Mr. Speaker, it is a sad day here when members cannot have their question of privilege heard in this House. I respect your position, but when we have members standing on a point of order and simply being shut down, it is a dismal day for democracy in Canada. What we have seen this week with the government shutting down debate and calling time allocation on multiple bills has to make one wonder what it is that the Liberals are trying to change the channel on, and it is disturbing.
I will start on a lighter note, noting that this is the second half of a 20-minute time slot that I was allowed. I had 10 minutes yesterday. It has now been almost 24 hours to carry on this section of the debate. I was debating whether I should wear the same clothes so if the two videos get clipped together it does not look like I did a Superman change. Oh, pardon me, that would be a super-person change, or a super-people change.
It has been almost 24 hours since I began my speech to Bill , so I want to recap a bit of what has taken place. In December 2016, I saw what the current government may intend to do with changes to the way marine protected areas are established in B.C., so I put forward a motion at the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans that the committee undertake a study on the criteria and process for establishing MPAs in Canada. That motion was accepted and approved by the committee members. We eventually got around to starting that study in about April 2017. We travelled to the north and to the west coast in June. We travelled to the east coast in the fall. As I said yesterday, we heard differing testimony on how the MPA process was working.
We heard that with the process that is taking place right now, in some cases, it took seven to 10 years to establish an MPA. That is a fairly lengthy time, but we heard that those MPAs that were created under that process were accepted by the communities and in fact in many cases were put forward by and promoted by the communities that were most affected. What we heard was that the proposed changes that Bill could bring forward would eliminate the opportunity for those fishers and those communities to have input into how those MPAs are created, and it was quite discerning. We heard that many times in Atlantic Canada and yet the current government, with full representation in Atlantic Canada, has chosen to ignore the testimony that we heard there.
The committee study on MPAs has been kicked aside and sidelined many times. We started a study on small-vessel licensing, which kicked the study aside. Now we are going to see legislation on Bill coming to the committee so the study on MPAs will be further kicked aside. I question whether the Liberals may be causing this because they do not want that testimony exposed to the public, and the recommendations that may come out of that committee study. The recommendations we would have seen would have indicated the problems with the new proposed process, so for some reason the Liberals are pushing aside that MPA study and the report that would result out of it, kicking it aside and fast-tracking by time allocation the debate on Bill so that we have no process of really exposing the issues and the problems that are in the bill. Again, it is an affront to democracy and just an example of the arrogance that the government has been showing over the past couple of weeks. It is really disturbing to me and should be disturbing to all Canadians.
There is another part of this scenario that we can only speculate on. Is there another reason that the wants to get this legislation out there and get it in front of the committee to tie up the committee's time? That may be because Conservative members on the committee have started to expose the surf clam scam.
One may ask what the surf clam scam is all about. The decided unilaterally to expropriate 25% of the surf clam quota from a holder in Newfoundland. He then issued that quota to a non-existent company that was established by close Liberal friends and family members. Unbelievable. The threads are starting to unravel on that surf clam scam.
I project that perhaps time allocation on Bill and Bill , an act to amend the Fisheries Act, may be a cover-up process to take attention away from what really should be concerning, that being a perceived conflict of interest.
That takes us all the way back to the mandate letters that were provided to Liberal cabinet members by the , which indicated that there should be no actual or perceived conflict of interest and yet we have seen it happen time and time again with the government, not just perceived conflict of interest but actual conflict of interest. The was found in conflict. There are still questions around the Prime Minister, who was found guilty of breaking the law four times and had to address that with the conflict commissioner.
I will get back to Bill and some of our concerns, which I touched a bit on yesterday regarding wildlife management, fisheries management, totally protected areas, and no-take zones as they are being referred to in reference to the Oceans Act and MPAs.
Similar things to those no-take zones have been put in place on land and in parks across Canada and they have created problems. They have also taken place in the U.S. and we have seen problems. We heard testimony from a U.S. scientist at committee who explained what had happened with the California MPA process. It was absolutely devastating to the recreational fishery and the supporting sectors down there. There was a 20% drop in licence sales and vehicle sales relating to towing equipment for boats. It was absolutely devastating for that process. We cannot afford to see that same process take place here in Canada. We need full consultation.
This legislation would give the minister overarching power to decide to close an area on extremely short notice, only taking into account one year's previous activity within that area, not going back eight to 10 years to see what might have been there. I also spoke a bit about this yesterday. I spoke about how a halibut fishery had recovered and was going back to an area in Nova Scotia. Fishermen had not been able to fish there for five to 10 years but suddenly the halibut were starting to come back, so they were going back to fish in that area. As I said, fish move, fisheries move, and ocean currents change.
