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House of Commons Hansard #19 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was fishery.

Topics

Privilege

10 a.m.

The Speaker

I am now ready to render a ruling on the matters raised by the hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton on October 7, 1997 and by the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River on October 2, 1997. These matters concern the delivery of legislative counsel services to all private members.

I want to thank other members who also made comments on this question.

Following the earlier submission made by the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River, I suggested that he speak with his representative on the Board of Internal Economy, since administrative matters of this sort come under its responsibility.

When dealing with similar questions, my predecessors have repeatedly indicated that these should be brought to the attention of the Board of Internal Economy and should not be raised on the floor of the House as a point of order nor as a question of privilege.

Although presented as a question of privilege, the matters raised by the hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton involve, in my view, basic administrative issues.

As Speaker Sauvé indicated in two rulings on December 15, 1982, complaints or grievances dealing with the delivery of services by the legislative counsel, and in particular the drafting of private members' public bills, do not constitute the basis for a question of privilege but are, indeed, questions concerning the services of the House. I refer hon. members to the Debates of December 5, 1982, pages 21603 to 21605.

I must therefore rule that the matters raised by the hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton do not deal with privileges of members or of the House.

That being said, I wish to reassure hon. members that the matter will be revisited by the Board of Internal Economy. As a governing body of the House of Commons, the Board of Internal Economy has a long statutory history, originating in 1868. Initially composed of five members, its powers were essentially the same as they are today.

In 1985, however, in order to meet members' demands for opposition and backbench representation from that body, the membership of the board was increased to nine members. The intent of this recommendation was to enable private members to have “an effective voice in the decisions governing the management of the House”.

Despite the fact that only four of the nine members are from the backbenches, their opinions and input are crucial, as the practice of the board is to arrive at its decisions by consensus.

Let me now refer to the power and authority of the board as provided in section 52.3 of the Parliament of Canada Act:

The Board shall act on all financial and administrative matters respecting

(a) the House of Commons, its premises, its services and its staff; and

(b) the members of the House of Commons.

In other words, the Board of Internal Economy is entrusted with specific administrative oversight functions such as the delivery of legislative counsel services to members.

I understand the concerns of members in respect of the legislative counsel services privided to them by the House. As your Speaker and also Chair of the Board of Internal Economy, I would like to take this occasion to briefly comment further on this matter.

The board reviewed this matter in the last Parliament when it established a subcommittee to consider proposed options and alternatives for the delivery of legislative counsel services to House committees and to private members.

At the time, the subcommittee considered many related issues which are still relevant today and which make this matter more complex than simply throwing more resources at it.

There is, for instance, the matter of what exactly is the proper function of legislative counsel, whether in respect of private members' public bills or government bills at committee or at report stage.

On some occasions, counsel, who are House staff responsible to the Speaker, are asked to play the role of advocate in the sense of explaining and defending private members' legislative initiatives.

There is also the practice of legislative counsel giving priority on a first come, first serve basis which is sometimes challenged by caucus and legislative priorities.

Finally, there is the fact that over half the private members' bills drafted in the last Parliament were never introduced in the House by private members.

As your Speaker I have taken to heart the concerns expressed by members regarding these services. In my capacity as chair of the Board of Internal Economy, I have already asked the board to conduct a review of these issues as it is the body designated to, by statute, act on all financial and administrative matters of the House.

I therefore invite members to submit their concerns directly to the board.

I thank you for allowing me to clarify the Chair's position on this very important matter.

House Of CommonsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

I have the honour to lay upon the table the report of the administration of the House of Commons for the 35th Parliament.

A message from His Excellency the Governor General transmitting supplementary estimates (A) for the financial year ending March 31, 1998 was presented by the President of the Treasury Board and read by the Speaker to the House.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Joe Comuzzi Liberal Thunder Bay—Nipigon, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation to the 38th annual meeting of the Canada-United States interparliamentary group which was held in Sydney, Nova Scotia and Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island from September 11 to September 15 of this year.

