Evidence of meeting #72 for Fisheries and Oceans in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was oceans.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Kevin Stringer  Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Jeff MacDonald  Director General, Oceans and Fisheries Policy, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Philippe Morel  Assistant Deputy Minister, Aquatic Ecosystems Sector, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

The answer is yes, we believe those communities have been consulted. I would respectfully disagree with your characterization of the consultations as information—

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

I have many notes in my books from the last few months of witness testimony that say they have not been consulted.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

I wouldn't think that a consultation session that we would set up on something as important as this should be characterized as an information session. We share the information that the government has, we ask people for their input and their feedback, and we take that into consideration as we move forward.

You asked about the 5% target. I think and believe we can be at that 5% target by the end of this year. I'm going to be in your province of British Columbia on the weekend with our colleague Terry Beech, talking about that exact issue with my colleague Catherine McKenna.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

You're telling me here—

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

I'm sorry. I have to cut it off there. We're over time.

Go ahead, Mr. Hardie, for five minutes, please.

October 26th, 2017 / 9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

I have to start with a quick reflection. I think the members across the way, most of whom are new, can be given credit for helping their party finally find religion when it comes time to consult with first nations. I had the opportunity to examine the changes to the Navigation Protection Act and the Fisheries Act, and what was remarkable was that the things that we were trying to undo happened because there hadn't been any meaningful consultation with indigenous people.

With respect to the program that you want to bring in and the ability to bring in interim protections, I want to confirm that it would basically freeze current activities and freeze out anything that people may be thinking about, such as oil and gas extraction, in a given area.

Is that basically how that would work?

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Yes, basically, Mr. Hardie, and thank you for your question, and thank you for your characterization of one of the challenges on the road to meeting these targets. I don't necessarily disagree with your assessment.

The idea of freezing the footprint—and this would be based obviously on scientific advice and on consultations with communities, with provinces, and with territories—is that it would give us as a government, and also future governments, the opportunity to say, in a very sensitive biological or ecological area where there is reason to think that the lack of protection could lead.... Let's take examples of endangered species. As examples, let's take the iconic southern resident killer whales and the North Atlantic right whales. Canadians are deeply concerned, for very understandable reasons, about those kinds of issues.

In this case, if a particular area was determined to be a critical feeding area for southern resident killer whales, for example, is there a way to provide an interim protection for something as important to Canadians as that iconic species and help it recover? These protections would give us the tools to do that. It would say that if we freeze the footprint, existing practices—things that had been lawfully and properly taking place in the previous year—would be allowed to continue for the five years of the interim protection, but in the interim, further erosion or accelerated or continued erosion through the introduction of new practices or new human activities would be frozen, pending the consultation and the work that the final regulatory process would enact.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

What would be the trigger? You say that you become aware of a sensitive area. What would actually trigger a move by a minister to come in and establish, on an interim basis, a protected area? What would you be looking for, especially in the absence of a lot of science, as it may not be in place by the time you need to make that decision?

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

It's a critical question, Mr. Hardie. I would think that the main reason a government would want to act in an interim way would be the provision of scientific advice, governmental or other scientific advice from universities or all kinds of industry groups that are looking at different scientific indicators. If there was a body of scientific advice that said a particular area required protection for a particular biological or ecological reason, I think that would be the starting point of a government's action to consider using one of these interim measures as part of a longer-term process for a marine protected designation.

I used the examples of marine mammals, of whales, but there would be other critical fish species. I think of some in the chair's province of Newfoundland and Labrador. If we try to look back 20 or 30 years, perhaps there were opportunities at certain moments in history, based on what I hope was some scientific analysis at the time, to make different decisions. Some of the coastal communities that our chair and others at this table represent might have survived a horrible economic circumstance differently, perhaps, had some of those decisions been made.

We would be guided basically by scientific advice, but also by the views of industry, of provincial and territorial governments, of indigenous groups. We would welcome people working with us to identify those areas, but we would want a rigorous scientific process to indicate that this was an area that should benefit from this interim protection.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Mr. Miller is next. You have five minutes, please.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Minister and staff, thanks for being here.

