House of Commons Hansard #431 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was deal.


Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I declare the motion lost.

Video Record of House Proceedings of June 6, 2019PrivilegeGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I have notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member for Banff—Airdrie.

Video Record of House Proceedings of June 6, 2019PrivilegeGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.


Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Mr. Speaker, when a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it really fall? That is the same principle by which I raise this question of privilege today.

On Thursday, June 6, during Routine Proceedings, I rose to table a petition. When I did so, I stated the following:

Mr. Speaker...Canadians depend upon the economic benefits and the jobs created by Canada's oil and gas industry. Unfortunately, without the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, there are thousands of unemployed Canadians who are worried about their next paycheque and where it will come from, instead of being able to plan for their families' future. With the carbon tax, even life's essentials have become a very costly burden.

Therefore, I table this petition calling on the government to immediately build the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and repeal the carbon tax so we can get this country back on track and create opportunities for thousands of Canadians.

The problem was that it was not actually on the video of the proceedings of the House that day, nor were a number of other interventions that came before it. In reports from committees, the member for Avalon, the member for Bay of Quinte, the member for Scarborough—Guildwood and the member for Sydney—Victoria all presented reports from committees, and none of those were available on the video either.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons rose with a response to two petitions on behalf of the government. That was not recorded either. Nor was the petition presented by the member for Salaberry—Suroît.

We looked to see if the video was available. We intended to use it for social media, and it was not available on ParlVu. Everything prior to 10:09:52 that morning was not available. We reached out to multimedia services and information services at that time and were informed at 11:39 a.m. that day that the video would be made available after the House adjourned at 12:30 a.m. the following morning, June 7. That was the understanding we had at that time.

The next morning, we checked again. The video was still not available, and when we reached out to multimedia services and information services that morning, Friday morning, no response was ever received. No indication has ever been given as to why it was not made available or what the problem was.

Going back to the statement I made at the beginning about a tree falling in the forest, this is the same thing. In the days of social media, members often use the statements they make, whether it be presenting petitions, reports from committees or other interventions in the House, for those purposes. When they are not made available to a member to share with constituents or others, the question is whether privilege has been breached.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I ask for your ruling on this question of privilege. As members, does our right to be heard extend to our right to be heard on the video recording that is supposed to be made available for the public?

Video Record of House Proceedings of June 6, 2019PrivilegeGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I thank the hon. member for Banff—Airdrie for raising this question. It is an interesting one. It raises the question of the ability of members to do their job in the House, and to that issue, of whether privilege extends to their ability to be involved in social media, which, of course, all members probably are these days, or perhaps their staff are on their behalf.

I will look at the matter and come back to the House.

I want to take this opportunity to remind members of the rules concerning questions of privilege. The notice submitted to the Speaker, which I received in this case, should contain four elements: it should indicate that the member is writing to give notice of his or her intention to raise a question of privilege; it should state that the matter is being raised at the earliest opportunity; it should indicate the substance of the matter the member proposes to raise by way of a question of privilege; and it should include the text of the motion, which the member must be ready to propose to the House should the Speaker rule the matter a prima facie question of privilege. That can be found on pages 144 and 145 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition.

It is important to raise that some of those elements were not fully covered in the letter, but I am going to accept the notice, because it is an interesting matter that I think ought to be taken under consideration. Moreover, the administration wants to ensure that it can provide the service of enabling members to have access to the video feed from the House. I will certainly look into the matter.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2019 / 3:35 p.m.

North Vancouver B.C.


Jonathan Wilkinson LiberalMinister of Fisheries


That a Message be sent to the Senate to acquaint Their Honours that, in relation to Bill C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence, the House:

agrees with amendments 1(b), 1(c), 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 14 and 15 made by the Senate;

respectfully disagrees with amendment 1(a) because it is contrary to the objective of the Act that its habitat provisions apply to all fish habitats throughout Canada;

proposes that amendment 3 be amended by deleting “guaranteed,” and, in the English version, by replacing the word “in” with the word “by”;

proposes that amendment 9 be amended by deleting section 35.11;

respectfully disagrees with amendment 11 because the amendment seeks to legislate in respect of third party, or market-based, fish habitat banking, which is beyond the policy intent of the Bill that is to provide only for proponent-led fish habitat banking.

Mr. Speaker, it is with great privilege that I rise today to speak to Bill C-68, an act to amend the Fisheries Act, which will restore lost protections to fish and fish habitat and incorporate modern safeguards into the law.

Before I highlight how Bill C-68 brings forward important improvements to the Fisheries Act, I would like to thank my predecessor, the Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade, the member for Beauséjour. It is due to his leadership that we are here today debating this bill which, once passed, will fulfill a promise we made to Canadians in 2015 and will ensure that our fisheries are sustainable for future generations. We all wish the minister, our friend, a very speedy and full recovery.

On this note, I would also like to extend my thanks to Senator Christmas, who is the sponsor of the bill in the other place, for his work on moving Bill C-68 forward, for his commitment to the protection of fish and ensuring that the voices of indigenous peoples are well represented. I note that he made a number of amendments that will strengthen the indigenous components of the bill that we will be accepting.

I also want to thank the other place as a whole, in particular the committee, for its study of this bill.

Today, I will begin with an overview of the bill itself, and then I will speak to the amendments proposed by the Senate.

In summary, we will be respectfully rejecting the amendments in relation to the definition of fish habitat, as well as rejecting the three amendments related to third party habitat banking.

On a minor amendment, I have already sought the agreement of Senator Christmas to make a technical change to one of his amendments so that the language reflects what is already in the bill with respect to indigenous rights.

Canadians elected a Liberal government because they knew that the Liberal Party had a plan for growing the economy and for protecting our environment. Today, we are debating an important part of that plan. Bill C-68 will restore lost protections to fish and fish habitat and ensure that the government has the tools to manage our fisheries so that they are sustainable and healthy for future generations.

The previous government gutted the Fisheries Act, made cuts to science and reduced the number of fisheries officers. These are not the types of actions Canadians want and that, in part, is why those members are sitting on the opposite side of this chamber. The Conservatives have no plan for the environment and no plan to protect our fish and fish habitat. On the other hand, this government does have a plan and that plan is working.

Bill C-68 amends the Fisheries Act to fulfill our government's commitment to better protect Canada's freshwater and marine fisheries, helping to ensure their long-term economic and environmental sustainability. The amendments we are making will modernize the act. These amendments include a new purpose clause and considerations when making decisions under the act that will provide a framework for the proper management and control of fisheries and for the conservation and protection of fish and fish habitat, including by preventing pollution.

Factors to consider when making decisions with regard to potential harm to fish include the application of a precautionary approach and an ecosystem approach, community knowledge, indigenous knowledge, and social, economic and cultural considerations.

As well, key to the proposed changes to the act are the new requirements for stock rebuilding, which will introduce legally binding commitments to implement measures to manage Canada's major fish stocks above levels necessary to promote their sustainability.

Maintaining healthy stock levels and rebuilding those that have been depleted is critical to coastal communities and to their economic viability. That is why our government in the fall economic statement announced an investment of $107 million over five years and $17.6 million per year ongoing to support the implementation of these stock rebuilding provisions. There are a number of important fish stocks that have shown declines in recent years, which is why we have committed these funds to accelerate our actions to ensure sustainability. Over the next five years, this government is committed to making major fish stocks subject to the provisions on rebuilding.

Furthermore, key to the government's commitments are the measures for the protection of fish and fish habitat with respect to works, undertakings or activities that may result in the death of fish or the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat, or HADD. First, we have expanded the scope to apply to all fish and fish habitat. Second, we have removed reference to serious harm, which, as many in the chamber know, was put forward by the previous Conservative government when it gutted the act in 2012. This new Fisheries Act will restore the application to HADD and would prohibit causing the death of fish by means other than fishing.

The new habitat provisions will also address major projects so that the proponents know which projects require permits. In response to industry concerns, we have also established codes of practice to guide best practices that minimize the impact on fish and fish habitat for smaller and routine projects. This will be especially critical for farmers and those in the agricultural industry who often undertake minor, routine works that relate to water.

Finally, the proposed Fisheries Act would enable ministerial regulations for the purposes of conservation and protection of marine biodiversity as well as the addition of other vital new tools, such as fisheries management orders, to quickly address threats to the proper management and control of the fisheries and the conservation and protection of fish.

Also, upon royal assent, the amended Fisheries Act will include a number of greatly needed updates, such as empowering the minister to establish advisory panels, set fees under the act and enter into agreements with indigenous governing bodies. Most importantly, the proposed legislation introduces a non-derogation clause as well as protections for indigenous knowledge when such information is provided to the government.

Bill C-68 also, very importantly, preserves the independence of our inshore fish harvesters by enshrining into law policies that support fleet separation. The legislation recognizes that when making decisions under the act, the minister can take into account social, economic and cultural factors, and the preservation and promotion of an independent inshore commercial fishery in Atlantic Canada and Quebec.

These amendments are critical if we want to ensure that our stocks are sustainable for future generations and for the communities from coast to coast to coast who depend on our fisheries and on the health of our oceans.

Under the former Conservative government, there was no plan to rebuild our depleted stocks, just like the Conservatives had no plan to protect our oceans. It is under this government that we have now successfully protected over 8% of our marine and coastal areas, up from less than 1% under the former Conservative government. We now have a clear path to achieving our 10% target by 2020.

Canadians know that this government has a plan that will protect our oceans all the while ensuring that our communities continue to benefit and that our economy continues to grow.

