Skip to main content

ENVI Committee Meeting

Notices of Meeting include information about the subject matter to be examined by the committee and date, time and place of the meeting, as well as a list of any witnesses scheduled to appear. The Evidence is the edited and revised transcript of what is said before a committee. The Minutes of Proceedings are the official record of the business conducted by the committee at a sitting.

For an advanced search, use Publication Search tool.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the accessibility of this publication, please contact us at accessible@parl.gc.ca.

Previous day publication Next day publication

STANDING COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

COMITÉ PERMANENT DE L'ENVIRONNEMENT ET DU DÉVELOPPEMENT DURABLE

EVIDENCE

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Wednesday, September 20, 2000

• 1541

[English]

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan (York North, Lib.)): I'd like to call the committee to order. We have a quorum for witnesses. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we are resuming consideration of issues pertaining to the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada with respect to Bill C-33, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada, in accordance with the order adopted by the committee on June 15.

Today we have witnesses from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans: Dr. John Davis, who is the assistant deputy minister for science; and Howard Powles, who is the director of fisheries research branch, fisheries and oceans science directorate.

We'll hear a presentation from you, Dr. Davis, with the materials you have brought before the committee, and then we'll begin the first round of questions, five minutes each, starting with the opposition. Thank you very much. Perhaps you would like to start.

Dr. John Davis (Assistant Deputy Minister, Science, Fisheries and Oceans Canada): Thank you, Madam Chairperson and members of the standing committee. I'm pleased to be here today to offer DFO's perspective on Bill C-33, the proposed Species at Risk Act, or SARA.

[Editor's Note: Inaudible]

An hon. member: ...as a result of yesterday's point of order.

Dr. John Davis: Madam Chair, I'm going to refer to it as the proposed bill. That's the way we've structured this as a result of yesterday's intervention.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Very good.

Mr. John Herron (Fundy—Royal, PC): Madam Chair, I have a point of order. I'm feeling a little more cooperative on this aspect today, but if he goes into the contents of the bill, it is against the motion. But I have no problem with it for today.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Mr. Herron, if we get to the point where there's any question, I'll ask our clerk to give us a reading on that. Thank you so much for being helpful and cooperative today.

Mr. John Herron: You're very welcome, Madam Chair.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Dr. Davis.

Dr. John Davis: I'll try my best, Madam Chairperson.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): I'm sure you will give us your best.

Dr. John Davis: I understand that we are not to address specific provisions of the bill presently before the House but we can discuss and answers queries about general aspects of the bill.

As the department responsible for conservation of all aquatic species in Canada, DFO supports the protection and recovery of species at risk. In many ways, the proposed SARA would be a logical extension of our already strong commitment to conserve aquatic species, a commitment spelled out in other important federal legislation such as the Fisheries Act and the Oceans Act.

Over the past two years, we've worked with Environment Canada, Parks Canada, other federal departments, other governments, and a wide range of stakeholders to develop and refine the proposed legislation. We've been involved in consultations with numerous interests, including first nations, environmental groups, other governments, industry, and NGOs, on how best to implement it.

We've heard from many key DFO stakeholders, and their views helped shape the legislation as it progressed. While we recognize that not all the issues raised can be accommodated in the proposed act, we feel the text of the legislation as it is now gives us the balanced approach that we need.

Throughout the bill's development, we upheld three priorities that we felt were essential to make it work and that would meet our needs and goals as a department. In our view, Bill C-33 had to, first, recognize the leading role of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans for aquatic species under federal jurisdiction; second, be written so that its provisions could be effectively administered; and third, ensure that sustainable fisheries and aquaculture can proceed as long as they do not put species at risk. Madam Chairperson and members of the standing committee, the proposed Bill C-33 meets these requirements.

• 1545

First of all is the role of the minister. Under the proposed SARA, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans would be designated as the responsible federal minister for aquatic species, and SARA would make the designation very effective by giving DFO significant new responsibilities in many ways: species monitoring and assessment; enforcement powers; preparation and implementation of recovery plans; and a range of other activities, such as mandatory investigations and public information initiatives.

Currently, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, COSEWIC, has designated six endangered and five threatened species and discrete populations of marine mammals. These include the Atlantic right whale, the Arctic bowhead whale, certain populations of beluga whales, and the resident population of Pacific killer whales on Canada's west coast. In inland waters, the committee has designated three endangered and eighteen threatened species of fish populations. Other listed endangered and threatened species under our responsibility include the leatherback turtle and the northern abalone.

Under the proposed act, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans would participate in the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council, joining other federal and provincial ministers responsible for wildlife, and the department would continue consulting with its many stakeholders, including governments, industry, NGOs, and first nations, to gauge their priorities and concerns regarding Canadian species at risk.

[Translation]

Because this legislation has significant implications for three federal departments and affects a range of others, strong interdepartmental organization and coordination is also key.

That is why we have joined our colleagues in Environment Canada and Heritage Canada in developing a Cooperative Management Framework for the Act. This cooperative approach will prove to be invaluable as we make critical decisions about protecting species at risk.

[English]

Indeed, consultation and collaboration at all levels must be the very heart of this work. The cooperative approach that was used to develop the act must also, by extension, play an important role in implementing it.

Our second priority throughout the bill's development has been quite simply its workability. The proposed bill does appear to be workable as written.

As I mentioned, DFO would have significant new responsibilities under this act, and we've prioritized our approach to ensure that we're able to meet our obligations under the legislation. For us, this means identifying the most critical issues, the species, and the populations and doing as thorough a job as possible on these top priority items. Fiscal prudence dictates that we take a balanced approach and deal with each issue or species on a prioritized case-by-case basis. We need to select those areas that need our attention most.

Another challenge will be to deal with the inland fisheries arrangements that exist in some provinces. Generally, under Canada's Constitution and the Fisheries Act, the federal government is responsible for conserving all species in commercial, recreational, or subsistence fisheries, but in some provinces agreements are in place that allow them to manage inland fisheries on the federal government's behalf. We need to work with the provinces to ensure that the roles and responsibilities for protecting endangered freshwater fish are clear and consistent with existing jurisdictional arrangements. In keeping with the wide range of cooperative arrangements provided under proposed Bill C-33, we're now working closely with the provinces to develop the cooperative mechanisms we need to ensure that freshwater species receive the protection they need.

Our third priority in developing the act was to ensure that sustainable fisheries and aquaculture can proceed as long as they do not put the species at risk. Conservation is the paramount priority of our fisheries management strategy. We want to ensure that the fisheries we manage are not put at risk.

• 1550

If species are found to be at risk, as we've seen recently with Pacific coho and some Atlantic groundfish stocks, the Fisheries Act authorizes us to implement management measures to ensure that these species do not decline further. For instance, we have the authority to limit or shut down a particular fishery if it poses significant adverse impacts on marine species at risk, and we've exercised this authority. Since 1998, for instance, DFO has closed or restricted certain Pacific salmon fisheries because of the by-catch risks posed to endangered coho stocks.

Therefore, we see SARA's species protection and recovery provisions as being complementary to our existing authority. They represent a strong additional tool that can help us to better meet our conservation responsibilities.

SARA's proposed critical habitat provisions also would complement the fish habitat protection powers given to us under the Fisheries Act. With the proposed SARA, the minister's ability under the Fisheries Act to authorize the alteration of fish habitat in the case of bridge construction, for instance, would be understandably limited if that habitat was found to be critical to species at risk. So there is a limitation on the minister's habitat powers posed by this.

The importance of science: To make decisions like these, the federal government has always relied on sound scientific advice. Under SARA as proposed, we would do the same.

DFO supports a broad-based, transparent scientific advisory process to assess whether a species is at risk and to make recommendations to ministers. We're working closely with Environment Canada and COSEWIC to develop the rigorous, consistent, and transparent scientific processes needed. For instance, our departmental processes for the scientific review of stock assessment, through which recommendations to the minister are made, now include participation by both academic and industry experts. DFO is committed to publishing the results of these assessments rapidly and in easily available formats, and we believe COSEWIC should follow the same principles of transparency, inclusiveness, and rigour in their assessments as we are demonstrating.

In conclusion, Madam Chairperson and committee members, DFO has worked with our federal partners, the provinces, and non-governmental organizations to ensure that the proposed Bill C-33 takes a balanced approach to a wide range of concerns expressed.

The aim of the proposed Species at Risk Act is to ensure that these species do not disappear. In our day-to-day work, DFO is already taking measures to ensure the protection and recovery of threatened marine species, but this proposed new act provides the extra measure of authority and clear federal guidelines we need to ensure the long-time survival of those species that are critically at low abundance levels in Canada.

Madam Chair and members of the standing committee, that concludes my remarks. I thank you for the opportunity to speak before you today. Merci beaucoup.

Joining me is Howard Powles, DFO's director of fisheries research. We'll be pleased to answer any questions you may have.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you very much.

Mr. Jaffer, Madame Girard-Bujold, Mr. Herron, and Mr. Stoffer.

Mr. Rahim Jaffer (Edmonton—Strathcona, Canadian Alliance): Thank you.

Thank you for your presentation.

I was reading over your brief and listening to you make your presentation, and one of the things you said regarding the role of the minister was that, first of all, under SARA, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is designated as the responsible federal minister for aquatic species. One of the recommendations—and I wanted your opinion on this—made in a submission from the Fisheries Council of Canada was that in order to give the Minister of the Environment not necessarily added powers but the ability, especially within the area of aquatic species, to have a stronger handle on the situation, they suggested a change, and they put it into their particular submission, where they recommend that the wording after “consultation” be amended to read “with the concurrence of the Minister”.

