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.


Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.


John Cummins Reform Delta, BC

What dams or other obstructions has BC Hydro erected on rivers in British Columbia and what has been the effect of each obstruction on the life-cycle of the various species of salmon?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra B.C.


Ted McWhinney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

According to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans DFO, records, there are at present 33 existing dams and diversions built and operated by B.C. Hydro in the province. These are as follows. In the Columbia Region: Mica Project, Revelstoke Project, Keenleyside Project, Seven Mile Project, Walter Hardman Project, Whatshan Project, Spillimacheen Project, Aberfeldie Project, Elko Project, Duncan Project, Kootenay Canal Project.

Northern B.C.: WAC Bennett Dam and GM Shrum Generating Stations, Peace Canyon Project, Falls River Project, Clayton Falls Project.

Fraser River and Lower Mainland: Shuswap Falls Project, LaJoie Project, Bridge River Project, Seton Project, Wahleach Project, Stave Falls Project, Ruskin Project, Coquitlam Project, Buntzen Project, Alouette Project, Cheakamus Project, Clowhom Project.

Vancouver Island: Strathcona Project, Ladore Project, John Hart Project, Puntledge Project, Ash River Project, Jordan River Project.

The potential effects of flow control on fish and fish habitat include effects on productivity and water quality in reservoirs and effects on habitat quantity and quality, benthic productivity, water quality and fish behaviour downstream of release facilities. A list of the potential impacts of hydro dams and diversions on salmon is given below.

Physical Change


Drawdown -reduced littoral productivity -reduced littoral spawning success -reduced tributary access -reduced water quality

Impoundment -reduced dissolved oxygen -settling of suspended sediment


Reduced flow -reduced habitat quantity -altered water temperature

Inadequate flushing flow -accumulation of fine sediments in gravel substrate -changes in stream morphology

Increased flows -scouring of substrates -physical displacement of fish -destabilization of stream banks

Rapid flow fluctuation -displacement and stranding of fish and exposure of eggs

Flow diversion -disruption of fish homing to natal streams

Altered temperature -altered habitat quality regime -altered benthic productivity

Altered water quality -altered benthic productivity

Elevated total gas -injury or death of fish due to gaspressure bubble disease

The majority of B.C. Hydro projects were undertaken many years ago. At that time, potential impacts of facility operations on fish and fish habitat at a specific site were often not fully known owing to limited knowledge of the fisheries resources at risk at that site. Furthermore, in today's context, fish and fish habitat are often impacted by B.C. Hydro's management of its day to day operations. For example, flow constraints imposed at one plant for fisheries protection may have a system-wide effect, for example, block loading at one plant may increase load fluctuations at another plant, or result in even greater impacts at another facility. This is why it is important for DFO to work with B.C. Hydro to attempt to maximize benefits to fisheries from hydro operations.

In June 1993, the B.C. government directed B.C. Hydro to undertake a review to determine the feasibility of altering its electric generation system, operations to increase net social and environmental benefits to the province. The provincial government liaison committee, responsible for implementing the recommendations stemming from this review, established a fish power issue management committee on which DFO has representation. This committee in turn has established a technical working group which is reviewing B.C. Hydro water licences for facilities located on 10 priority watersheds in coastal and southern interior B.C., all of which support salmon. All 88 B.C. Hydro water licences will be reviewed within the next 3 years.

Through its participation on these committees and working groups, DFO is working to have fisheries protection measures incorporated into B.C. Hydro water licences. An example of recent fisheries/hydro interactions was the resolution of the low flow issue on Alouette River. Stakeholder negotiations involving federal and provincial agencies, First Nations, B.C. Hydro and public advisory groups resulted in a flow agreement based on scientifically defensible information and a socioeconomic model.

Despite such co-operative work, fish-power conflicts continue to arise in B.C. DFO will continue to work with B.C. Hydro to minimize these events but will nevertheless take action where appropriate, as is evident with the current Fisheries Act prosecutions for events occurring on the Bridge River in 1992 and 1993.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.


Sue Barnes Liberal London West, ON

I ask, Mr. Speaker, that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-62, an act respecting fisheries, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment and amendment to the amendment.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Five minutes were promised to hon. member for Gaspé for questions and comments, but this seems to be impossible as the hon. member for Gander-Grand Falls is not in the House.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Yvan Bernier Bloc Gaspé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would still like to make a comment.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker


Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Yvan Bernier Bloc Gaspé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am sure that the hon. member for Gander-Grand Falls will be very interested in the comment I have to make following his speech.

There are two points in my comment. The hon. member for Gander-Grand Falls argued that the Bloc and the Reform Party were against such a nice bill which, according to him, is protecting us against the bad countries which come to fish our straddling stocks. The hon. member said that we, in the Bloc, are against that, which is not true.

