House of Commons Hansard #312 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was iran.

Topics

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

8:45 p.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am so glad my colleague touched on consultation. Over the 10 years of Conservative government, it did not consult in any way, shape, or form. When the former prime minister visited a province, he would not even let the premier know. That was disrespectful.

With respect to indigenous people, a large majority of them support the pipeline, for example. We are not going to get 100% support. What is important to note is that the minister will have the authority to enter into any agreements with indigenous people, and this is in the bill as well. They will not be consulted but they will be part of the solution, and that is really good when it comes to what we are trying to accomplish as a government.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

8:45 p.m.

NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak tonight to Bill C-68, the new Fisheries Act. Although I grew up, and still live, far from the coast, my family has deep history in coastal fisheries. My mother's family, the Munns, once controlled the cod fishery of Labrador. My great uncle William Azariah Munn was what one might call a cod liver oil baron. Luckily, my mother hated the stuff so much that she did not force it on me and my siblings.

Getting back to the bill, the bill comes from a Liberal promise in the last election campaign when both the NDP and Liberals ran on platforms that included the repealing of Conservative legislation that gutted all of the environmental protections of federal legislation. We are very happy the Liberals have finally acted on this, although I am not sure why it took so long.

The bill would finally restore protection for all fish across Canada. When I say all fish, I would like to point out that under the previous Conservative legislation, all fish were not created equal. Only those fish that were part of a commercial or indigenous fishery were protected, and they were not protected as strongly as they were in the past. I am happy that some of our rarest and most vulnerable fish species, like the speckled dace of the Kettle River, are now protected in this manner once again.

In the past, the Fisheries Act was the strongest piece of legislation that actually protected habitat in Canada. As many here know, I was a biologist in my past life, and I spent a long time working on ecosystem recovery plans and species at risk. Time and again, my colleagues would point out that the only legislation, federal or provincial, that effectively protected habitat, was the Fisheries Act. As a biologist who worked on land, I was always a bit jealous of my fisheries colleagues since there was little or nothing that had the same power of protection for terrestrial habitats.

This habitat protection was at the core of earlier versions of the Fisheries Act. The Conservatives took this habitat protection out in 2012 through Bill C-38, one of their omnibus budget bills. This action resulted in a huge public outcry, and among the voices were four former fisheries ministers, including one of my constituents, Tom Siddon, a former Conservative fisheries minister. He wrote an open letter to the government, urging it to keep habitat protections in the act.

This new act is still deficient in a few ways regarding habitat. For instance, while it talks about the water in rivers and lakes as fish habitat, it does not discuss the amount of that water. That is clearly important. Increasingly, low water levels in our rivers and lakes are causing difficulties for fish. Many of our fish require good quantities of clean, cool water, and more and more often they are faced in late summer with low levels of warm water that can be lethal to fish, especially to salmonids.

This act also does not address the habitat conflict between wild salmon stocks and the practice of open-net salmon farms. We should be moving in an orderly fashion toward closed containment farms to isolate fish health issues caused by the farms that impact wild salmon stocks under the open-net regime.

Bill C-68 empowers the fisheries and oceans minister to make management orders prohibiting or limiting fishing to address a threat to the conservation and protection of fish. Of course, I am fully in favour of this power, but I wonder how often it would be used, despite the fact that it would likely be recommended on a regular basis by scientists.

Fish are consistently treated differently from terrestrial species in conservation actions. As an example, of all the fish species assessed as threatened or endangered in recent years by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, less than half have actually been placed on the Species at Risk Act schedules. If a terrestrial species is in trouble, it is generally added to the list as a matter of course. However, but if a fish is in trouble, it is out of luck. This attitude has to change.

As well, the bill would give a lot of discretion to the minister to make decisions based on opinion rather than on scientific evidence. This practice must be limited and only used in exceptional circumstances. I am always concerned when it is enshrined in legislation and seemingly encouraged, as it is here and in other recent legislation, such as Bill C-69 on environmental impact assessments.

I am happy there is a provision in this act to give the DFO more resources for enforcement. I hope some of those resources can be used to rebuild the DFO staff that used to be found throughout the British Columbia interior to promote fish habitat restoration and rebuilding fish stocks.

There are no DFO staff left at all in the Okanagan and Kootenay regions now, despite the fact that there are numerous aquatic stewardship societies across my riding that used to have a great relationship with DFO and its work, and which benefited from that work. Volunteer groups that are devoted to aquatic habitats on the Arrow Lakes, the Slocan Valley, Christina Lake, the Kettle River watershed, Osoyoos Lake, and Vaseux Lake would all benefit through a renewal of those staffing levels. They talk to me regularly about that, and that they miss that help.

