moved that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to speak in the House on this important legislation at the beginning of second reading debate. It is the first chance I have had as to speak on a piece of government legislation in my portfolio, so you can imagine how pleased I am to be standing in the House today and to have a chance to talk to colleagues about an important element of our government's agenda.
Canada is uniquely blessed with an abundance of freshwater and marine coastal areas that are both ecologically diverse and economically significant. Our government knows that we have a responsibility to steward these resources for future generations.
In my mandate letter, I was asked by the to increase the proportion of Canada's marine and coastal areas that are protected to 5% by the end of 2017 and to 10% by 2020. I am pleased and proud to say that thanks to the efforts of so many people and so many organizations, we will meet these targets. It is a commitment we made to Canadians, and Canadians should know that we will meet this important obligation.
Internationally, Canada's commitment to meet the 10% target was confirmed when we signed on to Aichi target 11, under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, and again, in 2015, when we supported the UN General Assembly's 2030 sustainable development program. These efforts have garnered multi-party support over many years, and I want to thank colleagues on all sides of the House for their commitment to protecting Canada's marine resources.
Our approach to achieving Canada's marine conservation targets includes creating marine protected areas and networks, and is guided by three foundational principles: science-based decision-making, transparency, and advancing reconciliation with indigenous groups.
Co-operation is essential to advancing our marine protection work, and we are working with the provinces and territories, indigenous groups, industry, and other environmental stakeholders to establish networks of marine protected areas.
We are committed to furthering reconciliation while these zones are being established. We strive to work more closely with indigenous groups, including Inuit communities, of course, to inform the process and make the most of their traditional knowledge.
Our government has a clear plan to reach these marine conservation targets. Not only is this plan guiding our domestic efforts, it is also helping us reclaim Canada's position as an international leader in ocean conservation. We are making excellent progress. We have now protected 3.63% of Canada's marine environment. At over 200,000 square kilometres, this new total includes long-term fisheries area closures, which the referred to a few moments ago in question period.
The first piece of our plan is to finish what was started, to complete the designation of marine protected areas that were already in the regulatory process. We currently have 11 Oceans Act MPAs in all three oceans. This year alone we have announced the establishment of the Hecate Strait MPA, off British Columbia, which provides protection for globally unique glass sponge reefs, which are thousands of years old. We also created the St. Anns Bank MPA, off Cape Breton, which is home to many endangered species, such as the leatherback turtle. There is more on the way as we progress with the establishment of, for example, the Laurentian channel and Banc des Américains MPAs as well.
Last month, my colleague the announced the final boundaries of the Lancaster Sound national marine conservation area. This was a very significant step, obviously in partnership with the Inuit people. The boundaries of this marine conservation area, the largest in Canada, were developed by the federal government in collaboration with the Government of Nunavut and are located in the Northwest Passage. This area is of particular importance, as it is home to one of the largest narwhal populations in the world.
The second point in our plan is to protect large offshore areas. In May, a new area of interest in the offshore Pacific was announced. This new area of interest will protect underwater seamounts and a series of hydrothermal vents, recognized as unique marine ecosystems in our offshore.
Our development of this network of MPAs speaks to the third point in our plan: to protect areas under pressure from human activities.
We have made great progress on the fourth part of our plan, which is to develop guidelines to identify other effective area-based conservation measures. These other measures are an important part of our marine conservation tool kit, which is recognized by the Convention on Biological Diversity and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Thirty-two closures of fishing areas reflect our rigorous criteria and will help us meet our conservation targets. Other measures will be proposed in the future.
The final point in our plan addresses the need to establish marine protected areas faster under the Oceans Act, but without in any way sacrificing scientific research, socio-economic activities, and our consultation and co-operation efforts with our partners.
Bill speaks directly to that last point. The proposed amendments will streamline the process of creating new marine protected areas while guaranteeing their protection. These amendments are collaborative, in that they will require the participation of indigenous groups, provinces and territories, industry, and other stakeholders in the process of creating and managing MPAs.
For instance, pursuant to the minister's new authority to delegate enforcement powers, indigenous groups like the guardian watchmen or other environmental groups could be granted enforcement powers to monitor protected areas in their waters. The amendments can improve our marine protected areas, though not at the expense of our working relationships, of course.
In short, Bill proposes amendments to the Oceans Act to more clearly reflect my responsibility, as Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, to establish a national network of marine protected areas.
I would like to focus on a few major changes, if I may. Currently, it takes seven to 10 years to officially designate an Oceans Act MPA. Through all those intervening years, the potential MPA gets no protection at all. The solution we propose in Bill is to provide interim protection for these vital, unique areas in Canada's oceans by means of a ministerial order. This will be done after the scientific assessments and the initial consultations, in just 24 months, while the rest of the federal regulatory process to designate the MPA unfolds over the following five years. It may still take up to seven years for an MPA to be fully established, but interim protection could be provided within the first two years.
Currently, an Oceans Act marine protected area can only be designated through Governor in Council regulations, which do not offer any protection to an area of interest until the final designation regulations are published.
The lengthiness of this current process is due in part to the time required to take scientific assessments and broad consultations. These are important steps that ensure an MPA achieves its intended objectives while supporting the local culture and obviously, the local economy.