This bill is a testament to meaningful engagement and consultations, and we heard from many Canadians, from coast to coast to coast. Consultations were extensive and public, on key issues for industry, non-governmental organizations, provinces and territories, and indigenous peoples across Canada.

During the fall of 2016, the department participated in more than 90 meetings with indigenous groups, communities and organizations, and resource management boards established under land claims agreements.

In the spring of 2017, there was a second phase of public engagement. During this second phase, Fisheries and Oceans Canada provided approximately $900,000 to 89 indigenous groups to support their participation and engagement. The department also held over 70 meetings with indigenous peoples and nine more meetings with resource management boards, who, in turn, provided more than 170 written submissions.

The government has listened and has been responsive to many of the concerns that have been raised during parliamentary review. Both the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans and the other place have provided robust and very constructive recommendations, as well as amendments that have been supported by the government. With regard to some concerns raised by industry, particularly regarding the adoption of the amendment deeming water flow fish habitat, the government was responsive to concerns raised that the new definition's application could be unnecessarily broad and that the core intent was already captured in the bill. Consequently, the government agreed to the removal of the deeming water flow fish habitat provision from proposed subsection 2(2).

Industry also expressed concern about the provisions for the permitting of major projects under the proposed act. The government recognizes that regulatory certainty is important to industry and to Canadians and that designated project regulations may capture portions of projects that are not related to fish and fish habitat. Not all works, undertakings or activities that form part of a designated project require permits under the Fisheries Act, as many have no impact on fish and fish habitat. This is why we have introduced amendments from the government on designated projects, which gives the minister the ability to identify and make the final determination on which works, undertakings or activities will require a permit.

The intent of these amendments is to bring clarity to project proponents on which projects require a permit, and to avoid duplication with the federal impact assessment process. Providing greater certainty and cutting red tape while ensuring that fish and fish habitat are protected is very much the intent of this legislation.

This government, through Senator Harder, also proposed important amendments that were adopted by the other place that relate to two Senate public bills: Bill S-203 and Bill S-238. Bill S-203 is commonly referred to as the ending captivity of whales and dolphins act. Bill S-238 is commonly referred to as the ban on shark fin importation and exportation act. These two bills respond to increasing public concern about the well-being of cetaceans held in captivity in Canada solely for public display, as well as concerns about the impact and the nature of the practice of shark finning. I am pleased to say that the government shares these concerns and is demonstrating leadership on these issues.

This government believes that the practice of keeping whales in captivity solely for the purpose of public display should be phased out.

I believe that the amendments proposed to Bill S-203, and the coordinating amendments in Bill C-68, will help us effectively phase out and restrict the captivity of whales.

Bill S-238 proposes to amend the Fisheries Act to prohibit the practice of shark finning and to amend WAPPRIITA to prohibit the import and export or the attempt to import or export into and from Canada of shark fins or parts of shark fins that are not attached to a shark carcass.

The intent of the proposed amendments to Bill C-68 related to shark finning is consistent with the legislative policy objectives of Bill S-238 to address the practice of shark finning, which is the practice of removing fins from sharks and discarding the carcasses at sea. There is no doubt that shark finning and the illegal trade in shark fins have had a devastating impact on global shark populations. In fact, over 63 million sharks are killed every year, many for the global shark fin trade.

Canada has demonstrated international leadership on the conservation and management of sharks and was one of the first countries to develop a national plan of action in that regard. Canada continues to work with its partners, including regional fishery management organizations, to adopt effective management measures to regulate the capture of sharks in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Without these amendments in Bill C-68, Bill S-238 is likely not going to pass due to the short time remaining in this sitting. This amendment will ensure that shark finning and the export and import of shark fins will be banned in Canada.

I would now like to turn to the proposed changes from the other place to Bill C-68.

The first amendment that we will be respectfully rejecting was made by Senator Poirier in relation to the definition of “fish habitat”. Senator Poirier's amendment would change the definition of “fish habitat” from “water frequented by fish and any other areas on which fish depend directly or indirectly to carry out their life processes, including spawning grounds and nursery, rearing, food supply and migration areas” to “any area on which fish depend directly or indirectly to carry out their life processes, including spawning grounds and nurseries, rearing, food supply and migration areas”.

The original text of “water frequented by fish”, in addition to “areas on which fish depend directly or indirectly on”, increases the scope for the application of the fish habitat protection provisions. By removing “water frequented by fish”, this amendment goes against the objective of the bill to provide greater protection to fish and fish habitat across Canada. Therefore, we will not be supporting this change.

With regard to another proposed amendment, as part of the changes initially proposed, the government introduced provisions that would allow for proponent-led habitat banks. The department has been encouraging proponent-led habitat banking since 2013. Bill C-68 would enshrine this policy approach into law and provide new incentives to use habitat banking credits to offset impacts on fish and fish habitat caused by human activity. This represents an important evolution in the implementation of measures to help improve the conservation of fish and fish habitat.

Some stakeholders and senators have argued that we should go further, by expanding habitat banking to third parties and to allow cash payments in lieu of offsetting. Expanding habitat banking to third parties would allow any organization to earn credits through restoration or conservation projects. These credits could then be sold to project proponents that do not wish to create their own offsets prior to project development.

Payments in lieu of offsetting would allow project proponents to pay a fee up front instead of investing in offsetting projects prior to development. The intention is that revenues from these payments would be dedicated to aquatic habitat restoration. Third party habitat banking has its merits and is currently practised in some countries, including the biodiversity banking and offsets scheme in Australia and the wetlands mitigation banks in the United States.

However, there are important considerations and actions that we need to undertake prior to establishing third party habitat banking and fees in lieu of offsetting regimes here in Canada. First, it is the government's view that in order to offset the residual impact from a project, conservation projects created to acquire habitat banking credits need to benefit the specific fish populations and areas that would be affected by that project.

Second, this government believes that where aquatic species at risk are present, opportunities to undertake conservation projects involving the creation, restoration or enhancement of the habitat of aquatic species at risk should be given priority.

Third, in the freshwater and inland areas of Canada, provinces own the land and are responsible for resource management. In some cases, indigenous communities or governments may be responsible for resource management. Since habitat banks could certainly implicate these lands, the creation of a habitat bank requires that implicated stakeholders be consulted regarding the area in which the bank would be created. Consultation with other federal departments, provinces, territories, indigenous groups and landowners would be necessary to establish agreements to authorize these transactions. Due to these considerations, the proposed amendments to Bill C-68 to expand habitat banking would require regulatory initiatives that would, if not properly designed, present risks to the conservation community, indigenous groups and other land or rights holders.

In summary, although third party habitat banking and fees in lieu of offsetting are schemes that have significant potential for application in Canada, those in comparative jurisdictions are based on complex and lengthy legislative and regulatory framework development. The current proposed model is inadequate in this regard and would likely result in unintended consequences in its current form. Further, any such provisions certainly would require significant consultations with provinces, territories and others.

Due to the legal complexity and public policy considerations that the government would need to address prior to establishing and implementing such regimes in Canada, we will not be adopting the habitat banking amendments proposed by the other place. However, going forward, the department will commit to evaluating the performance of proponent-led habitat banks and to assess offsetting policies adopted elsewhere, including third party habitat banking and payment in lieu of offsetting.

Additionally, in light of the discussions on third party habitat banking as they relate to Bill C-68, I have asked the House fisheries committee to study this issue. This government has always been of the view that polluters should pay. It simply should not be free to harm our environment. I believe there is significant merit in further examining third party habitat banking.

I would also note that the Canadian Wildlife Federation, which proposed these amendments through Senator Wells and which does great work advocating for the protection of wildlife habitat, has indicated its support for the removal of the these amendments at this time. It understands that more work needs to be done before we can move forward fully in this area. In addition, we are making a technical amendment to an amendment made by Senator Christmas to ensure that the language used with respect to section 35 rights, as well as aboriginal treaty rights, is consistent with language used in the rest of the bill. I have spoken to Senator Christmas about this amendment and he has agreed to this change.

Bill C-68 is restoring lost protections that Canadians elected this government to do. Changes in this bill will help rebuild fish stocks and in turn support the communities that depend on them.

When the Conservatives were in government, they did the opposite. They watered down fish and fish habitat protection when they gutted the Fisheries Act in 2012, and they made deep cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans by slashing the operating budget by $100 million. They also made staff cuts to critical areas, such as the Pacific region habitat management program, which helped support the management of our wild salmon.

I am proud to be part of a government that is taking the right approach when it comes to protecting our environment and our fish stocks. That is why last fall, in partnership with the Government of British Columbia, I announced $142 million to create the B.C. salmon restoration and innovation fund to support the B.C. fish and seafood sector, and to ensure the sustainability of wild Pacific salmon and other B.C. fish stocks. This government has also invested in science, small craft harbours across the country and whale research. As many Canadians know, it was this government that invested $1.5 billion in the oceans protection plan that has supported research, opened new rescue boat stations, increased Coast Guard capacity and restored coastal habitats. Canadians can count on this government to make the right investments in our environment while growing our economy and creating good middle-class jobs.

This bill has also been before both chambers for over a year now. The Conservatives will say that their move backward in 2012 to reduce protections may not have had a negative impact on the environment; they will argue that their changes were somehow merited.

Canadians know not to wait until stocks collapse before taking action. Canadians know that the Conservatives do not support science or a precautionary approach. That is why, under their watch, they muzzled scientists and made dramatic cuts. Canadians know that Bill C-68 will help protect our fish and fish habitat and is an important piece as we move forward with a plan that will protect our biodiversity, oceans, and ensure our fisheries are sustainable for future generations.