The meetings, like previous ones, outline the close personal and interpersonal relations between Canada and the United States. While we do not always agree on all aspects of this issue, we had the opportunity to honestly exchange viewpoints and information in a friendly manner showing the mutual respect that each country has for one another.

At the historic fortress of Louisburg we dealt with many important issues. Trade and economic matters, global peace and security and transport are questions that affect the billion dollars worth of trade a day going across our borders. We have not been able to directly resolve some of these important issues but we had the opportunity of putting forward in the strongest terms Canada's position as we approach the millennium.

Unfortunately the Pacific salmon dispute tainted the tremendous relationship that exists between the province of British Columbia, indeed all Canadians, and in particular the states of Washington, Alaska and Oregon.

With this in mind it was the consensus of all those attending, the Senate from the United States, the House of Representatives and members of Canadian Parliament, that they should convene a meeting on the west coast to deal with those issues that are supportive of the friendly relations that exist between the two countries. We will pursue that and advise the House accordingly as we proceed down that path.

Customs TariffRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-11, an Act respecting the imposition of duties of customs and other charges, to give effect to the International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, to provide relief against the imposition of certain duties of customs or other charges, to provide for other related matters and to amend or repeal certain Acts in consequence thereof.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation ActRoutine Proceedings

October 23rd, 1997 / 10:15 a.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick

Liberal

Andy Scott LiberalSolicitor General of Canada

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-12, an act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Access To Information ActRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Wentworth—Burlington, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-264, an act to amend the Access to Information Act.

Mr. Speaker, this private member's bill would introduce 46 substantial amendments to the Access to Information Act, in effect, overhauling it entirely.

It is an act that is of great interest to every member in the Chamber. Therefore, I would ask for unanimous consent to be allowed to speak for three minutes on my private member's bill and for it subsequently to go directly on to the order of precedence.

Access To Information ActRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I will deal with the member's request after getting the bill introduced.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Access To Information ActRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Wentworth—Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would request that you rule on my request for unanimous consent now, so that I can carry on with my remarks since I was in the middle of making them.

Access To Information ActRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member has requested consent to speak for three minutes at this time on the bill and then have the bill placed on the Order Paper in the order of precedence.

Is there unanimous consent?

Access To Information ActRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Access To Information ActRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

There is not unanimous consent.

Supplementary Estimates (A)Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Hull—Aylmer Québec

Liberal

Marcel Massé LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing orders 81(5) and 81(6) I wish to move a motion concerning the referral of the estimates to the standing committees of the House.

There is a lengthy list associated with the motion and if it is agreeable to the House, I would ask that the list be printed in Hansard as if it had been read.

Supplementary Estimates (A)Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it agreed?

Supplementary Estimates (A)Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Supplementary Estimates (A)Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Massé Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

moved:

That Supplementary Estimates (A), for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1998 laid upon the table on October 23, 1997, be referred to the several standing committees of the House in accordance with the detailed allocation attached.

(1) To the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

—Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Votes la, 5a, 15a, L20a, L25a, 35a, 40a and 50a

(2) To the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food

—Agriculture and Agri-Food, Votes 1a, 5a, 10a and 11a

(3) To the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage

—Canadian Heritage, Votes 1a, 5a, 10a, L21, 30a, 35a, 45a, 70a, 80a, 90a, 110a, 125a and 130a

(4) To the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration

—Citizenship and Immigration, Votes la and 10a

(5) To the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development

—Environment, Votes 1a, 5a, 10a and 15a

(6) To the Standing Committee on Finance

—Finance, Votes 1a, 15a and 40a —National Revenue, Vote 1a

(7) To the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans

—Fisheries and Oceans, Votes 1a, 5a and 10a

(8) To the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade

—Foreign Affairs, Votes 1a, 5a, 10a, 20a, 25a and 45a

(9) To the Standing Committee on Health

—Health, Votes 1a, 10a, 15a and 30a

(10) To the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities

—Human Resources Development, Votes 1a, 5a, 10a, 15a, 20a and 35a

(11) To the Standing Committee on Industry

—Industry, Votes 1a, 5a, 20a, 25a, 30a, 35a, 55a, 60a, 65a, 70a, 75a, 80a, 85a, 95a, 110a, 115a and 120a

