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

Sponsor

Dominic LeBlanc  Liberal

Status

First reading (Senate), as of June 20, 2018

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Summary

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.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

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 / 12:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman.

First, I would like to highlight a comment made by my colleague from the Lower Mainland. He said that they wanted to make the act even better than it was before. I agree with him. It was pretty good. Back in 2012, the changes we made under our previous government were substantive.

Being the parliamentary outdoor caucus co-chair, we deal a lot with fishing, specifically recreational fishing. If people were lucky enough to get out last weekend to do some ice fishing, good for them. I did not have time. However, a lot of the time we have as families together, we to do exactly that.

However, it always seems a little disingenuous of the Liberals across the way when they cannot just say that they are doing something good for fisheries or they are doing something positive in Bill C-68 without giving us a shot. I would like to argue about that and defend our record.

We started a very substantive program, the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program. We provided millions of dollars to basically local organizations to help people who were interested in seeing their own rivers and tributaries have a sustainable fishery for recreational fishers.

An article from 2015, which references the OFAH, a non-partisan group, states:

...the largest the largest non-profit charitable fish and wildlife conservation organization in Ontario, applauds the federal government’s decision to substantially increase the funding to the highly successful Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnership Program by providing an additional $15 million over two years.

When it mentions the federal government, it is referring to the Conservative government. This is just one announcement of many. The article goes on to say, “Ours was one of 96 projects from across Canada funded in the first year of the program.” We are talking about millions of dollars.

Some people think that just the odd person goes out and fishes on a weekend, but recreational fishing generates over $8 billion in annual economic activity. Frankly, we like the heritage part of it. Personally, I like going out to fish. However, the economic activity is something to support, and that is what we did in the previous government.

For the Liberals to say that Bill C-68 is a great saviour of recreational fishing in Canada is a stretch. A lot was done before. Can a lot be done? Absolutely. We are all concerned about the numbers of fish we see in certain tributaries off the west coast and east coast, and we want to do all we can. The Conservatives and Liberals can agree upon that. To say that the previous government did nothing is not true.

I want to speak a little about Bill C-68 and what it seeks to do. This is where the previous government had it right.

The Liberals always seem to want to increase bureaucracy. They are talking about funding different groups to study what is normally done by volunteers right now. A group in Valemount does a great job of establishing salmon and fish habitat in the rivers and doing what it can to build fish ladders, etc. A lot of it is done by volunteers. It is done by local people who are interested in fishing or who just want to see a healthy fish habitat in their local community of Valemount.

However, the Liberal government is now seeking to dump a bunch of money into funding different target and study groups, spending money on what is already being done by volunteers today. Again, I would question its logic of funding things that work quite well on their own right now, being driven by volunteers. Volunteers are a good thing. They are there because they are interested and want to make our rivers and streams a better place for fish. Again, why are the Liberals throwing more money at a situation, which does not always make it better?

We see a number of challenges with returning stocks, depending on the rivers. We see efforts needing to be made. With Bill C-68, the Liberal government is maybe trying to do something that is better, but building a bigger bureaucracy will not help one fish in one river, especially in my home province of British Columbia.

We support a strong conservation effort generally. I know the member who will speak after me is an avid fisherman. Most of our speakers grab a rod and reel, so we really do care about preserving the numbers, especially the returning fish. We absolutely support any efforts that would substantively increase the numbers returning and substantially help recreational fishers access particular lands.

One item of concern, which is not really related to Bill C-68 but does relate to recreational fishing in Canada, is marine protection areas that the current government is seeking to challenge for recreational fishers in the province of B.C.

The Liberals say that they are for fisheries, et cetera, but fisheries are meant to be used by the people. Any kind of restriction of that fishery is a concern for Conservative members on this side of the House. We are definitely concerned for the long-term future of recreational fishing, the history that it brings, and all the great experience families have. We fished a couple of years ago with my kids and they all caught a fish. It was a great experience. It was one of those memorable moments of our summer of 2016.

I wish the government would spend money where money is well-received, which is literally by the fish in streams. Back in the mid-1990s, I had the pleasure to work as a carpenter on a fish ladder in a fish creek area to the north of where I live. I saw the effort that went into that by people who cared about the stream and having a sustainable fishery. A lot of that effort was done by people who were volunteering and doing it out of the goodness of their hearts, not just for a paycheque.

The government should look at what works in the current system with conservation groups in British Columbia, my home province, in Atlantic Canada, and across the Prairies. In whatever province, there are people who like to fish. I would look at what is already working. The government should do more of that as opposed to trying to change the whole regime. I do not think that is a great way to spend money and it is not a great way to have a sustained fishery in our country.

The goal for everybody in here is to try to achieve a sustainable fishery so our kids, our grandkids, and our great-grandkids can fish well into the future. I know that is the goal of our members and I know it is the goal of some across the way. Again, we want to ensure that when the government spends taxpayer dollars, it spends them wisely, not just throwing dollars at a problem expecting them to stick, and not fix it.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 12:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the fact that the member's kids fish. That is a great example of why we want to keep fishing a viable thing in Canada and ensure we can have it for our future generations.

There is a key part to this conversation on Bill C-68 and that this great legislation will be a fix-all of all the problems. I have been reading multiple articles, but one article said that it was not a matter of legislation; it was a matter of implementation. If we need to fix our implementation to ensure that better results will ensue, we need to look a bit closer at what that would look like, rather than throw money at a completely different group, do something completely different, expecting to have a great result. Implementation is the issue here and we need to get to the bottom of how to implement a good process in Canada.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Mr. Speaker, again, the previous government, which the member was a part of, as was I, as members of the British Columbia caucus, saw great rollouts in the salmon foundation and other really great initiatives.

Then we see where politics enters the fray. When we have something that is understood to work, where we have volunteers on the ground making this thing work in British Columbia, Bill C-68 and the rationale behind Bill C-68 should be to fund it some more, because it is going to work so let us keep it going. We have seen the opposite happen with the Liberal government retracting funding for things that do work. It is a strange thing that is hard for British Columbians in general to understand.

Does the current government understand what recreational fishing is, and not just recreational fishing but preserving fish, and not so that nobody can ever fish again? Again, we are getting concerned with marine protected areas that actually protect areas from people fishing. That is not what our goal should be. Our goal should be to protect the fish so we can go fishing, not the opposite.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise on Bill C-68 today to talk about the changes to the Fisheries Act.

