House of Commons Hansard #109 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was public.

Topics

Csis
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Solicitor General.

Canadians were already concerned about CSIS and civil liberties. Now they are concerned about cover-ups. It turns out that CSIS may have known in advance of the Air India tragedy and destroyed critical evidence.

What steps is the Solicitor General taking to ensure proper civilian oversight of Canada's secret police?

Csis
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Malpeque
P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I have already responded to this question in the House a couple of times, but I would refer the hon. member to the 1991 SIRC report.

The Security Intelligence Review Committee did an exhaustive review of all the information prior to and following the 1985 Air India bombing. Its report is on the record; it is available to the hon. member. It completely found that there was no truth to the matters that the member is raising.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of the Honourable Mark Wartman, Minister of Highways and Transportation of the Government of Saskatchewan.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Order In Council Appointments
Routine Proceedings

3 p.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I wish to table, in both official languages, a number of order in council appointments made recently by the government.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

June 2nd, 2003 / 3:05 p.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to eight petitions.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker I move that the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans presented on Tuesday, May 27, 2003 be concurred in.

It is a pleasure to debate the report as tabled by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

During the last year and a half, members of the House, some more than others perhaps, have spent a lot of time learning about the fishing industry in this country, particularly the problems we were experiencing on the Atlantic coast.

Many members from all parties stood in the House to support the efforts of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans and the people in Atlantic Canada, particularly in Newfoundland and Labrador, to try to get some control over the area outside our 200 mile limit known as the nose and tail of the Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap, to protect our resource from the pillaging by foreign countries. Because of the emphasis that has been placed on that topic, because of the concern and the interest that has been created in the fishery, others across the country have realized that they also must get involved in protecting our resources.

A lot of people do not realize that right in the heart of our country, in Ontario, is one of the greatest fisheries anywhere. Thousands of people make their living in relation to the fishery in the Great Lakes and the economic benefits to the country are tremendous. However, as with the fishery on the east coast, and I would add as with the fishery on the west coast, we have seen complete and utter neglect by the present government in maintaining, protecting and enhancing that fishery.

The biggest problem in the Great Lakes and the seaway is what is referred to as an invasive species, or unwelcome visitors. In recent years we have seen develop, in the Great Lakes in particular, species which are foreign to our waters, species which are having a devastating effect on the resource in that area. I will mention a few of them and will talk about how this came about, where they came from, how they got there and more specifically, what we can do about the problem.

Over the last few months the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans has had visits from several people who have a tremendous concern about what is happening in the Great Lakes. One of the individuals who visited our committee spoke not only with knowledge of the Great Lakes, not only with knowledge of invasive species, not only with knowledge of what is being done in the Great Lakes by invasive species, but also with tremendous knowledge of the parliamentary system, how it works, how it can work and more specifically, how it should work to prevent this major catastrophe which is happening right in the middle of Ontario. That individual is a gentleman by the name of Mr. Herb Gray. If there is anyone in the country who understands politics, it is Mr. Gray. If there is anyone who understands the government's ability to address this serious situation, it is Mr. Gray.

Let me also say, Mr. Speaker, that to my left and to your right, in the government ranks, a number of members, some of whom are here presently, brought their concerns to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

The committee has worked exceptionally well. The committee has presented to the honourable House a number of reports. For all intents and purposes, I could say that all of them were unanimous, with the odd disagreement here and there on a couple of occasions.

Because of the interest that has been generated, or maybe regenerated, in the fishery, the members representing Ontario have raised the issue of invasive species. They have brought in the agencies in the area that are extremely concerned and that have been working so hard to make this an issue.

It does not matter how much talking we do behind the scenes. It does not matter how many town hall meetings we have. It does not matter how often we tell each other how important the problem is. If we do not address the problem openly, nothing will ever be done.

The members from Ontario stood in the House and supported us in Atlantic Canada when we raised our own problems. They supported us in relation to how we have to protect our resource. Therefore, they in turn deserve to be supported by us. It is with pleasure today that we stand to get this issue on the floor of the House of Commons.

The agencies that are directly involved in this issue have major concerns. I am sure when the members from Ontario speak to this issue they will get into they specifics. They will let us know who is really involved, what devastation has been caused in the area and what can be done about it.