It is truly time to get on with passing Bill C-68. In response to the message from the other place, we are accepting many amendments, while rejecting just three amendments and amending one. Again, the Canadian Wildlife Federation that originally proposed the habitat banking amendments, through Senator Wells, has indicated its support for the removal of that amendment. I would also note that Senator Wells was one of just three senators who voted against the bill, effectively against the very amendments he put in at third reading. Further, as I had indicated, Senator Christmas supports the minor technical amendment that we are proposing.

I certainly hope that all members in this chamber can join with me in ensuring quick passage of this bill, so that our fish and their habitat can be assured of the protection they so desperately need.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.


Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to waylay some of the comments made by the hon. minister.

Early in this parliamentary session, I could see that the Fisheries Act was going to be up for possible review and debate, so I put in an Order Paper question, No. 626. I asked the government for any proof of harm or habitat destruction, any loss that might have been created through the 2012 changes in the the Fisheries Act. The answer we received back on that Order Paper question was basically zero: no proof of harm whatsoever.

How can the minister mislead the Canadian public by saying there was a loss of protection when the government cannot prove it when asked to do so in an Order Paper question? It is an absolute farce, and he should correct his statement.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


Jonathan Wilkinson Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Madam Speaker, it is interesting that the hon. member referenced doing that in this session. He should be aware that was a conversation we had in 2015. It was a major campaign commitment on the part of the Liberal Party during the campaign to restore the protections that were lost when the previous government gutted the protections in the Fisheries Act. It was certainly something that Canadians understood and were very concerned about. However, it was in the context of a broader destruction that was wrought by the previous government in terms of science and cuts to the department, cuts to the enforcement branch of the department, so that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans had far less capacity to do its work.

Canadians know that ensuring, on a go-forward basis, that we have a sustainable fishery requires investments in science. It requires protection so that industrial development is done in a manner that can be consistent with ongoing rebuilding of our fish stocks and the maintenance of a sustainable fishery. Canadians know that in the modern world, we need to have an environmental plan as well as an economic plan. This government has one, but the previous one did not.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to offer my support for Bill C-68 on behalf of my constituents who widely condemned the previous Conservative government's changes to the Fisheries Act. I am glad to be able to stand in this place and to fix the damages of the past.

That being said, however, I am very disappointed with the minister supporting Senate amendments 1(c) and 7 with respect to environmental flows. He should know why I am disappointed about this. It is because of the Cowichan River and the Jordan River in my riding. Yesterday, the Cowichan River was reported to be flowing at a rate of five cubic metres per second. This is in early June.

I do not know how the minister can stand in this place and not recognize that environmental flows are critical to fish habitat. I was on the river last month, helping to rescue salmon fry. There are huge swaths of the river that are now being affected. Loss of habitat is very widespread. We had a golden opportunity in this legislation that was passed by the House to have environmental flows enshrined in the legislation.

The minister knows that this is a big problem for rivers on the coast. I do not know why he is supporting that when the evidence is abundantly clear that environmental flows are absolutely critical to maintaining proper fish habitat.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


Jonathan Wilkinson Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his support of the bill and for his comments.

I would say a couple of different things on the issue. The issue that he raises is one that we have had many conversations about. We are both actively working to try to find a resolution to that issue. It is an important issue with respect to fish and fish habitat, on an important river in British Columbia for wild Pacific salmon.

The bill, as it stands, with the reinstitution of the protections for fish and fish habitat, very much covers those kinds of issues. On the particular issue that the hon. member raises, the stumbling block has been a water licence issue. We are working actively with the Government of British Columbia and with the hon. member to try to ensure that we address that.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


Ken McDonald Liberal Avalon, NL

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. minister for introducing this in the House today. As he said, it is time to get it done. He is right: It is time to get it done. It has been long enough.

I also want to thank the former minister as well. During the committee's review of the legislation, one thing we wanted to have enshrined in the Fisheries Act was the owner-operator policy, which I know many fishers in my province wanted to see in the Fisheries Act. As well, union representatives and organizations, such as the FFAW and FISH-NL, wanted to see that there as well.

Would the minister comment on how important it is to see that policy enshrined in the Fisheries Act?

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


Jonathan Wilkinson Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Madam Speaker, it is very important for fish harvesters. Certainly they have made that abundantly clear in the conversations they have had with me.

It is an important initiative on behalf of the government to strengthen owner-operator and fleet separation through Bill C-68. It is an integral set of policies for underpinning our coastal communities and the economic viability of our coastal communities. We are very pleased to be moving forward with something that we think is extremely important for many Atlantic Canadians and fish harvesters in Quebec.

It will be a happy day for all of us when we get that done and passed.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, if other jurisdictions, including the United States, are able to bring in effective third party habitat banking systems and programs, why is that Canada cannot do that?

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Jonathan Wilkinson Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Madam Speaker, it is not that we do not intend to bring in that kind of a mechanism; it is certainly something that we are interested in. As I said, I have asked the parliamentary committee to have a look at that. We will, internally, be looking at other jurisdictions.

There are a number of issues associated with doing it in the short term. However, perhaps the most significant of those is the fact that habitat banking will directly involve provincial land, and in some cases, indigenous lands. In order for us to work on a federal-provincial basis, co-operatively and collaboratively with our provincial partners, we would not be doing our job and we would not be respecting provincial jurisdiction if we did not work though this with them. That is certainly something we will be having conversations about, as early as this summer, when we meet with the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans for his speech. New Democrats will be supporting the passage of the bill. It is an important piece of legislation.

I would like to thank him for the part of the legislation related to shark finning, and I certainly thank my good colleague and friend from Port Moody—Coquitlam for his bill on ending the import and export of shark fins. It is very important. It is nice to see that he has been able to roll it into Bill C-68. We have heard from Canadians from coast to coast to coast that they want to see an end to that practice.

One thing that concerns me is that there are no provisions here about aquaculture. It is a concern the minister has heard from me recently. I want to thank him for taking steps to commit to testing for PRV in fish on salmon farms, but we do not have answers on what will happen if fish test positive.

Has he made a commitment that fish will not be transferred to open-net fish farms should their tests have a positive result? He knows how important this is to coastal communities, and they are calling for this to stop.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Jonathan Wilkinson Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to acknowledge the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam and the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, who were the original sponsors of both Bill S-203 and Bill S-238, which have now been incorporated into Bill C-68.

With respect to the question on aquaculture, last week we brought forward framework documents to develop and consult on how we assess risk on a go-forward basis. We concurrently implemented an additional step in the precautionary approach with respect to testing for strains of PRV and for specific illnesses that may exist within the net pens. The results will feed directly into the risk management framework that we have developed over the course of the last number of months.

As I said, we are inviting comment over the coming couple of months on the risk management framework to ensure we get this right in moving through the scientific process to make those determinations.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the minister's reference to my sponsorship of Bill S-203. I was also the mover of the amendment that led to the water flow provisions on habitat. I agree with the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford that it is a shame to see those lost.

I want to make this one point in 10 seconds: This bill has to pass. I wish I had not lost my section on water flows, but we have to move Bill C-68 through.

Does the hon. minister think we have time to move the amendments through the Senate and back to this place?

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Jonathan Wilkinson Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Madam Speaker, yes, I believe there is time. It is a very high priority for the government. We will be working actively to ensure that the bill is passed.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to stand in the House and speak to the Senate amendments to Bill C-68.

I listened intently as the minister did whatever he could, every step of the way, to disparage the previous government while trying to prop himself and his department up along the way. This comes from a minister who took credit for a Coast Guard vessel just last week on social media. He said that the Liberal government did this, but it was our former Conservative government that did it. It is very disingenuous for a minister to use his time to continue to slander and disparage the previous government.

I have said time and again, very publicly in this House and at committee, that consecutive governments, including Liberal governments, should take blame for where our fisheries stocks are. When questioned as to why our fisheries stocks are at critical levels, there are bureaucrats who have been in their positions for 20-plus years who have consistently told every government that they promise to do better. It is quite shameful that this minister would stand up here and trumpet that the Liberals are moving the ball. I will provide proof in my speech that they are not.

Today we are here to talk about the Senate amendments to Bill C-68, which is essentially a flawed piece of legislation. We saw that it was flawed when it was first introduced. Unfortunately, again the government put time allocation on the bill. I believe at that time it was the 40th time that the Liberal government did that, the same government that is led by the member for Papineau, who, during the 2015 campaign, said that his government would let the debate reign and would not resort to parliamentary tricks, such as invoking time allocation.

Here we are today, and I think it is now over 70 times that time allocation has been used. We have not seen time allocation on this bill up to this point, but the day is still early.

I will return to the Senate amendments. Early last week, the Senate sent back 15 amendments to Bill C-68 on about four different topics. As mentioned earlier, they cover inshore fisheries and habitat banking. Bill S-203, which is the bill that would end keeping whales in captivity, was rolled into Bill C-68, as well as Bill S-238, which is the shark finning bill put forward by a Conservative senator. I will get back to this shortly.

It was interesting when the department was before our committee recently regarding Bill S-238. The officials mentioned that while we would be banning shark fins unless the fin is attached to the shark carcass itself, the importation of shark fin soup was still going to be permitted. The department has committed to getting back to us and double-checking that, but the comment we received from the official when he was asked and pressed on it was that “soup is soup.”

Here we are now, talking about the Senate amendments to Bill C-68. Bill C-68 was introduced early last year and, as mentioned, is a piece of flawed legislation. During the 2015 campaign, the Liberals promised to restore the definition of “harmful alteration, disruption or destruction” of fish habitat. From this point, I will refer to that as “HADD”. I mention that for the Canadians watching from coast to coast to coast, as well as for those in the gallery, which is full once again today.

