That a Message be sent to the Senate to acquaint Their Honours that, in relation to Bill C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence, the House:
agrees with amendments 1(b), 1(c), 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 14 and 15 made by the Senate;
respectfully disagrees with amendment 1(a) because it is contrary to the objective of the Act that its habitat provisions apply to all fish habitats throughout Canada;
proposes that amendment 3 be amended by deleting “guaranteed,” and, in the English version, by replacing the word “in” with the word “by”;
proposes that amendment 9 be amended by deleting section 35.11;
respectfully disagrees with amendment 11 because the amendment seeks to legislate in respect of third party, or market-based, fish habitat banking, which is beyond the policy intent of the Bill that is to provide only for proponent-led fish habitat banking.
He said: Mr. Speaker, it is with great privilege that I rise today to speak to Bill , an act to amend the Fisheries Act, which will restore lost protections to fish and fish habitat and incorporate modern safeguards into the law.
Before I highlight how Bill brings forward important improvements to the Fisheries Act, I would like to thank my predecessor, the , the member for . It is due to his leadership that we are here today debating this bill which, once passed, will fulfill a promise we made to Canadians in 2015 and will ensure that our fisheries are sustainable for future generations. We all wish the minister, our friend, a very speedy and full recovery.
On this note, I would also like to extend my thanks to Senator Christmas, who is the sponsor of the bill in the other place, for his work on moving Bill forward, for his commitment to the protection of fish and ensuring that the voices of indigenous peoples are well represented. I note that he made a number of amendments that will strengthen the indigenous components of the bill that we will be accepting.
I also want to thank the other place as a whole, in particular the committee, for its study of this bill.
Today, I will begin with an overview of the bill itself, and then I will speak to the amendments proposed by the Senate.
In summary, we will be respectfully rejecting the amendments in relation to the definition of fish habitat, as well as rejecting the three amendments related to third party habitat banking.
On a minor amendment, I have already sought the agreement of Senator Christmas to make a technical change to one of his amendments so that the language reflects what is already in the bill with respect to indigenous rights.
Canadians elected a Liberal government because they knew that the Liberal Party had a plan for growing the economy and for protecting our environment. Today, we are debating an important part of that plan. Bill will restore lost protections to fish and fish habitat and ensure that the government has the tools to manage our fisheries so that they are sustainable and healthy for future generations.
The previous government gutted the Fisheries Act, made cuts to science and reduced the number of fisheries officers. These are not the types of actions Canadians want and that, in part, is why those members are sitting on the opposite side of this chamber. The Conservatives have no plan for the environment and no plan to protect our fish and fish habitat. On the other hand, this government does have a plan and that plan is working.
Bill amends the Fisheries Act to fulfill our government's commitment to better protect Canada's freshwater and marine fisheries, helping to ensure their long-term economic and environmental sustainability. The amendments we are making will modernize the act. These amendments include a new purpose clause and considerations when making decisions under the act that will provide a framework for the proper management and control of fisheries and for the conservation and protection of fish and fish habitat, including by preventing pollution.
Factors to consider when making decisions with regard to potential harm to fish include the application of a precautionary approach and an ecosystem approach, community knowledge, indigenous knowledge, and social, economic and cultural considerations.
As well, key to the proposed changes to the act are the new requirements for stock rebuilding, which will introduce legally binding commitments to implement measures to manage Canada's major fish stocks above levels necessary to promote their sustainability.
Maintaining healthy stock levels and rebuilding those that have been depleted is critical to coastal communities and to their economic viability. That is why our government in the fall economic statement announced an investment of $107 million over five years and $17.6 million per year ongoing to support the implementation of these stock rebuilding provisions. There are a number of important fish stocks that have shown declines in recent years, which is why we have committed these funds to accelerate our actions to ensure sustainability. Over the next five years, this government is committed to making major fish stocks subject to the provisions on rebuilding.
Furthermore, key to the government's commitments are the measures for the protection of fish and fish habitat with respect to works, undertakings or activities that may result in the death of fish or the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat, or HADD. First, we have expanded the scope to apply to all fish and fish habitat. Second, we have removed reference to serious harm, which, as many in the chamber know, was put forward by the previous Conservative government when it gutted the act in 2012. This new Fisheries Act will restore the application to HADD and would prohibit causing the death of fish by means other than fishing.
The new habitat provisions will also address major projects so that the proponents know which projects require permits. In response to industry concerns, we have also established codes of practice to guide best practices that minimize the impact on fish and fish habitat for smaller and routine projects. This will be especially critical for farmers and those in the agricultural industry who often undertake minor, routine works that relate to water.
Finally, the proposed Fisheries Act would enable ministerial regulations for the purposes of conservation and protection of marine biodiversity as well as the addition of other vital new tools, such as fisheries management orders, to quickly address threats to the proper management and control of the fisheries and the conservation and protection of fish.
