House of Commons Hansard #415 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was area.

Topics

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is a little rich coming from a group that unveiled its plan two weeks into the 2015 election.

Canadians do not need to believe me. Let us put it in the voice of fishers. Fishers and first nations in those coastal communities are really the ones that matter. Here is a quote:

Canada should be a leader in listening to its people and taking the time to listen and spend the money to do the proper science before coming to a huge decision, such as establishing SBAs and MPAs supposedly based on science. These decisions will take time, but they should be Canadian decisions based on Canadian timelines, not offhand commitments made to international arenas void of any voices of those who will be impacted most and who are most informed on the decision.

That was from Jordan Nickerson, a fish harvester.

I said this earlier in my comments, that Bill C-55 is really a vehicle or mechanism for the Liberals to be able to make their international targets, which they announced on the world stage. Canada has the largest geographical coastline, and to reach these targets, it is the west coast and the northern coast that are going to suffer the most, or be most impacted by what the government doing. Without proper engagement, it will be to the detriment of those coastal communities and those fishing groups that depend so critically on those waterways, those areas.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Madam Speaker, I have a strange philosophy regarding environmental policy in that environmental policies and environmental spending should actually have an environmental outcome, a measurable environmental outcome. However, the Liberal government is more about show, talk, studies, endless meetings and spending all these resources on activities that really do not generate an environmental benefit. In fact, the Liberals go so far as to almost destroy some coastal communities with needless regulations and laws that really do not make any environmental sense.

I would like to ask my hon. friend, the fisheries shadow minister, this. Why do the Liberals prefer show over substance when it comes to environmental and fisheries policy?

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, it is all the pomp and circumstance. It is to put one's hand on one's heart and pledge all this and that. However, the reality is that there is no delivery. Nobody will be able to ask how all that pomp and circumstance worked out.

Again, members do not have to believe me. I will go to another comment in committee by Sean Cox, professor at Simon Fraser University. He said:

MPAs aren't likely to be effective scientific tools, either. They're not easily replicated. When you put in an MPA, it's subject to a high degree of what we call “location and time” effects. You can't just create a nice experiment where you have three of the same type of MPA in one place and then three control areas in another place. You just can't do that. They're wide open to outside perturbations, environmental changes that are not within our control.

Another witness said, “If you want to build on a process of trust and goodwill, you don't then ignore what your stakeholders say and consult on only a minority of the protected areas that were being recommended.”

Fish do not follow boundaries; they are fluid and so are the conditions on what impact fish.

Even the academics are coming out against what the federal government and the minister is doing with Bill C-55.

All we are asking is to put in protections for thorough consultation. Regardless of what the mandate is, it needs to be added to clause 5. We are asking that clause 5 to be amended to include thorough consultations, including what the proposed legislation would protect, where it would be designated and all the areas of consultation that led up to that interim marine protected area being levied.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Churence Rogers Liberal Bonavista—Burin—Trinity, NL

Madam Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will be splitting my time with the member for St. Catharines.

Today we are talking about Bill C-55, a bill that would amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act.

Bill C-55 is an important element of our marine conservation agenda. While the proposed amendments provide another tool for us to meet our international commitment to increase the protection of Canada's marine and coastal areas to 10% by 2020, our government's objective, first and foremost, is to protect sensitive and important marine and coastal areas for the benefit of present and future generations of Canadians.

Decades of experience in establishing marine protected areas has shown us that too many delays occur during the establishment process. Through this experience, we have learned there are circumstances where greater harm to sensitive marine areas can occur during the time it takes to establish a marine protected area, sometimes up to 10 years.

The interim protections proposed under Bill C-55 address this gap in conserving our marine biodiversity and will give us the option to establish interim protection where initial science and consultation tells us we need to afford the area extra precaution.

While I thank the other place for the attention paid to the bill, the new amendments would negatively impact the government's ability to apply the precautionary principle and could put sensitive and important ecosystems at risk.

While we are rejecting the amendment from the other place, we are proposing to replace it with an amendment that would capture the intent of the changes sought by members of the other place. Indeed, we understand the concern that was shared by various senators regarding the consultations and ensuring the communities would not be negatively impacted by interim protection orders. We agree that consultations are important. In fact, they are the cornerstone of the development of marine protected areas.

