Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to Bill C-55, an act to amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act. I want to start my speech today by saying that we all agree that there are things that we can do better. We want to keep our rivers, lakes, streams, and oceans pristine, not just for today but for the future.
Today I want to talk a bit more about the process. I will start with a quote because the minister spoke about the three or five-point plan that the government has with respect to its MPA process. One of those points was about the use of scientific data. We have had a number of witnesses at committee and time and again we heard similar stories.
I will start with this. Looking at some of the previous testimony, it was claimed that there was overwhelming scientific proof that MPAs are beneficial and wildly successful. I think that was a misrepresentation of the actual science. My colleague just cited some of the studies that found that MPAs are not broadly successful. Enforcing MPAs would be hugely expensive and unlikely to be an effective scientific tool. They are not easily replicated. When we put in an MPA, its effectiveness is subject to a great degree of what we call, “location and time”. One cannot just create a nice experiment where we have three of the same type of MPAs in one place and then three control areas in another place, because they are wide open to outside perturbations and environmental changes that are not within our control.
If we want to build on a process of trust and goodwill, we should not ignore what our stakeholders say and consult on only a minority of the protected areas being recommended. I offer that comment from Professor Sean Cox of Simon Fraser University. We have more.
One of the other points that our hon. colleague brought up was indigenous consultation and reconciliation. As the Hereditary Chiefs’ Council of Lax Kw’alaams, from our neck of the woods in British Columbia, states:
...we categorically reject interference of outside environmental NGOs (especially those foreign-based) who appear to be dictating government policy in our traditional territory.
My speech will not counter what our hon. colleague said and not step away from the importance of making sure that we are doing everything we can to protect our rivers, lakes, and streams. Rather, we will talk about the notion of consultation, which we like to discuss a lot in this chamber. As we have seen from the very beginning, it is just a word to the government. The action depends on who is there. The government likes to say that it is consulting.
Our hon. colleague stood in the House and said that it is important that the government is working collaboratively with the provinces and territories. However, is the government really listening, because we are still hearing from so many stakeholders that it is alienating them? Whether it is indigenous peoples or those whose livelihoods depend on these areas in remote coastal communities across Canada, the government is forgetting these people.
Whether it was on the electoral reform process, access to information reform, or the most recent proposal by the Liberal government to implement tax changes that will significantly harm the competitiveness of small business, we often hear it say that it wants to be the most open and transparent government in Canadian history. However, when it comes down to consultation, it is really just about ticking that off in a box to say that it did the consultation, that it met with those concerned. It did not really listen to them, but it ticked the box.
It has no real intention to make changes for the betterment of our communities or for the people who will be affected by the contents of its bills, like the one we are debating today. Our hon. colleague mentioned the spirit of working collaboratively with the provincial and territorial governments.
I believe he said, and it was a Liberal campaign promise, that they are going to work with all parties in the House to be more collaborative, yet we still get announcements through question period. Indeed, some of the Liberal MPs are finding out about government initiatives through the media.
Going back to the closure of our salmon enhancement program and the potential Coast Guard closures, some of the Liberal backbench MPs who are part of our committee found out through the media. Again, that is just not open and transparent.
Bill C-55 in its current state will have serious consequences for our tourism, shipping, and fishing industries. This is yet another nail in the coffin for our small communities and the businesses in our communities that rely on our waterways from coast to coast to coast.
Bill C-55 stems directly from the mandate letter to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, which instructs him to work with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to increase the proportion of Canada's marine and coastal areas that are protected to 5% by 2017 and 10% by 2020.
Bill C-55 will allow for an interim designation of significant or sensitive areas, again defined by scientists through consultation with indigenous people, local communities, and others interested in the area. That is what they say.
Immediately when the Liberals start this, there is a five-year ban. Is it going to be a complete stop? Does it mean there will be no take at all? Is there any activity that will be restricted? These are things that have not been communicated to the communities and to the fishers and families that depend on this industry for their livelihoods.