Also, upon royal assent, the amended Fisheries Act will include a number of greatly needed updates, such as empowering the minister to establish advisory panels, set fees under the act and enter into agreements with indigenous governing bodies. Most importantly, the proposed legislation introduces a non-derogation clause as well as protections for indigenous knowledge when such information is provided to the government.
Bill also, very importantly, preserves the independence of our inshore fish harvesters by enshrining into law policies that support fleet separation. The legislation recognizes that when making decisions under the act, the minister can take into account social, economic and cultural factors, and the preservation and promotion of an independent inshore commercial fishery in Atlantic Canada and Quebec.
These amendments are critical if we want to ensure that our stocks are sustainable for future generations and for the communities from coast to coast to coast who depend on our fisheries and on the health of our oceans.
Under the former Conservative government, there was no plan to rebuild our depleted stocks, just like the Conservatives had no plan to protect our oceans. It is under this government that we have now successfully protected over 8% of our marine and coastal areas, up from less than 1% under the former Conservative government. We now have a clear path to achieving our 10% target by 2020.
Canadians know that this government has a plan that will protect our oceans all the while ensuring that our communities continue to benefit and that our economy continues to grow.
This bill is a testament to meaningful engagement and consultations, and we heard from many Canadians, from coast to coast to coast. Consultations were extensive and public, on key issues for industry, non-governmental organizations, provinces and territories, and indigenous peoples across Canada.
During the fall of 2016, the department participated in more than 90 meetings with indigenous groups, communities and organizations, and resource management boards established under land claims agreements.
In the spring of 2017, there was a second phase of public engagement. During this second phase, Fisheries and Oceans Canada provided approximately $900,000 to 89 indigenous groups to support their participation and engagement. The department also held over 70 meetings with indigenous peoples and nine more meetings with resource management boards, who, in turn, provided more than 170 written submissions.
The government has listened and has been responsive to many of the concerns that have been raised during parliamentary review. Both the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans and the other place have provided robust and very constructive recommendations, as well as amendments that have been supported by the government. With regard to some concerns raised by industry, particularly regarding the adoption of the amendment deeming water flow fish habitat, the government was responsive to concerns raised that the new definition's application could be unnecessarily broad and that the core intent was already captured in the bill. Consequently, the government agreed to the removal of the deeming water flow fish habitat provision from proposed subsection 2(2).
Industry also expressed concern about the provisions for the permitting of major projects under the proposed act. The government recognizes that regulatory certainty is important to industry and to Canadians and that designated project regulations may capture portions of projects that are not related to fish and fish habitat. Not all works, undertakings or activities that form part of a designated project require permits under the Fisheries Act, as many have no impact on fish and fish habitat. This is why we have introduced amendments from the government on designated projects, which gives the minister the ability to identify and make the final determination on which works, undertakings or activities will require a permit.
The intent of these amendments is to bring clarity to project proponents on which projects require a permit, and to avoid duplication with the federal impact assessment process. Providing greater certainty and cutting red tape while ensuring that fish and fish habitat are protected is very much the intent of this legislation.
This government, through Senator Harder, also proposed important amendments that were adopted by the other place that relate to two Senate public bills: Bill and Bill . Bill S-203 is commonly referred to as the ending captivity of whales and dolphins act. Bill S-238 is commonly referred to as the ban on shark fin importation and exportation act. These two bills respond to increasing public concern about the well-being of cetaceans held in captivity in Canada solely for public display, as well as concerns about the impact and the nature of the practice of shark finning. I am pleased to say that the government shares these concerns and is demonstrating leadership on these issues.
This government believes that the practice of keeping whales in captivity solely for the purpose of public display should be phased out.
I believe that the amendments proposed to Bill , and the coordinating amendments in Bill , will help us effectively phase out and restrict the captivity of whales.
Bill proposes to amend the Fisheries Act to prohibit the practice of shark finning and to amend WAPPRIITA to prohibit the import and export or the attempt to import or export into and from Canada of shark fins or parts of shark fins that are not attached to a shark carcass.
The intent of the proposed amendments to Bill related to shark finning is consistent with the legislative policy objectives of Bill to address the practice of shark finning, which is the practice of removing fins from sharks and discarding the carcasses at sea. There is no doubt that shark finning and the illegal trade in shark fins have had a devastating impact on global shark populations. In fact, over 63 million sharks are killed every year, many for the global shark fin trade.
Canada has demonstrated international leadership on the conservation and management of sharks and was one of the first countries to develop a national plan of action in that regard. Canada continues to work with its partners, including regional fishery management organizations, to adopt effective management measures to regulate the capture of sharks in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Without these amendments in Bill , Bill is likely not going to pass due to the short time remaining in this sitting. This amendment will ensure that shark finning and the export and import of shark fins will be banned in Canada.
I would now like to turn to the proposed changes from the other place to Bill .
