Debates of March 27th, 2012
House of Commons Hansard #100 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was banks.
- Question Period
- Conflict of Interest Code
- Government Response to Petitions
- Business of the House
- Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
- Financial System Review Act
- Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
- Human Rights
- Living Tree Metaphor
- World TB Day
- Bioindustrial Innovation Centre
- Government Priorities
- Foreign Affairs
- Women's Curling
- NDP Leadership Race
- Leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada
- Juno Awards
- Events in Toulouse
- Public Safety
- Leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada
- National Defence
- Air Canada
- National Defence
- 41st General Election
- Air Canada
- Air Canada
- Status of Women
- Search and Rescue
- Employment Insurance
- Nuclear Security
- National Defence
- Aboriginal Affairs
- National Defence
- Aerospace Industry
- Presence in Gallery
- Points of Order
- Member for Hull—Aylmer
- Financial System Review Act
- Governor General
- National Philanthropy Day Act
National Philanthropy Day Act
Private Members' Business
Tyrone Benskin Jeanne-Le Ber, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to add my voice to the unanimous support for Bill S-201, including the support of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and my colleagues from Sudbury and Halifax West.
Today we are exploring an idea that should meet with unanimous agreement across this House. It is an idea that seeks to properly recognize, honour and further encourage the important work of Canada's philanthropic sector and the millions of citizens who daily donate their time, energy and money, even now in times when all these precious resources are challenged.
In legislative terms, this bill is relatively simple. However, the core message it sends to volunteers and the organizations they support is long overdue. It is a message that simply says “Thank you, we hear you, we see you and appreciate your efforts”. Although it seems that we live in an age of cynicism, this is a message and an idea that can and must resonate far beyond the walls of this House. The impact that charitable work and philanthropy have had on our history, the crucial role they play in sustaining communities from coast to coast to coast, as well as the potential contribution they will make to our common future is an idea that is well worth recognizing.
A responsible government has an absolutely essential role in supporting the most vulnerable members of our society and it can do so in a number of critical ways: by providing social, economic and personal security, and a viable infrastructure and a sustainable environment. However, government cannot do it all. This is where the compassion and the passion of individuals to do for themselves and for others comes into play. Throughout our history, conscientious citizens have acted autonomously to address the imbalances and imperfections of their generation. It is those individuals who contributed to the building of our society, who contributed to the building of our social safety net, and who enfranchised women and those who were kept apart from the dominant mainstream culture. It is those who fought for civil rights for all. It is those who encouraged the most desperate to get back on their feet, and it is a legacy that lives on today. It lives on in the work of countless community groups, advocacy organizations and faith-based and cultural groups who enrich our communities daily. It lives on through the volunteer firefighters who risk everything simply because it is the right thing to do. It lives on when a church, a synagogue or mosque rallies to provide for its followers, and when a coach forfeit his or her weekend for the chill of a rink. It lives on when Canadians lead the world in per capita donations to earthquake-ravaged Haiti or tsunami-ravaged Japan.
The premise or idea of this bill brings to mind words from one of my heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who said that philanthropy was commendable but must never give even the most generous philanthropist an excuse to overlook the circumstances of injustice that make philanthropy necessary. In these times, the circumstances that make philanthropy necessary are more evident. The gifts of time and financial support are getting harder to find, not because of cynicism but because those who would give have less to give.
With a budget looming on the horizon that potentially threatens the foundations of the social programs upon which so many people count for assistance, and similar austerity measures anticipated at the provincial and municipal levels, there is a real likelihood that an even more crushing weight will be assumed by volunteer organizations. Already we hear disturbing accounts of long lines at food banks or of over-strained shelters and declining access to social services for those fortunate enough to be employed.
As parliamentarians, we are by definition representatives of communities. Whatever small part of this nation we represent, each of us has surely come to know the everyday Canadian heroes and heroines this bill seeks to honour.
In my riding, Jeanne-Le Ber, I see the enormous contribution that volunteers involved in social causes that affect their communities make to our society every day.
