Hon. Dominic LeBlanc (Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, I agree with some of the member's comments, and certainly on the importance of this legislation to Canadians. He and I may have differences on how some particular aspects of the bill may or may not work, but I certainly share his view, which is a view that Canadians have shared with us, that this is one of Canada's most important pieces of environmental legislation. It is one of the oldest pieces of legislation. I think the first bill was passed after Confederation. It has been over time one of the most effective pieces of environmental legislation, because of exclusive federal jurisdiction in so many of these areas.
It is also legislation that has allowed coastal communities across the country to develop thriving local economies, allowed Canadians to participate actively in commercial fisheries and recreational fisheries, and has obviously allowed the participation of indigenous communities in many of these fisheries. It has structured economic relations that have been important, not only for coastal communities, but for thousands and thousands of women and men who earn their living from the fishery.
We made a commitment to Canadians in the 2015 election that we would restore lost protections. My hon. friend referred to some of the changes that the previous government made in omnibus legislation which evacuated some of the important environmental protections. We restored those, but we went further by incorporating modern safeguards. We did not simply cut and paste what existed in the 1970s. We included things like a positive obligation on the government to work on restoring fish stocks that are in serious condition. We also talked about restoring and protecting habitat.
My colleague, the Minister of Public Safety, and I had an opportunity in Saskatchewan to meet the rural association of municipalities, and producers. As a result, we also included important things like codes of practice, to ensure that agricultural operations and small municipal works are not overly burdened by complying with the Fisheries Act provisions.
We tried to modernize the act in a way we think is very balanced, Mr. Speaker, and I am sure you will agree. I notice you are sitting on the edge of your chair. It must be because you are in profound agreement with those important statements that I have just made.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Fisheries Act