Evidence of meeting #7 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 habitat.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Siddika Mithani  Assistant Deputy Minister, Ecosystems and Oceans Science, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • Claire Dansereau  Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • Marc Grégoire  Commissioner, Canadian Coast Guard, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • David Balfour  Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Ecosystems and Fisheries Management, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • Kevin Stringer  Assistant Deputy Minister, Program Policy, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • David Bevan  Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

4:55 p.m.

Commissioner, Canadian Coast Guard, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Marc Grégoire

The performance framework is the main problem. There is a lack of risk analyses. Our equipment is in place, but last winter, the commissioner said that we had not shown him in writing, in any our documents, that the equipment and the employees were spread across the country on a risk basis. In other words, it was a matter of knowing whether they had really been sent to the places with the highest risk. It is being done from experience and increasingly so over the years, but it hasn’t been shown on paper.

He also criticized the fact that we were perhaps not doing enough exercises. We have already put in place an exercise program. Interregional exercises have started, and a few exercises have been carried out with the U.S. Coast Guard. Actually, there was one about 15 days ago around Sault Ste. Marie.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Do you have any exercises north of 60?

4:55 p.m.

Commissioner, Canadian Coast Guard, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Marc Grégoire

Yes. That is a great question. Last summer, as part of Operation Nanook 2011 run by the military, we conducted a major environmental response exercise in the Arctic. The exercise involved the Coast Guard vessels, environmental response barges, local staff and our staff from the base in Hay River.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Will departmental cuts affect the exercises in the Arctic north and elsewhere in Canada?

4:55 p.m.

Commissioner, Canadian Coast Guard, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Marc Grégoire

I haven’t heard of any potential cuts in environmental response. But we are always watching our every move and we are always trying to improve our ways of doing things in order to save money.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Okay.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

Thank you.

Mr. Kamp.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, deputy, and officials, for meeting with us today.

As you know, I'm from British Columbia and so I've been following with interest the Cohen commission of inquiry, and I know the department has had a significant role and participation in that. I think I've heard it has provided 500,000 documents and emails. I don't know who's reading those, but that's a lot.

I know that officials, including you, deputy, have appeared before them more than once. Most recently your senior management team was there in September. The commissioner raised a number of issues with you, I know. One of them was the one that Mr. Sopuck raised as well. So let me maybe follow up with that and the whole issue of habitat and habitat policy. The minister referred to it in his comments as well.

My understanding is that the actual policy of DFO is for an overall net gain of productive capacity of fish habitat—which seems to be moving closer to what Mr. Sopuck had in mind—and that the policy anticipates achieving that by conserving existing habitat, restoring lost fish habitat, and developing new habitat, perhaps. That's the way I read the policy. It does also specify, though, that the way to reach that conservation goal—the conservation of existing habitat—is the no net loss guiding principle, which you were asked about, I think, by the commissioner.

So could you explain to us how of all that works? Some of us are often surprised by how the habitat policy is administered. It would seem sometimes that every bit of fish habitat is considered equal and, whether it be a hydro dam or a culvert under a farmer's lane, the same approach seems to be taken to it. So I'm wondering if that direction will continue in the future, or what you have in mind in this area when the minister talked about the need to modernize this 25-year-old policy.

5 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Claire Dansereau

Thank you for the question.

Yes, this was an area that was covered at the Cohen commission last week. I think we all have the same desire, and that the desire is to ensure good outcomes for fish and fish production. I have to admit—well, certainly, it's my belief—that the policy as it's currently drafted doesn't necessarily get us there in all cases. It is old, dating from 1986. It was drafted long before other pieces of legislation came into place. So I and others do believe that it certainly requires our looking at it from the point of view of the outcomes we are trying to achieve, rather than establishing a set of rules as a starting point.

If we can establish the outcomes that we're trying to achieve, then we can set up the systems by which we can measure and monitor and ensure we're actually making a difference. Right now it's hard for us to do that, as has been stated by auditors general and everybody who has an opinion on the policy.

So what that looks like at this point, we don't know. Further discussion will be required.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

I think we understand that every development has some impact on the environment and, often, on fish and fish habitat. Does the policy allow for productive capacity to be enhanced or perhaps created elsewhere besides on the footprint of the proponents' development? Whether that's possible, I'm not sure.

5 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Claire Dansereau

That is an area we are exploring. It's an approach that has in fact been utilized even under the current policy.

We need to be careful, obviously, to make sure that what we're doing is thinking about the desired outcome. If the desired outcome is a certain species of fish and an ecosystem, then there has to be some link between the habitat that would be created and that species itself.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Thank you very much for that.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

Thank you, Mr. Kamp.

We'll go to Mr. Wilks.

October 6th, 2011 / 5 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Thank you very much.

I thank my colleague for letting me sit in for the last hour.

I have more of a comment than anything else. As you're probably aware, in 1964 the Columbia River Treaty was created for the Columbia and Kootenay Rivers; and in 2014, either Canada or the United States can give notice to either opt out and/or renegotiate the deal by 2024.

Fish habitat, specifically wild salmon, was greatly affected by the damming of both those rivers, specifically the Columbia River and at the Libby Dam in Kootenay.

First nations, particularly the Tla-o-qui-aht, Shuswap, and Okanagan, have had an interest in trying to reintroduce wild salmon, if they can, through the renegotiation of this deal that could come forward. And although I recognize that it's not your file--it's DFAIT's and others'--it is of historical value to the first nations to try to reintroduce salmon. I wonder if there is an opportunity for DFO to get involved in working with first nations and the Army Corps of Engineers to try to find some way to potentially reintroduce wild salmon.

5 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Claire Dansereau

You saw me check at the table to see if anybody had an answer, and we don't have an answer.