That is why we are proposing an amendment that would require the geographical location, relevant information, as well as consultations that were undertaken, to be published when an order for interim protection is made. This proposed amendment will ensure that communities get the information they need and that we undertake the comprehensive consultations that are outlined in existing legislation in the designation of interim protection. It will allow us to continue to apply the precautionary approach, which underpins the objectives of this bill.

Most of the discussions held during the Senate review of Bill C-55 focused on transparency and consultations. I would like to provide an example of how the Government of Canada is demonstrating its commitment to work with many of its valued partners in an open and collaborative manner.

This government has been working steadily to build a partnership with the Government of Nunavut and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association to advance protection of Canada's High Arctic marine environment. As well, we have been engaging directly with northern communities and conducting scientific studies to better understand this ecosystem and its linkages to food security for indigenous peoples.

This area is of particular ecological importance as it maintains a relatively constant cover of old, thick and multi-year pack ice. As the ice melts in the rest of the Arctic, this area is expected to retain its multi-year pack ice further into the future and may therefore provide a last refuge for ice-dependent species, such as polar bears, beluga whales, narwhals and seals. Sea ice also provides habitat for the algae that forms a vital part of the Arctic food web. This area is also home to the last remaining ice shelves in North America.

This ongoing collaboration has led to a memorandum of understanding with the Government of Nunavut and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, committing us to assess the feasibility and desirability of protecting the High Arctic Basin. This work will consider the social, cultural, environmental and economic benefits and impacts of establishing a conservation area in this region.

This conservation effort supports the development of a conservation economy in the Arctic and our budget 2019 affirms this commitment to protect the High Arctic Basin with our partners.

The ability to provide early interim protection to the High Arctic Basin depends on royal assent of Bill C-55 in a manner that does not contradict the fundamental spirit and intent of the bill; that is to take action quickly to protect ecologically sensitive and important marine areas following initial science and consultation.

In a recent letter, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, which represents over 15,000 Inuit, expressed serious concerns about the amendments provided by the other place. In the letter, the president, PJ Akeeagok, states:

We are concerned that this proposed amendment risks undermining the actualization of Inuit rights by conflating the requirement to uphold the rights of Inuit with a broader engagement with the interests of stakeholders. The current version of Bill C-55, sets out the appropriate hierarchy. Interim measures allow parties the opportunity to commit to determining the final details required to establish protected areas. This important step is key to successfully ensuring all parties interests are taken into account prior to final establishment.

QIA further submits that striking a broader consultation after an interim order is appropriate and effective to assess whether formal designation of part or all of the area under an interim order should be recommended to be designated as a permanent MPA by regulation.

The Government of Canada respects the rights of indigenous peoples and we are committed to consulting, collaborating and partnering with the very governments and groups that are essential to interim protection and longer-term protection.

With the support of our Inuit and northern partners, we intend to establish an interim marine protected area for the High Arctic Basin. Following this step, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Parks Canada agencies will continue to work with the Government of Nunavut and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and others to continue important scientific work and explore the best ways of collaboratively protecting and managing this area through permanent protection measures.

On April 25, at the Nature Champions Summit in Montreal, the government announced new protection standards for marine protected areas. While these standards apply to future federal marine protected areas that are permanent and not to interim protection, the government's commitment to high protection standards was applauded in Canada and by the international community.

Marine conservation has always been, and will always be, an all-in effort. To date, we have protected 8.27% of our ocean estate. We did not get there alone. This tremendous achievement is the result of many protected areas established by provinces, territories and the federal government. It also includes the contribution of other conservation measures, like marine refuges, which have been developed in collaboration with many parties, most notably fisheries groups.

Reaching our target has been a high priority for this government and we are committed to achieving it together with our partners. We can no longer take our rich endowment of marine biodiversity for granted. We have been drawing economic benefit from our oceans for generations, but we need to invest in protecting our oceans to ensure the ecosystem services they provide can be maintained into the future.

Healthy marine ecosystems provide a range of vital benefits. They support climate regulation, provide nutritious food and support seafood industries and many other economic sectors and provide habitat needed to support species abundance.

