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Evidence of meeting #3 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 video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo  National Chief, Assembly of First Nations
Fred Denning  President, The British Columbia Coast Pilots Ltd.
David Schindler  Professor of Ecology, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, As an Individual
Terry Quinney  Provincial Manager, Fish and Wildlife Services, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters
William Amos  Director, University of Ottawa - Ecojustice Environmental Law Clinic, Ecojustice Canada
Ron Bonnett  President, Canadian Federation of Agriculture
Kevin Obermeyer  President and CEO, Pacific Pilotage Authority
Scott Vaughan  Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General of Canada
Clarence T. Jules  Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Tax Commission

8:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Thank you for that. We have four former fisheries ministers—including Conservative Minister Tom Siddon and Conservative Minister John Fraser—who have taken a strong stand against the bill. They consider it completely irresponsible on that point.

My follow-up question is, given those opinions...we've had some people say it's not a problem. What would you say to those individuals who say we don't need to worry about the habitat changes?

8:05 p.m.

Professor of Ecology, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, As an Individual

Dr. David Schindler

I was a member of Fisheries and Oceans when those same two ministers put the habitat revisions in the bill. As I am sure they will tell you, there were some very good reasons for it.

8:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

It represents a major step backwards.

I believe I have a few seconds left.

8:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Keep going.

8:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Denning, I come from British Columbia, as you do. What we have seen under this bill is a closure of the B.C. oil spill response centre and B.C.'s environmental emergency program, which had over 100 calls last year. It's being moved to somewhere in Ottawa. You leave a voice mail, I guess, if you have an environmental emergency. We also see the closure of the Kitsilano coast guard station, which has saved lives every day since it was put in place. Do you feel those are responsible actions? I know you can't comment on the environmental assessments, but these are of concern to British Columbians. Do you share those concerns?

8:10 p.m.

Capt Fred Denning

The Kitsilano coast guard base deals almost exclusively with recreational boaters and fishing vessels. As to the movement of commercial ships, we have little or no interaction with that station. Our major interaction with the coast guard is through communications.

8:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Thank you, Mr. Julian. We're at six minutes now. I've been very lenient.

Mr. Anderson.

8:10 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Chair, I appreciate the opportunity.

Witnesses, thank you for being here tonight.

We had a witness last night who seemed to have a good understanding of the bill and the definitions, and who had apparently spent a fair amount of time studying them. He made the point that, and I'll quote him:

With respect to the fish habitat itself, the definition hasn't really changed between the current version and the proposed version. It has been clarified, and I think the definition of serious harm also clarifies a lot of the areas that have been kind of grey zones within the current Fisheries Act.

He also pointed out that this new structure incorporates an ecosystem-based approach. We keep hearing from some folks that this is not the case. Does anybody have anything specific to the wording of the bill that will contradict that? The bill seems to back that up, as Mr. Sopuck has pointed out as well.

8:10 p.m.

Professor of Ecology, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, As an Individual

Dr. David Schindler

I think you should get a list of the Department of Fisheries' priorities and see how many times the word “habitat” appears in them. I haven't seen it in 20 years. I'll bet nothing has changed. There's very little in it, if anything, that has to do with fish habitat.

I know when they hand out the funding, if you're not at the top of the list...as for the situation at the central region, I believe there were 160 pink slips handed out in your region, Bob, a region that's had successive cuts under both parties in government for the past 25 years.

8:10 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

I find it interesting. We're here tonight to talk about the legislation; when we come down to the details of what's wrong with the legislation, we don't hear any. We hear opinions of what this might do. You've said a couple of times that you think the bill is okay. You're worried about the consequences of whether there are enough people to oversee it or not, but it sounds as if the content is okay.

A gentleman last night also pointed out that the definition of serious harm has been a point of contention with a lot of people. It's been pointed that it's defined in the legislation and includes the death of any fish or any permanent alteration or destruction of fish habitat. He points out that fish habitat is also defined as spawning grounds, food supply, nursery, rearing areas, all the way to migration areas on which fish rely directly and indirectly.

Again I want to ask the members if there is anything specifically in the legislation where you don't agree that's the case. Because I think we're pretty clear that we're protecting fish habitat; we're protecting the commercial, recreational, and aboriginal fisheries. Yet there seems to be some consensus out there that this is not happening.

I want to make that point. These things are protected in there. Dr. Schindler, you pointed out that the bill is pretty good, apparently; you just don't like how you think it might be applied in the future.

8:10 p.m.

Professor of Ecology, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, As an Individual

Dr. David Schindler

I would say that's right. My advice is if your objective is to see that fisheries are protected, make the regulations very specific. Don't leave anything to chance. A very conservative minister or a very left-wing minister have different interpretations. What we want as citizens is consistency and consistent good habitat protection.

