Mr. Bill Gilmour (Nanaimo—Alberni, Canadian Alliance)
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to speak to Bill C-33. This is the third time the government has brought forward endangered species legislation. I was the environment critic when some of the other bills came through. The last bill was so weak that even government backbenchers could not support it. This legislation is not much better. It would appear that the government is still going to ram it through and that is wrong.
This seems to be the whole impetus of the government. Rather than talk about voluntary measures, rather than trying to get people to work together to get endangered species legislation that is going to work, it chooses another way. The government has chosen the big hand.
There are penalties in the act that are criminal code penalties. This means, for example, that a logger is in trouble if while doing his normal work of felling a tree and an endangered bird or a bug is in the area. If a farmer drives his tractor over some habitat or a rancher allows his cows into an area where there are endangered plants they too would be in trouble. The penalties are severe.
I talked to a number of people who said that if they found an endangered species on their land it would be gone. They would not allow the government to see it because it would take away their property without compensation. They cannot afford that. That is wrong.
For the greater good, we all recognize that. There may be an area of land for example that has endangered species on it. We all agree we should keep it. However the person who owns the land has to be fairly compensated. They cannot be expected to walk away. This legislation says that the government may compensate, not will compensate. That is absolutely wrong. That is why it has people running scared and understandably so.
This legislation also steps on provincial jurisdiction. It was interesting to note what the justice minister said during question period about how much the government consults with the provinces. The government has not consulted with the provinces. The provinces need to be right in with this. They need to have either parallel legislation or they have to be onside. Right now they are not.
One point that is weak is how a species gets on the list. What about polar bears for example? What is the criteria to get them either on an endangered or on an at risk list? We need to have a scientific body to establish this. COSEWIC is that body and it can do a fairly incredible job if it has the criteria. The situation is worse when politicians get involved.
One species that will never make it on the endangered species list as long as politicians are involved is Atlantic cod. Members know that cod stocks are down the toilet. The stocks are well down and fishing should not be allowed. What happens? An election is called. There was a cod fishery on the east coast which was just about on its knees. That is what happens when politicians get involved.
There has to be endangered species legislation that is arm's length from the politicians. It has to be on a scientific basis and not able to be manipulated by the politicians.
I was in the forest industry and spent 25 years as professional forester before going into politics. There was an issue south of the border in Washington and Oregon that dealt with the spotted owl. Hon. members may remember that. However, the issue was not the spotted owl. It was simply a vehicle for people to use to stop logging. That was the issue.
I am not sure how we get it into legislation, but we need to have legislation to protect the species, not for manipulation which is what happened for years years in Washington and Oregon. It did not have a lot to do with the spotted owl. It had a lot to do with stopping logging.
We also need habitat protection. That is not in the bill. How can we possibly say that we are going to protect a species yet we are not going to protect where it lives? That is nuts.
In summary, there are a number of holes in this bill, so many that it has to go back to the drawing board. During question period the minister said that he preferred that it go to committee. I suspect that this bill is so flawed that it needs to go back to the drawing board. The environment committee will clearly have its work cut out for it.
The bill is so flawed from the beginning that the actual direction needs to be rethought. I said earlier that impetus of the bill is whether it is through voluntary measures by getting the provincial and federal governments together with the farmers and ranchers and saying this is how we are going to do it or having the big heavy hand of criminal justice. The latter is not going to work. People are just going to plough them under.
This bill is bad. It is so bad that it needs to be redrafted and our party and my constituents do not support this legislation.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Species At Risk Act