(12) To the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights

—Justice, Votes 1a, 5a, 10a, 30a, 33a, 40a and 45a —Solicitor General, Votes 1a, 5a, 10a, 15a, 25a, 30a, 45a and 50a

(13) To the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs

—National Defence, Votes 1a, 5a, and 10a —Veterans Affairs, Votes 1a and 10a

(14) To the Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Government Operations

—Canadian Heritage, Vote 135a —Natural Resources, Votes 1a and 10a —Parliament, Vote 1a —Privy Council, Votes 1a and 5a —Public Works and Government Services, Votes 1a, 5a, 15a, 20a and 31a —Treasury Board, Votes 1a and 10a

(15) To the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs

—Parliament, Vote 5a

(16) To the Standing Committee on Transport

—Transport, Votes 1a, 5a, 10a and 31a

(17) To the Standing Committee on Library of Parliament

—Parliament, Vote 10a

(18) To the Standing Joint Committee on Official Languages

—Privy Council, Vote 25a

(Motion agreed to)

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Reform

Philip Mayfield Reform Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today in the House of Commons to present a petition signed by 36 residents of my constituency who reside in Quesnel, British Columbia. My constituents request Parliament's support of a motion that was introduced by the member of Parliament for Yorkton—Melville which states:

That, in the opinion of this House, the Government should authorize a proclamation to be issued by the Governor General under the Great Seal of Canada amending section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to (a) recognize the fundamental right of individuals to pursue family life free from undue interference by the state and (b) recognize the fundamental right and responsibility of parents to direct the upbringing of their children, and urge the legislative assemblies of the other provinces to do likewise.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present from constituents in my riding and from others in the region several petitions.

The first one relates to the issue of nuclear weapons. Whereas there are over 30,000 nuclear weapons on earth, the petitioners call on Parliament to support the immediate initiation and conclusion by the year 2000 of an international convention that will set out a binding timetable for the abolition of all nuclear weapons.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have another petition that relates to the sale of Candu reactors to China.

The petitioners call on Parliament to immediately withdraw from all arrangements concerning financial and technical assistance to China for nuclear reactor technology, and to ensure that the Government of Canada does not finance or subsidize the sale of Candu reactors to China or any other country.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a further petition that calls on Parliament to lift the GST off books and reading materials in Canada.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a final petition regarding the national highway system. It calls on Parliament to urge the federal government to join with the provincial governments to make a national highway system upgrading possible beginning in 1997.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition today from my constituency of Mississauga South.

The petitioners would like to draw to the attention of the House that police officers and firefighters are required to place their lives at risk on a daily basis, and that the benefits that police officers and firefighters receive for their families when they lose their lives in the line of duty are often insufficient to meet the needs of their families, and that all the public mourn the loss of police officers and firefighters who lose their lives in the line of duty.

The petitioners therefore pray and call on Parliament to establish a public safety officers compensation fund for the benefit of families of public safety officers, including police officers, firefighters, et cetera, who lose their lives in the service of Canadians.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I suggest that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Jean Charest Progressive Conservative Sherbrooke, QC

moved:

That this House recognize the urgent need for action to address the serious problems in Canadian fisheries on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, and calls upon the government to establish a comprehensive national fisheries policy that demonstrates real commitment to resource conservation, leadership on the issue of resource sharing with foreign interests, and sensitivity to the individuals, families and communities whose futures are linked to the health and sustainability of the Canadian fishing industry.

I am honoured today to have the privilege of moving the very first motion of the Progressive Conservative caucus in this House on an opposition day on an issue that requires urgent attention, given recent events.

I would also remind the Chair that only a few days ago we pressed the Chair for an emergency debate, given the last set of events. We were unsuccessful in obtaining that debate, but we are using the very first opportunity available to us to put this matter before the House.

The crisis in the fishery on the east coast and on the west coast did not happen overnight. It is important, as we begin this debate, if we are going to have any intelligent discussion about its future, to recognize that the issues are complex. The issues we are dealing with today have developed over many years.