I'm just wondering if that's something you in DFO would be in support of, in strengthening especially the position of the minister with regard to aquatic species.

Dr. John Davis: Thank you, sir.

We see the provisions that provide for several competent ministers as being very important in terms of the responsibilities that each of the ministers holds. In this case, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has the responsibility for the aquatic species, as I described in the presentation.

• 1555

Not only in Canada but globally, we are very much working towards an ecosystem approach that considers all of the various aspects of the ecosystem. It's very important for the jurisdiction of the minister where he or she has responsibility over a number of species that he or she be able to deal with a full variety of species within that ecosystem approach.

I think the move to have perhaps a single minister responsible would pose significant difficulties in terms of the overall responsibility of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans because of that ecosystem concept, because of the very close relationships among the minister, the minister's clients, and all the various fisheries, and because of the necessity of making sure that the fisheries plan considers the interactions among the different species. So in effect it's appropriate in our minds that the minister be designated a “competent minister”, as proposed in the legislation.

Mr. Rahim Jaffer: The other thing with regard to that, which sparks some interest in my mind, is the case we have currently at Burnt Church, or the cases in which there are disputes that will maybe in future cause problems, almost, in some cases of aquatic species, by causing more endangered species if harvesting continues.

In this particular case, because of this particular change I referred to, I was wondering whether or not, in the opinion of the Department of Fisheries, it would seem viable to almost entrench the strength of the Minister of the Environment to be able step in and actually do something proactive when it comes to protecting species, even though there are other arrangements made under the Department of Fisheries. I'm just curious as to what your opinion would be in relation to that, as to whether there would be anything useful on that matter.

Dr. John Davis: In the case of disputes, I think it might be helpful to have several ministers who could act; certainly one would look at the respective jurisdiction of each in the case.

As you know, from our perspective, fisheries is a very complex and very diverse file, and it would be appropriate that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans have control over that. Also, to be able to work on the protection of species with the minister's colleague, the Minister of the Environment, is very important, just as it is, I think, to have a good, sound working relationship in the federal-provincial context, where there may indeed be issues on which we have to work in close collaboration with a provincial minister on some of these sorts of issues.

Mr. Rahim Jaffer: Finally, in general when it comes to fish being harvested commercially, to basic fishing, patterns have been changed. Often we've seen commercial fishing being further restricted, to almost a ban on some forms of fishing, for salmon in particular. I wonder if the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in particular has a recovery plan or proposal for the federal government that they believe can be implemented successfully under the proposed endangered species legislation.

Dr. John Davis: Under this proposed legislation, for species that are designated certainly we would be very active in developing recovery plans. We would do this in consultation with appropriate stakeholder groups, with the key players that really have something to contribute. We'd be very active in this area.

We're already making progress, for example, on the right whale. As you've probably heard, the right whale is in very low numbers on the east coast. We have already worked with a number of groups to prepare a recovery plan for the right whale. That even transcends international boundaries in the sense that we're working very closely as well with our colleagues in the United States who share the distribution of this species.

So for each of these cases, it would be incumbent on the department to develop the recovery plans and to move forward in that manner.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you very much.

[Translation]

Ms. Girard-Bujold.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold (Jonquière, BQ): Madam Chair, you know the position of the Bloc Québécois. We say that this bill will in some cases overlap provincial legislation. Six Canadian provinces already have passed laws to protect endangered species. There has even been a meeting of federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for wildlife management in 1996. They said at the time that they would agree to the Accord for the Protection of Species at risk in Canada.

We cannot discuss this bill because it has not yet reached second-reading, but what would be its advantages? Have they decided to enact the accord? They have already tabled a bill and expressed their desire to protect endangered species... If the federal government legislates to overview what provinces are doing, what effect would it have on species at risk?

• 1600

Let us not forget that in this bill, the federal government does not take into consideration what the provinces are already doing. Nowhere in that bill does the government say that it will consult the provinces and tell them that they have done a lot of work and that they will get financial support and federal cooperation to be able to move forward. I did not find anything to that effect in this bill. I rather feel that the federal government is trying to control everything pertaining to species at risk, beyond the existing list and everything you said.

You must be able to say that three departments have been working together to come up with a good piece of legislation. I think that you will have to go back to the drawing board. The three departments involved will have to do their homework. They need to show more respect for provincial governments and an attitude of co- operation.

Thank you.

[English]

Dr. John Davis: Thank you, Madam, for your question. It raises a very important question about how we do things with respect to species at risk.

As you mentioned, yes, there is an accord between the federal government and the provinces. This has been in place since 1996. It sets out a collaborative framework for working between the groups and also sets out the fact that the provinces will enact their own measures with respect to legislation to protect species at risk and will take actions to move forward in that area.

We do, however, feel it's very important that the federal and the provincial governments work closely together to better coordinate those types of arrangements. We have been working through the Canadian Wildlife Directors Committee and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council to make sure that there's a good dialogue back and forth in these types of areas.

In our opinion, it's very important too that all the different jurisdictions work together towards the protection of species at risk. The legislation definitely will help to assist and complement those undertakings of the provinces to move forward and will help to make sure that there is a coordinated and strong approach here.

[Translation]

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: This is what you are saying, Mr. Davis, but this is not what we find in the bill.

You are not mentioning either Crown lands which come under the jurisdiction of the federal government. What have you done to catch up with the provinces? Provinces do not have to be taught a lesson from the Canadian government. The government is trying to gain control over matters not under its jurisdiction while it does not take care of its own business. It practices the do as I say but not do as I do approach.

So, I would like you to tell me what you did for your Crown lands. As you know, all environmental associations gave you a D minus. If I had got a D minus on one of my report cards, I would have had to do homework all over again. Environmental groups were right to give you a D minus. You will have to show us what you have done yourself before you can tell others what they should do.

[English]

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you very much, Madam Girard-Bujold.

A brief response, please, Dr. Davis.

Dr. John Davis: Madam, I can certainly tell you from the perspective of our department that we're doing a great deal with respect to the aquatic species and are working very hard on that.

We also have been working through the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers, to which the provinces are party, to discuss this issue. A task force on freshwater issues has been created, and species at risk has been identified as an area through this federal-provincial collaborative discussion process.

So certainly it's on that agenda, and we will continue to work very hard as a department with respect to the aquatic species and to do our best to look after the species at risk.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Mr. Herron, please.

Mr. John Herron: Would you know, off the top of your head, how much money is being allocated by the Department of Fisheries for the recovery of Atlantic salmon stocks?

• 1605

Dr. John Davis: I think we have just put $550,000 into this, part of which is some of the stewardship money associated with budget 2000. We see that as a start. We would very much like to focus on a recovery plan for the Atlantic salmon, not only the Bay of Fundy Atlantic salmon but all of the stocks throughout their range in the Atlantic. We wish to work very closely with groups like the various stakeholder groups and the Atlantic Salmon Federation to see if we can move forward in that area. We have high hopes of trying to advance a major initiative on Atlantic salmon recovery. We're working on that right now.

Mr. John Herron: You and I agree on two points: one is that $550,000 is a start; second, I have high hopes as well.

When we put this into perspective, we see the investment in B.C. wild salmon of $400 million, including $100 million for conservation for B.C. salmon. I'm not the finance critic, but I think that's a little bit more money than $550,000. I think that's something that dovetails with your efforts with the Atlantic Salmon Federation and other interest groups for the principal rivers. They feel DFO has ignored them to the degree that you've paid attention to B.C. salmon. I'm not saying that was a bad thing to do, but I think there is more balance that can take place on the east coast.

I have one last question. Why did the government change so many areas of Bill C-65 that did not seem to be contentious outside government? In particular, why have you substituted discretion in many of the places where Bill C-65 had requirements, such as habitat protection in federal jurisdiction, rolling over the COSEWIC list, and in a number of other places?

Dr. John Davis: I wasn't here for Bill C-65.

I'm going to ask my colleague, Dr. Powles, to see if he can manage that one.

Mr. Howard Powles (Director, Fisheries Research Branch, Fisheries and Oceans Science Directorate, Fisheries and Oceans Canada): I can't answer in detail either, but Bill C-65 went a long way. There was a lot of discussion on it and then it didn't happen in the end. There's been a tremendous amount of discussion and consultation on this one with stakeholders and with provincial governments, with a whole range of people who have been consulted at great length by the Department of Environment and others. I think the answer would be that the result you see now is the result of that level of consultation.

Mr. John Herron: But federal jurisdiction was something where you guys knowingly and intentionally said, this is a problem for us in Bill C-65 so we're not going to put it in Bill C-33. Could you just say what the problems were?

Mr. Howard Powles: What is the specific...

Mr. John Herron: Bill C-65 gave the power to the government over all federal jurisdictions. Bill C-33 doesn't have that. It's discretionary. Why?

Mr. Howard Powles: On species protection?

Mr. John Herron: Yes, that's the...

Mr. Howard Powles: Bill C-33 has automatic prohibitions on all species under federal jurisdiction, on harming them or killing them once they're listed.

Mr. John Herron: Once they're listed?

Mr. Howard Powles: Yes.

Mr. John Herron: On all federal lands?

