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House of Commons Hansard #125 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was environment.

Topics

Search and RescuePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, last week there was a demonstration in my riding, in the town of Eastport on the Eastport Peninsula.

Several people were protesting for action to be taken with regard to search and rescue by both the provincial and federal governments for fully operational search and rescue assets to be retained in Labrador.

These constituents of mine are from Glovertown, Happy Adventure, Eastport and also Salvage.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have yet another petition from constituents of all ages concerned about the proposed changes to old age security. They regard this as a direct attack on the poorest seniors who rely on that money for daily living expenses.

They call upon the Parliament and the government to reject the proposal to increase the age of eligibility for old age pension and to increase the GIS so the 250,000 seniors in this country living in poverty are no longer subjected to that poverty.

Fishing IndustryPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and present a petition from 60 residents of Prince Edward Island who are concerned that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans fleet separation and owner-operator policies may end, and that this would affect over 30,000 jobs in the fishing industry and the independence of our fisheries and have devastating effects on coastal communities throughout the region.

These petitioners call upon the Prime Minister to maintain and strengthen the fleet separation and owner-operator policies.

KatimavikPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour once again to present another petition on behalf of the people who oppose the government's decision to stop funding the Katimavik program. They are calling on the House to recognize all the benefits that Katimavik offers to the community and to young Canadians and Quebeckers.

I am pleased to present this petition today.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to table a petition, just like so many others have today with respect to the protection of OAS.

The petitioners are from Little Current and Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation. They see this as a direct attack on the poorest of seniors, and they call on the House to reject increasing the age of eligibility for OAS. They ask that OAS be maintained and that the Parliament of Canada make the requisite investment in the guaranteed income supplement to lift every senior out of poverty.

I am pleased to table this petition.

TelecommunicationsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today on behalf of the residents of my riding of Davenport in Toronto.

I have three petitions to present today. The first one pertains to the government's so-called lawful access legislation. People in my riding have very real concerns about the implications of a bill that will compel telecommunications companies to gather personal information, store that information and then give it out to law enforcement agencies without a warrant from a judge.

That, among many other things, is a deep concern. I present that petition.

Canada PostPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, the people in my riding of Davenport have a real concern around diminished public services, including and especially the post office.

Canada Post has given mixed signals on a very important post office in my riding. This petition seeks to get the attention of the government to not close that office.

Citizenship and ImmigrationPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition on behalf of the residents of my riding around some of the more egregious elements of the government's Bill C-31, the immigration act.

I thank you for the opportunity to present this on behalf of Davenport.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of residents of Winnipeg North, I bring forward this petition in which the residents believe, as do most of my constituents, that people should continue to have the option to retire at the age of 65 and that the government not in any way diminish the importance and value of Canada's three major seniors programs, OAS, GIS and CPP.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

May 16th, 2012 / 3:30 p.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is that agreed?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion--Budget LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the Budget legislation guts the environmental assessment and fisheries laws, leaving Canada’s lakes, rivers, oceans, ecosystems, and fisheries at risk while unfairly downloading federal environmental responsibilities and their associated costs to the provinces, territories, and future generations.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to share my time with the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam.

My colleagues and I are hearing every day from Canadians who are rallying against the Conservative government's decision to table a Trojan Horse budget bill that contains measures that will do irreversible harm to our environment. It will affect the health, livelihood and future of Canadians, and it will leave an unacceptable and unequal burden on generations to come.

Canadians know intuitively that this cowardly attempt to avoid real debate on such significant legislation is undemocratic. It is another example of the government's penchant for avoiding accountability and scrutiny while it placates its industry bigwig buddies at the expense of the best interests of our communities.

There will not be sufficient public oversight or consultation on the bill. Communities that are relying on the very protections that are being gutted are being silenced. It is happening because the government knows that if Canadians were given the opportunity to examine this legislation fully, as they should be allowed to do in a democratic nation, they would reject the proposed changes because they recklessly gut environmental protection in this country.