I hope he will respond to this because the Bloc Quebecois immediately offered its support when Brian Tobin, who was then

fisheries minister, wanted to introduce a bill protecting these straddling stocks and allowing us to use force if necessary. The Bloc Quebecois agreed; it was a historic moment. The secretary of state for agriculture and fisheries was present at the time. The Bloc Quebecois agreed to go through the three stages of that bill in one day. Is the use of such common sense not a sign of co-operation?

Is there any common sense in this bill? That is the question. We proved to you that we are willing to support any sensible initiative, but this is not the case.

I have a second comment. The hon. member for Gander-Grand Falls has been sitting in this House for 20 or 25 years maybe and has seen a lot of governments-both Conservative and Liberal-come and go. There were changes in government in his own province, with the Tories and the Grits taking turns, but despite all his whining a moment ago, he never once said to us that somewhere in this bill, the federal government is protecting his own province.

Where in the bill does it say that the Newfoundland fisheries minister will have a say in ensuring that Canada and the fisheries minister protect the stocks adequately? Nowhere. Nowhere is it mentioned in the bill.

How often did Clyde Wells, the Liberal Premier of Newfoundland, come to Ottawa to say to then fisheries minister Crosbie, a Conservative, that foreign overfishing had to be stopped? There was no official link, the federal Minister of Fisheries had no obligation whatsoever to listen to his provincial counterpart.

What happened? Things dragged out. What did it take for the government to finally introduce legislation against overfishing? Maybe a combination of circumstances. There was Mr. Tobin, a Liberal minister from Newfoundland, and there was also a provincial Liberal government, under the leadership of Clyde Wells. As a member of the Bloc, I myself said that this bill made perfect sense and that we would vote for it.

Where does it say the Government of Newfoundland will have a say? Things will not always be as they are today. Imagine that the Conservatives are back in office or that we have a Reform government. Who knows what can happen? Do you think that the Newfoundland fisheries minister would see eye to eye with a Reform Prime Minister? We in the Bloc do not wish to form the government. The rest of Canada will be on its own.

Think about a way of allowing the provinces to be heard. Newfoundland is surrounded by sea. Newfoundland must have a say; the central government must not be the only one to decide.

As a responsible parliamentarian, the hon. member for Gander-Grand Falls must ensure that, next time, this government will introduce measures protecting his province.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Because the member for Gaspé was promised a few more minutes by the Chair, he was allowed to speak for five more minutes.

As every member knows, the member who made the comments that triggered this reply was not in the House. Usually, one cannot speak if the member who made the comments is not in his or her seat.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Bob Ringma Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to tell my colleague, the hon. member for Gaspé, that I agree with many of the things he said about our colleague, the hon. member for Gander-Grand Falls-

-who is taking great advantage of blaming everything that is happening on the Conservatives while he is reluctant for the Liberals to take any blame for what has happened in the fisheries.

The government has put before the House Bill C-62, the fisheries act. This legislation will radically change the management of the fishery as we have known it for over 150 years. If passed, Bill C-62 would give the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans unlimited discretion to carve up the public fishery into private and exclusive fisheries. That is bad news.

The bill contains no requirement for any publication of private or exclusive fisheries agreements. There would be no guidelines on who might be the recipient of these agreements. The private fishing agreements can override any regulation governing the public fishery made by the governor in council, that is, the cabinet.

These fishing agreements would be similar to the aboriginal fishing agreements that the government currently enters into with native bands under its aboriginal fishery strategy. We heard nothing about that from the member for Gander-Grand Falls.

Under this bill the minister would be given unlimited discretion to make his own regulations and to organize the fishery by ministerial decrees or orders. These ministerial orders could override a condition of a licence. The bill would give the minister the power to take away the historic common law public right to fish in exchange for a privilege dependent on the whim of the minister.

The government would be able to transfer its constitutional responsibilities for fisheries management, enforcement, and habitat protection to the provinces without coming back to seek the consent of this Parliament.

The government views this new legislation as a political necessity following three decisions of the supreme court last August. The court held that British Columbia natives do not have a constitutional right to a separate commercial salmon fishery. The

decisions exposed the native only commercial fishery arrangements undertaken by the government as a fraud.

In the past the public was assured that the government had been required to establish the separate fishery by the courts. There is now greater awareness that the present Fisheries Act does not give the government authority to establish a native only commercial fishery. The government has been operating outside the law.

Without the new powers in the bill, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans would probably be unable to operate a separate native commercial fishery. The government would also have to admit that the criticism levelled by fishermen against this separate native only commercial fishery was correct.

