Mr. Speaker, I rise today to salute the incredible work of North Shore Rescue.
Originally established as a civil defence unit in 1965, North Shore Rescue quickly evolved into a specialized, well-trained and highly-effective search and rescue team comprising entirely volunteers.
Their focus on mountain, helicopter and urban search and rescue and public education provides life-saving services all year round.
Last year I was pleased to present founding member Karl Winter with a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in recognition of more than 50 years of contributions to this service.
Recently the combined efforts of rescue team leader Tim Jones and our government also helped to speedily resolve a regulatory problem with helicopter long line equipment. This quick action saved lives and is a testament to the importance of teamwork.
On behalf of the outdoor sports enthusiasts who enjoy North Vancouver's gorgeous terrain, I want to thank the North Shore Rescue team for its ongoing commitment to our safety and security, and send big congratulations on its new state-of-the-art command centre.
Mr. Speaker, I certainly welcome the opportunity to stand in the House today and respond to the hon. member's motion. I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for North Vancouver, the Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board.
The motion in question concerns chapter 8 of the 2013 Spring Report of the Auditor General of Canada on the reporting of public security and anti-terrorism initiative funds. I have reviewed the motion in detail and appreciate this opportunity to correct the false assumption on which it is based.
The Auditor General and his office have had full access to all of the public security and anti-terrorism, or PSAT, reports. He has been clear, saying, “We didn't find anything that gave us cause for concern that the money, you know, was used in any way that it should not have been”.
That is not all he said. He also confirmed in his testimony before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts that characterizations of these funds as lost are inaccurate. In fact, he clarified in his testimony that the reporting on the funds in question was purely an internal government reporting process. He verified that the shortcomings, which our government acknowledges, did not prevent parliamentarians or Canadians from scrutinizing spending through the estimates process and through the public accounts process. Those are the facts.
It is also a fact that our government has taken decisive action to ensure the security and safety of Canadians. Canadians can be assured that government funding tagged for security initiatives was used for that purpose. Core security-oriented organizations, such as the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, or CATSA, the Canadian Border Services Agency, National Defence, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, are the types of agencies that report through PSAT.
On July 14, 2000, I was in the Pine Lake tornado, so I have seen death and destruction among neighbours and students. Our family lived through this disaster. I had to speak to my students when I came back in September about that event. A year later, we were getting over this trauma. When the world witnessed the destruction of the twin towers by terrorists in 9/11, those images affected me on both a personal level and as a horror shared with my fellow citizens. Again, I had to discuss with my students the intolerance and the devastation in the fall of 2001.
I understand what it is like to try to make sense out of both natural and man-made disasters. When it comes to terrorism, I take it very personally.
In a post-9/11 environment, Canadians expect law enforcement to adopt a proactive posture in order to disrupt terrorist plots before an attack occurs. Our government has taken strong action to keep Canadians safe, including measures such as the recent combating terrorism act, targeting serious drug crime, cracking down on organized crime and preventing nuclear terrorism.
I think all members in the House would agree with me when I say that terrorism is a heinous crime. Its objective is to strike fear into all citizens and to discourage us all from going about our lives freely and without fear. Terrorists live by a philosophy that rejects the democratic process, and their motivation is fundamentally at odds with our rule of law.
Acts of terrorism cannot be allowed, and our government continues to act to prevent the types of tragedies we have seen in New York and in Boston.
We are balancing, though, two very distinct needs in this post-9/11 world. We will keep our country safe and we will be responsible with taxpayer dollars while doing so.
This chapter of the Auditor General's spring report 2013 comes with important recommendations that our government agrees with and intends to implement. We acknowledge that there was some lack of clarity and some aspects of horizontal reporting, despite all expenditures of the federal budget being reported through the regular parliamentary reporting cycle.
Despite all the factual statements made by the Auditor General, the NDP is again willing to be deceitful and is attempting to manufacture a scandal, despite formal assertions that our reports to Parliament are sound.