New Democrats know and understand the importance of public participation in a democracy. That is why the NDP is holding a series of hearings in Ottawa and across the country that will allow experts and the public to engage in the policy areas of Bill C-38, such as the anti-environment provisions, in a meaningful way, which the government is trying to avoid.

The latest attempt by the government to hide from the public is yet another blot on the Conservative government's environmental record. From muzzling scientists, to withdrawing from international protocols that included mandatory greenhouse gas emission audits, to killing independent research bodies like the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy and cancelling funding for environmental groups like the Canadian Environmental Network, the government shows time and time again that its number one policy is to stifle as much information and evidence as it can because that evidence flies in the face of the Conservative agenda.

The Conservatives keep forgetting one key thing and that is that Canadians from coast to coast to coast see these actions for what they really are: blindly partisan, incredibly short-sighted and devoid of any evidentiary framework or base.

One of the worst themes of Bill C-38 is the total lack of clarity and understanding on what impact these changes will have on the environmental protections we do have. For me, that is what makes this Trojan Horse bill so alarming. Canadians cannot be sure what the government is actually forcing upon this country.

We see in many different places where this legislation aims to give unparalleled discretion and powers to government and ministers, allowing them to override the best interests of Canadians in affected communities without really defining the scope of powers or important tests that would determine, for example, who could participate in a hearing.

Decisions will be made in the absence of an accountable framework. Make no mistake, these decisions of the future will be politicized and they will be partisan. This again flies in the face of good environmental stewardship.

I would like to talk about some of the proposed changes in the bill. In some of the cases we do not know what the outcome will be. We can see how the legislation is being changed, but we do not know what the impacts will be in the long run. That is all the more reason that we need to have a fulsome debate in the House and at committee on all aspects of the bill.

The entire Environmental Assessment Act is going to be replaced, and it is based on recommendations coming from the environment committee. That might sound like a positive thing, except that the review was the result of a very flawed legislative review at committee. It failed to meet any acceptable standard for a study of such an important piece of legislation.

I would like to talk about a couple of the changes to CEAA that are being proposed.

The bill would limit who could testify at environmental assessment hearings. It would limit that discussion to affected parties. Who is an affected party? Is it someone who lives in a place where a pipeline is going through the backyard? Is it someone who is five kilometres away or twenty kilometres away, or fifty kilometres? Think about Fukushima. How far away did that actually impact? Would people in that radius be able to participate?

What if people fish, but they fish very far downstream from a spawning bed, and there is an action taking place on a spawning bed? Are they an affected party if they live in southern Manitoba and the spawning bed is in northern Manitoba? Where do we draw the lines here? How do we know who gets to participate? What if they are scientists based out of Vancouver and they have good information about what could happen in northern British Columbia, or perhaps even in another province? Are they considered to be an affected party?

It is absolutely not clear what is being done here in limiting who can testify and who can participate. I am very worried that we are not going to get the good information that we need from the experts and from people on the ground who actually are directly affected, whether or not the government wants to believe they are.

This bill would also allow the federal cabinet to approve a project, even if the reviewing body has determined that there would be adverse environmental effects. In other words, if an arm's-length, non-partisan body says that a project should not go ahead—or yes, it should go ahead, but maybe with these changes—ultimately it is the cabinet that gets to make the decisions about whether that project goes ahead.

We also have a shift of moving from list versus trigger. This is a technical aspect of the bill, but right now an environmental assessment can be triggered because, for example, a navigable waterway is crossed or migratory birds may be impacted. We would switch to a list of what is included and what is not in an environmental assessment.

On its face, this might sound like a good idea, but we heard very good testimony at committee that asked this question: if lists are what is in and what is out, what do we do with projects that we cannot even conceive of right now? For example, if the list had been drawn up 50 years ago, would oil sands exploration have been on that list? Probably not. Do we think there should be environmental assessments of oil sands exploration? Yes.

This change would really limit what gets assessed and how the assessments are done, and it would not follow the evidence that we heard at committee, which is very unfortunate.

I will touch lightly on the fisheries provisions, and I am sure my colleague will also touch on them.

