House of Commons Hansard #86 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was targets.


Notice of MotionWays and Means

October 3rd, 2016 / 11:05 a.m.

Markham—Thornhill Ontario


John McCallum LiberalMinister of Immigration

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 83(1), I wish to table two notices of ways and means motions to amend the Income Tax Act.

Pursuant to Standing Order 83(2), I ask that orders of the day be designated for consideration of these motions.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

moved that Bill S-208, An Act respecting National Seal Products Day, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, before I start, I want to say that in 2004-05, when I was first elected, the minister of fisheries and oceans at that time was one of the strongest, most powerful advocates for the sealing industry that this country has ever seen. That, sir, was you, and I thank you very much for that. We all thank you for your service in that cause. That was not just a way of trying to win favour with the Speaker. I am serious about the issue.

This is a very important day for us, and also for a wonderful person, the former Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette. She was the champion of this in the Senate in 2014. The bill died on the Order Paper, and then it came back, of course, moved successfully through the Senate, and now it sits here in the House of Commons. I am honoured to move this.

We are proposing to vote for May 20 to be national seal products day. First of all, why May 20? That is a good question. May 20 coincides with European Maritime Day. The reason we are doing this, and it is not in jest, is because in the European Union, they spend a full day celebrating the culture of the marine industry, including fishing, harvesting of animals, and all fisheries around the European Union and the entire continent.

Senator Hervieux-Payette thought to have this day coincide with that day as a way of celebrating what we do in the way of harvesting this animal. As we all know, a few years ago, the European Union introduced a ban on seal products, which we vehemently opposed at the time. We challenged it through the WTO, rather unsuccessfully, but nevertheless it exists. There was an exemption for indigenous persons. I will talk about that in my speech a little later. I understand the member for Cariboo—Prince George will be talking about the indigenous factor for seal products. I thank him in advance for doing that.

I also want to thank the seconder of this bill, the member for Laurentides—Labelle, who worked on this when he used to work for me. He worked on this quite a bit. I am happy to say that he is seconding the bill. It is also very fitting that the mover of this today is from Newfoundland and Labrador, and the seconder is from Quebec. These are the two provinces that have harvested seals the most in the commercial industry.

The gulf seal fishery—because we call it a fishery even though they are mammals—in Quebec, and the other seal fishery, primarily in Newfoundland and Labrador, in an area called “The Front”, takes place in April and May.

As we go into this right now, I want to talk about the industry itself and what it has done for the commercial side in the coastal communities. Certainly over the last 10 years, there has been a decline in a major way. By way of illustration, in 2004, $18 million of seal products were exported, primarily in meat, oil, and, of course, pelts, which was the most at the time. The pelts constitute the garment industry. These are garments such as boots, mittens, slippers, and bow ties.

This one, incidentally, was given to me by the Hon. John Crosbie of Newfoundland and Labrador. I wear it very proudly. He was a true advocate for the industry. Recently, he set up a sealers memorial in the town of Elliston, Newfoundland and Labrador. I thank him for this, and I wear it today as such. If anyone has seal products, I suggest they wear them over the next while. I see that some members are wearing them, and I thank them for that.

Let us look at 2004 again. There was $18 million in exports around the world, primarily in nations such as Norway, Russia, throughout the European Union, some at that point in Asia, not a lot, like we have now, and China, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong. However, that point was the peak of the industry. One pelt would get just over $100. Today's pelt price is just under $20. That gives us an idea of how devastating it has been.

There are a couple of other factors as well. Several years of the strong dollar did not help. Also, there has been a substantial amount of ice cover, both east of Quebec, Îles de la Madeleine in particular, and also in Newfoundland and Labrador. That did not help the situation.

It was some $18 million that was the value back then. Today, the exports are just over $300,000. It has taken a downturn. I mentioned earlier the ban on seal products in the European Union. Russia has also banned seal products. I am not sure about that one, simply because it was a major importer of seal products. President Putin felt, in his infinite wisdom, that banning seal products was a good thing to do, and it put a lot of people out of work.

Here in Canada, of course, we do not have a ban, but we have an industry that is being recognized for a humane hunt and harvest of these animals. In 2009, through the marine mammal regulations, we put through a three-step process for a kill of a particular seal. It is mandatory training now for commercial licence holders to do this. An independent group of veterinarians, an international group by the way, said a while ago that it represented a humane harvest, more humane than in many cases of domesticated animals, and certainly more humane than other hunts that have taken place throughout Europe.

I will give an example. Several years ago, I put a motion in the House to ban lederhosen. I am not kidding. The reason I did that is there is an unregulated hunt that takes place with deer and boar animals in Germany. The Germans harvest it primarily through Bavaria, but basically it is not as regulated as the seal hunt is here. The harvesting of seals is very regulated, but their wild hunts are not so much. I put a motion in the House. Since they were going to ban seal products, it made sense. They were killing all these animals to create lederhosen. It never got to a vote. I did it in jest. Nevertheless, I wanted to make the point that if they were going to say that the harvesting of seals is inhumane, then they have to open up the debate to all animals being harvested.

How do we harvest our animals? We know about cruelty to animals in domesticated ways; we know about cruelty to animals in general. However, let us look at the situation we have here. We have a highly regulated harvest of a mammal that represents a great commercial value. We do not get as much from it as we used to. It has a value of $34 million in one year as far as landed value is concerned, and these are primarily harp seals. However, we understand that by doing the steps, such as mandatory training in the three-step process for the harvesting of the animal, that makes it humane. These are all international standards that are looked upon by international animal welfare groups. Some of them said “yes”, most of them said “no”, but the problem is that the ones who said no did it, in my opinion, in a very selfish manner.

I mentioned earlier about deer and boar that are harvested in Germany and it being less regulated than our hunt. The reason it is not highlighted as much is because putting a deer or a boar animal on the front of a pamphlet to raise money does not work as well as putting a seal pup on there, now does it? Therein lies the problem that we have had for many, many years.

If we look at the seal pup when it is born, it has white fur. Protesters use that as a way of putting forward their mission to raise money for their individual groups. It is demagoguery at its worst. What we have is a situation where we do not harvest that animal; it is much older than that. Therefore, the most frustrating part is the myths that we keep battling against. We keep getting pushed back because those myths keep circulating about how we harvest an animal. It is no different than any other animal harvests around the world.

I had an argument with a British member of parliament one day. He said he did not like the seal hunt because he did not like the way we harvested the animal, the way it is done. I did not want to be too angry. I wanted to try to be intelligent about it, and I pointed out his leather shoes. He shook his head and said he knew what I was going to say, that he was wearing leather that came from a cow, but he said that it is a domesticated animal. I am sure the cow did not really care whether it was domesticated or not; it was about to face its ultimate demise.

Nevertheless, I asked him how the cow was slaughtered, and he could not tell me. Therein lies the mistruths that have been put out there.

The point of this is to say that our national seal products are tied to culture, going way back. I will give members an idea how far it goes back. Several hundred years ago, when the mass harvesting of seals took place, the oil from these seals was transported to London. It was excellent fuel for the street lamps. It is kind of ironic. In a way, the British started the anti-seal hunt campaign with groups such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Greenpeace and others.

Many of these groups have come around to understanding how this harvest takes place. Some have not, however. We have suffered the wrath of many mistruths by them, and unfortunately that continues to this very day.

However, there is an exemption in Europe now for indigenous communities. We have invested a bit of money as did the former government. We invested around $5.7 million, which is a good investment, to allow indigenous groups to market their products within Europe and other places. This is essential because the marketing help certainly will bring a level of understanding as to how we harvest animals in a humane way and how we respect this as being the culture of indigenous communities. Nunavut is now doing that and soon the Northwest Territories will embark on the same. That is ideal.

I know my colleague, the member for Labrador, speaks about this quite a bit.

We can do many things to increase the level of understanding as to how we can get around these lies and myths about seal harvesting, with which people around the world have painted us. We have heard it all. My ancestors were called barbarians for what they did. Someone asked me once why my grandfather had taken part in killing seals. I believe I said that it had something to do with supporting his family.

We need to increase this understanding. A short time ago, when the member for Nunavut was the minister, he went to the United States and met President Obama. He had his seal tie on when he met him. I thought that was a very touching moment. We are going to turn the corner. We are going to increase the level of understanding through the indigenous communities, and all coastal communities, for that matter. I have many coastal communities that rely on this.

There was a time when up to half a person's income was created from the seal harvest, up until about 2010 when the market started suffering.

However, I believe the markets will come back for many reason: first, seal oil is rich in omega-3; second the fur is high-quality; and third, the meat is also good. We are making efforts to increase market awareness in Asia, such as China. Hopefully, it will turn out to be a big market. However, we need to stay away from the bans of seal products based upon myths, not conservation.