Bill C-55 has been reviewed by Parliament for nearly two years. With interim protection, we will be able to act quickly and collaboratively to protect our oceans from coast to coast to coast. Bill C-55 is based on a vision to protect our oceans for future generations, and its success depends on partnerships. We must act today and pass the bill as the House intended.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Madam Speaker, I served with the member for Bonavista—Burin—Trinity on the environment committee and enjoyed interacting with him very much.

I recall a discussion we had on Bill C-69 in the environment committee in which he expressed grave concern about the offshore oil industry in Newfoundland and the fact that Newfoundland's economy is in tough shape. The offshore oil industry is one of the major employers in Newfoundland. A badly placed MPA where drilling is prohibited could have serious effects on the local economy.

Is my colleague concerned about the oil industry in Newfoundland and the possible effects of this and other pieces of legislation on that economy?

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Churence Rogers Liberal Bonavista—Burin—Trinity, NL

Madam Speaker, I am always concerned about balancing the two. The fishery is vitally important to the long-term viability of our province, and it is going to be there for a long time into the future. Hopefully, it will be sustainable and provide lots of economic opportunities for Newfoundland. As well, I understand the importance of the oil industry.

The minister recently made some announcements regarding MPAs and suggested that both of these industries can work in balance and provide great benefits for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador if they are properly managed and sustainably managed for the future.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I too enjoyed serving on environment and sustainable development committee with the hon. member.

I and my colleagues are going to support this legislation and the change to the Senate amendment. We think it is much more supportive with respect to protecting marine areas and the species that may be at risk.

There used to be a fantastic program called the Arctic environmental protection strategy. When I was assistant deputy of resources in Yukon, I participated on that body. It did a lot of co-operative work in relation to the necessary science in the North, but my understanding is that under the Conservatives and then under the Liberals, the Polaris project, which was fantastic in supporting Canadian researchers in the Arctic, has not been continued. It is absolutely critical that we co-operate with other countries, including through the Arctic Council.

Does the member not think that in addition to designating these marine protected areas, we should also be investing more heavily in science and not just in gauging the shelf to determine where the oil and gas is that we could claim?

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Churence Rogers Liberal Bonavista—Burin—Trinity, NL

Madam Speaker, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, which represents 15,000 members, supports this particular legislation.

Obviously we are all concerned about making sure that we do the correct amount of science and consultation, which is and will continue to be ongoing once the bill is in place.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Charlottetown P.E.I.

Liberal

Sean Casey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries

Madam Speaker, I also would like to thank my colleague for his work on the fisheries committee. As a Newfoundland and Labrador member of Parliament, he would be abundantly aware that negotiations were successfully concluded recently between the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Government of Canada with respect to the Atlantic Accord, including the designation of the Laurentian Channel marine protected area.

Could the member speak to what he is hearing from his constituents with respect to the level of consultation, the level of engagement between the respective governments and the stakeholders for this to be allowed to happen?

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Churence Rogers Liberal Bonavista—Burin—Trinity, NL

Madam Speaker, based on the conversations I have had with some different sectors, the most recent announcement that the parliamentary secretary refers to seemed to be well received.

The fishing industry obviously and the oil and gas industry need to be monitored for a balanced approach so that we can maintain both of these industries and reap the economic benefits from both for the long term.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to be speaking to the motion concerning the Senate amendments to Bill C-55, an act to amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act.

As many members know, the bill was introduced in June 2017. It is almost two years later, and I believe it is time to pass the bill so we can better protect fragile marine environments.

Earlier today, many members opposite showed their opposition to passing the bill as soon as possible, despite our having had nine days of debate in the House, nine committee meetings at the House fisheries committee and eight meetings at the Senate fisheries committee. Indeed, in the time it has taken for us to get to this stage of the legislative process, we could have already designated interim protections to some of the most sensitive marine ecosystems in our oceans. Instead, despite the importance of protecting our environment and the support from Canadians from coast to coast to coast, we are being forced to defend the merits of a bill that would simply provide a tool for the government to provide interim protection to marine areas. Again, this measure has been before us for almost two years.

The motion today provided by the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard not only is a common sense approach but shows this government's commitment to working with the hon. members of the other place. Indeed, the Senate's message received just over a week ago by the House adds an amendment that would require, before an order for interim protection is made, that the approximate geographical location and a preliminary assessment of what needs protection be published. A further amendment by Senator Patterson would require that a secondary consultation process of at least 60 days be undertaken before an order is made, and that any comments or questions be responded to within 30 days.

