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View Robert Sopuck Profile
Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed working with my friend on biosphere reserve issues, but I disagree with pretty much everything he says. I find the NDP strangely hilarious. On one hand, it tries to defend the steel industry in Hamilton and talks about how important those jobs are, yet it works like crazy to stop pipelines that are made of steel.
I used to have a lot of time for the old NDP and members like Ed Schreyer, the party of the working person and so on. This new NDP is finished when it comes to dealing with the working person. The only party that cares about working people in this country is the Conservative Party.
Today's poll showed what working people have to say. They do not want to pay a carbon tax. The Conservative environmental plan to be released tomorrow will be a groundbreaking plan.
The member talked about electrifying this country. This country will be electrified when that man in that chair is the Prime Minister of this country.
I have two questions for my friend. One, how high does he want the carbon tax to go? I notice that he did not give a number. Two, given that the NDP rails away against the oil and gas industry all the time, will he put his money where his mouth is and recommend every union pension fund and the Canada pension plan divest themselves completely of every single oil and gas investment?
View Robert Sopuck Profile
Mr. Speaker, this is clearly a bittersweet moment as I rise to give the last member's statement of my political career as a member of Parliament for the great constituency of Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa. For three elections, the voters of this wonderful constituency have returned me to Ottawa to work on their behalf. The trust they have placed in me is truly humbling, and I hope that I have lived up to their expectations. My passion to do what I can to protect and defend our rural way of life remains undiminished.
I would be remiss if I did not mention my political idol, the great Duff Roblin, former premier of Manitoba. His achievements on behalf of all Manitobans have stood the test of time, and he inspired me with his vision and accomplishments. He proved to me that government can be a force for good.
To my beloved wife, Caroline, and my beautiful family, I thank them for the love, support and guidance over these years. All I can say is that I love them all. To my beautiful grandchildren, Eden, Esmee and Senon, who love nature, our farm and the outdoors as much as I do, all I can say is Papa's coming home.
View Robert Sopuck Profile
Mr. Speaker, the minister is being very disingenuous here. I sat in on the hearings of Bill C-68. Not a single opponent of what we did in 2012 could prove, in any way, shape or form, that those changes had any effect on fish populations or fish communities. Colleagues can look at the record.
Under our former Conservative government, in 2010, for example, the Pacific salmon run in the Fraser River was a record. In 2014, that run was even higher. Under the Liberal government's watch, Pacific salmon stocks are collapsing and the Chinook salmon stock is the poster boy for that.
Our committee produced a unanimous report on Atlantic salmon, with a number of recommendations. We saw the minister's response. Not a single part of that letter dealt with the 17 unanimous recommendations, such as smallmouth bass in Miramichi Lake, overfishing by Greenland and excessive predation by seals and striped bass. The response did not deal with any of that.
Why is this department so inept and uncaring for fisheries communities and fish stocks?
View Robert Sopuck Profile
Mr. Speaker, again, the minister cannot provide a single example of any harm to a fish population from the Fisheries Act of 2012. However, his government caused harm to fisheries.
I remember early in the Liberals' mandate when Denis Coderre, who is a former Liberal member and was then the mayor of Montreal, begged and pleaded when we were in government to allow the dumping of millions of litres of raw sewage. Our Conservative government said no. As soon as the Liberal government came in, it allowed the dumping into the St. Lawrence of millions of litres of raw sewage. Was there a Fisheries Act charge? Absolutely not.
Recently, the Liberals introduced the new marine mammal regulations, which will throttle the economy of Churchill, Manitoba, where whale watching is an integral part of that struggling economy. I have contacted the minister on a number of occasions about this and he simply does not care about communities. He only cares about his cronies in the Liberal Party, who do their best to destroy fish habitat, without him even caring. Why is that?
View Robert Sopuck Profile
Madam Speaker, I would remind the member opposite that this was a great concern of John Diefenbaker, who gave indigenous people the vote. Most of the ugly residential school experiences were under the Liberal government of Mackenzie King. Let us not point fingers when it is not required.
