Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise again in the House to speak about cost recovery as it affects the fishing, fish processing and aquaculture industries of Nova Scotia.
On every possible occasion I have drawn attention to the vital role of the fishery in the region's economy and especially in my riding of South Shore. In Shelburne County, for example, the fishery directly or indirectly employs 80 per cent of the workforce.
I meet regularly with the fishing industry leaders and their organizations. Cost recovery has been a recurring topic for nearly two years. We have worked hard to document the impact of new and increased fees charged by government departments and agencies for different industry services. We have identified 14 categories of fees which directly affect the bottom line of fishing enterprises.
I have been asking for a cumulative impact study to analyse the combined and overall effects of these fees.
We have a fairly comprehensive picture of the impact of cost recovery at enterprise levels but we lack information about the combined or cumulative impact of fees at community or regional levels.
Last month the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans heard testimony about cost recovery from fish harvesters and fish processors. Representatives from Treasury Board attended these sessions and we understood they took a very strong message back to the minister that cost recovery, if allowed to proceed unchecked and without a cap or ceiling, will have significant impacts on business competitiveness and the entire economy of Atlantic Canada.
I am confident the fisheries committee will be recommending, as I have, that a detailed study of the cumulative impact of cost recovery on the fishing industry be carried out and that no new fees or any increases to existing fees be imposed.
I also hope that serious consideration be given to scaling back fees in circumstances where it can be demonstrated that they represent an excessive burden on either the fishing enterprise or the community.
I commend the paper tabled in this House on February 20, 1997 called "Getting Government Right: Governing for Canadians".
This document states unequivocally that those who pay for services must have an effective voice in service design and delivery.
To date information sessions and consultations between fisheries and oceans and its principal clients have taken place, but opportunities to roll up the sleeves and work together to decide on essential services and program delivery have not materialized.
"Getting Government Right" also talks about a process which is available to mediate in situations where clients believe departments and agencies have not followed the mandate to work in co-operation with stakeholders. It has become increasingly clear that mediation between the fishing industry and the federal government is a real and very urgent requirement.
I hope and request that the new guidelines to be announced by the President of the Treasury Board will recognize the concerns that I have been expressing over the last number of months: requiring the department to hold meaningful consultations with industry; adopting the user pay, user say concept; providing a process which would allow industry to appeal the imposition of any new fees; requiring government departments to disclose their own costs to those who are being asked to contribute to those costs.
We need the commitment. We need the guidelines. We need the assurances that the guidelines will be followed and that what industry has endured over the last two years will not be repeated.
On behalf of my South Shore constituents and their counterparts from every other region of Nova Scotia and of Canada, I am today asking the President of the Treasury Board to say "yes, we recognize a problem with cost recovery and action must be taken to ensure the long term sustainability of Canada's fishing industry".