House of Commons Hansard #59 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.


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4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Canadian Alliance Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member referred to a survey. I misunderstood whether it was 7% or 70% support from the Canadian public for a national ID card. I question that very many Canadians would support it.

On behalf of all Canadians my concern with the government is the same one I had with the firearms registry. When the government trotted out statistics in court cases in the lead-up to establishing the registry, it misused and overstated statistics to further its argument. Those statistics were repudiated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and have since been shown by the Auditor General to be totally wrong.

For my benefit and the benefit of the House, I would ask the member to go over what the survey he was referring to actually said.

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4:40 p.m.


Sarkis Assadourian Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, roughly 3,000 people were surveyed and 70% of them supported the idea of having some form of ID card.

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4:40 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, further along those lines with respect to that poll, I wonder what the response would have been if the people had been asked what if the ID card were mandatory so a person could not leave the house without it. If people were stopped while going to the grocery store to buy a newspaper and they did not have their ID cards, the police could actually have cause to investigate them and hold them overnight. If the question had been phrased in that context, I do not think there would be a single Canadian who would want a “show me your papers” scenario.

I think the poll the hon. member referred to is misleading. A much different question should have been asked.

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4:40 p.m.


Sarkis Assadourian Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the NDP does not believe that poll, it could conduct its own poll and pay for it from its own money. It would find out that is the case.

There is no need for us to mislead the public. When we have a discussion, we like to give all the information we have to members of Parliament so we can have an informed, intelligent debate. There is no intent on anybody's part to mislead anybody or to get different information.

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4:40 p.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, for instance, today, if you lose your passport, it only contains a picture and an address, and it is an official government document. With today's technology, an identity card contains important private information that could end up in the wrong hands.

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4:45 p.m.


Sarkis Assadourian Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, maybe passports, driver's licences, birth certificates and a person's landing papers can be forged, but in this case the ID is based on a person's iris and fingerprint. They cannot be forged. The member's fingerprint and iris belong only to him. Nobody can duplicate them. They are his personally as a human being.

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4:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Canadian Alliance Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to address the motion presented to us by the New Democratic Party. First, for the benefit of the House, I want to read the actual motion:

That, in the opinion of this House, the introduction of a national identity card offends the principle of privacy and other civil rights of Canadians and this House therefore opposes its introduction.

Mr. Speaker, as you and other parties know, the Canadian Alliance is supporting the motion. We do oppose the introduction of an identity card.

It is interesting, especially for my friend the member for Winnipeg Centre, who is now the critic for the Canadian Alliance. He is not only critiquing the government side, he is critiquing the Canadian Alliance in that he referred in question period today to a cabal of Alliance members and Liberal members. I am wondering what he is going to tell his party members now that the Alliance and the NDP are actually agreeing on some issues. I think it shows that in this House there are times when we can set partisanship aside and really judge the merit of an idea. That is certainly what we are doing in this case.

There are two main reasons I want to put forward that many members have touched on before with respect to why we oppose the introduction of an identity card. One obviously deals with the whole privacy issue. The second one deals with the concerns about the competence of the government in dealing with other databases. The third is not a concern but is more what has been revealed during the debate, which is the fact that the government simply has been unable to answer some basic fundamental questions. Before Liberal members introduce something as earth changing as this, surely they should do their homework and be able to answer some of these questions.

It is interesting that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has proposed this idea but members of his own caucus and members of his own cabinet have expressed opposition to the card. The Minister of National Revenue has said it makes her nervous and she does not think we need it. Members of his own caucus from London and elsewhere have said that this is simply a bad idea and we should not go forward with it.

The minister has said that it is simply in response to security concerns. There are many other things the government could do in the first place to address other security concerns, namely deal with issues at the border without introducing such a card.

In looking at the concerns, I will deal with the whole issue of privacy first. The Privacy Commissioner, George Radwanski, has actually said that the new card is part of a growing intrusion of government into the private lives of Canadians. He also criticized this specific proposal when he said a national ID card tends to end up being linked to data. He said that it tends to facilitate compiling more and more data about every single Canadian which of course then becomes subject to all kinds of intrusions, to say nothing of the spectacle of the government in a mandatory way; even if it begins as a voluntary measure, these things eventually become mandatory.

That is true. If this starts out as voluntary, and members have said that this should be voluntary, then the question becomes why would a person not want this national ID card? Is that person hiding something and he or she does not want this fingerprint and retina scan data? Obviously people can travel more quickly between countries if they provide this information but if there is a national ID card and someone chooses not to participate, then the onus obviously is placed on that person to justify why he or she is not participating.

This is very fundamental, particularly for those of us who are libertarian in nature about the whole issue of government. We believe there should be a sphere of privacy for individual citizens. They should have certain rights. They should not be subject to government involvement in every aspect of their lives. One of my biggest concerns about the government is it introduces legislation and regulations and it is regulating more and more of our everyday lives which it does not need to.

We should go back to the great philosophers who really developed the parliamentary principles, people like John Locke. We should heed their words and their concerns about government being too involved in our daily lives.

There is the philosopher Thomas Hobbes and his Leviathan . He was considered to be an authoritarian philosopher because he favoured a strong sovereign. Even he said that we should have a circumference around the powers of the sovereign and there are things that individual citizens should not be subject to. That is something the Privacy Commissioner has said over and over again and which we have to pay attention to.

If we allow government to simply encroach more and more on our rights as citizens, in the end we do not develop a healthy community. We do not develop citizens. We develop subjects. That is certainly a trend we want to fight against.

We in the Canadian Alliance certainly heed the concerns of the Privacy Commissioner with respect to the ID card. He also raised concerns about the whole technological problems with such a card. During questions and comments today it has been revealed that the government simply does not know the full purpose of the card. Also, the government has not really addressed any technological problems.

A previous speaker said there were no concerns with security and it is very secure. In a day and age when we know hackers are very prevalent and we have seen problems with other database systems, to say that a system is 100% secure is simply foolish without actually having a system present that Canadians can view. The fact is that with a lot of the other databases that have gone awry, why should we assume that the government would handle this database any better?

Before I go to the question of confidence, I want to touch upon the hearings today. The Information and Privacy Commissioner for Prince Edward Island, Karen Rose, appeared before the committee today. She is opposed to the development of a national identification card, especially with biometrics. She gave three reasons why she is opposed.

She said that a national ID card would be an unprecedented invasion of the privacy of Canadians due to the establishment of a national database of personal information and because it would require Canadians to identify themselves on demand.

Second, she said that there is no evidence that a national identification card would achieve the purposes it sets out to achieve. That is the question we constantly have to ask ourselves. Aristotle, who was steeped in philosophy, always said to ask oneself why. That is the most fundamental question. We always view things in a teleological manner. We always ask what is the purpose, the why question. We ask ourselves the purpose. We identify the purpose. Then we establish whether what we are doing will actually fulfill the purpose that have set out.

What Karen Rose is saying is that it is not going to fulfill the purpose that is actually being set out. Clearly, members on this side of the House have exposed that the government does not know what this card will fulfill, even the purpose that it is setting for it.