I would like to close with a good-news story that shows what can happen when Canadians take fish conservation into their own hands, identify the problems and solutions, and then work hard to make good things happen. That story is the restoration of salmon populations in the Okanagan. This story involves many players and funding from the United States as well as Canada, but it is mainly a story of the Okanagan Nation Alliance, ONA, the first nations of the Okanagan, who came together to bring salmon back to the valley.

Salmon, or n’titxw, is one of the four food chiefs of the Okanagan peoples, and is central to their cultural and trade traditions. When I was a kid in the Okanagan, salmon were in very low numbers. The Okanagan is part of the Columbia system, and those fish had to climb over 11 dams to get back to the spawning grounds. Most of the Columbia River salmon runs died out, but a few sockeye came back to the Okanagan every year, though maybe a only a couple of thousand in some years. However, after years of work by the ONA and other groups, we often see runs of over 100,000 fish. The Okanagan River is once again red with sockeye in the autumn. The ONA has taken an ecosystem-collaborative restoration approach that combines cultural ceremonies and salmon feasts with technical restoration. They work collaboratively with provincial and federal authorities, and everyone in the region has benefited, with recreational fishery openings, an increase in licence revenues, and local salmon to the public. I enjoy the sockeye out of Osoyoos Lake every year now.

This approach has enabled the ONA to grow to one of the largest inland first nations fisheries organizations in Canada. It has 45 full-time staff, which is probably 10 times the staffing level of DFO in the interior of B.C. It has its own hatchery, biology lab, habitat restoration course, and courses that are even taken by DFO staff.

However, even though they have been working collaboratively with DFO, they have still identified some serious issues to me.

First, there is a need for a harvest sharing agreement between Canada and the U.S. There is no agreement in place to ensure minimum food fishery requirements for first nations, and there is no other place in the Pacific region where there is up to 150,000 salmon harvested between Canada and the U.S. that does not have such an agreement in place.

Second, ONA has asked for support for the Columbia River Treaty renewal and the importance of Canadian salmon. Okanagan salmon are the only Columbia River salmon returning to Canada, and they are directly affected by how Canada stores water in its treaty dams.

Third, it points out the need for support for ONA's salmon restoration in the upper Columbia, which is in the Kootenay region. There are no salmon there now. ONA submitted a proposal to DFO and asked the minister back in September 2017, but it has received no response.

Fourth, the ONA regrets to see the overall exclusion of first nations at the Columbia River Treaty table, which is something that is very important to them.

To conclude, we will be supporting Bill C-68, but there is clearly still a lot of work to be done to protect our fish and our fisheries.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his presentation today. I certainly know the area well, particularly Osoyoos Lake. I want to compliment specifically the efforts of the Okanagan Nation Alliance in bringing sockeye back to that ecosystem.

The member mentioned that there was a growing amount of support both at the federal level and at the Okanagan Nation Alliance. It is my understanding that the previous provincial government was not supportive of these efforts to bring back sockeye to Okanagan Lake. I wonder if the member has had any conversations with the Province of British Columbia, with the new NDP government there, and whether or not it is going to be part of the positive change to bringing back that species to Okanagan Lake.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

8:55 p.m.

NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have not talked to the provincial agencies about the question of introducing the sockeye salmon back to Okanagan Lake. It is the final step in the local plan to bring back salmon to the Okanagan Valley. I know they have introduced salmon fry to Okanagan Lake, and there is an ability for those fish to return through that dam, but I do not know what full support the provincial government might have. I know there has been a lot of concern, because we have kokanee stocks as well that are the same species. There are issues around mysid shrimp, so kokanee stocks are vulnerable in many ways. That introduction will be continuing at a careful and slow pace.

One thing that impresses me about the ONA is their dedication to science. They are going about this in a very careful and scientific manner.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

8:55 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to revisit some of what happened in BillC-38 in 2012. I was not able to put this question to a Conservative member.

The language that was inserted in the Fisheries Act, only protecting fish if they were commercial fish, aboriginal fish, or recreational fish, was language that came straight from a briefing note from the Canadian Electricity Association. It did not come through DFO scientists, did not come from experts; it came from an industry lobby group. It was nothing I had ever seen in Canada. It reminded me of the Bush administration. It put 80% of the 71 freshwater species in this country that are under the Endangered Species Act without any protection at all.

I was not a witness before the committee; I was never able to answer a member's question. However, in my riding, constituents call me all the time about certain stocks that are being overfished or clam beds being overharvested, where they could not get DFO to act because it did not have the resources, and did not have the impetus for fish habitat protection because of the changes made in Bill C-38.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

9 p.m.

NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Madam Speaker, the member mentioned a number of issues. One was the removal of the habitat provisions of the old Fisheries Act. There was the de-staffing. That was something we certainly felt in the interior of B.C. DFO literally vanished from the Okanagan and Kootenays. That staff had been very important in helping local groups with habitat restoration, which is at the core of bringing back a lot of these stocks that have suffered.

The member also brought up the direct action based on a request from an industry group, without perhaps listening to the other side. A lot of local people are very concerned about fish habitat. They are not interested in hearing that our fish will be sacrificed to try to restore some habitat somewhere else. There are a lot of issues that have come up in the last few years that have concerned a lot of people, and they are very happy to see this habitat and other protections restored.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

9 p.m.

Cape Breton—Canso Nova Scotia

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-68, especially after having come back from committee. I know that my colleagues on committee did an outstanding job. They brought forward some thoughtful amendments, and I believe we have a good piece of legislation. During the review of Bill C-68, my colleagues in committee heard from many different witnesses and experts. I would like to take the time to talk about what they heard, and the concrete steps they proposed to help further improve this legislation for the benefit of all Canadians.

The changes proposed in Bill C-68 support several government priorities and key themes: partnering with indigenous peoples, supporting planning and integrated management, enhancing regulation and enforcement, improving partnership and collaboration, and monitoring and reporting back to Canadians. Canadians want to know what is taking place within the fishery. This bill includes the reintroduction of the prohibition against the harmful alteration, disruption, and destruction of fish habitat, as well as the prohibition against causing the death of fish by means other than fishing. There are measures to allow for better management of large and small projects that may be harmful to fish or fish habitat, through a new permitting scheme for big projects, and codes of practice for smaller ones.

The amendments would enable the regulatory authorities that would allow for establishing a list of designated projects comprised of works, undertakings, and activities for which a permit will always be required. We have been engaging and will continue to engage with indigenous peoples, provinces, territories, and stakeholders to ensure that we capture the right kinds of projects on the designated project list. Habitat loss and degradation, and changes to fish passage and water flow, are all contributing to the decline of freshwater and marine habitats in this country. It is imperative that Canada restore degraded fish habitats, and that is why the proposed changes in the Fisheries Act include consideration of restoration as part of the project decision-making.

This bill is motivated by the need to restore the public's trust in government, which was lost through the changes made in 2012. In order to re-establish that trust, access to information on the government's activities related to the protection of fish and fish habitat, as well as the project information and decisions, is essential. We listened. We proposed, through Bill C-68 measures, to establish a public registry which will enable transparency and access. This registry would allow Canadians to see whether their government is meeting its obligations, and allow them to hold the government accountable for decision-making with regard to fish and fish habitat. The addition of new purpose and consideration provisions would clearly guide the responsibility of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard when making decisions and providing a framework for proper management and control of the fisheries for the conservation and protection of fish and fish habitat, including by preventing pollution.

Fisheries resources and aquatic habitats have important social, cultural, and economic significance for many indigenous people. Respect for the rights of indigenous peoples in Canada, taking into account their unique interests and aspirations in fisheries-related economic opportunities and the protection of fish and fish habitat, is one way in which we are showing our commitment to renewing our relationships with indigenous people.

We listened to Canadians on the need for modern safeguards. That is why we have proposed changes to the act that would provide new fisheries management order power to establish targeted fisheries management measures for 45-day increments, where there is a threat to the proper management and control of fisheries, or to the conservation and protection of fish. This would help to address time-sensitive emerging issues when a fishery is under way and targeted measures are required. This tool might be used to assist in our current protection of the North Atlantic right whale. Proposed changes to the act include a new ministerial authority to make regulations to establish long-term spatial restrictions to fisheries activities under the act, specifically for the purpose of conserving and protecting marine biodiversity.

This will support our international commitment to protect at least 10% of the marine and coastal areas by 2020. Proposed changes also include authority to make regulations respecting the rebuilding of fish stocks.

As I mentioned earlier, our government reached out to Canadians in developing the bill. We listened to the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development and the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, and provided direction for the restoration and recovery of fish habitat and stocks. We are pleased that the standing committee has offered amendments during its clause-by-clause review to improve the bill in this regard. We listened to environmental groups, and the committee proposed provisions aimed at implementing measures to promote the sustainability of major fish stocks.

We also heard from Canadians on other important issues. We have proposed amendments to the Fisheries Act that would prohibit fishing for a whale when the intent is to take it into captivity, unless circumstances so require, such as when the whale is injured, in distress, or in need of care.

