Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join my hon. colleague from North Okanagan—Shuswap in talking about amendments to the Oceans Act and the Canadian Petroleum Resources Act. The title somewhat bothers me, but I will speak about that a bit later.
My hon. friend from North Okanagan—Shuswap is compassionate about fishing in the interior and coastal waters of British Columbia. I have talked to him many times. I believe he is quite an expert on that, much more so than I am. However, both my interests and my heart lie in some of the points in Bill C-55 that deal with consultations with the aboriginal community, communities, businesses, and stakeholders.
I sat on the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. Last year, our committee presented a report entitled “Taking Action Today: Establishing Protected Areas for Canada's Future”. I believe it was an excellent report that all parties on the committee worked well on together. I have to commend our chair, the hon. member for King—Vaughan, who led us to prepare that unanimous report, which was sent to the government. I see the government has jumped on parts of that report and has included them in Bill C-55.
When we were preparing that report, we heard from people from coast to coast to coast. We heard from a large number of aboriginal communities on the west coast, from the Inuit in the Arctic, from the aboriginals in the interior of Canada, and from aboriginal communities on the east coast in the James Bay area. There was one specific message they sent to us: consultation. I see that has been somewhat missed in Bill C-55.
I note the Prime Minister's mandate letter instructs 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 marine and coastal areas that are protected--to five percent by 2017, and ten percent by 2020--supported by new investments in community consultation and science.
Let us look at those numbers. The government is hoping to reach 5% three months from now. As of June of this year, Canada was at less than 1% for coastal areas and protected spaces, and only at 11% for land and inland water protected spaces. Now we want to go from 1% to 5%.
Let us look back at the history of this. These numbers came from the Aichi targets that came out of the convention on biological diversity that was held back in 2010. Our Conservative government attended that conference. We agreed with many other nations around the world to establish protected spaces, both inland and on our coastal waters.
We agreed on 10% of coastal waters to be protected by 2020, and 70% of inland waters and lakes to be protected by 2017. However, as a government, we looked at those as aspirational targets. Could we reach them? No, not without proper consultations with our aboriginal communities, municipalities, provinces, and industry stakeholders. It would take a great amount of time and a lot of work.
However, we looked at those targets and agreed to those targets. We thought they could be reached. There is a large segment of environmentalists out there who think we should go much higher. In fact, during our committee's work, there were people who made presentations who thought 50% of Canada's coastal waters should be protected, and 50% of the inland should be protected. Those were unrealistic amounts.
I noticed it also stated in that mandate letter that since the designation of the marine protected areas, MPAs, would take several years, the Liberal government is introducing, through Bill C-55, an interim designation of significant or sensitive areas identified by scientists, through consultation with indigenous people, local communities, and other interested groups.
I would like to read part of the report that was submitted by our committee which was unanimous. It states:
Federal protected areas account for about half--45% terrestrial and 83% marine--of Canada’s total protected areas.
That is where we are at, but that is not the 17% or the 10%. The report continues:
Accordingly, collaborative action by all levels of government including Indigenous governments, landowners, industrial stakeholders and civil society is required to resolve issues of competing uses for land and water in order to achieve and exceed our targets. Protecting areas in the Arctic marine and boreal regions are of particular importance.
That is what the committee had proposed and sent to the government. However, the government, in its usual format of consultation said it was only going to listen to identified scientists. It was going to pick the areas because it was going to do this really quick. We have three months to do it, all of a sudden. The government is going to pick out 5% of our coastal waterways, and it is going to protect it, because the scientists are going to pick it.
Throughout the report, I thought we really talked about working with indigenous people, talking with indigenous people, talking with stakeholders, and talking with municipalities. That is not being done. The Liberals are not saying, they are dictating. They are dictating this. The scientists are going to tell them what land they are taking, and people are going to listen, and then they will have some consultations so they can say they had consultations. That is after the fact. After the fact is not what the report stated. It stated to have active consultation with all stakeholders.
I want to read another part of the report:
The federal government has a variety of roles to play to meet our targets. It must provide the leadership needed to ensure coherent and coordinated plans are developed to reach the targets. It must partner with Indigenous peoples to establish and recognize new types of protected areas in Indigenous territories while providing new opportunities for Indigenous economic development and advancing reconciliation. The federal government must also put its own house in order by coordinating its efforts, accelerating the establishment of federal protected areas and demonstrating political will, including through the provision of funding.
The Liberals do say that, somewhat, in Bill C-55 and, yes, we did recommend in Bill C-55 that we speed things up. However, to move to 5% in three months, by dictating the areas first and then start consultations after, is not what the standing committee reported to the government to do after listening to a number of witnesses across this country.
Again, a broken promise. The government does not even want to listen to its own members on the committee. It just wants to do as it sees fit, and expects people to follow suit.
