House of Commons Hansard #109 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was fishery.

Topics

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

John Cummins Delta—Richmond East, BC

Madam Speaker, the member and I are singing from the same song sheet on this issue. The issue is that under the Fisheries Act the government has the ability to put in place a regulation.

If we look at section 184 of Bill C-62, the Fisheries Act, introduced in Parliament in 1996, it talks about offences under the act to which section 181 applies and the manner in which those offences may be described in tickets. It talks about classes of offences referred to in paragraph (d) and the amount of the fine for each class.

Basically, section 184 details sections under the act or it gives an overview of the regulations under the act, the government's ability to respond to violations and the manner in which it will respond to violations. As we indicated earlier, the joint committee provides the scrutiny to ensure that those regulations meet with the intentions of Parliament.

Bill C-52 gives that regulation making authority, although it talks about licensed conditions, to bureaucrats. It gives those bureaucrats the unfettered ability to put in place their own form of regulation to govern the fishery, to give access to quotas to friends of the government and to discriminate between groups of fishermen.

The question then becomes what recourse do fishermen have to challenge these conditions that have been attached to their licence? They will not be able to challenge offensive regulations in court because Parliament will have given bureaucrats the authority to make those regulations. The fishermen will not have the ability to come to us as members of Parliament and ask of how we can help them on an issue because Parliament will have given the bureaucrats the authority to act. In order to challenge a bureaucrat, we would have to change the law.

That is the problem with this legislation. It puts the fishermen in a very vulnerable position. It gives the bureaucrats the authority that one might expect the minister to have, but even the minister's authority is held in check by Parliament.

These bureaucrats will have more authority than Parliament even dreamt of giving the fisheries minister. That is why this bill is so offensive.

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, we have touched on this. When we are looking at regulation that comes outside the scope of parliamentary scrutiny, then we are looking at something we do not want to see happen.

Again, many do not have the confidence in DFO because of the past track record in terms of managing the fishery and not fulfilling a mandate in terms of protection and conservation of the species. The more control that ends up in the bureaucracy, the less comfortable people will feel around the fact that the fishery will be protected.

If there is not a way for Parliament to have oversight on this, it will be very much a challenge for us to feel comfortable with that.

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

John Cummins Delta—Richmond East, BC

Madam Speaker, one would have thought that members on the government side would have been eager to now stand in their allotted time and defend their bill, but apparently that is not the case. To be quite honest, I can certainly understand why the members opposite do not want to stand to defend this particular bill.

Let us look at the bill. Bill C-52 amends the Fisheries Act to “provide that a breach of a term or condition of a permission” granted under section 4 of the act, “or of a licence or lease” under the act is an offence. This amendment is meant to make it easier for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to enforce the act, so the department says.

The issue here is that Bill C-52 was before this House as Bill C-33 in the third session of the 37th Parliament, and as Bill C-43, again in the 37th Parliament. Both of these bills died on the order paper. In a sense, it does not really take a whole of thought to understand why.

At the introduction of Bill C-52, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans suggested that the bill comes about because the Senate and House of Commons Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations tabled a disallowance report, and the government failed to respond to that disallowance report with substantive legislation.

There is a problem there. If we look at the backgrounder document that the government distributed to members of the opposition and others, we will see that it states that this bill adds a clause to the Fisheries Act requiring licence holders to obey conditions of their licence, effectively moving the regulation in question into the act and thereby obtaining permission from Parliament for such a requirement.

That particular phrase rather clouds the issue, because it does not really tell the story of what this bill would do. The government says it would like to have passed the bill in all its splendour this afternoon and alluded to the fact that it is “hurry up” and that if the bill is not passed the Ontario minister will be unable to manage the fishery.

It should be noted today that the scrutiny of regulations committee first advised the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in 2000 that the governing Ontario fisheries regulations were illegal, which means that five years ago the government was advised that these regulations were illegal.

The regulations governing the Fisheries Act and the act itself actually make up quite a good document. It is 137 years old, as some members opposite suggested today, and to be quite honest I think it is still quite a good bill. The bill itself makes very clear what the minister's powers are and it makes very clear what the minister's obligations are when it comes to protecting the resource.

On the offence side, sections 181 through to 184 make clear the procedures that government must follow if it is going to enforce the act, and I think those procedures are laid out in a very clear fashion for everyone to understand. The regulations that flow from that act are scrutinized by the joint committee of the Senate and the House of Commons to ensure that the regulations are in fact consistent with the obligations as set out in this particular act.

