Fisheries Act

Bill to Amend--Message from Commons--Motion for Concurrence in Commons Amendments and Non-Insistence Upon Senate Amendments--Debate

June 18, 2019


Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate)
[17:17]

Moved:

That, in relation to Bill C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence, the Senate:

(a)agree to the amendments made by the House of Commons to its amendments; and

(b)do not insist on its amendments to which the House of Commons has disagreed; and

That a message be sent to the House of Commons to acquaint that house accordingly.

He said: Honourable senators, I’m pleased today to speak to the message from the other place regarding Bill C-68. This government legislation will restore lost protections to fish and fish habitat, as well as incorporate modern safeguards into the Fisheries Act.

As many of you know, this bill will reinstate the prohibition against destroying fish by any means other than fishing and against works that result in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat.

Regarding the message before us, the government has accepted a majority of the over 30 amendments made by the Senate. In addition, the government is respectfully declining three amendments while modifying one. In sending this message, Minister Wilkinson has asked me to thank honourable senators for their hard work on this bill, particularly the sponsor of the bill, Senator Christmas. The minister has also asked me to congratulate senators on this version of the bill’s inclusion of Senate policies and responsiveness to Senate concerns.

Turning to specifics of the message, the first amendment the other place has declined is that made to the definition of “fish habitat” by Senator Poirier. The government’s position is that the amendment made by Senator Poirier could narrow the scope of application of fish and fish habitat protection provisions and therefore go against the main objective of the bill, which is to increase protections.

The other two amendments that are being declined relate to third party habitat banking. These amendments were brought forward by Senator Wells. I would also like to note that these amendments were initially proposed by the Canadian Wildlife Federation, which has since written a letter to support the removal of the amendments at this time, as significant consultations would be required to implement this policy.

Finally, the government made a minor amendment to one of the three amendments from Senator Christmas to ensure that the language used is consistent with the rest of the bill.

I would also like to briefly speak to the amendments that the government has accepted. I spoke to these amendments in more detail both at second and third reading. Amendments to facilitate Bill S-203’s ban on the captivity of whales and dolphins remain in the bill, as do amendments to implement the policy of Bill S-238 to ban shark finning and shark fin imports. The government knows that Canadians from coast to coast to coast are excited about these amendments to protect marine wildlife. Again, I would like to thank former Senator Moore, and Senator Sinclair and Senator MacDonald for their vision and hard work on these important policy areas.

As promised, Bill C-68 retains the repeal of section 2.2 regarding water flow and an overly broad definition of fish habitat, further to an amendment I moved at committee. This message also retains the amendments I made at committee in regard to designated projects — commitments which I made at second reading and spoke to at third reading debate. Senators, this is an important bill that Canadians across the country are counting on us to pass to restore protections for fish and fish habitat. I ask all honourable senators to support this motion to concur with the message from the other place. Thank you.

Hon. David M. Wells
[17:21]

Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to the message from the other place on Bill C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence.

As colleagues may recall from speeches made in this chamber at third reading, the Senate made several positive changes to Bill C-68. I would like to again focus my remarks today on the habitat banking amendments we included in this bill with support across all caucuses and groups.

The amendments at committee and in this chamber included in Bill C-68 expanded habitat banking to third parties, introduced an offset payment system and ensured that habitat banking benefits remained local in comparison to a work, undertaking or activity.

These amendments were supported by First Nations, industry groups, ecology action groups, wetlands advocates, private sector firms, provincial government agencies, conservation authorities and municipalities, among others.

In fact, the only arguments I’ve heard against third party habitat restoration and conservation came from DFO officials. That is why it is disappointing to see that the government has removed all three of the Senate’s habitat banking amendments. By removing the Senate’s amendments, the government has chosen to exclude front-line stakeholders from doing the good work they do to protect and maintain our environment.