This legislation proposes to eliminate all of the background information that can be gathered, the process of consulting with local fishermen, local communities, and the science community for establishing what should be a well-received and well-accepted MPA, as has been happening in the process already.
We have also heard that there are other processes for protecting our oceans and a lot of those are in place already in Canada with rockfish conservation areas on our west coast.
Those areas are not MPAs, but now some are saying that just to meet our targets we should include those. I do not disagree with that. That is a good process. However, those conservation areas need to be established, have long-term goals, but also the long-term background, which the bill fails to allow.
It has been interesting to have make the same speech almost 24 hours apart.
Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to rise for a third time to express my support for Bill and to speak against the proposed amendment to refer the bill back to the standing committee for the purpose of reconsidering all of the clauses.
The has been given a clear mandate to protect Canada's three oceans, our coasts, our waterways, and our fisheries to ensure they remain healthy for the benefit of future generations, something I thought about today when I saw so many young people in our gallery. This is a commitment that I take very seriously and very personally.
As I said previously, when we debated the bill at second reading, I am extremely honoured that my first piece of legislation as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard is for such a worthy cause.
The Oceans Act is a fundamental tool that Canadians rely upon to ensure the future health of our marine ecosystems. I truly believe that at the end of the day, a pristine and abundant environmental ecosystem is our greatest underlying economic driver.
Specific to today's debate, the Government of Canada has committed to Aichi target 11 under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. As well, I just returned from the World Ocean Summit, where I was able to share the leadership that Canada had once again taken to protect our oceans.
In addition to this bill, we are returning lost protections and incorporating modern safeguards into the Fisheries Act through Bill . We have committed to making the protection of our oceans a pillar of our G7 agenda. This includes leadership in four key areas, including ocean health, sustainable fisheries, addressing plastics, and building resilient coastal communities. We were applauded for making such significant progress on our targets.
As a government, we are committed to protecting 10% of our oceans and marine areas by 2020. When we took office, less than 1% of these areas were protected, but today we have protected 7.75%, representing hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of new protections, protections of which I know Canadians are proud.
Our three oceans are complex webs of ecological and human systems that need to be understood, protected, and in many cases restored. Marine protected areas and marine protected area networks preserve these ecological links and protect diverse marine ecosystems and species. We will continue to establish marine protected areas through science-based decision-making, transparency, and in a manner that advances reconciliation with indigenous peoples.
It currently takes an average of seven years to designate an Oceans Act marine protected area. It requires time to undertake scientific assessments and socio-economic studies, as well as conduct consultations with governments, indigenous groups, and stakeholders. These are important steps that cannot be eliminated as they ensure that a marine protected area achieves its intended objectives while supporting local culture, the economy, and other needs. That said, a very clear understanding of what needs to be protected typically emerges well before all of the data is compiled.
Amendments to the Oceans Act under Bill propose solutions that will help us protect critical and unique areas of our Canadian oceans faster, without sacrificing the necessary science and consultation processes. The amendments ensure collaboration continues, requiring provinces, territories, indigenous groups, industry, and other stakeholders to be part of both the establishment and management processes.
Essentially, Bill proposes amendments to the Oceans Act to provide an additional tool that will allow for interim protection of specific areas through a ministerial order. This interim protection will be done following initial science and consultations, which would take around 24 months.
Following this step, the full federal regulatory process would continue to formally designate the marine protected area within the next five years. These amendments would ensure that when needed, an interim marine protected area could be put into place. New activities that risk further harm to ocean ecosystems, habitat, or marine life would not be allowed to occur in these interim protected zones.
These amendments not only respect current activities but also the need to conduct comprehensive consultations and scientific research before the final marine protected area is established.
Therefore, the time frame to fully establish a marine protected area may still take up to seven years, but there could be some interim protections in place within the first two. No longer can a lack of 100% scientific certainty be used to delay or prevent the protection of a sensitive marine area. Right now there is no protection until there is full protection, which is a problem these amendments are effectively solving, a problem that is amplified by an ocean that is so quickly changing, along with our climate. This policy is entirely in lockstep with the precautionary approach, which is a founding principle of conservation in Canada.
To put it another way, an interim marine protected area would freeze the footprint of ongoing activities. Under this concept, only ongoing activities, which are those activities occurring one year before the interim protection is in place, would be allowed to continue. For example, current fishing activities, or fishing activities where a moratorium is in place but licences are still held would be considered ongoing activities.