In addition, in keeping with modernizing the act in line with other federal environmental law, changes are being proposed to the Fisheries Act to authorize the use of alternative measures agreements. Alternative measures agreements are designed to effectively address contraventions of the act without the need to engage in costly and arduous court processes. Alternative measures agreements are a formally recognized resolution process designed to address offending behaviour. The process focuses on redressing the damage and addressing the root causes of the contravention. Alternative measures agreements provide a cost-effective alternative to the criminal justice system and have been shown to reduce recidivism.

We have been clear on our commitment to make inshore independence more effective. That was a considerable issue in the last Parliament, and I have heard about this issue from Port Morien to Port Hood, all the way down to Little Dover. Proposed changes provide specific authority in the Fisheries Act to develop regulations supporting the independence of inshore commercial licence holders and enshrine into legislation the ability to make regulations regarding owner-operator and fleet separation policies in Atlantic Canada and Quebec.

Through Bill C-68, the Government of Canada is honouring its promise to Canadians. By restoring lost protections and providing modern safeguards, the government is delivering on its promise, as set out in the mandate letter from the Prime Minister to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. Since the introduction of this bill, we have heard support from a broad range of Canadians for these amendments, which will return Canada to the forefront of protection of our rivers, coasts, and fish for generations to come.

I mentioned the hard work of the committee and how its efforts have made a good bill even better. The committee heard about the importance of water flow for fish habitat from the environmental NGO community, members across the aisle, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, as well as the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam. The government supported the associated amendments put forward in committee. We believe they will contribute to the effective management of fish habitat.

In Bill C-68, we strengthened the federal government's legal obligations when major fish stocks are in trouble. The committee built on this by proposing the inclusion of requirements, under the legislation, that the minister sustainably manage or rebuild fish stocks that are prescribed in regulations. Of course, we realize that this may not always be possible for environmental reasons, or because of the adverse economic effects some measures may impose on communities.

Again, I want to thank the committee. This is a good bill made better by the amendments that were proposed by the committee. I look forward to questions from members.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

9:10 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to let the member know that we support this bill, but I have some concerns.

The NEB recently ordered Kinder Morgan to stop installing plastic anti-salmon spawning mats in eight B.C. rivers. These plastic mats are still in place. They are destroying salmon habitat.

Does the member think that the minister should intervene and order Kinder Morgan to stop damaging our critical salmon habitat?

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

9:10 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Madam Speaker, on that specific issue, I am sure that the minister is aware of that. I am sure he will pursue that particular issue.

Not just the minister, but certainly members from British Columbia and the west, and anybody who has spent any time on the fisheries committee, know how important the salmon stocks are, not just to the coastal communities but to the entire province of British Columbia and to Canada.

When I was on the fisheries committee, and I have been back and forth a number of times during my time in the House, we discussed the aquaculture initiative, the on-land aquaculture industry. There are credible scientists sort of pitching both, some stating that land-based is the best way to go, and a different cohort with scientific information stating that it does not really hurt the wild salmon.

There is an amazing amount of contradictory science. However—

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

9:10 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I do have to allow for more questions. Maybe the member will be able to finish later.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

9:10 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to follow up on that discussion of expert opinion.

I know the hon. member was in the House at the time the Harper government revamped the Fisheries Act and took out those protections. Does he not remember that around that time a letter circulated, signed by at least over a hundred experts, not to say hundreds, aquatic biologists and so forth, including people like Dr. David Schindler, who lamented the withdrawing of these protections?

How does the member square those concerns and protestations with what the Conservative opposition is saying, that the removal of these protections is really no big deal?

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

9:10 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Madam Speaker, the member was in the House when that took place in 2012, as well.

I think we can agree that with the last government, for 10 years, there was so little consultation with the Canadian public, with stakeholders and people who relied on the fishery. However, this is not just exclusive to the fishery or the environment. We can look at employment insurance, the temporary foreign workers file, or immigration. One thing the Conservatives lacked was any will to engage with stakeholders and people impacted by their legislation.

I think that this lack of consultation and lack of understanding of how to have better legislation by involving those who deal with it on a daily basis is probably one of the many things that hurt the former Conservative government.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

9:15 p.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer—Mountain View, AB

Madam Speaker, that was an extraordinarily adequate speech. I appreciate that.

When there was consultation, one thing we heard so much about was assistance for municipalities, because the legislation that was in place was causing so much difficulty for them. They were the people we were listening to in 2012.

