House of Commons Hansard #215 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was east.

Topics

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, Canada has the largest coastline in the world.

Does the member feel that comparing Canada to other countries, in terms of ranking where Canada stands, is a fair judgment? Canada has some of the most geographically diverse, as well as the longest, coastlines. Comparing us to the U.K., Ireland, Norway, Denmark, or indeed China is a misrepresentation. It truly is not comparing apples to apples.

We are standing up against Bill C-55, because, again, true consultation has not taken place, given that we have such a geographically diverse and long coastline.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Madam Speaker, just as an aside, I had the honour this summer to be on leg six of the Canada C3 150 voyage. It was truly a remarkable experience. I will give the government credit for initiating that particular voyage. The icebreaker went from Montreal all the way around to the Victoria. I think it is still on the trip.

My own experience was from Nain, Labrador to Iqaluit. I got to experience the Labrador coast. I spent time in the eastern Arctic in a previous life, but had never seen the Labrador coast. It was truly remarkable. I use that as an example of what Canada has done. The area we went by was Torngat Mountains National Park, a national park created by our Conservative government, I might add.

Canada's environmental track record is exemplary. I happen to live next door to Riding Mountain National Park, which I affectionately refer to as my park, a 1,100-square mile treasure trove of biodiversity that Canada, in its wisdom, set aside many years ago. We have example after example of this.

Canada can stand proud in terms of our environmental record.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Burnaby North—Seymour B.C.

Liberal

Terry Beech LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today to talk about Bill C-55. The Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard has been given a clear mandate to protect Canada's three oceans, our coasts, our waterways, and our fisheries to ensure that they remain healthy for the benefit of future generations. This is a commitment that I take very seriously and personally. I am extremely honoured that my first piece of legislation as the parliamentary secretary to the minister is for such a worthy cause.

The Oceans Act is a fundamental tool that Canadians rely upon to ensure the future health of our marine ecosystems. A pristine and abundant environmental ecosystem is the greatest underlying economic driver that we have.

Specific to today's debate, the Government of Canada is committed to meeting Aichi target 11 under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. This commits us to conserving 10% of our coastal and marine areas through the establishment and effective management of marine protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures by 2020.

Canada's commitment to meet this target was confirmed again in 2015 through our support of the United Nations General Assembly 2030 sustainable development program. Our government established an interim target of protecting 5% of marine and coastal areas by the end of 2017 to show our seriousness in achieving this goal, and we will meet this standard.

The government is making progress on our marine conservation targets through co-operation and strong partnerships with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, and through a renewed relationship with indigenous peoples. These partnerships enable us to deliver real and positive changes that will preserve ecosystems and species to ensure that Canada's marine resources can continue to support sustainable industries, local economies, and our coastal communities.

Our three oceans are complex webs of ecological and human systems that need to be understood and, in many cases, protected. Marine protected areas and marine protected area networks preserve these ecological links and protect diverse marine ecosystems and species.

Canadians understand that our oceans hold many wonders and are an important source of resources. They also expect us to deliver healthier oceans for generations to come, and this legislation would help us do that. We will continue to establish marine protected areas through science-based decision-making, transparency, and in a manner that advances reconciliation with indigenous peoples.

The government has been following the five-point plan that we announced on World Oceans Day, 2016. This plan is not only guiding our efforts at home but also helping us reclaim our position as a leader on the international stage when it comes to ocean protection. The five-point plan includes advancing areas of interest toward designation as marine protected areas, such as the 140,000 square kilometres of ocean off the west coast of Vancouver Island that was identified for protection earlier this summer. The plan also includes the goal of establishing MPAs faster, based on results of scientific study and thorough consultations. As mentioned previously by the Prime Minister, Canada has taken important steps toward its 5% target, having now achieved 3.63%, or almost 209,000 square kilometres of marine and coastal protection across our three oceans.

It currently takes an average of seven years to designate a marine protected area under the Oceans Act. It requires time to undertake scientific assessments and socio-economic studies, as well as to conduct consultations with governments, indigenous groups, and stakeholders. These are important steps that cannot be eliminated, as they will ensure that a marine protected area will achieve its intended objectives while supporting local culture, the economy, and other needs. That said, a very clear understanding of what needs to be protected typically emerges well before all the data is compiled.