I would like to go to another area of this report. One of the recommendations, in fact the first recommendation by the committee that studied this only a year ago was:
That a national stakeholder advisory group to advise the conservation body be established representing, among others, municipal governments, civil society, private landowners, conservation specialists, industry, academics and Indigenous groups; and that a process be put in place through which individuals, in particular Indigenous peoples, or organizations may suggest priority areas for protection.
Let us go back to what the Liberals are stating in Bill C-55. They state that by introducing Bill C-55, the legislation would allow for an interim designation of significant or sensitive areas identified by scientists.
Where in there does it say scientists? It says academics. It says aboriginal groups. It says stakeholders. It does not say scientists. I am not mocking scientists. Science is needed to establish these areas. However, the Liberals have gone completely, totally, against a standing committee that made very strong recommendations. Those recommendations were made on the information received from aboriginal people and stakeholders from coast to coast to coast.
However, it is not in the interests of the Liberals to follow the recommendations that were presented by the committee. They are just going to do as they see fit.
As I mentioned earlier, it bothered me to have the Canada Petroleum Resources Act thrown in with Bill C-55. Why focus on oil and gas? It appears, over the last little while, that the Liberals are attempting, any which way they can, to stop future oil and gas development in Canada.
I want to read recommendation no. 1 again. It says:
The federal government has a variety of roles to play to meet our targets.
It is not one specific target; namely, to get rid of the oil and gas sector in Canada. All we have to see, if we go from the last three or four months, or the last year, is that the Liberals want to probably change the strongest regulatory controls in the world held by the National Energy Board, the Alberta Energy Regulator, and the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission. We have much scientific evidence that shows that these are the best anywhere. However, it is not good enough for the government. It is going to come up with new forms of stopping the oil and gas industry.
I want to read recommendation no. 22 from this report, entitled “Taking Action Today: Establishing Protected Areas for Canada's Future.”
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada place a priority on collaborating with indigenous peoples, northern governments, and stakeholders to protect highest ecological value arctic waters for traditional uses and future generations.
Is this being done? No, it is not. They are putting scientific evidence in there. They are telling them what areas they are going to pick. They are then going to consult with them, and basically tell them that this is what they will end up with.
On page 2 of the report, the recommendations refer to accelerating the establishment of national parks, national marine conservation areas, migratory bird sanctuaries, national wildlife areas, marine protected areas, and other federally protected areas, by establishing multiple protected areas concurrently; ensuring that no federal policy or legislation such as the mineral and energy resource assessment and the Canadian Petroleum Resources Act slows the process of establishing protected areas.
The committee did not say to get rid of that act, but Bill C-55 is saying that. Why did they just pick on the Canadian Petroleum Resources Act and not talk about the energy resource assessments or any of those others? They are just going after the oil and gas sector.
The report further talks about helping to coordinate the establishment of networks to protected areas: creating a federal protected areas system plan that incorporates not just national parks but all federal protected areas, terrestrial and marine, creating a mechanism for federal, provincial, municipal, and indigenous co-operation and encouraging public participation in the establishment of protected areas; and leading science-based assessments toward identifying protected areas, and so on.
They are using science to help, after we go through the consultation periods, meet with industry, the stakeholders, the indigenous groups, and we work together, united, Canadians, to come up with the areas that should be protected spaces.
I want to read a quote from a witness who appeared before the fisheries and oceans committee recently. Sean Cox is a professor at Simon Fraser University, and quite a leading expert in marine life. He said:
Looking at some of the previous testimony, there was a claim that there was overwhelming scientific proof that MPAs are beneficial and widely successful. I think that was misrepresentation of the actual science.
He went on to say:
Just enforcing MPAs would be hugely expensive. Again, if you're looking at it from a fisheries management point of view, it's far more cost effective to do other things that don't cost that much....
MPAs aren't likely to be effective scientific tools, either. They're not easily replicated. When you put in an MPA, it's subject to a high degree of what we call “location and time” effects. You can't just create a nice experiment where you have three of the same type of MPA in one place and then three control areas in another place. You just can't do that. They're wide open to outside perturbations, environmental changes that are not within our control.
If we want to build on a process of trust and goodwill, we cannot then ignore what our stakeholders have to say and consult only a minority of the protected areas that are being recommended.
This is what is happening with Bill C-55. They are going to tell the aboriginal communities. They are going to tell the stakeholders, “These are the areas we picked. Now we can sit down and talk about that”. Is that proper consultation? No, it is not. It is a completely opposite direction from what our report asked them to do.
He goes on to say that, as soon as we do that, we no longer have a network of protected areas, so it begs the question why we went to such elaborate lengths to put together these design criteria, if in the end all we were going to do was cherry-pick a few sites.
That is what is happening with Bill C-55: they are cherry-picking a few sites.