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Track Robert

Your Say


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is environmental.

Conservative MP for Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa (Manitoba)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 46% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Firearms Act June 19th, 2018

Madam Speaker, it is quite clear this is the backdoor gun registry coming back. Under Bill C-71, if a firearms owner sells a firearm to another individual, he or she would have to call a registrar and that purchase would now be registered. Even though both individuals have a valid possession and acquisition licence and show that they are valid, they would still have to call the registrar to have that purchase registered.

It is quite clear from the research done on the old Liberal firearms registry that law-abiding citizens complied with it. I certainly did. However, at the same time, there was zero evidence it reduced crime. On the other hand, we have Bill C-75, where the Liberals would be making punishment for violent crimes and criminals more lenient, while at the same time, under Bill C-71, they would be punishing law-abiding citizens. In the Liberal world, it is far easier to punish law-abiding citizens because they obey the law and the criminals do not. Why this dichotomy? Why are criminals treated better than law-abiding citizens under the Liberal government?

Fisheries Act June 12th, 2018

Madam Speaker, the member is talking about Pelican Lake in his riding. He worked tirelessly to access funding from the recreational fisheries program. They installed six aerators on that lake. That lake used to winter kill. Now it has a thriving fish population in that area that has created a very strong local tourism economy and it is thanks to the member for Brandon—Souris and the recreational fisheries fund that this success story happened.

Fisheries Act June 12th, 2018

Madam Speaker, I was in Atlantic Canada, in Miramichi, a couple of weeks ago meeting with all the Atlantic salmon stakeholders. To a group, they were scathing in terms of the actions of DFO, its incompetence, its indifference to communities, and its lack of respect for communities. DFO staff evidently think their clients are the fish. To us, clients are the people who use the fish.

There is the issue of the striped bass that the government is not acting on. There is the issue of seal predation that the government is not acting on. It took a non-governmental organization, the Atlantic Salmon Federation, to strike a deal with Greenland to prevent its overfishing. There are some invasive species getting into these watersheds and DFO is preventing good conservation work to be done to get rid of those invasive species, and if they get into Atlantic salmon habitat, there will be some serious predation issues.

DFO was shown to me to be completely incompetent, and that stands at the feet of the fisheries minister.

Fisheries Act June 12th, 2018

Madam Speaker, that, quite simply, has nothing to do with the topic at hand. The issue at hand is how the current government is weakening fish habitat protection, hurting Canada's fisheries, and will be layering its new fisheries act on top of Bill C-69. It will drive industry and investment away from this country, and it is especially going to harm rural communities, the kind that I represent.

Fisheries Act June 12th, 2018

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Calgary for his comments; that is definitely a high bar. I had the honour of being on the fisheries committee back in 2012, when the changes were made by our government, and they were necessary and important. I was also on the fisheries committee in 2016, when the revisions were being debated.

Let us talk about the old Fisheries Act, prior to 2012. There were many problems with the act. There was a great level of uncertainty. It introduced uncertainty into the development process. It had a wide scope. All of Canada became fish habitat, entire watersheds, extending the federal jurisdiction everywhere in the country. There was lack of discretion. The old Fisheries Act removed any regulatory discretion, since all fish habitat was considered important, no matter how small a puddle it was. There was a lack of knowledge. Knowledge of Canada's fisheries is rather poor, and that is no one's fault. It is just such an enormous task that we still have a long way to go. There were high compliance costs. The cost of compliance for rural communities and industries was extremely high, for very little return in terms of fisheries conservation. This added to the regulatory burden on top of things like the Species at Risk Act and various environmental legislation, most of which, quite frankly, introduced very little environmental improvement.

It is interesting. In 2009, the Auditor General evaluated the old Fisheries Act. She asked how it worked, what it did, and what results came from it. The program's lack of success, without sufficient support from science, was likewise documented in the Auditor General's 2009 report on the fish habitat management program. A report by the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development called “Protecting Fish Habitat” indicated that, over 23 years, the fish habitat management program could not be demonstrated to have adequately protected fish habitat, and by extension fisheries. All kinds of money was spent and staff time was used up with no effect on fisheries.

I have said it a few times in the House, but for those who do not know, I am a fisheries biologist by training. My entire career has been in fisheries, and I have been involved in conservation my entire life. In fact, I do not mind being called an environmentalist, but I am very much a right-wing environmentalist.

The changes we made to the Fisheries Act were very much in line with the 1986 fish habitat management plan, which actually was in place when the old Fisheries Act was in place. In the changes we made to the act, we went from equal consideration for all fish species and habitat to focusing on sustainability and the productivity of fisheries: commercial, recreational, and aboriginal. This was the most important part. How strange it is to have a Fisheries Act actually dealing with fisheries. Fisheries means the act of human beings harvesting fish in a sustainable manner. That is what our act was all about.

