House of Commons Hansard #276 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was firearms.

Topics

Motion No. 23Ways and MeansGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Motion No. 23Ways and MeansGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

All those opposed will please say nay.

Motion No. 23Ways and MeansGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Motion No. 23Ways and MeansGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #642

Ways and MeansGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I declare the motion carried.

Ways and MeansGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-74, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 27, 2018 and other measures, be read the first time and be printed.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Ways and MeansGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

In a moment, I am going to call upon the hon. member for Langley—Aldergrove from whom I have notice of a question of privilege, however, first I want to refer to my ruling of last week, on March 20, when I said the following:

As I already noted, the Chair is concerned that this question of privilege was not brought up at the earliest opportunity. Members know that in determining a question of privilege prima facie, the Speaker must consider whether the two requisite conditions have been met; that is, whether the matter was raised at the earliest opportunity and whether, in the Speaker's view, it constitutes, at first view, a breach of a parliamentary privilege.

With respect to timeliness, House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, states at page 145:

...the Member must satisfy the Speaker that he or she is bringing the matter to the attention of the House as soon as practicable after becoming aware of the situation. When a Member has not fulfilled this important requirement, the Speaker has ruled that the matter is not a prima facie question of privilege.”

I went on to say:

...This is cause for concern for the Chair, particularly as the member did not provide an explanation as to why the condition of timeliness was not satisfied. While I am prepared to be flexible on this point this time and not dismiss his question of privilege for this reason alone, it is a condition that must be taken into account in assessing the alleged question of privilege.

Therefore, I would ask the member to have regard to that in his comments.

The hon. member for Langley—Aldergrove.

Access to Canada Summer Jobs ProgramPrivilegeGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is my earliest opportunity to raise this issue of a question of privilege. It relates to this year's Canada summer jobs program. We have just received the list, and it highlights the concerns I have. Having gone through the list, I bring it forward to you at the earliest opportunity on a question of privilege.

I rise on a question of privilege regarding a matter that members will appreciate does not fall within certain enumerated rights and immunities for the House to treat as a breach of privilege, but falls within the scope of contempt, as explained by Joseph Maingot at page 226 of Parliamentary Privilege in Canada. He writes:

In addition to these enumerated rights and immunities that are necessary for the House and its Members to perform their legislative function, the House of Commons may also examine any direct or indirect act or omission other than an attack or disregard of the enumerated rights and immunities, and if the House is of the view that any such act or omission tends to obstruct or impede the House or its Members in their parliamentary functions, the House may declare such act or omission to be a contempt of Parliament and invoke its penal jurisdiction, whether or not there is a precedent.

Page 81 of Bosc and Gagnon says:

There are...other affronts against the dignity and authority of Parliament which may not fall within one of the specifically defined privileges. Thus, the House also claims the right to punish, as a contempt, any action which, though not a breach of a specific privilege: tends to obstruct or impede the House in the performance of its functions; obstructs or impedes any Member or officer of the House in the discharge of their duties; or is an offence against the authority or dignity of the House...its Members, or its officers.

I have been dealing with the summer jobs program for 14 years. I was elected in 2004. The government's value test has impeded my role as a member of Parliament, and I would like to share with members in what way.

This year's Canada summer jobs program started with an email from Service Canada on December 8, 2017. I received that email. It was probably a common email that was sent to every member of Parliament. It stated:

As a Member of Parliament (MP), you will have the opportunity to fulfill the following roles in the delivery of CSJ:

1. promote the CSJ program within your constituency;

2. participate in establishing local priorities;

3. validate the list of recommended projects; and,

4. notify successful applicants.