Let me reiterate that the premise of the motion in question is completely false. The processes that departments follow for reporting to Parliament and Canadians on their spending and results were respected.
The audit acknowledges that deputy heads, as departmental accounting officers, are responsible for accounting and reporting their spending through the Public Accounts of Canada. These reporting requirements are in addition to the internal reporting requirements imposed under the public security and anti-terrorism initiative.
All government spending, every nickel and dime, is reported to Parliament and accounted for in the Public Accounts. This took place in 2001, in 2002 and so on all the way to 2009. The Auditor General said that he did not find anything that gave him cause for concern that money was used in any way that should not have been.
On the contrary, what the Auditor General has concerns about is the clarity and the characterization of reporting between government departments over the period 2001 to 2009. The Auditor General's recommendation focused on improving that reporting process.
Our government accepts his recommendation and is committed to improved public reporting on initiatives that involve multiple departments. In fact, our government has already taken action to improve public reporting on such horizontal initiatives.
In the fall of 2011, the Office of the Auditor General said that the government did a good job of monitoring progress and spending for economic action plan initiatives, saying that the government was diligent in monitoring the progress of projects and their spending.
With respect to reporting to Parliament and Canadians, the government has taken several steps to improve financial reporting and to support parliamentary scrutiny of estimates and supply.
On April 22, a new searchable, online database was launched that for the first time ever would consolidate all information on government spending in one place. The website allows the public and parliamentarians to track government spending, showing trends and government-wide totals for specific areas like personnel spending.
This is in addition to other significant actions that we have taken. For example, we now post financial data sets on the Treasury Board Secretariat website and the open data portal. We also now publish quarterly financial reports.
Our government has made ongoing improvements to the form and content of reports on plans and priorities and departmental performance reports.
Clearly, much effort has been made to improve reporting. Therefore, I ask the House to reject the hon. member's motion and to reject this diversion from what really matters: the work done every day to keep Canadians safe.
Mr. Speaker, we live in an extraordinary time. Canadians are consistently expressing gratitude for our economic blessings. Again and again, we hear evidence why our economy, under our Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, and this Conservative government, is truly the toast of the world. The evidence is clear: over 900,000 net new jobs since July 2009; the best debt-to-GDP ratio in the western world; and an investment climate which Forbes magazine calls number one in the world.
My purpose in rising today is to highlight aspects of the environment which are integral to our economic success and which figure prominently in budget 2013. I hope by the end of this debate that my colleagues will share with me the notion that the environment is the economy; a notion that goes beyond the more traditional paradigm that suggests the economy and the environment must be in balance.
I am delighted to work in a House where we have a Minister of the Environment who has worked relentlessly on improving climate change, both domestically and internationally. He has done a sector-by-sector effect of GHG assessment, recorded great accomplishments in responsible resource development, and with his predecessors has increased our parkland by over 50%. These are amazing accomplishments.
Every time we consider whether environmental and economic factors are in balance, we are suggesting that the environment and the economy are in conflict with one another. Another way to articulate this supposed polarity is that the one must make sacrifice for the other to advance. In other words, we tend wrongly to start our discussion from the notion that the economy and the environment are at war with one another.
In encouraging Canadians to rethink the economy and the environment, let us have a look at the importance of this discussion. The organization ECO Canada, a foundation which was founded in 1992 and is the country's largest online resource for environmental jobs, training and recruitment, says that some 682,000 jobs in Canada are directly related to the environment; that is, the people in those jobs spend 50% or more of their work time relating to the environment. That is a staggering number.
Today I would like to point to our budget to reset the discussion around the notion that the environment is the economy. As we perhaps discuss the quality of life of Canadians, instead of how the economy and the environment are struggling against one another, our budget in its genius brings out many ways in which this government views our economy and our environment to be interrelated and coexisting.