I should also make a point for my colleague from Manitoba. The agreement he referred to was by Manitoba Hydro, not by the Manitoba government.
The crocodile tears of all the members opposite crying for indigenous people are truly sickening. All they talk about is process, process, process. There has not been a single major development in this country that has helped aboriginal people, ever.
I am going to make a prediction right now. If all the socio-economic indicators of indigenous communities were measured when the Liberal government took office and when it is going to leave office on October 21, I absolutely guarantee that not a single socio-economic indicator will have improved.
View Robert Sopuck Profile
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to stand in the House to speak to this particular bill. Unfortunately, Bill C-88 is another anti-energy policy from the Liberal government, which is driving energy investment out of Canada, costing Canadian workers their jobs and increasing poverty rates in the north. Like Bill C-69 before it, Bill C-88 politicizes oil and gas extraction by expanding the powers of the cabinet to block economic development and adds to the increasing levels of red tape that proponents must face before they can get shovels in the ground.
Further, Bill C-88 reveals a full rejection of calls from elected territorial leaders for increased control of their natural resources. I am deeply concerned that with Bill C-88, the Liberals would entrench into law their ability to continue to arbitrarily and without consultation block oil and gas projects. As witnesses noted in the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs, again we see the Liberal government putting together very different pieces of legislation. Before taking office, they promised to table only legislation that stands alone, and they have run away from that promise altogether.
The former Conservative government viewed the north as a key driver of economic activity for decades to come. Other Arctic nations, including China and Russia, are exploring possibilities. The Liberals, meanwhile, are arbitrarily creating more barriers to economic development in Canada's north, with the Liberal government's top-down and ever-paternalistic action to do nothing to reduce poverty in remote and northern regions of Canada. Northerners face the unique challenges of living in the north with fortitude and resilience. They want jobs and economic opportunities for their families, and they deserve a government that has their back.
Bill C-88 is another one in the long list of failed Liberal environmental policies. There are Bill C-69, which will further throttle natural resource development; Bill C-68, the new fisheries act, which will add another layer of complications to all Canadian economic development; Bill C-48, the tanker ban; as well as Bill C-55, the marine protected areas law. Added together, it is a complete dog's breakfast of anti-development legislation.
The natural resource industries are extremely important in this country. Indeed, I am very honoured and proud to represent a natural resource constituency. What do the natural resources consist of in this country? They are energy, forestry, agriculture, mining, commercial fishing, hunting, fishing, trapping and so on. In my riding of Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, all of these activities take place in various regions, in all 66,000 square kilometres of my riding, and it sickens and angers me how the workers in the natural resource industries and the people in the communities are continually being attacked by the government, whether it is anti-firearms legislation, Bill C-69 or Bill C-68. All of these pieces of legislation collectively add up to a complete throttling of rural communities.
I listened with great humour to the parliamentary secretary's comments about the Mackenzie Valley. I cut my teeth as a young fisheries biologist doing environmental impact work in the Mackenzie Valley. I was there in 1971, 1972, 1975 and again in the 1980s. While I would certainly never claim to know as much about the Mackenzie Valley as does the hon. member for Northwest Territories, my experience as a biologist has been unique.
Back in the 1970s, when the first environmental impact assessment work was done in the Mackenzie Valley, I was part of teams of biologists who sampled every single waterway in the Mackenzie Valley where the pipeline would cross. We assessed fish and wildlife habitats up and down the valley, and I am one of the few people in this country, apart from the residents of the Mackenzie Valley itself, who have seen, experienced, photographed and measured essentially all of the environmental amenities and characteristics that the Mackenzie Valley has. In addition, I have also visited most communities. It was quite a while ago; nevertheless, I do not think a lot has changed.