The first amendment that we will be respectfully rejecting was made by Senator Poirier in relation to the definition of “fish habitat”. Senator Poirier's amendment would change the definition of “fish habitat” from “water frequented by fish and any other areas on which fish depend directly or indirectly to carry out their life processes, including spawning grounds and nursery, rearing, food supply and migration areas” to “any area on which fish depend directly or indirectly to carry out their life processes, including spawning grounds and nurseries, rearing, food supply and migration areas”.
The original text of “water frequented by fish”, in addition to “areas on which fish depend directly or indirectly on”, increases the scope for the application of the fish habitat protection provisions. By removing “water frequented by fish”, this amendment goes against the objective of the bill to provide greater protection to fish and fish habitat across Canada. Therefore, we will not be supporting this change.
With regard to another proposed amendment, as part of the changes initially proposed, the government introduced provisions that would allow for proponent-led habitat banks. The department has been encouraging proponent-led habitat banking since 2013. Bill would enshrine this policy approach into law and provide new incentives to use habitat banking credits to offset impacts on fish and fish habitat caused by human activity. This represents an important evolution in the implementation of measures to help improve the conservation of fish and fish habitat.
Some stakeholders and senators have argued that we should go further, by expanding habitat banking to third parties and to allow cash payments in lieu of offsetting. Expanding habitat banking to third parties would allow any organization to earn credits through restoration or conservation projects. These credits could then be sold to project proponents that do not wish to create their own offsets prior to project development.
Payments in lieu of offsetting would allow project proponents to pay a fee up front instead of investing in offsetting projects prior to development. The intention is that revenues from these payments would be dedicated to aquatic habitat restoration. Third party habitat banking has its merits and is currently practised in some countries, including the biodiversity banking and offsets scheme in Australia and the wetlands mitigation banks in the United States.
However, there are important considerations and actions that we need to undertake prior to establishing third party habitat banking and fees in lieu of offsetting regimes here in Canada. First, it is the government's view that in order to offset the residual impact from a project, conservation projects created to acquire habitat banking credits need to benefit the specific fish populations and areas that would be affected by that project.
Second, this government believes that where aquatic species at risk are present, opportunities to undertake conservation projects involving the creation, restoration or enhancement of the habitat of aquatic species at risk should be given priority.
Third, in the freshwater and inland areas of Canada, provinces own the land and are responsible for resource management. In some cases, indigenous communities or governments may be responsible for resource management. Since habitat banks could certainly implicate these lands, the creation of a habitat bank requires that implicated stakeholders be consulted regarding the area in which the bank would be created. Consultation with other federal departments, provinces, territories, indigenous groups and landowners would be necessary to establish agreements to authorize these transactions. Due to these considerations, the proposed amendments to Bill to expand habitat banking would require regulatory initiatives that would, if not properly designed, present risks to the conservation community, indigenous groups and other land or rights holders.
In summary, although third party habitat banking and fees in lieu of offsetting are schemes that have significant potential for application in Canada, those in comparative jurisdictions are based on complex and lengthy legislative and regulatory framework development. The current proposed model is inadequate in this regard and would likely result in unintended consequences in its current form. Further, any such provisions certainly would require significant consultations with provinces, territories and others.
Due to the legal complexity and public policy considerations that the government would need to address prior to establishing and implementing such regimes in Canada, we will not be adopting the habitat banking amendments proposed by the other place. However, going forward, the department will commit to evaluating the performance of proponent-led habitat banks and to assess offsetting policies adopted elsewhere, including third party habitat banking and payment in lieu of offsetting.
Additionally, in light of the discussions on third party habitat banking as they relate to Bill , I have asked the House fisheries committee to study this issue. This government has always been of the view that polluters should pay. It simply should not be free to harm our environment. I believe there is significant merit in further examining third party habitat banking.
I would also note that the Canadian Wildlife Federation, which proposed these amendments through Senator Wells and which does great work advocating for the protection of wildlife habitat, has indicated its support for the removal of the these amendments at this time. It understands that more work needs to be done before we can move forward fully in this area. In addition, we are making a technical amendment to an amendment made by Senator Christmas to ensure that the language used with respect to section 35 rights, as well as aboriginal treaty rights, is consistent with language used in the rest of the bill. I have spoken to Senator Christmas about this amendment and he has agreed to this change.
Bill is restoring lost protections that Canadians elected this government to do. Changes in this bill will help rebuild fish stocks and in turn support the communities that depend on them.
When the Conservatives were in government, they did the opposite. They watered down fish and fish habitat protection when they gutted the Fisheries Act in 2012, and they made deep cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans by slashing the operating budget by $100 million. They also made staff cuts to critical areas, such as the Pacific region habitat management program, which helped support the management of our wild salmon.
