Bill C-52 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Fisheries Act (terms and conditions of permissions, leases and licences)
This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.
Geoff Regan Liberal
Introduction and First Reading
(This bill did not become law.)
Ontario Fishery Regulations, 1989
Orders of the Day
February 21st, 2007 / 1:05 p.m.
Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission
Randy Kamp Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the report tabled by the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations.
First, let me thank the committee for its diligence on behalf of Canadians in overseeing the regulations that govern this country. I have served on that committee. I know that although the work can be tedious at times, it is very important.
Earlier this month the standing joint committee tabled a report that included a resolution to disallow subsection 36(2) of the Ontario fishery regulations under the Fisheries Act. The subsection in question states that:
No holder of a commercial fishing licence shall violate any of the terms or conditions of the licence.
The committee's view is that the Fisheries Act does not provide the authority to set out in a regulation the requirement to comply with licence conditions. The government is of the view that it does.
This has been a long standing issue between the government and the standing joint committee. Governments, long before ours, have always maintained that subsection 36(2) falls within the regulation making authority under section 43 of the Fisheries Act, that it is legally sound and that it is supported by court decisions.
Section 43 of the Fisheries Act is broad enough to include the requirement to comply with licence conditions. Among other things, section 43 provides the authority to make regulations: “for the proper management and control of the sea-coast and inland fisheries”.
It also provides authority to make regulations:
(b) respecting the conservation and protection of fish;
(f) respecting the issue, suspension and cancellation of licences and leases;
(g) respecting the terms and conditions under which a licence and lease may be issued;
The Ontario fishery regulations provide clear guidance as to the conditions that could be attached to a commercial fishing licence in that province. Similar regulations exist for other fisheries. These conditions include the species, size and quantity of fish that may be taken, where and when fishing can occur, and the type of gear that may be used.
Fishing licences, their attached conditions and the requirement to comply with them, are fundamental to the proper management and control of the fishery. They are crucial to protecting and conserving our fishery resources.
In fact, in a fairly recent development, one of which the committee may not have been aware, Ontario is using licence conditions to address a significant threat to its $2.3 billion recreational fishery. The province has placed certain restrictions on the movement of bait fish to control the spread of viral hemorrhagic septicemia. VHS has been implicated in killing a large number of sport fish in the province.
Clearly, compliance with these conditions as required by subsection 36(2) is critical for the sake of Ontario's sport fishing industry.
Let me add that individuals who participate in the commercial fishery know they must comply with licence conditions or face consequences. The government has always argued that in addition to the authority to suspend or cancel licences, Parliament did make it an offence to contravene the Fisheries Act or regulations under it in section 78 of the act.
The courts have agreed with the government's position. They have ruled that regulations made under the Fisheries Act that require compliance with licence conditions fall within the scope of the act's regulation-making authority, and they found that contravening this requirement is an offence under section 78 of the act.
So, from a legal perspective, in my opinion, subsection 36(2) of the Ontario fishery regulations is on firm footing.
However, I would be the first to say that we are not asking for the status quo. We believe that in most cases the potential for jail time is not an appropriate penalty for such contraventions. Fortunately, the courts have imposed fines in cases involving contravention of subsection 36(2) rather than imprisonment, but I do agree that greater clarity could be provided for the requirement to comply with licence conditions.
We are doing something about that. It comes to us in Bill C-45, which the minister tabled in December. The bill resolves the standing joint committee's regulatory concern with subsection 36(2) and does much more.
Revoking subsection 36(2) is not the right course of action, given that a bill has been tabled that addresses the committee's concern. That is why the minister filed the motion before us today to oppose the committee's resolution for disallowance.
Disallowing subsection 36(2) would create a serious legal gap in Ontario's ability to enforce licence conditions on some 500 commercial fishing licences and about 1,400 commercial bait fish licences.
Furthermore, the standing joint committee has indicated that if its resolution to disallow is supported, the committee would expect similar provisions in other fisheries regulations to be revoked. This would create an enforcement vacuum that would threaten these natural resources in virtually all of Canada's fisheries. During this vacuum, all that would be left to punish lack of compliance with license conditions would be suspension or cancellation of licenses, and the courts have made that process very difficult indeed.
Disallowing this regulation would then compel our government to draw up a quick fix bill to plug this regulatory gap and then get it passed through both Houses. This is something that has not worked on no less than three occasions in the past, Bill C-33 in 2003; Bill C-43 in 2004, which died on the order paper; as did Bill C-52 in 2005.