At first blush, these changes seem reasonable. They are, for the most part. That is why they are more or less already required under existing legislation and the Oceans Act as it is written today. In fact, sections 29-33 outline explicitly the requirements for consultations. The act says in section 33, under “Oceans Management Strategy”:

33(1) In exercising the powers and performing the duties and functions assigned to the Minister by this Act, the Minister

(a) shall cooperate with other ministers, boards and agencies of the Government of Canada, with provincial and territorial governments and with affected aboriginal organizations, coastal communities and other persons and bodies, including those bodies established under land claims agreements;

(b) may enter into agreements with any person or body or with another minister, board or agency of the Government of Canada;

(c) shall gather, compile, analyse, coordinate and disseminate information

Furthermore, information such as the geographical location and all other relevant information is readily available regarding areas of interest, which is the first step in the permanent MPA designation process. That means we already have in place a process that provides the information that the Senate amendment is seeking. Let me give members an example.

Race Rocks is an area of interest over which the government is currently consulting with stakeholders, the community and indigenous groups to establish an MPA. While it has yet to be designated, people can go online today to see the proposed geographical location. It is located 17 kilometres southwest of Victoria, British Columbia, in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and consists of nine islets. The area of interest, or AOI, is approximately two square kilometres. There is also a link to a 2011 report that includes an ecosystem overview and assessment.

Again, this is an example of how the government is already open and transparent, as required by the Cabinet Directive on Regulation, and shows how the amendment from the Senate is duplicative.

There is another interesting piece of information on Race Rocks, listed under the heading “Key Objectives and Approach”. It says, “On September 1, 1998, the Race Rocks AOI was announced by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The objective for the proposed Race Rocks Marine Protected Area, MPA, is to conserve and protect the biodiversity and ecosystem function of the area.”

The announcement for the AOI was made in 1998. That is over 20 years ago. It seems shocking that while we have heard it takes on average between seven and 10 years for an MPA to be established, this area was announced as being ecologically significant over 20 years ago, but in the past two decades has had no interim protection because the mechanism does not exist.

That is why we are debating Bill C-55 today. It would create the mechanisms. It would allow us to protect areas on an interim basis until the decision is made for permanent designation.

Let me emphasize that this is not a shortcut. On average, it takes seven to 10 years to designate an MPA. On average, it takes two years to establish an AOI. If a designation for permanent protection must be made within five years of an interim protection area being designated, that brings the time down from seven to 10 years to seven years. The process for designation continues to be rigorous and robust.

I would also like to speak to the part of the Senate amendment made by Senator Patterson regarding another consultation period. To be clear, consultations are the cornerstone of the MPA development process, and even after an order for interim protection was made, comprehensive consultations would continue.

Senator Patterson's amendment would create secondary consultation processes that would require an additional 90 days before an interim order could be made. This added period would go against the very objective of the bill, which is to apply the precautionary principle and provide protection faster to areas we already know are ecologically significant while the consultations continued on a path to permanent designation.

For these reasons, the government has suggested an amendment that accepts the intent of the amendment from the other place while still respecting the objectives and purposes of the bill. Our government is thankful for the robust debate that has occurred in the other chamber, and we are happy to support this proposed amendment that would not have been developed if not received through the message from the other place and the concerns raised from their regions.

I believe it is time to move forward on this legislation.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Madam Speaker, one of the reasons we are so suspicious of the government is that we need only look at what happened in California with MPAs. On its coastlines, some of the best areas for fishing are now off limits to citizens. The Liberal government's track record on environmental policy is so bad in terms of affecting communities that we are sure this will be another train wreck.

I sat on the fisheries committee for around seven years. We produced a unanimous report on Atlantic salmon conservation. It is a species that is in grave trouble. Most of the decline occurred under the current government's watch. We produced 17 recommendations, and all political parties were unanimous in supporting these recommendations. The government is not implementing any of them.

The fisheries committee operates on a principle of unanimity almost all of the time. It is a very collegial committee. Expert testimony at committee informed us as to these 17 recommendations, but the government has refused to implement them, and the species continues to decline.

Why is that?

