House of Commons Hansard #34 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was fisheries.

Topics

Public Safety and National Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Copyright Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Copyright Modernization Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Paulina Ayala Honoré-Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, no one is against the modernization of the act, which has not been updated since 1988 and is considered obsolete because of the advent of the Internet and digital technologies. Many Quebec and Canadian creators have been waiting a long time for the legislation to be overhauled. Their expectations have been shattered and now they realize that the government has responded to institutional and, above all, corporate needs, and definitely not to the basic need of supporting creation.

If there is to be no creation, no support for the creative instinct that inspires any material that could be subject to the principles of copyright, why are we wasting our time setting copyright guidelines? This bill has drawn a great deal of criticism from all stakeholders affected by Bill C-11, be they academics, whom the bill is trying to please, or artists, who provide a revenue stream on which the government has always counted. There are also the members of the general public, who will be criminalized for the personal use of artistic material that they purchase. Pierre-Paul Noreau, of the newspaper Le Soleil had this to say:

What is astounding about the government's approach is that Bill C-11 is the exact replica of Bill C-32, which died on the order paper when the federal election was called.

But there was a long series of consultations between the two bills. Experts, artists and spokespeople from groups concerned with copyright testified during 20 meetings of a hard-working legislative committee. But since the government had already made up its mind, nothing that was said changed the original bill. The government did not even listen to constructive criticism of its approach. Cabinet reacts to such criticism by saying that amendments are still possible.

In its current form, Bill C-11 is a catastrophe for authors, since it directly undermines copyright, which is how authors earn their meagre incomes. The proposal reduces the potential to earn real dollars and does not offer any alternatives. For example, the education system will now have much more freedom to use works in class, whereas it currently pays tens of millions of dollars to authors every year. Similarly, the logical principle of a levy on blank cassettes and CDs that had existed until now, but that has been bringing in less and less money, will not apply to digital audio recorders such as iPods, which have replaced these formats for storing copied music and images. This means that artists will see their revenue sources dry up in the interest of more freedom for users.

The answer is sad, yet clear. Since the government has said that it is open only to technical amendments, creators will have to cling to the hope of the mandatory review that will be conducted in five years, if they are able to hold out that long. This long-awaited update contains several well-targeted elements. Unfortunately, it has one major weakness. The reform fails to consider the minor creators. Some creators and participants in the cultural industry have criticized the government for failing to extend the royalties they receive on blank CDs to new technologies, such as the iPod, in order to compensate them for the reproduction of their works.

Copyright Modernization Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. It being 1:30 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the hon. member. The hon. member will have six minutes left the next time this bill is called for debate.

The House will now proceed to consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

October 21st, 2011 / 1:30 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

moved that Bill C-308, An Act respecting a Commission of Inquiry into the development and implementation of a national fishery rebuilding strategy for fish stocks off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, my private member's bill, Bill C-308, is an act respecting a commission of inquiry into the development and implementation of a national fishery rebuilding strategy for fish stocks off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The short title of my bill, the title that cuts to the chase, is the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery rebuilding act. The key word is “rebuilding”. We must rebuild. We must rebuild what was once one of the world's greatest protein resources, the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. We must rebuild what has been lost to us. We must rebuild the fish stocks and use them as a foundation for life after oil, as a foundation for the future of Newfoundland and Labrador. Let “rebuild” be the one word that resonates with every member of the House.

It is almost 20 years after the fall of the Newfoundland and Labrador cod fisheries and there has been practically no rebuilding, none. Why? This is the key question that an inquiry would answer. Why have stocks not rejuvenated? Why have stocks not been rebuilt? Why has the moratorium stretched almost 20 years when John Crosbie said, in 1992, that it would last only two years? Commercial fish stocks are in desperate shape, about as desperate as they were when the fisheries were first closed. Why?

Soon after Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949, she handed over responsibility of her fisheries to the Government of Canada to manage. The fisheries were our offshore oil of today, an incredible resource and wealth, only, unlike oil, the fisheries were an incredible renewable resource, a renewable wealth.

Sixty-two years after Confederation and our commercial fisheries for species such as cod, what was once known as Newfoundland currency, are on their knees. How far have we fallen? For most of the year, it is illegal to jig a cod, to jig a fish from the vastness of the north Atlantic.

What was once seen as a Newfoundland birthright is now a crime. However, the real crime is the fact that nothing has been done, that the fish resource has not been rebuilt, that we have not acted. The real crime is that a generation later and the stocks are still in the same desperate shape.