In fact, I did not support Bill C-52 as a solution when I sat on the other side of the House because I believed then, as I do now, that we have much more to offer Canada's fishers.
As tempting as it may be to try to pass a simpler minor amendment to deal with the committee's issue, we owe Canadians that and much more. We owe them a renewed Fisheries Act, one that would resolve this regulatory issue and provide for more collaborative, accountable and transparent fisheries management, which is exactly what Bill C-45 does. It resolves the standing joint committee's concern with subsection 36(2) of the Ontario fishery regulations by clarifying that compliance with fishing license conditions is a requirement of the act.
As I mentioned, the new Fisheries Act does much more. It puts forth a new licensing framework and an administrative sanctioning regime for most breaches of license conditions instead of relying on the courts. It introduces an arm's-length fisheries tribunal to handle violations of the act or its regulations.
The standing joint committee has also expressed concern that because license conditions are administrative decisions, non-compliance with them should not carry potential jail time for violators. Bill C-45 address this concern.
In the sanctions regime, as mandated in the new act, penalties for contravening the requirement to comply with license conditions would no longer include the possibility of jail time. The bill also responds to issues the committee has raised in the past with variation orders, and I will not get into that at this time.
The new Fisheries Act also includes measures for shared stewardship of our fisheries. It allows those with a stake in the fishery to have a say and take a hand in how the resource is managed.
Bill C-45 would also put in place a clearer and more accountable framework for stable access to the fishery and allocation of fish shares.
The new act also clearly spells out the considerations that the minister must take into account when making licensing and allocation decisions, and those which he or she may choose to consider. In other words, all the cards are now on the table.
Protecting fish habitat and preventing pollution are inextricably linked to sound stewardship of our fishery resources. Bill C-45 would compel everyone who administers the act to consider principles of sustainable development, and take an ecosystems-based and precautionary approach to conserving and protecting fish and habitat.
Speaking of principles, passage of Bill C-45 would, for the first time, set out management principles for fisheries and fish habitat right in the act.
In short, Bill C-45 would remedy the standing joint committee's immediate concern with subsection 36(2) of the Ontario fishery regulations and it does so much more on behalf of Canadians who depend on the fishery.
We have an opportunity here to make a lasting difference in better managing our fisheries and oceans by providing Canadians with a modern and more effective Fisheries Act, an act that would help deliver the ultimate sustainable value to the public from Canada's fish and ocean resources for generations to come.
I believe that concentrating the House's efforts on passing Bill C-45 is the right approach. I oppose disallowance of subsection 36(2) of the Ontario fishery regulations and will be voting to return the report to the committee so it can ensure that its concerns are addressed in Bill C-45. I encourage all members to do likewise.
I again thank the committee for its thorough scrutiny of this country's regulations. I think its work in respect to subsection 36(2) of the Ontario fishery regulations highlights the importance of passing Bill C-45 through Parliament as quickly as possible. I hope members of the House will agree that the time for change in the fishery has come.
Business of the House
November 24th, 2005 / 3 p.m.
Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I see the hon. member across the way is displaying his charm once more.
I also think the hon. member understands clearly that the call for the election and, ultimately, if there is an election caused, it will be the opposition members who will have to take responsibility since they will be voting to dissolve Parliament and we will be voting to sustain Parliament in order to continue the work that I will now lay out.
This afternoon we will continue with the opposition motion.
On Friday we will call consideration of the Senate amendments to Bill C-37, the do not call bill; report stage and third reading of Bill S-36 respecting rough diamonds; report stage and third reading of Bill C-63, respecting the Canada Elections Act; and second reading of Bill C-44, the transport legislation.
We will return to this work on Monday, adding to the list the reference before second reading of Bill C-76, the citizenship and adoption bill; and second reading of Bill C-75, the public health agency legislation.
Tuesday and Thursday of next week shall be allotted days. There are some three dozen bills before the House or in committee on which the House I am sure will want to make progress in the next period of time. They will include the bill introduced yesterday to implement the 2005 tax cuts announced on November 14; Bill C-68, the Pacific gateway bill; Bill C-67, the surplus legislation; Bill C-61, the marine bill; Bill C-72, the DNA legislation; Bill C-46, the correctional services bill; Bill C-77, the citizenship prohibitions bill; Bill C-60, the copyright legislation; Bill C-73, the Telecom bill; Bill C-60 respecting drug impaired driving; Bill C-19, the competition legislation; Bill C-50 respecting cruelty to animals; Bill C-51, the judges legislation; Bill C-52, the fisheries bill; Bill C-59 respecting Investment Canada; Bills C-64 and C-65 amending the Criminal Code.