I’d like to address Senator Harder’s remarks on the Canadian Wildlife Federation. They were the first ones to come to my office and lobby me to have third party habitat banking provisions written into amendments in this legislation. I agreed to do so. They laid out the case, and it was a good case. I don’t take things just because people ask, but I give it consideration. I was very surprised when the executive director of the Canadian Wildlife Federation sent their letter to the chair of the committee, Senator Manning, withdrawing their support. I would like to read some of the email that Mr. Rick Bates sent me around that time:

Senator Wells, I want to thank you so very much for all your work in getting amendments to Bill C-68 passed at committee. Over the past few days, there has been considerable communication with the minister’s office staff and a conversation with the minister. He indicated that the government will not pass the bill with the amendments, and if our amendments proceed through Senate, they would be debated in the house. During which, the government would have to criticize third party habitat banking to a degree that it would be unlikely to come back while this government is in power.

Well, I can assure Mr. Bates, that’s true. It goes on to say:

I’m also concerned that it could affect other initiatives we have under way at DFO.

Colleagues, I spent some time at DFO as a senior political staffer. It’s often been said that the minister doesn’t run DFO but DFO runs the minister. It seems to be that in this case.

He goes on to say:

If CWF backs away from supporting the amendments, we at least have a path forward to continue pushing for third party habitat banking.

I would say to Mr. Bates that his best opportunity for third party habitat banking provisions in the legislation would be Bill C-68. Of course, that opportunity is now lost.

Colleagues will also recall in my second reading speech — I believe it was my second reading speech — I said the Fisheries Act hasn’t changed since 1867. Fisheries Act changes don’t come easily. If Mr. Bates thinks they might be done very quickly, he may soon have another idea.

He said:

If CWF backs away from supporting the amendments, we at least have a path forward to continue pushing for third party habitat banking.

Well, I don’t think so.

The house Fisheries and Oceans Committee has agreed to investigate third party habitat banking and there’s additional work we can do on the issue of monetization of off-site credits.

Colleagues, I was invited to the house Fisheries and Oceans Committee last week and I presented. There were two other witnesses at that committee. None were in favour of dropping these amendments from Bill C-68. In fact, one gentleman was highly supportive and I’ll note that in my prepared notes in a moment.

Then Mr. Bates references sending a note to the Senate Fisheries Committee clerk, which he did. He said:

This is a difficult thing for me to do but, I guess, under pressure from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans minister’s staff, maybe it wasn’t so hard a thing to do.

The government claims that third party habitat banking is beyond the policy intent of the bill. Colleagues, habitat banking is whether a third party should be permitted to do so. Right now, habitat banking happens, but the question is whether a third party should be able to do it. We find ourselves in a position where a forestry or mining company that’s doing some activity that may have a deleterious effect on the environment now has to do that mitigation. Colleagues, of course, this was always a requirement. But this is further work that wetlands groups, First Nations and community groups could do in other parts of the service area.

Colleagues, if an international best practice which has broad stakeholder support, like third party habitat banking, and has been proven to enhance both economic and ecological outcomes is inconsistent with the policy intent of the bill, the question must be asked: What is the policy intent of the bill?

Should the policy intent of the bill not be to develop the best solution available that protects the environment and benefits industry?

Unfortunately, it seems that the government’s policy intent is to accept an ineffective half-solution that is, frankly, exclusionary and short-sighted. Third party habitat banking is the present and the future of fish and fish habitat conservation.

While we’re talking about Bill C-68, it is fish and fish habitat, but wetlands protection also helps birds and other animals.

Canada had the opportunity with Bill C-68 to remain in line with the global trend, but now Canada will continue to lag.

As I said when I testified at the House of Commons Standing Committee of Fisheries and Oceans last week, the Fisheries Act is one of Canada’s oldest pieces of legislation, brought into force right after Confederation. When this Act is changed, the process is lengthy, as we have seen with Bill C-68. I think we will all recognize and appreciate the complexities involved in establishing an effective third party habitat banking regime in Canada. Those complexities, though, are not legislative. They are regulatory.

The third party banking and offset payment amendments to Bill C-68 were simply enabling amendments. They would have only come into force upon proclamation of cabinet, not upon Royal Assent.

DFO and all the relevant agencies would have had more than enough time to consult widely and bring in a robust regulatory system. As Dr. Marian Weber, one of the witnesses I referred to and an adjunct professor at the University of Alberta, said at the house committee:

Enabling third party offsets is a critical element of successful offset program. Leaving this out of Bill C-68 could hamper the development of the necessary administrative infrastructure for a credible and efficient offset program for several years.

