House of Commons Hansard #202 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was compensation.


Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Murray Calder Liberal Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me to rise and speak to Bill C-5, the species at risk act. As the chair of the national rural caucus this is something with which the rural caucus has been very involved.

Before I go into my speech I would like to take the time to help the member for Red Deer. I understand he has a television show to do on this subject tonight. I listened to his facts and some of them are wrong. This all hinges around clause 64 within the bill.

Subclause 64(1) basically gives direction to the minister for compensation and subclause 64(2) now states that a governor in council shall develop regulations for compensation. The confusion for the member for Red Deer was the fact that Motion No. 109, had it carried, would have changed the word “shall” to “may”. The rural caucus found that totally unacceptable.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, the member for Kitchener Centre, can verify the fact that we repeatedly went after her on this issue of “may” versus “shall”. I commend the minister. I believe he had three meetings with the rural caucus on the issue and the parliamentary secretary had a couple more. Two of the members of the rural caucus who were very active in this included the member for Churchill River, who was very concerned about the issue, and the member for York North.

The minister saw fit to listen to our arguments on Motion No. 109 and withdrew it. The rural caucus was very appreciative of that because it helped us out very much on the compensation aspect. I believe it has taken us in the right direction.

The people of rural Canada have been heavily involved in the development of the legislation that we are considering today. They support Bill C-5's emphasis on stewardship. They have had a big role in the formation of our policy in this area and for a very good reason. They know how important stewardship is because they have acted as stewards for generations and generations.

I was a farmer in my other life and I was taught by my father that if we were to see a killdeer's nest out in the centre of a field we would immediately stop the tractor, set up stakes and make sure the nest was not destroyed. I was taught that as a child and it has stayed with me as an adult.

Farmers and people in rural Canada are very good stewards and they were naturalists long before it came into vogue. That is the reality of the people who live in rural Canada.

This work is being done through small actions and huge projects but it all conserves Canada's rich, national heritage. We need to make sure that these people see that this work is valued, that it is essential and that it is at the very foundation of Canada's approach to habitat and species protection. If we delay, we send a message that this work is not good enough. No one here intends to do that. If we act now we let rural Canadians know that their contribution is the foundation of our policy on species at risk and habitat protection.

Let us not delay on that message any longer. Let us get on with it. Let us put federal species at risk legislation in place in Canada. It is the least we can do.

The proposed species at risk act ensures that there is involvement of the people closest to the species and to the land. That is something rural caucus fought for and received, and we thank the minister for that. This involvement stems from an overall co-operative approach. We did not just happen across this approach. In fact we set about developing it after much studying, many discussions and after an examination of what works and what does not in other countries and situations. We know that this one will work.

Fundamentally, we have to remember that our constitutional structure is such that we must work at all times with the provinces and the territories on any major policy.

There is a good reason for this structure and most everyone here would agree that it is one that is fair, workable and, above all, Canadian.

There are few examples as good as the development of the strategy for the protection of species at risk to show how well this system can work. There was co-operation among governments, co-operation that began many years ago, to set the stage for a successful strategy. That success can be found in the federal-provincial-territorial agreement called the accord for the protection of species at risk. Under this accord, we have all committed to protecting species, their habitats and to bringing in legislation and programs.

For decades the federal, provincial and territorial governments have been working together on wildlife management. Rural Canadians have been directly involved in this approach in many ways. This is not just for species at risk. All species benefit.

Stewardship, such as that under the North American waterfowl management plan, where provinces and territories have joined the federal government and their counterparts in the United States to preserve hundreds of hectares of wetlands and protect species of waterfowl. Farmers, hunters, landowners and conservation organizations have worked side by side to make this happen. Clearly we all have to recognize that species at risk is truly an issue of national concern and nobody can do it all alone.

We need this continued co-operation. We need to be able to lean over the fence between the federal government and the provincial or territorial governments. That fence makes good neighbours and it makes us partners. That neighbourly spirit brought us the accord in 1996, the accord that commits governments to legislation and programs. These are commitments that many of our provincial and territorial partners have met. These are commitments that the federal government must meet.

The accord formed the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council which has met a number of times and is working on an assessment and recovery planning that is so essential to meet the needs of the species.

The accord provides for the early identification, protection and recovery of all species at risk throughout the country.

Considerable progress has been made by the provinces and the territories in improving a legislative base for the protection of the species at risk in Canada since the endorsement of the accord.

Now it is our turn. The provinces and territories worked with us in developing Bill C-5. The proposed bill recognizes their contributions. Their support is absolutely critical to the success of the bill. We cannot protect species at risk throughout Canada without the provinces and the territories. It is they who manage most of the lands and the activities that affect the species and the critical habitat. They set the land management policies, direct the development laws and deliver many of the programs. Provinces and territories control a significant amount of land and many species rely on these lands. They have had many resources that we need to deliver the habitat enhancement and the protection, including the protection of wetlands and parklands.

Together we set a course for the concept of a safety net that ensures that no species will fall through the cracks before a government has failed to act. That safety net ensures that all species and critical habitat are protected everywhere in Canada. That is the work we need to do and that is the work we are doing.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Andy Burton Canadian Alliance Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, I find myself with mixed feelings standing in the House during report stage of the species at risk act to address the motions in Group No. 5.

I am of mixed feelings because the government has forced through a motion to limit debate, meaning it has had enough of listening to the legitimate concerns brought forward by members of parliament as expressed to them by their constituents. The government in its wisdom has decided to ignore the concerns we and many Canadians have raised about the bill. Instead the Liberals have decided to use the power of their majority government to ram the bill through. They will crack the whip, defeat opposition amendments and pass a flawed bill.

I remind the House that the Canadian Alliance supports legislation to protect species at risk. The government would have Canadians falsely believe Bill C-5 is designed to protect species at risk even though mandatory compensation, a major component to ensuring species are protected, has been left out. Canadians should therefore disregard the Liberal government's false claims of heroism toward species at risk. Bill C-5 would not protect such species unless it included compensation.

In an effort to rectify the many flaws evident in Bill C-5 the opposition has moved some 60 amendments at report stage. The government has also moved many amendments which I find quite unorthodox. The government had every opportunity to ensure the bill was properly crafted before introducing it in the House of Commons. It introduced similar legislation on two other occasions but has still failed to get it right.

The government has failed to such an extent that the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, an all party committee dominated by Liberal MPs, had to do additional drafting work and spend several months fixing the bill. The committee reviewed over 300 amendments to Bill C-5. Yet the government has seen fit to introduce nearly 60 amendments at report stage. As a legislator I cannot help but compare the current bill as amended by the committee to what it would look like if the government's many motions at this stage of debate were accepted. The government amendments to the bill at this late stage in the process seek to reverse most of the work done by the committee.

Canadians must find this ironic coming from a government which prides itself on its wish to democratize parliament and make it more accountable to constituents. The government claims to allow MPs to vote the wishes of their electorate before those of their party leader, yet in this case it is doing exactly the opposite of what it promised to do. Not only is the government backing down on its promise to respect the wishes of Canadians as represented by their MPs. By limiting debate as it did earlier today it is effectively saying “Democracy is okay, but it has its limits and we are tired of democracy now”.

This is exactly the kind of make up the rules as it goes along tactic one could expect from a Liberal majority government. The Canadian Alliance, I am proud to say, not only respects species at risk. It respects the wishes of MPs to represent their electorates first. Partisan politics aside, I hope the government will see fit to support our amendments. They would result in more protection for species at risk, which is what we are here to debate today.

As members know, I have moved some 19 amendments to the bill at report stage. Several deal with intent to cause harm to a species as opposed to inadvertent harm. Others attempt to ensure adequate consultation with stakeholders, landowners and land users. One seeks to add in the preamble that sustainable development and the protection of species at risk should be the main goals of legislation. Others deal with the need for mandatory compensation to landowners or resource users in the event that complying with the legislation caused loss of property, decline in property value, loss of use or enjoyment of the property, or financial costs.

I have moved two motions in the group before us today, namely Motion No. 21 and Motion No. 26. Both motions touch on voluntary agreements, recovery strategies, and action and management plans for the preservation of species at risk and their critical habitat. These are all important endeavours. The Canadian Alliance supports these objectives of Bill C-5.

As currently written the bill would allow the minister to enter into agreements with other governments or environmental groups but does not specify the possibility of entering into agreements with landowners. Motions Nos. 21 and 26 would add this as an explicit option for the minister. Landowners, lessees and other users should be specified to send a signal that the government is open to a co-operative approach to implementation.

My amendment in Motion No. 21 would provide that a proposed agreement be made public 30 days before being finalized and that the minister consult with all people affected. This is to give legislative certainty that the minister would respect the rights of property owners and involve them in discussions.

The Canadian Alliance believes every opportunity should be taken to stress that property owners, resource users and others with a direct or on the ground interest in the administration of the species at risk act are involved in every step of the process. At this time the legislation does not allow for hands-on involvement by landowners. We in the Canadian Alliance are trying to fix that with the amendments in Group No. 5.

As I mentioned earlier, the government has made numerous amendments to the legislation. Although many of the government motions in Group No. 5 are of a technical nature, a few pose serious concerns. Motion No. 75 seeks to eliminate accountability of action plans. Motion No. 109 would have eliminated requirements for the minister to develop regulations for compensation. The government withdrew it, thank goodness, a small step in the right direction we were thankful to see. Motion No. 116 would reduce the requirement for the minister to consult. Motion No. 131 would cause jurisdictional concerns with the provinces over delegation of authority under the act.

Government Motion No. 131 specifies that the minister may delegate his powers under the act to any other minister of the crown in right of Canada, meaning any other federal cabinet minister. This would narrow the clause to prevent delegation to provincial ministers. The motion is unnecessarily restrictive. It would prevent possible avenues of co-operation between the federal and provincial governments. Given the bill's huge potential to trespass on provincial responsibilities it is highly inappropriate that provincial ministers be excluded. Provincial ministers are included in other sections, so why not here?

Government Motion No. 38 says that if the minister added a species to the list on an emergency basis COSEWIC would have to submit a written status report on the species to the minister within a year and put the report on the public registry. This is positive. It would allow landowners and other interested parties to see the scientific justification for the new listing.

This high degree of ministerial discretion means landowners would need a clear process for protecting their interests and definite rules for compensation should they incur losses. Unlike municipal rezoning there would be no public process in which landowners could have input. Being at the mercy of the minister they would have to be able to put their confidence in firm, transparent rules. I commend my hon. colleagues opposite for a positive amendment. It is too bad there are not many more.

