Evidence of meeting #2 for Fisheries and Oceans in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was amendment.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Ms. Nancy Vohl
Michael Chalupovitsch  Committee Researcher

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

Okay.

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

We have asked that it be televised so that it's immediately available.

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

I understand.

Mr. Beech.

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

Terry Beech Liberal Burnaby North—Seymour, BC

Before we vote on the amendment, I want to say that we're asking for a two-week extension for flexibility for the minister and also flexibility around timing. This issue is very dynamic, as Mr. Hardie already said.

We could have representatives from the department come in. This isn't to say that the minister won't be here by this deadline. It's just to make sure we facilitate the ability to get to the core of this issue, an issue that is important to all British Columbians and all Canadians.

We're asking for the two weeks of flexibility. We think this is an absolute priority. We just want to make sure that we can provide the best information to the committee. That's why Ken is moving the amendment.

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

Mr. Calkins.

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Welcome back as chair of the committee. It's my first opportunity to be here since this committee reconvened. I'm looking forward to your navigating us through the troubled waters—hopefully not as troubled as the ones at Big Bar.

I've heard what my colleagues across the way have said, but I think March 14 is already very forgiving. If it were me drafting the motion, I would have insisted that it be within the next two weeks.

This is not a situation that is dynamic. This is a situation that is very static, and there's an urgency to find out what's going to happen. If the slide is not removed by the time the freshet comes in, there is no way that any work that needs to be done will be completed with any manner of safety. If that freshet comes and the work is not done, and if this committee is not confident that plan A, plan B or plan C—if we actually even knew what plan B and plan C were—is going to solve the situation, then the salmon migrations for a second year in a row will be in complete jeopardy upstream of the Big Bar slide, which represent over 70%, maybe even over 80%, of the various populations in the Fraser.

We already know that the issues facing, particularly, chinook salmon in the Fraser are delicate. I don't see why we would be arguing to extend the time frame for the minister of the Crown to explain to the committee and to Canadians.... I don't know why we would want to delay that. It seems to me that we would want to get this, and the minister would want to communicate with Parliament, respect Parliament, respect this committee and communicate to Canadians directly through elected officials at this committee in a timely manner.

I don't believe that throwing something like this into a big, broad, all-encompassing motion that we already have in front of the committee is the way to deal with issues. This is, I think, the most pressing issue. There are a number of pressing issues before the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, but I think this is the most pressing one the minister actually has. It's the most pressing issue, I believe, that this committee has. It's the most pressing issue for killer whale populations and for southern resident killer whales. It's the most pressing issue for people who depend on chinook salmon fisheries on the west coast. To say, “Oh, let's just kick the ball down the road for another couple of weeks just to make sure the minister has time in her schedule to appear before the committee,” seems to be, in my opinion, not taking this issue seriously at all.

9 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

To add to what my colleague has said, this is an emerging issue. In fact, you could argue this is the most existential issue facing the Fraser River salmon run right now. There is a very small window of opportunity left to actually take care of this. If we accept that as the premise for asking the minister to come to speak to us and provide us with an update, we should not be expected to accept that “the work has been ongoing, we're confident it's going to get done.” That window has pretty well closed. We need an update now.

The minister's been given two weeks to make room in her schedule. We've already indicated we will sit whenever this committee wants to sit—evening, morning, afternoon—to hear the minister provide us with an update. That's a reasonable request to make. Quite frankly, nesting this issue within a broader Cohen commission type of study just does a disservice and completely avoids the issue of a rapidly closing window of opportunity to hear from the minister and get this problem fixed.

9 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

Mr. Johns.

February 25th, 2020 / 9 a.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

I have to agree. This is the most pressing issue facing British Columbia right now with regard to the wild salmon emergency that's taking place. The Big Bar slide is the biggest event we've seen affecting our salmon in over 100 years. I had, what I hope, a very productive meeting with the minister last week. It was my understanding that she's getting briefed constantly on this file.

Given that, our hope is that she can appear as soon as possible. We haven't met for a long time, since a lot of this work has taken place. I understand there's been great effort to remedy the situation, but before we get started on our study, hopefully, we do the salmon emergency first. This would be critical to that study and how we undertake that study, getting the knowledge we need around the Big Bar slide and what's happening there.

I want to be flexible and say April 1 as well and give the government some time, but this is an urgent priority. We need to get the minister before us as soon as possible, at the earliest possible time, to hear from the minister and the department. If we can remedy or make suggestions, given the timeline.... April 1 is a long way out when we look at the run and the timing of the run. That's my concern: April 1 is quite a long way into the timing of doing anything or making any other recommendations to support the government.

9 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

Mr. Hardie.

9 a.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Rather than get high-centred on dates, why don't we just say something to the effect that there is an invitation to the minister and officials to appear before the committee as soon as possible? That could be March 14. It could be March 12. I don't disagree with the sense of urgency here. It's just a matter of getting the right people at the table to give us the background that we need to fully understand what's been happening, what the strategies are, what plan B and C are. The minister and officials would probably give us the best background we could use in this situation.

9:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

Mr. Arnold.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

The minister has indicated to me, and I believe she's stated it publicly, that she would brief me at any time, any time I wanted a briefing. This is an opportunity for the entire committee to hear that. Again, I want to stress the important timing of this. Others have already mentioned the delays in getting the committees to work. This was something I had hoped to get on the table back in January, but the committees weren't formed. They weren't established. We didn't actually get going until last Thursday.

It's been delay, delay, delay. We cannot leave it open-ended to “as soon as the minister can appear”. We need to put a deadline in there and make ourselves available at any time the minister is able to make herself available to the entire committee, so that Canadians can hear the briefing on this important issue.

9:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

Hearing no further discussion, we will vote on the proposed amendment first.

The amendment states that the officials come in as soon as possible, and that the minister appear when she's available, I believe.

You amended your amendment, I presume.

9:05 a.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

I did but I think for the sake of simplicity we will just....

Can I change the amendment just slightly at this point?

9:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

With the consent of the committee you can change your original amendment.

Does he have consent of the committee?

Mr. Arnold.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

I'm not sure that we were clear on what the amendment was going to be anyway, so can we clarify what the actual amendment was?

9:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

Okay. That will make it easier.

9:05 a.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Let's stick with the original amendment, which was that the minister appear before April 1.

9:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

We now all know what the amendment is. We will now vote on the amendment.

(Amendment agreed to)

(Motion as amended agreed to)

The motion is carried unanimously, I believe.

We will send a letter to the minister asking her to appear before committee. I will put in that letter March 14 or earlier, at a date of her convenience. We can convene a meeting at any time, as was said. We can call a special meeting if need be.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

If you want to put it back to March 14, I'm happy with that.

9:05 a.m.

The Clerk

What was agreed to by the committee was to extend to April 1.

9:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

Okay.

9:05 a.m.

Liberal

Jaime Battiste Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Chair, I have a motion.

9:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

Yes.