The bill would give unlimited discretionary power to the minister to regulate the fishery, to enter into private fishing agreements, to transfer control to the provinces but without any accountability, without yardsticks with which to evaluate what the government is doing.

A new fisheries act ought to deal with the real problems in the fishery, not simply make life easier for the government. It ought to solve problems, not create new ones. It ought to respect the law, not try to get around the law.

Let me remind the government of some issues that Bill C-62 ought to have addressed. John Fraser, a respected former Speaker, in his study of the mismanagement of the salmon fishery on the Fraser River in 1994 identified problems with fisheries and oceans. Then the government in the spring of 1995 undertook to implement all 35 recommendations from Mr. Fraser.

A study undertaken in the spring of this year by DFO evaluated the department's success in implementing Fraser's recommendations. Let me read directly from the study. DFO's own study speaks eloquently of the department's failure. One of Fraser's recommendations was:

That DFO retain and exercise its constitutional responsibilities and not in any way abrogate its stewardship of resources under federal jurisdiction. Conservation must be the primary objective of both fisheries managers and all others participating in the fishery. That conservation must prevail throughout and be adhered to by all.

The evaluation study instead found that "stock-specific conservation of the Fraser River sockeye is threatened. DFO cannot hope to succeed without a clear vision of what it is trying to achieve". It stated: "The first requirement therefore is an explicit definition of conservation". It also stated: "There can be no conservation of Fraser sockeye salmon in the long run without equivalent care and protection for habitat on which fish stocks rely".

Bill C-62 does not contain any definition of conservation and Bill C-62 weakens habit protection. Bill C-62 would allow the government to transfer to the provinces responsibilities for habitat protection, the very opposite of what Fraser recommended.

Let me go on with Mr. Fraser's recommendations: "That DFO and the Pacific Salmon Commission"-of which we heard nothing from the member from Gander-"adopt a risk aversion management strategy because of the great uncertainty on stock estimates, in season catch estimates and environmental problems". The evaluation study undertaken this year by DFO under contract found: "A risk averse strategy has not yet been developed. We found that DFO's actions were not the result of an explicit, well defined averse management strategy but rather were a response to the unprecedented events of the 1995 fishery".

Therefore we can conclude that Bill C-62 does not contain any requirement for risk averse management of the fishery or even a definition, totally contrary to what was recommended in the Fraser report. Let us take another recommendation of Mr. Fraser's:

DFO develop better co-ordinated inter-party communications among its staff and between staff and the Pacific Salmon Commission, First Nations, commercial and recreational fishing groups, with a greater degree of co-operation aimed at enhanced in season management and post season evaluation, and at fostering working arrangements among all parties-

So much for the recommendation by Mr. Fraser. The evaluation study found: "Tensions between DFO and the Pacific Salmon Commission persist particularly with respect to the free flow of data. This is true of integration with both ocean fisheries and in river aboriginal fisheries".

We conclude that Bill C-62 does not contain any requirement that there be a free flow of scientific data between DFO and the salmon commission. In fact Bill C-62 would continue to leave the openings for aboriginal fisheries outside the commission. There is only one set of fish and there cannot be two competing organizations managing it in isolation from one another.

Bill C-62 would give the minister unlimited authority to sign such agreements but without any recognition of Fraser's recommendation. Let me cite another recommendation from Mr. Fraser:

That the Canadian section of the Fraser River Panel be vested with responsibility for in season management for Fraser River sockeye and pink salmon fisheries in Canadian waters beyond the current Pacific Salmon Commission convention area. Further, to facilitate communications and understanding between DFO and PSC of the in season run and stock size estimates, a member of the DFO stock assessment division be assigned to work closely with PSC during planning, estimation and evaluation of run estimating procedures.

Instead, after that recommendation the evaluation study found that there are still problems in the integration of DFO and Pacific Salmon Commission activities particularly with respect to the transfer of information. The evaluation study found that based on numerous interviews with DFO staff and industry reps, it is clear

that certain difficulties still face the integration of panel fisheries and non-panel fisheries.

The evaluation study found instead: "We understand from both parties, DFO and PSC, that relations between the two organizations have been somewhat strained in recent years-effective communication and co-operation between the two are essential to conservation and good management of Fraser sockeye", that is Fraser River sockeye. "Whether the problems arise from politics or personalities, immediate action is required to ensure effective communications and co-ordination between DFO and PSC".

Bill C-62 ignores this problem. Because it is a structural problem involving two separate organizations each operating under its own statutes, specific recognition of this problem in the bill would have gone a long way to solving it. Ignoring this longstanding west coast problem will not make it go away. Unfortunately it guarantees that it will be with us indefinitely.

Let us look at another Fraser report recommendation:

That an independent Pacific fisheries conservation council be established to act as a public watchdog for the fishery, to report to ministers and the public annually and from time to time as is appropriate.

