House of Commons Hansard #285 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was environment.

Topics

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I declare the motion carried.

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Mégantic—L'Érable, Agriculture and Agrifood; the hon. member for Sherbrooke, Taxation; the hon. member for Calgary Rocky Ridge, Canada Revenue Agency.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been discussions among the parties to allow the member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay to table a timely petition in the House. I wonder if we have unanimous consent to allow the member to table this important petition.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House?

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

National ParksPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank everybody for their kindness.

I stand to table e-petition 1390. Constituents had flown out from British Columbia to see this, but we missed it by going to orders of the day. They gathered 1,537 signatures on the petition.

The petition is in regard to the establishment of a national park reserve in the South Okanagan-Similkameen. Among other points, the petitioners mention that the B.C. dry interior eco-region is unrepresented in the national park system. The South Okanagan is a hot spot of endangered wildlife in Canada. They point out that the region will benefit economically in the form of direct jobs and capital expenditures. There is strong local support for the park proposal.

The petitioners call on the government to expedite the creation of a national park reserve in the South Okanagan-Similkameen.

The House resumed from March 27 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

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I wish to inform the House that because of the proceedings on the time allocation motion, government orders will be extended by 30 minutes.

The hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound has one minute and 30 seconds remaining.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to remind everyone that I am splitting my time with the hon. member for Yellowhead. I believe that puts my time down to about a minute.

Speaking to Bill C-55, the legislation goes way above and beyond what the government tried to pretend it wanted to do. It cuts into areas where fishermen have big concerns.

At the end of the day, this affects all the good changes that were made to improve the Fisheries Act in 2012. It seems to be the government's modus operandi that no matter what the item is, if the previous government did it, then it has to be reversed, instead of coming up with some good new legislation.

I wish the government would get back to dealing with some good ideas. Maybe if the Liberals sit down and think about it, they might even come up with something themselves.

With that, I am willing to take some questions.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I know that members from all sides of the House worked on the bill, whether it was pre-study reports or the fine work at that standing committee or some of the debate we heard in second reading. The amount of consultation was fairly extensive with respect to legislation.

It has been in third reading for a while now. It is time to start moving forward on this important legislation. I believe Canadians really and truly want this. The government talked about doing this in the last election platform.

Would my colleague, at the very least, agree that the legislation, as a whole, is good, is sound, and that we need to see it passed?

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, am I ever glad the member brought up consultation, or the lack thereof.

I happen to sit on the committee, so I know what I am talking about. The Liberal members on the committee were thoroughly embarrassed. In day after day of testimony on this, their constituents, their fishermen, kept coming back. Their biggest complaint was that there was almost no consultation, if any. It was basically “This is what we're doing.”

That is not consultation. That is telling people. I thank the member for opening that door for my comment.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, this comes back to something I raised a little earlier. Not only was there a lack of consultation but a lack of willingness to work with local communities.

I have a community pasture in my area. The people are trying to make an agreement with Environment Canada so they can use it the way they have for 70 years. They found that Environment Canada was really only interested in dictating to them. It was going to tell them how many employees they could have and how they could use them. They talked about it threatening them, “If you don't do it our way, we're going to make this a lot more difficult for you than it is right now.”

The department assumes that anything local communities do is destructive. These people have lived there for 100 years and have been able to manage a very hostile environment and do well at it.

Does the member think the bill will improve the government's attitude toward local communities?

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member comes from ranch country, like I do.

On the member's question about whether I think the government will change and listen to people, instead of trying to shove them around, all we have to do is look at everything from the attestation for Canada summer jobs, and I could go on and on. The simple answer is no, the government is not going to change. It thinks it knows better.

The member is from Saskatchewan. Originally when the changes came about in 2012, it was because of residents across Saskatchewan, through the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, SARM, which brought it to our attention. I thought it was only in Ontario at the time. We found out it is right across the country.

The answer, again, is no, the government is not going to change.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, as a member from an ocean coastal riding, I welcome Bill C-55. The hon. member may be interested to know that there is a proposed protected area for a national marine conservation area in my riding. It is still called the Southern Strait of Georgia proposal, although everyone in my area calls it the Salish Sea. It was initially proposed and supported by Jacques Cousteau in 1972, and it still has not been enacted. Therefore, I welcome anything under the Oceans Act to speed up protected areas.