In order to get the government and people in general interested in such a topic, the place to raise the issue, to discuss it, to debate it, and hopefully to make recommendations to address the problem is right here.

Our main aim today, besides introducing the topic, is to give those more directly involved--and I speak particularly of the Ontario members--a chance to get it on the public record, to bring to the public's attention and more fully to the government's attention this extremely serious problem.

I will address just two or three of the invasive species that are causing major problems in the lakes. One might ask what we can do. If we do not try to stop them before they spread too far, it will be extremely difficult to do anything.

One of the major concerns which the agencies and Mr. Gray have is that the funding to deal with these invasive species is being threatened by government. The budget of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans over the last few years has been cut year after year after year. This means it has fewer dollars to handle growing problems and challenges in the country.

The Coast Guard is falling apart. The whole fleet and the infrastructure have to be strengthened tremendously. We were told by people within the small crafts and harbours division that 21% of their facilities are unsafe to use and that it would take $400 million to bring their facilities even up to par.

Fisheries scientists and scientists generally from one end of the country to the other will tell us that the scientific branch has been cut so much that we no longer have the ability to understand what is happening in our oceans or to come up with suggestions to deal with the challenges, or to determine what the quotas are in the oceans.

A while ago the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans announced his quotas for this year in relation to several stocks. Many people, particularly in Atlantic Canada, were extremely concerned. They said that the minister was basing his decision not on scientific facts, because he did not have them, nor on the advice from the FRCC, an independent council set up by the minister to advise him. He did not listen to the advice that came from that council nor certainly from those involved in the fishery directly.

That puts into perspective the situation in which the department finds itself. To correct all of these major concerns, the answer is an influx of funding to restore the money that has been whittled away from that major department over the years.

There is such a crying need for funding and so many hands are being held out for it. The people specifically in the area of the Great Lakes in Ontario are extremely concerned. If the budget to address the invasive species is not increased and more specifically if it is decreased, they will not be able to contain the species that are playing havoc with the localized stocks in those areas.

One of the three most invasive species which causes more damage than the others is the Asian carp. These fish perhaps were introduced by someone bringing them into the country and letting them go into the Great Lakes. They have rapidly multiplied and are destroying many of our local stocks.

Zebra muscles are very small, minuscule, the size of one's fingernail and multiply tremendously. They congregate around practically anything, especially water pipes, whether they are intakes or outlets, in the Great Lakes.They clog the pipes and cause all kinds of trouble. As well, when mixed with other invasive species, they produce toxins that have a detrimental effect on the local habitat.

Another major concern in relation to invasive species is the sea lamprey. It is an eel-like fish and has a suction mouth which sucks the life out of other fish. Fishermen in the Great Lakes are finding sea lamprey stuck to the fish in their catch these days. The sea lamprey suck the life out of the fish. They are multiplying tremendously. The ability to address that problem is being hamstrung by the government's not providing the necessary funding.

These are extremely serious problems. Unless the government decides that it is going to look at a major renewable resource, then we are in trouble.

On the weekend our party had a tremendous convention, as the House knows. There were more people involved and more excitement than we have ever seen in the country in relation to electing a new leader. I do not think anyone doubts the fact that we made a great choice.

During the last 24 hours or so we have been hearing about deals that were done. We understand that one of the candidates who joined said that he wanted certain concerns addressed. Everyone thinks we sold the shop to get a deal.

There was one concern the hon. gentleman talked about, and there was an example today when we talked about the softwood lumber agreement. He said that within the free trade agreement there are certain provisions that are not the best that could be achieved for Canada and that we should make sure that we get only what is best for this nation. Who could argue with that? He also said that we should be paying more attention to the environment. I am talking about invasive species and what is going on in the Great Lakes, what is going on in the Fraser River, and what is going on in Atlantic Canada. These are environmental concerns.

He also wanted more emphasis placed on agriculture. Why? Because he is from the west. He is a farmer and that is what he should look for. If I had been the person making the deal, I would have asked that more attention be paid to the fisheries.

I do not have to ask it, because I think if we check Hansard over the past year or year and a half in the House since our Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans really went to work on national issues, we will find that the fishery and fishing issues have been discussed more than they ever have been in the history of this great House of Commons.

