An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.


Dominic LeBlanc  Liberal


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Fisheries Act to, among other things,
(a) require that, when making a decision under that Act, the Minister shall consider any adverse effects that the decision may have on the rights of the Indigenous peoples of Canada recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, include provisions respecting the consideration and protection of Indigenous knowledge of the Indigenous peoples of Canada, and authorize the making of agreements with Indigenous governing bodies to further the purpose of the Fisheries Act;
(b) add a purpose clause and considerations for decision-making under that Act;
(c) empower the Minister to establish advisory panels and to set fees, including for the provision of regulatory processes;
(d) provide measures for the protection of fish and fish habitat with respect to works, undertakings or activities that may result in the death of fish or the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat, including in ecologically significant areas, as well as measures relating to the modernization of the regulatory framework such as authorization of projects, establishment of standards and codes of practice, creation of fish habitat banks by a proponent of a project and establishment of a public registry;
(e) empower the Governor in Council to make new regulations, including regulations respecting the rebuilding of fish stocks and importation of fish;
(f) empower the Minister to make regulations for the purposes of the conservation and protection of marine biodiversity;
(g) empower the Minister to make fisheries management orders prohibiting or limiting fishing for a period of 45 days to address a threat to the proper management and control of fisheries and the conservation and protection of fish;
(h) prohibit the fishing of a cetacean with the intent to take it into captivity, unless authorized by the Minister, including when the cetacean is injured, in distress or in need of care; and
(i) update and strengthen enforcement powers, as well as establish an alternative measures agreements regime; and
(j) provide for the implementation of various measures relating to the maintenance or rebuilding of fish stocks.
The enactment also makes consequential amendments to other Acts.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


June 17, 2019 Passed Motion respecting Senate amendments to Bill C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence
June 17, 2019 Failed Motion respecting Senate amendments to Bill C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence (amendment)
June 13, 2018 Passed Concurrence at report stage of Bill C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence
June 13, 2018 Failed Bill C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence (report stage amendment)
June 11, 2018 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence
April 16, 2018 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence
March 26, 2018 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 10:05 a.m.
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Beauséjour New Brunswick


Dominic LeBlanc LiberalMinister of Fisheries

moved that Bill C-68, an act to amend the Fisheries Act and other acts in consequence, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is a great privilege for me to speak in the House of Commons on this important legislation. You, Mr. Speaker, are a former minister of fisheries and oceans yourself and will understand the significance of the Fisheries Act in communities like the ones you and I represent, so it is a privilege for me to have this opportunity to stand in the House.

Canada is uniquely blessed with an abundance of freshwater and marine coastal areas that are both ecologically significant and linked to the economic prosperity of Canadians. Our government knows that we have a responsibility to steward these resources for future generations while maintaining economic opportunities for many people and communities who depend on them.

In my mandate letter, the Prime Minister asked me to restore lost protections and incorporate modern safeguards into the Fisheries Act. In 2012, the government got rid of a number of fish habitat protection measures without engaging indigenous peoples, fishers, scientists, conservation groups, coastal communities, or the general public in any meaningful way and without their support. What made that decision even more unacceptable was the fact that the changes were buried in a 430-page omnibus bill in the hope they would slip by unnoticed. Canadians definitely noticed.

Indigenous and environmental groups were especially concerned with changes made to the act and rightly perceived those amendments as weakening what should be of shared concern for Canadians: the protection of fish and fish habitat. Industry partners were thrust into uncertainty with regard to their responsibilities under the act.

Our government has worked and consulted with a broad range of Canadians, and we encouraged everyone to be part of this important conversation. Provinces, environmental groups, fishers associations, indigenous groups, and thousands of Canadians helped shape the amendments currently before the House of Commons.

The proposed amendments to Bill C-68 are part of the government's broader strategy to review environmental and regulatory processes and cover several key themes, including partnership with indigenous peoples; supporting planning and integrated management; enhancing regulation and enforcement; improving partnerships and collaboration, including with industry; and monitoring and reporting back to Canadians.

The Fisheries Act is one of Canada's oldest pieces of legislation. It was enacted shortly after Confederation. It has been amended very little since that time, which is why it needs to be updated and modernized. To that effect, Bill C-68 adds new provisions dealing with the objectives and considerations that must be examined in the decision-making process under the act. The proposed objectives seek to create a proper management and control framework for fisheries and the conservation and protection of fish and fish habitat, particularly through pollution prevention.

The new considerations under these amendments are designed to clearly guide the responsibility of a minister of fisheries and oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard when making decisions under the act. Bill C-68 proposes amendments that would restore protections for fish and fish habitat to ensure that these protections apply to all fish. We are reintroducing the prohibition against the harmful alteration, disruption, or destruction of fish habitat, as well as the prohibition against the death of fish by means other than fishing.

