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View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Geoff Regan Profile
2017-10-16 11:02 [p.14085]
It being 11:02 a.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.
View Mike Bossio Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, let me start by saying how much I enjoyed working with the member for Bow River on the environment committee. Today's motion was derived from a trip that we took out west where we visited an 11,000 acre ranch in Alberta that had 900 head of cattle. It was the epitome of sustainability and conservation in farming today. I commend my colleague for his motion, and I am happy to speak in support of it. I thank him for all of his hard work on this issue, and also for his friendship.
I have a lot of farmers in my rural riding, and along with indigenous peoples, there is no one closer to the land than farmers. Their hard work, 365 days a year, not only provides for their own families, but provides for every family living in cities as well. When one is as close to the land as they are, and when one depends on its bounty as much as they do, it only makes sense to take care of it. Farmers are some of the original environmentalists, in many ways.
Take, for example, Chris Kennedy of Topsy Farms, on Amherst Island in my riding of Hastings-Lennox and Addington. This co-operative family farm has a flock of over 1,100 breeding sheep on the island in Lake Ontario. The family has a deep respect for the environment. They raise their sheep in as natural a way as possible, with no growth hormones, and with no pesticides on their land. They have also helped to create a network of gardeners on Amherst Island to contribute fresh food to shelters and food programs in the area.
Their lands provide habitat for the countless birds and butterflies that use Amherst Island as a stop on their migratory path. They have planted hedgerows and yards that attract these species, and they even have a certificate as a monarch butterfly way station.
Chris also tells me that he has put up about half a mile of fencing to keep the sheep out of Lake Ontario in order to protect the water, and he has received funding under the species at risk program to help him do it.
It is great to see that Frank Derue, a beef farmer in Odessa, is also taking part in a species-at-risk fencing project on his farm through the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association. He let me know that his fencing will limit livestock from accessing Millhaven Creek, which has an abundance of wildlife, including many species of waterfowl and other birds, as well as turtles, snakes, and fish.
Many farming practices are passed down from generation to generation. Topsy Farms tries to follow the lead of those who farmed before it by maintaining wide hedgerows and using selective cutting practices in its woodlot.
I have also spoken to a lot of people in the local woodlot association in my riding. They care about using the most sustainable practices, because they want to pass down the land to the next generation in as good a shape or better than they received it. That is indicative of all farmers today.
Farmers know their land down to the smallest detail. Chris will tell us that the growing abundance of field mushrooms on his land during wet years is showing how the land is slowly increasing in organic matter. That is very good stewardship, since the soil on Amherst Island is very thin.
I am also grateful, when I speak to the farming community, to hear how willing and eager farmers are to do outreach and teach people about the work they do. Topsy Farms is often participating in activities that foster an understanding of the relationship between animals, people, and the land, whether it is hosting schools, 4-H members, or workshops for professors and students from the environmental studies program at Queen's University, which is near my riding. The farm has also contributed produce for traditional medicines made at Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.
These are the kinds of activities that so many of our farmers do because they love the land and they want to teach others about a love of the land as well.
A very good friend of mine, Terry Gervais, has a farm and a large sugar bush operation in the northern part of my riding. He bought the farm in the early eighties. He worked the bush and grazed cattle on the land, which he then brought to his restaurant that he owned in Toronto. His beef became famous throughout the city of Toronto because it was grass fed, naturally fed, and it was very sustainably farmed. He would also bring in a number of school groups, indigenous communities, and 4-H clubs, and have pancake breakfasts. That was purely for the opportunity of educating people on the importance of conservation and modern-day farming practices, which can be developed anywhere in farming communities.
By the way, Topsy Farms will be on the Tougher Than It Looks? show on the Discovery channel later this fall.
I tried my hand at shearing a sheep once at the O'Hara Mill Homestead and Conservation Area in Madoc. It is tougher than it looks, and I was only operating the hand crank on the old-fashioned shears. I can tell members that by the end of about 45 minutes, one is pretty much cooked. I do not know how one does it sheep after sheep. It is remarkable.
Another great example of farmers taking an active role in conservation and stewardship in my riding is Cam Mather. He is an organic farmer at Sunflower Farm in Tamworth. He and his wife have taken things one step further and live completely off the grid. Cam said that he and his wife Michelle used to say that they own 150 acres, but now like to suggest that they are temporary custodians of 150 acres of land. This is the kind of intergenerational point of view that farmers have that fosters their sense of stewardship for the land in passing it on to the next generation.
There is active work being done across my riding by the farming community on conservation and stewardship of the land. In fact, up in Madoc next month, there will be a symposium on caring for the land, organized by The Land Between in partnership with the Hastings Stewardship Council and the Curve Lake First Nation. The non-partisan gathering is meant to share observations of the natural landscape and to give voice to the people and their life on the land. It will bring together farmers, hunters, anglers, beekeepers, gardeners, nature lovers, indigenous peoples, just name it. All stakeholders will be represented at this conference.
These are just a few examples of the countless farmers who are working hard as stewards of the land and conservationists, and there are many more.
I also want to thank Resi Walt. She is the Ontario Federation of Agriculture representative in my region, and she has shared a lot of information with me about the Canada-Ontario environmental farm plan. This plan is an assessment that is voluntarily prepared by family farms to increase their environmental awareness on their farm. It has a workshop process where farmers highlight their farm's environmental strengths, identify areas of concern, and set realistic action plans with timetables to improve environmental conditions. It is important to point out that the idea for environmental farm plans originated from the Ontario farm community itself. Farmers were involved in every stage of developing the plan, through the Ontario Farm Environmental Coalition. This program continues to be delivered to the farm community by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association through funding provided by the growing forward 2 program, which, as we know, is a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.
I am looking forward to seeing the great work that our Minister of Agriculture is doing on the next agricultural policy framework, which the government is supporting in budget 2017. It will help the sector grow sustainably, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, and adapt to climate change. I appreciate the hard work he is doing for farmers across the country.
Madam Speaker, if you will indulge me, I was at the Hastings County Plowing Match and Farm Show again this summer to speak with farmers. It is the biggest and greatest plowing show in eastern Ontario. I want to thank all of the volunteers who launched Farm 911, the Emily project, there. It is a project in memory of Emily Trudeau, which encourages farmers to put 911 signs at all entrances to their farms. I encourage everyone to visit the Farm 911 website for more information, and to get involved in this life-saving project.