Government Motion No. 43 would make drafting amendments to subclause 32(1) by removing a phrase that is not necessary.

Motion No. 75 introduces an amendment to clause 49. Subclause 49(1) currently says action plans must include a whole list of things such as:

(e) an evaluation of the socio-economic costs of the action plan and the benefits to be derived from its implementation--

The government seeks to change this. Socio-economic cost benefit analysis should be part of any all-encompassing bill like Bill C-5. How can the government introduce such sweeping legislation and not know the costs of implementing it as well as the costs of not protecting a species? This lack of knowledge would impede the government's ability to determine adequate compensation plans. It is inconceivable that the government would want to delete the entire section, but it would do so with Motion No. 75.

Finally, Bill C-5 does not adequately deal with the issue of compensation. Compensation is not an extra. It is essential to the entire framework of protecting species at risk. It would not only ensure landowners and resource users did not bear all the costs of protecting species single-handedly. It would send an important symbolic message that the government understood their fears and recognized the need to take account of their interests. Compensation at fair market value should be an integral part of any species at risk legislation.

In conclusion, without explicitly mandating compensation the legislation it would stand to harm landowners and the species it was designed to protect. For struggling landowners compensation is often the only incentive for protecting species at risk. It is human nature for landowners to resort to the shoot, shovel and shut up method of dealing with species at risk. Quite frankly, without compensation Bill C-5 would encourage that kind of behaviour.

We do not want to see that. If we are all committed to protecting species at risk we will make this change to the bill. I urge all members of the House to support adding compensation to Bill C-5, the species at risk legislation.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I will focus my remarks today on the aboriginal issues and opportunities in the proposed species at risk act. The way opportunities have been seized in the development of the legislation is quite a story. It is a story we have ignored in a long debate that seems to have only two sides and no middle.

I will highlight some of the opportunities the proposal presents and some of the roads that have been taken. In developing the proposed legislation an important opportunity was seized and new ground was broken with respect to the involvement of aboriginal peoples and aboriginal knowledge.

So it should be. The lands and waters on which a large number of species at risk depend are inhabited and managed by aboriginal peoples. Many species at risk such as the wood bison are valued by Canada's first peoples for their ecological role, cultural importance and use as a traditional food source. There was an opportunity and we took it. We took it in partnership with Canada's aboriginal peoples to ensure their participation in the development of the new law. This was unprecedented.

I will explain. In the four years prior to the tabling of the proposed species at risk act discussions were held with all the national aboriginal organizations and most of the regional aboriginal organizations across the land. Emerging from the discussions was the Aboriginal Working Group on Species at Risk, a working group representing national aboriginal organizations. The group was established in 1998 and continues to meet on a regular basis. Once again it was a matter of opportunity.

The aboriginal working group has provided advice on the development and implementation of the proposed species at risk act. It has provided a significant advisory capacity by helping us fully understand aboriginal stewardship of the land as well as the issues, needs and capacities of aboriginal peoples to help in the protection of species at risk. One result of this hard work is that the proposed act explicitly recognizes the essential role of aboriginal peoples in the conservation of wildlife.

This was more than a matter of opportunity. As the government came to understand, it was a matter of necessity. I will further explain how the aboriginal working group helped the government understand its opportunities with respect to the proposed legislation.

Under the proposal before us aboriginal traditional knowledge would have to be considered in decision making. There would be strong requirements to co-operate with aboriginal peoples in recovery efforts. The government would establish a national aboriginal council on species at risk.

I will discuss each of these accomplishments and seized opportunities in turn. The fundamental basis on which decisions are made was altered by the inclusion of traditional or community knowledge as criteria for decision making. In the past the status of wildlife species as well as wildlife management decisions such as determining quotas and access to wildlife were often based solely on scientific information. Aboriginal traditional knowledge is the knowledge base of the indigenous peoples of Canada who depend on the land for their long term survival. Through observation and experimentation holders of this knowledge continue to develop a dynamic and innovative knowledge base of the land, the environment and the species within it.

Like aboriginal peoples we derive results through observation and experimentation. However the means of interpretation and recording are different. For example, scientists are trained to interpret results according to set standards in a written form to facilitate communication and understanding in the academic community. Aboriginal traditional knowledge holders use different methods to interpret results for presentation to their community in an oral form. We would be losing the chance to paint the fullest possible picture if we did not do it both ways. That is why the proposal includes this type of knowledge.

Further, the proposed species at risk act would explicitly require COSEWIC to consider aboriginal traditional knowledge in its deliberations. It would provide for a subcommittee on aboriginal traditional knowledge to be established to facilitate the consideration of aboriginal traditional knowledge in decision making. Efforts to set up the subcommittee are already underway, led by the aboriginal working group and supported by COSEWIC.

These are opportunities we cannot turn away from. We cannot lose these important additions to the body of work already underway on species at risk in Canada.

There is another opportunity in the stronger requirements for aboriginal involvement in the recovery efforts. The bill contains the requirement for co-operation with aboriginal organizations in the preparation of all key recovery documents, recovery strategies, action plans and management plans.

We have said for nearly nine years that we all share in the responsibility of protecting wildlife. Perhaps no one group represents or demonstrates a commitment to that responsibility more than Canada's aboriginal peoples. Under this legislation the establishment of a national aboriginal council on species at risk will set into law a partnership that already has produced many positive results. It will be in keeping with the kinds of discussions and advice that went into making this legislation. Its establishment will be consistent with the Government of Canada's commitment to strengthen its relationship with aboriginal peoples. This is an enormous step forward. By establishing such a mechanism for aboriginal involvement, we are recognizing and putting into law the importance and relationship of aboriginal peoples to land and wildlife.

With the national aboriginal council, with this legislation, with the incorporation of aboriginal traditional knowledge into the assessment and recovery of species, we are moving forward. The proposed legislation is groundbreaking in its regard of the knowledge of the generations of aboriginal peoples who have lived on the land as part of the process in determining species at risk and the appropriate recovery efforts. The establishment of the national aboriginal council is formal recognition and acknowledgment. It is a formal partnership that will be workable for and valuable to all parties. It is a partnership we are working hard to foster with others: landowners, farmers, fisherman, conservation groups, and those in the resource sector who will be greatly aided by the proposed species at risk legislation.

The incorporation of Canada's first people and the knowledge they have built up over generations will be an excellent addition to the bill. It will cover parts of the country where first nations still have stewardship of the land and will add particular knowledge that we can use in other parts of the nation.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I rise to speak to Group No. 5, I note that it is interesting to hear some of the members from the opposite side of the House putting a political spin on this legislation that is significantly different from what we saw in prior incarnations of this debate on the earlier groups. I think we will see even more of that when we get to the debate on third reading.

What we have to keep in mind in addressing these specific Group No. 5 amendments is that in fact there are no major changes on the part of the government and no major recognition on the part of the government of the democratic process within the committee structure of the House. The reality is that the committee did its work and it made the amendments, with all party support in a number of cases. When that came back to the House at report stage, we were faced with an overwhelming number of amendments from the government, including a good number of them in Group No. 5, which gutted the work that the committee did.

We have before us 20 amendments in Group No. 5, 15 of them government amendments striking down all the work the committee did on those amendments in those sections, with one exception, which we heard about just today, when the government backed off and dropped Motion No. 109.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

An hon. member

A PC amendment.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Yes, which my friend from the Progressive Conservative Party wants to claim credit for. I am prepared to give him a little bit, but the reality is that on that section all members of the committee, I believe, were in favour of that amendment. Several of us, myself included, had amendments of a similar nature, as did members of the Liberal Party who sat on that committee.

What I would have liked to see, and I believe the people of Canada would have liked to see it, is that same attitude with regard to dropping Motion No. 109. I would have liked to see the government taking a similar tack with regard to all the other amendments that it has in Group No. 5 and in fact in the four groups before that.

With regard to this set of amendments, we will hear debate about the need for this to be a flexible bill, for discretion. We heard it from the Minister of the Environment earlier today when we were faced with closure by the government. I do not think one person on the environment committee would disagree about the need for flexibility within the bill. What we were saying to the minister, and what we continue to say him and to the government, is that this is not the be-all and the end-all. It is really the issue of the carrot and the stick, discretion being the carrot and certain mandatory legislative provisions being the stick.

What has happened with the minister and with the legislation as envisioned by the government, and now put back by these amendments, is way too large a degree of discretion being incorporated into the bill and obviously, if it passes, into the law, and nowhere near enough mandatory requirements.

We heard again today about the importance of co-operating with the provinces and other authorities, municipal authorities in some cases, and certainly with the first nations Metis and aboriginal communities in many respects. Again, the committee was very sensitive to those needs but we also recognized, particularly with regard to the provinces that have legislation in this field, some just very recent, that it quite frankly was not working or was not working very well at all.

It is absolutely necessary for the federal government to play an active role. The amendments in Group No. 5 are really in many respects putting back discretion to where the environment committee said that the government had gone too far and should build in some mandatory structure in the legislation. This is a complex area of the bill. We cannot downplay how complex the legislation is in terms of the infrastructure the environment committee built into it. We were saying to the government that it needed the infrastructure, the ability to go in and at times enforce. The basic approach would be to co-operate, to get the job done and protect all these species, but ultimately if it does not happen there needs to be the stick. There is a need for being able to move in. The legislation does not give that to us.

Let me address some of the specific points we are faced with in Group No. 5 that were changed from what the environment committee did. I want to give the example of a little one. It irks me because it is so petty on the part of the government.

A committee of scientists has been working for over two decades now, I believe, on listing endangered species, those that have expired and those on the critical list, if I can put it that way. To a great extent these scientists have done it with little or no funding and, in a lot of cases, with little co-operation from government departments. They went ahead because of their dedication to the natural environment and to the protection of endangered species.

Our committee told the government it had to start to support that committee and its work on identifying and listing endangered species. That means providing it with the necessary financial resources. Our committee built in some specific structure around that. What happened? One of amendments would take that back. If the government amendment goes through, we would be saying that it would be at the minister's sole discretion to decide whether the work this committee is doing justifies financial support.

The obvious question that jumps to my mind is, how soon will it be before the minister says that he or she does not really like what the committee is doing, that it is not conscientious enough about the minister's concerns and that the committee would not be funded any more? That is the kind of pettiness that the department has built into the bill.

There is a broader area around the whole question of protecting critical habitat. I know that I am nearly out of time, but I could go on for another hour. Because of the complexity of this question, I want to make just two points. There were interim protections built in that were not there before and now will be taken out once again if these amendments go through. The extension of the protection of the bill, and subsequently the act, to aquatic and migratory birds is being severely curtailed by the amendments being proposed by the government in Group No. 5.

