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.