The Grand Banks of Newfoundland were fished out. It is plain and simple.

In the year 1968, the northern cod catch was officially recorded at 810,000 tonnes, three times the estimated maximum sustainable catch. Unofficially, more than one million tonnes of northern cod were taken from the sea that year. It has been downhill ever since.

To be clear, this is not about blame. There is blame to be shared by everyone, by the Government of Canada, by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, by foreign trawlers, by our own domestic fleet, by viewing the fishery as an occupation of last resort, by international organizations that are powerless, that are toothless to manage migratory stocks, by the use of fish stocks as international bargaining chips, by greed, by apathy everywhere. The apathy must end.

To quote Newfoundlander Rex Murphy from a National Post column earlier this month:

Newfoundland is in silent crisis...Increasingly, St. John’s highly concentrated economy resembles a sort of miniature Hong Kong amidst an increasingly deserted province. Out-migration is stealing a whole generation of Newfoundlanders. The outports are becoming just places “where the parents live,” and the larger centres outside St. John’s have become dominated by old-age homes.

To quote another Newfoundlander, Zita Cobb of Fogo Island, who is renowned as an entrepreneur and a visionary and who is behind one of the largest projects every attempted to preserve even a small portion of rural Newfoundland. She says, “If something isn't done now, we are going to be disconnected from our sense of community and our sense of past. The most tragic thing that could happen and it is happening now, is for a son not to understand his father's life”.

Our Newfoundland and Labrador culture, a culture steeped in the fishery, is slowly dying. Let Me Fish Off Cape Saint Mary's is one of the most powerful Newfoundland and Labrador songs ever written. Will there come a day when we will not relate to that song, or a day when we are forced to change the words to, “Let me drill off Fort McMurray”? We must rebuild, or that will happen.

The ultimate tragedy is not so much that the stocks collapsed, but that there is no plan to rebuild them. That is Confederation's greatest failure. That is our national embarrassment. That is our national shame. That is Newfoundland and Labrador's silent crisis.

Canada once bore the reputation as a great steward of the sea. Our reputation today is worth as much as an empty net. An inquiry would investigate federal and provincial fisheries management. Is the management working? The ultimate measure of that management is the state of the stocks, the state of the industry. The management, obviously, is not working. Stock after stock has failed.

One of the last reports on northern cod was carried out in 2005 by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. The report was entitled, “Northern Cod: A Failure of Canadian Fisheries Management”. The title says it all.

Ask me what was done with that report. Nothing, even though the report took DFO to task for failing to recognize mismanagement as one of the reasons for the stock collapse. That report also questioned why a recovery plan had not been drawn up describing DFO's lack of long-term vision as astonishing.

The federal Conservative government called an inquiry in 2009 into the decline of sockeye salmon on British Columbia's Fraser River. How can the federal government investigate management policy on one end of the country and not the other, when it has so clearly failed everywhere?

Newfoundland and Labrador's commercial salmon fishery was shut down in 1991, 20 years ago this week. There has been no recovery. Do hon. members see a trend? Because there is a trend.

An inquiry would also investigate the state of fishery science. Science has and is being gutted. Instead of rebuilding for the future, we are taking away our opportunity for a future.

An inquiry would also investigate fisheries enforcement and quotas. Who rules the rights to the fish in the sea and who exactly is fishing the quotas? Who is benefiting from the quotas? An inquiry would investigate the effectiveness of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization in managing migratory stocks outside the 200 mile limit. Has it been effective? Absolutely not.

At NAFO's recent general meeting in Halifax the quotas for most groundfish stocks were cut across the board. All stocks are in trouble.

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, which I sit on, tabled a report in the House last week on the snow crab resource. The study was triggered by concerns expressed after DFO cut the snow crab harvest in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence by 63%. DFO had been warned to cut the quota but the minister ignored the advice. Again, this is not about blame. I purposely avoid laying blame. That is not what this is about.

Recommendation three of the snow crab report advises that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans strike a task force to review the snow crab assessment process and the management of the fishery. However, the problem is not just with the management of the snow crab resource but also with the management of all the fish that swim off Newfoundland and Labrador shores. Today in my province, pan-size fish are being exported to places such as China and the U.S. for processing while the plants we have left are closing permanently and our aging plant workers are protesting in the streets. We are scraping the bottom of the barrel and the bottom of the sea. We must rebuild.

