Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on the motion of the hon. member for Sherbrooke.
The member's motion refers to the urgent need for action to address the serious problems in Canadian fisheries on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. Fishermen on the east coast say they identified the problems to the government of the day in the early 1980s.
The hon. member from Sherbrooke assumes in his motion that there are no problems in Canada's third commercial fishery located inland. I will return to this fishery in a moment, but first let me make an observation.
In my 50 years of living on the prairies I have seen so many times occasions when the previous Progressive Conservative governments and the previous and current Liberal governments ignored the aspirations and problems of the citizens living in northwest Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the Northwest Territories.
There have been many acts, errors and omissions by both these governments over the years, like the goods and services tax, the firearms act, the reduction in health care transfer payments, and I could go on and on.
The point is that once again in dealing with the problems in Canada's fisheries, the hon. member and leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, which aspires to become a national party, has ignored important parts of Canada. The parts of Canada I previously referred to I would like to name again because some members in this House seem to forget they are part of Canada also. They are northwest Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the Northwest Territories.
What do these Canadians have to do with commercial fishing, many are possibly wondering. Would it surprise anyone in this House to know that there is a multimillion dollar freshwater fishery in these areas sometimes referred to by politicians from central Canada as the hinterlands.
We in the Reform Party recognize that when national problems are addressed, such as the Canadian fishery, we should always consider all of the problems along with solutions for all of the Canadian people affected. This freshwater fishery has problems and it is just as important that they are addressed along with those on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.
I would like to point out to members of this House and to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans that he is responsible for the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation which has its headquarters in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It also has its fish plant located there. It is from these facilities that tens of millions of dollars of fish products are shipped across Canada and exported to places like Europe and the U.S.A.
I will get to the problems in this fishery in a moment, however due to the apparent lack of knowledge or lack of concern by the hon. member for Sherbrooke and possibly others in the House, I feel it necessary to describe this fishery, the people, the employment it creates and the hardships that will ensue if our problems are not dealt with as part of an overall solution to the problems identified in the motion.
The commercial fishermen who sell their fish through the FFMC include both aboriginal and non-aboriginal men and women. To many of the aboriginal fishermen there is little or no alternative to fishing as a way to be self-sustaining contributors to Canadian society. Would the government or the leader of the Progressive Conservatives have them go on welfare because there is no employment as a result of failing to deal with problems in the FFMC? For those with the possibility of other employment, why should they lose their business and way of life just because their problems are not being addressed?
I would now like to discuss the problems. I assure members I will relate how the fishermen's problems in the FFMC district are caused by the Liberal government and by motions that if supported by this House do not take into account the Canadian national fishery big picture.
The FFMC fishermen have problems with high water levels in many of our lakes and spawning streams reducing the number of fish. High input costs for items like fuel, boats, electronics, marketing and processing the catch are of great concern. There are concerns with high taxes, high employment insurance premiums, reduced employment insurance benefits and many others.
One could argue that some of the problems are the responsibility of the provinces, such as in Manitoba where our major lake water levels are subject to control by Manitoba Hydro for hydroelectricity production.
The major threat to the inland fishery at this time involves the blatant, outrageous, pork-barrelling patronage appointment of all time in Manitoba. I refer to the announcement of the hon. Minister of Fisheries and Oceans on October 16, 1997 that ex-Liberal member of Parliament Ron Fewchuk has been appointed president of the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation effective November 28, 1997.
We all remember that Ron Fewchuk was elected in 1993 and when the 1997 election was imminent, he declined to contest the Liberal nomination. The major portion of his old riding was Selkirk—Interlake where Jon Gerrard ran unsuccessfully. What did it take to get him not to run? I think we all know now.
This patronage appointment will have an immense negative impact on the profitability of the FFMC because, in essence, the FFMC will now be paying two president equivalent salaries, one to the former president, Thomas Dunn who I understand is staying on at his president's salary, and one to the new president. The salary range is from $88,000 to $103,000. Remember that the FFMC gets no government moneys. Therefore, as the actions of this government drive up FFMC administrative costs, the lowly fishermen will make less if any profit.
Mr. Dunn, an accountant and FFMC president for many years, saved the corporation from bankruptcy and was an outstanding president. Why did Mr. Fewchuk have to be appointed? Sadly the only conclusion I can come to, and I am sure a majority of Canadians across this great country will do likewise, is Liberal patronage.
I have spoken to members of the elected board of the FFMC and to fishermen, all of whom oppose Fewchuk's appointment because they have no faith in his capabilities to run the day to day operation that management of the FFMC requires. This kind of administration and policy making is a big reason why there are few fish on the east coast and the B.C. and FFMC fisheries are under financial threat.
In conclusion, the major problem in the Canadian fisheries today, as it has been under successive Liberal governments, is the total ineptness of the ministers of fisheries and oceans. We must take action now to ensure the survival of the remaining fisheries and restore the east coast fishery.
The minister can take an important first step by rescinding the appointment of Ron Fewchuk and restore Mr. Dunn to the presidency.
That the amendment be amended by deleting the words “continue the implementation of” and substituting the following therefor: “implement”.