The 1986 fish habitat management program was in place when we changed the Fisheries Act. It said:

The policy applies to those habitats directly or indirectly supporting those fish stocks or populations that sustain commercial, recreational or Native fishing activities [that was the vernacular of the day] of benefit to Canadians.... In accordance with this philosophy, the policy will not necessarily be applied to all places where fish are found in Canada, but it will be applied as required in support of fisheries resource conservation.

As fisheries biologists, that is what we are supposed to do, protect fisheries. This was in line with the actual fish habitat policy.

It has been said by a couple of speakers already. I sat on the committee, along with my colleague from Cariboo—Prince George, whom I admire greatly for his perseverance and perspicacity. We asked witness after witness if they could prove that there was any harm done to any fish population in Canada because of the changes we made to the Fisheries Act in 2012. Not one person could provide quantitative evidence. They just regurgitated Liberal and NDP talking points. As far as I am concerned, what goes on on the ground in terms of fish population, fish conservation, and fisheries sustainability is what really counts.

I would just make the point that the 2010 sockeye salmon run in the Fraser and the 2014 sockeye salmon run in the Fraser were the largest in Canadian history. Wonder of wonders, which government was that under? It was the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Now the sockeye salmon runs in the Fraser are in jeopardy.

What did we hear in our committee in terms of the Fisheries Act? From the mining association, the representatives said to our committee, when the government wanted to change the Fisheries Act of 2012:

...the 2012 changes to the Fisheries Act have in practice broadened the circumstances in which section 35 prohibitions apply and increased the circumstances in which an authorization and offsets are required.

While noting the increased burden on mining project proponents imposed by the amendments....

They then went on to talk about that. The point is that the mining association said that our act was tougher and protected fish habitat even better. Of course, the current government, by changing our act, would actually weaken fish habitat protections.

In a letter to the committee, the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities talked about what it was like prior to 2012. It stated:

Prior to 2012, the Act applied to all waterways in Canada, regardless of whether they actually supported fish habitats. This caused a significant administrative burden, increased construction costs and delays for many municipalities in Saskatchewan and Alberta, as impact assessments and modified design and construction processes were often required for municipal bridges and culverts to accommodate fish habitats that, in many cases, did not exist.

That is the kind of act we dealt with.

The Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties said this about our act, the Fisheries Act of 2012:

For this reason, the AAMDC is supportive of the Fisheries Act as currently written, as it effectively balances local autonomy with federal oversight of fish habitats, while also focusing attention on the protection of important commercial, recreational and Aboriginal fisheries. This structure allows for municipalities to leverage knowledge of their local environments to determine whether federal oversight of a project across or into a water body is necessary....

Fancy that, local people knowing more about their environment that some remote bureaucrat.

The crowning glory, in a negative sense, in terms of testimony, came from the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. The CFA represents all farmers across the country. Mr. Ron Bonnett, the president, said:

...these farmers are all too familiar with the Fisheries Act in its previous form [previous to 2012]. The experience that many farmers had with the [old] Fisheries Act, unfortunately, was not a positive one. It was characterized by lengthy bureaucratic applications for permitting and authorizations, and a focus on enforcement and compliance measures taken by officials coupled with a lack of guidance and outreach....

He goes on to say:

There are also many accounts of inconsistency in enforcement, monitoring, and compliance across Canada with different empowered organizations, which led to a confusion and indiscriminate approaches to enforcement and implementation. Even at the individual level, there were different interpretations of the act based on one's familiarity with agriculture.

What Mr. Bonnett was saying was that there were fisheries officers who knew nothing about agriculture, so they came and tried to implement this act, most of them while carrying firearms on their hips, which was very strange in peaceful rural communities, and that simply did not work. Mr. Bonnett went on to say:

It is CFA's position that a complete revert to reinstate all provisions of the Fisheries Act as they were would be unproductive, would re-establish the same problems for farmers, and would provide little improvement in outcome for the protection and improvement of fish habitat.

In terms of our act, Mr. Bonnett stated, “The current streamlined approach is working far better for all and efforts should continue”.

One last point I want to make is that it is really a disgrace that the current government cancelled the recreational conservation fisheries partnerships program, and I am quoting from testimony to the fisheries committee by assistant deputy minister, Kevin Stringer. He said, “Under the recreational fisheries partnerships program, $3.1 million was spent.” This was the first year. There were 74 different organizations that undertook 94 habitat restoration projects. There were 380 partners involved in those projects, 1,700 volunteers donated their time, 2.4 million square metres of habitat restored, and 2,000 linear kilometres of recreational fisheries habitat enhanced.