The amendments to the Oceans Act under Bill C-55 propose solutions that would help us protect critical and unique areas of Canada's oceans faster, without sacrificing the necessary scientific and consultative processes. The amendments will ensure that collaboration continues, requiring provinces, territories, indigenous groups, industry, and other stakeholders to be a part of both the establishment and management processes. Essentially, Bill C-55 proposes amendments that would provide an additional tool that would allow for interim protection of areas requiring protection through a ministerial order. This interim protection would be done following initial science and consultations, which would take around 24 months. Following this step, the full federal regulatory process would continue to formally designate the marine protected area within five years.

These amendments would ensure that when it is needed, an interim marine protected area could be put in place. New activities that risk further harm to ocean ecosystems, habitat, or marine life would not be allowed to occur in these interim protected zones. These amendments not only respect current activities but also the need to conduct comprehensive consultations and scientific research before a final marine protected area is established. The time frame to fully establish a marine protected area may still be up to seven years, but there could be some level of interim protection in place within the first two. No longer can a lack of 100% scientific certainty be used to delay or prevent the protection of a sensitive marine area that Canadians are counting on us collectively within the House to protect.

This is a policy that is entirely in lockstep with the precautionary approach, a founding principle of conservation in Canada. To put it another way, an interim marine protected area would essentially freeze the footprint of ongoing activities. Under this concept, only ongoing activities, meaning those activities occurring within one year before the interim protection is in place, would be allowed to continue. For example, current fishing activities, or fishing activities for which a moratorium is in place but licences are still held, would be considered ongoing activities.

To further support this new concept, which is integral to the creation of an interim marine protected area, Bill C-55 also includes amendments that would require application of the precautionary principle when deciding whether to designate new marine protected areas. This means that incomplete information or a lack of absolute certainty, 100% scientific certainty, as I previously described it, would not be justification for avoiding protection where there is a risk to the biodiversity in the marine ecosystem.

Bill C-55 also includes modernized, updated, and strengthened enforcement powers, fines, and punishments under the Oceans Act. The amendments and additions proposed in Bill C-55 align with other environmental laws, such as the Environmental Enforcement Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

The proposed amendments to the Oceans Act have received broad support during outreach efforts to discuss the bill. Canadians recognize that the amendments would not short-circuit the development of sound science or cut off people's opportunity to collaborate and be consulted on the development of marine protected areas. Instead, they would ensure that protection could be put in place more quickly in the interests of all Canadians. We would be able to act on initial science and information to help keep these areas safe while the additional research, engagement, and regulatory processes are worked through.

Supporting the health of our oceans is necessary to ensure that future generations will be able to rely on the unique and precious marine ecosystems and resources that underlie our environment and our economy. It should go without saying, but Canadians are counting on us to protect our oceans more than ever before, a resource that at times we have too often taken for granted.

I invite everyone in the House to support Bill C-55, an act to amend the Oceans Act, to ensure the protection of our oceans not only today but for generations to come.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I enjoy working with the parliamentary secretary on this file.

Time and again my colleagues across the way have mentioned the precautionary principle. Could the member perhaps indulge the House and describe the precautionary principle itself and the measures and the criteria for invoking it in Bill C-55?

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Terry Beech Liberal Burnaby North—Seymour, BC

Mr. Speaker, within the context of Bill C-55, what we have come to realize from the development of previous marine protected areas, MPAs, is that they can take anywhere from seven to 10 years to establish. The ocean is changing rapidly and there are times when we need to take action to protect biodiversity before we are 100% certain about what all of the science will say or what the results of all of the consultations will be.

With this legislation we would be allowed to freeze the footprint. The current ongoing activities would be allowed to continue, but we would hold off on new activities while we do the rest of the science and consultations to make sure that we get it right when we finalize the version of the marine protected area. This means that we will not hold back from protecting an area simply because there are some outstanding scientific questions.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, what is the position of the parliamentary secretary and the government with regard to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the protection offered by MPAs? Do they support the union's standard application for MPAs, or will ours be different?