The list goes on. In spite of all the spin that even now some members of the committee are putting on it, the reality is that the bill is extremely weak. It is much weaker than what the United States and Mexico have. The government is clearly showing its lack of commitment to protecting endangered species in this country.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have heard members opposite concerned about the shutting down of debate. Canadians need to know that the bill has been worked on and debated for somewhere close to eight years now. It has gone through three incarnations and we must bring it to a close somehow.

Meanwhile, over the course of all of those years and just last year 11 new species were added to the endangered species list. Seven species were upgraded and one was de-listed. That is an average of 17 species affected on an annual basis. While members have been debating this, something in the order of 136 species have been affected. It is not exactly a sterling record of movement on the part of members of parliament.

Overwhelmingly the degradation of ecosystems and loss of habitat represents the threat to endangered wildlife. The member who just spoke said this was a combination of carrot and stick. He is right. The stick is clearly the listing process. When the committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada proposes a list there has to be a decision made within nine months. For critical habitat on federal lands all critical habitat identified in a recovery strategy or action plan would be protected. More specifically, if after 180 days any portion of the critical habitat is left unprotected, the legal order would have to be made.

That is the stick. The idea of the bill is to avoid the stick, to avoid getting on the list because if a particular species is found on the list and one is a landowner, one would probably have some problems. Many landowners have recognized this. There are woodlot owners across Ontario and Quebec who proudly display their membership and conservation organizations. There are fishers in Atlantic Canada who have invested in nets that avoid trapping whales and sea turtles. Ranchers in Ontario and Alberta have assisted in the recovery of a loggerhead shrike.

Landowners have started to recognize that this kind of thing is in the best interests for all. They want to do the right thing and the right thing is good business. None of them is looking for a handout or the promise of one. They just want to see that the right thing is done and that it is fair and reasonable. That is what rural people are interested in. They are ethical in protecting the waters where fishers have worked for generations and protecting woodlands and prairies. That is in everybody's interest including those who live off the land.

Is it totally naive to rely on this stewardship of the environment, this volunteerism, this willingness to do the right thing? Or is the government being naive and in the process ripping off the landowner? Here is where the stick comes in because that in some respects is the carrot. We have dealt with the carrot which is do the right thing because it is in everyone's interest.

Compensation is a vital pillar to the success of the bill. Nowhere in the debate did the government propose that there would never be any compensation regime and that the landowners would be left swinging in the breeze so to speak. The standing committee amendment clarified that compensation should be provided to anyone who suffers a loss from the extraordinary impact of critical habitat protections in a fair and reasonable way. The government agreed with that. It is hard, however, to be more definitive than that. At any moment can we tell a landowner or anyone else for that matter that 1.6 hectares cannot be used for cultivation for three weeks because that is currently the nesting site for a thrush? How do we calculate that?

In another life I practised real estate law. I have acted on both sides of the equation with both landowners and municipalities that expropriated land. I never met any side that was happy with an expropriation and the compensation scheme. We would indicate the number of acres needed, the relative market value and we would argue about the number within a certain range.

This kind of compensation scheme is far more difficult and extensive than an appropriation of real estate. Yet the landowner will still retain title to the land as in the example that I just gave. Therefore we will have the situation where the landowner still owns the land, yet cannot use the land for three or four weeks in this critical period of time.

How do we compensate for that? What is the value of that land? What is the price of doing the right thing? Those are difficult questions and it is difficult to reduce it to law. The term fair market value applied to land acquisition and land expropriation situations has little relevance in the situation where we are trying to compensate a landowner when there is a species that is endangered.

We need to have the practical experience of implementing the stewardship and recovery provisions of the bill and in dealing with questions of compensation. It is fine and dandy for members opposite to say that landowners must be compensated but it is difficult to establish a grid of compensation for a species that uses the land for a period of time on expensive or relatively inexpensive land. Establishing a prescriptive approach in the legislation without the practical experience may well have an unintended effect on excluding some legitimate claims.

Part of the difficulty over the eight years has been the law of unintended consequences. If we were to set up a regulatory regime which sets up a grid we would create winners and losers. Some of the losers may be the people whom we wanted to compensate. The expertise of qualified evaluation experts would be used to determine the adverse impact on the interest in the property or a quantification of the loss of benefits that may result from not being able to carry on certain activities. There may well be experts who can advise on what that is worth. However having sat on both sides of this for simple compensation cases I remain somewhat skeptical.

There is a general and global compensation regulation scheme that is being set up. I compliment the government for withdrawing Motion No. 109 so that a compensation scheme shall be set up. I congratulate the Liberal rural caucus in its efforts in this area and acknowledge the efforts of the parliamentary secretary who has ably represented the government to the members of the rural caucus and other members and also acknowledge the hard work of the standing committee. This is a far more difficult bill than many members realize.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this important stage of Bill C-5, the species at risk legislation. It has had a rough and tumble ride on the Liberal benches over these last few weeks and for good reasons.

The House may be well aware that the bill was incredibly void on what we viewed as four principal points. It did not have the scientific aspect that we needed to determine the list regarding whether a species was at risk or not. Having a true scientific listing would ensure that it was scientific and not political.

The economic and social implications should be taken into account at the recovery stage, in the action plan of the act. The government has made a move on this particular plank. It has moved in a positive direction on having a better framework and having mandatory protection of critical habitat on federal lands, including aquatic species.

That is another position that the Progressive Conservative Party has held true. Our position is from the document that we tabled in March 2000 known as “Carrots before sticks”. It is a comprehensive program that follows closely the recommendations of the species at risk working group on what good, sound and effective species at risk legislation should have.

Beyond the listings and looking after its own backyard and having better protection on federal lands, including aquatic species, the Government of Canada has not moved that far. Let us be quite clear. The Minister of the Environment only moved in that direction because Liberal backbenchers were going to stand with the opposition and vote down this act because it was not effective.

That was clearly the signal that the Liberal members were sending across the board. The Minister of Environment had a choice. One was to lose not only the bill but likely his position in cabinet. He would have been next Sunday's Shawinigan sacrifice had he not implemented these particular amendments. Kudos to him for at least making the recommendations he did to move in that direction.

The bill is void on four points. Not only is the listing format not a true scientific listing, although it is better than what the government has proposed in the first place, it is still somewhat discretionary and is too discretionary with respect to mandatory protection of critical habitat on federal lands. However, kudos to the government for at least moving in a better direction. The Progressive Conservative Party of Canada will be supporting the amendments of that nature that have been added.

Another point where the act is still weak relates to the fact that we do not have mandatory protection of migratory birds, which is clearly in the purview of the federal government. There are even amendments in Group No. 5 that pertain to that particular aspect. We have lost an opportunity there on migratory birds. I am not saying that as a spoof, as some members have before, because of my last name being similar to that of a blue heron.

However, the greatest deficiency in the bill is that there is not enough clarity with respect to the compensatory regime that the Government of Canada will have in this act. It is not a matter of whether the law will be tough enough. It is whether it will be effective as well. If we are always saying that a law has to be tough, we are using a punitive approach as opposed to rewarding stewardship.

There was a comprehensive amendment that was adopted in clause 10 of the bill known as a national stewardship plan. It would foster positive behaviour by providing scientific advice to landowners and perhaps even consideration of financial incentives for protecting species at risk because all Canadians benefit from the preservation of our biodiversity as well.

I am heartened by the government's wisdom, although it may have been precipitated by pressure from the rural Liberal caucus. We had tabled an amendment which said at the very least that the government needs to notify landowners that there is a species at risk on their property so that they can take the appropriate action. The government wanted to gut that Progressive Conservative amendment known as Motion. No. 109. The government has chosen not to remove the provision the Tories presented in committee which was supported by all five parties in this Chamber. That was a positive step in the right direction.

I want to talk about the compensatory regime again. The previous speaker mentioned that it is a very difficult issue to reduce to law. That is what we are here to do. We are here to write laws and to provide the framework so that we know what actions will or will not be predictably made by the Government of Canada. We write laws. That is what we do. It is extremely condescending to take the approach that we would not want to reduce it to law because at the end of the day, it will have to be addressed through regulations.

If the Government of Canada wants to provide a framework for compensation through a regulatory regime as opposed to enshrining it in the act, that would be okay if that was its choice to go that route. However the minimum the government would owe rural Canada would be to simultaneously table draft regulations. It should simultaneously table the regulations with the act so the landowners know what they are getting in the package to protect species at risk. That would provide more clarity. Perhaps the intergovernmental affairs minister should have lent a hand on that particular aspect.

This is where the bill is still void. It is still weak on listing, although it is better than it was before. It is still weak on mandatory protection of critical habitat on federal lands, although it is better than it was before. It is still too weak and unacceptable on the protection of migratory birds. It is definitely not acceptable in providing clarity with respect to the compensatory regime and about what landowners should expect to have.

Kudos to the government for at least keeping the notification aspect in the act itself. I would like to point out one aspect which Mr. Speaker, I am sure you are very well aware of through a heated debate you may have had in the context of your own caucus. All members of the committee wanted to ensure that we included the traditional knowledge of our aboriginal people to complement the scientific knowledge, the actions the Government of Canada should take and knowledge about the dwindling populations of species, information from aboriginal people which should be absorbed in the act to make it better.

Instead of making aboriginal peoples a full partner, the Government of Canada added a provision that actually gutted first nations contributions. The member of parliament for Churchill River in Saskatchewan tabled an amendment that reversed the government's reversal. The Government of Canada has now seen the light and will support that Liberal member's motion.

Let us not be too revisionist here, although we are on the revision of the revision of the revision. The Government of Canada had an opportunity to welcome first nations contributions and it almost rescinded them. That is an aspect of the bill we should highlight as well.

Again, given that we have had eight years to prepare legislation, we should have developed sound and effective legislation as opposed to mediocre legislation at best.

I tip my hat to my friends and colleagues on the environment committee from all parties, the Canadian Alliance, the Bloc, the NDP and Liberal members as well, because any gains that were made in the bill were made through the hard work of that committee. It is very anti-democratic for the Government of Canada to have rescinded a lot of the good hard work that we have done.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, in the waters off Atlantic Canada there are fishers and tour boat operators who are part of programs to keep the leatherback turtles from getting caught in the nets. No one told them they had to do this. When they learned about the problem, they worked with conservation and recovery groups to find solutions.