The implication from the parliamentary secretary is that absolutely nothing has been done in the Mackenzie Valley, nothing at all. The work started in the 1970s, with the aforementioned environmental impact assessment that was done and that I was a part of. Those were the years of the Berger commission. The shameful Berger commission held hearing after hearing. That was a time when natural gas and energy prices were fairly high, so much so that Thomas Berger recommended that the project be shelved, which it was, after hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on exploration activities and with much community involvement. I was there. I saw it. I was part of it.
In the 1990s, it was done all over again. The same streams that we sampled in the 1970s were looked at, the same wildlife habitat, the same environmental characteristics were all measured and, again, the same conclusion was reached: no development.
The late 1990s were a time when natural gas prices were something like $15 per 1,000 cubic feet. It made the pipeline economical. Well, along came fracking, and the price of natural gas went down to $3 per 1,000 cubic feet, and in the mid-2000s, the pipeline project was shelved in perpetuity, leaving these communities consigned to poverty.
The Mackenzie Valley is a unique and wonderful place. The soils are rich and the trees are big. It is indeed an anomaly in the north. One does not have to go too far east of the Mackenzie Valley to hit the tundra. There have been experimental farms in the Mackenzie Valley. There was one at Fort Simpson when I was living there. Again, the agricultural and forestry potential is absolutely enormous.
The parliamentary secretary talks about the fragility of the Mackenzie Valley. I doubt he has seen it. All of the world's environments need to be treated with care. However, does he realize that there have been oil wells in Norman Wells since the Second World War? Does he realize that, in 1980, a pipeline was built from Norway House to Zama Lake, Alberta? All of these developments were done without any fanfare, and Norman Wells, producing some of the finest crude oil in the world, has been operating for decades now with little or no environmental impact. People who do not know what they are talking about and do not know about the environment are making laws that consign people in these communities to poverty in perpetuity, and that is absolutely shameful.
In terms of indigenous communities and resource development, one need only look at the Agnico Eagle gold mine at Baker Lake. I hate to break it to my friends opposite, who so object to resource development, but the employment rate in Baker Lake is 100%, thanks to that mining operation.
During the testimony for Bill C-69, I asked Pierre Gratton, the head of The Mining Association of Canada, about the social conditions in communities that operate in the diamond mining area. These are his words, not mine, but I am paraphrasing. He talked about the increase in education levels. Literacy went up; job training went up; and the social conditions improved.
The current government is consigning Canada's north and Canada's northern communities to poverty in perpetuity, and I hope it is happy about it, because I certainly am not. It is shameful what it is doing.
In my time as a biologist, I have seen the evolution of environmental policy, starting in the 1970s. I was not there, but I remember the first Earth Day in 1970, which Maurice Strong organized. Back in the mid-1980s, the Brundtland commission came out with “Our Common Future”, which talked about the concept of sustainable development. Gro Harlem Brundtland was very clear on the concept of sustainable development. She said clearly that sustainable development is not an environment concept; it is a development concept, and it is development in harmony with the environment. However, the current government has seen fit to break that particular compact with the people.
In the 2000s, of course, I also saw the rise of climate science and environmental policy. It is an evolution I have been very fortunate to witness, but what I see now, from the Liberals especially, is that they are phony environmentalists, most of them, apart from the member for Northwest Territories, whom I have an enormous amount of respect for. They talk a good game about the environment, but they do not know anything about it. They have never been there. They have never studied it. They do not measure it, and they have no concept of what goes on.
There are two paths in terms of environmental policy. One is with the Liberals and the NDP. For them, environmental policy is all about process, consultation and nothing else. Strategies without results are meaningless. On this side of the House, Conservative environmental policy is focused on real and measurable environmental results. It is no accident that former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney was named the greenest prime minister in Canadian history: the acid rain treaty, the Montreal Protocol, the green plan, the pulp and paper effluent regulations. My own previous prime minister, Stephen Harper, connected with that particular legacy.
The track record of Conservative governments is by far the best in terms of measurable results. Environmental assessments should be all about what effect a project would have on the environment, how we mitigate it and how we ensure the project moves ahead with all the attendant benefits that it will develop?