People are probably wondering why a prairie boy from Manitoba is getting up to talk about fisheries. I want to remind everyone here that I am the proud representative of Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, which is home to Lake Winnipeg, Lake Manitoba, the Winnipeg River, Lake St. Martin, and the communities around them.

I represent over 1,000 commercial fishers, fishing families that make their living off that freshwater fishery. Lake Winnipeg is a three-season fishery. Fishers are on the ice in the winter, spring, and fall. Those families depend on the fishery. There are 23 small craft harbours on Lake Winnipeg alone. This is a great natural resource that deserves protection.

That is why Conservatives, I in particular, support protecting fish habitat and we support protecting the commercial fishery and the recreational fishery, which are also important to my riding. People come from all over the world to enjoy catching trophy walleye and northern pike. Some of the best channel catfishing in the world takes place in the north Red River in my riding. We are quite proud of the area. It is a fishery that we want to protect.

I have grave concerns with what the Liberal government is proposing. The Liberals have gone back to the future, to the old days when it was going to use a stick to hammer users of the land, hammer communities, to hammer down and whack-a-mole, so to say, any farmer, any municipality that was trying to do any improvement or developments.

The Liberals are also going to penalize clean energy like hydroelectric power. In my almost 15 years as a parliamentarian we have been dealing with the impact on protected fish habitat of doing hydroelectric generation in the development of those dams and the impact of federal regulations on them.

It is a stick here rather than a carrot. When the Conservatives were in government, we were proud to work with stakeholders, recreational fishers and commercial fishers. We were proud to work alongside municipalities to adopt best practices and to provide the enhancement dollars needed to protect fish habitat. We saw the greatest benefits using a carrot rather than a stick to reward good behaviour, to enhance fishery protection, and to protect natural ecosystems. That generated results.

The Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard announced $284 million for enforcement, for putting more fisheries and oceans inspectors out across the Prairies to tell municipalities they cannot do this, to stop farmers from draining their flooded fields, and to try to protect some fish habitat in the bottom of a ditch.

That did not work back in the nineties. It did not work in the early 2000s, and that is why the Conservative government put those enforcement officers where they were needed the most, where we saw overfishing, where we saw destruction of habitat, especially in British Columbia, where they enforced the legislation the way it should have been enforced, not by harassing municipalities, farmers, and other resource users.

We do not need more bureaucratic red tape. What we need is a government that understands the needs of all stakeholders and that wants to work together collaboratively to provide the best habitat and the best environment to protect our fishery.

The Liberals may have introduced more dollars for bureaucratic red tape but they cut spending from existing habitat protection programs. The member for Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa and others in our caucus worked long and hard to bring about the recreational fish habitat protection program, a program that provided dollars to little wildlife organizations to protect habitat, mainly for angling, and a lot of it happened in our little lakes and estuaries along the bigger waterways. That program benefited both the commercial fishery and the aboriginal fishery. They were able to capitalize on the increased fish stocks and the habitat protection that happened, the natural groins going into our lakes, rivers, and oceans that allow that nutrient load to be soaked up through the marshlands and the swamp.

The Liberal government killed the wetland conservation program, which was really important, not just from the standpoint of fish habitat protection and protecting the habitat for upland game birds and wetland game birds like geese, ducks, and prairie chickens, but it also provided dollars to encourage land-use owners to keep those wetlands, because they are not just the kidneys but the main reciprocals for aquifers across this country, to feed the groundwater and build it up. It is shameful that the government is virtue signalling, telling people it is going to do more to protect fish habitat, when, in actuality, it has killed programs, reduced the dollars available to enhance and protect fish habitat, and will be spending more taxpayers' dollars on more red tape and bureaucracy.

There would be regulations, but we do not know what those regulations are going to look like yet. We have a case where the government is going to place more rules and regulations on municipalities, rural communities, first nations, and resource users, including clean energy producers like hydroelectric power, and in Manitoba, Manitoba Hydro, rather than adopt best practices. That is what Conservatives encouraged when we were in government. If municipalities were going to have to clean ditches, they would be told this is the time of year to do it and this is how to do it. They did not have to file a whole bunch of paperwork and hire engineers or environmental consultants to do these environmental assessments to get through the DFO checklist.

We also know that there are going to be more costs on municipalities. Every project they have to do would require them to do duplicative work and provide background documentation to the federal and provincial governments. There is no clarity in the bill as to how to get rid of the redundancy and all of the costs that are going to be borne by the municipalities, cash-strapped municipalities trying to serve their ratepayers.

I am an agriculture producer and my son-in-law is a grain farmer and one of the greatest things we deal with in my riding of Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman is flooding, excess precipitation, whether it is from snow runoff, excessive rain, or downstream flooding coming down the Red and Assiniboine Rivers from the United States and western Canada. We are at the bottom of the Lake Winnipeg basin, so we have to deal with this excess moisture. Farmers have to have the ability to drain their lands, do flood mitigation, and stop the harm and damage that happens.

We lived through this in the 1990s under the Chrétien government. When farmers tried to dig drains to draw the excess moisture away from their fields, which was drowning their crops and livelihoods and that could possibly bankrupt them, DFO was there to hammer them over the head with a big stick telling them they could not do it. They were fined and penalized and their projects were stopped. We have to adopt best practices to ensure that people can live on the land. I am scared that this is just another Liberal policy that is anti-farmer and anti-rural municipalities.

Finally, fishers have not asked for these changes. We already know that under the old system, we saw no results, the system the Liberals had back in the 1990s and early 2000s. We are going back to the future, where this is not resolved. My friend just said that there are no metrics on how to manage the actual result. If there are no results, then how would this benefit commercial fishers? How would this benefit aboriginal fishers and commercial fishers who enjoy angling and our waterways?

I ask the government to look at this in detail to ensure that it is not being overly bureaucratic, that it is not adding more red tape to an already very onerous system, and to ensure that rural Canadians and communities, whether they be aboriginal, agriculture producers, or fishers, are all able to benefit from this, and that extra costs are not being layered upon municipalities and provincial governments, so there can be drainage, flood mitigation, and flood protection unhampered by an overzealous federal government.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 1:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to Bill C-68, an act to amend the Fisheries Act and other acts in consequence.