I am proud to be part of a government that is taking the right approach when it comes to protecting our environment and our fish stocks. That is why last fall, in partnership with the Government of British Columbia, I announced $142 million to create the B.C. salmon restoration and innovation fund to support the B.C. fish and seafood sector, and to ensure the sustainability of wild Pacific salmon and other B.C. fish stocks. This government has also invested in science, small craft harbours across the country and whale research. As many Canadians know, it was this government that invested $1.5 billion in the oceans protection plan that has supported research, opened new rescue boat stations, increased Coast Guard capacity and restored coastal habitats. Canadians can count on this government to make the right investments in our environment while growing our economy and creating good middle-class jobs.
This bill has also been before both chambers for over a year now. The Conservatives will say that their move backward in 2012 to reduce protections may not have had a negative impact on the environment; they will argue that their changes were somehow merited.
Canadians know not to wait until stocks collapse before taking action. Canadians know that the Conservatives do not support science or a precautionary approach. That is why, under their watch, they muzzled scientists and made dramatic cuts. Canadians know that Bill will help protect our fish and fish habitat and is an important piece as we move forward with a plan that will protect our biodiversity, oceans, and ensure our fisheries are sustainable for future generations.
It is truly time to get on with passing Bill . In response to the message from the other place, we are accepting many amendments, while rejecting just three amendments and amending one. Again, the Canadian Wildlife Federation that originally proposed the habitat banking amendments, through Senator Wells, has indicated its support for the removal of that amendment. I would also note that Senator Wells was one of just three senators who voted against the bill, effectively against the very amendments he put in at third reading. Further, as I had indicated, Senator Christmas supports the minor technical amendment that we are proposing.
I certainly hope that all members in this chamber can join with me in ensuring quick passage of this bill, so that our fish and their habitat can be assured of the protection they so desperately need.
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to stand in the House and speak to the Senate amendments to Bill .
I listened intently as the minister did whatever he could, every step of the way, to disparage the previous government while trying to prop himself and his department up along the way. This comes from a minister who took credit for a Coast Guard vessel just last week on social media. He said that the Liberal government did this, but it was our former Conservative government that did it. It is very disingenuous for a minister to use his time to continue to slander and disparage the previous government.
I have said time and again, very publicly in this House and at committee, that consecutive governments, including Liberal governments, should take blame for where our fisheries stocks are. When questioned as to why our fisheries stocks are at critical levels, there are bureaucrats who have been in their positions for 20-plus years who have consistently told every government that they promise to do better. It is quite shameful that this minister would stand up here and trumpet that the Liberals are moving the ball. I will provide proof in my speech that they are not.
Today we are here to talk about the Senate amendments to Bill , which is essentially a flawed piece of legislation. We saw that it was flawed when it was first introduced. Unfortunately, again the government put time allocation on the bill. I believe at that time it was the 40th time the Liberal government had done that, the same government that is led by the member for , who, during the 2015 campaign, said that his government would let the debate reign and would not resort to parliamentary tricks, such as invoking time allocation.
Here we are today, and I think it is now over 70 times that time allocation has been used. We have not seen time allocation on this bill up to this point, but the day is still early.
I will return to the Senate amendments. Early last week, the Senate sent back 15 amendments to Bill on about four different topics. As mentioned earlier, they cover inshore fisheries and habitat banking. Bill , which is the bill that would end keeping whales in captivity, was rolled into Bill C-68, as well as Bill , which is the shark finning bill put forward by a Conservative senator. I will get back to this shortly.
It was interesting when the department was before our committee recently regarding Bill . The officials mentioned that while we would be banning shark fins unless the fin is attached to the shark carcass itself, the importation of shark fin soup was still going to be permitted. The department has committed to getting back to us and double-checking that, but the comment we received from the official when he was asked and pressed on it was that “soup is soup.”
Here we are now, talking about the Senate amendments to Bill . Bill C-68 was introduced early last year and, as mentioned, is a piece of flawed legislation. During the 2015 campaign, the Liberals promised to restore the definition of “harmful alteration, disruption or destruction” of fish habitat. From this point, I will refer to that as “HADD”. I mention that for the Canadians watching from coast to coast to coast, as well as for those in the gallery, which is full once again today.
As the Liberals put it, they wanted to restore the lost protections implemented by our previous Conservative government. As a matter of fact, I will use the term that our minister just used, that the Conservatives “gutted the Fisheries Act”. That is what he was saying, and that is shameful. That is the same eco-warrior language, shamefully, that the government used in 2015 to tarnish any of the great work that our previous Conservative government did. As well, cabinet ministers and members of the current government have used this language to disparage some of our natural resource companies, such as mining and oil and gas, and, again, our former Conservative government.
The fisheries committee did an extensive study on the so-called “lost protections” in the changes that were made in 2012 to the Fisheries Act under our previous Conservative government. Not one group and not one witness could provide any evidence that there were lost protections that resulted from the changes in 2012—not an academic, not an environmental group, not a scientist. I will get into that more throughout my speech.