Mr. Howard Powles: Federal lands—aquatic species and migratory birds.

Mr. John Herron: Thank you.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you.

We welcome Mr. Stoffer to the committee today, and he knows he has five minutes on the first round.

Mr. Peter Stoffer (Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NDP): Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

First of all, correct me if I'm wrong, but under the DFO Act it says that DFO has the legislative mandate to protect fish and fish habitat. Correct?

Dr. John Davis: Correct.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: Having said that, a couple of years back Canada and Nova Scotia signed an accord called the Canada-Nova Scotia offshore petroleum board. According to what you've told us in the documents you've handed us, what that board does, at arm's length, is hand out hundreds and hundreds of leases to oil and gas companies around the world to do seismic testing just off the shores, for example, of Cape Breton, right in the heart of known herring, salmon, mackerel, crab, and lobster grounds. What the governments are saying then to the oil companies is that they then do their environmental assessments. This is after they have the leases.

If protection of fish and fish habitat is your primary principle, and precautionary principle is what you go on...even the FRCC states that no leases should be given until the environmental assessments are done. Why would Canada and Nova Scotia, or, for example, any province for that matter, give out leases to oil companies without doing the environmental work beforehand?

Dr. John Davis: This is an issue, Mr. Stoffer, I don't know too much about. It's the jurisdiction of our habitat group—it's not within my science group—but I will certainly undertake to follow up on that for you.

• 1610

Mr. Peter Stoffer: Thank you.

Madam Chair, I've always said that this bill does not protect habitat, and if you can't protect habitat, you can't protect the species. This bill does not protect inland or outland or, for example, our oceans or our waterways, and if you don't protect the waterways, you can't protect the fish inside those waterways.

You mentioned an ecosystem approach to my Reform colleague, yet dragging and discarding are continuing as we speak. As we speak, thousands of pounds of fish are being discarded over the sides of ships. That is ongoing, and DFO, NAFO, and the international bodies still ignore that. We're still allowing dragging to go on over very precious coral reefs off Shelburne in Cape Breton. That is still happening today. That is not an ecosystem approach. If you could say that, why is that still being allowed to happen?

Dr. John Davis: We're certainly looking at the whole issue of the impact of dragging on bottom communities and that sort of thing, and the issue of discarding is a major one for our enforcement folks, absolutely. I agree with you that those are significant concerns.

There are ways being developed now of doing more selective fishing, which are quite exciting. For example, it's possible now with the new type of three-dimensional, multibeam mapping of the seabed to identify key habitats that would enable you to better target the type of fishery that's going on. A very good example of that is the work that was done with Clearwater Fine Foods with regard to the scallop fishery where it's possible to identify where the scallops are on the bottom. They were able to go out and fish those stocks without doing damage to other parts of the habitat. They were able to do it in a cost-effective way, they didn't lose as much gear, and they did not do as much damage to the benthic habitat that normally would be done. So this type of technology, Mr. Stoffer, I think will help us to be more precise and to provide the kinds of protections you're seeking.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: My very last question, Madam Chair, is—

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): You have a minute.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: You mentioned that the threatened species under your responsibility are the leatherback turtle and northern abalone. Is that correct?

Dr. John Davis: Two of them.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: Yet recently, in the swordfish-harpoon debate, the swordfish industry has received close to 90% of the allocation of swordfish, whereas the harpooners have received 10%. Harpooning is an extremely selective and very environmentally sensitive way of catching swordfish because that's exactly what they go for and nothing else. Yet swordfishing involves 30 to 40-kilometre lines with large hooks, and whoever has seen The Perfect Storm sees what they get. The movie just showed swordfish coming up, but in reality leatherback turtles, tuna, and abalone come up as well. How will this bill, in your interpretation, protect those species from that type of fishing?

Dr. John Davis: This bill would deal with the species that therefore come on to the lists, and it's important in terms of recognizing that it's restricted to the types of species that come forward from COSEWIC. But of course—

Mr. Peter Stoffer: Would it stop swordfishing longlines?

Dr. John Davis: We would have to deal with swordfishing and those issues through the Fisheries Act and the regular provisions of our own authorities if in fact it's not a species that's identified under the species at risk discussion.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: The reality is that this bill doesn't do that, though, does it?

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you, Mr. Stoffer. It's always a joy having you as a member of our committee, and I mean that in a very positive way.

To complete our first round, I have on my list Mr. Reed, Mr. Lincoln, and Mr. Knutson, and I as well am going to ask a question as chair. Mr. Reed.

Mr. Julian Reed (Halton, Lib.): Thank you, Madam Chair.

The degradation of the Great Lakes, specifically Lake Ontario, includes species at risk, many of which are non-commerical fishery and so on. I think it is probably well understood but not necessarily well accepted that there's a great urban responsibility for that degradation. I don't know if this is within your jurisdiction, but are you satisfied that this bill will address that urban responsibility?

Just to be a little more specific, the pipe goes into the lake to suck up the water to be passed through the toilet and the effluent goes back down into the lake to provide dilution, and over time it has built up to a point where now the beluga whale in the St. Lawrence River has become the canary in the mine. That's an urban responsibility. There are all sorts of urban visions that species at risk have to do with the grizzly bear and the burrowing owl out on the land somewhere, but this is right here at home, where most of the people live in this country.

• 1615

Dr. John Davis: The legislation would apply to those species in freshwater areas that come on to the list in various categories and their critical habitat, so in that sense it addresses a number of freshwater issues.

But I think your question is much broader. You're really talking about the overall degradation of the Great Lakes and the huge problems that exist there, problems with the invasion of exotic species such as zebra mussels, the habitat impacts, the effluent, and those sorts of things. You are absolutely right. It is a responsibility for all of us, I think, and the people who live around those areas to try to take ownership of the solutions that are aimed at clean water, good habitat, and those sorts of things.

Mr. Julian Reed: Will this bill do anything to—

Dr. John Davis: It will help us in the sense that if there is habitat associated with species at risk in that area, then it provides a measure of protection and a way of dealing with protecting those types of habitats. But it doesn't solve the bigger issue. We do have the habitat provisions of the Fisheries Act and other things that in a complementary fashion with this bill can be brought to bear. But we also need the kind of cooperation I was talking about with provincial authorities, and municipal authorities, for that matter, and the public. Things such as conservation areas are really critical to bringing back and restoring some of these water courses that are so critical to that ecosystem.

Mr. Julian Reed: I have one other question, sir. You used the phrase “sound scientific advice”. In my experience with biologists, the conclusions are often half science, half alchemy, with a little prejudice thrown in. This experience goes back six or seven years now. Has that situation improved? What redress is there for somebody who, for instance, is doing some kind of development and who is confronted by a biologist's statement based on the prejudice of the biologist at the time and that is later proven to be totally untrue? Is there any recourse? Is there any way of—

Dr. John Davis: Yes.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you, Mr. Reed.

Dr. Davis, please.

Dr. John Davis: Pardon, Madam?

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): We have a very short response period. Thank you.

Dr. John Davis: A very short response, yes.

When I talk about sound scientific advice, it's a consensus of scientific information that comes through a peer-reviewed process, one where you can make sure that you have a number of opinions and that the strong consensus rises to the top, not the opinion of one but the opinion of a number of people. I made it in the same context in terms of how we would like to see the COSEWIC process work, too. That, I think, provides some of the checks and balances you're seeking, rather than an individual opinion.

Mr. Julian Reed: Thank you.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you. Mr. Lincoln, please.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln (Lac-Saint-Louis, Lib.): I must say that when I heard Mr. Powles mention the drowning of Bill C-65 in the deep sea, I thought to myself that DFO had its little part to play. I think they probably gave a party the day that Bill C-65 died.

Anyway, DFO actively participates in COSEWIC. Is that right? Do you agree with the COSEWIC listing as it is now, the 353 species that are listed, including the fish species?

Dr. John Davis: I'll start on that, and I'll ask Mr. Powles to supplement it.

We certainly support and are active players in the COSEWIC process, as you mentioned. We do feel that a number of these species need to be looked at and reassessed in light of new information. We're aware that COSEWIC has done a number of recent reassessments, and that's excellent, but there is more work to do.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Have you looked at the 123 reviewed species that COSEWIC has agreed to now?

Mr. Howard Powles: We're members of COSEWIC, of course. We've been at the meetings where these reassessments have been done, and we've been part of the consensus view on those 123.

• 1620

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Okay. Now, the 123 are not part of the legal listing when the bill gets proclaimed. Let's go through the little mechanics of what happens then.

By then, we'll probably have...the minister tells us that by the spring we will probably have the total reassessment. Say 300 have been reassessed and everybody is agreed. Now, I imagine it is subject to an MC to cabinet, which has to be okayed by the three main ministers: Environment, Fisheries, Heritage. Then it goes into consultation, I imagine, through appropriate ministries: Natural Resources because of forests, etc. I've been through this little game before. By the time you finish, that takes months. And then a draft MC is done, somebody objects, and it goes...

In your experience as a deputy minister, how long do you think it would take, from the time this bill is proclaimed, to a listing being approved by the cabinet in its final form and becoming legislation under regulations?

Dr. John Davis: We're doing work on that to try to anticipate it, because we have to develop all of the recovery plans and permitting associated with it. Howard has been involved in some of that projection, so perhaps he could give us that.

Mr. Howard Powles: Sure.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: We're writing the time down, okay?

