Mr. Speaker, I am a new member of this House. I have had the good fortune to listen to the remarks of the member for Sherbrooke. I admit that I am perhaps a less experienced orator than he, but I have just as much fire in my belly. A Latin tag comes to mind, although I am not big on Latin, which sums up what I have heard Asinus asinum fricat means that as a junior MP I have to expect verbal sparring matches, quite virulent ones sometimes, in the House.
Since I am speaking after the member for Sherbrooke and he talked about riding in on a wave and being elected with the wave
running in the opposite direction, I shall start my remarks in the same vein, coming as I do from a maritime riding, by pointing out that the member for Gaspé has continued, unlike his party, to ride the wave that the people of Quebec directed toward that party in 1984. In 1984 we talked about le beau risque, the gallant gamble. In 1988 they talked about returning with honour and enthusiasm. The riding of Gaspé has taken the same wave, and perhaps the Conservative Party was not listening to it.
As a member of the Bloc Québécois I intend to continue to repeat what the people of the riding of Gaspé and of Quebec said in the recent federal election.
The House of Commons is for me a place to speak out for the residents of the great riding of Gaspé. It is one of the most beautiful parts of Quebec. Whether my fellow members from Quebec agree or not, I would say it is the most beautiful part of Quebec. It is such a jewel that in the early 1970s the Liberal Party decided to create Forillon National Park on the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula.
It was in the Forillon National Park affair that the man who is now Prime Minister of Canada first took up arms against Quebec. In 1972, the member for Shawinigan expressed his delight at having gone over the head of the Bourassa government to create Forillon Park, and I quote his remarks at the time: "I used the Park to break the Quebec government and I'm proud of it!" Our new Prime Minister started his career fittingly.
We have a saying where I come from: you can take the Gaspésien out of Gaspé, but you can't take the Gaspé out of the Gaspésien. To a Gaspésien, having land expropriated forges character. As the motto of Quebec has it, we remember.
This maritime riding developed to a great extent thanks to cod. Centralizing federal management of this marine resource leaves a bitter taste in our mouths, just as the Forillon Park affair did. Management imposed from outside dismisses local attempts to solve the industry's problems. This is not the first time the fishery has undergone a crisis.
In the early 1970s, the cod stock was in about the same state as it is today, but the resourcefulness of the fishing folk of the time turned them toward other species. When in the early 1970s they could catch no more cod, they went after crab. Crab fishing was no gold mine then, but it is now.
A little later, around 1976, it was the turn of the ocean perch fishery in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence to decline. The people who had been catching ocean perch started harvesting shrimp instead, because shrimp was not so well known. Their resourcefulness enabled them to get through a crisis.
I would conclude that these maritime communities have the ability to adapt as long as they have the freedom to work together. They can let each other know when there are other species around that are undervalued and could be marketed. For that to work there have to be channels of rapid communication between the decision makers and the ordinary people, the fishermen on the front line. The ability to make rapid feedback possible was lost by Quebec under its Liberal government in 1982 when jurisdiction over fisheries was returned.
It is high time the federal government opened its eyes. In 1986, rapid feedback would have enabled the people who fished for cod inshore and saw the stocks were declining to adapt. While cod stocks were declining, other species, wrongly thought to be undesirable, should have been promoted.
The problem goes a lot further than the exhausted stocks the department has proclaimed. It is the whole structure of the industry that has to be rethought. Instead of getting on with the structural changes needed to react to cyclical variations in cod stocks, the throne speech is still looking for someone to blame for their disappearance.
In order to get the economy going again, the government must set directions for the future of the fishing industry. I will address two important aspects of this issue; harvesting the resource and protecting workers.
Cod fishing is older than Canada. Since the fishery began, fish have been harvested using the preservation methods we knew. In the beginning, we salted and dried cod. With the arrival of electricity and freezers, we made blocks of frozen cod. That is what we are still doing, or were until the minister turned off the tap.
These types of harvesting resulted in the setting of an implicit standard on the length of fish caught. In order to meet these standards, which were set for a specialized industry, fishermen had to throw back undesirable fish solely on the basis of length.
The restructuring of the fishing industry, or rather, the revolution of the fishing industry, was not addressed in the speech from the throne.
Despite decades of intervention by the federal government, the structure of the fishing industry is still at the elementary school level. What does the government intend to do in order to upgrade it to the university level?
University is the top of the line. We must no longer limit our efforts to the traditional mass market. Instead we must seek out new market niches, such as those for fresh fish and under-utilized species. This means that we must support the fishing communities so that they are able to meet these new standards. We must enable them to make more money while catching fewer fish.
In order to reach this objective, the government should apply business methods to the fishing industry; in other words, it should bring the sales operation closer to the harvesting operation.
If all the steps or all the links in the industrial chain are respected, fishermen will be able to sell everything they catch. At present, they depend on overspecialized plants and as a result what they harvest is overspecialized.