Therefore, I do not have a problem with the Fisheries Act and neither does the Senate and House of Commons Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations, which makes it very clear that within the act itself the government has the authority to manage the fisheries.

If Bill C-52 is not passed today, it does not mean the end of the world, as the Ontario Minister of Natural Resources suggests. It simply means that perhaps a little more work is going to have to be done by the bureaucrats to put in place appropriate regulations to ensure that those regulations are in compliance with the Fisheries Act and meet the demands of the act. That should not be too difficult for government to do. In fact, that should be the obligation.

I would like to now turn the clock back a little. My friend from Winnipeg will probably remember this issue better than most. I am referring back to March 6, 1986, and a speech in the House by the Hon. Ray Hnatyshyn, who was the President of the Privy Council at that time and the minister responsible for regulatory affairs. At that time he introduced in the House the citizens' code of regulatory fairness. He stated that it was a unique initiative based on the principle that Canadians are entitled to know in as much detail as possible exactly how government regulations are to carry out responsibilities. Citizens have a right to know the rules of the game and know that they will be fair.

That is what the citizens' code of regulatory fairness was all about. I will quote from the guiding principle of this regulatory policy. Principle No. 6 notes, “Regulation is legislation and, as such, will be brought more fully under the control of elected government representatives and subjected to more effective review by Parliament”.

Principle No. 7 of the regulatory policy stated that “the public has an important role to play in the development of regulation and the government will increase public access to and participation in the regulatory process while simplifying procedures and restricting legalities to the minimum”.

Is that not interesting? Back in 1986, almost 20 years ago, introduced in the House was a document which in fact I think speaks very clearly about what the government is not doing today and what it should be doing, the document being, of course, this citizens' code of regulatory fairness.

According to the policies and the guiding principles of this piece of legislation from 1986, it required public participation in the regulatory process and input from the public to ensure that the public fully understood the regulatory process that they were to be governed by and guided by, and that they had input. “Anything but” is the case today.

The code's purpose, as Mr. Hnatyshyn stated, was “to provide a high set of standards for ensuring regulatory fair play”. He said, “The code also provides an explicit basis for judging the performance of regulators. In this way, the code is intended to regulate the regulators”.

There is no regulation of the regulators in this particular bill. In fact, what the bill does is give the departmental bureaucrats, who visited upon the country the cod crisis of 1992 and who visited upon fisheries on the west coast the disaster of 2004, the ability to make regulations on the fly without public input and without the scrutiny of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations. It gives them carte blanche to do what they want and to establish regulations as they see fit without any scrutiny whatsoever. For me, that goes beyond the pale.

I do not want to give the minister the power to have bureaucrats create regulatory offences without some safeguards; I am not prepared to simply turn over to fisheries bureaucrats the ability to make regulations governing the fishery without the appropriate scrutiny. I think that is wrong and I think that for this place to allow this to go forward is just outrageous. It is beyond the pale that the government would bring in a bill of this sort.

The citizens' code of regulatory fairness addresses this issue as well in point 6 of the code. It states that “the rules, sanctions, processes and actions of regulatory authorities will be securely founded in law”.

If a bureaucrat can make regulations on the fly, where is the guarantee that those regulations would be securely founded in law? Where is it? Where is the scrutiny to see that in fact the regulations the bureaucrat is putting in place are regulations that were envisioned by this place when the Fisheries Act and its amendments were passed? It is not there.

Point 7 of the code states that “the government will ensure that officials responsible for developing, implementing or enforcing regulations are held accountable for their advice and actions”.

Accountable? When have we ever held officials in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans accountable? Can anybody name one official in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans who was held accountable during the cod collapse on the east coast or during what went on last year on the west coast? The crisis last year was about the fourth we have had since 1992 and nobody has ever been held to account.

In fact, let us look at one of the latest newspaper headlines: “Ottawa pays officials $32-million in bonuses”. There is also a graph showing us that 223 of 237 executives at the fisheries and oceans department received bonuses totalling $1.7 million. Those bonuses went to officials and executives of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans last year when those boys last year cost the economy of British Columbia probably $70 or $80 million, at a modest estimate, and maybe even as much as $150 million, also a modest estimate, because of lost opportunities in the next cycle of the 2004 fishery. In other words, in 2008 the loss to the economy of British Columbia could total $150 million, yet those guys received bonuses this year.

Where is the accountability? The citizens' code of regulatory fairness says that these bureaucrats should be held accountable. I do not see any accountability in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, none whatsoever. What I do see with Bill C-52 is the transference of this regulation making authority from the minister or from this place to a bureaucrat, without any scrutiny whatsoever, none, zero.