View Richard Cannings Profile
NDP (BC)
Madam Speaker, I am happy to speak today on Motion No. 108, which would recognize the contributions of ranchers as stewards of natural landscapes, and would ask the government to establish policies that support and encourage the development of private ranch conservation projects.
I thank the member for Bow River for bringing this forward. It is a subject that is close to my heart, as I worked in conservation biology before entering politics. Much of that work involved ranchlands. I know it is obviously also close to the member for Bow River. His daughter has a hop farm in my riding, in Penticton, so farming runs in their family.
Canada is a big country, with some of the wildest landscapes on earth, vast forests and tundras. As I fly across the country every week or two, I often think of the great song by the Arrogant Worms. Do not worry, as I will not try to sing it. Its chorus is this:
Our mountains are very pointyOur prairies are notThe rest is kinda bumpyBut, man, do we have a lot!
Yes, we have vast forests and tundras. What we do not have a lot of are native grasslands. It is grasslands that I would like to focus on today. Almost all the native grasslands of the Prairies have vanished under the plow and are now wheat, canola, and other valuable crops. The intermontane grasslands of British Columbia, where I live, are even smaller in area, confined to the valley bottoms of the interior. These have also been impacted by development, as grasslands are easily converted to orchards, vineyards, and urban development.
Grasslands are among the most endangered of Canada's ecosystems. They have always been a relatively small part of Canada. Canada's land mass has played an important part in our country's biodiversity. The prairie ecozone only comprises 5% of Canada's area, and only about a quarter of it remains in its natural state. Only about 3.5% of that is under some conservation status. That compares with 10% or so of Canada as a whole that can be considered to be in conservation.
In 2010, most of the world's nations, including Canada, signed on to a strategic plan for biodiversity as part of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. That plan includes 20 targets for 2020, known as the Aichi targets. One of these calls for 17% of terrestrial areas to be conserved through protected areas and other conservation measures. We need to get to 17%. We have 10 or 12% overall, and only 3.5% of grasslands. We have a ways to go to meet those targets.
Grasslands are home to more than their share of endangered wildlife in Canada. We all know the story of the bison, hunted to near extinction in a few short years in the last half of the 19th century. Other animals have vanished as well, including the black-footed ferret. Birds that are tied to our grasslands are also disappearing. Every species of grassland bird in Canada has declined significantly in population over the past 40 years, every one of them. Even the iconic western meadowlark, which is literally the soundtrack of the western grasslands, has lost over half of its population.
Along with the rarity and endangerment of Canada's grasslands, the other big difference between grasslands and other ecozones in Canada is that grasslands are mostly privately owned. Our forests, rivers, lakes, and tundras are almost all publicly owned. Grasslands are mostly in ranches, because ranchers need large areas to graze their cattle to turn grass into beef and historically have bought large tracts of land to do this. Ranchers need that control over their grass because it is an annual resource that must be stewarded wisely to provide continuing forage for their livestock.
To meet those conservation targets for grasslands, or even come close to them, we will have to work in partnership with ranchers. I think we will find good conservation partners in ranchers. Indeed, there is quite a history of ranchland conservation in Canada. Many ranches have been in the hands of the same families for generations. Ranchers know their land. They know how to keep the land healthy and, in doing so, are conserving hundreds of species at risk across this country.
I have worked with a number of ranchers on conservation projects, from the Douglas Lake Ranch, the biggest spread in Canada, with more than 20,000 head of cattle on 150,000 acres of deeded land and 500,000 acres of grazing leases, down to the smaller operations. One of my roles was as a board member of the Nature Conservancy of Canada, or NCC, the largest land conservancy in the country, and one that is always partnering with ranchers to preserve our natural heritage.
NCC has conserved more than a million acres of land across the country. Most of those conservation lands, the biggest area, are in western Canada, where the need to conserve grasslands coincides with that opportunity to work with ranchers. The NCC works with ranchers in several ways. Some ranchers are looking for a way to retire, to recoup the value of their land, while ensuring that the land they have stewarded for years, or even generations, is maintained in its natural state. Ranchers have a very close relationship to their land, and many do not want to see their property divided up into hobby farms or denser housing developments.
Others want to continue ranching while knowing that their land cannot be developed in the future. Lease-back arrangements or covenant sales can cover these options, while providing capital necessary for equipment purchases or other capital improvements.
Many ranchers are looking for ways to pass their operations on to their children to continue the family ranching tradition. We have heard a lot recently about how the government is making it harder for ranchers and farmers to do that.
This motion specifically asks the government to find ways to support ranchers in conservation projects. I am happy to say that the federal government has been doing that for a number of years, and I hope it continues to do so.
I do not often get the opportunity to say good things about the previous Conservative government, but I think this is one time where I have to say they had the right approach in creating the natural areas conservation program. This program partners the federal government with the Nature Conservancy of Canada and landowners across the country, including many ranchers. NCC administers the program, with the participation of Ducks Unlimited Canada and other land trusts.
More than $277 million has been invested by the federal Ministry of Environment over the past six years, a figure that has been matched two to one, with more than $500 million in funds from private donors, landowners, and other non-federal sources. More than one million acres have been conserved by this program. It needs continued long-term funding and ongoing support to make sure it succeeds in its goal to preserve environmentally priceless lands across Canada.
We know what we can accomplish when we set our minds to it. When science told us that DDT was disrupting the food chains of the world and killing off the top predators, we banned it. In the 40 years since we did that, the populations of our falcons, hawks, and eagles have rebounded in spectacular fashion.
When we realized that ducks, geese, and swans were declining dramatically in the 1900s, we tightened up hunting regulations and began to aggressively preserve wetland habitats. Many of those ponds and marshes were on ranches and farms, and were enhanced by the landowners in co-operation with Ducks Unlimited Canada and other agencies. Since then, their populations have essentially completely recovered.
We can really make a difference if we choose to work with farmers and ranchers, but we also have to preserve valuable habitats on crown lands as well. We cannot rely on ranchers to do all that work. The federal government once owned 780,000 acres of PFRA community pastures in Saskatchewan, land that had been protected from development for decades. These are grasslands that were too dry to farm, and almost all were important for grassland conservation while being leased to ranchers for grazing.
