Mr. Speaker, I am beginning to wonder, after a year and a half in this House, if the Liberal government's motto is “If a job is worth doing it is worth doing poorly”. I came here with an interest in this job when the electors of Cypress Hills--Grasslands showed their wisdom by electing me. I came expecting that there would be serious debate in the House, that there would be a give and take of ideas, that there would be a merging and a rejection of those ideas and that decisions would be based on well-informed debate and well-informed bias. To be honest, I saw some of this happen in the Standing Committee on Environment ans Sustainable development when I was allowed to sit in on some of the sessions.
The minister, on the other hand, has destroyed this entire process. I believe that at some point he should be held accountable for disregard of the parliamentary process regarding this bill.
I have a great concern about a bill that goes through committee, where some people got what they wanted and others did not, and then have it hijacked by a minister who has his own special agenda. I am disappointed that I do not hear more government members speaking out about that as well. I know there are a great number of them who have a big concern about what has happened with the bill. I suggest that perhaps the minister's motto will be “I started out with nothing and I still have most of that left”.
I will speak today on the Group No. 2 motions and two issues of importance in those motions. First, it is that of the federal government taking upon itself the power to override provincial legislation and agreements.
The government has become a bully. We see that in several areas. We have seen it in the area of health. We are beginning to see it in the area of agriculture and its new farm plan. I believe that we will see it in the area of the environment. The government has been bullying provinces. It is beginning to bully rural municipalities. It is beginning as well to bully landowners.
Is it possible for us to cooperate? I will take a look at the history. We have heard a bit about the Department of Fisheries and Oceans today. It has moved in the last couple of years into the prairie provinces. There will to be a fair amount of money spent by DFO in the prairie provinces. The government is talking about putting in five fisheries centres with thirty biologists at each centre. Therefore Saskatchewan will have the privilege of having 60 fisheries biologists in its province which it has never had before even though the provincial environment ministry has been managing the fishery reasonably well.
How does it work with DFO coming in? We have heard the members from Selkirk--Interlake and Provencher talk about Manitoba and how there have been problems with drainage ditches. The RMs have ongoing concerns and regular confrontations with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. We have heard DFO costing RMs and cities up to $200,000 extra to construct flood dikes.
In Alberta DFO began to go after the drainage ditches that were built for irrigation until the Alberta government told it to go to wherever.
We heard from the member for Souris--Moose Mountain that DFO had been billing RMs in Saskatchewan for studies that they did not even know were being done. Therefore we have an ongoing problem with DFO
Perhaps there is something more than just a grab for control. We know Alberta has done very well with one of its natural resources, namely oil. It has been able to become a powerhouse within Canada. A couple of weeks ago one of the senior bureaucrats declared that Newfoundland would not be allowed to become another Alberta.
Another resource that is at stake, and which is just as important as oil, is water. I am starting to wonder if this whole environmental issue focused around Bill C-5 and some of the DFO activity is less a concern about environmentalism than a concern about control over waters that are within provincial boundaries which are supposed to be under provincial jurisdiction.
The bullying, coercion and a lack of co-operation that we see will just lead us to one place. As far as the provinces are concerned it will be in court. We will see the federal government in court against the provincial governments, the provincial governments taking the federal government to court and at the bottom of the pile both levels of government hammering the landowner with his own tax money. That lack of co-operation is unacceptable and the bill will not work.
My second concern in the Group No. 2 amendments is in the area of criminal liability.
I want to paint a bit of a picture of farmers in my area. We have burrowing owls in my area. People go out in the spring with machinery and have a 50:50 chance of seeding their land. We have lots of gophers when the crop begins to come up. Gophers start digging their holes in the crop land. Badgers come along and they are only too happy to chase the gophers down the holes. Later the burrowing owls come to nest in the holes in our area of the world.
At harvest time we come along with the combines and cut the crop off the top, take our crops and people go home. The question that has to be asked is if this disturbs the owl's habitat. If it does, I guess the farmer can expect that the feds will show up at some point at his door and conceivably he could be charged.
The should have known principle in the bill is something that is new after hundreds of years of criminal law. What are the consequences of breaking the should have known law? In the bill the penalties are $250,000 and up to five years in jail. That is enough to destroy virtually any landowner or any farmer and put him completely out of business. If he cannot prove due diligence, he can be charged and fined.
The bill basically ignores one of the tenets of western legal history and that is that criminal penalties are only given for offences committed with a criminal mind. It is known as mens rea; that is a person knowing he or she is breaking the law. That is why one can be charged and held accountable.
It is interesting that the minister actually had a concern about this. In his presentation of October 3, 2001, he said:
It's a legitimate matter for concern. The accident, the unwitting destruction...it is a concern, and we want to give the maximum protection we can to the legitimate and honest person who makes a mistake, who unwittingly does that.
It is interesting that when the bill came back to the House, the minister declined to give people that protection.
The burrowing owl is fairly well known. Farmers can work with that. There are some other species I would like to ask members about. Have they heard of slender mouse-ear-cress? No, I did not think so. How about the hairy prairie-clover? The burrowing owl we are all familiar with. The sand verbena might be a plant that is new to everyone. I am sure members know of the western spiderwort and the tiny cryptanthe.
The piping plover may be one we are a little more familiar. These are all species that in my riding have been declared as threatened or endangered. Interestingly enough, all of them are already covered by section 5 of the Wildlife Act. Everyone of them is already protected.
This legislation is wrong. It punishes rural Canadians in particular. It cannot succeed if the government will not work with rural people.
We all acknowledge that the government's main role is to provide security and protection for its citizens. Why does the government continue to punish rural Canada?
I have a little story with which I will finish. An agricultural salesman showed up at a farmer's farm yard one day. He saw that the farmer had a pet pig, but the pig had one wooden leg. The farmer said the pig went everywhere with him and the salesman asked “What happened to the pig?” The farmer said “Let me tell you what a hero the pig is”. He said that he was working near the edge of the road by a muddy slew and one day his tractor slipped off the road. It tipped over and pinned him underneath. He could not do anything so he told the pig to go get a board, to bring it over, balance it on a rock, slide it under the tire and to sit on the end of it. When the pig sat on the end of it, the tractor lifted up enough and he was able to get out. The pig saved his life. The salesman asked how the pig got the wooden leg.
The farmer said he would tell him another story. The pig slept in the living room. One night he smelled smoke. Sure enough, the house was on fire. The pig ran upstairs, woke him and his wife up, and they and the four kids got out before the house burned down. Again, he saved his life as well as the lives of the rest of his family. The agricultural salesman said that the pig certainly was a hero but he still wanted to know how he got his wooden leg. The farmer said “Well, with a pig like that you don't want to eat it all at once”.
That is what the government is doing to rural Canada. It is slowly killing it off, one leg at a time.