Back in the seventies, there were less than two million harp seals on the east coast. Now there are 7.4 million of them. They are plentiful, indeed, to the point where some nations kill seals because they get in the way of the ecosystem. What is their excuse?

Nevertheless, I want to thank the House for hearing me on this. I look forward to the debate and any questions. I look forward to the support of all members of the House for Bill S-208. Finally, I again would like to thank Senator Hervieux-Payette for bringing this forward.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame. I was happy to hear his speech, which clearly showed how passionate he is about this extremely important issue.

I wonder if he would care to comment on one aspect he did not mention in his speech: harp and grey seal population control with respect to cod stocks. In the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, the cod stock is taking a long time to recover. According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, cod recovery is slow because of the expanding grey seal population, which has grown from about 10,000 to nearly a million in 50 years.

Both cultural and economic issues are in play here, but the fishery is also a factor. We have to consider the species' impact on the ecosystem and the importance of controlling the population. Can he comment on this important issue?

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Mr. Speaker, the member brings up a valid point. I did not get around to the conservation aspect vis-à-vis other species and the crowded ecosystem with respect to both harp seals and grey seals. He is absolutely right and I thank him. Some of the most passionate advocates for the commercial seal hunt have come from the province of Quebec, much like my own province.

Nevertheless, with respect to the recovery of cod, seals play a factor in the ecosystem. Obviously, overfishing is a major factor as well. There may come a time when we have to curb the population measures, just like we do with other species, which could create many problems. Some countries do this. They condemn us and part of the seal ban. Sweden is one of them. It does have a cull on seals that affect its shores. Because of that, Scotland and other places with seals are talking about culls. This has to be addressed.

The member is right about the fact that how the 7.4 million harp seals mix with the ecosystem has not been fully addressed yet. We know a lot, but we will need to know more. The seals will play a major factor in the recovery of cod on the east coast, and we have to get to that.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for bringing this issue forward, and for wearing his charming bow tie.

Could the member comment about the troubling issue of people sometimes judging a practice or a cultural element of a society, such as the seal hunt in Newfoundland and Labrador, without having even appreciated, visited or gotten to know the people who engage in that traditional practice, whether that be first nations or Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. We all remember the case of celebrities coming onto ice floes and not being sure what province or part of the country they were in, yet condemning this practice that had been a livelihood for people for generations?

Would the member care to comment on how debates like this in the chamber can allow for a thoughtful discussion of how a diverse country like Canada has these unique traditions and heritages that should not be condemned by people who do not even know the people involved or the practice at issue?

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Durham for his comment about my charming bow tie, as I stand here blushing shamelessly. That is very sweet.

The member is correct. Paul McCartney was the celebrity who did not know where he was. He was in Prince Edward Island but claimed to be in Newfoundland and Labrador.

All that aside, as the member pointed out, the lack of understanding is part of the problem. These celebrities witness the actual harvest but do not witness the cultural aspect that follows the harvest. That is the problem. If they did, they would probably go back with a greater appreciation. I think of a former governor general who took part in the ceremony of eating the seal meat. It was really something at the time. I wish those celebrities would do that.

A lot of people will say that it is easy for politicians from Quebec or Newfoundland and Labrador to be in favour of the seal harvest because it is a popular thing. However, in Europe, it is a popular thing to be on the other side of the argument. At least I can say that the vast majority of politicians from Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador, and across the country, have a better understanding of the seal harvest than the protesters.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame for hosting our parliamentary fisheries committee tour last week. I and others on the committee toured Newfoundland and Labrador, beautiful St. John's and Gander, as well as Miramichi in New Brunswick.

It is an honour to rise in the House today to speak to Bill S-208. Bill S-208 would mark May 20 as a national seal products day each year. This would allow for the celebration of Canada's rich heritage where for hundreds of years our indigenous peoples and coastal communities have respected the seal harvest in order to maintain healthy wildlife populations and deep cultural traditions.

The Conservative Party is the only major federal political party to explicitly state its support for the seal harvest and its official policy declaration. For my colleagues on all sides, let me just reiterate this policy:

We believe the government must continue to support the Canadian sealing industry by working to eliminate unfair international trade bans on Canadian seal products.

The Conservatives' statement of support has been in the party's policy declaration since it was adopted at the party's very first policy conference in Montreal in 2005. This policy has been featured in virtually every party platform since that time. However, this is not merely a symbolic gesture.

The previous Conservative government pursued legal challenges at the WTO and then the European Court of Justice against the European Union ban on seal products. In fact, our previous government invested millions of dollars in the promotion of seal products and the opening of new markets for these products, as our hon. colleague mentioned earlier.

The seal harvest goes beyond just wildlife management. Archaeological evidence suggests that native Americans and first nations peoples have been hunting seals for thousands of years. Seal meat was, and is today, an important source of fat, protein, and vitamins, and seal products hold significant and traditional values to northern communities and our first nations. In fact, not only did seal meat help meet dietary needs, seal pelts were also vital for warmth when it came to long, cold winters. As was mentioned earlier and a couple of times today, they make great ties as well.

Although much has changed in the 21st century, the fact remains that sealing is still very much an important source of revenue for Inuit and northern communities. Thousands of Canadian families in remote coastal communities depend on the seal hunt as a source of income and food. Sealing in Nunavut alone represents between $4 million and $6 million of food source each year. Before the European Union placed an unfair ban on sealing, the income from seal pelts generated close to $1 million annually.

However, seals are not just used for their fur. As mentioned earlier, seal oil can be used for its omega-3 oils, which have been sold in capsule formula in Europe, Asia, and Canada for over 10 years. This is significant, especially for northern communities that are often limited in the commodities they are able to produce and sell.

Sealing has generated part-time employment for thousands of people. A conservative estimate puts the value of the hunt at $35 million to $45 million annually. Unfortunately, though, anti-sealing campaigns have severely damaged the market for seal products. Rural economies, such as Newfoundland and Labrador and parts of the maritime provinces are already fragile, and they have been further weakened as a result.

Just last week, as the fisheries and oceans parliamentary committee conducted our tour in Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick, we heard testimony from Chief George Ginnish of the Eel Ground First Nation on how their communities lived and relied on the lands, the waters, and the resources for their way of life. Their fishery was very much a matter of the physical, cultural, and spiritual survival of their communities. However, because of the downfall of the Atlantic salmon and conditions outside their control, we heard how five of their communities were now among the 10 poorest in Canada, how a commercial seal harvest could provide and boost their local economy, and how it would raise their community.

Sealing is an important cultural and economic driver in Canada's eastern, Arctic, and northern communities. It is a long-standing and integral part of Canada's rural culture and a way of life for thousands of Canadians.

Indigenous people in Canada have a constitutionally protected right to harvest marine mammals, including seals, as long as the harvest is consistent with conservation needs and other requirements.

Promoting the sealing industry by recognizing a national seal products day would have a positive impact on the promotion and education of Canadians and, indeed, the world on this important industry day.

During our visits last week, we heard of the generational loss of culture in our fishing communities. As members know, I come from the beautiful Cariboo, and we see this as well in our farming communities. We are losing that next generation of farmers, and our traditional sport of rodeo is increasingly coming under fire from those who do not understand it and are using their celebrity status against it.

We have to do everything we can to promote our longstanding traditional industries, including by sharing and teaching the culture and traditions that are unique to each industry before it is lost. We need to celebrate these industries, engaging and educating our community, our nation, and indeed the world along the way that Canada's sealing is humane, well managed, with rigorous checks and balances in place to ensure that the seal hunt is in compliance with internationally recognized animal welfare principles.

Moreover, we know that the seal hunt is sustainable in the long term. The Atlantic harp seal population is in good shape, as we heard earlier today. It is in the millions, and has more than tripled in size since the 1970s.

Aerial patrols, vessel-monitoring systems, and at-sea and dock-side vessel inspections, and processing-facility inspections all ensure that the Canadian seal hunt is ethical and in compliance. The amount of seals harvested is always within the number established by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans under the total allowable catch. In fact, if I could point to one example, the quota for 2011 was 335,000 seals, but only 40,000 were taken.

There will always be vocal opposition to the seal hunt by celebrities and animal rights activists. However, it is our job as parliamentarians to disseminate the facts against the fiction.

I have a quote from Denis Longuépée, a sealer in Quebec:

In Canada’s remote coastal and northern communities, sealing is an important part of the way of life and a much needed source of income for thousands of families...The revenues generated from this activity are an integral and vital component of the annual income earned by sealers.

Let us embrace sealing as a rich part of Canadian history and a part of the essential way of life for many.