The previous government eliminated the PFRA in an omnibus bill in 2012, and those pastures are now being transferred to the Province of Saskatchewan and sold to private interests. To give an idea of the impact on conservation targets, this transfer reduces Saskatchewan's overall percentage of conservation lands from 8.7% to 6.3%, clearly going in the wrong direction to meet the 17% target. There is still time and opportunity for the federal government to take a role in conserving some of these lands, and I would urge it to do so.
I will close now by simply saying that we must support ranchers and farmers in their important role as stewards of the land, conserving some of our most valuable natural landscapes. I am also happy to say that I will obviously be supporting this motion.
View Larry Maguire Profile
CPC (MB)
View Larry Maguire Profile
2017-10-16 11:22 [p.14088]
Madam Speaker, before I begin my remarks, I would like to thank my colleague from Bow River for bringing forward this motion. Far too often, governments at all levels forget that farmers are conservationists in everything they do. I can also say that I do, because that was my background. They work to protect biological life and ecosystems. Without the soil and water to grow their crops and graze their livestock, nothing would be possible. Whether drafting legislation or regulations on environmental policy, we must always include Canadian farmers as part of that conversation. They understand the land and water better than anyone else, and that is why I applaud the member for Bow River and believe this motion is long overdue.
As my father used to say, “If you take care of the land, it will take care of you.” Those are the words that every farmer lives by. Across this great country of ours, there are thousands of ranchers and farmers. From P.E.I. to British Columbia, the agricultural industry is at the very core of Canada's economy. Beef producers in Manitoba, grain producers in Alberta, and apple growers in Ontario all understand that caring for their land is the key to long-term success.
It is imperative to point out that farming is not just an occupation to pay the bills. It is a way of life as well. Unlike many other jobs, there is no such thing as a nine-to-five or Monday-to-Friday job while on the farm. Most of all, farming, in almost every circumstance, is a family affair. During seeding and harvest, calving or haying, everyone has their tasks. They work long hours. They work in whatever conditions that Mother Nature throws at them.
There are many reasons why I am supporting this motion, but, first and foremost, I believe the voices of farmers need to be heard on conservation and environmental policy. I would argue that the current Liberal government has let down farm families in some of those areas. It has stopped listening to the constituents who make a living from working the land. There are many examples of how it has let farmers down, such as its proposed tax hikes that will make it harder to transfer the farm from one generation to another. In fact, it has scheduled its so-called consultations right in the middle of harvest. If the Liberal government thought it was going to quietly hike taxes without anyone noticing, it was obviously wrong.
The Liberals also announced in their budget that they want to completely eliminate cash grain ticket deferrals. The current cash purchase ticket system helps farmers to stabilize income from year to year to ensure the long-term sustainability of their operations. Running a farm is no easy task. It means taking serious financial risks, while dealing with conditions outside of their control, such as weather, market prices, and transportation bottlenecks. Now the Liberals are about to impose a massive carbon tax that will cost farm families thousands of dollars. We know that their national carbon tax will cost over $5.8 billion—just to emphasize, $5.8 billion—per year and the taxes collected will rise to $30 billion by 2022.
The Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food has also put out a memo and predicted farmers will see fuel prices rise by 10% to 20%. That tax will cost farmers up to $3,705 more per year, on average. It is disappointing the government did not stop to think how it could work with Canadian farmers to reduce greenhouse gases. Instead, its knee-jerk reaction was to slap a new tax on them. I think we can all agree that we are starting to see a trend, and that is why this motion is so important. It is time the federal government looked to farmers as full partners in establishing policies that support and encourage the development of private farmland and ranchland conservation projects. Instead, we have a government that looks at them as tax cheats.
While it is probably too late for the Liberal government to regain the trust of farmers, I believe that through the motion, we can begin the process of involving them in the larger discussion of how we can further improve conservation efforts. We already know that most farm operations are working to protect the environment for the next generation and following generations. In Manitoba, many farmers are working with their local conservation districts or have received funds for such things as shelterbelts.
We know that through technology and innovation, farmers are using fewer resources while improving yields and keeping costs down. Many farmers have implemented new ways to reduce soil erosion, such as using no-till practices. That way, they do not disturb the soil until they plant the following spring.
Such things as old cornstalks and wheat chaff are left on top of the soil. This helps conserve the soil by leaving it intact so that it cannot be washed away by water or blown away by wind. The no-till method can produce high-yielding crops in areas of low moisture, due to the soil staying intact. This method can better manage crop-protection products, labour, and time, as well as a large decrease in water usage.
We also know that beef producers are managing their pasture land to ensure sustainable and viable operations for the long term. Producers are using management practices that promote the health of the animal and the environment by protecting water sources and working toward approved forage practices. In my constituency of Brandon—Souris, many beef producers are using land that is unsuitable to grow crops such as wheat, canola, and soybeans. Such land may be too sandy or densely wooded for traditional crops, but that does not mean it does not play a role in the overall ecosystem and the agricultural industry. Instead of tearing down the trees or using massive irrigation systems, beef producers are using the land to graze their cattle. Nevertheless, there is still pressure being placed on converting some grazing land into crop production. There are 5.9 million acres of grassland in Manitoba. This is one-third of the total farmland in the province. We know that compared on a price-per-yield basis, grasslands cannot compete as well with returns on annual crops. While input costs continue to soar and there is a federal government in power that is intending to raise taxes, it is no wonder why some farmers are looking at converting their grasslands into crop production. Through this motion, the federal government can firmly state that beef producers and all farmers are vitally important in conservation efforts.
To expand on the importance of grain and livestock farmers, I would like to highlight a recent University of Manitoba report that estimates the socioeconomic value of grasslands in Manitoba to be $936 million annually, with a range of $702 million to $2.6 billion per year. The report goes on to note that the key to preserving pasture and hay-land resides in recognizing the increasing value of grasslands. Furthermore, the socioeconomic value of grasslands must include the ecological goods and services, in other words, the many benefits grasslands provide to the environment and to society. However, even though it is widely acknowledged that grasslands are worth more than just the value of the forage produced, defining and assigning a dollar value to that worth is complicated.