What is really interesting is that those on the Liberal left think modern society is the problem. Those of us on the Conservative side of the House say modern society is the answer.
A group of academics coined an index called the “environmental benefits index”. Basically, it is a graph comparing country income, per capita income in any given country, and environmental quality. It is very clear, if we look at measurable environmental indicators, such as water quality, air quality, amount of protected land, conservation agriculture, the fewest species at risk and on and on, that the wealthy countries have the best environments.
Which party delivers economic growth, economic development through trade, creating a business climate for economic growth? That is only the Conservatives. That is why, under Conservative governments, if one looks at the actual measurable environmental characteristics of Canada, for example, indeed all of the developed nations of the world, they are vastly superior to countries that are run under the stultifying control of excess governments.
We can look, for example, at the Sudbury miracle. What happened there? A few decades ago, a moonscape was around Sudbury. Investments were made in sulfur dioxide removal. Now the forests have all come back. There are still jobs there. The forest and the environment have come back. That is what happens when we have Conservative-style environmentalism. We actually get results.
Let us get back to the Mackenzie Valley. When we were doing our assessments in the Mackenzie Valley, we had aerial photographs. This was back in the days before GPS or any of that kind of stuff. We sat down with aerial photographs in our laps, big huge rolls. We were in the helicopter, following this black line through the Mackenzie Valley. The GEO chemist beside me would take notes, the hydrologist would take notes, and then the helicopters would land in various stream crossing areas, where we knew the pipeline would cross.
All of us scientific types, hopped out and did our various work, such such wildlife habitat and fisheries habitat assessments. I would set my little nets in the pools and see what was there. I have to confess something, I was actually paid to fish back in those days. It is something that a young biologist very much appreciated.
This was back in 1975, the care with which the pipeline was planned, the soil types were measured, the depth of the permafrost was looked at, all that kind of stuff. Even back then, in the dark ages of 1975, we knew darn well that that pipeline could be built and delivered in an environmentally sound way. Indeed, my friend, the natural resources critic would know how many kilometres of pipeline there are in the country, about 30,000 kilometres of pipeline, give or take. However, nobody knows where they are, because they are all cited according to our best environmental practices.
It always bugs me when I hear members opposite, or the NDP members, talk about cleaning up our economy, going green, clean tech and so on. I have a dirty little secret to share with them. All industries in Canada are already clean.
Let me give an example of that. Brian Mulroney, the Conservative PM in 1989, implemented the pulp and paper effluent regulations. They mandated the construction of a waste water treatment plant at every pulp and paper facility. What was once a toxic effluent now became an effluent that people could actually drink. Industry after industry across the country follows those exact same guidelines.
Before I became an MP, I had this pleasure through environmental assessment in the oil sands. I lived at the Denman camp, part of the Kearl project. It is a human tragedy what the Liberals are doing. I had a chance to mix, mingle and make friends with people all across the country of all ages, of all education levels, from tractor drivers to hydrogeochemists and everything in between. They were all fulfilling their dream, making a very good living, helping their families, paying their way through school, buying that first house. The Liberals are destroying that for the families of those good people who work in the oil sands. That is something I will never forgive. It is simply not true that our industries are not clean. They are the cleanest in the world.
Here we are importing oil from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, leaving aside the social conditions in those countries. We know there are simply no environmental standards in those countries. The government and the NDP willingly import that kind of oil, yet block the exports of Canadian oil and gas whether it is from the Arctic or the west coast.
What is also interesting is that there are national security implications to this as well. I remember meeting with the ambassador from Slovakia. That country is dependent on Russian gas. It would only be too happy to buy energy from us. The implications of what the Liberals and NDP are doing to stop Canada's resource development goes far beyond our country. Indeed they go far beyond Alberta. Again, Canadians from all walks of life have worked in the oil sands.
