks for themselves and their friends. Those are the facts. The government should go back and read its bill. The amendments were approved by the committee and the government's lawyers. The government did not recommend them. The lawyers wanted more business. That is what happens in all legislation.

The government does not want to put into Bill C-5 that it would pay fair compensation at fair market value because market value is easy to figure out. The government wants the lawyers to be able to go to court and fight over what it is. Government members should be ashamed of themselves. They want Bill C-5 to have to go to the lawyers. It wants poor people whose land could be expropriated to have to hire lawyers. Does the government not realize the average person is scared to death when the word lawyer comes up? Most people are scared to death when they have to talk to a lawyer. They are scared of walking into a strange office and hiring someone to protect their rights and freedoms.

What is wrong with fair market value? Why is the government so afraid to pay Canadians fair market value for their land? They do it in British Columbia. We set up a program so people could get fair market value. People are allowed to hire their own appraisers. The government hires one. If they do not agree a third is brought in to break the deadlock. However members on the other side do not like that. They do not believe in true democracy. The Prime Minister appoints members to committee, lets them work long hours and then ignores their every recommendation.

A lot of people are focused on the issue of corruption in the government. However I hope Canadians will look carefully at Bill C-5 and realize how flawed it is. The flaws came only after the Prime Minister introduced them. If he had respect for the members of his party who worked so hard on the committee we might have legislation before us of which we could all be proud. It is unfortunate that the Prime Minister would rather spend his time on world jaunts in his new $100 million luxury jets than on drafting thoughtful legislation that would benefit all Canadians. Bill C-5 will haunt future governments almost as much it will haunt innocent Canadians who are caught by it.

I appeal to all courageous backbenchers who have been holding up the bill whether they are Liberal, opposition or whatever stripe. They should stand and fight. The environment is one of the most important issues for our children and grandchildren. Bill C-5 is no good the way it is drafted, and a number of Liberal members know it. I appeal to them not to weaken. They should not succumb to the threat that they will have no nomination in the next election. They should stand and fight. We can all win and give Canadians a good endangered species legislation.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.


Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, everyone who has participated in the debate on Bill C-5, the species at risk act, agrees on the value of wildlife, the need to prevent species from becoming endangered and the need to protect those already at risk. That is the point of the bill.

Bill C-5 is one of the most complex pieces of legislation. The dynamics between the standing committee, the minister and the department have been quite confusing to say the least. There have been many amendments back and forth. I congratulate the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, my colleague from Davenport who is the chair, and all his colleagues on the committee for the hard work they have put into the bill.

However I think we can agree on a basic point. The government has been confounded for many years by the question of how to satisfy the many people who have a stake in the lands and waters where these species are found. These people have dedicated their lives to conservation issues and want to see something done in law. They come from different points of view and have different interests. The government has tried to ensure their voices are heard. It has tried to ensure the bill would work in Canada's constitutional context. Above all, it has tried to ensure it is fair and workable.

Some 125 amendments or motions were put forward by the standing committee. The government has accepted 75, which not a bad batting average depending on which amendments they are. I will be looking at the standing committee's amendments as they come forward. I will be supporting some of them. I still have concerns about the compensation issue and the listing process. I hope the government listens again to the amendments and acts on them, but at the end of the day I will be supporting Bill C-5.

Why will I be doing that? After nearly nine years of listening and adjusting it is time to get the legislation in place. While this has been going on species have become more threatened. Some have perhaps disappeared. In my office in Etobicoke North I have a photograph of a majestic grizzly bear in the Khutzeymateen valley in British Columbia. Mercifully, it is not an endangered species but it is time for us to act.

Even if the bill is not perfect and does not satisfy everyone we need to get the legislation in place. We have the co-operative relationships we need to deliver protection on a national basis across the country. Let us get going and provide Canadians with the legislative tools needed to get the job done.

Part of the job involves the people in the Chamber. I will talk about the role Canadians expect their members of parliament to fulfill. When a woodlot owner decides to harvest a section of his property the individual has a number of decisions to make. He must decide how many trees to harvest, the timing of the harvesting based on market prices, et cetera. When a farmer makes a decision about planting or harvesting many factors are taken into account as well. When a rancher closes off a pasture for a year or two it is because it is in the best interests of the land and the herd.

These people elect us as representatives. They expect us to understand the decisions they must make and the lives they live. However they are not the only people who elect us. Others with many different interests are at the ballot box.

Why do I mention who sent us here? It is because we must think of them all. That is our job. They hold us accountable for the decisions that affect their lives so we must design laws that allow us to do our job. We must be accountable.

We are not asking that politicians decide if the right whale is endangered or the piping plover's numbers are decreasing. Scientists alone would make the assessments and decide where species should be placed on the list of those at risk. It would be done through the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

For the first time in federal legislation this organization will be legally recognized as part of the assessment and listing process. The bill before us would include assessments of the status of species that would be scientific, expert and independent. They would be done at arm's length from government and away from any social and economic pressures.

Anyone can see the scientific decisions at any time. Decisions and findings by the committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada would be published in a public registry. The government and elected members of parliament must decide on whether to add a species to the legal list.

The moment it goes on that list a number of processes kick in under the act. For example, there are automatic prohibitions against the killing or harming of listed species and their habitats; there are mandatory plans that are required to be put together within specific timeframes for recovery of the species from dangerously low numbers; and finally, and just as important, the process under the law allows for the authority to take emergency action to protect habitat.

The decisions made under these processes could involve serious economic or social implications, particularly in rural areas that depend on fishing, farming and ranching. As I emphasized earlier, this would be the government's job. We are the ones to make these decisions because we are here to decide on such matters. We cannot ask this of scientists. It is just not fair.