Again, the promotion of the sealing industry will help bring facts to the table to educate people about it, and will possibly provide a well-intended economic impact for those in our northern and indigenous communities. The promotion of this important industry and education of Canadians about it will have a positive impact.

I will be supporting Bill S-208, and I hope all of my hon. colleagues will join me in doing so.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the New Democratic Party's critic for fisheries, oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard critic, as well as the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, I rise in the House to announce that I will support Bill S-208, which would designate May 20 as national seal products day.

As I am sure other speakers will point out, this is a symbolic day. It is symbolic because it is also the date the European Union has designated as European Maritime Day. The two are closely related because the day we want to promote is essentially the flip side of the one the European Union celebrates. The European Union is deeply unwilling to recognize the legitimacy of commercial seal products.

Our political party has long supported a commercial seal harvest, as long as it is humane and free of cruelty. A large part of the problem with how Europeans perceive the seal hunt is that it dates back to the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Major campaigns were organized in those days to denounce how seals, and especially white coats, were hunted. Many people will vividly recall some of the images circulated by a number of environmental groups and animal welfare groups. This was not necessarily groundless, for there were in fact some aspects that meant that the seal hunt was not being properly monitored, which led to some abusive practices. However, that is no longer the case today.

We have learned a great deal since then, and the seal hunt is an absolutely essential commercial activity. As my colleague from Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame pointed out in his speech, we need to talk about this from a cultural perspective. A large portion of the subsistence incomes, and now the commercial revenues, of Newfoundland and Labrador as well as the Magdalen Islands comes from the seal hunt. This hunt takes place off those two coasts, in the northern Gulf of St. Lawrence, and in Canada's Inuit regions, including Nunavut, Nunavik, Nunatsiavut, and the Inuvialuit region. In addition, the killing of white coats has been outlawed since 1987, so that is no longer a problem.

It is extremely unfortunate that the European Union has taken this position, and I am pleased that Senator Hervieux-Payette has brought this bill forward so it can, in some way, lead the European Union to review this issue.

An embargo has been in place since 2014. I get the impression that there is a type of pervasive protectionism going on and that is really too bad. This decision is driven more by politics and far less by protecting the environment or the animals. According to European Union's definition, seal-derived products are authorized provided they are derived from traditional forms of hunting practised by the Inuit communities or other indigenous communities for purposes of subsistence, or derived from forms of hunting practised solely for the sustainable and not-for-profit management of marine resources. Small quantities can be imported for personal use.

Why are these restrictions imposed on seal hunting? There are no such restrictions for other types of slaughter that do not necessarily involve livestock. I am thinking about deer hunting or moose hunting, or even what we in Quebec commonly refer to as wild game meat. This meat is no longer just the product of a hunt. Commercial zones have been established to market this meat. No one is talking about excluding that meat from the export market, but people are still talking about banning the export of seal-derived products. That is a double standard that the European Union has never successfully explained or justified.

The NDP believes that the first nations, Inuit peoples, and other groups, especially those who have traditionally relied on the hunt for their livelihood, have a right to continue hunting, whether as a tradition or a commercial enterprise. The seal hunt is a way of life and an essential source of food and income for the Inuit peoples and thousands of Canadian families in coastal communities.

In Nunavut alone, the seal hunt yields between four million and six million food products every year. Moreover, before the European Union ban, revenue generated by the sale of seal pelts amounted to as much as $1 million annually.

Seals are hunted not just for their pelts, but also for meat, oil, and derived health products. In addition, there is an emerging market for the oil, now that scientific studies have found it to be very rich in omega-3 fatty acids. This is very interesting from a scientific perspective.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, 5,000 to 6,000 people, representing 1% of the total population of the province and 2% of the labour force, earn income from the seal hunt. Therefore, this activity is an extremely important part of the economy.

However, there is also the issue of controlling the seal population, which is necessary to ensure the balance of the marine ecosystem, especially as it relates to the cod population. I mentioned this in the question I posed to my colleague from Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame.

In 30 years, the harp seal population has tripled. Today there are between eight million and nine million harp seals, which is the most hunted species. According to forecasts for 2030, this population will almost double and reach between 10 million and 16 million individuals. The grey seal population has increased from 10,000 to half a million in 50 years. This indicates the importance of a traditional and commercial hunt, and one that also considers the importance of protecting ecological balance.

This view is reinforced by a very recent study, from January 2015, which was conducted by researchers from Fisheries and Oceans Canada over a period of three years. These researchers conclusively demonstrated that there is a direct link between seal herd growth and the increased mortality rate of cod in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The lack of cod recovery in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence appears to be due to high mortality among larger cod. This study also showed that predation by grey seals may account for up to 50% of the mortality of the cod.

We know that cod is an extremely important resource for fishers and the economic future of these regions. We know the difficulties that the moratorium on cod fishing in some regions off the coast of Newfoundland has caused. What is more, it has been very difficult to significantly increase cod stocks, particularly because of the growing seal population, so population control is necessary.

For a long time, the NDP has been in favour of a truly sustainable Canada and the protection of the Canadian Species at Risk Act. We want to strengthen that legislation and we are fighting for stricter animal cruelty laws. That is why many of us are going to support the Liberal member's bill to combat animal cruelty.

However, it is clear that the seal hunt is well regulated in order to ensure that it is sustainable and humane, for traditional, economic, and commercial reasons, as well as for reasons related to population control and ecosystem sustainability.

That is why I am pleased to personally support Senator Hervieux-Payette's bill, which was introduced here in the House of Commons by the member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame. The seal hunt must be preserved because it is extremely important to Quebec, in particular the Magdalen Islands, to Newfoundland and Labrador, and to the entire country.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick


Serge Cormier LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries

Mr. Speaker, as the member for Acadie—Bathurst and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, I too am pleased to support Bill S-208.

First, I would like to congratulate the member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame for sponsoring this bill, for his passionate speech, and I will also add, for his beautiful bow tie that he is wearing today. It is very beautiful. I also want to thank other members of the House who will speak or have spoken earlier on this bill.

The designation of a national seal products day would send an important message about Canada's commitment to supporting the sustainability of Canada's coastal and indigenous communities. I believe it is a message that, increasingly, needs to be heard.

The harp seal population has tripled since the 1970s and now stands at 7.4 million. This is irrefutable evidence of Canada's sound management practices and our commitment to sustainability. It is consistent with the Government of Canada's approach, including our commitment to conservation and sustainable development goals.

We can achieve sustainability by balancing the synergies of our economy, our environment, and our cultural and social traditions.

I would like to delve into how this bill addresses each of those priorities, beginning with the economy.

In 2006, the landed value of commercially harvested seals peaked and reached approximately $34.1 million, which had a trickle-down effect to other sectors of the industry, including processing, manufacturing, and retail. However, in 2010, we will recall, the European Union banned the import and sales of seal products. This ban had a significant impact on our sealing industry. Indeed, between 2006 and 2015, global exports dropped from a high of $18 million to a low of $366,000.

In principle, products harvested by indigenous peoples for subsistence are exempt from the ban. In practice, however, the ban has an impact on all seal hunters whether they are indigenous or they hunt commercially.

The government challenged this ban before the World Trade Organization. The WTO's final decision was published in May 2015. It led to the general ban on seal products derived from a commercial harvest. Nonetheless, seal products from the indigenous harvest remain unaffected by the ban.

However, the result of the WTO challenge closed the door to the European market for seal products derived from the harvest. More importantly, this had a negative impact on the global market for all seal products, including those derived from the indigenous harvest.

The Government of Canada has since worked with the European Commission and the Government of Nunavut in order to ensure that products derived from seals hunted in that region can continue to have access to this important market.

We are currently working with the Northwest Territories so that the Inuit and the Inuvialuit peoples of northern Canada can continue to have access in practice to the European Union markets.

In addition to working with the communities in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, the government is continuing to work with all the hunting communities, including those in Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec, as well as with the Atlantic Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers, in order to promote seal products derived from the indigenous and commercial harvest and to deal with the challenges of accessing the market.

However, we can do more. Canada must seek other public opportunities to make the case for seal products, and that is why declaring a national seal products day is so important. Such a designation would help us draw global attention to the economic impact of the seal harvest and how the ban on seal products is hurting the economies of communities.

A national seal products day could also help expand the appeal of seal products in new markets. Economic arguments alone, however, are not enough to effectively advocate for these important products. Potential customers may, in fact, be sympathetic to the plight of our sealers, but if they remain uninformed of the traditions behind the seal harvest and continue to believe that harvesting is unsustainable, then they may avoid seal products.

A national seal products day could become a rallying point. By promoting the social, cultural, and environmental issues related to the seal hunt, we can set the record straight and emphasize that the seal hunt is humane, well-regulated, and sustainable, and that some communities with no other means of earning a living depend on it for their livelihoods.