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his passion on the subject of the environment, although it was interesting just a couple of weeks ago during question period that when a question regarding the price on pollution was mentioned, the hon. member heckled “You think this will change the weather?” I am shocked to learn that the hon. member did not know the difference between weather and climate, but can stand here and criticize this government for taking action on the environment.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

It is shocking that the climate deniers on the other side are heckling me. I think I have touched a nerve. They deny the existence of climate change, which is in their policy and which is in their friend Doug Ford's policy in Ontario. To stand in this place and criticize us when the hon. member does not even know the difference between climate and weather is just shocking.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, I want to compare the knowledge level of my colleague, who has worked here on environmental issues for the last 10 years and is one of the experts in the place, with the knowledge level of the member opposite, who has nothing but personal insults for him.

I guess he could come back to answer the question. One of the reasons I would ask him to do that is related to a project in my riding that was focused around pasture land that Agriculture Canada turned over to Environment Canada. The local people had a very collegial project developing with Environment Canada until this government took over. Since then, Environment Canada has taken it away from the ranchers and farmers who have spent 100 years on this ground and have protected it. Officials have told them they will be told how to access the ground and how they will access the pasture from now on.

I am wondering why the government cannot seem to learn from anyone, whether it is from my colleague who knows this file inside out or from the people on the ground. Instead the Liberals keep coming back with these solutions that Canadians do not want, consisting more of a taxation policy than of an environmental policy.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Madam Speaker, I will answer the question with regard to my previous comments, because the other comments had nothing to do with the motion before us. However, it is shocking. If the hon. member is an expert in environmental policy, not knowing the difference between weather and climate is a shocking issue. I am not going to retract that.

I hope that the hon. member gets up and retracts his comment, that he is willing to listen to the experts and that he is willing to listen to climate science.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Madam Speaker, it is clear that not only the hon. member himself but the other members of the Conservative Party, who are heckling me at this moment, do not believe in climate change, do not have a plan for climate change and support Doug Ford and his plan for the environment, which is in fact true.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Charlottetown P.E.I.

Liberal

Sean Casey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries

Madam Speaker, lest I be accused of stirring the pot, since my colleague talked about the Conservatives' passion for the environment, I would just like to take a look at the track record with respect to MPAs. The targets were established in 2010. The Conservatives were in power for five years after that. The amount of marine areas that were protected was 1% and now we are at 9%.

What does that say about the passion for the environment, and how does that align with the views of my colleague's constituents?

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Madam Speaker, St. Catharines sits on Lake Ontario. Regardless of political affiliation, we all want clean air and clean water, and I am proud that this government is actually taking action on that.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I just want to remind members, because there has been a bit of heckling going on, that when somebody else has the floor that person should have the respect of this House. If members have questions and comments, they need to wait until I ask them for their input.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa.

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

May 13th, 2019 / 4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Madam Speaker, in response to my colleague's question, climate is what people expect and weather is what they get. That is the simple definition.

What is a marine protected area? Obviously it is an area that is considered important and in need of some kind of protection. Unfortunately, the devil is in the details. Marine protected areas are actually quite difficult to do. They are three-dimensional columns of water, where a lot of things are going on inside that column of water. By comparison, terrestrial conservation areas are much easier to deal with.

I would like to comment on what my friend from Cypress Hills—Grasslands said a minute ago. He talked about stewardship. When it comes to environmental conservation, local people on the ground, conducting stewardship activities and using the knowledge they have learned over generations, is by far the better way than the top-down environmental regulation that the government prefers.

What are some of the problems with marine protected areas? For example, what are they actually going to accomplish? My colleague across the way talked about an area off Victoria, Race Rocks. It was designated some 20 years ago as an important area, yet it is still in place now and the discussions are ongoing. For 20 years, the area had been de facto protected.

The other issue with marine protected areas is this. What are the terms and conditions of setting aside one of these areas? Let us just say the benthic invertebrates, like the glass sponge reefs off Haida Gwaii, are going to be protected. I think that is a worthy goal, given that some types of fishing activities can affect the benthic environment. Would ships passing over top of this area have any effect on the primary reason for the MPA?

For the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Minister of Transport and regional economic development ministers, it is going to be critical for them to look at the terms and conditions of an MPA. Most people think it is an area that is set aside where there is no activity at all. The point is that, if an MPA has an important benthic environment, for example, that happens to be on a shipping lane, bottom crawling can be restricted to protect the benthic environment while shipping is still allowed. Again, it is a balancing act that I think needs to be done.