Not surprisingly, the government has capitalized politically with these environmental groups and the public at large with this proposed legislation. The Liberals have positioned themselves as the defenders of the environment, and restoring the imaginary lost protections has garnered positive support through various media outlets. This is the same government that continues to approve the dumping of millions of litres of raw sewage into our waterways, yet here they are defending their actions, standing up and disparaging those who are opposing what they are saying. They continue to this day to approve the dumping of millions of litres of raw sewage into our waterways. Canadians should be paying attention.
We oppose Bill because of the HADD provisions, but there are some positive aspects of the bill. It potentially has some good points. We have always said that Bill is a bill that we will repeal and replace, and that we will bring stakeholders around the table and build a piece of legislation that truly represents the intent of Bill .
On the 15 reasoned, responsible amendments that the Senate sent back, the Senate did its job. It attempted to fix an omnibus piece of legislation that should have probably been split into two or three different bills, and there is another broken promise.
I believe it was in the Liberal 2015 campaign, and probably it was the same day when the member for said that he was not going to resort to such parliamentary tricks as omnibus bills. Well, here we are, and Bill is one of those. He has not let the debate reign. Time allocation has been seen time and time again.
The amendments focused on changes to the Fisheries Act, such as the owner-operator fleet separation, which, as my hon. colleague across the way mentioned, the fisheries committee has heard about time and again. The bill also talks about habitat protection and habitat banking, and it rolls in Bill on cetaceans in captivity and Bill on shark finning.
Bill introduced habitat banking as a means by which companies could restore waterways affected by development. As an example, when I was in aviation, we built one of Canada's largest runways. To be good neighbours, we noticed during our environmental assessment that there was a potential area for waterfowl or the western spadefoot toad.
Therefore, we had a toad rodeo. We looked to find how many toads were in that certain area that was designated or that could be environmentally sensitive. We also looked for the water fowl that could be present in those wetlands. To be good neighbours, we worked with Ducks Unlimited Canada, the conservation group. We are not the experts in this. We needed somebody to tell us what would be more appropriate, and we wanted to make sure that if there was going to be displacement, it would be within our region. We worked with Ducks Unlimited and other local groups. We found an area that was suitable, and we committed and purchased that area. That is an example of what habitat banking is.
There are concerns with moving down the way in terms of habitat banking, as well as, let us say, carbon credits. It is very similar to carbon credits.
As I was running for election in 2015, I was interested to find that we have offshore companies, European companies, that were buying up huge swaths of agricultural land in my riding. They were literally showing up to a farm and offering suitcases full of money. Many of our farmers are long-time generational farmers and do not have that next generation coming in. Who can blame them, if they have this opportunity present itself? The companies told a good story. Very quickly after purchasing the land, they mowed under all that agriculture potential. They were buying it for carbon credits to be applied in other countries. We cannot create more land; we are not able to do that. We put a stop to that.
Therefore, the habitat banking provisions that the Senate tried to fix with its amendments dealt with third party offset payments and they would keep the restored habitat closed. Habitat banking is a market-oriented approach to environmental conservation. As a matter of fact, we are starting to see this more and more. When I was in aviation, “carbon credits” was the buzzword. It was carbon credits this and carbon credits that. Every passenger who was flying on an airline had an opportunity to buy carbon offsets as part of his or her ticket. A habitat bank is now the next generation of a very similar type of market-oriented approach to environmental conservation. A habitat bank is defined in the bill as “an area of a fish habitat that has been created, restored or enhanced by the carrying on of one or more conservation projects within a service area and in respect of which area the Minister has certified any habitat credit”.
A habitat credit, before being amended at committee, was defined in the bill as “a unit of measure that is agreed to between any proponent and the Minister under section 42.02 that quantifies the benefits of a conservation project.” In plainer language, the old version of the bill stipulated that the proponents, and only the proponents, can offset the adverse effects on fish or fish habitat as a result of conservation work being done by the proponent. That leaves out important third party conservation groups and indigenous groups.
I do not know of too many mining or forestry companies that are experts in conservation projects. If a mining operation leads to deleterious effects on fish habitat, for example, that mining company may offset the impacts of those effects through a conservation project, like moving affected fish to another pond. Other examples include the construction of a salmon ladder, preservation of a wetland, as I described with our airport, or any other measure that creates, restores or enhances a fish habitat. Ensuring that proponents offset their impacts on fish habitat is necessary for environmental conservation. We all agree with that.
There is not a single compelling reason to restrict habitat banking solely to proponents. When we say that only a proponent can create a habitat bank, we are excluding first nations groups and conservation specialist groups like Ducks Unlimited or wetlands advocates. We are also excluding municipalities, among other prospective participants. These stakeholders all want to be on the front lines of habitat restoration and enhancement, and they should be. Not all proponents have the expertise, resources or knowledge to build a physical offset.