There are hundreds of outstanding examples of social commitment among volunteers and the organizations they represent: the Regroupement Information Logement de Pointe Saint-Charles seeks to improve conditions in social housing and empower people to improve their living conditions; the Table de concertation Action-Gardien encourages groups and individuals to mobilize around social, political, economic and urban issues; the organization called J'apprends avec mon enfant works with young people to prevent them from dropping out of school and promote the joy of reading; the Réseau d'entraide de Verdun does food security work with disadvantaged people in the community; DESTA Black Youth Network offers mentoring for marginalized young adults in the areas of education, employment and personal growth; the Centre communautaire des femmes actives offers a full range of activities to break down isolation and develop greater autonomy among women in Saint-Henri and the surrounding neighbourhoods.
All these examples illustrate the tremendous work done every day by the organizations and activists in my community to combat poverty and promote a fairer and more just society.
They are the conscientious, compassionate and engaged citizens who when seeing someone in need are compelled to come to their aid. They make the fight their own. Seeing persistent injustice, they choose not to sit on their hands. They, acting as individuals, personify this nation's fundamental decency, and by extension they become ambassadors of the Canadian spirit. It is only right that we honour them, but we must go further. It is my hope that we do more to support and encourage those who give so much to their communities.
My friend from Halifax West deserves immense credit for his efforts. As such, I close by expressing my support for the bill on behalf of the many people and organizations in my riding and invite all of my hon. colleagues to do the same.
National Philanthropy Day Act
Private Members' Business
Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to have the opportunity to speak this evening on the bill before the House of Commons to establish a national philanthropy day.
One of the outstanding qualities of Canadians is our willingness to extend our sense of purpose beyond our immediate families and friends and to engage the wider community. We do so to make our communities, provinces and, by extension, our country a better place. As well, honouring the contributions of millions of Canadians is an important function of Parliament.
It should be noted that there have been similar bills introduced that would have recognized the value of giving and volunteering. Unfortunately, those efforts were derailed due to multiple prorogations and two dissolutions of Parliament. At the start of the 41st Parliament last June, the Senate, under the leadership of Senator Terry Mercer from Nova Scotia, reintroduced this bill in support of national philanthropy day. I want to congratulate and thank Senator Mercer for reintroducing his bill and the hon. member for Halifax West for guiding it through the House of Commons.
Canadians may wonder why there is a need to designate November 15 of each year as a day to celebrate and acknowledge the efforts of Canadians who give of their time and money. It is simple. It is important that we recognize this activity so as to encourage its continuance and to set an example for others in the hope that more and more Canadians will give of themselves.
My colleague, Senator Mercer, when speaking in the Senate on this bill, captured quite well the purpose of this legislation. I realize that this quote has been read into the record already by my colleague from Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, but it bears repeating. I am quoting Senator Mercer, who stated:
—the statistics bear out the impact of the voluntary sector. In Canada, over two billion volunteer hours are given, which is the equivalent of over one million full-time jobs. What better way to say thank you to those volunteers and those in the charitable sector than by having the federal government officially recognize, by enshrining it in legislation, the tremendous impact this has on our society? I can think of no better way to say thank you.
I certainly agree with those sentiments.
A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to listen to an excellent speech given by our then newly installed Governor General, the right hon. David Johnston, a speech, I might add, that he gave in my home province of Prince Edward Island as part of the prestigious Symons Lecture on the state of Confederation. The Governor General spoke about philanthropy and volunteerism as a cornerstone of community life. He stated:
On October 1st, I delivered an installation speech entitled, “A Smart and Caring Nation: A Call to Service.”...
I outlined three pillars to achieve this vision: supporting families and children; reinforcing learning and innovation; and encouraging philanthropy and volunteerism.
This is the vision I suggest for 2014, and together we should ask, why not?
The Governor General went on to state that it would be his goal during his time as Governor General to highlight the value of family, education and the importance of philanthropy and volunteerism. He also took the opportunity to quote from Sir Winston Churchill, who said:
We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.
Our Governor General gave a wonderful and inspiring speech that day to a large crowd at the Confederation Centre of the Arts.
Statistics Canada tells us that charity and philanthropic endeavours vary from province to province. The data indicate, and I am quite proud of this, that the people of Atlantic Canada are a generous lot. The top three provinces in terms of giving are Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.
