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House of Commons Hansard #115 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was fishing.

Topics

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, it was not always the case. I could easily give you some examples of appointments which did not serve fisheries well, and I will do so later on.

This industry is much too important. It is growing and methods are constantly changing, so the people involved must have a solid knowledge, they must know the environment, be able to recognize an offence when they see one and be able to make judgments on stock replacement and all the other characteristics of the fishery.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Bernier Bloc Gaspé, QC

We need real judges, not some pale imitation.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

I am getting there. There is a specificity that the hon. member for Gaspé has been underlining on several occasions.

Once again, I do not know if I said this before, but I think the House would agree that, if there is in this House someone who spoke with a forceful voice, with good judgment and who has a good knowledge of the fishing industry, it is the hon. member for Gaspé. I am sure my colleagues will want to share my enthusiasm by giving him a resounding hand of applause. He is a real fisher.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

I come from the city, but since I used to eat fish every Friday throughout my childhood, I fully appreciate the importance of the fishing industry.

What we are asking the government, and we feel this is a legitimate request, is that this tribunal be made up of real lawyers, members of the legal profession, people who have formal training and who know the fisheries sector.

We warn the government against any attempt to make partisan appointments that would hurt that sector. We would be very disappointed if this were the case.

I am a bit sad to see that my time is running out, because I could have talked about this issue for 20 minutes.

I will conclude by reminding you that Quebec-and I think all of us here know that Quebec is a nation-made claims at the conference held in Victoria.

Let me stress what may be Quebec's primary claim regarding fisheries. Quebec wants the federal government to transfer to it all the powers relating to stocks fished by its residents, the assessment of stocks, the establishment of conservation and management policies, the issuing of licences, the allocation of resources to its residents, and the control and monitoring of its fisheries.

This is a major issue that each of us, members of the Bloc Quebecois, will emphasize. I will be very pleased to answer any questions.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Reform

John Duncan Reform North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is the second time that I have spoken on Bill C-62.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

An hon. member

That is not allowed.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Reform

John Duncan Reform North Island—Powell River, BC

But this is an amendment so it is quite in order.

I would like to reiterate that this bill is still dressed up as modernization. This bill gives the minister and thus the senior bureaucracy all the power they could ever possibly want to reward their friends and consolidate their strength and powers. This is known on the west coast for certain and in other jurisdictions as the most top heavy and arrogant bureaucracy in the federal government. It is amazing to me to see how the consolidation of powers in this bill can be characterized as modernization.

There is a major collision of events happening right now on the west coast. There is a federal-provincial set of negotiations going on in an attempt to translate some of the current jurisdictions of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans into a provincial mandate. We have a federal-provincial fisheries impact review board that is probably reporting today as we speak. We have the results from a very precedent setting federal court case in Vancouver that is very interesting. I would like to speak a little about that in a few minutes.

The halibut advisory committee process that dealt with halibut licensing on the B.C. coast several years ago was under scrutiny. Department of Fisheries and Oceans personnel came out looking very bad indeed. They confirmed what many in the industry, many people familiar with the actions of the senior bureaucracy have believed for some time and now we have it in black and white.

At a time when all these events are happening we have the implementation of what is known as the Mifflin plan on the west coast. This has been a major disaster for outlying communities in British Columbia in the way it was implemented and the buy back scheme that was put in place. There is a growing perception that we have an out of control, uncaring bureaucracy and department really doing a disservice to the west coast.

We already know what management has led to on the east coast. With that example as a precedent, the people in British Columbia want to avoid that at all costs. It is a very important industry, recreational, commercial and sport fishing.

I would like to state very clearly for the record that there is nothing in this new fisheries act that the minister and the department cannot do under the existing act except extinguish the public right to fish. The central and deplorable change with respect to fisheries management is that the minister gains new unfettered powers to do what currently requires the specific authorization of Parliament or cabinet. For a minister and department that have singlehandedly mismanaged this resource so completely to be handed even more absolute power would be a derogation of the trust placed in us as Parliamentarians.

It is further testimony to the government's inability to manage and allocate a resource and to honour its historic common law regarding the public right to fish.

It replaces the public right to fish with private fishing agreements or what the bill calls partnership agreements. These fishing agreements would be similar to the aboriginal fishing agreements the government currently enters into with native bands. The native only commercial fishery was recently undermined by the supreme court's decision on Van der Peet in 1996, NTC Smokehouse in 1996 and the Gladstone decision in 1996.