Experts have said that a healthy groundfish stock could provide an annual harvest of 400,000 tonnes. The total groundfish harvest last year for all of Newfoundland and Labrador amounted to less than 20,000 tonnes. We could have a healthy harvest of 400,000 tonnes. Last year, it was less than 20,000 tonnes, which is a shadow or skeleton of our once great fisheries of the great Grand Banks of Newfoundland. The time to rebuild is now.

The Prime Minister once described the east coast as having a culture of defeat. I stand before the members to say that is not the case. It is far from it. We are fighting for our culture and our rural way of life in Newfoundland and Labrador. We want to ensure that we can provide for ourselves rather than revert to what we have been labelled in the past, a label which I am sure everyone in the House has heard and one that is absolutely incorrect, that being that we are a drain on Canadian Confederation. That is not the case.

If the fisheries and the Grand Banks of Newfoundland had been banks that were mismanaged into bankruptcy there would have been demands for accountability, for reform and for an overhaul to ensure that never happened again. The Grand Banks of Newfoundland and Labrador in my home province deserve no less.

I urge all hon. members to support my private member's bill. It is not just the fish stocks that need rebuilding but also our faith in this country to help individual provinces stand on their own.

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission
B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Madam Speaker, in just a few minutes we will have opportunity to disagree with my colleague on many of the points he made in his eloquent presentation.

What he did not flesh out well enough for us is the number of reviews that have already taken place since 1992 into the collapse of the cod stocks. He only referred to one. I took part in that study. However, there were at least a dozen, some from the provinces, from the federal government, from the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council and one from the Auditor General's Office. There is a long list.

What does the member think spending millions of dollars would do that these other studies have not done? The follow-up question would be, why is the province of Newfoundland not supporting his call for a commission of inquiry into the matter?

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Madam Speaker, I would be interested to hear exactly which points in my speech the hon. member disagreed with.

As for why the Progressive Conservative Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has not called for an inquiry, I suggest that the hon. Conservative member across the way ask the Minister of Fisheries.

The government has to make a decision as to whether there will be an inquiry and the decision has to come not just from the federal Conservative government but also from the provincial government of my home province. The federal Government of Canada looks after harvesting. The provincial government looks after processing. The federal government looks after fishing boats. My home province looks after fishing plants. The bottom line is that the management at the federal and provincial levels of government has not worked. Maybe it is the fact that both levels of government do not want to admit that the management has not worked.

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans asked why we should spend millions of dollars on an inquiry. His province is spending millions of dollars on an inquiry into a salmon run that failed miserably.

My hon. colleague from Newfoundland is absolutely correct. I was the NDP fisheries critic for over 13 years. I asked for a national federal inquiry into the practices and policies of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. In the period 1998 to 2000 the Hutchings and Myers report came out, which the hon. parliamentary secretary should know, and those two scientists indicated that there was science manipulation at the very highest levels within DFO when it came to the collapse of the cod stocks. The government of the day was warned that the cod stocks were in trouble and it ignored that warning.

That is just one tiny element of why we need to get to the bottom of the serious mismanagement of the fisheries and oceans in this country. I would like my hon. colleague to comment on that, please.

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Madam Speaker, the question has been asked as to how many reports have been written in the past looking into the Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries.

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

How many have been ignored?

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Madam Speaker, that is a very good question. How many reports into the fishery have been ignored? There are untold numbers. There is an inquiry going on into the disappearance of salmon stocks in B.C.'s Fraser River. The last I heard, that inquiry has a price tag of roughly $25 million.

The point I want to make is that we have not had a ground fishery since 1992, going back 19 years. There are experts who say if it was a healthy resource there could have been an annual harvest of 400,000 tonnes going back 19 years and every year into the future. How many untold hundreds of millions of dollars would that be worth?

In terms of the question about why we need another inquiry, we need an inquiry specifically into why the management of this fishery has failed. Why has it failed? I challenge the member opposite to show me the report that shows the way forward, that shows all the problems with the management of the fisheries in the past. That report does not exist. The only way to get a report is to have an inquiry into the Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries.

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission
B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the debate on Bill C-308.

I thank my colleague for his comments on this. I know he has an interest in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is a province I love as well, having spent a fair bit of time there in my current capacity. I am pleased to see that he appears to have abandoned any notions of his musings in earlier years of separation from Confederation.