Not only have they been discussed, people have become educated as to what is happening to this great renewable resource. They understand the effect this is having on the people in Canada who work in the fishing industry directly and, might I say, indirectly. We think about the harvesters who catch the fish and we think about the processors who process the product, but what about all the truckers, the storekeepers, the packaging companies and the companies that make ice? I can go on and on. The fishing industry creates so much employment in this country from coast to coast, but people forget that it is only fish. Fish was always at the lowest end of our totem pole, but it is no longer there and anyone who thinks it is should go to the supermarket and try to buy some. We realize that it has become a very valuable product.

However, it is a resource that has created tremendous employment in the past, is creating good employment, although less than previously, and has the ability to create even more, because if we protect what we have and if we enhance it, there are several species that multiply tremendously. But we must protect our resource.

On the east coast we must protect our resource from predators. We must protect our resource from those who want to abuse their rights to catch it. We must protect our resource from foreign countries that go above and beyond quotas that have been set for them.

On the Fraser River and elsewhere in British Columbia, off the British Columbia coast and in the north, we must make sure that rules and regulations are enforced so that proper harvesting and processing methods are put in place to make sure we get the proper value for every dollar.

My good friend and supporter from Quebec, the member of our Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, is here. People in Quebec fully appreciate the value of the fishing industry, but it is no good if government does not impose proper rules and regulations and give resources to the people who work for them. Let me pay tribute to the many solid, hard-working civil servants who work for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. With meagre resources, they try to do their jobs. If they had the proper resources, we could make sure the resource is protected and enhanced and not only maintain the status quo or watch a resource be whittled away.

This is exactly what is needed in relation to the Great Lakes. People might ask why someone from Atlantic Canada is talking about the Great Lakes fishery and the need to protect the resource. The fishery in this country is a common resource for all Canadians. It affects all of us. We have to stand by each other. It is no good if a Newfoundlander is standing up and complaining about the resource and what is happening if people from the other parts of the country, from British Columbia, Alberta, through the Prairies, central Canada and our colleagues on the east coast, do not understand and support what we are talking about. And they have done it.

We have had three special debates, I believe, on the east coast fishery in which members from every party, regardless of political stripe, from every part of the country regardless of geography or whether they live by the water or do not, were people who understand what is happening to our resource and stood to support us in what we did. Today it is our turn to support a crying need to address invasive species in the Great Lakes.

We have to make sure the boats that dump the bilge water and have introduced through that bilge water the invasive species into the Great Lakes are properly controlled and monitored so that it does not happen anymore. We can address, I think quite adequately, the prevention aspect of seeing any waters being dumped further. The problem is that we already have these species. What do we do about it?

One of the things we can do get the people from Ontario to do what we have done: create the awareness so that they have the support of us here in the House and so the government supports them. I look forward to my colleagues, those from Ontario in particular, bringing their issue here to the floor so we can continue to address this major issue. If we can correct it and get government involved, we can solve the problem of the invasive species in the Great Lakes.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to congratulate my colleague on the motion he has brought to our attention this afternoon.

Contrary to what is generally believed and to what the public knows, the invasive species are a real disaster. My colleague spoke essentially about the Great Lakes, but the problem is also present in the St. Lawrence seaway and in the freshwater portion of the St. Lawrence River. Except in the salt water portion of the river, the problem is exactly the same as in the Great Lakes.

Also, contrary to what people believe on the Atlantic or Pacific coasts, we also have invasive species on our coasts that are destroying our resources, particularly oysters, mussels and other species. My colleague did not talk much about it, but we also have the green crab.

The report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans on invasive species is a unanimous report. In my opinion, the contents of this report should be completely implemented. It deals once again with the mismanagement of the fisheries over the years.

I would like my colleague to comment on the recommendations in this report. I would like him to give a general overview, so that people can understand the work the committee has done and the policy it would like the government to implement.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, let me thank my hon. friend, and as I mentioned earlier, I would be remiss if I did not say that on our committee we have a very cohesive group of individuals who fully understand each other and have supported each other tremendously in their concerns.