We are also introducing measures that would allow for the better management of projects that may be harmful to fish or fish habitat through a new permitting scheme for big projects and codes of practice for smaller ones, so that industry partners, as well as everyday Canadians, can be certain about their responsibilities but not unreasonably burdened when undertaking small, local projects.

In the past, uncertainty in the act has caused some uncertainty among project proponents with respect to their obligations and responsibilities. The proposed amendments create regulatory authorities that will make it possible to establish a list of designated projects, including the commitments and activities that will still require a licence.

Our goal is to streamline these processes, and we will be engaging with provinces and territories as well as indigenous peoples and stakeholders to decide which kinds of projects should be on the designated project list.

We are also formalizing the creation of a proponent-led habitat banking regime. Habitat banking is an international best practice for offsetting project impacts where a freshwater or marine area is created, restored, or enhanced by working to improve fish habitat in advance of a project's impact.

Habitat loss and degradation as well as changes to fish passage and flow are all contributing to the decline of freshwater and marine fish habitats in Canada today. It is imperative that Canada restore degraded fish habitats. That is why amendments to the Fisheries Act propose requiring the consideration of restoration as part of project decision-making.

These amendments provide clearer, stronger, and easier rules to establish and manage ecologically significant areas and provide stand-alone regulations to protect sensitive or important fish habitats. Given the important ecological characteristics of sensitive areas, certain types of work and activities may be prohibited and others may be identified as being subject to a special information gathering under a new authorization regime.

During the review of the 2012 changes to the Fisheries Act, we heard over and over again about the need to improve access to information on government activities related to the protection of fish and fish habitat. Indigenous communities, industry associations, environmental groups, universities, and my colleagues on the House of Commons standing committee all talked about the importance of transparency in the decision-making process under the act.

In order to re-establish public confidence, we are proposing amendments to establish a public registry, which would be available online. By enabling greater transparency, the registry would allow Canadians to hold the government to account in its federal decision-making with regard to fish and their habitat.

Fisheries resources and aquatic habitats have important social, cultural, and economic significance for many indigenous peoples. The respect for the rights of indigenous peoples as well as taking into account their unique interests and aspirations in fisheries-related economic opportunities and the protection of fish and fish habitat are important means of renewing our relationship with indigenous peoples.

For instance, the Fisheries Act is being amended to require the minister to consider any potential adverse effects resulting from decisions the minister might make in accordance with the rights of Canada's indigenous peoples, as set out in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

In addition, our government recognizes the importance of the traditional knowledge of Canada's indigenous peoples in sound decision-making regarding fish and fish habitat.

Indigenous peoples across Canada, and other Canadians from coast to coast to coast, can rest assured that the government will act to protect the confidential traditional knowledge that indigenous people would share with the government under the provisions of this legislation.

Many indigenous communities are in close proximity to areas where projects that may affect fish and fish habitat are proposed, and many communities see new roles for themselves in how these decisions are made.

We have proposed long-overdue amendments that would provide for the making of agreements with indigenous governing bodies to further the purposes of the act, as we have done in the past with provinces and territories.

There are currently no legislative or regulatory requirements in place with respect to the rebuilding of depleted fish stocks.

The commissioner of environment and sustainable development, as well as our colleagues on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, have recommended that any revisions to the Fisheries Act should include direction for the restoration and recovery of fish habitat and fish stocks.

Environmental groups have also called on the government to adopt measures aimed at the rebuilding of depleted fish stocks within the Fisheries Act. This is why we are proposing amendments that would require decisions affecting a stock in the critical zone to consider whether there are measures in place aimed at rebuilding that stock, and, when a minister is of the opinion that habitat degradation is a cause of the decline of the stock, whether measures are in place to restore such habitat.

This positive obligation on governments and greater transparency, we believe are essential to strengthening the Fisheries Act.

We also heard Canadians' views on other important issues related to the Fisheries Act. Although the number of aquariums that keep cetaceans in captivity for public display has fallen overall, this is still a sensitive issue that Canadians are deeply concerned about.

Our government recognizes that it is now wrong to capture these magnificent creatures for public display. Consequently, we are proposing amendments to the Fisheries Act that would prohibit the capture of a cetacean when the intent is to bring it into captivity, except in circumstances where the cetacean is injured, in distress, or in need of rehabilitation.

The Senate has, for a long time, done good work in respect to this important issue. I want to salute former Senator Wilfred Moore of Nova Scotia and others in the Senate who have continued to press this important issue in the minds of Canadians.

