Thank you very much for that warm welcome and thank you Greg for your kind introduction.
I want to give greetings to Senator Angus, to all distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
And let me add, before I go on, a special welcome to two of my caucus colleagues who are here with me today.
First, a Manitoba biologist, a hunter, a fly fisherman, a conservationist with many years of experience in fishery and environmental studies and now a member of the Environment and Fisheries Committees of the House of Commons would you please welcome Member of Parliament Bob Sopuck.
And also, someone who has worked as both a conservation officer and a wildlife guide, and also now, a member of the Fisheries Committee of the House of Commons, Yukon MP Ryan Leef.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to begin by congratulating the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and its partners for staging this, the first National Fish and Wildlife Conservation Congress.
The OFAH, the oldest and largest organization of its kind in Canada, has been promoting conservation since 1928.
And what gives the federation the credibility to launch a congress such as this, is that for all of those years, the federation has walked its talk.
You have invested millions of your own dollars in improving habitat and in public education.
And you can tell when you talk with members of your organization that they absolutely believe in what they’re doing and they know why they’re doing it.
I was telling Laureen before I left the house today that these are people who when they say they prefer organic food you know they mean it.
But seriously, this congress is a wonderful initiative.
They say there’s wisdom in much counsel.
If that’s so, there is much wisdom in this room here tonight, where fish and wildlife scientists and biologists have come together with conservation groups and outdoorsmen and women, to consider the future of wildlife populations, their challenges and the solutions.
It’s a great achievement, the holding of this congress.
If you were at the 2009 conference, you may recall that I said conservatives were natural conservationists.
It is a duty we gladly accept, that of protecting Canada’s environment and its natural endowments, for the benefit of future generations.
That’s why we give environmental protection and conservation the priority we do.
Let me just take a few moments to remind you of some of the actions that we have taken.
First, because we believe society’s “small battalions” are usually better at getting things done than governments, we found willing partners.
Five years ago, for example, we joined forces with the Nature Conservancy of Canada to protect natural areas.
The Nature Conservancy has leveraged our considerable investment to attract substantial private funds.
Consequently, I am able to report that, as of this date, more than 400,000 acres have been conserved through this program, from coast-to-coast-to-coast.
Another well-chosen partner is Ducks Unlimited Canada.
Since its inception in 1938, it has conserved more than six million acres and positively influenced some 95 million more.
The Government of Canada has invested tens of millions of dollars in the work of Ducks Unlimited, in order to protect and restore wetlands.
We have also developed policies that nurture wildlife.
Since 2006, our Government has added, or is in the process of adding, nearly 150,000 square kilometers of new parkland in order to conserve habitat and foster game populations.
Our Government believes, by the way, that preserving and increasing recreational fisheries should also be a priority.
That is why we recently announced changes to not only preserve what we have, but to increase the productivity of the recreational fishery, while protecting vital wetlands that support these fisheries.
Over the next six months we will be developing regulations to guide our efforts.
Your input and assistance in drafting these regulations will be critical to their success and we plan to work closely with the groups that are represented here tonight.
I could go on, but I know that on this both Minister Ashfield and Minister Kent will be here tomorrow and they will say more about this during your sessions.
One more thing we did, of course, as we promised during our election campaign, during several election campaigns but we’re actually able to do it now, we have also put an end to the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry.
Promise made, ladies and gentlemen, promise kept.
Now if I can, allow me to return for just a moment to environmental conservation.
And let me just say this – I won’t take too much of your time but I just want to this - as conservatives, we believe in both environmental protection and economic growth.
And we believe there is no inherent contradiction in that.
On the contrary, you know well, look around the world, we know that the poorer a society, almost invariably, the worse the state of its environmental protections.
Nobody is suggesting that development should not be thoroughly scrutinized or that every development should necessarily be approved.
We are are simply saying that the process must be clear and it must be fair.
Our policy of responsible resource development in Economic Action Plan 2012 means “one project, one review” in a clearly defined time period.
Now we do expect that this will accelerate investment and job creation by offering certainty to people - and those people are out there – those people who together are ready to invest as much as half a trillion dollars in resource development over the next decade.
Canadians need that investment.
It is such investment that feeds families and buys homes, and makes possible the services that Canadians depend on.
It cannot be ignored.
The challenge is to manage it, and how it affects our land, water and air.
And this audience should have no doubt, this audience in particular should have no doubt, about our society’s capacity to achieve both economic growth and environmental conservation.
As educated outdoors men and women, you know that, a hundred years ago, North American wildlife was reeling under the impact of economic development.
But you also know that people who cared and understood, scientists and sportsmen alike, united to promote policies that protected and nurtured wildlife.
And so successful have they been, that even with the incredible growth of the past century, a tripling of the population north of the Rio Grande, so successful have they been that wildlife populations have been restored beyond the wildest imagination of that generation of our great-grandparents.
The wild turkey and the pronghorn antelope, brought back from the brink of extinction.
The white-tailed deer, once numbering less than 500,000 on the continent, now in the millions.
And as you know, I could go on with many more examples.
But I don’t need to, for this is your story, yours and people like you who came before.
Now I don’t mean to suggest, ladies and gentlement in saying these things, that the needs of the continent’s wildlife have been resolved in perpetuity.
Nor do I claim that every environmental challenge has a simple remedy.
But this I can tell you, with well-informed management of our wildlife resources, there need be no conflict between responsible resource development and environmental protection.
And on our watch, there will be no such conflict.
Instead, we shall continue to develop partnerships between government, landowners and recreational users, whose practical and scientific approaches have already done so much good.
In this regard, as promised in our platform last year, it gives me great pleasure to announce the creation of the Hunting and Angling Advisory Panel.
It will be composed of provincial and territorial representatives of hunting and angling associations and this panel will report directly to the Minister of the Environment.
And we expect that it will reflect the wisdom in this room and beyond, helping to ensure that our Government’s decisions are based on sound science and balanced advice.
So that is another promise made, ladies and gentlemen, and another promise kept.
Now you have been generous with your time and attention, I don’t want to keep you from dinner and I know you have other business to attend to.
I do want to thank you, I do want to thank Greg, this organization and all of the organizations represented here, for the advice and support that you have given to our Government over the past few years.
It has been very useful, we do appreciate it, and we wish all of you a good congress and we look forward to receiving your wise counsel through the panel that we have established.