What message do we want to send these people? Do we want to tell them it is not good enough and give them notice that we will see them in court? I do not think so. I think we want to say they are doing great work, to thank them and find other ways to work together.

That is how those people feel too. They are exactly the people that Bill C-5 will support in efforts to protect species at risk. Bill C-5 is a good piece of legislation. It is a combination of co-operation backed by strength. It is time to get it into place.

In Atlantic Canada provinces have worked hard to fulfill their obligations under the accord for the protection of species at risk and to put provincial legislation into place to protect species. All over the shores of Atlantic Canada conservation organizations are working side by side with tour operators and fishing communities, with beachfront owners and the whale watching community. This is what we mean by a co-operative approach. It reflects the people of Atlantic Canada. It reflects the people of Canada as a whole. It is the way to get things done.

The bill before us fulfills a federal commitment with the provinces and the territories under the accord for the protection of species at risk. It sets out in the full letter of law the key components of assessment and listing, of recovery planning and of habitat protection. It also reinforces stewardship.

I am here today to support the government motions that restore co-operation as the preferred approach to protecting critical habitat.

We farm over 1,000 acres of woodland and it often concerns me. We also want to protect the species.

Canadians are giving of their time and resources to protect our wildlife species and their habitat. It is happening all over Canada. These are individuals and they are also big companies. They are fishers, farmers, miners and loggers. Others wish they had our success.

In the United States, where many will point to endangered species legislation that has been in place for 25 years, our success so far on stewardship and conservation is the subject of envy. U.S. courts are choked with cases under the law, drawing precious resources away from actually protecting wildlife.

We have already made huge strides and backed them up with the establishment of the habitat stewardship program. Under the program $45 million over five years has been targeted for stewardship activities.

In its first year the habitat stewardship program established over 70 partnerships with first nations, landowners, resource users, nature trusts, provinces, the natural resource sector, community based wildlife societies, educational institutions and conservation organizations. In its second year the habitat stewardship program funded nearly 160 projects.

These projects targeted more than 200 species identified to be at risk. They also assisted in developing partnerships among more than 400 individuals and organizations across Canada.

For instance, volunteer Canadians from all walks of life are involved in the beach guardian programs in Atlantic Canada to protect the habitat of the piping plover, the Gulf of St. Lawrence aster and the maritime ringlet butterfly. We are monitoring the population of the right whale and helping fishers to find ways of preventing the whales from getting tangled in gear.

We are assisting those stranded leatherback turtles which I mentioned. We are also preserving the Trois Monts de Coleraine area from the Vermont border to Mont Caribou with its 30 indigenous plant species that are rare or endangered. We have also provided more favourable tax treatment for the contribution ecologically sensitive lands. Over 23,000 hectares already have been donated as ecological gifts.

I point out that the co-operative approach is reinforced in government motions to further strengthen critical habitat protection in federal jurisdictions. The government has proposed that Bill C-5 provide automatic critical habitat protection in a national park, a marine protected area, a migratory bird sanctuary or a national wildlife area as soon as it is identified in a recovery strategy or action plan.

To further strengthen the protection of critical habitat in other areas of federal jurisdiction, we are proposing mandatory protection if critical habitat is not protected through stewardship initiatives within 180 days of its identification.

These government motions on critical habitat are reinforced by a further motion that requires all federal ministers to consider the possible impacts on identified critical habitat prior to issuing any licence or permit for any activity.

We all share a responsibility for protecting wildlife. The federal government is a leader in protecting species at risk and their critical habitats in Canada. The rest of the world can be proud of us. In active partnership with provinces, territories, landowners, farmers, fishermen, aboriginal people, conservation groups, the resource sectors and others, we are using what works and providing more tools to make it work better.

These are the actions that make the difference. These are the people we must support. This is the approach we must take. Debate will not get us any further. Debate will not reinforce our appreciation for the work already under way and get more work done. Debate is delaying the response we must make to our obligations. It is time to move on and reinforce the work and actions of so many.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Canadian Alliance Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to sit on the environment committee because I consider it to be a great committee and members I have worked with have been great. It should be a paying committee because we can learn a great deal on it.

I said earlier today that I believed the bill was moving in the wrong direction. I do not oppose the bill as much as I oppose the approach taken with the bill.

My hon. colleague who just spoke listed various groups that are working at the present time and doing a tremendous job without the bill, and therein lies the key. Co-operation should be first, not confrontation first.

Having lived on the prairies as a boy and going back 50 years, I never once saw a sign in rural areas telling people that no hunting was allowed. That has become a recent sign. I never saw a sign telling people that they could hunt with permission only. However today we see lots of no trespassing signs. I mention that because landowners are sick and tired of people who do not respect their property.

I agree with my hon. colleague that the first thing that should be done is the identification of species as well as their habitat. Hopefully the people involved in the identification process will go to the owner, be it the provincial government, a rancher, a farmer, or whoever and discuss the habitat situation with them. They must not walk away from the person who owns that farm or that ranch before a species or its habitat is identified.

Before the property is listed as a habitat, some agreement must be made to compensate that person for the loss of their property. That has to come first. If government people identify a species, declare the property its habitat and talk to the individual involved after the fact, the bill will not work. One of my hon. colleagues opposite said he knew the bill would work. I hope it does but it will not work if we go about it in a backward way. Let me give the House an example.

This spring I received a fax from an administrator in the rural government who asked me to go to his area immediately because the government was in trouble with DFO. I told him he had to be kidding because he was in an area considered grain growing country. I thought it was a joke. DFO officials had gone down to his area to look at a long ditch farmers had put in to drain the headwaters of the run off down to the Souris River. Individuals were angry about this because of the approach taken by the federal government. I would like to suggest that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is king of the cabinet. That department overrules the environment department almost every time and that ought not to be. If cabinet cannot agree on this, then how is the bill going to be successful?

To make a long story short, the people from DFO trespassed in some cases on private land. They prepared their report, which by the way was a joke. Guess what? That rural municipality received a bill of $43,800.

The government cannot take that approach with this bill and make it work. It will not work, at least where I come from it will not. What the government has to do is to work on the co-operative side first, not the confrontational side. I have seen this work, as my hon. colleagues said, with burrowing owls. I have seen it work with other species.

The bill does not talk about one thing. Say a half section is declared a habitat and is taken off the farmer's tax title. He will not pay taxes on that half section any more. Nothing is mentioned in the bill about grants to the government in lieu of taxation. Therefore we have a lot of work to do with the local people first.

I want to go back and suggest this to the House. The habitat must be identified with permission from landowners. It must be discussed with them. The impact on the operation of the landowners must be discussed, if this piece of land is to be extracted. I am thinking of one now which is what we call a coulee. Half way down that coulee is an aquifer which provides the water for over half a section of grazing.

What would happen if that coulee and aquifer were declared as part of the habitat? Would only the coulee be paid for with the water on it and the rest of the acreage would be worthless for pasture without water? All these things must be done across the kitchen table, with a cup of coffee and agreements must be reached or it will not work.

I have dealt with people on many issues for many years. Things will be solved when there is compliance and when we start at the bottom. Then we report back, a declaration is made and the farmers or ranchers know exactly for what they will be compensated. They sign it or perhaps a lease is drawn up until they see what happens with the endangered species. It all has to be done at the grassroots level first or the bill will fail just like it did in the U.S. That is exactly why it failed in the U.S. and that is what this bill would do.

Nobody, including myself, wants to see any more erosion of endangered species.

I heard a very good rumour. They say that if we have not heard a rumour by four o'clock, then we should start one. I just heard a rumour that deer mice will be on the endangered species list. I hope they become totally extinct. They kill children and they kill other animals. Let us get rid of them in total.

What we really bothers me is all this nonsense we hear from people on the radio or on the TV. They are all environmentalists. Driving to the airport, I heard an environmentalist say that the shoot-out of the gophers had thrown the ecosystem of Saskatchewan out for four years. What a bunch of nonsense. However that is the problem. People are listening to the wrong people.

I plead with the government to take a look at this. Take a look at the strategy of the bill. Understand that the federal government should sit down with the landowners, the local governments and the industry and identify the habitat. The endangered species has to be identified. The government has explain the importance of that to them, then it will work.

The government has to advise landowners how long the land will be taken out of production. If it is permanent, then it has to be talked about. The government should know what the lands means to the person's business. The person has to be told that the money will be upfront. We all know that it will not work if the people are asked to sign and are then told that maybe they will be paid.

I plead with the government to go to the grassroots. I have worked with these people all my life and it will work this way. It will not work as the bill is currently written.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will try to discuss a few of the points being made this afternoon, beginning right away with the very spirited and passionate intervention by the member for Souris--Moose Mountain. The member for Souris--Moose Mountain has done a terrific job this afternoon because he has in a very clear and lucid manner described step by step exactly what this bill is all about as it is written now.

I am glad that he made this point because certainly what this bill is doing is rejecting the U.S. approach, no matter how often members opposite claim that the approach of Bill C-5 can be compared to that of the American approach. It definitely is not. It has been written on the basis of the principles outlined by the member for Souris--Moose Mountain, namely, co-operation first not confrontation.

I can assure everyone that this is how the bill is written and anyone who wishes can see how it would work with action plans, consultations, planning and a sequence of events which leaves the confrontational aspect as the very last resort to be invoked when everything else fails. I can assure the House about that because we have lived with this bill, as the member for Souris--Moose Mountain knows, for quite some time. In that respect I am in a way grateful because his impassioned intervention has really helped to make it quite clear what this bill is all about. He has done it better than I could have.

The second point has to do with the very thoughtful intervention by the member for Windsor--St. Clair. In his intervention he invoked the necessity of the need for flexibility. He spoke about the carrot and the stick. Again we see a different approach because the member for Windsor--St. Clair wants a balance between the two. Whereas the member for Souris--Moose Mountain wants co-operation first rather than confrontation.

The bill itself invokes the stick as a last resort measure. It is a sequence of steps that shows there is a desire to be flexible, to avoid the experience south of the border and to develop the highest degree and level of co-operation that can be achieved with civil society. Of course time will tell whether that is the right approach. We now have to give this approach a chance to see how it works. Of course legislation can always be improved in a second phase.

That leads me to the various rather passionate interventions this afternoon on compensation. I have the impression that the researchers on the side of the Alliance perhaps have not done as good a job as they could have. The member for Skeena, if I understood him correctly, as well as the member for Kelowna did recognize, unlike the member for Red Deer, that compensation was written into the bill. It is no longer permissive. It is a must.