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Terry Beech Liberal Burnaby North—Seymour, BC

Madam Speaker, I would have to do a deeper analysis of exactly what those standards are versus what we are doing in order to give any sort of realistic line-by-line response to that very specific question. I am would be happy to do so. If the member opposite would like to reach out to me, I would be happy to show areas where the regulations are the same or where they might differ.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

There you have it, Madam Speaker. The parliamentary secretary has just admitted that he is not aware of the standards that we aspire to attain. Our hon. colleague from Windsor West brought up a good point. Again, we are letting international parties outside of Canada influence our decision-making and policy. This is the argument that Conservatives have been presenting for some time now.

I previously asked my hon. colleague, the parliamentary secretary, about the precautionary principle and he said that it is the reason the government may not be able to do the full consultation and may have to designate an area a marine protected area immediately. This is what we are arguing now. He did not answer the question about the precautionary principle and the criteria for invoking it.

Will he not agree with me that for true consultation, we have to make sure that local stakeholders are engaged at the very beginning and that we not have a top-down process?

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Terry Beech Liberal Burnaby North—Seymour, BC

Madam Speaker, I will agree with one aspect of what the member opposite said and disagree with another.

At the start of his question, he said that we do not understand the individual principles we are applying to MPAs. Of course, we do, but when it comes to specific answers on very detailed legislation, I want to make sure that the member opposite gets a very specific response.

In terms of my previous answer on the precautionary principle, it is an underlying principle that underlies all kinds of decisions we make within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, including TAC decisions for various fisheries right across the country. In instances where we are not sure if we are causing harm to biodiversity, we take precautions. That is the definition of the precautionary principle, and it is exactly what we are doing with these amendments to the Oceans Act.

The other aspect of the question is whether consultations are required and/or necessary. The government agrees with that 100%. The average MPA length is seven years. After this amendment, it would still be seven years. The only difference is that there will be an additional tool after 24 months that would allow us to take additional actions to protect our oceans when necessary.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Shannon Stubbs Conservative Lakeland, AB

Madam Speaker, I am happy to speak to this bill today.

In his mandate letter, the Prime Minister directed the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard to work with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to increase the proportion of Canada's protected marine and coastal areas to 5% by 2017, and to 10% by 2020.

Before addressing various concerns with this bill, I want to comment on the feasibility of these targets and on the importance of advancing policies and legislation that actually deliver on intentions. The Liberals are hoping to reach 5% protected marine and coastal areas in three months from now. As of June this year, approximately 1.5% of coastal areas and 11% of land and inland water were protected spaces in Canada. It will be a very short time period between the Liberals pushing this bill through the House of Commons and the deadline they have set. The outcomes of either not meeting the deadline they have set and the target for protected spaces in that anticipated timeline, or reaching that timeline, but with insufficient consultation, research, and environmental and economic impact analysis, are both likely scenarios.

Bill C-55 would amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act to allow the government to act unilaterally without consultation. The Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard would be able to act on political whims, selecting areas and prohibiting activities without consultation and without rationalizing the decisions publicly with the science and evidence about which Liberals always love to talk a big game. What is it about these Liberals and consultation or, more accurately, their lack of consultation under the guise and repeated claims that they actually do consult?

The amendments would allow the minister of fisheries and oceans, five years from the day an area is given designation, to make it a permanent marine protected area or remove the designation all together. Canadians whose livelihoods depend on marine and coastal areas, people who work in commercial or recreational fisheries, researchers, scientists, academics, and industry, are all going to be left in limbo. This is becoming a typical pattern. It seems that the Liberals are satisfied to keep talking about how important consulting is to them but not actually doing it, and especially if there is a chance that the outcome is not what they already want.

During an ongoing study on marine protected areas at the fisheries and oceans committee, witnesses gave testimony on the process of designating MPAs. Callum Roberts, a professor at the University of York, said, “If you want to build on a process of trust and goodwill, you don't then ignore what your stakeholders say...if in the end all you were going to do was cherry-pick...”

Chris Sporer of the Pacific Halibut Management Association of British Columbia said that “if fishermen are forced from productive, high catch per unit effort areas to less productive” areas, there will be an increase in fishing time and an increased cost for less fish. He said that the process needs to take that into consideration and evaluate the ecological consequences of displacing fishing efforts.