In addition, there are the supplementary estimates introduced in October that provide spending authority for a wide variety of services to the Canadian public and we the government would certainly like to see this passed.
Business of the House
October 20th, 2005 / 3 p.m.
Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I find the last part of that question a little puzzling, given that the hon. member was at the meeting where I in fact outlined the opposition days. They will begin the week of November 14 and will go right to December 8. We are meeting our commitment and our obligation to provide seven opposition days during this supply period.
We will continue this afternoon with the second reading debate of Bill C-65, the street racing bill, followed by Bill C-64, the vehicle identification legislation, Bill S-37, respecting the Hague convention, Bill S-36, the rough diamonds bill, and reference to committee before second reading of Bill C-50, respecting cruelty to animals.
Tomorrow, we will start with any bills not completed today. As time permits, we will turn to second reading of Bill C-44, the transportation bill, and reference to committee before second reading of Bill C-46, the correctional services legislation. This will be followed by second reading of Bill C-52, respecting fisheries.
I expect that these bills will keep the House occupied into next week.
On Monday we will start with third reading of Bill C-37, the do not call legislation. I also hope to begin consideration of Bill C-66, the energy legislation, by midweek. We will follow this with Bill C-67, the surpluses bill.
Some time ago the House leaders agreed to hold a take note debate on the softwood lumber issue on the evening of Tuesday, October 25.
We also agreed on an urgent basis to have such a debate on the issue of the U.S. western hemisphere travel initiative on the evening of Monday, October 24.
Accordingly, pursuant to Standing Order 53.1(1), I move:
That debates pursuant to Standing Order 53.1 take place as follows:
(1) on Monday, October 24, 2005, on the impact on Canada of the United States western hemisphere travel initiative;
(2) on Tuesday, October 25, 2005, on softwood lumber.
Business of the House
September 29th, 2005 / 3:10 p.m.
Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I would like to lay out the business for the next week.
We will continue this afternoon with Bill C-55, which is the wage earner protection program. Then we will proceed to the second reading of Bill C-57, the financial institutions bill, followed by second reading of Bill C-54, which is the first nations oil and gas and moneys management act.
Tomorrow we will consider report stage and, if possible, third reading of Bill C-25 respecting Radarsat. I understand as well that there are some ongoing discussions about the disposal of Bill C-63, amending the Canada Elections Act. We would also like to deal with Bill S-38 respecting the spirits trade and Bill S-31 respecting autoroute 30.
On Monday we propose to commence report stage of Bill C-11, which is the whistleblower bill. We would like to give this bill priority all week in the hope of completing all of the remaining stages.
We would then return to any business left over from this week and, if there is time, begin consideration of Bill C-44, the transport bill; Bill C-28, the food and drug legislation; Bill S-37, respecting the Hague convention; Bill S-36, the diamonds bill; and Bill C-52, the fisheries bill.
With respect to the business of supply during the present period, Mr. Speaker, I will reconfirm that you confirmed to the House that there will be seven allotted days during this period. In response directly to the opposition House leader's question, as per our discussion at the House leader's meeting this past Tuesday, we understood we would schedule the supply days after the Thanksgiving break.
In any event, it will be a topic that I look forward to discussing with House leaders at our meeting this coming Tuesday, so that we can in fact schedule all the required opposition days.
Business of the House
Oral Question Period
June 16th, 2005 / 3:05 p.m.
Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, our principal legislative objectives continue to be Bill C-43, the third reading vote of which will take place after question period, and Bill C-48. The government believes these bills reflect public interest and the enactment of both of these bills is required before the House adjourns for the summer. As the hon. member mentioned, if the House does not pass Bill C-48, we will be here in July and August. Consequently, we will continue to give these bills priority until they are disposed of.
We will then consider report stage of Bill C-38, the civil marriage bill; Bill C-25; Bill C-28; Bill C-52, the Fisheries Act; Bill C-47; Bill C-53; Bill C-55, the bankruptcy bill; and Bill C-37, the do not call legislation.
June 13th, 2005 / 11:40 p.m.
Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB
Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Delta—Richmond East gave a very useful and interesting speech.
Would he agree with me from the tone and from the content of the speeches we have heard that the most worrisome thing about Bill C-52 and I think the reason the Conservatives put forward amendments is the whole thing seems to be shrouded in falsehoods and misinformation? My colleague cited the Ontario hunters and anglers who have been led to believe things that simply are not true in order to push forward the world view of the Liberal management of the fisheries.
Would the member expand a little on how the Ontario hunters and anglers and even the Sport Fishing Advisory Board and others seem to have been misled or sold a bill of goods about the impact of action or inaction regarding Bill C-52?
June 13th, 2005 / 11:35 p.m.
Inky Mark Dauphin—Swan River, MB
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to take part in the debate on Bill C-52. I listened carefully to my colleague from British Columbia on the whole issue of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. I can certainly echo similar experiences in my riding of Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette of actions of the bureaucrats at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Unfortunately, too many of these regulations force the department to operate in a manner that is unaccountable to anyone except itself. The people in my riding understand that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has a relevant role to play in terms of environment enhancement to ensure that the fisheries remain intact in the future. There are huge bodies of water in my riding and fish are very important to the people who live there.
Unfortunately, because of the way the regulations operate they make a lot of people angry, sometimes because they do not understand the history of the riding and how real things happen. For example, the installation of culverts and ditches is always a sore point with the rural municipalities. Fisheries officers from who knows where, possibly from academia, usually inform the municipalities that they have to take the culverts out. They are not allowed to install them without studies, which incur costs. The same thing happens when bridges are being built. Engineering studies have to be done. It increases the costs for the rural municipalities.
We know that regulations tend to get out of hand. With Bill C-52 perhaps we need to look at less regulation and do away with some of the regulations that exist in the current legislation rather than add to the regulations. I would like to hear the comments of my colleague from the west coast.
June 13th, 2005 / 11:15 p.m.
John Cummins Delta—Richmond East, BC
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to address this particular issue again tonight. It is an issue of considerable concern back home. One of the difficulties we have had in British Columbia is the whole notion that somehow or another the management of the fishery was out of our control, that decisions were being made on which people did not have the ability to make proper comment and that decisions being made were simply onerous and at times expensive for the fishermen involved.
Let me give the House an example. Our problem today is with the ability of the government to put conditions on a licence and then to impose sanctions on that condition. The sanctions, as we have suggested, could involve fairly substantial fines, time in jail or the seizure of the vessel and fishing equipment. Those are all significant penalties for breach of a licence condition. The problem with licence conditions is that we fail to provide the proper scrutiny for those regulations.
I just want to walk through the process. The Fisheries Act is the big Kahuna of the management of the fisheries. It is the body of law from which all the other authority derives. It advises the minister of his responsibilities and obligations and so on. It limits the responsibilities the minister has and it defines them very clearly. For example, in section 43 of the Fisheries Act, it states:
The Governor in Council may make regulations for carrying out the purposes and provisions of this Act and in particular, but without restricting the generality of the foregoing, may make regulations--
It then goes on to list a whole host of regulations:
(a) for the proper management and control of the sea-coast and inland fisheries;
(b) respecting the conservation and protection of fish;
(c) respecting the catching, loading, landing, handling, transporting, possession and disposal of fish;
(d) respecting the operation of fishing vessels;
(e) respecting the use of fishing gear and equipment;
The list goes on. It is fairly precise and yet at the same time it is open-ended and it does give the minister a fair amount of latitude to operate.
However, once that is said, in making the regulations that will apply to the fishery, the minister has certain steps to follow. To begin with, he has to provide a committee of cabinet with those proposed regulations which would then be subject to some scrutiny. That scrutiny is fairly well outlined in the Statutory Instruments Act.
For example, in the Statutory Instruments Act it suggests that there must be an examination of the proposed regulations. It states that the regulations must be presented in the usual way in both official languages and so on and then it states:
3.(2) On receipt by the Clerk of the Privy Council...the Clerk of the Privy Council, in consultation with the Deputy Minister of Justice, shall examine the proposed regulation to ensure that
(a) it is authorized by the statute pursuant to which it is to be made;
(b) it does not constitute an unusual or unexpected use of the authority pursuant to which it is to be made;
(c) it does not trespass unduly on existing rights and freedoms and is not, in any case, inconsistent with the purposes and provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Bill of Rights;
and (d) the form and draftsmanship of the proposed regulation are in accordance with established standards.