Colleagues, as is often the case, the details are in the regulations. We understand that there are complexities involved in implementing a third party habitat banking framework. But just because something is complex doesn’t mean it can’t or shouldn’t be done. We pass complex legislation all the time.

Ontario Waterpower Association President Paul Norris stated at committee that:

The OWA fully recognizes and appreciates the significant regulatory and policy work that is required to implement third party habitat banking and, in our view, it is well worth the effort.

Remember, colleagues, I said this would not come into force at Royal Assent. It would come in at the directive of cabinet, and that could be, obviously, some future cabinet after the groundwork is done.

The fact is, colleagues, we are not talking about a novel system. We are talking about a system that is employed, and employed effectively, by many jurisdictions around the world.

As pointed out in the House of Commons Fisheries and Oceans Committee by David Poulton, Principal at Poulton Environmental Strategies, enacting legislation in Australia, the United States and elsewhere is fairly simple. The actual habitat banking systems are designed through regulation, which includes extensive consultations, including with communities, environmental groups and First Nations.

Colleagues, despite my testimony at the House of Commons Fisheries and Oceans Committee and the testimony of my fellow witnesses there, the government was unwilling to reconsider its stance on third-party habitat banking and the accompanying offset payment regime. This was also despite the pleas from First Nations, environmental groups and communities.

Colleagues, when I answered the questions at the house committee, all of the MPs who sat on the committee when I was giving my responses and when Mr. Poulton and Dr. Weber were giving their responses, their heads were nodding. They recognized this was a good idea.

The government was similarly unwilling to reconsider the Senate’s amendment to keep habitat banking benefits either “as close as practicable” or “within the same province” as a work, undertaking or activity. This amendment would have kept habitat banking benefits local in either a proponent-led or a third-party habitat banking system.

Instead, the government has chosen to leave open the possibility that a forestry or mining project, for instance near St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, can be offset by a proponent-led habitat bank in Victoria. You see the illogic in this. Colleagues, this is patently unfair and goes against fair practice and common sense.

Honourable senators, I am disappointed by the government’s decision to remove these reasonable and widely supported amendments.

While this was the best time to commit to a good idea, I do hope that we will revisit this issue in a future Parliament before Canada falls further behind.

In closing, I want to once again thank Senators Griffin and Christmas for their leadership on these issues, and I want to thank all honourable senators for accepting the habitat banking amendments passed by the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

When a future government brings in a vigorous third-party habitat regime that leads to optimal and local economic and ecological outcomes, we can all look back and be proud of the Senate for its forward thinking and willingness to challenge half solutions when full solutions were available.

Thank you, colleagues, and I look forward to revisiting this at a future Parliament.

[17:33]

I have a question for Senator Wells, if he will accept a question.

Senator Wells
[17:33]

Certainly.

[17:33]

Thank you, Senator Wells. I fully understand that your amendments and also one of mine, as Senator Harder mentioned, were not accepted at the House of Commons. I just wanted you to help me understand.

We heard from the Saskatchewan Mining Association, Cameco and many different groups that they were highly recommending that we put this on the record and have the amendment brought forward.

To put it on the record, when we talk about water frequented by fish and the definition of fish habitat, and because the amendment was denied, can you explain to us the results that will have for our mining associations and our farmers across the country?

Senator Wells
[17:34]

Thank you, Senator Poirier. Of course, the question of water frequented by fish was not directly part of the habitat banking amendments. But I will say that it gives me great concern that one of the amendments that allowed flow into a farmer’s field at certain times of the year will mean they are now going to be considered fish habitat. That would make it onerous on farmers across the Prairies and wherever farming happens, and where there’s incidental and infrequent water flow, to be considered habitat banking.

I want to go back to another part of your question, Senator Poirier, regarding other groups that presented. I know that Serge Buy, Executive Director of the Canadian Ferry Association, was highly supportive of the third-party habitat banking amendments. He said, “We’re a ferry association. We are the proponent, but we are not expert in habitat restoration, habitat mitigation.”