Mr. Howard Powles: I don't think we can forecast the exact time. But in fact the process is not an MC process; it's a regulatory process where—at least this is what's envisaged—the Minister of the Environment could submit the COSEWIC list, the COSEWIC assessments, to Governor in Council to be put on the legal protection list by regulation. The regulatory process is a little bit long, but part of the reason is to allow for consultation and allow stakeholders to give their opinions on the regulation.

People have told us that six months or so—it could be six months or more or less—could be the time for such a regulatory process. But it's not subject to all the interdepartmental toing and froing that you've mentioned; it's a regulatory process, and that process is well established.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Well, it still happens that the Governor in Council has to be approached. In other words, he has to go to cabinet with some sort of document that will say what he intends to do.

Okay, given your assessment of six months, by the time this thing gets proclaimed, say there is an election. We add six months at a minimum. So I see that we won't have a list under this bill for possibly a year, if not worse. It will be a long, long time. If you say six months, I'm sure it's going to be more than six months.

Mr. Howard Powles: The six months is an estimate. I don't personally know the regulatory process well—this is what people are telling us—but my understanding is that once the bill is proclaimed, this regulatory process is a bureaucratic process, at least up until the last step, as you say, when it goes to Governor in Council and cabinet. So the actual regulatory process would be triggered by the COSEWIC listing and the Minister of the Environment initiating it and starting the preparation of the regulations and the consultations leading to listing.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Considering we are happy with the revised list, why don't we have the revised list in the bill to start with?

You seem to agree, Dr. Davis.

Dr. John Davis: It's just that I registered your point, sir.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Do you have a brief response other than registering the point? Can we cut a deal? Do you have a response for the record?

Dr. John Davis: I think we'd very much like to look at that whole issue.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Very good. Thank you very much.

Mr. Knutson.

Mr. Gar Knutson (Elgin—Middlesex—London, Lib.): I just wondered if you could take me through, assuming the proposed bill gets passed, what you could do under this new legislative regime that in fact you can't do now.

Dr. John Davis: I think the key thing we can do under the new approach is really focus in on building the kinds of approaches and safety nets that are critical for the species that are identified as at risk. First of all, this gives us the wherewithal to work with other groups. It gives us funding to work with various stakeholder groups, such as the stewardship program applications that we've talked about. It provides a highlight on some of the key initiatives that need to be addressed. It also provides us with additional powers and ability to move forward and enforce and protect the kinds of species that are identified under the legislation. So it does complement our activities.

• 1625

Mr. Gar Knutson: Well, I'm curious as to what additional powers you have, because my understanding from what you said initially was that you have the ability to work with groups now. The money issue is more a budgetary issue. Money doesn't depend on the legislation. I'm going to vote at February's budget, but can you give me a specific thing that you could do under this piece of legislation that you can't do now?

Mr. Howard Powles: Generally it's true that our minister can do most of the things foreseen under this bill under the Fisheries Act and the Oceans Act.

Mr. Gar Knutson: Including recovery plans?

Mr. Howard Powles: We can draw up recovery plans. We have integrated fisheries management plans now, which are a lot like recovery plans.

One of the changes in focus is that this will require us to look, in the oceans, at other than exploited species as well as fisheries species. That's one thing we'll have to do.

Mr. Gar Knutson: I'm sorry, can you explain what that means?

Mr. Howard Powles: Well, the Fisheries Act mainly focuses on fisheries, although the Oceans Act does allow for protection of endangered species through protected areas and that sort of thing. What this bill would do is complement existing powers under other legislation.

Mr. Gar Knutson: I guess I'm not sure what “complement” means.

Mr. Howard Powles: It provides a backstop by limiting the discretion of the minister in certain areas. It requires certain activities once a species is on the list. In other words, the minister currently has some discretion to define conservation, harvesting plans, and that sort of thing. When a conservation concern is defined under this bill, that discretion is limited once a species is on the list.

Mr. Gar Knutson: So you're telling me it would make action mandatory that isn't mandatory now under the Fisheries Act?

Mr. Howard Powles: That's right. It prescribes certain prohibitions, the automatic prohibitions on killing and harming a listed species once it gets onto the list, and prescribes preparation of a recovery plan once a species is on the list. So it removes discretion in those cases.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you very much, Mr. Knutson.

We have the presence of the Honourable Charles Caccia, the chair of our committee. Would you like to take the chair? Mr. Caccia, would you prefer to collect your thoughts for a first-round question and I'll—

Mr. Charles Caccia (Davenport, Lib.): Go ahead.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Okay. Thank you very much.

I'd like to ask a question of clarification. It's my understanding that the Fisheries Act has a mandatory duty to protect habitat, and I also understand that this obliges the government to protect riparian habitats such as streamsides and things like that. For example, the federal government protects salmon habitat by disallowing logging activities within ten metres of salmon streams. I'm wondering if you could confirm for the committee that the Fisheries Act governs activities that affect fish habitat regardless of whether the habitat is on federal, provincial, or private land.

Mr. Howard Powles: Sorry, can you repeat the question?

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): I wanted to know if you could confirm for the committee if indeed the Fisheries Act governs activities that affect fish habitat regardless of whether the habitat is on federal, provincial, or private land.

Mr. Howard Powles: Yes, the minister is empowered under the federal Fisheries Act to not authorize harmful alteration or destruction of fish habitat in any lands. That's right.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): And there's no exemption for provincial lands here or anything like that.

Mr. Howard Powles: I have to say that we're not fish habitat experts, the two of us, but if we get into deep water we'll refer to experts.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): We'll get you deep-ocean specialists.

Just so we understand that there are no real constitutional problems with regards to the Fisheries Act that would allow the federal government to protect fish habitat wherever the fish live, on federal, provincial or private land—

Mr. Howard Powles: Yes, that's right. In that sense, the habitat provisions of this proposed bill may be not quite so contentious for aquatic species as they are for others, because the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has habitat protection powers under the Fisheries Act.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): But it's not in contravention of the Constitution, quite obviously.

Mr. Howard Powles: No, not at all.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Okay. Thank you very much.

• 1630

Mr. Caccia, you would like to participate in the second round, and I think we'll have unanimous consent of the committee to allow our chair to have five minutes.

In our second round, I have Mr. Stoffer, Mr. Herron, Madam Girard-Bujold, Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Reed, and Mr. Caccia.

Mr. Stoffer.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: Thank you, Madam Chair.

There's a debate going on in Newfoundland right now about logging in what is considered an old-growth area near a very precious and fragile salmon stream. Are you saying, then, that under the act DFO or the minister can go in and stop that logging if the department feels it could harm the salmon-bearing river?

Dr. John Davis: Yes.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: Then my question would be this: With all the advice given to the department by groups like the Atlantic Salmon Federation, etc., why doesn't the government then tell the Province of Newfoundland not to do it? Why is it still open for discussion?

Dr. John Davis: I'm not aware of that particular situation, Mr. Stoffer, but I think we have, in many cases, intervened in such situations. I'm most familiar with British Columbia, where there are many types of fish-forest interactions. In many cases the department has intervened and has taken strong action with respect to the impacts on salmon-bearing streams and things like that.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: In spring of this year, which is not that long ago, the Auditor General reported that the DFO style of management of the shellfish industry was similar to what they did in the groundfish industry, which means that it was very poor. Arlo Guthrie's song comes to mind now, which basically asks, has the department rehabilitated itself?

Is the shellfish industry going to go the way of the groundfish industry? We already know that in Newfoundland there was a reduction of the crab quota this year, and there could be reductions of other quotas of other shellfish species happening very quickly.

You talk about identifying the most critical issues, about habitat protection, about the need to understand any species that are at risk or that could be at risk. It all sounds very nice, sir, but with all due respect, the evidence isn't out there. Since 1988, we as taxpayers have spent close to $4 billion readjusting the groundfish industry in Atlantic Canada. I can only suspect that we're going to spend billions more if the shellfish industry goes the same way.

I don't believe, for example, that this particular bill will protect the habitat waters that the species exist in. If this bill doesn't do it, will DFO still have the legislative powers to override that and protect the habitats and the species that are involved?

Dr. John Davis: Yes, we do have the powers to do those types of protections. We are certainly aware of the Auditor General's report and are working hard to strengthen our shellfish areas.

The question of the ups and downs of shellfish resources is very much one of biology and the ecology of the area. Species such as shrimp and crab are subject to considerable fluctuation and variation. What we've seen with respect to the snow crab fishery recently is record high levels and record high catches. Each time we did the various assessments we certainly were up front in telling the industry that what goes up sometimes comes down. That is a natural cycle.

What you've recently seen in Newfoundland, I think, as a result of changes that are going on, is an adjustment down of the snow crab resource, from a record high level of catch. What is going on in that area too is that the oceanography has changed significantly. We've seen a move in recent years from warmer water in the old days to a cold water regime, when the cod went down and the shellfish went up. Shrimp and crab resources went up, associated with that very cold water that came in. In the last year or two the temperatures are warming. It's likely that there will be some impacts on the shellfish resources and that we'll see some reductions.

These are the kinds of cycles that we as a department have to manage. We have to do the science associated with that.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: But isn't it true that cod is a predator of the crab?

Dr. John Davis: Cod is a predator of a number of species. These are all interrelated.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: True, but it's a predator of the crab, and because the cod have virtually been wiped out that's why you have an increase of crab, wouldn't you say?

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you, Mr. Stoffer.

Can you give us a brief response, please?

