Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure and a privilege to rise in the chamber and share a few thoughts on what are really important issues, and this is one of them.
I have had the opportunity to listen to the debates as we have been attempting to get the bill through the House of Commons for a good number of months now. In fact, it has been close to two years. Many of the objectives proposed in the legislation will have a positive impact on our oceans and surrounding areas and, in fact, on our entire planet. As such, I look forward to the bill receiving royal assent at some point in the not too distant future.
As I have listened to some of the debate today, I have found it interesting that members from different coastal regions have different interests and so forth.
Manitoba is not a land-locked province. The town of Churchill is in Manitoba. The previous speaker talked about Churchill Bay. I think of beluga whales. I think of Arctic char, which is a fabulous world-class fish. Beluga whales and Arctic char make up parts of that coastal region. I think of individuals from the coastline, such as the member for Long Range Mountains, who is such a strong and powerful advocate and represents over 200 fishing communities.
When we think of our oceans, we have to think about our heritage, our culture and the economy. We need to take into consideration many other things when we have legislation of this nature.
The House benefits when members of Parliament come to the table, whether it is by standing in the chamber or, more important, when they have the opportunity to have informal discussions. The member for Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa made reference to having had discussions with the member for Long Range Mountains. This provides a better sense and appreciation of not only how vast our country is, but how we can share our thoughts and ideas on what solutions might allow us to enhance our environment, to look at ways we can make the system much better.
It is important to recognize that Canadians, no matter where they live in our country, are all connected to our oceans in one way or another. Close to 75% of the planet is covered by ocean.
Canada has a responsibility, and I do not say that lightly. We have the Arctic Ocean in the north, the Pacific Ocean on the west coast and the Atlantic Ocean on the east coast. If we add up all of Canada's coastline following those three ocean bodies, we would find that Canada has the longest shoreline than any other country in the world.
With respect to protected waters, no country in the world has the potential to play a strong leadership role than Canada. We might be a country of close to 37 million people, but we have a great deal of clout when we look at the overall population of the world. There are certain areas in which we can demonstrate just how much clout we have, how much leadership we can bring to the table. This legislation is a part of the puzzle that would assist Canada going forward in demonstrating some of that leadership.
I believe that in 2010, it was determined we should set some goals for 2020, as a world. We asked if we could protect 10% of our areas of responsibility, and Canada has the most. Could we hit the 10% mark with respect to marine protected areas? We are only a year away from 2020.
In the last federal election, the Liberal Party made a commitment to achieve 5% by 2017. The Liberals achieved that goal. My understanding is that we even went beyond it. Today we are almost at the 9% mark. We might even be at the 9% mark as of today. If not, we are really close to it. This government will hit the 10% mark sometime in 2020.
If we were to look at what we have been able to accomplish on that front in the last three years, we would see there are significant gains. Between 2010 to 2015, when Stephen Harper was the prime minister, the Conservatives barely achieved 1%. Before the writ is dropped in 2019, the Liberals will have brought the number up from 1% to 9% within four years.
We are providing the assurance that we are not stopping there. We are going to take the number to 10%. Collectively, we can all be fairly proud of that.
I talked about the importance of Canada's demonstrating leadership at the world table, especially given we have the longest coastline in the world.
I am encouraged by many of the comments I have heard recently with respect to the legislation. I am really encouraged by the degree to which the Prime Minister, cabinet and caucus have come together to recognize the importance of our oceans to our country and planet.
This is important to all our constituents. To understand it, a person does not have to be living in Newfoundland and Labrador, which is a beautiful area I must say, or British Columbia or Manitoba, which all have coastlines. A person can be in landlocked Alberta or Saskatchewan and still appreciate the importance of our oceans and recognize that what happens in the oceans impacts all of us.
I enjoy documentaries and watch them whenever I get the opportunity. One of the most fascinating documentaries I have seen is called The Blue Planet. It gives viewers an excellent sense of the many things that take place in our oceans and the impact they have on our environment. If not for shows and documentaries such as that one or sitting down with colleagues and other individuals with that first-hand experience, I would not have the same understanding or appreciation of things such as currents, which flow deep into the oceans, and the importance of them to the world's fish stocks.
