Speaking Notes – Bill C-38: An Act to Implement Certain Provisions of the Budget Tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and Other Measures
June 28, 2012
Honourable Senators I rise today to speak in support of Bill C- 38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures.
I am very pleased to have this opportunity, in addition to my speech earlier in this session in response to the Budget, because we have sat patiently and listened to extreme rhetoric from the other side about this bill being a bad bill, and we also heard an assertion from Senator Mitchell that we were not saying anything in response to these extreme criticisms.
In my remarks I want to continue my focus on certain national and international environmental non-government organizations (ENGOs) which have made it their business to mobilize worldwide public opinion against the development of Arctic oil, gas and mineral resources and in support of the protection of Arctic wildlife and marine mammals from the effects of climate change and resource development.
I also want to speak in support of budget measures which are directed toward the development of a new Fisheries Protection Policy and a regulatory plan to support changes to the Fisheries Act, as well as provide a foundation for a new Fisheries protection program. These changes aim to focus protection on Canada’s recreational, commercial and Aboriginal fisheries.
Finally, I note that Budget 2012 states “The Species at Risk Act is one of the Government’s main conservation tools to protect wildlife species, maintain healthy ecosystems and preserve Canada’s natural heritage. To continue to protect Canada’s diverse species and help secure the necessary conditions for their recovery, Economic Action Plan 2012 proposes $50 million over two years to support the implementation of the Species at Risk Act.” I will provide some commentary on SARA which will hopefully be taken into account in implementation of the Act.
Honourable Senators will recall my intervention in Senator Eaton’s Inquiry into the “Interference of Foreign Foundations, in Canada’s domestic affairs, and their abuse of Canada’s existing Revenue Canada Charitable status.”
In my concluding remarks about the activities of these foundations in the Arctic I stated that “My main point is that….as charities they should not be allowed to engage in unpermitted political activities such as openly pressuring governments to make certain decision; we should know more about where their funding is coming from, how much they are spending and for what purpose, and what proportion of their budgets are devoted to political activities.”
I am very pleased to see that “Economic Action Plan 2012 proposes measures to ensure that charities devote their resources primarily to charitable rather than political activities, and to enhance public transparency and accountability in this area.”
More specifically, “The Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA), as administrator of the tax system, is responsible for ensuring that charities follow the rules. Accordingly, to enhance charities’ compliance with the rules with respect to political activities, Economic Action Plan 2012 proposes that the CRA:
Enhance its education and compliance activities with respect to political activities of charities
Improve transparency by requiring charities to provide more information on their political activities, including the extent to which these are funded by foreign sources.”
$8M has been budget for these administrative changes over the next two fiscal years. I also note “that the Income Tax Act will be amended to restrict the extent to which charities may fund the political activities of other qualified donees, and to introduce new sanctions for charities that exceed the limits on political activities, or that fail to provide complete and accurate information in relation to any aspect of their annual return.”
Honourable Senators, these measures, while not yet law, are already generating results. Tides Canada President Ross McMillan, addressed the Economic Club of Canada in Toronto yesterday. Before his address, Mr. McMillan predictably stated that “The ongoing critique definitely factored into our decision….We really wanted to send a clear message to our critics that we have nothing to hide in our work, and we’re very proud of the charitable initiatives that we support right across the country.”
In this morning’s National Post, Terence Corcoran wrote the following:
‘Mr. McMillan’s argument is that, without charitable status for green organizations, serious risks to the economy and the environment would go un-addressed. It’s a matter of truth and freedom, he said. “There is absolutely nothing partisan in speaking truth about what is unfolding in this country and what is at risk.” Charitable organizations, of the left and the right, have the right to be heard. “Protecting the freedom to voice competing ideas is a foundation of Canadian democracy. And it is the foundation for a tolerant and open society.”
Mr. Corcoran continues:
“But those freedoms exist above and beyond charitable status. Whatever Ottawa is planning, nobody is taking any freedoms away. If Canadians want to fund Environmental Defence’s chemical scares or Tides Canada’s multitude of activities and oil sands campaigns, they are free to do so. If the causes get support, so be it. But why a tax break? All taxpayers end up funding the activities of a few, or of special interests.
Tides Canada and other environmental charities are on the defensive, as they should be. But their existence is not threatened. Without charitable status, they would still collect money from Canadian who share their values. Surely the truth is not a function of tax deductions.”
Needless to say, I am in support of measures in budget 2012 to provide additional resources to the CRA to monitor ENGO activities.
What really bothers me is that these ENGOs are continuing their misinformed “Save the Arctic” campaigns without any pretence of consulting with or getting support from the Arctic – in my case Nunavut Inuit, their organizations, the Nunavut government or Institutes of Public Government’s or IPG’s, which are mandated to prepare land use plans, manage marine and terrestrial wildlife, and assess resource development projects in the territory.