Indigenous peoples have depended on marine mammals, especially seals, as a food source for thousands of years. They have lived in harmony with the ocean and its resources for millennia. In doing so, they have come to perceive the seal hunt as a natural part of the life cycle in the north.

This knowledge continues to be passed down from generation to generation. In Canada's Far North today, children learn at a young age how to hunt seal, how to cut up the meat, and what to do with the pelt. They learn to appreciate how the seal hunt sustains their communities. In other words, for them, hunting seal is not a weekend pastime. It is deeply rooted in the culture of Inuit and Inuvialuit peoples and continues to sustain their communities, both culturally and economically.

No part of the animal harvested by aboriginal hunters is wasted. The meat is prized for its high protein content, and the pelt is used to make warm and waterproof boots, mittens and parkas. Artisans also make arts and crafts out of seal pelts for the tourist industry.

The seal hunt clearly has cultural and economic significance. However, what about the environment? Does this ancient tradition upset the balance of nature? Is it detrimental to biodiversity? Not at all. The seal hunt, whether that of the Inuit or other coastal communities, is sustainable. In fact, through prudent management, the harp seal population is estimated to be 7.4 million. In other words, the population has more than tripled since the early 1970s, as I mentioned earlier.

As the bill indicates, Canada's seal hunt is designed and managed to ensure the sustainable management and preservation of the species, pursuant to the Convention on Biological Diversity's objectives and the principle of sustainable use approved by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

A national seal products day could help us raise awareness about Canada's commitment to a sustainable hunt, one that strikes a balance between economic and environmental needs and our cultural and social traditions.

The Canadian sealing industry has long been a target of misinformation campaigns by vocal and well-funded activists. By supporting Bill S-208 the government is standing up for the seal harvest and for the rural communities that rely on it. I encourage all members of Parliament to do the same.

In closing, I would like to emphasize that Bill S-208 does not create a legal holiday or a non-juridical day. However, the designation is much more than simple symbolism and would carry a great significance. Designating May 20 as national seal products day is a tangible way to defend the traditions of Canada's indigenous people and coastal communities.

By raising awareness of the cultural, economic and environmental importance of the seal harvest, we can help continue the fight against misconceptions and prejudice, help preserve this ancient tradition, and help it to thrive.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Mr. Speaker, like the previous speakers, I am very pleased to support Bill S-208 to declare May 20 as national seal products day and to also support the work of the chair of the fisheries and oceans committee, the MP for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame. He is a good chair of the fisheries committee, which I have the honour to be on, and I see great progress being made.

The bill recognizes the traditions, culture, and economic importance of the seal hunt. The seal hunt began hundreds of years ago and employed thousands of people, and does to this day. These people were and are some of the toughest people on earth who literally risk their lives to provide for their families.

This whole experience was captured in the book, The Greatest Hunt in the World by George Allan England who, in the 1920s, took it up himself to sail with the renowned Captain Kean and be part of a sealing crew. The book, illustrated with photos from the era, showed the men working on the dangerous ice flows harvesting seals to feed their families. Their courage was unbelievable.

I had the good fortune to fish in Labrador this summer, and most of our guides were also seal hunters who described to me the importance of the hunt to them and their families. Quite clearly the tradition lives on.

Bill S-208 should not be looked at by itself. The bill is part of the effort by thousands of groups and individuals to protect and defend a way of life that is very dear to many Canadians. Whether individuals are hunters, trappers, ranchers, anglers, commercial fishermen, or guides, they know that their livelihoods depend on the natural world and the products that mother nature provides.

Accordingly, I was very pleased that the previous government under prime minister Stephen Harper passed a bill presented by then MP Rick Norlock creating National Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Heritage Day, which passed with the unanimous support of all parties. I get the sense from the speakers today that Bill S-208 will receive the same level of support, which is very good for the hunting, angling, and animal use community that members from all sides of this Parliament support this way of life. This is a very strong signal that Parliament stands ready to support and defend all legitimate and traditional animal uses. For this, I and my constituents are very grateful.

However, the well-funded and organized animal rights lobby continues its war against rural communities, and this time it comes in the guise of Bill C-246, sponsored by the member for Beaches—East York. It was quite disappointing for me to hear my colleagues from the NDP say that it will be supporting the bill; and yet again, well-funded animal rights groups have mobilized to pass this very bad bill, which will threaten, according to multiple legal opinions, all animal use in Canada.

One of these animal rights groups that supports Bill C-246, Animal Justice Canada, says on its website that it is:

..working to enshrine meaningful animal rights into Canadian law, including the right of animals to have their interests represented in court, and the guarantee of rights and freedoms that make life worth living.

Another group, whose notorious initials I will not say, have said, “Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment...”.

So much for medical research. By the way, in terms of medical research, people think that these animal rights bills and issues like those we are talking about are all rural issues. They are not. Sixty per cent of cardiovascular research is conducted on animals; so again, all of the entire animal use community has an interest in all of these bills.

Here is a quote from the Animal Alliance, regarding Bill C-246:

The onus is on humane societies and other groups on the front lines to push this legislation to the limit, to test the parameters of this law and have the courage and the conviction to lay charges.

That is what this is all about; make no mistake about it. The animal rights groups have a deeply hidden agenda to eliminate all animal use.

These groups have made millions of dollars on the backs of poor, remote, and coastal communities, and they continue with their dishonest propaganda to this very day by implying that the commercial hunt for seal pups exists when it has been banned for many years.

The previous government conducted a study on hunting and trapping, and we had a number of witnesses who described the importance of the seal hunt, one of whom was Mr. Dion Dakins, chair of the sealing committee for the Fur Institute of Canada, and he made a number of critical observations. He noted that:

...sealing is important not only for economic purposes but also for non-economic purposes and as part of our cultural fibre, whether in an anglophone, a francophone, or an Inuit community where people rely on the resource and these animals for their very subsistence. It has been described as a time-honoured tradition and a way of life among Inuit, francophones, and anglophones, each group of which demonstrates very individual harvesting techniques and expresses cultural pride in the activity.

Mr. Dakins went on to note:

...for four decades seal populations have grown exponentially. Since the European Union ban on seal products in 2009, the annual Canadian seal harvests have fallen well below the DFO-established total allowable catches. [Seal] populations have risen to new heights.

This is was also described by previous speakers.

The economic contributions to the Canadian economy from sealing can be significant. They were around $70 million in 2005 and 2011. In 2012, Mr. Dakins reports that the seal hunt saved our fisheries approximately $360 million of seafood that otherwise would have been consumed by overabundant seal populations.

Northwest Atlantic harp seal eat 15 times more fish than the entire Canadian fisheries harvest and the true value of the meat of the hunt is not fully understood. A viable commercial sealing industry is an essential tool in a fisheries management conservation regime. Sealing is part of the solution, not part of the problem.

With about 10,000 licensed sealers in Canada, there is the ability to manage this valuable resource. The problem lies in the bans, which are basically dismantling the seal harvest. The behaviour of the EU in this is disgraceful and given what the previous speaker talked about in terms of the seal harvest in parts of the EU, the hypocrisy is almost overwhelming.

The Fur Institute of Canada takes an active role in defending the important role of sealers in our ecosystem. They are out there making a living. Up to 35% of an annual income can come from the seal hunt. The hunt happens during times of year when few other economic activities are possible. With decreased demand for the product because of the bans, times are tough economically for many families who rely on this industry.

It is highly regulated. Canadian sealing has among the highest standards in the world for animal welfare as was described to me by my seal hunting friends in Labrador.

In Canada, seal hunting is also an instrument for conservation. Our fisheries committee is conducting two studies right now on how to recover the severely depleted populations of north Atlantic cod and Atlantic salmon, as seals are implicated in the declines of those two very valuable species. Research is also being done, and I hope it continues, on the very valuable products that can come from seals and be part of a new seal market.

In summary, I am very pleased to support Bill S-208 and the people who make a living and sustain themselves by seal hunting. I encourage all members to show their solidarity with those communities and vote for the bill.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business



The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I would let the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader know that I will be cutting him off at 12:03 p.m. That is the end of Private Members' Business. We will then be going to the orders of the day.

The hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business


Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to what I know is a very important industry. I have had the opportunity to speak with my Atlantic caucus colleagues in particular, but also with caucus colleagues in the province of Quebec. As we know, the industry affects all of us in Canada, but specifically the industry in those communities. I believe it is really important for us to recognize this.

