Mr. Gary Schellenberger (Perth—Wellington, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to join the debate on Bill C-383, the transboundary waters protection act.
First, I would like to thank my colleague from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound for bringing this important legislation forward. The support that the bill has received so far is a testament to his efforts and reflects the position of Canadians from all regions of this country on the need to protect Canada's waters.
Bulk removals of water would pose a significant threat to Canada's environment. The protection of this resource is of vital importance to all Canadians. That is why, in 2008, our government made a commitment in the Speech from the Throne to put in place stronger protections to prevent the bulk removal of water. It is also why we introduced Bill C-26, which unfortunately died on the order paper with the 2011 election call.
Thanks to the work of the member from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, we have this bill before us. The time has now come for the House to pass the legislation, which would ensure Canadian waters are protected from bulk removals. I am glad to see that Bill C-383 is supported by the government and by members of all parties.
As my colleague mentioned, the transboundary waters protection act would amend two acts: the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act and the International River Improvements Act. Amendments to the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act would prevent the bulk removal of water from transboundary waters, waters that flow across borders. Boundary waters that straddle the border, such as the Great Lakes, are already protected under the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act and its regulations. With the changes found in Bill C-383, all of these waters under federal jurisdiction would be protected from the bulk removal of water to outside the country.
There are other elements found in Bill C-383 that would strengthen protections against bulk removals. For example, proposed amendments to the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act would bring the enforcement authority fine schemes and sentencing provisions of the act in line with those found in the Environmental Enforcement Act, which delivers on the government's commitment to bolster protection of water, air, land and wildlife through more effective enforcement.
Provisions found in Bill C-383, which would amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act, closely follow the regime from the Environmental Enforcement Act, in terms of the fine schemes. I must remind everyone again of these penalties. Sentencing provisions and enforcement tools would be available. These provisions would include mandatory minimum fines for designated offences and increased maximum fines of all offences under prosecution and conviction.
In addition to higher fines, the act would set out fine ranges that vary according to the nature of the offences and the type of offender, such as individuals, small revenue corporations and corporations. Each of these categories of offender would face stiff fines for violations. For example, individuals could face up to $1 million in fines and a corporation up to $6 million for the first offence. For a second or subsequent offence, the applicable fine range would double. Fines for contravening the law would be cumulative, meaning that a violation that continues for more than one day would be seen as a separate offence for each day that it continues.
Further, the court must order an offender to pay additional fines if the court determines that the offender obtained any property, benefit or advantage from the commission of the offence. Courts also must consider increasing fines if the offence caused damage or risk of damage to the environment. As with the other federal environmental statutes that were amended through the Environmental Enforcement Act, the bill includes other provisions that would enhance the goals of deterrence, denunciation and restoration, which are the fundamental purposes of sentencing.
This legislation contains provisions aligned with the publication of information about an offence committed and the punishment imposed as well as provisions requiring that corporate shareholders be notified in the event of a conviction. The objective is to encourage compliance, given the importance of public opinion to corporate success.
As we can see, this legislation provides strict consequences for violation of the act. The goal is quite simple: to deter anyone from attempting to violate the bulk removal of water prohibitions found in the act.
Bill C-383 would also move certain definitions and exceptions from the regulations for the International Boundaries Water Treaty Act into the act itself. This would make it more difficult to change these definitions or exceptions at a later date and would provide Parliament with a stronger oversight role, should changes ever be considered.
I would also like to take a few minutes to speak about the provision in the bill that would amend the International River Improvements Act. The purpose of the International River Improvements Act is to ensure that international rivers are developed and used in the national interest. International rivers are waters that flow from any place in Canada to any place outside Canada. The International River Improvements Act requires proponents that would like to construct improvements, such as dams, canals, obstructions, reservoirs or other works that would significantly alter the flow or level of any international river at the international boundary, to apply for a licence. This act allows the federal government to ensure that all such works are constructed and operated in a manner that complies with the Canada-U.S. boundary treaty.
Bill C-383 would amend the act to prevent the use of international rivers to transfer large quantities of water across the border. As mentioned in previous speeches and during committee consideration of this bill, some water experts see the use of international rivers as a potentially efficient pathway for transferring water in bulk. To prevent this from happening, Bill C-383 would amend the International River Improvements Act to prohibit licences for linking waters wholly in Canada with international rivers and then using those rivers to move water in bulk across the border. This amendment to the International River Improvements Act would add another layer of protection against the bulk removal of water from Canada. It was endorsed by experts from the Munk School of Global Affairs during the recent standing committee consideration of Bill C-383.
I would once again like to offer my thanks to the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound for introducing this legislation. As we have seen, the bill is roundly supported by members of the House. I urge all members to support this legislation when it comes up for a vote.
Topic: Private Members' Business
Subtopic: Transboundary Waters Protection Act