Mr. Speaker, we in the NDP respect science just as we respect the law. At home, we have a piece of legislation called the Environment Quality Act. The decision to stop drilling was made pursuant to that act, based on the precautionary principle, because of the presence of a threatened species, the belugas.
That may be an alien principle for the Liberals and the Conservatives. But we in our caucus support it.
I will talk about the river and the beluga. I will also talk about the reasons why we reject the chosen location of Cacouna for a terminal for export.
I will start with a poem by Judith Farley:
St. Lawrence, kingly River!
What legends o'er it dwell,
They slumber in each hollow,
And on its billows swell;
They breathe, o'er its fair landscape,
And lend a pleasing charm
To sunny bays and inlets,
To homesteads bright and warm.
Those homesteads have been there a long time. The river has been populated for over 9,000 years. It was called Kaniatarowanenneh by the St. Lawrence Iroquis people who settled it 9,000 years ago. It was known as the Champlain Sea then and over time, it has seen many changes. It has always been a river for trading. Quartzite, copper, jasper, flint were all traded. It was also used for transport. It was used for fishing for sustenance. The islands on it were used for burial mounds. It has been used by humans for a long time, and no one is arguing that we stop humans from using the river.
Belugas ended up in the river. I mentioned the Champlain Sea and I mentioned the amount of time, 9,000 years. Belugas are adapted to the Arctic, so one has to wonder why they are so far south? Why are they swimming around in the St. Lawrence? During the time of glaciation, which was about 10,000 years ago, they might have already been there. They might have been there longer than human beings.
I feel bad for belugas. They are so pleasing to the eye and people like them so much. People think we are saying that we should protect them because of the way they look, but my reason for protecting them is a bit more selfish and a bit more anthropocentric.
The beluga is known as a sentinel species, or an indicator species. It means that when we study the beluga, we can actually see the health of our own communities. It was not always this way.
In 1928, the Province of Quebec offered a monetary reward for every beluga killed because people were competing with them for fish. One hundred years later we do not have the same way of thinking. Scientists look at certain species in our ecosystem and count them as indicator species. They indicate how well we are doing as human society in terms of protecting our environment and our own human health, and we contract the changes.
The reason why belugas are indicator species is because they are long-lived, top of the food chain, and they have lots of fat and blubber. Different substances can be found stored in the fat. In 1996, a study was done and unfortunately it found that DDT, lead, mercury and cadmium were in beluga carcasses. One would wonder why DDT would be found in them since we got rid of that. As I said, they are long-lived and they store these substances in their fat. A lot of belugas died from these substances.
Beluga contain so many toxic contaminants in their carcasses that they are considered toxic waste. When they wash up on the shore, people are told not to touch them because they are so contaminated with human chemicals. PCBs and all sorts of contaminants have been found. The fact that so many contaminants were found in the belugas in 1996 was the reason why people started to monitor the health of the St. Lawrence.
Canada and Quebec got together to come up with a recovery plan for these populations. They were going to try to rehabilitate the beluga population. Following up on that in 2009, they looked at the beluga whale population and said that it was not recovering the way they thought it would, and they had theories explaining why.
Some of the reasons were anthropogenic, which means human caused. They had habitat degradation, diseases from runoff, maritime traffic and contaminants.
The precautionary principle that informed the decision that the Quebec court made was based on the fact that foraging would perhaps degrade the habitat, would perhaps increase maritime traffic. The reason they stayed that decision to forage there was to protect the beluga. Again, it is not because belugas are cute, but because they perform something in our ecosystem. They are an indicator species for the health of our ecosystems. As long as they are there, we can monitor them and look at how well we are doing and how we are taking care of our own water and lands.
The water off of Cacouna is the essential habitat of the beluga. The presence of the beluga should be a sign, I would say, that this is the worst place to locate an export terminal for unprocessed bitumen.
Having said that, I also want to talk about the whole idea of exporting unprocessed bitumen.
I think there is a lack of imagination on the part of the Conservatives when they look at our natural resources. The NDP support the extraction and transformation of Canadian bitumen; however, we would prefer that it be in Canada.
We always hear from Liberals and Conservatives that this is not realistic, that Canadians cannot consume enough oil, that our population is not large enough. I am sorry, but we are close to New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore. I could go on listing American cities that consume petrol. There is no shortage of consumption of petrol in North America. It is within the whole refinery shed of a Canadian refinery.
Our leader has spoken on this. He said that our extraction of this resource has to be sustainable. When he spoke about the Keystone pipeline, he said:
Keystone represents the export of 40,000 jobs.... We have never taken care of our energy security. We tend to forget that a 10-year supply to the U.S. is a 100-year supply to Canada. We are still going to need the energy supply to heat our homes and run our factories, whether it comes from the oil sands or it comes in the form natural gas. Fossil fuels are always going to be part of the mix [for a long time to come].
I could talk for a long time about the need to make the transition to more renewable sources of fuel. I worked for a year on a study in the natural resources committee which looked at innovation in the energy sector. Many witnesses said that Canada was missing the boat when it came to innovating in the energy sector. They said that Canada was not investing enough and not looking at research on geothermal energy, wind energy, solar energy, a greater mix of fuels that we could have, and that we could actually be leaders in the field of renewable energy.
There was a promise made in 2008 by the Prime Minister. He said at the time that export of raw bitumen to countries that had lower standards than ours should not be allowed, and that he would do everything in his power to prevent the export of raw bitumen to countries that did not have the standards of refining and processing that we have. Yet, I have been here almost four years and I have never heard anything from the Prime Minister to bring in a law that would prevent the export of raw bitumen to countries with lower standards than Canada's.
All these reasons that I mentioned, the beluga, the river and the export of raw bitumen, are the reasons we cannot support the location of this terminal at Gros-Cacouna.