Her third concern is that the very existence of such a card could open the floodgates to drastically increase police powers as well as the collection of personal information of every Canadian, and would change the nature of our free society.

This is another point that goes back to the whole sphere of privacy. It also touches upon a very fundamental issue about law and about the use of police resources. The use of our police resources should be very limited, but it should be utilized in a very effective way to combat against those who break the law.

The fundamental basis of law should be the protection of persons and their property. Those people who offend against persons or their property should certainly be pursued and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. We should not be using our laws and our police resources to move beyond that and set up an ID card which would not accomplish those goals and would basically be an invasion of privacy.

Another big point I want to touch upon after privacy is the whole issue of competence. The fact is the government's track record is one of absolute and utter incompetence when it comes to the administration of important programs: the millions spent on advertising contracts for little or no work; the grants and contributions debacle at HRDC; the over $1 billion by 2004-05 spent to register rifles and shotguns, which will probably grow exponentially after that; the big brother database which it had to dismantle when it was accidentally discovered and thousands of Canadians wrote and phoned their members of Parliament and demanded that it be dismantled.

All of this serves to convince Canadians that this is not a government which is either capable or trustworthy enough to require each and every citizen to have a comprehensive ID card including biometric identifiers.

The fact is that Canadians are still seething about the gun registration fiasco. A citizen in my constituency phoned my office. He said he was a law abiding citizen and did not agree with the registry, but two years ago he went down to Southgate Mall, signed up the information, had the pictures taken and handed the information over. He said that two years later, in December of last year, he phoned to ask where his card was. He was told that there was no record of him. He said that he had put all his personal information on the form, his three firearms, his house and everything, including pictures of himself, and that someone had the information because he handed it over.

If the government is not competent enough to actually collect this information and store it in a database, protect it and ensure that it is secure, then the whole purpose of the database in the first place is destroyed. If the government lost it, or if someone else who had malicious intentions picked it up, that person would know where my constituent lives. They would know the firearms he has. They could break in and commit some sort of heinous crime with this information.

This situation with the firearms registry now is one that the justice minister is completely unwilling to address. He stands up and talks about public safety every day, as if wasting a billion dollars somehow improves our public safety, as if directing resources away from our police services somehow in some way protects our public safety.

I have mentioned just HRDC and the firearms registry, but we also know about the whole issue with the SIN cards. I had another constituent phone my office. She lost her SIN card and phoned HRDC to request another one. The government bureaucrat told her she was not allowed to have another one. She then phoned my office to check this information. We phoned HRDC and initially were told that this was correct, that she could not access a new ID card, that she actually would have to go into a witness protection program to access a new one. I asked, what if this person was using her information to obtain new cards? This is ridiculous. Somehow the policy changed and she now can obtain a new SIN card. However, just the whole fact that the government has lost control of so many SIN cards should certainly give us pause when we are considering something as fundamental as a new ID card for everyone.

I just want to touch upon some comments made by a University of Toronto information technology professor, Andrew Clement. He has studied the whole issue of national ID cards. He has warned us that such an offline system is not much use as a security tool since someone could obtain a card under another name with his own fingerprint or eye scan on the bar code. Even with a central database such a card would not be much of a deterrent for terrorists, in his view. Anyone would be able to obtain such a card by presenting other fraudulent documents such as birth certificates. The creation of a secure card depends on the presentation of much less secure documents.

I think that is important for us to keep in mind. That is why we on this side of the House and in this party oppose the introduction of a national identification card and why we support the motion presented by the NDP today.

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4:55 p.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, today we have heard often that an identity card could contain fingerprints. However, even though a national identity card might contain fingerprints, we must remember that today with the right to privacy, should an individual be accused and his fingerprints sent to the RCMP, if he were to go to court and be found not guilty, his fingerprints should have to be returned to him. It is not something you give freely to just anybody.

In this case, some are already thinking that we could have an identity card with our fingerprints or a retinal scan that we could carry with us across the country and all over the world. Imagine the power that would give the government.

I find it odd that the Liberals are thinking about that today, because it does not mean they will be here forever, and one of these days they too will be on the street. Are they not here to protect citizens and not just to give more power to the state?

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5 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Canadian Alliance Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question, and he certainly raises the most fundamental point. If we have our most precious and our most intimate information on this card, that certainly gives a lot of power to the government. As someone who is very concerned about civil liberties, I am very concerned about government having that power.

His question also raises the other issue. What if somebody loses their card? There is that information. I have my retinal scan and my fingerprints on this card and I lose my card. There the system is not secure, because that will happen. People lose their SIN cards or credit cards all the time. What do we do once somebody has that information? I assume that it can be accessed through some sort of computer system. How is the system secure when that happens?

It does come down to the fundamental point: There is no reason why we should be giving these powers to the government at this time, or to any government. Regardless of political party, there is no reason why we ought to be giving any sort of government these types of powers.

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5 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Canadian Alliance Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, I find it amazing today in this debate that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration would continually get up and say that this is just a debate, that we should not ask these questions, or that he would ask why we expect them to have answers about cost estimates and about what information is going to be on this card, should we choose to put this information on the card.

I would ask my colleague whether he would agree with me that the government should have answers to those questions, that the minister should have the answers, that his representative, the parliamentary secretary, should have answers on this very important topic, and that to come to the House without those specific proposals is in fact unbelievable. Would he agree with me?

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5 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Canadian Alliance Edmonton Southwest, AB

Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. I would agree 100% with my colleague and his wise words. I am just astounded at this. When government introduces something as fundamental, something that would change Canadian society to the extent that a national ID card would, one would think that government would have very substantive detailed answers to these questions. What is the purpose of the card? What will it be used for? What will it replace? How will it affect other cards that we have, like provincial health care cards and even Visa cards? Will there be a relationship between this card and other cards?

These are questions which, before something like this is introduced, I would think that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration would do well to sit down and consider. He should consider all the possibilities and all the questions and come up with substantive answers.

It just seems to me that there is this tendency with the government. Whether it is on this card or on Kyoto or even on Iraq, there does not seem to be a substantive and clear policy direction from beginning to end.

I would advise the government to take this recorded debate into consideration. The fact that fundamental answers cannot be given today should certainly give it pause in introducing such a card.

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5 p.m.

Brampton Centre Ontario


Sarkis Assadourian LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, the questioner earlier made a very cheap political statement by saying that we do not know the answers. There is a purpose for hearings. As far as I know, we send committees across the country to hear the people. If we are going to tell them what we want, what is the purpose of hearings?

It is the same thing here. We are having a hearing. We are having a discussion here. If we were going to tell everybody that this is what we want, then we would not have a discussion, we would have a bill. The idea is that there is no bill here. Nothing is being introduced. We are just having a discussion.

If he does not appreciate the fact that we are having a discussion, then he should say so.

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5:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Canadian Alliance Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate the fact that we are having a discussion. I would like to stand up in the House and thank the New Democratic Party for allowing us to have this discussion, because it certainly was not the government that sparked this discussion. It was an opposition party that stood and said that it was time for us to have a discussion and a debate on this matter.

