Evidence of meeting #1 for Subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Finance on Bill C-38 in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was environmental.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Jean-François Lafleur
Jay Khosla  Assistant Deputy Minister, Major Projects Management Office, Department of Natural Resources
Helen Cutts  Vice-President, Policy Development Sector, Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency
Coleen Volk  Assistant Deputy Minister, Environmental Stewardship Branch, Department of the Environment
Jean-François Tremblay  Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Treaties and Aboriginal Government, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and Canadian Polar Commission

8:50 a.m.

The Clerk of the Committee Mr. Jean-François Lafleur

Honourable members of the committee, I see a quorum.

I must inform members that the clerk of the subcommittee can only receive motions for the election of the chair.

The clerk cannot receive any further motions. He cannot hear any points of order or take part in the debate, of course.

We can now proceed to the election of the chair. Pursuant to Standing Order 106(2), the chair must be a member of the government party. I am ready to receive motions for the election of the chair now.

Mr. Allen.

8:50 a.m.


Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

I would like to nominate Mr. Calkins.

8:50 a.m.

The Clerk

Thank you.

It has been moved by Mr. Allen that Mr. Calkins be elected as chair of the subcommittee. Are there any further motions? Is it the pleasure of the subcommittee to adopt the motion?

8:50 a.m.

Some hon. members


8:50 a.m.

The Clerk

I declare the motion carried and Mr. Calkins duly elected as the chair of the subcommittee.


8:50 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Good morning, everyone.

I appreciate the unanimous consent for my election to the chair. I would assume the fact that there were no hands raised opposed is a good thing. We're off to a great start.

I would like to thank Jean-François Lafleur for getting everything going in such a timely fashion.

As you know, colleagues, this is a subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Finance that was just given its mandate a short while ago.

I think it's best that we put this in context as we get going.

The second report of the finance committee was that:

A. pursuant to Standing Orders 108(1)(a) and 108(1)(b), a Subcommittee on Bill C-38 (Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act) be established to examine the clauses contained in Part 3....

—that will be the part this subcommittee is tasked with—

...(Responsible Resource Development) of the Bill, provided that

(i) the subcommittee be composed of twelve (12) members including seven (7) from the Conservative Party, four (4) from the New Democratic Party, and one (1) from the Liberal Party, to be named following the usual consultations with the Whips,

(ii) the chair of the subcommittee be a member of the Conservative Party,

(iii) the subcommittee be empowered to send for persons, papers and records, to receive evidence, to sit during a time when the Committee is not sitting in Ottawa, to sit when the Committee is sitting outside the Parliamentary Precinct and to sit during periods when the House stands adjourned,

(iv) the subcommittee adopt the routine motions of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, other than the creation of a subcommittee on agenda and procedure....

—so all of the agenda and procedure discussions that we will have, we will have as a whole subcommittee—

(v) the subcommittee finish its examination no later than 5:30 p.m. on Monday, June 4, 2012, and report its findings to the Standing Committee on Finance at the next available opportunity, provided that if the subcommittee has not reported by that time, it shall be deemed to have reported a recommendation that the clauses contained in Part 3 of Bill C-38 be carried;

Does everybody understand that? Does anybody want to go through the routine motions from the Standing Committee on Natural Resources? I think that would probably be a handy thing to have.

Does everyone have a copy of that? Is everybody satisfied with those routine motions?

8:50 a.m.

Some hon. members


8:50 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins


Given that this legislation has been before Parliament for quite some time—I see three ministers of the crown here—it is typical tradition that the first witnesses we hear from at a committee meeting be ministers, with their associated officials.

I see the Minister of Environment, Peter Kent, the Minister of Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, and the Minister of Fisheries and Ocean, Keith Ashfield, here.

Without further ado, Ministers, if you would like to take your places here, we can begin the hearings on this particular part of the legislation.

I welcome our analysts to the table as well. Thanks for joining us.

Thank you for coming, Ministers. I appreciate you being here on such quick behest from the subcommittee. We have a two-hour block of time here at this particular committee meeting. My guess is that you will be here to answer questions until you can—I'm guessing the first hour or so. You have department officials here who will be able to stay longer, if needed.

Colleagues, I think we should save some time at the end of this meeting today to discuss future business, if that's agreeable.

Does anybody want to have this televised? I will need a motion from the floor to have this televised.

8:55 a.m.


Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

I so move.

8:55 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Is anybody opposed to having this televised?