My good friend to the north, the member of Parliament for Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, has been a strong proponent of an alternate land-use services program that involves working directly with farmers and landowners. I echo his calls, and that is why it is so encouraging to see the new Progressive Conservative Government of Manitoba get behind such a program in which landowners will be paid to retain or reconstruct natural areas such as wetlands and grasslands and repairing areas near rivers. Therefore, instead of the stick approach, such as the Liberal carbon tax, which will only economically hurt our farmers and ranchers, we can use the carrot approach and further enhance what many are already doing. We know that carbon storage is quite high on perennial grasslands. The carbon is stored in the soil and is in the extensive root system of perennials, accumulating over time. When accounting for the total amount of carbon stored in Manitoba grasslands, it is estimated at 250 million tonnes. That is a lot of carbon being taken out of the air, while also providing the necessary pasture land to support beef production.
It is also important to highlight that another report put out by the University of Manitoba found that Canada's beef industry continues to become more efficient. The report stated that beef producers have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 15% in the last 30 years, which means that the same kilogram of beef we get at the grocery store now has a smaller greenhouse gas footprint. Researchers from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Environment Canada also found that there has been a 15% decrease in methane, a 16% decrease in nitrous dioxide, and a 13% decrease in carbon dioxide from beef production in Canada over the last 30 years. Comparing the same time periods, it took 29% fewer cattle in the breeding herd and 24% less land to produce the same amount of beef.
We must also never forget that pasture lands are the home of many species in wildlife. Our beef producers are already working with various wildlife organizations and are having a tremendous positive impact. Another tangible way farmers are improving conservation efforts is by keeping livestock out of streams and rivers. In doing so, they are reducing the amount of nutrients that could potentially end up in the water, like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
In closing—
View Carol Hughes Profile
NDP (ON)
I am sorry, but unfortunately the member has run out of time.
Resuming debate. The hon. member for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex.
View Bev Shipley Profile
CPC (ON)
View Bev Shipley Profile
2017-10-16 11:33 [p.14089]
Madam Speaker, it is always an honour to speak in the House, and particularly today in support of my colleague from Bow River and his Motion No. 108, which reads:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should recognize that the ongoing contribution of ranchers and farmers as stewards of the land and conservationists is part of our history, proudly shared by all Canadians, and should consider establishing policies which would support and encourage the development of private farm and ranch land conservation and restoration projects.
That is quite something. My riding of Lambton—Kent—Middlesex is all about small, family-run businesses, with agriculture being the dominant industry. Though this would likely be disputed, it is maybe one of the richest agricultural areas in Canada, but certainly in Ontario. We are very blessed in this country to have some of the greatest land this world has given us for our farmers and producers. In Canada and in my riding we are very fortunate to have innovation and technology available to our agriculture producers. They are farmers, but they are much more than that. They are innovators. They not only produce food domestically, they are also recognized around the world for producing some of the best, if not the very highest-quality, products we export. Whether it is crops, horticulture, or livestock, because of the standards our agricultural producers follow, we are assured that we produce the best and safest food in the world. When we sell to markets beyond Canada, we are also recognized for that.
I had the opportunity to be involved in CETA and other free trade agreements, but it did not matter what part of the world we were talking about, whether Europe, the Middle East, Central America, or our U.S. friends, because we were recognized by all for doing what we said we were going to do, and for producing the highest-quality product. We have become part of that demand. Why is that? It is because we are diversified in agriculture.
In Canada, we have diversity in agriculture. Not every country has the opportunity to have such agricultural diversity, but we do it environmentally and with a conservation effort that is beyond reproach. This is about the environment and conservation. It has always bothered me that in agriculture we never look back on what we have done. There are those who always tell us what we are not doing, that we are not looking after things right, or that we are not environmentalists in terms of our soil or not looking after our livestock. However, I wish people would take in the full picture and listen to what we have actually accomplished. We look after our soils in many ways.
When I was younger, we plowed the ground, worked it to death, planted seeds and grew a crop. If we grew 65 bushels of corn we did pretty well, if we grew 75 we did really well, and now 200 is actually the target in my area. Why is that? It is because we have adapted. We work with commodity organizations, soil and crop people, and government agencies to adapt conservationist, tillage, and precision planning strategies and to achieve efficiencies in the equipment we use, including fuel efficiencies, and in the specific placement of the seed and fertilizer.
Now they grid the farms and we have equipment showing that on a screen. They use very low amounts of fertilizer, depending on the productivity of the ground. They know how much spray to put on, and variable amounts of pesticide control are used because we can now tell what sort of weeds and infestations are there. The conservation techniques used by our agricultural producers are amazing. Producers do not always use conventional tillage, but use no till, minimum till, and strip tillage.
There are all of these talks about what is being done in agriculture to be be conservationists and environmentalists. How do we show that to Canadians so they recognize the value of this amazing industry in Canada?
If we do not have a car, we do not drive; if we do not have a house, we can live in something else; but if we do not have food, the other things become less important. That is what our agricultural producers do, not only for this part of the country and the countries we export to, but also in terms of Canada's generosity in the products we provide to foreign countries in terms of aid. Even more, it is about the resources and the intelligence we lend to help developing countries so they can be better producers, conservationists, and environmentalists. Quite honestly, it is a gold plate for Canada that we can come alongside some of our developed countries and allies and be able to share that experience with them.
There is a sign on some of our corn fields, which could be 100 or 200 acres in size, that one acre of corn field absorbs eight metric tonnes of greenhouse gases. That is amazing. It will not do that just this year, but also next year and every year. The same happens with the production of our canola, soybeans, and livestock. The changes to improve our environment and soil have been just outstanding.
I want to let everyone know, as I am sure they may understand, that I am here to support this great motion. It is something that I hope the government will take a turn on, so that instead of trying to tax us to death and to set us back, it will come along encourage this great industry so we can continue to be the environmentalists and conservationists we have always been.
View Todd Doherty Profile
CPC (BC)
View Todd Doherty Profile
2017-10-16 11:42 [p.14090]
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to stand and speak to the motion put forward by our hon. colleague from Bow River, M-108. It is important that we always make sure we stand up for the hard-working citizens and community members in our ridings, and Canadians across our country from coast to coast to coast.
During the time I have been afforded to discuss M-108, I want to talk about my riding of Cariboo—Prince George and, indeed, friends and families of my wife and I. We have just come through one of the most devastating summers that members could imagine because of the wildfires and the huge swaths of farming land that have been lost. Our agricultural land and our agricultural industry, as well as our forestry industry, have been devastated by the wildfires.