Some 72,000 Canadians make their living from fishing and fishing-related activities. Most of them, including self-employed inshore harvesters, are part of Canada's growing middle class. In many places across Atlantic Canada and Quebec, the fishery is the economic, social, and cultural heart of communities. As the fisheries minister, one of my duties is to ensure that these important traditions endure. However, threats remain to this way of life. Fish harvesters, particularly in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, have told us time and again that they need greater protection for their economic security, and they need help to ensure their economic independence.

It was clear to me that these important policies, like the owner-operator and fleet separation policies, were being circumvented by controlling agreements, which threaten the independence of the inshore and midshore fleets by removing the control of licences from individual harvesters to larger corporate interests. The amendments we are proposing would entrench existing inshore policies into law, with all the legal enforcement power required to protect small coastal communities and independent inshore harvesters.

I stand firm in supporting the economic and cultural fabric of these coastal communities. Our government has recognized that a licensing regime that supports independent inshore harvesters is critical to the economic livelihood of these communities and the families and Canadians who depend on them.

As I said, we looked at ways to strengthen the independence of the inshore sector and enforce the act more robustly. That is why we are proposing amendments that enshrine a specific power in the Fisheries Act, rather than a policy, in order to develop regulations that support the independence of inshore commercial licence holders. The amendments proposed today would entrench into law the power to make regulations on owner-operator and fleet separation policies in Atlantic Canada and Quebec.

In so doing, this act helps to protect middle-class jobs in our coastal communities by ensuring that present and future fisheries and oceans ministers may consider the preservation and promotion of the independence of licence-holders in commercial inshore fisheries in the decision-making process.

I want to thank a number of organizations that have played a key role in these amendments with respect to owner-operator and fleet separation. The FFAW, the Maritime Fishermen's Union, le Regroupement des pêcheurs professionnels de homard du sud de la Gaspésie, the Gulf Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board, the Prince Edward Island Fishermen's Association, and the Canadian Independent Fish Harvester's Federation have been instrumental in this important work.

Fishing can be a dangerous occupation, involving many risks not only for fish harvesters, but for the marine environment as well.

With the unprecedented death of 12 North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence from June to September last year, we know that Canadians expect prompt and urgent action by their government. This is why we are proposing amendments to the Fisheries Act that provide a new fisheries management order power to establish quick and targeted fisheries management measures. These measures will be used for 45-day increments where there is a recognizable threat to the conservation and protection of our marine ecosystems. The proposed fisheries management order power is meant to address emerging issues when a fishery is already under way and when time-sensitive and targeted measures are also paramount.

In my mandate letter, I was asked by the Prime Minister to increase the proportion of Canada's marine and coastal areas that are protected to 5% by the end of 2017, and to 10% by 2020, which is the target we are now on track to achieve. I am pleased to report to the House that we have not only achieved our 2017 target, but we will continue to work diligently to ensure that we surpass the 10% commitment through the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.

To help us fulfill these international commitments and obligations, we are proposing amendments to the Fisheries Act that provide ministerial authority to make regulations to establish long-term spatial restrictions to fishing activities under the act specifically for the purpose of conserving and protecting marine biodiversity.

We are also proposing amendments that will strengthen the act. During the many public engagement sessions that were held, Canadians made it clear that they wanted to see more fishery officers, conservation officers, and patrols, as well as more offenders being caught and punished.

To incorporate modern protection mechanisms into the act, some amendments are being proposed to clarify, strengthen, and modernize enforcement powers under the act, for example by empowering fishery officers to intercept any vessel or vehicle and require it to be moved to a place where an inspection can be carried out.

The proposed amendments also seek to increase the authority of the courts with respect to seizure and forfeiture under the act, and allow the use of alternative measure agreements to address certain contraventions.

As I mentioned earlier, the Fisheries Act is one of the oldest and most important environmental laws in Canada. It was passed in 1868, just one year after Confederation, and did not change much until the late 1970s, when habitat protection provisions were first added by one of my predecessors, who, coincidentally, was my father, Roméo LeBlanc.

Then, as now, the act remains a model among Canada's environmental laws. That is why we have ensured the amendments we have introduced to the Fisheries Act include updated and modern tools that are the hallmarks found in other environmental legislation. We are proposing modern provisions such as the power to create advisory panels, fee-setting authorities, and provisions respecting the collection of information.

I consider myself privileged to stand in this House, as my father did in 1977, to introduce amendments to the Fisheries Act that served his generation. I hope that this new modernized act will live up to my father's legacy and do for our generation what he and the previous Parliament did for theirs.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 10:25 a.m.
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Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Madam Speaker, in reverting to the old way of doing things under the old Fisheries Act, as the minister is doing, I want to remind the minister of the 2009 report of the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development. She concluded that Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment Canada cannot demonstrate that fish habitat are being adequately protected, as the Fisheries Act requires. Therefore, the minister is clearly going back to a failed model.

