Mr. Speaker, it is always a little more challenging to stop a speech or intervention mid-point and pick up a day later, which is what I am doing today. However, it is always an honour to have the opportunity to rise and speak in this House, especially representing the incredible riding of North Okanagan—Shuswap and in my role as deputy shadow minister for fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.
Rather than starting off mid-paragraph, I will briefly recap some of what I mentioned in my first half yesterday.
First, and most significantly, is that ministerial power would significantly increase under Bill C-55, if passed. It would reject scientific certainty as a basis for the designation of MPAs. Second, Bill C-55 would press inflexible timelines and would accelerate the process that has been used for many years for in-depth consideration.
Bill C-55 would significantly increase the power of the minister, allowing the government to no longer require scientific certainty or consensus among affected stakeholders before imposing closure or restrictions associated with marine protected areas. That may be just what this minister wants, but is that in the best interest of all Canadians?
It has been said that the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard already possesses more power than any other minister in cabinet under Canada's current legislation. However, we know that this minister will be replaced, and believe me, we on this side are working hard on that. This minister will be replaced by another minister, and another one after that. All this power placed in the office of one individual may seem okay in the short term, but no one can predict what the long term will bring.
First nations, fishermen, cargo shippers, tourism operators, conservation groups, academics, and many other stakeholders would continue to face the consequences of the government's frantic and half-baked approach to speeding up the process of establishing MPAs, among other things they are doing.
Our Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans is currently studying the criteria and process for establishing the MPAs, because we have seen a government hell-bent on reaching a political target. The government seems to be either oblivious to or callous about the havoc its decisions would wreak on the workers and residents who depend on marine and coastal areas for their livelihoods and subsistence.
The government has reneged or failed on so many other political campaign promises that it is now desperately trying to meet its unrealistic timeline to deliver the MPA campaign promise. In moving forward with this bill and short-circuiting the consultation process, the government fails to realize that it is breaking another one of its campaign promises, the promise of delivering openness and transparency.
In recent days we have witnessed the government short-circuit the debate and consultation process for its tax change proposals, effectively quashing debate in the House, but even more so, across Canada. Canadians are continually complaining to our offices in phone calls, emails, and letters. It has been unending, yet the government fails to hear it.
The government is refusing to listen to the thousands of small businesses and family farms that will be financially harmed by ham-fisted tax grabs that will not touch the family fortunes of the Prime Minister or the Minister of Finance. In the same way, through Bill C-55, the government is trying to eliminate the long-established structures and processes for engaging Canadians who will be affected by the new MPAs.
In the course of the fisheries and oceans committee's ongoing study, the committee has heard directly from a number of witnesses who have testified that the process for establishing MPAs should not be rushed.
For example, Ian MacPherson, executive director of the Prince Edward Island Fishermen's Association, stated that his association:
...understands the requirement to protect marine environments, but we do have concerns surrounding the tight timelines to accomplish these goals. The first step to designating a ministerial order MPA is to gather existing scientific, economic, social, and cultural information on the area. Prince Edward Island is a small province driven by small fishing communities. The displacement of fishers from one community to another as a result of an MPA would shift the economics of the island. Throughout the consultation process, fishing areas were discussed, but not the economics of how a large MPA along the small coastline of Prince Edward Island would impact the island.
Time and again during the committee's examination of the criteria and process used to establish MPAs, we have heard how essential it is to consult with local first nations and stakeholders. Consultation is essential to preventing displacement of traditional uses. Consultation is essential to avoiding undue fishing pressures on adjacent areas that may not be sustainable.
The committee has also heard from Chris Sporer of the Pacific Halibut Management Association of British Columbia, who stated:
Further, if fishermen are forced from productive, high catch per unit effort areas to less productive ones, this means increased fishing time and the need to use more gear to catch the same amount of fish. If you increase fishing time, that means more fuel. That means greater carbon emissions. More gear means increased benthic impacts and the risk of bycatch, for instance, of things like seabirds, something that we've worked very hard in our industry to minimize.
During his testimony, Mr. Sporer also stated that:
The MPA process needs to take into consideration and evaluate the ecological consequences of displacing fishing effort, but it also needs to take into account all the sustainability measures that have been implemented to date. At present they're not being factored into the analysis.
I support protecting our coasts and offshore marine environments, but these protections must be in the right place and developed over the right time frame, with clear objectives that can be measured on a scientific basis and with all the support of locals and Canadians who will be affected.
What I see in Bill C-55 is the ability for the minister to use unrestrained power, without the backing of scientific certainty, to impose restrictions and closures with complete disregard for the culture, heritage, livelihood, and interests of Canadians.
I also see that proposed section 35.3 of the bill proposes a strict timeline of five years from the time an interim MPA is designated by the minister for the government to render a decision to either issue a permanent designation for the MPA or repeal the interim order. This timeline flies in the face of testimony and anecdotal evidence that shows that seven to 10 years are required to thoroughly establish an MPA. How can the government so blatantly choose political expediency over respect for Canadians? The government must recognize and respect the essential value of engaging Canadians affected by the proposed MPA, to hear their concerns, to receive their perspectives, and to respect their opinions.
If the government fails to fulfill these important steps, it prejudices the future sustainability of the MPA. As the government tries to discard scientific basis and democratic consensus from the MPA process, it runs the acute risk of undermining the legitimacy of future MPAs.
There are documented warnings that the government is rushing into our MPA process. If we cannot recognize the mistakes of rushed MPA processes that have happened elsewhere around the world, we run the same risk of repeating them here in Canada. I call on the government to step back from this bill's attempt to further accelerate and exacerbate the MPA process and reset its timeline for achieving MPA objectives.
That is what is needed to ensure that Canadians, especially those who will be most affected by MPAs, are able to factor into the MPA development process.
It is not what one does, it is how one does it that counts. I certainly hope that the government can put its own political interests aside in this instance and do what is right for the people of Canada.