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 thank.

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

3:45 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Claire Dansereau

It's definitely top of the radar screen and, yes, we'd be happy to come back with an update. We are concerned not just for the recreational fishery, obviously, but also for the ecosystem as a whole.

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Absolutely.

3:45 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Claire Dansereau

Our sense right now is that there is no fear of a breach, but none of us wants to be the one sitting in the chair here if something were to happen.

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Thank you.

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

Thank you, Ms. Davidson.

Mr. Donnelly.

October 6th, 2011 / 3:45 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Minister, and members of the department, thank you for attending. On behalf of the official opposition, I'd like to welcome you to the committee and thank you for appearing before us today. We have a number of questions. We'll see how many we can get in during our allotted time.

Minister, the government has announced $57 million in cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and these cuts will undoubtedly result in job losses. There are cuts to research and science, cuts to enforcement, and the closure of two search and rescue centres. As the fishery continues to struggle in Canada, and as scientists are raising alarms about the impacts of climate change on the marine environment, how can you justify such deep cuts?

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Keith Ashfield Fredericton, NB

Thank you for the question.

Obviously, we're going through a period of time when fiscal restraint is important. We're asking all departments in government to look internally for ways to be more efficient and effective in their operations. We don't believe that the reduction plans we're looking at will impact services to the general public. In fact, as every good business should do over time, and every year, really, we think that departments should be looking at and evaluating themselves to determine whether there are things they can do better and more cost-effectively and efficiently. We believe that's a proper thing to do, and it will be our focus over the next little while.

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Thank you.

Rosane, the floor is all yours.

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Good afternoon, Mr. Minister. I would like to thank you for joining us today.

My question for you today has to do with one of the many consequences of climate change in the Canadian Arctic and deals with the Northwest Passage being open all year round.

Given the increasing maritime traffic and the human activity that ensues, does the government have a plan to protect the health of the Arctic Ocean and its marine ecosystems?

Thank you.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Keith Ashfield Fredericton, NB

Thank you for the question.

The north is certainly important to us as a government. We're seeing a lot more activity in the north, not only from a shipping perspective, but also in terms of exploration, and mining. There are a number of things that are happening, which have good potential not only for the north but also Canada as a whole. I was up in Iqaluit and Nunavut and Pangnirtung not too long ago and was very impressed with the activity that's taking place in the region.

I recognize the need to ensure that we have people on the ground so that we can protect our environment and the various species that we see in the fishery. There's a fishery that is starting to grow in the north, and it's one that we're very excited about. We think it has potential and we're looking forward to that happening.

Obviously, there are challenges in dealing with the north, which are very expensive and hard to deal with in many ways, but I think, as Canadians and as a country, we owe it to the north to make sure that we invest there in a prudent and wise way. Certainly, we don't want to suggest that we're not always going to be conscious of our environment. We will do that from a fisheries perspective, and I know that our government will do so, in general, as a whole.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

Mr. Tremblay, it's your turn.

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Tremblay Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Thank you.

Good afternoon, Mr. Minister.

Most people on the east coast and the shores of the St. Lawrence were outraged when the closure of the two rescue centres in St. John's and Quebec City was announced.

The rescue centre in Quebec City is the only bilingual rescue centre. How do you plan to address the concerns of people with respect to getting assistance in French, in the event of an emergency?

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Keith Ashfield Fredericton, NB

Thank you for the question. I know I've answered this a number of times in the House.

Regarding the St. John's operation and the Quebec operation, the Quebec one will be consolidated into the Trenton location and one in St. John's will be consolidated into the location in Halifax.

We're very conscious of the language requirements. We actually believe that we will be increasing our capabilities in providing bilingual services under one roof, with both National Defence and Coast Guard personnel. It's not my intention to ever put any mariner at risk as a result of language, and we're being very conscious and prudent in the way we're approaching this. We're taking our time to go through the consolidation, and we're on track to have that happen by the spring of 2012.

I'm not concerned there will be any lapse in bilingual capacity, and the consolidation strongly suggests there will be an improvement in bilingual capacity in both of those operations.

I don't know if the Coast Guard would like to say anything about it.

3:55 p.m.

Marc Grégoire Commissioner, Canadian Coast Guard, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Minister, I would just like to add one thing, since you covered all the other topics. When the transition takes place, we are going to make sure that services are bilingual in both centres, in Halifax and Trenton.

Right now, I admit that there are gaps on occasion. For example, every time I went to the centre in Halifax, they had a bilingual service, but I was told that this is not always the case. In addition, the Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre in Quebec City sometimes helps the centre in Halifax.

Before the transition, we are obviously going to make sure the staff is perfectly bilingual and trained on the job in Trenton and Halifax.

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Tremblay Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Still, we know of many cases that have been transferred to Quebec City because the people working there did not necessarily have the ability to provide assistance in French.

In the Maritimes, there are also different accents. In emergency situations, it is difficult for an anglophone who knows French to understand all the different accents and communicate properly in French. That is what I am worried about.

I think it is good to have a bilingual person, but the person's mother tongue should really be French, or the person should at the very least know French very well.