I would first like to extend my best wishes to the fisheries minister. It is good to see him here in the chamber as he perseveres through the health challenges of life. Even though we may exchange barbs and strong differences at times, at the beginning and end of each day, we are all Canadians with families, friends, and loved ones. I wish him well.

I would also be remiss if I did not also wish my good friend and colleague, the member for Cariboo—Prince George, a speedy recovery. We all know his determination will drive his recovery as he continues to advocate for his constituents and all Canadians.

Much of what is in Bill C-68 is aimed at one objective for the Liberal government, the perpetuation of the idea of lost protections. I propose that this idea is based on false and unsubstantiated claims, and I will speak today to how those claims have not been proven or substantiated.

The Fisheries Act is one of the oldest federal statutes in Canada dating back almost 100 years. Amendments have been made to the act from time to time, and whether the act actually included a purposes section or not, the overall principle of the act has been to manage and protect our fisheries.

As we know, Canada is a vast country with coastlines and fisheries on three different oceans covering a multitude of species, some sedentary and others very migratory. Canada also has a vast array of fisheries, varying from small local clam beds to fisheries for cod and salmon extending over hundreds of thousands of square kilometres. Managing all those fisheries is complicated by the very fact that some of the most sought after species are very migratory. Some fulfill their life cycle over vast expanses of oceans, while others migrate from freshwater to marine environments and back again.

Over the years, federal governments have taken different strategies on managing Canada's fisheries. Some management strategies have been successful, while the failure of others has been self-evident. What has been consistent is that successive governments have attempted to maintain the health of our fisheries so they are all conserved and managed in ways that allow perpetual value to be drawn from our oceans and fisheries resources. Our prosperity as Canadians depends on the sustainable management of these resources to support fishers, harvesters, and the communities that depend on them for the benefits of their subsistence.

Changes made to the Fisheries Act in 2012 and amendments in 2013 were developed to address long-standing weaknesses evidenced by the inconsistent interpretation and application of the pre-2012 Fisheries Act. In studying the 2012 changes to the Fisheries Act, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans heard from Canadians that the pre-2012 act required amendments to modernize it and make it more relevant and functional for those who live under the act every day.

Input from Ducks Unlimited Canada stated that under the previous Fisheries Act, many of its conservation projects and activities that sought Fisheries Act changes to restore, enhance, or manage wetland habitat were deemed to be “fish habitat destruction” by DFO. In other words, these projects that could have improved our habitat and fisheries were not allowed under the pre-2012 definition. As such, the effect of the previous Fisheries Act limited this conservation organization's ability to “deliver new conservation programming designed to protect and conserve habitat that is essential to waterfowl and other wetland-dependent species, including fish.”

This is the reality of the previous prohibitions of the Fisheries Act. These are prohibitions that the government is seeking to restore in the bill. What we are presented with in Bill C-68 are proposals to amend the Fisheries Act, including some seeking to restore the previous elements of the act that had proven to be dysfunctional. The bill has a significant number of proposals. In fact, there are 58 pages of proposed amendments, not including the 13 pages of explanatory notes and revisions.

In poring over the bill over the past week, many questions have come up, which will likely take time to be answered by the ministry, by the minister, or eventually by the courts.

As parliamentarians, we are provided technical briefings on bills that come before the House. It is a privilege that we do not take lightly. These technical briefings are meant to provide us as legislators answers to some of the difficult questions that are hidden within draft legislation.

I must say that after attending a technical briefing on Bill C-68 earlier this week, there are more questions than answers received. I have heard from stakeholders, Canadians who live under the Fisheries Act across Canada, who also have a significant number of questions, and as a result, reasonable concerns related to the bill.

How will habitat banks be established? There seem to be no parameters. Much of this is left to be within regulations that no one has seen any drafting of at this point. How will those habitat banks be monitored and validated? Again, there is nothing specific in the proposed act, and it is all left open to what it might be down the road. There are many questions but so few answers.

What class of projects will qualify as designated projects, meaning which ones will or will not have prior approval? There are no answers.

What is the definition of an “ecologically significant” area? I found the definition within Bill C-68 to be very vague. There was no specific direction as to what might or might not be considered an ecologically significant area. Would this be an area that may hold a few goldfish or would it be a key component to a spawning area for some of our precious salmon stocks? There are no definitions within the act.

What information factored into ministerial decisions will the minister be able to withhold from Canadians with a direct interest in the decisions? We see portions of the proposed act that say information to the minister may be held confidential and not released. What about the proponent whose project is held up and has no access to know what information or what area of information might be withheld from them?

Who will be able to establish laws over fisheries and oceans? How will consistency be ensured to ensure that a patchwork of legal regimes is not created across Canada? There were provisions in the previous act where laws regarding fisheries were shared with the provinces under agreements. We also see this now as a possibility with first nations. We welcome the involvement of first nations in the management of our fisheries, but with the multitude of different first nations across the country, there are questions from people who may potentially be impacted by this as to how they would monitor these new laws that might be in place. Who would oversee them in general?

Again, on the new laws that may come into place, who will enforce laws of the various jurisdictions that the bill proposes to recognize? We do not know whether that would be under the laws of Canada, under the laws of the provinces, or under the laws of other bodies that may be created to create laws, which the bill would enable them to do.

Again, how will those laws be applied and enforced beyond Canada's 200-mile economic zone to the entire continental shelf? I do not know if anyone has addressed that point in the debate on Bill C-68. It proposes that the Fisheries Act apply to all waters on the continental shelf, beyond Canada's 200-mile economic zone. These are the types of questions that may only be determined through committee work and the further development of regulations, but this may eventually end up in the courts, and it could be years down the road before we have answers.

There are many proposals in this bill related to indigenous communities and their participation in the management and conservation of fisheries. The Conservative Party of Canada's policy declaration clearly supports the economic sustainability of indigenous communities. I believe that the fisheries could be a driving factor in sustaining those indigenous communities. However, the ambiguity of this bill's provisions for indigenous communities is not helpful. In fact, it may be counterproductive.

First nations, harvesters, and processors all need certainty of access to the resource to retain investments and to remain competitive in what is an ever more competitive world market. I have been meeting with stakeholders over the past few months, and their biggest concern is certainty of access to the market, but more so, certainty of access to the product, whether it is fish products, finfish fisheries, aquaculture, or other types.