I did respond to the Service Canada representative, who actually did a very good job. I talked to her on the phone and asked what the definition of reproductive rights was within the new attestation requirement. She could not answer, so I responded to her with the following email, which I sent on December 13, within a few minutes of talking to her on the phone, just to clarify what we had talked about. I said:

I agree with the Canada Summer Jobs 2018 priorities on the condition that the new attestation requirement will not restrict organizations from receiving Canada Summer Jobs 2018 funding if they object to the definition of reproductive rights and refuse to sign the attestation agreement. There may be controversial reproductive issues that have nothing to do with their funding application and should not render their application incomplete or ineligible. You were unable to define what is the program's definition of reproductive rights and I look forward to your response. Until then, my approval is conditional.

Just a couple of minutes later, she acknowledged receiving the email and said, “It was good speaking with you today. Thank you for sending the email so promptly. As soon as I have a response to your inquiry, I will be in contact with you. I look forward to connecting with you in the new year.”

The next correspondence I received from Service Canada was not a response to my questions. It was the list. Therefore, I never had the definition of reproductive rights in the requirements.

Then, I received this list. As I said, I have been doing this for 14 years. I went over previous years' lists, from 2015, 2016, and 2017, and often the same people were applying and providing incredible job opportunities for youth in my riding of Langley—Aldergrove. I noticed that all of them were in the not-for-profit sector, and I really liked that. I also looked at the assessment score. Out of 100, it went from 87 down to 73, for all those that were recommended on the approved list.

Then I looked at this year's list, and it is not on par with what happened. There are so many people and organizations in my riding that are not on the new recommended list. The assessment code went from 87 to 73; it now starts at a much lower assessment rating of 73 down to 48, so there has been a major change. There are a number of constituent groups that were not able to apply and were rejected. The groups that have asked me to bring this to the attention of the House are Northwest Langley Baptist Church, Christian Life Assembly, Fort Langley Evangelical Free Church, Brookwood Baptist Church, North Langley Community Church, Willoughby Church, Riverside Calvary Chapel, Loft Country, Living Waters, and Power to Change.

There was one additional group, which was providing jobs for recovering young women. It was teaching them how to build and install cabinets as part of their recovery program. Unfortunately, that applicant, again, was not able to apply.

To deny certain Canadian taxpayers access to provincial programs or grants because of their belief, faith, personal conscience, or opinion, all of which are guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, even if they are contrary to the views or policies of the Liberal Party of Canada, is an offence and a breach of privilege, and it impedes my ability to represent the community and to administer the summer jobs program on behalf of my constituents, as I am required to do.

I believe the House can consider these acts by the government to fall within the scope of contempt. Parliamentary Privilege in Canada explains it this way at page 226:

This is why it is said that the “privileges” of the House cannot be exhaustively codified; there are many acts or omissions that might occur where the House would feel compelled to find that a contempt has taken place, even though such acts or omissions do not amount to an attack on or disregard for any of the enumerated rights and immunities.

Mr. Speaker, if you find that this is a prima facie question of privilege, I am prepared to move an appropriate motion and send this matter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. I look forward to your ruling.

Access to Canada Summer Jobs ProgramPrivilegeGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I thank the hon. member for Langley—Aldergrove.

Before I go to the hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands, who was kind enough to let me know he wanted to add to the argument, I must say that I remain concerned about the timeliness. I recognize that the member is arguing that the situation as he is characterizing it has just arisen, although I think he will note that the topic has certainly been under debate for quite a while now.

The hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands.

Access to Canada Summer Jobs ProgramPrivilegeGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity. I think one of the reasons for the request today is that today is the deadline for much of the application process around the Canada summer jobs program. We did not want to waste your time, Mr. Speaker. We had hoped that the pressure would lead the government to drop the requirement. That is not so, and now we find ourselves here today.

I am rising on the same question of privilege, on the Canada summer jobs program. I want to highlight two points that I think are relevant to this discussion. In order to do our jobs as members of Parliament, we must be able to represent our constituents fairly, based on the charter and on the legislation passed by Parliament.

While the policies of the various parties guide them as they move forward, until these policies are implemented through legislation, they do not become the law of Canada and they cannot direct MPs in their work.