However, we know there is often a clear understanding from the beginning of what needs to be protected. For example, we may know that a species reproduces only in a certain area of the ocean, or that glass sponge reefs are a priceless natural wonder that need to be protected, even if we may not yet know all of the specifics of how these species are affected by surrounding ecosystems, boat traffic, or fishing activities.
Establishing boundaries and conservation objectives through an interim protection MPA would mean a much shorter time-frame, ensuring that while scientific research and stakeholder engagement continues, the essential elements of these important ecosystems are, in fact, protected.
An interim protection MPA would protect an area by effectively freezing the footprint of ongoing activities until the final regulations are completed, as I said, within five years. Only ongoing activities, those activities that had taken place, for example, within the preceding year, would be allowed to continue. Allowed or prohibited activities would be determined by the class of the activity, not according, obviously, to the individual or company conducting those activities.
This bill would require application of the precautionary principle when deciding whether to designate new MPAs. The precautionary principle means that the absence of scientific certainty should not be used to postpone decisions where there is a risk of serious or irreversible harm. Under this legislation, incomplete information, or a lack of absolute certainty could no longer be used as a justification for avoiding the establishment of a marine protected area where there is a significant and immediate risk.
Bill also updates, modernizes and strengthens enforcement powers, fines and penalties.
Provisions relating to enforcement, fines, and penalties will support the people who manage and monitor marine protected areas.
Enforcement officers will get the tools and authority they need to manage marine protected areas.
Bill also proposes amendments to the Canada Petroleum Resources Act that would complement the freeze-the-footprint process of an interim marine protected area. These would provide the competent minister the authority to prohibit authorized oil and gas exploration or development activities, like, for example, seismic testing, drilling, or production, within a designated marine protected area.
Proposed amendments to the Canada Petroleum Resources Act recognize that where there interest of an oil and gas exploration and development overlap with a marine protected area, ambiguity and uncertainty in the effectiveness of the prohibitions could sometimes result. Natural Resources Canada and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada would continue to discuss with all of our partners how this principle could best be operationalized.
I would like to briefly describe what we have been doing to engage with our regulatory partners, indigenous groups, and other interested parties, familiarize them with proposed changes to the act, and address their concerns.
In recent months, we have met with provincial and territorial representatives, indigenous groups, and stakeholders in the fisheries, marine transportation, and oil and gas sectors, as well as environmental groups and a number of other Canadians.
On the whole, we have received broad support for the proposed changes. For the most part, Canadians are happy with what we are doing to protect our unique and precious marine ecosystems.
I would like to talk about something this bill does not set out to do.
The proposed changes are not meant to short-circuit the development of reliable scientific data or deprive Canadians of the opportunity to contribute to the creation of interim marine protected areas. Our government knows that the effective management of Canada’s oceans depends on an in-depth understanding of the marine environment acquired through peer-reviewed science, the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples, as well as information from the fishing industry and local communities.
This kind of comprehensive study and mobilization takes time, something that certain vulnerable areas of the ocean might not have. That is why we are proposing the implementation of the precautionary principle, in conjunction with the option to use ministerial orders to ensure immediate interim protection. In light of the concerns of industry stakeholders, we will apply the precautionary principle judiciously.
Many people fear that we do not have sufficient scientific resources to carry out the work needed within the five-year time-frame following the ministerial order, or that the precautionary principle could serve as an excuse for not doing any research at all. That is false. Our commitment to science and data collection remains unwavering. We have heard people's concerns, and we agree that our fundamental principle of science-based decision-making must not be compromised under any circumstances.
In conclusion, if Bill would speed up marine protection without sacrificing science, or the ability of Canadians to shape this important process, then I hope all members of the House would join our government in enacting this legislation. This is a powerful step forward that our government is making on one of the key commitments we made to Canadians by protecting 5% our marine and coastal areas this year, and by 10% in 2020.
I am happy to be participating in this important debate today. I look forward to working with colleagues on all sides of the House, and members of the standing committee should this legislation get to committee, to ensure we have all of the details of this important legislation right. We look forward to hearing from Canadians in the committee process of not just this House but also the other place.
If we work together on the shared objectives that Canadians care deeply about, such as protecting our marine resources for future generations, then Canadians can be proud of the work that this Parliament is doing, and we can improve not only the protection of valuable ecosystems but also the economic livelihood of coastal communities all across the country.
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to Bill . I want to start my speech today by saying that we all agree that there are things that we can do better. We want to keep our rivers, lakes, streams, and oceans pristine, not just for today but for the future.
Today I want to talk a bit more about the process. I will start with a quote, because the spoke about the three- or five-point plan that the government has with respect to its MPA process. One of those points was about the use of scientific data. We have had a number of witnesses at committee, and time and again we heard similar stories.
I will start with this. Looking at some of the previous testimony, it was claimed that there was overwhelming scientific proof that MPAs are beneficial and wildly successful. I think that was a misrepresentation of the science. My colleague just cited some of the studies that found that MPAs are not broadly successful. Enforcing MPAs would be hugely expensive and unlikely to be an effective scientific tool. They are not easily replicated. When we put in an MPA, its effectiveness is subject to a great degree to what we call “location and time”. One cannot just create a nice experiment in which we have three of the same type of MPAs in one place and then three control areas in another place, because they are wide open to outside perturbations and environmental changes that are not within our control.