I salute our hon. colleague for bringing this motion forward. Our Canadian farmers and ranchers are amongst the very best in the world. There is a huge global demand for the products we grow and produce. My area is primarily cattle country, but in terms of Canada's beef production overall, in 2016 alone, $2.3 billion worth of cattle exports went to over 56 countries worldwide. Right now, the U.S. is our number one trading partner for our beef shipments, which speaks to the reasons we should be diversifying those trade lines.
Among the things that our previous government did was to invest in our farmers and ranchers, that is, our agricultural sector, to make sure they were leading the charge in new technology and ways that would make us globally sustainable and attractive. Our products and farmers and ranchers are above anything else. They are leading the way in sustainable practices.
Our farmers and ranchers work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I always say that while their books may show they are earning a lot of money, they are not the ones who spend that money on fancy condos, villas, or vacations. The money they earn gets spent in the communities they live. They are always preparing for the next season.
My family, as well as my wife's family, are long-standing farming families. We know the ups and downs and how trade and cattle prices can make a difference at our Sunday afternoon dinner or how things are going in our everyday finances.
Farming is not a glamorous life, but it truly is an honourable life. Our farmers and farming families care deeply about their communities. They care deeply about our country, our rivers, lakes, and streams. During the 2017 summer wildfires, it was our farmers and ranchers who refused the evacuation orders. They stood tall to fight back the fires. They protected their own properties and their neighbours' properties. Many of them are also logging contractors. They are the ones who know our region and our communities better than anyone else. They know the shortcuts to the next pasture. They know the shortcuts to the next town. It was that local knowledge that saved many properties and, indeed, lives.
I would like to acknowledge, and I have done it time and time again, the efforts of our farmers and our community, which stood tall during the fires we had.
Sometimes they take a hit, as we just saw with the unfair tax proposals put forward a few weeks back. They were going to target our farmers. They were going to target those hard-working families. I have yet to see what these changes look like. I think the announcement has just been made. We should be doing everything in our power to make sure we are celebrating, not punishing, those hard-working farming families.
Our government invested heavily in our agriculture sector during our term, because we knew that this was a competitive area for Canada and an area where Canada can really be on the forefront in terms of technology and new practices.
It is not a glamorous life. It is a very hard life. Our farmers, much like our foresters and our fishers, are the salt of the earth. They are hard working. They never say no. They have a can-do spirit.
One of the challenges they face is that the next generation is not coming along behind them to take over the family farms. In our neck of the woods, we have seen international firms come along. We cannot blame those farmers who do not have the next generation coming behind them. These firms are offering huge sums of money to take over their farms. We have lost a lot of agricultural land because these international groups have come in and have plowed under generations of grazing lands and fields for the purpose of carbon credits offshore.
I first became aware of this in 2015, when I was running for the Conservative nomination and then for this position. It was shameful to see that we lost in excess of 20,000 acres of prime agricultural land in our neck of the woods. It was mowed under and sprayed with incredible amounts of pesticides, with no care whatsoever with respect to adjacent fields and herds. It was all for an offshore company, which makes many brand names. I was shocked to learn that it had purchased this plot of land and had mowed it under, all for offshore carbon credits. That is shameful. I think we have managed to stem the tide of that, but we see a lot of challenges in terms of doing whatever we can to make it easier for the next generation to come into and buy into this honourable profession.
Our farmers and ranchers truly are the conversationists of our land. They know their land better than anyone else. They care for their animals like no other. If members have ever seen a rancher who has lost part of a herd to wolf kills or predator kills and how they grieve and how it bothers them, it is truly moving. Time and again we have people who do not understand the farming life, the ranching life, and the rodeo life who complain about rodeos being rough and animal cruelty. It is a way of life in the Cariboo, and I am proud of it.
I am proud of our families in the Cariboo. I am proud of our ranchers and our farmers right across the country. I will always stand with them and make sure that they know they will get every support and everything they can from me as the member of Parliament for Cariboo—Prince George.
View Earl Dreeshen Profile
CPC (AB)
View Earl Dreeshen Profile
2017-10-16 11:52 [p.14091]
Madam Speaker, I look forward to hearing the closing remarks by the member for Bow River as he brings together the discussions we have heard here this morning. There were great comments from each of the members we heard.
Part of the motion speaks to our part of history, as far as farmers and ranchers are concerned. I just want to tie in some of the experiences my family has had.
My wife's grandfather came to Alberta in 1892 as a surveyor. He looked at some of the land in my part of central Alberta. The key reason he decided in 1903 to bring his family was the water. That was a key component of what he needed to have to ensure that he could be a good farmer and rancher. At that time, it was true horsepower people were looking at. They had draft horses and range horses. All these things were important to the community and to what was taking place, but water was the key component.
My family came up from the United States in 1903 to the same community. My wife and I lived only about a mile and a half apart. This was a community that looked at farming and at all the things that were important, and again, it was community and it was water. We ourselves have over 100 years of being in that community. When we look at the land we have, when we look at the way it has been managed as far as both farmers and ranchers are concerned, we have done some amazing things. It is important that we recognize the great work being done by farmers and ranchers in our communities.
The other thing that is important, and it was mentioned earlier, is the technology being used at this time. In the next month, we are going to have Agri-Trade in Red Deer, which is a massive gathering of farmers, ranchers, and business people who are looking at the way new technology will help our industry. It will help our industry in such a way that we will have less of a carbon footprint. It is the type of thing people talk about, but there is not recognition of the great work done in the agricultural industry. These are the sorts of things we are going to see there.
I taught school for 34 years to support my farming habit, and many people have done the same type of thing. Because of that, I have a great affinity for the things we are speaking about today.
Conservation is important. We also need to look at new farmers who are going to be coming in. I have had the pleasure, over the last nine years, of attending Outstanding Young Farmers presentations, not only in Alberta but also nationally, to look at the amazing things young people are doing. I am proud of that work. I am proud of the types of things we see and the technology that is there.
Again, there is the whole concept of water. I suppose that is one of the reasons people who live on the land get a little concerned when they see those who live in cities taking a run at them, while they are dumping their sewage and everything into the rivers, the lakes, and the oceans. As farmers, we are trying to make sure that we are putting fences around so that those things do not happen, yet we listen to others who feel that they can lecture us.
I look forward to the member for Bow River being able to bring this all together.