In the past, the government pinned all its hopes on harvesting the natural resource. Today, we must rely on human resources, the grey matter of the people in the communities, to make more money while being more respectful of the marine resource. These people are familiar with the problems, they have solutions. Is the government prepared to support their efforts?
These communities need concrete measures like those put forward by the Bloc during the election campaign, which I will list. One such measure was the creation of landing warehouses, in order to group together underutilized species and promote the sale of fish turned down by traditional plants.
The second measure put forward by the Bloc was the creation of a provincial clearinghouse to implement the logistics of transportation to the various markets because they will be new.
The third measure, which I will mention but about which I will be speaking again later, was returning the management of fishing licences to the provinces.
What I mean to say is that the government, instead of looking to the future, set up short focus programs that did not address existing problems. Meanwhile, the situation has deteriorated and workers have found themselves without work.
The government is proposing pointless training programs. Rather than forcing workers to bend over backwards to meet the requirements of these programs, we should be listening to them and taking their tastes and their skills into consideration. We have to rely on people's experience and help them to put their ideas into practice. It is up to Ottawa to understand how people think, not the other way around. As I said during my election campaign, there is a local solution to a local problem. Real solutions will not come from Ottawa.
However, a transition period is necessary in order to revitalize industry. Since it was the government that allowed the situation to get worse over the years, it is up to the government, if it wants to be a responsible government, to support the people who are now unemployed. The current minister of fisheries has already made an attempt to simplify access to assistance programs for workers in the industry. It is a step in the right direction.
However, a great deal remains to be done. Words are wasted on a starving man. Throughout this transition period, the government must make sure that the people affected have bread and butter on the table. It is not the fault of the people in the coastal communities if the previous federal government preferred to waste public funds rather than investing in projects that would create jobs. Coastal communities are in shock. Now is not the time to let them down and force the residents to find a job that does not correspond to either their inclinations or their skills.
Those who live in coastal communities have passed on their fishing practices from father to son, from mother to daughter, and have never had to change their way of doing things.
The Gaspé poet, Maurice Joncas, described their lives in the song " Les expropriés de Forillon '':
Their universe was filled with these: Fishing boats upon the seas, Trees to fell in winter snow, Pleasures that were theirs to know.
I think these lines are a fitting description of past life in the communities which now, because of the federal government's management mistakes, have been turned upside down. For them, life will never be the same. They have to reinvent a way of life. All this cannot be done by waving a magic wand, and the government must respect the rate at which the communities are able to adapt. This revolution requires that the various levels of government give the coastal communities new development tools.
These tools will have to enable coastal communities to take stock of the human and natural resources in their surrounding area, because all too often the government has acted unilaterally.
Now is not the time to boast and brag about the merits of federalism. We really have to work together and ensure that the coastal communities feel they are full partners in the enormous changes to come, changes that affect them. It would be irresponsible to act otherwise.
The appalling collapse of the Atlantic fish stocks is the direct result of federal intervention in the fishery. The Liberal government does not have a spotless record in this area. Early in the 1980s, the Liberals gave out a large number of subsidies for shipbuilding that sometimes reached to 60 per cent of the price of the boat. They contributed to the current situation of overcapacity. Instead of diversifying the industry, the federal government of the day-we will see what the new one plans to do-made the problem worse.
For their part the provincial governments had no choice but to assist the processing sector to adapt to the higher volume of catches. They invested money while the resource itself, the cornerstone of the industry, slipped away.
There cannot be a valid and coherent fisheries policy unless the provinces share in managing the resource. The vulnerability of Quebec and the other provinces regarding fisheries arises from the fact that the final decision making power rests with the federal government.
Quebec and Newfoundland are perhaps closer on the issue of managing the fishery than we might think. In Quebec, we say Newfoundland is more separatist than we are. In the context of fisheries and oceans' reform-the research carried out last year-Newfoundland has asked for exclusive management of the resource and exclusive authority to issue licences for fishing in its waters.
I would be in favour of returning licensing management to the provinces. However, because fish stocks are migratory, the provinces cannot claim exclusive jurisdiction. If Newfoundland believes that the federal government is managing the resource inadequately, we hope it will support us in working to achieve joint management among the provinces. With joint management the resource would be managed more efficiently and we would have a better chance of preserving it.
However, a sovereign Quebec, with a seat on the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, could achieve a degree of rational management more rapidly. A sovereign Quebec would determine total levels of allowable catches just like any other sovereign state. It would distribute its share by issuing Quebec fishing licences.
This approach would enable Quebec to voice its opinions, as a people, at the international level and to manage its biomass jointly as it saw fit, without the federal government acting as an intermediary.
I want these remarks to be a plea for common sense, plea for respect for the maritime communities and their respective provinces. I have always tried to be fair. My remarks are not inspired by short-term interests but by a desire to counter the trend toward centralization in Canada that is responsible for the collapse of our fish stocks.
It is thus with a profound respect for the parties concerned that I submit my vision to the House. This is my reply to the speech from the throne, which in my opinion showed no understanding at all of the problems endured by maritime communities in Canada and Quebec.