We are the ones who must be accountable to those who put us here. We agree that the decisions must be timely. The bill would place a 90 day timeline for the development of the ministerial response to a committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada assessment. The minister must report annually to parliament on each of the committee's assessments and the minister's response to them. None of this would be done in secrecy. In fact, anyone at any time would be able to see the process in action through the public registry. It is a demonstration of the government's commitment to transparency.

With all these facts in hand concerned groups and the general public could hold the decision makers accountable for action that would be taken as well as action that would not be taken. As further evidence of the seriousness with which the government sees the need for timely action on species assessments from the committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada the government has already added 233 species to the initial legal list. The committee has assessed every single species with its updated criteria in the past few years.

It is time to look beyond the rhetoric. It is time to recognize that in the true spirit of the Canadian constitution we have formed legislation based on partnerships. The assessment and listing is just one such partnership. We rely on the expertise of scientists to determine the threats and status, and the expertise of elected members of parliament to move forward on actions that address those threats and status. Now we must get on with it.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Diane Ablonczy Canadian Alliance Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Madam Speaker, we are debating a group of amendments to the species at risk bill. There are five groups of amendments and they are grouped to make it easier to debate certain common themes. This debate is on Group No. 4 and there are a number of amendments in this group.

I would like to affirm what all other members who have spoken have affirmed and that is that all Canadians would like to see species at risk preserved and protected for our future, our children, the protection of our environment and our own enjoyment. This is a bill that Canadians have an interest in, not only for now but for the future. The Canadian Alliance supports the intent of the bill which is to protect endangered species.

Unfortunately the bill is flawed. It fails to strike a reasonable balance between the interests in Canadian society of protecting endangered species and their environmental habitat, of protecting the legacy and the livelihood of many people in Canada, and the interests of the economic realities of any action taken by government.

I would suggest the House consider that the flaws in the bill are linked to the fact that government and officials in government have a poor track record of properly and satisfactorily administering some of these government activities. It is up to members of parliament to ensure that any uncertainties, any lack of proper balance in the way the government proceeds are addressed in the bill. We know from bitter experience that unless legislation is clear, unless proper balances are struck immediately in the legislation, that sometimes unintended consequences can take place.

I refer, for example, to today's auditor general's report on three contracts which were administered by the government, contracts for $0.5 million, $0.5 million plus $50,000, and $0.5 million plus $75,000. The auditor general found that the government, in administering just these three contracts, and the senior public servants responsible for managing the contracts, demonstrated an appalling disregard for the Financial Administration Act, the government contracts regulations, Treasury Board policy and the rules designed to ensure prudence and probity in government procurement.

The auditor general said the government files on the three contracts were so poorly documented that many key questions remain unanswered surrounding the selection of the contractor and the basis for establishing the price and scope of work for the contracts.

The auditor general's opinion was that the government did not receive much of what it contracted and paid for. This is just one example that was tabled minutes ago in the House of how government bureaucracies and government ministries completely fail to protect public interest or even follow their own rules when they are dealing with public moneys.

I emphasize that this is just one example giving us reason as members of parliament to ensure that flaws in a bill which can affect the livelihood, the future and the families of people involved in legislation are protected as strongly as possible.

Unfortunately in Bill C-5 that is not the case. I would like to suggest some of the concerns that we have with the bill. For some reason many of the recommendations made by an all-party committee dominated by Liberal members were ignored by the government. Many of the amendments that we are dealing with are efforts by the Prime Minister's Office to reverse the work of our members of parliament.

Members of parliament should take this extremely seriously. This is our work. This is our judgment that is being overruled, overturned, and interfered with by civil servants who, as the auditor general just said, demonstrated, in the case she investigated, an appalling disregard for the legal rules that they were supposed to follow.

We should become concerned when we see the same situation with respect to overturning the judgment, the work and the proposals of members of the committee. Many of these amendments are overturning legitimate work and judgments made by hard working, dedicated, and concerned members of parliament on an important issue, endangered species.

We have, for example, a rather odd determination by these amendments to overturn a recommendation that a national aboriginal council be set up. It would now be a national aboriginal committee. We have a whole bunch of amendments in this group to change the word council to committee. Why? Who knows why? It has never been explained.

The House committee which had a predominance of Liberal members suggested, proposed and recommended one way but all of a sudden it needed to be another way.

Then we have something called stewardship action plans which omit the committee recommendation to look at tax treatment and subsidies as a component of compensation for landowners who are affected by the legislation. Some individuals have decided they do not want to look at tax treatment or subsidies, so that is being taken out in these amendments. Looking at disincentives to comply with the legislation has been ruled out. The recommendation that we examine disincentives and deal with disincentives to comply is being taken out by one of these amendments.

We have an all party recommendation that the government provide technical and scientific support to people whose lands and activities would be affected by the legislation. However, the government does not want to give them scientific and technical support. It wants to give them information, not scientific and technical information, just information. It could be anything. It could be a letter saying that everyone is on their own and that it is hoped no one is jailed for breaching the regulations in the act. We do not know what information means but that word is good enough for the government.

We have a requirement agreed to by all members of the committee that the legislation be reviewed every five years. We are dealing with people's livelihoods, with changing ecological conditions, and with changing movement in the numbers of endangered species, and yet the government does not want to review this every five years. It wants to let the thing go on and on, on auto pilot, without considering the rapidly changing circumstances that would be inherently coming about as the bill is in effect.

We have a whole list of amendments that deal with public consultation and publishing of action plans. We feel there will not be the kind of transparency, openness and public input that Canadians have a right to expect in a mature democracy. We must recognize this when we are dealing with people's legacies. Many people that would be affected had ancestors and families that homesteaded the land. Their families have been on the land for decades if not centuries. They have farmed the land and they have ranched the land. This is their legacy. Their roots are in this country and yet we are asking them to be responsible for government activities with no clear compensation plan.