Not only that but the writing of the bill is now mandatory and also the words “fair and reasonable compensation” are in subclause 64(1). Some members opposite have made the point that instead of “fair and reasonable” they would rather have “fair market value”. That, of course, can be discussed. I would argue that fair and reasonable can be as good as fair market value at times of market depressions. It could actually help and be useful as a concept or a guideline to the affected farmer or woodlot owner rather than fair market value.

Of course that is a debate for economists and we do not want to invest too much time in that. There is one opinion for every economist in this respect.

The fact is that on page 36 of the bill it states:

The Minister may...provide fair and reasonable compensation--

It then sets out the procedure, the methods and the terms and conditions for the provision of compensation, but not in detail. Some members of the opposition would like to have the regulations written into the act but that would be absurd. The regulations are called regulations because they are not law. The law sets the parameters for the regulations. The regulations then are written to implement the law. It is then the task of a parliamentary committee to see to it that the regulations are in conformity with the law. To expect that the law would define every detail of the regulation would be absurd. A committee of parliament would be sitting for years before it could report the bill back to the House. Let us be practical here, for Heaven's sake. The official opposition party actually claims to be one of the most practical parties in the world so let it live up to that reputation.

I would be remiss if I did not make a reference to the speech by the member for Fundy--Royal. He made a fair intervention but we must correct one impression that he left in the House about migratory birds. Migratory birds have not been forgotten. Migratory birds and their habitat have been included in the bill. The protection of the habitat for migratory birds is now mandatory on federal land.

Some people will ask why we left out the provinces. The official opposition would be screaming if we were to impose it on the provinces.

It seems to me that not many in the House would have a strong argument to blame the government for having limited its mandatory provision for migratory birds only to federal land, of course in the hope that the provinces will adopt mirror legislation and adopt the same approaches on provincial land.

Let us hope that in a few years when the bill will be debated again, birds which have the unfortunate experience of landing on a provincial stone will not be at a disadvantage vis-à-vis birds which land on a federal stone, but that the provinces will in good faith adopt the approach of the federal government, adopt mirror legislation so that we have an approach to the protection of endangered species that is not hampered by political boundaries.

To conclude, it would be remiss on my part not to indicate to the House that the Prime Minister has taken an interest in the bill. The result has been that vast improvements to the legislation have taken place on the subject of mandatory habitat protection on federal land and also on the dimension of the scientific list. That could then be the subject when we go into third reading because these are items that are not covered by this particular group of motions.

Let me tell members that the bill has been vastly improved. It has certain features that are highly welcome. On the theme of compensation, I would urge members of the opposition to carefully read section 64(1) and to become fully aware of what it contains rather than listening to hearsay or hastily prepared papers as apparently was the case this morning with the member for Red Deer who launched into a criticism of the bill, which actually his own members corrected, for which we were extremely grateful.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the chance to address Bill C-5, an important piece of legislation. I want the House to know that the Canadian Alliance feels very strongly that there should be endangered species legislation. We have always argued that. However we have also always taken issue with the government's approach.

I remind the House that this is the government's third attempt at this legislation which should tell people something. It tells us that in the previous two tries it was very ham-fisted in how it approached this. It did not take the efforts of local land holders and lower level governments into account when it brought down its legislation.

As my friend from Souris--Moose Mountain pointed out, the government has been top down in the past. I admit that it is trying to correct some of this now but I have to fundamentally disagree with the chair of the environment committee who just spoke a moment ago. When we get down to the issues that are at the nub of the difference between the Canadian Alliance and some of the other parties in this place, it is the issue of compensation.

My friend across the way says that we should be comfortable leaving regulation to define this. However I think the member across the way would recognize that it is also true that when we do that things can go any which way. Because this is at the nub of the whole issue, the issue of compensation and what is fair and reasonable to fair market value, it should be laid out in the legislation.

I think the member would also acknowledge that the issue of compensation was clearly one of the big problems in the United States. Having no guarantee of fair market value for compensation invited the sorts of troubles the United States ran into. We all heard about shoot, shovel and shut-up which was the concept where it became a liability for property owners to have endangered species on their property because there was no guarantee of compensation, so people would destroy endangered species. In the end there was endangered species legislation that led to the destruction of endangered species, and we do not want that in Canada.

That was why we have been very tough on this issue. I grew up in a rural area and I had the chance to get to know mother nature a little bit. My father always took me out hunting when I was young. I appreciate the environment. My father used to get so angry at government programs that encouraged farmers to farm every square inch of a piece of property, really pay them to destroy the corners of fields where the pivots did not reach and there was wild habitat along fences. It led to the destruction of a lot of habitat and undoubtedly led to the decline of endangered species.

We want to avoid that so we are being as tough as we can be on the issue of compensation. We do not want a situation where somewhere down the road regulations are made or courts define this legislation in a way where there is not that full and fair compensation that the member who just spoke talked about. We need to have that or we will have exactly the opposite effect to what we were trying to achieve. We will end up putting in place a regime that encourages the destruction of endangered species. We do not want that.

In my riding we have burrowing owls. I think we have loggerhead shrikes still around. We have swift foxes. We have some animals that are on the endangered species list and we want to keep them.

In response to the chair of the environment committee I want to say that we are concerned about endangered species. We want them but we think that the nub is the issue of compensation.

Although the government has come some distance, it is thanks to a pretty powerful opposition, not only the official opposition, the Canadian Alliance, but from landowners and others as well.

A while ago the chair of the Liberal rural caucus, the member for Dufferin--Peel--Wellington--Grey, rose and spoke in this place. Have members ever noticed how people start to conform to their environment after a while? The member for Dufferin--Peel--Wellington--Grey is a chicken farmer. I see him conforming to his environment. He squawked, beaked off and his feathers were clearly ruffled but in the end he laid an egg. He laid an egg because for many months on end he told anybody who would listen how they were going to force all kinds of changes to this legislation and that if they did not do it that they would vote against the bill.

About a week ago that same member, who apparently represents a lot of rural MPs, caved in like a house of cards and said that they would be relying on the Senate to make the changes that they want. There were a number of changes. Some had to do with compensation, others had to do with how endangered species would be designated and those kinds of things.

In the end, once again we saw a Liberal member rise, make all kinds of promises about what he would do and when the whip came down he caved in. I think rural people, especially in Ontario, deserve better than that. They deserve better representation.

When rural Ontarians and people across the country who are represented in Liberal ridings have valid concerns and a member, like the member I just referred to, makes promises about what he will do if legislation does not get changed and then completely caves in, I think the country should note that and hopefully remember it and remind the member of it when they do not get the changes that they want.

The member sent out a press release and said that he had spoken to the minister and the Senate will go ahead and make the changes.On the face of it that sounds to me like almost a question of privilege. I do not see how he can go to the minister and somehow the Senate, which is an independent body, will do the minister's bidding. That to me is absolutely crazy. It presumes that the minister is calling the shots. I would think that the Senate would be upset about that because it sounds like it is completely in the pocket of the minister. I would think the Senate itself would stand up and say that it will do exactly what it wants to do based on what it thinks is best.

The Senate is supposed to be the chamber of sober second thought. Let us hope that it is. Let us hope that it brings about some of the changes that we would all like to see happen. However there is certainly no guarantee of that.

I really think the member for Dufferin--Peel--Wellington--Grey completely overstepped his bounds and made all kinds of empty promises that he could never keep in the hope that somehow magically it would all turn out, but it did not.

I regret very much that we are seeing closure invoked on this issue. The government is again resorting to this anti-democratic method to close off debate on an issue that does not just concern the official opposition. Members on the government side, as I have just pointed out, are very concerned about this, as are members of the NDP, the Conservatives and the Bloc. Everybody has concerns about the legislation.

The government has already invoked closure more times than any government in the history of Canada. I think Canadians deserve to have their voices heard through their elected representatives. Unfortunately those voices will not be heard to the extent that they should be on this legislation.

I hope at the end of this debate, which will be prematurely cut off, that members across the way summon the courage to do what they said they would do and vote against Bill C-5.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.


Rick Laliberte Liberal Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, it would be appropriate if I first expressed myself in my first language, otherwise it is hard to say what I have to say.

I beg forgiveness from the species that we have threatened by our large egos as human beings, by our greed to sustain ourselves and to sustain ourselves beyond what we really need to sustain life on the planet. I beg forgiveness from the mammals, the four-leggeds, the ones that have wings, the ones that swim and the ones that crawl. I beg forgiveness from all plants and life on the planet Earth. I beg forgiveness because without consciousness the bill would not be. If we had not done what we have done until now, we would not require Bill C-5. We have done great damage to ourselves.

This beautiful planet comes under the jurisdiction of the law in Canada. If we were to measure the history of Canada on a yardstick, there is a measured history here of 35,000 years and even beyond. Our extirpation of animals has occurred in the last few decades. The impact has been done by ourselves and we have to correct it somehow.

I look at Bill C-5 as a vessel for future decisions to be made on the inevitable problems we will have. In the journey we have as a young country, Bill C-5 is finally a commitment that our country has made to the world.

The United Nations convention on biodiversity challenged Canada to come up with legislation that says we will protect endangered species at risk. This is what we have done.

We are debating a group of amendments on stewardship action plans. The main crux of it is clause 10, how to do it. The Canadian conservation council is created by the bill. Thirteen territorial ministers and three federal ministers, they being heritage, fisheries and environment, would make up the Canadian conservation council. These decision makers will be making recovery strategies and action plans. They will be implementing them in many regions, in the provinces and under federal jurisdiction.

Thanks to the work of the standing committee and the work in large part by ourselves in the House of Commons, we have included the aboriginal people. We have created a national aboriginal council on endangered species. It completes the circle because we will have to work at this together. It calls on all of us to exercise our responsibilities to take care of the species.

Sure, our rights have to be protected but we have to exercise our responsibilities. We must exercise our responsibilities in a co-operative manner. It has been highlighted that the provinces, the federal ministries and the aboriginal jurisdiction are all very much part of the discussion.

The landowners, land users, farmers, trappers, ranchers, hunters, fishermen, people who live off the land, tourists, outfitters, miners and loggers, all these people will have to look at a proper way of dealing with endangered species.

We have a framework and vessel that we can use. Our children will be able to use this legislation to protect themselves in the future. A proper dialogue is being created. Federal-provincial disputes can be clarified at the Canadian conservation council. If there are disputes involving aboriginal, federal and provincial jurisdictions, the aboriginal council will speak to these issues and sort them out before legal challenges take place.