In response to the new Fisheries Act, the Canadian Electricity Association had this to say, “In practical terms, this means that virtually any action, without prior authorization, could be construed as being in contravention of this Act. Consequently, the reinstatement of these measures will result in greater uncertainties for existing and new facilities, and unduly delay and/or discourage investment in energy projects that directly support Canada’s clean growth agenda..”.

As a result of all of these things that the Liberals are doing to lengthen and make our processes more complicated, Steve Williams, the Suncor CEO, said that Suncor would shun major new projects amid Canada's difficult regulatory environment.

Why is the minister using this act to kill middle-class jobs?

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 10:30 a.m.
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Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Madam Speaker, it will come as no surprise that I do not share my hon. colleague's opinion that the government it trying to kill middle-class jobs.

In fact, we believe that these amendments will support the Canadian economy, by first of all protecting jobs that are dependent on inshore and midshore fisheries in Atlantic Canada and Quebec. It is a critical part of ensuring that the economy of that part of the country is protected.

With respect to the specific comments my colleague made, precisely because we want to ensure that Canadians are able to fulfill their obligations under the Fisheries Act, we have decided to have a code of best practice policy for the kind of projects my colleague referred to, such as with the electrical associations. These Canadians have told us they want to comply with the Fisheries Act, want to ensure they are not damaging fish and fish habitat, but they want a regime that allows them to be compliant and does not overly burden them like some of the scare tactics we have heard in the past. Our policy achieves exactly that balance.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 10:30 a.m.
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Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the minister and his team for bringing this overdue legislation to the Fisheries Act and modernizing it. One of the concerns I have is that this was not brought forward sooner. It was promised in the last election, and we wanted to see that soon after the 2015 election. However, two years later, we are here.

I am also very pleased to see that there is a focus on rebuilding plans in this act. This is a very positive move forward. We hope it is followed up with strong regulations to ensure that those plans have the needed teeth.

One thing we are disappointed to see, on the NDP side, is that salmon aquaculture is left with that conflicting mandate of conservation, and promotion of that industry that is harming our wild salmon. As well, there is no inclusion of environmental flows for fish. The minister mentioned strengthening owner-operator provisions for the inshore fleet on the east coast and Quebec, but was there any consideration for bringing that same focus on the west coast of British Columbia in Canada?

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 10:30 a.m.
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Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Port Moody—Coquitlam for the work he and colleagues did on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. We think that the 32 recommendations they made are largely incorporated into the amendments we are proposing in this legislation. We obviously look forward to working with him and other colleagues on the committee.

I share his sense of impatience. I wish we had been at this stage some months ago. However, we thought it was important to consult with Canadians and listen carefully to what people had to say in order to benefit from the best advice we could get from partners, provinces, indigenous and environmental groups, and associations representing fishers. We took time to get it right. I look forward to working with my colleague from Port Moody—Coquitlam and other members, if they think there are ways to improve, amend, or strengthen the legislation. We would obviously welcome those suggestions and look forward to that process.

He referred to the owner-operator circumstance on the west coast. We understand that this is a permissive part of the legislation. In Atlantic Canada, these policies have existed successfully for a long time. I have heard people on the west coast say they want to have that conversation, and we would obviously be open to talking to the industry and harvesters on the west coast to see how these successful policies could also benefit communities there.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 10:35 a.m.
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Bobby Morrissey Liberal Egmont, PE

Madam Speaker, this new Fisheries Act has been well received on the east coast by fishers, particularly the protection it will afford to the owner-operator, which goes to the heart of our inshore fishery in Atlantic Canada.

One of the issues there is concern on is that there is a hint of rescinding or transferring licences to new holders after a fixed period of time. Inshore fishers work for years to pay off the debt attached to their vessels, licences, and gear. They rightly see those assets as their only pension plan for their future.

Could the minister elaborate on whether he is anticipating any changes that would impact on the ability of those inshore fishers to transfer their licences and receive remuneration for that?

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 10:35 a.m.
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Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Egmont for his question, and also for his understanding and his advocacy in this important work.

The Prince Edward Island Fishermen's Association has spoken to me a number of times about how lucky it is to have an advocate of his experience standing up for fishers and for that industry, which is so important in his province and for Atlantic Canada. It is a privilege to work with my colleague.

I had made some comments at a speech in Nova Scotia last summer. Some particular interests have distorted those comments in the subsequent period. In no way is there a plan or a desire on the part of the government to prevent the transfer of these licences that, as my colleague has noted, have successfully allowed for retirement planning, financial planning, and intergenerational transfers amongst harvesters. This is something we want to encourage.