We are prepared to make them permanently liable, even if they never knew they were breaching or never intended to breach the provisions of this act. Worst of all, this is being done to Canadians in the face of recommendations of members of parliament from all parties in the House. The government is simply overruling some of the common sense recommendations of our own House committee.

I would certainly urge members of the House to uphold not only the spirit but the clear intent of the House committee on the legislation.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I am please to speak to this bill today. For those listening, it is important to recall that we are debating the Species at Risk Act at report stage.

I am going to explain why the Bloc Quebecois is opposed to this bill and to the government's approach, which has taken the form of the various groups of amendments considered at report stage.

The bill's preamble reads as follows, and I quote:

the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council is to provide national leadership for the protection of species at risk, including the provision of general direction to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada in respect of that Committee's activities and general directions in respect of the development, coordination and implementation of recovery efforts,

In other words, with a bill which we are told respects provincial jurisdiction, we have a situation where the federal government once again wants to interfere in matters which do not concern it. It wants to tell the provinces how to go about things, without necessarily seeking their consent. That is why the Bloc Quebecois is opposed to this bill. It also opposed a number of amendments put forward by the government so that, ultimately, we could have a bill respecting provincial jurisdiction.

The wording of the bill is not such as to respect provincial jurisdiction, or the essential aspects of the protection of habitat in so far as the provinces are concerned. In fact, all indications are that the minister has the power to impose his vision of protection on the provinces when he deems it necessary. It is a bit paternalistic. Under this approach, if a province does not reach the same conclusions as he does, he will decide that his conclusions are the right ones; he will be a sort of umpire between the provinces. This is exactly the opposite of the spirit in which we wanted to see this sector managed.

In other words, this legislation will take de facto precedence over existing provincial laws, even when the habitat is fully under provincial jurisdiction. All this confirms that the bill interferes into areas of provincial responsibility and because of this, it is unacceptable.

In the section on general prohibitions, it states clearly that, and I quote subclause 34(2):

The Governor in Council shall, on the recommendation of the Minister, by order, provide that sections 32 and 33, or either of them, apply in lands in a province that are not federal lands—

The next subclause then states:

The Minister must recommend that the order be made if the Minister is of the opinion that the laws of the province do not effectively protect the species—

This describes the paternalistic approach that is unacceptable in this bill.

Similarly, clause 36 requires that when provinces classify certain species as endangered that are not listed on the COSEWIC list of designated species, they must apply the same prohibitions to these species as those that apply to the designated species. In doing this, the federal government is claiming the right to dictate how the provinces must go about protecting species. Restrictions and fines may not always be the route that a province wishes to choose.

As such, there is a contradiction when it comes to responsibilities. There is also a contradiction when it comes to the different approaches to ensuring protection. Throughout the bill, the federal government tries to impose its way of doing things, even if provincial legislation already exists.

As regards recovery strategies, the choice of themes is also troublesome when it comes to provincial jurisdiction. In fact, clause 39 sets out that “to the extent possible”, the recovery strategy must be prepared in co-operation with the appropriate provincial minister.

It is this type of phrase that will lead to fighting between the provinces and the federal government, and perhaps to litigation before the courts. A business or an individual caught breaking the law could invoke this flaw, this possible conflict between federal and provincial laws. Either way, we would all lose and end up without the desired results. Even though this bill was introduced some time ago and has gone through the different stages, it seems to have been botched. For the most part, it gives the federal government the right to interfere in this, which is unacceptable.

We are also aware that most environmental groups are opposed to the bill. Even those who should readily support any attempt to improve the protection of wildlife species find the bill useless, even dangerous.

A lot of things are totally unacceptable in this bill. The need to amend it and make the significant changes the government did not make is obvious.

However, the main problem raised by all 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.

Beyond the jurisdictional conflict, that is the conflict of authority between the federal government and the provinces, there is the fact that, since decisions will be made by a minister and his cabinet, and that the minister will be subject to a great deal of pressure, environmental groups are afraid that the same thing will happen as in the case of the management of marine species and fisheries, where the government gave in to political pressures for many years, with the result that some species have nearly or totally disappeared. I believe that, in this respect, environmental groups have an important point.

This is why environmental activists like the leader of the Canadian campaign for the protection of endangered species said that Bill C-5 was a total failure and would not ensure the protection of Canadian species.

Moreover, like one of its lawyers, whose statements are more balanced than that, the Sierra Club is criticizing the bill for being too weak and giving such disgraceful discretionary power to politicians with regard to the designation of species.

The minister is being criticized for favouring, through his bill, a piecemeal approach, left to the discretion of cabinet, rather than a comprehensive approach soft on negotiation, but supported by binding legal recourse, should agreement prove impossible.

The federal government chose to adopt a paternalistic attitude, as I said earlier, by imposing its ways of doing things, controlling how things will be done, and giving sweeping powers to the political arm of the government. This issue is linked to the interpretation of the law and nature with respect to biological situations, the behaviour of various species and situations well beyond the scope of political cabinet decision making. For this reason, I believe it was absolutely necessary that the bill be amended, and this did not happen.

As for the Government of Quebec, it stated, through its environment minister at the time, Paul Bégin, that the bill was just another example of useless duplication for Quebec. He said that Bill C-5, introduced by the federal government, was aimed at creating a safety net for the protection of threatened species and their habitat not only on federal sites, but also on the whole Quebec territory. Mr. Bégin said, and I quote:

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.

In other words, the federal government's intervention comes at a time when Quebec has already assumed its responsibilities and done part of the job. In this sense, the new federal bill is useless and may even create complications with regard to interpretation and lead to decisions that will not result in better management of species at risk.

