Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-55, an act to amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act. The Canada Petroleum Resources Act would still, with special favour and curry from the minister, win out over conservation. We will continue to treat our biodiversity differently than, for example, parks. Specifically, mining cannot be undertaken in provincial and federal parks. However, with the proposed changes to the act we will continue to see the potential and continued use of exploration and extraction of petroleum resources from these marine areas.
It is important for people to understand that distinction. We would not want to go to a national park, which was free admission during Canada's 150 anniversary celebrations this past summer, and see mining going on by the private sector. Unfortunately we are missing a specific opportunity carved out by the Liberals on this. I cannot understand it, but it goes with the theme of the government.
Some of us will remember when Paul Martin was prime minister. He eventually became known as Mr. Dithers. The Liberals would often talk about a lot of good things to take place, but they never really made decisions on those things. Now a decision is being made but it is a lazy one. It is mediocre. It is like being hungry at breakfast and having a bowl of corn flakes because they are just there. It will sustain us, but it really will not do much other than that. It is the same thing as sprinkles on ice-cream. They look great, but there really is no substance.
Mediocracy has consumed the government. It continues to be a major problem, but has become the staple approach. In the 15 years I have been here, I have never seen less work in the House of Commons than now. The agreement with regard to the percentage of the acquisition of space and protection of marine areas was signed in 1992. We are just barely bubbling above 1% where we are supposed to be. Ironically, it comes closer to the broken promises of the Liberals on climate change. We are light years away from our actual percentage requirement. We are also not even following some of the rules in that.
It is important to recognize a couple of major powers that will be put in place, but they do not have the teeth necessary for conservation. Hence, we had some hesitation. In fact, the thought that we could actually freeze zones, as described by the parliamentary secretary and others, while at the same time allow perpetual work and activity, knowing they are a danger to the biodiversity and marine activity, just because it meets a date is puzzling. We could literally have situations where a change happens rather rapidly. We have seen this with whales and other populations, We could literally protect zones after the damage has been done and the species is hurt beyond the potential of recovery. That is the model the Liberals are proposing in the bill.
We have not met Canada's international commitments to protect our marine biodiversity. There has been some criticism about painting a picture that other people are setting the rules and standards, the international community versus Canada. Our scientists, bureaucrats, workers, and politicians have all been part of this discussion going back to 1992, and before that, about what those standards and elements should be. We have been part of that discussion to create the base for an international agreement, which is very difficult to reach. We have failed to meet our targets, quite significantly.
We are not taking on oil and gas exploration in these zones, and that is important. Essentially we will not have that preservation.
I mentioned the pledge of the international community, the convention on biological diversity, which we were part of in 1992. If we measure Canada today, we are at 1.5% of marine protected areas.
We are behind China. China has protected more marine area space than we have. Japan is at 5.6%. The United States, our partners, is at 30%-plus. Australia is at 33.2%. Those countries use of marine areas is a much more sophisticated way for ecotourism and opportunities there.
The failing of the minimum protection requirements and having the elements related to oil and gas allowed is likened to the creeping privatization taking place. The creeping privatization on public elements, property, and space also happens in our social services and in a number of different of different things.
I want to compare a recent example in my community so people have an idea. In Ontario, we allowed creeping privatization, and continue to allow it, of medical services. For example, Unifor 2458 medical lab workers are on strike right now. Under creeping privatization, their wages are $12.50 an hour. They are involved in blood work, which is high risk. It is a challenge. Our entire treatment and publicly funded system are based on that. Most important, that creeping privatization now has a piece of private profit in it. We could do much better without that private profit.
This issue with regard to the MPAs and the availability of having privatization elements as part of them is quite a concern. Oil and gas is of particular note. Its activity can create further hazards for other types of industries that use the space or want to use it, for example, commercial fisheries and things of that nature. The fact that the minister would have so much leverage with no moratorium to stop it, allows for hard industry in our parks. We should not become accustomed to having that hard industry.
We have had a number of comments from industry and other people on that. I want to read a couple of quotes.
The World Wildlife Federation about the banks of Scott Islands said, “Oil and gas exploitation will still be permitted and harmful fishing practices, such as bottom trawling, will not be legally prohibited in the area.” That is the problem. It does not allow stopping of the extraction and exploration.
Canada's biodiversity is critical as we go forward. We should be looking at our international agreements and measuring ourselves by those. I know we are supposed to reach certain targets by 2020. We signed on in 1992. This is a credibility issue for our country to reach them. At the very least, the government should be benchmarking why we are not meeting those targets and the reasons why. It should be upfront and let the Canadian public have this debate. If we will not meet those targets, those types of agreements we have signed, at the very least we have the responsibility to tell the public and our partners why.
Our country has been blessed. We have invested in our scientists. Under the previous administration, there was virtually a war with regard to their involvement in government operations. The types of connections we have through marine biodiversity and scientific research also help us in other ways. When we backtrack on international standards, at least expect to have some type of discussion as to the reasons why. Maybe they make sense and maybe they do not, but the public can decide.