Okay. We'll have to suspend for a moment, and then we'll get going.

We're back in action, ladies and gentlemen.

The cameras, I'm told, are running.

Ministers, thank you very much for being here.

I think we'll start in the following order. We'll start with you, Minister Ashfield, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, for 10 minutes, then we'll move to Minister Kent for 10 minutes, and then to Minister Oliver for 10 minutes.

That's my understanding, unless there was some other agreement you had.

9 a.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario


Joe Oliver ConservativeMinister of Natural Resources

It was the opposite.

9 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Was it? Okay.

Well, let's go in the opposite order. Far be it from me, as a lowly committee chair, to question a minister of the crown.

Minister Oliver, you have the floor for 10 minutes, sir.

9 a.m.


Joe Oliver Conservative Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Thank you.

I want to thank you for the opportunity to meet with the finance subcommittee with respect to responsible resource development. Accompanying me are the Hon. Peter Kent, Minister of the Environment, and the Hon. Keith Ashfield, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

We will all speak briefly about our shared interests in Bill C-38 before taking questions from the members.

Mr. Chair, members of the subcommittee, our government's top priority has always been to support jobs and growth and to sustain Canada's economy. Since we introduced the economic action plan to respond to the global recession, Canada has recovered more than all of the output and all the jobs lost during the recession. Since 2009, employment has increased by more than 750,000 jobs and is now more than 260,000 above its pre-recession peak. It's the strongest job growth among G-7 countries.

Natural resources have always been the foundation of Canada's economy, and that remains the case today.

Canada's natural resource sectors employ 760,000 Canadians. Furthermore, the resources sectors generate billions of dollars worth of tax revenue and royalties annually, helping to pay for government programs and services for Canadians.

Our resource strength is set to continue to expand well into the future. We currently estimate that over the next decade there is the potential for well over 500 new projects and over $500 billion in investments across the country in the energy and mining sectors alone. These projects will create an estimated 700,000 jobs and will contribute substantially to our country's economic prosperity. In fact, the numbers are growing as new opportunities are identified.

There have been suggestions that resource development only helps the west while hurting the east. This is inaccurate and divisive. Resource development, mining, forestry, and energy projects are happening across Canada, and they're helping every provincial economy.

In British Columbia they are rapidly pursuing the export of liquid natural gas, and three projects are moving forward.

In Alberta the oil sands are creating benefits across Canada, including Ontario's manufacturing sector.

In Saskatchewan they are increasingly pursuing their oil resources and potash, as well as uranium.

Manitoba has large hydroelectric installations that are providing cheap and clean energy.

Ontario is looking at the development of the Ring of Fire, a massive mineral deposit that has billions of dollars in potential.

Quebec, which has long been a mining and energy giant, is moving forward with their Plan Nord which would provide massive benefits to the Quebec government and each of its citizens.

New Brunswick has large forestry resources. Nova Scotia has offshore gas development. P.E.I. is investing in wind. Of course, Newfoundland and Labrador has benefited greatly from their offshore oil fields.

Last but not least is the north and its territories, which are largely untapped. The extent of their resource wealth is not fully understood, but its potential is enormous.

Of course, this is only part of the story. The resource sector does not operate in a vacuum; mines do not appear out of thin air. They require construction, huge capital investments, materials, and machinery. They require workers in every sector of the Canadian economy, especially in our manufacturing sector.

Jayson Myers, president and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, strongly supports resource development precisely because it helps our manufacturing sector.

To quote:

In total, [we] estimate that energy and resource companies invested more than $85 billion in major capital projects in 2011, and [we think those investments will] double over the next three years. ... These investments...will drive new business for Canadian manufacturers in a variety of sectors ranging from equipment, structural steel, and metal fabricating to construction materials and parts suppliers. They will provide opportunities for engineering and construction companies, processing and environmental technology companies, and services ranging from accommodation, food, environmental, and resource services, through to land management, trucking, and distribution as well.

This type of investment will take place across Canada, helping all sectors of the Canadian economy. That is why it is so important to ensure that Canada has the right conditions to attract global capital in our provinces and territories. Canada must compete with other resource-rich countries around the world for these job-creating investment dollars.

This is the fundamental reason why our government is committed to modernizing Canada's regulatory system. We need to ensure timely, efficient, and effective project reviews. This will keep us competitive with the likes of Australia and other resource-producing nations. We need a system that promotes business confidence and attracts investment while strengthening our world-class environmental standards. In short, we need responsible resource development.