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.

In closing, instead of having a bill that reflects the reality of Canadian federalism, we have a bill that reflects the government's centralizing approach even on the issue of species at risk.

For all these reasons, we believe that this bill is unacceptable. Even with the groups of amendments, several aspects of the bill would have to be improved to make it acceptable. The essential condition would be that the provinces be allowed to make their own decisions with regard to their own territory, which is not the case in the bill as it stands now.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.


John Maloney Liberal Erie—Lincoln, ON

Madam Speaker, some rather important themes have been running through the debate on the proposed species at risk legislation. They are themes, some of them rather subtle, that we must recognize.

First and foremost, and perhaps the area where we see the sharpest divide, is over a coercive approach versus a co-operative approach. We looked at both and studied both. We talked to experts and to people in other countries. We talked to conservationists and to our aboriginal peoples. We listened to everything that was said.

We looked at all this in the Canadian context, within the traditions and laws that support Canada's constitution. What we found, and the premise on which the legislation is designed, is that the key to effective species at risk legislation is the support and co-operation of those Canadians who depend on the land for their livelihood. It is as simple as that.

We have prolonged this debate while the same things are said: It is too strong or it is not strong enough. Who is right? Neither.

Because the bill has co-operation as the first approach, underscored by strength, it is truly Canadian. It is time now to pass the bill in the House and send it on to our colleagues in the other place.

Who has helped us decide co-operation is the most workable approach? All Canadians have helped us to decide. In some way we are all connected to the land but it is even more so for Canadians who live in rural Canada. The land is their livelihood. It is their past and future. It is at the very core of their lives. It is the rural Canadian who plays such a huge role in the protection and recovery of species at risk in so many different ways. Many of these people are stewards of the land already and have been for generations. They know the importance of conservation and of sustainable activities. They are partners and they are allies.

I would like us to remember that as we consider the issues of critical habitat connected to the proposed species at risk legislation. It is here that the co-operative approach is crucial because it is already working. It has already been successful, especially for rural Canadians. We must not undermine this and we will not undermine this.

The vast majority of lands in Canada are under provincial and territorial management and private ownership. If we want to stop the destruction or degradation of habitat, then partnership and joint actions are crucial.

This is about working with the provinces and territories, with private landowners, conservationists, local authorities, aboriginal peoples, farmers, foresters, fishermen, ranchers and voluntary organizations.

There is plenty of strength in the enforcement and prohibition sections of the proposed species at risk act. Protecting critical habitat will work best, in fact it will only work when we stress co-ordination, complementary action and inclusion. That is what Canadians do best.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wonder if we have quorum.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

We have quorum.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


John Maloney Liberal Erie—Lincoln, ON

Madam Speaker, there is plenty of strength in the enforcement and prohibition sections of the proposed species at risk act. However, as I said earlier, protecting critical habitat will only work when we stress co-ordination, parliamentary action and inclusion. That is what Canadians do best.

For these reasons I cannot support any change to the bill that removes the incentive of stewardship as the first course of action to protect critical habitat.

The coercive approach to protecting critical habitat has already proven to be unworkable in many situations in the United States. We want to avoid species disappearing because they are pawns in protracted political disputes or costly court battles. We are taking care of matters in our own backyard of course. What I mean is the federal government has a responsibility to protect critical habitat in its jurisdiction.

The government is proposing that the species at risk act provide automatic protection to any critical habitat in a national park, a marine protected area, a migratory bird sanctuary or a national wildlife area, once it is identified by experts in a recovery strategy or action plan. For critical habitat anywhere else in federal jurisdiction, we are proposing that the proposed species at risk act require a competent minister to recommend protection if a critical habitat is not protected through stewardship or other federal legislation within 180 days of being identified in a recovery strategy or action plan.

We also want the bill to require ministers who are authorized under other federal acts to issue permits or licences for an activity to consider whether those activities could result in the destruction of critical habitat prior to the issuing of the permits or licences.

In summary, I cannot emphasize strongly enough that the results of nine long years of debate on habitat protection have brought us firmly down on the side of the co-operative approach backed by strong prohibitions. This is a Canadian solution. It is the Canadian way. For rural Canada, it is the most effective solution.

Bill C-5 is effective legislation that will help protect wildlife in Canada from becoming extinct. It will also provide for the recovery of species at risk. It is time to enact these solutions. Let us get on with the job. Let us protect our species at risk now and forever, for ourselves, for our children, for our grandchildren and for all who will come after us.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to participate in the debate today, a debate dealing with Bill C-5. I believe this is probably the fourth time I have spoken to the bill.

The more I look into this bill, the more I dislike it. The more we research the bill and the more we look at it to see if it will be effective in what it is to accomplish, the more we are concerned and the more we realize and recognize the gravity of what the bill would accomplish.

I go back 15 months to the first time that I stood in the House to deliver my maiden speech. Since that time I have spoken more about the sorry state of agriculture and the family farm as a result of the Liberal government's inaction than on any other topic. Again today we find ourselves standing and looking at legislation that would be an impairment and would have a negative impact on the family farm, agriculture and even more specifically, western Canadian agriculture.

I have spoken more on agriculture because no other issue impacts my riding to the degree that agriculture does. I am a farmer. My father is a farmer. My grandfather and my great grandfather were farmers. My neighbours, the majority of my friends back home and business associates are ranchers and farmers. Those who are not are in the business of supplying goods and services in farm communities.

Bill C-5 is not only disheartening of course to those involved in farming but also to farm communities when they recognize and realize the impact this legislation will have.

The importance of today's debate can be understood as we discuss Bill C-5 and its contents.

