Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the House as a member of the Standing Committee on the Environment and as a member who has taken part in the debates on Bill C-5 over the past three months. I will start by saying that I do not completely agree with the colleague who spoke before me.
I wish to speak about the need to work with the provinces and the territories in order to protect the species at risk in Canada.
Our constitutional structure means that we must constantly work together with the governments of the provinces and territories regarding any important policy. This situation exists for a good reason, which most members here would describe as fair, practical and, above all, typically Canadian.
The development of the strategy for the protection of species at risk is one of the best examples of how well this system works. The success of this strategy is due to the collaboration between governments, which began a good number of years ago.
I would also like to recognize the joint projects on the protection of species and habitat, in which the federal government and the province of Quebec took part.
A good approach based on co-operation has been in place for a number of years. The province of Quebec attaches great importance to its role in the protection of species and habitat. It plays an active role in the evaluation and designation of wildlife species. The fact is that, last year anyway, the province stepped up its designation process and officially designated a dozen species under the provincial legislation.
The federal departments worked closely with their counterparts in Quebec. A federal-provincial committee on species at risk was set up and includes representatives from Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Parks Canada, who are working with the provincial representatives. Every year, more progress is made in delivering an effective program based on co-operation.
This situation is the same throughout Canada. For decades, the federal, provincial and territorial governments have worked together to manage wildlife species, not just to the benefit of species at risk but to the benefit of all species.
Through the North American waterfowl management plan, the provinces and territories are working with the federal government and their counterparts in the United States to conserve hundreds of hectares of wetlands and protect many waterfowl species.
We have helped each other and we have worked side by side to protect the piping plover eggs laid in the sand. We have met in board rooms to seek the support of corporations and resource-based industries in order to get them to create model forests and protected zones. We have worked together to create thousands of hectares of parks and game reserves.
It is obvious that we are all aware that the issue of endangered species is a national concern, and no single entity can do it all.
We must continue to work together. We must be able to readily cross over the demarcation line between the federal government, the provinces and the territories, a line that makes us good neighbours and good partners.
As a government, we have committed to certain laws and programs. We have made that commitment official in a number of ways including legislation.
It is time for the federal government to make its commitments official within the context of the proposed legislation.
The provinces and territories have worked along with us in drafting Bill C-5. For some three months, we heard from numerous witnesses. This bill reflects their contributions. The success of this initiative absolutely depends on their support.
It is clear that we will not be able to put the endangered species legislation in place without provincial and territorial co-operation. We cannot protect these species without the co-operation of the provinces and territories. They are the ones who administer the land and activities which have an impact on these species and their vital habitat. They are the ones responsible for land management policies, the ones responsible for the delivery of so many programs.
A large part of the lands that many species depend on comes under provincial or territorial jurisdiction. The provinces and the territories have a large part of the resources required to improve habitat and protect wetlands and parks.
Together—and I do mean together—we have laid the foundation to ensure the protection of all species and essential habitat across Canada. That is the reason that we developed the national accord for the protection of species at risk in Canada.
Much has been done in a short time. Quebecers have worked with official representatives from the province and the federal government as well as conservation agencies and other stakeholders.
The habitat stewardship program has developed a preliminary habitat conservation plan for species at risk in the Magdalen Islands and elsewhere. As a part of its conservation strategy for the Sutton mountains, the Ruiter Valley Land Trust has developed a plan recognizing the habitat of species at risk. These are a few examples of co-operation. These examples all contain a significant provincial component, and we cannot compromise this approach.
However, some of the amendments proposed by the standing committee undermine the agreement's underlying principles and compromise commitments that have already been confirmed: specifically, the fact that the committee would unilaterally determine the criteria to trigger the mechanisms for the safety net for essential habitat outlined in Bill C-5 and transfer significant territorial responsibilities to the federal government regarding species and habitat.
Under the agreement, all levels of government made a clear commitment to fulfilling the objective of the changes proposed by the committee. The government's motions eliminate the imposition of criteria that are decided upon unilaterally and re-establish territorial responsibility regarding wildlife species that come under their jurisdiction in order to allow provincial and territorial governments to remain full partners in the protection of species in Canada.
The federal, provincial and territorial governments are currently working on developing bilateral agreements and a policy to determine efficient protection under the agreement. By developing these agreements together, we are ensuring that each government understands its own responsibilities and has the means to trigger the safety net.
This is why the government is proposing amendments to re-establish an approach that is based on co-operation. This is why we must support these amendments.