We all know that the balance of power in the Senate rests on the independent side, which we know is the government side. Under the amendment passed by our senators, proponents would now be able to purchase the credit rather than designing and building their own physical offset. The offset must still be created, but now it could be created by a group with a specific conservation expertise. In these cases, the proponents would essentially be funding the construction of an approved physical offset. The proponents would say, “We understand that our project has displaced fish, wildlife or aquatic species, and we will work to make amends. However, we are not the experts on this, so let us partner with an approved group to get this done.”
It is a win-win for industry and the environment. Companies do not have to divert their attention from the core aspects of their business and creating the jobs that come with it; all they have to do is buy the credit for the habitat bank established by a third party group. With a new market for the credits, there is an incentive for third parties to get into the habitat banking game, thus leading to additional biological protections.
The second amendment the Senate sent back on this issue relates to the offset payments. This amendment would allow the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to collect and offset payment in lieu of establishing and offsetting a habitat bank. The purpose of introducing this tool, as argued by the Canadian Wildlife Federation and others, was to provide the flexibility in areas where an appropriate offset project is not available or cost-effective. That makes sense.
As an alternative to purchasing credits, proponents could pay into a habitat protection fund, for example the environmental damages fund, to offset any impacts their project may have. Under this amendment, funds would need to be spent as close as practicable to where the work, undertaking or activity is located, or at least within the same province where such work occurred. If the displacement or impact is taking place in a region such as Cariboo—Prince George, I would like to see that habitat banking take place right in my riding. I would have to say that it has to be done there. We do not want to see these other companies coming in and doing something similar to what we mentioned earlier with the carbon credit program. If that displacement is taking place in an area such as Cariboo—Prince George, then an appropriate project should be found in the same region. I would suspect there are a lot of conservation projects that could benefit from this type of program.
Adding these parameters to the system was imperative to ensure equal treatment among all provinces, territories and, hopefully, if administered accurately by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, among watersheds as well.
This amendment does not mandate how the government should collect or spend the money. It simply establishes a structure by which private sector funds, determined and accepted at the discretion of the minister—again, it is all about this minister having all the power—can be used to support restoration projects in Canada. It makes sense to me.
The third amendment on habitat banking shares the spirit of the second, but it is entirely distinct among the three, and here is how. Bill , in both its current and former iterations, specifies that certified habitat credits must be used within a service area. A service area is defined in Bill as “the geographical area that encompasses a fish habitat bank and one or more conservation projects and within which area a proponent carries on a work, undertaking or activity.”
The broadness of that definition was concerning. As currently written, a service area could technically be considered the whole country. For discussion purposes, let us say that SNC-Lavalin, working on a project in Quebec, is deemed to have done some damage to fish or fish habitat or is looking to buy some habitat banking credits, but it also does work in Vancouver, Toronto or other areas. It could apply those habitat banking credits to those areas, not necessarily the area in which it is making the displacement.
That is incorrect, and the third amendment sought to fix that. The intent of this amendment is to ensure that the benefits of an offsetting habitat bank remain local in comparison to the work, undertaking or activity. “Local” would be either as close as practicable to the area, or within the same province. The general idea is that the closer to the affected area it is, the better. A mining project in St. John's should not be offset by a habitat bank in northern Ontario or Vancouver Island, or vice versa.
This amendment maintains that it needs ministerial flexibility while protecting the local fish populations and providing certainty to industry about where credits can be used. Habitat banking benefits should remain as local as possible, as a guiding principle. If that is not practical, then the benefits should at least remain in the province where the work was carried out.
Late last night, the government set forth and gave notice of its amendments to the Senate amendments. Unfortunately, late last night the government responded by removing the new habitat banking provisions. The government said that it “respectfully disagrees with amendment 11 because the amendment seeks to legislate in respect of third-party, or market-based, fish habitat banking, which is beyond the policy intent of the Bill that is to provide only for proponent-led fish habitat banking.”
Is the government kidding? What a bunch of hogwash. The government put the habitat banking provisions into the bill. To say that the amendments to the habitat banking are beyond the policy intent is absolutely absurd, unless, of course, this bill is nothing more than just a cover and a piece and is not really intended to actually do anything but is just another thing for Liberals to stand up and say, “We did it”, getting all the support from the third party groups that supported them in 2015. I will say more on that later.
Let us go back and look at the absurdities of the bill from the beginning. On restoring lost protections, the minister stood and said that the former Conservative government gutted the Fisheries Act. Bill started with the Liberal campaign promise in 2015 to restore lost protections. After forming the government, the asked the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans to investigate the so-called lost protections.
After an extensive study, an 86-page report to Parliament was issued. To my colleagues who are in the House, and the packed gallery, how many lost protections were found? There were none. Zero. Not one witness came before the committee and said that the 2012 amendments to the Fisheries Act by the former Conservative government resulted in lost protections. As a matter of fact, what we heard was that they gave some assurances or some consistency to the application process. We also had some proponents who said that it actually made things tougher, but at least they knew the steps in the process they had to go through.