There is tremendous frustration being experienced in rural Canada given the repeated attacks by the government on our way of life, a way of life that has significantly contributed to the success of our country and which continues to produce, despite the many roadblocks that the government throws in front of it, an abundance of some of the highest quality food in the world.

We are continually under siege by a government that appears either disrespectful or oblivious to our way of life and common rural practices. It is a siege that has been exasperated by a Prime Minister who propagates government of the politicians, by the politicians and for the politicians rather than promoting a government of the people, for the people and by the people.

Bill C-5 will have a negative impact on the people of Crowfoot and rural Canada. This fact is even more evident given the failure of the Prime Minister to listen to his backbench members of parliament, particularly those representing rural ridings in Canada, especially in regard to not only Bill C-5 but also to Bill C-15B, the cruelty to animals bill.

Reportedly the government has vowed to pass Bill C-5 legislation despite the objections of some of its very own backbenchers, objections that have surfaced as the ferocity of our opposition has mounted against the bill over the last few months. The official opposition has been opposed to these two anti-farming, anti-rural pieces of legislation since their very inception. We have at every opportunity voiced the concerns of rural Canadians, the concerns of the people of Crowfoot, Cyprus Hills, Red Deer and other areas.

At every opportunity we stood to voice the concerns expressed in letters from ranchers and farmers.

Also, reportedly, the Prime Minister is making note of those on the government benches who are opposed to the legislation. In other words, he is saying that he knows who they are and that they will be whipped into line. There are no encouraging words from the Prime Minister as he attempts to strong arm Liberal backbenchers to forget representing their constituents and those who are involved in the agricultural sector.

We have ample opportunity, individuals and examples of those who were not whipped into line. John Nunziata knows all too well what happens when one votes against the government and in accordance with the wishes of constituents.

Last week the government apparently cancelled the vote on Bill C-5 because it did not have enough supporters on its own benches to win the vote. This legislation should not be reduced to number crunching. This bill is wrong. Regardless of those who will vote in favour of it or against it, the common sense approach to this bill would recognize that this legislation is not right. This will not accomplish what the government says it will accomplish.

We in the Canadian Alliance believe strongly that we need effective species at risk legislation. We need compensation. If we are to expect the farmers and ranchers to take their land out of production to protect a certain species, as Canadians, let us all share in the burden and give that property owner, rancher or farmer adequate and fair compensation.

What is the definition of fair and reasonable compensation? It is whatever they want to give at that moment. Fair market value is quite different. The government fails to recognize that farmers have a huge investment in their land. It is to the point now where the government has taken away the guns, it has taken away the land and one wonders when it will come to take away the wife and kids.

The Liberal government is failing to recognize that many rural Liberal and Alliance members of parliament are opposed to Bill C-5 because of the detrimental effects it will have on their constituents. One government source apparently claimed these government MPs were going to vote against the bill because they had a gripe against the Prime Minister. We do not want anyone to vote against the bill for that reason, but people can vote for whatever reason as long as they are voting against it because there is sufficient evidence in this bill to show that it is just wrong.

This type of autocratic, arrogant thinking completely demeans the Liberal MPs whose opposition and reservations are based on the opinions and fears of their constituents, fears that there will not be adequate compensation for landowners or that they will be unjustly dragged into court to defend common farm practices in the case of Bill C-15B.

Bill C-5, the endangered species legislation, is a terrible affront to our western rural way of life. The Liberal government has brought pieces of legislation before us today that are becoming almost as notorious as Bill C-68, the Firearms Act. Up until now there has been no other piece of legislation that has pitted rural Canada against urban Canada, but we have a beauty here. We have a piece of legislation that is wedge legislation which pits one against the other.

Despite being passed by the House almost seven years ago, Bill C-68 still invokes strong animosity and opposition toward the Liberal government, and so it should. Bill C-5 has the same potential because it is based on wrong principles. It is based on the principles that people who own land where a species at risk is found have the sole responsibility of protecting that species, even it means forfeiture or a loss of income because of having to take land out of production. It is wrong. It is time that every member in the House stands and says that this legislation is wrong.

Farmers are enduring financial hardships. If we go back to Bill C-68, we know it costs us $700 million to administer a program that is does not work. Yet on the other hand, the Liberal government is holding back putting into this legislation fair market value for land taken out of production.

We have seen species on our farm that would be listed as species at risk and I will do everything to protect the species. However I cannot promise that when farmers look at the ability of the government to grab the land, to basically expropriate it and pay a pittance in the way of compensation--

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4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Canadian Alliance Red Deer, AB

Or nothing.

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4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

--or nothing for compensation, as the member for Red Deer suggests, that they will find themselves with the same fervent desire to protect that species at risk. It can guarantee nothing.

We need to guarantee. We cannot lose sight of the fact that we have species that are legitimately at risk of extinction and that we have a responsibility to protect them. I want to be one of those who protects them.

Let me make it clear that when the government comes to take land and not pay compensation, there are no guarantees. There are moneys to be put back into many different areas of rural western Canada. We have seen with Bill C-68 how the government takes it from one hand and is willing to give it back in other ways. There are so many different ways we could look at bringing forward legislation that would adequately protect species at risk.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

May 8th, 2002 / 4:15 p.m.


John Richardson Liberal Perth—Middlesex, ON

Madam Speaker, the words critical habitat protection have been much used both inside and outside the House of Commons in relation to the proposed species at risk act.

The critical habitat is the home of the species, the place it needs to grow, to reproduce and to thrive. It is not unlike our own homes and we know how we feel about those.

What concerns me somewhat is the rather cavalier way in which some say that critical habitat is not protected in the proposed species at risk act. They say it is only on federal lands and not even then. They say it fails without really saying how. These are people who are looking for an approach on critical habitat, indeed an approach on species in general, that is far more coercive than what has been designed.