Dr. John Davis: No, I don't think it's that simple. We could discuss that off-mike.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you.

We're actually going to go to five minutes on our second round. I'm feeling very generous today. Mr. Herron, and then Madam Girard-Bujold.

• 1635

Mr. John Herron: I want to get back to this listing thing. Why would we not adopt the existing COSEWIC list? What merit is there in that list, in having a starting point? Then we could refine and reassess the other ones that haven't been reassessed. What merit is there?

Dr. John Davis: Could you clarify whether you're talking about immediate adoption or just taking the list now and moving forward through the process that's proposed?

Mr. John Herron: Yes: taking the list we have right now, the existing COSEWIC list, and using that as the list should this bill carry.

Dr. John Davis: Howard, do you want to take this?

Dr. Howard Powles: I understand you're asking why we don't just take the current COSEWIC list and make it the legal protection list.

Mr. John Herron: There you go.

Dr. Howard Powles: Right.

As a schedule to the bill and as the current proposal is in the bill, that current COSEWIC list, that schedule, would be deemed to be assessed on passage of the bill or 30 days thereafter and then would be available to the Minister of the Environment to submit to the regulatory process. You would like it to go straight to the legal list without going through the regulatory process, as I understand it.

Mr. John Herron: Yes.

Dr. Howard Powles: This is a proposal that should probably be looked at in more detail. It's an interesting proposal, but the advantage, I guess, to the way it is now in the bill is that stakeholders who will be affected by these listings—activities will be affected when species are listed—will have an opportunity to input through the regulatory process and to their elected representatives on whether those species should be listed or not. As Mr. Anderson said in his presentation yesterday, the political accountability for decisions that have economic, social, and legal consequences for Canadians is an important principle.

Mr. John Herron: The first two times I asked this question—and Clifford touched on it as well—I sensed that DFO would not be reticent about accepting the list as is. If that were to go through it wouldn't destabilize the bill, in your eyes.

Dr. Howard Powles: There are two issues here. One issue is, does the current COSEWIC list accurately reflect the status of species in Canada? Does it accurately portray whether species are endangered or threatened or does it not? That's a scientific question.

What we said was that we believe the ones that were reassessed over the last year or so have been accurately assessed. There are others on that list for which we don't have current data. COSEWIC has not had access to recent data on some of the species. The last status reports were done in the mid-1980s. In COSEWIC we would need to have revised status reports. Some of the species on that schedule 2 do need a more thorough reassessment than they've had to date.

The other question is this: once they've been reassessed on a scientific basis, isn't what's being proposed here that they would just automatically go on the legal list?

Mr. John Herron: Just to summarize, I have a quick question.

Dr. Howard Powles: Sure.

Mr. John Herron: Yea or nay: DFO would not be reticent about adopting the existing COSEWIC list as a schedule.

Dr. Howard Powles: DFO agrees that the species that have been reassessed by COSEWIC in the last year or so have been accurately reassessed.

Mr. John Herron: I'm still trying to get at this question. So in your view, it would not destabilize the bill if that list were adopted as a schedule.

Dr. Howard Powles: It depends on whether you mean if it is adopted as a COSEWIC list of assessments or as a legal list of things that should be subject to the automatic prohibitions and automatic recovery plans.

Mr. John Herron: All right. Just to finish, my short question is this, and I should be under time—

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): You have about 30 seconds, Mr. Herron. Ask your question.

Mr. John Herron: The Atlantic Salmon Federation said:

    DFO admits the inner Bay of Fundy rivers have wild salmon populations in danger of extinction, and yet the resources have not been made available to assess how bad the situation is. As a result, a call for protection under Species at Risk legislation was turned aside for lack of information.

How are we doing with assessing the state of the rivers' wild Atlantic salmon populations?

• 1640

Dr. John Davis: As I mentioned to Mr. Stoffer, this is a very important issue to us. We had a workshop recently that reviewed a lot of the science associated with this. It's a complicated issue. The Bay of Fundy salmon are one issue, but there are also all of the salmon stocks on the outside portion of Nova Scotia, and in some areas there we have acid rain problems as well. So probably a number of situations are contributing to the very low levels of Atlantic salmon. It may be issues happening within the Bay of Fundy, problems of productivity and feeding on the high seas, and it may be acid rain.

Mr. John Herron: Is there a study underway?

Dr. John Davis: There's a study underway. Indeed, we've made a start with the $550,000 that I've mentioned, but we would like to have a much larger and much more robust program and to work with groups such as the Atlantic Salmon Federation.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you.

Dr. Davis and Mr. Powles, there have been maybe two or three items we've discussed here this afternoon where you have suggested that they should be looked at in more detail, to use your words, and certainly the last interchange with Mr. Herron was one such example. I'm just wondering what the process is for looking at these things in more detail. While the committee has just begun this particular study under Standing Order 108(2) and certainly will be looking at things in great detail when we get the legislation in front of us, when you you say it should be looked at in more detail, I'm wondering if you could help clarify exactly what you mean by that.

Dr. John Davis: Yes, I'd be glad to.

We understand that you're about to undertake a pretty busy agenda of having many interventions from many witnesses, and there will be a number of suggestions that come forward. We would very much like to learn more about those suggestions and what's being proposed. That will give us a chance to study them. We're interested in working with our colleagues in Environment Canada and Parks Canada in terms of the sorts of issues that are being raised in committee. We would assume that we'll be part of further iterations of this type of discussion, where when we really see what the nature of the proposals is, there's a chance to evaluate them and to provide further input. So I see that as a collaborative process that we would follow.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): So the kind of signal, it seems to me, that you're giving to the committee is that there is an openness to look at amendments to the legislation as we go through the process. That's the message I'm getting. Is that correct?

Dr. John Davis: Certainly my understanding is that yesterday Minister Anderson mentioned that he was open to some discussion on these areas provided it didn't destabilize the bill, and we're part of the group of departments that are assessing things. We will work very closely with our colleagues in Environment Canada and Parks Canada and look at these issues. There's an openness on our part to be part of that process.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): So DFO is not against any amendments to this bill, then.

Dr. John Davis: We're certainly very keen, as you heard in my presentation, about the nature of the bill and the whole purpose of it, that sort of thing, the policy aspects of it, and looking at the mechanisms associated with it. We're prepared to do that.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you very much, Dr. Davis.

Madame Girard-Bujold, please.

[Translation]

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: You say that you are very interested in what is going to happen soon when Bill C-33 is before us. However, I would like to come back to a statement by Mr. Powles who said earlier that presently the Fisheries Act gives full jurisdiction to the Fisheries Minister with respect to a sector. He has full powers within the limits of his jurisdiction.

But you said also, if I am not mistaken, that the bill will enable him to intervene in provincial areas of jurisdiction. Did I understand clearly? It is you, Mr. Powles...

Mr. Howard Powles: I said that?

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Yes, I heard you say so.

Mr. Howard Powles: Then, it is not what I meant.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Could you repeat what you said because this is what I understood?

Mr. Howard Powles: Mr. Knutson asked if the bill was giving additional powers to our Minister, powers that are not already in the Fisheries Act or the Oceans Act. My answer was that in general, most of the powers considered in the bill are already in the hands of the Minister, either under the Fisheries Act or the Oceans Act, or under other pieces of legislation. But the powers given to him under the bill on species at risk are more limited. It means that when a species is put on the List, he has no discretionary power. The killing or harming of a species must be prohibited and a recovery plan must be set up.

• 1645

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: I did not understand the word that you said.

Mr. Howard Powles: The powers?

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: No. Were you saying that when they cannot put in place a recovery plan, there are constraints?

Mr. Howard Powles: Yes. With the Fisheries Act, once he is told of a conservation issue, the Minister has some discretionary powers regarding the measures to take, but under the bill on species at risk, he will have, once the species is listed on the List, to impose on a complete ban on the killing of the animal.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Yes, but you had meetings with the provincial and territorial ministers and you agreed that you would act together and that you would submit to the Canadian Council for the Conservation of Species at Risk all your agreements on the protection of species at risk. You said it and it is what happened in 1996. So, you already have everything you need. The table is set. All the ministers are in agreement and the territories too. Why do you want an additional legislation? It is what I do not understand.

Mr. Howard Powles: It is because in the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk in Canada—I have it somewhere—, the provinces and the federal have agreed, among other things, to give themselves the necessary legislation to implement their co- operation:

    We agree to:

      iii. establish a legislation and accompanying programs that will ensure the efficient protection of species at risk everywhere in Canada...

It means that the federal government is committed to adopt legislation for the species that are under its jurisdiction.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Oh, so it's for you. Then, why, in Bill C-33, do you not take into consideration what is already done in the provinces? There is no will to do so within the framework of Bill C-33. Why not limit yourself to the accord that you negotiated in good faith? You have set benchmarks. Why do you need another piece of legislation? I do not know what for, you already have the accord.

Mr. Howard Powles: As Mr. Anderson explained yesterday, the bill respects provincial jurisdiction. There are some who say that it will still infringe on provincial rights. Therefore, if you...

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: You did not answer my question. I would like to get back to the COSEWIC list. I think that Mr. Heron's question was very pertinent and I would agree that I don't understand either. You are speaking about scientists. The scientists who prepared the list which we have now, were credible. Why then, will you spend more money to re-evaluate the list?