Through the added requirements for the Canada summer jobs program, the Liberal government has created barriers based solely on its party policy. The requirement to attest to Liberal Party policy limits my capacity to represent my constituents and creates an issue of privilege for me. It has also made it impossible for many of my constituents to access a government program because of their inability to support the Liberal Party policy.

My role requires me to support the principles of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and that includes the right to belief, faith, personal conscience, and opinion. I have been happy to do that. Indeed, in the 17 years I have been here, I have never seen or had to deal with an applicant for the Canada summer jobs program who did not accede to the rights laid out by the charter and the Parliament of Canada. There have been many programs I agree with, and many others I disagree with. However, the rights and requirements of each were a matter of parliamentary discussion and decision.

However, that is no longer the case. This winter, that all changed. In its implementation of the 2018 Canada summer jobs program, the government added additional requirements for my participation and for the participation of my constituents. Long-time recipients of CSJ funding were denied even the opportunity to apply because of the additional requirements, which consisted of an attestation that emphasized Liberal Party policy. These rejected applicants included private businesses, charities, camps, and municipal governments.

The issue here is not actually the content of the attestation, on which people hold a variety of positions. It is about having to agree to it at all. Members must not be required to adhere to the governing party's policy in order to access programming. That is a practice that may take place in other countries, but it has never been part of our national fabric. When we had a vote in the House, every party had representatives who supported that position.

The required attestation has impeded my ability to represent my constituents. As many have pointed out, the issue is not whether we agree with Liberal Party policy in this case. The issue is the requirement to attest to it. We allow many different points of view in this country. Requiring applicants to assert belief in a policy and MPs to attest to it in order to participate is a question of privilege.

There is a second aspect to my question of privilege. The government has presented and insisted that misleading information, which is a condition for a question of privilege, be part of the Canada summer jobs program application and participation.

The charter and LGBT rights are enshrined in law and codes. As I mentioned, in 17 years I have never had an applicant who has made an issue of this in his or her application.

The issue of reproductive rights is a topic of much discussion, both in this country and around the world. It is clear that there is a wide variety of positions on those rights, even in this House. The one thing they are not is a charter right in Canada. The admonition to legislate on this issue was invited by the Supreme Court some 25 years ago, and to this point Parliament has declined to legislate.

Inaccurate and misleading information is part of the attestation that individuals and organizations must sign. It has been reinforced by numerous other communication pieces of the government. It is that misleading information that has made it impossible for me to participate, and that has prevented my constituents from participating.

Our members' privileges can be violated by the provision of inaccurate information. If we look at the attestation, we see that it is inaccurate. I and the applicants are required to adhere to the charter and respect LGBT rights, but we are not required to subscribe to Liberal Party policy distinctives around reproductive rights in order to participate in Canadian—

Access to Canada Summer Jobs ProgramPrivilegeGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Order. I am afraid that we are well into debate now. I expressed one concern, which was about the question of time on this. Another is about this being a matter of debate, a debate on which members have very strong views, which I completely respect and acknowledge. However, this is what it seems to be.

Nevertheless, I will examine the matter and come back to the House. I think I have heard enough about it for now. I thank hon. members for their interventions on this. We do not have endless interventions on questions of privilege, as members will know. I appreciate the member for Langley—Aldergrove raising the question, and I thank the hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands for his intervention.

However, I do think I have heard enough, if it is on the same issue. There is no need for a point of order, unless it is on a different issue.

Access to Canada Summer Jobs ProgramPrivilegeGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order and not on a question of privilege. To illustrate that, I would draw your attention to Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, citation 26(1) and 26(3), page 12 of the sixth edition, which illustrated, you would know, that you, as Speaker, can rule on points of order, but on a question of privilege, you are simply making a prima facie case, ruling on such, and then bringing it to the House for a motion.

However, I would draw your attention to page 147 of Bosc and Gagnon, which states, “The Speaker will hear the Member and may permit others who are directly implicated in the matter to intervene.” These members who are seeking the floor are clearly implicated in this matter.