One of the benefits of speaking to this bill is the opportunity to highlight a few people, and there are many back home, who have done so much to support and help our community. These people have seen much success in life and in business, and have given much back in return.
I want to salute, in particular, the following people. Many of them have given generously to our educational institutions back on Prince Edward Island, the University of Prince Edward Island and Holland College and our major hospital, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
I will start with Mary-Jean Irving and the Irving family, who have enjoyed substantial success with Master Packaging and Indian River Farms. They are very generous donors. In addition, Robert Irving, who although not an Islander, has employed thousands of Islanders through Cavendish Farms and is extremely generous in giving back to the community.
Danny and Martie Murphy have been tremendous donors, especially to children through the Oak Acres Children's Camp and also the Alzheimer Society. They have a big, beautiful home in Stanhope that they open to the community for numerous and sundry fundraising events, true pillars in our community.
The late Harry MacLauchlan and his wife Marjorie are veritable institutions within the province of Prince Edward Island. Harry MacLauchlan, during his life, would greet people, regardless of the weather, the conditions and his spirit, in the same manner with “It's a great day.” It could be 20 below with the wind chill and blowing a gale and if Harry saw anyone, he would say “Great day”. That was the way he carried himself through life and he always gave back to his community. He was an extremely generous donor. The hockey rink at the University of Prince Edward Island bears his name and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital would not be what it is but for Harry MacLauchlan.
Fred and Shirley Hyndman show their passionate support of history, heritage, the university and the hospital.
One of my former law partners, Alan Scales and his good wife, Patsy, along with his brother David and Doris Scales, have forever been generous donors in my community of Charlottetown.
Canadians are generous and compassionate people. We founded and built a country based on the idea of shared responsibility and shared prosperity. Not all Canadians benefit from our collective and individual success. For far too many Canadians, life can be difficult. For them, poverty is a sad reality passed from generation to generation.
The role of government in this regard is to provide equality of opportunity to give a hand up, not a hand out. We do this so all Canadians might share in our prosperity and live and raise their families with a sense of dignity. The role of civil society, of volunteerism and of philanthropy is to complement those efforts. Philanthropy and volunteerism do make a difference in the lives of people.
In closing, I once again want to thank my Liberal colleagues in the Senate and in the House for introducing and moving this important legislation through Parliament.
National Philanthropy Day Act
Private Members' Business
The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton
The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.
A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.
Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON
Mr. Speaker, last December I asked the government why Canada was totally abdicating its leadership responsibilities on climate change on the world stage.
Perhaps tonight we will receive an answer rather than yet another rehashing of the government's talking points: its version of the history of Kyoto; it being proud of its negligent record on climate change; its supposed plan, just in the final stages of writing new regulations for coal-fired electricity and merely beginning consultations with the oil sands, cement, gas and steel industries; its attack on two past Liberal leaders; and its approach of “balance and real action”.
Let me be clear. Mere wordsmithing and attacks will not cover up the government's failure with respect to climate change such as cutting greenhouse gas reduction targets by 90%, meeting only 25% of its new target and withdrawing from the Kyoto protocol.
Now that I have addressed the government's tired talking points, let me address what matters fundamentally.
For many of the world's poorest countries, climate change is not an academic, esoteric debate but rather a pressing reality faced every day. In Bangladesh, for example, rising sea levels threaten farmland and water supply, despite the fact that its population of 160 million emits less greenhouse gases than Manhattan. In the future, a one metre sea level rise will submerge one-fifth of the land mass and displace 20 million people.
The reality is that climate change affects poor countries disproportionately and threatens energy, food, health, livelihoods and water. In total, it threatens human security. If human security was being threatened by war, countries would rise to the challenge to protect the vulnerable. Why not then with sea level rise?
Perhaps it is because some developed countries have removed humanity and human rights from the discussion. Instead, they focus on whether climate change is real or not, how much of the burden they should bear and what the economic costs are to their respective governments.
The truth is that the intergovernmental panel on climate change confirmed over 15 years ago that “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate”. Despite this, governments continue to find and give voice to the perhaps 5% of scientists who are deniers so as to delay real and meaningful investment.