This is what I speak about regarding Bill C-5, that this co-operative manner will succeed. I have faith that the bill will proceed to an honourable end. We will have opportunities to correct it. We are a young country as was mentioned. This is the first time this law will come into place. Once it passes, there will be opportunities to review it and change it in the future.

The other challenge I would like to put forward is not necessarily to the House. The bill will create a national aboriginal council. I beg that when the six representatives are chosen for the national aboriginal council that they be chosen by region. We must protect all regions of the country. If we were to do it by political jurisdiction and demographics, the cities and the southern jurisdiction would make the decisions on strategies and action plans for the country.

Let us dissect our country into six regions which could represent the river regions. The St. Lawrence, the Great Lakes and the Atlantic coast could be represented. The Hudson Bay watershed, the old romanticized Rupert's Land region, could be represented. The Mackenzie River that flows to the north, and the north and south Saskatchewan rivers that flow into Lake Winnipeg could be represented. The Pacific watershed that flows into the west and the Arctic waters in the coastal region of the north could be represented. Those are the regions that could be represented on the national aboriginal council.

Not only would aboriginal people take their grievances to the council, but any landowners such as farmers and ranchers could take their grievances to the council as well. The council could be a consciousness of our people and of our species.

The relationship we have is very critical because we are bound by consciousness. We can make the changes here as human beings. We as parliamentarians, as decision makers, can make the decisions when it comes to law, but when it comes to action plans and strategies, let us depend upon the Canadian endangered species conservation council. The 13 provincial and territorial ministers, the three federal ministers and the six aboriginal representatives can sort out how we make our decisions in the future.

A very scary comment was made by one of the members opposite. It was in the context of hoping that one species would be gone. I would say let us humble ourselves from having the power to say let us wipe out a species off the planet. All of these gifts we have been given on mother earth are for a purpose. They are tests. If we do not pass these tests, we will fail and the generations to come will pay. Sure, a deer mouse tests us because of the illness it gives us, but it may wake us up to a bigger mistake that we are making. Let us humbly respect all species on the planet.

I close by giving thanks to the aboriginal working group and its co-chairs for their foresight in bringing these issues forward. I thank the Minister of the Environment and his staff for making this possible. I also thank all the leaders of the national aboriginal organizations who contributed toward making the necessary amendments that I had put forward.

I thank the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. It has done well. Also, all the members opposite and on the government side have done well in bringing these issues forward. For making this debate possible, I thank our leader the Prime Minister for seeing the bill as a priority for us to deal with before we rise. It is very appropriate that we handle it now.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Canadian Alliance Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that we are speaking under the closure motion that was passed earlier today. It is unfortunate that the government saw fit to stop the debate on this issue because it is one that has taken time and it needs more time for Canadians to bring forward their ideas and comments.

The committee did a good job. It met for many hours and hundreds of witnesses came forward with good ideas. Amendments were brought forward and a lot of work was done. Then when the bill came back to the House all of that work was reversed and the bill was put back to the way the government wanted it to be.

We support endangered species legislation and we always have, but we differ with the government on the way it is trying to deliver it. This heavy handed approach where huge penalties are brought in to force people into line is not the way to go.

A lot of the things that have been done in Canada to protect habitat and species have been done voluntarily. We have all witnessed areas that have done that.

In my own area, whenever the irrigation districts make a reservoir or try to improve the irrigation district they always leave wetlands and areas for wildlife to nest and thrive. I was in the eastern irrigation district in Brooks with the member for Medicine Hat and saw some areas where the burrowing owl nests. We saw burrowing owls, antelope and mule deer all in the same area. It was amazing. It is right along highway 36 just south of highway 1. They have made a conscious effort to protect that area. It can be done and it has been done.

Bringing in a heavy handed approach with huge penalties that will be put on people if they disturb some habitat even unintentionally is the wrong way to go.

I belong to the Canada-U.S. Interparliamentary Group. We recently had an opportunity to be in the United States. We met with some congressmen and senators. One of the issues we talked about was species at risk. We brought forward what was happening in Canada with this bill and we had some comments back from some of the elected officials in the United States.

One member in particular told us that the endangered species protection act in the United States has turned into a zoning tool. It is being used to stop development. It is being used to change zoning laws. It has not done what it was intended to do in the beginning which was to protect endangered species. That is what our bill has been fashioned after with this heavy handed approach without recognizing the amount of work that has been done on the land and the fact that the best stewards of the land are the people who live there and earn their living either through farming or the natural resources sector. He cautioned everyone.

Some Canadian senators were there and they were listening. They are waiting for the bill to get to the Senate so they can have a closer look at it. Contrary to what has been said previously by others, they do not feel they are going to rubber stamp the bill. They have some concerns with it where it deals with the powers of the federal government and the powers of the provinces and how the federal government can apply a law over what the provinces already have. There will be some interesting discussions when the bill gets to the Senate.

The fact that this legislation does not address the compensation issue has been talked about at length. That is a concern and one of the things we were asking to have in the legislation. From day one, going back to previous bills, we have always said if there was not fair market value compensation in the legislation that we would not be able to support it.

We still cannot support the legislation as it exists because any talk of compensation would be put into regulation. That is just not good enough. If it is the intention of the government to offer compensation to landowners then it should be put in the legislation. We should spell it out so we all feel comfortable that it will be done.

Until that is put in, if affected landowners, even unknowingly, out doing whatever they do, whether it is ranching, farming or working in the natural resource sector, unintentionally disturb the habitat, they can be charged. Why would people want to continue with all the volunteer systems that have been put in place to protect these habitats knowing that if they make an area attractive to an endangered species and one does come to their land, that land could be taken out of production with no compensation to the landowners? It is just the reverse of what needs to be done.

If the compensation issue is taken care of upfront, it would encourage people to protect these species. We would have none of this shoot, shovel and shut up mentality that has crept into some of the areas of the United States because of bad legislation. These people do not go out of their way to do this. They do it because the legislation is designed in such a way that they cannot abide by it.

One of the things that has to be and should have been addressed is the whole issue of proper consultation, and not only in the timeframe of the bill being put together. As I say, there was a lot of consultation done by the chairman of the environment committee and his people. When amendments were made to the bill it started looking pretty good. Positive changes were made. Then when it came back to the House the government introduced amendments to reverse most of that work. That consultation period has taken place, but we also need consultation when the bill is in effect. We have to be able to go out and talk to landowners and let them know what the situation is and make them aware. This whole process needs to be carried on and on so that everyone can buy into the protection of endangered species.

The member for Churchill River, who just spoke, has a whole different outlook on this because of his background, his native upbringing. One of the ways of their culture, their history and their background is that they must consider how any decision they make or anything they do would affect the next seven generations. I feel that if we in this country would have had that in our minds going way back to the early days certainly we would have a better understanding of our species at risk and there certainly would not be as many species at risk. Mankind has done a terrible job with our environment over time. We need to make some changes. That is why we would support effective species at risk legislation if it were brought forward.

I want to get back to what has happened south of the border. If our country ever had a trial of legislation that the government was considering, all we would have to do is look to the United States to see that it has not worked and it will not work. After all the years that its legislation has been in place there is no evidence that any species at risk has been protected or brought back.

Until we get this issue of compensation into the legislation we cannot support the bill. I wish it had been done so that we could have supported the bill. There are other things we are concerned about, but that is our big issue. I am sure that would have gone a long way toward protecting species. As it exists now, there is still the danger that people will go out of their way to remove the habitat that endangered species would be attracted to or, indeed, remove a species itself.

It does not look like we will get that put in now because closure has been brought into effect. It will not happen. We will be voting on this later today, but as this bill is implemented, somewhere down the line I am sure that some serious changes will need to be made so that we can indeed protect the species we intend to protect.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Canadian Alliance Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to address some of the comments raised by members from the rural Liberal caucus in regard to clause 64. I have looked at clause 64 and the amendments under that clause. The members seem to have the impression that landowners need not worry now, that there is going to be protection in law for fair compensation, perhaps even fair market value compensation.

From what I can see in this legislation, if a landowner is standing before a judge and has to rely on what is in clause 64, with all due respect I do not think they have very much to stand on. There is a lot of wiggle room and discretion involved in the clause. There are no clear guarantees of property rights under those provisions. The word “may” is a permissive word. There is no mandatory requirement with that word. I really think they are misreading the impact of these amendments under clause 64.

The real problem with the legislation is a heavy-handed, command and control approach with respect to affected landowners. I have said this before, and I certainly believe it: The government believes that it can get results by simply ordering and commanding those results. I think that in the modern age it is becoming more and more clear that if a person wants results, a person manages those results and relies on co-operation and an understanding of all the processes involved to get those results. Just simply ordering results will not get those results.

This type of approach, as the member for Lethbridge pointed out, has been employed in the U.S. We have that as a laboratory we can use to see how this sort of command approach has worked. There are hundreds of cases in the United States that show how this approach actually threatens endangered species.

I want to share just one case. There are many, but I just wanted to go through one case to underscore the problem. The name of the individual in this case is Ben Cone. He owned 7,200 acres of woodland in North Carolina. The 7,200 acres had been clear-cut in the 1930s and through good management practices it had been restored in the 1970s and 1980s. The Cone family had managed that woodland and made a living out of it by a careful, selected harvesting of that woodlot. In 1991 the wildlife service entered his property and declared that approximately 1,500 acres were to be set aside as a habitat to protect 29 woodpeckers that had been listed and had been identified in that area.

The effect of this was that Mr. Cone could no longer harvest the 1,500 acres of property. He could not really do very much with it. It lost its economic value. It lost its use to the Cone family. The value of the property was something like $2.3 million. After this process was over, the value had dropped to $83,000. They had lost that much value. What did Mr. Cone do with the remaining 5,800 acres of land? He clear-cut it. He abandoned his selective forestry practices and reverted to clear-cutting practices because he did not want the wildlife service coming in, finding another species at risk in his area and having it affect more of his land.

However, Mr. Cone also had a lot of neighbours who had woodland and timberland just like he had. We can guess what they did. They clear-cut the land. Thousands and thousands of acres were clear-cut in this North Carolina area for one simple reason: They did not want the wildlife service coming in and in effect expropriating their property by declaring any portion of their land habitat.

I think this underscores the point that this heavy-handed, command and control system does not protect species at risk. In fact it endangers those species, and this case simply underscores that fact. There are a lot of cases like this, and I am surprised that the government is not aware of those unintended consequences.

