Evidence of meeting #47 for Environment and Sustainable Development in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was wildlife.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Ward Samson  Member, Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Federation
Tony Rodgers  Executive Director, Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters
Charles LeBlanc  President, New Brunswick Wildlife Federation

9:25 a.m.

President, New Brunswick Wildlife Federation

Charles LeBlanc

We do have windmills. We have large windmill industries that some of our members will say have disrupted animals. We have large clear-cuts that have forced migrations of deer herds to private forest, where they don't have the habitat. Now the province is cutting old growth forests and protected deer yards. The deer population is down, so we justified cutting them all because there are no more deer in them. Yet, if we have mild winters and we have an abundance of deer, the next harsh winters they have no place to hide or to feed. This year we're having a tremendous amount of snow, and I assume our population of deer will decrease by probably 50%. So, yes, we do have some movement. It does happen in some respects.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you very much.

Mr. Toet, you have seven minutes, please.

March 12th, 2015 / 9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you to our guests today. Your input to this point been very helpful.

Mr. LeBlanc, picking up a little bit on some of the questions that you just had, you made the statement about the province allowing certain types of cutting, etc. One thing that I think is important to understand is that obviously, forest management is a provincial jurisdiction issue. We know there is going to be some crossover here, but I think it's important that we all have that on record and noted, that it is a provincial jurisdiction issue.

Mr. Rodgers, I just wanted to start with a question for you. You touched quite a bit in your opening remarks on the financial contribution of hunting and trapping communities. Many of the others also did. It's amazing when you hear some of the numbers on how much contribution there is, and the willingness of the community to actually be part of that. You're not saying somebody else has to do it, but that you're very willing to be a part of it. I applaud you for that.

I also want to get your perspective on a few other aspects of hunting and trapping. If you could, please speak to these three points: the cultural significance of this; the contribution of hunters and trappers to wildlife management and conservation—I know you touched on it a little bit, but I think it's a very important aspect and as the environment committee we're very interested in hearing about that contribution, what you're doing there—and then the role of scientific research in wildlife management.

If you could touch on those three things, I would very much appreciate it.

9:25 a.m.

Executive Director, Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Tony Rodgers

Thank you for the question. I'm going to work backwards.

Our federation has a strong position with respect to science when it comes to wildlife management. We don't want any decisions made politically unless they're backed up by science.

We've had that problem in this province before. We have an overabundance of deer in Nova Scotia. At one point, back around 1985, the decision was made that there would be a two-deer limit on the mainland of Nova Scotia and only a one-deer limit on Cape Breton Island. That went over like a lead balloon, because once they found out that there was only one deer for the Cape Bretoners, the decision was made to have it one across the board. When that decision was made politically, the herd on the mainland collapsed. There was an overabundance. They ate themselves out of house and home and just crashed. It made a terrible mess of the whole thing, and it took years to rebound.

When it comes to science, we want to see the science done properly. In our province we're lagging on that because we don't have the same number of staff in our wildlife division that we used to have years ago. It seems that when somebody retires or somebody moves on to some other job, they don't hurry up and replace that person. It's unfortunate; that work still has to be done.

As I said, it's not as if they're not getting any money from the people who are interested in it, because we are paying for it. The management of the deer must be left in the hands of the government. Having said that about the science, we can't start dictating to government that we want this, that, or the other thing. We can make recommendations based on observance and anecdotal evidence we may get from our membership, but the long and short of it is that if it doesn't come down to the clear, hard facts of science, then we shouldn't be making any decisions at all.

On the cultural thing, to me, it's me. I hunt, therefore I am, is I guess the way to put it. It's what I do. My home has wildlife paintings and prints all the way around. In my den you'd swear you were in a museum of animals, because that's part of what I do.

I'm a year-round hunter. There are people who are hunters, but they're only hunters for that one week in the season. They come out on the Friday, hunt till the following Saturday, and that's it. They go back home and don't think of it again. But there are many more of us who dedicate more time to this and are more curious about what's going on.

The culture that the first peoples of Canada have, I share with them. That's the way I feel about my access to wildlife, and I want to have that continue.

Thank you.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Thank you.

Mr. LeBlanc, did you want to add to that at all?

9:30 a.m.

President, New Brunswick Wildlife Federation

Charles LeBlanc

I can't add any more value than what Tony has said. He reflects, probably, the voice of all hunters in our province as well.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

I just want to pick up on one of the comments you made, Mr. LeBlanc, in your opening remarks. You said the New Brunswick Wildlife Federation was established to protect wildlife populations, and you said that trapping is important to this protection.

Could you relate to our committee why trapping is such an important aspect of this protection, and tangibly how it works?

9:30 a.m.