If we want to build on a process of trust and goodwill, we should not ignore what our stakeholders say and consult on only a minority of the protected areas being recommended. I offer that comment from Professor Sean Cox of Simon Fraser University. We have more.
One of the other points that our hon. colleague brought up was indigenous consultation and reconciliation. As the Hereditary Chiefs’ Council of Lax Kw’alaams, from our neck of the woods in British Columbia, states:
...we categorically reject interference of outside environmental NGOs (especially those foreign-based) who appear to be dictating government policy in our traditional territory.
My speech will not counter what our hon. colleague said and not step away from the importance of making sure that we are doing everything we can to protect our rivers, lakes, and streams. Rather, we will talk about the notion of consultation, which we like to discuss a lot in this chamber. As we have seen from the very beginning, it is just a word to the government. The action depends on who is there. The government likes to say that it is consulting.
Our hon. colleague stood in the House and said that it is important that the government is working collaboratively with the provinces and territories. However, is the government really listening, because we are still hearing from so many stakeholders that it is alienating them? Whether it is indigenous peoples or those whose livelihoods depend on these areas in remote coastal communities across Canada, the government is forgetting these people.
Whether it was on the electoral reform process, access to information reform, or the most recent proposal by the Liberal government to implement tax changes that will significantly harm the competitiveness of small business, we often hear it say that it wants to be the most open and transparent government in Canadian history. However, when it comes down to consultation, it is really just about ticking that off in a box to say that it did the consultation, that it met with those concerned. It did not really listen to them, but it ticked the box.
It has no real intention to make changes for the betterment of our communities or for the people who will be affected by the contents of its bills, like the one we are debating today. Our hon. colleague mentioned the spirit of working collaboratively with the provincial and territorial governments.
I believe he said, and it was a Liberal campaign promise, that they are going to work with all parties in the House to be more collaborative, yet we still get announcements through question period. Indeed, some of the Liberal MPs are finding out about government initiatives through the media.
Going back to the closure of our salmon enhancement program and the potential Coast Guard closures, some of the Liberal backbench MPs who are part of our committee found out through the media. Again, that is just not open and transparent.
Bill in its current state will have serious consequences for our tourism, shipping, and fishing industries. This is yet another nail in the coffin for our small communities and the businesses in our communities that rely on our waterways from coast to coast to coast.
Bill stems directly from the mandate letter to the , which instructs him to work with the to increase the proportion of Canada's marine and coastal areas that are protected to 5% by 2017 and 10% by 2020.
Bill will allow for an interim designation of significant or sensitive areas, again defined by scientists through consultation with indigenous people, local communities, and others interested in the area. That is what they say.
Immediately when the Liberals start this, there is a five-year ban. Is it going to be a complete stop? Does it mean there will be no take at all? Is there any activity that will be restricted? These are things that have not been communicated to the communities and to the fishers and families that depend on this industry for their livelihoods.
Once this interim protection is in effect, the minister would have up to five years to recommend that a permanent MPA be put in place. From the previous Conservative government's work on marine protected areas and from the committee testimony, we know that the average time to declare a single protected area ranges from roughly five to seven years. That is not to be debated. We know that. That is what is required to get it right, to make sure that true consultation takes place.
We had a professor from California who talked about a series of MPAs that they had instituted off the coast of California. They talked about true consultation. I sat through this presentation by this gentleman, and I thought, “Now, there is a group that got this right.” They started early on. They communicated what their objectives were to their stakeholders right from the start, including the indigenous groups, industry, communities, environmental groups, and NGOs. They brought them all to the table and they set out what they wanted to do off the coastline of California.
They set out what the goal was and tasked the stakeholder groups to go and really talk to people, engage the communities, and find a way to holistically reach their goal. That was one of the testimonies that really stood out. We always talk about Conservative this or Liberal this, but this non-partisan person came in to speak about the science behind the MPAs and said that it has to be right, that we have to look at the total, holistic process of the MPA and look at the ecosystems. Fish do not know where the marine protected areas are. They do not know that there is an imaginary boundary. They move.
They looked at a series of marine protected areas off the coast of California and they had buy-in from everyone. It is probably the most successful marine protected area testimony that we have seen to this point.
We also know that the Liberal government is taking measures to speed up the MPA designation process, because it knows that it will not be able to meet its political targets and timelines outlined in the mandate letters. It has missed promises from the campaign. The minister said himself that this is one that the government can say it finished, but it is going to come at a cost to those economies, those local communities that desperately rely on fishing and trade for their local economies, and indeed at a cost to Canada's economy.
Liberals know that if they do not ram this through, it will add to their mounting pile of broken promises.
In addition to speeding up the designation process, the Liberal government is also proposing amendments to the Canada Petroleum Resources Act that would prohibit oil and gas activities in marine areas where interim protection is in effect. To move this forward, they would allow the and the the power to cancel companies' oil and gas interests.