What did the evaluation study find with regard to that recommendation? It found to date that DFO has not developed an annual review process as recommended in the Fraser report. It found that the consolidated annual review process such as was called for has not yet been implemented.

The Fraser commission made a whole series of recommendations. Fraser is a well-respected man. The evaluation study, which went hard on its heels, has virtually ignored many or most of the recommendations.

Bill C-62 as a bill is good news, but only for the minister of fisheries. To the fish, fishers and people of Canada it is bad news. The Reform Party cannot in any way support Bill C-62.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I thank the hon. member for Nanaimo-Cowichan for bearing witness to the fact that the speeches are now 10 minutes and there are no further questions or comments.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to speak to Bill C-62, on fisheries, which the minister repeatedly called the bill of the century. For his part, the critic for the Bloc said that the bill of the century was rather a botched job.

Why do we, from the Bloc, say that this bill is a botched job? Simply because it is not what the industry requires. It will allow all kind of activities and will leave the door wide open to patronage. I think that instead of helping the individuals and companies the minister said he intended to help, the bill will greatly complicate matters for them.

The Bloc thinks that there are three major flaws in Bill C-62. The first one concerns the provisions which allow the minister to choose the fisheries management agreements partners. It is obvious that the minister is giving himself all the leeway he needs to decide whom he will be dealing with, who will be making the decisions.

It is clear that the industry itself never wanted the minister or his top civil servants to make the decisions; lately, it has been seen that ministers are not very knowledgeable about their own departments. We have seen that, at present, top public servants, and even junior public servants, are calling the shots. At least that is the impression left by the answers given in this Chamber. So, those public servants will make the decisions instead of the people from the industry who would have liked to be heard and play a leading role in shaping the important decisions that are badly needed to improve the fisheries.

I repeat that we are not against legislation that would modernize and improve the situation of the fishers. In fact, that is what we are waiting for. But the minister's approach is wrong.

Therefore, the first major flaw of the bill is the discretionary power the minister wants, to choose the partners with whom he will make the important decisions for the future of fisheries.

The other major flaw is the devolution, which is certainly inadequate and inconsistent. The federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans wants to transfer powers to the provinces, but he still controls the levers.

There is a major inconsistency since, on the one hand, the minister transfers to the provinces the authority to issue licences while, on the other hand, he wants to negotiate agreements on the management and protection of resources directly with industry stakeholders without the provinces being involved in the discussions.

That must be it, when we hear in every throne speech, year after year, that the federal government is a flexible government. Yes, the federal government is flexible as long as the other parties co-operate. That is the kind of flexibility it means.

This bill is quite simple, generally speaking. The federal government could prove its flexibility by giving the provinces more jurisdiction and authority, but this bill shows that the right hand of the government does not know what the left hand is doing.

My third point-and it is an important one-concerns the establishment of fisheries tribunals. This is only a front for the minister, and I would even dare say a real haven of patronage. Now, why should I focus on this? As you know, I am justice critic, and it is from this angle that I have looked at clause 65 and the clauses

that follow dealing with the establishment per se of the fisheries tribunals.

We understand that this was a response to certain difficulties being experienced by the department. However, there are two major problems with establishing these tribunals, and a look at Bill C-62 will show us what they are.

If we look at clause 65 in part III, administrative sanctions, the immediate conclusion is that these tribunals will be administrative in nature. If we are talking about administrative tribunals, the conclusion is that there will be decisions made that include administrative sanctions, with fines that can be very heavy. The Atlantic Fisheries Tribunal and the Pacific Fisheries Tribunal do have an area of jurisdiction.

Clause 69 sets out members' terms of office:

(1) The members of a Tribunal shall be appointed to hold office during good behaviour for a term not exceeding three years, but may be removed by the Governor in Council at any time for cause.

(2) A member may be re-appointed to a Tribunal.

A three year term is not that long, especially when we know that the minister will be laying down the ground rules. He will proceed the way he wants, often without Parliament's knowledge. He will establish regulations, and the people in the fisheries tribunals will enforce them. Three years is not a long term of office. The bill may well say that it cannot be exceeded, but if these people want their career to go on a little longer than three years, they are much better advised to dance to the minister's tune.

Everyone understands that, and I think that, on this three year criterion alone, it is contrary to paragraph 11(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I also wonder about the appointment of these tribunal members. Who will decide on appointments?

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

An hon. member

Friends of the party.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

The members across the way have the nerve to tell me that it will be friends of the party. Yes, that is who it will be. I am glad to hear it from the benches across the aisle. Yes, the minister will appoint friends of the party. It is true, that is Liberal party patronage for you.

