Madam Speaker, I will provide a refresher on this important debate for our colleagues and Canadians from coast to coast to coast who are tuning in, as I had to share my time with question period.
Prior to going into my debate, I shared with Canadians and those in this House that this is the 71st time closure and time allocation have been levied by a government led by a Prime Minister who, when he was campaigning, on day 15, the then member for Papineau said that under his government he would let the debate reign and would not resort to such parliamentary tricks as time allocation. However, that is where we are today. We have time allocation and closure forced on this important debate.
I also said that as parliamentarians and leaders in our country, when we are talking about consultation, perhaps what Canadians are looking for on an important piece of legislation such as Bill C-55 is engagement. I talked about the use of “consultation” and “engagement“ as if they were interchangeable. They are not. Consultation would be me telling someone I have an idea and asking what that person thought. That person would tell me whether that idea was good or bad. I would thank that person and be on my way. There would be no onus on me to come back to that person or for that person to take my suggestion. Engagement would be me saying that there is a problem, asking to sit down with a someone to fix the problem and asking that person what ideas he or she has.
When we are talking about bills such as Bill C-55, the feedback we heard from fishers, first nations, scientists and even environmental groups on Bill C-55 and the marine protected area process was that there was no consultation. They were not asked what they thought about the idea. There was no engagement. It is the lack of engagement we have seen time and again from the current government, so much so that there are protests at the minister's office. Therefore, when the Liberals talk about how this is good for Canadians and that they have consulted broadly, they really have not.
I will offer this. Bill C-55 is more about a vehicle that would afford the current government the ability to reach its international Aichi targets, which state that 5% of marine coastal areas would be protected by 2017 and 10% of marine coastal areas would be protected by 2020. As a matter of fact, the biodiversity goals and targets for Canada for 2020 state:
17 percent of terrestrial areas and inland water, and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas, are conserved through networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures.
I will now go to a comment from a gentleman from Simon Fraser University. He said:
Looking at some of the previous testimony, there was a claim that there was overwhelming scientific proof that MPAs are beneficial and widely successful. I think that was misrepresentation of the actual science.
He also stated that some of the studies cited found that they are not broadly successful. He continued:
Just enforcing MPAs would be hugely expensive. Again, if you're looking at it from a fisheries management point of view, it's far more cost effective to do other things that don't cost that much.
I bring this up because Bill C-55 evokes a lot of questions, one being that under proposed subsection 35(2), certain activities, such as fisheries and fishing, may be prohibited, yet activities by foreign entities and other companies and countries will not be.
The groups that came before us at committee said that they all want to be part of the process. They asked that the minister and the department meet with those stakeholder communities and engage to develop a plan in concert with those communities that would be impacted.
The Senate amendments were fairly thorough. They did not tie the government or any future government to doing anything but thorough engagement with communities that could be impacted by the interim marine protected areas.
I will offer again that Bill C-55 is about creating an order in council that the Minister of Environment and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans could immediately designate an area an interim marine protected area for up to five years while the study was going on.
Using the precautionary principle was also mentioned. In the absence of science, that cannot be used as an excuse for not designating that area.
Our biggest concern was addressed by the Senate amendments, which are very thorough. I also looked at the government's response to the Senate amendments. I would have to say that those were fairly watered down.
I will go back to my comment about consultation versus engagement. When the government or parliamentarians consider policy that is so impactful on communities, first nations, coastal communities and industry, we should be engaging, not consulting, and bringing them to the table to develop thorough solutions.