Mr. Speaker, with the introduction of Bill C-8, the Canadian government is following up on the work done in parliament in relation to Bill C-48 on the creation of marine conservation areas, which was introduced last session. Thus we are picking up where we left off, that is at the report stage.
The purpose of federal Bill C-8, which is entitled an act respecting marine conservation areas and was introduced by Heritage Canada, is to provide a legal framework for the creation of 28 marine conservation areas representative of each of Canada's ecosystems. The 29th marine conservation area is the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park, but it is not covered by this legislation because it has its own.
We will be voting against this bill, not as a political rant, as my colleague from the Canadian Alliance put it, but because we have major reasons, reasons relating to the jurisdictions of Quebec and others, the multiplication of organisms in one area.
The Bloc Quebecois is certainly in favour of measures to protect the environment, and I believe that no one can teach us anything in that regard as we are focusing particular efforts on working to protect the environment, particularly in marine conservation areas.
Hon. members will recall that our party supported the bill proposing legislation to create the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park, as well as being involved in initiatives to protect the environment, the seabed in particular. The Government of Quebec is also open to efforts to that same end and has, moreover, shown itself capable of partnership with the federal government as evidenced by phase III of the St. Lawrence action plan.
So why are we opposed to this bill? The answer is very simple. First, instead of focusing on working together, as it did in the case of the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park, the federal government wants to introduce marine conservation areas with no regard for Quebec's jurisdiction over its territory and environment.
In addition, Heritage Canada is planning to introduce a new structure, marine conservation areas, which will duplicate the marine protection zones of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the protected marine areas of Environment Canada.
Bill C-8 ignores the integrity of Quebec's territory, because one of the preconditions for a marine conservation area is that the federal government own the territory where it is to be established.
Subsection 92(5) of the Constitution Act, 1867, makes it very clear that the management and sale of public lands is an exclusively provincial jurisdiction. When is the government going to abide by the constitution it has signed?
In Quebec, the Loi québécoise sur les terres du domaine public applies to all public lands belonging to Quebec, including beds of waterways and lakes and those parts of the bed of the St. Lawrence River and the Gulf of St. Lawrence which belong to Quebec by sovereign right.
This legislation also provides that Quebec cannot create or transfer its lands to the federal government. The only thing it can do is to authorize, by order, the federal government to use them only in connection with matters under federal jurisdiction. Usually, the federal government reads the constitution more than we do, but I think it is reading it too quickly and misinterpreting it.
Co-operative mechanisms already exist to protect ecosystems in the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park and in the St. Lawrence River under the St. Lawrence action plan, phase III, which was signed by all federal and Quebec departments concerned, and which provides for major investments in connection with the St. Lawrence River.
We are interested in protecting the environment. We are interested in a partnership but we will not give up what is ours.
Why then have the so far productive partnership ventures I just mentioned been ignored by Heritage Canada? Why is it now claiming exclusive ownership of the seabed? Will the federal government respect the territorial claims of Quebec or ignore them as usual?
There are precedents. I have mentioned two of them briefly and I will go back to them again in more detail.
The Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park is a fine example of consultation and organization with the community respecting who we are and protecting all our rights.
In 1997 the federal and Quebec governments passed legislation to establish the Saguenay—St. Lawrence Marine Park. This legislation led to the creation of Canada's first marine conservation area. One of the main features of this legislation is the fact that the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park is the first marine park to be created by two levels of government without any land changing hands. Both governments will continue to fulfil their respective responsibilities. The park is made up entirely of marine areas and covers 1,138 square kilometres.
In order to promote local involvement, the acts passed by Quebec and by Canada confirm the creation of a co-ordinating committee whose membership is to be determined by the federal and provincial ministers. The committee's mandate is to recommend to the ministers responsible measures to achieve the master plan's objectives. The plan is to be reviewed with the people of the community who are aware of the activities taking place in the marine park. This gives great pleasure to the people of the north shore and the south shore alike. My colleague is from the north shore. I am from the south shore and everyone is happy.
This was a first, a fine example of success, and I do not understand why the 28 other marine parks did not use the same model. Is it because this is a Quebec model? Are people so sceptical? Are they so unreasonable that they will not transpose a success from one place to another part of Canada?
Another interesting example is phase III of the St. Lawrence action plan, which was announced in June 1998 and which also allows for extensive work to be done in the St. Lawrence River. That initiative is also an unquestionable success.
Those are two successful initiatives that should be used as models. Unfortunately the government is proposing an act that creates overlap within the federal administration because we will have Heritage Canada's marine conservation areas, Fisheries and Oceans' marine protected areas and Environment Canada's marine and wildlife reserves. This will generate confusion. It will not ensure a single management structure but rather a lot of discussions, opinions and ambiguity, thus adversely affecting the effectiveness of the decision making process.
I will refrain from talking about the phony and failed consultation process—the participation rate was 5%—about the concerns and the agitation in fisheries, or about the interference in sectors such as transportation in marine conservation areas, public safety and research.
In conclusion, the future is rooted in the past. We have a success story, the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park, and we have a failure in that Heritage Canada is incapable of protecting ecosystems in existing national parks, according to the 1996 report of the auditor general.
In light of this, we wonder if Parks Canada will be able to protect the ecological integrity of our national parks and we wonder why we should not follow the example of the Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park.