Evidence of meeting #75 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 funding.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Kevin Stringer  Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Tony Matson  Assistant Deputy Minister and Chief Financial Officer, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Chris Wang  As an Individual
Janice Yu  As an Individual
Sylvie Lapointe  Assistant Deputy Minister, Fisheries and Harbour Management, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Andy Smith  Deputy Commissioner, Strategy and Shipbuilding, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Jeffery Hutchinson  Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Melanie Giffin  Representative, Prince Edward Island Fishermen's Association
Kenneth Arsenault  President, P.E.I. Shellfish Association
Ian MacPherson  Executive Director, Prince Edward Island Fishermen's Association

9:20 a.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Thank you.

What role could partnering with first nations to implement the guardian programs play in solving the monitoring gap?

9:20 a.m.

Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Kevin Stringer

It's a critical issue. Part of the supplementary estimates (B) initiative is an initiative for renewing our program suites with indigenous groups. Those involve a number of programs, including the aboriginal guardian program, one through which we've realized, and certainly we have known all along, new initiatives, the opportunity to partner with indigenous groups on monitoring and even on enforcement, but working with guardians to ensure that we're all getting the best benefit of groups that are there already.

9:20 a.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Oceana Canada released “Fishery Audit 2017”. I was just going to ask, without much of a preamble, about the status of the funding for rebuilding the 23 depleted fish populations they identified.

9:20 a.m.

Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Kevin Stringer

I spoke to that previously. There has been an investment that was dealt with in supplementary estimates (A), and we've committed to tabling something with regard to our program on those issues.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Vice-Chair Conservative Todd Doherty

Thank you, Mr. Donnelly.

We'll go to Mr. McDonald now, for seven minutes.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Ken McDonald Liberal Avalon, NL

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I just want to continue for a minute or two on my colleague's line of questioning when it comes to small craft harbours. Of my communities, 99.9% have direct access to the ocean. There is only one community I can think of that is not bordered by salt water. They are very dependent on small craft harbours. Not all of them have a small craft harbour facility, because not all communities have fishing activity, per se. They may use the next community, or one that is two communities away.

I don't envy your work when it comes to small craft harbours. You can go into a facility and spend $1 million, $2 million, or $3 million, and that can get wiped out overnight by a storm surge. You can spend massive amounts of money, and the environment and the weather can destroy it all in a matter of a few hours. I can see how it's hard to keep up. I guess when you are trying to allocate the funds to where you're going to spend the money, a lot of it would be reflected in the busier harbours: the type of activity, the number of landings, and the number of fishers in that particular zone. When you look at $5 million as a budget item, you're not going to get much done with $5 million.

As a department, are we seeking to start off with some big numbers again in the upcoming budget? You said that, for two years, you had $149 million. I know that's nowhere near enough.

9:25 a.m.

Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Kevin Stringer

First of all, we are always hopeful in terms of small craft-harbours funding. It really is hugely important for our communities.

One of the items in supplementary estimates (B) is around adaptation to climate change. The issue of effects of storms on small craft harbours has changed, and it has increased the costs. That is a factor for us.

We have had significant investments. The core budget is $75 million, but there has been an additional $75 million a year, on average, through B-base and short-term funding. Are we looking at addressing that over the long term? We are always hopeful that we can, because it is critical infrastructure. Climate change and storms are having an impact on that, as well.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Ken McDonald Liberal Avalon, NL

I agree. It is critical infrastructure. For a lot of communities, it's their economic driver—the harbour and what takes place in the harbour.

I noticed that one program is the divestiture program. Will there be much in the coming year with regard to divesting of facilities, for whatever reason, obviously, if they are not being used anymore, if there are no landings and no activity? Do we know where those harbours are?

9:25 a.m.

Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Kevin Stringer

I'll start to answer this one, and I'll ask Sylvie to add to it.

The divestiture program.... This was back in the mid-1990s, I think. We had too many harbours that we were addressing in our small craft harbour program. A decision was taken to identify what we've called core harbours. There are about 750 of them, but we had about 2,500. There has been an attempt to divest to a municipality, to a marina group, or to some other group. In some cases it required an investment.

We have had great success, but the easy ones are done. We have about 1,000 now, and we have a number of them to go. A small portion of the budget each year is set aside for divestiture. It is a small amount.

Sylvie, do you want to add to that?

9:25 a.m.

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

Sylvie Lapointe

It is a small amount from year to year, but with the additional B-base investments we've had, we've been able to put about $7 million this year towards divesting some ports.

It is a complex negotiation, and it takes a lot of time. Some of them have hit a few speed bumps and might get delayed into the next fiscal year.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Ken McDonald Liberal Avalon, NL

I'll go back to the $8.2-million funding for implementation of the Atlantic fisheries fund program. Did that money come from the initial $325 million that was announced in that program?

9:25 a.m.

Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Kevin Stringer

It is the first down payment on that program of $325 million over seven years.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Ken McDonald Liberal Avalon, NL

Okay.

When Minister LeBlanc was in St. John's to announce the oceans protection funding, the $1.5 billion, he mentioned at that time—and some of the Coast Guard ships were there in the backdrop—that some of that money would be used to increase the tow capacity of existing vessels. Has that work taken place, or is it scheduled to be done?

9:25 a.m.

Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Jeffery Hutchinson

There are three elements to the tow capacity. There's a study that will be done on the west coast and that contract is just about to be put in place between now and Christmas. There's the leasing of vessels, which is also for the west coast, as you may recall. There's the purchasing of tow kits, which will outfit all of the current large vessels in the Coast Guard fleet with towing capacity that's beyond what they have currently, and that will be coupled with training of the crew on those vessels. That process is in place. It's a large procurement and it's on track to put that capacity on vessels next year.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Ken McDonald Liberal Avalon, NL

Thank you. It would be good to see it in action.

My colleague mentioned the icebreaking capabilities of the Coast Guard. I think last winter was probably one of the worst I can remember in Newfoundland for ice capacity and fishing boats trying to get in and out. We had one vessel that actually sank because it was jammed into the ice and eventually succumbed to the pressure, I guess.

Are we looking to increase capability there? The environment is a strange thing but it seems that we see extreme examples of things now more so than we did in years gone by. Is this something the department is watching and monitoring for their needs into the future when it comes to things like that?

9:30 a.m.

Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Jeffery Hutchinson

It's absolutely something that we're watching, and monitoring and adjusting to. In terms of the circumstances in Newfoundland this year, you may remember one of the scientists on the Amundsen was quoted in the press as saying we were headed north to study climate change and instead we were prevented from going north by climate change. I paraphrased, but that's essentially what happened. An ice sheet in the Arctic broke free earlier than it normally does and they were facing Arctic ice, as were the people trying to go out and earn their livelihood on the water. They were facing Arctic ice off the north shore much earlier than is normally the case. At the same time, the icebreaking in the south wasn't as bad as some of the recent previous years. The years 2014 and 2015 are the ones that we often quote as almost the ice version of Armageddon, if you will.

It's hard for us to plan for every eventuality. We are looking to the future. We are looking at all of the ice models. We do expect with climate change that icebreaking in Canada will remain more of a challenge, not less of a challenge, but at the same time we have ferries operating on longer seasons, and we have people who earn their living in the fisheries trying to get out to maximize their seasons, obviously. Pressures on us are going up and the ice isn't going anywhere.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Thank you very much, Mr. McDonald.

Mr. Arnold, you have five minutes, please.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to get back to the Coast Guard and icebreakers.

Mr. Hutchinson, why was the Canadian Coast Guard ship Hudson towed from the Heddle Marine yard before a refit was completed?

9:30 a.m.

Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Jeffery Hutchinson

The contract with Heddle took longer than we expected. The delivery dates weren't being met. The work was being done and the work was generally being accepted, but at the end of the day, we had to do a very basic calculation. That is that the seaway closes on a given day and we needed the Hudson back on the east coast before the seaway closed. We did our best estimates of how to get that work done and we undertook action to accomplish that goal.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

What is the current projected completion date for that refit?

9:30 a.m.

Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Jeffery Hutchinson

I don't have the exact date in front of me. We're still on track to have the ship out of the seaway before it closes.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Before it closes with ice?

9:30 a.m.

Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Jeffery Hutchinson

No, before it closes. The seaway is actually closed; as a piece of infrastructure it closes generally the last week of December.

November 7th, 2017 / 9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Stringer, I've noted that the budgetary lines for the aquatic invasive species component in DFO are declining from $14.2 million in 2014-15 to $11.2 million in 2018-19. I notice a line for $43.8 million over five years in the proposed 2017 budget. That's now down to $8.76 million a year from $14.2 million, just slightly over half.

Aquatic invasive species are becoming an increasing threat in a great part of Canada. They have already been introduced into the Great Lakes to much detriment. There's also a lot of money being spent in the Great Lakes, I believe about 80% of the budget for aquatic invasive species goes into two species in the Great Lakes. What else is being done in the rest of the country and what else is being done for budgeting to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species?

9:30 a.m.

Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Kevin Stringer

Thank you for the question.

Aquatic invasive species really is the emerging issue in fisheries protection, particularly with climate change.

The $43 million over five years replaces the $15.5 million we had over the previous five years, and that was an Asian carp program. Other pieces continue. It is a significant augmentation of our work on aquatic invasive species.

There are three elements to it. One is that we are increasing what we do on our core two species. What we're doing on Asian carp is increased by $1 million a year. What we're doing on sea lamprey is increased by $2.5 million a year. It's $1.5 million this year, but ramping up to $2.5 million a year.

We're also, for the first time, establishing a core aquatic invasive species program in the department with—