Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-15, an act to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, particularly since I spoke when Bill C-34 was introduced during the last Parliament.
It is always a bit strange to hear mainly from the Liberal members, whether new or old. Everyone agrees that it is a real natural catastrophe that 300,000 migratory birds die yearly, oiled to death as it were, thanks to the thoughtless dumping by ship operators.
The real question that has to be asked is this one, however: why a second bill? Why was Bill C-34 not passed during the last session? Another 300,000 migratory birds will have died in the meantime. The reason: lobbying. The shipping company lobby controls this Liberal government, and it is the Liberals who introduce the bills.
What is the only change that has been brought in, between Bill C-34 and C-15? The matter of due diligence. Therein lies the problem: the shipping lobby was not happy with Bill C-34. All parties in opposition—or at least the Bloc Québécois—spoke out against the fact that Bill C-34 gave the excuse of due diligence to the owners, the shipping companies, the board members, the masters, the crew. They had the opportunity to plead due diligence.
Today, they want to amend the various items under 280. A new term is added to each, both for directors and officers, in 280.1, and for the master and chief engineer in 280.02. Clause 280.1 therefore reads as follows:
280.1 (1) Every director and officer of a corporation shall take all reasonable care to ensure that the corporation complies with:
In the previous Parliament, Bill C-34 gave them the excuse of due diligence. Now, they are told they have to exercise due diligence, but this little word, diligence, is still in the legislation and will give them a way out in court. That is why I am warning my colleagues who will be sitting on the committee, because there lies the problem.
Why did Canada never pass legislation, leaving 300,000 migratory birds to die every year for decades? Simply because the shipowners' lobby is more powerful than the Liberal Party. It is that simple.
It has been persuaded not to pass legislation. To prevent these birds from dying, we need efficient legislation, fines and prison sentences. That is what the law provides. But this bill is still pushing this due diligence defence.
All of us, and those listening as well, when we pollute, we have to pay damages. Just think of all those who travel across Quebec all summer long in their campers and RVs. There are designated dumping stations. Standards have to be complied with.
In the transportation industry, however, there were no such standards. Naturally, we have to put in place legislation—and I am saying this for the benefit of those listening—dealing with basic respect for human beings and, in this case, for migratory birds and the entire animal population. We realize that, in this society of ours, there is a category of operators, namely ship operators, that did not have to comply with basic standards like those prohibiting all dumping of bilge water in the ocean or in the St. Lawrence river. Obviously, with dramatic results.
That having been said, I hope that the bill will be passed quickly, after very strict penalties have been included of course. As several of my colleagues indicated, we also need tools for monitoring. The other way out for the government not to enforce the legislation is not to provide the Coast Guard and all stakeholders with the tools they need to board and examine ships.
We must be able to enforce this legislation. It is fine to pass a bill, but we must have the money necessary to enforce it. Otherwise, as experts are telling us, Canada will continue to be the place in the world where the largest number of migratory birds die because of pollutants released by ships.
This is yet another accomplishment of the Liberal Party of Canada. Perhaps it takes pride in being considered the world's worst polluter. By contrast, Bloc Québécois members, and other members in this House, have much more of a social conscience. We hope that there will be a standard, that there will be enough money, so that the Coast Guard and all the stakeholders are able to board these ships. We must have the means to send these people to jail.
Do not worry. After a few of these individuals have spent time in jail and have had to pay huge fines, they will take all the necessary measures to avoid polluting again.
Every year, 300,000 migratory birds die. This is a tragedy. But it does not end there. Environmental experts are saying that we are the most tolerant country regarding such releases. This means that we are among those who do the most damage to migratory birds in the world. This is sad.
We talked about Bill C-34 over the past two years. We will still debate Bill C-15 for a while in this House. Despite all this, the industry has not changed its way of doing things. It is still releasing pollutants, with the result that, year in year out, we continue to lose 300,000 migratory birds, in addition to all the damage caused to wildlife, which has yet to be assessed.
Again, this is all a pretence. In this Parliament, lobbyists have traditionally been more powerful than politicians. However, Canadians changed that in the last election by electing a minority government, thus giving much greater powers to the opposition. People will see how these powers are used. They will see what the opposition will do when the time comes to make the necessary amendments to this bill. This legislation should truly be a deterrent for those who do these terrible things.
Why would oily matter be discharged into ocean waters and the Gulf of St. Lawrence? This is done simply because it costs a lot less than having the necessary equipment to process it immediately on board. Processing consists in discharging good water and keeping pollutants for subsequent release in areas equipped for that purpose, such as in the ports when the ship docks.
Somehow money is the reason again, but savings are made at the expense of wildlife. Migratory birds suffer the consequences; some 300,000 birds die annually.
It is a sad commentary on this Parliament. We are not able to pass legislation. Bill C-34 is a good example. The strong opposition we have right now in this minority government will probably manage to get the point across that we cannot tolerate such pollution in our territorial waters. That is why the zone was increased from 12 nautical miles to 200. With a strong opposition like the one we have now, we will have a decent bill.
We will make sure that this standard is respected by all users, but especially by the marine transportation industry, so that the shipowners will not win. We will try to rein them in. That is the goal so that 300,000 migratory birds no longer have to die each year.
There is still a problem. A minority government can always end up forced into an election if its budget is defeated. I hope, once the bill is passed, that the government will allocate the necessary funds for the Coast Guard and all stakeholders to be able to stop this bunch of troublemakers, all these irresponsible people who discharge substances into our territorial waters that endanger our migratory birds.