We have had people from Ontario come before us, people particularly concerned with wildlife in the area. We heard several groups. We heard from environmentalists, sports fraternities, people like Mr. Gray, as I mentioned, people who have been through the mill and who see a disaster in the offing if this concern is not addressed.

What they are basically telling the government is, first, fund the agencies that are creating this awareness and developing mechanisms to address dealing with these invasive species. They are saying, “Let us perhaps implement some of the ideas we have come up with”. The Canadian government has worked on rules and regulations to deal with dumping of bilge water in the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes. However, to date there are no teeth. The United States took the very same ideas raised by our government and implemented them. So the United States has stringent regulations about dumping, but yet our own government is very hesitant.

The major concern is the ability to be able to address these species. It can only be done by a concerted effort. That means organization and funding for the agencies to go after some of these species. If these species were worth anything, we could institute an open fishery and we would have no problem. Somebody said the best way for government to destroy a resource is to set a quota, because we know what happens then. However, for a lot of these species it does not pay for the fishermen to go out and fish, so it has to be controlled with government help and government action.

The government knows what to do because it has been told what to do. The problem we are having is its own members. I hope some of them will get up and basically lay it on the line in regard to what their constituents are really asking for. Then we can get the government to respond to their concerns and to ours and address this serious problem.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to follow my colleague from St. John's West, who, if memory serves me well, sits with me on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

In the last few months, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans produced a unanimous report on invasive species. For the benefit of those who are listening, I will explain what an invasive species is. It is a species that is foreign to our waters, that is imported into our waters and, over the years, takes the place of our indigenous species.

Why does that happen? How is it that our waters have, over the years, become invaded by such species, to the point where the fisheries in the Great Lakes, among other places, are threatened, and where it is costing the industry billions of dollars? And the problem is not restricted to the Great Lakes because, as I explained earlier, the invasive species in question start appearing at the point where salt water becomes fresh water, since they cannot survive in salt water, which does not mean that there are no invasive species in salt water.

Where do these species come from? The evidence that we have heard indicates that the main problem comes from ballast water from ships that come into our waters and go up the St. Lawrence River and the St. Lawrence Seaway to reach the Great Lakes. That is the main reason for the presence of these so-called invasive species in our waters.

My hon. colleague was talking about species that people may know a little less well, but let us just talk about the zebra mussel. It is very well known in our waters, even here in Quebec. It is gradually invading all our territory and all our waters, and can go anywhere there is fresh water, even right up to Lake Champlain and in all our waterways. This mussel attacks our indigenous species. For example, it can invade an entire area because it is not a large mussel. It can attach itself to other kinds of mussels—the native ones which are much larger—or to other kinds of molluscs, and gradually suffocate them. The other aspect is that zebra mussels are highly toxic. When birds eat this kind of mussel, they take in a lot of very toxic elements; all the toxic elements that the mussels have filtered out of the water are released back into the environment. So, it is perhaps the most well-known invasive species.

There is another harmful factor associated with zebra mussels, and that is their invasion of municipal drinking-water conduits. They invade the cooling conduits of factories, and it costs billions of dollars to clean the conduits out and restore them to normal use. When the systems for cooling the motors of boats and large ships are involved, it can be a very serious problem. The mussels invade the conduits, attach themselves to the walls and may cause serious problems. They are perhaps the most well-known invasive species in Quebec.

We could also talk about lampreys. The lamprey is a very special kind of fish that attaches itself to other fish and sucks out all their blood. The lamprey has almost destroyed fishing in the Great Lakes. The fight against it has cost billions of dollars and is not over. Unfortunately, the Government of Canada's investment, through the Department of Fisheries and Oceans over the years, has not been enough.

Thus, we do not have the tools to effectively control these invasive species, except perhaps for the lamprey, where we had a program that worked well, thanks to the commitment of volunteers and various organizations. But right now we do not have sufficient resources and scientific knowledge to control invasive species. First, as the committee recommended, the regulations for the various provinces involved and for Quebec should be consolidated. A common goal is needed if we are to control these species.

I remind the House that responsibility for the protection of the resource falls squarely under the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. When we do not control invasive species, we do not protect our native resource, which is very important for the industry.