My colleague who introduced this piece of legislation was wearing a wonderful bow tie. That bow tie was made of seal fur. It speaks volumes in terms of the sense of pride that many of my colleagues possess, in particular those from regions that recognize this as an industry that goes far beyond the production of meat and fur. In fact, it is part of Atlantic and other heritages, in particular in the northern regions. This is an industry that has not only provided economic benefits but has also been a very part of the social fabric of many northerners. That is something I think all of us in inside the House should recognize.

Our heritage is who we are and how we want to portray ourselves going forward. It is important that we not forget how important our heritage is. When we listened to many of the discussions today, we heard about the economic impact. We heard about how important it is that individuals get a better understanding of the heritage of the seal hunt and the impact it has on so many of our communities.

I would like to believe, at the end of the day, that this is going to be an industry that will be allowed to grow and foster economic futures for many. We heard about the cost of seal fur and how it has somewhat plummeted, but there is an optimistic attitude. That attitude prevails in many regions, but in particular with respect to this industry. In the minds of individuals from Newfoundland and Labrador, of northerners, this is an industry that will not only continue to grow but will see some of the prices go up, which is also very important for the industry as a whole.

When we talk about economic development and regional issues, this is indeed an important issue. In fact a number of colleagues are wearing seal products.

However, I know people are here to listen to our Prime Minister talk on a very important issue to all Canadians, so I will take my seat.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business



The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The hon. parliamentary secretary will have seven minutes remaining in the next hour of debate on this private member's bill.

Paris AgreementGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Papineau Québec


Justin Trudeau LiberalPrime Minister


That the House support the government’s decision to ratify the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change signed by Canada in New York on April 22, 2016; and that the House support the March 3, 2016, Vancouver Declaration calling on the federal government, the provinces, and territories to work together to develop a Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.

Mr. Speaker, I have had many opportunities over the past number of years to reflect on Canada's success. Every time we have done something well, whether it was decades ago, with medicare and CPP, or more recently, getting our national debt under control in the 1990s, taking steps to ensure the stability of our banking system, or responding to a global refugee crisis, our success has been rooted in two things.

First, when we see a problem, we do not walk away from it or deny that it exists. Instead, we lean in, we work hard, and we work together to solve the problems that come our way. Second, when we say we are going to do something, we follow through, we live up to our commitments. The world expects that of us, so do Canadians, so do the markets.

It is in that very Canadian spirit of solving problems and keeping promises that I address the House today and share the government's plan for pricing carbon pollution.

After decades of inaction and years of missed opportunities, we will finally take real and concrete measures to build a clean economy, create more opportunities for Canadians, and make our world better for our children and our grandchildren.

We will not walk away from science, and we will not deny the unavoidable. With the plan put forward by the government, all Canadian jurisdictions will have put a price on carbon pollution by 2018. To do that, the government will set a floor price for carbon pollution. The price will be set at a level that will help Canada reach its targets for greenhouse gas emissions, while providing businesses with greater stability and improved predictability.

Provinces and territories will be able to have a choice in how they implement this pricing. They can put a direct price on carbon pollution, or they can adopt a cap-and-trade system, in the hopes that it be stringent enough to meet or exceed the federal floor price.

The government proposes that the price on carbon pollution should start at a minimum of $10 per tonne in 2018, rising by $10 each year to $50 a tonne by 2022.

The provinces and territories that choose cap-and-trade systems would need to decrease emissions in line with both Canada's target and the reductions expected in jurisdictions that choose a price-based system. If neither a price nor a cap-and-trade system is in place by 2018, the Government of Canada would implement a price in that jurisdiction.

Whatever approach is chosen, this policy would be revenue-neutral for the federal government. All revenues generated under this system would stay in the province or territory where they are generated.

Because pollution crosses borders, all provinces must do their part. To ensure that this plan continues to meet Canada's targets, it would be reviewed at the end of five years, in 2022.

As we are talking today, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change is in Montreal discussing the details of this plan with our provincial and territorial partners.

Over the next two months, the government will collaborate closely with the provinces, territories and aboriginal organizations to finalize this plan.

These discussions are essential, because we know that no plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can succeed without the help our provincial and territorial partners, who have already shown great leadership in tackling climate change.

I am especially looking forward to meeting with provincial premiers and aboriginal leaders on December 8 and 9 to finalize the details of this pan-Canada plan to fight climate change. This framework will include not only the plan for pricing carbon pollution, but will also pave the way forward to better support innovation and jobs in the clean energy sector, manage the effects of climate change, and improve our capacity for adaptation and climate resilience.

I would like to take this opportunity again to congratulate the provinces who have led on this file while the previous federal government abdicated its responsibility to all Canadians. That era is over.

Of course, a plan is only as good as the principles upon which it is based. So I would like to take a few minutes to talk about why the government has decided to act now to put pricing on carbon pollution. There are many reasons to act now, and I am certain that the members opposite are as familiar with those reasons as the government is, even if their track record suggests otherwise. However, today I would like to identify three of the biggest reasons why pricing carbon pollution is right for Canada and for Canadians.

First, pricing carbon pollution will give us a significant advantage as we build a clean-growth economy.

A reasonable and predictable price for carbon pollution will encourage innovation because businesses will have to find new ways to reduce their emissions and pollute less. It will also make our businesses more competitive.

The global economy is becoming increasingly clean, and Canada cannot afford to be left behind. Around the world, the markets are changing. They are moving away from products and services that create carbon pollution and turning to cleaner and more sustainable options.

By giving Canadian businesses the incentives they need to make this change, we are opening the door to new opportunities.

Nobody needs to take my word for it. Last summer, business leaders from across the country spoke out in favour of carbon pricing: retail leaders such as Canadian Tire, Loblaws, IKEA, and Air Canada; energy producers such as Enbridge, Shell, and Suncor; natural resource companies such as Barrick Gold, Resolute Forest Products, and Teck Resources; and financial institutions such as BMO, Desjardins, Royal Bank, Scotiabank, and TD Canada Trust.

These businesses support carbon pricing carbon because they know that, when it is done well, it is the most effective way to reduce emissions while continuing to grow the economy. They know that a clean environment and a strong economy go hand in hand. They are anxious to take advantage of the opportunities inherent in a clean growth economy. They, like the government, recognize that if we do not act now, the Canadian economy will suffer.

The second reason to move ahead with pricing carbon pollution is the benefit it would deliver to Canadians, especially for the middle class and those working hard to join it. As the business leaders I just mentioned put it, carbon pricing uses the market to drive clean investment decisions. It encourages innovation. That innovation would bring with it new and exciting job prospects for Canadians.

As one example, last year nearly one-third of $1 trillion was invested globally in renewable power—almost 50% more than was invested in power from fossil fuels. That trend will only accelerate. Simply put, there are billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of good, well-paying jobs on the table for the country to get this right: engineering, design, and programming jobs; manufacturing jobs, whether of solar panels or electric vehicles; and jobs researching and processing biofuels, among many other examples.

If we do not take full advantage of these opportunities now before us, we will be doing Canadians a tremendous disservice.

Finally, I think that all Canadians will understand the third reason why we must move forward with pricing carbon pollution.

It has been proven that it is a good way to prevent heavy polluters from emitting greenhouse gases that fuel climate change and threaten the entire planet.

Carbon pricing is an effective way to reduce the pollution that threatens air quality and the quality of the oceans' water. Just last week, the World Health Organization published a report that said that nine out of ten people live in places with poor air quality. The consequences for human health are tremendous and devastating: every year, three million deaths are linked to air pollution. We must and we will do better.

We have seen what can happen when governments take a stand for cleaner air. In Toronto there were 53 smog days in 2005. A decade later, thanks in part to the phasing-out of coal-fired generating stations, there were zero smog days. This is a very big deal if one's child has asthma and cannot go outside to play with her friends during her summer vacation, or if one has grandparents who have to miss family events because they find it difficult to breathe the air in their own backyard.

If one lives in Canada's north or in our coastal communities, or really in any community that is subject to extreme weather conditions and the resulting floods, droughts, and wild fires, the effects of climate change itself cannot be denied. There is no hiding from climate change. It is real, and it is everywhere.

We cannot undo the last 10 years of inaction. What we can do is make a real and honest effort today and every day to protect the health of our environment, and with it, the health of all Canadians.

The Governor of the Bank of England, one of Canada's best exports, by the way, has spoken to this issue on many occasions. Mr. Carney has an interesting term for it. He calls the unwillingness to act “a tragedy of the horizon”. What he means is that the truly catastrophic effects of climate change will be felt in the future, or as he puts it, “beyond the traditional horizons of most actors—imposing a cost on future generations that the current generation has no direct incentive to fix”.

With great respect to Mr. Carney, because I think that when it comes to climate change we are very much on the same page, I actually believe that current actors, such as the government, do have a direct incentive to fix things.