I would draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to precedent on this matter to, first, May 18, 2016—

Access to Canada Summer Jobs ProgramPrivilegeGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I think the member is referring to the discussion going on. He will know that, in fact, I read last week an excerpt from the procedural manual to which he referred. It expresses the fact that the Speaker can decide when he has heard enough in terms of a question of privilege, which I have. I thank members for their attention.

Orders of the day.

The House resumed from March 26 consideration of the motion that Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act, be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a sad day here when members cannot have their question of privilege heard in this House. I respect your position, but when we have members standing on a point of order and simply being shut down, it is a dismal day for democracy in Canada. What we have seen this week with the government shutting down debate and calling time allocation on multiple bills has to make one wonder what it is that the Liberals are trying to change the channel on, and it is disturbing.

I will start on a lighter note, noting that this is the second half of a 20-minute time slot that I was allowed. I had 10 minutes yesterday. It has now been almost 24 hours to carry on this section of the debate. I was debating whether I should wear the same clothes so if the two videos get clipped together it does not look like I did a Superman change. Oh, pardon me, that would be a super-person change, or a super-people change.

It has been almost 24 hours since I began my speech to Bill C-55, so I want to recap a bit of what has taken place. In December 2016, I saw what the current government may intend to do with changes to the way marine protected areas are established in B.C., so I put forward a motion at the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans that the committee undertake a study on the criteria and process for establishing MPAs in Canada. That motion was accepted and approved by the committee members. We eventually got around to starting that study in about April 2017. We travelled to the north and to the west coast in June. We travelled to the east coast in the fall. As I said yesterday, we heard differing testimony on how the MPA process was working.

We heard that with the process that is taking place right now, in some cases, it took seven to 10 years to establish an MPA. That is a fairly lengthy time, but we heard that those MPAs that were created under that process were accepted by the communities and in fact in many cases were put forward by and promoted by the communities that were most affected. What we heard was that the proposed changes that Bill C-55 could bring forward would eliminate the opportunity for those fishers and those communities to have input into how those MPAs are created, and it was quite discerning. We heard that many times in Atlantic Canada and yet the current government, with full representation in Atlantic Canada, has chosen to ignore the testimony that we heard there.

The committee study on MPAs has been kicked aside and sidelined many times. We started a study on small-vessel licensing, which kicked the study aside. Now we are going to see legislation on Bill C-68 coming to the committee so the study on MPAs will be further kicked aside. I question whether the Liberals may be causing this because they do not want that testimony exposed to the public, and the recommendations that may come out of that committee study. The recommendations we would have seen would have indicated the problems with the new proposed process, so for some reason the Liberals are pushing aside that MPA study and the report that would result out of it, kicking it aside and fast-tracking by time allocation the debate on Bill C-55 so that we have no process of really exposing the issues and the problems that are in the bill. Again, it is an affront to democracy and just an example of the arrogance that the government has been showing over the past couple of weeks. It is really disturbing to me and should be disturbing to all Canadians.

There is another part of this scenario that we can only speculate on. Is there another reason that the fisheries minister wants to get this legislation out there and get it in front of the committee to tie up the committee's time? That may be because Conservative members on the committee have started to expose the surf clam scam.

One may ask what the surf clam scam is all about. The fisheries minister decided unilaterally to expropriate 25% of the surf clam quota from a holder in Newfoundland. He then issued that quota to a non-existent company that was established by close Liberal friends and family members. Unbelievable. The threads are starting to unravel on that surf clam scam.

I project that perhaps time allocation on Bill C-55 and Bill C-68, an act to amend the Fisheries Act, may be a cover-up process to take attention away from what really should be concerning, that being a perceived conflict of interest.

That takes us all the way back to the mandate letters that were provided to Liberal cabinet members by the Prime Minister, which indicated that there should be no actual or perceived conflict of interest and yet we have seen it happen time and time again with the government, not just perceived conflict of interest but actual conflict of interest. The finance minister was found in conflict. There are still questions around the Prime Minister, who was found guilty of breaking the law four times and had to address that with the conflict commissioner.