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5:05 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I know that the member for Edmonton Southwest is a student of libertarianism. I think he is an advocate of the famous writer Ayn Rand, whose treatise called The Virtue of Selfishness has become a sort of bible for the Canadian Alliance.

Would it offend his libertarian sensibilities if he were living in a country where he had to carry his national ID card even to go to the corner grocery store to buy a newspaper and if, under such a regime, a policeman could pull him over and ask him, demand in fact, for his ID card, demand that he produce his papers? Would he find that offensive, given the libertarian bent under which he dwells?

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5:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Canadian Alliance Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from my colleague, but I have to correct him. I am not an admirer of Ayn Rand and I am not an admirer of her works. When I think of libertarian thought, I think of people like John Locke and others. I think we should read the classics. I am not one who considers Ayn Rand part of the classics.

I would certainly agree with his assessment and the tenor of his question, which is the fact that we should not want the type of society he asked about, a society where we have to produce an ID card just for simple transactions.

That goes to my fundamental point, which is that in my view most of the interactions between human beings in a society can be accomplished without government interference, and we should have as many as possible without government interference. Where it is necessary, it needs to be there, and government is necessary in a limited role. Where it is not necessary, let us not encourage it. Let us not, in a very sloppy and incompetent way, introduce a card which we do not even know the purpose of.

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5:05 p.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask my colleague about how members are talking about an identification card like, for example, a driver's licence. As we all know, driver's licences for many years were just little cards with our addresses on them. Just by putting our photographs on them, it meant that nobody else could use those permits. The identification shows that the permit belongs to us. The only information on the licence is the address information and a photograph.

However, for the national identification card we are talking about fingerprints and all kinds of information. We could lose that card and would be giving out information on our whole life, almost, to somebody else, and we surely do not want that to be used at any time. That is the worry that Canadians should have. That is what Canadians should be told to worry about and they should be told not to agree with this card.

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5:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Canadian Alliance Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent question. I do not know what I could say beyond what he has said, except for the fact that he is absolutely right. This goes far beyond any type of card that we already have. We can compare it to a driver's licence, in which case we walk into a registry and give a few simple facts about the colour of our eyes and how much we weigh. This goes far beyond that.

For the government to have access to this information and, as I said before, because of the fact that we could possibly lose this card and lose this information, I think that is a road that we do not want to go down in this country.

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5:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is with some trepidation that I enter into the debate today. After listening to my colleagues and to some of the questions being asked, I would hope that at this stage in our democracy we would not be trying to give some type of personal ID with all sorts of biometrics on it to every Canadian citizen. Surely we have gone beyond that stage in democracy, because that is not democracy at all.

The first question Canadians should ask themselves is: who will manage the system? Will it be the same managers who are in power today? It has been said time and again that the cost of the gun registry would be $2 million but it has been allowed to go to $1 billion. Will it be the same people who cannot even manage the social insurance numbers in this country, a card that is carried by nearly every Canadian over 18 years of age. Let us look at their record. It is absolutely dismal.

HRDC's social insurance numbers were mentioned in the 1998 Auditor General's report and in October 2002 a news release stated:

The Auditor General is concerned that the identity and citizenship status of applicants were not checked adequately for the majority of SINs issued since 1998.

For five years the Liberals have not been able to keep track of their social insurance numbers and now they want to bring in a card that will contain all kinds of personal information that will track every Canadian. This is the same gang who could not even keep track of codfish and now they want to keep track of people.

This the same group that includes a minister of fisheries who would not allow us to put a black box on the 500 or 600 trawlers offshore. He said we could not do it because he could not keep track of them and yet this group wants to keep track of 33 million Canadians. I do not think so.

The Auditor General went on to say that in her view HRDC's current policies and practices did not meet the intent of the Employment Insurance Act and regulations because the department was not doing enough to properly identify applicants for social insurance numbers. That is just one piece of identification.

There is inadequate control over the 900 series social insurance numbers that are issued to people who are not Canadians or permanent residents. Although most of these people are expected to be in Canada temporarily, these SINs have no expiry date. The Liberals could not even put an expiry date on a social insurance number for a temporary resident, but now they want to have some type of brand on every man, woman and child in the country. They think they can manage that but they could not even manage a partial attempt at identification.

This gets better. There are still problems with the integrity of the information in the social insurance register. This particular group of government managers identified a problem in 1998, a huge problem for Canadians because there were all kinds of social insurance number frauds going on.

In 2002 there were still problems with the integrity of the information in the social insurance register. This is mind-boggling. For example, the number of usable social insurance numbers for people over 20 exceeds the actual population in that age group by five million. We are not talking 10,000, 50,000 or 500,000. We are talking about five million. There are five million more social insurance cards out there than there are people in the age group for which they were issued. These things are worth money. We could open a bank account. We could check into some else's bank account. All kinds of information can be found through a social insurance number. If we had someone's social insurance number we could commit all kinds of identity fraud.

The same group that has allowed five million extra social insurance numbers out there, and has done nothing since 1998 to stop that rampant abuse, now wants to issue a national identity card. It would like Canadians to have a fingerprint or a retina check on the card, possibly their driver's licence, and all kinds of other personal information, such as medical records.

We have the abuse and theft of social insurance numbers, we have some 12,000 individual Canadians who have their personal identity stolen every year, and now we want to put all of that information into one card. What would it be worth to the criminal elements of this country? What would it be worth to people who buy and sell this type of information every day and use it for illegal purposes? It would be worth a lot of money. It would be worth more than social insurance numbers, SINs that the government cannot even keep track of.

There is no integrity of data in the social insurance system for social insurance numbers. There is no integrity of data in the gun registry. There is no integrity of data in anything that gang touches.

What would the Liberals call this card? Someone a minute ago jokingly called it the “maple leaf card” and that we would be able to get into the lounge at the airport. I think it is a little more serious than that.

I do not believe I am standing in this place having a debate on whether to brand Canadians like cattle. I do not think that is the answer. However I will say that just about any group in Canada has done a better job at keeping track of information than the government has. Somehow or another we have lost all common sense.

The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration wants a personal identity card and we have had thousands of IMM 1000s stolen, the refugee status cards. They are out there for sale on the open market. There is something drastically wrong here.

George Radwanski, who is supposedly protecting the privacy of Canadians, has stated:

Personal information is central to privacy-in fact, I define privacy as the right to control access to one's person and to information about oneself.

Surely it is the duty of parliamentarians to make sure that access to information on individual Canadians is severely restricted.

This is about management. Canadians need to ask themselves whether they want this gang to manage their personal information when it could not manage anything else. Let us be honest here. We can read all the polls we want. How many Canadians really trust that their information is secure? Who in this House does not know someone who has had their identity stolen? We would have a small circle of friends if we did not know someone who had their identity stolen. It is a terrible experience. It takes them years to clear their names.