This postponement tactic is in stark contrast to the world's response to the thinning of the ozone in the 1980s. After the Antarctic ozone hole was identified, a few short years later the world's countries agreed to a global agreement.
Clearly, it should be unacceptable to the use the term “burden” when discussing the suffering of our fellow citizens around the world and surely we do not want to repeat the mistakes of the past when the world stood by in the face of atrocities by failing to adequately respond.
In terms of financing climate mitigation and adaptation, the benefits of strong, early action on climate change dramatically outweigh the costs. For example, it has been estimated that to stabilize emissions at manageable levels would cost about 1% of global gross domestic product, but that not to act would cost at least 5% now and forever.
Instead of repeating talking points tonight, perhaps the parliamentary secretary will answer the world's most vulnerable countries that are suffering now.
March 27th, 2012 / 7:35 p.m.
Michelle Rempel Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment
Mr. Speaker, we just had a great environment committee meeting to discuss the development of a national conservation plan. I commend her for her commitment to these issues, but there are some things I want to talk about tonight and clarify some of the points she made.
First, she talked about the concept of abdication of responsibility. In fact, in the past, during the Liberal government's tenure, greenhouse gas emissions in our country rose by almost 30% over some of the Kyoto targets. Perhaps she could answer how many megatonnes of carbon emissions the Liberal government put into the atmosphere through its inaction on climate change.
This is so important because it is the same concept, when we look at international agreements, to ensure that we have a reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions. When the Kyoto protocol was ratified, it included less than 30% of the major greenhouse gas emitters. Now that figure is considerably less. Maybe she could answer how many megatonnes are released into the atmosphere because major emitters like Brazil, India and China are not party to that agreement.
By contrast, our government stands for the creation of an international agreement which sees all major emitters coming to the table under international binding targets and stringent reporting mechanisms. This will ensure real action in the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions in contrast to her party's inaction in this area and unfortunate mismanagement.
The other thing I am curious to understand from her is this. She talked about the need for climate change adaptation, yet she and her party voted against our budgetary measures designed to support a transition to the climate change adaptation research into the field. She often talks in the House of Commons about the need to support scientists, yet these very fundamental budgetary measures to support research and action in this area are voted against by the Liberal Party. It is quite unfortunate.
By contrast, our government has a real action-focused plan. It is one that understands the need to both balance economic growth and environmental stewardship. We are approaching our greenhouse gas emissions targets in a very fundamental action-focused way by looking at regulations on a sector-by-sector approach.
We understand that the transportation sector is one which is a major cause of greenhouse gas emissions. We have started with regulations in that area. We are currently looking at the electricity sector, but I would note that Canada's electricity sector is one of the cleanest in the world, with over 75% of our electricity generated by non-carbon emitting sources. However, even in that we are looking at ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through a regulatory approach and we are looking at other regulations in other areas as well.
We are doing this in consultation with industry groups, affected stakeholders, communities and academia because our government understands both the need for action and the need to implement it, but also to do it in such a way that it does not detrimentally impact our economy.
We are proud of this balanced approach. It is something that we are hearing from Canadians. They understand the need for jobs and economic growth and to balance that within a strong environmental stewardship plan. We feel very strongly that the sector-by-sector regulatory approach takes that action.
Therefore, in the spirit of the good discussions that we had this afternoon in the environment committee, I would ask the member to look at the real action plan that we have, to get behind it and support some of our budgetary measures in these important areas.
Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON
Mr. Speaker, we had a plan which would get us 80% of the way to meeting Kyoto targets. The Conservative government killed that plan. As for adaptation, the government is now cutting the climate adaptation and impacts research group of which many of its scientists share part of the Nobel Prize.
We must refocus the climate change debate on humanity, human rights, climate justice and the personal rather than the anonymous faceless other. The most vulnerable countries understand that 2015 is already too late, that urgent action and a commitment to protect are required.
Canada's strong foreign service should be funnelling back climate change information to the government from their respective postings and should be inviting representatives of the government to witness climate change in their countries. The children of Bangladesh on the streets invite the government to taste climate change. It is salty, they explain, because salt water is already inundating their water supplies.