What I did ask last summer, and I feel that we need to have this conversation, was how we could work with these harvesters and these communities to help support this intergenerational transfer. The cost of these licences in some cases is becoming prohibitive. Are there financing mechanisms that can be looked at, where the independence of these harvesters can be preserved, while at the same time encouraging this important transfer that my colleague referred to?

I will do anything I can to work with harvesters to support that.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 10:35 a.m.
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Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the minister, particularly for his evoking the memory of Roméo LeBlanc. I am proud to have his signature on my commission as an officer in the Canadian Forces in my office, and he is welcome to come see it. I had the privilege of serving on some fishery patrols when I was in the air force and on HMCS St. John's.

My question for the minister is on fishery patrols. In light of the fact that Canada lost its auxiliary oiler replenishment vessels, the Preserver and the Protecteur, we do not have the ability to replenish at sea for our navy or our Coast Guard vessels involved in fishery.

Fortunately, a plan to fix that gap was planned with the Asterix ship out of the Davie shipyard in Quebec. The minister has been rather silent with respect to the importance of this deal. The Asterix is now in sea trials.

Could the minister speak about how important it is for us to replenish our Coast Guard and our navy ships at sea to make sure we patrol the Flemish Cap and all our fishing zones in Canada?

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 10:35 a.m.
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Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his kind comments, particularly with respect to my father. That is obviously of significance for me, and I thank him.

We recognize that Canadians expect a rigorous level of enforcement, both close to shore, on the wharf, on the rivers, and also on the high seas. I have been extraordinarily proud of the remarkable work done by the men and women of the Royal Canadian Navy and of the Canadian Coast Guard in this important endeavour.

Global partners have told me that they want Canada to be more present in global enforcement with respect to illegal, unreported fishing activities. We intend to invest considerably, as we have done in the last two years, in this effort. Nobody should think for a minute that we will not be prepared to take our important responsibility to enforce this legislation in every part of our coastal waters.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 10:35 a.m.
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Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure to stand in the House and speak about the new Fisheries Act. I have had numerous interactions with the minister over my time in Parliament and I know his heart is in the right place. I do have some issues with the new Fisheries Act, however. My background is in fisheries. I have a graduate degree in fisheries biology and have been active in the field of fisheries science for over 20 years.

I also sat on the fisheries and oceans committee in the previous government and for two years of the current government and was involved in the hearings regarding the new Fisheries Act.

The Fisheries Act was written in 1868 and had three fundamental functions: the proper management and control of fisheries, the conservation and protection of fish, and the protection of fish habitat and the prevention of pollution. It was considered one of the strongest pieces of environmental legislation that Canada had, but it evolved over the years to such a point that when we were in government we had to make some changes to the old Fisheries Act.

The courts had determined that what was considered fish habitat was expanded and expanded so that almost all of Canada became fish habitat. Therefore, the act became quite unwieldily and these were some of the problems with the act. This is from a paper that I wrote in 2001 for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy where we looked at the current Fisheries Act. That was about the time when, what we called back home, the “fish cops” descended on prairie Canada and wanted to inspect every drainage ditch that every producer had put in place. The old Fisheries Act created a lot of uncertainty and created more uncertainty in the development process in prairie Canada, especially for rural communities. It was very unclear as to who had jurisdiction over natural resource development.

It had a wide scope. The definition of fish habitat under the old act included entire watersheds and extended the reach of the federal government to policy areas such as watershed and land use planning, areas where DFO clearly lacked expertise. Again, we are going back to this old regime. The program removed any regulatory discretion since all fish habitat was considered important. There was no ranking of significant fish habitat versus habitats that were less significant.

Canada is a very large place. In my province of Manitoba, for example, we have 100,000 lakes and no one can know everything about all these water bodies. I think Ontario has 250,000 lakes. We look at our coastlines, and the amount of fish habitat and fisheries water in Canada is absolutely enormous. Most of these fish populations are fairly poorly studied, and because of that, all water bodies are presumed to be fish habitat until proven otherwise.

Under the old act and again with the new act, the costs of compliance are not considered and for poorer rural municipalities the costs of compliance under the old act and probably under the new act will add a major burden. It also adds to the regulatory burden. The new act is layered on top of other regulations and I am going to return to this very important point later.

Ironically, the old Fisheries Act actually threatened existing conservation programs. There are many angling groups that work very hard to enhance and improve fish habitat. When a fish habitat is enhanced and improved, I guess that is an alteration. For example, in my constituency the walleye is considered the most valuable fish. One way to enhance walleye populations is to take trucks on the ice in the middle of winter, put gravel on the ice, and when the ice melts the gravel sinks and voila, there is a new walleye spawning area and it increases the population of walleye. One wonders if that is an alteration of fish habitat. I guess it is, but again, this will inhibit very important conservation programs. Again, we think that the new act would have these same attributes.

