Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak in this debate on Bill C-45, but in reality we are on the hoist amendment, and I have less pleasure in speaking to this amendment made on February 23 by the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor. I think it has done a disservice to the lives of fishermen and those who are engaged in the debate.
We find ourselves debating a hoist amendment which, if passed, will have a result that is exactly the opposite of what we want to do here. I think we all want to do what the purpose of the act is and that is to strengthen the fisheries and the sustainability of the fisheries. I do not see us getting there with this amendment. We all understand that it is the opposition's role to oppose, even if it does so just for the sake of opposing, but it seems to me that in this case the member has chosen a poor route.
Let me clarify this for some members, because I think there is some confusion on this score, and certainly for those who may be watching. In fact, to an outsider, the member's motion might be construed as relatively benign. After all, how could a further delay of six months hurt? It could hurt the fishery stakeholders a lot if the majority of hon. members vote in favour of the amendment. We are not talking about a delay in proceedings with the amendment. Rather, hon. members would be killing Bill C-45 in its entirety, period. Those are the facts.
How so? It is very important to fully understand what would happen if this amendment should pass. Allow me to quote from the authoritative House of Commons Compendium of parliamentary procedures, which can be found on our parliamentary website:
The hoist is an amendment that may be moved to a motion for the second or third reading of a bill. It requires no notice, may be debated and may not be amended. A hoist amendment requests that a bill not “now“ be read a second time, but instead that second reading be postponed for three or six months.
A hoist amendment must meet a number of requirements. The purpose of the amendment is to neutralize the word “now” in the motion for reading. It must therefore amend the motion by eliminating all of the words following the word “That” and replacing them with the following proposition: “Bill (number and title)--
In this case, it is Bill C-45:
--be not now read a second...time, but that it be read a second...time this day three months (or six months) hence.
I notice that the hon. member has been very careful with the wording of his amendment to meet those requirements. I commend his research staff for getting that part right. However, what we do not notice in his remarks is the following, and I quote again from the Compendium:
The adoption of a hoist amendment is tantamount to defeating the bill by postponing its consideration. Consequently, the bill disappears from the Order Paper and cannot be introduced again, even after the postponement period has elapsed.
Some might say that a better word for a “hoist” amendment would be “hijack” amendment.
I find it very hard to believe that members in good standing would effectively want to defeat the bill without letting it go through the normal parliamentary channels of debate, second reading, committee debate, clause by clause review and so on, all on a purported pretense that not enough consultation has taken place.
Let me turn to that matter of consultation, which has been raised this morning a couple of times already, and the truth of what has or has not taken place in the last number of months and even years.
During the debate on February 23, 2007, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, as he said again this morning, said that there is this myth of consultation.
Let me preface my remarks by saying that if certain members are suggesting that stakeholders were not asked to comment on the actual text and specific clauses of Bill C-45 before it was tabled, I would say that of course they were not. In fact, it is parliamentary tradition to present the bill to Parliament for its consideration and it is up to Parliament to consult on draft legislation.
However, if we ask if stakeholders were consulted on the principles, themes and common sense ideas contained in Bill C-45, I can only say yes.
Did interested parties, ranging from unions to aboriginal groups, know in advance the broad tenets of the proposed bill? Did they know it would highlight expanded roles for them in decision making? Did they know that a renewed Fisheries Act would more carefully take into account the conservation and protection of fish and fish habitat when fisheries management decisions were made? Did they know that it would provide for greater stability, transparency and predictability in fishery access and allocation?
Of course they did. It was the stakeholders themselves who put these items on the consultation table and implored us to act accordingly.
Veterans of this place should know that work on a new act has been ongoing for a number of years. Indeed, much of the initial consultative work was carried out under the watch of the previous government. We commend the previous government for that and for the incredibly valuable input from the standing committee over the years.
The fact is that Bill C-45 grew out of hundreds of fisheries renewal consultations and information sessions from coast to coast to coast, all designed to build a modern fisheries management regime that meets the challenges of the 21st century. These consultation efforts included: the Atlantic fisheries policy review, the Pacific new directions report, the Pearse-MacRae report on the future of the Pacific salmon fishery, the aboriginal fisheries strategy review, and the environmental process modernization plan, to name just a few.
Therefore, to say that the minister had an extraordinarily strong basis for proposing changes to the act is really an understatement. Bill C-45 reflects most of the significant findings and policy directions stemming from these and other consultation initiatives.