This is not a partisan issue at all, but the terms and conditions are very important. Again, in terms of marine protected areas, as was mentioned by the shadow minister for fisheries, many of the fish species are migratory, and they go in and out of these marine protected areas. When one looks at the two great fishery tragedies off the east coast in the last little while—the Atlantic cod and the Atlantic salmon—right now, it is hard to see what a marine protected area would have done for these highly mobile species.

There are places where aquatic protected areas actually make sense, but they have to be very well delineated and with the proper terms and conditions. I will use an example that I am familiar with from back home, and that is lake trout spawning reefs. Lake trout spawn in the fall, and they are very vulnerable to overfishing at that time, because they concentrate on specific reefs. It makes a lot of sense—and the Manitoba government has done this in many areas—to put these lake trout spawning reefs off-limits to fishing, even catch-and-release fishing, during the sensitive time when the lake trout are using these reefs.

Again, the devil is in the details, and it is far too easy to call an area “protected” when that protection does not really do a lot.

I sat on the fisheries committee when Bill C-55 was being discussed. A lot of the reaction from communities was quite negative. A lot dealt with consultation, and a lot dealt with the effect on the local economy. Leonard LeBlanc, managing director of Gulf Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board said:

The process DFO used to approach harvester associations and consult on the areas of interest for designation was unorganized and totally not transparent....

...this consultation process on the area of interest for MPA designation in the Cape Breton Trough perpetuated the lack of trust between industry and DFO. The lack of inclusion and answers during the consultation phase, the lack of real scientific evidence for reasoning behind the area of interest, and the lack of guarantees that traditional fisheries could continue all led to further distrust of DFO's consultation....

Mr. Ian MacPherson, executive director of the Prince Edward Island Fishermen's Association, said:

...we...have concerns surrounding the tight timelines to accomplish these goals.... The displacement of fishers from one community to another as a result of an MPA would shift the economics of the island.

Christina Burridge, executive director of the BC Seafood Alliance, said:

On the west coast, we're not seeing a lot of evidence-based decision-making. It's beginning to look like political decision-making.

She continued:

Closing large areas to fishing off the west coast does little for biodiversity, little for conservation, little for the men and women up and down the coast who work in our sector and who...deserve access to local, sustainable...food.

My colleague, the shadow minister for fisheries, quoted Mr. Sean Cox, a professor of fisheries from Simon Fraser University, who 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.

Therefore, the Liberals' rationale for the MPAs, which is that they have done enough consultation and there is a scientific basis to them, is clearly shown to be bogus.

As I said in one of my questions earlier, I have a very strange environmental philosophy, which is this. Every environmental policy and environmental decision that government makes and every single dollar that is spent on the environment or fisheries by a government should generate a clear and measurable environmental result. So far, the track record of the current government is poor.

I also want to talk about some of my time on the fisheries committee dealing with the Atlantic salmon. As I mentioned earlier, I have the report here. The fisheries committee is different from a lot of other committees in that we operate on a very collegial basis and try very hard to have unanimous reports, which I think is still the case. We on the fisheries committee are treated to some excellent science witnesses, and there is robust debate about the data and evidence that is presented, yet it is always respectful. We produced a report in January 2017 entitled “Wild Atlantic Salmon in Eastern Canada”. Under the current government's watch, the populations of Atlantic salmon have plummeted for a whole bunch of reasons: the very high seal populations; the very high predation rates; the predation rates by striped bass on Atlantic salmon smolts; the overfishing by Greenland of our multi-sea-winter fish; and the issue of the smallmouth bass in Miramichi Lake, to look at one specific water body there.

We produced a report with 17 recommendations. They were very specific recommendations. In one, in particular, we recommended a target the government should have of restoring the Atlantic salmon populations to 1975 levels, with measurable results reported on a regular basis. We talked about engaging with Greenland. We talked about increasing the seal harvest to help the salmon out. There were other recommendations as well. These have all been ignored.

The letter the minister sent in response to this report was a disgrace. The words “restore” and “rehabilitate” did not occur in that letter at all. It was a fluff piece that talked about consultation and so on, in spite of the fact that our Atlantic salmon report had very specific, broadly based and widely supported recommendations. As I said in some of my earlier comments, the current government prefers show over substance.