Michelle Rempel Calgary Centre-North, AB
Mr. Speaker, it is so unfortunate that my colleague opposite talks about cuts to climate change adaptation when her party does not even support the budgetary measures we put in place to fund these. I certainly hope she will support these in the future rather than talk about false cuts.
I also implore her one last time to get on board with our government's strong action-focused plan and the sector-by-sector regulatory approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to pursue an international binding agreement where all major emitters come to the table.
Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON
Mr. Speaker, this past December, I asked the Minister of State for Seniors a question about seniors' poverty in Canada. She said:
Seniors' poverty is something all Canadians should be concerned about.
Well, I agree. Yet a month later, her leader, the Prime Minister made an announcement in Davos, suggesting that changes to the OAS will involve either cuts or a change in age eligibility, or both, and that these cuts were coming down the pipe pretty soon. Along with the GIS, the OAS is our pension program to prevent seniors' poverty in Canada. Any cuts to it are cuts to benefits for the very poor. I am really unsure why the government wants to ask the poorest Canadians to take on the brunt of the planned budget cuts.
This money, OAS and GIS, is immediately reinvested into the economy. Seniors do not sit on their money. They spend it, every penny of it. Their spending helps create jobs and boosts our economy.
Clearly, the money to invest in OAS is readily available. The Parliamentary Budget Officer and the OECD have told us this very clearly. We have the money to lift seniors out of poverty in the present, and the money to address additional expenses the government will face in the future as our population continues to age.
Instead of investing in Canada, the Conservatives have chosen to saddle the treasury and Canadians with corporate tax giveaways that will not guarantee a single job.
The government's talking points suggest that income and pension splitting will help alleviate poverty for seniors. It is not true. Pension splitting benefits only those lucky enough to have adequate pension, not unattached Canadians nor the seniors who rely on the OAS and GIS to make ends meet. The government also trumpets the recent increase to the GIS, but the sad fact remains: it was less than half the amount needed to truly raise every senior out of poverty.
The billions of dollars trumpeted by the government in investment in affordable housing is actually $1.4 billion in total for the entire country. That is not enough. That number is a combination of federal, provincial and territorial money, not the total spending of the federal program. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that this money will even be spent. Provinces have to match the federal dollars. If they do not initiate the project, the housing will not be built.
The government's arguments do not make sense. This frightens me because it leads in exactly the wrong direction.
Seniors represent one of the fastest growing populations in Canada today. The number of seniors in Canada is projected to increase from 4.2 million in 2005 to 9.8 million by 2036. With so many seniors retiring in the coming years, we need a social safety net in place that will prevent dramatic increases in poverty. We need investment in seniors, investment in affordable and appropriate housing, long-term care, home care and pharmacare. This will boost our economy and save money in the long term while it protects our seniors.
I want to repeat my question from December, and I hope that the member is able to give a better answer than before.
There is an elderly couple in Toronto. She has asthma and bronchitis. He has Parkinson's. They can barely make ends meet. In fact, they just won a contest because of the depth of their needs. However, there are no winners here. Three hundred thousand seniors live in poverty. The government offers no help. Seniors should not have to turn to a contest just to keep their heads above water.
When will the government stop ignoring seniors and actually start helping them?
Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for London—Fanshawe for raising the important issue of supporting seniors, something we as a government strongly believe in.
Canadians can be rightfully proud of the achievements we have made together as a country, bringing down the incidents of low income among seniors. From 1980 to 2009, we have seen those rates drop from 20% to 5%.
Seniors are more than a demographic element or statistic. They are neighbours, mentors, friends, family members and trusted colleagues, like Isobel and Bill McDougall, in my home of Creemore, or Dr. Jack Crawford, in Collingwood. These are fellow Canadians, and their valuable contributions have helped to build a stronger Canada.
Our government is committed to ensuring seniors have the highest possible quality of life. Through budget 2011, we introduced a new guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit to help the most vulnerable of those seniors. The change represents the largest increase in GIS for the lowest income seniors in a quarter century. The new measure is further improving the financial security of more than 680,000 seniors across Canada.
We increased the GIS in 2006 and in 2007, for a total of 7% over and above the regular indexation, while also introducing automatic renewals for seniors.