The federal government is now intervening in all kinds of areas. There are already things on the table and they want to have a good conscience by re-evaluating things. There is already a list on the table and it would be an insult to the scientists to act in this manner. Furthermore, Cabinet will have the last word. These ministers are not scientists to my knowledge. And furthermore, not only scientists are interested in species at risk. Why don't you recognize what has already been done?

Even if some species are more threatened or more at risk, we should still recognize what currently exists. That would demonstrate a willingness to act in a positive fashion within a bill which is supposed to move things forward. I think that you are going to give yourself the power to take steps backward. When we reinvent the wheel, we take a step back instead of forward.

That's the second negative point of your bill. It is very important that taxpayers' money be properly spent. Your bill will not contribute to that in any way. Why don't we just accelerate what we already have? Currently, we are taking a step back as we did in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act concerning dangerous goods. We can redraw and restudy the list and then we could not add other species at risk. Are we going to waste our time evaluating what has already been done? This bill is not progressive. It is regressive.

[English]

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you, Madame Girard-Bujold.

• 1650

Dr. Davis, a very short response, and then Mr. Lincoln.

Dr. John Davis: Just a short response, Madam. I think it's very critical that we base decisions on sound science, as I mentioned before. In some cases, some of those species have not been reassessed for a number of years and the information is old. Certainly decisions that are affecting Canadians require good science, and it's appropriate to make sure that the best reassessment, the best use of the information, is available so that sound decisions can be made on good science.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you.

Mr. Lincoln, please.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Just so there will be no misunderstanding about the discussion you had following Mr. Herron's question, which followed on what I brought up, I want to make it quite clear for the record what I have in mind. What I put to you is this. I realize there is a revising process. Right now we have up to 123 revised species on the list, and the minister has told us that by the spring we'll probably have completed the work, or very close to it. What we suggested was that the list be made legal, but the onus of changing it then, as in Bill C-65, is always in the hands of the minister by regulation, whereas now what we're doing is exactly the reverse. We are listing by regulation, which will take months and months, so we'll have a bill without a listing for many months.

I wanted to make that clear. That was my point.

What I wanted to ask Mr. Powles...in answering a question from Mr. Knutson earlier, and I think you mentioned this to Mrs. Girard-Bujold as well, you said that in your view the impact of the new legislation, in addition to the Oceans Act and the Fisheries Act, would be to lessen the discretion of the minister in relation to protection of endangered species and habitats. I want to put it to you that I don't see that at all in this bill. First of all, you suggested, Mr. Powles, that once the thing is listed the minister has to move. That's assuming that the environment minister, who is left with a big discretion to list in the first place, because the discretion is left with him in the first place to go to the cabinet or not go to the cabinet, to list or not to list, to list some and not others... That's number one.

Number two, before he protects habitats—again, it's left to his discretion whether he does or doesn't—he has to consult with your minister as to whether your minister agrees that a certain habitat should be protected. So if your minister says, no, don't protect this habitat, there's no protection. If the Minister of the Environment decides to protect this habitat and not that one and leave all the fish habitats unprotected because of various reasons, then they are not protected.

So my reading of this bill is that really it leaves your minister with tremendous loopholes. It leaves the Minister of the Environment with tremendous loopholes, which I think we should plug.

Don't you see that there are huge loopholes in this act in regard to protection of habitats, which are discretionary in regard to the listing itself by the minister recommending to the governor in council, which is also discretionary? Do you agree that the discretion is in the act?

Dr. John Davis: Certainly, as we've pointed out before, there is that discretion there, and it's a process that allows the various stakeholders and others to make their points during the regulatory process that plays out. We certainly feel, with legislation like this and the level of public interest and the accountability of ministers for delivering, there will be a very strong onus and a very strong force, and certainly you as parliamentarians will raise these issues vocally, to make sure that the species at risk and their habitats are protected and that there is a timely and appropriate response.

We also have, under our own requirements, under the Fisheries Act, the need to protect habitats and to move on those areas.

So certainly we feel that there will be a very strong move taken by the departments to follow up, and to follow up in as timely a fashion as possible. I certainly see your point, sir.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: What I wanted to bring forward is that in the Fisheries Act you don't have very much discretion. You have to protect living species, and if anybody affects them, automatically the reverse onus is there to protect the fish and automatically the other party is guilty, whereas here, in this protection for endangered species, which should be, it would seem to me, logically tighter because they are endangered, we leave a discretion that is a mile wide. It seems to me to make no sense at all that the Fisheries Act is so tight, whereas this one is so loose. Maybe we should bring the two together in philosophy and change it.

• 1655

Dr. John Davis: We certainly see them working in a complementary fashion, as we have stated, and that's something that will help, I think, in terms of the overall delivery we have in the Fisheries Act. We can act, and we have this legislation, which really raises the public attention and deals with the whole matter of moving forward on protecting the species.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Kraft Sloan): I have Mr. Reed and Mr. Caccia.

Mr. Julian Reed: Do you want to go first, Charles?

Mr. Charles Caccia: No.

Mr. Julian Reed: Maybe I'm making an argument here for discretion, and I'll be specific.

One of the subject areas that this committee will be concerned with in the very near future is the whole question of the Kyoto commitment and what specifically needs to be done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Canada and live up to that commitment, which admittedly is not ratified in the House, but hopefully will be. It's a very challenging commitment.

As an example, one of the options, one of the alternatives, that this committee will be faced with will be the alteration of water courses. That's a given. I'm wondering if your branch, in assembling sound, scientific evidence, is able to move beyond the specific and relate what the alteration of that water course will do if it doesn't happen. In other words, if it's replaced with, for instance, a power plant that is going to discharge hot water into a heat sink, presumably a Great Lake, what impact is that discharge going to have on the species in the lake as compared to the impact of the alteration of the water course?

So far, in my dealings with biologists, I haven't seen that broadness of view take place. In other words, the view has been specific to a particular situation, you might say limited to some kind of tunnel vision. It seems to me that in the future that look has to be broad. What happens if we fire more toxic substances into the air? What's going to happen to endangered species because of that, compared to the alteration of the water course, for instance?

Dr. John Davis: You're right that we have to have a holistic view to these things and we have to look at things not just in terms of the local effects, but the broader-scale effects, and that really is the basis of the ecosystem approach and how we need a good, thorough investigation of these kinds of issues if you're going to create hot water runoff and therefore impacts on the environment. What are the risks associated with that? What does it do to the habitat, to the sensitive species that are there?

I think we really need to move towards a quite different approach to our overall governance and investigation of how we approach development in water bodies and in critical systems. Can we move towards a system where we have an integrated approach that does planning, brings to bear the science, and involves the people in the kinds of decisions that are necessary to ask how we want this piece of habitat or ecosystem affected, what types of developments cause risks, what are the scientific risks, what are the consequences, what is the long-term legacy of these sorts of things? A really integrated coastal resource planning approach that brings all that together, in my mind, has to be the way to go in terms of environmental stewardship and a vision that we really need for the future.

Mr. Julian Reed: Thank you.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Kraft Sloan): Thank you, Mr. Reed.

Mr. Caccia.

• 1700

Mr. Charles Caccia: Thank you, Madam Chair.

I have a short question and a long question. The short one is this, Mr. Powles or Dr. Davis. Suppose that out of this committee an amendment were to emerge that would make COSEWIC the final authority rather than cabinet. Would that destabilize the bill, in your opinion?

Dr. John Davis: I think destabilization is... I'm not sure what the definition of that is, frankly, but if COSEWIC had the final say in things, I think it would have the effect, Mr. Caccia, of placing the onus on the scientists to make the final decision.

Mr. Charles Caccia: I know that.

Dr. John Davis: You know that, and you thoroughly understand how our system works.

Mr. Charles Caccia: I trust them more than politicians.

Dr. John Davis: What would happen to the scientists in that sense is that they would become the touchstone or the attractant for all the various interventions. My question that the committee might wish to ponder would be: do you want a scientific process that's associated with providing the best possible advice on species at risk, and do you want that process—

Mr. Charles Caccia: It wouldn't modify the process at all; it would only leave the final word to them. But the scientific process wouldn't be affected.

Dr. John Davis: Yes, but they would certainly become the node for a lot of the intervention that would be associated with concerns about these various species.

Mr. Charles Caccia: They still would.

Dr. John Davis: They certainly would, as opposed to dealing strictly with the science. So I think that's something that really needs to be looked at.

We certainly saw the other process that allows for the discretion of the minister to provide the kinds of checks and balances and other points for people to make their interventions.

Mr. Charles Caccia: That takes me to the second question, Madam Chair. You used the term “balance”, but you didn't really answer the question fully. Would it destabilize the bill or not if COSEWIC had the last word?

Dr. John Davis: Well, I frankly don't know what “destabilize” means.

Mr. Charles Caccia: All right, fair enough.

Now, in your presentation here this afternoon, in the fourth paragraph, you make a reference by saying: “...we feel that the legislation—as it is now—gives us the balanced approach we need”. What does “balanced” mean in this context? Is it accommodating human requirements with natural science requirements? Is it an accommodation of socio-economic considerations with the considerations that this COSEWIC community would advance by saying that certain species must be protected even if the Minister of Fisheries doesn't agree? Why should it be balanced?

