Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this bill. Three areas of my riding of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca are surrounded by the beautiful Pacific Ocean. The Straits of Juan de Fuca curve around the southwestern part of my riding. It is truly a gorgeous part of the world and I invite everybody to come down and visit.
This bill is particularly important, not only to my riding but also to Canadians from coast to coast to coast. It does have some good parts to it but I will outline some of the flaws, the neglect and the disinterest that the government has applied to our oceans and waterways since it came into power. I also will provide the government with solutions that will enable it to do the right thing and make changes that are reflective of the public interest with respect to the management of our oceans and of our navigable waters.
We know that our oceans provide life. Ninety-seven percent of the world's water is in our oceans, made up of 3% of salt, and 1.35 billion cubic kilometers of water exists in our oceans. From the phytoplankton that provides the cornerstone and the basis of the food pyramid to the larger mammal species, it is truly a remarkable thing to behold.
The oceans are also critically important to our lives. I will go through a number of things that will outline the problems and solutions that affect our oceans that only urgent action will address.
Before I go on, I want to deal with the changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act because they are extremely important to all Canadians. As I said before, navigable waters are designed, if one can navigate through it, it is determined to be a Crown property and therefore subject to federal regulation. To arrest that, the government, in parts of Bill C-10 that it put forward, eliminated environmental assessments with few exceptions for development products on Canadian waterways. Second, it allowed Canadian rivers to be separated into those that were deemed to be worthy of being protected from those that were not deemed to be worthy of being protected. These classifications would be made not in a public forum, but in cabinet, in-House with no public assessment and no public input, in secret. Fourth, these decisions could be made on political expediency without any effort to apply science, research and environmental protection.
In my view we need to, first, restore the existing environmental assessment requirements; second, remove the minister's discretion on major construction projects as listed in the legislation, specifically dams, causeways, bridges and booms; and third, remove the power of government to arbitrarily divide Canada's rivers into those it considers worthy versus those it somehow considers less valuable.
The free passage of Canadians on our waterways goes as far back in history to the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215. However, in Bill C-10, the government ripped up that arrangement between the people of our country and their rights to the navigable waters of our nation. This will be a big issue in the next election. The government is now put on notice that it must make the changes or it will pay the price in the next election.
I want to speak to the issue of boats. In many of our ridings, people dump their boats into the ocean and walk away. There is no repercussion whatsoever for individuals who dump their boats into the ocean. These boats are an environmental hazard and a human hazard. In fact, a person in my riding was climbing into one of these boats and died as a result of it.
What the municipalities are finding is that the federal government will not take responsibility for the boats, nor will the individuals, and the province washes its hands. The municipalities now have an environmental problem with no ability to deal with it.
I call upon the government to deal with this issue and develop a process whereby the owners of these boats will be held responsible for removing them and, if they are not removed, the owners will be prosecuted. In my riding of Sooke, British Columbia, we have more than 20 boats that need to be removed because they are a hazard.
The largest boondoggle in Canadian history is about to take place in Victoria. It is a $2 billion sewage treatment plant that is not necessary at all and the science does not support it.
In British Columbia right now we have what is equivalent to secondary sewage treatment. The secondary sewage treatment happens as a result of the natural ebb and flow that exists within the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Contrary to the knowledge of some, sewage goes through, ends in an outfall and is sieved all the way through. Nothing larger than something that is six millimetres in diameter is actually released.
The problem that Victoria has, from an environmental perspective, is that its storm drainage system is fractured and it has become the source of the environmental hazards that we have now. It is a $2 billion infrastructure project of which the public will not get the gains that governments believe they will have. It will not remove the persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals, toxins, pathogens and pharmaceuticals that we want to get out.
How do we deal with that? We invest in a storm drainage system and have better source control than what we have, and, for heaven's sake, do not pursue this $2 billion boondoggle that is about to happen in Victoria.
It is not by accident that I have on our side of those who are against this, six chief medical officers in the greater Victoria area who think this is a boondoggle. Eight of the top ocean scientists at the University of Victoria think this is a boondoggle. The responsible sewage treatment group is made up of six chief medical officers and more than ten top ocean scientists.
The government should listen to the science and to listen to the chief medical officers. They are the ones who know. They have the science. This current project is not following the science. I warn the government that it will run into a very serious problem of a $2 billion boondoggle that it will wear unless it deals with the science, listen to the facts and work together with the groups that can put forth the effective infrastructure projects that will deal with the problems that the government and those of us who live in Victoria are deeply concerned about. However, this is not the way to go.
On the issue of the Coast Guard, the government put forth a Coast Guard assessment for Victoria. I must say that the Straits of Juan de Fuca is one of the busiest shipping zones in the entire world. However, what is shocking is that Victoria has no close-by ability to respond with its Coast Guard to a crisis that will occur in and around Victoria. This is a problem that needs to be rectified.
The Coast Guard did an assessment. There are solutions that have been sitting there for years. A 40-plus foot boat is sitting in Sidney doing absolutely nothing. I urge the government to move that boat to Victoria to provide the rapid response that is needed for crises that can and will occur in the Straits of Juan de Fuca.
Ocean traffic is a very big concern for those of us who live on Vancouver Island. All of us know that if a tanker runs aground in the area we will have a catastrophic oil spill. We have had some misinformation and a lack of clarity on this particular issue. I strongly recommend that the government provide clarity on the use of double hulled ships in the straits and to provide an effective conduit for tankers so they will not go through areas that are narrow and where the threat of a tanker to run aground is very high.
That route needs to be established, clarified and communicated to the people of British Columbia. and it should be done as soon as possible.
The Arctic is a serious challenge. We know the government, justifiably, has a new interest in this, which we commend and applaud. However, there are aspects in the Arctic that need to be addressed. One of the central keystone species in the Arctic is a small Arctic cod. That Arctic cod is going to be fished by countries like Finland and that will have catastrophic impacts upon the other species that live in the region.
I will put this into context. This means that one-third of all sea mammal species are threatened or on the brink of extinction. This needs to be addressed because as these species are tied into the web of biodiversity that we have in our world, they are part of the chain of life. If we take out a part of that chain, then the rest of the chain can be negatively affected. We are a part of that food chain. I strongly recommend that the government deal with this.
The next point I want to make is on the issue of forestry practices. People in my province are cutting down trees right to the edge of salmon bearing streams. There is a severe lack of oversight and accountability and the impact is what we are seeing right now and one of the contributing factors of the collapse of our salmon species on the west coast. We do not want to see our fishermen in British Columbia fall to the same fate that happened on the east coast with the collapse of the cod fishery. We need to do things today to prevent the collapse of the salmon fishery on the west coast from happening so we can have a sustainable fishery within Canada on the west coast. I strongly urge the federal government to work with the provincial government to establish enforced forestry practices codes that do not allow companies to deforest right down to the water's edge.
In official development, we have an opportunity to deal with taking the forests of the world and indulge in something called REDD. REDD is a program that pays for critical habitats and forests to not be cut down. This could be part of Copenhagen, part of Kyoto 2. The minister could link up human development with environmental protection. There are solutions to that missing link and we will get to that, I am sure, after question period.