Mr. Speaker, there has been much use of the word “collaboration” within the debate on the proposed species at risk legislation.
This is more than a mere word. Collaborative effort is the very foundation of this bill. It is the very fabric of all parts of the policy.
For example, the proposed legislation addresses all species at risk in Canada, as well as their essential habitat, wherever in the country that habitat may be located.
Collaboration, however, means that the federal government plays an important role, as do the provinces and territories, the landowners, the users of resources and all of us as well.
In the proposed species at risk legislation, this also involves a balanced approach based on nearly nine years of consultations and discussions with all sectors of Canadian society.
This is an approach that is unique to Canada. Not only does it reflect current practice, but it is also the very foundation of our constitution. It is also an approach we know works in the field. That is a fact.
I will give a few examples, if I may. We have a number of them, but I will quickly touch on two very specific ones.
One of these is the wood buffalo, the largest land mammal in Canada. It has already been in imminent danger of extinction. Its status has now improved and it is now in the threatened category.
This is the direct result of collaborative efforts between the federal government, the governments of B.C., Alberta, Yukon and the Northwest Territories, as well as their partners.
It is the outcome of a recovery initiative based on collaboration. This is the term on which the emphasis must be put. The initiative was launched in 1957. It is still in place, and the buffalo population has benefited from it all these years. The wild population has risen from 200 to 3,000 over the past few decades.
Another example is the peregrine falcon. The peregrine was designated as endangered and now it too has moved up to the threatened category.
This too is the result of collaboration between the governments of Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Nunavut and Canada.
We believe there are now 500 nesting pairs in Canada, where there were 34 in the 1970s.
These are but two success stories in the long tradition of co-operation between the provincial, territorial and federal governments regarding species at risk.
In the spring of 1995, in order to improve the protection of species at risk in Canada, the provinces, territories and federal government held public workshops in many places across the country to determine what should be included in a national approach to protect species at risk.
This initiative led to the development of the accord to protect species at risk. This accord got the support of the Canadian ministers responsible for wildlife.
The accord recognizes that protecting species at risk is a shared responsibility and that a single jurisdiction cannot, alone, effectively protect species at risk. Species do not recognize jurisdictions.
No government has all the legal, political and other means to ensure adequate protection to species. Again, co-operation is essential.
The proposed Species at Risk Act is part of the federal government's contribution to the implementation of the accord.
This approach is in compliance with the commitment made under the accord by all the provinces and territories to protect species and their habitat, to the extent that they come under their jurisdiction.
This is an approach that emphasizes co-operation, so that we can ensure its success.
The provinces and territories took part in the development of the safety net of the bill and they co-operated in this regard.
This approach was expressly designed to provide provincial or territorial governments with the first opportunity to protect the essential habitat of a species that comes under their jurisdiction.
Given these facts, how could we possibly support amendments to the bill that would undermine this approach, which is based above all on co-operation? We also know that in order to change behaviour, we need incentives. We also know that there needs to be a great number of cases pending in the system. This is why we must re-establish obligations so that each government is responsible in its own jurisdiction, while allowing enough flexibility for the federal government to intervene anywhere, if it deems it necessary. This is the safety net. It is a delicate balance by which the proposed Species at Risk Act can provide protection for all species and for all essential habitat in Canada, while protecting the co-operation between different levels of government that is absolutely essential for the successful protection of species and their habitat on private land.
The government motions also clarify territorial responsibilities. Canada's three territories are responsible for all of their wildlife species, not simply species that are considered game, as set out in the current version of the bill.
The government believes that the protection provided by the provinces and territories must be effective in order to avoid resorting to federal prohibitions.
However, we insist that the policy must be developed in an open and inclusive manner, instead of through legislative measures. The work on this has already begun with the provinces and territories. The government motions ensure that this initiative based on co-operation is not compromised by the imposition of any unilateral program.
Some critics proposed that we adopt an approach similar to the United States' Endangered Species Act. This act takes an authoritative and controlling approach, which orders people to act at their own expense. It hardly leaves room for co-operation.
Here are a few examples of remarks made by American officials who were commenting on what they are now doing. Representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for example, said that they had lost control of the species protection process because they were overloaded with the huge number of court orders. They reported that their 2001 budget for listing species was spent on enforcing compliance with settlement agreements and court orders.
The home secretary said “For a long time, we spent precious money on lawyers' fees and fighting in the courts instead of protecting species and fighting to bring them back from the brink of extinction”.
This fall, it was estimated that 240 court orders have not been implemented by the U.S. government because the resources were used in legal battles.
Because of this atmosphere of mistrust between landowners and the U.S. government, which is made worse by the hostile approach of the U.S. legislation, no information is available concerning the situation of over half of the endangered or threatened species living on private property in the United States.
When species at risk legislation is unduly focused on penalties and prohibitions, it is remarkably difficult to enforce. Is that really what we want here? Absolutely not.
The co-operative approach of the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk is already working. Since it was approved, most provinces and territories have introduced or amended legislation in order to respect the terms of the accord.
The federal, provincial and territorial governments are now working on bilateral agreements and a policy to establish effective protection under the accord. By working together on our accords, we ensure that each government understands its responsibilities and what triggers the safety net.
Before this bill is passed, we must do our work under the accord. We should be a world leader. We should not be fighting with each other. This bill deserves our support.