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Evidence of meeting #33 for Fisheries and Oceans in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was dredging.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Claire Dansereau  Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
George Da Pont  Commissioner, Canadian Coast Guard, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Cal Hegge  Assistant Deputy Minister, Human Resources and Corporate Services, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
David Bevan  Assistant Deputy Minister, Fisheries and Aquaculture Management, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Serge Labonté  Senior Director General, Science Renewal, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

9:35 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Human Resources and Corporate Services, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Cal Hegge

I'd just add that like all government departments we have a grievance process in place, with first, second, and third levels. It's rare that we don't solve these issues at the third level--in other words, they don't go to arbitration, they don't go to the Human Rights Commission, etc.

What we try to do, though, when we get complaints or allegations, such as harassment, for example, is to resolve them through internal conflict resolution. We have a very effective program in place in the department. We try to work with the employees who are represented by the unions through negotiation and consultation as much as possible, as opposed to going through the formal grievance process. But occasionally we're required to go through those steps.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Thanks, Mr. Chair. I think that does it for me. I don't know how much time is left, but if there is any time we'll share it.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Fabian Manning

There are 33 seconds. Do you want to share that with anybody?

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

I'm a very generous person and I'd be happy to share that with someone.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Fabian Manning

By the time we talk for 33 seconds your time is going to be up anyway.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

That's true, Mr. Chair. Perhaps we should continue with this and we'll use it all up.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Fabian Manning

I echo your comments.

Mr. Simms.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Thank you, Mr. Chair. It is very generous of you.

I want to touch on an issue in Newfoundland following the fisheries renewal strategy. Of course, the question there now is about financing. I guess with the rules about how you can acquire bigger boats, the combining of licences, people are having a hard time finding financing or securing financing to re-engineer their operations.

I am wondering what is the latest on that issue, to assist fish harvesters with accessing the necessary funding to purchase another licence.

9:40 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Fisheries and Aquaculture Management, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

David Bevan

We have had discussions with banks and blended institutions, provinces, and of course the fishers about changes to policies regarding how licences are reissued. That's the vernacular for licence transfer.

In the past it has been up to the fisherman whose name is on the licence to name the person to whom they wish to have that licence reissued. There's been no other possible intervention in that process. So the practice is that if the person the fisherman is naming meets the qualifications to hold that licence, they always get it, and nobody can intervene in that.

What we've done with preserving the independence of the inshore fleet in Atlantic Canada and trying to get at the whole issue of trust agreements is to work with the banks to see if there's a way they can lend money and then have some ability to have a say in the actual reissuance of the licence. In the event the person to whom they've loaned money to purchase that enterprise defaults and the bank forecloses, the bank has to have some ability to avoid having the licence sold from underneath them, leaving them with no ability to cover their losses. So we've worked out an arrangement where the bank and the person who holds the licence would both have to sign the documents to have the licence reissued.

The banks were looking for a bit more. They wanted to have a say in who got the licence. We haven't gone there yet.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

That's what they're asking.

9:40 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Fisheries and Aquaculture Management, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

David Bevan

That's what they're asking.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

And your position is?

9:40 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Fisheries and Aquaculture Management, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

David Bevan

We haven't gone there yet. That's something that could be considered at some point in the future, but we aren't doing that at this point. We are simply seeing now whether what we have provided to the lending institutions will be adequate to provide capital for this combining of enterprises.

I would say as well that so far we've had 30 requests since we've moved ahead with the change in policy to allow the combining of enterprises, and these are early days. That means 30 requests involving 60 enterprises. So people are finding capital to move ahead with the combining process, and hopefully the steps we've taken will provide the comfort needed to the lending institutions to be a part of the process.

May 8th, 2008 / 9:45 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Bevan, one of the things that was discussed in the Fisheries Act--and maybe you can add some more detail to this--was that the 15-year clause in the new Bill C-32, which was also in Bill C-45, talked about how it is possible to secure financing.

Because I'm having a heck of a time trying to wrap my head around this one, could you explain where the length of time is strengthened, such that it allows the ability to easily finance for bigger operations, say?

9:45 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Fisheries and Aquaculture Management, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

David Bevan

Right now the minister issues a licence each year. There's no legal status in that licence beyond one year. The practice has been to reissue, of course, but legally that licence only lasts for a year.

If you're a lending institution, you're being asked to lend somebody money on an asset that only lasts a year, and is issued at the absolute discretion of the minister. There's nothing in law that says the minister has to reissue that licence. Therefore, lending institutions have some nervousness about that kind of process.

What we have in Bill C-32, and had in Bill C-45, was to provide more duration in law to the licence, which in many cases is the biggest asset in the enterprise, and provide it with a legal status where it lasts for enough time to allow the debts to be amortized over that period of time.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Fabian Manning

Good questions, Mr. Simms, but with two seconds, you don't have much time for follow-up. I'm sorry.

9:45 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Thank you, sir, for the little time you've given me.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Fabian Manning

I try my best.

Mr. Blais or Mr. Lévesque.

9:45 a.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I would like to come back to the subject of small craft harbours. Earlier, I mentioned the short term and the medium term. But I would now like to talk about the long term. I feel more comfortable talking to you about the long term, because, for us, the long term can come to an end very quickly after the next election, whereas it is different for you.

Looking at the matter of small craft harbours in the long term, as the manager responsible... If we were a private company, we would be heading into bankruptcy. How do you see the matter in the long term, in 10 or 15 years? Today, repairs may cost $600 million, but they are going to cost more later. Eventually, the only way to reduce the investment will be to do away with the inventory of infrastructures. They are not just going to be in ruins; they will be too dangerous, too unsafe. That “long term” concerns me a lot. I understand that you are all fiscally responsible, but on the other hand, I imagine that the situation sends you looking for long-term solutions. What are those solutions, if they exist?

9:45 a.m.

Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Claire Dansereau

I will ask Cal to talk to you about our planning system.

We live in the long term, the medium term and the short term. We do plans and analyses for the long term, to show us where we want to go, and we deal with the short term by handling specific and immediate crises.

The long-term plan mostly depends on our close cooperation with community volunteers who agree to take on a lot of responsibilities. Those relationships are very important for us and are an integral part of our long-term planning. This is not just about cement and nails. The relationships with people in the neighbourhood enable us to protect the long term. So we make long-term investment plans for infrastructure and for capital. We look at the short term too. But, as everyone knows, we do not have enough money.

No government will ever have enough money to handle all the priorities. So, each year, we make choices.

9:45 a.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

I assume it was a slip of the tongue when you mentioned working with people in the neighbourhood.

9:45 a.m.

Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Claire Dansereau

Yes. I meant to say in the communities, but still, small towns have neighbourhoods too.

9:45 a.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Let us say that it was a slip of the tongue, because we could have another debate about that.

9:45 a.m.

Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

9:45 a.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Human Resources and Corporate Services, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Cal Hegge

I would like to support what Ms. Dansereau said. Every day, we work in close cooperation with revenue-generating harbour authorities.The revenues that these authorities generate have increased. They have agreed to work with us to solve the problem of insufficient resources. To do that, we have to increase the capabilities of harbour authorities. That is part of our strategy.

We are going to continue to work with other departments. We have discussed infrastructures with the Department of Transport and with bodies that look after economic initiatives, like MACO, in order to find solutions within government.

We are going to keep working with central agencies in order to find ways to get the biggest budget possible. Clearly, it is not enough, but we are going to do what we can.