I have a few other comments about the legislation. There are no guaranteed compensation rights in Bill C-5. Relegating it to regulations and bureaucrats is not reassuring to landowners. There is no clear process in the bill for determining compensation and it should have been dealt with. Another deficiency in the bill, something that was missed, is the fact that there is no co-operative approach for creating and funding good conservation and stewardship programs.

However, there is something that would not be missed. I do not know of any initiative taken by a Liberal government over the last 30 or 40 years whereby a seed was planted and did not grow into a large empire, an empire with a lot of civil servants and bureaucrats. The firearms registry legislation is a recent history of this fact. I do not know of a single seed planted in this town for any type of legislation that did not lead to a bureaucracy.

There are government departments in every province and territory in this country. Departments like fisheries and oceans are armed with people heading out into rural Canada to intrude into the lives of people who are just trying to make a living. I can see a big shift of wealth. People who create the wealth and pay the bills in this country are seeing their money going to the government to fund another empire. That is another area of the legislation that concerns me, and I do not think the committee paid much attention to that aspect of the bill. I do not think the committee looked into the economic impact of this sort of legislation and what it entails.

I want to emphasize the fact that Canadian Alliance members and the Canadian public want effective policy and legislation to protect species at risk. Unfortunately, this legislation, because of its failure to accept and recognize some basic rights such as property rights of owners, will drive those folks underground and the real victims in this legislation will be the very thing that the legislation intends to protect: species at risk.

It is really unfortunate that the amendments proposed by the committee to address these concerns were not dealt with. I think the government wants to push this stuff through and put the cost of species at risk onto the shoulders of landowners in rural Canada. In all fairness, urban people probably cause far more harm to wildlife through their overconsumption and the toxic waste, pollution and so on created by urban life. Those things have probably caused more problems for animals and species at risk in this country than any rural individual has, but the cost of the legislation is being imposed on the rural population and the landowners of rural Canada, not on urban people, and that is very unfair.

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6:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was going to say it was a pleasure to join in the debate this evening on Bill C-5, the species at risk legislation, but it is not. The reason is because for the 77th time the Liberal government has brought in time allocation to shut down debate on an important piece of legislation.

Perhaps Canadians should ask themselves why they should care about that. When they ask themselves that question they should contemplate why they should care about democracy. Increasingly we do not see democracy in this supposed hallowed hall of democratic debate.

Time and time again we see a government intent on limiting debate, shutting down debate and bringing in time allocation. In this case there are hundreds of amendments to debate in five different groups. There are some 150 amendments which shows how deeply flawed the bill was right from the beginning. We will be voting on those amendments this evening, and yet the government limited debate on them.

After all the time the government had to put together legislation to protect and preserve species at risk, one must ask if this is the best it could do. The Liberal government brought in deeply flawed legislation which required many amendments and then shut down debate on those very amendments. That is what is happening today.

I must point out to Canadians the hypocrisy of the government's position when it comes to time allocation. This is the 77th time since it came into power in the fall of 1993, or really January 1994 until June 2002, a little less than 8.5 years of governing this nation.

I recall running for election back in 1992-93. The government came out with what could only be classified now as its infamous red book of promises. One of the centrepieces of its 1992-93 red book was the restoration of the trust and respect of the institution of parliament. What has happened in the 8.5 years the Liberals have governed? Polls now consistently show that Canadians are more fed up with the way this country is governed now than at any time in its previous history. What did the Liberals say in their infamous red book? In chapter 6 called “Governing with Integrity” they said:

Canadians have always prided themselves on the quality of their democratic institutions. Yet after nine years of Conservative rule, cynicism about public institutions, governments, politicians, and the political process is at an all-time high. If government is to play a positive role in society, as it must, honesty and integrity in our political institutions must be restored.

The most important asset of government is the confidence it enjoys of the citizens to whom it is accountable. There is evidence today of considerable dissatisfaction with government and a steady erosion of confidence in the people and institutions of the public sector.

This erosion of confidence seems to have many causes: some have to do with the behaviour of certain elected politicians, others with an arrogant style of political leadership. The people are irritated with governments that do not consult them, or that disregard their views, or that try to conduct key parts of the public business behind closed doors.

They went on to say in their red book:

A Liberal government will take a series of initiatives to restore confidence in the institutions of government. Open government will be the watchword of the Liberal program.

The Liberals went on to say under the subtitle of “Parliamentary Reform”:

In the House of Commons, a Liberal government will give MPs a greater role in drafting legislation, through House of Commons committees.

If that is not a broken promise I do not know what is. We have seen time and time again that even when we get a committee report from one of the standing committees in this place the Liberal government either ignores or does the opposite or brings in its own amendments at report stage to discount and throw out the work done by the committee. Yet the government promised to restore trust, integrity, and respect in this institution.

I could go on at great length about how it said it would do it. In this time of multi-scandal we hear every day in question period scandal after scandal and about how the government is operating, how it is treating what should be the sanctity of taxpayers' dollars. On page 95 of their infamous red book the Liberals said:

--a Liberal government will appoint an independent Ethics Counsellor to advise both public officials and lobbyists in the day-to-day application of the Code of Conduct for Public Officials. The Ethics Counsellor will be appointed after consultation with the leaders of all parties in the House of Commons and will report directly to Parliament.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

An hon. member

Is that not what is happening?

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

One of my colleagues asks is that not what is happening? Of course it is not, despite the promises in this red book. I know I am not allowed to use a prop. It was only a photocopy. I do not have an original still kicking around since 1992. It is an endangered species. Hopefully the Liberals will be an endangered species on the ballots in the next federal election.

Through the use of time allocation, the abuse of tax dollars, the refusal to have an ethics counsellor that reports to and is accountable to parliament, the government is doing more to destroy the trust and respect of taxpayers in this institution than any government, even the Mulroney government. That is really saying something, that it could go far beyond what Brian Mulroney did in the nine years he was in power between 1984 and 1993.

I could go on and quote at great length what the Prime Minister said and what the whip of the government said when she was in opposition back in 1989. The whip said in speaking about the Mulroney government:

This government has shown it has no respect for the public process, no respect for parliament and no respect for the opinions of the public.

I am sure every Canadian would say that the description by the hon. whip of the government today would equally fit the present Liberal government on how it has performed and behaved over this last while.

A number of my colleagues have indicated what the biggest problem is with this species at risk legislation, over and above the fact that the government had to bring in time allocation. I would love to go on at great length and talk about the actual bill and the amendments that were put forward, unfortunately time is always of the essence and we are always cut off. We are always cut off in this place by the government with its heavy handed attitude toward true and legitimate debate.

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6:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to have heard more of my colleague's comments because he was getting right down into the meat of the issue. Unfortunately with the Liberal government's heavy handed approach, it wants to cut off intelligent and reasoned debate. That is unfortunate because what he was leading up to reflected thoughtful debate of which he and his constituents are capable. His constituents as well as mine are disappointed at this turn of events, that the government would take this democratic institution and use heavy handed methods to stifle debate.

My colleagues from the Canadian Alliance and I proposed a number of amendments to the bill. The Canadian Alliance supports endangered species legislation. Our amendments attempted to ensure that the legislation would be fair to both the stakeholders and effective in protecting endangered species. The bill as it stands today is neither. It does not protect the interests of the stakeholders and it does not protect endangered species.

The government has failed to calculate the legislation's long term cost to every taxpayer and failed miserably to estimate or even consider the burden that the legislation may place on landowners and farmers. It has totally ignored the need of Canadians to be informed and consulted on matters that their way of life is dependent upon. This approach serves not only to foster mistrust of the federal government but ultimately renders the legislation less effective. It does not promote a spirit of co-operation between those who are making the laws and those who must adhere to them.

Many of the government amendments before us today would reverse several months of work by the environment committee and would cause members on this side of the House much concern. The environment committee made up of members from all parties worked together to ensure that the specific needs of stakeholders and the endangered species were met. What happened? It got to the House and amendments were made, amendments that were arrogant and cynical toward the democratic process and the rights of individual members to represent their constituents.

The arrogance and cynicism displayed by these types of tactics is nothing new to my colleagues in opposition. After 18 months in parliament it is becoming unfortunately old hat to a relatively newcomer such as myself. Such an approach to law making will have far reaching consequences that go beyond the politics and will strike at the very heart of the legislation. The government has failed to recognize the fundamental principles on which our country and system of law are based: first, the issue of the recognition of property rights and second, the accountability of government.

We maintained throughout the course of the debate on the bill that property owners, resource users and any other citizens affected by the provisions of the species at risk act must be included in every step of the process. Indeed co-operation with landowners and resource users is critical to the very success of the legislation.

We in the Canadian Alliance believe voluntary agreements, action and management plans and other strategies designed to protect endangered species are important. We therefore support the provisions of the bill that would enable such strategies.

However there is a problem with the bill as it is currently written. Although it would allow the environment minister to enter into agreements with environmental or other groups it would exclude the possibility of entering into agreements with landowners. Our amendments would add the possibility of minister-landowner agreements as an explicit option for the minister. This would address two crucial areas: first, it would respect property rights; second, it would bring accountability back to government.

The amendment proposed in Motion No. 21 would provide that any proposed agreement be made public 30 days before being finalized and that the minister consult with all people affected by it. This would provide certainty in the law that the minister would respect the rights of property owners and involve them in discussions. By ensuring that owners, lessees and other landowners were included in the provisions parliament could communicate to Canadians that the government was open to a co-operative approach.

The recklessness of introducing such sweeping legislation with no data whatsoever on the costs or on what if anything Canadians could expect in the way of compensation is rather astounding. Clause 49 of the legislation currently mandates that action plans should include “the cost of not proceeding with the action plan”. Government Motion No. 75 would delete this requirement. This would be a further step backward. We do not support the motion.

I will comment briefly on jurisdictional matters with respect to the bill. Under the bill as it stands today, if a province did not have endangered species legislation or was deemed by the federal government to have inadequate legislation the federal environment minister would have the power to impose federal law on the province. As many of my colleagues have pointed out, the preservation of endangered species is under shared jurisdiction. Taking a heavy handed unilateral approach would do nothing for the cause of co-operative federalism.

This is not only an issue of lack of trust between government and citizens who are landowners. It would contribute to lack of co-operation between governments that need to work together in our federation. The first step in working together with another government is to respect the British North America Act, 1867 or, as it is now called, the Canada Act, 1982. If a little more respect was paid to basic constitutional principles we would not have many of the problems we have in interprovincial and federal-provincial relationships.