As the Liberals put it, they wanted to restore the lost protections implemented by our previous Conservative government. As a matter of fact, I will use the term that our minister just used, that the Conservatives “gutted the Fisheries Act”. That is what he was saying, and that is shameful. That is the same eco-warrior language, shamefully, that the government used in 2015 to tarnish any of the great work that our previous Conservative government did. As well, cabinet ministers and members of the current government have used this language to disparage some of our natural resource companies, such as mining and oil and gas, and, again, our former Conservative government.

The fisheries committee did an extensive study on the so-called “lost protections” in the changes that were made in 2012 to the Fisheries Act under our previous Conservative government. Not one group and not one witness could provide any evidence that there were lost protections that resulted from the changes in 2012—not an academic, not an environmental group, not a scientist. I will get into that more throughout my speech.

Not surprisingly, the government has capitalized politically with these environmental groups and the public at large with this proposed legislation. The Liberals have positioned themselves as the defenders of the environment, and restoring the imaginary lost protections has garnered positive support through various media outlets. This is the same government that continues to approve the dumping of millions of litres of raw sewage into our waterways, yet here they are defending their actions, standing up and disparaging those who are opposing what they are saying. They continue to this day to approve the dumping of millions of litres of raw sewage into our waterways. Canadians should be paying attention.

We oppose Bill C-68 because of the HADD provisions, but there are some positive aspects of the bill. It potentially has some good points. We have always said that Bill C-68 is a bill that we will repeal and replace, and that we will bring stakeholders around the table and build a piece of legislation that truly represents the intent of Bill C-68.

On the 15 reasoned, responsible amendments that the Senate sent back, the Senate did its job. It attempted to fix an omnibus piece of legislation that should have probably been split into two or three different bills, and there is another broken promise.

I believe it was in the Liberal 2015 campaign, and probably it was the same day when the member for Papineau said that he was not going to resort to such parliamentary tricks as omnibus bills. Well, here we are, and Bill C-68 is one of those. He has not let the debate reign. Time allocation has been seen time and time again.

The amendments focused on changes to the Fisheries Act, such as the owner-operator fleet separation, which, as my hon. colleague across the way mentioned, the fisheries committee has heard about time and again. The bill also talks about habitat protection and habitat banking, and it rolls in Bill S-203 on cetaceans in captivity and Bill S-238 on shark finning.

Bill C-68 introduced habitat banking as a means by which companies could restore waterways affected by development. As an example, when I was in aviation, we built one of Canada's largest runways. To be good neighbours, we noticed during our environmental assessment that there was a potential area for waterfowl or the western spadefoot toad.

Therefore, we had a toad rodeo. We looked to find how many toads were in that certain area that was designated or that could be environmentally sensitive. We also looked for the water fowl that could be present in those wetlands. To be good neighbours, we worked with Ducks Unlimited Canada, the conservation group. We are not the experts in this. We needed somebody to tell us what would be more appropriate, and we wanted to make sure that if there was going to be displacement, it would be within our region. We worked with Ducks Unlimited and other local groups. We found an area that was suitable, and we committed and purchased that area. That is an example of what habitat banking is.

There are concerns with moving down the way in terms of habitat banking, as well as, let us say, carbon credits. It is very similar to carbon credits.

As I was running for election in 2015, I was interested to find that we have offshore companies, European companies, that were buying up huge swaths of agricultural land in my riding. They were literally showing up to a farm and offering suitcases full of money. Many of our farmers are long-time generational farmers and do not have that next generation coming in. Who can blame them, if they have this opportunity present itself? The companies told a good story. Very quickly after purchasing the land, they mowed under all that agriculture potential. They were buying it for carbon credits to be applied in other countries. We cannot create more land; we are not able to do that. We put a stop to that.

Therefore, the habitat banking provisions that the Senate tried to fix with its amendments dealt with third party offset payments and they would keep the restored habitat closed. Habitat banking is a market-oriented approach to environmental conservation. As a matter of fact, we are starting to see this more and more. When I was in aviation, “carbon credits” was the buzzword. It was carbon credits this and carbon credits that. Every passenger who was flying on an airline had an opportunity to buy carbon offsets as part of his or her ticket. A habitat bank is now the next generation of a very similar type of market-oriented approach to environmental conservation. A habitat bank is defined in the bill as “an area of a fish habitat that has been created, restored or enhanced by the carrying on of one or more conservation projects within a service area and in respect of which area the Minister has certified any habitat credit”.

A habitat credit, before being amended at committee, was defined in the bill as “a unit of measure that is agreed to between any proponent and the Minister under section 42.02 that quantifies the benefits of a conservation project.” In plainer language, the old version of the bill stipulated that the proponents, and only the proponents, can offset the adverse effects on fish or fish habitat as a result of conservation work being done by the proponent. That leaves out important third party conservation groups and indigenous groups.

I do not know of too many mining or forestry companies that are experts in conservation projects. If a mining operation leads to deleterious effects on fish habitat, for example, that mining company may offset the impacts of those effects through a conservation project, like moving affected fish to another pond. Other examples include the construction of a salmon ladder, preservation of a wetland, as I described with our airport, or any other measure that creates, restores or enhances a fish habitat. Ensuring that proponents offset their impacts on fish habitat is necessary for environmental conservation. We all agree with that.

There is not a single compelling reason to restrict habitat banking solely to proponents. When we say that only a proponent can create a habitat bank, we are excluding first nations groups and conservation specialist groups like Ducks Unlimited or wetlands advocates. We are also excluding municipalities, among other prospective participants. These stakeholders all want to be on the front lines of habitat restoration and enhancement, and they should be. Not all proponents have the expertise, resources or knowledge to build a physical offset.

We all know that the balance of power in the Senate rests on the independent side, which we know is the government side. Under the amendment passed by our senators, proponents would now be able to purchase the credit rather than designing and building their own physical offset. The offset must still be created, but now it could be created by a group with a specific conservation expertise. In these cases, the proponents would essentially be funding the construction of an approved physical offset. The proponents would say, “We understand that our project has displaced fish, wildlife or aquatic species, and we will work to make amends. However, we are not the experts on this, so let us partner with an approved group to get this done.”

It is a win-win for industry and the environment. Companies do not have to divert their attention from the core aspects of their business and creating the jobs that come with it; all they have to do is buy the credit for the habitat bank established by a third party group. With a new market for the credits, there is an incentive for third parties to get into the habitat banking game, thus leading to additional biological protections.

The second amendment the Senate sent back on this issue relates to the offset payments. This amendment would allow the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to collect and offset payment in lieu of establishing and offsetting a habitat bank. The purpose of introducing this tool, as argued by the Canadian Wildlife Federation and others, was to provide the flexibility in areas where an appropriate offset project is not available or cost-effective. That makes sense.

As an alternative to purchasing credits, proponents could pay into a habitat protection fund, for example the environmental damages fund, to offset any impacts their project may have. Under this amendment, funds would need to be spent as close as practicable to where the work, undertaking or activity is located, or at least within the same province where such work occurred. If the displacement or impact is taking place in a region such as Cariboo—Prince George, I would like to see that habitat banking take place right in my riding. I would have to say that it has to be done there. We do not want to see these other companies coming in and doing something similar to what we mentioned earlier with the carbon credit program. If that displacement is taking place in an area such as Cariboo—Prince George, then an appropriate project should be found in the same region. I would suspect there are a lot of conservation projects that could benefit from this type of program.

Adding these parameters to the system was imperative to ensure equal treatment among all provinces, territories and, hopefully, if administered accurately by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, among watersheds as well.

This amendment does not mandate how the government should collect or spend the money. It simply establishes a structure by which private sector funds, determined and accepted at the discretion of the minister—again, it is all about this minister having all the power—can be used to support restoration projects in Canada. It makes sense to me.

The third amendment on habitat banking shares the spirit of the second, but it is entirely distinct among the three, and here is how. Bill C-68, in both its current and former iterations, specifies that certified habitat credits must be used within a service area. A service area is defined in Bill C-68 as “the geographical area that encompasses a fish habitat bank and one or more conservation projects and within which area a proponent carries on a work, undertaking or activity.”

The broadness of that definition was concerning. As currently written, a service area could technically be considered the whole country. For discussion purposes, let us say that SNC-Lavalin, working on a project in Quebec, is deemed to have done some damage to fish or fish habitat or is looking to buy some habitat banking credits, but it also does work in Vancouver, Toronto or other areas. It could apply those habitat banking credits to those areas, not necessarily the area in which it is making the displacement.

That is incorrect, and the third amendment sought to fix that. The intent of this amendment is to ensure that the benefits of an offsetting habitat bank remain local in comparison to the work, undertaking or activity. “Local” would be either as close as practicable to the area, or within the same province. The general idea is that the closer to the affected area it is, the better. A mining project in St. John's should not be offset by a habitat bank in northern Ontario or Vancouver Island, or vice versa.

This amendment maintains that it needs ministerial flexibility while protecting the local fish populations and providing certainty to industry about where credits can be used. Habitat banking benefits should remain as local as possible, as a guiding principle. If that is not practical, then the benefits should at least remain in the province where the work was carried out.

Late last night, the government set forth and gave notice of its amendments to the Senate amendments. Unfortunately, late last night the government responded by removing the new habitat banking provisions. The government said that it “respectfully disagrees with amendment 11 because the amendment seeks to legislate in respect of third-party, or market-based, fish habitat banking, which is beyond the policy intent of the Bill that is to provide only for proponent-led fish habitat banking.”