I am just curious whether the member has talked to municipalities about what the added pressure is going to be based on these changes.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

9:15 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Madam Speaker, when we speak to municipalities, they do not usually get around to that because they are so excited about the amount of money we have invested in infrastructure, for clean water, water treatment plants, and green infrastructure. It is tough getting them past that level of excitement they have right now with the infrastructure investment.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

9:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise this evening with some serious concerns with respect to Bill C-68. While one might think that fisheries legislation would impact only our coastal communities, in actuality this legislation would increase costs for every single town, city, and rural municipality across this country from coast to coast.

That is why it is unfortunate that the Liberals have once again moved time allocation on this very complex and important piece of legislation. By refusing to give us the time necessary to debate this bill, they are, in essence, muzzling Canadians across Canada by refusing to give them a voice through us as members of Parliament who have been elected to represent them in this place. The Liberals have shut down debate on a major overhaul of our Fisheries Act, which will have a huge impact on farmers and municipalities across Canada, as well as on our natural resource development sector. The Liberals have consistently refused to listen to stakeholders, and now they are refusing to listen to parliamentarians. By way of doing that, they are refusing to listen to Canadians.

The Liberals have reintroduced an incredibly onerous provision of the Fisheries Act. This is the blanket prohibition on any work that could cause the death of any fish. As the explanation document on the Department of Fisheries' website spells out, “Fish habitat means water frequented by fish and any other areas on which fish depend directly or indirectly in order to carry out their life processes, including spawning grounds and nursery, rearing, food supply and migration areas.” According to this, fish do not even need to be present in order for this act to apply, which of course is problematic.

I live in Lethbridge, southern Alberta. There is no ocean or a commercial fishery within close proximity. However, my region relies extensively on water management through a system of irrigation channels, reservoirs, and catchment areas. This legislation means that a farmer who so much as changes a ditch on his or her property that is somehow connected to a waterway will be impacted by this legislation. These farmers would have to apply for a permit in order to make any changes to their land. Therefore, the penalties are beyond onerous. The federal government could charge someone up to five years after the work has already taken place.

Family farms are not extravagant operations that can afford a full-time environmentalist or compliance officer within their operation. Therefore, if farmers have to apply for permits every time they take a tractor out to dig a ditch or deepen a slough, we can imagine how difficult it would be for those individuals or those operations to follow this legislation. They will have to worry about whether or not some activist animal rights group will come after them and attack them for taking their tractor out and digging a ditch on their own property in order to accomplish something that is necessary within their operation.

Farmers are among the strongest conservationists on the planet. They are among the people in Canada who advocate and act, a key word here, most strongly in favour of the environment. These are women and men who are doing a whole lot of good for our country, yet the legislation that is before the House would actually punish them. It demonizes them, and that is not fair.

This was an unprecedented year for flooding in both British Columbia and the Maritimes. Large municipalities and small rural communities alike are now realizing the need to significantly invest in flood prevention works. Whether that is as simple as building a higher dike or building dry channels to redirect flood waters at peak times, these works will now cost significantly more money to complete because municipalities are now going to have to hire an army of lawyers, consultants, environmentalists, and so forth, in order to uphold this legislation.

Testimony from Manitoba Hydro provided to the fisheries committee clearly stated that the 2012 changes to the Fisheries Act enhanced and broadened the act's protections for fish and fish habitat by adding the word “activities”. In describing the true effect of the 2012 changes to the act, which this bill is trying to reverse, Gary Swanson of Manitoba Hydro stated:

[T]he addition of the word “activities” in the prohibition against serious harm to fish arguably represents greater protection for fisheries, as do the addition of requirements for reporting all incidents of serious harm, the duty to intervene to address impacts, the extension in the time limitation for laying of charges from two to five years, and the establishment of contravening conditions of licence as an offence.

Let us put that in simple terms, shall we? There is much less certainty as to what this act applies to, which means it is great for lawyers but really bad for small businesses. It means it is great for environmentalists, but it is really bad for municipalities. It is really bad for Canadians, period.

Now the result will be a bureaucratic gridlock as thousands of permits are filed for. However, then it will end up being known that those permits actually are not even required. There will be this process that is incredibly onerous.

The previous Conservative government simplified this legislation because the complete prohibition of any potential harm to any body of water that might possibly host a fish was just simply unworkable. The Conservative approach focused on protecting commercial, recreational, and aboriginal fisheries. That approach focused on reducing significant harm to fish populations where they actually lived. That allowed for a proper balance between protecting fish in our waterways and ensuring that small businesses had the legal certainty to carry on their work and run a profitable business.

Proposed section 8 of this bill also sets out the establishment of fees for quotas, and proposed section 14 would establish the setting of fees for conferral. What does that mean? It means more fees that Canadians will have to pay for permits and authorizations.