If we want to do something to help Canadians, let us help the 12,000 per year who have their identities stolen, whose bank accounts are emptied, who have bills run up in their names, whose Visa cards are charged to the limit, whose driver's licences are stolen and who have insurance claims against them. They fight for years to clear their names. Let us help those people. Let us find a quick solution to that one. We should take a baby step because we are not ready to take a giant step like this.

People do not trust the Internet and they do not trust the government to handle information. Ekos Research Associates recently found that only 32% of daily users of the Internet, people who describe themselves as very comfortable with life online, are willing to register personal information on the Internet sites they visit. Among casual users the figure drops to 11%.

I can say that I do not mind shopping online but I will not give my credit card number online. I will give it over the telephone but I will not give it online. That is all there is to it.

If we were to take that a step further, those low comfort levels with privacy on the Internet translate into real consequences for electronic commerce because Ekos found that only 22% of Canadians were willing to give their credit card numbers online. Among confirmed Internet users, the figure rose to only 31%. Even among daily users of the Internet, it was still only slightly more than half.

What do we need a personal identity card for? We have several pieces of ID now. I am also not convinced that we should roll them all into one. I see no reason for that. There may be a few pieces of ID that could be rolled into one so more information is on one card. That might be a reasonable, responsible step. One would not expect that from this government, but it is a reasonable, responsible step.

If people travel outside the country they obtain and use a passport. If they travel inside the country they do not need a passport. Therefore we do not need a personal identity card that could become extremely valuable on the black market and that could contain more information than the majority of Canadians would want to give out.

If I am giving information to the motor vehicle branch in Nova Scotia, then it does not need to know the rest of my personal information. It absolutely does not need to know it. My medical information, my medical file, my allergies and all of that does not need to be on my driver's licence.

I cannot imagine how we have taken this leap of faith with a government that has not been able to manage any file it has touched. We have tens of billions of dollars in foundations that have been set up by this government and we cannot get access to information.

If the government wants personal information on individual Canadians, then it should open up the files on the foundations that it established and allow us access so we can look at them. It should open the files to the Auditor General so we know whether or not proper accounting practices are being used. It should open them up so we know who sits as chair and who sits as members on the board besides the minister of that particular department.

If we want to become an open, free and democratic society, there are all kinds of information out there to which I am sure my colleagues and I would like to have access.

The government should not tell us on one hand that there are over $22 billion or $23 billion in foundations, $10 billion or $12 billion in the last few years, but that it is not willing to give out any of that information. This is arm's length from politics, arm's length from access to information and arm's length from the Auditor General and proper accounting practices.

On the other hand, every detail of information about an individual Canadian is needed. I am surprised the Liberals have not started to burn books. That is generally the route that countries take. This is absolutely scandalous.

If the government is intent on this, then it should show us a reasonable, rational plan, for example, that it wants to take back all social insurance numbers because there are five million more social insurance numbers than there are Canadians. The government wants to take all of them back and issue a new card. It wants to include in that card one or two more items. Perhaps the government could issue some type of pharmacare card. I am sure that tomorrow the government will come up with a pharmacare plan for Canadians so they can actually afford to buy the drugs they need. I am certain that information could be piggy-backed from one government department to another.

I cannot imagine how the government will manage a system involving one single identity card for every individual Canadian. I said at the start of my speech that the government cannot keep track of cod fish which is very true. It cannot keep track of the rest of the fish stocks either. We proposed in the House and at committee a number of times that the government should keep track of fishing boats. There has never been any attempt to do that.

With the GPS equipment that is available today, with global positioning on every trawler offshore, we would know in a second where every fishing boat was. We would know where the foreign trawlers were. We would know if they were fishing in the wrong zone. We would know if they were mis-reporting. If the government wants to keep track of something it should be keeping track of that.

The government should tell NAFO that there should be positioning equipment on every foreign trawler fishing in Canadian water and on the high seas in the Canadian zones. That would be something important to keep track of. The government would know whether trawlers were fishing in 4X or 3Ps. The government would know whether they were on the Flemish Cap, the nose and tail of the Grand Banks or St. Pierre and Miquelon. The government would know where the boats were. If trawlers reported their catch from one area instead of another, the government would obviously know the fish were not caught there.

There are a couple of hundred trawlers that the government refuses to keep track of. However there are 33 million Canadians and the government wants to keep track of them. I do not understand this. I am trying to understand the rationale.

If Liberals want us to trust them, and Canadians surely will never do that again, then they should start a little slower. Take smaller steps. Fix the social insurance number fraud. Benefits are going to people who are dead and it is costing hundreds of millions of dollars. There are five million extra social insurance cards out there. The government should fix that problem, take care of it.

The government wants to keep track of things. If it wants to do something about Canada's standing in the world and protect the east coast and west coast fish stocks and keep track of information, then it should do it.

I am sure Canadians would support the government if it wanted to fix the gun registry. The government has not even begun to do that. It needs $15 million immediately. What Canadians have not been told is that amount only helps the database for another three, four or five months and after that, it is back to square one and a wasted $1 billion.

There are a number of areas in which the government could improve on the information gathering and improve on the value per dollar that Canadians are receiving for their tax dollars. Nothing will be improved by bringing in a national ID card.

Is there a way to improve our Canadian passport? Maybe there is. Convince me. Show me that something else is needed on the passport. I think most Canadians would consider that. However I do not see the reason for a national ID card. I think it is like gun control was in the beginning, it is smoke and mirrors to take the public's mind off the real issues of incompetence and poor management.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Endangered Species Sanctuaries ActPrivate Members' Business

February 13th, 2003 / 5:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

moved that Bill C-232, an act respecting the creation of sanctuaries for endangered species of wildlife, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am very grateful to my colleague from Dewdney—Alouette for seconding Bill C-232, regarding the creation of sanctuaries to protect endangered species.

In our country there are some 20,000 species, 8,000 of which are endangered and are becoming extinct. Historically the debate on endangered species has been marred in a great deal of difficulty and has gone around in a big circle. We have not really improved the situation and the facts bear it out.

As time passes the endangered species situation is becoming worse and worse. The rate of extinction on our planet is 100 to 1,000 times the normal rate of extinction that existed in times past. In the world some 240 hectares of land are destroyed every single hour. This is due to urban sprawl, agriculture and essentially the destruction of habitat.

Bill C-232 fills a number of loopholes in the government's bill on the environment. I will explain what they are.

The first flaw in the government's bill was in actually deciding what animals and what habitat were endangered in the first place. Currently those political decisions reside in the lap of the minister. My bill puts them in the hands of the scientists. Scientists on the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada would make the decisions. They would decide which species and which land would be designated as being in danger of extinction. It would be based on scientific designations.

The second aspect is very important. Habitat destruction is the single most important contributing factor in the destruction of species on our planet. My bill obligates the government to work with the provinces and private landowners to ensure that an agreement is reached. Where no agreement is reached, the government has the power to expropriate the minimum amount of land of critical habitat. My bill obligates the government to reimburse the private landowner for the loss of income from that particular habitat.

Usually an agreement can be arrived at. Many wonderful and innovative agreements have been put together, particularly in Saskatchewan where incredible work has been done.