Starting with this, let us call it a fresh view of the interrelated environment and economy, how can we continue with policies of economic growth? How must our processes be designed to evaluate infrastructure projects that might facilitate responsible resource extraction?
Constituents of mine, as individuals and in groups, have consistently expressed their support for Canada's economic success but have also stood for responsible environmental practices befitting of a riding which many call the most beautiful place on earth. Some of these proud Canadians include David Bromley, a world-renowned environmental engineer; the Sea to Sky Fisheries Roundtable coordinator Dave Brown; Carl Halvorson of the North Vancouver Outdoor School, based in Squamish; and Squamish First Nation Elder, Randall Lewis. Other groups and individuals who have articulated to me clearly the priority they put on fisheries habitat issues include the West Vancouver Streamkeeper group, including leaders such as John Barker and Mike Akerly, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, and the Future of Howe Sound Society.
What is in this budget for fisheries? In the past and current sessions of this Parliament, ministers of fisheries and of the environment have visited our riding and have heard directly from stakeholders, such as those of whom I just spoke. They have heard loud and clear about the importance of protecting fish habitat.
I am, therefore, especially proud to highlight two provisions in this budget which would respond directly to concerns such as those raised by these constituents.
First, Ottawa would contribute $10 million over two years, across Canada, for partnerships with local groups on fisheries and habitat conservation measures. That is something that my colleagues and members right around this House ought to be rejoicing about. There is a direct relationship between this budget and the millions of Canadian volunteers, anglers and recreational fishers who would benefit from this excellent measure.
Second, the Vancouver-based Pacific Salmon Foundation would see its funding increase from about $300,000 a year to $1 million a year as a result of changes in how the government would allocate revenue from the sale of conservation stamps that fishermen would have to purchase when they acquire licences. The Pacific Salmon Foundation is one of the best organizations in Canada in terms of galvanizing volunteers and leveraging government funds many times over, so I am delighted that this foundation has made its voice heard in such an effective way.
Let us look at conservation and biodiversity. John Fraser is in Ottawa today. He is a former minister of fisheries and of the environment. As you know, Mr. Speaker, he is a former Speaker of the House, whose 1991 decision influenced your recent decision concerning members' statements in the House. Mr. Fraser is one of many Conservatives who have created a strong environmental legacy. Among other things, he assisted former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in creating the acid rain treaty with the Americans to clean up our Great Lakes, and he contributed to the founding of a national park in what we now know as Haida Gwaii. Therefore, with the distinguished Mr. Fraser on Parliament Hill today, it is especially meaningful to refer to the remarkable record of this government regarding conservation and biodiversity.
Environment Canada's collaboration with the Nature Conservancy of Canada and other organizations has resulted in the protection of more than 354,000 hectares, including habitat for 146 species at risk. Our investments include $10 million to safeguard the Flathead River Valley in British Columbia. Since 2006, the Government of Canada has added 148,754 square kilometres to Parks Canada's network of protected areas, which is a tremendous accomplishment for this Minister of the Environment and his predecessors. As a result, we have increased the total land and water that comes under our stewardship by more than half. The government's investment of $143 million over 10 years to create Canada's first national urban park in the Rouge Valley of Toronto is a fine example of action. John Fraser will be happy to hear that we are carrying on his great environmental legacy.
What would be in the budget for the environment generally? Well, environmental concerns in B.C. would focus heavily on tanker safety, and Canada is a world-class regulator with an almost unblemished record of tanker safety on the west coast. The Government of Canada would take further action to ensure it continues this world-class tanker safety system for shipping oil and liquefied natural gas safely through Canada's waterways before any major new energy export facilities become operational. New measures would strengthen Canada's current system, including increased tanker inspections, new and modified aids to navigation, and the establishment of a Canadian Coast Guard incident command system, which would allow it to respond more effectively to an incident and integrate its operations with key partners. The government has also introduced the safeguarding Canada's seas and skies act, and a new expert panel to review Canada's current tanker safety and proposed measures to strengthen it.