I'm also concerned about the rush being put on some of these MPAs. While your targets would have them in place in the next two months, if communities feel, as we've heard, that they haven't been consulted and had everything taken into consideration, are you willing to put it off for three or four months, or whatever, if that is what is called for in order to get it right?

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Thank you, Mr. Miller, for your question. It's great. You and I had a chance to serve together in previous parliaments, so I'm happy to see you and happy to see you working on this committee.

I agree with part of your characterization, in the sense that communities and people affected need to be heard and need to be included in the process. I wouldn't purport to disagree with that at all.

However, I think we can get to the 5% target this year by protecting areas and using, for example, other effective area-based conservation measures, as the international consensus would allow. We can use a suite of measures to get to 5% this year, with communities and partners that recognize that those areas are in fact worthy of protection, and we'll continue in the next three years on that next 5%.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

I'm quickly running out of time here, as you know.

Having said that, then, you must have some areas in mind. Could you enlighten us today? The committee members here, we hope, would be the first ones to hear of these places that I know you must have in mind.

Further to that, has an economic feasibility study been done on those areas that I know you have in mind? Could you tell us what the results have shown, if that's the case?

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Sure. Thank you, Mr. Miller.

None of these protected areas comes as a surprise. It's not something that comes out of a cabinet meeting at one point on a Tuesday at lunchtime and, bingo, there's a new marine protection area.

Take, for example, the Laurentian Channel, which my colleagues from Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia would know well. This has been in the works for a number of years. It's gone through a Canada Gazette process and public consultations. There's an example of a real opportunity to bring significant protection to some very critical species in an area of the Atlantic that governments have talked about for years, so when I had a chance—

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

That's one you're about to announce, then? Is that what you're saying?

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

It's not announcing it in the sense that it has been announced as an area of interest and has gone through a regulatory process for a number of years. There are many that successive governments have been working on very publicly and transparently for a long time, so when we do get to 5% this year, and I think in a very constructive way, nobody can be surprised, I would argue, that a particular area or zone is suddenly protected. We—

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Has there been an economic study done on that? There are obviously going to be impacts—some definitely negative—so has that kind of study been done there? If so, what are the results for that particular area you've just mentioned?

9:45 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Miller, on your characterization of impacts, I think we need to be careful. There also can be very beneficial impacts from getting the protection right.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

I mean economic impacts.

9:45 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

There can be economic impacts. There can be very beneficial economic impacts. I would argue that if we don't responsibly get to these protections, there can be very negative economic impacts across the board.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Have you done that?

9:45 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Miller, we continue as a government to work with stakeholders and provinces and to understand the economic impacts of all of these decisions. The Laurentian Channel was one that I mentioned and that you picked up on. I had a conversation with Premier Ball of Newfoundland and Labrador when he was in Ottawa a couple of weeks ago on exactly that.

For example, in a particular fishery, we set a total allowable catch based on scientific advice. If a particular area were to be closed to a particular activity as part of the protection, it doesn't always mean that a particular fishing fleet, to use a common example, wouldn't have access to that stock or those species in another area. Nobody is slamming the door on economic opportunities. I would ague that if we don't get this right, we're potentially closing the door on long-term sustainable economic benefits over time.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

That's why I asked that question, Mr. Minister. With all due respect, I'm getting the very distinct feeling that the work hasn't been done, and in order to get it right, as you seem to be intent on doing.... I have no problem with your getting it right, but if you haven't done that economic impact study, how can you get it right? That's all I'm saying.

9:45 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Miller, we would not purport to make these important decisions that obviously would affect coastal communities without understanding the economic and environmental impacts. I want to be careful that we don't leave a characterization that we're proceeding in particular areas or around particular marine protected areas without understanding and discussing the economic impacts that a particular decision would have with those who would be affected.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Could he provide that—