To coast. To the member for Niagara Falls, that is one of his pet projects, and that is okay.
The previous Conservative government focused on building existing international markets and introducing new ones, while making significant investments in areas like marine research, harbour infrastructure, lobster sustainability, aquaculture innovation, and indigenous participation. Our fisheries are the lifeblood of our rural and remote coastal communities. They drive billions of dollars toward our national economy each and every year.
Rather than consulting the communities that would be most impacted by the government's plan on marine protected areas, the minister has chosen to fast-track this process to meet the government's self-imposed political targets. Speeding up the MPA designation process has the potential to have disastrous consequences in the form of job losses and fisheries closures if true consultation is sacrificed for expediency.
Jim McIsaac, the managing director of the BC Commercial Fishing Caucus, had this to say:
We need to engage stakeholders from the start, not bring stakeholders along at the end. We have to set outcome objectives, and the process should fit the objectives. We should build tools to fit the process and get the place and the scale right for that.
Right now on the west coast we have 10 or 12 different MPA processes. It's impossible for the fishing industry to engage in all of these in a kind of comprehensive way. We need a place where we can sit down and set some of these overarching objectives. If we don't do that, it's just going to disintegrate into a mess.... We need a way to bring all available knowledge into these.
Consultation should not be done with the objective of checking a box and ramming through changes. The dialogue that was happening at committee and is playing out in the media is important.
It is not just the fishermen who would be affected by Bill C-55. The bill has the potential to impact resource projects and create lengthy delays in the approvals process. It would also give activists and non-governmental organizations the right to lobby the government in an attempt to achieve interim protection for a specific area, regardless of the science. That, again, is one of the main problems with this bill. This could alienate fishing grounds, marine activities, or resource projects for up to five years without adequate consultation or science.
It is interesting that the Nunavut minister, Johnny Mike, used his member's statement in the Nunavut legislature last week to speak specifically to the Liberal government's lack of consultation when it came to Bill C-55. He said:
As Pangnirtung residents, we 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.
I was in Pangnirtung when I was chair of the transport committee. It is a beautiful little community on the northeast shores of Baffin Island. We opened the first Arctic small craft harbour there. I would urge members, if they get a chance, to go there. It is a rural community. It is remote, and the dependency the residents have on the water is immense. I cannot say enough about the value of it to them. Therefore, the residents want to look after the quality of that water so that they have fishing available for them and their families for generations to come.
When I hear about this lack of consultation with people like Johnny Mike and his constituents, I think that sends a signal that we do not really care what they think and we are going to go ahead and do this. That is not the way to do things.
I have used almost the entirety of my speech to show that the Liberal government is once again ramming through a political agenda with no care for the people on the ground who would be directly affected by these changes. Local government, industry, and family businesses are shoved aside. The Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard needs to stop playing politics with our fisheries and come up with a real plan that will support high-quality, well-paying jobs in our coastal communities. We should not be punishing the very individuals who want to come up with a fair plan for the environment and for our oceans, rivers, lakes, and streams.
Instead of expediting this dangerous piece of legislation, we should be working together with these groups that clearly want to be involved in this process. We should take the time, look at the science, and truly engage our stakeholders. Let us figure out what has worked and what has not and base our decisions on legislation on true consultation. If we go ahead and put in interim MPAs without having done that, we could, in the long run, delay the process and harm an area with unintended consequences.
I urge the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and the other 30 members from Atlantic Canada to rethink this legislation and take the time to get it right. We all know what the value of the fishing and seafood industry means to eastern and western Canada. I know that it would be in the best interest of all their constituents to speak up on this, do what is right, and consult in a proper way.
I will conclude by presenting an argument from academics who have commented on MPAs in the past. This particular article expresses concerns about moving forward with designations too quickly when it comes to MPAs. The article states:
In promoting MPAs it is important that there is a good understanding of the conservation science underlying marine protection in terms of the factual foundation and long-term implications. Ignoring this may lead resource managers and policymakers to make ill-informed decisions regarding MPAs, resulting in poor MPA design and performance.
In closing, I urge the government to heed this advice. Stop moving forward with these arbitrary deadlines, abandon the plan for interim designations, and ensure that MPAs are established based on fulsome consultations and thorough review of all scientific evidence.
I would like to say that if the government makes the right amendments to the bill, there may be surprisingly more support out there than the minister may have thought. However, until that is done, I will be voting against the bill.