One of the points that the minister of fisheries and oceans raised in his speech on this bill was consultation and reconciliation with first nations people. However, Canadians are learning that this another subject on which the Liberals like to talk a lot. As the Hereditary Chiefs' Council of Lax Kw'alaams from British Columbia stated on the proposed Liberal oil tanker ban, “We absolutely do not support big...environmental NGO’s (who make their money from opposing natural resource projects) dictating government policy and resource developments within our traditional territories;”

The Liberals and the left often imply that all first nations people are against natural resource development, which is what they are doing here, yet AFN Chief Perry Bellegarde says that some 500 of the 630 first nations in Canada are open to pipelines and petroleum development. Natural resource development is the largest private sector employer of first nations people across the country, and first nations across Canada support crucial energy infrastructure like Trans Mountain and energy east.

The Liberals need to do more than talk about consultation, and they should prioritize the needs and the future of Canadians across this country over their political agenda. In addition to speeding up the designation process for marine protected areas by allowing the minister to arbitrarily designate an area to fulfill a campaign commitment, the Liberals are also proposing amendments to the Canada Petroleum Resources Act that would prohibit oil and gas activities in marine areas where interim protection is declared unilaterally. Their amendments would give the Minister of Natural Resources and the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairsthe unilateral power to cancel proponents' oil and gas interests, wiping out leases and assets, and eliminating investment and job opportunities for Canadians.

This arbitrary and unilateral authority to extinguish development rights signals significant investment risk for Canadian offshore development. It is yet another decision that will undermine certainty, clarity, and predictability in Canada as a place to do business, and yet another way that the Liberals are violating competitiveness and confidence in Canada as a world-leading energy producer. These kinds of actions cause investment to leave Canada, and it kills jobs.

The Liberals are yet again specifically targeting the Canadian oil and gas sector. Considering the totality of Liberal policy and legislative decisions around energy during the past two years, it is completely rational and almost unavoidable to conclude that the Liberals are trying, any which way they can, to stop oil and gas development in Canada.

Canada has a thriving offshore oil and gas industry, with most of the activity in Atlantic Canada. More than 9,000 people work in the sector directly, and thousands more are employed indirectly. There are more than 600 supply and service companies, and there has been over $40 billion worth of capital spending in offshore development in Atlantic Canada since the mid 1990s. Canadian oil and gas companies also have interests in northern Canada and in B.C.

The Liberals are not considering the economic consequences of once again creating more chaos and uncertainty for energy proponents. Projects that are in provincial and federal regulatory review processes, and approved projects that are moving forward right now, will be put in jeopardy by these proposed amendments.

Continuing down this path will destroy economic opportunities in Canada. It is not balanced. Canadians witnessed this first-hand less than two weeks ago with the cancellation of energy east. After spending $1 billion, and years into the regulatory review, harmful Liberal policies forced TransCanada to abandon a project that would have added $55 billion to Canada's GDP, created over 14,000 jobs, and brought benefits to communities across the entire country.

Similarly, the Liberals are harming Canadian energy development with their proposed oil tanker ban. Somehow, the Liberals have managed to propose a bill that does not actually stop American or foreign oil tankers, or tankers carrying anything other than crude oil, from being in a designated area.

Likewise, the Liberals have announced a five-year moratorium on drilling in the Arctic, completely ignoring the very Canadians it negatively affects. The Premier of Nunavut said, “We have been promised by Ottawa that they would consult and make decisions based on meaningful discussion. So far, that hasn't happened..”. Premier Bob McLeod of the Northwest Territories added, “It feels like a step backward..”.

The proposed new powers of the ministers could be devastating to energy investment in Canada. Paul Barnes, from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said this in the fisheries committee:

...our biggest fear would arise if there are already licences in that particular area, because there would obviously have been a decision made by an oil and gas company or a consortium of companies to invest in an area. If a subsequent decision is made to have a marine protected area placed over those licences, potentially affecting the ability to do work, that's obviously lost investment and doesn't send a very positive signal to the investment community regarding Canada's competitiveness.

The federal government has a variety of roles to play to meet Canada's conservation goals, to be sure, but it should not be to eliminate the oil and gas sector in Canada.

The Liberals constant attacks are particularly galling, given the reality that Canadian energy operates under the strongest regulatory controls, with the best compliance and transparency in the world. Energy benefits all Canadians. It is the second-biggest investor in the Canadian economy, and it is Canada's second-largest export.