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4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am wondering whether or not there is quorum in the House.

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4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

No there is not. Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

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4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I see a quorum.

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4:15 p.m.


John Richardson Liberal Perth—Middlesex, ON

Madam Speaker, with regard to species being added to the critical habitat regime within the federal jurisdiction, we went even further. We provided for automatic critical habitat protection in a national park, a marine protected area, a migratory bird sanctuary and a national wildlife area. These are all federal lands and the protection element is a crucial one.

For anywhere else in the federal jurisdiction, the government is also moving to require the competent minister to recommend protection if critical habitat is not protected within 180 days of being identified in an approved recovery strategy or action plan.

All federal ministers will be required to consider the possible impacts on identified critical habitat prior to issuing any licence or permit for any activity.

We must also remember that most of the lands in Canada are under provincial and territorial management and private ownership.

The policy intents of Bill C-5 were not arrived at overnight. They came from years of study and consultation, of discussion and examination. We know, because it is already working, that the co-operative approach is the Canadian way.

We must ensure the incentive is there to pursue stewardship and voluntary action as the first step in all cases for protecting critical habitat.

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4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Val Meredith Canadian Alliance South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Madam Speaker, it is my first time to speak to the endangered species bill and I appreciate the opportunity to do so.

I listened with some interest to my hon. colleague from southern Alberta, the member for Crowfoot, who said this was an issue that pitted urban constituencies against rural constituencies. Although there is some truth to that, I think in the group of motions with which we are dealing today there is consensus among all Canadians that an openness in reporting and in sharing information is fundamental to democracy. These are things about which all Canadians are concerned.

Canadians want to participate, particularly in legislation such as the endangered species bill. They want to participate in the process of protecting endangered species. They want to know that the information they are getting from scientists and the government is up to date, complete and that they are treated with respect in providing information. I think that my colleague from Crowfoot would find that all Canadians whether they live in cities or on farms want to participate in the protection of endangered species.

I introduced a private member's bill to deal with endangered species which will be debated tomorrow. As a city representative, a member of parliament who represents an urban area, I know it is of concern to city dwellers. Perhaps there are some issues which city people tend to see from a different perspective because they have not experienced living on a farm and having their property threatened by confiscation or expropriation.

I posed that question to my constituents, about 90% of whom are urban dwellers. They felt that the compensation issue had to be dealt with and had to be fair. Even though they themselves may not ever have to face an expropriation order, they still felt that if we are to protect endangered species, if we are to protect the habitat in which the species dwell, there has to be some compensation to landowners to encourage them to participate in the program.

The motions in this group deal with how we share this information and how to get Canadians to participate in the process. The committee members who dealt with this bill and put amendments on the table felt that the aboriginal communities had to be brought into the process of sharing information. They recommended that there be a national aboriginal council brought into the discussion on endangered species. It was felt that they had an indepth knowledge of the land and of the species that inhabit the land, where they are, how one finds them and how one might protect them.

For reasons unknown to myself and to many in the House, the government decided it did not want a council and wanted to change it to a committee. One has to question, when the committee members who studied it felt that the council was the way to go, why the government would arbitrarily change the recommendation.

It just goes to show that the government is treating that committee in much the same way it has treated other committees. I sat on the transport committee for a period of time. We tabled a report in the House of Commons which was totally ignored by government. Although the committee studied for three months and listened to all the witnesses and the experts, the government really did not care what we said. I get the feeling from the changes the government has made to recommendations from the committee that studied the legislation it has the same kind of disregard for these recommendations that came from the committee.

The committee also dealt with the creation of stewardship action plans. Once again here is another area where the government chose for whatever reason to ignore the recommendations of the committee or to change them. We have to question where the executive branch of the government is going when it totally ignores the contribution that parliament and parliamentary committees make to serious legislation.

It really is a question of communication. Experts and citizens participate in the committee process by sending delegations and written submissions to committee. That is part of the consultation and community input to preparing government legislation. If that is totally disregarded, why would the government think that people would support the legislation once it was forced down their throats?

The motions in Group No. 4 deal with public consultation and how meaningful it can be and how much influence it will have. I have read some of the amendments being proposed and it would appear they are trying to clarify what public consultation will mean in the legislation.

In the other public consultations the government has had, it seems to have lacked the understanding that when it consults with the public, members of the public have an expectation that they are being listened to. Whether it is the Krever inquiry on the tainted blood situation, the Somalia inquiry or the APEC inquiry, the public is getting the feeling that when the government talks about public consultation it really means nothing. Some of the amendments proposed in this group try to clarify what the government means by public consultation and what the commitments by the government are when it makes these public consultations.

With respect to the reporting mechanism, another thing we have found is that the executive branch of government tends to think it can go away and do things on its own without communicating to parliament, without getting the advice and input of parliament. Certainly the executive branch has a duty to report back to parliament and to be held accountable to parliament for what it does on behalf of Canadians and on behalf of the House of Commons.

It is quite clear from some of the amendments in Group No. 4 there is a concern that there is no acknowledgment that the executive branch of government, the bureaucrats, have to report back to parliament and have to be held accountable for whether or not the legislation is working. The executive branch has to be held accountable for whether or not some of the provisions which are controversial are the right ones that should be there and to report back to parliament.

The committee recommended that not only should there be a review of the legislation in five years, but that it should be reviewed on a five year continuous basis. The government for whatever reason has determined that is not what it wants to do. It has made amendments to eliminate that.

That brings us to my fundamental concern which is that the executive branch of government is acting outside its jurisdiction and outside its role in a parliamentary system. Over and over again we see what the executive branch thinks the role is of a member of parliament. My colleagues who are in the House today and those who are here at other times all have a meaningful role to play in determining how legislation will impact on the community at large through regulations or whatever.

