Evidence of meeting #42 for Fisheries and Oceans in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was lamprey.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Robert Lambe  Commissioner, Great Lakes Fishery Commission
  • Chris Goddard  Executive Secretary, Great Lakes Fishery Commission
  • Marc Gaden  Communications Director and Legislative Liaison, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

4:40 p.m.

Commissioner, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Robert Lambe

It's the section that deals with habitat, so it's section 35. What would section 35 look like and how would that be enacted going forward?

There is also concern about the Law List triggers in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. What is going to be a Law List trigger, and what won't be, going forward? Right now, the Fisheries Act is, and if it isn't, I think there needs to be some discussion about what the effects of that would be, positive and negative.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Have you actually read the specific section of our new proposed Fisheries Act that deals with fish habitat?

4:40 p.m.

Commissioner, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Robert Lambe

Have I? Yes, I have personally.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Good. Of course, you know that the definition of habitat itself hasn't changed. It's just that we will be focusing on fisheries of significance for recreational, commercial, and aboriginal use. Don't you think a focus on those fisheries is warranted, as opposed to diffusing DFO's efforts across the countryside on sort of unproductive and insignificant fish populations?

4:45 p.m.

Commissioner, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Robert Lambe

Yes. I mean, I think it's comforting to those who are involved with the fisheries to know that the recreational fishery is considered within the same breath as commercial fisheries.

If I reflect on some of the discussion amongst the advisers, which you don't see in the resolution, there are questions about how it's one thing to have the act defined the way that it is, but how will it actually be applied? For example, if the Fisheries Act is not part of the Law List triggers, then how do we know that the Fisheries Act would be applied in the case of a major project? Right now it's applied because it's a trigger. If it's not a trigger, it wouldn't be applied by virtue of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, as far as we can tell. That may be incorrect, but without the discussion we don't know.

The other concern about this is that if the Fisheries Act continues to be voluntary—in other words, there is no onus on a proponent right now to come to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and look for authorization to go forward with a project—under those circumstances, the way the Fisheries Act would be applied would be in a responsive scenario. Somebody would have to complain about a violation before it would get applied.

That's the dynamic of the concern that the advisers are bringing forward.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Are you aware of the issues and situations that spurred the Government of Canada to make these changes to the Fisheries Act? Where I come from, in prairie Canada, there was such a draconian enforcement of the Fisheries Act—again, the infamous farmer's drainage ditch and so on.

I mean...and I question the propriety of the commission straying into Canadian federal public policy. I look at your mandate and at what you're supposed to do, and policy really isn't part of your mandate.

I would argue very strongly that our new focus on fisheries of significance should give you some comfort, because we will now be able to focus on those fisheries that actually “count”: recreational, commercial, and aboriginal fisheries.

I'm just wondering whether your advisory committee.... For example, has the advisory committee, or have you, been to the fisheries minister's website where he deals with a lot of these questions?

4:45 p.m.

Executive Secretary, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Dr. Chris Goddard

Sir, if I may, the process that we will go through.... The advisers brought this to us on Thursday afternoon. As a result of that, staff within the secretariat will research that and provide briefing materials to the commission for a commission decision on whether they go forward and how they respond to that. We do have an obligation to respond to what the advisers recommend.

But in terms of our ability to speak to this issue, it is very clear that the Great Lakes Fishery Commission has the responsibility to advise the governments of both Canada and the United States about any issues that could affect the productivity of fish stocks of common concern.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

But that advice has to be in the context of why the Government of Canada is making these decisions.

Again, the broad definition of habitat under the Fisheries Act, the broad application of the Fisheries Act, was causing grave difficulties for rural municipalities, many in my constituency. So I would strongly recommend that you take those factors into account.

I would assume that under our new Fisheries Act you would support the provisions we're putting in there in terms of dealing with invasive species.

4:45 p.m.

Commissioner, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Robert Lambe

Yes, we will.

We're also aware of the timing of the issues to which you speak, about the way the Fisheries Act was applied. I think the way the Fisheries Act was applied five years ago was different from the way it was being applied three years ago.

So we're taking the whole thing—

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

I beg to differ. I would recommend you talk to local governments about how it was applied.

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Stop badgering the witnesses.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

In terms of the new section 4.1 of the Fisheries Act, it now allows the minister to enter into cooperative agreements with conservation groups and commissions like yours, to formally enter into agreements.

Can you speculate on the kinds of agreements we could possibly enter into with groups like yours or other conservation organizations?

4:45 p.m.

Commissioner, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Robert Lambe

It's an interesting question. I think that's a good feature to be able to have the authority and the means to enter into those agreements.

You know, if we had all the resources in the world, we probably still would look for more in natural resource management—not just invasive species but natural resource management. The only way to have any degree of success is to maximize to the fullest extent possible all the resources that are out there, be they conservation authorities or federal-provincial agencies or whatever.

So that's a great thing. We just have to make sure, though, that we have as much capacity to deliver on those agreements as possible. But it's great to see those in the changes.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Great. Thanks very much.

4:50 p.m.

Commissioner, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Robert Lambe

Thank you.