On the west coast, things are not much better. I have an article here from the CBC, dated December 2018, just a few months ago. It states that more than a dozen B.C. chinook salmon populations are in decline and only one population in the southern group is doing well. The article reports that there is one population that is down to 200 fish. All of this is on the current government's watch. It is doing nothing to deal with some of the crises occurring with our fish stocks right now.

I will go back to my point about generating real and measurable environmental results. When we were in government, we had the recreational fisheries conservation partnership program. Over the life of the program, while we were in government, some 800 projects were funded. Indeed, in one year, for example, the first year, 380 partners undertook 94 habitat restoration projects; 1,700 volunteers donated their time; 2.4 million square metres of habitat were restored; and 200 linear kilometres of recreational fisheries habit were enhanced. These were real and measurable environmental results.

In fact, it was unanimous at the fisheries committee that the Liberal government continue funding the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program, which delivered real and measurable environmental results. Guess what. It killed the program and the hopes and dreams of many small communities that depend on fisheries.

One of the projects that I am very proud of, which was funded by the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program, was in a nearby constituency to mine, the constituency of the member for Brandon—Souris, Pelican Lake. Why am I mentioning this? The reason is that this was a project funded by the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program. In this particular lake, people used to winter kill. This community is partly based on tourism. Sport fishing is very important. With a very small grant from the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program, aerators were installed on Pelican Lake, and now the fish population has been conserved in that particular lake. People do not winter kill anymore and the economy is booming because of it. Again, it is a real and measurable fisheries result from a program, something that the government simply does not do. It does not deliver results, and it does not measure results.

In terms of the effect on local communities, the government talks a good line on conserving marine mammals, but recently it implemented new whale-watching regulations. I happened to be in Churchill last summer. If any members have had the pleasure of going to Churchill, and I know some of them have, it is an unbelievable experience. I was there in July, and at that particular time of year, thousands of beluga whales crowd into the estuary. The new whale-watching regulations have minimum distances and the animals cannot be approached. It is clearly ridiculous for Churchill, because the minute people launch their boats from the shore, the whales come up to them and they are now technically doing something illegal.

DFO's concern should be the sustainability of populations. The population estimate of beluga whales on the west coast of Hudson Bay is around 55,000, and it is slowly increasing. That trend continues. This is a population of beluga whales that is thriving, yet for no conservation reason at all, DFO is imposing these whale-watching regulations on a tourism-dependent community, on an activity that generates millions of dollars per year. Again, the government's unthinking approach to fisheries and environmental policy is hurting communities.

In his comments earlier, the minister spoke about the Fisheries Act. I was on the fisheries committee when the Fisheries Act was changed in 2012. The Fisheries Act was written in 1898 and was in desperate need of modernization. The definition of what was designated as fish habitat kept expanding, so that puddles in farmers' fields, drainage ditches and so on were now considered fish habitat.

In 2009, for example, the Auditor General did an audit of the original Fisheries Act, after the act had been in place since 1898. The Auditor General found this:

Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment Canada cannot demonstrate that fish habitat is being adequately protected as the Fisheries Act requires. In the 23 years since the Habitat Policy was adopted [in 1986], many parts of the Policy have been implemented only partially by Fisheries and Oceans Canada or not at all. The Department does not measure habitat loss or gain. It has limited information on the state of fish habitat across Canada—that is, on fish stocks, the amount and quality of fish habitat, contaminants in fish, and overall water quality. Fisheries and Oceans Canada still cannot determine the extent to which it is progressing toward the Policy’s long-term objective of a net gain in fish habitat.

The Fisheries Act was so broad that it was ineffective, so our changes made a lot of sense.

For example, in the Prairies, there was an issue in the early 2000s when DFO went hog-wild trying to enforce this unwieldy and unnecessary act. It sent around what we called the “fish cops”, which really riled up rural communities and delivered no significant environmental results.

I was very impressed by the testimony of a Mr. Ron Bonnett, who was president at the time of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. He said:

The experience that many farmers had with the Fisheries Act, unfortunately, was not a positive one. It was characterized by lengthy bureaucratic applications for permitting and authorizations, and a focus on enforcement and compliance measures taken by officials.... Many farmers were then relieved when the changes that were made just a few years ago [by the Conservative government] drastically improved the timeliness and cost of conducting regular maintenance and improvement activities to their farms as well as lifting the threat of being deemed out of compliance.