In budget 2008, we increased the GIS earnings exemption from $500 to $3,500 to allow working low-income seniors to earn extra money while they are working.
We have also provided $2.3 billion annually in additional tax relief to seniors and pensioners, achieving this through pension income splitting, as well as increasing the age credit.
Our government has been working hard to reinforce sustainability of our retirement income programs, as well as enhancing seniors' quality of life, not just today but in ways that will be sustainable for Canadian seniors in the future. These are mutually inclusive goals, and both of these goals must be met.
Challenges lie ahead. The number of Canadians over the age of 65 will double in the next two decades. That means that the number of old age security pension beneficiaries is expected to grow from 4.7 million to more than 9.3 million in 2030. While today there are four workers for every person over 65, by 2030 there will be only two to one. A smaller number of working taxpayers will be supporting a much larger number of OAS recipients.
Will they be able to carry this load? Is it fair to them? That is the question, and one must be upfront and deal with this important issue now. This has to be done in a responsible way that gives everyone time to plan and adjust.
Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON
Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the member did not hear a single word I said. It is just the same old rhetoric and the same misinformation.
I have been travelling across the country, listening to what seniors have to say, and they have lots to say. They are not impressed with the Conservatives. They want their pensions protected. They want to retire in dignity, and they want their children to have a chance at the dignified retirement that they wish for themselves. They do not like the path the government is taking.
Investing in our seniors is smart, economically sensible and humane and has everything to do with how we should behave and nothing to do with what the government is perpetrating on the seniors of Canada.
Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, ON
Mr. Speaker, the member for London—Fanshawe should know that this year Canadians will receive close to $72 billion in benefits through the Canada pension plan, as well as the old age security programs and the GIS. It is true that these benefits do not come automatically. Older Canadians have to apply for them. That is why we have taken steps to inform Canadians about their eligibility for these benefits through the application process.
Through HRSDC and Service Canada, our government uses direct mail, information campaigns and partnerships with community organizations to reach out to seniors to tell them about their eligibility for OAS and GIS. Some of these efforts are aimed at seniors who are particularly hard to reach. These could include people who live in remote areas, immigrants, aboriginal seniors, seniors with disabilities or those who do not speak either English or French.
More than 600,000 application forms are issued to Canadian seniors not yet receiving CPP or OAS to encourage them to apply. Every year, mail-outs of thousands of pre-filled applications to people who qualify for the GIS are completed. Most GIS recipients only need to apply once and then it will happen automatically for their renewal. We are making great efforts in order to make sure low-income seniors are informed about their benefits.
Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand in this House this evening, but I am not pleased with the subject that we have to discuss. It is of great concern to me and it is of great concern to the people of eastern Canada, the Gaspé and the Atlantic region.
On March 1, I asked the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans a question concerning fleet separation and owner-operator policies, looking at the massive input that this has to our economy in Atlantic Canada. All I wanted the minister to do was to assure us that he would ensure that these policies remained in place, that the fishermen remained independent and that they would be able to own their own fleets.
The minister basically said he was going to consult with fishermen or had consulted with fishermen. I have travelled for the last number of weeks and I have not met many fishermen who have been consulted.
The owner-operator policy was put in place by the Hon. Roméo LeBlanc, the greatest minister of fisheries that this House has ever seen. He understood what owner-operator and fleet separation policies were all about. Fleet separation just means that one cannot own the fleet and process the product. It means that one does not own everything. It means one does not have control of everything in the sea and everything on the land.
Owner-operator means, simply, that one owns the boat and goes out and fishes.
That is the basic livelihood, that is what keeps our small communities in Atlantic Canada and the Gaspé in Quebec alive. If they were to lose this, it would be quite devastating.
In the last number of weeks, I have travelled across Atlantic Canada. My good friend, the member for Papineau, who happens to be the son of one of the greatest prime ministers in this country who was the prime minister with the Hon. Roméo LeBlanc, met with a number of fisheries groups. He also met with the fisheries policy dialogue in Chelsea, Quebec. They have the same concerns as all the fishermen I had met across Atlantic Canada. Their concern is that they have something that is quite valuable, that is going to be more valuable, and that the government could take it from the fishermen, take it from the communities, and give it to the corporate sector.