In addition, the friends of the party who will be appointed to this administrative tribunal will not even need to have legal background.

The only requirement is some ability in the areas of fish stocks or administration. In areas of such importance, legal training should have been a minimum requirement. I think this is extremely important given the administrative sanction that will be applied to people in the fishing industry.

This indicates the government's approach with the bill. They start off with fine principles, as we have often seen. They shake a lot of things up, they create great smoke screens and, in the end, little changes. Unfortunately, this government has a false front.

We have seen it on a number of occasions involving lobby groups and justice matters. I am the justice critic. The government makes grand speeches, great discourse on violence, against dangerous criminals, against this and against that. Why? For the voters. It sells well.

Things are not any different with the fisheries bill. I hear a Liberal member saying they never do that. He admits they do petty politicking in such a case. It is unacceptable, particularly on the part of the secretary in this matter.

We could have reached a consensus with the community, because it wanted changes. But no. The Liberal government, the minister, the minister's secretary were up to petty politics, as always, for their personal gain and their own political ambitions and not for the industry. This is why we will vote against the bill.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Mike Scott Reform Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, in my remarks I want to respond to some of the comments which the hon. member for Gander-Grand Falls made this morning in debate.

The member is, of course, quite right when he talks about the foreign overfishing that has taken place in Canadian waters and just outside Canadian waters which affects Canadian fish stocks.

He is quite right when he notes that it was the Conservative government between 1984 and 1992 which dramatically increased, by agreement, the amount of foreign fishing in Canadian waters.

I do not refer to these amendments as being amendments to the Fisheries Act. I know that is how the government treats them. However, if we look at the bill, it will create a new act. It replaces the old act almost entirely.

There are, indeed, some aspects of the bill which are good. The problem, and it is the same problem we have with many pieces of government legislation, is that buried in among the parts of the legislation which we can support are many aspects of the legislation that we find totally reprehensible. Therefore we have to decline our support for the entire piece of legislation.

I hope that members who feel strongly about foreign fishing in Canadian waters and outside Canadian territorial waters, which affects Canada's fish stocks, will understand that what we are

saying is that the entire bill is so comprehensive and so far reaching in its impacts that we cannot support it. I am going to go through the main reasons, in the limited time I have, to discuss why we cannot support the bill.

There are problems in almost every fishery in Canada today. There are some fisheries that, thankfully, do not experience very many problems or any serious problems at the present time. However, they are the exception and not the rule.

Whether Pacific salmon, Atlantic groundfish or lobster, most of the fisheries in Canada are having problems of one sort of another and some are very serious problems.

In 1992-93 the government had to declare a moratorium on groundfish and cod in Atlantic Canada. We heard scientists talking about environmental conditions, seal populations and so on, but the raw fact is those stocks were overfished and overfished habitually and regularly for many years.

Why were they overfished? In essence the decision making with respect to catch limits, who could actually have a licence and how the resource was going to be managed was basically driven by politics, not by science and not by sound business principles. It was driven by politics and of course the results are obvious.

I remember clearly watching the former minister of fisheries and oceans under the Conservative government, Mr. Crosbie, in a press conference in Newfoundland. He was sitting surrounded by DFO officials and he said: "We are hearing some scientific evidence that is suggesting that we should reduce our quotas and reduce the harvest rates on cod. But we are not prepared to make those kinds of decisions because there are too many people who are depending on this fishery for their jobs and their livelihood. We think the scientific evidence is not strong enough and therefore we are just going to allow the current catch rates to continue". And they did. They fished it right into the ground.

Yes, there may have been some environmental conditions which added to the problem. Yes, there may have been some problems with respect to seals which added to the problem but the seals were not the main problem and the environment was not the main problem. Those stocks were fished into oblivion. There remains the question today of whether those stocks are going to rejuvenate over time.

There is some indication and a ray of hope that some of these stocks are starting to rebound as we speak and have been for the last couple of years since the moratorium was imposed. That is some stocks, but not all of them. Even the ones that have improved have improved only marginally. There are not massive increases in recruitment, massive increases in stock levels. There has been some minor improvement and in some cases an improvement that is encouraging for all who depend on the fishery.

The main problem is that politics has driven the decision making process. It has been the same whether it has been a Tory government or a Liberal government; it has been political decision making.

For example, we have the FRCC now saying that there is a minor improvement in stock levels. There is some hope that these stocks are going to come back. We have a discussion taking place this fall as to whether the cod fishery in Newfoundland, the upper St. Lawrence River and Bay of Fundy is going to be reopened next year for a limited commercial harvest.

Frankly, while I can understand that the FRCC would like to have more and better information with respect to stocks, and that is part of the reason it is recommending a very limited opening, in my view it is a major mistake for the government to look at any kind of a commercial harvest under the present circumstances. I am very concerned that we are going to have a decision from the minister very soon suggesting that is exactly what we are going to see next year.