Section 14 of this bill proposes powers for the creation of fees for regulatory processes with no parameters for who might be charged and how much they might be charged. It means higher costs for everyone, for them, for us, for every single Canadian. It means less money in the pockets of Canadian families because it means increased taxation. Municipalities will have to raise their taxes in order to apply for the permits that they require to do the work that needs to be done. As a result, small businesses will have to raise their prices because they will have to apply for permits, go through bureaucratic bodies, jump through hoops, and cut through red tape, in order to do their projects. This is on top of all the tax increases that the Liberal government has already placed on Canadian families, which is to say nothing of the carbon tax that is still to come.

The government has repeatedly stated that this bill is necessary to restore so-called lost protections. My colleague, the hon. member for North Okanagan—Shuswap, has submitted an Order Paper question, asking the government for proof of harm resulting from these so-called lost protections a number of times now. In its response to this Order Paper question, the government said that it cannot produce any proof because the department does not have the resources or the mandate to make such determinations. This is very interesting. This bill is the solution to a problem that has not been proven to actually exist, at the government's own admission. It is ridiculous. It is absolutely ridiculous.

The minister claimed that there were face-to-face consultations when he appeared at the committee on November 2, 2016. An Order Paper question response, dated March 22, 2017, contradicted this by stating that no face-to-face consultations had taken place. In this place, in the House of Commons, we are not allowed to call something a lie or call someone a liar. I will say that the minister certainly told an untruth.

Furthermore, we have concerns with the bill's proposals for the establishment of advisory panels. There is no accountability. There is a blank cheque being signed over, and what will they accomplish?

In conclusion, this legislation overreaches from even the pre-2012 version of the legislation. It includes the ability for indigenous groups to provide secret testimony directly to the minister that cannot be challenged by the person applying for the permit. It also creates a host of paid positions, to which the Liberal minister can appoint his friends with very little actual work required, and no accountability mechanism in place. Combined with the changes to the environmental assessment legislation, it effectively means the end of natural resource development in Canada. On top of that, it adds legal uncertainty to every Canadian, from logger to farmer to miner, about whether or not they are in compliance with the law.

I stand today in this place totally opposed to this legislation because it is bad for Canadians.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 9:25 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Lethbridge for laying out how terrible Bill C-68 is, and in particular, how it will unfairly impact our municipalities, especially those in rural Canada.

When I was first elected back in 2004, one of the things I heard from my municipalities over and over again was that they had to deal with the fish police from DFO, and how that slowed down their ability to clean ditches, replace culverts, and provide proper drainage on agricultural lands. What we are doing here is going to duplicate what the provinces already do at home.

I want to thank my hon. colleague for standing up for rural Canada, and standing up for farmers and ranchers, and for all the hard work she does in working alongside the municipalities in her region, because this legislation is terrible.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

9:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the work my hon. colleague does in standing up for Canadians, and in particular, those who are in the rural regions.

It is absolutely vital that we stand with the women and men who farm in this country. Agriculture is the backbone of Canada, which should be an agricultural superpower. The way to become even more powerful in what we do in this country, and the way to empower our egg producers to become better at what they do, is through effective policy. Better yet, it is often done by taking policy away and doing away with the red tape.

Let our farmers, ranchers, and egg producers do what they do, and let them do it the best way they know how. Let them conserve the land, look after the environment, and produce for this country, because they will do it incredibly well. They do not need the government to get in the way.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

9:25 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I always welcome young women to this place, and especially young women with grit and determination, like the young member for Lethbridge. I regret that I disagree with everything she said this evening about Bill C-68.

I do not know if she is aware, but in 2012, the national organization representing municipalities in this country, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, urged the Harper government to remove the sections from Bill C-38 that would weaken the protection of fish habitat. By the way, the motion that was brought forward on the floor of the FCM convention came from none other than a former Conservative fisheries minister, the hon. Tom Siddon, who also joined in an open letter denouncing the weakening of fish habitat protection, which was also signed by another former Conservative fisheries minister, the hon. John Fraser. Bill C-38 was an egregious attack on the fisheries resource.

The fisheries resource and agriculture resource need not be in conflict, and in Bill C-68 they are not.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

9:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, that was a statement and not a question. Clearly, my hon. colleague and I disagree when it comes to this issue.

With regard to the legislation before the House, I would reiterate once again that this is going to impose a whole slew of red tape and regulation in an area where really it is not necessary. It is going to impose significant costs to municipalities and businesses, and it is also going to result in a whole lot of uncertainty with regard to business expansion and advancement. Right now, in Canada, we do not need any of that.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

9:30 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague ended her speech by saying that the bill would mean the end of natural resource development in Canada.