Is the government kidding? What a bunch of hogwash. The government put the habitat banking provisions into the bill. To say that the amendments to the habitat banking are beyond the policy intent is absolutely absurd, unless, of course, this bill is nothing more than just a cover and a piece and is not really intended to actually do anything but is just another thing for Liberals to stand up and say, “We did it”, getting all the support from the third party groups that supported them in 2015. I will say more on that later.

Let us go back and look at the absurdities of the bill from the beginning. On restoring lost protections, the minister stood and said that the former Conservative government gutted the Fisheries Act. Bill C-68 started with the Liberal campaign promise in 2015 to restore lost protections. After forming the government, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans asked the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans to investigate the so-called lost protections.

After an extensive study, an 86-page report to Parliament was issued. To my colleagues who are in the House, and the packed gallery, how many lost protections were found? There were none. Zero. Not one witness came before the committee and said that the 2012 amendments to the Fisheries Act by the former Conservative government resulted in lost protections. As a matter of fact, what we heard was that they gave some assurances or some consistency to the application process. We also had some proponents who said that it actually made things tougher, but at least they knew the steps in the process they had to go through.

It is shocking that these guys, time and time again, stand in the House and use the same old talking points. Canadians are not going to be fooled. I think I just saw a poll that ranked the Prime Minister and the Liberal government at 15% in terms of environmental protection. Our hon. colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands scored the highest, and I think our leader was next. Way down the list was the member for Papineau, our Prime Minister.

After that extensive study and an 86-page report, not one lost protection was found. The dissenting report we issued said the following:

Contrary to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard's correspondence to the committee dated June 29, 2016 whereby the minister directed the committee to undertake a study investigating the 2012 changes to the Fisheries Act and any resulting lost protections,

I thought committees were supposed to be at arm's-length and masters of their own destination. How many times has a minister or parliamentary secretary stood in the House and said, “Madam Speaker, committees are on their own to do whatever they want”? Probably they even had their hands on their hearts. It is crazy. It just adds to the hypocrisy of those across the way.

The report continues,

witnesses who appeared before the committee were unable to provide any scientific or legal proof of harm resulting from asserted lost protections under the Act as a result of the 2012 changes. This fact was noted on page 33 of the committee report, which states, “The preceding paragraphs in this section indicate the differing testimony heard with no scientific or legal evidence provided to show whether the 2012 changes broadened or reduced the circumstances under which section 35 applies.”

In some cases, witnesses like the Mining Association of Canada expressed that the 2012 changes to the Act actually increased habitat protections. They said, “...the 2012 changes have in practice broadened the circumstances in which the section 35 prohibitions apply and increased the circumstances in which an authorization and offsets are required.”

The CFA also added that, “ is the CFA's position that a complete revert to reinstate all provisions of the Fisheries Act as they were would be unproductive [and] reestablish the same problems for farmers, and...provide little improvement [in conservation]”

I have just gone through the Senate amendments as they apply to habitat banking. I could go on at length about inshore fisheries, and I will do that later in my speech.

I will talk about Bill S-203, which is ending whales in captivity, which was rolled into this bill, and some of the concerns Conservatives have. Previously, when a southern resident killer whale was in jeopardy and in need of rescuing, there had to be an order in council from the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. The Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia and the province do not have the mechanisms in place to respond quickly to that request. When every minute counts when trying to save the life of a resident killer whale or a cetacean, we need to have a tool in our tool box to act quickly. In that regard, Bill S-203 was flawed at that point. That was a serious concern the Conservatives had. The Senate amendments took that away, and that power now rests with the minister in this House, which I think is the right way of moving forward.

While there are still concerns about Bill S-203, we believe that the amendments from the Senate give us some assurances that some of the main concerns we had were addressed. However, in Bill S-203, there were some differences in the translation from French to English. In legal terms, one could argue that the intent may not be the same. That was brought up at committee, and the legal team and officials could not answer questions as to whether those discrepancies in the translation from French to English could have serious consequences down the road.

Bill S-238 is the shark finning bill. As I mentioned, a Conservative senator put forward Bill S-238. It is similar to the bill my hon. colleague from Port Moody—Coquitlam put forward earlier in this session, which was voted down, but I am glad to see that Bill S-238 has been rolled into Bill C-68. Again, there are concerns as to how Bill S-238 could be prescribed down the road, but I believe in my hon. colleague's intent and in the spirit of the bill.

As was mentioned earlier, when the officials were before committee during the study of BillS-238 talking about the practice of shark finning and the importation of shark fins, shark fin soup is apparently still allowed to be imported. Shark fin soup can come in, because “soup is soup”, which is a quote from one of the officials. They committed to get back to the committee as to whether that was true. I have yet to hear if they got back to the committee.

My hon. colleague talked about the intent of Bill C-68. It is important for Conservatives to state our concerns about the bill once again. They were mentioned previously, and I have expressed some of them. Bill C-68, from a policy perspective, is a piece of legislation that makes Canadians feel good.

It is interesting that after the Senate amendments beefed the bill up, the minister and the Liberal government watered it back down, just as senators were trying to beef things up and do their job. The Senate does great work. It sent the bill back to us with some good amendments, yet the minister and the government are scrapping a good portion of them.

As I said, Bill C-68 was payback for all the third-party groups that supported our Liberal colleagues across the way. Well, they supported anyone but the Conservatives. This leads me to my next point, which is relevant, because it goes to the crux of Bill C-68.

Bill C-68 can be grouped with Bill C-69, the Liberals no pipeline bill, and Bill C-48, the oil tanker moratorium act. Recently, six premiers from across the country wrote the Prime Minister to say that the bills represent one of the largest threats to national unity we have seen, that the threat to our national economy is real and that the damage these bills would do to our economy, jobs and investments is profound.

Why do I bring this up? As I mentioned, Bill C-68 is payback for all the support the Liberals got in the 2015 election. What support am I referring to? In 2015, 114 third parties poured $6 million into influencing the election outcome. Many of those parties were funded by the U.S.-based Tides Foundation. The new director of policy was a top executive there. The Prime Minister's former chief adviser, Gerald Butts, was previously the president of the World Wildlife Fund, another Tides-sponsored organization.

Another Tides-sponsored organization is Leadnow. As noted in an article, it is a “non-profit society that was created in 2010 with the goal of bringing to Canada a model of on-line, political campaigning and movement organizing that began in the U.S. behind President Barack Obama.”

The article states:

During Canada’s 2015 federal election, Leadnow ran a strategic voting initiative called Vote Together. Leadnow claims to have defeated 25 Conservative incumbents.

Leadnow targeted me, but it did not win. However, it was successful in 25 Conservative-held ridings.

The article continues:

From Leadnow's 2010 Business Plan, it is clear that as far back as 2010, Leadnow has been focused on defeating the Conservative government. Leadnow's “Investor Package” states that Leadnow intended to "offer tangible support to parties that adopt their policies, and use tools like strategic voting to “swing elections” to reflect Canada's progressive majority.”

Why am I bringing this up? What is the relevance? This goes back to 2008, when a group of radical American anti-fossil-fuel NGOs created a tar sands campaign. It was geared, as quoted in a column in the Financial Post, to landlocking “the Canadian oil sands by delaying or blocking the expansion or development of key pipelines” by “educating and organizing First Nations to challenge construction of pipelines across their traditional territories” and bringing “multiple actions in Canadian federal and provincial courts.” These NGOs wanted to raise the negatives, including by recruiting celebrity spokespeople, such as Leonardo DiCaprio, to “lend their brand to opponents of tar sands and generat[e] a high negative media profile for tar sands oil.”

The column states:

[T]he Rockefeller Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation... along with environmentalist charities, poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the U.S.-based Tides Foundation

Why did the they do that? It was to do whatever they could to target our natural resources.

I say this because fish is a natural resource, and Bill C-68 is another bill, along with Bill C-69, the no pipelines bill, and Bill C-48, the tanker moratorium, that targets our resource sector.

I will bring members back to the earliest days of this sitting where the Prime Minister stood and said that Canada would become known more for our resourcefulness than our resources.

Make no bones about it; these groups have infiltrated our government at the highest levels. Gerald Butts, president and CEO of the World Wildlife Fund, was a chief adviser to the Prime Minister. He brought with him former campaigners. Marlo Raynolds, chief of staff to the environment minister, was a past executive director for the Tides-backed Pembina Institute. Zoë Caron, chief of staff to the Minister of Natural Resources, was a former WWF Canada official. Sarah Goodman, on the Prime Minister's staff, was a former vice-president of Tides and now holds potentially one of the most powerful positions as director of policy in the PMO. It is concerning at every step of the way.

I will bring members back to question period when the Minister of Democratic Institutions said that one side of the House likes to cheat and the others are doing everything to protect our democracy. We have seen time and again, going back to 2015, where we have all of these groups that were funded to take on our former prime minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives to defeat them and they propped up this Prime Minister, then the member for Papineau, and he made all of these promises. What do we see? We see now that he is following through on those promises to the environmental groups, the NGOs.

I have had fisheries groups and first nations say to me that when they want to get in to see the minister, they have to go through environmental groups. I do not think there is a government that has had more lawsuits against it from first nations than any other than the current government. On marine protected areas, the government is doing what it calls consultation. I will get into the consultation on Bill C-68. The Liberals like to say it is consultation. They will stand in the House and they are disingenuous to Canadians who are listening in. We have the proof. I talked a little about how the foreign funding has influenced our highest offices of the government, and that is what we are seeing in our pieces of legislation. Bill C-68 is no different.

