Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Langley—Aldergrove for his contributions to the debate so far. I am pleased to be rising to speak to this bill.
Alberta is really known for its coastlines.
There was not even a laugh in the chamber. I thought at least some people would appreciate that.
However, Albertans do care about coastlines. Members may have heard that for the past few years there has been a great debate on the construction of pipelines, for which Alberta is well known and for which Alberta has a lot of technical expertise.
Albertans are especially in pipelines that reach a coastline of some sort, so that we can sell our product at a higher world price. That is what has been consuming the interest, the time, and the debates in politics for the better part of the last few years in Alberta.
This bill to amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act also deals with conservation and stewardship. When I worked in Alberta for the Minister of Sustainable Resource Development, we were charged with the stewardship of not only Alberta's natural resources but also its wildlife, fauna, and aquatic resources. We do, indeed, have many of those. Some of the greatest inland sport fishing that can be done is in Alberta. No hooked barbs are used there. It all has to be done in our lakes and waters without any use of hooked barbs, so it takes quite a skilled angler to actually get it done.
Other members have already gone over some of the defects and some of the inconsistencies they see in the bill that the government has proposed, so I would like to focus my time on what is important when we are trying to talk about stewardship and protecting marine environments.
We should be measuring results by outcomes, not necessarily by whatever ranking we are trying to attain on some international statistic. We should not be using the government's stick to impose something on people. We should be using kind words and going out and reaching out to people, asking them what works in their particular area. That type of approach is the “Ottawa does not know best” approach.
Ottawa actually knows very little about places on any coast of this country, especially in our northern territories. People in those localities have a much better understanding of the local needs of the marine environment.
In the example I gave about measurements and ranking systems and international institutions grading different countries for reaching a certain goal or objective, the latter is good to have, but it is not the primary measurement goal. What we should be doing is asking whether we are reaching our own objectives. We, as Canadians, should be setting our own objectives, local communities' objectives.
It is not for Ottawa to set an objective of 1%, 2%, 5%, 10%, 20%, 30% or 40%. What do the local communities want? What are they talking about? What works for them? Is there one model for everyone? Could there be one model on the east coast, maybe another model on the west coast, and another in the north? Can it be made even more varied?
Can we say that we will call them MPAs, but within the MPAs we will allow it to vary and we will allow differences for different people? Can we also consult ahead of time?
I know the government has made a really big deal out of telling people that it is going to consult more and that the previous government did not do that. I feel that like most Liberal promises nowadays, this one should come with a warning label, such as “promise will be smaller than it appears” or “this promise may not be what it appears to be”.
I thought we were on the receiving end of science-based decision-making, which a lot of this proposal lacks. If the government is going to be moving ahead with forcing an MPA onto a local community or region or area, and then deciding after the fact whether it achieves all the goals we wanted to achieve or even to vary what an MPA is, then should it not be based on the best possible local science available first? Should it not be more transparent and have more consultation?
It seems that what the government is doing is very much the opposite. The government is giving the minister a stick to be used against local communities, instead of using kind words and enabling the minister to do the job in a more consultative manner.
What did the Liberals promise in their party platform in the last election? In the environmental section, they actually spent more time talking about Stephen Harper than they did about the marine environment. It is a seven to four difference. Maybe there should be a Stephen Harper protection area created. It could be all of Calgary.
In the document, the Liberals spent a lot more time complaining about what was not done before and saying that Stephen Harper did all these terrible things, and that in the marine environment the Liberals would do X, Y, and Z. However, they talked very little about the actual objectives.
The fisheries and oceans committee met and heard witness testimony. The member for Barrie—Innisfil quoted Sean Cox, a professor at Simon Fraser University, so I will not go over that particular point, but it provided valuable input. He said:
MPAs aren't likely to be effective scientific tools, either.
That was a direct quote.
He also said:
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.
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. Stephen just cited some of the studies that find that they're not broadly successful.
He was not saying that they do not work, but just that they are not as broadly successful as they are made out to be. Therefore, it is really a matter of what the content of the MPAs are. Do they match local community needs? Will they achieve their goals?
Brian Clark, an environmental adviser and registered professional biologist with Pacific NorthWest LNG, asked the following: “Where are the no-go zones? What are the thresholds for impacts?” He also said that “we need specific plans for coastal areas of high industrial activity.”
He added that “there is a lack of clear process for integrated coastal planning that leaves proponents to develop strategies in an information vacuum.” However, that information was collected from the local community. If we impose upon them an MPA and then say that we will formulate what it will actually be later on, what the permanent plan for the area will be, we will create anxiety, panic, and fear. It is like what the Liberal government has done with the small business tax changes it is proposing with a 75-day consultation window. To me, this seems like more of the same.
We have leaders from the territorial governments who have come out and openly attacked this proposal, Bill C-55.
Not to belabour the point, other members have mentioned that the MLA Johnny Mike, who is also the minister of the environment of Nunavut, openly attacked Ottawa. I have a headline that reads, “Nunavut MLA attacks Ottawa, Inuit orgs on proposed federal law.” I have another headline entitled, “Northern premiers present united front against Ottawa”, which is always a great headline for a government to have when it is two years into its mandate.
I will quote from that article:
To industry, the premiers delivered a message that they want to make investment in the territories more attractive rather than increase “regulatory complexity or uncertainty.”
That is exactly what this will create. It is an Ottawa-knows-best approach, one in which we have a box that we are going to impose on a community, a community that will have to live with it and comply with our plans and what we want to do.
Another headline, dated August 31, from Yellowknife is entitled “Territorial Premiers discuss plans to create strong sustainable North.” The article states:
Northern Premiers appreciate the federal government’s interest in improving the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act, and recognize the increase in federal oceans protection commitment by 2020. However, the proposed amendments to...Bill C55 allow for the creation of...[these interim MPAs] by a federal minister without prior consultation. This amendment should not be part of Bill C55.
When we have northern leaders telling us that we have it wrong, we should go back and ask, “What did we get wrong?” When they are telling us that those types of amendments should not be in this bill, we should commit to removing them right away or, even better, we should just remove the bill and start over again. That is what I have said that the Liberals should do on many other occasions with many different bills. They should take the bill off the table, such as the access to information law they have proposed before the House and that has now gone to committee. They should go back to the drawing board and get it done right the first time.
I have a Yiddish proverb to recite, which I know many members are probably waiting for. I mentioned the Ottawa-knows-best stick. The proverb goes like this, “It's not the stick that helps but the kind word.” That is what the federal government should be doing. I will make a comparison here with the small business tax proposals the Liberals have brought forward. I think this is very much the same. We can see both sides of this. On the one hand, the government has said there would be 75 days of consultations, and then on the other hand, it had said that it will drop the hammer, leaving no time for small business owners and farmers during harvest to contribute to the debate and provide information on how their businesses will be affected. How will people in these communities be affected by MPAs when these marine protected areas are imposed on them? It is a one-size-fits-all approach for everybody. What works on the east coast will not work on the west coast. Even areas 100 kilometres apart on the same coastline might be different. We have heard it said many times in the House that we have the longest coastline in the world. What are we protecting it for if not for the local communities?