Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today on behalf of the fine people of Red Deer—Lacombe, in central Alberta, to talk again about this legislation, one which the Senate sent back to the House because it saw the same flaws in it that the opposition did.
The bill was passed at third reading by the Liberal majority government in an expeditious way as an attempt to fulfill its political objectives, without giving due consideration to the impacts the bill would have on the people of Canada, notwithstanding that it is about marine protected areas.
I do not think any reasonable Canadian would think that having marine protected areas is a bad idea. In fact, the previous Conservative government created many marine protected areas in fresh water and in our oceans. The current government has an ambitious plan to set aside 10% of our marine areas for protection by 2020.
The fisheries committee, of which I am a member, travelled across the country to talk to various stakeholders and groups about what that would actually look like. We heard loudly and clearly from aboriginal groups, particularly from those in coastal communities that rely on the ocean or the sea for their way of life, about their concern that marine protected areas would interfere with or infringe upon their lifestyles. The Inuit of the north want to have access to various estuaries for beluga harvesting or fishing. The coastal communities rely on shipping and marine traffic. The indigenous communities rely on salmon, halibut, clams and so on, not only for their personal use but also for the socio-economic interests that exist within their various bands.
In its wisdom, the Senate has basically found that Bill C-55 does not do a very good job of addressing the concerns of some of these communities. In fact, Senator Patterson, who is from the Nunavut territory, wanted to amend clause 5 of the bill to enhance consultation and co-operation measures. Even the government touts itself as one that wants to ensure the consultative process is done. However, the Senate, which is now dominated by members appointed by the Prime Minister, has sided with Senator Patterson, saying the bill needs to go back to have that clause reviewed.
Some people in my home province of Alberta may be asking why a guy from Alberta is so focused on fisheries, particularly on the west coast. They may wonder why a guy from central Alberta, who is also a farm boy, is always talking about fish and salmon. It just happens to be something I know a little bit about. I also understand that standing in between the economic prosperity of the people I represent in central Alberta and their future is the ability to ship energy products off Canada's Pacific coast.
Nobody back home in my riding actually believes that the current government has Alberta's best interests at heart. That is why traditionally, after the prime minister with the same last name as the current Prime Minister was elected, the Liberal brand, especially at the provincial level, is virtually a non-starter in Alberta. Why?
For people with a short memory or who have not learned their history very well, it is because people realized that brand and name just meant economic chaos. Whether through the National Energy Board program that was implemented some 40 years ago or the programs that are being implemented now, nobody back in Alberta believes that the marine protected area measures in Bill C-55 will not be used as a political sledgehammer to further restrict Alberta's ability to export its natural resource products off the coast, and this is why.
First and foremost, the current government, even though it tries to say otherwise, does not like fossil fuels. The Prime Minister has been very clear, through slips of the tongue, that the oil sands need to be phased out and stopped. He said as much. He said in response to questions about the carbon tax that the increasing cost of energy and the increasing cost of fuel for Canadians is what we want. When I say “we want”, I am using the Prime Minister's words. It is what the Prime Minister thinks Canadians actually want.
Right now we have a situation in British Columbia in which the Premier of British Columbia is basically threatening to block the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, yet at the same time threatening to sue the Government of Alberta if it chooses to shut off the existing Trans Mountain pipeline's delivery of oil. We find ourselves in this really bizarre world here in Canada, where nobody actually believes that anybody in the Liberal Party or the NDP wants to allow any more pipelines built to our west coast.
We have the carbon tax. We have had the regulatory changes. We have had the outright cancelling of the northern gateway pipeline by Enbridge and the changing of the regulatory process for energy east. The very first thing that the Liberal government published in November 2015 was changes that it made to the consultation process on pipelines, further delaying the Trans Mountain expansion and energy east and killing outright the northern gateway pipeline.
Everybody in the sector calls Bill C-69 the no-more-pipelines bill. This legislation is designed specifically and purposely to ensure that no more oil pipelines will be built in Canada, thereby trapping Alberta, Saskatchewan or all of Canada's energy in the North American marketplace. We sell that crude oil at a discount in the North American marketplace. Then it gets refined and shipped back to us at full price, and Canadians have to pick up the tab.