We have to get away from politics driving the decision making process. This bill does not address any of the problems that I talked about. It is going to give the minister much more power than he has at the present time. The underlying reason for that is that the minister wants to make more political decisions and not less.

The minister wants to be able to enter into agreements with individual groups and organizations for access to fish stocks on an exclusionary basis. That is something we have never seen in Canada before. We know that the underlying reason for it is that the government is trying to justify the aboriginal fishing strategy in British Columbia. We know there is no constitutional or legal support for the pilot sales aspect of the aboriginal fishing strategy, which is what the government is trying to protect.

With the recent court decisions that were made this year, the government has absolutely no foundation whatsoever to maintain an aboriginal fishing strategy and the pilot sales aspect of it in British Columbia. However, it appears intent on doing that and it is looking to this legislation to lend support to that decision.

I see that my time is up. We will be dealing with this matter further in debate.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the other Speaker.

I would like to congratulate the new Speaker of the House for his temporary promotion.

Of course, like my colleagues, I will be speaking against Bill C-62. It is rather strange that we are discussing a fisheries management bill at this moment, when it should have been done a long time ago. The existing act dates back to 1867, and the Bloc Quebecois is certainly not against the idea of modernizing it. What we are against is the way it is being done, particularly the excessive centralization that is evident in this bill.

I will start by saying a few words about the environmental aspect of this legislation because I have to admit that, before entering the political scene, I was a unionist and I had the opportunity to work with several environmental and social groups. It is sad to see that 100 or maybe 150 years after the adoption of the first act, we are facing a situation where our fish stocks are in a deplorable state. I think the ocean, particularly on the east coast, has been emptied. Even with the various attempts made to modernize the act, we are realizing that it is now the ocean on the west coast that is being emptied.

Therefore, it is important to have massive consultations with as many stakeholders as possible-and the provinces play a crucial role in this debate-if we are to rectify the situation and to ensure the recovery of our fish stocks, which we think are in the process of being completely destroyed.

Why are we saying there is excessive centralization? The heart of the problem can be found in clause 17.

It says that Her Majesty, in right of Canada, represented by the minister, may enter into a fisheries management agreement with any organization that, in the opinion of the minister-and the problem lies in these words: "in the opinion of the Minister"-is representative of a class of persons or holders.

Therefore the minister, surrounded by an array of officials, is the one who will decide, in the east as well as in the west, wherever there is jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions have been delegated to provinces, namely freshwater fisheries. The minister could at any time decide to withdraw this delegation. This, as we know, could create problems, but the minister holds all the cards. I believe that the way the bill is drafted, it sidelines provinces and some extremely important groups.

As honourable members know, I am the Indian affairs critic for my party. I believe there is a major problem with native fisheries and this bill does nothing to solve it.

We have just received the report of a royal commission of inquiry which lasted five years. Last week, this commission, created by the Conservatives, presented a 4,000 page plus report and 400 recommendations. Some of those recommendations deal with native fisheries. Nowhere in the bill does it say that the minister must consult natives. He will, only if, "in his opinion" it is justified.

The danger lies not only in the centralization but in the possibility that the minister could play political games with his decisions. Several people have already mentioned this. The minister could play political games. I will speak about Restigouche later, as an example.

First of all, I want to explain how natives negotiate. Negotiations are very important to them. In fact, when Europeans got here, natives already had their own governments, their own political system, their own justice system. Most decisions were reached by consensus.

Of course, that required much longer discussions. With a majority, you tend to say: Look here, we can cut the debate short, since the majority will win out in any case. I must say that the government realized it could do so a long time ago. We were gagged several times. Of course, it is hard to reach a consensus in this House. However, the government regularly brings forward some motions to gag the opposition. We are far from having lengthy discussions to try to improve bills, explain our positions and reach some kind of compromise. Unfortunately, the government gags the opposition a bit too often. That is not the natives' approach. They were always striving for a consensus.

We see that, under this bill, not only can provinces be excluded, but natives are excluded as well. The minister can set out classes of licence holders or fishers on his own initiative. One day, he could say that it does not include natives, and the next day, for political reasons, he could say that he is including natives and will ensure that their rights are upheld, as was done in Restigouche.

Unfortunately, this bill does not provide for a negotiation process. Once again, a minister, using his authority with his officials, may impose a procedure, a way of setting limits and issuing permits. The minister is allowed to do anything he wants without consulting the provinces and groups concerned.