As I said in my question for the minister, in 2009 the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development conducted an audit under the old Fisheries Act. Again this is the regime we are going back to and this is what the auditor found in 2009:

Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment Canada cannot demonstrate that fish habitat is being adequately protected as the Fisheries Act requires. In the 23 years since the Habitat Policy was adopted, many parts of the Policy have been implemented only partially by Fisheries and Oceans Canada or not at all. The Department does not measure habitat loss or gain. It has limited information on the state of fish habitat across Canada—that is, on fish stocks, the amount and quality of fish habitat, contaminants in fish, and overall water quality. Fisheries and Oceans Canada still cannot determine the extent to which it is progressing toward the Policy’s long-term objective of a net gain in fish habitat.

The auditor went on to point out, “There has been little progress since 2001, when we last reported on this matter.” Therefore, the old way of doing business clearly failed.

We are going back to the old definition of fish habitat. Bill C-68 says that fish habitat means spawning grounds and any other areas, including “nursery, rearing, food supply and migration areas, on which fish depend directly or indirectly in order to carry out their life processes.”

The key word is “indirectly”. Ultimately, every drop of water, unless it is evapotranspired, flows into a smaller waterway, then to a larger waterway, and then eventually to an area where fish exist. The word “indirectly” means that basically all of Canada would become fish habitat. The lawn on Parliament Hill would be fish habitat. Therefore, clearly, such a wide definition of fish habitat would give great licence to fisheries officers or as we call them back home “fish cops” and could cause some grave difficulties for communities and municipalities.

This wide definition of fish habitat was emphasized over and over by witnesses at the fisheries and oceans committee, of which I was a part of. I sat through every single meeting during the revisions to the Fisheries Act that the government was proposing.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture is the largest farm group in Canada. Mr. Ron Bonnett is the president and also an active farmer in Ontario, and these are his comments regarding the pre-2012 Fisheries Act:

The experience that many farmers had with the Fisheries Act, unfortunately, was not a positive one. It was characterized by lengthy bureaucratic applications for permitting and authorizations, and a focus on enforcement and compliance measures taken by officials....

Many farmers were then relieved when the changes that were made just a few years ago [by the Conservative government] drastically improved the timeliness and cost of conducting regular maintenance and improvement activities to their farms as well as lifting the threat of being deemed out of compliance.

Mr. Bonnett went on to point out:

There are also many accounts of inconsistency in enforcement, monitoring, and compliance across Canada with different empowered organizations, which led to a confusion and indiscriminate approaches to enforcement and implementation. Even at the individual level, there were different interpretations of the act based on one's familiarity with agriculture....

It is CFA's position that a complete revert to reinstate all provisions of the Fisheries Act as they were would be unproductive, would re-establish the same problems for farmers, and would provide little improvement in outcome for the protection and improvement of fish habitat. Human-made water bodies such as drainage ditches simply should not be treated as fish habitat.

He went on to talk about the Fisheries Act of 2012 that we put in. He said:

The current streamlined approach is working far better for all and efforts should continue this approach....

Overall, any changes to the current Fisheries Act [2012] should be considered as to how they will support outcomes-based conservation rather than a process-oriented approach.

This is a very important point. Here is a farmer saying that the old Fisheries Act actually inhibited conservation projects that the agriculture community wanted to implement on their own land. The old act, which sounds like the new proposed act, was process and process, and enforcement and enforcement. If we really want to improve fish habitat, then we should get out there and improve it, but it is going to be very problematic whether projects like these will be allowed to continue.

Again, regarding the changes that the Conservatives made, Mr. Bonnett said, “There are still some challenges when you have multiple jurisdictions working on that”, but again, he says the Conservatives Fisheries Act 2012 “has improved dramatically from what it was.”

Regarding the old act, Mr. Bonnett had this to say:

...we saw a lot of inconsistency, depending on the DFO office. One would come in and say, no, there's no problem, go ahead. Another one would come in and it would be a whole bureaucratic process that you had to go through. I guess that would be the caution about just putting HADD back in place without having some clear and enforceable guidelines that spell out how you treat a municipal drain.

It is important to talk about the issues agriculture had with the old Fisheries Act. I and many others on this side of the House represent agricultural communities. I saw first-hand, prior to my becoming a member of Parliament, the problems the act created.

What did we do to modify the former Fisheries Act? In the old Fisheries Act, there was equal consideration of all fish species and all fish habitat. We focused on the sustainability and ongoing productivity of commercial, recreational, and aboriginal fisheries and on effective management of key threats, such as aquatic invasive species.

Going back to the old act, all projects were reviewed for any impacts on fish and fish habitat, and advice was provided on a project-by-project basis. We went to the effective management of projects linked to fisheries of commercial, recreational, and aboriginal importance through the adoption of tools.