To further support this new concept, which is integral to the creation of an interim marine protected area, Bill also includes amendments that would require application of the precautionary principle when deciding whether to designate new marine protected areas. That means incomplete information or lack of absolute certainty would not be justification for avoiding protection where there would be a risk to the marine ecosystem.
Bill also includes modernized, updated, and strengthened enforcement powers, fines, and punishments under the Oceans Act.
The proposed amendments to the Oceans Act have received broad support during outreach efforts to discuss the bill. Canadians recognize the amendments would not short-circuit the development of sound science or cut off people's opportunity to collaborate and be consulted in the development of marine protected areas. Instead, they would ensure protection would be put in place quicker, in the interests of all Canadians.
We would be able to act on initial science and information to help these areas safe while additional research, engagement, and regulatory processes would be worked through.
Supporting the health of our ocean is necessary to ensure that future generations will be able to rely on the unique and precious marine ecosystems and resources that underline our environment and economy. It should go without saying, but Canadians are counting on us to protect our oceans, a resource that at times we have too often taken for granted.
I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to congratulate the fisheries and oceans committee on the great work it has done on this bill and on additional studies it has taken on, including several fisheries and MPAs, which was raised by the previous member. An example of its extraordinary work is visible in Bill , amendments to the Fisheries Act. The committee made 32 recommendations after examining the changes made to the act by the previous government. We now know all 32 recommendations were not only considered but incorporated into the act.
I was also very impressed by the committee's deliberations and thoughtful consideration of Bill . It consulted broadly and incorporated amendments from colleagues on both sides of the House. This is the primary reason sending the bill back to committee does not make any sense. The committee has considered the legislation clause by clause and now it is time to pass it for third reading.
I invite everyone in the House to support Bill , an act to amend the Oceans Act, and to oppose the Conservative amendment.
Mr. Speaker, I normally say what a pleasure it is for me to rise in debate on a specific piece of legislation before the House. That is the case because I enjoy talking about public policy. However, I would be remiss if I did not comment on why we are debating Bill today.
In fact, I feel bad for our table officers, our parliamentary clerks, and everyone trying to support debate in the House, because it has been a bit sporadic over the last number of days, for one simple reason. That is the fact that the government, which ran on slogans of accountability and transparency, has been desperate to not provide those two things to the opposition with respect to the Atwal India affair.
I have been speaking for some time, so I think my colleagues will see that I am ready for the debate. However, we would not be debating Bill at all today were the government willing to be accountable, with the same level of disclosure that was provided to the media, be that classified or non-classified, which is very hard to determine after today's question period. MPs should be entitled to that same thing.
In a ruling earlier today, Mr. Speaker, you confirmed that MPs, collectively and individually, are entitled to hear from Mr. Jean, but there needs to be an order of Parliament to facilitate that appearance. Normally, a committee would call on him to provide testimony to appear. However, when the government uses its majority to block Mr. Jean, to block the ability of Parliament to exercise that order, it is stifling debate, covering up the Atwal affair. Whatever they want to call it, the government cannot suggest that it is not violating our right to get to the heart of the matter, based on the fact that it is using its majority to quash proper scrutiny of the major diplomatic incident.
I say that at the outset, because I want Canadians following this debate, both in our gallery and at home, to recognize that we are debating Bill , because the government is desperate to keep the national security adviser, Daniel Jean, from answering a few simple questions and providing the same level of information he provided journalists.
What I find curious about today's question period is that the and the suggested that none of the information he gave is classified, yet a member of the press gallery, during question period, confirmed that the national security adviser said that certain pieces of information could not be shared publicly. They could not write about it. That would suggest the contrary. This is like an onion. Every level we peel away is another layer, and our eyes are watering with tears for the lack of accountability of the government, to keep with that analogy.
Getting to the heart of the matter on Bill , what may look to Canadians like sort of an update of an act, I am going to suggest, is the creeping edge of ideological Liberal policy and ideology creeping into the science of our oceans and our economic relationships with companies that invest capital to develop resources offshore. I will speak to that in a moment.
Overall, the bill is suggested as empowering and clarifying how the minister can establish marine protected spaces and provide a national network of those. That has been done before, but I would suggest, with this bill, that the government takes a very ideological turn.
The bill contains new powers for enforcement officers and new offences for ships and operators that violate nationally protected marine areas. What is also contained in the bill is where the government is really going with this. It would provide the ability to cancel interests, be they economic or others, in a marine area and to compensate for them. Petrological investigation and development, I think, is what is meant by that. Already the government is signalling that it intends to basically pull back on some of the offshore licences many companies have.
