The list of considerations for action in Bill C-68 hardly ties the minister’s hands

Elizabeth May

Madam Speaker, I would like to correct something in the present tense about Bill C-68 and correct some revisionist history. The hon. John Crosbie, fisheries minister at the time, closed down the cod fishery after it was gone. It was officially gone. National Sea Products and Fishery Products International could not find any fish, and at that point, there was a cod moratorium. The minister of fisheries at the time ignored the pleas from inshore fishermen that the fishery was going to collapse.

I would go to the present tense, and what needs correcting is the idea that the precautionary approach has been put on a high pedestal in Bill C-68. I would refer the member to the language in proposed section 2.5. That list of considerations he read out are not mandatory conditions of action. It says, “the Minister may consider, among other things”, then that long list is there. It is hardly tying the minister’s hands, and it does not make sure that every decision is guided by the precautionary approach. This is good legislation, and it is about time we passed it. I do agree that it should not be passed under time allocation.

Erin O’Toole – Member for Durham

Madam Speaker, I appreciate my friend, the leader of the Green Party, weighing in. I am not surprised by her position on the precautionary principle, because she came from an environmental law background as an activist lawyer. We may agree on some things. We may disagree. However, I would refer her to the fact that back when it was discussed in Rio, irreparable harm was the consideration before this non-certain, unscientific approach would be advanced, the better-safe-than-sorry approach. What concerns me now is that it is in a list of enumerated grounds, including social and economic and the intersection of sex and gender. I am not sure what those things have to do with preserving fish stocks, but it shows that the government is ideological, and it is doing things not based on science

This is not the first time I have raised this. This is the third piece of legislation in about six months that, by stealth, is inserting a principle that is still quite controversial. I quoted the most cited American legal scholar, Professor Sunstein, who is very concerned about this approach. In fact, his latest book on the subject is called Laws of Fear, based on this principle.