Some members of Parliament have said that fish, whales or whatever animal do not know boundaries. It is a fair comment. That is why we not only need to see countries like Canada doing what we can, but we need to meet with other jurisdictions because we have a vested interest. One can take the macro look at it and say it is all about protecting our planet, or we can take a micro look at it and bring it home to areas such as my colleague's in the Long Range Mountains and those 200 communities that are very dependent on the industry within that 200 miles of Canada and maybe even beyond that.
Canada is recognized for some of the best, if not the best, lobster in the world. I myself have had a few pieces of lobster. If we look at Atlantic salmon or Atlantic cod, we see these are very important industries that have a focus in Atlantic Canada. I am aware of it, in good part because of the advocacy done within our government caucus. The Atlantic caucus is a very healthy and vocal group of individuals. We know that the fishing industry as a whole is of the utmost importance because it assists in driving the economy, but more than just the economy, it is a part of our culture and heritage, as I pointed out at the beginning.
If we were to talk to many fishermen, we would find that it is a generational thing. The families have been doing this for generations. It is almost as if it is a part of their DNA. That industry has been very important to indigenous people. It goes far beyond the economics, even though the economics are really important.
The same principles I just finished talking about in Atlantic Canada can also be applied to the Pacific Ocean. We hear about the endangerment of killer whales along the B.C. coastline and concerns related to Pacific salmon. These are all genuine concerns and one of the reasons why the Government of Canada has taken a holistic approach to dealing with the protection of our oceans. It is not just legislation that we are bringing forward.
We have many members of cabinet and in our government caucus who work together to ensure that within the budget documents the money is flowing for causes that will have a positive outcome for our oceans. We have invested, literally, additional hundreds of millions dollars consistently through the last couple of budgets. That is why I was somewhat saddened when one member of the House stood and spoke for 14 or 15 hours on the budget—in essence, denying other members the opportunity to share their thoughts on the budget.
The opposition was very restrictive on that important budget. However, I suspect that if that debate had been allowed to occur, we would have heard members from Atlantic Canada, B.C., Manitoba and other regions talk about some of the financial programs and activities that this government is doing and putting into place to ensure that our fisheries not only survive today but, hopefully, grow into the future, and to look at ways to ensure that our industries continue to prosper. That has been important as a whole for this government from day one.
We talked about Canada's middle class and those aspiring to be a part of it. One of the ways we protect that thought and advance it forward in that area is to address our fishing industry. This is the type of rationale I would argue. It is why the government is not going to just settle for a piece of legislation but also take that more holistic approach and factor in the importance of a budget that complements legislation and vice versa. I am glad to be a part of a government that looks at it from that perspective.
I believe that, by having marine protected areas and establishing that up front in a timely fashion, we will better protect our fishing stocks and better ensure that we continue with the best lobsters in the world for generations to come. We do that by demonstrating leadership on the file. If members have listened, in particular to the parliamentary secretary for this legislation where he talks about that 1% versus 10%, they should really take note. For far too long, while I and my friend from Charlottetown, who has done an outstanding job, sat in the opposition in the third party, we wanted a government that would listen and take actions that would make a difference. After listening to Stephen Harper, from 2010 to 2015, move it from 0% to 1%, it is really quite gratifying to see how we have been able to take the issues that Canadians have brought forward to us as individual members of Parliament. We have taken the issues through our infrastructure, through our party and through government, and by working with Canadians, we have now achieved 9% in terms of the marine protected areas here in our shorelines.
That is a significant achievement. I emphasize that we are not going to stop there. We are not settling on that. We are committed to getting to that 10% by 2020.
However, it is more than just having those marine protected areas, and that is why I took the time to explain the issue of the importance of the national budget. Those individuals who are prepared to look at the national budget will find that not only are we bringing forward legislation and regulation but we are also supporting it by bringing in the financial resources that will make the difference, so that we will have a healthier industry and appreciate the heritage and the culture in that whole area.