Mr. Speaker, it is truly a pleasure for me to rise and to consume about 30 minutes of this House's time on this issue.
I will couch my opening remarks by saying it was a privilege for me at one point in time in my life to earn a zoology degree in fisheries and aquatic sciences from the University of Alberta. I worked as a fisheries technician and on many fisheries experiments. I worked as a national park warden in Parks Canada enforcing the Fisheries Act, among other things, and of course as a conservation officer in the province of Alberta doing much the same, so I have a little working knowledge on this. I am proud to have folks like Dr. David Schindler as one of the professors I learned something from. If I told people when I was going to school, that would probably date both of us and I do not think that is a particularly constructive thing to do at this point in time.
Suffice it to say, I remained active. I was a fishing guide in the Northwest Territories while I was going to university. I spent a lot of time on Great Bear Lake, and of course on the north coast where the Coppermine River flows into the Arctic Ocean. I have maintained my love of the outdoors as an avid hunter and angler ever since. These kinds of issues are near and dear to my heart, especially when it comes to recreational fishing, or as it is more affectionately known, sport fishing.
These issues are very important. I will start by making some comparisons. When I was going to the University of Alberta years and years ago, there was a plan at that time by the World Wildlife Fund and the Canadian wilderness societies and so on that they wanted a 12, 75, 12 plan. They wanted to have 12% of all the land mass in Canada protected under the same kind of statutory protection a national park would have. That meant there would be no opportunities to do anything, no development and so on. There would be complete protection for that area. I do not want to call it conservation. I call it a preservation type of protection that they would have in these areas.
The other 75% of Canada would be considered areas that would be managed, like forest management areas. These would be areas where we would have human activity that would go on, but there would be zoning. Activities would be permitted, but they would be heavily regulated by the federal, provincial, or municipal government. Then about another 12% of our land mass at that particular point in time would be a complete disturbance areas. This would be areas for our cities, roads, major industrial developments, and so on.
I remember asking the question when I was in university if 12, 75, 12 was going to be enough. That adds up to 99, but members will get the point. As we have seen evolve through time, those numbers no longer hold true today with what certain groups are asking for. They are asking for more of that preservation land. They are asking for stricter regulations on the 75%. Of course, nobody wants to take responsibility for the 12% because that would mean we would have to tear down cities and do all those kinds of things in order to restore it back to its natural habitat, which is not a reasonable thing to ask people to do.
Who bears the burden then every time somebody asks for more protection? We have to take that protection out of that 12% or out of that 75% to add to the 12%. I am talking about the preserved areas. Who suffers the consequences of that? I am using this as an example on land to make my point later on about the protected areas and the marine areas. Who bears that price? It is everybody who lives in rural Canada. It is everybody who farms, everybody who relies on forestry, and everybody who is a fisherman, or a fisher person, or fisher peoplekind, depending on what the moniker of the day is.
The point is that everything we ask to happen in the natural environment generally happens outside the confines of city limits. This is not an aspersion on folks who live in cities, and I live in a city myself. However, having grown up on a farm, I understand every time somebody has to pay a price out in our so-called natural areas that price is borne by the people who live there or make their livings in these rural, remote, or non-city areas.
The same is going to actually hold true for those who earn a living in our marine areas. This would be our commercial fishermen. This would be anybody who does any tourism, anybody who does any type of business, and of course first nations people who earn a living off the coastal waters of our country. We have seen the absolute damage, the economic damage, that can be done to these communities when we do not get things right.
As we know, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is tasked with maintaining fish stocks. We know in Atlantic Canada, going back to the early 1990s, some of the issues that happened there when we applied a purely political decision over good science and technical information. I am referring specifically to the collapse of the cod fishery.
I was a fairly young man at the time. I was studying in university in the late 1980s and early 1990s at about the same time that the cod fishery was closed. I believe it was in 1993 when it was closed. It was closed because it was mismanaged. At that time there were over one million seals in the Atlantic Ocean. Today we have six million or seven million seals there. It was a big problem. The fishermen had to move to other resources, such as herring, lobsters, and other fisheries. They had to adapt to overcome the loss of the cod.
To this day we have had a moratorium. I want to talk about what it means. The moratorium on the cod fishery means that no one is allowed to do it, so the cod for all intents and purposes are preserved. The cod population stocks are under a preservation style of protection. Have the cod stocks actually come back? No, they have not. We have moved this from a managed fishery into a completely protected class and even that movement in and of itself has not had the desired effect or outcome that we wanted.
We have not stopped any of the other activity that happens off of the east coast. There are still ships coming in and out. I would argue we have lots of ships with foreign oil coming into the east coast. It would be nicer to have a pipeline going from Alberta to our friends in the east, but I digress. It is a much easier thing to manage than tankers full of oil coming in on the east coast. It would be interesting to see if we had a tanker ban on the east coast the same as we do on the west coast. It seems to be a bit of a double standard there, but I am getting off topic and I will come back to marine protected areas.