We have talked about the process and we have talked about how these companies and stakeholders are not part of the process. We have asked a number of times that the minister sit in on the committee meetings and listen to the testimony, because the stakeholders are pleading, even stakeholders that one would think would be on the side of the government. Liberal members are saying that they are finding out stuff in the media and in QP announcements, and in their own communities in Atlantic Canada or on the Pacific coast they are hearing from their constituents.
In my riding, if there is an issue with small business or tourism, I hear about it and I bring their voices to Ottawa. There are 30-some Atlantic Canada MPs and outside of committee, they have not really been standing up. I think they are afraid to voice their opinions, but we are hearing it. We are hearing it in sidebar conversations.
We have already seen, in the last little while, further uncertainty in terms of business development. Whether it is the northern gateway or the Pacific NorthWest LNG, businesses are being spooked by the uncertainties, primarily by the Liberal government, because it does not know which way the wind is blowing or where the goalposts are anymore. Giving a minister the ability to say yes or no or “Wait a second; this might be a Liberal insider here, and we are going to say yes to this one”, is unacceptable. That is shameful.
Mr. Brian Clark, an environmental adviser and registered professional biologist in the Pacific northwest had this to say at committee:
...there is a lack of clear process for integrated coastal planning that leaves proponents to develop strategies in an information vacuum. Where are the no-go zones? What are the thresholds for impacts? ... ...we need specific plans for coastal areas of high industrial activity. The Pacific NorthWest project [was] located in a federal port within an industrial zone, yet there are no accepted activities to streamline environmental assessment processes. ... [In addition], there is a tremendous lack of scientific examination and resources to set baselines and determine thresholds on the north Pacific coast.
We all agree that some of the federal agencies need more funding, but Mr. Clark said, “...but don't overlook the knowledge database of proponents.”
Industry and communities are all doing their part. Industry has now become more keenly aware than ever that everybody has a cellphone. Whether it is the shipping industry, the cruise industry, or the fishing industry, everybody has a cellphone. We all want to make sure that we are doing our part, and industry is doing its part. Time and again we have heard at committee that it has offered up its findings, offered up the technology it is using, only to have that offer fall on deaf ears in the government. It is the “Thanks, we got it” type of thing. That is unacceptable.
The Liberal government has had numerous opportunities to work with energy proponents that want to ensure the health of our marine areas. With Bill , we have another example of the government's heavy-handed, anti-development approach to our resource and marine industries.
I have to admit that when I took over the fisheries and oceans shadow portfolio last year, I remember thinking that the targets outlined in the Liberal mandate letters were ambitious. The previous Conservative government set the protection target at 10% by 2020. That was the previous Conservative government's target: 2020. We wanted to make sure that we got it right.
Do members know that Canada has one of the largest coastlines in the world, if not the largest coastline in the world? Disproportionately so, the north and the Pacific are going to face the brunt of these MPAs. We are hearing that over and over again.
The primary difference was that we were not intent on meeting these targets if it meant forsaking the needs of the local coastal communities across the country that depend on the ocean for their livelihoods.
Having recognized that the might look to designate MPAs without proper consultation, my colleague from tabled a motion to study the issue further at committee. We began this study prior to the minister's tabling of Bill , just days before the House adjourned for the summer. Unfortunately, it seems he has failed to take a look at the testimony that has come forward from this important study.
I remember the words in his speech when he said he was looking forward to hearing the testimony of Canadians, industry, and stakeholders. He acknowledged the hard work and great work the committees are doing in this House and in the other House. I can see folks in the gallery nodding their heads. They heard the same.
However, the government has continued to disregard the testimony we heard from stakeholders, from witnesses that one would think would be on the side of the government.
Over the past several months, we have had the opportunity to hear from a significant number of academics, industry professionals, commercial and recreational fishing groups, NGOs, and environmentalists. Many of them had one thing in common, and that was their inability to support the government's rushed timeline with regard to the MPA designation process. They all said one thing: “Get it right.”
One of the main issues we heard time and again was the deeply flawed nature of the consultation process. One witness, Mr. Leonard LeBlanc, the managing director of the Gulf of Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board, had this to say:
The process DFO used to approach harvester associations and consult on the areas of interest for designation was unorganized and totally not transparent. They indicated that the process to establish MPAs is typically a lengthy process over many years, yet they seemed to be rushing the process along to meet strict deadlines....
Later he said:
Finally, this consultation process on the area of interest for MPA designation...perpetuated the lack of trust between industry and DFO. The lack of inclusion and answers during the consultation phase, the lack of real scientific evidence for reasoning behind the area of interest, and the lack of guarantees that traditional fisheries could continue all led to further distrust of DFO's consultation and decision-making process.
The testimony did not stop there. Jordan Nickerson, an independent fish harvester who was speaking on behalf of his family business, said this:
This current directive to protect the ocean leaves me with more questions than answers. As [a] harvester and processor, I would like to know how I, my business, my employees, and our shared future will be affected. What are our goals for MPAs...?
Canada should be a leader in listening to its people, taking the time to listen, spending money, and doing the proper science before coming to a huge decision such as establishing MPAs, supposedly based on science. Time and again we have heard that this is not being done. As a matter of fact, I have a quote from Christina Burridge of the BC Seafood Alliance, who says, “On the west coast, we're not seeing a lot of evidence-based decision-making. It's beginning to look like political decision-making.”
