House of Commons Hansard #135 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was centre.

Topics

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

9:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The House will have noticed that I voted twice on the last motion. I apologize for my bipolar voting condition. I would like to have myself recorded as voting against this particular motion.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member voted twice. It has been the practice that when a member votes twice, he then indicates which way he meant to vote. In this case he has indicated that he meant to vote against. That is how it has been when a member gets up on both the yeas and the nays.

(The House divided on the amendment:)

Vote #272

And the result of the vote having been announced: Yeas: 144; Nays: 144

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Since there is an equality of voices, it has been the tradition that at second reading the Speaker votes in favour of a motion at second reading, so I will declare the motion carried.

Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House resumed from June 5 consideration of the motion.

Governor General
Private Members' Business

10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on Motion No. 313 under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #273

Governor General
Private Members' Business

10:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Fisheries and Oceans
Adjournment Proceedings

10:10 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, these adjournment proceedings are normally called the late show, but I think we are into the late, late show tonight. However, I do want to put a question to the minister's representative here tonight on what are known in the industry as “fleet separation” and “owner-operator” policies.

I have a very simple definition for anybody unfamiliar with the terms. The fleet separation policy prevents a company from both catching and processing seafood. In others words, a company could do one or the other, but not both. The owner-operator policy requires that the fishing licence holder catch the fish.

It is not that complicated if one understands the industry. However, they are immensely important policies to the practitioners of the fishing industry, meaning the fishermen in the boats, the owners of fishing licences, and the men and women who engage in the fishery.

These policies of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are not written into law or even regulation, which is a detriment. They apply to the east coast fisheries, but not to the west coast.

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans engaged in what he called a “consultation process” recently, suggesting that there should be some discussion about these policies. This was taken immediately as a threat, and I think rightly so, by the fishing industry and participants in the owner-operator policy, because the minister released a document in February called “Preserving the Independence of the Inshore Fleet in Canada's Atlantic Fisheries”.

It was called a “discussion document”, but it opened up the floodgates and suspicions, because there is a group in the Atlantic, the industry companies, that want to see that change.

The minister's thoughts are on “modernizing the fishery”. This is code in the Atlantic for turning over the fishing licences, catches and quotas to individual transferable quotas, which would be the end of the independence of the fishers in Atlantic Canada. This is what the fishers themselves say.

The industry participants brought together some 30 to 35 organizations and groups throughout Atlantic Canada and Quebec to respond to that document.

Their response, dated March 20, makes it very clear that they are unhappy with the government in bringing this forward. It is contrary to the agreed-upon participation in any review of policy, and they condemn it. They said that the approach taken by the minister was a perfect example of the top-down, centrally controlled, non-transparent and manipulative policy process that the department said it would move away from.

After significant analysis, the first recommendation they made was that legal entrenchment of the owner-operator and fleet separation policies should take place.

I want to know whether the minister is prepared to follow what the legislatures of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the opposition parties have said. Will the minister commit to keeping these fleet separation and owner-operator policies?

Fisheries and Oceans
Adjournment Proceedings

10:15 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

Mr. Speaker, indeed, we have heard a lot of opinions on these two policies, and on a number of others as well. I am not here to say whether I agree or disagree, or the minister agrees or disagrees, with what he is saying. However, I am saying we need to be able to have a discussion on these issues. I am not alone in this position. In the words of the host of The Fisheries Broadcast in Newfoundland, John Furlong, it is time to have a discussion without fear of recrimination. I hope he agrees with that.

In fact, we have heard a broad spectrum of views and many people have impressed the importance of reviewing the origins of policies.

My colleague has defined the terms “owner-operator” and “fleet separation”. However, let me provide a bit more and perhaps a bit of history on it, as well.

The fleet separation policy was introduced in the Atlantic fishery in the 1970s. 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 actually emerged from the fleet separation policy. This policy requires licence holders to be on board the vessel to personally fish the licence. It was designed to support the individually operated inshore fleet, as my colleague has said.

These policies have evolved over time in response to specific requests. Many rules have been adopted over time to allow for exemptions. This has led to regional variances that complicate the administrative process and may create unfair advantages. For example, in Newfoundland and Labrador, a fisherman can get a 120-day exemption from the owner-operator policy, allowing someone else to operate his vessel. In the Maritimes region, the initial exemption only permits 30 days.

Another example is, in some cases, processors were providing capital to harvesters in order to secure a supply of fish. In some cases, trust agreements did indeed put control and decisions in the hands of the processors.

As a result, 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. There has been some evolution of these two policies.

Typically, with every rule and policy that has been adopted over time, exceptions or exemptions have had to be adopted to provide the flexibility that harvesters need to properly manage their business.