As part of the economic action plan in 2012, and in support of a responsible resource development plan, our former Conservative government put forward changes to the Fisheries Act. They were geared at strengthening the act and removing unnecessary bureaucratic red tape. They were geared at making that process manageable so that proponents knew the steps that had to be taken. It was not letting them off the hook. We heard testimony from the Mining Association of Canada that it actually increased areas to which its members could be found negligible and fined. Our changes supported a shift from managing impacts to all fish habitats to focusing the act's regulatory regime and managing threats to the sustainability and ongoing productivity of Canada's commercial, recreational and indigenous fisheries.

Now, instead of listening to experts, the people who actually use our waterways and fish our rivers, lakes and oceans, the government turned a deaf ear to practicality and pushed forward, through the use of time allocation, legislation that will affect lives and do little to enhance the deterioration of fisheries in Canada. I said that in a previous speech. At that time, I believe it was 23 out of 25 of our core fisheries that were at very serious levels. Why was that? The fisheries management plans were not done. We do not manage fisheries to grow more fish. We manage fisheries to extinction.

I would put our team up against that team any time. Our member of Parliament for North Okanagan—Shuswap, our member of Parliament for Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa and our member of Parliament for Red Deer—Lacombe all had previous careers in this. We hunt. We fish. We live off the land. We are farmers. We are conservationists at heart. Bill C-68 actually made things harder with some of the changes that we did.

One of the Liberal members who was on the committee at the time, who himself is a farmer, said that if he had a flood on his property, the changes that the former Conservative government had done would actually make it easier for him to respond. If a community or a municipality had a road that was washed out, it actually allowed workers to go in, without skirting any of the rules or regulations, work within the prescribed timelines and schedule to actually get the work done and respond quickly.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I hate to interrupt the member when he is in the middle of his speech. I know he still has a lot to say, but this will just take a minute.

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Saskatoon West, Housing; the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, Justice.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, I have to get back to where I was. I was on a roll too.

Instead of listening to experts, the Liberals thought they knew best. Bill C-68 proposed to restore the lost protections by returning to the previous definition of harmful alteration disruption and destruction of fish habitat, or HADD, as I mentioned in my earlier comments.

The act would also require the minister to take into account indigenous knowledge and expertise when provided, and all decisions would have to take into account the possible impacts on indigenous rights. The bill would allow for the establishment of an advisory panel and for members to be remunerated, and provides no guidance on or limitation to its use.

Bill C-68, under the part with respect to the prevention of the escape of fish, would prohibit the fishing of cetaceans with the intent to take them into captivity. This was captured under Bill S-203.

The Liberals believe that the bill will restore lost protections and incorporate modern safeguards. They think it will provide certainty for industry. They say it will provide strong and meaningful protection of fish and fish habitat. However, we know they are wrong.

When we introduced changes to the act in 2012, we did so because the former Fisheries Act was not working. The legislation was way past its best before date, a line, by the way, which the former fisheries minister used when he was describing the changes to it. The legislation was past its best before date and no one was happy with the way things were working. We acknowledged that so we made some changes.

Our common sense approach improved fisheries conservation, prioritized fish productivity, protected significant fisheries and reduced the regulatory burden on industry and communities. Again, it did not lessen any of the regulations. They were still there. They were still in place. I will go back to the Mining Association of Canada's comment that it actually increased some of the areas where under section 35 they could be found in contravention.

In 2012, the Conservative government undertook a rigorous review of and revisions to the Fisheries Act. This review was commenced for a number of reasons, and primarily that the broad scope of the definition of “fish habitat” included entire watersheds and extended the reach of the federal government into watersheds and land use planning, in which the Department of Fisheries and Oceans did not have expertise.

As a matter of fact, I believe a witness said that by the definition under the former Fisheries Act, a puddle in one's backyard could be deemed a fish habitat. Even a septic pipe that burst and led to a large pool of water in one's backyard could be deemed a fish habitat.

There was a lack of discretion for what was important fish habitat as it relates to fish productivity and what was less important. The House will not get any argument on this side that all fish are important. We must do whatever we can to ensure that we are growing fish for today and for the future.

We do incredible work on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans by putting our partisan stripes aside. All members of that committee are able to work together to try to find common ground.

I know that might be foreign to some people in this House. I know that some members who are not on that committee from the government side are laughing and heckling at me right now. However, I can say with all honesty that our colleagues from all sides of the House are committed to finding whatever solution we can, whether it is the northern cod study, the Atlantic salmon study, the aquatic invasive study that we just completed, or our steelhead study that we have done.

We did a study on abandoned and derelict vessels that was proposed by one of our NDP colleagues. In the last sitting, it was proposed by a Conservative colleague for us to review and revise, to look at how Canada deals with its derelict vessels. In the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, that authority was not happening. Many times, communities, and in some instances individual Canadians, were left to try to deal with rusting and derelict vessels that were left in their waterways.

We do great work, and we all are focused on one thing: the protection of our coastal communities. It is not just our coastal communities, but those families who depend on our fisheries for their livelihoods and for sustenance. We are committed to trying to find a way, working through our committee, to having a full understanding of how certain pieces of legislation come through and how the government continues with its mandate.

All members, if they were polled, would say it is absolutely shameful when we have bureaucrats and officials come before us and they promise to be better. At one of my very first meetings, I walked into the committee like a bull in a china shop. It had a bit of a reputation as one of those committees that spun its wheels and never got anything done. That is what I heard, but little did I know. I met my colleague from Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa and learned of the great work he had done previously and the history that he has. I met some of my Liberal colleagues and heard from them first-hand about what goes on in their communities, and some of the concerns coming from the Rock or the east coast and from Vancouver.

I take offence on this, and some of my colleagues from the Rock know where I am going with this one. When the surf clam issue took place, the seven MPs from the Rock for the most part were silent. I am looking at my friend across the way and I know he was not. However, for the most part, the members from the Rock were silent during the whole surf clam issue. The issue was that the former fisheries minister awarded a lucrative surf clam quota to a sitting Liberal MP's brother, a former Liberal colleague. As well, we found out down the way, it was a company that was being led by the former minister's wife's first cousin. We managed to get a stop to that.

I bring that up to point out that we do great work in these committees. They are supposed to be at arm's length and masters of their own destiny in terms of the work that they do. However, on Bill C-68 on the Fisheries Act, we saw a letter that came from the minister, not asking but ordering the committee to immediately undertake a study on the changes to the Fisheries Act.

Going back to my speech, as I mentioned, there was a lack of discretion in terms of important fish habitat as it relates to fish productivity and what is less important. I got off track, but I want to reiterate that all fish are important. The inconsistencies led to difficulties in assessing an appropriate level of regulatory effort that was proportional to actual importance.

I met with front-line officers, who said that previously the act was harder to enforce. It was challenging. They needed to have some consistency. The Conservative changes made it, not easier for the proponent to get away with what they were doing, but it did make it easier because it was black and white as to what was wrong and what was right. It made it easier for the front-line officers to enforce the Fisheries Act.

Further, the lack of knowledge regarding fish populations allowed for all water bodies to be considered as fish habitat until proven otherwise, and as I mentioned, even puddles. One of the witnesses said that technically, under the former definition, a puddle could have been considered a fish habitat.

Before we introduced changes, all fish and consequently all fish habitat, regardless of economic or social value, received protection under the Fisheries Act. This created a system that was impossible to manage and impediments for most minor work. Farmers looking to improve their land or deal with flooding or other issues, or municipalities looking to install a drain, had to go through a bureaucratic process that made doing one's taxes look easy.

To top it off, there were the inconsistencies between departments. Depending on which DFO office someone went to, it could make someone want to give up on the whole process entirely.

With the restoration of “harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat”, HADD provisions, the government is putting it back in place. It means that Canadians will once again need to deal with a set of unenforceable guidelines that will hinder the development and truly do nothing to increase fish stocks or protect valuable habitat.

We heard numerous members, over the course of our previous discussions on Bill C-68, as well as this one, talk about the restoration of lost protections. Again, they used terms such as “gutted”. To me, that is fairly offensive. I think all members of Parliament in this House sign up to do the best that we can, given the portfolios and the files we have. Some of the language that we get from across the way is quite offensive.

It is interesting. Liberals are always the ones who stand up and say that Conservatives are the most divisive bunch. They are fearmongering and they are pitting Canadians against Canadians. Do not even get me started on Liberals using reconciliation on things such as the surf clam project. Liberals stood in the House and said that it was all under the guise of reconciliation, when we knew it pitted first nation against first nation and non-first nation against first nation.

I will go back to this issue as well. The government was trying to deal with the southern mountain caribou issue that we have in British Columbia, and some of the consultations, or lack of consultation, that the Liberals have done. They basically mandated the provincial government to immediately do something, or the Liberal government was going to do a section 80, I believe it is, under the Species at Risk Act. That essentially sent fear throughout our whole province. I urge Canadians, if they get a chance, to Google the southern mountain caribou issue in the province of British Columbia. If Canadians want to see a bungled PR mess, that is it right there. The Liberals have now walked back on it.

However, this all goes back to what we were saying, that the Liberals were not listening to local stakeholders who are on the ground. Liberals believe that they know best and so this is what they are going to do. Again, I will go back to this. If we looked at the letters and requests to the minister to take action, they all came from groups that receive money from foreign-funded groups.

There is no one here who would want to see a species die off. I stood and very clearly stated my message during this whole process that the promise and trust have been broken. At one point, our federal representatives did not want to chime in, although they were the ones who were directing it. They wanted the provincial government to be front and centre, taking all the heat at all the town hall meetings.

Trust has been broken by the Liberal government time and time again. It uses terms like “reconciliation”. Just last week, a member of a first nation called me and said that “reconciliation” is not a buzzword. Unfortunately, the government and the Prime Minister have used it time and time again, and it is shameful. They do things like the surf clam and the southern mountain caribou, and do it under guise of reconciliation. If they want to do something under the guise of reconciliation, how about ending all of the boil water advisories or the suicide epidemic in first nations communities from coast to coast to coast?