I will get back to Bill C-55 and some of our concerns, which I touched a bit on yesterday regarding wildlife management, fisheries management, totally protected areas, and no-take zones as they are being referred to in reference to the Oceans Act and MPAs.

Similar things to those no-take zones have been put in place on land and in parks across Canada and they have created problems. They have also taken place in the U.S. and we have seen problems. We heard testimony from a U.S. scientist at committee who explained what had happened with the California MPA process. It was absolutely devastating to the recreational fishery and the supporting sectors down there. There was a 20% drop in licence sales and vehicle sales relating to towing equipment for boats. It was absolutely devastating for that process. We cannot afford to see that same process take place here in Canada. We need full consultation.

This legislation would give the minister overarching power to decide to close an area on extremely short notice, only taking into account one year's previous activity within that area, not going back eight to 10 years to see what might have been there. I also spoke a bit about this yesterday. I spoke about how a halibut fishery had recovered and was going back to an area in Nova Scotia. Fishermen had not been able to fish there for five to 10 years but suddenly the halibut were starting to come back, so they were going back to fish in that area. As I said, fish move, fisheries move, and ocean currents change.

This legislation proposes to eliminate all of the background information that can be gathered, the process of consulting with local fishermen, local communities, and the science community for establishing what should be a well-received and well-accepted MPA, as has been happening in the process already.

We have also heard that there are other processes for protecting our oceans and a lot of those are in place already in Canada with rockfish conservation areas on our west coast.

Those areas are not MPAs, but now some are saying that just to meet our targets we should include those. I do not disagree with that. That is a good process. However, those conservation areas need to be established, have long-term goals, but also the long-term background, which the bill fails to allow.

It has been interesting to have make the same speech almost 24 hours apart.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, while I lament that we have interruptions and a loss of time for debate, overall the bill is quite welcomed. It is well constructed. It is overdue. The initial Oceans Act was passed well before the Harper administration, but unfortunately it has never really been fully implemented. It has a lot of opportunities to improve adjacency, that local fishing communities have more say in the fisheries management adjacent to them. The bill also focuses on long overdue improvements to creating national marine protected areas.

While I understand my hon. colleague's frustration with the interruptions, such is the nature of work around here, particularly lately, I hope the House will pass Bill C-55 expeditiously.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would caution the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands not to get Bill C-55 confused with Bill C-68. Bill C-55 is the Oceans Act. Bill C-68 is an act to amend the Fisheries Act.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Burnaby North—Seymour B.C.

Liberal

Terry Beech LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member opposite for all the work he has done in the fisheries committee on this subject and many others. I have enjoyed working with him. We have a very cordial relationship at committee.

He spoke about the MPA study that had been conducted by the fisheries and oceans committee. It has been a very interesting process. All of the witnesses who come to the fisheries and oceans committee are broadcast on Parlvu. Everyone can see and listen to the testimony in a very open and transparent way.

Some of the comments from the Conservative side around the precautionary principle concern me. Does the Conservative Party of Canada support the precautionary principle?

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is good to have a congenial relationship so we can hopefully find common areas on which to move forward.

The precautionary principle is a good principle, but we also need to find a balance between ensuring our country, our fishermen, and our communities are able to continue with their livelihoods in a sustainable way, to find that balance between conservation and preservation. There is a big difference there. Conservation allows the conservative use of a resource so we gain a benefit from it and can put back into it. I do not agree with with the preservation system. It is not the best wildlife management system out there.

We have seen so much human intervention. I do not know if “human” is the correct word to use now or if it should be “hupeople”. However, we have seen so much human intervention in fish and wildlife habitats and species management over the years that we simply cannot step back and expect an area to recover fully, or to find that sustainable balance within itself without predator management or other activities that may be able to bring it back to that balance.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, what a rare chance to be able to thank my friend from South Okanagan—Shuswap. He is quite correct. I had earlier today jotted down that we were moving to Bill C-55 this afternoon, and things do move quickly. We are on Bill C-68. Therefore, I regret that the Fisheries Act is moving so quickly, with time allocation on it. However, I support the bill.