It is fairly onerous, if we will, as regards the kinds of oversight that are carried out before that regulation comes into effect.
If the bill is acceptable by cabinet, what happens next is that the bill is gazetted, printed and then comments are invited from the public.
I have an example from October 1, 1998 of regulations amending the fishery general regulations. It lists the regulations. As we go down through the document, we come to a regulatory impact analysis statement. The minister is required to provide this regulatory impact analysis statement. It first describes the regulations and then goes on to suggest what alternatives may be in order. It talks about the benefits and costs of the particular regulations that will be there so that this thing is not just thrown out without those safeguards. It then talks about the consultation that took place, the compliance and enforcement that would be required and that would include the fines. It then gives the contact person in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Let me give an example of when we simply have licence conditions attached to a licence.
All of these requirements under the statutory regulations and, in particular, this regulatory impact analysis statement are foregone. They are not part of the process.
For example, on the gillnet fishery on the west coast, gillnetters are required by law to have a revival tank on the vessel. The purpose of the revival tank in the Fraser River fishery, for example, is if any coho are caught the coho, which we are not supposed to capture, are to be put into the revival tank and maintained there until they are fit to be put back in the water and then their survival would be ensured. That is the purpose of the revival tank. That, on the surface, makes sense.
However the government has done this by licence conditions and it really has not looked at the impact of this. These revival tanks cost somewhat better than $1,000 for the average tank. For a fisherman who last year only fished 39 hours and maybe only made $3,000 or $4,000 with his licence, $1,000 is a lot of money. The worst part of it is that fishermen are required to have that revival tank on their vessel in July and August when there are no coho in the river.
We have a case in British Columbia now where a fisherman was charged for not having a revival tank on his vessel in July simply out of spite. The bureaucrats were upset with this fellow because he had been protesting some of the actions of the department and was not satisfied with it so the bureaucrats used this section. They told the fisherman that because he did not have his revival tank in operation they were going to take him to court and march him through the process. They told him that under the terms and conditions of the licence he had to have the tank in operation whether it was needed or not therefore he would have to pay.
That is the kind of outrageous authority that I do not think we should be giving these bureaucrats. I do not think that is what is called for and I do not think it is what Canadians want or expect.
I think the Ontario minister and, unfortunately, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters were in receipt of communications from the federal minister about this particular bill. The minister put the fear of God into not only the Ontario minister but the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and all but told them that if these regulations were not in place and the committee's disallowance report went ahead, the government would not be able to manage the fishery and it would to be over. It would have to shut the fishery down because it would be impossible to manage without being able to attach conditions to a licence. The government said that in the absence of licence conditions the commercial fleet would be unmanageable, it would not be able to control the species taken, the amount taken, the gear used, the time for fishing and the location of fishing.
In fact, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters said, “otherwise the protection currently in place through regulation for the $7 billion a year sport fishing industry will be unable to address the species of fish taken, the amount taken, the type of gear used and the timeframe and location of that activity”.
Unfortunately, that is not the case. For example, the Ontario fishing regulations talks about restrictions. No. 16 states:
No person shall engage in angling within 25 m of a cage in which fish are held for culture or a pound net.
No. 17(2) states:
A person who is angling from a boat may use two lines in the waters of Lake Erie, except in Rondeau Bay and the Inner Bay of Long Point Bay.
The Ontario minister is under the impression that the fishery cannot be managed without licence conditions. Well they do it in the regulations in Ontario already. That is just one example.
In No. 17(5) it states:
A person who is angling by trailing lures or baits behind a fishing vessel that is in constant forward motion created by muscle, motor or sail power may use two lines in the following waters:
(a) the waters of the St. Marys River west of 83°45'W. in Division 17; and
(b) the waters of Division 23, excluding
It goes on to list some exclusions.
In No. 18(1) it states:
--no person shall engage in angling through the ice with more than two lines.
In No. 18(3) it states:
No person shall engage in angling through the ice with more than one line in the waters set out in the table to this subsection.
The table is extensive. They are all doing things in the regulations which the minister in Ontario tells us that if Bill C-52 is not passed, they will not be able to do. Well they are doing it. It is just that these guys do not want to be bothered with open government and accountability.