We have seen the proposed tanker ban legislation, Bill C-48, on the west coast. Interestingly enough, the government, which claims to care so much about the marine environment, did not put a tanker ban on the east coast to forbid tankers from Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and elsewhere from bringing energy to the eastern shores of Canada, even though eastern Canadians would much prefer to buy oil that was taken from the ground here in Canada and refined here in Canada for the use of all Canadians and for the economic benefit of everybody.
It would not be a stretch in any way, shape or form to believe that the current sitting Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, or any version thereof that the Liberal government has had sitting in that seat, would use Bill C-55.
I have no reason as an Albertan to believe anything other than that marine protected areas will be specifically designated and set up in areas not based on science or not based on where the marine protected area could do the most good for the preservation of species or the preservation of unique habitat or ecosystems, but instead in specifically designated areas to block the kinds of industrial activity that the government does not favour, notwithstanding that there is a tanker ban already in place through Bill C-48.
People back home need to understand that in the creation of a national park, there is normally a long and arduous process. A consultative process takes place, as well as a gazetting process through the National Parks Act, usually in the form of a willing seller and willing buyer. When national parks are purchased or require land that is already privately held, going through that process would be a requirement. The annexation part did not work out too well for the previous prime minister of Liberal persuasion when he tried that in Atlantic Canada, so here we find ourselves using Crown land in the north, which is where most Crown land is. Anytime a new national park is created, it is created on Crown land, but oceans are owned by nobody. They are actually owned by Her Majesty the Queen. They are owned by the Crown in right of the people of Canada.
The minister, through Bill C-55 should it pass in its current form, will have the ability to designate a marine protected area wherever he or she sees fit. There is no legislative requirement at all for the minister to use best science. There is no legislative requirement at all for that process to be gazetted, not one.
This is the most powerful piece of legislation that I have seen that gives the minister the outright ability to take up to 10%—because the government is saying that is the target—of our oceans and close them down in full or part, however the minister sees fit. That means that he or she can designate a marine protected area that is completely closed from all activity, right from the sunlit zone at the top of the water, all the way through the pelagic zone to the littoral zone at the bottom, if there is enough sunlight there to create that, or even down into the benthos or the layer at the bottom of the ocean floor, and cease and desist all activity.
The minister could make any list of exemptions that he or she wants in order to accommodate whatever political agenda they have. They could deny fishing, trawling, tanker traffic or specific tanker traffic. They could simply say, just as Bill C-48 does, that ships will be allowed through as long as the ship does not contain products x, y or z. There is no ability in this legislation at all for any recourse whatsoever.
I would bet anybody with a crisp $10 bill who wants to take me up on it—maybe this is dangerous because I am not a gambler—that marine protected areas in the first tranche, once this legislation comes to pass, will be set up at the Dixon Entrance and the Hecate Strait, outside of Prince Rupert, to make darn sure that, if Bill C-48 fails, not a single tanker will be allowed out of that area—the Prince Rupert-Kitimat area—carrying any type of crude oil or any of its byproducts or any of its refined products.
Anybody who does not think that is going to happen is dreaming. We will have no justification or rationale printed in any Gazette for why the minister is choosing to do this, because they are not obligated to under the legislation. That is why the Senate has coughed this bill back up and sent it back to this place. I do not expect the government to actually take any of these amendments seriously. I expect we will probably get time allocation. I know that the government has already sent a note back to the Senate on this piece of legislation.
I actually do not expect the government to accept any of these recommendations. I do not expect the government to take any amendments on this legislation that would limit the heavy-handed unilateral ability of the minister to basically outline or delineate anywhere he or she sees fit to accomplish the Liberal political agenda. That is what I find most egregious and most frustrating with this piece of legislation.
The minister will have the ability, once Bill C-55 passes, to designate whether certain tanker traffic is allowed, or any products, or if any tanker traffic is allowed at all. The minister will be allowed to decide whether any commercial fishing would happen in that area. The minister would be allowed to determine whether any sport fishing or recreational fishing would be allowed to happen in that particular area, and set any terms and conditions for it. The minister already has that ability to regulate fisheries through the Fisheries Act, but this is something they are going to have the ability to do even further through the marine protected area legislation, which is what Bill C-55 is all about.