Getting back to the bill for the Mackenzie Valley, it truly saddens me when I think about the communities of the Mackenzie Valley, which are ably represented by the member for Northwest Territories. It really saddens me to see what is perhaps going on there, apart from where there is no resource development. I mentioned Baker Lake and the diamond mines. Where there is resource development, communities are thriving. Wages are high. Environmental quality is very high because all these industrial activities, all these installations are built with the highest environmental standards in mind.
People say that this industry did this badly or this industry is not doing it right. Every industry in the country operates under the terms and conditions of an environmental licence. I should know. I managed an environmental licence for a paper company. We had to do the appropriate monitoring of our industrial activity. I had to submit reports. We were checked on a regular basis.
If any industry in the country does not operate in an environmentally sound way, it is not the industry's fault; it is the government's fault. Either the terms and conditions of the environmental licence are not right, but the company is following these terms, or the government is not enforcing the rules.
I, for one, will stand and proudly defend all the Canadian industry. What we do in our country is right and proper and is a model for the world.
Therefore, I move:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following therefore:
Bill C-88, an act to amend the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be not now read a third time, but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs for the purpose of reconsidering clauses 85 and 86, with a view to removing the ability for the federal cabinet to prohibit oil and gas activities on frontier lands based on “national interest”.
View Robert Sopuck Profile
Mr. Speaker, as much as I respect my friend, what a stupid question. Of course indigenous people need to be involved in these consultations. To suggest otherwise to a member who has 15 first nations in his own riding is far beneath what I would expect from my friend. It is an ill-considered comment.
As I said earlier, while I certainly would never claim to have as much knowledge as he does about the Mackenzie Valley and the people who live there, my experiences living and working with the indigenous people in the Mackenzie Valley has been nothing but positive. I absolutely respect and revere their knowledge of the land and their desire to ensure it is conserved. I also respect and revere their desire for economic development to make their lives better, as well as for their families, their children and their communities.
View Robert Sopuck Profile
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for playing right into my hands. Should he wish to debate environmental policy, I will do it anytime, anyplace, anywhere.
I noticed that in his question, there was nothing about environmental results. It is all process oriented. Under the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program, 1,700 kilometres of streams were fixed and two million square metres of spawning habitat was restored. A record number of hectares became protected areas in this country. Under the national conservation plan, 800,000 hectares of valuable endangered species habitat was protected. The national conservation plan had measurable results. Sulfur dioxide emissions and nitrous oxide emissions were down and greenhouse gas emissions in general were down.
The NDP and the Liberals, I notice, never talk about results. It is all about environmental process.
I was on the fisheries committee when Bill C-68 was being debated. It was going to change the Fisheries Act, 2012. We asked witness after witness from the same class my hon. friend is from, the Ecojustice types, very pointed questions. We asked whether the changes made to the Fisheries Act, 2012 had any measurable effects on any fish population or community in this country. They kind of looked at their shoes and said that they really could not say, that they did not know and that there were really no effects.
This is about the environment, what is measurable and what progress is made. That is what environmental policy should be about.
View Robert Sopuck Profile
Mr. Speaker, I have a perfect example to answer his question. Today the Minister of Natural Resources had the gall to stand and say, with a straight face, that he is denying a permit to allow Manitoba to deliver clean, green hydroelectricity to Minnesota, as though it were some spurious thing. It has been a five-year process with the National Energy Board. Having worked on transmission lines, I know that there are thousands of kilometres of transmission lines in this country. Once the transmission line hits the U.S. border, it is going about 100 kilometres or so.
To have that project stalled at the whim of a natural resources minister who really knows nothing about the file is nothing but shameful. It is also shameful that members of Parliament on the Liberal side are not protecting and defending the interests of Manitoba. Shame on them.
View Robert Sopuck Profile
Mr. Speaker, I should point out right off the bat that you were one of my team members yesterday, and thanks to your efforts, our team won. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It was a pleasure to serve with you on that team.