That is real, on-the-ground conservation, and the government cancelled that program.

Fisheries Act June 12th, 2018

Madam Speaker, I was on the fisheries committee back in 2012 when the changes were made. I helped author them. I was also on the fisheries committee when the Liberal government tore apart extremely good legislation. I have also had the honour of being in the environment field for over 35 years and did pipeline assessments. My colleague is exactly right about how carefully pipelines are made these days.

Just as an aside, I would recommend my colleague get on the fisheries committee, she is so competent in this field.

I was also on the environment committee recently when we looked at Bill C-69, and the horror stories from industry are legendary. Chris Bloomer from the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association said that Canada had a toxic regulatory environment. He talked about pancaking regulation on top of regulation. It is an environmental lawyer's dream. The lawyers are the ones who will to get rich.

Could my colleague talk about the effect of this and other acts on Canada's investment climate?

Business of Supply June 12th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting how socialist parties love to laud and praise dictatorships. The Prime Minister praised China and, indeed, my colleague just now praised China for its renewable energy, but I would point out, according to The Straits Times newspaper in 2017:

But new data on the world’s biggest developers of coal-fired power plants paints a very different picture: China’s energy companies will make up nearly half of the new coal generation expected to go online in the next decade.

These...corporations are building or planning to build more than 700 new coal plants....

My friend conveniently obfuscates when it comes to what the Chinese communist government is doing in terms of environmental protection, which is precious little. In fact, the air quality in China is so bad that it has become a social issue, and I gather there has been social unrest because of it.

Interestingly, the member like to trash Canada. I do not. As someone who has been in the environmental field his entire career, I have seen tremendous improvements in industry, whether it is pulp and paper or oil and gas, both industries I have worked in. In Canada, most environmental indicators are improving quite dramatically and much of that environmental improvement was done under the Conservative government.

Why is it that the NDP hates the private sector and our energy companies so much?

Business of Supply June 12th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, one thing I learned as a biologist is that nothing in life is free; nothing in nature is free.

The government has been a very strong proponent of renewable energy, but has never once looked at the environmental impacts of renewable energy. Every energy source needs to be examined exactly and rigorously.

Here is a report from Nature Canada in 2014. Back in 2014, Canada had 5,500 wind turbines that resulted in 45,000 bird deaths and 10,000 hectares of bird habitat lost. That was in 2014. Nature Canada predicted, since 2014, that there would be a tenfold increase in wind turbines in Canada. That has come to pass. The estimate is 450,000 bird deaths per year, and hundreds of thousands of hectares of bird habitat lost. Some of the species that are suffering mortalities are endangered species, especially the swallows.

In July 2016, there was a report in the London Free Press that talked about bats, 18.5 bat deaths per turbine. In Ontario alone, 42,500 bat mortalities per year, and four of these bat species are on the species at risk list.

The government is not enforcing the Migratory Birds Convention Act against some of these renewable energy projects. Communities and municipalities, especially in Ontario, have voiced extreme opposition to wind turbines. I personally am not a fan of this source of energy.

Why does the government allow this wildlife carnage to occur while at the same time promoting renewable energy and not enforcing Canada's environmental laws?

Impact Assessment Act June 6th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I was on the fisheries committee and the environment committee, where we asked witness after witness if they could detail in quantitative ways how the legislation in 2012 affected the environment. Not a single witness could provide any proof that the changes we made in 2012 had any effect on the environment. As we say back home, the Liberal and NDP comments about our legislation are simply wind and rabbit tracks and nothing else.

I want to ask my colleague how our government improved the economic situation in Canada with our changes to environmental legislation.

Impact Assessment Act June 6th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, as a member of the environment committee who has been involved in the discussion and debate on Bill C-69, I have never been so appalled in my entire life at how bad this particular bill is.

For example, Chris Bloomer, the president of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, likened Canada's regulatory environment to a toxic regulatory environment.

Recently Don Lowry, past president and CEO of Epcor Utilities, wrote a piece in the Edmonton Journal on June 5:

Investor flight from energy sector is a national embarrassment

Over the last few years, a thicket of regulatory approvals and processes, both provincial and federal, have crept into place, effectively suffocating through delay and denial anything getting timely approval.

As someone with an environmental background who has worked in pipeline assessments, I can assure the minister that every single pipeline in Canada is built to the highest environmental standards.

Why is the minister piling unnecessary regulations on the Canadian energy sector and denying Canadians the economic opportunity that they need to build this country?