By ignoring the role of parliament, the need to bring regulations before parliament, the need to report back to parliament, the government has what I would consider to be a continuing contempt for this institution.

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4:25 p.m.


Joe McGuire Liberal Egmont, PE

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to participate in the debate on this very important bill.

I want to say a few words about stewardship. We have heard that the government considers stewardship to be a very key part of the overall strategy to protect species at risk. I will take a minute to talk about what that really means.

We can legislate, debate, consult and research, and we have done all of that. We can listen to the posturing in the media and look at laws in other countries, and we have done that too. That is what we have done for a very long time, nearly a decade in fact, and it is time we had a species at risk bill. We have waited long enough.

However, during that time, nearly 10 years, species in Canada have not been ignored. This is a good thing. While we have talked, debated, researched and postured, the people of Canada have protected species considered to be endangered. They have put in hedgerows between fields so that birds have nesting spots. They have helped protect the nests of turtles and build special crossings under highways for animals. They have left fields to lie quiet during nesting and have proudly displayed their actions on the ranch fence, the farm gate post, the fishing boat and on the logger's truck. We owe them a great deal of thanks.

We cannot turn around now and say that the efforts of the people of Canada, their partnerships and hard work, have meant nothing. No, we cannot and we will not do that.

What we now have to do is ensure that everything that has been done is recognized and that we have measures in place to do more.

The habitat stewardship program has been on the ground for two years with $45 million over a five year period to assist in stewardship activities. It has helped foster partnerships among first nations, landowners, resource users, nature trusts, provinces, the natural resource sector, community based wildlife societies, educational institutions and conservation organizations.

Through the eco gifts program we are also providing more favourable tax treatments for the contribution of ecologically sensitive lands. Over 20,000 hectares have already been donated as ecological gifts.

I am speaking today in favour of the government motions on the development of stewardship action plans in Bill C-5. The principle of developing a stewardship action plan, introduced in Bill C-5 by the standing committee, is well accepted by the government. In fact work is already underway to develop a Canada-wide stewardship action plan.

I also speak in favour of government motions to remove the arbitrary timelines for completion of action plans. Legislated deadlines could unnecessarily limit the number of action plans, their scope, as well as consultation in their development. Action plans must be completed in a timely manner. At the same time, action plans must be developed with the participation of landowners, resource users, aboriginal peoples and others who may be impacted. Action plans must also satisfy a range of requirements if they are to be effective. The decision for timelines is best left to the scientists and to the practitioners themselves. To this end, the bill requires recovery strategies to include a statement of when action plans will be completed.

I will now turn my attention to the original stewards of the land, the ones who have led the way for us, Canada's aboriginal peoples. They are the people of the land and of the sea with vast and rich stores of history and knowledge. They have been at the table for many discussions on the legislation. Their advice and input cannot be stressed too much. We simply could not have done it without them. We do not want that input and process to end so we are entrenching the role and importance of aboriginal traditional knowledge. We all share the responsibility for protecting wildlife. Canada's aboriginal people have shown us how and why.

We support the establishment of a national aboriginal council on species at risk. This council is consistent with the Government of Canada's commitment to strengthen its relationship with the aboriginal people.

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4:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central to participate in the report stage debate on amendments proposed to the government's species at risk act, Bill C-5.

Before I begin I would like to make it absolutely clear again that the Canadian Alliance members and I are committed to protecting and preserving Canada's natural environment and endangered species.

The Canadian Alliance supports effective endangered species legislation based on co-operation, science, respect for private property, transparency and accountability. Therefore the argument is not about whether we should have endangered species legislation but rather that we have effective legislation.

The Liberal record on species at risk is dismal. Since the 1993 red book, the Liberals have promised in every red book to enact legislation to protect species at risk but in eight years the Liberals have failed to pass endangered species legislation in the House.

The government has a poor track record in protecting endangered species over which it has direct control, such as the Atlantic cod, Pacific salmon and many others. Approximately 100 species have been added to the endangered species list since the Liberals first introduced endangered species legislation in the 35th parliament.

Out of the 13 motions that we are debating in Group No. 4, 12 have been moved by the Liberals and 1 by a Canadian Alliance member. Motions Nos. 6, 16, 17 and 20 deal with aspects of the national aboriginal committee.

The standing committee had wished to create the national aboriginal council but the government instead wants to call it a committee and so it has changed the words in various clauses.

I was a member of the environment committee at one time. I know how hard the members work in that committee. However the government is changing the will of the committee to suit its requirements.

The idea of an aboriginal committee is itself acceptable. The natives have a close knowledge of the land and environment and so consultation with them is appropriate, as it is with other stakeholders. However care must be taken to ensure that it does not become a special conduit for race related political concerns. Special privileges and exemptions from the act's application should not be based on race.

The name change from council to committee reverses the standing committee's work with no good justification. The government is showing contempt for the work of the parliamentary committee and its own members of parliament. It makes changes just for the sake of doing so.

Motion No. 25 deals with the creation of stewardship action plans. The government is showing contempt again for the work of all members of parliament in committee who asked for a commitment to examine regularly tax treatment and subsidies and to eliminate disincentives.

The government wants to delete this language but it is vital. It demonstrates that compensation is not just a cash payment but could involve other things, like tax treatment, which are so vital to farmers and other property owners. Further, the government must be forced to confront the realities of disincentives.

The government also wants to delete the standing committee's requirement that stewardship action plans provide technical and scientific support to persons engaged in stewardship activities. Instead the government will provide information relating to technical and scientific support available to persons engaged in stewardship activities. This is a small but significant difference.

Now, instead of giving property owners real assistance by sharing data on the presence of endangered species or assistance configuring their property to protect sensitive habitat, for example, the government can mail them a pamphlet.