The bureaucrats do not want to answer for the licence conditions that they put forward. Somehow they think it is okay for bureaucrats to put in place licence conditions which can result in imprisonment, large fines or the seizure of fishing vessels or fishing lodges if one is a sports fisherman, and I find that to be particularly reprehensible.
I responded to the Ontario minister of fisheries in a letter on July 8 in response to letter he sent to our fisheries critic on June 7. My friend, the parliamentary secretary for natural resources, read a good part of the Ontario minister's letter into the record. My letter read:
With respect, your response indicates that your office may not understand the objections of the Committee. The objection is not whether your Department’s objective is wise from a policy perspective. Its sole concern must be whether s. 36(2) of the Ontario Fishing Regulations is authorized by the Fisheries Act.
That of course is the issue. I also told the Ontario minister in my letter:
Furthermore, you seek to have Parliament amend the Fisheries Act to give your Department the ability to launch such criminal proceedings against fishermen who might breach a term or condition established by your officials.
I went on to say that the scrutiny of regulations committee has already refused to endorse such a course of action. On April 14, 2004 it warned:
Our acknowledgement that the amendments...would resolve the Committee's objections to the legality of the relevant regulatory provisions does not imply an endorsement of those amendments.
Particularly as regards the proposed section 10(1), which would impose a legal duty to comply with the terms and conditions of a license, we can conceive that some Parliamentarians might object to subjecting such non-compliance to penal sanctions that include imprisonment. To deprive a citizen of his liberty on the ground that the citizen has failed to abide by a requirement imposed by a public official in the exercise of administrative power, such as a term or condition of licence, could be thought undesirable as a matter of legislative policy.
I do not know of anyone on this side of the House who does not subscribe to that point of view. It is highly inappropriate for someone to end up in jail because he or she was not in compliance with a regulation that was put in place by a fisheries bureaucrat as opposed to a regulation which was authorized by this place.
The fisheries minister in Ontario is simply asking Parliament for an authority that it has never granted to departmental officials. It is worth underscoring that this authority that is being asked for is one that simply has not been allowed in other places. As I said earlier, the Library of Parliament could find only two instances where regulatory schemes or conditions to a licence would be sanctioned by someone other than Parliament and without parliamentary scrutiny. They were in the airline industry and in the nuclear industry, but there are public regulatory bodies that are overseeing those industries, and in fact, there is full public disclosure.
The parliamentary secretary was suggesting that parliamentary scrutiny would still be available, but section 10(2) contained in clause 1 of Bill C-52 makes it very clear that the regulations referenced in section 10(1) will not be subject to parliamentary scrutiny. That is a deep concern.
I suggested to the minister in Ontario that he has two options available to protect the fishery in Ontario. He could continue to impose terms and conditions on a licence and employ licence sanctions as an effective means of censure. In other words, he could withdraw the licence for a day or two days, or simply suspend the licence if that is his wish. That course certainly would be available to him, or he could develop and seek passage of regulations to replace existing licence conditions.
Certainly that is the route I would prefer to see, regulations to replace these existing licence conditions. We have this public process in place to oversee those regulations, to get public input and to ensure that not just the special interest groups are heard, and those special interest groups may simply be the commercial fishing industry or the sport fishing industry or some such other body, but to ensure that the public at large has the ability to respond. That is important.
Quite often, as my friends down the way have been suggesting, on these fisheries issues the public at large has a very real interest in protecting the fishery because of the historical and cultural significance that maintaining a sustainable fisheries has.
Although the bill may be very small and does not quite fill a page, it is of huge significance. It is one that we certainly should not be supporting.
June 13th, 2005 / 11:05 p.m.
Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB
Mr. Speaker, the member for Vancouver Island North has given us a very knowledgeable speech on this subject and on the Bill C-52 subamendment, which I believe is what we are talking about now.
I know that my colleague actually comes from the industry. I often wonder what it would be like if we actually had a minister of fisheries who was in fact a fisherman. What a novel concept that would be. What a refreshing change it would be to have somebody with that personal experience actually running DFO.
I took note of the comments my colleague was making on the subamendment to Bill C-52. He both introduced it and summarized it by saying that it was about enforcement in a primary way. I believe that was his opening remark.
I can share with my colleague that I once built a house for a scientist who worked at the Pacific biological research station at Nanaimo. He was studying groundfish and the aging of groundfish. I asked him why. He said it was so that we know what age is the right time to harvest them and what would be too young and should be thrown back.