As you can understand, as the opposition critic on Indian affairs, after such a meaty report as the one tabled last week, I think the minister falls far short of the goal of seeking a consensus, of holding extensive discussions, of ensuring the effective preservation of our fish stocks. When several parties agree on something, it is a lot easier to implement the decision than if the minister decided to impose his own vision despite the opposition of Quebec or another province or of native people.

That is what happened in Restigouche. Everything was improvised. The Micmac and other native people in Restigouche made a decision to resume subsistence fishing. As you know, the Supreme Court of Canada makes a distinction between subsistence fishing for aboriginal people and commercial fishing. The issue of subsistence fishing is quite clear and precise, and there are specific rules

on that. When preservation is not in jeopardy, there is no problem with giving priority to subsistence fishing by aboriginal people.

The problem in Restigouche is precisely that stocks are at risk, and there has been a lot of improvising on the part of the department. It is trying to impose its way of doing things, probably for political reasons. There are disagreements over this. Aboriginal people maintain they have the right to fish for subsistence; those who already have licences say that stocks are endangered and that more fishing licences should not be issued because stocks will be depleted.

Finally, we realize that the minister missed an opportunity to include a mechanism for negotiating. It would have been easy to say it must not just be "in his opinion", but, rather, that he must automatically and officially consult the provinces, interested parties-such as the native peoples-and licence holders. It would be a way of requiring basic agreement with a majority involved in order to have a chance of success.

Unfortunately this is not the case with the bill before us. The minister simply wants to impose his authority on everyone else, and this bill allows him to do so.

I would therefore like to make a suggestion. Obviously, we cannot vote in favour of the bill at second reading. Obviously this bill will be sent to a committee. I think the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans should consult his colleague the minister of Indian affairs to see if matters can be arranged.

I hope our representatives and colleagues on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans will make this a concern. The provinces consider it vital the government provide for consultation in its bill. Consultation with the provinces should be almost mandatory.

When interest groups, including the provinces, are involved, I think we might succeed. I hope fish stocks will be restored to the level they were 100 years ago.

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12:55 p.m.


Darrel Stinson Reform Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I stand to speak on Bill C-62, the new fisheries act.

A strange thing is happening in this bill. It contains provisions in clauses 17 to 22 designed to abrogate the public right of access to the fishery. This seems strange. This right for the public has been around since the Magna Carta in 1215. The bill will empower the minister, the crown, without notice to the public, to grant the private right to fish for commercial or sport purposes to any group currently in political favour.

This is something that cannot be done legally under the present Fisheries Act. The present act is based on the premise that the fishery is a public resource to which all Canadians, not just a select few Canadians, are entitled to equal access.

I have to wonder if the minister and the members opposite understand what equal access means. I look at many decisions the government has brought down in the last little while. The government claims they are for the benefit of all citizens. As we go through these decisions, we see it is very select group who benefits. Bill C-62 is one example.

Let us take British Columbia as an example. I know firsthand what the government decided for the fishing industry there. I know the Liberals like to say that they do all this fancy consulting. I sometimes wonder if they are talking to their fathers and grandparents in order to get an okay on some of these things that are passed in the House. Let us take a look at what is happening on the Adams River which happens to be in my constituency. It is well known around the world for the spawning runs that used to happen in the Adams River.

The government in its ultimate wisdom-I would say in its ultimate stupidity I guess-decided that the best thing it could do for the people in B.C. and in the constituency of Okanagan-Shuswap was to shut down the fish hatchery. The government has proceeded to shut down most of the inland hatcheries on the west coast after consultation. I would like to know who was consulted. The government never talked with any of the mayors or any of the people in my constituency, not one. It just decided to shut them down.

The reason? It said that it was not making enough profit there. This hatchery has not been open long enough. Anybody with a little knowledge of hatcheries knows that it takes approximately nine years to see a decent stock return. The government decided that four and a half or five years was good enough for the hatcheries on the west coast.

It makes many people wonder how the Liberals can shut down what was a basic part of the food chain. Millions had already been spent putting the hatcheries in place. I asked the minister that if the department was having trouble with salmon, we could certainly turn it into a trout hatchery. Believe it or not, the minister's argument was that it might interfere with the wild stock. Does this make any sense to anybody?

We could tag these fish, send them on their way and then put a moratorium for a certain period of time on catching the wild stock until they are brought back up to a healthy number for fishing. But this seemed to have been lost to the minister. He could not fathom this idea. He seemed to be bent-as he still is-on seeing the west coast go the same way Newfoundland has gone.

Do members in the House understand what has happened in Newfoundland through the inaction, the absolute non-action, and the silly decisions that have been made by governments? Do they

realize that now the people are suffering through silly things like this?

The only thing fishy in Newfoundland is the red book. There is absolutely no doubt about it. It reminds me of out west where we have a saying that government is a group called politickitis. A tick is a little bug that gets on human beings and sucks their blood. It is far worse than a mosquito. It can create a great disease.