They were fully prepared to perform mitigation, restoration, and part of a third-party habitat banking system where you could bring in a First Nations group who are expert in ecological redevelopment. You could bring in salmon federations. I know there are two or three in Newfoundland and Labrador that would be happy to be part of this system. There are community groups and wetlands and environment groups. Ducks Unlimited would love to be part of this. Unfortunately, colleagues, they are excluded from environmental protection remediation.

[17:35]

If I remember correctly, our committee also heard concerns about fish habitat in certain water flows, specifically with the farmers, again, and dugouts to feed animals. Do you remember any of our witnesses telling us that they had the problem of having fish, at any time, in this type of waterhole?

Senator Wells
[17:36]

Yes. In anecdotal evidence from farmers, we learned that from time to time, but very rarely, fish would inhabit temporary and small flood zones that would be associated with their farming activities.

Of course, all Canadians know that at certain times of the year we have significant flooding of areas that aren’t normally inhabited by fish and where there’s temporary water. That would encroach on their normal activities but wouldn’t necessarily encroach on the common river system or water area. That gives great concern to farmers.

The Hon. the Speaker
[17:37]

Senator Griffin, do you wish to ask a question?

Hon. Diane F. Griffin
[17:37]

Yes.

The Hon. the Speaker
[17:37]

Senator Wells, your time has expired. Are you asking for five more minutes?

Senator Wells
[17:37]

I would ask for five more minutes.

The Hon. the Speaker
[17:37]

Is leave granted, honourable senators?

Senator Griffin
[17:37]

Thank you, honourable senators.

My question is related to third-party habitat banking. Like you, I thought this was a terrific idea and supported it.

It’s rather interesting what you read in your note, and I’m wondering if you have any more details as to what was meant by pushing for this could affect other activities or initiatives that the Canadian Wildlife Federation had with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

When I spoke with Mr. Bates of CWF, it was plain that the partnership was going to be jeopardized.

I have two questions for you. First, did you speak with Mr. Bates and get that same information? Second, with all your years working with DFO, have you ever run into this, where a partnership or an NGO was threatened in this way?

Senator Wells
[17:38]

It’s not just my years at DFO, but I’ve been active in the fishing industry since the 1970s. I’ve seen coercion before. I’ll again read from Mr. Bates’ email. It might be helpful.

. . . if our amendments proceed through [the] Senate they would be debated in the House, during which government would have to criticize third party habitat banking to a degree that would be unlikely to come back while this government is in power.

So it seems they would agree with third-party habitat banking. They don’t want to criticize it. They just want it to slowly and quietly go away, whether it’s the minister’s office or DFO officials who aren’t in favour.

We heard at committee that the only people around the room were the DFO officials who said, “Well, we haven’t done this before. It would take a lot of work to get this done.”

To your question, it says:

I am also concerned it could affect other initiatives that we have underway with DFO.

Clearly to me, Senator Griffin, there’s an implied threat. That gives me great concern that if it is the case, DFO officials could do a veiled or a direct threat to the Canadian Wildlife Federation that would cause the government to back away from what clearly is a good idea, supported by many groups.

That’s the only contact I have had with Mr. Bates after his lengthy and positive presentation on third party habitat banking, which caused me to take up the cause, write and sell the amendments at the committee and be successful at that, as well as in the chamber. It gives me great concern that this was their fate and that their fate wasn’t based on merit.

Hon. Leo Housakos
[17:40]

Would Senator Wells take another question?

Senator Wells
[17:40]

If I have time, yes.

The Hon. the Speaker
[17:40]

You have two minutes.

Senator Housakos
[17:40]

Senator Wells, what do you think are the reasons the government turned down these amendments regarding third party habitat banking; is it a simple case of it being too complicated for the government, or did they not take into consideration the fiscal challenges and costs for the industry, particularly across Atlantic Canada? Can you elaborate on what would be the direct impact on Atlantic Canada?

Senator Wells
[17:40]

Thank you, Senator Housakos, for your question. I can’t assume their motives. I can only say what was said in testimony from DFO officials at a recent meeting we had when we discussed third party habitat banking. They said they hadn’t done it before. But as you heard in my speech, it’s being done in other jurisdictions of the world. It’s not a new idea. It’s a well-known and well-tried idea, where best practices are employed elsewhere.