Here's what this new legislation will achieve:

First, it will make project reviews more predictable and timely.

Second, it will reduce unnecessary duplication and regulatory burden.

Third, it will strengthen environmental protection.

Fourth, it will enhance consultations with aboriginal peoples.

To streamline and modernize our outdated regulatory system, we will take a whole-of-government approach. We want to put in place a new system of “one project, one review” that operates within a clearly defined time period.

Canadians understand that we do not have to choose between economic development and the environment. It is not an either/or proposition. A new poll conducted by Ipsos Reid shows that two-thirds of Canadians believe it is possible to develop our economy while respecting the environment.

The fact is our new plan will strengthen environmental safeguards, including tanker and pipeline safety. For the first time, it will provide enforcement of environmental assessment conditions under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. It will also strengthen enforcement with monetary policies respecting the National Energy Board conditions on new pipeline projects. So our changes make sense from both an economic and an environmental perspective. We Canadians have a wonderful new opportunity before us.

There is no better time to act than right now. We have to give ourselves every chance to compete for job-creating investment dollars from fast-growing markets in Asia and elsewhere.

We also know it is absolutely necessary to develop our resources in a responsible way. Responsible resource development achieves the balance we need. We will unleash the potential of our resource sector to create jobs across Canada while ensuring that our environmental protections are strong. That is what Canadians expect, and that is what our plan delivers.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

9:05 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Thank you, Minister Oliver.

Minister Kent.

May 17th, 2012 / 9:05 a.m.

Thornhill Ontario


Peter Kent ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Thank you.

Good morning, honourable members.

Mr. Chair, I am pleased to be here this morning as you commence your study of Bill C-38. I will focus my remarks on proposals for a new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, as well as important changes to the Species at Risk Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

Some comments during the debate about this bill have emphasized the proposal to repeal the current Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. This is not accurate. The current act will be repealed and, I must emphasize, replaced with the proposals in Bill C-38 for new and effective environmental assessment legislation.

Environmental assessment is a key part of my portfolio. It's an important part of the government's plan to strengthen environmental protection today and for the benefit of future generations of Canadians.

This is why we have protected funding for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency at a time of fiscal restraint. Despite what the media has reported, there are no cuts to the agency's funding. In fact, the agency's budget will increase by $1.5 million.

Sufficient and stable funding, when combined with the amendments two years ago to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, have laid the foundation for the fundamental changes proposed by Bill C-38. These changes will make the process more predictable and timely, reduce duplication, strengthen environmental protection, and enable meaningful consultation with aboriginal peoples.

As my colleague, the Minister of Natural Resources, has pointed out, these are the four pillars of responsible resource development. Some may erroneously view these as conflicting objectives. I do not. They are at the heart of Bill C-38 and the new environmental assessment process. I'm confident that Canadians will benefit from timely, high-quality environmental assessments that avoid duplication and needless double effort with provinces.

Bill C-38 will strengthen protection of our environment. With the time available I want to provide members of the committee with some of the highlights.

First, I've spoken in the House and elsewhere about the importance of enforcement. Bill C-38 builds on the past work of this government. This issue first came to the forefront through Budget 2008, which stated that:

Environmental laws alone are not enough to guarantee a cleaner, better environment. These laws also need to be enforced.

My predecessor followed through with the Environmental Enforcement Act that was passed by Parliament in 2009.

Bill C-38 builds on this excellent legislation by closing the enforcement gap for environmental assessment. The new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act creates a decision statement that will include enforceable conditions. These conditions are backed up by inspection powers to confirm that mitigation measures are being implemented. There are penalties ranging from $100,000 to $400,000 for violations.

Legislation is just part of the solution. The government has permanently increased resources to environmental enforcement by $21 million annually to ensure that we have the officers, the equipment, the forensic science, and the tools to do the job.

Today, there are 50% more enforcement officers than there were just five years ago. They are stationed in offices across the country. They are working in the fields to detect those who violate our environmental legislation, and take action against them.

These officers will be able to inspect and take action on violations of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. These new enforcement provisions are complemented by a requirement for a follow-up program after each and every environmental assessment. These programs verify the accuracy of an environmental assessment's predictions and determine whether mitigation measures are working as intended.

This is the way we will identify environmental results. It's also a means to learn and build on past successes and avoid past mistakes. It is a means to improve the practice of environmental assessment.

