Evidence of meeting #48 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 ontario.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Greg Farrant  Manager, Government Affairs and Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters
Duncan Crawford  President, Prince Edward Island Wildlife Federation

March 24th, 2015 / 9:20 a.m.

NDP

Annick Papillon NDP Québec, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

As the official opposition critic for tourism, it's my pleasure to welcome our witnesses.

You are most definitely contributing to the Canadian tourism industry.

Therefore, I was a bit worried when I heard you say that we had to accommodate the Americans. In my opinion, given all the free trade agreements we are now signing, we should not forget about Europeans and others from around the world. Canada is definitely a country of open green spaces where people can reconnect with certain activities. We have the necessary space. In fact, we have all that is needed for activities such as fishing or hunting.

So I would like to know what you think about the drastic cuts to Parks Canada in the 2012 budget. That really hurt our tourism industry in terms of access to parks and trip length. The Canadian Tourism Commission also had its budget from last year cut by 19%. So organizations like yours are no longer in the brochures. We cannot develop long-term tourism with the Americans, the French or tourists from other countries. I think that prevents us from fully benefiting from an industry that could be flourishing. I'd like to hear your thoughts on that.

I would also like to hear your opinion on the protection of the resource. I think that, when tourists know that we are protecting the resource, we can attract them to come here. When cuts are made to environmental assessments as the Conservatives have done, that gives us a bad reputation. That can also discourage fishers and hunters from coming to Canada, as they may be wondering what they are participating in. If we can guarantee that everything is done within an appropriate framework, I think we could....

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Madam Papillon, if you want an answer, you're going to have to stop soon.

9:20 a.m.

NDP

Annick Papillon NDP Québec, QC

Yes, I'll let him answer.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

You have 20 seconds to respond, Mr. Farrant.

9:20 a.m.

Manager, Government Affairs and Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Greg Farrant

I'll try to respond really quickly. The figures we have seen show primarily that the tourism industry in particular, when it comes to outdoor activities, is predominantly American. Yes, there are European tourists that come here. There's no doubt about that.

In terms of environmental assessments being cut back, our experience has been quite the opposite. In fact, we find that every decision, even the smallest decision, seems to need to go through an EBR posting or an EBR assessment. In fact, I think we're regulated to death. The Ministry of Environment in Ontario, for instance, which is responsible for that, has so many EBR postings that they've become nothing more than a regulatory agency that just seems to churn them out repeatedly.

You can't seem to take a step forward without taking four steps back and having to appear for or write responses to EBRs and go through a very lengthy process to move forward. I think the process needs to be streamlined considerably. It takes far too long to reach decisions that affect fish and wildlife or natural resources in general because of the bureaucracy around the Environmental Bill of Rights and the EBR process.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

We're a little beyond the time.

We'll move back to the Conservative side, with Mr. Sopuck for seven minutes.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Thank you very much.

I want to reference a study that just came out from Cornell University indicating that hunting and birdwatching boosts conservation activity. To quote the press release on the study, it says, “Both bird watchers and hunters were more likely than non-recreationists to enhance land for wildlife, donate to conservation organizations and advocate for wildlife—all actions that significantly impact conservation success.”

In fact, the study labels birdwatchers and hunters—many of us are both, and I know you are too, Mr. Farrant—those groups of people as “conservation superstars”. The conclusion is that the more time we spend in nature, the more likely we are to protect it.

I think your testimony exemplifies that.

In terms of the conservation activities of the OFAH and the land that you have helped conserve, both on your own and via public policy, can you discuss the public benefits that habitat conservation has beyond providing game to hunt?

9:25 a.m.

Manager, Government Affairs and Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Greg Farrant

Thank you, Mr. Sopuck, for the question.

As I said earlier in my statement before the committee, wildlife is not an accident, and healthy and thriving fish and wildlife populations are not accidents. They have to be managed. They have to be managed to protect them and they have to be managed for people's enjoyment, whether that happens to be birdwatching, hunting, fishing, or whatever activity you're engaged in. People who are in the field, such as anglers, hunters, birdwatchers, hikers, campers, or whoever, are people who engage in outdoor activities of all types. They are on the ground. They have the best experience because they see what's happening on the ground while they're taking part in these activities.