The latest ENGO grandstanding, fund raising stunt to Save the Arctic took place at Rio +20, courtesy of Green Peace.
The campaign, titled “Save the Arctic” with the byline “The melting Arctic is under threat from oil drilling, industrial fishing and conflict” encourages a world-wide audience to sign up in support of the campaign. The Green Peace web site raises alarms about loss of the Arctic ice cap, described as a ‘death spiral’, and forecasts devastation for people, polar bears, narwhals, walruses and other species that live in the north, but also for the rest of the world.
To save the Arctic, Green Peace says, we have to act today. “Sign now.”
Moreover, the Green Peace web site pleads “Yes! Let’s declare a global sanctuary in the Arctic. Come with us to the North Pole. When we reach 1 million signatures we’ll plant your name and a Flag for the Future on the bottom of the ocean at the top of the world.”
Honourable Senators, I will not go into details of the Green Peace campaign except to say that the objective of stopping offshore drilling is a long standing Green Peace objective relating to Shell Oil’s offshore Alaska drilling program; the objective of banning commercial fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean is a major campaign of the Pew Foundation and Oceans North; the proposal for an Arctic sanctuary is a key objective of WWF and Coca Cola. They also talk of the Arctic as a potential zone of conflict in terms which date from the Cold War but are arguably not relevant today, as asserted by major world powers which are collaborating in defining offshore boundaries through the UN Law of the Sea process.
What is typical of this mother of all ENGOs is that Green Peace does not quote one Arctic Aboriginal resident, one Arctic Aboriginal organization, one Arctic state or territorial government, one circumpolar government or one elected Arctic representative as being in support of their objectives.
Rather, the media headlines list Green Peace Arctic campaign supporters as including Beatle Paul McCartney, Hollywood Stars Robert Redford and Penelope Cruz, British entrepreneur Richard Branson – yes, he who was lauded by Members from the other side in criticizing Bill C – 38 and (gasp!)Canadian rock star Bryan Adams, who I understand now makes his home in England.
Honourable Senators, the Save the Arctic campaign, is just the latest example of how international and national ENGOs are trying to influence Arctic policy and the future of the Arctic for their own misguided objectives.
Speaking for Nunavut, I can only say that my constituents will never forget how in the early 1970s, Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Society, who was recently jailed in Germany and is the object of an extradition request by Costa Rica, and numerous other national and international ENGOs destroyed the seal harvesting economy of my territory and along with it threatened a significant feature of the Inuit culture.
To this day, Nunavummiut do not trust and do not support the activities and objectives of ENGOs and people like Liberal Senator Harb who are their spokespersons and whose draft bill proposes to end the commercial seal harvest or the Green Party leader whose party platform opposes the seal hunt. These commercial bans have not only undermined the viability of Inuit engaging in subsistence hunting of seal for food and clothing, but have been dispiriting and demoralizing to a people who have depended on the seal for their very survival for thousands of years and who are hurt by being falsely labeled savage and inhumane.
From what I have just described you can understand why these imperious organizations which advocate that Inuit should become vegetarians and sealers welfare recipients, which gather money from gullible foreign residents using misleading propaganda, and which channel money through a maze of charities to interfere with our domestic political and regulatory processes are mistrusted and reviled in the north.
I also want to provide some comments on much needed revisions to strengthen protection of Canadian fisheries an area where I have some experience as a longtime resident of Nunavut and as a member of the Senate Fisheries Committee since my appointment to the Senate.
Honourable. Senators, Canadians have told us they find the current rules on fish habitat in the Fisheries Act to be indiscriminate, confusing and far-reaching. Our current approach subjects all activities – from the largest industrial development to the smallest personal project on private land – to the same rules, which is unnecessary to protect the productivity of our fisheries.
Senator Mitchell has alleged that our government is engaging in a destructive attack on the Fisheries Act.
I would respectfully say in reply that Senator Mitchell has obviously not heard from Canadians, including many in Western Canada, who have countless stories of DFO employees zealously protecting ditches, man – made reservoirs and flood plains. Minister Ashfield has said that new rules in the Fisheries Act will reflect what Canadians understand: “that there is a difference between low-risk projects, such as a new dock at the cottage, and high – risk projects, such as a hydro – electric dam or mining operations.”
Fisheries protection policies should focus on the habitat that supports Canada’s fisheries and not on farmers’ fields and floodplains.
As Minister Ashfield has said: “we do not believe it is sensible or practical to treat all bodies of water – from puddles to the Great Lakes – the same way and our government is making long – overdue changes on what is important to Canadians.”