One really important aspect is that under the Fisheries Act provisions, we would change the focus from impacts on fish habitat to impacts causing “serious harm to fish”. What is “serious harm”? Well, let us imagine that a fish is maimed, deformed or has its growth stunted. Maybe its habitat is even destroyed. Maybe a future generation of fish is destroyed. As long as that fish is not killed, it seems it is okay under this legislation. That is absolutely impossible for me to wrap my head around, and it flies in the face of testimony we are hearing from people on the ground, who say that we need to protect fish habitat if we are going to protect the next generation of fish.

I will remind the government that allowing the degradation of our environment has long-term economic costs. The budget bill is not good financial management.The budget bill is not responsible governing. It is, plain and simple, an attack on our environment by a government that lacks the maturity or the common sense to see the long-term risks that it is engaging in.

How will my colleagues opposite explain to their constituents, their friends and their families why they are choosing to reject a path of innovation, environmental stewardship, sustainable development and intergenerational equity? I wonder how they will answer that question to their constituents, their families and their friends.

This legislation would be bad for our air, our water and our soil, and it is bad for humans and animals alike. I ask all members of this place to support our motion today in its denunciation of the government's environmental proposals.

Opposition Motion--Budget LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address this issue.

I am disappointed in my colleague opposite. I did not expect her to resort to every exaggeration and cliché in the book to try to make her argument and then to resort to name-calling at the end in order to try to convince people that the NDP is somehow on track here. Our government is all about innovation, stewardship and sustainable development.

I want to challenge the member on her comments about the examination of this bill, because it seems to me there is a full examination. This bill is being debated more than any budget bill in the last 20 years.

Her own party spent either 11 or 13 hours hogging debate when we initially introduced the bill. The NDP members did not want to allow the Liberals to speak to it, and NDP members certainly had lots of time and opportunity to make their point at that time.

We continue to debate. Today the official opposition has dedicated a day to this debate. It is going to committee and then to a subcommittee as well, so this bill is getting lots of discussion. I just wonder why the NDP is so locked into its ideological position that the members cannot even admit that we are taking a lot of time to review this bill and do a good job of discussing it.

Opposition Motion--Budget LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, my colleague opposite was correct in saying that this bill is being studied more than any other budget bill. That is correct because budget bills used to only be 30 pages. This bill is over 400 pages. It is almost 430 pages. With an extra 400 pieces of dense legislation, it warrants a full and thorough examination.

I know I cannot ask him a question, but if I had the opportunity to, I would ask why, if this bill is being adequately studied, is assisted human reproduction in this bill, is the Auditor General in this bill and why are changes to CSIS in this bill.

Opposition Motion--Budget LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party supports the motion. It talks about the importance of our fisheries industry, the environment and how the government is using the back door of Bill C-38 in order to have serious and significant impacts. What surprises me to a certain degree is why the NDP would narrow it down to just those two items in the form of the motion itself.

The real debate that needs to take place is the way in which the budget bill is being used to pass a great deal of amendments. We are talking about 60 or 70 amendments to different legislation, deletions and so forth. Yes, it is going to have an impact on these two issues, but also on immigration and many other areas.

My question to the member is this. Why did the NDP choose to narrow the debate down to just these two issues when there are so many other issues within that Trojan Horse bill that the member would, no doubt, acknowledge?

Opposition Motion--Budget LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague that the real issue is the bill and how it is being used to ram all kinds of legislative changes through the House. That is why the NDP is holding its own consultations with Canadians around the country about what is in this bill, what they want and what their responses are to it. I would invite my Liberal colleague to attend these hearings. We have invited all members of the House in a show of openness, accountability and transparency. I would welcome him at any of our consultations.

Opposition Motion--Budget LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know this is an area my colleague feels very passionately about. She brings that passion to her portfolio.

Recently, when I was in my riding, I had the pleasure of talking to some environmentalists, activists like Eliza, who have devoted a lot of their time, their lifetime I would say, fighting for environmental protection. They raised serious concerns about the degradation they see in this budget.

My question to my colleague is this. What would she say the government needs to do in order to have what I would call a full consultation not only in communities but a fulsome debate here?

