Mr. Speaker, we all want to see healthy fish stocks, prosperous fisheries and a thriving economy, and I believe all those are possible at the same time. We can achieve that by using Canadian technology, Canadian ingenuity and Canadian investment. We can do all that and rebuild our declining fish stocks.
We have national conservation organizations, like Ducks Unlimited, the Canadian Wildlife Federation, local fishing game clubs and stream keeper organizations ready to create and improve fish habitat. Using Canadian technology, Canadian ingenuity and Canadian investment in proactive ways that would actually see fish habitat increased and improved in advance of projects would ensure prosperous fisheries and a thriving economy. This could all be made possible under the third-party habitat banking amendments being put forward by the Senate.
Before the Senate had even voted on sending these amendments to Bill C-68 back to this House of Parliament, the fisheries minister basically gave a directive to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, FOPO, to do a study on third party habitat banking. Imagine that. I say it was a directive, because although the parliamentary committees are supposed to be free to set their own agenda, that committee has a majority of Liberal members who would dare not deny a request from their own minister.
Therefore, on June 10, as a directive from the fisheries minister, we began a study of third party habitat banking. Also on June 10, we finished a study on third party habitat banking. We started and finished in one day, in two hours. It was an abomination of a study, with no mention of a report back to the minister and no report to the House of Commons. It was of almost of no use at all other than perhaps being able to say “we consulted”, part of the fake consultation I have seen with the government time and again over the past three and a half years.
However, I say almost nothing out of that study, except what we heard from witnesses that day. They spoke about third party habitat banking, saying that it would be a good thing to incorporate, that the difficult details around third party habitat banking could be worked out through the regulations and orders in council. The regulations need not be fully ironed out in order for Bill C-68 to be amended and passed. We also heard testimony from multiple witnesses that third party habitat banking could create net gains to habitat. Imagine, conservation organizations and local angling clubs being able to work proactively to create an enhanced fish habitat.
It should be the dream and goal of any fisheries minister to increase and improve fisheries habitat. However, as we have seen so many times over the past three and a half years, Liberal fisheries ministers fail to do what is right and instead give deals to their buddies and relatives, getting caught up in scandal. They fail to deliver and fund restoring fish stocks.
We also heard in testimony during that short “but we can say we consulted” meeting on June 10, that during the Senate study of Bill C-68, the only witnesses who spoke against third party habitat banking were the minister and DFO staff, undoubtedly under the direction of the fisheries minister.
Why would every other witness support third party habitat banking and the minister's department oppose it? Why would a minister not want to see net gains to fish habitat? Why would a minister ignore and cast aside testimony, ideas and proposals that would be good for fish, fisheries and the economy?
I can only surmise that it is because the fisheries minister, like his Liberal predecessors, are out of touch with Canadian fisheries and the Canadian way.
I also want to point out the fake and disingenuous consultations by the former fisheries minister from Beauséjour undertaken during his tenure. I do wish to send best wishes to the former fisheries minister regarding his health.
While he was minister, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, FOPO, undertook a study on changes to the Fisheries Act. While that study was on the book, three different news releases went out on the consultation process, three conflicting news releases under that minister's watch.
The first one, on October 16, 2016, stated that all briefs received during the consultations would be provided to the committee for its study. The next one, on November 16, 2016, again stated the feedback heard would be shared with the committee for its study. However, that feedback never reached the committee in time.
After multiple requests from indigenous groups and committee members to extend the timeline of the study, the Liberal members refused to extend that time so we could incorporate the briefs solicited and paid for with taxpayer dollars.
In the end, over $2 million was spent for indigenous groups to provide briefs to the committee for study. Over $1.2 million of those briefs for consultation and input for the review were not received before the Liberals closed off the study. Those taxpayer dollars were not received by the committee in time for the study. Imagine what $1.2 million could have done for fish habitat in the hands of conservation groups and organizations.
I can imagine that because my background is in conservation. My first interest in this was with fish and game clubs, putting boots on and getting in the streams creating spawning habitat. What our clubs could have done with $1.2 million, which the Liberal government wasted because it could not get that information to the committee on time.
Now here we are up against time. The government has called time allocation on debate on these Senate amendments after minimum time back in the House. It has taken the government three and a half years to get the bill this far and it is still not right.
Dozens of amendments came from the Senate on Bill C-68, most of them tossed aside by the Liberal government, amendments that really could make a difference in the streams, creating more fish habitat, creating more fish, creating more opportunities for fishermen and creating a strong and vibrant economy.
It is really disappointing to have debate cut short. Ten minutes for me to speak to this is really less than half the time I would have liked in a full speaking time of 20 minutes.
I have talked about how the FOPO study was denied extensions. We have talked about briefs being received after the report deadline. We have heard testimony many times that there was no proof of any harm to fish habitat from the 2012 changes to the Fisheries Act.
One of the first things I did in this parliamentary session was to put in an Order Paper question asking for any proof of harm or loss of habitat as a result of the 2012 changes to the Fisheries Act. More than three years later, not one piece of evidence has been provided. Therefore, the fisheries minister and the current government are being deceitful, if I can use that word, to the Canadian public and this Parliament. I have lost respect for them because of that.
I thank the House for the time to be able to discuss these amendments, and I will welcome questions.