Yes, Mr. Speaker, rightly so.
Recently, much ink has been spilled over the contentious and worrisome drilling activities in Cacouna that have nonetheless been authorized by the federal and provincial governments. I would like to go back a bit, to shed some light on the government’s inaction when it comes to the environment.
I recall, last fall, the closing of the key positions at the Maurice Lamontagne Institute, a research laboratory studying belugas. I also recall that the Minister of the Environment evaded questions, thus showing his intention of continuing his attacks on scientists, the very people who make it possible to monitor the situation of belugas and other marine mammals that are threatened.
We all understand that the government was laying the groundwork for going ahead with the Gros-Cacouna port project: less money for scientific research, less data about the marine mammal population and less data about the ecosystem, and so fewer obstacles along the way to carrying out the project.
We also asked the Minister of the Environment to stop playing hide and seek, and release the scientific opinions about offshore activities at Cacouna, which, I would recall, is not only the very centre of the beluga habitat, but also the breeding ground for that threatened species. That was refused. Although we did get an emergency meeting, the chair of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans insisted that the meeting be held in camera. There is every reason to believe that the government is trying to hide something.
Moreover, it is inconceivable that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans would answer in the House that to obtain scientific data, we need only use Google. I am sincerely sorry for all Canadians that a minister would give this kind of answer in the House. Does that mean that the minister and her officials rely on Google to learn about this issue?
It is amusing to note that the scientific opinion we can find through a Google search is the same official scientific opinion as the one that was sent to the Quebec minister of the environment.
The title of an article in the Journal de Québec on October 1 speaks volumes: “A scientific opinion invented” by the department.
The article deals with the Quebec Superior Court decision about stopping the drilling until October 15.
It says that in the opinion of the Superior Court judge, the letter from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans—we are talking about a letter and not a scientific opinion—that was sent to the Government of Quebec on August 8 provides no scientific opinion.
If everything is on Google, as the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans claims, why hold all these meetings behind closed doors? Why hide something so important?
Unlike the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, I strongly believe that it is our duty as elected members of Parliament to ensure that the government makes decisions in the best interests of the public. The response from the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is further proof of the lack of transparency of this government. It is the government's responsibility to protect belugas, a threatened species in the St. Lawrence. As responsible elected officials, it is our duty to protect this species.
This summer, Richard Nadeau, the regional director general of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, assured us in an article in Le Devoir on July 26 that the federal government planned on protecting the St. Lawrence estuary and that the mandate of the Canada-Quebec working group, created more than 15 years ago, had not been changed. The purpose of creating a marine protected area is to protect the habitat of marine mammals present in that area. You might say that is reassuring. I am not reassured.
A press release issued devastating news last week. On September 26, we learned that the Quebec chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society had submitted an access to information request for information on the work done by the Canada-Quebec working group I just mentioned, and was told that no documents existed.
The following is part of the minister's response to the society:
No document was provided regarding the working group...This is a federal-provincial group that was recently reactivated after several years of inactivity. It has not yet examined the issue of the St. Lawrence Estuary area of interest.
This surprising answer means not only that the group did not conduct a study of the area to be protected, but also that the group does not even really exist. It exists, but it is an empty shell, as Patrick Nadeau, the administrative director of CPAWS Quebec, said. All I can figure is that this working group is a kind of phantom group that comes to haunt us for a few days around Halloween.
Despite all of these facts proving how irresponsible the government is when it comes to the environment, we still dared to hope that the Prime Minister might intervene, but no, he signed off on it anyway. This week he refused to meet with a special envoy from France to talk about the fight against climate change in preparation for the next major international climate change summit, further proof that the environment is simply not a priority for this government.
Everyone knows this; there is nothing new here. We all know that anything that has to do with the environment is not a priority for this government, except when the environment hurts fossil fuels, of course.
As a final point, I would like to commend the efforts of the community groups in my riding that have joined with me in calling on the government to put an end to these drilling activities for the sake of future generations.
I would also like to commend the efforts of the men and women of Cacouna who are watching this closely. Bravo. I am on their side. I also want to thank the people in my riding who shared their concerns with me regarding the Port of Gros-Cacouna oil project. I share their concerns.
That is why we put together a team of volunteers to circulate some petitions to stop this project. On October 18, we will be in Charlevoix and on the upper north shore, going door to door to collect signatures. All work on this project must stop.
I will be very proud to come back to the House with those petitions calling on the government to stop all work in Cacouna. In the meantime, I wish to thank the hon. member for Drummond, who, through his motion, has given me the opportunity to share my constituents' concerns. I would also like to thank the hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, who has been trying from the beginning to get some answers and get some studies done on the Gros-Cacouna project.
There is no doubt that the Port of Gros-Cacouna, which will be used for the sole purpose of exporting unprocessed Canadian oil, will have a negative impact on the Canadian economy through the loss of well-paid jobs. It will constitute an environmental threat to the St. Lawrence ecosystem, including the beluga whale population, and therefore it is not consistent with the principle of sustainable development and must be rejected.