From a more personal standpoint, I have to say that I have three motivating reasons: they are Xavier, Ella-Grace, and Hadrien. I am not alone in worrying about the type of world we are leaving for the next generation and future generations. I have spoken to parents and grandparents in countless communities who shared their concerns for the future and who challenged the government and their provincial and community leaders to take immediate action to prevent the tragic and devastating consequences of climate change.

We hear their concerns and respect their voices. It is because we respect the will of Canadians that we are moving forward with putting a price on carbon to address the pollution it causes.

As members know, the government is not obliged to seek the approval of Parliament prior to ratifying the Paris agreement, nor do we need the House to demonstrate its support for the Vancouver declaration. We have, however, chosen to bring this issue before the House, because we think it is important that all parliamentarians, and through them all Canadians, be given a chance to debate and vote on this crucial issue.

Therefore, I look forward to what I hope will be a spirited yet respectful debate on this important topic, because it is one that will shape the country we live in for generations to come.

Paris AgreementGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, those of us on this side of the House sat back and listened very carefully to the Prime Minister's speech. As usual, his talking points were full of lofty goals and warm and fuzzy platitudes. Then he lowered the boom. He took a sledgehammer and told the provinces that if they do not do it his way, if they do not accept a carbon tax or carbon pricing model, he is going to do it for them.

The House may recall that during last year's election, the Prime Minister talked about not only sunny ways but also ushering in a new era of co-operative federalism. Members may recall that. When we look at the mandate letters that ministers received, including the environment minister, we will notice they are sprinkled with the words “collaboration”, “co-operation”, “partnerships”, and yet here he has lowered the boom on the provinces and said, “I am not going to co-operate with you; it's my way or the highway”.

It has become so bad that David Heurtel, the environment minister of Quebec, recently said that Quebec, Ontario, and other provinces have serious issues with the Prime Minister's approach to addressing climate change. In his words, “Quebec, Ontario and other provinces have serious issues because, first of all, a national carbon tax hurts existing systems like cap-and-trade. And also it does not respect the Vancouver Declaration principles. And also it does not respect provincial jurisdictions”.

Henry Ford once said that people can have a car painted any colour they want, as long as it is black. That appears to be the Prime Minister's approach today.

Therefore, my question for the Prime Minister is this. Why is he using a sledgehammer to force the provinces and territories to accept a carbon tax grab, and what happened to his promised new era of co-operative federalism?

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12:25 p.m.


Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that Canadians made a clear choice in the last election for a government that understands that we need to build a strong economy and protect the environment at the same time and, indeed, that we need to actually work collaboratively with the provinces, because for 10 years the previous government was unable to do that.

That is why we were so pleased to sit down with the provinces last March and agree unanimously on the Vancouver declaration, which said explicitly that putting a price on carbon pollution right across the country in every province was an essential part of meeting our climate change targets and our commitments to both the international community, in the Paris agreement, and Canadians. I will point out to the doom and gloom naysayers across the way that 85% of Canada's economy is already based in jurisdictions that have committed to putting a price on carbon emissions, encompassing the four major provinces, and that others have indicated they are open to it.

As we have said, we will not be taking away from the provinces the power to choose how to do that. The provinces can build cap-and-trade systems, as a number of them have, or choose to put more direct pricing on carbon. The money will remain in those provinces. This is going to be revenue neutral for the federal government.

This is the kind of leadership that for 10 years the previous government refused to give to Canadians.

Paris AgreementGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, when the Government of Canada signed the agreement in Paris, people celebrated. They thought they finally had a government that was going to move on climate change. They were equally delighted that the Minister of Environment and Climate Change took it a stage deeper by encouraging her colleagues from the other nations to take it to only 1.5° centigrade. Yet now we are being asked to ratify an agreement in a similar fashion to what we faced in regard to the Kyoto agreement. Indeed, the current government has backtracked on the reduction commitments it made to Canadians, commitments that drew a lot of support in the election, and it has now said that it is going to adopt the Harper government's targets, which it previously called inadequate, weak, and catastrophic.

Are we now faced with a scenario wherein the government will announce today the kinds of measures it is considering putting in place, but does not actually have the mechanisms in place for it to be able to take them to the United Nations and say, these are our strong measures that will actually meet the targets? Are we looking at Kyoto number two?

Paris AgreementGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, it is not just a question of fixing targets. Canada and various governments have talked a lot about targets.

What Canadians expect, what Canadians need, what provinces, businesses, and consumers need and expect, is a clear plan whereby we will be reducing emissions in this country. That is exactly what we have put forward. We have put forward that there will be pricing on carbon across the country that by 2022 will reach $50 a tonne. This is because it will be good for the economy and for innovation. It will be good for jobs. It is something that we will work with the provinces on the model that they want to implement. We know that the provinces are different in their opportunities, their challenges, and their needs.

We are all agreed that we need to reduce emissions across the country. We look forward to working with the provinces on the model that suits each of them best, as long as they are stringent enough to not disadvantage other provinces.

The fact is, we have the Conservative Party thinking we go too far. We have the NDP thinking we are not going far enough.

I think, like most Canadians will think, that we have the right balance.

Paris AgreementGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, to the hon. Prime Minister, a deep vote of appreciation for the leadership Canada showed in Paris. I was there. I have been at many previous conferences of the parties, one led by our Minister of Foreign Affairs. The last good conference of the parties that actually achieved anything was in 2005, in Montreal. In 2015, I watched the Canadian government delegation engage in sabotage so the world would not have climate action.

It really matters when Canada shows up and works to do the right thing. The Minister of Environment and Climate Change deserves tremendous credit as well, for seeking the 1.5 more ambitious goal.

However, here is the problem. With the deepest of regrets, I have to ask our Prime Minister, how can he reconcile adopting the Paris agreement while accepting the Harper target, which will make achieving Paris impossible? These are irreconcilable and incompatible targets if we are to give our kids a livable world, and that is what we are talking about.

The Prime Minister has it exactly right. These children have names. We see them across the table, at breakfast. These are our kids. For the livable world that they want, the opportunity is given to us in the Paris agreement. However, the window is closing rapidly. Where we are right now as a country will not save the planet for our kids.

Paris AgreementGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for her leadership on the climate file and for her passion for the country and for our shared future.

I agree with her. It is not time for just words; it is time for actions.

There have been a lot of targets thrown around by various administrations, various countries around the world. What we need is a plan to actually reduce emissions. On that, we can agree.

That is what we have put forward today: hard targets on pricing carbon emissions, carbon pollution, that will lead to actions by provinces, by businesses, by consumers. Pricing and trusting the free market, the market forces, to reduce emissions to a maximal level, is what has been proven and has been demonstrated to work in the past.

That is why the ambitious target price on carbon of $50 a tonne by 2022, right across the country, is the kind of real action that Canadians expect and that we are delivering.

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12:30 p.m.


Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to engage in this debate. Over the next three days, we members of Parliament will take up the precious time of the House to debate a Liberal motion which asks us to do two things. First, we are being asked to support the Liberal government's decision to ratify the Paris agreement on climate change. Second, we are being asked to support the Prime Minister's own interpretation of the Vancouver declaration which came out of his meetings with the premiers this past spring. There is a lot of confusion about what the Vancouver declaration actually meant.

Last November, in Paris, the global community met to chart a course forward to address the very real impacts of climate change. Each country was asked to commit to firm targets for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, developed countries like Canada were asked to help the least and less developed countries of the world to mitigate against and adapt to the impact of climate change. The result was the Paris agreement.

I want to be very clear. On this side of the House, we Conservatives support the Paris agreement. We clearly understand that Canada must do its part to help address the most significant environment challenges facing the planet today. However, there was more that came out of Paris.

Members will recall, freshly invigorated by the champagne and the canapés in Paris, that the Minister of Environment and Climate Change also promised that within 90 days of the UN climate change conference, the Prime Minister would meet with the premiers of the provinces and territories to deliver a pan-Canadian framework to address climate change. The meeting did take place in Vancouver last spring, but to no one's surprise, no climate change plan was forthcoming. The only thing coming out of the meeting was the so-called Vancouver declaration, which was simply an agreement to agree at some time in the future, with some studies thrown in for good measure.

Here we are almost a year later in the House, debating the Paris accord and the Vancouver declaration, and all we get from the Prime Minister is a top-down approach to government where he reiterates that he is going to force carbon taxes on the provinces and territories without their consent.

Indeed, the Prime Minister remembers the Vancouver accord that happened last spring as being one in which the premiers agreed that he could unilaterally impose a carbon tax grab on all of them. I was at the news conference as the Prime Minister and the premiers came out to speak to the media. After the Prime Minister's prepared statement, one of the first questions from the media was whether the Prime Minister and the premiers had agreed to a national carbon tax plan. After some hesitation, and more hesitation, the Prime Minister finally blurted out that they had agreed that a national carbon tax plan would be imposed.