Opposition Motion--Budget LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Newton—North Delta is a fantastic environmental advocate.

I would like to see this bill split apart and to have a fulsome debate in the House and in committee on each aspect of it. The Conservatives did not campaign on what is in this budget bill. They did not put this forward in the election campaign. They were hiding this all along. My question to them is: What are they afraid of?

Opposition Motion--Budget LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the NDP opposition day motion.

One-third of the budget implementation act is dedicated to gutting environmental laws that protect Canada's fisheries, rivers, oceans and ecosystems. With the stroke of a pen the government would eliminate decades of progress and condemn future generations to deal with its mess. The biggest theme I drew from the budget is the government's focus on mega-industrial projects at the expense of Canada's environment.

Behind the guise of words such as “streamlining” and “modernization”, the government would strip away long-standing regulations that protect our environment from short-sighted unsustainable development.

I would like to speak about the changes to the Fisheries Act that the Conservative government is attempting to sneak in through its Trojan Horse budget bill. These changes are an undemocratic and egregious abuse of power that would do permanent harm to the ecosystem and to Canada's fisheries. Make no mistake, these are radical and dangerous changes. Rather than prohibiting the harmful alteration, disruption and destruction of fish habitat, it would narrow habitat protection to apply to those activities that would harm fish that are part of a commercial, recreational or aboriginal fishery, or the fish that support such a fishery.

The government introduced the concept of “serious harm”, which talks about killing fish and permanently altering habitat. The question that a judge would now be faced with is to determine what constitutes “permanent”. Is that two years? Is that 10 years? Or is that 100 years?

What the Conservative government does not seem to understand is the concept of ecosystem health or biodiversity. If it did, it would know that one cannot protect one species of fish and forsake others.

Looking at the budget implementation act, it becomes even more evident that the Conservative government is not governing based upon fact or science. It certainly did not listen to the 625 scientists who wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, outlining their concerns with the removal of habitat protection from the Fisheries Act.

In March, a group of Canadian scientists, including many of Canada's most senior ecologists and aquatic scientists, stated:

Habitat is the water or land necessary for the survival of all species, including fish. All species, including humans, require functioning ecosystems based on healthy habitats. The number of animals and plants of any species that can be supported is in direct proportion to availability of habitat, which supplies food and shelter. Habitat destruction is the most common reason for species decline. All ecologists and fisheries scientists around the world agree on these fundamental points, and the Fisheries Act has been essential to protecting fish habitats and the fisheries they support in Canada.

The scientists called for a strengthening of the Fisheries Act, as well as the Species at Risk Act, and the Migratory Birds Convention Act. Yet the Conservative government is doing the exact opposite and sneaking it through, in a most undemocratic way, I might add, its budget implementation act.

The government is also not listening to the Association of Professional Biology, which said:

It is well documented that protection of habitat is the most effective means to avoid species decline and extinction and ensure populations remain resilient to future and ongoing impacts, such as climate change and the cumulative effects on human activities.... The removal of habitat from the Act risks narrowing its focus onto only a limited number of species or stocks...

The government's refusal to listen to science is nothing new. The government has, in the past, muzzled scientists and completely cut programs that it does not agree with.

However, it is not even listening to the wisdom of its own former ministers of fisheries and oceans. Tom Siddon, a former Conservative minister of fisheries and oceans and the architect of the modern-day Fisheries Act, has blasted the government over the changes. He said, “This is a covert attempt to gut the Fisheries Act and it's appalling that they should be attempting to do this under the radar.”

I completely agree.

It is not just Mr. Siddon who is raising the alarm. Another former Conservative minister of fisheries, John Fraser, had this to say:

To take habitat out of the Fisheries Act is a very serious error because you can't save fish if you don't save habitat, and I say this as a lifelong conservative. People who want to eliminate the appropriate safeguards that should be made in the public interest, these people aren't conservatives at all.... They are ideological right-wingers with very, very limited understanding, intelligence or wisdom.

That is a pretty damning indictment of the current Conservative regime and very strong words.