President, New Brunswick Wildlife Federation

Charles LeBlanc

Trapping, as I said.... They can only harvest excess animals in a herd, so by default if they have a successful trapping season, you'd have to assume that the herd is healthy and has reached its carrying capacity. They do not allow an overpopulation, which actually will cause sickness among the animals. They also turn in the carcasses to the biologists in our province, every number, every pelt, to make sure that in fact these animals are healthy, so they play a very important part. It's not as if they are hare-hunting, where we don't know how many hares are harvested. When the fur-bearers are harvested, we know exactly how many animals, so it would be very indicative of the population and the health of these herds.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

I have just one more question, Mr. LeBlanc. You made a comment that I found very interesting, and the role that this plays in your outlook. You said, “If we use it, we own it.” I just wonder, in just a few short seconds, if you can expand on what you mean by that. It's pretty clear in itself, but do you want to add to that a little bit?

9:30 a.m.

President, New Brunswick Wildlife Federation

Charles LeBlanc

As hunters, we go out in the forest. We are not a bunch of moronic people who just go there to kill animals, or to make animals suffer. We understand nature. It's not about just killing and hunting. We go there, walk in the woods, and I find the hunters who are out there feel it, know it.

The urban people.... You know, I go to Ottawa quite often. It's a nice town, nice people. The air stinks; it's not the same as out here.

We're out here, and we are trying to protect what we have. Hikers want to protect their trails. Tony had an issue about Sunday hunting. We were talking about how people were against us going Sunday hunting because they want to have access to the forest without having hunters there. They own the forest. Those people who are hiking might not want hunters, but when it comes to environmental issues, they know we are going to protect it. They will be passionate. They will talk with funding and they will lobby government. We can move people, because they are passionate about that. This is where we're saying anglers—

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you very much.

I'm going to move to Mr. McKay for seven minutes.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Thank you to each one of you.

Mr. LeBlanc, if you want to come to Ottawa for better air, come in the non-parliamentary season.

Each of you represents an important provincial association, and each of you has articulated your concerns. I want to know whether there are any fees or licences that you pay directly to, or obtain from, the federal government.

9:35 a.m.

Executive Director, Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Tony Rodgers

There is licensing under the Migratory Birds Convention Act for people who want to hunt ducks, geese, and upland birds, such as Wilson's snipe and others. Yes, you pay a fee, and there is a habitat stamp attached to that. That voluntary eight dollars goes to Wildlife Habitat Canada, which is a giving organization. It receives the money and, in the same form as a lot of our provincial organizations, gives that money back to the hunting community to use on hunting projects.

For instance, it would give money back to Ducks Unlimited to make more nesting areas or improve habitat in some fashion. Yes, there is at least one licence that we give to the federal government.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

I have no idea what percentage of shooting is attributable to ducks or geese. I would think it's significant, but I don't really know.

For this habitat stamp, does the money actually go through the federal treasury and then come back out?

9:35 a.m.

Executive Director, Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Tony Rodgers

Sir, that's a question over my pay grade. I'm sorry. I can't answer that one for you. I know that these licences are sold primarily at the post office, so the post office would turn in both sides of the money, the eight dollars for the licence and the eight dollars for the habitat stamp. As for where it goes from there, I have no idea. I'm sorry.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Thank you.

What about regulations? Are there any direct federal regulations that are attributable to the federal government?

9:35 a.m.

Executive Director, Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Tony Rodgers

In the same fashion, sir, under the migratory bird act, this is a three-country act, actually, which includes Mexico, the United States, and Canada. The regulations are dealt with on that international basis in order to determine populations of animals, bag limits, and things of this nature. So yes, those regulations would come through, but again, in consultation with those other two countries, because a migratory species is flying back and forth across the border. It has no idea where it's landing except that it's on the water, so there have to be these regulations.

Because these regulations are in place, we've had an abundance of these types of animals. I don't know what the numbers are either about the take, but I can assure you that it's very sustainable and doing well. As a matter of fact, I think we have a goose population problem in some areas of Canada because of an overabundance of these animals.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

I can tell you where you have a goose population problem: Toronto.

9:35 a.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

I think we could even have a shootout in Toronto at some point or another and we'd be happy about that.

What do you see as the regulatory weaknesses, then, with respect to any environmental role the federal government would or would not play? Generally speaking, the attitude around here is that these are provincial issues. There's primarily a benefit to the provincial economies. I buy your argument that on migratory species there is an international component, but largely, the attitude around here is that the federal government should butt out, that it's not really needed. Is there an area where the federal government should be playing a more robust role?

Well, that generated stunning silence.

9:35 a.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

I'm directing that to all three.

9:35 a.m.

A voice

I'm going to jump in there, because—

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Mr. Rodgers...?

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Or Mr. LeBlanc or Mr. Samson?