When we moved from a management mode of the cod stocks into a preservation mode, it did not solve the problem. I am not saying it was not the right decision, but it did not solve the problem because all of the other aspects of managing the cod fishery have now fallen by the wayside. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, rather than restoring the cod stocks or managing the cod stocks, and I am not saying they are not doing some of that work, but now it is more interested in working the fisheries currently before it.
Now the Liberal government has proposed moving to a massive increase of the marine protected areas in our coastal waters. I was lucky to be a member of the fisheries committee in previous Parliaments because of my experience. As a matter of fact, people used to laugh when they found out a farm boy from central Alberta was a member of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans for all those years, until they found out I actually knew a little about fisheries, other than how bad a fisherman I am.
Notwithstanding that, I learned a ton over the years and I was very honoured to go with the standing committee on a trip up north. We went to places like Prince Rupert, Inuvik, Tuktoyaktuk, and Paulatuk. We talked with the people who are going to be impacted by these marine protected areas there. The impacts and concerns are very real. People from local hunting and trapping associations up north came in droves to those meetings and made their voices heard. They are very concerned because they feel there has not been adequate consultation regarding some of the areas being proposed. There are very good questions about the risks of what is going to happen in the marine protected areas.
This is where we get to the conversation about what the international standard for a marine protected area is and how Canada is going to define a marine protected area. If we ask someone from the United Nations, that person would consider the marine protected area to be a no activity zone whatsoever. This is complete protection or what I referred to earlier as that preservation mentality. I am not saying it is right or wrong; I am just saying that is the mode most people would see when they hear about a marine protected area. They would see it as having the same protections that a national park would have.
Everyone knows that we cannot hunt in a national park. We cannot drill for anything in a national park. As a matter of fact, I have been an MP for 12 years and resort owners and so on in our national parks have not seen any changes over the last 12 years because it is so hard to get approval to get anything done in a national park. I am not saying it is right or wrong; it is just very difficult to do that because of the mandate Parks Canada has on its preservation, ecological integrity, and the other types of goals and ambitions that are laid out in the Canada National Parks Act.
Those same goals and ambitions are laid out in the legislative changes that are currently before the House with Bill C-55 and Bill C-68, which the government opposite just moved time allocation on, a bill that might be disastrous for the Alberta economy. It is just another straw on the camel's already broken back when it comes to the energy sector. However, I digress again and must return to Bill C-55.
With Bill C-55, the aboriginal groups, the Inuit, the people at the Prince Rupert Port Authority, the first nations groups, the Lax Kw'alaams and all the other groups we talked with out there are very concerned. PNCIMA was brought up. They are very concerned about the amount of foreign money that is coming in to influence policy decisions. The money coming in has been used by some aboriginal or indigenous groups out there to inadvertently stop what they thought was going to be an increase in the conversation. They realized they have sided with people who took money from a bunch of organizations that actually have a completely different mandate than what the first nations have. There is a court action happening right now where first nations groups in B.C. are raising funds to take the Government of Canada to court, citing all of the barriers it has put in place in the name of standing up for first nations, which will deprive them of economic opportunities going forward. This is something that is of very legitimate concern with Bill C-55 and the marine protected areas.
We have a tanker ban off the northern part of the west coast. Most people think that the entire west side of B.C. is coastal, but it is not. Just a little over a third of the west side of the province of British Columbia has access to the coast. The rest of it is in Alaska. We would have to go through Alaska in order to get some things done if we wanted to use the coastline in that case. We have a very small area to use along the British Columbia coast to begin with, and now a significant part of that coast is denied access, depending on what one is trying to ship or move.
I might be a bit cynical, but this is what the folks on the west coast and on the north coast who we met at committee are thinking. The folks up north want to be able to continue to hunt whales. One of the marine protected areas that the government is considering putting in place is right in the mouth of the Mackenzie River and the delta where it comes in. That happens to be an area of shallow water where the belugas come in. It is a safe place for the Inuit hunters to go. They go there every year to hunt belugas. If it becomes a marine protected area to protect the belugas, which seems to be a noble cause, it would exempt the Inuit from harvesting in that area. They would have to try and find those belugas somewhere else in order to maintain their traditional hunt. That is a problem for the first nations people there.
Are we going to create marine protected areas in Canada that do not actually meet the international standard of what is expected of us with respect to marine protected areas, or are we going to have a made-in-Canada solution, forgo our international obligations and then do our best? I am not sure what the government's intentions are with respect to that. It would be great to see. However, we seem to have a lot more questions than we do answers, and the legislation is not particularly clear on some of these questions.