I had the honour of being elected in this House nine years ago this October. I was elected in 2010 with a minority government; again in 2011, five months after my first win, with a majority government; and then again in 2015. I have experienced being a member of a minority government, a majority government, and the opposition. I have had the honour of spending a lot of time in Centre Block. Over a nine-year career, I have been very fortunate.
Why does a person enter politics? Quite simply, it is to make a difference.
My political transformation from a wet-behind-the-ears, know-nothing teenager to a budding Conservative actually started in 1968. We lived in Winnipeg. I am of Czechoslovakian descent, and we were part of a small Czech community in Winnipeg. What happened in 1968 is the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia. Our family took in refugees from Czechoslovakia. That gets a person thinking about the power of government and how government can be a force for evil, but if a person works hard enough, it can be a force for good.
Of course, being a Czech, we are made fun of a lot. I have been called a bouncing Czech, a cancelled Czech, a blank Czech. As long as I am not a phony Czech, I will be okay.
As the evolution of my political thought moved along, I bought a farm south of Riding Mountain National Park. I had a dream of becoming a farmer, living off the land, building a log house back in the woods, all that kind of stuff.
What went through my mind were the opportunities that this country offers. If people take risks, they can fail, but they can also succeed.
I am a Slavic person, as my mom was born in Poland. Slavic people like me have an inordinate fondness for property rights. We are visceral when it comes to owning our property. As I looked at the world around me, I could see that there were forces out there that were basically threatening my way of life and the way of life of all other property owners, and I do not just mean farmers; I mean people who have built something with their lives and how important that is to them. When government gets in the way of that, that is simply evil. People need a free society and the ability to take risks.
What comes with a free society? It is is personal responsibility. I get a little tired when people talk about crime statistics all the time. I will be quite blunt: It is as if it is my fault when somebody commits a crime.
Personal responsibility lies within the individual, so as I recite these characteristics, what political party would someone possibly join? It's the Conservatives, of course. These are the things that we stand for.
I represent a large rural area of 66,000 square kilometres. Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa is one of the most beautiful places in Canada. My community is very diverse, with ranchers, farming, forestry, hunting, trapping, oil exploration and so on, yet with all that resource development, it remains an extraordinarily beautiful place.
Actually, conservation is one of the major activities of the communities in my constituency. People are harvesting trees in their day job, and then in the evening working with their fisheries habitat group to repair streams. Those are the kinds of people who are in my constituency, and I get very angry when people like that are attacked. Whether it is the animal rights movement, environmental extremists or people who want to take their firearms away, I get angry. We are not supposed to get angry in this job, but I simply could not help it. The injustice of what happened when those good people got attacked made me even more determined to defend that particular way of life.
I think we have a number of colleagues here who do exactly the same thing. I am very proud to be a colleague of members such as the member for Red Deer—Lacombe, the member for North Okanagan—Shuswap and the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.
I have been on the farm of the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound. I would defy any environmentalist to go to his farm and see anything that he is doing wrong. He gently manages the land. He looks after it. He looks after the wildlife and cares about the world. The member for North Okanagan—Shuswap was the president of the B.C. Wildlife Federation and the member for Red Deer—Lacombe has a fisheries background just like mine, so Conservatives have absolutely nothing to apologize for in terms of our conservation ethics.
We are the people who actually get things done. Who negotiated the acid rain treaty? Brian Mulroney did. Who negotiated the ozone treaty? Brian Mulroney did. When I hear all this environmental stuff, all I know is that Conservatives can be very proud of our contributions to conservation.
I did not travel as far as my friend from Chatham-Kent—Leamington. I stayed at home and spent all my time on the fisheries and environment committees, and I very much enjoyed that. We had some very contentious bills to deal with such as Bill C-69, Bill C-68, CEAA 2012 and so on. I have to say, though, that I really enjoyed my time on the fisheries committee, because believe it or not, it worked across party lines. It is a very collegial group, and most of the reports were unanimous. I see the chair of the fisheries committee here, and I want to thank him for his efforts on behalf of Canada's fisheries.