View Martin Shields Profile
CPC (AB)
View Martin Shields Profile
2017-10-16 11:57 [p.14092]
Madam Speaker, it was an honour to listen to my colleagues speak in the House. The member for Hastings—Lennox and Addington said that the best lessons the environment committee learned were from standing on the land with ranchers and farmers for two hours as they explained how it really works. That is the best kind of knowledge one can get. He referred to activities in his riding, where people go out to see farms and ranches. In Alberta, there are Alberta Open Farm Days, where people open up their agricultural operations and encourage people from urban centres to come and see them. Inviting urban people to see where their food comes from is a great program.
The member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay talked about conservation. We have a target of 17%. There are a tremendous number of ranchers and farmers, led by companies and organizations like Ducks Unlimited, that put land into conservation so that it will only be used for what it has been used for, but those lands are not accounted for under our chief targets. They need to be credited, because these farmers and ranchers are making conservation efforts. That needs to be part of the inventory to meet that target.
The member for Brandon—Souris talked about efficiencies. I remember being on a combine with a 14-foot header in the past, but this summer I was on one with a 40-foot header. The less fuel they use, the less greenhouse gas is produced when they go from a 14-foot to a 40-foot header. The efficiency is incredible. Efficiency in the agricultural sector has greatly increased.
My colleague from Lambton—Kent—Middlesex talked about a number of things led by agricultural people, such as the code of practice that feedlot operators produced in southern Alberta, which is now a keystone all over the world. Feedlot operators, given the opportunity to partner, produced a code of practice that is outstanding in the world. As my friend from Cariboo—Prince George said, farmers and ranchers really care about it. It reminds me of the 4Rs of fertilizer: use the right source, at the right rate, at the right time, at the right place. Farmers and ranchers are using this. Instead of fertilizers being put into lost production, agricultural people know how to do that and appreciate it.
My friend and neighbour to the north, the member for Red Deer—Mountain View, talked about water being such an incredible factor in agriculture and how farmers and ranchers have changed their practices to protect the water. The four largest irrigation districts are in my riding. The amount of acreage has increased, but they have not increased water usage due to the efficient use of water. It is phenomenal.
With that said, I encourage all my hon. colleagues to join me in recognizing farmers and ranchers and their legacy of environmental conservation and stewardship of the land.
View Carol Hughes Profile
NDP (ON)
The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: No.
The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Carol Hughes): All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
Some hon. members: Yea.
The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Carol Hughes): All those opposed will please say nay.
Some hon. members: Nay.
The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Carol Hughes): In my opinion the yeas have it.
And five or more members having risen:
The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Carol Hughes): Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, October 18, 2017, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.
View Robert Sopuck Profile
CPC (MB)
Madam Speaker, I want to compliment the member for Bow River on his motion. I was happy to second it. The speech I am about to give relates quite closely to the wonderful motion he has introduced.
I am pleased to rise in the chamber to speak to Bill C-55, an act to amend the Oceans Act and Canada Petroleum Act. Essentially, the proposed bill will allow the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard to designate interim marine protected areas for five years while the government consults and studies whether the MPA should be permanent.
The Liberal government arrogance knows no bounds, given that the fisheries committee was charged with studying this very topic, and is in the middle of its study. However, the government is going ahead without the benefit of advice from the fisheries committee. I had the honour of sitting on the fisheries committee for nearly seven years. It does great work. People from all parties get together to conserve our fisheries resources and provide good advice, yet the government chooses to go ahead without the benefit of that advice.
Before I get into debating the merits of whether the bill will achieve its desired results, all of us believe in the protection of our coastal waters, and we have a deep connection with the environment. In my own career as a fisheries biologist, I have been involved with environmental conservation for 35-plus years.
When it comes to the preservation of parkland and the protection of our oceans, our Conservative government made giant steps to reconcile the divide between what was best for the environment and the people who lived there and used it. I would again refer to the previous motion. People who live on the land are the best conservationists. People who use our waterways and catch our fish care more about the environment and conservation than just about anyone else.
Our government took consultation seriously and strived to ensure everyone had a say. In 2009, Parliament unanimously passed legislation resulting in a sixfold expansion of the Nahanni National Park Reserve, bringing the park to 30,000 square kilometres in size. A year later, after a parliamentary review, the Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site became the first marine protected area to be scheduled under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act, which was another great project of our Conservative government.
In a global first, this new marine protected area, along with the existing Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site, to this very day protects the connecting area that extends from alpine mountaintops right down to the bottom of the ocean floor, a rich temperate rainforest and its adjoining marine ecosystem that is now protected for the benefit of future generations. All of this was accomplished as we worked hand in hand with the local communities that were most affected by this. That is the proper way to establish a marine conservation area.
It is important to note that our government not only worked to protect large or remote natural areas such as Nahanni, Gwaii Haanas, and Sable Island. We also worked to protect the endangered habitat and species, and to conserve some of the last remaining natural areas in more developed settings.
I am extremely proud of our Conservative government's track record when it comes to the environment. We were about action, about making the necessary changes for the betterment of all of our citizens. On our watch as a Conservative government nearly every environmental indicator in our country improved. From sulphur dioxide emissions, nitrous oxide emissions, etc., and the amount of land protected, nearly every environmental indicator improved.
A large part of our tremendous environmental track record was under the national conservation plan that Prime Minister Harper announced a few years ago, which unfortunately the current government is letting slip away. Under the NCP, we had the natural areas conservation program, which conserved 800,000 acres of highly-valued conservation land in Canada's developed areas.
One program I was especially proud of was the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program. In that program, our government partnered with the angling community and the recreational fishing community. About four million Canadians love to angle. We worked with these fisheries groups to fund about 800 projects to improve fisheries habitat right across the country. Unfortunately, this program is sunsetting under the Liberal government. It is a travesty that we are losing the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program, and all the expertise and enthusiasm the angling community has generated. We did work on invasive species. We did important work in toxic site remediation. Randle Reef in Hamilton harbour comes to mind.
We streamlined and made a more efficient project review process without harming the environment in any way. We streamlined the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. We rewrote the Fisheries Act. None of this had any negative impact on the environment, but served to promote and encourage natural resource development.
The Liberals and the Conservatives are very different when it comes to environmental policy. The Liberals and the New Democrats, their fellow travellers on the left, are all about environmental process. The Conservatives are about environmental results. The two are very different.
Getting more specific about marine protected areas, they are a very challenging program to implement. It is much easier to implement protection in terrestrial areas such as our national parks, wildlife management areas, and so on. It is easy to say “protected” when we talk about marine protected areas, but from what? In terms of MPAs, the devil is always in the details.