Thus, consolidated regulations would be necessary. Before I go further, perhaps I should specify that we are currently using the American regulations on invasive species. Ships must report to Saint-Lambert, in Quebec. The American regulations apply.

Canada was supposed to pass regulations within 10 years and this has not been done yet. Of course, we are asking the government to speed up the process, to come to an agreement with the provinces, with Quebec and with the Americans, to have the same regulations is so far as possible.

Another invasive species mentioned by my hon. colleague is the green crab. People may not know the green crab, but it is currently destroying all mussels and shellfish on the Atlantic coast and it has also invaded the Pacific coast. If I am not mistaken, this species originated from the Barents Sea. Over time, it has invaded our territory and it will destroy our resource, unless we find a way to fight it successfully and, as my hon. colleague said, refuse to grant quotas. From the moment the government grants quotas, we can see that after a while, we start destroying the resource ourselves.

I think that the way fisheries have been managed here in Canada for the past 50 years, it is easy to see that by granting quotas, by managing as we have, we are destroying the resource. This is a resource that could be used even though it has less value.

It seems very important to me that we raise public awareness of invasive species. People should read the report tabled last week by the Standing Committee on Fisheries an Oceans. This report sets out the directions to combat invasive species.

One very important point raised in the recommendations contained in the committee's report on aquatic invasive species is that the government should not try to tackle this problem on its own. I think that public awareness is very important.

I mentioned aquatic species but I could also talk about terrestrial species. I could talk, for instance, about the algae that have invaded our waterways—all the way from the Richelieu River to Lake Champlain for example—depriving our waters of oxygen and making them less and less hospitable to the native species normally found in these waters. I could talk about the pollution affecting these waterways, which makes certain species proliferate where they did not use to.

In a nutshell, there is a serious problem and the government must not try to solve it on its own. It is absolutely necessary that volunteer groups and community groups be involved in the process with the federal, provincial or Quebec government, as the case may be, as required or appropriate.

Another committee recommendation stresses the importance of educating the public about invasive species. Earlier I spoke about how invasive species enter our waterways. I spoke about ballast water. I reminded the House that we do not even have our own regulations, that we apply American regulations. It is the U.S. that applies the regulations in question in Saint-Lambert, Quebec. They are the ones who carry out the inspections and so on because they are really quite affected by this. Ships travelling up the St. Lawrence along the U.S. border also affect the American fishery.

I would like to come back to what I was saying earlier. It is very important for community groups to be involved and to obtain the funds required for public awareness campaigns.

As I mentioned, we feel that ballast water is the main cause of the problem, but fishers and hunters also contribute to it. Fishers can transplant so-called invasive species in our waters, by using them as bait.

Once these species have become established, they adapt more and more and end up choking out our own native resources.

My colleague also spoke about another invasive species that almost destroyed the entire Great Lakes fishery. It is the infamous Asian carp. People do not seem to know about the Asian carp. It is a huge fish that eats just about everything in its way on the bottom and destroys all of the habitat where native fish spawn and reproduce. In Ontario, it has been a veritable catastrophe.

Contrary to what people believe, there are no prohibitions right now on importing this type of fish that can invade our waters and completely destroy our native resource into Canada. What the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans is asking for is that these fish not be imported live into Canada in order to prevent our waters from being polluted by these species.

We also have another problem at this time. Some species are gradually working their way towards our waters from the United States. There are measures we can take, there are methods to prevent these invasive species from one day reaching the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence all the way down to Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière, where the salt water and fresh water meet.

Furthermore, it is known that, given the current low water levels in the Great Lakes, sea water is flowing upriver toward Quebec, which will cause a very significant change in the ecology of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, thereby causing major changes to the resource. So, governments must recognize this situation and protect our fish.

The other point I want to stress is our significant ignorance about aquatic ecosystems, because we have not invested sufficiently in knowledge and fundamental research with respect to our ecosystems. It is absurd that, in 2003, we have allowed our waters to be invaded by species such as the Asian carp, the lamprey, the zebra mussel and the European green crab, without taking any measures.

Although we knew that these species were invading our territory, we did not take the time nor invest the money needed to try to understand, adapt and ensure that we could effectively fight the arrival of these species. Perhaps it is not obvious, but currently, billions of dollars are lost each year in terms of the resource and the fishery, because these species have been allowed to invade our waters.