If the answers were easy, frankly, we would have solved a number of problems. In all honesty, we all have to recognize that the problems are not easy to solve. Governments, both provincial and federal, have grappled with these issues, with success in some cases. However we must recognize today, having done our best in some circumstances, nonetheless we are faced with a real crisis on both coasts.

The fishing industry affects the communities, the men, the women and a lot of rural areas across this country.

Not one region of the country is unaffected by this issue, by this crisis in the fisheries, whether they be in the Atlantic provinces, on the coast, in Gaspé, or in Ontario or some other place where they are directly or indirectly connected to the industry. I scarcely need to point out that the entire Canadian population is affected.

I would like to refer to the crisis in the salmon industry in British Columbia. That industry employs thousands of hard working men and women. The salmon industry accounts for about 30% of the total wholesale value of the west coast fishing industry.

Last year in B.C. was the lowest year in 36 years of commercial fleet revenues, totalling less than half the average of the 1990s. That in itself tells a story.

Poor resource management tops the list of reasons for the decline. Other factors that have brought the west coast salmon fishing industry to its knees include habitat destruction, changes in the ocean's climate—a complex issue which also affects the east coast—poaching, overfishing, new technology and overcapacity in the industry.

The issue of overcapacity is not new. For a number of years various commissions of inquiry have studied the issue. Task forces, one after another, have all commented on the very important problem of overcapitalization within the commercial salmon fleet and have recommended that the number of vessels be significantly reduced.

Among those within the B.C. industry, there is widespread recognition of the necessity to reduce the fleet. Less obvious is the question of the best way to make it happen. What is apparent is that the approach taken by the Liberal government to date has not worked.

In the spring of last year the federal government unveiled its Pacific salmon revitalization plan and presented it as a panacea for the problems in the B.C. fishing industry. It was called the Mifflin plan. It called for a speedy reduction of about 50% of the capacity of the commercial salmon fleet. Single-gear ships and area licensing would be implemented, as well as license stacking.

The people who knew the industry at the time, it needs to be said, told the government that this plan would not work, that the plan was flawed. The people who support their families through their hard work and earn their living through this industry in rural communities along the coast of British Columbia were the ones who spoke up. They told the government that this plan was a mistake. They told the government that the management strategy had to be longer term, that the pace of fleet reduction must be within the industry's capacity to absorb, and most of all it must be within the capacity of individual communities and families to absorb these very important changes.

I regret to say that the government did not listen. What we got was the typical Ottawa knows best and “We are on the eve of an election campaign and we have to move”. The Liberal government chose to move ahead with its plan.

Guess what happened. People were right. Strong opposition to the Mifflin plan expressed valid fears that it would wipe out smaller fishers and home fleets in the coastal communities, concentrating the industry and fishing in larger boats in urban areas. In too many cases that is exactly what has happened as people have been thrown out of work and communities have been crippled by the implementation of this plan.

Not only that, but from the point of view of resource sustainability that must be the cornerstone of anything we undertake. In fact this is the very essence of the motion we have put before the House today. From the perspective of how we will maintain and manage this resource, this plan is a dismal failure. While it sought reduction to the actual number of boats there was no component to address total fishing effort.

What has it meant? It has meant that fewer boats are taking the same amount of salmon out of the water. The result is that we now have zero salmon stock conservation benefits. That is the net effect of the Mifflin plan.

The Liberal government has demonstrated a fondness about talking or doing some consultation in this area. A good example of it is that most of the consultation including some announced recently has not come before the implementation of the plan but after the implementation of the plan. Quite a consultation it will be.

Having inflicted this mess on the men and women of British Columbia and the salmon fishery over the course of the 1996 fishing season, the government now apparently scratches its head, shrugs and decides that maybe it is time that it actually talk to the people concerned and affected by the changes. Together with the provincial government they have formed a three member panel to study the effects of the Mifflin plan, study the damages they have inflicted on the people of British Columbia, to find out just how badly thought out it was.