To go to your question about what impact will it have in Atlantic Canada, of course, the impact will be right across the country. However, in Atlantic Canada, in the small rural communities where opportunities are few, community groups, groups that care about the environment, that want to do mitigation and want to be part of a third party habitat banking system, will now no longer be able to do this. It will be done by the mining and forestry companies that don’t have experience in this area.

Hon. Fabian Manning
[17:41]

Honourable senators, I rise to speak to the message on Bill C-68 from the other place.

Bill C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence, is an important piece of legislation. I want to begin by once again thanking the committee for all the work it did on this piece of legislation, and all the time and effort that they put in.

The Fisheries Act, as others have stated, is one of the first pieces of legislation that Canada adopted almost 150 years ago. Many discussions have taken place over the years in relation to making changes and improving the act with changing times. As we all know, things that were in place 150 years ago are not in place today and the way of fishing and the laws used are much different. This was a great attempt to make some improvements to the bill and it was a worthwhile exercise in most cases.

During clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-68, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans considered 50 amendments and adopted 35. Most of the ones adopted were put forward by the government itself. When these amendments were reported from the Senate to the House of Commons, there were 15 amendments.

I was somewhat surprised that Senator Harder’s 10 amendments were accepted by the House of Commons. We weren’t expecting all of the amendments from Senator Harder to be accepted in the other place. I suppose he has some good contacts over in that place. All of his amendments to the most of the bills usually get accepted. I thank him for the 10 amendments he put forward in Bill C-68 and I congratulate him on having those amended.

Some of the amendments Senator Harder put forward included amendments to Bill S-238, the importation and exportation of shark fins, and Bill S-203, ending the captivity of whales and dolphins. Senator Christmas’ amendments, regarding the recognition of the rights of Indigenous people affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, were also accepted. I want to thank Senator Christmas for his great input, as always, at the committee level.

Senator Poirier’s amendment regarding the upstream water flow to a facility, which deleted the word “upstream,” was also accepted the other place. However, unfortunately, senators, Senator Poirier’s amendment, which deleted the words “water frequented by fish” from the definition of fish habitat, was rejected by the other place.

The Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans heard evidence from witnesses that by including “water frequented by fish” in the definition of fish habitat, it would result in locations that are not essential for fisheries life-cycle processes to become subject to the act.

According to stakeholders we heard from, such as the Saskatchewan Mining Association, the proposed addition of the term “water frequented by fish” into the definition of fish habitat significantly and unnecessarily broadens the scope of the act. The committee heard that similar to the definition of “water flow,” this proposal further jeopardizes years of jurisprudence and operational practices and would unnecessarily place further administrative, operational and financial burdens on industry, municipalities and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Stakeholders, including Cameco and the Saskatchewan Mining Association, recommended that Bill C-68 be amended in subsection 1(5) to remove the addition of the phrase “water frequented by fish” from the definition of fish habitat. Specifically, Cameco suggested the Senate should:

Amend subsection 1(5) of Bill C-68 to remove the addition of the phrase “water frequented by fish” from the definition of “fish habitat” and maintain the existing definition in subsection 2(1) of the Act.

Cameco’s brief submitted to the committee states that:

. . .In doing so, locations that may only contain water for a brief period of time will be considered to be fish habitat.

As an example, any work, activity or undertaking in a location that may only contain water for several days every few years could be subject to requirements of the Act. While fish may have the potential to frequent this area for a small period of time once every five years, the habitat is not essential for life-cycle processes.

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association also said this was a concern for them. This amendment was accepted by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans and was passed by this chamber. It’s too bad that the government chose not to accept this amendment, which would streamline the regulatory process for our industry while still conserving the environment. I believe we’ve heard from other speakers on that today.

Senator Wells talked about the amendment on third party habitat banking, which was also rejected by the House of Commons. Senator Wells put forward the amendment on third party habitat banking and made a great case at the committee meeting and was passed by the committee. That amendment was brought back here to the Senate Chamber and passed by the chamber. The committee supported the amendment, as did this chamber, and went to the house but was turned down.

Before this amendment only proponents could offset the adverse effects on fish or fish habitat, whereas with this amendment it would have brought important third parties like conservation and Indigenous groups to offset adverse effects. I’m not going to repeat what Senator Wells explained a few moments ago in relation to the opportunity to offset the habitat banking.