The bill also includes new authority for the Minister of the Environment to launch regional environmental assessments in cooperation with other jurisdictions.

Currently, the act is restricted to a single-project focus. It is a challenge to assess cumulative effects of multiple projects and activities in a region experiencing significant development. The requirement to assess cumulative effects is nevertheless carried out from the current act—it is carried over, rather, from the current act. It is an essential part of the federal regime.

What we are proposing to add, Mr. Chair, is a new tool for regional studies to deal with the issue of cumulative effects. The Minister of the Environment will have authority to establish an independent committee of experts to conduct a regional strategic environmental assessment in cooperation with another jurisdiction. The results of these studies can feed into the assessment of specific projects, and the gains therefore would be twofold.

First, we will have a deeper understanding of the ecosystem involved. This will translate into better environmental assessments and approaches to mitigation. Second, by doing much of the upfront scientific work, regional studies will streamline project-specific reviews.

Mr. Chairman, once again, the conclusion is clear. We are proposing changes that support the four pillars of responsible resource development.

With regional studies, we have a tool that will promote timely and predictable project reviews. We will gain information that strengthens environmental protection. By working with the provinces, we avoid duplication. Finally, such studies provide an opportunity for aboriginal peoples to make their concerns known, thus informing later consultations with respect to specific projects.

Mr. Chair, there has been much talk and great exaggeration and misrepresentation about the changes to environmental assessments under the responsible resource development initiative. I've brought forward some facts to correct the record.

First, and most important, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency's budget is not being cut. Second, with new enforcement provisions, mandatory follow-up programs, and a new tool for regional studies, we are enhancing—not gutting, as some would perceive—federal environmental assessment.

Mr. Chairman, I'd now like to speak about aboriginal consultations.

The environmental assessment process is uniquely situated to assist the Government of Canada with its constitutional duty to consult and, where appropriate, accommodate aboriginal groups when their rights might be adversely affected by a proposed project.

Environmental assessment, Mr. Chair, starts early in the planning of a project, when it is still possible to design changes to reduce impacts. Changes to the environment that affect aboriginal peoples, including their current use of the land and resources for traditional purposes, are one of the “environmental effects” specifically referred to in this bill. There are also logical points in the process to directly obtain input from aboriginal groups to learn of their concerns and to develop means to avoid or reduce negative effects.

For these reasons, the government will continue to integrate, to the extent possible, aboriginal consultations into the environmental assessment process.

Budget 2012, Mr. Chair, provides the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency with $6.8 million per year to support consultations with aboriginal peoples. Of this, $5.3 million is a renewal of funding first provided in 2007, and it is now being topped up by a further $1.5 million in new money.

While the exact allocation of all these resources is still being determined, I can say that a significant portion will go directly to aboriginal groups involved in consultations. The remainder will be provided to the agency to support its involvement in consultation activities.

Mr. Chair, I want to assure all members of this committee that the federal government takes its responsibilities very seriously. This is why enhancing consultations with aboriginal peoples is one of the pillars of the responsible resource development initiative. Agency staff and review panels are engaging, and will continue to directly engage, aboriginal peoples in their communities.

As part of the responsible resource development plan, the government is also proposing some changes to the Species at Risk Act and to the disposal at sea provisions of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. These changes allow legally binding timelines for permitting decisions to be set in regulations.

Amendments to the disposal at sea permitting process will also allow for permit renewals for routine, low-risk projects. They will change requirements to allow publication on the CEPA registry website, rather than in the Canada Gazette. This will create a more efficient and transparent process for issuing permits.

The Species at Risk Act amendments allow for longer-term permits and make the conditions for these permits enforceable. These changes will support effective protection of listed species, while allowing the government to issue authorizations for a time period better suited to large projects.

In closing, I wish all members of the committee well as they embark on this important study of the proposed Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.

Thank you.

9:20 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Thank you, Minister Kent.

Minister Ashfield is next for up to 10 minutes, please.

9:20 a.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick


Keith Ashfield ConservativeMinister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

Thank you, Mr. Chair, for the opportunity to outline the changes to the Fisheries Act that are proposed in the Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act.

With regard to the broader Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act, I am proud of the work that has been done to focus the government on better and more effective ways to contribute to our economic growth and job creation in a sustainable, responsible way, now and for future generations.