With the new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, we would provide greater certainty for industry at the same time as increasing penalties in order to ensure compliance. This would allow our natural resources to be developed in a responsible and timely way. We would work to ensure accountability and transparency from industry by conducting a review of industry reporting through the national pollutant release inventory.
These are other concrete examples of Canada strengthening its environmental protection, and there is more. The National Energy Board inspections of oil and gas pipelines would increase by 50% annually to improve pipeline safety across Canada. Canada would double the number of comprehensive audits of oil and gas pipelines to identify potential safety issues before they occur. New enforceable environmental assessment decision statements would ensure that proponents of resource and other economic projects would comply with required mitigation measures to protect the environment. New administrative monitoring penalties would be introduced for violations to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and the National Energy Board Act to help ensure compliance. Companies that violate Canada's environmental laws would now face strong, stiff, new financial penalties.
If members agree with me that the environment is the economy, they will note what the next provision means in terms of its distinctiveness from the previous Liberal approach on the environment which focused on endless debate, vague objectives and unenforceable provisions.
In contrast to that previous Liberal approach, budgets of this Conservative government have created a $1.5 billion trust fund to help provinces and territories invest in major projects that clean our air and result in real GHG emission reductions.
This government is committed to reducing Canada's total GHG emissions by 17%, from 2005 levels, by 2020, and is halfway to meeting its target, a target that is inscribed in the Copenhagen accord. That is concrete and measurable evidence of progress on the environment.
The government is also following a sector-by-sector regulatory approach to align with the United States to achieve GHG emission reductions. To date, stringent regulations to reduce GHG emissions in the electricity and transport sectors have been implemented. In addition, work is also under way to develop regulations for the oil and gas sector.
Our environmental approach is comprehensive and will continue to include actions that create a cleaner healthier environment, improve the lives of Canadians, and support the development and deployment of new environmental and cleaner energy technologies.
Let us look at a bit more of our history. To maintain a strong economy, Canada requires a healthy environment that provides sustainable resources and supports a high quality of life. That is why our government is committed to ensuring that Canada's enviable and pristine environment, never better evidenced than in the riding I represent, is protected and strengthened for current and future generations.
In conclusion, our government listens to stakeholders and is convinced that the environment is the economy and that we are acting in measurable ways to protect it. Secondly, our government is protecting our fisheries. Thirdly, our government is making improvements on environmental protection in a practical and measurable way that allows for responsible resource development.
Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure for me today to offer support for Bill C-380, an act to amend the Fish Inspection Act and the Fisheries Act, which would prohibit the importation of shark fins not attached to the rest of the shark and enshrine in legislation Canada's prohibition on finning.
I would like to thank and applaud my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam for his courage in raising this important issue.
As we all know, an illegal trade in animal body parts exists in the world, such as ivory and rhino horns from Africa, tiger parts from Siberia and bear parts from North America. I am not a hunter but I understand full well the practice of killing animals for food when done in a responsible way to feed people. One might say that shooting a deer in the wild could be considered more humane than putting animals through a slaughterhouse. However, being a meat eater, as most of us are, I accept all of these practices.
On the other hand, killing animals for trophies or body parts is totally reprehensible. That is why I do not support the hunting of grizzlies in my province or anywhere else for that matter.
I have seen the documentary Sharkwater and have watched how sharks are caught, their fins are cut off and they are thrown back into the water. This practice is repulsive, immoral and is largely driven by an underground market controlled by organized crime that exploits threatened and endangered species to maximize profits.
Nearly 100 million sharks are killed every year, mainly for their fins. Trade is under-regulated, and it is almost impossible to ensure that imported fins have not been removed illegally or are not from threatened species.
Shark populations are slow to reproduce and cannot support the current overfishing. Sharks are essential to the health of marine ecosystems, and the decline in their population threatens to profoundly disrupt these ecosystems. In 2009, the International Union for Conservation of Nature reported that one-third of shark species were threatened with extinction because of this trade.
