March 6, 1997
(Fisheries and Aquaculture)
Minister urges Ottawa to delay further action on bill
Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister John Efford is calling on the federal government not to take further action on the proposed Canada Endangered Species Protection Act until full discussion on the potential serious impacts of the legislation has taken place.
He is also calling on other provincial fisheries ministers, Members of Parliament, fisheries and aquaculture organizations and everyone with a stake in the fishing and aquaculture industries to lobby Ottawa to do the same thing.
"Proposed amendments to this legislation are short-sighted and would potentially have drastic implications for both our fisheries and aquaculture industries if they are implemented," the minister said.
"Furthermore," he said, "there were no public consultations on this legislation east of Montreal, despite the serious ramifications for Atlantic Canada should the legislation pass in its present form. Atlantic Canadians were left out. This is totally unacceptable."
The minister expressed these concerns and others in a letter he has sent to the federal Minister of Environment, federal Fisheries Minister Fred Mifflin, and the chair and vice-chair of the Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.
One of his concerns is the proposed transfer of powers to an arms- length agency, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), whose membership is comprised only of individuals from the environmental protection and science sector. This agency would have the authority to designate species at risk, and determine which types of activities may be harmful to the environment.
"This agency would have far ranging powers and would not be accountable for directives given. In some cases its authority could supercede that of the federal Minister of Environment. Final decisions must rest with the minister responsible, and not with an unaccountable decision-making body," Mr. Efford.
Certain other aspects of the proposed legislation have "extremely serious implications" for Atlantic Canada, he said, explaining that should certain marine mammals or "genetically distinct" fish populations be identified through the COSEWIC process, there is a possibility that specific fisheries and aquaculture sectors could shut down completely.
"The proposed legislation has not addressed the potential economic and social impacts and was drafted in total isolation from Atlantic Canadians. There must be full discussion with all stateholders before this proposed legislation proceeds further," Mr. Efford said.
A copy of the minister's letter follows.
Contact: Josephine Cheeseman, Director of Communications (709) 729- 3733.
I wish to outline our serious concern with Bill C-65: The Canada Endangered Species Protection Act now before the House of Commons.
This legislation has serious implications for both marine and terrestrial stakeholders. Public consultations on the draft legislation did not take place east of Montreal, despite the serious ramifications for Atlantic Canada should the legislation pass in its present form. The consultation process is seriously flawed when Atlantic Canadians are not consulted. It is my understanding that the Bill was sent to Committee immediately following first reading and the amendments proposed at the Committee stage have exacerbated the impact of the legislation.
Specifically, the definitions of wildlife, habitat, residence and the structure of COSEWIC, which has no accountability to the public and limits the power of the responsible Minister, are issues which raise concerns for the fishing and aquaculture industries. Under this proposed legislation, the intent is to transfer the powers to COSEWIC, an agency which is at arms length from government. Representation on COSEWIC is comprised of only individuals from the environmental protection and science sector. This agency will have the authority to designate species at risk, as well as determine which types of activities may be harmful to the environment. Members of COSEWIC have far ranging powers and are not accountable for their directives; in certain cases their authority can supersede that of the Minister of Environment. We believe strongly that the final issues on environmental decisions must rest with the Minister responsible.
The implications for Atlantic Canada are extremely serious. Should certain marine mammals or "genetically distinct" fish populations be identified through the COSEWIC process, the ability will exist to completely shut down specific fisheries and aquaculture sectors. Clearly, this legislation was not designed to impact the health and welfare of Atlantic Canadians by removing their means to maintain their livelihoods. In its proposed form and with the suggested amendments, the legislation is shortsighted, has not addressed the potential social and economic impacts and has proceeded without due consultation. In our efforts to ensure that we do not loose further flora and fauna to extinction, we must ensure that the people of Atlantic Canada have the ability to input into legislation which may severely impact their lives.
While recognizing the importance of protecting our natural environment, we cannot dismiss the social and economic impacts this legislation and proposed amendments may have. We believe that detailed consultation with potentially impacted stakeholders is required to enable Atlantic Canadians to express their views on this important legislation. We urge you to take all measures possible to prevent further action on this Bill, until there is full and complete discussion on this important piece of legislation.
Sincerely yours, R. John Efford Minister cc. Provincial Fisheries Ministers Provincial Environment Ministers Newfoundland M.P.s Newfoundland Aquaculture Association Fisheries Food and Allied Workers Fisheries Association of Newfoundland & Labrador