In today's economy, it's paramount to ensure that Canada's great natural resources, including the fisheries, are well managed. And with respect to fisheries, it's our intention to do precisely that. The proposed changes to the Fisheries Act do three things related to the protection of fisheries in Canada. First, it's about focusing our protection efforts where they are needed. Second, it's about regulatory clarity and efficiency. Third, it's about enabling partnerships with provinces and territories, aboriginal groups, conservation organizations, and others that care about fisheries protection.

I should note that the changes we have proposed do not change how section 36, the pollution provision, is applied at Environment Canada. Most of what I will speak to applies to fisheries protection other than pollution. The proposed changes enable us to focus our efforts on the protection of commercial, recreational, and aboriginal fisheries. This means moving away from the current rules where all fish and all habitats are subject to the same treatment. Under the Fisheries Act today, activities and impacts on an irrigation ditch on a farmer's field are subject to the same rules as a sensitive fish-rearing area on the Fraser River. The impacts on water bodies are subject to the same rules regardless of magnitude—from a dock at a lake, to a clear-span bridge, to a major industrial or resource development.

That is not a sustainable, not a common sense approach. Canadians expect us to focus our work on the protection of fisheries. The proposed changes will focus on recreational, commercial, and aboriginal fisheries. These changes will ensure that these fisheries are protected from a range of threats, including threats to habitat or non-authorized killing of fish in protection from aquatic invasive species.

The purpose section of the act clarifies that fisheries protection provisions are supposed to support the sustainability and ongoing productivity of the fishery. We are also providing enhanced tools for protection and compliance. The proposed changes include aligning the penalty provisions with the Environmental Enforcement Act. The changes would make the conditions of authorizations enforceable, so we can ensure that appropriate monitoring and reporting takes place. The changes enable the identification of ecologically significant areas that can provide enhanced protection in areas such as sensitive spawning grounds or where cumulative impacts are a concern.

Another objective of our government is to provide clear and transparent regulations, and we have proposed the regulatory tools to enable us to implement this effectively. One example is the identification of minor works. These are classes of works like cottage docks that would not require a permit. Another example is minor fisheries waters where we can identify classes of waters such as irrigation ditches that would no longer require a review of projects.

With these approaches, we can be clear about where the fisheries protection provisions do and do not apply. At the same time, we'll provide clarity about how the new provisions will apply. We have included a regulatory authority to establish standards for fisheries protection—for water flows or the passage of fish, or times of the year that projects can or cannot be undertaken to protect fish spawning or growing. Canadians expect us to be clear about the rules, where they apply and how they apply. We will also develop a regulation that clarifies for proponents what information we will require from them for a project review and how long it will take us to do the review for the purposes of issuing or denying a permit.

The proposed changes will provide new mechanisms to better coordinate with provinces and territories to address overlap and duplication. Where a provincial or territorial government has standards that meet or beat the federal standards, we can stand down and allow the provincial process to apply. We can even delegate the authority to make decisions if the appropriate mechanisms are in place.

As serious as we are about our focus on protecting recreational, commercial, and aboriginal fisheries, we are also serious about transparency, about clarity, and about efficiency. Canadians want to know what the rules are, how the rules will be applied, what is expected of them as proponents, and how long decisions will take. The proposed changes provide the tools to do this.

One of the changes that I am most excited about is enabling partnerships. I have already spoken about partnerships with provinces and territories to address overlap and duplication. But I am also talking about enabling partnerships with conservation groups and others who are passionate about protecting fisheries. We have good partnerships now with groups that represent the thousands upon thousands of Canadians who work with us to protect Canada's fisheries. But we know we can be better partners. So the proposed changes enable us to establish activities and programs and to enter into agreements with third parties to carry them out.

Conservation groups, angling groups, recreational fishing groups, and many others have told me about the important work they are doing to protect Canada's fisheries and about their ideas to develop new, innovative approaches to achieve this. It is innovative and exciting to hear from groups with such passion and on-the-ground expertise. The networks in those groups are extraordinary. We need to work better through them to reach the general public.

To summarize, the changes to the Fisheries Act represent three components: a focus on the significant impacts to Canada's commercial, recreational, and aboriginal fisheries; tools to enable regulatory clarity and efficiency; and tools that enable partnerships with those who care about protecting fisheries.

I am excited about the prospect of these proposed changes. They will get us focused where we need to be focused; they will get us out of the ditches and the fields, and they will get us better connected with Canadians who are already engaged in this important work. With these changes, I am confident we will have the direction, the tools, and the partnerships we need to ensure that Canada's recreational, commercial, and aboriginal fisheries thrive for future generations of Canadians to enjoy.