I agree with him when he talks about the importance of the fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador, but I do want to say up front that we are not going to support the bill.

The bill is premised on several assumptions, false assumptions in large part, that I would like to address.

The first of these is that there has been no recovery of fish stocks since the 1990s and that this has led to more than 80,000 people leaving Newfoundland and Labrador. This is not quite true.

The decline of fish stocks is blamed on several factors, including: inaccurate scientific data and projections; environmental factors, including temperature shifts in the ocean; predation; and poor fisheries management, including overfishing. This is why the collapse of the Atlantic ground fisheries and related fisheries management practices have already been thoroughly reviewed.

There have been at least 12 different reports or studies published on the topic over the past 18 years. For example, the latest report, released in September of this year by the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council, made several recommendations for a long-term strategic approach to the sustainability of eastern Canadian groundfish fisheries. As a result of these numerous reports and studies, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has implemented modern fisheries management policies. The department is committed to continued conservation and rebuilding efforts and to perfecting its practices to ensure the conservation of groundfish stocks in the Atlantic.

The number of registered harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador has declined; about this, the member is correct. It is notable that many of those who remained transitioned their enterprises to more lucrative shellfish species, like snow crab, shrimp, and lobster. In fact, Newfoundland and Labrador has increased its relative importance in Canada's commercial harvesting industry. In 1990 the province accounted for 20% of the total value of commercial landings in Canada. Today that share has increased to 30%. Since 1990, the average annual growth in the value of Newfoundland and Labrador commercial landings has been higher than that of any other province.

Second, on reading the bill one might be led to believe that there had been a lack of organized efforts to rebuild Newfoundland and Labrador's fisheries or to restore the province's economic base. Let me set the record straight. In the past 20 years, the government has invested over $4 billion to assist the industry and help affected communities adjust to the changes in the resource base. This included $2.5 billion in income replacement, over $600 million in training and counselling, and $1 billion on licence retirement, economic diversification, stock rebuilding, et cetera. In addition, allocation of various shellfish species was also provided to facilitate the diversification of the industry.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada worked with the province of Newfoundland and Labrador in an intentional and systematic way to address these challenges. For example, shortly after the announcement of the second moratorium on the harvesting of southern and northern gulf stocks of Atlantic cod, the Government of Canada and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador formed the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Action Team for Cod Rebuilding. The action team was mandated to develop a stock rebuilding and long-term management strategy for the four major cod stocks adjacent to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. These efforts resulted in the release of the federal-provincial strategy for the rebuilding of Atlantic cod stocks.

In terms of international fisheries management practices, to which my colleague referred, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, NAFO, has made significant improvements in fisheries management, science, and enforcement. These improvements have been validated by the recently released NAFO performance review, which included the input of external experts. I encourage my colleague to read it.

Some improvements noted in the NAFO performance review were in key areas such as stock management, science advice, protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems and enforcement measures. I also want to mention that NAFO scientists have become world leaders in the provision of science advice on vulnerable marine ecosystems. NAFO has taken key steps to strengthen enforcement measures leading to improvement in compliance.

For example, since 2006, it has reached new definitions of a range of serious infringements. There has been the development of provisions for immediate recall to port for major infractions and clearer directions to NAFO members on penalties to be employed by flag states for serious infringements. As a result of these changes and thanks largely to Canadian-led enforcement efforts, infractions in NAFO areas have been significantly, even dramatically reduced.

Bill C-308 mistakenly accuses NAFO of failing to rebuild migratory fish stocks. I should point out that NAFO is responsible for the management of straddling stocks, not migratory species. Rebuilding straddling stocks has now been identified as one of the main objectives of NAFO which is reflected in the new convention which was ratified by the Government of Canada in December 2009.

Over the past several years, NAFO, led by Canada, has implemented a number of innovative rebuilding plans for the recovery of moratorius stocks and to rebuild fragile stocks. These plans are based on scientific advice and the precautionary approach. They include conservation plans and rebuilding strategies for American plaice and cod.

In 2009 NAFO reopened two key stocks, 3M cod and 3LN red fish, that were under moratorium for over a decade. Recovery of other stocks is proving successful and some may be eligible for reopening in the next few years.

In the bill, my colleague from St. John's South—Mount Pearl identifies fisheries as:

--a renewable resource which can, with revitalized conservation and management practices, be rebuilt for the benefit of present and future generations and contribute towards the economic growth of rural Newfoundland and Labrador and all of Canada.