Let me give some practical examples of the need for change in northern Canada. Here are a few of the many reports I have received from the mining industry:
One mining executive described the efforts his company made in Nunavut to avoid triggering a fish habitat or navigable waters review.
He described how, in building an all weather road, the proposed route intersected three ephemeral streams. In order not to trigger a fish habitat or navigable waters review, the stream crossings were engineered to completely avoid the whole channel. In one case a bridge had to be constructed. The road had to be built so that water essentially did not touch the road at any of these points.
These crossings were very expensive to build, when a simple culvert would have sufficed. No fish were ever seen in these streams when they ran in the springtime (mostly dry in summer running along a hill/ridge), but this is how companies have to adapt their projects to meet the potential regulatory pitfalls that would add time and further expense to their project. Keep in mind, Honourable Senators, that these projects are being built in a remote high cost region which has virtually no infrastructure. In my contacts with the mining industry, I found many examples of companies having to spend a great deal of money with negligible benefit to the environment. These are the situations to avoid. The executive I spoke to was careful to acknowledge that sometimes miners have to pay in money and time to reduce a real impact on fish and no-one should be denying this. But if changes to the Fisheries Act would clearly exempt these types of unproductive waters from time consuming and expensive reviews, this would help.
This same mining executive described to me how a certain lake was selected for tailings impoundment:
“There was no recreational or commercial fishery on this lake. In fact, you might be very hard pressed to find an Inuk that ever fished it either. However, even with that, we are spending millions to compensate for the fish habitat lost in that lake. The lakes we are enhancing are also not fished recreationally or commercially and may only be fished by Inuit once every couple of years. Whether we used this lake for mining or not, or compensated for it by enhancing habitat close to our project (or not) makes no real difference whatsoever on fishers in the area.”
Here is how another mining executive described his company’s situation to me:
“In another lake, after exhaustive fish studies, 12 juvenile pike were captured in one year. The lake had zero oxygen levels in winter and the majority of the lake freezes to the bottom in winter. This lake is marginal fish habitat in a land of a million lakes. Yet unless the Act is amended, lakes like these are required to undergo a full Schedule II exercise of the DFO process. Also, the current process to get a lake listed for designation for tailings containment is very long. DFO officials in the north will not even start their review until after the Environmental Assessment process and a positive report issued by the environmental review board. Experience to date is that the next process takes 12 – 18 months, a significant time delay for any development.”
Honourable Senators, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is adopting a common-sense approach that focuses on managing threats to Canada’s recreational, commercial and Aboriginal fisheries and the fish habitat on which they depend. Our new approach draws clear distinctions between different types and sizes of projects and waterways and takes into account the potential serious harm to our fisheries. It recognizes that fish habitats differ greatly.
Furthermore, the details are yet to be worked out. The measures in Bill C – 38 announce the direction. The government will consult with stakeholders as the regulatory and policy framework is developed to support and better define the changes. This, I am confident, will lead to the building of partnerships with those committed to building, preserving and protecting fisheries with the hope that they can plan an even larger role in the protection and conservation of fish habitat in future.
Over the coming months, the government will consult with a wide range of stakeholders – anglers, conservation groups, landowners, municipalities, commercial fishermen, resource industries, and Aboriginals. Through this process, it will further define our new approach and develop the tools required to implement it, in order to provide predictability and clarity for Canadians working on or near water. Since the proposed Fisheries Act changes were announced in April, 2012, numerous groups have received technical briefings from Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Canadians will also have the opportunity to comment on proposed regulatory tools as they are developed. The draft tools will be published in the Canada Gazette. Comments received will help to refine the tools before they are adopted. The government will also look for ways to strengthen partnerships with provinces and territories, conservation authorities and others with expertise and interest in fisheries protection and to develop new partnerships where it makes sense.
As a maritime jurisdiction with massive inland waters, lakes and rivers, it will be critical for the government to consult with and establish partnerships with the Nunavut government and Inuit institutions which have responsibilities for land, water, wildlife and marine management.
Senator Ringuette yesterday exorciated our government for not having the courage to implement certain changes set out in the Budget Implementation Act right away. Honourable Senators, the government is taking a responsible approach to implementation of these changes to allow for public consultation and notice of changes. OAS changes will not be in place until 2025. Is this not an enlightened approach – giving citizens lots of advance notice and plenty of time to prepare themselves for those changes?
I also disagree with another theme of Senator Ringuette’s tirade against this Bill: that it reflected a lack of courage on the part of our government. This is astonishing to me. For years, while our government was in a minority situation, we were indeed hamstrung by the Opposition resistance to almost any changes. We then ran on a platform of orderly economic growth which clearly resonated with many Canadians in uncertain economic times. I am proud to be associated with a government which is focused like a laser on economic growth and job creation, low taxes, research and development, free trade.