This is comparable to the forestry with the eastern spruce budworm epidemic, among other things, because it was very visible. Given that it was very visible, a great deal of money was invested to control this insect that was destroying our forests. I could give some examples, such as the British Colombia pine that experienced a similar problem or the problem in New Brunswick last year. Since it was very visible and the forestry is very profitable, the governments decided to invest a great deal to control the eastern spruce budworm.

If we compare forestry to fisheries, I think that more money was lost by allowing invasive species to enter our waters than was lost with the eastern spruce budworm and other insects that attacked our forests. There is a sort of unawareness in the federal government when it comes to fish and fishing.

This has been going on for 50 years now. It is not only the current government, it has been every federal government that has not invested enough in the fishery. Not enough has been invested in terms of knowledge and research. For ten years now there have been serious cuts in research budgets. Funding has only started to increase again in the last year or so.

The absolute minimum is to have the necessary knowledge to control invasive species and better manage our ecosystems and our planet.

When we talk about the Kyoto protocol, we could talk about ecosystems. And as for invasive species, we could talk about their role in changing our ecosystems and the danger they represent. They are a danger not only to fish, as I mentioned earlier.

When we talk about the zebra mussel, we know it is a filter and it is very toxic. When found in huge quantities in our waters and eaten by animals, it becomes part of our ecosystems. In the end, we humans will suffer the consequences, because toxins gradually move up the food chain so that one day they will reach us and we will have to pay the price of not investing enough in research and knowledge.

In conclusion, my colleague for St. John's West made a request earlier regarding the report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. I will remind the House that the report is unanimous. It is not the first unanimous report by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. I find this one very important. Like my colleague, I would like the House to adopt this report and see that it is implemented in full.

Moreover, I would like us to go even further than the report. We heard a lot of witnesses in committee. We heard from people from all over the place: the Great Lakes, Quebec, the east coast, the west coast, and so on. They all said the same thing, namely that we are not investing enough and that we are constantly threatened by invasive species because right now we do not have the means to control them effectively or to effectively prevent them from entering our waters.

As my colleague mentioned earlier, steps must be taken and the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans is recommending measures. I would like the House of Commons as a whole to endorse them to make them more effective. We might want to add a few more mesaures and, eventually, develop the necessary tools to deal with this kind of problem.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Matapédia—Matane for his speech and for having raised an issue about which I probably should have known. I do some boating and I have always wondered why we bother putting anodes on our boats and why we always end up with some of these small shellfish we do not know much about. I am sure it has something to do with these invasive species.

I would like the hon. member to tell us why we end up with invasive species like these when we boat on private lakes. How do they make their way into a lake that cannot be accessed by the river or some other way? I believe such species can be found in several lakes in Quebec. In my case, every time we use our boats, we find small shellfish stuck on the anodes. I always wonder how they managed to find their way into our lakes.

I would also like the hon. member to tell us if there is a solution to this problem in the Richelieu River and the Great Lakes. I happen to know several people who boat over there and I realize that the problem they are facing is much more serious than the one we have on private lakes? Are there solutions to this problem? How do we get rid of these small shellfish and what do we call them? Can anything be done to solve the problem?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague just referred to something very important. As far as public awareness is concerned, he just addressed one of the elements that we would like to see put into practice. He was asking me how I could have that problem while on the lake in my canoe or in my boat. Let us say that it is a bigger boat. I do not know much about boats, but let us say that I am not rowing, at least.

It is very simple. People go from one lake to another. What they do not know is that once they have been on a contaminated lake with their boat, eggs are stuck underneath the boat. The boat should be completely cleaned and washed before being put into a new body of water, to eliminate potential contamination.

This is a very important element in terms of prevention. Can people imagine what that means when they take their boat out of the water? In terms of prevention, it is really important. If they take your boat out of the water to bring it to another body of water, it absolutely has to be cleaned. But did somebody ever tell them that they had to do it? Probably not.