That is exactly what we have done.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada, on behalf of the Government of Canada, is responsible for developing and implementing policies and programs in support of Canada's scientific, ecological, social and economic interests in oceans and fresh waters. In working toward these outcomes, the department is guided by the principles of sound scientific knowledge and effective management.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada's approach to fisheries management has changed significantly over the last two decades. The sustainable fisheries framework introduced in April 2009 has introduced policies that provide the basis for ensuring Canadian fisheries are conducted in a manner that supports conservation and sustainable use of our fisheries resources.

I encourage my colleague to become familiar with this framework. He will find it incorporates existing fisheries management policies with new and evolving policies and provides planning and monitoring tools. These policies will promote the continued sustainability of stocks upon which commercial fisheries depend. As other stocks grow, emerging commercial fisheries will be managed in a way that is sustainable.

As these actions demonstrate, this government continues to take action to rebuild the Atlantic fisheries and no inquiry is necessary.

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to private member's Bill C-308 put forward by the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl. I support this piece of legislation, as does the Liberal Party of Canada.

Nearly two years after the first commercial fishing moratorium was introduced, there has still been no substantial recovery of fish stocks off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. The collapse of the fishery has had devastating effects on communities in rural Newfoundland because this had been the largest fishery in Canada and the focal point of the local economy.

The recent signs of possible recovery are hopeful but that only makes it more important that we do everything in our power as a nation to prevent this from happening again. It is important that we really understand what we need to do differently to ensure the health of our fish stocks.

The Liberal Party supports this long overdue federal inquiry into the collapse and mismanagement of fish stocks off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The parliamentary secretary talked about the many inquires that have been held into this regrettable situation. I want to point out that the result that Canadians need has not been achieved. We have not fully understood how the Government of Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans made the decisions that led to the absolute collapse of such an important fish stock. It is urgent that we understand that. We are seeing a repeat of this kind of crash with other fish stock.

As the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl mentioned, the parliamentary committee on fisheries has been studying for many months the collapse of the snow crab stock. I had the privilege of being on that committee for a year. We learned to our surprise and shock that the department had not been implementing the precautionary principle in its management of the snow crab in 2009, and we are now hearing that the precautionary principle was not being implemented as a clear framework.

The precautionary principle is something people have understood since the 1980s. We had an earth summit in the early 1990s. We had a world summit on sustainable development in 2002. The precautionary principle surely is a baseline approach for managing these important renewable natural resources, but it has not been a baseline approach in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. An inquiry is an important tool in order to do a better job and get a better result.

It is not just on the east coast of Canada that we are having challenges with sustainable management of important fisheries. We have our challenges on the west coast as well, and I will point to the salmon fishery as a prime example.

The Fraser River sockeye salmon stock collapsed in 2010. The numbers came in at one-tenth the number expected by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. There was an outcry from people asking why our fisheries were being mismanaged, not just to the extent that we were having crashes, but to the extent that we did not even know why we were having crashes. Fortunately, the Cohen inquiry is looking into the disaster in the Pacific salmon fishery. We need that same kind of attention and that same kind of lens on the fisheries of Newfoundland and Labrador.

That is not to say that an inquiry is enough. Other things need to be done as well, and one of those things is the adequate funding of fishery science. Instead, a hatchet is being taken to the budget of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, cutting $57 million this year alone. That means research scientists along with budgets for international co-operation projects to identify what is happening with the salmon when they go outside Canadian jurisdiction will be cut.

It means boats will be tied up in harbours, DFO research vessels will be tied up in harbours, unable to afford the gas to go out and find out what is happening. It means that funding for the POST listening system, which is an innovative way of tracking small salmon smolts on the west coast of Canada to identify where they are disappearing and helping us understand why they are disappearing, is woefully inadequate for what is necessary to actually track these smolts as they go out into the ocean. It remains a black box, a mystery, why, year after year, other than for a few anomaly years, we are having decline in our precious stocks of Pacific salmon.