The court ruled specifically against an aboriginal commercial right to fish, saying they had no right to an exclusive fishery: "B.C. natives do not have a constitutional right to catch and sell fish commercially". Here we go again, more appealed decisions leading to supreme court rulings in order to bring the bureaucrats and their captive minister to their senses.

Bill C-62 does not address the real problems in the fishery, for example declining stocks, problems with Alaskan interceptions and the need for strict enforcement for conservation measures.

There is a growing awareness in the public that the present fisheries act does not give the minister the authority to enter into exclusive fishing arrangements. There are some simple solutions to the problem. Clear criteria ought to be established for the transfer of fisheries management to the provinces should the provinces want that authority. Fish do tend not to notice political boundaries.

I would like to mention some specifics about a very important case that really has not received much attention. On November 14 in Vancouver Judge Campbell finally came down with a decision. The plaintiffs in this case were halibut fishermen who felt they had been aggrieved by the process and that the minister had exceeded his authority in respect to the way in which halibut licences were reallocated from what is called a shotgun fishery, where all licence holders know the season and everyone goes out to catch what they can in the allotted time. It was changed from a shotgun fishery to an individual transferable quota. In the process of consultation leading up to the issuance of these individual transferable quotas there were a lot of things which came to light in the court case.

The plaintiffs are really saying that this was a rigged exercise, that the department had a predetermined agenda and that there were going to be winners and losers and that the personnel in DFO in charge of this exercise were totally uncaring as to who were the winners and who were the losers. It actually utilized this process to predetermine to some degree who the losers would be, but it would all be done under the guise of consultation and it would all be orchestrated in such a way that this initiative would look like it came from the halibut fishermen when in actual fact it was an initiative of personnel in the senior bureaucracy. This is a very interesting document. It is only about 50 pages long.

Some of the things that are in it are indeed things of which I do not think any federal department could possibly be proud. It is my estimate that the taxpayers of Canada will be responsible for, if not hundreds of thousands, millions of dollars in damages to these aggrieved licence holders that were shut out.

I will quote a few things from page 37 of the document. For example, the judge finds that the implementation of this process was an authorized decision of the administration of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Then on page 39 the same judge determines that he will consider the decision to be that of the minister. Then on page 43 he concludes that the plaintiffs were entitled to procedural fairness and on the following page determines-

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Unfortunately, the hon. member's time has expired.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve felt he had to justify himself because he was born and raised in the city. I could say the same thing since I am from Lévis, but in Lévis, there are also eels. But this is not what I want to talk about.

For four years, between 1980 and 1984, I was political assistant to the best minister of Fisheries that Quebec ever had and I remember very well how hard we had to fight to have our autonomy respected.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

An hon. member

Do not name him.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

I will not. The hon. member asked me not to give his name, but everybody knows who I am talking about. He is a man with an imposing presence to whom everybody pays attention when he enters a room-

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

And also because he needs two seats when he sits down.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, on a more serious note, I want to say we, in the official opposition, are against Bill C-62 which is being debated on second reading. With unanimous consent, I could perhaps be granted a brief extension of my time. I would like a few minutes more, because I see my time is almost up. But I will ask for the unanimous consent when my time is over.

This bill is ill-conceived and full of holes. We cannot imagine how this bill could have be so poorly put together. The hon. member for Gaspé, who did some splendid work, said and I agree: "There is something fishy here". We must scrutinize this thoroughly.

As for the tribunals, they open up a terrible possibility. We are going to let a select club establish the fishing rules in consultation with the minister in Ottawa. The minister wants to decide with his officials what will happen in this sector. This always surprised me. They want to decide from Ottawa while the fish is in the ocean. It is very difficult to bring an official from Ottawa to the fisheries.

The way these bureaucrats see things, they would like the fish to come to Ottawa so they can examine them. We are not fish. We will not let them act like this. We will not let the government do this without us saying a word. With its majority it will probably end up passing this bill, but we are against it.

The role of the provinces in the fisheries is not recognized enough. Also, there is not enough consideration given to those who make a living from this resource. They are not given the authority to develop rules and better ways of controlling the resource. The people, fishers are not being consulted enough.

I would have a thousand other things to say but I will leave it at that. I wanted to add my voice today to those of the hon. members for Gaspé and Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.