Last week, the missing and murdered indigenous women's commission came out with some recommendations. The government knew that this report was coming, but did it budget anything to act on any of the findings? There was nothing.

When we talk about Bill C-68, we are talking about trust. Time and again, the government has broken the trust of Canadians. It promised to have only small deficits and that it would balance the budget by 2019. We are in 2019. Liberals always like to blame those who came before them. It is quite shameful. They have been in government now for four years. It is about time that they take some leadership and ownership of the problems they have created themselves.

We have heard a number of members opposite talk about the restoration of lost protections. We know from the recounting of testimony from witness after witness that there were no lost protections from the previous government's changes.

The former minister of fisheries and oceans said, “Canada is uniquely blessed with an abundance of freshwater and marine coastal areas that are both ecologically significant and linked to the economic prosperity of Canadians.” I could not agree more on this. Canada has the longest coastline in the world. What I do not agree with is the assertion that protections were lost.

The Liberal changes to the Fisheries Act would lengthen the regulatory process, provide unclear and weaker rules to establish and manage ecologically significant areas, and simply put, return us to a destabilization that will prove to be cumbersome and unmanageable. The former minister noted that he wanted to re-establish public confidence, and yet the amendments he proposed to the bill would do nothing. The bill we got back from the Senate had some good amendments that strengthened the bill to a certain extent, and yet the Liberals gutted them again.

Bill C-68 would make it harder for proponents wishing to develop property and will weaken transparency through the creation of more bureaucratic red tape. Farmers looking to improve their land, and municipalities looking to install drains, are going to be faced with a lengthy bureaucratic process that is going to make it harder to respond to critical incidents. There have been flooding incidents in our communities. In 2017, there were massive wildfires, as everyone knows, and it would make it harder and harder for farmers to recover from natural disasters.

The minister hoped his bill would help to protect middle-class jobs in coastal communities. He actually said that. However, just after introducing the bill, the surf clam process took place. I have spent a lot of time in Grand Bank and several coastal communities meeting with fishing organizations and indigenous communities from all across our country, and they are fed up. They are fed up with the government's virtue signalling and while doing whatever it can to make it harder for them to prosper.

A chief of a first nation called me last week. He told me, “I just want the government to get out of the way so that I can lead my community to prosperity. I want the government to get out of the way. When I need their help, I want them to be able to act and act quickly, but I need them to get out of the way, because if there are poverty or social issues in my community, that is on me.” He said, “I am a forward-leaning leader within my community and I want to lead my community to prosperity.”

Unfortunately, the government's pandering to third party groups is making it harder. He said, “I for one, and our community for one, are tired of being the poster child for some of these third party groups.” Some of them I named earlier in this speech.

That brings me back to Edgar, a good friend I met during the surf clam project. I remember his words. He said that the minister's decision to arbitrarily take that surf clam quota away shook his life, shook his foundation, shook his community, the Grand Bank community. It is a community that has had a fishing history for over 400 years. I remember the mayor telling me that the scars of the industry run right straight through the middle of this community.

That is an example of how the government has lost the trust of Canadians. I bring this up because Bill C-68 is another example, and Canadians are weary. They are distrustful that in the eleventh hour of the final session for this government, it is bringing this measure forward, just as we saw with other pieces of legislation.

We are sitting to midnight now. Why are we sitting to midnight? The government House leader says we are sitting to midnight now. Canadians expect us to work. I do not have a problem sitting to midnight, but why are we sitting to midnight? It is because of the Liberals' failure to make progress with legislation. There has been no real priority.

Let us speak about priorities. Two weeks ago we heard from the government's independent leader in the Senate as to why softwood was not negotiated in the new NAFTA, but was there a priority? Today a Liberal member from the Lower Mainland in Vancouver stood up and touted his government's great record on job creation and low unemployment numbers in our province, all while layoff notices and job losses are mounting. That is shameful.

Just last night Canfor, the largest employer in my province and Canada's largest forestry producer, announced sweeping job curtailments throughout the province of British Columbia. Hundreds if not thousands of Canadians are out of work, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard is clapping. That is shameful. I urge the parliamentary secretary to come to my riding. A tone-deaf, muted response was all I got last week to my comments about softwood not being a priority.

There was another response from the Liberals last week in response to my comments about softwood not being a priority. It was that Canadians should be reassured because the job numbers are up and the Liberals stand with the forestry workers. When are they standing with them? Are they standing with them when they are looking for work? Are they standing with them when they are worried about how they are going to make ends meet because they lost their livelihoods? Are they standing with them when they have to go to the bank because the bank is foreclosing on their house?

That is shameful. That goes to—

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5:20 p.m.


Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I realize the Chair offers a fair degree of latitude with respect to relevance and repetition, but perhaps you could bring the member back to the Senate amendments to the Fisheries Act. I do not see the link between forestry layoffs and the Senate amendments to the Fisheries Act, but I expect you will have him explain that to us.

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5:20 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I appreciate the point of order.

I want to remind all members who speak in the House that their speeches and debates must relate to the issue that is before the House. I trust the hon. member will do some turns to some degree to ensure that he is relevant.

The hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George.

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5:20 p.m.


Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate my hon. colleague's intervention.

That brings me back to a word that you used in your intervention, Madam Speaker, and that is “trust” . That is what has brought us all down this path. When Bill C-68 went to the Senate, we had trust that the Senate was going to do its job. Bill C-68 came back, and we had trust that the government was going to take a reasoned look at it, but n it has gutted the amendments from the Senate.

I was going down a path with this in terms of trust. Canadians have lost trust and are weary of hearing the Liberals stand there and say they have our best interests at heart. It truly is relevant to Bill C-68 and to the Senate amendments, because members of the Senate heard from Canadians that they represent in their respective areas. They came at it, as I mentioned, in a collaborative spirit, as we do at the fisheries committee, and tried to enhance the bill.

I will offer this explanation as to why we are going down this path. When the minister stood and gave his presentation and intervention here, colleagues will remember that he talked at length about Bill C-68 and the Senate amendments and why the government felt it was necessary to go down the path that led to Bill C-68. Therefore, I believe I have the ability to talk about Bill C-68 and the background to it, and part of that background is Canadians' trust in the government, or their lack of it.

The hon. colleague can stand on a point of order as much as he likes. It is his privilege to do that, but it is also my privilege to be able to stand in this House and represent the electors of Cariboo—Prince George.

In time allocation, time and again the government chooses to ignore that there are 338 members of Parliament in this House, and that all members are here to represent the electors who elected them to this House. This House does not belong to the Prime Minister. It does not belong to you, Madam Speaker, and it does not belong to me. It belongs to the electors and those who elected us. It is our job to be here and bring our voices here.

When I am talking about priority and trust, I am trying to bring forth the voices of indigenous groups who have not been consulted on Bill C-68. I am bringing forth the voices of coastal communities who have not been consulted or who feel that they have not been heard in terms of Bill C-68. I am bringing forth the voices of my electors in Cariboo—Prince George, who feel that the government is not listening to them.

I will go back to Bill C-68 again and talk about protecting the livelihood of fishers in coastal communities, which is what the minister said was his intent in tabling this bill. If the minister was truly interested in protecting the livelihood of fishers in coastal communities, then probably both the former minister who made the statement and the current minister should have travelled to Grand Bank. They should have come to the Lax Kw'alaams first nation, which has major issues in terms of Bill C-48 and Bill C-69. They should talk to fisheries organizations, which have some serious concerns. They should talk to the farmers and municipalities that all have concerns with Bill C-68.

The minister received a letter from the Fisheries Council of Canada with respect to Bill C-68, and I should make it clear that it was the former fisheries minister who first tabled Bill C-68. He received a letter from the Fisheries Council of Canada that outlined some of their grave concerns over the way he had managed that file to that point.

I will provide a bit of background. The Fisheries Council was established in 1915. It has been the national voice for Canada's commercial fisheries for decades. Its members include small, medium and large companies along with indigenous groups that harvest fish in Canada's three oceans and inland waters. Member companies are also processors. They process the majority of Canada's fish and seafood products. The members take pride in being key employers in their communities. They are also stewards of the resource and work diligently to protect the waters, because sustainability of the fisheries is in the best interest of all involved, and they know that without the proper care and conservation, the resource will disappear.

Members of the Fisheries Council of Canada provide jobs for people like my friend, Edgar, who I met in Grand Bank, where the minister's corrupt surf clam decision shook their foundation and people's livelihoods. Members of the Fisheries Council create an economic base that helps sustain the whole economy of these small towns and villages, these coastal communities, many of which have no other source of economic income. What the minister's actions did in taking away the lucrative surf clam quota, Bill C-68 at that point, was shake those communities to the core.

In its letter to the minister, the Fisheries Council wrote that recent actions and announcements from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans had undermined the fishing sector and therefore undermined the economic growth of Canada's coasts. It said, “Taking away the long-standing licences and quotas does not respect past investments and has put a chill on the future investments by Canadian fish processors. Many coastal communities and fish harvesters rely on their local fish processor to purchase their goods in order to bring their products to market. Without continued investment, the industry will stall.”

This is astounding. The Fisheries Council has worked with governments of all colours and stripes and it had to write this letter to the former minister. The fact that it had to do this speaks volumes. In fact, what we heard from people all across Canada and in Grand Bank is that the current government has done nothing to ensure a stable, reliable, sustainable fishery.

