Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member and a number of the concerns he has spoken of today. I must admit that I am a little surprised. I had anticipated that the Conservatives would be more sympathetic to the legislation. I do not quite understand why they would oppose something that advances what all Canadians are concerned about. Our oceans affect us all, the entire country from sea to sea to sea, in a real and tangible way.
The bill would move Canada forward not only in terms of our taking a progressive step forward internally but also in terms of continuing that international point of view. It clearly demonstrates that part of our Canadian values is to better understand and appreciate what takes place in our oceans. It is a part of our very fabric as Canadians.
The oceans have provided economic and social leisure, and all sorts of other benefits to us as a society. We all understand and appreciate their humongous economic impact. If one wants to get a better understanding, one should talk to the Atlantic caucus, where concern for our oceans and making sure that we are moving forward are hot topics all of the time. That is not to take anything away from our B.C. caucus, which is also a very strong advocate and supporter of the legislation. Of course, being from Manitoba, some might think it is landlocked, but it is not because we go right up north to Churchill. Even in Yukon and our other territories we have been fortunate as a nation to have what I believe is the longest ocean coastline of any country in the world. Given that background, one would expect to see something positive from the government.
I often talk about the many different accomplishments of this government, and we always highlight the middle class because that is our first priority. However, the number of things we have accomplished in these past two years is noteworthy. This particular piece of legislation will also make a difference. Therefore, I would encourage the members of the Conservative caucus to revisit their position on Bill C-55, because it does provide some tangible benefits.
The Government of Canada is committed to increasing the proportion of Canada's marine and coastal areas that are protected to 5% this year, and 10% by 2020. That is a significant amount of territory. It demonstrates very clearly that the government is truly interested in what is taking place in our oceans and wants to protect them wherever it can.
We talked about achieving these targets, and the members across the way made reference to the issue of science. This is a government that generally believes in science, unlike the former Harper government, which at times was challenged on that issue. Rest assured that we will use the sound science that is out there to at least provide us with the necessary guidance, and also to support very transparent decision-making by this government. Those are the types of things we are very much committed to.
The act clarifies the responsibility of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to establish a national network of protected areas. That is something of substance, yet the Conservatives do not seem to think that the bill is moving us forward.
It would empower the minister to designate marine protected areas by an order prohibiting certain activities in those areas. I do not quite understand why the Conservatives would oppose that outright. If they looked at the principles in the legislation, they would find that it is good, sound legislation that would in fact make a difference. They should support it and then look at ways to enhance or change it when it goes to committee.