The government will also have the unilateral ability—and I am assuming this will get challenged almost immediately—to actually decide what the indigenous peoples of this country will be able to do in those marine protected areas. I do not expect the government to actually put too many restrictions on them, but it may. I would be curious to see how those actually stand up to a test.
It is very frustrating, because the talking points coming from the government will make it sound as though this is a great idea. Of course, Canadians, who think with their hearts—as many Canadians do, and it is okay to think with the heart from time time—are going to say that 10% of our marine area is going to be protected and that is fantastic. However, here is the rub. There is no actual scientific requirement or any requirement in the legislation at all that is going to require the minister of fisheries and oceans to follow any rules or obligations in the establishment of a marine protected area.
I will give an example of what happens on the terrestrial side of the equation. Years ago, when I was taking my zoology degree at the University of Alberta, the numbers floated and bandied around back then—and that was almost 30 years ago—were 12.5%, 75% and 12.5%, and I mentioned this in my earlier speech. It was that 12.5% of the terrestrial land mass should be set aside for complete preservation or in a national park-like structure, with very little use, very little activity.
This land is designated in a preservation classification type of area. Of course, that also needs to be representative of the various biozones that we have, in order to get the approval of the United Nations and all the other agencies that watch these things. It could not all be, for example, in the Arctic. We would have to represent things like grasslands, which is why we have the creation of Grasslands National Park, which is still ongoing. We would have to represent all of that area in order to protect a representative sample of all the various ecosystems and habitats in the country.
It was decided a long time ago that 75% of the land mass would be classified as common use, areas where conservation management practices actually come into play to manage the environmental considerations that we have. Another 12.5% was set aside as complete use, things that are paved over, under concrete, cities, roads, highways, industrial areas, things of that nature, where these kinds of human activities need to happen in order to benefit and improve the quality of life of all people, not only in Canada but around the world. It was 12.5%, 75% and 12.5%.
Now we see that shift on the terrestrial environment, moving forward, but here is the rub. Any time somebody wants to grow that 12.5% of the preserved land area, that person has to take that land from that particular area. We just saw how badly this backfired for Rachel Notley in Alberta, when she tried to take some of the land that is classified in the public land use zone, the 75% of conservation and well-managed land and terrestrial areas. To put that space in the preservation pot, a person has to take it from the 75%, which is everybody who lives and makes a living in small rural areas across our country. It is very seldom that anybody in an urban area has to pay a price or a consequence for the development of a preservation boundary inside his or her jurisdiction, very seldom.
The same thing is going to happen in these marine protected areas. It is not going to cost anything for people who do not venture out onto the ocean, because it is not going to impact their lives. However, all those who live in small, rural, coastal communities or make a living by going out onto the water will now have to contend with arbitrary delineations of marine protected areas and make sure they follow whatever rules and conditions the minister has made. The minister, according to this legislation, can make any rules he or she sees fit. It is limitless. It does not have to be gazetted and it does not need the approval of anybody, other than a ministerial order. It does not even need the approval of the Governor in Council. It does not even need the approval of his or her cabinet colleagues.
The minister can simply sign a ministerial order and declare an area as a marine protected area. That is unwieldy power, especially when we are talking about 10% of the surface area on down, right through the water column to the bottom of the sea, the ocean, the lake, the river or whatever it happens to be. That is under the care and control of just one decision-maker in this country. That is a lot of power. It is power that our friends in the Senate have said should be reconsidered, and that is why they sent this piece of legislation back here.
I truly hope that this House takes a serious look at this legislation. I know the government is running out of time in its legislative agenda, but I sure hope that common sense will prevail, that the right thing will be done and that these amendments from the Senate will be given due consideration and every opportunity to be re-examined and studied, and not only by this chamber. I would love to see this bill go back to the committee so it can look at some of the work the Senate committee did, so that we, as the elected representatives of the people of Canada, have a better understanding as to exactly what the impacts of the bill would be.