I wonder if my hon. colleague, who does not touch the ocean, might agree it would be a good thing to get an important area like this protected.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Madam Speaker, of course everything deserves to be protected, but we have to put this whole thing into context. There were some good changes in 2012, and the member knows that, and this bill would basically reverse all those changes. The good that was created there will go against what she wants. The member has even said that she is against a lot of good things in the country, like the Kinder Morgan pipeline. She is willing to go out and break the law on it, and I think—

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I am sorry, but unfortunately time is up. I tried to allow the member extra time to get to his point, but it was taking a little longer than expected.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Yellowhead.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

April 25th, 2018 / 5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Madam Speaker, it is good to rise today and speak to Bill C-55, even though our time is going to be limited because of the actions of the Liberal government. I have been here four other times trying to get this conversation going, and I will try to get it done today.

I rise in the House to speak to Bill C-55, an act that would empower the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to designate, without consultation, marine protected areas and prohibit activities in those areas for up to five years. After five years, the minister would be able to permanently designate that area as a marine protected area, or an MPA. The bill would also give the Governor in Council the authority to prohibit fishing, as well as oil and gas activity in MPAs. For a government that constantly praises itself for listening to Canadians and for public consultation, I was surprised when I read Bill C-55. I was surprised because the legislation completely ignores any kind of consultation.

I sat on the environment committee and was part of the study “Taking Action Today: Establishing Protected Areas for Canada's Future”. I want to mention a comment by one of the witnesses, Paul Crowley. He said:

I think the most important thing is to do this transparently. What are the economic benefits? What is the baseline management that can be handed over to communities? Have that up front right away and across the board, being fair and not renegotiating from one space to the next, from one community to the next, or from one land claim to the next. Start at the highest level right off the bat, and get to “yes” very quickly.

He said that, but he was saying that we need to negotiate, and here we have a government that says it is going to enact this quickly and study it afterwards. Once again, the Liberal government is putting environmental activists ahead of our economy, and the local people whom these decisions would impact the most will suffer. According to fishermen in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and British Columbia, they have not been consulted about the impacts of Bill C-55 at all. Why should we expect that they would be consulted, when the Liberals want to turn their regions into protected areas as quickly as possible to reach a personal mandate by that party?

The Cape Breton Fish Harvesters Association representative said, “I think we are more upset by the process. It was not done the way it should have been done. It should have been done more respectfully.”

The director of Gulf Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board, a fishermen's group, said that “the consultation process was not well planned, organized, or transparent”, and that it was disorganized even within the fisheries department.

The Chief of the Pictou Landing First Nation said that they have received very little information about the consideration of their region as an MPA. She also said that her community depends heavily on the revenues from snow crab and the lobster fishery. That is a $70-million lobster and snow crab fishery that has supported their small coastal region in Cape Breton for many generations, and it could be at risk because of Bill C-55.

Mr. Gordon MacDonald, a Fourchu fisherman in Nova Scotia, put it best when he said, “It’s more likely to be damaging than beneficial but it satisfies a need to be seen as doing good, as being a world leader in protection and conservation....”

Some of the locations being proposed are not in danger. They are being fished in a sustainable manner. That is exactly why our government enforces quotas: to protect these areas. Bill C-55 would require that when deciding to establish an MPA, the minister apply a precautionary approach: when in doubt, add it to the list, without any consultation.

First, if the government consulted with the people on the ground, it could avoid a lot of uncertainty. Second, if the government imposes an MPA that is unnecessary, even for five years, it would destroy the local economy, with little gain for the marine environment. However, as Mr. MacDonald said, the Liberals would look good on the international stage.

The Liberal government ran a campaign on transparency, yet there are serious questions about the transparency with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, both in this legislation and in decisions he has made in the past. Let us go back a few months. The minister awarded one quarter of the Arctic surf clam quota to a partnership between Premium Seafoods and the Five Nations Clam Company. However, neither the Liberals nor the Five Nations Clam Company would say which indigenous groups were involved, until weeks after the decision was made.

Apparently, at the time of the application, not even the applicants knew who was involved, but they got the contract. There were only reserved spots in their proposal for indigenous groups, and it was not until after the quota was awarded that they filled those spots. It smells a little fishy, not to mention that the president of Premium Seafoods, which won the contract, is the brother of a current Liberal member and has contributed thousands of dollars to the Liberal Party. The president of one of the Five Nations partners is also a former Liberal member.

The minister needs to stop playing politics with our fisheries and come up with a real plan that would support high-quality, well-paying jobs in our coastal communities. This bill would not only impact commercial fisheries, but also hurt people who fish for sustenance, as well as negatively impact tourism in these areas. For example, when the International Pacific Halibut Commission met this year to determine the catch limits for the year for Canada and the U.S., it could not come to an agreement and determined to keep the 2017 restrictions in place.