In the old act, there was duplication and overlap between federal and provincial review processes. Our act, the Fisheries Act from 2012, relied on best place delivery and partnerships with third parties.

As I said, it goes back to the old way of doing business. Interestingly, in 1986, the department wrote “Policy for the Management of Fish Habitat”. I gather that it is still DFO's fish habitat policy. It is a great piece of work, done when Mr. Tom Siddon was the minister.

The 1986 fish habitat policy talks about the national application of the Fisheries Act. It says:

The policy applies to those habitats directly or indirectly supporting those fish stocks or populations that sustain commercial, recreational or Native fishing activities of benefit to Canadians.

That was the vernacular in 1986. Fisheries and Oceans Canada recognized its responsibility to protect and increase fish stocks. That first sentence is interesting. Our act, the Fisheries Act from 2012, is directly in line with the fish habitat policy in 1986, which talked about specific fisheries being protected through the protection of their habitat.

It goes on:

In addition, Fisheries and Oceans recognizes its responsibility to protect and increase fish stocks and their habitats that have either a demonstrated potential themselves to sustain fishing activities, or a demonstrated ecological support function for the fisheries resources. In accordance with this philosophy, the policy will not necessarily be applied to all places where fish are found in Canada, but it will be applied as required in support of fisheries resource conservation.

Our Fisheries Act of 2012 was actually in line with current departmental policy. This is why the act, as we wrote it, was well received by industry groups, rural communities, farm groups, angling groups across the country, and many others.

When we held our hearings at the fisheries committee, we asked a clear question of many of the witnesses who were obviously not in support of the Fisheries Act, 2012. We asked them if they could prove that there were any impacts on fish populations in Canada as a result of the changes made by the Fisheries Act, 2012. Naturally, there was a lot of hemming and hawing and saying they did not have enough information and that there was not enough time. On and on it went, but not a single witness could point to any fish population in Canada that was negatively affected by the changes embedded in the Fisheries Act of 2012.

Again, I am going to talk about the pros of the Conservative approach to fisheries conservation. We much prefer the direct approach to enhancing fish habitat. We created a program that was actually enabled by the Fisheries Act of 2012, called the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program, through which we partnered with fisheries conservation groups across the country. They provided half the funds for the work and the RFCPP provided the other half. Well over 800 fisheries enhancement projects were undertaken and successfully completed across the country.

I would note that the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program is being sunsetted by the current Liberal government. Is “sunset” not a nice word? It implies sitting on the beach with a cool one and watching the sun go down. Actually, this program has been shot down and is going down in flames. There are hundreds of angry groups across Canada whose mission is to do direct conservation and enhancement of fisheries across the country that will now not be provided with support.

I would point out something about Atlantic salmon, a fish that is obviously near and dear to the minister's heart, I would hope. Our fisheries and oceans committee did a major study on Atlantic salmon, and not a single recommendation from that study has been implemented. We recommended a seal reduction program. We recommended a significant increase in the striped bass harvest. We also recommended that diplomatic action be taken against Greenland for overfishing our Atlantic salmon. Nothing has been done.

Here is a clear case of the minister talking a good game about caring for fish, but there is a fish right in his backyard, the Atlantic salmon, of importance to thousands of anglers and businesses in his region, and nothing is being done to help that particular fish species.

However, over $200,000 or $300,000 is going to the fish cops. I would rather see direct programming that would help Atlantic salmon stocks, and other stocks across the country, to rebuild.

I am pleased that there is a provision in the proposed act to talk about rebuilding stocks. I like the habitat banking portion. Hopefully the government will be open to some amendments on that and open to some ideas on how it could be done, because a number of us have a few thoughts on that. Again, all that money is going to enforcement when there are groups, like the Miramichi Salmon Association, which I belong to, and the Atlantic Salmon Federation, that do things like create cold water refuges for Atlantic salmon so the fish can summer better and survive better than they would otherwise. We hope that projects like that could go on.

Bill C-68 is part of the Liberal plan to kill development. The Prime Minister's principal secretary, Mr. Gerald Butts, once said: “The real alternative is not an alternative route, it's an alternative economy. We don't think there ought to be a carbon-based energy industry by the middle of the century.” I am sure the thousands and thousands of middle-class Canadians who work in the energy industry will be very disappointed to know that this is the thinking in the Prime Minister's Office. The ultimate agenda is to severely restrict Canada's energy industry.

I want to quote the Canadian Electricity Association. It is headed by the hon. Sergio Marchi, who said:

In practical terms, this means that virtually any action, without prior authorization, could be construed as being in contravention of this Act. Consequently, the reinstatement of these measures will result in greater uncertainties for existing and new facilities, and unduly delay and/or discourage investment in energy projects that directly support Canada's clean growth agenda and realize its climate change objectives.