Pacific salmon, like cod on the east coast, is an iconic species for Canadians. It has been the basis for the economies of coastal communities. It has been the basis for the culture of Canadian aboriginal peoples. It has been part of their identity, their celebration. It has been central to the Pacific coast. Our salmon stocks are disappearing and we do not even know why. Yet, we are cutting the budgets of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans which is charged with the responsibility of protecting salmon and other important stocks. This is shocking. That is the kind of thing that I expect an inquiry into the fisheries in Newfoundland and Labrador to shed a light on, so that all Canadians can support having conservation as a number one principle. The degree to which conservation was not held as a fundamental principle by the previous fisheries minister was highlighted in the snow crab process.

I would disagree in this small point with the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl when he said it is not about laying blame. Actually, I disagree with that. We had a Conservative fisheries minister who deliberately and knowingly ignored the advice of her fisheries scientists who said that there was a very strong risk of a collapse of the snow crab stocks if the quotas were not reduced. That minister ignored the advice of her scientists and took the advice of lobbyists who said, “No, don't worry. Be happy. Keep the quota where it's been”.

We cannot allow that kind of interference in our fisheries management, not on the east coast and not on the west coast. We cannot allow these kinds of cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans when we are losing these iconic stocks and we have not even understood why.

Permit me a quick aside about the aquaculture review that the fisheries committee was undertaking.

Recently, the management of the aquaculture industry and potential impacts on wild salmon has been transferred to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The regulation of that important industry so that it does not affect our wild fish stocks is a very important role of Department of Fisheries and Oceans. It needs to do a better job than the province was doing in the past. How can we expect the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to do its job, to understand the science of the aquaculture industry and the wild fisheries in those interactions? How can we expect it to do that with these massive cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans?

I support, and the Liberal Party supports, this inquiry because we need more, not less, transparency and more, not less, accountability and more, not less, science so that we can protect our wild fisheries this year, the next decade, and into the future as our legacy to our children

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Newfoundland and Labrador for his intervention. I also thank the people of Newfoundland and Labrador for allowing Canada to join Newfoundland and Labrador in 1949.

I would say that what salmon is to British Columbians, what pickerel and bass are to central Canadians, what Arctic char is to northern Canada, cod fish is to Newfoundland and Labrador. It is a symbol of heritage. It is a symbol of the people. In fact, many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians can trace their ancestry to people who have fished the great seas in the past for their livelihood.

With Remembrance Week coming up, it would be fair to say that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have not only fed the world, they have also fed many great soldiers, airmen, airwomen and sailors not only in Canada but our Allies in other countries throughout the war effort as well. Many a soldier ate bully beef as well as salt cod.

We also know that trade between the Caribbean and Newfoundland and Labrador ran from cod to rum. I thought that was a balanced trade deal.

However, I believe the reason why the Conservatives do not want an inquiry is because they do not want to know the truth. They do not want to know the facts.

I was on the fisheries and oceans committee for over 13 years. We studied all aspects of the fisheries in this country to death to come up with reports, of which 95% were unanimous, meaning members of the Reform, Alliance, the PC Party, the Bloc Québécois, NDP, Liberals and the Conservatives at the time supported those recommendations, only to have them fall flat on the desk of the minister of the day.

In 1998, I asked for a full judicial inquiry into the practices and policies of the management of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for Canada.

Hutchings and Myers are the best oceanographic and fishery scientists in Canada and the world. They said very clearly in their report when they came to Parliament Hill that in their opinion science had been manipulated at the highest levels when it came to the cod crisis in this country. What party was in government at the time that happened? It was the Conservative Party of Canada. Those are the facts.

In my mind, it was the Kirby report of 1982, which formulated the companies of Fisheries Products International and National Seas, that started the over aggressive fishing of those stocks which caused the downfall of the outports of not only Newfoundland and Labrador but also the provinces of P.E.I., New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

People anywhere who believe that the management of Canadian fisheries is any good at all are fooling themselves. We and the Conservatives know that is not the case. I can quote numerous interventions wherein Progressive Conservatives, Reformers and members of the Alliance were slamming the Liberal Party for the mismanagement of the fisheries in Canada. They were good at it too.

I remember a certain John Cummins of British Columbia who was probably one of the most vocal critics of fisheries management in this country. He did a fantastic job at it because he was a commercial fisherman. Even his own party did not like some of his criticisms. However, he was not only standing up and fighting for the fishermen of his province but also for their way of life. On some parts I obviously disagreed with him but I could not knock his passion and desire to stand up for the men and women whose livelihoods were made from the sea.

