Mr. Speaker, last year during the federal election campaign the Liberals promised to restore habitat protections in the Fisheries Act, which were gutted by the Conservatives in 2012. When I asked the minister about getting these lost protections restored, he responded that the government needed to consult with stakeholders.
I do not object to consulting with Canadians on introducing new measures to the Fisheries Act, but I was asking about restoring the protections that were already in the act prior to 2012. Restoring these lost and desperately needed protections, which the government promised to do, should have been a priority. The longer we go without these protections, the more we continue to lose sensitive fish habitat to industrial activity and development forever.
At the fisheries committee we are hearing from proponents of major infrastructure projects who have benefited from this loose regulatory environment. We are also hearing about the loss and destruction of essential fish habitat, but the government continues to approve projects under the old, destructive Conservative regulatory regime. It is not acceptable to approve major projects like the Site C dam, the Pacific Northwest LNG terminal, and the Kinder Morgan pipeline when we know proper fish habitat protection is not in place.
DFO signed off on the Site C dam project despite evidence from those on the ground that this unnecessary destruction of fish habitat would obviously lead to damaged fish stocks. There are many images of earth movers operating in the river with no silt fences at all. Clearly, the government not only needs to strengthen environmental protections but also needs to increase staffing levels to enforce the rules. Bull trout, rainbow trout, kokanee salmon, whitefish, and many other species migrate through this area each spring and fall. These species and the people who rely on them deserve better protection from the government.
The government also approved the Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal under these weak environmental protections. This project threatens one of the last great B.C. salmon runs by compromising the Skeena River estuary. Of particular interest is the sandy area with eelgrass beds called Flora Bank, near Lelu Island, where the terminal is proposed to be located. Flora Bank has long been recognized as important habitat for salmon in the Skeena watershed, which is the second largest salmon-bearing river in Canada.
Again, if proper protections were in place, first nation fishers, recreational fishers, and commercial fishers would not have their livelihoods jeopardized.
More recently, the government approved the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion after failing to overhaul the National Energy Board review process. Shame on the government for allowing this project that will negatively impact affected watersheds and our coastal ecosystem from top to bottom. The increased tanker traffic will jeopardize the southern resident killer whales, including the forage fish that sustain so many species.
Again, while we wait for these promised protections, devastating environmental decisions continue to be made, affecting our ecosystems, local economies, and local communities.
Will the government finally live up to its campaign promise and immediately restore the lost protections before we lose even more fish habitat?