Already I am hearing from indigenous organizations that work in fisheries that this bill is deficient in defining the essential details of what it proposes for indigenous communities. It is safe to say that the government's response will be something along the lines of, “Just trust us.” We have seen what the government does when we agree to just trust it. It has a Prime Minister who has been found guilty of breaking Canadian law four times, yet there are no consequences.

A significant number of indigenous governments and fisheries organizations have valid reasons for doubting the sincerity of the government. I will share with the House one example of how the government undermined the trust of indigenous peoples in the review process that led to this bill.

In 2016, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard directed the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans to undertake a study to review the 2012 changes to the Fisheries Act and to table a report early in 2017. As such, a motion was passed to undertake a study and to table the report by January 30, 2017. Once the study was under way, it became very clear that the deadline imposed by the government was insufficient for the task at hand or for the process of consultation created by the government. The minister's office even put out a news release stating that feedback from public consultations would be provided to the committee for consideration in its report. That news release was revised a second and third time, but the original said that all feedback would be provided to the committee.

Opposition members of the committee tried repeatedly to pass motions for an extension of the study deadline. The government members on the committee eventually agreed to add four meetings, or two weeks, to the deadline. Indigenous fishery stakeholders were invited to participate in consultation sessions and to submit briefs for the committee's review of the Fisheries Act. In fact, through a participant funding program alone, 54 different indigenous groups received funding to assist in the preparation of their submissions to the committee. These 54 groups received over $900,000 to produce their briefs. What happened to their input? How did the government treat their consultations? Sadly, due to the government's refusal to extend the committee study deadline, these 54 briefs arrived after the committee held its last meeting for the study on December 12, 2016.

This is how the government has undermined the relationship with indigenous communities in the review process that led up to this bill. Indigenous Canadians deserve better. The government has repeatedly stated that this bill is necessary to restore so-called lost protections. I have asked the government for proof of harm resulting from these so-called lost protections numerous times. In response to one particular Order Paper question, the government indicated that it could not produce any proof, because the department did not have the resources or the mandate to make that determination. There we have it. This bill is meant to restore something the government cannot produce any proof of.

The minister made claims of face-to-face consultations when he appeared at the committee on November 2, 2016, yet an Order Paper question response, dated March 22, 2017, months after the minister stated that he was having face-to-face consultations, contradicted this, stating that no face-to-face consultations had taken place. So much for consultation, transparency, and accountability, a trend we see with the Liberal government.

Why should Canadians, indigenous or non-indigenous, trust the government's motivations in this bill? The proposed alternative measure section states:

No admission, confession or statement accepting responsibility for a given act or omission made by an alleged offender as a condition of being dealt with by alternative measures is admissible in evidence against them in any civil or criminal proceedings.

This is an absolute disconnect with accountability. The minister or ministerial staff do not have to disclose information or consequences to proponents. This is a case of a law being implemented with no consequences for breaking the law. Tie this to the fact that the Prime Minister has been found guilty of breaking the law on four counts, yet there are no consequences laid out in the law.

I also have concerns about the establishment of advisory panels, which would be remunerated and paid expenses. This sounds like typical Liberalism: creating additional layers of bureaucracy with no stipulations developed regarding membership, frequency and location of meetings, remuneration amounts, or any of the usual measures put in place to avoid runaway spending and lack of accountability.

Proposed subsection 8(1) of the bill sets out the establishment of fees for quotas, and proposed section 14 establishes the setting out of fees for conferral. In other words, more fees would be passed on to permit or authorization holders. Proposed section 14 would also create the ability to have fees for regulatory processes, with no parameters given as to who may be charged and how much. Proponents should open their wallets, because the government wants to empty them before anyone starts.

There are significant sections in the 2012 revisions to the act that gave the minister the ability to designate ecologically significant areas. This section has been retained. Many pieces of the 2012 legislation have been retained in this act. However, it will take more time to flesh them out and see what was done in 2012 that has been retained and is recognized as good work.

Sections 4.1 to 4.3 of the 2012 revisions provide the legal framework to guide future agreements with provinces to further the purposes of the act. They also allow the Governor in Council to declare that certain provisions of the act or its regulations do not apply in a province if a federal-provincial agreement provides that a provincial law is equivalent to the provisions of the federal regulations. This segment is retained in Bill C-68 and would be further extended to situations where there is an agreement with a recognized indigenous governing body.

The standing committee also heard from the Mining Association of Canada on the changes made to the act in 2012. I quote from Justyna Laurie-Lean, of the Mining Association, who said that the changes in 2012 have, “in practice, broadened the circumstances in which the section 35 prohibitions apply and increased the circumstances in which an authorization and offsets are required.”

These are only some examples of why I say that claims of lost protections are false and unsubstantiated. Many of the recommendations of the standing committee have been implemented. One of them, recommendation no. 3, was that the original definition of HAAD be revised before being reinserted.

As members can see, there are many more questions about this bill. I look forward to questions from my colleagues and to furthering this document in committee.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 1:25 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I note that my hon. colleague mentioned technical briefings to understand Bill C-68. I assure him that I did not need a technical briefing. I was so relieved to read legislation that made sense again.

When I was in this House in 2012, when Bill C-38 was tabled at first reading, it was over 440 pages long and changed 70 different pieces of legislation. We were never offered a technical briefing. There was a rush to push it through. Former fisheries ministers, two former Conservative fisheries ministers and two former Liberal fisheries ministers, ministers Fraser, Siddon, Dhaliwal, and Anderson, were united in saying that what was happening was the gutting of the Fisheries Act.

I would ask my hon. colleague to reflect that perhaps this legislation coming forward to re-establish the protection of fish habitat and to re-establish fundamental notions that we protect our fisheries and fish, regardless of whether they are destined for human consumption, would be an improvement in Canada's ability to steward the natural environment. We, as Canadians, hold an obligation to take care of these living marine resources far better than we have in the past.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

February 13th, 2018 / 3:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today, but I am not pleased about the topic or Bill C-68. This is a large bill that would have huge impacts on fisheries and fish stocks across Canada. The bill would also have wide-ranging implications for economic development, farmers, rural municipalities, and more, and I will get into that in detail.