Could she give us a little more context on that statement? Did any experts or witnesses say the same thing?

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

9:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, Canada is an incredible country, full of natural resources.

Governments have two ways of generating revenue: one, they can tax it from the people; or two, they can develop natural resources. That is how governments can generate revenue. Therefore, if governments choose not to develop natural resources they are opting instead to tax people more. Canadians should not be taxed more when we have natural resources available to us. The development of those natural resources results in schools, in hospitals, and in social programs. Natural resource development is a must for every single Canadian citizen.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

9:30 p.m.

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, I see that the debate is slowing tonight. I thought I had a few more minutes to prepare, but I am happy to speak about my concerns in relation to Bill C-68.

A number of my colleagues have raised the troubling situation that we are debating a fisheries bill. It has some provisions related to fish habitat. There have been some great comments, including from an NDP member who has some experience as a biologist. That is when our debates here are at their best. Unfortunately, this debate is also under a cloud, considering that the Ethics Commissioner has now added the fisheries minister to the list of ministers of the Liberal government whose actions are going to be examined. It is with respect to the awarding of a fishing-related licence. It is unfortunate, because that is a cloud hanging over this debate.

I have heard on several occasions many members of the Liberal Party suggesting that in a previous government, fisheries management and fisheries licences did not take into consideration aboriginal treaty rights and aboriginal participation in both the traditional fishery and the commercial fishery, despite the fact that evidence shows that this is not true. If we look at some of the press releases and media advisories in relation to fishery licence competitions or proposals and requests for groups to bid, the consultation with and participation of first nations communities was part of that. It is unfortunate that some members, including the member for Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, are making suggestions that are not supported by a cursory examination of what was happening in the last government, and that concerns me.

Bill C-68 is before the House under the cloud of yet another minister being examined for ethical conduct with the awarding of a fisheries licence to a group of proponents that did not have a boat but had a number of connections, both deep and familial, to the Liberal government. That seemed to eclipse consideration of any experience actually on the sea.

As someone who did fisheries patrols with our navy and with our air force on the Flemish Cap, I am proud of our heritage fishing and the fishers engaged in the practice. It is a hard living. As my colleague from British Columbia, our friend the fisheries critic, has highlighted the tremendous work of Canadians, they should know that any group has the ability to bid for these licences, because it is a monopoly. This is a serious power the government has, and now the fisheries minister is the third minister to be examined for how he has used that power.

The first minister to be examined was actually the Prime Minister, the first in both ways. He is the first minister. The finding of his investigation, as we know, was guilty. There is one outstanding investigation involving the finance minister, and now there is the fisheries minister. We cannot forget that in considering this legislation.

There are also two other big parts of Bill C-68 that should concern Canadians. Not only do we already think there is a cozy relationship, with some of the most recent fisheries proponents who were awarded a contract by the minister having close Liberal ties, but the government is enshrining that in Bill C-68 with paid advisory boards to advise the minister. Why is that?

The minister has a department that has done that quite well for over a century, in combination with consultations with stakeholders, industry groups, unions, and first nations. Why this new advisory board needs to be employed and paid and staffed is beyond me. It reminds us of the Liberal approach of surrounding themselves with more friends to tell them that they are doing a great job. They are not, and we are going to hear from the Ethics Commissioner on that.

The minister will have the ability to withhold critical information from bid proponents. Considering everything that has gone on, that should concern Canadians as well.

I am going to speak for the third time, with the remainder of my time, about ideological creep, once again, with the Liberal government enshrining directly the precautionary principle into legislation with very little to no debate. I have raised this before on the Oceans Act and the classification of marine protected areas and its basis. I raised it a few weeks ago with respect to the Federal Sustainable Development Act, and here we are today with the Fisheries Act, another very strategic placement of the precautionary principle.

In proposed section 2.5, “Considerations for decision making”, the first consideration is listed as “(a) the application of a precautionary approach”. That is listed along with a number of grounds. The precautionary approach and the precautionary principle are the same thing.

What is also listed in the considerations for decision-making? This is the government that, when in opposition, used to always talk about science-based and evidence-based decision-making. What does it list in decision factors the minister can take into consideration? The precautionary approach is proposed subsection 2.5 (a). The third consideration, 2.5 (c), is “scientific information”. I guess it is going to have to look at that. Proposed subsection 2.5(d) is “indigenous knowledge”; 2.5 (e) is “community knowledge”; 2.5(g) is “social, economic, and cultural factors”; and 2.5 (i) is “the intersection of sex and gender with other identity factors”.