It would seem to me, after witnessing what the government has done in regard to the Arctic surf clam, Bill C-68, Bill C-69 and Bill C-48, that unless one holds a Liberal Party membership or was once a Liberal member of Parliament or has made successful financial contributions to the Liberal cause, one is plain out of luck.

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to continuing. I know that all my colleagues look forward to hearing the rest of my remarks.

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5:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George will have the floor when the House next gets back to debate on the question that is before the House.

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Veterans HomelessnessPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Neil Ellis Liberal Bay of Quinte, ON

, seconded by the member for Saskatoon West, moved:

That, in the opinion of the House: (a) the government should set a goal to prevent and end veteran homelessness in Canada by 2025; (b) a plan to achieve this aim should be developed by the government and be presented to the House by June 2020, led by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and supported by the Minister of Veterans Affairs; and (c) this plan should include consideration of whether a National Veterans Housing Benefit similar to the highly successful U.S. Housing and Urban Development – Veterans Administration Supportive Housing (HUD VASH) Program would fit the Canadian context, complementing the National Housing Strategy.

He said: Mr. Speaker, as chair of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, I am honoured to have the opportunity to rise in the House today on behalf of Canadian veterans across the country and within my riding of Bay of Quinte to request my hon. colleagues' consideration of my private member's motion, Motion No. 225.

Personally, it has been an incredible experience to work alongside my hon. colleagues on the veterans affairs committee to review the issues of veterans homelessness in Canada. Throughout the committee's study on this issue, I have been constantly impressed by the solid resolve of all members to work together to fix this issue.

ln preparing our May 2019 report, I believe we all learned a great deal about the causes of homelessness and the range of solutions already put into action by key national veterans advocacy organizations. During committee, we had the chance to learn from representatives of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, VETS Canada, the Old Brewery Mission and the Royal Canadian Legion, among others, all of which retain a clear understanding of which types of veterans are most at risk.

All 22 committee witnesses have made this issue visible. They have all collected and evaluated statistics, as well as on-the-ground narratives from our veterans. They have also brought best practices for solution-building into focus by sharing clear recommendations stemming from the successes of the various trial programs or initiatives their organizations have undertaken across the country.

ln terms of general statistics, we were confronted with the reality that approximately 3,000 to 5,000 veterans are currently affected by homelessness. My riding has one of the highest populations of veterans across the country, with an estimated 3,067 veterans in total residing in the Bay of Quinte. That is nearly the same amount as the lowest threshold estimate for veterans who are homeless.

The information was made available by the homeless individuals and families information system. Each committee witness has been invaluable in clarifying the scope of the issue, bringing to light the frequency of shelter use, the typical characteristics representative of veterans identified as homeless or with a lack of stable housing and the recurring nature of this issue.

We were also presented with evidence that echoed the study findings forward in the Journal of Military, Veteran and Family Health or the Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, all of which indicate a direct correlation between difficulty transitioning into post-service life or adapting to civilian society, and instability of housing.

We saw that experiences of homelessness and lack of stable housing situations typically occur about 10 years after active service, that a variety of personal situations or triggers can place veterans more at risk for housing instability and that female or indigenous veterans represent much higher instances of shelter use than other veterans. The need to pursue a housing-first approach which is adaptive and can offer personalized supports, peer guidance, as well as direct access to necessary resources has been reaffirmed by nearly all the committee witnesses as the most effective type of solution. I firmly believe this recommendation must be addressed by the Government of Canada as soon as possible.

The observations shared with the committee on the reality of veterans' experiences of homelessness or lack of stable housing stood out to all of us as something that we can fix together. Motion No. 225 recognizes that the federal government has now reached a turning point. We have the data we need and it is time to act on it. The work already done by all of our key committee witnesses and the willingness of veterans to keep lines of communication open with us is what makes proceeding with Motion No. 225 possible. With all the information at our disposal now, we must get passed triage and head toward a long-term treatment for this issue.

As a quick overview, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's veterans administration supportive housing program is a collaborative program offered by HUD and Veterans Affairs. This program combines housing vouchers with VA support services to help homeless veterans and their families find and retain permanent housing. Using the capacity of public housing authorities, the program provides rental assistance vouchers for privately owned housing to veterans who are eligible for VA health care services and who are experiencing homelessness. VA case managers can direct these veterans to support services that address their unique health needs, treatments and recovery processes. As a result, veterans are best positioned to maintain housing and support within their community.

The American program focuses on veterans who have experienced long-term or recurring episodes of homelessness. If we adopt Motion No. 225, we can build a similar program that further reinforces VAC's work to simplify and deliver the highest calibre of services and programs to our veterans and their families. VAC continues to define “well-being” as a multi-layered and personal experience and recognizes seven domains of well-being, which are employment or meaningful purpose; financial security; health; life skills and preparedness; social integration; cultural and social environment; and housing and physical environment.

At the end of the day, VAC can offer the very best training, education benefits, employment tools or resources possible, but without a home, how can we expect our veterans and their families to access those services or truly enjoy post-service life altogether? Motion No. 225 would help us make sure that the best foundation for cultivating personal well-being is firmly in place for our veterans.

There are already some incredible housing initiatives in place and new projects under way across the country which address as many of these domains as possible. ln particular, the strategies used by each of the organizations operating sites like Mainstay Housing in Toronto, Cockrell House in B.C. and soon Veterans' House here in Ottawa remind us of the importance of bringing peer-to-peer support for veterans experiencing homelessness to the forefront of our solutions.

In my own constituency office, having hired a veteran to address VAC casework, I have seen this principle in action first-hand. The positive impact that he has had on all our veterans clientele has been significant. Skip Simpson's capacity to guide veterans and their families on a full range of department services, local supports offered by advocate agencies or organizations has been instrumental in assisting veterans all across the Bay of Quinte.

Veterans who reach out to my constituency office are immediately relayed to Skip. Where necessary, he can assist with initiating or assessing status updates on Veterans Affairs Canada cases. Working alongside VAC caseworkers, Skip provides guidance and acts as a liaison throughout this process.

What I have learned from reviewing the feedback of Skip's work is that no matter how big or small the issue is, veterans are always pleased to speak with a peer who understands the nuances of their experiences. Getting veterans and their families their own walls, windows and doors is one thing; providing the satisfaction of an understanding peer community is also something that we should consider as part of this process.

There are numerous other examples of initiatives that l am not citing here which have made sure that veterans experiencing homelessness or lack of stable housing receive this type of model of service that draws from a peer-to-peer and personal support network approach.

The success of these initiatives shows us that focusing on the stability of housing is just as important as cultivating a strong sense of community to accompany it. Again, drawing from the American program's design, we know that the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, VETS Canada, the Old Brewery Mission and the Royal Canadian Legion already have a clear understanding of which types of veterans are most at risk of experiencing housing instability or homelessness.

Every year, approximately 5,550 CAF members are released from duty. Of this number, approximately 1,500 are medically released from duty. If veterans know they can connect with someone who understands their situation and can receive direction to appropriate resources and contacts from a trusted member of their community, they will feel more secure in reaching out, especially when there are sensitive personal circumstances involved.

Given that most of these organizations are led by or employ veterans, these organizations do understand how to build and maintain trust with our most vulnerable veterans across delivery of support services. These organizations have already dedicated a lot of time and effort to make sure that the full reality of a veteran's experience is taken into account.

These organizations already understand the roles, norms and language of our service community, and their staff work incredibly hard to ensure a consistent level of support when our veterans come in with questions or concerns.

If directly paired with VAC's case management services through a housing benefit delivered under the national housing strategy, a direct partnership with these organizations will accelerate the Government of Canada's ability to resolve and eliminate homelessness among Canadian veterans in the future.

Here, I would like to point out that this motion is not about duplicating or bypassing the department's caseworkers, but about providing the most personalized housing supports possible to a veteran. When this is in place, and with the department's assistance, our veterans will be better equipped to focus on accessing VAC supports or services for themselves and their family.

I firmly believe that these organizations' expertise in forming bonds of trust with our veterans is something that we need to reinforce and draw from as we move towards building a Canadian program similar to the U.S. veterans housing program. Harnessing this capacity will help us provide the most efficient and customized guidance to veterans, especially those most at risk of experiencing challenges to post-service transitions, and proceed directly to offer the casework that best fits their situation once the most essential foundation, a home, is in place.

If the House adopts this motion and moves towards development of a national veterans housing benefit, the Government of Canada would be better able to provide veterans and their families an enduring foundation by which they can access the full range of department services or local supports offered by advocate agencies and organizations. By harnessing the capacity and expertise of our on-the-ground partner organizations that serve veterans most at risk of, or are currently experiencing homelessness, we will also be better equipped to deliver a customized review of all the issues present within the given scenario, and reinforce continuity of contact between veterans and their VAC caseworkers, peers and their personal support networks.

I firmly believe that the Government of Canada has everything to gain by setting a clear timeline for meeting the goal of Motion No. 225. There are no reasons why eliminating homelessness among our Canadian veterans cannot be achieved. We can and we must do more. Therefore, I kindly request that all hon. members of the House support Motion No. 225 and push us even closer to that goal for 2025.

At this time I would like to move an amendment to my motion. I move that, in the opinion of the House, the government should (a) set a goal to prevent and end veteran homelessness in Canada by 2025; (b) a plan to achieve this aim should be developed by the government and be presented to the House by June 2020, co-led by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and the Minister of Veterans Affairs; and (c) this plan should include consideration of whether a national veterans housing benefit similar to the highly successful U.S. Housing and Urban Development veterans administration supportive housing, HUD-VASH, program would fit the Canadian context, complementing the national housing strategy.