Failing an agreement, the protection of the critical habitat for that species which is becoming extinct is foremost in my bill. My bill obligates the government to protect that habitat at all costs for the protection of the species.

When we look at the larger picture of endangered species and the massive destruction of endangered species around the world, we see that there are a number of factors. As I said before, the destruction of habitat is the most important factor. Second is the international trade and trafficking in endangered species.

Our country unfortunately is one of the leading contributors to the trafficking in endangered species. It is the third leading illegal product traded in the world, behind weapons and drugs. It is mostly driven by organized crime gangs and terrorist groups that generate funds from this illegal trade. The impact is massive. It is a multibillion dollar trade.

It is sad to say that Canada is one of the major conduits in the entire world of this trade. It affects not only our species, such as bears and other large and small mammals, plants and butterflies, but also it affects international species, such as the big cats, rhinos, birds, and many others.

Poaching is another major problem. There are penalties for poaching in our country but sad to say, those penalties are not applied to the maximum. The act of poaching is often not considered as being such a significant problem. It is not considered to be a significant crime.

The individuals who commit the poaching often do it in a commercial fashion and are responsible for the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of endangered species. Oftentimes the penalties that the individuals receive do not even meet the profits that they receive from one shipment of endangered species.

There is little application of the law and little disincentive to make individuals stop poaching. They know full well that the courts will not apply the maximum penalties. I would encourage the government at least to apply minimum penalties for that type of activity.

Also, we have to look at the resources for our conservation officers. The government has gutted the ability of our conservation officers to defend our country's wild spaces. It has removed their resources, it has cut their numbers and it also has disarmed them. Disarming our conservation officers, as my colleagues from Alberta know very well, is a very bad thing. We find out a number of things in the bush. Rarely, as a last resort, we may need a rifle or a sidearm to protect ourselves from an aggressive animal. Also, we may have to protect themselves from a far more dangerous creature, human beings. Poachers have guns. To have our conservation officers out there unarmed and vulnerable is something that the government must reverse very quickly, because it is putting our conservation officers' lives in danger, in my view.

CITES, the convention on the international trade in endangered species, is a wonderful piece of international legislation that works to protect endangered species. The sad part of it is that our country has not lived up to our fundamental obligations under this convention, even though we have signed it as the centrepiece of the international protection of endangered species.

We also have to close the major loophole called reservations. Reservations under CITES enable a country to say it is backing out of the convention because it feels it has a right to consume the most endangered species in the world, a unilateral decision. Japan, for example, has taken itself out of CITES for a number of the most endangered species, some whales and sea turtles. The Japanese consume them at great expense to the environment and the species. It is outrageous that more than 20,000 endangered sea turtles are killed every year just to meet the consumption market in Japan.

We have spoken about pollution many times. It is a major threat in our seas, in our oceans and on our land. If there is one thing the government can do, not only for the health of endangered species but for the health of humans, it is to deal with the pollution problems in our water, air and land. All are a contributing negative factor, not only for non-human species but also for humans. It has a massive impact upon the health of all of us.

Over-exploitation is another problem. I live in British Columbia. Over-exploitation of our fisheries on the west coast has had a devastating effect on salmonid species and others that live in our oceans. This was done as a miscalculation and through a lack of attention to what our fisheries officers have been telling the government for years. The government is not applying good scientific principles to the establishment of proper quotas for harvesting fish species in a sustainable fashion. It is not being done, at great expense to our communities in British Columbia and no doubt to those on the east coast too. The government needs to change that.

We also need to look at the notion of free trade. Free trade can in fact help our endangered species, and I will tell the House how: by reducing the subsidies on fisheries and agriculture. Right now in the world $22 billion is spent on subsidies on fish. What that leads to is overharvesting of our fish species all over the world, leading to a downward pressure and the extinction of many fish species internationally.

What I would like to do now is articulate a new model for conservation, which I gave to the government some six years ago. I hope the government will take it up because it will serve as the missing link between conservation and development.

Historically, the conservationists and developmentalists have actually taken parallel paths that have often worked at odds with each other. We certainly saw that in Johannesburg at the post-Rio summit, the earth summit that took place last year. What has happened is that conservationists have ignored developmentalists at their expense, and people involved in development have ignored conservationists at their expense. The two have to be dealt with mutually, particularly in areas of the world where lack of conservation is decimating some of the most important international critical habitats. I am talking about the developing world.

In South Africa, that missing link has actually been found. I will explain how it happened. Through conservation, funds can be generated. Those funds have to be divided between conservation and primary development in rural areas for health, education and job creation. When people who live near a critical habitat derive an economic and personal benefit from that habitat, what they see is an incentive to preserve and protect that critical habitat. This is the crux of the matter. Unless human beings can actually derive a direct benefit from the conservation of a particular habitat and site, unless they derive that personal benefit, that area will be destroyed. It is happening all over the world.

However, if we can create a system whereby human beings, particularly those in these areas, can generate a financial benefit, it works. I will give some examples. In KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, they have done this very well. The people there actually said many years ago in the late 1800s that many critical species, such as the white rhino, were becoming extinct because of the decimation and destruction of their habitat. They said that they had to protect that area and they did, but they also recognized that the people around the area had to benefit from it because population pressures would be such that they would have overrun the area, regardless of what central governments chose to do. They did that with great success.

Right now the World Wildlife Fund recognizes that. Historically it has not. It took the historical conservationist approach, which is to say we must preserve this particular area for the sake of it being preserved, ignoring the human needs in the surrounding area. In so doing, it ignored the human needs at the peril of conserving that particular area.

I ask the government to do the following, and I say that it can actually do this. It can, through our official development and assistance programs, through CIDA, work not only with other countries but indeed with our own conservation groups here at home, bringing together the NGOs and provincial and federal governments to say that conservation sites must be there to generate funds which can and must benefit the surrounding people. Also, it will provide the opportunity to generate funds for our conservationists themselves, for our hard working conservation officers who have an acute lack of funding to help themselves.

One area that could do it but is controversial is the notion of trophy hunting. I myself am not a hunter, other than with a camera, and I cannot imagine killing anything. However, it is a fact that when there is an excess number of species too much pressure is applied on a habitat and the species themselves are harmed.

What can be done is to designate a certain number of those species to be hunted, with a very large sum of money being charged. Those monies, however, have to be poured into the conservation system for conservationists and for conservation in that area. If that is done, the monies are generated for research and development into conservation, indeed, for the protection of that particular area and for the expansion of other critical habitat.

We know, regardless of where we are in Canada and indeed abroad, that the lack of resources is one of the biggest obstacles to funding conservation projects. With central governments having large competing interests for health care, education and other needs, conservation is often dropped to the bottom of the list in terms of the expenditure priorities of a central government. This, however, cannot continue, or should I say this will continue but it can be reversed by giving our conservationists the tools to do the job. The tools to do the job can come if we are able to generate the funds from those areas.

