Regarding the Fisheries Act review that we did, I would like to make a couple of comments. Manitoba Hydro was one of our witnesses. They are proponents in projects all the time and deal with the act on a regular basis. They were very clear in their testimony when they said that evidence for loss protections is not apparent. A proponent who dealt with the old act and the new act, then, was very clear that they were still rigorously required to protect fish habitat.
As well, the 2009 report of the commissioner of environment and sustainable development, which looked at the work the DFO did in habitat protection under the old Fisheries Act, concluded that DFO could not demonstrate that it adequately protected fish habitat and, by extension, the fisheries.
One question we asked many of our witnesses was whether they could prove any damage to the fish populations as a result of the changes that were made to the act in 2012, and not a single person could provide any quantitative estimates, other than mere opinions.
Having said that, the exercise of reviewing the act was a very positive one for me and for all of us on this side. I think we worked well together with all parties. We had very intense discussions and I think came up with a report that you will find quite useful.
I'm not expecting you to make any comments on the recommendations, because I know it's under review, but I want to emphasize that one area the committee was fairly strong about was the protections for farmers, agriculturalists, and rural municipalities.
I don't have to tell you, minister, what it was like under the old act: the so-called “fish cops” descending on prairie communities and looking at drainage ditches and so on. We would hope that your department and you will take those recommendations on dealing with the rural municipalities and farm communities extremely seriously, and I'm sure you will.
One of our recommendations—we also made recommendation 15—was that there be a widely representative advisory board set up to advise DFO on the implementation of the Fisheries Act.
There is a precedent for this, minister, as you know, under the Species at Risk Act: there is an advisory board. In fact, the individuals who are on that Species at Risk Act advisory board would be ideal for an advisory board under the new Fisheries Act.
I would like to ask a question, though, about the research science program. One of the recommendations we made in the Atlantic salmon report, which was a unanimous report and one that all of us are very proud of, was that a number of these new scientists be assigned solely to the management and conservation of Atlantic salmon.
Would that be a possibility? We declined to put a number down, but we would like to see a sufficient cadre of scientists dedicated full time to the Atlantic salmon resource. Would it be a possibility?