I am so relieved to see the restoration and the protection of fish habitat in the bill. We have had the Fisheries Act since 1867. Protecting fisheries, including fish habitat, was a provision brought in by the current fisheries minister's father, the late and much respected Romeo LeBlanc. He also served as our governor general. Having those sections ripped out of the Fisheries Act in the spring of 2012 in an omnibus budget bill of over 420 pages that changed 40 different acts, with no consultation, not a single amendment allowed, and no proper hearings, was an abomination in this place. I am glad to see at least this part of it repaired.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, there may still be a bit of confusion on the part of the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands. I believe we are studying Bill C-55 right now.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

March 27th, 2018 / 4:20 p.m.

Burnaby North—Seymour B.C.

Liberal

Terry Beech LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to rise for a third time to express my support for Bill C-55 and to speak against the proposed amendment to refer the bill back to the standing committee for the purpose of reconsidering all of the clauses.

The Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard has been given a clear mandate to protect Canada's three oceans, our coasts, our waterways, and our fisheries to ensure they remain healthy for the benefit of future generations, something I thought about today when I saw so many young people in our gallery. This is a commitment that I take very seriously and very personally.

As I said previously, when we debated the bill at second reading, I am extremely honoured that my first piece of legislation as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard is for such a worthy cause.

The Oceans Act is a fundamental tool that Canadians rely upon to ensure the future health of our marine ecosystems. I truly believe that at the end of the day, a pristine and abundant environmental ecosystem is our greatest underlying economic driver.

Specific to today's debate, the Government of Canada has committed to Aichi target 11 under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. As well, I just returned from the World Ocean Summit, where I was able to share the leadership that Canada had once again taken to protect our oceans.

In addition to this bill, we are returning lost protections and incorporating modern safeguards into the Fisheries Act through Bill C-68. We have committed to making the protection of our oceans a pillar of our G7 agenda. This includes leadership in four key areas, including ocean health, sustainable fisheries, addressing plastics, and building resilient coastal communities. We were applauded for making such significant progress on our targets.

As a government, we are committed to protecting 10% of our oceans and marine areas by 2020. When we took office, less than 1% of these areas were protected, but today we have protected 7.75%, representing hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of new protections, protections of which I know Canadians are proud.

Our three oceans are complex webs of ecological and human systems that need to be understood, protected, and in many cases restored. Marine protected areas and marine protected area networks preserve these ecological links and protect diverse marine ecosystems and species. We will continue to establish marine protected areas through science-based decision-making, transparency, and in a manner that advances reconciliation with indigenous peoples.

It currently takes an average of seven years to designate an Oceans Act marine protected area. It requires time to undertake scientific assessments and socio-economic studies, as well as conduct consultations with governments, indigenous groups, and stakeholders. These are important steps that cannot be eliminated as they ensure that a marine protected area achieves its intended objectives while supporting local culture, the economy, and other needs. That said, a very clear understanding of what needs to be protected typically emerges well before all of the data is compiled.

Amendments to the Oceans Act under Bill C-55 propose solutions that will help us protect critical and unique areas of our Canadian oceans faster, without sacrificing the necessary science and consultation processes. The amendments ensure collaboration continues, requiring provinces, territories, indigenous groups, industry, and other stakeholders to be part of both the establishment and management processes.

Essentially, Bill C-55 proposes amendments to the Oceans Act to provide an additional tool that will allow for interim protection of specific areas through a ministerial order. This interim protection will be done following initial science and consultations, which would take around 24 months.

Following this step, the full federal regulatory process would continue to formally designate the marine protected area within the next five years. These amendments would ensure that when needed, an interim marine protected area could be put into place. New activities that risk further harm to ocean ecosystems, habitat, or marine life would not be allowed to occur in these interim protected zones.