I am going to pare some of my comments down because I know my time is winding down.
Nunavut cabinet minister Johnny Mike used his member's statement just last week to speak specifically to the Liberal government's lack of consultation when it came to Bill . He said:
[My residents] are well aware of the potential in our offshore areas which are used for economic opportunities today by interests from outside of Nunavut.
This proposed bill for marine management and petroleum industry sector management which is being developed seemingly turns its legislative back on the people of Pangnirtung.
The federal government never consulted any northerners or my constituents on what concerns they may have about this proposed bill.
We are not against MPAs. We are against the fact that their consultation process, the process as a whole, is a sham.
Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak in favour of Bill , an act to amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act, and to offer a few suggestions on how the bill could be improved.
Let me say at the outset that I share the government's commitment to the international community and to the protection of 5% of Canada's marine areas by 2017 and 10% by 2020, with the aim of protecting our oceans by halting the destruction of marine ecosystems. However, since signing the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity, consecutive Liberal and Conservative governments have failed to take meaningful action to make good on this international commitment.
In the protection of marine areas, until very recently Canada lagged behind China at 1.6%, and is still behind Japan at 5.6%. Australia and the United States are much further ahead, with 33.2% and 30.4% of their oceans protected respectively.
This legislation would provide some much-needed new legal tools to speed up the creation of marine protected areas, but it falls far short of Canada's international commitments to protect our marine biodiversity.
While it has been encouraging to watch repeated announcements this past year of new marine protected areas, Canada is playing catch-up. The best parts of the bill will help us get there. The problem is that in the rush to meet our international commitments, the government has prioritized quantity over quality in the areas protected. That is a big mistake.
Most Canadian MPAs are not meeting international conservation standards and this legislation will do nothing to address that deficiency. It fails to set minimum protection standards and targets for zoning of marine protected areas, which renders the designation inconsistent at best and meaningless at worst.
It goes without saying that ecological integrity should be the foremost priority of MPA management. However, due to a lack of minimum protection standards, at this point Canada's MPAs offer an insufficient level of protection of sensitive ecosystems.
In its report, “Linking Science and Law Minimum Protection Standards for Canada's Marine Protected Areas”, West Coast Environmental Law states that ecological integrity should be a top priority for MPAs. The report states:
Decisions on activities permitted within marine protected areas should be required to prioritize maintenance of the protected ecosystems' processes, and functions.
The Canada National Parks Act (CNPA) and associated regulations require the prioritization of “the maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity” to guide decisions on allowable activities.
The national parks policy elaborates this in principle, stating that “national park ecosystems will be given the highest degree of protection to ensure the perpetuation of natural environments essentially unaltered by human activity” and that “human activities within a national park that threaten the integrity of park ecosystems will not be permitted.”
The CNPA also gives the Minister the power to designate Wilderness Areas in “any area of a park that exists in a natural state or that is capable of returning to a natural state”, and when that designation is made, the Minister may not authorize any activity to be carried out in a wilderness area that is likely to impair the wilderness character of the area.
Including requirements to maintain ecological integrity of protected marine ecosystems within Canada's Oceans Act would ensure adherence to protection standards and thus link science to legal practice.
A concern that we are hearing more and more about is ocean plastics and marine debris. We firmly believe that the government needs to implement a strategy and to fund programs that will preserve the ecological integrity of our MPAs from this growing hazard.
Some current and proposed MPAs allow harmful activities like oil and gas exploration and extraction, mining exploration, industrial fishing, including bottom trawling. Banning these activities from protected areas should be the obvious choice.
When we compare MPAs to the protections offered to terrestrial parks it becomes even more striking. In the words of World Wildlife Fund President David Miller:
Oil and gas extraction is not compatible with conservation and should never be permitted inside a protected area. National parks on land have long had this in place as a minimum standard. It seems outrageous that a marine area could be designated as protected and yet an oil and gas platform could still be placed there, but that's exactly what going to be allowed in the Laurentian Channel unless the government of Canada changes course. The channel is a critical migration route for some of our most endangered whales, and oil and gas exploration and extraction threatens them with noise pollution, habitat disturbance and physical injury from seismic blasting.
This situation is an appalling double standard. We would not allow oil and gas exploration in a national park on land, so why would we allow it in a protected area in our oceans? The answer to this problem is clear. A strong set of protection standards, in line with the International Union of the Conservation of Nature, and legislated protection targets should be adopted by the government in order to meet our international commitments.
This is exactly what 59 scientists from across the world requested in an open letter to the and the . The letter stressed that scientific studies have shown repeatedly that stricter protection provides greater biodiversity benefits. They argue, at minimum, we should ban the most damaging activities to marine biodiversity, such as oil and gas activity, undersea mining, ocean waste dumping, and industrial scale fishing. Marine protected areas are home to countless at-risk species, and by definition, those ecosystems are in great need of protection.