Let us just visualize what a marine protected area would look like. Visualize the water column, which is a three dimensional slice of the ocean. We look at the surface, the water itself, the volume of water underneath that surface area, and the bottom, the benthic area where the benthic organisms live. Fish migrate through this water column at different times of year. Tides change the currents on a daily basis. The challenges with MPAs actually are much greater than the challenges with terrestrial areas. There are a multitude of activities in that water column, for example, human activity, ships going over the top of the water and recreational fishing. Marine protected areas are quite difficult. It is very important the government gets this right. If it does not, human activity will be disrupted, with very little improvement on the environment.
That is why I find this a bit difficult to support. One one hand, the Liberals say that they will consult with provincial governments and interested and affected stakeholders, yet time and time again witnesses at the fisheries committee testified that these consultations were not taking place. When they did take place, they were sorely lacking.
Leonard LeBlanc, the managing director of the Gulf of Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board, said:
The process DFO used to approach harvester associations and consult on the areas of interest for designation was unorganized and totally not transparent. This consultation process on the area of interest for MPA designation in the Cape Breton Trough perpetuated the lack of trust between industry and DFO. The lack of inclusion and answers during the consultation phase, the lack of [any] real scientific evidence for reasoning behind the area of interest, and the lack of guarantees that traditional fisheries could continue all led to further distrust of DFO's consultation...
Ian MacPherson, the executive director of the Prince Edward Island Fishermen's Association, said:
...we have concerns surrounding the tight timelines to accomplish these goals. Prince Edward Island is a small province driven by small fishing communities. The displacement of fishers from one community to another as a result of an MPA would shift the economics of the island.
A gentleman named Jordan Nickerson has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in a crab fishery. He talked about how well it was going. He said:
Our crab was landed in pristine quality...As a company, we were...relieved, as it looked as though we might actually achieve our dream and see a possible return on investment [but the MPA program has hit]...we were all too quickly familiarized with the concept of MPAs...and marine conservation targets, by DFO and the Government of Canada. Abruptly, our access to...fishing grounds was being called into question, thereby adding more complexity to an already strenuous situation.
Mr. Nickerson went on to say:
Canada should be a leader in listening to its people and taking the time to listen and spend the money and do the proper science before coming to a huge decision such as establishing...MPAs supposedly based on science. These decisions will take time, but they should be Canadian decisions based on Canadian timelines, not offhand commitments made to international arenas void of any voices of those who will be impacted most and who are most informed...We should all understand the importance of saving and protecting the environment; however, environmental groups don't depend on the fishery to put food on the table and tax dollars to work. They are using their campaigns to maintain their future funding strings and their own future.
Christina Burridge, executive director of the BC Seafood Alliance, said:
On the west coast, we're not seeing a lot of evidence-based decision-making. It's beginning to look like political decision-making....
Closing large areas to fishing off the west coast does little for biodiversity, little for conservation, little for the men and women up and down the coast who work in our sector and who are middle class or aspire to [be] middle class and little for the health of [citizens], who deserve access to local, sustainable seafood.
Jim McIsaac, the managing director of the BC Commercial Fishing Caucus, said:
We need to engage stakeholders from the start, not bring stakeholders along at the end. We have to set outcome objectives, and the process should fit the objectives.
On and on, throughout the hearings, stakeholders, people who live and work on the sea, complained bitterly about the lack of consultation and, quite frankly, the lack of science.
Sean Cox, a professor of fisheries from Simon Fraser University, said:
Looking at some of the previous testimony, there was a claim that there was overwhelming scientific proof that MPAs are beneficial and widely successful. I think that was misrepresentation of the actual science.
Callum Roberts said, “If you want to build on a process of trust and goodwill, you don't then ignore what your stakeholders say and consult on only a minority of the protected areas that were being recommended” or we will end up without “a network of protected areas.“
Chris Sporer, the executive manager for the Pacific Halibut Management Association, said, “The MPA process needs to take into consideration and evaluate the ecological consequences of displacing fishing effort.”
Mr. Sporer talked at length about the fact that halibut fishing would be much more difficult and perhaps threaten non-target species if they were, “kicked out” of some of the prime halibut fishing areas.
Again, unfortunately for those making a living off of the ocean, the Liberal government has a pattern of broken promises and has continually put its own partisan interests above what is best for its citizens. To be honest, it makes me question why the Liberals are pushing the bill so hard. Could it be they are merely trying to appease the international community to score points for a much-touted Security Council bid?
With respect to the bungling by the current government in managing our environment and resources, nothing quite comes close to the bungling that happened on the energy east project. I am going to quote from an article by Dennis McConaghy, a former TransCanada Pipeline employee who designed pipelines. The title of the article is “I helped plan Energy East, and I know the government's excuses are bunk”, a very telling statement by a person who was on the ground. The article stated:
The vast majority of the $1 billion in Energy East development costs went to pursuing regulatory approval....Since TransCanada first filed with the National Energy Board in late 2014, the project has had to cope with litany of regulatory dysfunctions.
This may not seem related to MPAs, but it is all part and parcel of the government's approach to local communities, economic development, and our natural resources industries. He went on to say:
...regulatory dysfunctions ranging from protracted information requests beyond the initial filing, recusal of the original NEB panel to be replaced by a panel of limited pertinent regulatory experience, failure to use the existing regulatory record prior to the recusal, inadequate security arrangements for attempted public hearings and, worst of all, the recent decision to “re-scope” the issues to be addressed in the hearing itself.
From when TransCanada first conceived this project internally in late 2011, accumulated development costs have exceeded $1 billion, the vast majority relating to the pursuit of regulatory approval. No private sector entity would ever have expended such a vast amount of capital seeking regulatory approval if it had known the dimension of the regulatory and political risk....
The last straw was the re-scoping decision taken by the current NEB panel, and supported by the [Liberal] government. This decision concerned whether carbon emissions generated by the production process of the oil to be moved by Energy East were consistent or not with Ottawa’s carbon policy. To be clear, these are not emissions generated by the Energy East pipeline directly, but are emissions TransCanada is not responsible for....