I think the amendment made a lot of sense, which allowed stakeholders who know and specialize in conservation to be the ones at the fore of the habitat restoration. It would ultimately lead to additional biological protection. This is one of three amendments to the habitat banking regime agreed to by the committee and notably supported by Senators Christmas and Griffin. I thank them for their support on this amendment.

The second amendment on this issue relates to offset payments, which would allow DFO to collect an offset payment in lieu of establishing an offsetting habitat bank.

The third amendment, related to the third party habitat banking, maintains that habitat banking benefits should remain as close as practicable as a guiding principle, and if that is not practicable then the benefits should at least remain in the province where the work was carried out.

Senator Wells’ amendment on third party habitat banking provided needed balance for local fish populations, for industry and flexibility for the minister. The amendment was brought forward to Senator Wells by the Canadian Wildlife Federation. I too am somewhat disappointed by the fact that so much work and effort was put into the meetings with the Canadian Wildlife Federation in constructing the amendments to bring to the committee, the efforts that Senator Wells and others brought in explaining the amendments to the committee, seeking the support of the committee and the chamber, to find that at the end of the day the Canadian Wildlife Federation withdrew their support for the amendments.

We all know that on almost every piece of legislation that we’re dealing with here in the chamber we meet with different interest groups and people affected by the legislation. We take their concerns, we make a decision on whether we’re going to support their efforts, whether we’re going to support what they’re asking for in relation to a piece of legislation that we’re dealing with, and we construct amendments to bring forward at the committee level to address those concerns. This was something that the committee took very seriously on third party habitat banking and all the concerns that were out there now seem to be gone with the wind.

I’m concerned about the process and how that works. Certainly the time and effort that Senator Wells and the committee put into hearing these amendments and from different organizations that supported the amendments at the time, it makes one wonder about the process.

Honourable senators, I believe the government should have accepted the Senate amendments on third-party habitat banking. I think it would have brought great strength to the new Fisheries Act and provide an opportunity for the people in the industry to be involved in the processes going forward.

The Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, in my view and in the view of many people, did thoughtful and diligent work on this bill. They put a lot of time into the bill. We heard from many witnesses across the country, people who are very directly involved in the fishing industry. For the Fisheries Act, as you touched on, we heard from the mining associations and the captains’ associations. When we’re studying the Fisheries Act, and we’re hearing from the captains’ associations, some people may wonder why. The fact is parts of the bill had some major effects on the people who farm and mine in this country. The Fisheries Act overlays a lot of other industries that Canadians are making a living from, and the opportunity to hear from these organizations was something that we took very seriously.

I’m happy that we have some of our members who have been supported in some small way, but I thought we had put forward some solid amendments to the bill that would have improved it very much. On that side of it, I’m somewhat disappointed.

I want to conclude by saying that I believe the committee did some wonderful work on this bill. We were very patient with hearing from the witnesses across the country. I want to thank Senator Gold for his cooperation as vice-chair of the committee, working together on this bill and other bills such as Bill C-55 and others that we’ve worked on over the past year.

I want to thank all of the witnesses that came forward on the bill and put forward their case to make improvements to the bill and proposed amendments to us. People had a great opportunity, as I said in my opening remarks. This piece of legislation is 150 years old. We don’t get the opportunity to bring forward recommendations, amendments and to make changes to a Fisheries Act all that often. This was a great opportunity to do that. There’s no doubt we made some great strides, but I think we fell short in some parts.

I want to conclude by thanking the staff and all those involved in the process of dealing with Bill C-68. I hope that we have the opportunity to make improvements to a very important bill and in my view a very, very important industry in this country, the fisheries. I hope we have the opportunity to make some more improvements as time goes forward. Thank you, Your Honour.

Hon. Donald Neil Plett
[17:53]

I’m wondering whether Senator Manning would take a question.

Senator Manning
[17:53]

Yes.

Senator Plett
[17:53]

You mentioned stakeholders, including Cameco and the Saskatchewan Mining Association, recommended that Bill C-68 be amended. We’ve heard a lot of about it already, remove the addition of the phrase “water frequented by fish” from the definition of fish habitat. By including “water frequented by fish” in the definition of fish habitat, it would result in locations that are not essential for fisheries-lifecycle processes to become subject to the act.

