Thank you, Mr. Chair. The pleasure is truly mine. I want to assure you of that.
I also want to join you, Chair, in saying how glad I am, Todd, to see you back in good health. I said to Todd that it's a hell of a way to lose weight. I thought your comments in the House of Commons yesterday, Todd, were very moving. It reminds us that we shouldn't wait for a difficult circumstance like that to befall a colleague and a friend to say and think those things. It's a chance for me to say publicly that I'm glad you're back and that you're healthy.
Mr. Chair, thank you for the invitation to, as you said, in very technical complicated terms, appear here on our departmental estimates.
As you can see, I am accompanied by the following members of DFO's senior management team and the Canadian Coast Guard: the deputy minister, Catherine Blewett, the commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, Jeffery Hutchinson, and the interim chief financial officer, Pablo Sobrino.
It's a pleasure to be here before your committee.
Allow me to take a quick moment to thank each and every one of you—the staff who work for our colleagues, members of Parliament, and also the committee staff—for what I think was terrific work done collectively on Bill C-55 on marine protection. I would note that a number of amendments in the end were incorporated in the legislation. I think it strengthened the bill, and I thank you for that important work.
I also want to thank you again, Mr. Chair, for the work you did in reviewing the 2012 changes to the Fisheries Act. Obviously, at the department we work closely with members of the committee, with provinces and territories, indigenous groups, and with industry stakeholders across the country to ensure that the concerns and points of view that were expressed were taken into account as we drafted our amendments to the Fisheries Act. Many of our proposed changes or amendments in Bill C-68 are obviously inspired by the study, Mr. Chair, that your committee did and the recommendations that accompanied it. Again—and I've said it publicly in the House—I hope and believe that the bill will be referred to the committee in the near future. I look forward, as do my colleagues in the department, to working with all of you if you have suggestions on how we can strengthen the legislation. We're obviously interested in that conversation, and I look forward to those exchanges as well.
Mr. Chair, today we're here to discuss our departmental spending plans. I will provide you and your colleagues with a brief financial overview of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard's 2017-18 supplementary estimates (C) and 2018-19 interim estimates before speaking to a few recent accomplishments of the department.
The supplementary estimates (C) provide the resources for the department to launch, for example, the fisheries and aquaculture clean technology adoption program. You'll remember that this was part of budget 2017, in which there was an element for aquaculture and for the department to address the last ice area within Canadian Arctic waters.
In terms of our 2018-19 interim estimates, our initial ask to start the fiscal year amounts to $577.4 million, which represents three-twelfths of our approved reference levels.
I am pleased to say that our 2018-19 funding includes the following: $263.5 million in new funding for the oceans protection plan; new funding over a quarter of a billion dollars for the department to continue carrying out its mandate; $58 million in new funding for the Atlantic Fisheries Fund for this fiscal year; and $41.5 million for the renewal and expansion of indigenous fisheries programs and initiatives.
There's no question that the demands on our oceans and marine resources are higher than ever before. Our government's historic investment of $1.5 billion in the oceans protection plan will make our coasts cleaner, safer, and better protected. In collaboration with other departments and indigenous and coastal communities, we're well on our way to developing a safer marine transportation system that strengthens Canada's economy while preserving and restoring marine ecosystems.
Through the oceans protection plan and in all of our work, our government recognizes the importance of indigenous peoples in protecting our coast, addressing climate change, and the designation of new marine protected areas.
I am very pleased to say that, by the end of 2017, Canada had surpassed its domestic goal under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity to protect 5% of marine and coastal areas. In fact, we have protected 7.75% of marine and coastal areas.
This achievement was made possible thanks to sound science and to sincere engagement with Canadians, indigenous groups, industry leaders, and environmental organizations that care passionately about Canada's oceans.
Our nation's prosperity depends on making sure that the benefits of a growing economy are felt by more and more people, with good, well-paying jobs for middle-class Canadians.
This is especially important to the more than 76,000 Canadians working in commercial fishing, aquaculture, and processing jobs, many in coastal and indigenous communities. I don't have to tell the people around this table, who in many cases—perhaps with the exception of Mr. Miller—represent communities along Canada's coast and remote communities.
Often the fishery and related industries are in fact the only or the most significant source of economic activity in these communities. That's why our government is focused, for example, on the Atlantic fisheries fund, which I announced in 2017. It's designed to encourage new and innovative ways to harvest, process, and deliver high-quality, sustainably sourced fish and seafood.
Other provinces, notably the Province of Quebec, have reached out to me about the possibility of negotiating a similar fund for their fishing industries. Obviously, it will be a pleasure for me to work with Minister Lessard and our colleagues from Quebec on that initiative. We remain open to looking at every possible opportunity on all of Canada's coasts that would in fact improve economic opportunities for Canadians.
I will stop here, Mr. Chair.
In your opening remarks, you said that my colleague, the President of the Treasury Board, will be tabling the Main Estimates in April to ensure better alignment with Budget 2018.
This important change in timing is a key pillar of his estimates reform, which will ensure that we, as parliamentarians, are well-positioned to study documents that will be substantially more meaningful, relevant, and pertinent.
It would be a great pleasure to come back to talk to you about the Main Estimates at that time, if you wish.
Mr. Chair, with that, I wanted to leave some time for questions. I assume all of your questions will be very specific, technical questions related to supplementary estimates (C), and if that's the case, I said to Pablo that I would be happy to ask him or the deputy minister or the commissioner to answer. I will respond to the compliments that members will have with respect to my work as minister or the government's overall work, and those very technical questions on spending I could perhaps leave to the CFO or others.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.