This is about fisheries and decisions related to fisheries. Beyond science, beyond the people who fish, and beyond our first nations, that should be the factor in decision-making. There is the creeping edge of the precautionary principle, and now we have intersectionality, another political measure, being inserted into this. I am astounded.

Any time there was a decision made in relation to advancing projects related to resource development or other things, the Conservatives were accused of ideological underpinnings driving to support business and tear down environmental considerations. That was not the truth. Certainly we wanted certainty for proponents, but this is now the third bill on which I am talking about a direct ideological approach being embedded in legislation that is not even rooted in science.

I have said before that the precautionary principle being the guiding force has been criticized roundly, in fact, by one of President Obama's most senior advisers, the White House chair of regulatory affairs, Professor Cass Sunstein. He wrote, which I have quoted a few times, “the precautionary principle, for all its rhetorical appeal, is deeply incoherent.” Why is that? It is because it allows people to make decisions based on a hunch, based on a concern, based on a “we had better act”, or as some people have described it, better safe than sorry.

What was talked about when this principle was first advanced, back at the Rio climate conference? It was suggested at that point that it could only be considered when there was serious or irreversible harm demonstrated before precaution might come in. Now the government, through many pieces of legislation, without much serious scrutiny, I might add, apart from the Conservatives raising it from time to time, is embedding the precautionary principle and a list of cultural, social, and other factors where it can make decisions related to the sustainability of fisheries. It is preposterous, and it should concern people. It is giving the Liberals enough wiggle room to do whatever they want based on how they feel.

Where does this come from? One of the big groups pushing for the precautionary principle to govern and actually supersede science was the World Wildlife Fund. We certainly know where its former head is working now. He is the PMO lead. It should concern Canadians that those approaches and those things advocated for are now being systematically put into legislation without any serious discussion, and directly contrary to what science suggests. They are not even putting in an approach that irreversible harm should be the standard before this approach is used.

Liberals are, by stealth, providing an ideological approach to make decisions without scientific certainty. When it comes to our fisheries, we should be proud that under a Conservative government, John Crosbie, we remember, made a tough decision about the cod fishery, based on science, in the face of people protesting and threatening harm, because it was based on science, not on a hunch and not on ideology.

This is the third bill. Canadians should wake up to how ideological and unscientific the government is.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

9:40 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, the member has risen before and talked about the issue of why the government is rushing legislation through. I have had the opportunity to listen to a number of Conservative speakers. The common thread is that they do not support this piece of legislation, contrary to many hours of consultation, the hundreds of individuals who were involved in bringing forward this legislation, and even the support of other parties. The Conservatives are out of touch with what Canadians have to say on important legislation such as this.

My colleague is somewhat critical. When I was in opposition, I remember saying at times that we need to use the tool of time allocation. In fact, I suggested that sometimes the opposition does not want to push through legislation. I would be interested in the member's thoughts, because I often hear him quoting me saying that time allocation is a bad thing. What he never cites are the times I said that time allocation is a necessary tool. This is a good example. Here is great legislation, yet the Conservatives do not want to recognize it, and if it were up to them, it would never come to a vote.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

9:40 p.m.

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, I really enjoy my friend, the deputy House leader for the Liberals, because he certainly has a recollection of his time in opposition that runs contrary to mine and runs contrary to Hansard. I would invite Canadians to search that member's name with the term “assault on democracy”. I think I recall him foaming at the mouth on a few occasions when he uttered that when an omnibus bill or time allocation, or sometimes both, were used.

Two weeks ago, he helped to do this three times in one day, setting a record. Finally, he suggests that we are out of touch, when we want first nations, fishers, and scientists to be the three key decision-makers in our fisheries, not an enumerated list of precautionary ideological principles: social, economic, and cultural. Why are the Liberals afraid of science? Unmuzzle our scientists. I would like that member to stand in the House and start the unmuzzling.

Report StageFisheries ActGovernment Orders

9:45 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to correct something in the present tense about Bill C-68 and correct some revisionist history. The hon. John Crosbie, fisheries minister at the time, closed down the cod fishery after it was gone. It was officially gone. National Sea Products and Fishery Products International could not find any fish, and at that point, there was a cod moratorium. The minister of fisheries at the time ignored the pleas from inshore fishermen that the fishery was going to collapse.

I would go to the present tense, and what needs correcting is the idea that the precautionary approach has been put on a high pedestal in Bill C-68. I would refer the member to the language in proposed section 2.5. That list of considerations he read out are not mandatory conditions of action. It says, “the Minister may consider, among other things”, then that long list is there. It is hardly tying the minister's hands, and it does not make sure that every decision is guided by the precautionary approach. This is good legislation, and it is about time we passed it. I do agree that it should not be passed under time allocation.