It is shocking that these guys, time and time again, stand in the House and use the same old talking points. Canadians are not going to be fooled. I think I just saw a poll that ranked the and the Liberal government at 15% in terms of environmental protection. Our hon. colleague from scored the highest, and I think our leader was next. Way down the list was the member for , our Prime Minister.
After that extensive study and an 86-page report, not one lost protection was found. The dissenting report we issued said the following:
Contrary to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard's correspondence to the committee dated June 29, 2016 whereby the minister directed the committee to undertake a study investigating the 2012 changes to the Fisheries Act and any resulting lost protections,
I thought committees were supposed to be at arm's-length and masters of their own destination. How many times has a minister or parliamentary secretary stood in the House and said, “Madam Speaker, committees are on their own to do whatever they want”? Probably they even had their hands on their hearts. It is crazy. It just adds to the hypocrisy of those across the way.
The report continues:
[W]itnesses who appeared before the committee were unable to provide any scientific or legal proof of harm resulting from asserted lost protections under the Act as a result of the 2012 changes. This fact was noted on page 33 of the committee report, which states, “The preceding paragraphs in this section indicate the differing testimony heard with no scientific or legal evidence provided to show whether the 2012 changes broadened or reduced the circumstances under which section 35 applies.”
In some cases, witnesses like the Mining Association of Canada expressed that the 2012 changes to the Act actually increased habitat protections. They said, “...the 2012 changes have in practice broadened the circumstances in which the section 35 prohibitions apply and increased the circumstances in which an authorization and offsets are required.”
The CFA also added that, “...it is the CFA's position that a complete revert to reinstate all provisions of the Fisheries Act as they were would be unproductive [and] reestablish the same problems for farmers, and...provide little improvement [in conservation].”
I have just gone through the Senate amendments as they apply to habitat banking. I could go on at length about inshore fisheries, and I will do that later in my speech.
I will talk about Bill , which is ending whales in captivity, which was rolled into this bill, and some of the concerns Conservatives have. Previously, when a southern resident killer whale was in jeopardy and in need of rescuing, there had to be an order in council from the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. The Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia and the province do not have the mechanisms in place to respond quickly to that request. When every minute counts when trying to save the life of a resident killer whale or a cetacean, we need to have a tool in our tool box to act quickly. In that regard, Bill S-203 was flawed at that point. That was a serious concern the Conservatives had. The Senate amendments took that away, and that power now rests with the in this House, which I think is the right way of moving forward.
While there are still concerns about Bill , we believe that the amendments from the Senate give us some assurances that some of the main concerns we had were addressed. However, in Bill S-203, there were some differences in the translation from French to English. In legal terms, one could argue that the intent may not be the same. That was brought up at committee, and the legal team and officials could not answer questions as to whether those discrepancies in the translation from French to English could have serious consequences down the road.
Bill is the shark finning bill. As I mentioned, a Conservative senator put forward Bill S-238. It is similar to the bill my hon. colleague from put forward earlier in this session, which was voted down, but I am glad to see that Bill S-238 has been rolled into Bill . Again, there are concerns as to how Bill S-238 could be prescribed down the road, but I believe in my hon. colleague's intent and in the spirit of the bill.
As was mentioned earlier, when the officials were before committee during the study of Bill talking about the practice of shark finning and the importation of shark fins, shark fin soup is apparently still allowed to be imported. Shark fin soup can come in, because “soup is soup”, which is a quote from one of the officials. They committed to get back to the committee as to whether that was true. I have yet to hear if they got back to the committee.
My hon. colleague talked about the intent of Bill . It is important for Conservatives to state our concerns about the bill once again. They were mentioned previously, and I have expressed some of them. Bill C-68, from a policy perspective, is a piece of legislation that makes Canadians feel good.
It is interesting that after the Senate amendments beefed the bill up, the and the Liberal government watered it back down, just as senators were trying to beef things up and do their job. The Senate does great work. It sent the bill back to us with some good amendments, yet the minister and the government are scrapping a good portion of them.
As I said, Bill was payback for all the third party groups that supported our Liberal colleagues across the way. Well, they supported anyone but the Conservatives. This leads me to my next point, which is relevant, because it goes to the crux of Bill .
Bill can be grouped with Bill , the Liberals no pipeline bill, and Bill , the oil tanker moratorium act. Recently, six premiers from across the country wrote the to say that the bills represent one of the largest threats to national unity we have seen, that the threat to our national economy is real and that the damage these bills would do to our economy, jobs and investments is profound.
Why do I bring this up? As I mentioned, Bill is payback for all the support the Liberals got in the 2015 election. What support am I referring to? In 2015, 114 third parties poured $6 million into influencing the election outcome. Many of those parties were funded by the U.S.-based Tides Foundation. The new director of policy was a top executive there. The 's former chief adviser, Gerald Butts, was previously the president of the World Wildlife Fund, another Tides-sponsored organization.