In closing, I will say that untouched wild spaces are becoming extinct. Pressure on critical habitat is the single greatest cause of the destruction of these critical habitats. They will be lost forever. Is it a fait accompli? Absolutely not. My bill will be able to provide the government with the ability to close loopholes that will enable our government and our country to protect our wild species and our endangered species forever. It will also show the world that there can be a working together among conservationists, the private sector, the federal government, the provincial governments and NGOs for the betterment of our society.

If we do not do this, we will continue to lose species and biodiversity, which will affect us in countless ways in the future, ways that we cannot hope to understand at this point in time, but ways that will no doubt affect us adversely forever.

Endangered Species Sanctuaries ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

York South—Weston Ontario


Alan Tonks LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, we in Canada have some incredible success stories to tell about protecting wildlife and the places in which we do this.

The Oak Hammock Marshes were recovered from farmland and are now home to thousands of birds and waterfowl in Manitoba. In Point Pelee, at the tip of southern Ontario, we have a sanctuary that draws unique species and provides them shelter and food on their migratory journeys. We have international ecosystems of significance declared under the Ramsar treaties.

We also have conservation covenants signed by farmers, woodlot owners, beachfront property owners and resource users. We have land trusts. We have green spaces. We have stewardship projects in every province and territory. All of these combine to set up a system that protects species where they live.

These are all sanctuaries for species. These are sanctuaries we can also save for the people of Canada because these and others like them protect the very essence of biodiversity that supports life on earth. There is something quite essential that these different successes have in common. They were formed through partnerships and they were formed through co-operation. Those partnerships and that co-operation would not have been possible without the way that the provinces, territories and the Government of Canada have worked together for many generations on the management of wildlife and habitat.

We have before us Bill C-232, an act on the creation of sanctuaries for endangered species of wildlife. While there is much merit to the spirit of the bill, and I compliment the mover, my colleague across the way, the Government of Canada cannot, however, support the bill for several basic reasons.

The proposed bill calls on the governor in council to designate as endangered species those that COSEWIC has concluded are at risk of extirpation or extinction. So far, I can agree. It is easy to agree since this is a basic element of legislation, the Species at Risk Act, which received royal assent in December, and captures that particular spirit.

However, Bill C-232 then says that the Minister of the Environment should make an agreement to establish a sanctuary with the owner, federal, provincial or private, of the land that COSEWIC has reported is necessary for the protection and recovery of the endangered species. If an agreement cannot be reached, expropriation or a restrictive covenant would be possible. Compensation or a transfer of federal land or an interest in federal lands is possible.

This proposed policy does not provide for the kind of federal, provincial and territorial cooperation with regard to wildlife management that has been going on for years.

As a matter of fact, I would even say that the cooperation and partnership could be seriously jeopardized if such an approach were to be taken.

The reason is that there would end up being a disincentive to protecting species at risk and habitat on private lands. The voluntary approach which has been so successful would not work nearly as well, if at all.

This is not necessary. It adds another layer of complexity that we do not need. We have wildlife sanctuaries already. Under the Migratory Birds Convention Act and the Canada Wildlife Act, the Minister of the Environment can create wildlife sanctuaries for endangered species to enable them to recover their populations.

I should point out that the regulations under the Migratory Birds Convention Act ensure the migratory bird populations are conserved by addressing potential harmful human activities. Under the Oceans Act, there can be habitat protection for species in marine environments. The National Parks Act provides a tool for protecting species and other elements of our national heritage.

We should also remember that under the Canada Wildlife Act there is also creation, management and protection of national wildlife areas for wildlife research activities, or for conservation or interpretation of wildlife. National wildlife areas are designed to preserve habitats that are critical to migratory birds and other wildlife species, particularly those that are endangered. Regulations for these areas prohibit all activities that could be harmful to species and to their habitat unless a permit is issued indicating the permitted activity.

As members can see, it is not as if nothing has been done. In fact, Environment Canada now manages 92 migratory bird sanctuaries and 50 national wildlife areas which encompass over 11.6 million hectares across Canada. We do not need legislation that tells us to make new ones for endangered species. We have many ways of doing that already.

Look at the Species at Risk Act. Under this act, there is a provision for a listing system based upon COSEWIC's assessments and prohibitions against killing or harming a listed extirpated, endangered or threatened species and the destruction of their residences and critical habitat. The Species at Risk Act also provides for a comprehensive process for planning and implementing recovering actions for listed species.

Protected areas, national wildlife areas, Ramsar sites and migratory bird areas are all sanctuaries. Sanctuary status is given to areas that are an important habitat for migratory birds. These sanctuaries help protect birds from hunting and any other disturbance. They allow populations of endangered migratory birds to recover.

We do not want to put into place another law that will make this more confusing. We need to put more action on the ground, not in regulations and laws that duplicate what we already have done. We certainly do not need to add another legislative requirement to make things more complex.

What we need to do is fulfill our obligations on what is already in place. We need to build on our partnerships with provinces and territories. We need to build on what we have done with ordinary citizens, politicians, organizations, businesses, industries, school children and with Canada's aboriginal peoples. We need to use what we have, with the partners who have helped us to get where we are and who will continue to help us into the future. That way we will have the ultimate success and ensure sanctuary, not just now but for generations to come.

Endangered Species Sanctuaries ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to take part in this debate in Bill C-232, put forward by my hon. colleague from the Canadian Alliance, whom I commend on this initiative.

It is difficult for me, however, to support it formally. I am not rejecting out of hand the concept of sanctuaries as set out in this bill, but it seems important to me to remind this House that, back in 1989, Quebec passed legislation respecting threatened or vulnerable species. Quebec also passed legislation respecting the conservation of wildlife. In addition, it made fishing regulations, specifically to achieve greater protection for species.

Moreover, in 1996, acting on its willingness to comply with the convention on biological diversity, Quebec put in place an implementation strategy with respect to the convention. Quebec also introduced its own protected area strategy. Under this strategy, 17 types of sites can be legally designated in order to ensure the protection of protected areas, including sanctuaries.

Quebec's position has always been the following: we ask that Quebec legislation be respected; we believe that federal legislation that would duplicate existing Quebec legislation in certain areas is unacceptable. This has been our historical position since 1989.

In Quebec, protected areas are the building blocks of the conservation of biological diversity. In its strategy, Quebec developed the following definition:

What is a protected area? A protected area is defined as “an area of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means”.

That is the definition found in the Quebec strategy for protected areas. This definition is designed to ensure the conservation of species, and their genetic variability in particular.

Under this strategy, there are more than 1,100 sites in Quebec that have been designated in accordance with the legislation respecting protected areas. There are 17 different judicial designations to protect species and their habitat.

Understandably, with respect to conservation, the protection of vulnerable or threatened species cannot and can never be ensured if their habitat is not appropriately protected. This is the very purpose of the Quebec legislation respecting protected areas.

Included in these 17 designations are wildlife habitats, protected marine areas, protected natural areas, national parks and historic sites, urban regional parks and migratory bird sanctuaries. Not under federal legislation, but under Quebec legislation. There are also ecological reserves and sites protected under the charter of private organizations.

I forgot, but I must stress that Quebec's legislation on protected areas includes wildlife sanctuaries, as presented in the federal act.

