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

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Chris d'Entremont Conservative West Nova, NS

You could pop by, but I'm socially distancing right now.

Thank you so much.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

Thank you, Mr. d'Entremont. You're a little ahead of time and saved a few seconds.

Mr. Morrissey, you have five minutes or less, please, and I'd prefer a little less.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bobby Morrissey Liberal Egmont, PE

Thank you, Chair. You're so generous.

Minister, I want to take you back to a question you answered. Maybe you could clarify, because this is something I'm hearing from some fishers. You referred to how fishers could also participate in the fishery financial package and in EI as well if they chose not to fish. Did I hear you correctly? Could you expand on that? There is a bit of uncertainty out there.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Yes. The fishers' EI is going to be available based on the previous seasons—

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bobby Morrissey Liberal Egmont, PE

Whether they fish this year or not....

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

That is correct, I believe.

Deputy Sargent, is that correct?

4:50 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Timothy Sargent

Yes, that is correct.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bobby Morrissey Liberal Egmont, PE

What about the other two parts of the program? If they choose not to participate because it's not financially viable for them, are they able to participate in those as well?

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Yes, they are.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bobby Morrissey Liberal Egmont, PE

Okay. Thank you, Minister. That will ease a lot of minds in the fishery.

Comments were made earlier, and I agree. We all braced ourselves this year for a problematic fishery, which we had little control over as politicians and government, given the quick state of the world economy shutting down, but I must say that it is unfolding better than I expected.

One of the areas I would ask you to keep a close eye on, Minister, is this. Because of the lack of markets in some areas, there is lobster product that may make its way into the marketplace and does not come through regulated, registered processors. This is something we have to be diligent about, to make sure that it does not find its way into the market. That could be negatively received if anything happened. Are you aware of that?

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Yes, I am. It is something we are very aware of. It is a concern. You're right. Of course, I would suggest that people who see that should be reporting it.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bobby Morrissey Liberal Egmont, PE

I'm glad that the department is aware of this, because we will emerge from this situation and the fishery will continue to be very strong in the future.

Briefly, I would like to go back again to the need to market this better in Canada. Could you expand on that or comment a bit more? It's amazing that right across the country we're not fully familiar with the quality of seafood from the east coast here and with the importance of being able to get product....

We now have the capacity and the capability to get product in a high-quality state right across this country. How are you looking at that this year, when we need to expand that market right here in our own country?

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

This is one of the things we've seen. It's interesting that it took a pandemic for us to see that Canadians don't buy enough seafood. This is something we've been talking about since the start of the pandemic. People need to be aware that not only is this supporting our rural coastal communities, but it's good for you. It's part of the food chain and an excellent source of protein, and it's delicious. You can't go wrong with Canadian seafood.

We are working with our provincial counterparts to come up with ideas for marketing. We're hoping that we'll have something to announce very soon on that. Hopefully, within the next week or so, we'll be able to make some announcements with regard to some marketing plans that we're going to be putting in place.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bobby Morrissey Liberal Egmont, PE

Minister, going back to a question that was raised with you by my colleague Mr. Cormier, have the provinces been at the table financially to assist on this troubling year within the fishery? We know there are issues of young fishers entering the fishery with high debt loads, but for most of the past, financing of the fishery was a responsibility of provincial administration, governments and their agencies.

Could you comment on your discussions in that area? Are the provinces prepared to act in an area they have control over, which is debt relief on financing?

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

I do meet with my provincial counterparts. I know that some of them have stepped up with some aid. It's not nearly as much as what is needed, obviously, but we're still working with them.

I don't know, Deputy Sargent, if you have anything you can add there.

4:55 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Timothy Sargent

I know that Nova Scotia, for instance, is looking at its loan program, but of course the provinces are in a much more difficult fiscal position than the federal government and have been very much looking to the federal government. We do have a series of programs already with the provinces, such as the B.C. salmon restoration fund and the Atlantic fish funds, and of course we've been working with the provinces to make sure we get that money out the door as quickly as possible.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

Thank you.

Madame Gill, go ahead for two and a half minutes or less, please.

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

I am going to give my time to my colleague Mr. Blanchette-Joncas.

June 10th, 2020 / 4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

I would like to thank the Minister and those with her for being here.

Madam Minister, I ask myself this question: if the global health crisis had occurred at a different time of year, would the impact on the fishing industry have been any less catastrophic? In any event, there is nothing we can do to change things.

Has your department assessed the impact of the pandemic on the fishing industry in general, but particularly on the sharp decline in fishing income?

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Thank you for the very, very good question. Of course, since the onset of the pandemic, we have been working to address the issues immediately because we know that's what we need to do. This is an immediate concern. One of the things we have seen, of course, is where there are gaps within the sector, within the industry, and how we can best fill those as we go forward. I have said from the start that there has to be an immediate response, then a mid-term response, and then a long-term response to the industry and what it needs.

We're going to continue to work with the industry to fill the gaps and to find where the challenges are. We have seen things like the programs that are in place in agriculture; we don't have an equivalent in fisheries. These are all questions we're asking ourselves now, and how we can best go forward to continue to grow our industry.

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Minister, from a scientific standpoint, has your department taken steps or will it take steps to quantify the effects of the almost complete cancellation of the fishing season on stocks of the various species? In other words, could a complete cessation of fishing activity have a significant impact, either positive or negative, on the balance in the various ecosystems?

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

Give a very quick answer, please.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

I'm going to turn this question over to the deputy, please.

5 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Timothy Sargent

Sure. It's very much going to vary stock by stock. In some stocks, fishing activity significantly affects the population, and for other stocks the impact is much reduced. Certainly our science activity is continuing. It's been a little slower to get it going this year, obviously, because of the crisis, but we are confident that we'll be able to measure impacts on fish stocks, both of the changes in fishing activity and of all the other things that go on normally in a marine environment.

5 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

Thank you for that.

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