Getting back to the constituency itself, what can I say about constituents? They place their faith in us. Nothing touches me more than when people I do not know comes up to me and says that they voted for me. Is that not something? We have all experienced that, because we cannot know everybody in our constituencies.
I want to thank my EDAs and the volunteers, of course. The late Jeff MacDonald was a mentor to me, as was Bob Lepischak. I thank all those people who worked so hard: the fundraisers, the EDA and so on.
What can I say about my family and my darling Caroline? I know she is watching—hello, darling. She was my best political adviser. As I said before, she is a spouse who praised me when it was required and made sure I knew what I was doing wrong when that was required as well.
Caroline texted me earlier. She was out today planting tomatoes in the garden. She is what we call a “bush chick”, which is a term that I use with the greatest respect. She lives in the woods and knows how to do things.
Tony and Marsha are our kids, and their spouses are Lainee and Graham. We have three absolutely beautiful grandchildren, Eden, Senon and Esmee. One of the reasons I will be heading out is to spend time with the three grandchildren on the farm. They love the farm. They love taking the guts out of a duck, cleaning a fish, driving a quad and doing all those things with papa.
I want to thank my brother and sister, Tim and Joyce, for their support over the years. I also thank the neighbours. Those who live in rural areas know how important neighbours are. When my wife Caroline is by herself on the farm, I know the neighbours are there for her. That is a very important fact.
I want to thank my mom and dad, Joe and Ida Sopuck. They have sadly passed on. They were both born in eastern Europe, dad in Czechoslovakia and mom in Poland.
I want to thank my mentors. They include Alan Scarth, an environmental lawyer from Winnipeg, who is a deeply philosophical man who helped me; Ted Poyser, who was chief of staff to Duff Roblin—and I am going to talk about Duff in a minute; Charlie Mayer, whom many members know, as he represented part of my area; and the sainted Harry Enns, who was the longest-serving MLA in Manitoba's history.
Harry gave me some really political advice. He said, “Robert, my boy, there are two things a politician never passes up: a chance to give a speech and a chance to go to the bathroom.” When one has a constituency as big as I do, one knows where all those spots are. I will leave it at that.
I thank my Ottawa staff Branden and Alex, who are in the office now, as well as Duncan, Brett, Jay, Dan, Olivier, Kyle, and the constituency staff Judy, Janell, Megan, Grace, Nellie and Valerie. I am sorry to go so fast, folks, but I do not have time to stop.
I really want to thank the House of Commons staff, the security staff and the bus drivers. They are salt-of-the-earth folks. As the member for Battle River—Crowfoot said, I was there in October when Parliament Hill was attacked, and we can never forget that these people will take a bullet for us. They deserve all of our respect.
I want to end by thanking my colleagues all around the House. I made friendships that will last for years. The value of the team is so important. I especially want to thank the Manitoba caucus, the member for Brandon—Souris, the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, the member for Portage—Lisgar and the member for Provencher for their help and support and indeed love over the years.
I too want to talk about what it was like to serve under Prime Minister Harper, who, as history will show, was one of the greatest prime ministers this country has ever seen.
It has been an honour and a privilege to serve with all members on all sides of the House as I end my political journey.
View Robert Sopuck Profile
Madam Speaker, I am very grateful for my colleague's service to our country as a police officer. He and I have had a number of conversations about the situations in which he has been involved. Very few of us could have endured what he did.
I would like to correct the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and the Prime Minister who said yesterday that under Bill C-71, a permit would now be required to buy a firearm. That is an absolute falsehood. Here is a possession and acquisition licence, which one has to have after getting a test in order to buy a firearm, and this has been in place for a decade or more.
The Liberals across the way said over and over that legalizing cannabis would eliminate the illegal trade in cannabis, which is clearly nonsense. Does my friend have a comment on the relationship between the legalization of cannabis and the great increase in the illegal trade in cannabis?