But be assured, this agenda is not just about the economy. It’s about continuing our careful stewardship of our environment while generating the resources to continue supporting our cherished health and social programs.
The Opposition exhorts our government for being driven by ideology and having an agenda which will destroy Canada. I have received emails urging me to stop Bill C – 38 for the love of Canada. While this rhetoric is extreme and Senator Mitchell probably deserves the prize for the most hyperbole, it certainly does not suggest that our government lacks courage. We know that the two opposition parties in the other place have no economic plan except to oppose development and raise taxes. They have shown a determination to oppose any changes to the regulatory process or the modest changes proposed to the Employment Insurance Act, or OAS reforms that have been implemented throughout the developed world in recognition that, happily, people are living longer and their pension entitlements should be adjusted accordingly, in this case with years and years of notice.
Senator Ringuette also blasted our government for not holding First Ministers’ meetings. I have attended many of those meetings in my previous political career. Their productivity and usefulness as decision making fora could be questioned. But to imply that our government acts unilaterally ignores the plethora of federal-provincial-territorial meetings which take place on a regular basis: discussing health, finance, the environment and many other issues of common interest between provinces and territories and the federal government. In fact, as Senator Lang pointed out, it was meetings of environment ministers who agreed on the rationalization of environmental review processes to eliminate duplication and encourage timely reviews, bearing in mind that Canada must remain competitive with other parts of the world in its approval processes, in these times of high commodity prices. Steps to implement this rational process were part of a previous federal budget and are reflected in Bill C – 38. This is the very kind of federal-provincial-territorial co-operation which Senator Ringuette says is needed in our country. It is happening on a regular basis. Not the grand, posturing sessions of First Ministers which we saw in previous administrations – but collaborative working sessions of ministers pursuing common interests.
I say to Senator Ringuette that the ferocity of her complaints about this bill undermines her case that our government lacks courage to implement its agenda. We are acting courageously to do what we think is right, knowing that in the current negative climate in the other place, any changes to legislation leading to regulatory streamlining or more focused environmental reviews or touching programs like seniors’ pensions or EI, no matter how reasonable, will elicit howls of protest and extreme rhetoric. Speaking of EI, I am very confident that most Canadians would say that a person on EI who has an opportunity to take a comparable job within a reasonable distance of their home should take that job rather than be paid by the taxpayer not to work.
By the way, I do want to thank Senator Ringuette for her support of raising territorial debt limits and for the support for these provisions by her Liberal colleagues in the other place.
Honourable Senators, we are all familiar with the allegations that the government is gutting departments which are responsible for the management of Canada’s environment and natural resources, including the fishery.
Changes to the Fisheries and Oceans department’s operations will focus on protecting Canada’s fisheries against real threats to their productivity as well as the adoption of a more practical, common-sense approach to dealing with low risk projects which have little or no impact on the fisheries.
Between the Conservation and Protection Program and the newly developing Fisheries Protection Program, the Department will have a robust team of more than 900 professional staff operating out of more than 120 locations strategically positioned across the country to provide guidance and work with project proponents, as well as to monitor their activities on the ground, and enforce the rules when required.
Their work will continue to be complemented by our existing and potential new partnerships with Regional Conservation Authorities, provinces, territories, and municipalities, and other conservation organizations.
Changes to the Fisheries Act also strengthens our ability to enforce the rules by making conditions of authorizations enforceable and aligning penalties with the tougher provisions of the Canadian Environmental Enforcement Act.
Honourable Senators, I am also in support of measures in Budget 2012 to provide additional resources to protect species at risk. Something had to be done because the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) has been described by the MP for Dauphin Swan River Marquette, himself a longtime former fisheries officer who worked throughout northern Canada, as “a poster child for bad policy if there ever was one”. According to the MP, this is because SARA
“provides no incentives for endangered species conservation and relies on “command and control;
Has a single species focus to the exclusion of everything else;
Ignores the role that “active management” (eg. Predator control) could play in conservation- the sole focus is on habitat;
Confiscates property rights with no compensation;
Threatens the viability of agricultural, forestry and rural economies;
Discourages voluntary conservation projects, creating tensions between rural communities and governments;
And worst of all, the SARA program has consumed $311M since its inception in December 2002 and has not brought back a single species from the brink of extinction.
Honourable Senators, I believe this is most useful advice to take into account in implementation of SARA over the next two years.
In conclusion, I am honoured to speak in support of Bill C- 38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures and recommend that this Chamber support the Bill and its vision for the economic future of our country.