That forced the premiers to come out and challenge that assertion. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall scrambled to deny that a national carbon tax had been agreed to. Other premiers followed suit, including all three northern territorial premiers, and Premier McNeil of Nova Scotia. All essentially said that they strongly opposed a top-down carbon tax being imposed upon their provinces and territories.

Premier Wall said this: “If there is a notion that comes forward that this [referring to the Vancouver declaration] is some sort of [notion] to pursue a national carbon tax, I'll be in disagreement with that, because that's [certainly] not my understanding.” Premier McNeil of Nova Scotia said, “What the national government needs to do in my view is set a national target, and let the provinces achieve that how they best see fit.” The three territorial premiers stood united and said, “[We] believe a carbon tax would have a negative impact on quality of life in the North.”

Yet, since the conference, the Minister of Environment has used every opportunity to confirm that she plans to impose a massive carbon tax grab on the provinces and territories whether they like it or not, and today the Prime Minister has confirmed that.

Just today, David Heurtel, the minister of the environment for Quebec, stated “Quebec, Ontario and other provinces have serious issues because, first of all, a national carbon tax hurts existing systems like cap-and-trade. And also it does not respect the Vancouver Declaration principles. And also it does not respect provincial jurisdictions.”

The Liberal government is making the same mistake that Jean Chrétien made with the Kyoto accord, by trying to act alone without the support of the provinces and territories. To paraphrase Forrest Gump's mother: Liberal is, as Liberal does. Remember the PM's election promise to usher in a new era of co-operative federalism, of collaboration and respect between the provinces, territories, and the federal government, a new partnership? He even included this in his mandate letter to his environment minister.

This is what the Prime Minister said in a mandate letter to the environment minister. He stated, “We made a commitment to Canadians to pursue our goals with a renewed sense of collaboration. Improved partnerships with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments are essential to deliver the real, positive change that we promised Canadians.”

“In partnership with provinces and territories”, we will ensure they have the “flexibility to design their own policies...including their own carbon pricing policies.”

What happened? All of those promises of co-operative federalism have gone by the wayside, another one of the Prime Minister's dozens of broken promises. In fact, the last year has been littered with the Prime Minister's broken promises.

However, it goes far beyond just abandoning his promise of co-operative federalism. Without a national climate change plan for Canada, one of the very first actions that the Prime Minister took in Paris was to commit $2.65 billion of Canadian taxpayers' money to fight climate change. That was not to fight climate change here at home, by the way, but in foreign countries. He had no national climate change plan in place, no plan on how he was going to invest in our efforts to address climate change, yet he made an announcement in Paris that he would be spending $2.65 billion of taxpayers' money in foreign countries. He was perhaps more concerned about making friends at the United Nations, burnishing his international reputation, complete with the ubiquitous selfies. Whatever the case, the Prime Minister was quick to proclaim that Canada was back. We asked, “Back from what? The 10 dark years of the Chrétien Liberal government, when absolutely nothing got done on the climate change files, except for empty promises and lofty goals?”

Members may recall that when the Minister of Environment was in Paris, she cheekily proclaimed that the greenhouse emission reduction targets that our former Conservative government had carefully selected were somehow insufficient. She called them a floor and implied that she would implement much tougher targets. If we fast-forward to today, the environment minister now admits rather sheepishly that our targets of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% over 2005 emissions by the year 2030 is now the standard that the Liberal government will pursue. Therefore, although I do commend the Prime Minister and the Minister of Environment for finally coming to their senses and adopting our ambitious yet achievable Conservative emissions targets, the duplicity with which the Liberal government arrived at that conclusion is breathtaking.

Here we are now, almost a year later. We have seen the Prime Minister propose what he claims is a national climate change plan, which is simply to repeat what he has been saying to the provinces. He wants them to accept a carbon price for their provinces, for their territories, but if they do not, he will jam it down their throats. He will use a sledgehammer to force them to accept a carbon price. All we have is bickering and fighting over carbon pricing between the federal and provincial governments, reflecting the Liberal government's profound disrespect for their jurisdiction and for the unique and pressing economic challenges they face.

What is worse is that the ongoing uncertainty over what that national climate change plan would look like is chasing away investment, resulting in the loss of Canadian jobs and hurting our competitive advantage in the global marketplace. In fact, over the last year Canada has seen a dramatic flight of investment from Canada, with investors choosing to park their capital on the sidelines or invest it elsewhere around the world where more predictable investment environments exist. If the Liberal government is looking for a culprit upon which to blame Canada's current economic malaise, it need look no further than itself.

To be constructive, what would a national climate-change plan look like? Let me respond by proposing five key strategies: first, smart regulation; second, innovation; third, bilateral and multilateral regulatory alignment; fourth, conservation; and fifth, market-based incentivization.

Let me begin with the first one, smart regulation.

Long before the Paris agreement and long before the Liberal government's preoccupation with top-down carbon taxes on the provinces and territories, our former Conservative government had embarked upon a sector-by-sector regulatory approach that allowed us to protect both our environment and the economy. In fact, ours was the first government in Canadian history to actually see greenhouse gas emissions reduced by establishing regulations for two of Canada's largest sources of emission, transportation and electricity. As a result, our greenhouse gas emissions regulations for passenger vehicles and light trucks will result in those vehicles emitting significantly fewer greenhouse gas than 2008 models.

We went on in 2012 to finalize regulations to address carbon dioxide emissions from the coal-fired electricity sector, which made Canada the first country to effectively ban construction of traditional dirty coal facilities. In fact, over the next 21 years, those regulations are expected to result in a cumulative reduction in GHG emissions of about 240 megatonnes, equivalent to removing some 2.6 million personal vehicles from the road. That is a great achievement. We also established an air quality management system, which resulted in ambitious air quality standards for fine particulate matter and ground-level ozone, the main components of smog, as members know.

Under the watch of our previous government, pollutants causing acid rain were cut by 15% as part of this program. I noticed the Prime Minister referred to pollution in addressing air pollution. We support all efforts to reduce the impact of toxins within our air sheds.

We also invested billions of dollars in science and technology initiatives to address air quality and climate change. These investments included the development of CO2 capture and storage technologies to reduce atmospheric carbon emissions from large-point sources. We launched the eco-energy biofuel initiative, which invested $1.5 billion to support the production of renewable alternatives to gasoline and diesel fuel.

However, one note of caution is that when governments raise taxes in order to purportedly invest in green solutions, as I understand the Liberals are proposing to do, history shows that they are notoriously bad at picking winners and loser. Any investments in technology must, to the greatest extent possible, be market driven and free of political manipulation.

We are also proud of our record of working closely with the United States on joint North American initiatives. In 2009, our former Conservative government established the United States-Canada clean energy dialogue to enhance bilateral co-operation on the development of clean energy science to combat climate change, which as of 2015 included over 50 projects either completed or under way. It was through our government that major headway was made in joint Canada-USA electricity connectivity and cross-boundary clean energy research and development.

Through the Canada-United States air quality agreement, we began to work to align our regulations with the United States in order to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. The fruits of this labour were announced by the Liberal government early this year in Washington, D.C., and we applaud that.

The long and short of successful bilateral and multilateral regulatory co-operation alignment is that it ensures a level playing field for businesses and industries in Canada that want to do their part to respond to climate change, but do not want to be rendered uncompetitive. I encourage the current government to continue to advance regulatory co-operation, especially with our NAFTA partners, the United States and Mexico.

I have a few thoughts on conservation.

Under our former Conservative government, Canada was the first industrialized country to sign and ratify the Convention on Biological Diversity. We subsequently launched the national conservation plan under which we took significant strides to restore, conserve, and expand Canada's natural spaces. Indeed, over a period of 10 years, we were able to increase by 50% the amount of Canadian parkland that had been set aside for protection.

Alan Latourelle, the former CEO of Parks Canada, recently explained that:

...the last 15 years have seen one of the most significant national park expansion programs in the history of our country...As we prepare to celebrate the 150th anniversary of our nation, we need to stand tall and proud and celebrate the exceptional contributions we have made to conservation internationally, while charting a bold and inspiring path for the future.