To talk a little about just two of these initiatives is quite illustrative of my point, so let me talk first of all about the Atlantic fisheries policy review. In fact, it was a huge consultation exercise that lasted over five years and much of it informed the provisions that we now find in Bill C-45.
The review was actually initiated in May 1999 to create a framework for managing east coast fisheries and to build consensus around a renewed vision for the fishery. It was a collaborative process with a broad citizen engagement approach through which advice and feedback were continuously sought from fish harvesters, processors and industry representatives, from the governments of the Atlantic provinces, Quebec and Nunavut, from aboriginal groups, community representatives and environmental groups, and from academics and other interested individuals. This is a very high level overview that I have given of a very comprehensive process that has lasted a long time. Therefore, in the interests of time, I would like to table a document listing in detail the consultations undertaken during the Atlantic fisheries policy review.
In February 2001, DFO released a comprehensive discussion document that served as a springboard for public discussion and debate. The department subsequently sought advice and feedback based on the discussion document during in-depth public consultations in 19 communities across the region. Out of that exercise came the Atlantic fisheries policy framework and it reflects the many voices heard during consultations.
In June of the same year, the independent panel on access criteria was established to review and make recommendations on access criteria for providing new or additional access in increasing Atlantic commercial fisheries. The panel sought input from industry, the Atlantic provinces, Quebec, Nunavut and aboriginal organizations and released its report in April 2002.
The minister of the day responded to the IPAC report in November 2002 and adopted the new access framework to guide all decisions on new or additional access to Atlantic commercial fisheries that have undergone substantial increases in resource abundance or landed value.
DFO has begun implementation of some of the key strategies of the policy framework that I have mentioned. However, it is only through a modernized fisheries act, which we have here before us in Bill C-45, that we can provide the tools and authorities to both DFO and industry to make significant strides in our achieving of the vision in these two policy documents. Here is how.
The objectives of the Atlantic fisheries policy framework address the major fisheries management challenges. They include: threats to conservation, excess participation and impediments to economic viability, ineffectiveness of top-down management, uncertainty in access and allocation, and closed decision making processes.
Legislative proposals in Bill C-45 directly address these fisheries management challenges through a number of specific proposals within the bill. They include provisions concerning conservation and sustainable use, self-reliance and collaboration, shared stewardship, and stable and transparent access and allocation.
However, consultations have also taken place with environmental and conservation NGOs. In fact, the environmental conservation and habitat protection provisions found in Bill C-45 were equally informed by the process with non-fishery stakeholders, as I have mentioned, so I think it would be useful to touch upon NGO engagement in what is known as the environmental process modernization plan, or EPMP. It is an engagement that actually connects the dots back to Bill C-45.
Building on the results of an earlier national habitat blueprint initiative, DFO launched the EPMP in early 2004. It was aimed at making the habitat management program more effective in the conservation and protection of fish and fish habitat, more efficient in the delivery of its services to Canadians, and more integrated with the interests and priorities of partners and stakeholders.
Shortly after launching the EPMP, 13 national or regional conservation and environmental NGOs were invited to a consultation meeting held on June 15, 2004. All participants expressed support for the direction that DFO was taking on the EPMP and made a number of suggestions on how they could help. In September 2004 eight NGOs agreed to establish a steering committee to identify common areas of interest and priorities for fish habitat management and the development of an agreement.
Throughout 2005 and 2006 the steering committee held numerous meetings, prepared discussion papers, and organized and conducted a national workshop. The purpose was to confirm areas of common interest, to set short, medium and long term priorities, and to establish objectives to be addressed through an agreement expected to be signed in 2007.
On October 12, 2005 the department held a session with environmental NGOs on the EPMP and Fisheries Act renewal. The meeting took place in Ottawa and via webcast across the country.
In April 2006 DFO wrote to the Canadian Environmental Network and several prominent ENGOs proposing that a joint committee be established to organize a major national workshop on these and related matters. The joint committee was established and a workshop was held in October 2006 with 25 conservation and environmental NGO representatives from across Canada, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, an observer from the Assembly of First Nations, and staff from DFO's regional offices and national headquarters.
Among other things, and I stress this, the workshop discussed renewal of the Fisheries Act. Following the workshop, an ENGO delegation met with staff from the minister's office and senior DFO officials. The workshop provided a sound base for establishing an important dialogue on habitat management with ENGOs and has resulted in the establishment of a national fish habitat management coordinating committee to pursue its recommendations.
Further, throughout 2006, DFO regional and headquarters staff held sessions on the modernization plans and Fisheries Act renewal across Canada, with municipalities, industry associations, aboriginal groups, federal government departments, provincial agencies, consultants, associations of professionals, community and voluntary groups, and NGOs.