I will go back to the port in Prince Rupert. We met with the port authorities there. They are already very much concerned. Most people in Canada do not know that most of the container goods that we see going through the western part of Canada on their way east—and a ton of containers that come to the west coast come in through Prince Rupert, which has a great container ability—go by rail through Canada all the way down to Chicago. This is supplying goods from the Asia-Pacific marketplace into central North America as a distribution hub. It is an amazing facility. It is a very small community. It is a great provider of jobs. There are great economic opportunities there.
There was a proposal for an LNG terminal in Prince Rupert. We know what happened with the LNG proposal. That seems to have gone by the wayside. Given the fact that there will be a tanker ban, there is no way anybody would even consider moving forward with an LNG terminal in that area.
If I were the kind of person who wanted to be bitter and vindictive about making sure that the tanker ban held its way for all time, I would consider putting a marine protected area across the Dixon Entrance and across the Hecate Strait. This would pretty much mean that particular area, depending on the provisions that were put in place for the marine protected area, could shut down shipping altogether in those areas, or at least really restrict what one is able to do.
This again brings me back to my point. What is a marine protected area supposed to do? Is it supposed to protect the water? Is it supposed to protect the species living in the water? Is it supposed to protect the benthic area directly below the water column along the sea floor? These are all questions to which we do not have answers.
If we look at the sunlit zone, which is the area where the human eye can see sunlight at the top of a water column, there is not a whole lot of activity there. There are some fish species, some algae, and some plankton. However, all of the stuff is very much moving as currents move in and out. Does it make any sense to try and protect a wave while it is a-wave? It does not make any sense at all. These things are going to move around the ocean. Are we protecting that area? Some would say yes. Some would say no.
Are we protecting a rearing area for whales or other types of migratory species that use the water? Are they going to be birds, fish, aquatic mammals, or terrestrial animals, where a certain part of their life cycle relies on the marine environment? Are we adequately taking into consideration where those protections should be best placed?
Are we taking a look at the littoral zone, and are we going to protect it? Are we going protect the benthic zone? Are we going to shut down commercial fishing, for example? Are we going to be shutting down dragging or trawling along the bottom of the sea for fish species? That is maybe a good thing, but maybe it is not. I happen to believe that, in certain cases, if it is done in the right place, protections on the bottom of the sea floor are great. They are great for the groundfish that live there, especially if it is an area rich in groundfish that usually stay in that area. An area of refugia actually creates species all around it.
I will go back to one of my jobs as a park warden, which was to patrol the north boundary of Jasper National Park on horseback. Why I ever gave that job up in the glorious Rocky Mountains riding horses, to this day I do not understand. However, my job was to protect the park boundary from poachers. Where did everyone go hunting for trophy rams or bighorn sheep? Well, they would go hunting where the rams were. The rams were in the national park, because they understood the refugia, and they would go back into the park any time they felt threatened. They knew where the boundary was. It was an interesting thing to watch. That area of refugia continued to populate the sheep populations as they migrated out, which is the same thing with other species.
This is not necessarily bad policy, but it is not an effective one-size-fits-all policy. It is going to work well for some species of groundfish, but it is not going to do anything for some species of fish that might migrate through or that do not use the area on a regular basis. We have to ask the question of whether the marine protected area is in the right spot.
I have a lot of questions about this proposed legislation and what the consequences of it might be. I have highlighted the fact that the cod fishery, taking the protectionist approach, has not exactly worked if we are not taking a serious look at management. When we put things into that category of preservation, it becomes very difficult to do any management, because we have to get double approvals for everything.
Imagine if Parks Canada said we need to shoot grizzly bears, wolves, and mountain lions in order to protect caribou. It is not unfathomable that this might be a desperation policy at some point down the road, as growth of the wolf, grizzly bear, and mountain lion populations continues to explode in the eastern slopes region of Alberta. These animals are everywhere, so much so that, in some cases, we cannot find any ungulates anymore. Rather than stopping economic activity such as oil and gas exploration or forestry, we are going to shut those industries down and not do anything at all about predator control.
I do not see some of my colleagues from Atlantic Canada who were here earlier, but I know that a lot of them, even though they might not say it in front of a microphone, hear the same things that I hear. I have been there many times with fisheries, and they are asking for control of the seal population in order to allow the cod stocks to come back. However, imagine a situation where we create a marine protected area around some of the islands where grey seals or harbour seals rear their pups. It comes down to the point that someday somewhere, someone will say we have to have the courage to manage these populations and do what is right.
Imagine trying to manage predator control in a protected area where the needs of the wildlife are put before the needs of everybody else, a fishery, or whatever the case might be. I have news for members. It is romantic to think we have the ability to have these protected areas and that they can operate in isolation from the rest of the world, but that is not the case. The bill before us could seriously limit the ability of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and other organizations to effectively manage wildlife populations and allow other economic activities to grow. Therefore, the bill should not be rushed through Parliament. It should be given every opportunity, which is why I move:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following therefor:
“Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act, be not now read a third time but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans for the purpose of reconsidering all of the clauses.