Another Tides-sponsored organization is Leadnow. As noted in an article, it is a “non-profit society that was created in 2010 with the goal of bringing to Canada a model of on-line, political campaigning and movement organizing that began in the U.S. behind President Barack Obama.”
The article states:
During Canada’s 2015 federal election, Leadnow ran a strategic voting initiative called Vote Together. Leadnow claims to have defeated 25 Conservative incumbents.
Leadnow targeted me, but it did not win. However, it was successful in 25 Conservative-held ridings.
The article continues:
From Leadnow's 2010 Business Plan, it is clear that as far back as 2010, Leadnow has been focused on defeating the Conservative government. Leadnow's “Investor Package” states that Leadnow intended to "offer tangible support to parties that adopt their policies, and use tools like strategic voting to ‘swing elections’ to reflect Canada's progressive majority.”
Why am I bringing this up? What is the relevance? This goes back to 2008, when a group of radical American anti-fossil-fuel NGOs created a tar sands campaign. It was geared, as quoted in a column in the Financial Post, to landlocking “the Canadian oil sands by delaying or blocking the expansion or development of key pipelines” by “educating and organizing First Nations to challenge construction of pipelines across their traditional territories” and bringing “multiple actions in Canadian federal and provincial courts.” These NGOs wanted to raise the negatives, including by recruiting celebrity spokespeople, such as Leonardo DiCaprio, to “lend their brand to opponents of tar sands and generat[e] a high negative media profile for tar sands oil.”
The column states:
[T]he Rockefeller Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation... along with environmentalist charities, poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the U.S.-based Tides Foundation
Why did the they do that? It was to do whatever they could to target our natural resources.
I say this because fish is a natural resource, and Bill is another bill, along with Bill , the no pipelines bill, and Bill , the tanker moratorium, that targets our resource sector.
I will bring members back to the earliest days of this sitting where the stood and said that Canada would become known more for our resourcefulness than our resources.
Make no bones about it; these groups have infiltrated our government at the highest levels. Gerald Butts, president and CEO of the World Wildlife Fund, was a chief adviser to the . He brought with him former campaigners. Marlo Raynolds, chief of staff to the , was a past executive director for the Tides-backed Pembina Institute. Zoë Caron, chief of staff to the , was a former WWF Canada official. Sarah Goodman, on the 's staff, was a former vice-president of Tides and now holds potentially one of the most powerful positions as director of policy in the PMO. It is concerning at every step of the way.
I will bring members back to question period when the said that one side of the House likes to cheat and the others are doing everything to protect our democracy. We have seen time and again, going back to 2015, where we have all of these groups that were funded to take on our former prime minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives to defeat them and they propped up this , then the member for , and he made all of these promises. What do we see? We see now that he is following through on those promises to the environmental groups, the NGOs.
I have had fisheries groups and first nations say to me that when they want to get in to see the minister, they have to go through environmental groups. I do not think there is a government that has had more lawsuits against it from first nations than any other than the current government. On marine protected areas, the government is doing what it calls consultation. I will get into the consultation on Bill . The Liberals like to say it is consultation. They will stand in the House and they are disingenuous to Canadians who are listening in. We have the proof. I talked a little about how the foreign funding has influenced our highest offices of the government, and that is what we are seeing in our pieces of legislation. Bill is no different.
As part of the economic action plan in 2012, and in support of a responsible resource development plan, our former Conservative government put forward changes to the Fisheries Act. They were geared at strengthening the act and removing unnecessary bureaucratic red tape. They were geared at making that process manageable so that proponents knew the steps that had to be taken. It was not letting them off the hook. We heard testimony from the Mining Association of Canada that it actually increased areas to which its members could be found negligible and fined. Our changes supported a shift from managing impacts to all fish habitats to focusing the act's regulatory regime and managing threats to the sustainability and ongoing productivity of Canada's commercial, recreational and indigenous fisheries.
Now, instead of listening to experts, the people who actually use our waterways and fish our rivers, lakes and oceans, the government turned a deaf ear to practicality and pushed forward, through the use of time allocation, legislation that will affect lives and do little to enhance the deterioration of fisheries in Canada. I said that in a previous speech. At that time, I believe it was 23 out of 25 of our core fisheries that were at very serious levels. Why was that? The fisheries management plans were not done. We do not manage fisheries to grow more fish. We manage fisheries to extinction.
I would put our team up against that team any time. Our member of Parliament for , our member of Parliament for and our member of Parliament for all had previous careers in this. We hunt. We fish. We live off the land. We are farmers. We are conservationists at heart. Bill actually made things harder with some of the changes that we did.
One of the Liberal members who was on the committee at the time, who himself is a farmer, said that if he had a flood on his property, the changes that the former Conservative government had done would actually make it easier for him to respond. If a community or a municipality had a road that was washed out, it actually allowed workers to go in, without skirting any of the rules or regulations, work within the prescribed timelines and schedule to actually get the work done and respond quickly.