I would suggest that members from Atlantic Canada ask some questions. They are already suffering greatly from the 's move to try and increase the regulation that led to the cancellation of energy east. I know my friend from Saint John has watched that closely.
The Liberals are already hurting the energy industry in Atlantic Canada, and now, have they consulted with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland? We have provincial-federal boards to regulate the offshore. There is the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, and there is one that was created for Newfoundland and Labrador.
I would add that all of the work with respect to allowing provinces to be net beneficiaries of their offshore petroleum wealth, much like the onshore in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and even in Ontario, Petrolia, Ontario, at one point, all of that security for those Atlantic provinces was provided by Conservative governments, which do not try to chase away investment from the energy industry. They try to make sure Canada benefits to the full extent that our royalty regimes will allow, and to make sure that areas like Saint John, New Brunswick, Halifax, Nova Scotia, and St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador benefit from employment and secondary and tertiary benefits from the offshore. It was the governments of Brian Mulroney and Stephen Harper that provided that.
I was proud to learn all about that at Atlantic Canada's finest law school, Dalhousie Law School, where we studied that approach to the offshore.
Bill already indicates that the Liberals are going to be pulling a lot of these economic rights back. The members from Atlantic Canada should already be worried about the government's move to ensure energy east did not happen, and about the war on small business, which I know my friend from Saint John watched very closely, because he publicly criticized his government on that. There is a war on job creation in Atlantic Canada, and I see Bill C-55 as the latest arsenal in the Liberal government's attempt to stymie the ability for Atlantic Canada to benefit from its offshore resources.
There is a number of other measures in the bill. Interestingly, it excludes first nations organizations that may have agreements as part of a land claims treaty. If the Liberals really are doing this in the public interest, I wonder why there would be that exclusion. I think our first nations would want to know they were being consulted on part of the decision related to marine integrity.
Finally, there are obvious exemptions for search and rescue, scientific research, and damage response that would allow first responders and others to go into marine protected spaces. It is the odd time I get to speak in the House about my own experience in that regard. When I was with the Sea King 423 squadron in Atlantic Canada, we deployed with our Atlantic navy. We went out into these economic exclusive zones, to the fisheries patrol in the Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap. My crew and I landed on Hibernia, hundreds of nautical miles from St. John's, because we had to train and prepare for evacuations and responses to tragedy. Newfoundland and Labrador knows that from the sad Ocean Ranger tragedy.
Developing a resource and the jobs related to the offshore has its risks. I have seen that first hand, but from living in Atlantic Canada and serving in that role, I have also seen first hand how the economic activity in, for example St. John's and the outports along the Avalon, benefits from this resource development. Bill is the plan to stop that, to pull back licences and the ability for these resources to be developed responsibly.
I think we are debating this now because of the cover-up in the Atwal affair, but I am hoping that shining a light on Bill allows some of the Atlantic caucus to speak up to the and say, “Enough is enough, Mr. Prime Minister. We're already going to see jobs at risk and the energy industry impacted by your cancellation of energy east because of the burdens you have put on Trans Canada and other operators. Now, with this, are you forecasting more cuts in offshore oil and gas exploration?”
I hope our friends, particularly my friend from Saint John, asked those tough questions at caucus, because Bill seems to signal that.
The ideological underpinnings here that really concern me can be found in proposed sections 35 and 35.1 of the act, because it appears to integrate directly the precautionary principle into the legislation, and that should cause some debate. Those sections basically say that we cannot use scientific uncertainty regarding risks, marine health, and that sort of thing, as a reason to be cautious with respect to regulation, or to phase in or to not have regulation until there is scientific certainty.
The precautionary principle, which clearly some ideological adherents in the Liberal Party want to push forward, is that before the science is even clear, let us regulate and remove activity. That is what that says. Some call it the “better safe than sorry” philosophy, but actually it is not, because acting before we have the science will have unintended risks, especially, and learned scholars have written about this, when it comes to economic activity. We would hurt economic activity, because we would be leaning in favour of stopping something before the science was even clear.
As a Conservative MP who had the pleasure of being in government for a short time, including in cabinet—and now we are on our way back there, but we are on this side—one thing I remember clearly at the time was the current 's love for such expressions as the Liberals were for “evidence-based decision-making”, that they were going to be a “science-led government”, that they were going to unshackle science. Well, here in the bill, it should concern Canadians that the Liberals are actually saying that they are not going to wait for the science at all. They are going to regulate. They are going to stop development. They are going to stop technological improvement that could address some of the issues at play before the science is confirmed.
