Madam Speaker, as the MP for Oshawa, of course I do not have an ocean coastline in my community, but we certainly have an active fishing community in Lake Ontario and in our northern lake country. As a son of a proud navy officer, I spent most of my formative years in Nova Scotia. Indeed, I want to say hi to my family in Sydney.
Yesterday, many of my colleagues had an opportunity to rise on Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act, so I will try not to be too repetitive here today. I am happy to be the voice for those affected by this most recent poorly thought out Liberal approach, because their Liberal MPs, unfortunately, will not be.
As we all know, the minister of fisheries and ocean's mandate letter 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 five percent by 2017, and ten percent by 2020—supported by new investments in community consultation and science.
I want to highlight the part of that mandate letter about consultation and science. The Liberals' attempt to achieve an artificial political timeline has led them to rush a bill that has lacked exactly that: proper consultation and science. Are any of us in the House surprised? The Liberals are becoming notorious for limiting consultation periods in order to pass their own agenda and silence the public. Sadly, as I said in question period, a local issue that is very important in Oshawa is the Liberals' decision to shut down the Canada Border Services Agency office in my community. Typically, I found out after the decision was made. There was no consultation with local politicians, businesses, or stakeholders. This is going to affect families in my community, job creators, and businesses.
The Liberals are consistently putting artificial political timelines and ideology ahead of local interests and families. This seems to be the rule, not the exception. We have also seen it with their apparent consultation on their small business tax increases, on which the Minister of Finance made it very clear that the consultation would not change the direction of the government. We are seeing it again now with Bill C-55. The minister said that the government is not going to change direction on it.
What really is Liberal consultation? I say it is arrogance. There is no intention to listen. They have made up their mind: Ottawa knows best. Rather than consulting communities that will be most impacted by the Liberal plan on marine protected areas, the minister has fast-tracked this process. Sadly, the Liberal MPs from the Maritimes who are hearing from their constituents about this very issue are doing and saying nothing.
The Liberal commitment to protect 5% of marine and coastal areas by 2017 will result in enormous areas from coast to coast to coast being closed to commercial and recreational activities. Again, Liberal MPs are invisible. They are saying and doing nothing. In fact, a large number of academics, industry, commercial, and recreational fishing groups have come forward to speak against the minister's MPA targets within the current time frame. Why? The Liberal government's targets cannot be achieved without extensive consultation and a rigorous effort to prioritize the needs of local communities.
If the Liberals will not listen to Canadians affected by their rushed decisions, let me put what some of the stakeholders have said on the record. Maybe that is the only way the Liberal government will hear. These are the comments of those who will be directly impacted by this arbitrary timeline.
Leonard LeBlanc from the Gulf of Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board said:
The process DFO used to approach harvested associations and consult on the areas of interest for designation was unorganized and totally not transparent.
Ian MacPherson of the Prince Edward Island Fishermen's Association said:
The PEIFA understands the requirement to protect marine environments, but we do have concerns surrounding the tight timelines to accomplish these goals.
These are quotes from Atlantic Canadians. I would like to remind everyone again that every single Atlantic seat is held by a Liberal member, including the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard himself. Unfortunately, they are silent.
There is another important quote by Mr. MacPherson:
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.
I could go on.
I am very curious to know whether Liberal members elected by Atlantic Canadians will listen to their constituents and vote against this bill due to the lack of scientific, economic, social, and cultural information taken into consideration.
Speeding up the MPA designation process could have significant impacts on the economy, as stated earlier, leading to job losses and fisheries closures in the coastal communities.
Let me make this very clear. The Conservative Party is not opposed to the creation of MPAs. In fact, we have championed conservation and marine protection in the past. I was very proud to be part of the previous Conservative government that launched the national conservation plan, the NCP, which invested $252 million over five years to provide a more coordinated approach to conservation efforts across the country. We took steps to add more than 220,000 square kilometres to federal parks and marine protected areas. That was an increase of more than 58%.
Under the Oceans Act, we accomplished the protection of three new marine protected areas. The first one is Musquash Estuary, in New Brunswick. The second is Bowie Seamount, off the coast of British Columbia, and the third is Tarium Niryutait, in the Beaufort Sea. We developed our conservation policies and were successful because we respected the economic aspirations of local residents and always focused on building a stronger economy from coast to coast to coast.
The Liberals, however, have not listened to Canadians. They have not been listening to their constituents, and to be honest, I do not think they are even starting to see the damaging consequences of the Prime Minister's agenda. The Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard stated that he would take a balanced and fair approach. That is what he said, balanced and fair, in meeting the government's targets under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.
He stated that the Liberal government was committed to a process that was transparent and science based and would consult with the provinces, industries, and indigenous peoples. That is what he said, except that Bill C-55 would allow the minister to make these designations without proper scientific review, which, not surprisingly, is a complete contradiction of his own promises and the Prime Minister's promises.
Let us remember that this is a government that promised to strengthen relationships with the provinces through consultations and collaboration, except, it seems, when most provinces and territories are criticizing the Liberal approach these days. With increased taxes, burdening legislation, and now giving themselves more power to unilaterally create MPAs that are not even backed by science, it seems that the Liberals' relationship with the provinces is worse than it was under the previous government. An MLA from Nunavut stated that Bill C-55 would be an “absolute travesty” for his constituency. He also stated that the federal government never consulted with northerners on what concerns they may have with the bill. It never consulted with northerners. That is sad.
Again, I repeat, the government needs to start making evidence-based decisions and to stop making political decisions that hurt Canadians. Liberals need to start listening to Canadians and ensure that the proper science backs up their decisions in establishing MPAs. Instead, they seem to be more concerned about their international commitments than jobs, growth, and economic development in our communities.
I will not be supporting this bill, because it seems that the Liberals' sole purpose here is to please other countries, even if that means hurting hard-working Canadians. I call on Liberal MPs to stand up for their constituents, not bow down to the PM who wants to create the world's first post-national state at the expense of Canadians. I cannot agree with a bill that eliminates consultation and evidence-based decision-making simply to meet these international commitments.