This is important. We cannot allow a lack of legal rigour and haste to prevent us from accomplishing the goal we have agreed to. The government has made much of its commitment to science-based public policy, but with Bill , it has again chosen to ignore the best available conservation science. The Liberal government should listen to the scientists within the scientific community, and not let the bill be another broken promise to Canadians.
Unfortunately, the government's environmental record is a string of broken promises and unfulfilled campaign commitments. It begins with the stunning approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, with the promised review of public consultation and environmental assessment. The people of British Columbia did not vote for a sevenfold increase in the number of oil tankers in Vancouver harbour, and they certainly did not vote for the accompanying risk of an oil spill that would devastate our coast.
It continues with no action on their promise to restore essential environmental protection legislation. On the campaign trail, Liberals promised to restore the Fisheries Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and the Navigation Protection Act. While we wait, they have approved the construction of the now defunct Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal on critical salmon spawning grounds, and cleared the way for development of the Site C dam under the weakened legislation.
The Liberal record of saying one thing and doing another is why we should all be concerned that the bill gives the minister far too much latitude to decide what activities are permissible in an MPA.
Ministerial discretion has become a red flag for Canadians. Too often, the government has promised one thing in regard to environmental protection and climate change, while using ministerial discretion to accomplish the exact opposite. Recently, the made an exemption to the Fisheries Act to allow one of the potentially most destructive projects on the planet to move forward, the KSM mine in British Columbia.
KSM will be the largest open pit mine in North America. Building this mine will require destruction of upper tributaries of the North Treaty and South Teigen Creeks, which flow into the salmon-bearing Nass and Bell-Irving rivers, for tailings storage. Alarmingly, KSM will store more than 27 times the amount of tailings stored at the Mount Polley Mine, using the same technology that failed three years ago.
We need clear legislation with strong guidelines to constrain ministerial discretion. These powers should be used to forward the ecological integrity of a marine protected area rather than permitting harmful activities. Recent research shows MPAs that permit harmful activities are less effective at achieving biodiversity than those with large no-take zones where extractive activity is banned.
Dr. Susanna Fuller, from the Ecology Action Centre, believes that MPAs core no-take zones should encompass 75% of a given MPA. Canada is nowhere close to reaching that high bar. Right now, the minister has the discretion to determine what activities are allowed in an MPA, and how restrictive each zone in an MPA can be.
So far, Canada's has implemented a no-take zone in only five MPAs to date, and those areas are tiny in comparison to the overall MPA. Canada should follow international examples, and make no-take zones the rule rather than the exception in MPAs.
I would like to speak for a moment about opportunities for co-governance of MPAs between indigenous nations and the crown in Canada.
West Coast Environmental Law has published a paper entitled “An Ocean of Opportunity: Co-governance in Marine Protected Areas in Canada”. It states:
Indigenous peoples have been governing marine territories using their own legal traditions since time immemorial. For the most part, indigenous legal orders have not been recognized or upheld in the governance of marine protected areas (MPAs) in Canada. The current Government of Canada has committed to “a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.” Co-governance arrangements in MPAs are one way of achieving a true nation-to-nation or Inuit-to-Crown relationship by creating space for the healthy interaction of Canadian and indigenous laws. With the Government of Canada’s renewed commitment to protect at least 10% of Canada’s oceans by 2020, there is a unique opportunity to implement co-governance arrangements in both new and established MPAs.
The report states that Canada has an opportunity to become a world leader in recognizing and implementing meaningful co-governance in MPA law, and I agree.
In closing, Canada's New Democrats understand there is no one-size-fits-all solution to marine protected areas, and we recognize that different MPAs are going to require different types of protections. Canada is large and geographically diverse. Local context must be taken into account. While uniform standards may not make sense for all coasts, minimum protection standards absolutely do, and that is what is missing from the bill.
The government needs to listen to scientists, first nations, working fishers, the provinces and territories, and concerned Canadians, so that we make the necessary improvements to Bill .
Madam Speaker, Canada has the longest coastline of any country in the world. For Canadians who live on the coast, there is a powerful pull and connection to the natural world. It is our identity, it is our livelihood, it is our life. Canadians are passionate about the health of the ocean. We watch and care about everything that happens on our shores, in coastal waters, and in offshore areas. Canadians have been calling for greater protections and the capacity to monitor and enforce those protections.
Bill is our government's legislation to protect marine ecosystems and to support the health of our oceans, in concert with forthcoming legislation under the Navigation Protection Act, the Fisheries Act, and the environmental assessment review.
Marine protected areas are a way to protect the ocean. These special areas seek to balance conservation and protection with sustainable use of our marine resources. They are living networks, where marine species are born, grow, reproduce, and thrive. It is by protecting these systems that we can protect the oceans and the maritime resources on which many Canadians depend.
Bill would enable the government to establish marine protected areas expeditiously, protecting critical and unique areas of our Canadian oceans as soon as within the next 24 months. These amendments would ensure that, when needed, an interim-protection marine protected area could be put in place so that new activities that could risk further harm to ocean ecosystems, habitat, or marine life would not be allowed to occur in these protected zones. The interim protection offered by the new provisions in the Oceans Act would be an important part of ensuring that Canadians who depend on fishing, whether for shellfish, finfish, or other marine organisms, could count on their livelihoods being protected over the long term. By establishing protection for critical marine habitats, we would protect the marine resources we rely upon.