View Robert Sopuck Profile
Mr. Speaker, my colleague and I served together on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans for a number of years, and he is a very honourable gentleman. However, he is part of a government that believes in policy-based evidence-making.
My colleague from Cariboo—Prince George asked for data, and I wonder why the government, when it legalized cannabis, did not look at other examples.
A CBC article from May 28 reads:
Marijuana grown in Colorado, the land of legal weed, is being smuggled out to states where it is still illegal....
[T]he government's goal was to regulate and tax a drug that was already widely used and to squeeze out dealers and traffickers in the process.
But law enforcement authorities in the state say legalization has done the exact opposite.
It goes on to say that the illegal trade in marijuana, whether it is legalized in Colorado, is “being driven by criminal organizations that grow weed in Colorado”. Furthermore, residents of Colorado are preferring to buy illegal cannabis, because it is often cheaper than legal cannabis.
Can my friend provide any data whatsoever to show that what happened in Colorado will not happen in Canada? In fact, it is happening in Canada right now.
View Robert Sopuck Profile
Mr. Speaker, I found the comments from the minister about our environmental track record to be ludicrous. This is clearly a government with an environmental and fisheries policy that is show over substance. I can prove that.
When the Conservatives were in government, we introduced the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program, which funded 800 on-the-ground fisheries conservation projects by local communities. The minister and the government cancelled that program. Fisheries conservation communities and organizations from across the country have been denied the support they so desperately need from the government, and the fish stocks are suffering. I will prove that.
Under the government and the minister, Atlantic salmon fish stocks have collapsed and Pacific salmon stocks are in jeopardy, all because of the inaction of the government. This is a government that has denied local people the right to consult.
The minister presides over the most arrogant department in the history of Canada. He says that marine protected areas are something local people want. Given his and his department's track record in terms of dealing with local communities, as well as their dismal track record in conserving fish stocks across Canada, why should we believe him?
View Robert Sopuck Profile
Mr. Speaker, when I took my biology degree at university, I learned that an environmental statement without a number attached to it was completely useless. All we heard from the minister was basically a word salad.
Quantitatively, under the Stephen Harper Conservative government, sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide went down and the amount of park land preserved across the country went up. Fish stocks were in great shape. Under our Conservative government, the 2010-14 sockeye salmon run set records on the west coast. I will stand and defend the real, honest and measurable achievements by the Conservative government.
The difference between a Conservative environmentalist, which I am, and a left-wing environmentalist, like across the way, is that we actually believe in delivering real and honest results. Here are some measurable results. I know the minister does not want to hear numbers because he is not used to that.
In the first year alone under the Conservative Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnerships Program, 94 habitat restoration projects were undertaken. This included 380 partners, 1,700 volunteers, the restoration of 2.4 million square metres of habitat and the enhancement of 2,000 linear kilometres of recreational fisheries habitats. Those are real numbers and real achievements by a real government that cared about the environment.
On the science, Sean Cox, a professor of fisheries from Simon Fraser University, an unbiased fisheries professor, said:
Looking at some of the previous testimony, there was a claim that there was overwhelming scientific proof that MPAs are beneficial and widely successful. I think that was misrepresentation of the actual science.
With respect to consultation with communities, what did the minister tell the communities, which are so dependent on these marine resources, they could expect under MPAs, apart from kicking them out of important fishing grounds?
View Robert Sopuck Profile
Madam Speaker, I have a strange philosophy regarding environmental policy in that environmental policies and environmental spending should actually have an environmental outcome, a measurable environmental outcome. However, the Liberal government is more about show, talk, studies, endless meetings and spending all these resources on activities that really do not generate an environmental benefit. In fact, the Liberals go so far as to almost destroy some coastal communities with needless regulations and laws that really do not make any environmental sense.
I would like to ask my hon. friend, the fisheries shadow minister, this. Why do the Liberals prefer show over substance when it comes to environmental and fisheries policy?
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