In closing, we in our party cannot support the bill because it would not effectively protect endangered species. Its heavy handed, top down approach would be destructive to federal-provincial relations. The bill in front of us is seriously flawed. Without the amendments we have proposed Bill C-5 would have disastrous results.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

June 10th, 2002 / 6:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will restate clearly and unequivocally that the Canadian Alliance is committed to protecting and preserving Canada's natural environment and endangered species.

As I have said in the House many times, my wife and I lived by a lake in the Rocky Mountains where we brought up a wonderful family of three children. We are completely committed to the natural environment. We are committed to endangered species at a personal level. That is also the position of our party.

However the process has been highly frustrating. This is the third incarnation of the species at risk act. In every process, this one included, we have heard legitimate and intelligent input from stakeholders and experts who are deeply concerned about the issues and have brought their concerns to committee. In every instance the environment minister of the day has turned back their common sense proposals. On May 2 the hon. member for Sarnia--Lambton was quoted in the London Free Press as saying:

Of course there is (frustration) with the system...Why do committees exist? It's to be a counterbalance, and it's fundamentally flawed, wrong and improper when the work of a committee can be undone by a minister at his own whim.

I agree with the Liberal member completely. Another Liberal, the hon. member for Thunder Bay--Superior North, is quoted in the same article. He stated:

We all go through the process at times at the committee level of getting the recommendation put in and the minister's department doesn't see fit to include them and, yeah, there's always that frustration.

There is a tad of frustration, and not just on this side of the House. A May 2 Ottawa Citizen article stated:

Environmental groups and certain MPs were focusing their efforts yesterday on winning one last concession from the government before the bill comes to a vote. They want the bill to guarantee the protection of the critical habitat of endangered species on federal land.

The Citizen article quoted the hon. member for York North who has been involved with these issues for a long time. She said:

I think it's important that we find a bill that protects habitat for species...I believe that we're moving towards a resolution of that issue and I'm looking forward to seeing that in the bill.

Interestingly, the same article quoted the environment minister who was asked if he would agree to such a change. He gave a two letter, one word answer: “No”, he would not change. What has changed between then and now? What has changed with the people involved in the issue such as the hon. members I mentioned, the hon. member for Davenport and others? Liberal backbenchers have succumbed to the pressure of the government and will permit this badly flawed piece of legislation to go through.

The Canadian Alliance is committed to protecting and preserving Canada's natural environment and endangered species. However Bill C-5 would not do that. It would not even come close. Why is that? There are many flaws in the bill but one primary flaw: It would not work without guaranteeing fair and reasonable compensation for property owners and resource users who suffer losses. Farmers, ranchers and other property owners want to protect endangered species but should not be forced to do so at the expense of their own livelihoods.

The government wants to amend Bill C-5 to reverse many of the positions taken by its own MPs on the environment committee. It is another example of top down control from the Prime Minister's office. It again shows the contempt in which the government holds members of parliament.

As I stated at the outset, in all instances there has been input by interested parties. One of the most interesting was the Species at Risk Working Group otherwise known by the acronym SARWG. The group issued a joint statement of principle. The statement was so good, profound and sound it could have been used as a foundation for any good species at risk act. Instead this diverse group had its interventions fundamentally ignored.

Landowners, land users and rural residents whom I represent would bear the brunt of the species at risk act. Motion No. 109 would eliminate the requirement to develop regulations for compensation. Compensation is not an extra. It is essential to the entire framework of protecting endangered species. For instruction on the issue we should look to countries with legislation that does provide adequate protection for landowners, which ensures that they and other land users are encouraged rather than penalized for looking after species at risk.

Compensation would not only ensure landowners and resource users did not single-handedly bear all the costs of protecting species. It would send an important symbolic message that the government understood their fears and recognized the need to take their interests into account.

The government will not even commit to developing a regulatory framework. Consistently in the House we are faced with skeleton laws made by the Liberal government, laws that have only the basic outline of what is expected. The regulations, the meat on the bones, are turned over to the bureaucracy and are completely out of the control of the people elected to this place to represent their constituents and the people of Canada.

The minister says he hopes to have draft general regulations ready for public review and comment soon after royal assent. That is not good enough by a long shot. How helpful is that? It should be available now for the House to debate. The minister acts as if providing a few regulatory scraps is evidence of his gracious benevolence. After all, it is not required. He can do it if he feels like it.

This is exactly like a bill we are considering in the heritage committee. Bill C-48 has to do with copyright. It too is nothing more than a skeleton law. We do not know what the regulations will be. The Minister of Industry and the Minister of Canadian Heritage wrote letters to the committee telling it to pass it as is. They told the committee to get the bill through so it could be enacted. They said once it was enacted the government would come back to committee sometime in the next year with the regulations. That is not good enough. Bill C-10, the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act which has just passed the Senate, is exactly the same thing. It is also a skeleton bill.

We are charged not only by our constituents but by all the people of Canada with responsibility for bringing forward good laws and legislation that people understand and that we can vote for intelligently. However in Bill C-5 there are again no regulations. There is no meat on the bones. The way the Liberals consistently deal with legislation is unacceptable. It holds the entire institution of the House of Commons in contempt. Government Motion No. 109 would weaken the law. Subclause 64(2) of Bill C-5 currently reads:

The Governor in Council shall--

Shall is the important word.

--make regulations that the Governor in Council considers necessary for carrying out the purposes and provisions of subsection (1), including regulations--

What did the government do? Did it strengthen the wording? There is no way to strengthen the word shall so the government changed it to may. The government said it might get around to it. It does not care if it weakens the law.

I appeal to the hon. member for Davenport and the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis, for whom I have tremendously high personal regard, to take another look at the bill in good conscience. They should realize it would not protect endangered species, something I know they want as much as I do.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

6:35 p.m.

Laval West Québec


Raymonde Folco LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, allow me to say a few words on Bill C-5, the Species at Risk Act. The current process has been going on for close to nine years and it has led us to where we are today regarding the species at risk legislation.

I remind the House that the nine years of this process were not spent making a series of brief proposals, rejecting them and making new ones again. Nor was it a matter of saying “We do not like this idea; we will propose another one”.

On the contrary, this process of nine years was a cumulative process that helped developed an informed policy. And at each stage, we looked at what we had learned before taking the next step.

Of course, we consulted a large number of individuals and groups. We looked at what was being done in other countries and in another jurisdictions, including provincial jurisdictions. We reviewed, we listened and we reviewed some more.

In fact, last year, before the species at risk bill was introduced in February 2001, consultations had been held across Canada. For example, national workshops were organized to develop the foundations of the policies and the framework of the bill on species at risk.

We read thousands of letters that were taken into consideration in the design of the bill. Moreover, discussions took place with aboriginal people from all regions of the country and with national aboriginal organizations.

Wildlife management boards, academics, environmental NGOs, conservation groups, international organizations, the provinces and territories, and stakeholders from the fishing, forestry, agricultural, mining and labour sectors also took part in the consultations.

This is to say that we heard an extremely diversified group of people from coast to coast to coast, for the very reason that we wanted to try to meet and listen to all those who are concerned about this bill.

Let us also not forget the members who, of course, spent quite a bit of time on this bill.

In fact, collectively we devoted more than 250 hours to discussions and deliberations around this species at risk bill. Last year, for example, the House Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development received more than 80 submissions and heard more than 90 witnesses.

I think we can say today that we have heard the entire range of views. We have also made every reasonable effort to take those points of view into account. Listening to people is not enough, one must also deal with the information they provide. Our goal was to strike a balance between the various points of view we heard. I think we can say today that, without a doubt, we have achieved that goal.

This species at risk bill is the best solution under the circumstances. It takes into account our constitutional structure, our Canadian approach, our need to involve people in conservation measures, and it takes into account as well the numerous requirements and interests of landowners throughout the country.

Thought must be given to everything that has been accomplished since this bill began to be drafted. When the federal Species at Risk Act was introduced for the first time, it did not contain many provisions on conservation. It did not make reference to the importance of stewardship and still less to the measures that are the key means of true habitat protection and conservation.

We have listened to Canadians in rural regions, the farmers, fishers, forestry workers and other users of natural resources.

All indicated to us that the stewardship initiatives that have been in place for a long time in Canada have yielded confirmed results.

We support the proposal made by the standing committee to authorize the Minister of the Environment to direct the development of a stewardship action plan. We have committed funding of $45 million over five years through the habitat stewardship program.

These changes were very well received by Canadians from every rural region in the country. The most important change was probably regarding compensation. The bill now contains compensation provisions. There must be fair and reasonable compensation for losses suffered as a result of any extraordinary impact from prohibitions on destroying essential habitat.

We support the amendment proposed by the standing committee that requires there be regulations on compensation.

Under the proposal and the bill under consideration, these regulations will be developed in close consultation with all those affected. The development process for the regulations on compensation will be transparent and inclusive. It will include landowners and land and resource users.

We heeded the advice given by environmental groups and by members of the standing committee who supported a broader application of the legislation. We expanded the scope of the bill so that it now includes all species at risk in addition to their essential habitat wherever that may be in Canada.

The development of recovery, action, and management plans must respect high standards of co-operation. As the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development recommended, these three documents must also be made available for public comment.

We also focused on landowners and on those who use land and resources, particularly rural Canadians.

In the interests of greater openness, transparency and accountability, we added a provision requiring that the recommendations of a roundtable composed of persons interested in matters respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk be included in the registry. The Minister must respond publicly to these recommendations within 180 days.

I challenge all of us to find any recovery measure, any regulation, any species situation assessment report, or any other document required by the legislation which does not have to be included in the registry.

I challenge all of us to find anything at all in this proposal which would not be the subject of consultations or which would not be monitored, and the implementation and effectiveness of which would not have to be reviewed at regular intervals.

We worked with the standing committee to add 233 species to the initial legal list. This means that recovery programs and management plans will be required for 233 species within set timeframes. As soon as the legislation takes effect, this requirement will apply to all 233 species on the legal list, including those managed by the provinces.

This means—as I have already mentioned in another speech in the House—that, in so far as possible, the essential habitat for almost 200 species listed in the “extirpated”, “endangered” and “threatened” categories will have to be identified.

We are proud of the bulk of the bill. We are probably the proudest of its approach to aboriginal involvement. This is without precedent.

The bill represents a considerable investment of time and effort. After almost nine years, we have got it right. It is the best solution for Canada. It is time to pass this bill.

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

The Speaker

It being 6.45 p.m., pursuant to order made earlier today, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith all questions necessary to dispose of the bill at report stage now before the House.

The question is on Motion No. 18.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt Motion No. 18?

Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Some hon. members


Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Some hon. members


Species at Risk ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

The Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.