Thank you, Mr. Chair, for the opportunity to be here this morning.

9:25 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Thank you very much, Ministers. I appreciate your ability to be here this morning.

According to the routine proceedings of the natural resources committee, the first round is a seven-minute round in which every political party will have one representative. The Conservatives will go first.

Mr. Kamp, you have up to seven minutes. Go ahead, please.

9:25 a.m.


Randy Kamp Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Ministers, for appearing.

Let me start by thanking you for your work on behalf of Canadians. I know it's not an easy job.

Minister Oliver and Minister Kent, you can relax for the next seven minutes or so because I'll be directing my questions to Minister Ashfield.

Let's start with what we do know, and that is that Canada's constitutional documents provide that the jurisdiction for seacoast and inland fisheries falls under the federal government. By way of your appointment as Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, it's your job to manage those seacoast and inland fisheries.

We've had a Fisheries Act for most of the time since Confederation. I think the bulk of it was written in 1868. The obvious question that occurs to me is, why change that? Or, to ask it another way, what frustrations have you and your officials experienced in your obligations to manage seacoast and inland fisheries, and how do the amendments that are proposed in Bill C-38 help you to better manage fisheries in Canada?

9:30 a.m.


Keith Ashfield Conservative Fredericton, NB

Thank you, Mr. Kamp.

You're absolutely correct. We are dealing with an act that was written in 1868, and the last substantial amendments were in 1977.

Currently the minister is required to manage a very wide range of project-related impacts to fish habitats for all species. We're focusing, through the changes in sections 32 and 35 of the act primarily, on aboriginal, recreational, and commercial fisheries. We think it's important to do this.

We've had a lot of feedback from Canadians all across the country about the role of Fisheries and Oceans in many things they would not consider to be essential to the management of fisheries and certainly the long-term prosperity of the fishery. You know I've spoken about issues including such things as farmers' ditches. There are a number of them straight across the country that are frustrating for people, and quite frankly frustrating for the department because it's hard for us to manage all of those small projects.

We think it's best that our focus be on the fishery and the sustainability of the fishery. We thing the role of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans should be fish and fish habitat and long-term sustainability and prosperity for the country.

9:30 a.m.


Randy Kamp Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Thank you, Minister.

We notice here the proposed change to section 35. I suspect that most Canadians are not aware of many aspects of the Fisheries Act, but many will have heard of section 35. It is sometimes called the “prohibition section” or the “have section”. It says:

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

In the proposed change, is there a similar prohibition? It says:

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.

Is that the equivalent prohibition? How do you see that as an improvement on the current section 35?

9:30 a.m.


Keith Ashfield Conservative Fredericton, NB

The prohibition is a combination of sections 32 and 35 in the current Fisheries Act. It's basically a regulatory regime that enables the minister to manage activities and threats that impact the productivity of the commercial, recreational, and aboriginal fisheries. Any activity that causes harm to those fisheries is prohibited, unless authorized before proceeding.

The prohibition will apply where there is serious harm to fish, for example, the killing of fish or the permanent alteration of destruction of fish habitat that are part of the support of the commercial, recreational, and aboriginal fishery, or where they are likely to occur.

So we will still have the authority. We will have the responsibility to manage and ensure that fish are protected. This certainly does not impact it in any way.

9:30 a.m.


Randy Kamp Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Some have pointed out that the word “habitat” is sort of the centrepiece of the current section 35, and not seeing it in the new section 35 means Fisheries and Oceans has lost interest in protecting habitat and won't be protecting habitat in the same way. They believe, of course, that would be a short-sighted approach to protecting fisheries.

Do you have any comments on that?

9:30 a.m.


Keith Ashfield Conservative Fredericton, NB

The word “habitat” has not been removed from the Fisheries Act. The term “fish habitat” is still included in the act, and the definition of that is very clear. Fish habitat means spawning grounds and any other areas, including nursery rearing, food supply, and migration areas, on which fish depend directly or indirectly in order to carry out their life processes.

In addition, we've amended the act to include a broader set of threats to the fisheries, such as aquatic invasive species, the killing of fish by means other than fishing, and the destruction of habitat. So it's well defined in the act, and I'm quite confident. I don't really know where the idea came from that habitat was not included in the act, but it definitely is.

9:35 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Thank you, Mr. Kamp. Your seven minutes are up.

Mr. Julian.