In a few decades, shark populations in certain areas have dropped by more than 95%, and they continue to decline. According to some experts, up to 20 shark species could disappear by 2017. In addition, it is impossible to know whether imported fins come from sustainable and respectful fishing.
Shark fin soup currently sells for between $8 and $100 a bowl in restaurants. However, in Canada as abroad, more and more people are refusing to serve or eat this kind of soup, and many Chinese restaurants have voluntarily taken this soup off their menu, including Floata in Vancouver, one of the largest Chinese restaurants in Canada.
Some municipalities in Canada have also passed, or will soon pass, bylaws prohibiting the sale of shark fins and related products. The communities in British Columbia that fall into this group are Coquitlam, Abbotsford, Duncan, Langley, the Township of Langley, Maple Ridge, Nanaimo, New Westminster, North Vancouver, Port Moody and White Rock. I congratulate the municipal councils for having the courage to pass these bylaws.
The Chinese government has required that shark fin soup no longer be served at state banquets. A number of prestigious hotels have removed this type of soup from their menu. Many countries, including the Bahamas, Ecuador and Fiji, territories like French Polynesia, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, as well as the American states of California, Hawaii, Illinois, Oregon and Washington have issued similar bans.
Some people say that Bill C-380 will have an impact on international trade. Based on our research, that is not the case.
We studied the possible consequences of an import ban in relation to the WTO obligations, and we feel that this bill complies with Canada's international trade obligations. Furthermore, my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam is open to amendments at committee stage.
We need to get the bill to committee to address any concerns anyone has.
There are a number of myths about Canada's current shark fin import laws. Some elected members have suggested that Bill C-380 is unnecessary because Canada already has enough laws and that Canada bans the trade of shark products from species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) or the Species at Risk Act.
According to the Canadian branch of Humane Society International, this is false. Both CITES and SARA only protect three species of shark: basking sharks, whale sharks and great white sharks. In other words, out of 141 threatened or near-threatened shark species only 3 are protected by Canadian federal laws.
Another myth we hear is that Canada bans or restricts the trade, possession or sale of shark products that present human health or safety concerns. This is also false. Shark fins, which continue to be legally imported into Canada contain high concentrations of a potent neurotoxin, BMAA, which scientists have linked to neurodegenerative diseases in humans such as Alzheimer's and Lou Gehrig's disease. This is not unlike, for example, the link between phenylbutazone in horsemeat and aplastic anemia in children.
The third myth states that working through regional fisheries management organizations to ensure strong global management and enforcement practices is the most effective way to prevent unsustainable shark fishing practices such as finning. This is also false. As long as there is a demand for shark fins, there will be local industry pressure on governments not to prohibit the practice. This demand will also perpetuate the poaching of sharks in the waters of countries that already prohibit finning.
Canada has already been identified, for example, by CSIS as a destination country for poached shark fins from Australia, even though some Australian states have some of the world's strongest shark finning laws. Eliminating the demand removes incentive for fishermen to continue finning and poaching sharks.
We have a chance in the House to do something right together, to take a major step and end this disgusting practice. At a bare minimum, I strongly urge my colleagues who are here, and others who will be here later on, to support getting Bill C-380 to committee where there can be a detailed study with feedback from witnesses, as is the case in a democratic process.
It does not hurt, in any of these crucial issues, to have some more insurance. If we think we have good laws, let us beef them up and provide more insurance to toughen them up. We can always ease back on a law after we have toughened it up, but it is really hard to try to enforce something when we do not have the legislative background to do it.
For this reason, I urge my colleagues to support Bill C-380. I thank my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam for having taken the initiative to bring this forward.
The electoral district of North Vancouver (British Columbia) has a population of 122,371 with 87,034 registered voters and 216 polling divisions.
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