8:10 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

That's what we heard last night as well: they like consistency of application across the board, consistency of definition. Again I go back to the section that says “For the purposes of this Act, serious harm to fish is the death of fish or any permanent alteration to, or destruction of, fish habitat”. That seems to be as far-reaching as anything that was in there before. So I think we need to make that point.

I want to make the point that we haven't had a discussion tonight about what's wrong with the content of the bill; we're talking about whether people agree with where it might go in the future or not.

I would like to go to Mr. Denning with a question as well. Your folks are very much intertwined with responsible resource development, especially off the west coast, where tankers are the medium by which a lot of our resources are going to be transported. Your chapter sometimes has been working to combat misperceptions about what you do and the safety of tanker traffic. I'm wondering if you could review some of the common misinformation you hear and what the reality is about that situation.

8:15 p.m.

Capt Fred Denning

We've had many comments about compulsory pilotage, for instance. There's often a misconception about the requirement for pilots to be on board ships. In the case of all Canadian waters, any waters designated as compulsory pilotage waters must have a Canadian pilot on board. These pilots must be licensed under the appropriate authority, and there are no exceptions to these rules. These encompass all the waters of Canada, and obviously the Pacific coast is very much in that. These rules regarding compulsory pilotage are very consistent.

8:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Excuse me, Mr. Denning, I have a point of order.

Ms. Duncan.

8:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'm sorry to interrupt the witness.

I did ask where the tanker and the safeguards for tankers appeared in the budget implementation bill. I am aware of where it occurs in the budget. Could we have an answer on that, please?

8:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Thank you, Ms. Duncan.

This is in response to...Mr. Anderson, would you like to respond?

8:15 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

I think Ms. Duncan should be thanking us rather than criticizing us. We allowed Mr. McGuinty to give his presentation about the round table. We never stopped him when he was clearly far off track on what is involved in part 3. We were willing to let him make that presentation.

I think we should be willing to let Mr. Denning answer the question. His part of the west coast is extremely important in moving resources, and he's trying to give an explanation of why tanker safety is adequate on the west coast.

8:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Thank you.

8:15 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

That's actually fish habitat, by the way.

8:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Thank you, Mr. Anderson. Thank you, Ms. Duncan.

Ms. Duncan, your point of order is one of relevance in regard to tanker safety with respect to part 3 of the bill. The parts of the bill that deal with navigable waters fall under the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act. The specific nature of those amendments to that act deal with pipelines.

Mr. Denning, you did address some of the issues with pipelines in your presentation. However, in the lines of questioning, unfortunately I can't go back, but the questions should be focused specifically on that.

With regard to your comments, Mr. Anderson, I'd like to thank Mr. McGuinty for his nimbleness in changing his presentation so that he was able to stay within the jurisdiction of part 3 of the legislation.

Colleagues, we're going to use up the rest of the time that we have discussing points of order rather than getting to another round of questioning.

Ms. Rempel, quickly.

8:15 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Mr. Chair, in part 3, division 1, under proposed subsection 19(1)(a), “the environmental effects of the designated project, including the environmental effects of malfunctions or accidents...and any cumulative environmental effects that are likely to result” is mentioned.

The relevant portion of the budget that talks about tanker traffic and the appropriate environmental protections that are strengthened through part 3 are directly relevant through this proposed subsection.

8:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

I will take that into consideration. The questions have already been asked and the testimony has already been given. At this point in time it looks as though I don't have consent to continue with this meeting, unfortunately, pursuant to our Standing Orders.

I would like to thank our witnesses, Mr. McGuinty, Grand Chief Atleo, Mr. Denning, and Mr. Schindler. Thank you so much for coming here. And thank you, colleagues.

We will suspend this meeting. We will resume this meeting with the witnesses in the second panel after we return promptly from votes.

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Ladies and gentlemen, we will resume meeting number 3 of the subcommittee on finance.

I would like to thank our witnesses for their patience. We had to exercise our democratic responsibility here as members and vote in the House of Commons. However, I believe we will have a period of uninterrupted time now to conduct this very important subcommittee business.

With us on our second panel is Mr. Terry Quinney, a provincial manager of fishery and wildlife services of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters. From Ecojustice Canada, we have Mr. William Amos, director. From the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, we have Mr. Ron Bonnett, president. From the Pacific Pilotage Authority, we have Mr. Kevin Obermeyer, president and chief executive officer. From the Office of the Auditor General of Canada, we have Mr. Scott Vaughan, Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. From the First Nations Tax Commission, we have Clarence Jules, chief commissioner and chief executive officer.

The committee procedure is that we will have up to 10 minutes of testimony from each of you, and then we will start with rounds of questions and answers by members.