This is where the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans blames the current government. The government is responsible for protecting the resource. Thus, it has the responsibility of informing citizens on the measures that must be taken to avoid spreading the contamination from one body of water to another. This is not being done at this time. The committee has asked for this. Voluntary community organizations have also asked that the government supports them in their public awareness and information campaigns. This is very important.

Of course, when one does not know about this issue, one cannot think that this can have such a major impact on bodies of water in Quebec and across the country. One cannot imagine that we are unconsciously destroying our resources.

We can talk about the zebra mussel. I talked about this earlier. This is the main species that invades our waters. It is virtually indestructible, because it reproduces extremely fast. I could show you a picture of a shopping cart that was put in the Great Lakes for a few months. When it was taken out, zebra mussels had covered the whole cart. It had become almost invisible; it was almost a sculpture. This gives an idea of the ability of this creature to invade our waters.

This is currently happening in the St. Lawrence River, at Montreal, and in the bodies of water wherever there is a connection with the St. Lawrence and the drainage basins.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague the following question. Does he think that the federal government is doing a good job of protecting out resources, our fish resources in particular?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is a loaded question, I believe. You will understand that I have no intention of saying that the government is protecting our resource well, when I have been saying the opposite for the past 20 minutes, and am firmly convinced of it.

We need only look at what went on this spring with the fisheries, with the cod fisheries. Let us look at what is happening elsewhere in the world, in order to see how our successive governments, and the federal government, which, I would remind hon. members, has complete and total responsibility for managing the resource, has in fact managed it.

The resource has been managed in such a way that nowadays we cannot even fish for cod in the Atlantic, the Gulf of St. Lawrence and off Newfoundland. Let us see what is happening elsewhere in the world. Let us take Iceland as an example. In Iceland, since the late 1970s, they have managed the resource in such a way that now, in the waters of Iceland—a tiny country—they can catch from 212,000 to 250,000 tonnes of cod per year.

Last year, we caught only 6,000 tonnes. Now we are no longer fishing, because there is a moratorium on cod. The resource has been badly managed. Foreign vessels were allowed to pillage the waters off Newfoundland, the nose and tail of the Grand Banks, and over the years in the Gulf of St. Lawrence as well. For solely political gain, huge foreign vessels have been allowed to drag the sea floor and totally destroy the resource.

The current government is not the only one responsible. This has been going on for 50 years. Quebec has been demanding to manage the resource ever since 1994. Newfoundland is now calling for co-management, and rightly so. If we allow the present government to continue to manage the resource, whether shrimp, crab or other resources, there will be no fishery left within 10 years.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I had hoped to be speaking on Bill C-25, but as one of the members has raised a motion to concur in the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans to do with aquatic invasive species, uninvited guests, I took a copy of the report and had an opportunity to read a few of the areas.

The work the members have done on this report is excellent. In fact in one particular area, and that is with regard to zebra mussel control, it is a matter which I know quite a bit about because my daughter is in a masters program right now and is doing her thesis on zebra mussels in Lake Erie. She has done a lot of diving and is now analyzing her samples in the lab trying to look for some of the solutions.

If we were to take a copy of the current Maclean's magazine, we would see one of the beaches on Lake Erie that is totally covered with zebra mussels. It really dramatizes the significant problem that we have with unwanted species, or what the report calls, uninvited guests, what it means to other aquatic life and what it means to the peaceful and enjoyable use of our resources. Of course these so-called uninvited guests do in fact migrate by a number of means. It is a very serious problem.

I know the fisheries committee must have had a very important set of reviews and hearings on issues such as zebra mussels, sea lampreys and other aquatic species that are invasive species in our waterways.

I want to go back to the zebra mussels simply because I think it is probably worth giving a few more details. I note in the report that the zebra mussels are described as small molluscs about the size of a fingernail, and originally from the Black and Caspian Seas area. They spread through eastern Europe in the 18th century and in the mid-1980s in Lake St. Clair. They are believed to have been introduced by ballast water discharged from an ocean going vessel. That is important to understand. Obviously we need to have the kinds of rules and safeguards to ensure that we protect ourselves from the migration, naturally or by other means, of some of these invasive species into our systems because of the disruptive effect it has on the balance of the environment and the aquatic environment in Canada.