Once this interim protection is in effect, the minister would have up to five years to recommend that a permanent MPA be put in place. From the previous Conservative government's work on marine protected areas and from the committee testimony, we know that the average time to declare a single protected area ranges from roughly five to seven years. That is not to be debated. We know that. That is what is required to get it right, to make sure that true consultation takes place.
We had a professor from California who talked about a series of MPAs that they had instituted off the coast of California. They talked about true consultation. I sat through this presentation by this gentleman, and I thought, “Now, there is a group that got this right.” They started early on. They communicated what their objectives were to their stakeholders right from the start, including the indigenous groups, industry, communities, environmental groups, and NGOs. They brought them all to the table and they set out what they wanted to do off the coastline of California.
They set out what the goal was and tasked the stakeholder groups to go and really talk to people, engage the communities, and find a way to holistically reach their goal. That was one of the testimonies that really stood out. We always talk about Conservative this or Liberal this, but this non-partisan person came in to speak about the science behind the MPAs and said that it has to be right, that we have to look at the total, holistic process of the MPA and look at the ecosystems. Fish do not know where the marine protected areas are. They do not know that there is an imaginary boundary. They move.
They looked at a series of marine protected areas off the coast of California and they had buy-in from everyone. It is probably the most successful marine protected area testimony that we have seen to this point.
We also know that the Liberal government is taking measures to speed up the MPA designation process, because it knows that it will not be able to meet its political targets and timelines outlined in the mandate letters. It has missed promises from the campaign. The minister said himself that this is one that the government can say it finished, but it is going to come at a cost to those economies, those local communities that desperately rely on fishing and trade for their local economies, and indeed at a cost to Canada's economy.
Liberals know that if they do not ram this through, it will add to their mounting pile of broken promises.
In addition to speeding up the designation process, the Liberal government is also proposing amendments to the Canada Petroleum Resources Act that would prohibit oil and gas activities in marine areas where interim protection is in effect. To move this forward, they would allow the Minister of Natural Resources and the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs the power to cancel companies' oil and gas interests.
We have talked about the process and we have talked about how these companies and stakeholders are not part of the process. We have asked a number of times that the minister sit in on the committee meetings and listen to the testimony, because the stakeholders are pleading, even stakeholders that one would think would be on the side of the government. Liberal members are saying that they are finding out stuff in the media and in QP announcements, and in their own communities in Atlantic Canada or on the Pacific coast they are hearing from their constituents.
In my riding, if there is an issue with small business or tourism, I hear about it and I bring their voices to Ottawa. There are 30-some Atlantic Canada MPs and outside of committee, they have not really been standing up. I think they are afraid to voice their opinions, but we are hearing it. We are hearing it in sidebar conversations.
We have already seen, in the last little while, further uncertainty in terms of business development. Whether it is the northern gateway or the Pacific NorthWest LNG, businesses are being spooked by the uncertainties, primarily by the Liberal government, because it does not know which way the wind is blowing or where the goalposts are anymore. Giving a minister the ability to say yes or no or “Wait a second; this might be a Liberal insider here, and we are going to say yes to this one”, is unacceptable. That is shameful.
Mr. Brian Clark, an environmental adviser and registered professional biologist in the Pacific northwest had this to say at committee:
...there is a lack of clear process for integrated coastal planning that leaves proponents to develop strategies in an information vacuum. Where are the no-go zones? What are the thresholds for impacts? ... ...we need specific plans for coastal areas of high industrial activity. The Pacific NorthWest project [was] located in a federal port within an industrial zone, yet there are no accepted activities to streamline environmental assessment processes. ... [In addition], there is a tremendous lack of scientific examination and resources to set baselines and determine thresholds on the north Pacific coast.
We all agree that some of the federal agencies need more funding, but Mr. Clark said, “...but don't overlook the knowledge database of proponents.”