As a relatively new member of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, I was not on the committee when it studied the 2012 changes that were made to the Fisheries Act. However, I would like to focus a good chunk of my comments on the testimony that was heard during those hearings.

The committee started its study in October 2016 and presented a report to the House in February 2017. The committee heard from 50 different witnesses during the study and received over 188 submitted briefing notes. It was a very comprehensive study and I think would have been a useful tool for the government to use when it was drafting this proposed legislation. The study directly looked at the changes that the previous government made in 2012 to the Fisheries Act, which were changes that significantly improved the Fisheries Act.

One of the significant changes made in 2012 was a shift away from what is commonly referred to as “HADD”, which stands for harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat. It is contained within proposed subsection 35(1) of the bill, where it states:

No person shall carry on any work, undertaking or activity that results in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat.

Essentially this means that any sort of development that could be seen to be harmful, altering, disrupting or destroying fish habitats, would be subject to an immense amount of review and red tape and could be stopped or prohibited. Furthermore, it is unclear what constitutes fish habitat. It was found that DFO and others played fast and loose with this term, and used a broad definition to apply this to waterways that really had no impact on fish stocks. This system was ineffective, a nightmare for development, and had no measurable success in protecting fish populations.

Of the things that were affected the most by this, I have some on my farms. They are waterways after a very heavy rain or first thing in the spring runoff, but other than that, they are dry and able to be farmed the rest of the year. However, the same things applied to them as what would apply to, say, the St. Lawrence River, which is totally ridiculous.

The change in 2012 brought in a much simpler and effective definition to ensure that fish were protected but that reasonable projects could still move forward. This new definition was as follows:

No person shall carry on any work, undertaking or activity that results in serious harm to fish that are part of a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery, or to fish that support such a fishery.

This definition is much more effective and provides certainty and clarity for developers, farmers, fishermen, first nations, and more.

In the report from the fisheries and oceans committee, the third recommendation stated that:

Any revision of the Fisheries Act should review and refine the previous definition of HADD due to the previous definition’s vulnerability to being applied in an inconsistent manner and the limiting effect it had on government agencies in their management of fisheries and habitats in the interest of fish productivity.

Therefore, I am slightly confused as to why we are now seeing what looks to be a return to HADD in Bill C-68. It does not make any sense. The testimony is there in black and white, and that testimony, of course, came from witnesses.

For example, as I mentioned, the committee heard from 50 different witnesses and received more than 188 submitted briefing notes. Not one single individual or organization was able to present the committee with any scientific or legal proof of harm that was a result of the changes made in 2012. We all know that, at the time, the environmental associations and others threw their hands up in the air, yelled, screamed, and kicked that these changes would be the death of all fish in Canada, but the proof is just not there. Six years later, I think our fish are doing pretty good. However, it is my distinct fear that the government is simply returning to the pre-2012 provisions just to appease these groups.

The return of HADD in Bill C-68 would undoubtedly be used as a way for opponents of projects to prevent development projects from moving forward. Just look at the pipeline that was discussed in depth yesterday. By returning to this system, a system that had proven to be ineffective, the government is playing right into the wheelhouse of those who seek to halt, delay, and do whatever they can to stop all forms of development in the country. That has to end.

One impact that is not always clear to many is the impact farmers face due to the Fisheries Act, and it will be 10 times worse under a system that uses the HADD definition. When farmers are looking to expand or develop their farmland they can get caught up in reviews of their projects under the Fisheries Act. A return to HADD would make the lives of farmers much more difficult.

When testifying before the committee, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture stated that prior to 2012 there were lengthy bureaucratic applications for permitting and authorizations, but the 2012 changes drastically improved the timeliness and cost of conducting regular maintenance and improvement activities to their farms. CFA expanded on this by stating that it is the CFA's position that a complete revert—which we are getting from the government now—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. That goes back to the example I used of intermittent waterways on our farms being treated like they were fish habitat.

What is ironic about the attack on farmers in the bill is that today is Canada Agriculture Day. As we should be doing every day, let us recognize the important work that farmers do and ensure that their voices are heard. Farmers do not want to return to a pre-2012 system. In fact, no one but those that oppose development do. The government should stop catering to these interest groups and abandon this plan.

The reason these changes came about was members of Parliament from all parties came together for the rural caucus to come up with ways to improve things overall, whether it was agriculture, rural health care, or whatever. The changes that came from the bill in 2012 came out of discussions there. Just because the government has groups of people who are against anything going on in the country, to appease them, to try to get their vote, it is saying, “Okay, we'll give you what you want.” That is not the way to do business or to govern.

It is not just farmers that have concerns though. The Canadian Electricity Association said that Bill C-68 is “one step forward but two steps back”. It went on to state:

CEA is particularly concerned that the government has chosen to return to pre-2012 provisions of the Fisheries Act that address “activity other than fishing that results in the death of fish, and the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction (HADD) of fish habitat”. 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.

To make a long story short, this is bad news for Canadian development, and will have no positive impact on the protection of fish populations in Canada. I urge the government to revisit the return of HADD and amend the legislation to ensure that economic development and environmental protections go hand in hand and not head to head.

I sit on the committee with my hon. colleague, the member for Avalon. I know he has the best interests of fish at heart, but I would ask him to consider agriculture in this. The examples are these intermittent waterways that are put back in the way they were before, which is just not right. It is a direct attack on agriculture and does not do anything for the environment, fish, or any other thing.

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February 13th, 2018 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, the easy answer to my colleague's question is that yes, this will cause negative problems. It will cost the consumers, who are Canadian taxpayers, more for the product, in this case hydro.

The changes in 2012 were done for a specific reason. They were done to still have a process where approvals could get done properly, but there were timelines put on them. I always point people who are opposed to anything and everything, and in this case, the people behind this bill, to the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. For 25 years the government, environmentalists, and other organizations held up businesses who were willing to invest in the project. Really, all that the government was saying in 2012 was to set a reasonable timeline and tell the companies yes or no, not maybe. Tell them one way or the other, and if the answer is no, they will accept that. Then they will take their money and invest it in other Canadian projects, which is only good for jobs, business, and the economy. That is what this is about. However, Bill C-68 reverses that and makes it longer and more onerous.

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February 13th, 2018 / 4:30 p.m.
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NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague across the floor for her work on this, and for bringing in both Bill C-68 and Bill C-69.