I said to him that it was 1985 and he was just then studying the appropriate age of groundfish and what time we should be harvesting them, and I asked where they had been for the last 50 years when we were talking about enforcement. That was just basic science that they were doing; it was elementary level science. As a lay person not in the field, I was shocked to learn that.
My question is about another project. I am a carpenter by trade. Another project I worked on was up in Alice Arm in Kitsault, B.C., where we were building a new molybdenum mine. We built all the houses for that new mine.
We talk about lack of enforcement, but I can personally attest to what it was like the day that mine opened up and the effluent and the tailings started dumping into Alice Arm. We could see the cloud, the plume in the water. As we flew over, we could literally watch that plume of effluent drive all the life out of that very narrow fjord-like inlet to the sea 80 miles down. It literally sterilized Alice Arm. The mine is now closed. I do not think Alice Arm has ever recovered.
I have a question for my colleague. If this is all about enforcement, in his experience where has the enforcement been? Where has the responsibility been over all these years when travesties like the experience at Alice Arm were taking place in his own general region of the country?
June 13th, 2005 / 10:45 p.m.
John Duncan Vancouver Island North, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the subamendment to Bill C-52. I have enjoyed the debate in a way that I have not enjoyed some other debates recently. Whenever we start talking about fish, people's emotions very often come into it. Even though we have had some people with a background in the legal fraternity who have become quite involved in the debate tonight, I find it very satisfying to be sitting between two people with a legal background and two away from our fisheries critic from Newfoundland and Labrador. Being from British Columbia, I have a riding with a very strong fisheries component and influence.
This has been a great debate. We have learned quite a bit. One thing we have learned is that the government in this legislation specifically is trying to put a very bad patch on a flat tire. If it succeeds in what it is attempting to do, it only will have a blow out again. This is not the way to create a regime where we ask people to enforce a licence, to fine people or put them in jail on the basis of no statutory authority and we do it by declaring that the words in the bill do not constitute part of the Statutory Instruments Act.
This is the worst kind of an ad hoc emergency, short term, evasive, unprincipled way to approach this issue. Unfortunately, this has become a philosophical way of life for some of the senior management at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. It exhibits itself in the way they manage the department.
If we go to the crux of the issue, it is all about enforcement of the fishery. How do we enforce the fishery? Presumably we do it through the act and then we do it through regulation. Administratively, we do it through the licence process.
We know the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has been remiss in its enforcement of areas where it has a very clear responsibility and authority. I will only talk about British Columbia because that is what I know the best for the purposes of example.
We had a Fraser River sockeye fishery that was being prosecuted by people, with no enforcement being carried on portions of the river. That was a deliberate decision by some people in the bureaucracy. There was no political will to give it what they really needed, which was police backup because of the fact that it felt threatened. This is all a matter of public record. We know that enforcement did not occur. This contributed in a major way to the collapse of that fishery.
While that very lack of enforcement was happening, we had enforcement officers in Johnson Strait boarding boats and fining them because they did not have the log filled out for that day. This is the kind of lack of appropriate priority setting that we see over and over from the department. This comes from a department which controls virtually every aspect of the livelihood of the commercial sector of the fishery.
That direct control requires parliamentary scrutiny and parliamentary approval if we are going to avoid the pitfalls of having the bureaucracy or junior officials carry out vendettas. It would put recipients of licences at the mercy of some entity that is not palatable. This already happens to some extent and is very problematical. There are no end of things that could be scrutinized in the system.
Recently, a fisherman who had been part of developing a new fishery, what is called an emerging fishery. Because he had been partaking in the experimental end of it, everything on the form that he filled out to indicate that he was eligible for a licence in this new regime of licensing, everything pointed to him being eligible. An employee of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans accepted the fee and it was only several weeks later that the applicant learned that there had been a judgment that the boat did not have a certain kind of licence in a certain timeframe and therefore did not qualify. That was based on the way the form was filled out and not the actuality. The judgment was that the form was controlling everything despite the fact that when the form was accepted, it all looked okay.
Here is an individual who is now not licensed in a fishery he helped develop through no fault of his own. One would assume that there would be a fairness test and an appeal, and that this would be a very easy thing to overcome. It just so happens that an emerging fishery is not eligible for appeal to a tribunal. The rules are not clear that there is any appeal and so presumably it could be ruled either way that there is an appeal or there is not an appeal.