I am sorry to report, without having the benefit of consultation, that what we know from the implementation of the plan is that some of the damage now incurred in these communities may very well be irrevocable. Many have already been forced out of the industry and those who remain have borrowed hundreds of thousands of dollars to stack licences. Now that they have borrowed the money and have not been able to generate the revenue to pay off the loan they are stuck. They are stuck in the plan. They cannot walk away from it. They cannot walk away from their commitments. They cannot walk away from their licences. They are struck within the whole framework.

Let me refer to the Liberal record on managing the Pacific fishery documented in the 1996 report for the B.C. Job Protection Commission. The imposition of an ill-conceived Mifflin plan on top of what was already a poor salmon season last year resulted in the loss of 7,800 direct jobs. If we apply the multiplier it means almost 20,000 jobs have been lost. That is the net result.

The impact of job losses, it needs to be stated, was felt the most in isolated communities, predominantly native communities with few alternatives of employment for the people in those communities. They are the ones in British Columbia who are now suffering the most from the plan.

One such community is Masset, British Columbia, home of about 1,500 people on the Queen Charlotte Island. It is just one rural place where as a direct result of the government's fisheries mismanagement the local fish processing plant closed down and left people without work.

I quote from a letter from someone who lives in that community, a women who said:

—Fisheries and Oceans Canada seems to be slowly and systematically reallocating the catch away from the traditional commercial fishing sector, upon which our small community relies. I would add that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has seen fit to send a letter to the Sports Fishing Institute of B.C. indicating that the recreational fishermen can expect an allocation of chinook salmon in 1997. There has been no indication of any allocation to the traditional commercial sector.

That is the sector most affected. Would this be what the government considers leadership in managing our fisheries? If the Liberals think that responsible public policies means taking shots at the little guy and if success is choking off the viability of rural communities along the coast of British Columbia, I am sorry to report today that the Liberal government would have succeeded.

For the longest period the east coast has been dramatically affected by this issue. There are very grave problems in the policies of the government with regard to the east coast fishery. We have had a lot of pronouncements, posturing, endless study and so-called initiatives, but it all speaks to the broader issue of the management of the fishery on the east coast.

One of the reasons we chose to raise the issue as a caucus in the House of Commons today is that the auditor general spoke on it so vividly in the report produced only a few days ago. In particular he spoke about the management of the TAGS program.

The auditor general is a servant of the House. He does not report to any particular department in government. He does not report to cabinet. He reports to us, Mr. Speaker: to you, to me and to members of the House. The auditor general is at arm's length from the government.

He offered a very vivid report in which he said there was no management plan for the fishery. In the context of TAGS he pointed to it as being the major flaw which explains the dismal failure of the TAGS program.

Throughout most of the Atlantic region cod stocks are at historic low levels. Debate continues about the contributing factors. There are many, as I said earlier in my remarks. It would be nice if we could say in this debate what is precisely wrong. I would like to be able to say that, or that one government decision was wrong over 30 years. If we were able to do that I would feel better. Why? Then we could fix the problem overnight. We could actually do what we are all here to do and help the people involved.

Whether it is the inshore fishers, offshore fleets, cold water temperature, size of quota, size of mesh, age of fish harvested, availability of food, the seal population, accessibility or reliable scientific debate, all these things affect the decisions we make. We are all prepared to acknowledge that the collapse of major stocks in the Atlantic ground fishery is a complex problem.

As with any complicated question it may be understandable that the solutions are not necessarily easy. The point of the debate today is to look to the future and the men and women who are in the industry now. What is inexcusable and unforgivable is that there is not a plan for the future. There is not an exercise of leadership on the government side that offers hope with regard to what must be done for the future.

The crisis in fishery management has been devastating for the communities and the families on the east coast. Literally hundreds of fishing communities have been seriously affected. By 1995 the groundfish fishery accounted for only 8% of the total catch, the value of landings on the Atlantic coast.

What answer was cooked up? It was the TAGS program. That was the government's answer announced with a great deal of fanfare in 1994. A lot of key code words were in there.