My riding of Kootenay—Columbia was Conservative for 21 years. Quite frankly, it was the Conservative government's attack on environmental legislation, including the Fisheries Act, Navigable Waters Act, and the Environmental Assessment Act, that led to the change in my riding of Kootenay—Columbia.

I was a regional manager with Fish and Wildlife for southeastern B.C. from 2002 to 2009. At the time, there was a DFO office in the Kootenays that had four staff working in it. They showed me a staffing chart. They were supposed to go to 12 staff, but by the time 2015 came along, there was not one DFO staff left in the Kootenays.

Would the member support re-establishing a DFO office in Kootenay—Columbia in the southeastern part of B.C.?

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February 13th, 2018 / 4:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a real privilege to speak to Bill C-68 and its amendment to the Fisheries Act, especially given the opportunity I have had for the past two years to serve on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

I want to take a moment to salute all of my colleagues on that committee, because all of them have demonstrated deep concern for the health of our fisheries and the communities that rely on them. We could have different views on what should be done or how it should be done, but the collegial approach to our deliberations has produced recommendations that will stand the test of time. In fact, all of them in one way or another are reflected in this legislation.

I also particularly want to salute our friend and colleague, the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George, who may be watching, bored to tears, as he is on the mend from a significant health scare. We certainly look forward to getting him back into the saddle again.

A year ago this month, our committee tabled in the House its sixth report, titled “Review of Changes Made in 2012 to the Fisheries Act: Enhancing the Protection of Fish and Fish Habitat and the Management of Canadian Fisheries”. The study was prompted by ongoing concern from a broad range of stakeholders about decisions made by the previous government that, to many, had the effect of stripping habitat protections from 98% of Canada's lakes, rivers, and streams.

Coincidentally, the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, on which I also sit, examined the changes the previous government had made to the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Again, most stakeholders reacted to those changes with concern, in the belief that various works could have taken place without environmental reviews.

Throughout these studies, efforts were made to understand the reasons behind the changes made by the Harper government. We felt it was important to ensure that, where appropriate, measures that improved processes while preserving safeguards were maintained in the interest of modernizing the oldest legislation in Canada.

However, our review did shed light on a couple of critical issues.

One of the notable changes made to the act in 2012 was that of focusing its protections on the productivity of fish that are part of a commercial, recreational, or aboriginal fishery, or fish that support such a fishery, rather than on all fish and fish habitat, as was previously the case.

In addition, prior to the 2012 legislative changes, the act contained prohibitions against killing fish by any means other than fishing, and against carrying on any work or undertaking that results in the harmful alteration, disruption, or destruction of fish habitat, a prohibition commonly known as HADD. In 2012, those two provisions were replaced with a single new prohibition against carrying on “any work, undertaking or activity that results in serious harm to fish that are part of a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery”.

As a term, “serious harm” struck many as being very subjective. The committee heard from witnesses who said that it created confusion, leading to uneven application of the regulations at best, or at worst possibly allowing damaging activities to take place.

The 2012 amendments to the Fisheries Act removed the protection for fish habitat from subsection 35(1). Witnesses submitted that this amendment shifted the focus from fish habitat protection to fisheries protection, which offered substantially less attention to fish habitat. Many believed that applying the term “serious harm” only to fish could allow the disruption and non-permanent alteration of habitat.

According to Dr. Kristi Miller-Saunders, a research scientist at Fisheries and Oceans Canada's Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, B.C., the requirement for the death of fish to be deemed “serious harm” created a problem. Dr. Miller-Saunders noted that fish that are stressed in one environment could become physiologically compromised but might not immediately die within the habitat where the initial stress took place. Their compromised state could leave them unable to adapt or thrive as they move to new habitats, disconnecting the original stress from the weakening or death of fish.

Dr. Miller-Saunders noted that the 2012 changes might not protect fish stocks that were once abundant but became degraded to the point that they were unable to support a commercial, recreational, or aboriginal fishery. In essence, the fear was that once a stock was no longer useful to humans, it might be left on its own, unprotected.

Our committee heard a great deal about the degradation of the DFO's ability to do the necessary science and to monitor compliance with protection regulations. Thus, when the time came to make changes, yes, indeed a lot of the science would not necessarily have been there.

The hon. member for Beauséjour, Canada's fisheries minister, reported that the number of fish habitat protection officers had been reduced from 63 to 16 in the previous government's final years. He noted that from 2010 to 2015, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' budget was cut by $35 million, which led to the loss of almost 1,100 positions, including over 300 scientists.

Remediating that situation started two years ago, with the government's initiative to hire 135 scientists to boost the DFO's capacity, and the allocation of an additional $197 million to the department in budget 2016.

Let us go now to Bill C-68 itself. After extensive consultations, and with the standing committee's recommendations, this legislation establishes new criteria for decision-making, one of the key ones being an increased reliance on scientific information, but information bolstered by the traditional knowledge of our indigenous peoples and the experience of our fishing communities. This decision-making would look beyond the commercial factors that appeared to dominate the previous government's approach, to include the social and cultural impacts of the choices we make.

Clearly, this means that we have to talk among ourselves more often: scientists, academics, advocacy organizations, and the people whose livelihood and quality of life depend on our fisheries.

Just as we have to have broad-based processes above the waterline, we have to maintain care and concern beneath the water, care and concern beyond the commercial considerations, to entire ecosystems. Every fish, every plant needs to matter.

A potent tool at the disposal of the DFO and the minister in their decision-making is the application of the precautionary principle, understanding that we may never know conclusively what is behind an emerging situation in the ecosystem, and appreciating that an emergency usually cannot wait for the science to lead us to the fine points of a response. The precautionary principle mandates action.

The government's response, even before Bill C-68, was Bill C-55, which would give the minister the authority to designate interim marine protected areas, allowing time for science to reconcile evidence that we have a potential crisis on our hands.

Of course, Bill C-68 itself would restore protections that were perceived to have been either lost or seriously weakened by the changes in 2012. No longer will we focus on the subjective matter of “serious harm to fish”. No longer will our care and concern extend only to fish that are useful to humans. No longer will we be uncertain about how and where habitats will be protected.