Of course, the other shoe to drop is how investment is leaving Canada. Suncor CEO Steve Williams said, in a headline that reported what Suncor's activities will be, “Suncor to shun major new projects amid Canada's 'difficult' regulatory environment”.

I had the honour of working in the oil sands in 2009-10. I lived in a camp for an oil sands project. There were people from all walks of life. People talk about the industry as if it were some kind of bad word. The industry is workers and people. There was a young dad saving for his child's education, a young couple saving for a down payment on a house, and a senior couple saving for a dignified retirement. These are the kinds of people who work in the energy industry. These are the kinds of people who will be hurt by this excessive regulatory process that is killing energy and natural resources jobs across the country. I am afraid the new Fisheries Act is just part of that, so I will be unable to support it.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 10:55 a.m.
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Beauséjour New Brunswick


Dominic LeBlanc LiberalMinister of Fisheries

Madam Speaker, this is an important discussion for the House to have. I look forward to hearing from many colleagues on this important debate and to working with colleagues in the Senate and our colleagues on the House of Commons standing committee.

It will not surprise members that I do not necessarily share the pessimistic view my colleague advanced on these improvements and the strengthening of the Fisheries Act. Farmers, small community work projects, and small municipalities across the country, many in constituencies like mine and those of colleagues in the House of Commons, have told us of the importance of being in compliance with the Fisheries Act.

Canadians want to know that the practices they are undertaking are not harming, altering, or damaging fish or fish habitat. However, there was a reasonable sense in the past that perhaps the burden had become such that people did not know if they were in compliance or what their obligations were. We think that one way to answer the very real concerns of people in the agricultural community, for example, is to have these codes of practice. If one followed a code of practice, it would be well understood that one was in compliance with the act.

I am wondering if my colleague would offer a view on whether he supports the strengthening of the owner-operator and fleet separation policies in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, which are important for the jobs he talked about earlier of middle-class Canadians.

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February 13th, 2018 / 11 a.m.
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Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Madam Speaker, coming from the Prairies, I feel very inadequate discussing marine fisheries.

I would like to focus on the minister's comments about codes of practice. I like codes of practice a lot. As a regional fisheries biologist up at The Pas, I saw some horrific examples of culverts that were placed too high on logging roads. People just dropped culverts in.

I do not want the minister to misconstrue anything I have said as meaning that I do not care about fish habitat. I have been involved with monitoring fish habitat for a long time. To my point about culverts in fish-bearing streams, there could be a code of practice that the bottom of a culvert is below the stream bed, where the water velocities are good. I would welcome that approach of codes of practice and standards.

However, we do not need the fish cops coming around every second week asking what is going on, because the level of uncertainty that creates causes great difficulties.

I would suspect that the industry would welcome standards and codes of practice as well. I would be pleased to work with the minister and the department to help develop codes of practice for some aspects of fisheries management.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 11 a.m.
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Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the intervention by my colleague from Manitoba. We were on the fisheries and oceans standing committee for a number of years, until his recent departure.

As we know, the Fisheries Act does not address salmon aquaculture and the dual mandate it shares. I wonder if my colleague could comment on how, if the industry were to modernize and move to a new technology, such as closed containment, which is the leading technology in the world, RAS, that would affect the Prairies. For instance, could the Prairies be a player in that type of industry if it were to modernize?

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February 13th, 2018 / 11 a.m.
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Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's question. I very much appreciate working with him on areas of fish conservation. His knowledge is almost unsurpassed.

I have actually done a little informal study myself on the potential of closed containment aquaculture in the Prairies in Canada, and it is really quite significant. For example, Manitoba has groundwater resources that the rest of the world simply does not have. We have access to markets in the U.S. Midwest. I am not going to comment on the environmental conservation aspects of marine net-pen aquaculture. I just know that an expansion of closed containment aquaculture in inland areas could have real potential for rural economic development. That is something I will be following up on over the next little while.

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February 13th, 2018 / 11 a.m.
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Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my friend, the MP for Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa. There is perhaps nobody in this House who has his track record personally and in knowledge of conservation. I have learned a lot from the member.

He referenced the recreational fisheries community partnership program, which was an initiative of the Harper government that I saw the benefit of, in my riding of Durham, in the streams and in and around Lake Ontario. The changes the minister has introduced today, contrasted with the approach of the former Conservative government, show the philosophical differences: an Ottawa-knows-best, paternalistic, office-tower mentality from Ottawa; or partnering with conservation groups, recreational fisheries, and indigenous peoples on the ground that know their communities and their water sources, streams, and oceans better.

Could the member talk about the benefits of partnerships as opposed to an Ottawa-knows-best approach, which tends to be the Liberal way?