Did anyone tell you why the government would want to reject that amendment?

Senator Manning
[17:54]

No, until today we heard Senator Harder put forward in his speech some of the concerns that were spoken about in relation to the consultation process that would have to take place. As committee members, we were not made aware of that at the time. As a matter of fact, we had several officials from the department who appeared at the committee during our amendment stage. Several of the amendments that were proposed by ourselves and others were brought forward. Many times Senator Gold would ask the officials what their thoughts were on the amendment that we had before us. We always got their frank opinion. Whether we agreed with their opinion, we received their opinion. We didn’t have any indication at the committee level that there was a concern.

As a matter of fact, most of us felt at the committee that these were good, solid amendments that would improve the opportunity for habitat banking as an example and water that would be frequented by fish and the concerns that were around that. We didn’t receive any concern at that point from department officials. I think it was after the fact, when we finished here in the chamber and we sent it over to the House for consideration, that those concerns were raised at that time. We didn’t have any indication of that effect.

Senator Plett
[17:55]

One more question, Senator Manning. Can you tell us a little bit more what you heard from farming groups at the committee? Were the farming groups pretty much happy with what had happened? It sounds to me like the government still has a lot of work to do here in satisfying the needs of farmers in the Prairie provinces as well as other parts of the country. Have you heard from the farming groups? Are they content with what is being given to us?

Senator Manning
[17:56]

Thank you, Senator. In relation to the farming, I know there’s a great deal of farming across the country and out West. Believe it or not, there are farms in Newfoundland and Labrador, maybe not as large and they don’t produce as much product as some out West or in central Canada, but we have farmers in Newfoundland. Everybody doesn’t fish. I just want to say, the concerns are real for the simple reason many times farmers have to create waterbodies on a piece of land.

The Hon. the Speaker
[17:57]

Sorry, Senator Manning, but your time is expired. Are you asking for five more minutes because I know there is at least one more question?

Senator Manning
[17:57]

Why not?

The Hon. the Speaker
[17:57]

Is leave granted, honourable senators?

Senator Plett
[17:57]

Five minutes.

Senator Manning
[17:57]

Before I was interrupted, I was saying that the concern is that on many farms across the country, farmers have to create waterbodies of some sort. Sometimes we have dry seasons, such as we’re experiencing in some parts of Canada at the present time. They have to find alternate sources of water and create their own. Sometimes that creation of water may last for only a few weeks, a few months, a year whatever the case may be.

I think the concern that was raised — it is true in this process — is that if a fish ends up in that body of water that’s been created by a farmer, that it falls under the act and becomes an issue. Farmers expressed to us their concern with that part of the piece of legislation. They want protection in relation to how they would address the concerns of water on their land if they have to develop their own water habitat. Fish do swim, Your Honour, and whether they swim from one farm to the next, I’m not sure. I guess they need water to be able to do that. I don’t think any of us could swim in fresh air. We would hope they would find the way to address the concerns of farmers, the mining industry, every industry out there, including the fishing industry.

Bill C-68, in my view, takes in a lot of concerns from a lot of industries in the country, but it doesn’t take everything into account. I just hope some day that I’m in the position to be able to send the amendments over to the House of Commons that had the same reaction in the House of Commons that Senator Harder’s amendments do at the present time. I think that would be a great step forward, not only for the fishing industry, but for the mining, farming and every industry here, to have the input that Senator Harder has on the other place with their amendments. I think we could make a great deal of progress in all the bills that we face here. At the present time, they’re not accepting our amendments. We fully understand the process here. I have been around now for over a quarter of a century in politics. Certainly my grey hair is starting to show, but I think, Your Honour, that we try our best.

The Hon. the Speaker
[18:00]

You have two minutes left, Senator Manning.

It is now 6 p.m. Pursuant to rule 3-3(1), I’m required to leave the chair and suspend the sitting until 8 p.m. unless it’s agreed that we not see the clock. Is it agreed, honourable senators?

The Hon. the Speaker
[18:00]

I hear a “no.” The sitting is suspended until 8 p.m.