Nobody is standing there saying that this particular licence condition does not meet the demands or the expectations of the act. It simply says that the bureaucrat can put in place a condition and nobody has any right to challenge it.

If the issue is brought to court, the court would simply acknowledge that Parliament put that regulation in place and it gave that bureaucrat the authority to make that particular condition that is attached to the licence and nobody can do anything about it. The court will simply acknowledge that the bureaucrat has the authority and it will do absolutely nothing to protect the fisherman who is hurt.

As I said to my colleague earlier, if a fisherman who is hurt by that particular piece of legislation comes to a member of Parliament, there is essentially nothing that we could do short of trying to obtain some change to the act to rein the authority of the bureaucrat, but nothing else could be done.

Not one member in this place should find any solace in this bill, nor should there be support for it. It is beyond the pale and my wildest imagination why anyone would want to give this authority to the bureaucrats who caused the destruction of the 2004 Fraser River sockeye run or who were directly responsible, in many ways, for failing to serve notice at the very least to government that there was a crisis in the cod fishery on the east coast before it was too late. Why would we want to give these bureaucrats authority to continue to act with licence? I do not know. I just plain do not understand it.

Bill C-52 would make it a criminal offence to break an unpublished secret law written by unaccountable bureaucrats.

Bill C-52 would put no limits on the nature and scope of the terms and conditions that can be imposed on fishermen.

Bill C-52 would put no limits on the penalty, the breach of every secret term or condition that is punishable by imprisonment. The penalty is not tailored to fit the crime.

Bill C-52 would remove the requirements to publish or make public the regulations.

There is no requirement in Bill C-52 that everyone in a fishery should face the same set of licence conditions. There is no requirement that every fisherman would face the same sets of terms and conditions to fish, so that the fishery then could be tailored and there could be different rules for different people.

Regulations under the Fisheries Act make those who write regulations accountable to Parliament as a whole and in particular the scrutiny for regulations committee, as well as the fisheries committee. In Bill C-52 neither the scrutiny for regulations committee nor the fisheries committee would ever see this new form of regulation. This is not a scheme of regulations that was ever intended by the Fisheries Act.

The Fisheries Act provides for open, public and accountable regulations. Bill C-52 would remove that. These amendments would undermine that scheme of open, public accountability that is built into the Fisheries Act. When regulations are created under the Fisheries Act, they are published prior to going into effect so that members of the public can comment on them.

That will not happen with these terms and conditions. When regulations are created under the Fisheries Act, a publicly available regulatory impact statement is a legal requirement. There is no such requirement for a term or condition as proposed under Bill C-52.

Bill C-52 is simply a way for the minister and the bureaucrats to regulate the fishery outside the requirements of the Citizen's Code of Regulatory Fairness. It would substitute the regulation of the fishery through public accountable regulations grounded in law and would substitute instead a scheme of regulations by unaccountable bureaucrats, all done behind closed doors.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Discussions have taken place between all parties concerning the 41st report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs affecting the list of members of the different standing committees. I believe that you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That the 41st report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be deemed tabled and concurred in without debate.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

5:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-52, an act to amend the Fisheries Act (terms and conditions of permissions, leases and licences), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

June 6th, 2005 / 5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's South, NL

Madam Speaker, I hope the minister and his officials were listening when the member just spoke because they would have received a much clearer understanding of the bill than we have seen from them today.

The bill itself is just a two clause bill, very short clauses in fact. The government would like us to believe that it is a minuscule bill with no problems and a slight change in regulations. We should rubber stamp it and send it on.

Let me ask my colleague, is it not a fact that the changes in these clauses not only affect the people of Ontario but people involved in the fishery right across the country? This is a major change which could have a very negative effect on everyone involved in every fishery in this country. That is my reading and from high authorities I am told that this is correct. That is not at all what we are hearing from the other side.

I would like the member's opinion on that. What effects will the changes in these regulations have on fishermen, for instance, in his area, a long way away from Ontario?

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

John Cummins Delta—Richmond East, BC

Madam Speaker, my friend is absolutely correct. The bill does not just affect the Ontario regulations. In fact, when we look at the wording in the bill, it talks about everyone acting under the authority of a permission referred to in section 4 or of a lease or licence issued under this act that would comply with its terms and conditions. The bill applies coast to coast to coast. This is not an Ontario bill.