Industry and communities are all doing their part. Industry has now become more keenly aware than ever that everybody has a cellphone. Whether it is the shipping industry, the cruise industry, or the fishing industry, everybody has a cellphone. We all want to make sure that we are doing our part, and industry is doing its part. Time and again we have heard at committee that it has offered up its findings, offered up the technology it is using, only to have that offer fall on deaf ears in the government. It is the “Thanks, we got it” type of thing. That is unacceptable.
The Liberal government has had numerous opportunities to work with energy proponents that want to ensure the health of our marine areas. With Bill C-55, we have another example of the government's heavy-handed, anti-development approach to our resource and marine industries.
I have to admit that when I took over the fisheries and oceans shadow portfolio last year, I remember thinking that the targets outlined in the Liberal mandate letters were ambitious. The previous Conservative government set the protection target at 10% by 2020. That was the previous Conservative government's target: 2020. We wanted to make sure that we got it right.
Do members know that Canada has one of the largest coastlines in the world, if not the largest coastline in the world? Disproportionately so, the north and the Pacific are going to face the brunt of these MPAs. We are hearing that over and over again.
The primary difference was that we were not intent on meeting these targets if it meant forsaking the needs of the local coastal communities across the country that depend on the ocean for their livelihoods.
Having recognized that the minister of fisheries and oceans might look to designate MPAs without proper consultation, my colleague from North Okanagan—Shuswap tabled a motion to study the issue further at committee. We began this study prior to the minister's tabling of Bill C-55, just days before the House adjourned for the summer. Unfortunately, it seems he has failed to take a look at the testimony that has come forward from this important study.
I remember the words in his speech when he said he was looking forward to hearing the testimony of Canadians, industry, and stakeholders. He acknowledged the hard work and great work the committees are doing in this House and in the other House. I can see folks in the gallery nodding their heads. They heard the same.
However, the government has continued to disregard the testimony we heard from stakeholders, from witnesses that one would think would be on the side of the government.
Over the past several months, we have had the opportunity to hear from a significant number of academics, industry professionals, commercial and recreational fishing groups, NGOs, and environmentalists. Many of them had one thing in common, and that was their inability to support the government's rushed timeline with regard to the MPA designation process. They all said one thing: “Get it right.”
One of the main issues we heard time and again was the deeply flawed nature of the consultation process. One witness, Mr. Leonard LeBlanc, the managing director of the Gulf of Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board, had this to say:
The process DFO used to approach harvester associations and consult on the areas of interest for designation was unorganized and totally not transparent. They indicated that the process to establish MPAs is typically a lengthy process over many years, yet they seemed to be rushing the process along to meet strict deadlines....
Later he said:
Finally, this consultation process on the area of interest for MPA designation...perpetuated the lack of trust between industry and DFO. The lack of inclusion and answers during the consultation phase, the lack of real scientific evidence for reasoning behind the area of interest, and the lack of guarantees that traditional fisheries could continue all led to further distrust of DFO's consultation and decision-making process.
The testimony did not stop there. Jordan Nickerson, an independent fish harvester who was speaking on behalf of his family business, said this:
This current directive to protect the ocean leaves me with more questions than answers. As [a] harvester and processor, I would like to know how I, my business, my employees, and our shared future will be affected. What are our goals for MPAs...?
Canada should be a leader in listening to its people, taking the time to listen, spending money, and doing the proper science before coming to a huge decision such as establishing MPAs, supposedly based on science. Time and again we have heard that this is not being done. As a matter of fact, I have a quote from Christina Burridge of the BC Seafood Alliance, who says, “On the west coast, we're not seeing a lot of evidence-based decision-making. It's beginning to look like political decision-making.”
I am going to pare some of my comments down because I know my time is winding down.
Nunavut cabinet minister Johnny Mike used his member's statement just last week to speak specifically to the Liberal government's lack of consultation when it came to Bill C-55. He said:
[My residents] are well aware of the potential in our offshore areas which are 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.
The federal government never consulted any northerners or my constituents on what concerns they may have about this proposed bill.
We are not against MPAs. We are against the fact that their consultation process, the process as a whole, is a sham.