What is so at stake here in this legislation is whether we approve or whether we proceed or whether we finalize a piece of legislation that is written from the perspective of accommodating humans, and even compensating them for the damage they've done until now over the centuries, over time. And then finally, having done all that, we decide that perhaps having made everybody happy amongst the bipeds, we then look at the flora and the fauna and say, well, you know, everybody's happy, so now we can look after the owl or this creature or whatever the name is, or whether we shouldn't have as a guiding principle a piece of legislation that is written first and foremost to accommodate nature and therefore assume certain burdens as humans, because we wouldn't have to write this legislation hadn't we caused certain damages. This is almost—I wouldn't want to use “philosophical”, but certainly it is a dilemma that we are constantly touching upon.

So when one sees the term “balanced” in your brief, one wonders what on earth is meant here. Is it meant, then, that first we have to accommodate all the human requirements and then perhaps also the endangered species? What are your views?

• 1705

Dr. John Davis: What came to mind in writing “balanced” there, Mr. Caccia, was the fact that the bill allows us to have legislation and to work cooperatively with the provinces, the territories, the wildlife management boards, and also with Canadians through the stakeholder groups, working together to develop recovery plans and those sorts of arrangements. So there's a balance in the sense of an involvement of all the different people who need to deliver on making species at risk protected as best we can. That is really the essence of it.

I think your grasp of the sort of philosophical approach here is a very important one. I think we have to ask ourselves, all of us as Canadians, what we want in terms of the protection of the environment in the future and whether it is a sort of moral responsibility for every one of us really to take part in protecting the habitat and the environment and doing the best we possibly can for it. We have the legacy of the past that really governs where we find ourselves with regard to some of these species.

Mr. Charles Caccia: That's very helpful.

Madam Chair, if we go for a balance, we create conceptually a dichotomy. We say that on the one hand there is this array of human interests and on the other is nature and the requirements. Somehow we are not connecting the two, pretending almost that somehow we are not part of the same ecosystem. It's a dangerous path to follow in the long run, not in the short term. Otherwise, we wouldn't be here. We have done that for a long time until now, this disconnecting, and this is why we are beginning to face these difficult pieces of legislation.

Thank you.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you, Mr. Caccia.

The argument you're putting forward around having the GIC make the final decision in the listing process is to remove the possibility that scientists would be lobbied if they were making these decisions around the legal list. I have two questions around that. Does this mean to say that the GIC or cabinet is not going to be lobbied?

Dr. John Davis: By no means.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): The other side of that is what kind of lobby effort happens when we're dealing with cabinet? Is it an open process of lobbying, or is it a matter that as a result of that, discussion happens around the cabinet table, which is a very closed-door process? I'm a government member and I've even been a parliamentary secretary, but I've never had the privilege of sitting in cabinet. I've had the privilege of sitting in caucus and hearing a lot of things the public doesn't hear, but I sure as heck don't hear what goes on around the cabinet table, unless I read it in the Globe and Mail. We're going to have lobbying, but where do you want the lobbying?

The second question I would pose to you with regard to this issue is as follows. A lot of what we hear on this is that COSEWIC will make the list, and then cabinet or GIC will make the final decision about the legal listing, and they have to be accountable, etc., because this list has been put together by scientists. That's the argument I hear. Is that correct? GIC has to be accountable. What's to stop the scientists from being lobbied in the preparation of the list that precludes the legal list?

Dr. John Davis: The answer and the approach to this really was that we feel it's very important for the scientists to do their job of a thorough scientific assessment without becoming the sole point of contact for interventions for people and that the parliamentary process, the cabinet process, the way you all do your business, is very much to do with the representations of your constituents, and that process is set up to deal with the overall approach. Certainly I never get to sit in cabinet either, but I'm very aware of the kinds of things that come to the minister on a day-to-day basis with regard to the various positions of the different groups, and the minister then brings to the table all of that input, as do the minister's colleagues who participate in that process.

• 1710

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): But can you guarantee that if legal listing resides with cabinet, the final decision, the scientists in COSEWIC will be free of any lobbyist intervention?

Dr. John Davis: No, you can't guarantee that, but you certainly can see that that wouldn't become the sole place where the lobbying would occur. In my opinion, the scientists would be much freer to concentrate on the science, with the knowledge amongst the public, the concerned public, that there is another avenue to intervene with respect to going through the process of their elected representatives.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): If we follow the logic that Mr. Lincoln has been putting forward, if we have one act that protects fish and you have to act on that, whereas you have another act that is far more discretionary—in this situation, if you make your legal list with COSEWIC, you have permits and exemptions within the Fisheries Act as well—why can't we bring these two acts more in line? You have legal listing that is done by COSEWIC and then you have an opportunity when you come to certain prohibitions and you have an opportunity with recovery plans—you have opportunities for exemptions there.

There was a case that was brought to our attention yesterday. There are other methods for dealing with those isolated examples.

Mr. Howard Powles: I guess the question is to bring together the Fisheries Act and this one.

I'm trying to think back. The Fisheries Act does not lay out in itself in the law strict measures to be taken. The Fisheries Act as a law provides quite a large range of discretion for the minister to do things. Policies and regulations and so on have grown over the years that make the Fisheries Act implementable.

This bill is quite directive in terms of what happens when a species is listed. It must not be killed or harmed once it's listed. Our department, as the department responsible for aquatic species, has to do something to make sure that happens—must do something under the terms of the legislation.

So there is, as Dr. Davis has said, that level of decision-making power with the politicians and whether it gets on the list. But there will be high visibility in terms of whether they take on the COSEWIC list. The COSEWIC list will be published without interference by the council or anybody. It will be published directly and accessible to all. Then ministries will have to answer if they don't put things on the legal list.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Mr. Caccia, and then Mr. Stoffer.

Mr. Charles Caccia: Thank you.

Could you describe for us a hypothetical situation: COSEWIC recommends and one of the three ministers denies an additional species be put on the list. Under which circumstances could that happen?

Dr. John Davis: I could see a situation where there is a species put on the list and a minister wants to do a bit of consultation and work with constituents. For example, say something like a population of salmon was listed that had wide-reaching impacts on all of the fishery on the west coast. It might be necessary for the minister to work carefully in putting in place a plan and an approach that would address how quickly one would get to the kinds of conservation measures that were needed. Probably, ultimately, that species would end up on the list, but there might be a delay in a case like that, where there is huge social or economic dislocation of coastal communities. I'm not saying that would happen, but it could happen.

Mr. Charles Caccia: You're talking of delays.

Dr. John Davis: Yes.

Mr. Charles Caccia: I'm talking of denials, rejections.

Dr. John Davis: But in the case where the science clearly establishes that something should be listed, I would think the issue would be how you manage that situation, sir.

Mr. Charles Caccia: Do you remember in 1990 when the report on the moratorium came out of Memorial University? Dr. Leslie...

Dr. John Davis: Harris.

• 1715

Mr. Charles Caccia: Harris, thank you. It took two years for the Minister of Fisheries to declare the moratorium.

Dr. John Davis: Yes.

Mr. Charles Caccia: That was delaying until it was zero.

Dr. John Davis: I think there are other more recent examples of very speedy action that have shown demonstrable conservation effects. For example, with the coho fishery on the west coast, in terms of shutting down virtually all the commercial fishery and most of the recreational fishery, we had to do it very quickly and we had to put in place some very strict limitations that caused very strong economic hardship for all the people involved. The minister acted decisively and quickly in the face of very severe opposition. These, I think, are examples of the kinds of will to step in... This was a case of protecting two populations of coho salmon that were viewed to be at very low levels, the Skeena population and the Thompson population. In that case in my example, there's a delay that took place, but not an intractable one, and severe impacts on people as a result. Nevertheless, the conservation action was taken.

Mr. Charles Caccia: Thank you.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you very much.

I have Peter Stoffer, Karen Redman, Julian Reed, and Madame Girard-Bujold.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: Thank you, Madam Chair.

On page 4 of this document I'm about to hand you, there's a question at paragraph 5. It's too involved as a question, but if you could go over it with your people and bring your answers back to the committee, I think it would be very helpful.

Dr. John Davis: Certainly.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: You talked about science before. Science is peer reviewed, right? Are you saying then in your answer to questions from Mr. Caccia, Mr. Lincoln, and Madam Chair that if scientists are lobbied, they can compromise their scientific principles for a lobby effort?

Dr. John Davis: No, I don't think so. I think scientists are very aware of the need to adhere to scientific principles. It's just that the whole process would attract a great deal of intervention. What we see as very important is people working on the science, really sitting down in a non-pressurized environment, saying what do we know about this species, about its habitat, what are the threats and risks, what are the kinds of things that should be done, and what is the category with which one would assign the risk—is it threatened, endangered, is it of concern, that sort of thing—rather than being the flash point really for a huge number of interventions from people who are very concerned about the potential impact of the listing.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: When I went to my very first environment committee, I asked a question of a group of people from the Department of the Environment. It caused a bit of a stir, but they finally did answer. I asked them, do you have the resources to do your job effectively? Do the science and resource branches of DFO have the resources to do their jobs effectively?

Dr. John Davis: One can always use more money, Mr. Stoffer, no question. We have new resources through the recent budget. We have $39.3 million in additional resources for science that we're deploying, and that's much needed. Under this legislation and the budget 2000 there is indeed $42.4 million that will come to the Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and our stakeholders will be able to access some of the stewardship money. So there is $42.4 million there.

I mentioned in my presentation how we would prioritize things and work with the most highly prioritized animals first, and that is certainly the way we would approach it. We're hopeful, of course, that we might see a better budget situation in the future, but this gives us a really good start.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: All right. Under this particular bill, and with the act of DFO and COSEWIC over cabinet, if it was decided that cod was an endangered species, would DFO, through this bill or on its own, be able to stop gillnetting and deep sea dragging within our waters?

