Evidence of meeting #28 for Fisheries and Oceans in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was prawns.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jim McIsaac  Managing Director, BC COVID-19 Active Fishermen’s Committee
Michael Atkins  Executive Director, Pacific Prawn Fishermen’s Association
Emily Orr  Lead Representative, Prawn Industry Caucus
James Lawson  President, United Fishermen and Allied Workers' Union – Unifor
Clerk of the Committee  Ms. Nancy Vohl

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

I would have to ask the clerk for clarification perhaps.

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bobby Morrissey Liberal Egmont, PE

Could I?

That's what I'm asking for, Mr. Chair.

First, I would like to know what I'm voting on, because in my time I have never seen this type of motion. Obviously, everyone wants to get here. I, too, would like to hear the officials, and then the minister would have the final say, but the motion is directing you as the chair, the parliamentary secretary and the Liberal Party members to take a particular action. I'm perplexed, Mr. Chair.

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

Madam Clerk.

5:50 p.m.

Nancy Vohl Procedural Clerk

Mr. Chair, Mr. Morrissey, thank you very much for the question.

Actually, committees generally make their decisions when they meet. So these are decisions of the committee, not indications to individual members to act indirectly on behalf of the entire committee.

Generally, the committee as a whole could instead pass a motion to invite the minister or pass a motion or report to be presented to the House, which could be one page, stating its position and what it thinks.

It is quite rare that only certain members of the committee are asked to try to influence the minister.

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

Thank you, Madam Clerk.

Mr. Morrissey, I don't know if that answers your question or not.

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bobby Morrissey Liberal Egmont, PE

Well, yes, Mr. Chair, it appears that the clerk would be saying that a motion cannot direct some members of the committee to take a particular action on behalf of the committee.

Did I interpret that right, Madam Clerk?

5:50 p.m.

Procedural Clerk

Nancy Vohl

If we are really being asked if this is permissible, I would have to check the procedure manuals. If I limit myself to the powers of committees, they are to be able to call witnesses and report to the House. If you really want to know the specifics, whether the committee can ask only some of its members to take any action, I would have to check the procedural manuals.

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bobby Morrissey Liberal Egmont, PE

Then, Madam Clerk, that's what I need clarification on. It's most unfair for a member of this committee to bring forward a motion for the committee to vote on that directs and names certain members of the committee to take an action. I find that difficult to follow. I would like a clear interpretation of the ruling to be brought back to the committee.

Thank you, Chair.

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

I know others have their hands up, including the mover of the motion. Perhaps he would like to add something to this discussion, since he's the one who moved it.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Richard Bragdon Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Sure, thank you, Mr. Chair. I appreciate it.

Once again, look, all of us want clear action on this. All of us want to see action taken sooner rather than later. There have been very few times in the life of this committee that we've had something as clear and as necessary to act on in an expedited fashion as what we are seeing before us right now. We have heard from multiple witnesses. We've heard this raised in the House of Commons by several parties.

The season is fast approaching. This is not an unreasonable request. This is asking that a decision be made right away that will bring absolute certainty to the harvesters who are most affected by this change of interpretation that has gone against 50 years of precedent. That is not unreasonable. That is not something done in an ill spirit. It is just something that is a reasonable ask for, namely, that we get action taken on this. It is a motion to make that happen.

I hope that all members of the committee can understand that.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

All right, I'll go back to my list.

Mr. Mazier.

May 3rd, 2021 / 5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Mazier Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Just on the same theme, being a farmer I understand the rules of nature. Everything works in cycles. These witnesses, these people sitting in front of us today, are running on a different cycle from ours as parliamentarians. They don't have time to go and consult with a minister or consult with a department; they need answers now. They report back to their families. They report back to their communities. They have to feed people; I definitely get that. What minister, in their right mind, would sit back and say, I want to put it off to another day?

I don't understand all this push-back from colleagues in the government, who are saying that we have to delay it for another meeting. Just get the conversation going with the department and the minister, and report back. Everybody can go ahead and do what they have to do so that these people in front of us can go out, make their livelihoods, and with respect and dignity, not having to look over their shoulders figuring that the government's going to come out and get them.

That's my two cents' worth.

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

Thank you, Mr. Mazier.

Mr. Johns, before your hand gets weak holding it up.

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

I don't know why my “raise hand” function is not working.