When the recreational fishing industry in British Columbia reached its quota early in the year, it had to close for the season, with just 36 hours' notice from the government. This meant that fishing charters were either out of business for the rest of the year or forced to lease quotas from the commercial fishery. Either way, this cost the fish tourism business a lot of money.

What would happen when the government suddenly decides to make a region a designated area, without consultation, and enforces a five-year ban on fishing in the area? The companies that rely on sport fishing and tourism would be completely out of business, never mind closing early or having to lease quotas. They would not even be able to leave the docks for five years.

Where is the compensation for the lost income? It is not in this bill. The livelihood of Mr. MacDonald's family depends on the region's bounty of lobster, crab, and other species. He calls the proposed MPAs a “human exclusion zone”. He said, “They’re trying to eliminate humans as if that’s a form of conservation.... True ocean health, within the part that humans have control, will involve greater human time and investment, not absence”.

The Liberals' plan to protect 10% of marine and coastal areas by 2020 would undoubtedly result in inadequate consultation and large areas from coast to coast to coast being closed to commercial and recreational activities.

I am not opposed to the creation of MPAs. In fact, the Conservative Party has championed conservation and marine protected areas in the past. Our previous government focused on building on existing international markets and introducing new ones, while making significant investments in areas like marine research, harbour infrastructure, lobster sustainability, aquaculture innovation, and indigenous participation.

Rather than consulting the communities that would be most impacted by the Liberal government's plan on MPAs, the minister has chosen to fast-track this process in order to meet these self-imposed political targets.

A balance between the protection of marine habitats and the protection of local economies that depend on commercial and recreational fishing must be struck. This cannot be achieved without extensive consultation and a concerted effort to prioritize the needs of local communities.

I challenge the government to answer why it is abandoning consultation and transparency. This bill has the potential to do a lot of damage to local fisheries, and it is not an example of the economy and the environment going hand in hand.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Madam Speaker, the hon. gentleman did not sit on the fisheries committee. There may be a few points of enlightenment, not the least of which is that most of the activities going on in an area that is designated an interim marine protected area would be allowed to continue so that the people who fish and make a living in that area would not be deprived.

The opposition members talk about consultation. We saw a glaring example of a lack of consultation, not by the previous government but by a government many steps down the line, on July 2, 1992, when John Crosbie closed the cod fishery. Why did he do that without consultation? He did it because it had collapsed, because steps had not been taken in advance to prevent that kind of collapse. I would ask the hon. gentleman if it is not better to come in with an interim safety measure, using the precautionary principle, to avoid what John Crosbie did in 1992.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Madam Speaker, I believe what the Liberal government is attempting to accomplish is to follow up on taking action today and establishing protected areas for Canada's future.

This is a report done by the environment and sustainable development committee. CPAWS appeared before the committee and talked about designating 50% of Canada's land mass protected space and increasing the coastal protected areas. If we look at the chart, it pretty well surrounds all of our coastal waters. I believe what we are seeing is a government that is trying to make the 10% limit within the next year, as it promised the public. However, it is not doing it with proper and respectful consultations.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, earlier I asked the previous speaker a question. We had a project in my area, when our government was in power, that had to do with leasing pasture land. Environment Canada was very co-operative. The deputy minister and the chief of staff came out and sat down with the local community. There was a local community group set up to handle it. The government left the impression that it would be directing research funding through that area as a pilot project and that the local people would have a lot of say over how that money would be distributed for the research that might be done. It gave credit to local people for having knowledge about how to manage that area.

That has changed. Now we see local people being threatened, intimidated, and condescended to. The attitude seems to be that Environment and Climate Change Canada knows most everything. I do not know if that attitude came from the Environment and Climate Change people as much as it did from the current government.

Could the member tell us whether he thinks this is going to make it easier for local communities to work with the government and Environment and Climate Change Canada or if it will make it much more difficult? We did have a good relationship in my part of the world. That seems to have gone out the window. I am wondering what he sees happening with fisheries and oceans in this bill.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Madam Speaker, proper consultation with the indigenous peoples of the area and local ranchers who are dealing with agriculture leases for range land, and stuff like, has to be done. We need to work with the local ranchers. We need to work with the local counties and local indigenous groups and plan ahead.

I am going to refer back to my favourite report, “Taking Action Today: Establishing Protected Areas for Canada's Future”, because I sat on that committee. We had the environmental groups come and tell us that they wanted to protect all this land. Then we had the natives from northern Canada, the Northwest Territories, and the Inuit come in and say, “Slow down. We want to be involved in the consultations. We want to talk about what's best for the land we live on. We want to know how we are going to protect the economy for our future but also protect the environment.” That is what it is about. Bill C-55 is fast-tracking to put these protected areas in immediately. They will do the consulting or negotiating after.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Madam Speaker, if there is time, I will be sharing it with my colleague, the member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay.