Mr. Bonnett went on to point out:

There are also many accounts of inconsistency in enforcement, monitoring, and compliance across Canada with different empowered organizations, which led to a confusion and indiscriminate approaches to enforcement and implementation. Even at the individual level, there were different interpretations of the act based on one's familiarity with agriculture.

He continued:

It is CFA's position that a complete revert to reinstate all provisions of the Fisheries Act as they were would be unproductive, would re-establish the same problems for farmers, and would provide little improvement in outcome for the protection and improvement of fish habitat. Human-made water bodies such as drainage ditches simply should not be treated as fish habitat.

He also noted, “The current streamlined approach is working far better for all and efforts should continue this approach.”

Then he made this incredible statement, which backs up what I was saying earlier:

Overall, any changes to the current Fisheries Act [2012] should be considered as to how they will support outcomes-based conservation rather than a process-oriented approach.

I note that on his own farm, Mr. Bonnett is legendary for his conservation work in keeping cattle out of streams and working very well with the conservation community to enhance and protect all kinds of habitats.

In terms of the Senate amendments, I do support them. It is very important that we get this right. The Senate amendments are very clear that what an MPA is needs to be clearly specified and flexibility allowed. If an area is just closed off to everybody without any thought as to what the goals and objectives are, it would hurt coastal and rural communities.

Obviously, this legislation will pass, as the government has a majority. As I said early in my speech, it is very important that the needs of local communities be taken into account. For example, off the coast of Newfoundland there is a significant food fishery for cod. It is a very important activity there, one that I would like to participate in one of these years. What if the issue in that area is the protection of the benthic environment? Obviously, a food fishery for cod should not affect the benthic environment. Therefore, commercial fishing technologies that have the potential to harm the benthic environment could be dealt with, while at the same time ensuring local community benefits.

Also, I will go back to the notion of stewardship, which my friend from Cypress Hills—Grasslands talked about. I have the honour of representing a large rural community with agriculture, trapping, hunting, fishing, forestry and some oil and gas development. The environment in my particular constituency is one of extremely high quality, and that is because of the conservation efforts by people who are on the ground, who have years and years of experience and know what they are talking about. They will deliver environmental conservation on time and under budget in a way that benefits the environment for all of us.

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4:25 p.m.

Charlottetown P.E.I.

Liberal

Sean Casey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech and his passion for this topic. It is very clear that he has an extensive background and experience in these matters, as we heard in his speech. There were actually a couple of things in there that I could agree with. When he talked about how important the terms and conditions are, he was absolutely right. In any marine protected area, the restriction on any activities is tied to the conservation objectives of that marine protected area, and they are not uniform.

There were a couple of things in particular that I wanted to ask my colleague about. One, he seemed to indicate that if this act passes, it will be possible for the government to shut down everything. No, what this bill does is give the minister the power to make an interim protection order. What that order does is freeze the footprint. Everything that was allowed in that area the day before the order is allowed the day after the order and for the next five years. Therefore, the suggestion that everything can be instantly shut down with the stroke of a pen is dead, categorically, wrong.

The other thing my colleague said is that the government is going too fast on this. However, the average time for the establishment of a marine protected area in this country is seven to 10 years. Is that too fast?

Oceans ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Madam Speaker, it is fast for government time.

I appreciate the parliamentary secretary's comments. Again, as somebody who has done a little bit of work in the fisheries field, I had talked about the lake trout spawning reefs and the notion of specific protections for highly sensitive areas that are clearly defined. I call them, for example, fish sanctuaries. That has been used with great effect in New Zealand to support its commercial fishery.

In my own case, I am not intrinsically opposed to all of this activity. It is just very important that it be though out very carefully. Given the track record of some governments, what is promised one day often does not happen on the ground. I go back to the issue in California. It all started out with wanting to protect these fisheries, and everybody was going to benefit and so on. However, there was mission creep in this particular case, and more and more areas were deemed off-limits to citizens.

Having said that, it is important to get this right and get the local communities on board and involved in the conservation programs because they are the ones who know what is really going on out there.