Right now both the provincial and federal governments are concentrating on oil resources, the so-called non-renewable resources of this country, the petro-economy. Time and again I have asked, what will happen when oil and gas resources are gone? No response is forthcoming. There is only silence on that side.

If the fisheries are managed correctly and properly, seven generations down the road will be able to access a renewable, natural, healthy, vibrant food-based resource, not just for the people of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador but for the entire world.

Why, in the life of any parliamentarian, would we not want to do everything possible, everything within our power, be it federally, provincially or municipally, including opposition members, to ensure the sanctity and the survival of that renewable resource?

I have tremendous respect for my good friend and hon. colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. He is one of the nicest people I have ever met, but he quotes from and talks about the FRCC report. I have worked for a long time with the FRCC. Its members are fantastic fishermen, scientists, environmentalists, et cetera. However, what did the government just do to the FRCC? It cut its funding to the point where it no longer will exist.

One second the Conservatives will quote its report and hand it up as a litmus of sound management and advice and then cut its funding. Why do they do that? How many scientists now within DFO across this country are about to lose their jobs? When we heard the parliamentary secretary speak, I felt like buying a fishing boat. I felt like quitting my job, selling everything and going out fishing because, according to them, I am going to be well off. That is what Crosbie said in 1992. I remember when Pierre Pettigrew introduced the TAGS program so people would get five years of employment subsidy and payment subsidies and retraining so those who were left in the fishery would be well off. The folks were told not to worry, that they would be given bit of money, with a few shackles here, and they could train to be barbers. We had five barbers one time train for one small town of a couple of hundred people. That turned out really well. The fact is that it failed.

What did Premier Dunderdale say the day after she was elected? She said that they would need to deal with the fishery and reduce the number of fishermen and plant workers in the province. Not necessarily like that, but she said words similar to that. It is funny that she never spoke like that during the campaign. She only spoke like that after the campaign.

I am not blaming anyone here. It was not the Conservatives alone that mismanaged the fisheries. It was the federal Governments of Canada, the provincial governments, the fishing industry, the international fleets and NAFO. Everyone is partially to blame for this, including, I may say, the opposition, at times pushing for extra resources to help people get through the bad times, to get their EI, et cetera. We are all responsible for the downturn in the fishery. It is also our job to hold them to their fire, not just the Conservatives but the Liberals and previous governments before that. It is not a question of pinning one blame against the other. That is easy to do.

However, an inquiry would get everything out in the open and find out where the problems were, what the government and others have been doing to this point and where the road map to the future leads. That is Canada's national shame and the world looks at us saying that we had one of the world's largest, abundant, prolific protein fish stocks on the planet and now it is minuscule compared to what it used to be. Over 20 years and more, it is still the way it was in 1992. That is the shame.

I just want to thank my hon. colleague from St. John's, Newfoundland, for bringing this forward. I ask the government to reconsider, call for the inquiry, get the facts on the table and truly help the good people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-308, the Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act.

It was cod that first brought Europeans to Newfoundland. It was catching, salting, drying and marketing of cod that prompted the first settlements in this region. The fishery has been active for hundreds of years in Newfoundland and Labrador. It was and remains an integral part of its culture and life.

The cod catch peaked in 1968 at 810,000 tonnes. However, as we know, the industry collapsed in the early 1990s. Several factors have been cited as causing the collapse, overfishing, lack of foresight and environmental factors among them. As a result, a two-year moratorium on the northern cod fishery was announced July 2, 1992, by the Honourable John Crosbie, then Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. By 1993, six cod populations had collapsed, forcing a complete moratorium on fishing. Populations had decreased by at least 75% in all stocks, by 90% in three of the six stocks and by 99% in the case of northern cod, previously the largest cod fishery in the world.

There have been numerous reports and studies on this subject. Dr. Leslie Harris published the influential 1990 “Independent Review of the State of the Northern Cod Stocks”, the “Report of the Northern Cod Review Panel”, and the 2004 “A Policy Framework for the Management of Fisheries on Canada’s Atlantic Coast”. In 1993, the Task Force on Incomes and Adjustments in the Atlantic Fishery published “Charting a New Course: Towards the Fishery of the Future”, also known as the Cashin report.

The Fisheries Resource Conservation Council produced “A Groundfish Conservation Framework for Atlantic Canada”. In 2001 it published “The Management of Fisheries on Canada's Atlantic Coast: A Discussion Document on Policy Direction and Principles”, and in 2003 it published “Preserving the Independence of the Inshore Fleet in Canada's Atlantic Fisheries”. Since 2003, the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council alone has published more than 50 reports on stock conditions, conservation and just about every aspect of the fishery, including “Towards Recovered and Sustainable Groundfish Fisheries in Eastern Canada”, which was released just last month.