These populations clearly have to be managed. With deer populations, we hear people all the time getting upset, for instance, when they hear about a deer cull. Any time you engage in a cull is an admitted failure on the part of government, whichever that might be, to manage wildlife properly. That means you've let them get out of hand far beyond what the habitat can sustain in a given area and therefore you have to cut them back. People get outraged about this and say, well, isn't this horrific. The science behind fish and wildlife management is very precise. There are so many caring capacities for so many animals on such and such a property. When it gets beyond that, it then becomes to the detriment of people, the animals, and the ecosystems, because there are just too many on the landscape. They're either destroying the vegetation or they're unable to find enough food to eat and therefore they're going to starve to death. There is a delicate balance here, but it's not something that just happens by accident.

The Ministry of Natural Resources in Ontario has statements in its policies that say hunting is the most valuable wildlife management tool they have available to them because it's managed, there's a tag system, there's an allocation system, and there's a reason that the numbers are that.

Ms. Hughes has raised a question about the moose population. Well, the reason there are cutbacks is that the moose population is declining, but you can't just simply look at that in terms of how to manage a resource or you're going to fail.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Is it fair to say that any public policies that limit participation in hunting then have direct conservation impacts?

9:25 a.m.

Manager, Government Affairs and Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Greg Farrant

Exactly. In a word, yes.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Okay.

Again, we can make a link between the long-gun registry in it's initial implementation and a lot of people giving up hunting.

Is it safe to assume that supporters of the long-gun registry, either to bring it back, or back when it was brought in, had a detrimental effect on conservation?

9:25 a.m.

Manager, Government Affairs and Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Greg Farrant

Indirectly, yes, because one begets the other begets the other.

If it becomes too onerous, and this applies not only to the long-gun registry, but also to overly restrictive regulations, licencing issues, cost factors, and stuff like that, once there are too many of those in place, then people tend to say it's just not worth the trouble. If you have people who say it's not worth the trouble, they're not out on the landscape, they're not managing the resource. Quite frankly, people who walk away because of onerous government policies, whether it's the long-gun registry or any others.... At the end of the day it's also economics, because these are the very people who are paying for fish and wildlife programs across the country. Without those people buying licences and without those people buying products and whatnot, the economy suffers, and the fish and wildlife suffer. In Ontario, as I said earlier, anglers and hunters pay for two-thirds of the fish and wildlife programs in the entire province. It was supposed to be a 50-50 proposition with the province when the SPA was created. Instead, it's a 70-30 proposition right now, with our carrying the ball.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Obviously, any legislation that implements an animal rights agenda would have the same effect.

I see that the OFAH has been fighting against a private member's bill by an NDP MP, Ms. Morin, Bill C-592.

In a letter by many other organizations which your organization signed and which you sent to all of us as parliamentarians, you said that this particular bill could “unintentionally criminalize all sorts of accepted necessary and traditional practices. Everything from food production, hunting, fishing, and trapping, research using animals, sports and entertainment, and private ownership would be impacted.”

I'd like to draw your attention to comments that two NDP MPs made on October 27, 2014.

Ms. Jean Crowder, the New Democratic MP for Nanaimo—Cowichan, said that she supports legislation in which, and I'm quoting here, “animals would be considered people and not just property.”

On the same day, Ms. Françoise Boivin, the New Democratic MP for Gatineau, Quebec, made a point that animals should be treated with, and I'm quoting here, “the same protection that we afford to children and people with mental or physical disabilities.”

I was astonished when I heard these statements in the House.

Can you talk about what a radical animal rights agenda would do to people who hunt, trap, and fish?

9:30 a.m.

Manager, Government Affairs and Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Greg Farrant

Well, the first thing I want to point out is that it's very easy for groups who oppose these activities to be obstructive or to raise concerns on their part that they think are valid. But at the same time, we have seen things—and I'll give you a good example, going back to 1999 in Ontario. Animal rights activists were able to influence, and I won't go into how they influenced, the government of the day to cancel the spring bear hunt, which had been around for hundreds of years in Ontario. They did it on the basis of the fact that there were cubs “being orphaned” because of hunting.

In fact, what we have seen since that time is a bear population that has spiralled out of control because the controls of the spring hunt are not there anymore. There are more orphan cubs now than ever before being reported to all sorts of wildlife centres across northern Ontario. There is more predation on moose calves, fawns, and other species by bears. There have been more attacks on people by bears, and because of that, the current government in Ontario has brought back a two-year pilot project in several northern communities to study the impact of the spring hunt, once again because it's become not only a natural resources issue but a public safety issue.

It's quite easy to raise a fuss, get something changed either legislatively or in public policy, and then walk away, and everybody else is left to pick up the pieces. That's what happened in that case.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you, Mr. Sopuck.

