Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take a few minutes to speak to Bill C-65, although everyone knows obviously that we are simply keeping the House occupied.
We expect the election to be called at any moment, and today, yesterday, the day before yesterday and for the past week, the government has been using every means at its disposal to gain time, to pass the time. Now they put before us a bill we know full well will not get beyond the walls of this House. It will never receive royal assent or come into force.
While it contains a mechanism for inclusion on the list of species at risk and a recovery plan for species at risk, the bill contains over 100 clauses that should be completely reviewed and returned to the drawing board, because they bear no relation to the expectations of those consulted.
The committee consulted many organizations. However, it did not take the representations and observations of these consultations into account. This is not the first time the government has behaved this way. We have seen this behaviour in the case of other bills, where consultation was simply a matter of form, and served either to spend money or to expend people's energy. In terms of time, it cost a lot. Were the opinions considered? Absolutely not.
This bill should be totally reworked for other reasons as well. It is not only a matter of consultation. The bill does not honour a fine promise the government made as enunciated by the Prime Minister, who said, in the speech from the throne on February 27, 1996, and I quote: "The federal government will propose to the provinces a much strengthened process to work in partnership, focussing on such priorities as food inspection, environmental management, social housing, tourism and freshwater fish habitat".
The action taken by this government was totally contrary to the remarks of the Prime Minister. Instead of including provincial authorities in the process of designating and re-establishing threatened and endangered species, the government is excluding them. Yet another broken promise.
Bill C-65 does absolutely nothing in that regard. Worse still, the actions of the Liberal environment minister seem very suspicious. First, he convenes a meeting of the provincial ministers of the environment to get an agreement in principle on the protection of endangered species. However, just four weeks later, the minister tables his bill which, in many respects, is totally contrary to the agreement in principle that he just obtained.
Let me quote Quebec's Minister of the Environment. Even though he attended the meetings and signed the agreement, the minister said: "We could not remain indifferent to the fact that this agreement opens the door to overlap between some future federal act and the legislation which has been in effect in Quebec since 1989 and which works very well. We risk creating more red tape instead of dedicating ourselves to what really matters to us: the fate of endangered species". This is what the Quebec Minister of the Environment wrote to his federal counterpart.
Time proved him right. Just look at the bill before us. It creates all sorts of overlap. The main objection from Quebec to this bill is that the federal government keeps changing the rules by extending the territory where a given species is found. This is important when it comes to determining the applicable jurisdiction. The federal government even tries to gain more power by extending the scope of the definition of "federal land".
The bill requires co-operation between the federal government and the provinces when, in fact, several provinces oppose this legislation. Once again, the federal government wants to impose its own jurisdiction, after promising harmonization. Therefore, this bill directly threatens the jurisdiction of the provinces, under the pretence that the government wants to meet the requirements of the international convention on biological diversity. The Liberal government is trying to interfere in an area of provincial jurisdiction.
This government is increasing overlap. In all areas, particularly regional development, there is extensive interference by the federal government. It goes over the provinces' heads. It negotiates
directly with municipalities and with community, humanitarian and tourist organizations. It has no use for provincial jurisdiction.
This bill is also troubling because it leaves the way open for the federal government to negotiate directly with municipal administrations, as I was saying earlier. This gives the minister the power to interfere in environmental matters because the implementation, and I do mean implementation, of measures and programs related to wildlife conservation can cover a wide range of activities without necessarily respecting constitutional authority.
More specifically, the minister will be able to sidestep provincial governments by once again negotiating directly with municipalities. The Bloc Quebecois introduced several amendments in this regard providing for greater provincial involvement, but they were ignored by the Liberal majority.
I would also like to speak about the discretionary authority this bill gives the minister. In fact, the Minister of the Environment calls all the shots with respect to implementation. He may make appointments to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. He has the authority to decide whether or not species are included on the list. He decides whether or not to implement a recovery plan. All decisions therefore rest with him.
The minister himself is responsible for the composition of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. We know that it will have nine members and that the minister may appoint whomever he wishes. This is another opportunity for this government to reward friends of the regime, major contributors to the Liberal Party slush fund, or perhaps to cheer up Liberal candidates defeated in the election.