First, I'm ecstatic that the Conservatives now want immediate action, because they voted against making this study a priority, and I'm ecstatic that everybody's heard how timely this is. I support this motion. I really appreciate Mr. Bragdon's seeing the light on this, namely, that we need to move quickly in supporting these fish harvesters. I think it's a good idea.

This isn't that long. It isn't complicated. It isn't some big issue where they need weeks in advance to prepare the minister. This is simple. We need some simple answers from the minister, and for her to appear. Hopefully, she will just make the right decision tomorrow morning and say, “That's it, we're not going to do this anymore. We're going to stop the assault on these prawn fishers.” That's the hope. Let's hope that happens, but I support this motion wholeheartedly.

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

Thank you, Mr. Johns.

Mr. Arnold.

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I don't think there's any reason that members can't approach their minister. They're in her backyard, basically. I'm sure her staff have been monitoring everything that's been taking place in this committee today. I've seen members from all parties shake their heads at what's actually taken place, and agree that it needs to be reversed. Canadians' lives are dependent on it. The initiative needs to be done sooner rather than later.

We don't know when we are going to get the officials back before this committee. As I said earlier, we certainly need to hear from those officials to understand their reasoning. We need to hear from the minister if she's going to rescind this interpretation in perpetuity so that these harvesters can get on with their lives and support their families.

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

Thank you, Mr. Arnold.

Mr. Beech.

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Terry Beech Liberal Burnaby North—Seymour, BC

Thank you to my colleague, Mr. Morrissey, for clarifying the motion. I still haven't received a copy of it in both languages, which I believe we clarified is what needs to happen before we can debate this. Indeed, the first time I spoke to it, I didn't actually know what the entire motion was, despite its being read. I still haven't received it. I'm hoping that somebody is working on that actively in the background.

The other thing I would say is about this sense of urgency that's being displayed by members. I have said in the House of Commons, in response to a question during question period, at least once, maybe twice—I'd have to check the blues—that tubbing is happening this season.

I don't think this motion is actually helping to get anything specific accomplished, but I just want to make sure that those two points are on the record.

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

Thank you, Mr. Beech.

Mr. Morrissey.

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bobby Morrissey Liberal Egmont, PE

Again, Mr. Chair, the motion we're being asked to vote on is not to call the minister before the committee. The motion is to delegate you, Mr. Chair, the parliamentary secretary, and certain members of the committee to have an audience with the minister and to report back.

It's questionable if this can be done by the committee. There are a number of methods. The committee could choose to send an urgent letter to the minister asking for her clarification, and to confirm what Mr. Beech said to the committee, that this issue has been dealt with clearly for this coming fishing season. This is what people want and request. We'll then hear from the officials and get to a long-term decision.

It's my understanding from Mr. Beech, and nobody has contradicted that, that there's a bit of ambiguity. We could get that cleared up, that tubbing will be allowed for the coming fishing season.

It would be more prudent if the committee sent a dispatch to the minister, asking for a clarification and a confirmation of what Mr. Beech said to the committee. This could then be provided to the fishers on the west coast.

That would actually be helpful, Mr. Chair, and I would be very supportive of that. Voting on the motion—we could vote on the motion now—will not accomplish in getting the minister here, because that's not what it is asking.

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

Thank you, Mr. Morrissey.

Ms. Gill, you have the floor.

6 p.m.

Bloc

Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I was just wondering if the clerk is currently doing the work necessary to be able to tell us whether or not the motion is in order. Is that what we're looking at right now?

I would like to know if we are moving forward.

I know it's work, but could we know fairly quickly if the motion is in order?

6 p.m.

Procedural Clerk

Nancy Vohl

There are two elements to this. First, we are trying to get the information on the procedure. Second, there are other meetings scheduled in this room at 6:30 p.m. So we are working on the logistics of whether the committee can continue its meeting in this room, whether it will have to change locations, or what the other options would be. We are trying to do everything at once.

We'll get back to you shortly.

6 p.m.

Bloc

Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and Madam Clerk.

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Kenneth McDonald

Thank you, Ms. Gill.

I would like to ask the clerk a question. It came up in discussion with Mr. Morrissey earlier on the nature of the motion itself, empowering the chair, the parliamentary secretary and Liberal members to have an audience or a meeting with the minister, requesting that this be reversed.

Mr. Morrissey has asked about the validity of such a motion. Could you enlighten me, if you can, to the answer that was given?