Evidence of meeting #9 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 harvesters.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Ms. Nancy Vohl
Timothy Sargent  Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Jean-Guy Forgeron  Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

4 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

We continue to make all our decisions based on science. The previous Conservative government cut the science out of DFO. We've rehired almost 300 scientists to make sure we have that information available to us. Fisheries management decisions have to be made on the best science available to us, and we're going to continue to do that.

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

We'll now go to Madam Gill for two and a half minutes, please.

4 p.m.

Bloc

Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I would like to come back to what we discussed earlier. The minister and I talked about at-sea observers. Of course, during the pandemic and now, the two issues that have been the focus of our attention are the economy and the health issue.

My constituency includes isolated and fragile communities, either because of age, health conditions or the fact that they are Indigenous and Innu communities living along the St. Lawrence River. Many difficulties have arisen in terms of communications and health conditions. In fact, there was no communication. I would like to know why no instructions or directives were given to all the communities. As a result, they asked that the fishing season be delayed.

4 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Thank you, Madam Gill.

We have been working very hard with harvesters as well as with processors to make sure they have had the necessary time to put the health and safety protocols in place. It has been very difficult. We worked with the province, and we made sure we worked with the stakeholders. We know there are communities that were a bit more vulnerable. We were very flexible in season opening dates so they could get the protocols they needed to have in place.

I met regularly with Minister Lamontagne from Quebec with regard to what Quebec was doing in putting those protocols in place. Of course, the province is responsible for the processing facilities and making sure they have what they need, but Quebec was very good at setting a standard for having good safety protocols in their facilities.

We continue to meet with him every week to find out what was necessary, and we continue to work with CFIA as well.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

Thank you, Madam Gill.

We'll now go to Mr. Johns for two and a half minutes or less, please.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Minister, the funds you've committed to the relief supporting fishers and the fishing industry during COVID-19 will certainly provide help to indigenous communities and to fishers. There's an opportunity to make a bigger impact, a longer impact, by ensuring that the funds remaining in the pacific salmon treaty mitigation fund are directed to the people and communities who are most impacted by the reductions in the chinook harvest on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Nuu-chah-nulth Nations and the area G harvesters have been working through the West Coast Aquatic Governance Board to develop a proposal of how to spend roughly $8 million to $10 million that we're told is left in the fund. It could definitely benefit the fishing industry right now in those communities on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

The department could take significant steps toward reconciliation with the Nuu-chah-nulth if they were to recognize the importance of these mitigation funds for rebuilding the fishing economy on the west coast of Vancouver Island, including restoration.

Will you do everything you can to get that money to those fishers and those communities in need?

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

First of all, Mr. Johns, I need to clarify that there isn't money left in there. The money is earmarked for programs that were committed to. The money is there, but it has not been spent because the programs have not rolled out yet. There is no pot of money left over.

I will say that we are continuing to work with our coastal communities, through B.C. SRIF, through the coastal restoration fund, to put programs in place, as well as the programs I have already talked about today with regard to the fish harvester benefit and the fish harvester grant.

Deputy Minister Sargent, I'm not sure whether you have anything to add.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

I really want to emphasize that those harvesters were the ones who were impacted by taking a reduction, so I hope the government, as it is spending that money through those programs, is going to target those fishers most impacted, and those communities.

My last question, Minister, is around licensing. A lot of fishers have asked for relief on licensing. They can't fish either because of the price or because of COVID. Can you talk about what you are going to do? Are you going to honour their request for relief on licensing?

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

A quick answer, please.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Relief on licensing was something that we heard about a great deal. We went with the fish harvester grant that could be used for a number of different things, and that money can be used for licensing fees.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

Thank you.

We'll now go to Mr. d'Entremont, for five minutes or less, please.

June 10th, 2020 / 4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Chris d'Entremont Conservative West Nova, NS

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Welcome to the basement chez d'Entremont. It's great to see all of you.

Minister, it's always good to see you, as well.

I'm not going to go without saying a few quick words about Mr. Morrissey's little comment earlier.

What I saw in the House earlier today was that the government House leader was unable to deliver a consensus. I guess it's either the Liberal way or the highway, but it's unfortunate to see that happen in our House when bills are important to us. I'll move on.

When it comes to the Canadian SSF, seafood stabilization fund, I know a number of companies that have tons of surplus space. Has DFO done a survey of existing capacity, especially in southwest, south shore, Nova Scotia?

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

I'm going to turn that question over to my deputy, please.

4:05 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Timothy Sargent

The seafood stabilization fund is a program that we're delivering in partnership with the regional agencies. When we put this together, we worked very closely with them, and in particular in your part of the world, of course, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. They were the ones who assessed the storage capacity issues in that part of the world.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Chris d'Entremont Conservative West Nova, NS

Okay.

From what I've seen, I have two large areas that can be used, can be turned on. They just need to know how they can access that fund. They are existing facilities in southwest Nova Scotia. One is up in Digby County and the other one is in the Pubnico. There is existing capacity within our system. I'm just wondering how individual businesses would be able to access that fund, or at least say that they have space available.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Thanks, Chris—sorry, Mr. d'Entremont. I've known you for a long time.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Chris d'Entremont Conservative West Nova, NS

It's okay.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

I would say that they reach out to ACOA directly.

As we've said, these programs are being developed and delivered through the regional development agencies because they work with these organizations all the time and they know them. They may be able to help them very quickly.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Chris d'Entremont Conservative West Nova, NS

Okay.

As I said, it's existing capacity, so they don't need ACOA's money necessarily. They just need operating...so they can hold on to some of that frozen product.

On the issue of live capacity, especially in southwest Nova Scotia, how much live capacity do we actually have? I know it's in the multi-millions of pounds. I am just wondering if the department has a feel for how much that is.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Deputy, do you have an answer to that question?

4:10 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Timothy Sargent

No, we don't, but we'd be happy to get back to you after I've asked a few questions.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Chris d'Entremont Conservative West Nova, NS

All right.

To maybe add to that one as well, there are a number of facilities that have been built within the last 12 months, probably prior to COVID, expecting, of course, a different season than the one they've experienced. Would they be able to access some of the funding as well?

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

The funding, of course, is to build capacity in places. I'm not sure.... Those are questions that ACOA could probably answer.

Deputy, I don't know if there is anything else you can add.

4:10 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Timothy Sargent

No, except to say that storage capacity varies quite a bit across the region. For instance, in New Brunswick, there is more of a shortage.

As the minister said, the funds are to build new capacity if necessary, but the funds can also be used for a variety of other things. It's not just for storage capacity at all. There's new equipment, for instance, inventory costs, that kind of thing.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Chris d'Entremont Conservative West Nova, NS

You can understand that for a new entrant or someone who has just expanded their system, who has put in new grading systems or has put in new water treatment systems in order to hold lobsters longer, this program comes along after they've done all that construction. I'm just wondering if there's a way for them to go back and say that they don't want all the money, but maybe just a bit of help to keep them alive for the next six months to a year.