Recently, Nunavut cabinet minister Johnny Mike addressed the Liberals' lack of consultation on Bill C-55, saying that his residents “are well aware of the potential in our offshore areas, which is used for economic opportunities today by interests from outside of Nunavut. ...this proposed bill for marine management and petroleum industry sector management which is being developed seemingly turns its legislative back on the people of Pangnirtung.” He said, “The federal government never consulted any northerners or my constituents on what concerns they may have...”.

This is a disturbing trend in the Liberal approach. Canada has a strong and world-renowned track record of environmental stewardship, and ongoing innovation that minimizes the environmental footprint and enhances the sustainability of responsible natural resource development. That economic and industrial development, in turn, provides jobs for hundreds of thousands of Canadians everywhere. It generates revenue that is shared across the country and lifts the standard of living of all Canadians.

It is crucial that while Canada continues to protect the environment that it continues to be an attractive jurisdiction for investment for offshore oil and gas development.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.

I just want to say that I think it is great that the government wants to increase the number of marine protected areas. That is good news. However, what worries me is the leeway the minister would have to make all kinds of decisions without holding more consultations.

Does my colleague agree that no single minister should be given too much power, as that could have dangerous repercussions?

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Shannon Stubbs Conservative Lakeland, AB

Madam Speaker, I completely agree that is the main concern with this legislation. The target of 10% marine protected areas by 2020 was a target of the former Conservative government. As Conservatives, we are conservationists. We believe in protecting marine areas. We believe in continuing to support innovation and environmental stewardship in Canada, which will protect air, land, and water for all Canadians.

However, on this bill, like on so many other issues, the Liberals talk about consulting. They say they are going to consult, yet here they are attempting to enable ministers with a unilateral power to make arbitrary decisions that will risk investment and will not be based on consultation or science and evidence-based decision-making. By that, they are reducing the timelines for any of that economic, environmental and consultative analyses to take place.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I disagree with the member opposite. I believe we have seen the government listening to what Canadians have to say, in many different ways, and consulting with Canadians. The current department, which has done a phenomenal job in all regions of the country, is bringing forward solid legislation. I believe we will find that all Canadians are connected in one way or another to our oceans. We understand and appreciate how important they are. With respect to what we are talking about, the government is committed to increasing the proportion of Canada's protected marine and coastal areas to 5% this year, and by 10% in 2020. Would the member not agree, in principle, that is a good thing and a reflection of what Canadians would want government to do?

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Shannon Stubbs Conservative Lakeland, AB

Madam Speaker, as a first-generation Albertan with family in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and New Brunswick, I certainly agree with the importance of marine areas and oceans, and the connection that Canadians have to our coastal areas.

As I have already mentioned, the Conservatives support the protection of marine areas, and policies and legislation that are actually about environmental stewardship, environmental conservation, and protecting air, land, and water for all Canadians. However, the expedition of these timelines, and granting ministers unilateral and arbitrary power without having to go through a diligent, comprehensive process that mandates consultation with local communities and involves publicly available economic and environmental analyses to make decisions, is a very concerning pattern. It is on those grounds that we oppose that aspect of this bill.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Madam Speaker, I sat on the environment committee, where we did a report on protected spaces. Part of the Aichi targets is to achieve 10% protected waters. Moving forward, if we do not attach timelines to protecting these coastal waters, which, as the member has already stated, are so important, we are never going to get there. Would the member not agree that we need to start taking this seriously to achieve our Aichi targets and move as quickly as possible to protect these spaces?

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Shannon Stubbs Conservative Lakeland, AB

Madam Speaker, given my colleague's comments about the importance of timelines, I look forward to his support on advocating for concrete, clear timelines and regulatory approval processes in Canada in general, both for pipelines and northern development.

I will read a quote by Paul Crowley from the Arctic program of the World Wildlife Fund-Canada. He stated:

While we do want to reach marine protection targets, we need to ensure that this protection is meaningful. The goal should be not only to get to 10% but to choose the right 10% through proper siting. MPA networks provide a foundation of sustainability by systematically selecting sites that operate synergistically at various spatial scales and with ranges of protections to reach ecological goals more effectively than individual sites can alone.

That reinforces the importance of consultation, careful, diligent and—

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The time has expired. I actually gave the member a few more seconds, but I could not extend it any longer.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Windsor West.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

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.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Madam Speaker, on one hand, the member criticized the government for not going fast enough to achieve our targets. On the other hand, the member talked about the lack of consultation that happened in making draconian decisions as he reflected toward the previous government and the modus operandi on that front.