He also met with the professional fisheries alliance in Quebec. It also was very concerned.
The minister spoke about young people not being involved in the fishery. I met with fisheries groups in a number of different places in Newfoundland. There were people in the room who were yelling, young men and young women. Sure, there were also some white heads. It was the same in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I met with a lot of fisheries groups.
Last Sunday, I attended the MFU's annual meeting. Though some members talked of the MFU supporting looking at this, the MFU made it quite clear that it fully opposed discussing the owner-operator and fleet separation policies. This is not on the table for it to discuss. It does not feel that the government should take from the fishermen and give to the corporate sector.
I only hope that the parliamentary secretary, for whom I have respect, will confirm that these policies will remain in place.
Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission
Randy Kamp Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway
Mr. Speaker, we have heard a lot of opinions with respect DFO's policies in recent days, some from my hon. friend from Cardigan. I am not here to say whether I agree or disagree with these policies but to say that we need to be able to have a discussion about these things. I am not alone in this position. In the words of the respected host of The Fisheries Broadcast in Newfoundland, John Furlong, it is time to have “Discussion without fear of recrimination”.
We have heard a broad spectrum of views and many people have expressed how important it is to understand the origins of these policies. My colleague has mentioned this as well, but allow me to provide a bit more background on both the owner operator and fleet separation policies to which he has referred.
The fleet separation policy was introduced in the Atlantic inshore fishery in the 1970s. Basically, it states that corporations and processing companies may not be issued new fishing licences. Originally, the purpose was to separate the harvesting sector from the processing sector to help prevent any one group from controlling the supply chain. The owner operator policy was introduced in the 1980s to address an imbalance that emerged from the fleet separation policy. This policy requires licence holders to be onboard the vessel to personally fish the licence. It was designed to support the individually operated inshore fleet.
These policies have evolved over time in response to specific requests. Many rules have been adapted over time to allow for exemptions. This has led to regional variations that complicate the administrative process and may create unfair advantages. Thus across the country we can find these policies displayed in many different ways. In British Columbia, for example, neither of these policies are in place. However, in Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, a fisherman can get a 120-day exemption from the owner operator policy, allowing someone else to operate his vessel. Perhaps he is sick during that period. In the Maritimes region, the exemption only permits 30 days. As another example, in some cases processors were providing capital to harvesters in order to secure a supply of fish, and in some cases trust agreements did indeed put the control and decisions in the hands of the processors.
As a result of all these changes, another policy was introduced in 2007 to preserve the independence of inshore harvesters and strengthen the owner operator and fleet separation policies. Last year, the fleet separation policy was further amended to allow wholly owned corporations to hold fishing licences. Accordingly, these policies have developed and evolved over the years.
Typically with every rule and policy that has been adopted over time, exemptions have had to be adopted to provide the flexibility that harvesters need to manage their business. Therefore, to be clear, our review is not focused solely on the owner operator and fleet separation policies, though we recognize their importance to many harvesters in the Atlantic. These policies and others are complex and need to be considered in today's context to see if they remain effective in the face of fluctuating resources and changing market conditions. The purpose of our current work is not to arbitrarily remove or support policies but to see where there are unnecessary complexities and inefficiencies that exist, and to identify barriers to improved economic prosperity for fishers. I hope the hon. member would agree with that goal.
It is for these reasons that we went out to speak with Canadians with an open mind to hear their views on what works and what does not. Now we are going to consider the feedback we received, through in-depth and objective analysis, which will allow us to better understand the issues.
Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE
Mr. Speaker, I am very disappointed with what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans had to say. Consulting, I would think, means talking to people. It means talking to people in the industry.
I have travelled all through Atlantic Canada. My colleague from Papineau travelled through the Gaspé and Quebec. None of them have talked to anyone in government, but it is funny because the corporate sector knows all about this. The corporate sector knows very well that the inshore fishermen in eastern Canada have something valuable and the corporate sector wants it, and I am fearful that the government is going to give it to them.
Why would they destroy the economy? I have had the privilege to work for 23 years in the riding of Cardigan to help provide economic development. Why in one swoop would they destroy the economic development of the whole east coast of Canada? Why?