I know that I have gone into what some members might consider tedious detail on such endeavours to outline just how significant and comprehensive the consultation process has been. It is equally clear that broader based consultations have been just as rigorous.
As I reiterated in the debate held on February 23 in this place, between August 2005 and December 2006, DFO officials met over 300 different Canadian stakeholder groups to discuss the modernization initiative. They represented a very substantial cross-section of first nations interests, recreational and commercial fishers and processors, natural resource industries, ENGOs and the public.
Following meetings with provincial and territorial fisheries and aquaculture ministers in March and May 2006, it was evident that there was a strong desire from our provincial and territorial partners to push for changes to the Fisheries Act. As we have said many times already, it is 138 or 139 years old.
Then, at a meeting of the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers in Yellowknife in October 2006, we were urged to introduce changes to the Fisheries Act that would foster enhanced federal, provincial and territorial collaboration and help promote a stable, transparent and predictable decision making environment. So much for the consultation myth.
Further, it is not as if the consultation process ended with the introduction of the bill. Following the tabling of the bill, DFO sent thousands of letters to stakeholders and provided over 100 detailed information sessions to a vast number of groups to help them understand the parliamentary process, details of the bill and how they could provide input. The department has also met with almost all the provinces and territories to provide technical briefings.
DFO headquarters, as well as regional offices, either held telephone conferences or met with about 125 key stakeholders within 48 hours of tabling. These stakeholders included the commercial fishing industry, the recreational fishing industry, ENGOs, resource industries, aboriginal groups, other federal government departments, as well as representatives from provincial and territorial governments. The department continues to hold follow-up information sessions.
The minister himself sent out over 1,000 letters to stakeholders in mid-December, including about half to first nation and aboriginal groups, alerting them to the fact that the bill was tabled and where to find it. Canadians across the country are making their views known now by communicating with their MPs, their minister, myself, the media and so on, which is exactly how the democratic process should work.
In short, we took and are taking extraordinary steps to engage our stakeholders and seek their input into the policy directions on the new legislation.
If the process should be allowed to go forward, formal consultation on Bill C-45 will take place through the parliamentary process. The standing committee may invite individuals and representatives of organizations who have an interest in the legislation to provide comments either in writing or by personal appearance. The public will also have an opportunity for input as the bill goes through a similar process in the Senate.
Once the bill becomes law, stakeholders and anyone who has an interest in the issue will have a further opportunity to provide input and offer views of how the various sections of this legislation should be made operational, that is, through the regulations. This will be done through a transparent and open process.
Under the renewed Fisheries Act, the commitment to encourage the participation of Canadians in the making of decisions that affect the management of the fisheries and the conservation or protection of fish or fish habitat will be a principle that the minister and every person engaged in the administration of the new act will take into account.
In addition to the ongoing engagement of stakeholders, this principle will be made a reality through general power for the minister to establish advisory panels for a wide variety of purposes. We find that in the bill.
Finally, stakeholders now have had more than four months to digest the information and few have indicated that there are elements of the bill that surprise them. They may disagree with some of the details on how certain sections are worded but there is no new policy change in the bill that has not been heard or seen before. Therefore, we strongly believe that it is now up to the parliamentary committee to consult on the wording of the bill after second reading.
Do we pretend that the bill is perfect? Of course not. However, we believe that it is as close to perfect that six years of consultation and compromise will allow.
If this amendment goes through, resulting in the killing of Bill C-45, then the tens of thousands of hours of consultation with stakeholders that have taken place under our watch and under the watch of the previous government will have gone on for nothing. I cannot imagine anything more disrespectful to those stakeholders, not to mention the whole notion of parliamentary procedure, process and democracy.
It is time to move forward now. Fishery stakeholders cannot afford to wait any longer. The fishery has changed, the industry has changed and resource users have changed. The current act no longer gets the job done and Bill C-45 would.
I encourage all hon. members to not let this hoist amendment become a hijack amendment. What is on the line here are six years of intense consultations and the time and trust of stakeholders.
What is ultimately at stake here? Nothing less than the lives and livelihoods of countless thousands of Canadians, as well as the critical measures in the bill that would help preserve and protect our precious rivers, streams and ocean waters.
If we let Bill C-45 die on the order paper, who can predict when another version of the bill will see the light of day? It is time to move forward now. Fishery stakeholders cannot afford to wait any longer and we want to get the job done.