The position our government has taken is that through the consultation process, we have established a process that has time limits attached to it, so we can meet our Aichi targets. A goal of 5% next year and a goal of 10% by 2020 becomes more achievable because of the timelines. Would the member not agree that trying to reach the balance between consultation and establishing time limits so we can reach our targets toward protected spaces is a balance that should be reached?

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, if the member were to read the blues, he would see that I did not say that about the previous Conservative government. What I questioned was the use of the scientific community and researchers. I did not talk about consultations and timelines related to that.

As it is often heard with a lot of subjects, the Liberals believe in it. However, then there is a big but, and the but is the fact that nothing really gets done because it is a mediocre attempt to try to do something that does not really have heart behind it. That is the difference. What really takes place for real change is having the convictions. Of course we consult but we do so in a way that is earnest in trying to accomplish an objective in the true sense and following through on it, versus just consultation for appeasement, for ensuring enough people think we are actually doing something on the environment. The devil in the details in this is the minister's powers and the mere fact that the Liberals will not back away from allowing oil and gas petroleum exploration, development, and extraction. There is a hard line right there. They do not want to do it.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, I was supposed to be with our fisheries committee, travelling in Atlantic Canada and listening to stakeholders from a number of different communities regarding the government's proposed MPA process. Bill C-55 is being rushed through, and today we are debating it while most of the members of the fisheries committee, with the exception of me and one other, are on this consultation. The Liberals like to say they are consulting and they really want to hear from Canadians, but the committee that has been tasked to consult with Canadians on this very important issue is still consulting. The government wants to rush a bill through that deals with the very issue that the committee has been studying for four to six months, hearing Canadians coast to coast to coast. Much of what we hear is that the government consultations are a sham, that they are not real.

Does my hon. colleague from Windsor West think this is curious as well, that the government is just talking about consultation so it can check a box to say that it has considered it?

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1:15 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, my colleague brings up a good point. If the Liberals were so interested in the results on this right away, the minister could have expressed to the committee that they would like to have this legislation tabled and through the House at a certain set time. He could have asked the committee to wrap up its consultations and so forth on a specific date. That would have been the reasonable approach to take. People are being asked for input. We are spending a lot of taxpayer money to travel and to do other things to ensure they get the hearings that are so desperately needed on this issue, to have the consultation. Regardless of whether they believe in it, it is a fair opportunity. Most important, if the Liberals really cared, the minister could simply have said to the committee, “Here is a date, could you please be done by then.”

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October 16th, 2017 / 1:15 p.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise in the House to talk about marine protection, biodiversity, and marine protection areas across Canada.

This is a very important issue to me, one on which I have been working since 2012. At the time, the Conservative government wanted to build an oil terminal in Cacouna, right in the beluga nursery. Fortunately this project fell through thanks, in part, to the NDP's work.

It is a pleasure for me to speak to Bill C-55, an act to amend the Oceans Act and also, strangely enough, the Canada Petroleum Resources Act. There are several important points to remember on this issue.

This bill will create the legal tools needed to fast track the creation of marine protected areas, which, in itself, is good news. It was recommended by the committee that studied this issue. On this point, we are very happy. This will help us meet Canada's international commitments on protecting our marine biodiversity.

We have been lagging well behind for a long time, and it is impossible for us to meet the 5% marine conservation target in 2017. We cannot create marine protected areas simply by snapping our fingers. It is more complex than that. This bill has several flaws. For one thing, it does not include minimum protection standards. That is unacceptable. We cannot have marine protected areas unless we state the minimum standards that will be in place to protect them.

That is one big problem with this bill. Another is that the bill gives the minister far too much decision-making power over which activities are permitted within a marine protected area. This is a major problem, as I will explain shortly.

Let me give some background. Canada made a commitment to the international community to protect 5% of its marine areas by 2017, a virtually unreachable target, and 10% by 2020. This is an ambitious goal, one that will require much work on the part of the current government, but if we do things right and spare no efforts in the process, we will be able to meet it, or at least come close. These are the targets we committed to when we signed the Aichi Convention on Biological Diversity, but they are nowhere near the target levels recommended by our top scientists and environmentalists.