I have certainly made my representations and to date it has been quite a few weeks without a response. In the meantime, time marches on and fishing seasons come and go, so this is probably becoming an academic question. These questions are not academic when somebody's livelihood is at stake. Over and over again, every aspect of fisheries policies, fisheries regulations, and fisheries licensing has everything to do with whether a person is able to make a living or not in the commercial sector.
We must ensure that what we are doing is appropriate and in the long term interests of the fishery, not just to ensure that our commercial harvesters are treated appropriately but to ensure that conservation and every other aspect of the fishery is being considered under a system that is open to scrutiny and has parliamentary oversight when appropriate.
We have had a real problem with the priorities of the fisheries department. We have witnessed the collapse of the Fraser River fishery and this was not the first time for the sockeye runs. We have seen places like Smith Inlet where we have had runs decimated. There is no longer any real attempt to even monitor what is truly going up the rivers and what is happening there. It was a major salmon resource in the mid-coast of British Columbia that for a generation or more has now been largely left to its own devices and abandoned, and it is not doing well at all.
We have seen extinctions of runs with no explanation. We have seen a lack of commitment from this administration on what really gets many people involved in the fishery which is salmon enhancement and our whole approach to habitat improvement and our hatchery system.
We have had over a $4 million cut to that program in British Columbia and Yukon. This is a program that enlists thousands of volunteers. I am not sure what the latest number is but I read that it is in the tens of thousands of people who volunteer their time on the west coast of Canada to do work in this area. A small program that has not risen in cost to the government is now being cut back because of so-called overspending some years ago, making many people very unhappy. There has never been a satisfactory explanation.
We know that the fisheries department is now divided between those who support these expenditures and those who are trying to grab part of that budget for their own because they are so stretched for funds. The sharp pencils in Ottawa are quite happy to let that game play itself out because in the meantime they are controlling the agenda. We have a situation where the public expectation of what the department should be doing and could be doing is quite different from the reality.
What happened in this latest round on the Fraser River is a perfect example. The fisheries office in the Fraser Valley was responsible for much of the enforcement in that area, but it was not happening. The people in the Fraser Valley were not hoodwinked in any way. They knew that the department lost its will, its ability or desire to enforce the rules on the Fraser River, and so they were not under any misunderstanding at all. That is consistent with the sort of elusive and ad hoc, unprincipled approach that the department was taking as to how it conducted business.
I started off by talking about the importance of this whole enforcement regime. The government can change the words. It is only trying to put a patch on a flat tire, but it is also trying to find a way to make its enforcement band-aid even easier from an academic, theoretical standpoint. It all means nothing if one is not prepared to do any of the enforcement.
We had cuts to the number of enforcement people on the west coast and we had a huge move to put enforcement people in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. That was several years ago. We are now at the point where that experiment turned out to be a bad idea. They really frustrated landowners in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba with this overzealous behaviour that rocked generations-old practices, carried out a whole bunch of counterproductive things, and attacked the basic premise that people who own private property had some say over how they were going to cultivate their land and so on.
Now we have the government retrenching those very people who they shipped out, but it is not translating itself into an improvement on enforcement efforts on the coast. We are still not getting the resources. This essentially means that once again what many view as a priority activity of government becomes an activity of government that government sees as non-essential and one that it can easily and largely dispose of, so this is not a happy time.
We have first level fisheries personnel who deeply care about the resource. They involve themselves in the community. They involve themselves with the people who are users of the resource. They provide an interface with the public and they are not governed by a clock. They deeply care about the resource.
We have members of the public in the very same category. I talked about the thousands of people who volunteer. We have school children with a deep appreciation of the wonders of the fisheries resource. They take school days, and go out and see what is going on. We have rural communities with a deep attachment and sometimes this is very much an economic question as well.
We have some of our coastal communities that have become quite dependent on the commercial recreational sector that occurs in the summer time. Those communities are feeling quite vulnerable to the actions of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans as well because if they choose to suddenly cut the activities of the local hatchery, this can have a devastating effect.
We have deep concerns being expressed by all of the communities on northern Vancouver Island within my riding regarding the behaviour of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
This has also been expressed through the aboriginal fishing groups in my riding, sometimes as an association. Sometimes on a personal level I have been approached. It is easier for them to talk to me; I can be the bearer rather than them.
What we have with this bill is a political and bureaucratic situation that is a failure of the public interest. I welcome any questions.