I will quote some that were part of the plan. It was to “provide an integrated approach to capacity reduction”. It was to “call for partnerships with all stakeholders”. It included “career planning and employment counselling” and “sustainable development in Canada's long term economic development”. These words were associated with the $1.9 billion allocation of funds, with a view to retiring licences. TAGS would have removed approximately 23% of the groundfish licences in place at that time.

This is much less than half the original target and will still leave 10,000 groundfish licences in place. The TAGS component of the program directed at retiring licences has failed even though $1.9 billion has been put toward this effort.

What did the auditor general have to say about the government's success in achieving its objectives? In his recent report he drew the following conclusion:

Groundfish harvesting capacity was not significantly reduced through TAGS measures. Active labour adjustment measures were halted, and whether they actually contributed to reducing the number of persons dependent on the industry is not known. Excess fishing capacity remains, and poses a major risk to the sustainability of the fishing industry.

That is a real indictment of the government. It was not by someone in the Chamber, not by someone with any partisan axe to grind, not by someone involved in the industry, but by an officer of the House of Commons who reports independently to us and has at his disposal the tools to evaluate these programs. He has indicted the government on TAGS for its failure to the men and women of Atlantic Canada.

We have a program that will run out of money six months before it is scheduled to without any sense or any indication. Every time I travel to the Atlantic, whether it is with my colleague from Burin—St. George, St. John's West or St. John's East, the people in the community always raise the same issue. How is it that the government came forward with the TAGS program, said it would be a five year program and now is telling us that will be over in four years?

Their lives have been disrupted. They have had to reorganize their families. They try to plan for the future. They planned for the next five years on the reasonable expectation that the government would meet its commitment. Now they are told “Do you know what, Harry? Do you know what, Bill? Do you know what, Selma? The program will end in four years and not five. We are sorry. You may have wanted to continue on to school but it is over. We are the Government of Canada in Ottawa. We know best”. Tough luck is the message they are getting from the government. It is a cruel message to people who are in a position where they are vulnerable, weak and in transition.

The Auditor General of Canada seems to see that and understand that but for some reason the government does not seem to hear the message. That is not new. Maybe we should not be surprised.

My colleague from the riding of Saint John, New Brunswick, fought very hard for good reason in the House of Commons when the employment insurance legislation was brought in. The legislation had hidden behind it a reduction of $33 million in benefits to the fishers in Atlantic Canada through a regulation.

The member for Saint John, who is with me today in the House of Commons—I remember it well—had me sign a petition so there could be debate on the regulation, not change it but debate it. She went to the Liberal caucus. There were 31 members of the Liberal caucus from Atlantic Canada out of 32. She asked them not to change the regulation but to sign a petition so we could debate it in the House of Commons and Canadians could hear what we had to say. Not one member would sign the petition. This was over and above everything else.

Finally, if we are to be successful in dealing with the issue we have to press the government, the House and all political parties to look to the future and move to a plan based on maintaining resource conservation, which has to be the cornerstone. Canada is a resource based economy whether it is the fishing industry, the forestry industry, the mining industry, the agriculture industry, the energy industry, hydrocarbons or hydroelectric energy.

Those who understand our economy would know that maintaining these resources on a sustainable basis is key to our future economic success and the success of our children. The same is true for the fishing industry.

The government needs to answer the cry of Canadians who want to know what exactly it intends to do so that they can move ahead and allow the industry to survive in the future.

I followed with great interest the debate of the government on the Pacific salmon treaty signed in 1985. Certainly from my own experience I freely offer some advice to the government today. I do not know whether it will be followed. I refer to an issue I dealt with in the 1990s when I was minister of the environment.

With my colleague at the time, the minister of fisheries, we fought hard in the international community to get an international convention on overfishing at the summit in Rio de Janiero on the environment and the economy. We were successful. We did it in only six months. But we were successful for a reason. We pressed every cabinet member to raise the issue with other governments at the time.

I see that my time is running out. There will be further opportunity to add some comments in the question and comment period. I look forward to that. I look forward to the next few minutes and in the day of debate today to offering some ideas from our caucus on how the issue must move forward and how we can help Canadians on the east and west coasts to regain propriety of their communities, their pride, the opportunity to work and the opportunity to make their contributions to Canada.