We'll move to Ms. Murray for seven minutes.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Thank you very much, Mr. Albrecht, and it's great to be pinch-hitting at this committee today.

Just to let you know, I was the minister of environment for British Columbia for almost three years and worked very closely with the B.C. Wildlife Federation as well as guide outfitters and trappers. It was a very constructive partnership from my perspective, and we have shared many common objectives beyond the economic ones: the conservation and proper governance of those industries.

My comments will be along the lines of attempting to understand the similarities and differences in your provinces versus British Columbia and what's a national approach and what's a local approach.

I know that in British Columbia, even 10 years ago when I was the minister, traplines were handed out or sold and first nations interests weren't deeply considered. Guide outfitter territories were all becoming places where there was more engagement, interest, and claiming of rights by aboriginal communities.

I'm wondering how it is in Ontario, and particularly how the Tsilhqot'in decision has affected the way traplines and guide outfitter territory licensing is determined.

9:35 a.m.

Manager, Government Affairs and Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Greg Farrant

I think it's early days to determine how that decision by the Supreme Court is going to have impact in Ontario. I can tell you that we have two very large aboriginal files that are going on. There are 50 land claims going on in Ontario, but there are two in particular that have a potential for monumental impact on the landscape. One is the Algonquin land claim, which is roughly 36,000 square kilometres, including the city where you are sitting right now. The other is a court case that the Williams Treaties First Nations in Ontario are engaged in at the Federal Court. Both of those have potential to certainly affect the landscape in Ontario.

In terms of aboriginal participation, I can also tell you it is my understanding that right now, when traplines are being given up, the Ontario government is giving aboriginal individuals an opportunity for first dibs, if you will, on those traplines.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Is your organization directly in conversation with representatives from indigenous communities on these issues, or is it happening more through the provincial government?

9:35 a.m.

Manager, Government Affairs and Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Greg Farrant

I think it's fair to say that it happens more through the government. We have sat down at the table many times with the Algonquin first nations and talked to them about the land claim. We have been to their band councils, and they have been to our head office in Peterborough. We do have dialogue with them on an infrequent yet ongoing basis.

The Williams Treaties First Nations first went to the Supreme Court in 1994 trying to overturn the 1923 Williams treaty in which they gave up their right to hunt and fish. We were participants in that court case. The Supreme Court said the treaty was valid. They went back in 1996, and the Supreme Court again said, “No, sorry. It's still valid.” They're still trying to overturn that decision, and we will be involved in that as it goes forward.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Okay.

Another area I wanted to ask about is new Canadians.

In the early 2000s in British Columbia, I was the minister responsible for watching the decline in hunting licences and interest in angling and so on, and we were working to bring young people in with things like family fishing day and so on. So I was delighted to hear about the youth and women becoming interested in these pursuits on the land.

The other challenge that we had for parks visits and for engagement with hunting and fishing was with new Canadians. It wasn't their culture where they came from, so when they came to Canada, it wasn't something that they automatically became involved in.

Has your organization—and I don't know if P.E.I. has as well—had specific programs to involve and interest new Canadians in these activities?

9:35 a.m.

Manager, Government Affairs and Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Greg Farrant

I'll speak briefly, because I know Mr. Crawford probably wants to get a word in here, and justifiably so.

Speaking of my organization, the OFAH holds women's outdoor weekends every year. We also have our youth program, Get Outdoors, which holds month-long camps in the summer.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Excuse me, because time is short, I'm specifically interested in new Canadians.

9:35 a.m.

Manager, Government Affairs and Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Greg Farrant

Okay. We hold a new Canadians day every year at OFAH head office. We have a large pond there that is stocked with fish. It's sponsored by Shimano. We bring busloads of people from the GTA out to Peterborough. They spend the day at our fish and wildlife heritage centre next door. They spend time fishing in the pond and getting a better understanding of what fishing and hunting are all about and the heritage activities behind them.

Can we do a better job? Without a doubt. I do say to you that the Ontario Chinese Anglers Association, which is one of our member clubs, is one of the strongest member clubs we have anywhere in Ontario. They are huge. They are centred in Toronto. Raymond Zee is their executive director. They do a massively great job working on conservation projects. They're very strong, very powerful, very big, and they raise a lot of money for conservation.

But we can all do a better job in approaching these cultures. You're quite right. The makeup of this country is changing, and we all have to do a better job in approaching those folks and finding a way to integrate them into these activities.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Good. Thank you.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Mr. Crawford, do you want to quickly address Ms. Murray's question as well?