Last year, I had the fortune to work with the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development during its study of protected areas across Canada.

Our committee heard from 81 witnesses and received briefs from another 27 individuals and organizations. We also travelled to areas where national parks and marine protected areas are already in place, including the west coast, to meet with communities affected by these areas. The outcome of that study was the committee's fifth report, entitled “Taking Action Today: Establishing Protected Areas For Canada's Future”, which was presented to the House just a year and one day ago, on March 24, 2017.

I would like to speak today to Bill C-55, legislation which would expand the power of the Ministry of Fisheries to speed up the creation of new protected areas, in the context of what our committee saw and heard and the recommendations we made in our report.

The purpose of the bill is to expand the power of the minister to speed up the creation of new marine protected areas by making amendments to the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act. It would increase ministerial powers to terminate private resource interests in MPAs, and create stronger penalties for those found violating the rules of MPAs.

The bill does not, however, define minimum protection standards for marine protected areas or legislate timelines or targets. Thus, the new powers would not have the teeth necessary to protect ocean biodiversity. The bill would provide some new legal tools to speed up the creation of it, but falls far short of Canada's international commitments to protect our marine biodiversity. It fails to set minimum protection standards and targets for zoning in marine protected areas, which renders the designation inconsistent at best. It gives the minister far too much latitude to decide what activities are permissible in an MPA. If oil and gas exploration can take place in an MPA, what is the point of the designation?

As many parliamentarians know, Canada has fallen far behind in meeting our international commitments to preserve important wild areas across our country. In our environment committee's 2017 report, it states that Canada committed to a set of 20 targets known as the Aichi targets, established under the Convention on Biological Diversity. Target 11 commits parties to an aspirational goal of protecting at least 17% of terrestrial and inland waters and 10% of coastal waters by 2020. As of today, we have protected only 10.57% of terrestrial areas and 1.5% of marine areas, 3.5% once Lancaster Sound MPA is approved, which is a far cry from the targets we have set for 2020.

Bill C-55 does introduce a framework that could improve the number of marine protected areas in Canada, and that is good. However, the environment committee heard that quality is just as important as quantity. The World Wildlife Fund told the committee:

While large MPAs are important, we must not simply designate vast expanses of the ocean that are not at risk from human use or that provide unproven or questionable ecological benefits at the expense of developing proper MPA networks. Canada's progress on MPA networks has to go further than developing a collection of sites without meaningful consideration of how they connect and complement each other, and without including representative coastal and offshore sites within all three oceans.

Arising from that testimony and the testimony of other witnesses, the committee recommended that the Government of Canada focus the expansion of protected areas not only on the quantity to meet the targets, but also to protect terrestrial and marine areas with the highest ecological value in the country.

Even more important than the issue of quality over quantity is the question of what uses may take place in a marine protected area. Bill C-55 fails to restrict the activities within MPAs, nor does it provide minimum protection standards. The rules are inconsistent and broadly permissive, allowing, for example, environmentally damaging bottom trawling, and allowing oil and gas exploration within MPAs.

Two key witnesses attended the fisheries committee discussion on this matter. One of them said:

The law is currently very inconsistent. As you've heard and will probably continue to hear, people are astonished to learn that oil and gas exploration, undersea mining, and damaging fishing activities are all possible in the tiny fraction of the sea that we call marine protected areas. That's why an unprecedented 70,000 Canadians, members of the public, spoke out about one of the proposed new MPAs, Laurentian Channel, and said that we need to keep harmful activities out of these areas.

That was from Linda Nowlan of West Coast Environmental Law.

Another quote was from the David Suzuki Foundation:

I think the other area of the act that needs strengthening is the area of indigenous protected areas. Many indigenous peoples have a long-standing interest in conserving resources and protecting areas of their traditional territory, and there's an opportunity to enable the government to accommodate indigenous protected areas, which are determined, managed, and governed by indigenous people. This amendment would not only facilitate additional conservation of natural resources, but would take Canada further down the path of reconciliation with indigenous communities.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN, stated that in a marine protected area we need a “clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values”.

It goes on to name the essential characteristics that a marine protected area needs to have, including being nature conservation focused; having defined goals and objectives; having defined boundaries; be a suitable size, location, and design; having a management plan; and, of course, the resources and capacity to implement it.

It also specifies, “Any environmentally damaging industrial activities and infrastructural developments with the associated ecological impacts and effects are not compatible with MPAs.”

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Unfortunately, the time is up.

It being 5:45 p.m., pursuant to an order made earlier today, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the third reading stage of the bill now before the House.

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.