Most of the remaining Group No. 4 amendments concern issues of notice and public consultation or discussion. This presents opportunities to stress the fundamental importance of making consultations as wide as possible and of ensuring that consultations have a real impact on the administration of the act and are not just done simply for window dressing purposes.

Initially the bill had provided for a parliamentary review of the species at risk act five years after it comes into force. The standing committee added the additional requirement that it be subsequently reviewed at five year intervals. Government Motion No. 130 will remove the standing committee's amendment again. The government does not think that automatic five year reviews are needed and instead would put the onus on parliament to put a review on the agenda should it be deemed necessary, and that is wrong.

Not only is it contemptuous again of the standing committee, it removes an opportunity for greater accountability and public involvement. Mandatory reviews of legislation are not quite as effective as a sunset clause, but perhaps a close second, but they are important for ensuring that an act is working as it was intended and it creates an opportunity to make changes. This is basic democratic accountability and ensures that legislation is kept ever green. Transparency is essential.

Motion No. 29 deletes the requirement that the proposed text of stewardship agreements be made public for at least 60 days of consultation. Since stewardship agreements can affect not just the landowner but neighbouring lands too, anything that would restrict consultation with affected stakeholders should be opposed.

On the other hand, Motion No. 114 ensures that when management plans are made public for public consultation they are referred to as proposed management plans. This shows that they are not yet final and that the government will respond to comments from the public.

The government should be open-minded in considering suggestions and comments and to ensure that consultation is really in good faith.

Sadly, if the government treats the Canadian public with the respect that it gives the parliamentary standing committee, then no consultations will be in good faith since it will have made its mind up already on all the key points and be unwilling to listen to another point of view.

Motion No. 126 deletes the requirement for all ministerial reports, including listing decisions, to be entered into the public registry. This reduces transparency and public access to important documents giving insight into how the list of endangered species is developed. There is no reason that ministerial reports concerning COSEWIC and listing not be made public instead of forcing citizens to go through the hassles and delays of access to information requests.

Motion No. 127 is a Canadian Alliance motion. Currently clause 124 allows the minister to restrict the release of any information if it is in the best interests of the species to do so. This is understandable under certain circumstances. For example, a landowner might not want the general public trespassing over his or her land looking for a rare bird. However, especially given the harsh criminal penalties in the bill, it is unacceptable that the government would be able to withhold important information from property owners. This amendment would allow the restriction of public release of certain information. However this must be taken with Motion No. 128, which was debated in Group No. 1, which required that in all circumstances the minister must notify an affected landowner, lessee or land user of the location of a wildlife species or habitat. This would ensure that the interests of people were respected, as well as the interests of the species.

Canadian Alliance members like myself and all of us on this side of the House are committed to protecting and preserving Canada's natural environment and endangered species. The work we are doing is for future generations. The Canadian Alliance supports effective endangered species legislation, not legislation that will not do its job properly. Our chief critic for the environment, the hon. member for Red Deer, has done an excellent job in analyzing the bill and I commend him for his efforts.

To conclude, Canadian Alliance members support effective endangered species legislation based on co-operation, science, respect for private property, transparency and accountability.

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4:45 p.m.


Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma—Manitoulin, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to join this very important debate on an issue that has been a subject of discussion for many years. My hon. colleague from Surrey Central mentioned that this was a campaign promise made by our party going back to a couple of elections. Why it has taken this long is probably testament to our willingness to consult and find the best path through the difficult issues which comprise this important subject.

Our own caucus has had vigorous debate on the bill, ranging from the concern that it does not go far enough to the concern that maybe it goes too far. I believe we have come to a reasonable consensus that even though this legislation is not perfect, it is a great advance in the protection of wildlife species, which really is not only an issue of concern for ourselves and our children but for our children's children and beyond. This is an issue that speaks not just to decades in the future but to hundreds and conceivably thousands of years.

It goes without saying that as the population of the world has grown and shifted, the price being paid by our wildlife species has been very high in many cases. If we as a society do not take seriously the concerns that we have to build, to manage and to have economic benefit from our natural resources, and at the same time balance that against the needs of our wildlife, then we will all pay the price for not having seen far enough ahead.

I would suggest that this vigorous debate and the many months and years it has taken to get us to this point have brought us to probably the best bill that is possible under the circumstances. I encourage all members to move on with this very important subject. We must not waste any more time because various species are at risk every day as we sit in the House debating this issue.

One of my colleagues from Prince Edward Island made mention of our aboriginal people and how important this issue is to them. They have lived in harmony with nature for untold thousands of years. We have many lessons to learn from them when it comes to protecting nature and protecting wildlife. In managing our relationship as humankind with nature, it is not often easy to find solutions but indeed we must.

As I have stated, some believe that Bill C-5 does not go far enough but for others it goes too far. This suggests to me that we have found a balance. When people provide criticism on both extremes, then possibly we have done the best we can do for the vast majority of people.

Not only would the legislation in Bill C-5 be effective in preventing wildlife from becoming extinct, it would also provide for the recovery of species. While not coming to a perfect result, after eight years of consultation I think the result is excellent, and the bill should move forward as balanced and effective legislation.

Much has been made in some quarters about the costs for agriculture, for forestry and for tourism. For example, people are concerned about the possible effect on snowmobile and ATV trails. It is my understanding that the legislation is not intended to impair the appropriate and proper evolution of our tourism activities. They are important to our economy. The legislation is not intended to impair traditional activities such as trapping. It is not intended to impair practices that have become commonplace. All we are saying here is let us be mindful of nature's place in all of this. We are saying that without nature we all lose as a society. It is a question of finding the right balance.

Much has been said about compensation. Under Bill C-5, fair and reasonable compensation can be paid--