People have written on how the precautionary principle, if it is mandated, will lead to economic disruption and stifle technological innovation. We would not have actually assessed the situation properly, and so we are going to run into unintended risks, because we are leaning forward without a proper assessment of the science.
The good thing, the way environmental legislation already reads, is that it generally will regulate where there is science, and it does not have to be absolutely certain. Legislation generally in Canada, the United States, and other countries has been able to regulate in a way that is minimally intrusive, particularly while the science is uncertain. I am not just making this up. These are sections that the Liberals are inserting into two acts of Parliament that already exist. I do not think the Liberals could suggest that there is no regulation of the environment in our oceans. They are acknowledging that the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act exist to do this, but they are going further by inserting this ideological approach to governing. This should concern people, especially my friends in Atlantic Canada who would like the Liberal government, for a change, to lean in favour of jobs. However, the Liberals lean in favour of stopping investment.
Members do not have to just take my word for it. We remember the famous and mildly embarrassing speech the gave introducing President Obama in this chamber, the hallowed ground where once Winston Churchill gave his “some chicken, some neck” speech. The introduced the president of the United States by saying that the Press Gallery and Canadians were going to witness a bromance in action, or “dude-plomacy” as he termed it. I wanted to crawl under the table at that moment I was so embarrassed by our .
What did President Obama's chief official from the office of information and regulatory affairs say about inserting the precautionary principle in legislation? He said, “The precautionary principle, for all its rhetorical appeal, is deeply incoherent.” He acknowledges that it is policy on the fly, so that people could feel good, without clear science.
We have the ability to have science, in terms of the impact of resource development, how to mitigate that. We have science with respect to fisheries, marine life. Why would we not consult the science?
The Liberals are inserting into legislation the ability for government to ignore the science and stop first. Stop and ask questions later. I think, particularly in Atlantic Canada, that should concern a number of people.
There has been criticism of this approach because it is inserting ideological value judgments in place of sound public policy supported by science. The interesting thing is so many of the Liberal candidates, and I am sure the members listening to my speech, probably repeated that “evidence-based decision-making” line. That was one of the Liberals' top hits from the election campaign. Where is that now?
By incorporating the precautionary principle into legislation, the Liberals are saying that they are making a value judgment—their value judgment—rather than consulting the science. That should concern people. I hope people see that in Bill . They might think it is innocuous.
This is ideological creep of the Liberal government. We see it everywhere. I have said that this is a government that, in NAFTA negotiations, did not mention the auto industry or other core sectors of the economy. It said the priorities were going to be indigenous issues, environmental issues, and a number of things that are not even contained in the rules of origin, the market access provisions of a trade agreement. I termed that at the time as “virtue signalling”.
Liberals will say, “Here are our values. Who cares what the science is? Who cares what the trade agreement says? We only want to speak to a certain number of voters.” They are willing to change legislation and prioritize trade negotiations, all to support their voter base.
For a party that was constantly using the refrain “evidence-based decision-making” and “a science-based government”, Canadians should be concerned. This ideological approach we are seeing in this legislation is part of the Liberals' overall virtue signalling. “Damn the science. Let us stop development now. Let us have the ability to cancel interests in the offshore in here, and move on.”
The Liberals are not worried about the science. They are not worried about the impact on local economies in the St. John's area, and in the Saint John area, where our refinery is. There is no concern about some of the offshore support vessels throughout Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, and what a value that is to the regional economy.
People in Atlantic Canada should be saying, “Wait a minute. We have a science-based approach to our offshore.” I still remember the famous case of John Crosbie putting a cod moratorium down, almost getting lynched but saying that the science said we had to do this because the stocks were dwindling, and we were going to do it. It was a science-based, tough decision.
Here we have the Liberal government basically saying, “We are not concerned with the science. We are going to lean forward. We cannot stop what we want to do because of the lack of scientific certainty.” This is an ideological wedge the Liberals have placed in this bill, and I think they are going to put it into others.
I have raised concerns that people in Atlantic Canada should have. I will conclude by asking the government to take that provision in sections 35 and 35.1 out, and to return to its old rhetoric about being focused on evidence-based decision-making. Stop the virtue signalling. Stop the ideological creep. Stop preventing areas of the country from properly and effectively benefiting from their onshore or offshore wealth, because thousands of families are paying the price for this Liberal ideology.