I have spoken with commercial fishermen in Ontario and they are uncomfortable with the bill because it gives the minister some authorities for which there is no accountability. That is the bottom line issue here. As I said, under the current act there is openness and transparency. The government is committed to publish these regulations in an open way. They must be published in the Canada Gazette. However, under this bill, there are no limits on the nature or scope of the terms of conditions that can apply or be imposed on fishermen. There are no limits on penalties that can be imposed and the bill would remove the requirement to publish or make public the licence conditions that would apply.

That is simply wrong and I cannot state it enough. I find amazing the audacity of a minority government to bring a bill such as this forward. What do the Liberals think we are? They thought they could rush it through. They brought it in last week thinking they would rush this baby through so fast that the opposition would not have time to look at it. Well some of us have been around a little while, like my colleagues from the Bloc and across the way from the NDP, and we have seen this stuff before. We know what these guys are up to and we will not tolerate it.

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, I really regret the rhetoric of the member opposite because it is at least in part misleading the House. This bill contains an analogous provision to what was in the regulations.

The government introduced this bill because it was requested by the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations and the member opposite knows it. He does not seem to be able to figure out why the bill is here. The bill is here because the committee requested it, even to the point of putting a disallowance motion on the table, which will be dealt with by the House later this week.

The member's assertion that regulations will not be published or scrutinized is nonsense. Regulations will be scrutinized in precisely the same way that this regulation was scrutinized.

I regret that he has taken this so personally. He might have taken an opportunity to advise the House that he himself was charged under the Fisheries Act. I believe he was charged and I stand corrected if I am wrong. He has a personal grievance and vendetta, and I regard that as a conflict of interest. I think he should have mentioned this to the House. I hope he will address that when he makes his remarks.

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

An hon. member

Apologize.

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

I will not apologize for anything because it is a fact.

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Conservative

John Cummins Delta—Richmond East, BC

Madam Speaker, yes, I was charged under the Fisheries Act for protesting the heavy-handed and illegal regulations that the government has put forward.

In fact, the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations, which the member sits on, found those same regulations to be illegal and advised the government that it lacked the internal fortitude to put a disallowance motion in the House because the committee at that time was dominated by Liberals who would not call their own government to account. That is the issue.

If the member can take a shot, I will take a shot. He is a lawyer and should know better. Perhaps if he was a good lawyer, he would be practising law rather than sitting here blathering on like he is doing right now.

Let us take a look at what the committee said. The committee said very clearly that the government can continue to operate the fishery without this particular provision. The committee made it very clear in a letter to the minister that its comments did not imply an endorsement of the amendments and said it could conceive that some parliamentarians might object to subjecting such non-compliance to penal sanctions that include imprisonment.

The committee went on to say that to deprive citizens of their liberty on the grounds that they have failed to abide by a requirement imposed by a public official in the exercise of an administrative power, such as a term or condition of licence, could be thought undesirable as a matter of legislative policy. I agree with the committee's statement. It is unfortunate that the member opposite does not.

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, the member should be careful about putting words in my mouth. I actually agree with the contents of the letter sent by the committee. In fact, I think the committee was unanimous on this matter.

The committee was also unanimous that if the government introduced a bill such as is before the House now, it was prepared to withdraw, if it could, the disallowance motion currently on the table. The committee acted in a non-partisan way without personal interest in an effort to force the government to achieve the end being sought by this bill.

The member opposite continues to personalize this. It is his prerogative to do so if he wishes. As a member of that committee for a very long time, I can tell the House that the contents of this bill resolve completely the concerns of the committee in relation to the legality of the regulation. If members opposite do not want to see it that way, that is their prerogative.

However, in turning this into a partisan issue, because the committee has never made issues partisan and deals only with legality, he runs the risk of causing the committee to go off course and fail in its future work in scrutinizing the regulations made by the government on behalf of the House.

Fisheries Act
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

John Cummins Delta—Richmond East, BC

Madam Speaker, just in case the member opposite had not noticed, this is a partisan place. Government's job is to propose legislation. Our job on this side of the House is to find fault with it, if fault is there. We have found a very reasonable and legitimate fault with the bill. In fact the committee itself found this fault with the bill and we concur with the committee's finding. It is as simple as that.

I did not personalize this debate. The member opposite did. My comment back to him was that if he wants to shoot that way, I can shoot back and I do not mind doing that. I would prefer not to, but I will and he ought to know that.

The committee also said, and this is what is particularly disturbing about it:

In the event the Houses agree to revoke this provision--

--and it is talking about 36(2) of the Ontario fisheries regulations--

--your Committee would expect this decision to form a precedent for the removal of similar provisions in other regulations under the Fisheries Act.

That is troubling.