Politickitis is a two-legged bug that sits in government. Nine times out of ten it sits on the front benches. It then latches on to the taxpayers and sucks the lifeblood right out of them. Unfortunately we only have one cure for this disease so far: the ballot. But we are only allowed to use that remedy once every four or five years at the whim of the insect that is causing the problem. It seems kind of strange but that is what we have to put up with here when we get bills like this coming before the House.

These bills come from a government that has thrown more people out of work in this country than any other government in the history of Canada. Government members stand here every day and basically misrepresent everything they can in regard to all opposition parties. They are masters of deceit.

If we look at what has happened we will find that we have largest bankruptcy rate that has ever happened. They like to talk about the G-7 countries. They like to say how well we are doing compared to the other G-7 countries. That is the most fishy thing about it all.

The Liberals have brought this awful piece of garbage before the House. They have told us how well they are doing. We have the highest bankruptcy rate of the G-7 countries. We have more unemployed and under-employed. We have the best dictatorship there is in the free world as we know it today.

Clauses 17 through 22 of the bill demonstrate this. They will empower a minister of the crown, without public notice, to grant private rights to fish. It is totally unacceptable.

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1:05 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me, as an MP from Montreal, to speak to this bill, the fisheries bill, which is very important for the economy.

I have always made a point of examining any issue that might affect the interests of Quebec. Before getting into the substance of this bill, I do not want to miss this opportunity to pay a heartfelt tribute to the member for Gaspé. I believe both the government side and the Reform Party will agree with me on this.

On this issue, it could be said that he was in his own element, as, from week to week, his expertise guided the caucus. One must admit that the member for Gaspé's approach is more adversarial than confrontational.

The member for Gaspé did the right thing by warning us against what amounts to a subterfuge on the part of the federal government. He demonstrated very eloquently that this act had to be updated. This act dating back to 1868 has barely been reviewed since its enactment. The question of quotas was reviewed, somewhat indirectly. In essence, we have before us a totally new bill, if I correctly understood the wise explanations of my colleague from Gaspé.

Despite the fact that such a detailed review was done, the government has found a way to disappoint the main partners. That is the conclusion that must be drawn. Since you are allowing me to address this issue, I would say there is an analogy to be made between the fishing industry and the Canadian Confederation. What I mean is that any attempt to modernize does not necessarily lead to success.

In both cases, the member-and his gracious assistant who has played a very supportive role at his side-reminds us that, in the end, Quebec should have been handed back full jurisdiction over fishing matters.

That being said, we will not avoid the basic issues. Having carefully studied these issues in the last few days, I remind the House that we have three objections, which I will reiterate.

There are irritants. As members may have noticed, I happen to like this word and I will use it in this case. We have three major objections to Bill C-62, which the member for Gaspé will allow me to reiterate. My colleague, the hon. member for Gaspé, made an in-depth review of the bill. Come now, let us have some order in this Parliament. I believe the member for Verchères ought to leave if I am to have any hope of delivering my speech. I want the House to know that I am serious now, I have been all long really.

We oppose the bill because we fear that the minister's approach regarding management agreements will preclude any real partnership.

Also, we have concerns regarding the delegation of powers to the provinces, which we find totally and utterly inadequate. If I understand the bill correctly, I believe the main concern-as is the case with other issues I am involved with-is that the newly created fisheries tribunal might become, if I may say so, a patronage haven.

I would like to get back to this clause. We are bringing the labour code up to date. A case in point is what the minister is going to do with what his colleague, the labour minister, is proposing. We are in the process of reviewing the labour code, which had not been brought up to date for the past 30 years. Yours truly has been an active contributor to this process.

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1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

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1:10 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

I appreciate the enthusiastic show of support from the House, where quorum is obviously not an issue.

Let me tell you, we certainly contributed to the updating of the labour code when we asked the government to use the lists submitted by the parties when appointing the members of the Canada Labour Relations Board, which is an arbitration forum for employers and employees-I see you are in agreement, Mr. Speaker, and that is very reassuring.

When these tribunals are created, should we not make sure beforehand that the members appointed will be people who know the fishing industry, a very complex industry after all. That industry is at the very basis of the food chain. I believe we should never forget that. Our concern is that the creation of those tribunals-

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1:10 p.m.


Yvan Bernier Bloc Gaspé, QC

And they should have some managerial skills.

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1:10 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Yes. You will understand the passionate outcry of the member for Gaspé, who has reminded us that it is important that those people have some administrative skills and know the fishing industry.

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1:10 p.m.


Yvan Bernier Bloc Gaspé, QC

They should at least know the fishing industry.