Some of the things that we were able to achieve over the last 10 years were the following: the world's first protected area extending from the mountain tops to the sea floor, Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site in British Columbia; the world's largest freshwater protected area, Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area; a sixfold expansion of the Nahanni National Park Reserve in the Northwest Territories; three new national wildlife areas in Nunavut, protecting close to 5,000 square kilometres of marine coastal and terrestrial habitat, including the world's first sanctuary for bowhead whales; three new marine protected areas under the Oceans Act, Musquash Estuary in New Brunswick, Bowie Seamount off the coast of British Columbia, and the Tarium Niryutait in the Beaufort Sea; and finally, the expansion of Canada's national parks network by creating Canada's 44th national park, the Nááts'ihch'oh National Park Reserve. We also played a major role in the creation of the world-class Great Bear Rainforest agreement through an ecological investment of $30 million.

Why is conservation so important to us as Conservatives and should be important to the Liberal government? Because our natural spaces are highly effective in capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide.

Indeed, it is estimated that Canada's forests, wetlands, and farmlands absorb significantly more carbon dioxide every year than Canadians collectively emit. Given the size of our country and the nature of our geography and population, we know that improved forestry management practices, such as ecosystem-based management, wetland reclamation, boreal forest protection, and low and no-till farming methods can contribute significantly to not only reducing our national carbon footprint, but absorbing global greenhouse gas emissions.

Any national climate change plan must include a conservation strategy in partnership with first nations, which builds upon the significant successes of the past 10 years. Sadly, most of the Liberal government's discussion of a pan-Canadian framework on climate change has been monopolized by a fixation on carbon taxes: taxes, taxes, taxes.

We should not at all be surprised. Every few years a creature in the form of a Liberal government arises from the ashes and its members immediately morph into the quintessential tax-and-spend Liberal. Such members are characterized by a penchant for raising taxes in order to increase the amount of money their government has to spend on its priorities rather than on the priorities of Canadians. The current Liberal government is, of course, no different. That is why Canadians are hearing so much about carbon pricing, which is nothing less than an effort to tax Canadians into doing the right thing on the environment.

Sadly, most of the efforts to implement carbon pricing at the provincial level play into that narrative and are doomed to failure. It is incumbent upon the federal government to learn from carbon pricing mistakes being made, both at home and in other parts of the world.

Witness the European experience with cap and trade, in which carbon credit prices effectively collapsed under the weight of corruption, abuse, and favouritism, where we now see countries like Germany building new coal-fired power plants instead of permanently phasing out coal. A number of my environment committee colleagues and I recently met with seven MPs from Norway. They shared what a disappointment the EU's cap-and-trade system had become.

Witness also the failed environmental policies of the Ontario provincial government under Wynne Liberals that have embarked upon a disastrous green energy program, and a cap-and-trade program that will dramatically increase taxes on Ontarians. It has resulted in the most expensive electricity prices in North America, and is chasing thousands of businesses and job creators out of the province.

In light of the recently unsuccessful carbon auction in California, prospects for a successful North American carbon market are becoming even dimmer, and perhaps dumber. Indeed, many are speculating that California might soon be forced to shut down its cap-and-trade system as its legislative mandate expires.

What we can learn from these examples is that increasing the overall tax burden on Canadians will not achieve the desired long-term emissions reductions and will only serve to exacerbate the economic challenges our country faces.

That is why it should not surprise anyone that many of the provinces and territories have strongly resisted efforts by the Prime Minister and his Minister of Environment and Climate Change to use a sledgehammer to force them to accept a carbon pricing system or an additional tax on the existing provincial system.

That said, all federal spending should support a market-driven approach to green energy, enhance Canada's global economic competitiveness, bring our resources to market in an efficient and environmentally sustainable and responsible way, and encourage the creation of high-paying jobs for Canadians. I think that reflects what the Prime Minister said. We just have different approaches to achieve that goal.

I believe Canadians are prepared to do their part to reduce their carbon footprint on this planet. What they will not accept is a Prime Minister and a Minister of Environment and Climate Change whose definition of co-operative federalism is to bludgeon the provinces and territories into accepting an immensely harmful carbon tax grab, one that will only increase the amount of cash that the government has to play with. Increasing the overall tax burden on hard-working Canadians and their families at this difficult time is not the solution.

Returning to the motion before us, let me summarize. The first part of the motion reads as follows:

That the House support the government’s decision to ratify the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change signed by Canada in New York on April 22, 2016.

We unreservedly support that portion of the motion. The second part of the motion, however, reads as follows:

....and that the House support the March 3, 2016, Vancouver Declaration calling on the federal government, the provinces, and territories to work together to develop a Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.

As I mentioned earlier, no one can agree on what the Vancouver declaration actually intended to say. The Prime Minister says that it gives him carte blanche power, the moral authority to actually impose a carbon tax on all the provinces. The premiers are saying that this was not what was agreed to. Clearly, there is no consensus on what the Vancouver declaration actually means.

Just as disturbing is the abject failure of the Liberal government to live up to its promise to deliver a pan-Canadian framework on climate change for all Canadians that is supported across our provinces and territories.

With the second part of the motion, what the Prime Minister and his Minister of Environment and Climate Change are apparently saying to us is “Trust us, we're from government”, essentially asking us to buy a pig in a poke.

We as Conservatives will not do that. We never have; we never will. That is why we cannot and will not support the motion as presently worded.

With that in mind, I would like to move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the words “April 22, 2016”, and substituting the following: “And that the House call upon the federal government, the provinces and the territories to develop a responsible plan to combat climate change that does not encroach on provincial or territorial jurisdiction or impose a tax increase on Canadians.

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12:55 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The motion seems to be in order.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Ottawa South.

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1 p.m.


David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by commending the hon. member for Abbotsford and his past government for the investments that government made in conservation. It is a fair assessment to say that the Conservative government built on the previous investments by other governments, as it is fair I think to say that we will build on theirs when it comes to conservation.

He did allude to the role of conservation, protected areas, and the ability of our natural environment to sequester carbon. When it comes to our natural environment, there is a role for that to play in this regard. However, I want to ask him why the current official Conservative opposition is in contradistinction to all conservative economic orthodoxy.

When Brian Mulroney faced a colossal challenge with acid rain killing eastern Canadian lakes, he entered into negotiations with his conservative counterparts in the United States and facilitated a cap-and-trade system for SOx and NOx, harnessing the power of a market mechanism to achieve the environmental outcomes we desired as a continent.

Preston Manning has been calling for the use of either a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system now for years, claiming that it is Conservative economic orthodoxy to use those market mechanisms to reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

Finally, I want the member to address this. There are two billion more people coming to join us on this planet in the next 30 to 40 years. The race that is on globally is about energy efficiency, materials efficiency, and water efficiency, without which, as is widely acknowledged globally, the carrying capacity of this planet will be insufficient to deal with that population. Can he help us understand why as a country we should not just join that race, but lead it?

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1 p.m.


Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member's question is very broad. I could probably spend an hour talking about exactly how we are going to address population growth and to ensure that Canada continues on its path to energy efficiency.

Whenever the Liberals come forward with solutions, they invariably include tax increases. This is sucking more money out of the pockets of taxpayers, putting that money into the hands of government, and then government is spending it on its own political priorities. We have seen that time and time again.

I also mentioned in my speech that Liberal governments are prone to picking winners and losers, to think that they are smarter than everyone else, to think that they are smarter than the market and industry. When they pick winners and losers, they invariably get it wrong.

Our Conservative government focused on an incremental regulatory approach. The member will know that in my comments I talked about a broad suite of policies that will include, as he so kindly suggested, a collaborative approach to conservation. It is going to require key investments in technology that have to be market driven. He has quoted a number of economists. Quite frankly, if we sat down and talked to those economists, they would say that if carbon taxes are not used properly, they will simply impose another unmanageable burden on the economy. They will say that increasing the overall tax burden on Canadians is not the way forward.

I would encourage the member to encourage his Prime Minister and his Minister of Environment to go back and sit down with the premiers, who I understand are meeting this morning. I hope they are able to secure an outcome that represents the Prime Minister's stated commitment to a new era of co-operative federalism, because if we leave the provinces behind, we will get litigation, rancour, and fail to get the necessary outcomes.

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1:05 p.m.


Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative member spoke about winners and losers, and I will tell you who are the winners and losers. The decade the Conservative Party was in power, eight years of which I was in this place, was one of complete inaction on their part to address the mounting greenhouse gas emissions in this country. Yet they picked the clear winners and losers. The clear winners were the major industrial emitters, the fossil fuel industry, and the losers were future generations of Canadians and children around the planet.

I was in this place when former environment minister, Jim Prentice, stood and announced he would shortly be issuing regulations to set limits on greenhouse gas emissions by the fossil fuel industry. To show how serious he was about that, he released the draft offset rules. In the entire time the Conservatives were in power, they never moved forward with those measures. The end result is that emissions have continued to rise, the major emitters are happy, and future generations are losers.

I would welcome a response to that. What great action did the Conservative Party take to address this major challenge we face on this planet?