To be clear, our consultations were not focused solely on the owner-operator and fleet separation policies, though we recognize their importance to harvesters in the Atlantic.

These policies, and others, are complex, often with inconsistencies between fisheries and regions. They need to be considered in today's context to see if they remain effective in the face of fluctuating resources and changing market conditions.

We continue to believe that the fisheries can, and should, contribute more to the Canadian economy and generate more wealth for those who work in it. We are always looking for ways to give industry the tools it needs to operate in an environment that is more sustainable, stable, and economically prosperous.

The purpose of the work that we are doing in the consultations and continued review is not to arbitrarily remove policies, but to see where unnecessary complexities and inefficiencies exist and question barriers for improved economic prosperity for fishers.

It is for these reasons that the minister and his officials went out to speak with Canadians with an open mind to hear their views on what works and what does not. Now we are considering the feedback we have received through in-depth and objective analysis. This will allow us to better understand the issues and know the best way forward.

Fisheries and Oceans
Adjournment Proceedings

10:20 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I agree that there will be a need for some flexibility and some change.

The main concern has been the failure, and we see it here again today, of the minister and the political leadership of the department to affirm these policies and to guarantee the independence of the core fishing enterprises--fleet separation and owner-operator policies are designed to maintain that--and not to have what happened in British Columbia with the individual transferable quotas. That is what is being feared.

The minister and the department must say, “We will maintain these policies. We will give them legislative status or regulatory status.” Then we can talk about the details that might need to be adjusted.

However, what has happened here is that the whole shebang has been put on the table, without any sense that the protection of this $400 million industry in the hands of independent fishing enterprises is going to be maintained. That is the fear. That is why these legislatures have supported these policies and want the Government of Canada to maintain those policies to protect those fishermen and their communities.

Fisheries and Oceans
Adjournment Proceedings

10:20 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, it seems to me if one takes the approach that the member is suggesting, then the consultation is a farce.

The minister said the fishermen agreed with us that this should be a prosperous, sustainable, stable industry. He asked if there were any polices that they had difficulty with that should be changed to allow a more prosperous future where they can survive and thrive.

If the member thinks that every fisherman in Atlantic Canada who contributed to this particular issue wants to maintain these two policies, then he is mistaken. There are two views on this and the minister is considering them both and then we will move forward.

Division on Private Member's Motion No. 313
Adjournment Proceedings

10:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Before we proceed further with adjournment proceedings I would like to bring to the attention of the House that there was an error in the announcement of the vote result of the last recorded division on Motion No. 313 in respect of the Governor General. The correct result in fact is 141 for and 147 against. Therefore, I declare the motion negatived. On behalf of the Table, I apologize for this error.

The hon. member for Dartmouth--Cole Harbour.

Fisheries and Oceans
Adjournment Proceedings

10:20 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise tonight and talk a bit more about the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' policy on owner-operator fleet separation.

My colleague, the member for St. John's East, was on his feet a moment ago raising some of the concerns that we have about where the government is going. He referred to the report that the minister put out which talked about modernizing the fishery and asking for people to provide input.

Part of the concern that folks in the industry where I come from had with this is that there was no mention whatsoever in the report about the owner-operator fleet separation policy. The report was silent in fact. Some people were taken aback by this. It was only after some of the sectors began talking with one another that they recognized what seemed to be going on. They forced the government to extend its consultation period by at least another week so that they would have the opportunity to provide some comments. People in the industry have said to me that they want the government to back off making any decision on the owner-operator fleet separation policy until there has been some clear consultation on the policy itself before it moves forward.

I want to say a couple of things about why I believe this policy is so important.

The inshore fishery, dominated by the owner-operator fleet separation policy, is the largest and most productive sector in the fish harvesting industry in this country. As it has moved over the past 20 years from a predominantly groundfish base to a more shellfish base and higher landing values, the inshore fishery has become by far the most valuable and the most successful fishery in this country.

The fishery supports over 1,000 communities throughout Atlantic Canada and Quebec. Many of us on this side of the House and people throughout that region are concerned that this move to get rid of the policy will result, as it did on the west coast, in greater concentration not only in ownership but also in control of the fishery and the people who work on those vessels. We are concerned that it will be concentrated in larger centres and in the hands of people who have absolutely no connection with the fishery in terms of harvesting methods, in terms of conservation and in terms of how the industry moves forward from here on in. That is the issue.

Would the parliamentary secretary not agree that the department has to back off and engage in an open and transparent dialogue with the industry before it moves further in this direction to change the owner-operator fleet separation policy?