Recently, former member of Parliament and current leader of the B.C. Conservative Party, John Cummins, stated:

There is that potential for serious damage to the fisheries resource if we move in the way that's proscribed.

He further stated:

I expect that there will be justly deserved widespread criticism as the effect of these amendments becomes known in recreational and commercial fishing communities across Canada.

There is already widespread concern in the commercial and recreational fishing communities. I have been hearing from Canadians across the country who are concerned about these changes.

The natural environment is a part of the Canadian fabric. We take pride in the bounty of amazing nature that we have been blessed with. As a British Columbian, I am proud to live in one of the most beautiful regions in the world, but I am concerned, as are many people, that the Conservatives' oil pipeline and tanker agenda will alter our environment permanently.

British Columbians are concerned in particular about the plans to ship raw bitumen off B.C.'s rugged and wild north coast. They are worried about the two proposed pipelines that would traverse our land with the potential to leak particularly in the over 800 streams they would cross.

We know that the weakening of the Fisheries Act will help make the short-sighted pipeline project a reality. British Columbians and other Canadians will not even be given an opportunity to comment on this bill. This is the real travesty of this legislation; the lack of public consultation is undemocratic and wrong.

First nations, provinces, territories, municipalities, fishermen, and all those Canadians who are concerned about fish, fish habitat and the environment have not been consulted on these changes. Many Canadians enjoy recreational fishing with their families and camping in the summer. This bill will affect their ability to enjoy nature. It has a major impact on the natural environment, yet they will not be given a say. It is truly atrocious.

The budget implementation act allows the government to ram through changes to the Fisheries Act without scrutiny, study, oversight or input from Canadians. Because these changes have not been studied, it is impossible to know their full economic, social and environmental implications.

Canadians are rightly angry that the current government is content with downloading major environmental costs to future generations.

Trevor Greene, a retired captain who went to war in Afghanistan, wrote a scathing op-ed this past weekend in the Toronto Star. He said:

With determination, we can overcome all manner of adversity, and reclaim who we are both as individuals and as a people. We face this challenge now with Ottawa, with a government that is taking our country in the wrong direction, undermining the values that make us who we are. I am loath to have to admit to my children that the irreversible degradation of their planet continued on my watch.

Those are strong words.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, I am disappointed that I will not have the ability to meet with stakeholders, experts and others to discuss these fundamental changes to the Fisheries Act. If we are unable to study this bill at the committee, it begs the question as to the purpose of this committee.

As the deputy fisheries and oceans critic for the west coast, I see a continuing trend of contempt and neglect that the Conservative government has for coastal communities and nature in Canada. Whether it is pursuing its pipeline agenda on the west coast or corporatizing the fishery on the east coast, it has become clear the government has turned its back on the marine ecosystem and coastal communities in favour of their big-oil-at-all-costs agenda.

I really hope that all members of the House will support this motion.

Opposition Motion--Budget LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, this week the environment committee is travelling across the country to develop recommendations for a national conservation plan. We have heard a lot in committee about the concept of a working landscape, that is, land being used for productive purposes while ensuring a positive ecosystem balance through sustainable development plans.

Recently, I met with some municipal leaders in British Columbia. They talked about how they have to put more resources into getting permits for ditch cleanup than they actually have available to do the work to protect the environment in that area.

I would ask my colleague opposite how he would address the concerns of farmers who cannot drain their ditches and who are losing productive land under current rules.

Opposition Motion--Budget LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was a city councillor for seven years. I understand that municipal officials have concerns. Farmers have concerns. Road builders have concerns. Absolutely, we should listen to those concerns. Those concerns should be addressed. However, let us not be fooled. This is not the agenda. The agenda is with major industrial pipeline projects, mining projects, and other very large projects that the government wants to sneak through in a budget bill.

If this was a legitimate concern, why not put it out in the open? Why not pass a bill that is specifically related to the environment or the Fisheries Act? Why not deal with that specifically? Why sneak it through with 70 other amendments to legislation in a budget bill that has nothing to do with the environment, or the Fisheries Act, or CEAA, or the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, or the Kyoto targets? There are so many other things packed into this Trojan Horse bill. It is shameful.