So, what will this federal legislation do? It will only duplicate what Quebec is already doing. As the parliamentary secretary indicated, it would put an end to seamless and desirable collaboration between the provinces and the federal government.

Unfortunately, with this bill, the federal government will pass legislation on wildlife sanctuaries, as it did with Bill C-5 on species at risk.

Our difficulty in supporting, not the notion of wildlife sanctuaries but the goal of this legislation, is therefore understandable.

Furthermore, I would remind the House that, in June 2000, Quebec adopted strategic principles and guidelines to create a protected area network across Quebec. Our objective was for 8% of the total area to be designated a protected area by 2005.

Of course, such an area does not have to be a wildlife sanctuary. I believe that these areas must be given appropriate designations. However, the objective is clear. By 2005, 8% of Quebec must be designated a protected area.

I can only disagree, especially with subsection 6(1) of my colleague's bill, which reads as follows:

Where COSEWIC has made a report to the Minister that a sanctuary is necessary for the protection and recovery of an endangered species and that land specified by COSEWIC would be suitable habitat for the endangered species and the lands is provincial Crown land, the Minister may make an agreement with the province holding title to the land, to establish a sanctuary on the land for the purpose of affording the species sufficient habitat in Canada to recover.

He adds, at subsection 6(2), and that is where I take issue:

In a case where the Minister is not able to reach an agreement for the purposes of subsection (1), the Governor in Council may, on the recommendation of the Minister, declare the establishment of a sanctuary on the land in question to be essential for the endangered species to recover and to be a work for the general benefit of Canada and order that the land or an interest in the land be expropriated or a restrictive covenant placed on the land for the purpose of establishing a sanctuary.

Therefore, with this bill, the federal government could designate land in Quebec a federal wildlife sanctuary, while Quebec already has its own system and its own protected area strategy.

We can only disagree with a bill that goes against a Quebec government decision made a few years ago not to sign the environmental harmonization agreement. Why did Quebec refuse to sign this agreement? Because it was felt that federal legislation would completely encroach on and overlap Quebec legislation.

Although the preferred approach here and the desire to create wildlife sanctuaries in Canada is commendable—I do not reject the principle or the notion of wildlife sanctuaries—I believe there should be more flexibility and greater cooperation with the federal government because that is what we need to truly protect the different species. But to achieve true protection, we must first protect the habitat.

Endangered Species Sanctuaries ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, first I wish to thank my colleague, the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca who lives in one of the most beautiful areas in the country, after Nova Scotia of course. I also want to thank the hon. member and his staff for putting together what I think is a well thought out and considered bill. His intentions are honourable and the principles are required.

It is rather ironic to hear the government say that it does not need this bill and that everything is fine. It is living the life of Riley and everything will be just fine. It says that the legislation, the people, the resources and money are in place. Therefore we do not have to worry about the species that share this planet and country with us. The Liberal government feels it has everything under control. What nonsense. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Just off the coast of Nova Scotia, cod, salmon, sharks, skate and a number of other aquatic species are near the door of extinction. Yet we hear the Liberals say that it is all right, that they have it under control and we should not to worry. This is a government that cut environmental budgets year after year. This is a government that looks at COSEWIC like an enemy instead of a friend.

My colleague from the Bloc says that his members cannot support it because it may intrude into provincial jurisdiction. Species at risk do not understand provincial jurisdiction, especially migratory species that go from one border to the other. They do not care what politicians think or do. The fact is they need a resting place. They need a place to breed. They need a place to grow. They need a place to thrive. I support this bill wholeheartedly.

If there are things in the bill that the government or other opposition members cannot agree with, then make the bill votable. Bring it to committee, open up debate with Canadians, tweak it, change it, amend it, do whatever it takes to make it more palatable and acceptable to everyone. When a bill like this is not votable, it is frustrating. I have had similar bills that were not votable and it made me think it was a waste of time. The hon. member is absolutely correct in bringing this type of issue to the forefront.

We need to leave something for our children's children. We need to know that our grandchildren will also enjoy the species that we enjoy today. We can only do that if we have habitat for these species to survive. Whether it be a little plant in Quebec, a tree in B.C. or an animal somewhere in the prairies, it does not matter. We need to preserve the integrity of these species for future generations. I believe this bill would address a lot of those concerns.

One aspect which has been overlooked so far is the co-operation of our aboriginal people. The historical knowledge that aboriginal people can bring to the table in this type of discussion is amazing. We are talking about people who have lived off the land for thousands and thousands of years. They have seen the changes in our climate. They have seen the changes in migratory species. They have seen the effects and change of what industrialization or pollution can do to their lands. We need to incorporate them into these discussions. I know the hon. member would not have a problem with that.

What is most important is to make this type of bill votable so the concerns addressed by the parliamentary secretary can be further discussed in committee, where it should be. One just does not outright slam it and say it is no good, that we have everything under control. That is not a debate.

A debate is when people come to the table with open minds, reflect the opinions and thoughts of other people, take them into consideration and move it along to try to reach a possible compromise. It is quite sad and unfortunate when we debate this at 5:30 p.m. in the House of Commons and our minds are made up already.

The government always brings pieces of legislation to the forefront. We pick it apart and try to make it better because it is our right to do that. When the opposition brings something to the forefront which we think is a good idea and has merit or possibilities, we are encouraging the government to look at it to see if we can incorporate or improve the current legislation on the books now. One just does not come in here and flatten it like a fly on the wall.

This type of thing frustrates opposition politicians, as well as backbench politicians, when they come up with an idea like this, especially when it comes to our environment.

The hon. member is absolutely correct. If we do not do something of this nature, what we are telling our children? What are we telling the pages in this room who will be the leaders of tomorrow? What are we telling Canadians? That when it comes to endangered species, we will just talk about it but will not have a plan of action. Because right now the government legislation that is there is simply not working.

I will give an example. There is a beautiful area just outside my riding called the Liscombe Game Sanctuary. When I first moved to Nova Scotia, I thought it was a wilderness area protected from hunting or industrialization so that animals and species of all kinds could live there free of harassment. Lo and behold, when I got there, they were logging it and now almost 65% of the Liscombe Game Sanctuary has been logged. When we talk to the Department of Natural Resources people in the province, they say that they are responsible for the animals not their habitat.

If that is the kind of attitude and flippant remark of one official in Nova Scotia, imagine what is like across the country when it comes to dealing with pollution, global warming and with the lack of co-ordination.

The World Wildlife Fund campaigned years ago to protect 12% of lands across Canada, from the Yukon to Newfoundland, from Victoria to Halifax. The idea was to have a connected corridor north and south, east and west so animals that required large amounts of territories, like wolves, grizzly bears, et cetera would have connected resting areas where they could survive and where they could thrive. That was years ago and we still have not got there yet.

A large percentage of this country still is not protected. Look at our parks. They are under threat. Look at the fact that there is a lack of funding for parks. Hopefully in the next budget we will see something in that regard. However that is just one aspect of it.

Ecological integrity is the a crucial element. We need that to protect endangered species. If we have that, then quite possibly we will leave something behind.