As well, these species, like the zebra mussel, are carried by boat traffic and normal flows of water, and the mussel has spread rapidly through the Great Lakes and beyond. This is one of the reasons why my daughter is undertaking this research on zebra mussels. It is very important that we find out, not only the damaging effect they have but what effect they have had on other species within not only the aquatic life but also the plant life as well. These are very critical issues.

The committee dealt with a number of issues. I note that it went right back to reports from the 1995 on the biodiversity convention, such as the Canadian biodiversity strategy released by Environment Canada. There were a number of government commitments in there and I thought it would be useful to advise members of the House of them if they have not had an opportunity to look at this. I know the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister is on the committee and probably will want to speak as well.

However issues such as developing and implementing effective means to identifying and monitoring alien organisms obviously makes some sense. Determining priorities for allocating resources for the control of harmful alien organisms based on their impact on native biodiversity and economic resources and implementing effective control, or where possible, eradication measures, obviously is a very important aspect where there are negative impacts identified. Also important is identifying and eliminating common sources of unintentional introductions.

When we consider the number of ships that we have in the Great Lakes or the St. Lawrence from all around the world, ballast water can in fact contain alien species. Canadians would like to know what efforts we are taking to ensure that we are protecting our natural resources, the Great Lakes and other waterways.

A further recommendation in that biodiversity strategy was the development of national and international databases that would support the identification in anticipation of the introduction of potentially harmful alien organisms in order to develop and control prevention measures. That is an important aspect. That work has to be done because these things not only can happen, they have happened.

That is why we asked for our best and brightest to work on the science to find out how we can prevent or at least mitigate substantial damage.

Another recommendation was that we should ensure that there is adequate legislation and enforcement to control introductions or escapes of harmful alien organisms, and to improve preventive mechanisms such as screening standards and risk assessment procedures. This follows the other recommendations.

One of the other important areas was the recommendation to enhance public education and awareness of impacts of harmful alien organisms, and the steps that can be taken to prevent their introduction. It is like a lot of things in this world. Public education is probably the common element in the resolution of most problems, whether we are talking about child poverty, domestic violence or family breakdown. If we have a problem to deal with, public education is a very important aspect of it because we all have a role to play. There is the Kyoto commitment.

How do Canadians participate, for instance, in ensuring that we meet our targets in terms of greenhouse emission reductions? The House will know that business and industry had a tremendous amount to say about Kyoto and its impact on their businesses. This morning I had a visit from the cement industry who wanted to talk about how we could still pursue our Kyoto objectives but not in a way which would create substantial impacts on business and industry. The aspect of public education and awareness not only on the impacts but on what we can do to have an impact is extremely important.

The committee had a large number of recommendations and I do not intend to go through them. The committee concluded that, while very well intentioned, the federal initiative presented at the hearings came too late. That is unfortunate. It also felt that it was focused on processes and purposes rather than on immediate actions.

It is important to raise with the House the work that committees do along with the aspect that we have not brought forward an action plan. We may agree with principles and concepts. The fisheries committee has done a service to Parliament by raising the concern that we have not pushed forward with action plans on this urgent matter.

The committee favours an approach in which immediate actions will be taken in four specific areas. First, is the adoption of balanced water management regulation and development of treatment standards. Second, is the inclusion of species of Asian carp in schedule II of the regulations. This is another aspect, other than the zebra mussels, which they call an uninvited guest or invasive species. Third, is the prohibition of the sale and trade of Asian carp under section 43 of the Fisheries Act. Fourth, is the contribution to the full extent of our commitment to the budget of the sea lamprey control program.

I know that this is good news to the member for Huron—Bruce who has been a champion in this place for a number of years with regard to the sea lamprey problem. I recall when he actually brought to Parliament a large tank with sea lamprey so that members could see what they looked like. They are a very unusual species.

The fisheries committee has brought all of these issues to the attention of the House. With regard to the impact, the House will find that the issues that the committee has raised are the kinds of issues that we would fully expect from a committee. I am not sure whether it is just a matter of getting concurrence in a report, or whether we should also take note that committee reports should never just sit there without a prompt response from ministers and ministries, and other parties in the government.

This is an important process we have gone through. I thank the member for raising the concurrence motion for the House to consider. I move:

That the House proceed to orders of the day.