Prohibitions are restored against causing the death of fish other than by fishing, and the harmful alteration, disruption, or destruction of fish habitat. In our standing committee's study, we often heard that we simply cannot consider the impact of each individual project or activity but have to consider the cumulative effects of industrial activities, public works, and recreational projects such as private docks on fish, their habitat, and the freedom to navigate.

At the same time, our committee considered the need to avoid causing undue delay to important municipal works, for example by requiring full environmental reviews for repairs to existing infrastructure. Bill C-68 introduces measures that allow the minister to issue permits for designated project types and to establish standards and codes of practice to provide proponents with more certainty in the planning, scheduling, and implementation of their projects.

I have selected only the issues that stood out in the notes I took at our standing committee's hearings, but many other important and positive aspects of Bill C-68 will undoubtedly be covered by my colleagues as this debate continues.

There is a lot to celebrate in this legislation, and as much as I am privileged to have made a contribution to its creation, I believe that once the process is done, this whole House will be justifiably proud of its passage, because so many of us care so much about the future of our lakes, rivers, streams, and oceans, and all the creatures and people they serve.

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February 13th, 2018 / 4:50 p.m.
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NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I want to mention that I will share my time with my charming colleague from North Island—Powell River.

Bill C-68, an act to amend the Fisheries Act and other acts in consequence, has been a long time coming. The NDP is very happy that this bill has finally been introduced. All of the environmental bills being introduced this week and those that were introduced last week should have been introduced and implemented much more quickly. The Liberals promised to do so, and then waited two years. I understand that they had to consult the public, but they could have implemented some of the provisions without taking all this time for consultations. We are a bit disappointed in this.

Nevertheless, this bill is extremely important, because it implements a number of the recommendations the NDP made in its dissenting opinion during the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans' review of the amendments made to the Fisheries Act in 2012. I remember that sad day in 2012 very well, when the Conservative government rammed the hundreds and hundreds of pages of its infamous Bill C-38 down our throats. This bill contained a number of amendments that weakened our environmental laws. As my colleague from Trois-Rivières pointed out, these amendments are unfortunately still in effect.

The Liberals endorsed Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline project even though the public does not support it. Furthermore, since the assessment was a total farce, two of our country's wonderful provinces are now in a dispute.

There are some good things in this bill, of course. The government will once again protect fish and their habitat from activities that could kill fish. With respect to this bill, many people have commented that we must not protect only fish used by humans. We must not forget that biodiversity is an ecosystem. Fish eat each other, and if we do not save the other fish, then those we eat will have nothing to feed on. That is why taking several fish species off the protected species list was so ridiculous. That protection will be restored, which is a good thing. The HADD provision on harmful alteration, disruption, or destruction of fish habitat will be restored.

In addition, the government will for the first time include recovery of depleted fish stocks in the Fisheries Act. That is a very good thing. There are some aspects of the bill we are concerned about, though. A number of my colleagues have mentioned that the bill gives the minister far too many discretionary powers. The Liberals have said they would make evidence-based decisions. However, if the minister is allowed to do whatever she wants regardless of science and ancestral indigenous knowledge, everything will depend on the minister's opinion rather than science. That is what we find so problematic about this aspect of the bill.

As I was saying, the Liberals should have reinstated fish habitat protections as soon as they took office, rather than waiting.

I must mention that many of these measures came from amendments proposed by the NDP.

Congratulations to everyone who worked on improving this bill. I commend the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam, who did excellent work on this. He worked to reinstate solid protections for fish habitat, to put forward suggestions on how to replenish fish stocks and ensure their viability, to advocate for establishing a public registry, which is very important, and to take into account indigenous knowledge.

Before I continue, I would like to talk about the very important report of the Cohen commission, which deals with Fraser River sockeye. The report recommended that the government, which is currently a Liberal one, act on the commission's recommendations to restore sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser River. In the third recommendation of the report, Justice Cohen wrote:

The Government of Canada should remove from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ mandate the promotion of salmon farming as an industry and farmed salmon as a product.

In that regard, I would like to come back to the excellent work done by the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam. We know that, unfortunately, the Liberals defeated Bill C-228, which was an excellent bill that sought to transition to the use of closed containment facilities and protect the jobs of workers in that sector so that nobody would lose out. It was a very good bill but, unfortunately, the Liberals voted against it.

Right now, many Canadians, including many of my constituents, are questioning the Liberals' intentions, since they also voted against the bill introduced by the member for Sherbrooke, who is another excellent MP. His bill had to do with the mandatory labelling of GMOs.

As the Liberals were voting against the mandatory labelling of GMOs, they secretly approved the farming and sale of genetically modified salmon in Canada. In fact, Canada remains the only country in the world whose citizens have eaten genetically modified salmon. We do not know who ate it. We do not know where it was purchased. We do not know the circumstances, since labelling is not mandatory, but there is absolutely no question that we unfortunately ate it.

Meanwhile, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, or ACOA, has invested over $3 million in the company that produces genetically modified salmon.

Once again in secret, genetically modified salmon is being produced in Prince Edward Island, even though there has been no environmental assessment on the potential dangers. Genetically modified salmon could escape from their enclosures during storms and other severe weather conditions that could occur. The potential impact of such an accident on Atlantic salmon populations has not been assessed. As we know, the wild Atlantic salmon stock is already threatened.

We will support this bill for all the reasons mentioned. However, we are very disappointed in the Liberal government's efforts relative to what could have been done to improve aquaculture on the Pacific coast, as well as the labelling, sale, and farming of genetically modified salmon. Canadians are angry. We need to take action on this, and we will.

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February 13th, 2018 / 5 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened attentively to the remarks of my colleague from Drummond. Despite the bill's few merits, there is one element in particular that caught my notice, and I would like to hear what he thinks about it. The Liberals seem to be borrowing, or carrying on, the Conservatives' tendency to use bills to grant more and more power to ministers.

The Liberals had assured us that decisions would be based on scientific evidence, but the current bill says that the minister will have the power to make basically whatever decisions she wants. Then, when I check the registry of lobbyists, I see more lobbying of companies than of scientists themselves.

Is there not a risk that the government will give in to pressure from big lobby groups and depart from the goals it is setting out with Bill C-68?

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February 13th, 2018 / 5:05 p.m.
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NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am here to speak to this particular bill because it is so important to the people I represent in North Island—Powell River. It is a very large riding, covering half of Vancouver Island and parts of the mainland as well, so it is really important to me as I serve coastal communities. These communities have a long history of resource economies, and in our resource-rich area the ocean is a large part of our economy.