Our subcommittee has been tasked very specifically to deal with part 3 of the legislation, so I will ask witnesses to keep their testimony as relevant as possible to that part of the budget implementation bill that's currently before us.

Mr. Quinney, we will start with you for up to 10 minutes.

9 p.m.

Dr. Terry Quinney Provincial Manager, Fish and Wildlife Services, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Prior to this evening I submitted my presentation to the clerk for translation. I trust that you will receive a hard copy of my presentation very soon.

My remarks will be exclusively devoted to the theme of amendments to the federal Fisheries Act.

On behalf of the more than 100,000 Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters members, supporters, subscribers, and our 675 member clubs, the OFAH thanks you for this opportunity to address changes to the Fisheries Act. As mentioned, I'm Terry Quinney, provincial manager of fish and wildlife services for the OFAH.

I'd like to illustrate the OFAH commitment to fisheries conservation with three brief examples from our conservation programs, our fisheries management activities, and our local community-level participation.

First, in partnership with the provincial government's Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada, along with Ontario Power Generation, conservation authorities, and many others, we are restoring Atlantic salmon to Lake Ontario and its tributaries. We are rehabilitating cold-water fishery streams through our community stream stewardship program, and we're assisting to prevent harmful invasive species through our invading species awareness program.

We are also working to improve recreational fishing by assisting the efforts of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, participating in Ontario's fisheries management zone advisory councils, and helping to improve the international Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

OFAH member clubs, such as the Thunder Bay Salmon Association on Lake Superior, the Bluewater Anglers of Port Huron on Lake Huron, the Sydenham Sportsmen's Association on Georgian Bay, the Port Colborne & District Conservation Club on Lake Erie, and the Central Lake Ontario Sport Anglers of Brighton on Lake Ontario stock important fish species for the benefit of everyone. Did you know that the annual Salmon Spectacular of Owen Sound, hosted by the Sydenham Sportsmen's Association, attracts more than 55,000 people and results in over $3 million in local economic spinoffs every year?

Next I'd like to identify our key messages to you with regard to changes to the Fisheries Act. We have five key messages.

First, the supply of healthy fish habitat, both freshwater and marine, is critical for our fisheries.

Second, what is known as “free passage of fish”, where appropriate, is also critical to our fisheries.

Third, fisheries supply benefits to Canadians and Canadian society. Government of Canada statistics show that more than three million Canadians participate in recreational angling, resulting in economic benefits exceeding $8 billion annually.

Fourth, conservation is the protection, use, and management of natural resources to supply benefits at optimal sustainable levels for present and future generations of Canadians.

Fifth, an important role for governments—local, provincial, territorial, and federal—is to participate in conservation activities; the Fisheries Act is an example.

For a considerable period of time, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters has been seeking improvements to the protection of fish habitat and the successful passage of fish in Ontario.

Let me illustrate with two examples.

Because we have never been shown evidence that demonstrated the success of the longstanding DFO policy of no net loss of productive capacity associated with the fish habitat protection provisions of the federal Fisheries Act, we have recommended that strong standards be developed by DFO, in association with the Province of Ontario, in association with industry, and in association with organizations such as the OFAH, to ensure the protection of fish habitat.

The Ontario Green Energy and Green Economy Act promotes the development of new energy production projects in Ontario. In fact, we understand that over 40 new hydroelectric facilities will be installed very soon in many parts of our province. We need an effective means to ensure appropriate free passage of fish associated with these new energy projects. So in October 2011 we asked DFO Minister Ashfield directly that strong standards to ensure the protection of fish habitat be developed; that fish passage technologies be supported; that federal regulations to prevent invasive species, such as Asian carp, from entering Canada be completed; and that adequate resourcing be guaranteed to ensure the aims and objectives of a new Fisheries Act are fulfilled.

Now, in May 2012, we appreciate that the Government of Canada has explicitly recognized that Canada's fisheries are important to Canadians and that the government is committing to improve protections associated with our fisheries, including regulations that will prevent harmful aquatic invasive species, such as Asian carp.

We also appreciate that the government has made it clear to us that we share fundamental principles as we collectively move forward, namely, to avoid harm to our fisheries, to protect the productivity of our fisheries, and to improve habitat protection and fish passage.

To assist your deliberations further, I've attached to our presentation a backgrounder as an appendix, which provides further details for you.

With that, I thank you for listening, but I wish to extend an invitation to each of you, if your busy schedules permit you tomorrow, to walk across the street to the Westin Hotel where the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters is hosting the nation's very first National Fish and Wildlife Conservation Congress. Please join us if you can.

Thank you very much.

9:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Mr. Quinney, thank you very much for that. It's good that you got a plug in there for your organization. We thank you for the great work you do.

Mr. Amos, for up to 10 minutes, please.