A significant aspect of Bill is to strengthen the law and to lay penalties. We would ensure that enforcement officers would have the power to maintain the protected status of these marine protected areas. Under these proposed changes, the minister would have the authority to designate individuals as enforcement officers. For example, indigenous people currently working as guardian watchmen on the North Pacific coast or as members of provincial or local law enforcement could be designated the authority to enforce the Oceans Act within their waters. This provision would allow for greater collaboration with indigenous organizations and would distribute enforcement responsibilities to our partners. On the ground, this would make a significant difference to citizens, who have been begging for this kind of proper attention and collaboration.
The amendments would enable enforcement officers to make far better use of technology during an investigation. For example, an enforcement officer could require anyone being investigated to produce documents or electronic data, could examine the documents electronically, and could require that access to these devices be granted. It is hard to believe that we are talking about this in 2017, so it is important that we get with the times. These new contemporary powers are similar to those found in the Fisheries Act.
Not only would the powers of enforcement officers be strengthened but the amendments and additions proposed in Bill would be aligned with the powers of environmental protection officers under other statutes. Similar powers are found in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. The proposed changes would better match those proposed under other natural resources laws. For example, the obligation to provide assistance to enforcement officers would be added to the Oceans Act. Under this new power, those involved would be required to provide reasonable assistance to enforcement officers during an inspection. The officer would also be able to examine, take samples of, and seize all objects that she or he had reasonable grounds to believe were obtained through the commission of an offence under the act.
Also, rights of passage would be added to the Oceans Act. When an enforcement officer needed to go through private property to inspect an area that could not otherwise be accessed, the officer would now have the right to walk through private property to gain access to the area of the ocean being inspected, such as a pier, a fishing vessel, or fishing apparatus. Ships that needed to be inspected could now be lawfully directed to or detained in any place in Canadian waters. Officers would have the authority to require this if they had reasonable grounds to believe that the ship or a person on board that ship had committed an offence related to the Oceans Act. Similar powers can be found in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act,1999, and the Antarctic Environmental Protection Act.
A new provision would also be added to the Oceans Act such that the legal owner of objects seized, locked up, abandoned, or confiscated, and persons entitled to possession of them, would be jointly and severally liable for the costs incurred by the government for their inspection, seizure, forfeiture, or disposition.
An offence under the Oceans Act could now also result in charges under other applicable Canadian legislation, such as the Fisheries Act or the Species at Risk Act. For example, fisheries closures could also be imposed in marine protected areas. A violation of such closures could expose a fisher to charges laid under the Fisheries Act, as well as charges for not respecting a prohibition in marine protected areas.
I will move on to the fines and punishments proposed under Bill to create greater certainty and administrative consistency. Under the current 20-year-old Oceans Act, contravention of the existing prohibitions can carry fines of up to $100,000 for an offence punishable on summary conviction, or $500,000 for an indictable offence. Penalties or punishments can vary, depending on the offence, and can include the imposition of monetary fines, licence suspension, prohibition orders, and creative sentencing, such as community service.
Bill seeks to align fines with those of other acts. The amount of the fine imposed on an individual would increase to between $200,000 and $300,000 for an offence punishable on summary conviction, and from $500,000 to $1 million for a criminal offence.
The bill also proposes to allow the courts to impose fines on corporations and ships. This is a measure that is consistent with other environmental laws, including the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
We would add new factors the courts would be able to take into account when they determined the fine that would be imposed on a person, corporation, or ship if they were found guilty. These would be the following: Was the offence a continuation of an offence? Did the offender do this numerous times or over several days, weeks, or months? Was this a second or subsequence offence? Was the offender found guilty of having committed another offence in the past? Were there any aggravating factors, such as having committed the offence despite having been warned by an enforcement officer not to start or continue the activity?
The courts would also be able to take into account such matters as small revenue corporation status and the liability of directors, masters, owners, officers, agents, and mandataries. The bill would also provide the possibility of leniency under the due diligence defence. This means that if one was accused of an offence, one could explain to a court that he or she was prudent and reasonable in the particular circumstances of the offence.
There would also be more court orders in the bill, such as the ability to charge an amount to monitor environmental effects, to promote the conservation and protection of marine protected areas, to conduct research, to assist a group for its work on the marine protected area, or to support an educational institution.
Bill is an important step toward providing Canada's oceans with the protection Canadians expect and have been asking for, and for me, as a representative of West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, this is an important step. It is a step toward protecting the livelihoods of many Canadians as well.
I look forward to continuing to participate in the protection of Canada's marine ecosystems from coast to coast to coast.
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak today, but not knowing when I will be cut off is awkward. Hopefully I can get through my speech today.
I rise today to speak to Bill , an act to amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act. The bill proposes to significantly increase the powers of the so as to allow the minister to designate marine protected areas, or MPAs, for an interim period of up to five years.
The Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans is currently studying MPAs, specifically the criteria and process being used to identify and establish them.
