Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Oshawa, and I would ask if you could give me a one-minute warning before my time is up.
It is always a pleasure to rise in the House to speak on behalf of my constituents of Chilliwack—Hope, especially when it comes to things that relate to fisheries and oceans.
Chilliwack and Hope are home to a large stretch of the Fraser River, which runs through the heart of my riding. It certainly plays role in our community, whether it is indigenous and sports fishing. These interests are represented and take full advantage of that great natural resource. Therefore, any time I can stand to talk about fisheries and oceans legislation, I welcome the opportunity.
We are here to talk about Bill C-55, which purports to set aside a percentage of the ocean as marine protected areas and ban certain activities from happening in those areas. As the member for Edmonton Manning just concluded, the main issue we have is that the government has failed to adequately consult with the stakeholders that will be most impacted by this decision, whether angling or indigenous groups. These groups have not been consulted, and there is real confusion as to what the government's plans are.
As the member for Cariboo—Prince George indicated earlier in the debate, numerous studies and witnesses have appeared before the fisheries and oceans committee and have shown that this is a slapdash approach that will not serve the environment, fishers or the communities to be impacted by the arbitrary targets set by the government.
I mentioned the Fraser River. All summer long, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans failed to adequately consult with or respond to the concerns of sports fishing interests on the Fraser River. They tried in vain, through numerous letters, calls, and contact with members of Parliament across the political spectrum, to get some action to get the river opened for sports fishing when other interests were exercising their right to fish. It was a real disappointment for the people in my riding, especially the Fraser River Sportfishing Alliance. It wrote to me and contacted my friend from Cariboo—Prince George and others. It was frustrated at the lack of response from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. We see this in Bill C-55 as well. It ignores stakeholders and their concerns with respect to fisheries policy.
In this case, the Fraser River Sportfishing Alliance supports conservation first and foremost. That is what it wants to see done. This is its primary concern. It wants the fishery to be there for future generations as it has been for us. It respects the constitutional priority that is given to first nations for food, social, and ceremonial fisheries. However, what it does not respect is a department of fisheries and oceans that does not respect it, that does not take into consideration the specific concerns it has raised, that does not provide any flexibility to allow it to use selective fishing methods, to allow its members to get out on the water with their kids and grandkids to exercise their right to enjoy that public resource.
I bring that up because I told the alliance that I would bring it to the House of Commons. It is endemic of the concerns we have with DFO's approach and with the approach of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to stakeholders that have a very real interest in how our fisheries are managed.
Another aspect of the bill is to prevent oil and gas development activity where these marine protected areas are developed. It is a real lack of consultation, which has again been a pattern for the current government. When it brought in its ill-advised top-down Arctic offshore drilling moratorium, it did not have the courtesy to give the premiers of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut a sufficient heads-up. It called them two hours before the announcement to advise them that offshore oil and gas drilling would be banned in the Arctic. What does that mean?
It meant that devolution to the territories meant nothing. It meant that Ottawa knew best, that decisions on what was best for northerners would continue to be made south of 60 in the Prime Minister's Office. That is a real step backwards when the people of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories specifically worked for years to get a devolution agreement that gave them the power over decision making on things like natural resources and energy, which was then stripped away by a press release from the Prime Minister's Office, instead of respecting our northern communities that would see a lack of economic opportunity.
Premier Bob McLeod said this felt like a step backwards. He stated:
We spent a lot of time negotiating a devolution agreement, and we thought the days were gone when we'd have unilateral decisions made about the North in some faraway place like Ottawa, and that northerners would be making the decisions about issues that affected northerners.
Peter Taptuna also said:
We do want to be getting to a state where we can make our own determination of our priorities, and the way to do that is gain meaningful revenue from resource development.
They want to control their own destiny when it comes to natural resource development. The federal government, with its Ottawa knows best approach, stepped in and killed that, very much in opposition of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut premiers.
Order Paper questions are an opportunity for opposition members to submit in writing detailed questions asking about the government's activities that relate to any matter we want to raise. When I was the former shadow minister for energy and the former shadow minister for fisheries and oceans, I asked questions on two occasions. I asked about the decision to conduct the offshore oil and gas exploration ban in the north, and I asked where the consultations were. What I got back was that the Liberals did not do the consultations before the announcement, but they were consulting now, after Ottawa had already made the decision. That is not the way it should be done. If we want communities to come along with us and to get community buy-in, we need to consult before we make an announcement.
We see the same pattern again with Bill C-55. The consultation phase is cut short, a decision is made by the government, and then it will consult now that it has said how it will to be.
It reminds me of the small business tax changes we are talking about right now. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance are not listening to Canadians. They are telling Canadians how it will be and are getting an earful because of it. Canadians want to have the opportunity to be heard. They do not want to be told how it will be. When I asked the government about this in Question No. 950, it said that no consultations were done in advance, that it would have them after the fact.
Another example was when the government arbitrarily shutdown the northern gateway pipelines project. I specifically asked if it had consulted with over 30 indigenous communities that stood to gain $2 billion in economic activity in their remote northern communities, where economic activity is a bit scarce. I asked the government to show me where the consultations were. It said that there were none, that it did not have an obligation to consult, so it arbitrarily shut down the project.
This is the pattern of the government. It says that it will consult when it wants to delay making a decision. When it wants to put off the tough choices, it hides behind consultation. When it already knows what it will do, when it has its Ottawa knows best approach, there are no consultations. The consultation is after the fact.
The Conservatives will oppose Bill C-55, because of this same approach to a lack of meaningful consultation and because Ottawa knows best. That is not the approach the government should take, and we cannot support it.