They are recommending that we far exceed those targets. They are even asking that the targets that have been set be minimum targets and they are saying that, if we want to protect our marine biodiversity and habitats, we should exceed those targets.

I spoke about the beluga whale, which was an endangered species and is now at risk of becoming extinct.

According to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, when a species is endangered, we need to ensure its natural habitat is identified and protected. As a result, we should have a lot more protected habitats, including those of marine species. There are many threatened and endangered species whose habitats are not protected.

To date, Canada has protected only 1.5% of its oceans through the creation of marine protected areas. We are not even close to meeting our objectives.

Countries such as Australia and the United States are already protecting 33% and 30% of their oceans, respectively. There is a marked difference between the protection that we provide and the amount of protection being offered by countries similar to ours.

The current situation is far from satisfactory, particularly if we do not have any minimum protection standards for MPAs.

What does that mean? Linda Nowlan, a lawyer for West Coast Environmental Law, gave a clear explanation as to why these minimum standards are so important. She said that the proposed amendments are useful short-term additions to the federal Oceans Act and related oil and gas laws, but they could and should go much farther. She also said that, for the long arm of the law to be truly effective, we need even stronger legal powers like minimum protection standards. Ecological integrity must be the top priority in MPA management.

When I was a member of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, the issue of ecological integrity came up on several occasions, particularly when we were talking about creating new parks. Ecological integrity is just as important when it comes to creating new terrestrial parks. All scientists, environmentalists, and experts pointed out that there could be no turning back in that regard. It is extremely important that we continue to protect ecological integrity.

We cannot allow harmful oil and gas development or fishing activities, such as ocean dragging, in our marine protected areas, just as large-scale mining operations are not allowed in Canada's national parks. That would be ridiculous, and yet that is exactly what this bill would allow if it does not include minimum protections. We want to fix that.

In my region, in Quebec, and in Atlantic Canada, there is an excellent marine protected area project under way, the Laurentian Channel. It will be the largest protected area of its kind in Canada. This unique ecosystem is located at the entrance to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and is home to several endangered species. It is a great example of a great project that must be promoted.

Unfortunately, the government would allow oil and gas exploration within this MPA, which sets a dangerous precent. We are very worried about this, as are many others. Furthermore, it would also allow future fossil fuel reserves and seismic testing, which is very dangerous because of its detrimental and even deadly effects on many marine species.

One expert stated that the government absolutely wants to reach its targets, but that it is taking shortcuts to do so. In other words, its measures are detrimental to the protection of species and their habitat.

Sylvain Archambault, of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, a biologist I have spoken to a few times and who advises me on marine protection issues, mentioned that the federal government risked setting a very worrisome precedent by opening the door to oil companies. He also added, “Why bother creating a marine protection zone designed to protect biodiversity, if activities that are completely incompatible with the protection of this biodiversity will be allowed?”

I could go on all day quoting experts, environmentalists and scientists who say that it makes no sense to establish marine protection zones without having minimum protections in place. I gave the perfect example of the Laurentian channel, the largest MPZ project in Canada. We want this project to go ahead, but we are very concerned. We do not want a precedent to be set because there would no longer be any restrictions. For that reason, this bill must be amended as soon as possible.

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1:25 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I see this as positive legislation, reflective of what Canadians want. This is a government that truly cares about our coastal waterways. This is something we are all connected to, directly or indirectly. Aspects of the legislation would provide the minister with more tools to protect our coastal regions, and we see that as positive.

My question to the member is more on the principle of what I believe Canadians want their government to do in demonstrating good stewardship. When we look at the legislation before us, that is what it would do. It would ensure that, going forward, we would have more protected coastlines, and that is a good thing, especially with Canada having the largest coastal region in the world. Would the member not agree?

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1:25 p.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to answer the member by sharing a quote from Sabine Jessen, the national director of the Oceans Program for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. She said:

While CPAWS is very supportive of the government’s efforts to meet its international commitment under the Convention on Biological Diversity...by 2020, we are concerned the areas being “protected” [as they would under the government's proposal] do not meet the standard set out under the convention, and therefore will not actually count toward this target.

How can the government brag that it is creating new marine protected areas that will not even truly be considered protected under the convention, in accordance with the Aichi targets?