In these changing times, many people from across my riding have spoken to me about the challenges that they face. Many members of the communities I serve have spoken to me about increasing challenges to make a living fishing in our region. Licences are getting increasingly expensive, leaving the smaller family-owned businesses struggling. Most concerning is the growing scarcity of wild salmon in our region.

It is important for me to discuss legislation like Bill C-68, an act to amend the Fisheries Act and other acts in consequence, as it touches so directly and profoundly on the lives of residents of our coastal communities. The Fisheries Act is a key federal law for fish habitat protection, one of the key laws for marine biodiversity, and an essential part of Canada's environmental safety net.

On October 25, 2017, Oceana Canada released a review of the state of Canada's fisheries and how the government is managing them. Most concerning to me was how the results told the story of serious concern. In Canada's fisheries, only one-third of the stocks are considered healthy and 13% are in critical condition.

Canada's fishing industry employs more than 79,000 employees and exports more than six billion dollars' worth of seafood annually. In my riding, we have businesses that focus on seafood processing, like Keltic Seafoods in Port Hardy. These local businesses are an important factor to the economic backbone of these regions. They hire local people, keep jobs in the areas that need them, and are so close to the resource of seafood. When our marine stocks are in trouble, this has a significant impact on businesses like these.

It also has impacts on the tourism businesses in our region that flourish due to the natural habitat. Be it in Telegraph Cove, up Bute Inlet, in Gold River, Campbell River, Tla'amin, or Sonora, just to name a few of the robust tourism communities, if people want to experience the beauty of whales, wild salmon, eagles, or bears we have them all and all of them rely on the marine stocks.

The other concern that I have been hearing from the indigenous communities that I have the pleasure to represent is the lack of access to seafood resources for the traditional foods of the people. Many of these communities rely on the food of their ancestors, and as it becomes harder to access, many people are struggling. Visitors to my riding do not have to be there long before they understand the importance of the water, how the ocean and inlets provide a livelihood for the people who live there. They are our water highways and roads for jobs.

It is so easy in our fast-food, plastic-wrapped world to forget the food chain, from the food on our plates back to the earth and the waters, to the farmers and men and women who fish. It is too easy to disconnect ourselves from where our food comes from and how much that food needs to be healthy, safe, and enjoy the protection of good laws and regulations. This is the vital role that the federal government plays.

We saw with the previous Conservative government a disrespect for our fish habitat. The government gutted provisions that offered protection. Changes made to the Fisheries Act in 2012 removed protection for fish and for habitat. I am not surprised that four former ministers who wrote the former prime minister to oppose the changes all came from British Columbia. We on the west coast know its importance. Two of those ministers, Siddon and Fraser, were members of the former prime minister's own Conservative Party but he did not listen to them.

In fixing the loss of that protection, it is important to recall the huge public outcry then opposing the Conservative government legislation. More than 700 scientists wrote the government urging it to keep habitat protection in the act. First nations communities in my riding and across British Columbia spoke out against the changes. Conservative organizations, recreational fishers, and concerned citizens joined first nations demanding that we do everything possible to protect fish habitat.

As Jeffery Young of the David Suzuki Foundation notes:

Without healthy habitat, fish can’t survive. These changes are important tools to fight badly degraded habitat from resource development across Canada as well as prevent species extinction.

My party and I welcome this legislation. We give our support now for second reading. The progress we are making in protecting our fish habitat is happening in part from the good work of the New Democratic Party in committee, including the amazing advocacy of my colleague from Port Moody—Coquitlam. This bill would implement some of the recommendations made by the NDP in our dissenting opinion to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans' review of changes made in 2012 to the Fisheries Act and the management of Canadian fisheries.

This legislation is a good start, but I fear the government does not go far enough to address protection. Let me state first what I like about the changes proposed in this legislation and then what needs to be better. It is good that we again are more specific on what we must be on guard against. It is good we are talking now about the harm, alteration, disruption, and destruction of fish habitat, and that we are again restoring the definition of fisheries to include all fish.

Now, when making a decision under the Fisheries Act, the minister will have to consider any adverse effects the decision may have on the rights of the indigenous people of Canada, recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982; include provisions respecting the consideration and protection of traditional 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.

This is long overdue. This respects and begins the process of a nation-to-nation relationship between governments. This is something we will all be watching very closely.

These changes will 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 to their harm. We will need to be vigilant on the regulations still to come to ensure that an ecologically significant area will truly be protected. There are several such ecological areas that are significant and sensitive in my riding. There can never be too much protection, given the human, financial, and ecological consequences from any accidents. I find that the expertise in my region of local sport fisheries and indigenous communities is key here. The benefits of hearing those voices, who care so deeply for the habitat and the success of our marine life, will assist in making good policy. I hope the minister remembers to use that local knowledge.

So much of whether this law will lead to good practice will depend on the regulations. Susanna Fuller, Ecology Action Centre, has said, “It is a big step that the new Act includes that the minister must take into account whether or not rebuilding measures are in place for depleted species, however, details on rebuilding will be in regulations.”

Even with this progress in fish habitat protection, I still have concerns on whether this legislation has gone far enough. I am concerned that this bill still does not address the conflicting mandates that Commissioner Cohen identified of conserving wild salmon while promoting salmon farming. This needs to be clarified and it is still not being addressed.

Another concern I have is the need for strong regulations that follow the passing of this legislation. This will need to be clear with timelines and targets, and take into account the impacts of climate change and species interactions.

I note the bill would give a great deal of discretion around decision-making to the minister, allowing decisions to be made based on the minister's opinion rather than enshrining the necessary strong guidelines in the law. This has me concerned and vigilant, along with many who are at the forefront of protecting our fish habitat. I am concerned too that this legislation does not look at protecting environmental flows. This is so important.

With this bill, we would see undone the bad laws of the previous government. Let us ensure we do everything to make sure this a good law, the best possible law and regulations to truly protect our fish habitat. The activists, scientists, businesses, and first nations communities are asking for a better bill.

In closing, the people of North Island—Powell River rely on the strength of our coast to provide recreation, beauty, and economic development. Protecting these investments is so important today and into the future.