Dr. John Davis: If it was decided that cod was an endangered species, we would have to develop a thorough recovery plan that would address the concerns. We would look at all the different types of impacts on the cod. What is the relative impact of gill nets and dragging and this sort of thing? That would be part of what was assessed under the recover plan.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: The reason I ask that is you would only do that if the cod was considered an endangered species, correct?

Dr. John Davis: No, we're actually looking at gill-net impacts right now.

• 1720

Mr. Peter Stoffer: That's the point I wanted to ask about.

Dr. John Davis: As you know, there's a huge issue in Newfoundland with respect to gill nets.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: Yes, exactly.

As my last question, every year on Prince Edward Island there are two or three major fish kills going on, and everyone is concerned with the fact that agricultural pesticides on the potato fields are washing off into these fish-bearing lakes and streams and on the shore, thus destroying the fish. Yet nothing is done. Nothing is done federally and nothing is done provincially to prevent this from happening. They talk about a buffer zone, they talk about alternate uses on the fields, but we still, every year, have two or three major fish kills on P.E.I.

Would this bill, in your interpretation, enable DFO to put a stop to that and to protect the fish in its habitat once and for all through Bill C-33 as it is right now?

Dr. John Davis: This bill, as it is right now—if indeed there were species on the list that were in the vicinity of those problem areas—would give us additional teeth to deal with that sort of problem.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: My very first question to you was you have the responsibility to protect fish and fish habitat, regardless of whether those fish are endangered or not.

Dr. John Davis: Right.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: Will this bill assist you? You said it complements. Will it be able to assist you to prevent that agricultural runoff affecting those fish?

Dr. John Davis: It would assist if species at risk were affected in those areas.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: Only if they're at risk?

Dr. John Davis: Yes.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: So not in general, then?

Dr. John Davis: No; we'd use the other provisions.

I'm quite aware that this issue has been raised, and I'm quite sure that our habitat people are looking into it.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: My last thing, Madam Chair, is I would recommend to the committee to bring the habitat people from DFO in to answer a few of those concerns.

The Vice-Chair (Ms. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you very much, Mr. Stoffer.

Mrs. Redman.

Mrs. Karen Redman (Kitchener Centre, Lib.): Thank you, Madam Chair.

Clearly, this is a very important bill for a lot of reasons. One of the questions I have is that it talks about an annual report to Parliament. It also talks about a five-year review. I'm wondering if, in your experience, those two mechanisms will make sure that we monitor this bill when it becomes law. I'm also wondering if this bill will assist and enhance our efforts with the provinces in protecting species. I'm thinking of the science that could be brought into this.

Dr. John Davis: They're both excellent questions.

Certainly the requirement to report and to have a thorough airing of the issues and to be able to appear before committees and to answer questions provides an onus in terms of sort of a watchdog process to follow up on this type of legislation. I think that is a very good provision of the legislation, and it's something we would strongly endorse in terms of the kind of accountability that's necessary there.

The collaborative aspect of it and the accord with the provinces does bode well in terms of creating an atmosphere for cooperation and for exchange of approaches. Hopefully, as provinces take their responsibilities seriously through their legislation and through their necessity to back it up, there would be additional science and additional resources devoted to examination of these kinds of questions. It does provide the opportunity to integrate and to complement one another.

Mrs. Karen Redman: Thank you.

The Vice-Chair (Ms. Karen Kraft Sloan): Mr. Reed, please.

Mr. Julian Reed: Madam Chair, if we had GMO potatoes in P.E.I. we wouldn't have to feel compelled to use pesticides along the streams.

Mr. Peter Stoffer: We wouldn't eat the potatoes.

Mr. Julian Reed: I would.

The COSEWIC listing is obviously fluid; it's not a fixed thing. There seems to be some feeling here that this was kind of a rigid list, but it's obviously not. The species can be considered at risk today, and with recovery, as has happened before, they can be delisted, I suppose. Does the COSEWIC listing confine itself to species put at risk by human activity? Does it limit itself to that? The minister made a statement yesterday about human activity.

Dr. John Davis: I don't think so. I think it confines itself to considerations of all aspects of what puts species at risk—is it a natural cause, or is it something to do with human activity as well?

The scientist looking at a question will have to say “What's going on here with respect to this species? Is there something that's happening to this particular habitat? What are the human impacts? What are the habitat types of inferences here?” In some cases we'll come up against difficult questions, because certain species that are in tiny areas where there's no discernible change by human interference may still tend towards extinction. That is going on in the world.

• 1725

Mr. Julian Reed: Yes, and historically over time natural extinctions and replacements have taken place.

It causes me concern, Madam Chair, that the COSEWIC listing goes beyond that caused by human activity or perceived to be caused by human activity, and the minister's intent in the bill is to address those elements that are known or believed to be caused by human activity. When we get to the bill, I think we should be concerning ourselves with that.

I can tell you about species. Out where I live, 20 years ago the leopard frog had all but disappeared, and there was great consternation about what had happened to amphibians. A week ago I was driving home from the escarpment back to my farm and it had rained, and I must have run over 15 or 20 of the darn things. I hadn't seen them for 20 years, and all of a sudden there they were in full glory. So obviously what is relevant today may not be relevant five years from now.

Dr. John Davis: You're absolutely right that this is a living process. There are ongoing assessments and reassessments. You can't separate these species from their environment and from the natural kinds of trends and phenomena. We have to look at that whole picture really in making reasoned judgments about the degree of risk and the kind of categorization of the species.

Mr. Julian Reed: Thank you, Madam Chair.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you very much, Mr. Reed.

[Translation]

Madame Girard-Bujold.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: I like to have some information. Since the beginning, you've been talking about COSEWIC. I would like to know who sits on this Committee please. That is my first question.

[English]

Dr. John Davis: I'll ask my colleague, who's very much a part of the process, to answer.

[Translation]

Mr. Howard Powles: I am a member. There are four federal departments: Environment Canada, ourselves, Canadian Heritage for parks and national museums, 13 provinces and territories. There are also now eight subcommittees on the various groups of species, and the chairs of these subcommittees are also members. There are also three members who do not come from government organizations.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: I have a sub-question. You've now told me who sits on this Committee. I think that these are all credible people whether on the committee or on the subcommittees. You are telling me that you bring together all the departments who are affected by the new bill and that these credible people established the list. Yet, it says in the bill that you would not use this list but that you would rather re-evaluate it. You do not have confidence in the people who are already members of COSEWIC.

Secondly, they're scientists. I hope that within your respective departments, there are scientists who have studied species at risk who play very important roles and that they have established a list based on scientific criteria. You are telling them, in this new bill, that they have no credibility, that other scientists will have to re-evaluate the species listed. Furthermore, it will be up to Cabinet to decide.

I would like to hear what you have to say, on this issue, please.

Mr. Howard Powles: We are not asking COSEWIC or anyone else to re-evaluate the list if it has been properly evaluated. As Mr. Lincoln or Mr. Anderson indicated yesterday, over the past several months, COSEWIC itself re-evaluated some of the former evaluations: some 123. In our opinion, these evaluations are correct. There is no need for a re-evaluation.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Then why don't you add it? Why don't you accept the list which is found in the bill? That would be a starting point.

• 1730

Mr. Howard Powles: That is another question. Once the specific scientific evaluation is carried out, what you are asking for, I believe, is that it automatically be added to the protected list. What this bill provides is that the list as such be presented by the Minister of the Environment to the Governor in Council.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: That's not what I was asking. In each one of the departments represented on the COSEWIC there are scientists who have established after negotiations, subcommittees and studies, that this list was the appropriate one. Why then do you not accept it and stop beating around the bush?

Why don't you start off with this list and why does the Minister not endorse it within the bill? After that, you could go further and, if necessary, add other names to the list. You could take the money required to move on and really help the species at risk. Why doesn't the bill do that?

Mr. Davis said earlier that you participated in the framing of the bill now before us. Since you are serious individuals, how is it that, during the course of that development, you did not mention that the exercise had been carried out and that it had to be continued? You didn't go that far. Why not, Mr. Davis?

[English]

Dr. John Davis: We did participate in the drafting of it. As I've said before, the process allows for the GIC listing and for people to raise their concerns through the parliamentary process. Frankly, I find it doubtful that a lot of the species wouldn't move very, very quickly through it or that it wouldn't receive rapid approval. It's not a matter of second-guessing the science. It's really just allowing the exercise of due process.

[Translation]

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: I apologize, Madam Chair, but you said that yesterday, the Minister of the Environment... You're the one who said so and I took your word for it. I was unable to understand him and was unable to support him. He said that he was willing to demonstrate openness and to accept amendments which would not destabilize the bill. You mention the balanced approach of the bill, just as Mr. Caccia did. Is that not an approach that would ensure that this bill would be adequate? Currently, it is not.

[English]

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Thank you, Madam Girard-Bujold.

That's an interesting question for you. Do you want to make a response? It's a comment, not a question. All tright.

I believe we're all done here. Mr. Caccia, do you have a question?

Mr. Charles Caccia: No.

The Vice-Chair (Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan): Tomorrow we will meet at 9 a.m. in Room 237-C. Thank you very much, and thank you very much to our witnesses today.

The meeting is adjourned.