Last December, I presented a motion to committee to undertake this study because it was clear to me that massive efforts and a significant amount of funding was being exerted by the government to increase MPAs, while stakeholders living and working along Canada's coasts were unaware of what was happening. At that time, it was clear that the government was exerting pressure on the established process and protocols for establishing MPAs in an effort to speed up that process. It was also clear that the government was willing to sacrifice processes of consensus-building with Canadians for the sake of expediency.
First nations, fishermen, cargo shippers, tourism operators, conservation groups, academics, and many other stakeholders continue to face consequences of the government's frantic and half-baked approach to speeding up the process of establishing MPAs.
Why is the government in such a hurry? Why is it so desperate that it needs to propose a bill that would nullify long-established processes and protocols used to establish consensus among stakeholders?
The answer is that in 2015, the Liberals set delivery dates for achieving MPA objectives that the previous Conservative government had committed to through the Aichi targets under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, or CBD.
Through the Aichi targets, the Conservative government in 2010 committed to conserving 10% of our coastal and marine areas through networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, not necessarily MPAs.
The objectives of conserving coastal and marine areas are worthy objectives, but the problem that thousands of Canadians working and living in coastal areas face today is that they have been cut out of the process for establishing MPAs. Why? Because the Liberal government has failed to deliver so many campaign promises that the pressure is on to deliver these commitments made by the Conservatives. The problem is that the timelines promised by the Liberals in the election were unrealistic in 2015, and they are unrealistic today.
The Liberal government has overwhelmed the established structures and processes for developing MPAs. Rather than stepping back and re-assessing its timeline, the Liberal government, through this legislation, is attempting to discard the systems, structures, and processes that have been used for years to establish MPAs in Canada.
Through the bill, the Liberal government proposes to give the increased powers to completely bypass established structures and processes designed to build consensus, designed to identify the right balance to strike in considering the interests of first nations, fishermen, and other Canadians affected by MPAs.
Bill would allow for arbitrary interim designation of MPAs prior to formal consultations with first nations or area stakeholders.
It is completely unacceptable in Canada, or anywhere for that matter, for the federal government to undermine structures and processes that allow citizens, including first nations, to engage and defend their interests when the government is considering a decision that could have a major effect on those citizens.
Upon reviewing the mandate letter of the , it was clear the government was going to do everything it could to reach its political targets come hell or high water, pardon the pun.
Considering that the 2010 Aichi targets were given 10 years to be implemented, it occurred to me that there may be a reason for the long time frame set to reach these targets.
The Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, or FOPO, as it is known here on the Hill, consists of members from across the country and the three main political parties in the House. It is an honour to sit on that committee with members who I believe share a common commitment to fish, fisheries, and their habitat.
The FOPO committee is still in the midst of this study on MPAs, and has so far heard from witnesses from many areas of Canada and abroad. The committee had benefited greatly from testimony by first nations, fishermen, conservationists, and representatives from the shipping and tourism sectors. What has been even more interesting are the common themes borne in the testimony and the evidence the committee has received.
The committee has heard that proper consultation before and during the process of establishing MPAs is paramount to establishing MPAs that are both effective and accepted, especially consultation with and by local communities. Nowhere was this more evident than in the north where MPAs have been established for the protection of our aboriginal fishing and harvesting areas. These areas were established where the local people wanted them, in the manner in which the local people wanted them, and only after appropriate consultation was completed. It was not in an arbitrary manner, absent of scientific certainty, to meet a political target.
I raise the point of scientific certainty here, because in one of the most alarming clauses in Bill , proposed section 35.2 reads:
The Governor in Council and the Minister shall not use lack of scientific certainty regarding the risks posed by any activity that may be carried out in certain areas of the sea as a reason to postpone or refrain from exercising their powers or performing their duties and functions under subsection 35(3) or 35.1(2).
Now, not everyone may take the time to understand what this means. However, it means that the minister would not need the backing of science to designate a marine protected area. There would be no science necessary.
It is shameful that the current Liberal government's 2015 policy platform alluded to basing decisions on science, yet now as government, it is proposing to discard the structures and processes of consultation and science by setting the will of the minister above the needs and interests of all Canadians, including first nations.
I support marine protected areas. Canada has some of the most biodiverse regions in the world, and our coasts are truly rich in biodiversity. We need to recognize and identify where those important and sensitive areas are and take measures to protect them while at the same time recognize that we can harvest and develop sustainably, so that our country can prosper, maintain our high standards, and be able to enforce the laws and protect the areas we designate. If we choose to move forward without first knowing what it is we were trying to protect, or what industry we may be prejudicing, we will fail in our duties to the Canadians who have elected us to represent them here in the House.
Getting back to the study by the FOPO committee, I could quote from a number of witnesses who testified that the process of establishing MPAs has been rushed. For example, Mr. Ian MacPherson, executive director of Prince Edward Island Fishermen's Association, stated:
...the PEIFA understands the requirement to protect marine environments, but we do have concerns surrounding the tight timelines to accomplish these goals. The first step to designating a ministerial order MPA is to gather existing scientific, economic, social, and cultural information on the area. Prince Edward Island is a small province driven by small fishing communities. The displacement of fishers from one community—
It would appear that I am out of time. Hopefully, I will be able to continue my speech tomorrow.