Over the past week, the Trudeau government has offered various sophistries to obfuscate the basic point that it bears culpability for a dysfunctional regulatory system and its failure to clarify basic elements of Canadian carbon policy. Lamest of all is the government invoking changed commodity-price conditions
—as the natural resources minister always does—
as the cause for Energy East’s demise, while it proudly points out that Trans Mountain and Keystone XL are still alive, despite these projects facing the same commodity-price environment.
Again, the dysfunctionality, I think I may have coined a new word here, of the government when it comes to regulatory affairs, managing our natural environment, and consulting with local people, is clearly abysmal. I would like to go back to Mr. Jordan Nickerson, who has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in his small business. Just as he is about to show some success, his fear is that his access to his fishing-grounds will be compromised. Not only that, there is the small business tax program coming down upon him.
Of course, we were all treated to the excuses by the finance minister in not disclosing the fact that he owned a French villa. Having what he has, I would definitely excuse him from that. As well, there was his use of the phrase that it was caused by “early administrative confusion”. Should any of us ever be audited by the CRA, because the finance minister used that excuse, we could state the same excuse of “early administrative confusion”. We can say we have the finance minister's backing on that. I can see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries. I am not going to say he agrees, but I think he is enjoying this particular example.
The small business tax will make life harder for fishing families like Mr. Nickerson's. Throw in the MPA designation, throw in a potential carbon tax, and one wonders why somebody would ever take that risk, hundreds of thousands of dollars to set up a fishery in this risky environment created by the current Liberal government with its dysfunctional regulatory approach.
Again, we are concerned that this is another tax grab and a way to thwart the ambitions of people like Mr. Nickerson. We know that Liberal tax hikes are making it more difficult for entrepreneurs like Mr. Nickerson to maintain and grow their businesses. The previous Conservative government created a low-tax competitive business environment that drove investment and created hundreds and thousands of private sector jobs. In terms of the Liberals' small business tax proposals, Jack Mintz from the University of Calgary, said, “This is just one more way to discourage entrepreneurship, on top of all the tax increases in the past two years.”
Kim Moody, the director of the Canadian tax advisory at Moodys Gartner stated:
What the government will do here is stifle entrepreneurs who have been the backbone of Canada's growth … and all in a 75-day consultation period, held mainly over the summer, when everyone, including the government bureaucrats supposedly listening, are on holiday.”
It is my hope that we can work together on the issue of MPAs and that the government will listen to the members of the fisheries committee, and to local communities. As I said, I have been involved with fisheries conservation for many years and natural resource conservation, and I sat on the fisheries committee for nearly seven years. The conservation of Canada's natural resources is of paramount importance. It is vital that the government listen to the people who are on the land.
I am constantly astonished. I have the honour of representing Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa. In my riding, I have commercial fishermen, farmers, ranchers, trappers, tourist operators, hunters, and anglers. My particular constituency could be considered a model of natural resources development with people working in harmony with their environments. I have the honour of owning a little 480-acre farm south of Riding Mountain National Park. The biodiversity in my region is truly phenomenal. It is maintained by people on the land.
To conclude, it is very important that the government listen to people who commercially and recreationally fish. It is critical that they get the MPA program right.
View Terry Beech Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Terry Beech Profile
2017-10-16 12:22 [p.14095]
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his seven years of work on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans and for getting me up to speed when I became the parliamentary secretary. I can assure the member that, despite the fact that he has gone on to a new committee, his presence is still felt. I speak on behalf of the entire committee when I say that.
The message I get from Canadians across the country is that they are counting on us to protect our oceans. I have just returned from a three-day Southern Resident Killer Whale symposium with scientists and experts from across the country and the United States who are talking about how our green ecosystems are being affected at rates far faster than we ever expected.
When it comes to the amendment on interim protection, within the first 24 months when we know there have been some initial science and initial consultations, we realize there is some level of biodiversity that is at risk. The member opposite must agree that the precautionary principle tells us, and this amendment is in lockstep with the principle, that we must take action.
I imagine there must be a circumstance where the member opposite would agree with that statement and I would like his comments and reflection on that point.
View Robert Sopuck Profile
CPC (MB)
Madam Speaker, it is always tempting when a government member asks a question to get aggressive, tough, and snarly, but with the kind words from the parliamentary secretary, even for me that will be extremely difficult. I want to thank him for his very kind words and for the many conversations we had about fisheries conservation.
As someone who has spent his entire career in natural resources conservation, nothing could be more important. As a member of Parliament for a rural natural resource area, it is absolutely critical that the needs of local people, local residents and the natural resources community be taken into account when MPAs or any other conservation programs are put in place. When we do that, we will get way better conservation.
View Todd Doherty Profile
CPC (BC)
View Todd Doherty Profile
2017-10-16 12:25 [p.14096]
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for the efforts we have seen for the past seven years on our fisheries committee. I will echo the parliamentary secretary's comments that the impact our hon. colleague has had on the committee in the past will carry on in the future. He is indeed one of our leaders in this area within our caucus.
Bill C-55 gives the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, and the Minister of Natural Resources the ministerial power to immediately designate a marine protected area without consultation. At the heart of this, it is about protecting our waterways, oceans and no one is debating that we want to make sure we are doing everything to protect our oceans. It is misleading when the parliamentary secretary says that perhaps we do not feel the same. It is our previous government's targets that the government is trying to fast-track, but consultation has to be met.
I know the member touched on this in his presentation, but would he agree that giving complete ministerial oversight in terms of powers to designate an MPA without consultation causes concern?
View Robert Sopuck Profile
CPC (MB)
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for Cariboo—Prince George for those kind words. I certainly enjoyed my time on the fisheries committee and if they will have me back, I will visit from time to time.
The issue about MPAs is getting it right. When I describe what the water column in an ocean is, there are a multitude of activities. When we write a law, we proscribe certain activities that are allowed or not. Let us say we want to protect the sponge reefs off the B.C. coast. How would ocean shipping a few hundred metres above those sponge reefs affect the benthic invertebrates? It simply cannot.
We heard at the fisheries committees about the interests from the shipping industry, fishermen's groups, recreational fishing groups, and so on, and about the complexities of setting up MPAs and that if we do not do it right, we will cause more harm than good. I will go back to Mr. Nickerson, who has put hundreds of thousands of dollars of investment in his crab fishery. He is terribly worried about his access to fishing-grounds. What does that mean in terms of his employees, bank loans, and all those kinds of things? The risks he takes are enormous and government should help people like him and not hinder them.
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