They may not have fish in Montreal, but they do eat fish. These consumers are important. Because of that, someone such as the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve has a right to speak up, and he did so very well. I hope others will not follow the example of members opposite who remain silent.

They are invisible. We cannot mention their absence in this House, but we can talk about their invisibility. I just wanted to point it out.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 1.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from October 22 consideration of the motion that Bill C-266, an act to amend the Competition Act (protection of whistle blowers), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Competition ActPrivate Members' Business

December 6th, 1996 / 1:25 p.m.

Reform

Margaret Bridgman Reform Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to speak to Bill C-266. There are four points on which I wish to expand. To get a bit of meat on those bones, once I am finished, I would suggest that people read the previous debate of October 22 when the hon. member for Nickel Belt outlined very substantially the objectives of this bill.

The bill is designed to enhance the provisions of the Competition Act. It will do so by allowing an employee to make an anonymous report of an employer's offence under the Competition Act to the Restrictive Trade Practices Commission without threat of dismissal, suspension, demotion, discipline, the loss of benefits or privileges of employment, termination, harassment, coercion or any other action which would otherwise disadvantage the employee.

A second part would protect the employee from retaliatory action by the employer if the employee refuses to take action for an employer that constitutes an offence under the Competition Act.

I would suggest that the act has directed its focus on the protection of the employee and the employee's job.

The hon. member for Longueuil said on October 22 that there will be or could be situations in which a person may want to maliciously damage the reputation of the employer. That has to be addressed a little more closely in this bill. I understand the

reasoning for the protection of the employee. I also would like to see a little more focus on the employer's position as well.

One of the main reasons that makes me think along this line is that in the justice system we have all witnessed situations in which a person or a company has been wrongly accused. By the time they go through the process of establishing their innocence, their reputation is damaged. We are talking about business here and it could have an effect on that.

Another provision is that the employer be liable for a fine of up to $100,000 or two years imprisonment if found guilty of retaliating action against an employee under the aforementioned circumstances.

I would suggest two things, one of which is the concept that a fine or prison internment be also applied to the other side of the equation: if an employee maliciously and knowingly attempts to harm the employer through this process.

I would also like to refer to a comment made by the member for Fraser Valley West in the October 22 debate. He felt that in his wisdom and with his resources the $100,000 fine and the two years imprisonment was a little steep. In a comparative analysis, the first thing that would come to my mind would be the punishment for drunk driving which is meted out in certain cases where it would be less than two years for someone who drives drunk and kills somebody and less than $100,000 in fines. That should be looked at.

My fourth point concerns the confidentiality of the employee, except in cases where upon inquiry the commission finds that the employee knowingly accused the employer falsely. I have already made reference to that. It is a good thing because if somebody is going to falsely accuse someone, then it should be brought to everyone's attention that they did try to do something maliciously.

I would also like some thought to be given to the employer's position on confidentiality. I would think it would be prudent to put the employer in the position of confidentiality until there is some substantiation that there is a valid charge.

Some other observations of this bill are on a more positive line. Unlike previous bills which have sought measures that would prevent the unfair gasoline pricing at the pumps, which is what this bill is targeting as the example, this bill works within the Competition Act. It is not going to overtly increase the cost of the bureaucracy. Also, it does not appear to be imposing unnecessary regulations upon the marketplace. Those are two promising aspects of it.

It will also enhance the commission's ability to conduct investigations by allowing the commission to act upon confidential information. Currently, six sponsors of a complaint are needed before the commission can pick it up. This will allow people to feed that information into the commission. We could probably expand on this by saying that this may be a situation where a stitch in time will save nine by getting on top of the situation earlier.

The Reform Party sees a lot of positive aspects to this but we also see some negative aspects which I have mentioned. It is positive in the promotion of competition and competitive pricing. It also strengthens and vigorously reinforces the competition and anti-combines legislation. It does indeed provide penalties for collusion of price fixing.

As I said, we are quite positive on this but we do have some reservations from the employer's position in relation to confidentiality until it is substantiated and to the amounts of the fines and charges. I would suggest that penalties be applied to the employee if they falsify their statement to the commission.

I will conclude because otherwise I would be reiterating an excellent debate that occurred on October 22.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee.)

Competition ActPrivate Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being approximately 1.40 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday at 11 a.m.

(The House adjourned at 1.40 p.m.)