These amendments not only respect current activities but also the need to conduct comprehensive consultations and scientific research before the final marine protected area is established.

Therefore, the time frame to fully establish a marine protected area may still take up to seven years, but there could be some interim protections in place within the first two. No longer can a lack of 100% scientific certainty be used to delay or prevent the protection of a sensitive marine area. Right now there is no protection until there is full protection, which is a problem these amendments are effectively solving, a problem that is amplified by an ocean that is so quickly changing, along with our climate. This policy is entirely in lockstep with the precautionary approach, which is a founding principle of conservation in Canada.

To put it another way, an interim marine protected area would freeze the footprint of ongoing activities. Under this concept, only ongoing activities, which are those activities occurring one year before the interim protection is in place, would be allowed to continue. For example, current fishing activities, or fishing activities where a moratorium is in place but licences are still held would be considered ongoing activities.

To further support this new concept, which is integral to the creation of an interim marine protected area, Bill C-55 also includes amendments that would require application of the precautionary principle when deciding whether to designate new marine protected areas. That means incomplete information or lack of absolute certainty would not be justification for avoiding protection where there would be a risk to the marine ecosystem.

Bill C-55 also includes modernized, updated, and strengthened enforcement powers, fines, and punishments under the Oceans Act.

The proposed amendments to the Oceans Act have received broad support during outreach efforts to discuss the bill. Canadians recognize the amendments would not short-circuit the development of sound science or cut off people's opportunity to collaborate and be consulted in the development of marine protected areas. Instead, they would ensure protection would be put in place quicker, in the interests of all Canadians.

We would be able to act on initial science and information to help these areas safe while additional research, engagement, and regulatory processes would be worked through.

Supporting the health of our ocean is necessary to ensure that future generations will be able to rely on the unique and precious marine ecosystems and resources that underline our environment and economy. It should go without saying, but Canadians are counting on us to protect our oceans, a resource that at times we have too often taken for granted.

I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to congratulate the fisheries and oceans committee on the great work it has done on this bill and on additional studies it has taken on, including several fisheries and MPAs, which was raised by the previous member. An example of its extraordinary work is visible in Bill C-68, amendments to the Fisheries Act. The committee made 32 recommendations after examining the changes made to the act by the previous government. We now know all 32 recommendations were not only considered but incorporated into the act.

I was also very impressed by the committee's deliberations and thoughtful consideration of Bill C-55. It consulted broadly and incorporated amendments from colleagues on both sides of the House. This is the primary reason sending the bill back to committee does not make any sense. The committee has considered the legislation clause by clause and now it is time to pass it for third reading.

I invite everyone in the House to support Bill C-55, an act to amend the Oceans Act, and to oppose the Conservative amendment.

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4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary mentioned the committee's study on marine protected areas and congratulated the committee for its work on that. Why has the committee's work on that been constantly derailed by issues put forward by members of his party, by legislation that has been put forward, which has not allowed the committee to finish that study and make any recommendations from the study? We have been sidelined. Now with time allocation being called on this bill at third reading, it is obvious the Liberals do not want to hear the recommendations that might come from that committee, if we are ever allowed to finish it. Why has that taken place?

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4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Terry Beech Liberal Burnaby North—Seymour, BC

Mr. Speaker, if I recall correctly, I believe the committee passed a motion, when it was considering Bill C-55, that all witness testimony determined during the MPAs could be utilized when determining Bill C-55. I might be wrong about that, but that is my recollection.

The party opposite seems to want it both ways. On one hand, it wants to say that it set these targets, despite the fact that it only made it to less than 1% of protections during its time in office. It wants to say that somehow by 2020 it will meet the target of protecting 10% of our oceans.

This is a difficult task that our government has taken on wholeheartedly since the last election, and now we are at 7.75%. As I have said, that is hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of new protections. In fact, in total I believe that represents 446,000 square kilometres of protections. We are committed to hitting our Aichi targets and we are going to continue to do so.