Let us not overlook the work of our own House committees, starting with the 2002 “Report on Foreign Overfishing: Its Impacts and Solutions” from the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. In 2005 the committee produced the “Report on Northern Cod: A Failure of Canadian Fisheries Management” and in 2009 its report on “Amendments to the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization Convention”, not mention the House committee's other regular reports.

We cannot forget the work of Senate committees, including the 2003 report “Straddling Fish Stocks in the Northwest Atlantic” and the 2005 “Interim Report on Canada's New and Evolving Policy Framework for Managing Fisheries and Oceans”.

All of this is to say that this issue has been studied in considerable depth. The federal government has worked with Atlantic provinces on projects for regional economic development and fisheries adjustments since the collapse. I would like to specifically mention the 2003 federal and provincial all-party committee report that presented alternatives to full closure of the cod fisheries. The report, entitled “Stability, Sustainability and Prosperity: Charting a Future for Northern and Gulf Cod Stocks”, presented solutions such as reducing the seal population, improving fisheries science, implementing sustainable fishing practices and improved enforcement of fisheries management regulations.

We are well aware of major factors in the groundfish decline. Environmental conditions, predator-prey relations and excessive harvesting have all been identified as causes of stock declines.

Fishing levels were set above conservation standards, fishers caught more than they were allocated and some fishers used unsustainable fishing practices. The government and industry learned from these crises and since the moratorium have dramatically changed fisheries management practices, science research and international practices.

Canada is not alone in working on these issues. Countries that are members of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, including Norway, Iceland, Russia, Japan, the European Union, the United States and South Korea, among others, have made the rebuilding of fish stocks one of the primary objectives. This is reflected in the new convention as well as within the shared scientific and management activities member countries undertake to ensure stocks are managed under the precautionary approach and that sensitive habitat for fish stocks is adequately protected.

In line with the Newfoundland and Labrador provincial priority for the recovery of cod and American plaice stocks, it was encouraging to see the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization adopt new rebuilding plans for these species on the Grand Banks. These plans are in line with our precautionary approach to fisheries management.

Rebuilding plans can only be successful if all countries involved work together with measures such as these and continue to apply enforcement measures to keep bycatches to the lowest possible level.

Despite the fact that shellfish have dominated the Atlantic fishing industry in terms of value and effort since the collapse of most groundfish species in the 1990s, cod still holds a place of pre-eminence among those who rely on the fishery for their livelihood as a species upon which the Atlantic fishery was built.

The cod fishery is at the core of the cultural roots of many coastal rural communities in Atlantic Canada and Quebec. This is the reason why conservation and rebuilding of Atlantic cod stocks is a government priority and there are indications that some code stocks are beginning to recover, such as cod on the eastern Scotian shelf and the Flemish Cap.

We are taking action on the priorities of Canadians who work hard and play by the rules and we have steered our country through the worst global economic recession since the 1930s. We seek to promote a strong quality of life in all communities, cities, towns and rural communities, to respect and preserve the culture and values of rural Canada and help ensure the success of traditional industries like the fisheries.

Consider our actions in the past: providing to fish harvesters the same lifetime capital gains exemption enjoyed by farmers and small business owners; in supporting small coastal communities through regulatory initiatives in support of the aquaculture sector; and through investments in small craft harbours.

The global economy remains fragile and Canadians remain concerned about their jobs and their children's future. Government is making the necessary investments to protect Canadians and create jobs now, while laying a strong foundation for long-term economic growth.

The benefits of fishery decisions made today may not accrue until a number of years in the future. Those who bear the brunt of the immediate costs may not be those who will realize the future benefits of our work today. This is why the government believes the best way forward is to manage the recovery of fish stocks through a comprehensive, integrated and Atlantic-wide approach that will build on the unprecedented collaboration of all parties to date.

Given the studies, reports and initiatives I have just mentioned and given the changes implemented as well as continuing progress since the moratorium, a judicial inquiry, as proposed in Bill C-308, would be a costly and duplicative exercise. An inquiry would divert funds and resources away from the ongoing efforts to strengthen Canada's fisheries and the Canadian economy.