Bill C-232 is a great start in that regard. The hon. member should be congratulated, not condemned, for bringing this to the House. I know nobody condemned him personally but they sure condemned his bill by basically saying no. In all respect I do not think the hon. member from the Bloc or from the Liberal Party actually read it.The Liberal Party generally comes in with some sort of bureaucratic format and the members just read from it. We see that all the time. However, if they had listened to what the hon. member said, then quite possibly they would have understood what he was trying to achieve.

I know the hon. member appreciates some of the concerns. He is on the government side and may have to toe the government line. That is the problem and it frustrates me. When speaking to private members' bills, people on the government side should speak as private members not as government members. They should speak from the heart, understand the debate and understand what the member is trying to achieve. Not only would we improve the debate and the decorum in the House, but I think we could improve and move things along.

We are all going to be gone from here one day. When our grandchildren or our nieces or nephews ask us what we did in the House of Commons, I hope members would like to be able to point to one thing and say that they were proud to have achieved this or that.

I know the hon. member would like to put his stamp on Bill C-232. He has my full support in trying to move this type of legislation forward so we can protect endangered spaces and endangered species for now and in the future.

Endangered Species Sanctuaries ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, the last member asked what we would tell our children when they asked us what we did when we were here. I will tell a story that I know I will be very proud of when I am done. I deals with an island, which is exactly what this bill is about. On one hand, I think the government should support the bill. On the other hand, the government did a really good thing in my riding.

There is an island in the Bay of Fundy which is 2.5 kilometres long and about one kilometre wide. It is about 10 kilometres offshore and when the mist rises out of the Bay of Fundy it is absolutely majestic. It is totally pristine. It is the way it was 10,000 years ago. This beautiful island has cliffs 300 feet high. Seals, birds, whales and porpoise are all around it. There are all kinds of stories about this island's past such as natives having used it for ceremonial purposes.

There was a story in the Canadian geographic magazine a few years ago stating that this island was up for sale. The island belonged to the Government of Canada and its only use was as a base for a lighthouse. The lighthouse burned down in 1957 and since then it has been a platform for a light. The coast guard owned this island but it then was transferred to fisheries when the coast guard left. I could not believe the island suddenly came up for sale but the coast guard deemed it surplus.

I approached the Minister of the Environment and we had several long discussions about it. At one point he flew down to see this island. He shared my opinion that it was absolutely an incredibly majestic island. On the southeast side of the island is a high cliff shaped like an amphitheatre. It is absolutely vertical. When the birds fly and chirp, the noise is so loud that it almost too hard to take. Meanwhile, seals pop up everywhere and wonder what is going on. I go to this island every year. Nobody lives on it. It is totally pristine.

The Minster of the Environment agreed to designate it as a wilderness preserve. Ownership had to first be transferred to the Department of the Environment, and I believe that transfer is underway now. The last stage will be to designate as a wilderness preserve.

In the future when one of my kids asks me what I did when I was here, this will be the one issue of which I will be most proud. This would not have happened though had the land not belonged to the Government of Canada. Had it not been deemed surplus, it could not have been transferred. If it had been a privately owned island, this never would have happened. Because it belonged to the Government of Canada, it was turned into a wilderness preserve.

My point on this little sales pitch about the Isle Haute is that this is an example of how important this type of exercise is. Part of the reason is because there are endangered species on this island. There are only 10 nesting places for the peregrine falcon in all the maritime provinces and this island is one of them. Several endangered species of rodents are also on the island as well as a lot of endangered flora and fauna. That is part of the reason why there was the total support to convert this to a wilderness preserve.

Both the minister and the parliamentary secretary worked actively on this file, and I am grateful to them for their attitude and their co-operation. I look forward to the day when we can actually announce that it is a wilderness preserve, and I hope that day is not too far away.

I share the member's feeling about the issue of protecting habitat for wildlife. The island is being protected because it is the habitat of endangered species. However it is so much more than that. It is a treasure. Without that habitat, it probably would not have been saved. It would have probably gone to the highest bidder in the United States, or Germany or somewhere else and would have been restricted probably forever from the people in the area, for tourists or whoever wanted to see a part of Nova Scotia which remained untouched. It is absolutely pristine and perfect.

I compliment the member for moving the motion. If it were votable, we would be voting yes. It has a few little things in it we would like to adjust, but as the last speaker said, we could tweak it around. The bill could go to committee where we could debate it and make a few changes to it. Perhaps it would allow a whole lot of projects like Isle Haute to happen across the country and so much treasured habitat and special property and lands would be saved.

Endangered Species Sanctuaries ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank all members for contributing to this debate. I want to particularly thank my friends from the Progressive Conservative Party and the NDP for their comments.

At the end of the day this is about preserving endangered species that know no bounds, as my friend from the NDP said. Whether they are peregrine falcons, other types of birds, large and small mammals or even plants, they do not recognize or understand human, man-made boundaries.

Our country has a Gordian knot of jurisdictional problems that prevent critical habitat from being protected. Bill C-232 would undo that Gordian knot and enable us to do the right thing, to protect endangered species in Canada forever.

My friend from the Progressive Conservative Party illustrated the example of Isle Haute. Isle Haute demonstrates what the government can do and it did a good thing in that case. It was able to preserve that piece of land because it was under federal jurisdiction. Most land in our country where critical habitat needs to be preserved is not; it is in the jurisdiction of a combination of players, including the provinces and private landowners.

That is the point I am trying to make and it is the nub of the bill. The bill says that what should go beyond jurisdictional problems is the protection not just of any habitat but of critical, specific habitat for the preservation of critically endangered species.

My friend from the government mentioned about the minister preserving pieces of critical habitat. I do not think the minister should have sole jurisdiction for doing that. Ministers come and go. Governments come and go, but critical habitat remains with us. The designation of critical habitat cannot be at the whim of any government or any political party. It must be designated on the basis of pure scientific fact.

This is a critical problem. Some 7,000 to 8,000 species are at risk in Canada today. Those numbers are increasing geometrically as time passes. The single greatest cause is the loss of critical habitat.

As I mentioned before, a nexus of good must come out of this, a nexus of cooperation involving conservationists, developmentalists and government. They can and must work together because historically they have not. Developers have been focusing on economic issues. Policy makers and governments have been dealing with how to contain growth. Conservationists have focused on the costs and consequences of growth on nature and the environment.

What we have seen has not really been a debate but three different groups working, living and pursuing what should be common goals but in three separate silos. The loser is our habitat and our future. In sum, the public agenda that we have cannot be surrendered entirely to public institutions. Conservation opportunities cannot be constrained by the interstate system. Global civil societies can contribute more to the sustainable future if they come together in a more organized way.

The bill was not made votable. We are the only country in the world that allows its elected members to put forth bills but decides to make them non-votable and completely useless. Therefore, I seek the unanimous consent of the House to make Bill C-232 votable so that it can go to committee and get the intelligent assessment and analysis that would enable all of us across party lines to assess this bill, tear it apart and make it better for the benefit of all Canadians.