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House of Commons Hansard #143 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agency.

Topics

Ways And MeansRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Willowdale Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson LiberalSecretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 83(1), I wish to table two notices of ways of means motions. The first amends the Excise Tax Act in respect of split runs. The second amends the Budget Implementation Act of 1997 and 1998. I am also tabling explanatory notes for each. I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of each motion.

Income TaxRoutine Proceedings

October 27th, 1998 / 10:05 a.m.

Willowdale Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson LiberalSecretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, with your permission while I am on my feet I would also like to table, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), copies of legislative proposals and explanatory notes relating to income tax.

Government Response To PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 12 petitions.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 40th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the membership of some standing committees of the House.

If the House gives its consent, I intend to move concurrence in the 40th report later this day.

Employment Insurance ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-449, an act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (parental benefits).

Mr. Speaker, the 1996 national longitudinal survey on children and youth found that 25% of Canadian children entered adult life with significant emotional, behavioural, academic or social problems.

Therefore investing in early childhood development is an imperative, not an option. This bill responds in part to this need by providing more flexibility, options and choices to parents, by amending the Employment Insurance Act to provide one full year of maternity or parental leave benefits under that act.

I am pleased to introduce this bill and I look forward to earning the support of my colleagues in the House.

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

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, if the House gives its consent, I move that the 40th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House earlier this day, be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr.Speaker, I move that the first report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans presented on Monday, March 23, be concurred in.

I must admit I have been waiting an entire year and a half in this House in order to debate the east coast report and to move concurrence on what I consider to be an outstanding and fabulous report.

The first thing that has to be remembered is that this report does not come from the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. We tabled it in the House but the report is actually a reflection of all the witnesses and all the people by the thousands who came to all the meetings in November 1997 in Newfoundland, Quebec, the New Brunswick region, Nova Scotia and P.E.I. This is an outstanding report that five political parties in this House can agree to.

Prior to the election and the campaign in June 1997 the reporters, the pundits and even ourselves were calling it possibly a pizza parliament. If a pizza parliament can put together what I consider an excellent report, then so be it.

What was the government's response in September 1998 to this east coast report? Absolutely scandalous. The government completely whitewashed the report and ignored the recommendations of nine of its own members. Absolutely scandalous.

I will go on to specific details within the report. When the east coast report came through, committee members got together and said they cannot be in Ottawa making recommendations or conclusions on what to do with the thousands of lives of the people on the east coast. They decided to go to these communities and talk to the people and write down what they were told, put it in a report and table it. For the first time in a long time the standing committee actually agreed unanimously to put this report together.

This report is a triumph of east coast fishermen, plant workers and their families over the adversities and policies of the current DFO and the past DFO.

We have had 16 ministers in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in the last 11 years. Everybody knows they use this department as a revolving door to move forward on to other grounds.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

An hon. member

A spawning ground.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

It is a spawning ground for future references or future movements by ministers. That is one of the key problems.

Another problem with DFO is it is very stagnant. It has well over 800 people at 200 Kent Street and not one of them is catching any fish or setting any fish in the Hull River or the Rideau Canal.

One of the serious recommendations we made in this report is that DFO seriously downsize and move to the coastlines to where the resource is so it can have a better handle on what goes on on all three coasts of Canada and our inland waters.

The east coast report seriously condemns the government and the bureaucracy within DFO. It is one of the changes that has to happen.

Nobody on the east coast except for those who are involved in the ITQ and the big corporates which were funded by this and previous governments agree with the government. Ninety-five per cent of all people in the fishing industry on the east coast vehemently disagree with the current policies and practices of DFO.

Why are they continuously ignored? They are continuously ignored because they do not have a voice in Ottawa. They did not have a voice until this report came out. What is the government's response? A complete whitewash of this report.

It is absolutely scandalous that parties as diverse as the Reform Party, the Bloc Quebecois, the Progressive Conservatives, the New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party can agree to this report only to have it turned around and voted against by their own members because of the pressure tactics of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

It is an absolute whitewash. It is an absolute scandal that we can spend all this money touring those provinces on the east coast only to have the report completely ignored by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and by the bureaucrats in Ottawa.

As we know, this government has spent over $4 billion since 1988 readjusting the people on the east coast out of the fishery.

Has there been any great improvement over the years? Absolutely not. The lives of thousands and thousands of people have been totally disrupted.

What is the attitude of the centrally based Canadian government? Move. Just get up and move.

One of the reasons I decided to run as a member of parliament followed what the Prime Minister of the day said in a late November or early December town hall meeting on the CBC. A woman very passionately and eloquently told him that she had her education, that she was trying to look after her children and that she was finding it difficult to get a job. She asked the Prime Minister what he and his government could do to help her.

The Prime Minister's answer at that time was “In life some people are lucky, some are not. You may have to move.”

It is quite obvious that that attitude permeates the entire Liberal government. All that is heard by the people who have worked for centuries in the resource is “you have to move”. That is an attitude that is absolutely despised on the east coast of Canada and in northern Quebec.

This report exemplifies the courage, the stamina and the wisdom of people on the east coast. The fact of the matter is that these people know the resource better than any of us. They have worked it for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Speaking of the tragedies of the policies of DFO, at the beginning of this year the town of Canso, Nova Scotia, which is a wonderful small coastal community, after over 400 years of self-sufficiency, will have to claim civic bankruptcy. It is the first time it has ever had to do that.

All of the young people are leaving and all of the businesses are slowly shutting down for one specific reason: the town had no access to fish. What they did get was minuscule.

The Friday before last I took a tour of Canso and the town of Mulgrave, Nova Scotia. Mulgrave has the only shrimp peeling and processing plant in all of Nova Scotia. Earlier this year the government of the day, in its wisdom, gave 28,000 additional metric tonnes to Newfoundland and Labrador. Not one tiny little shrimp went to the town of Mulgrave. These people begged, they pleaded, they argued, they did every single thing that could be done to convince DFO that all they wanted to have was 2,000 metric tonnes of that 28,000 metric tonne allocation. They got nothing.

Even the provincial Liberals with their current minister of fisheries, Mr. Colwell, and Mr. MacLellan, the premier of Nova Scotia, did absolutely nothing to help these people. That means that the premier of Nova Scotia has absolutely no clout with his current friends in the Liberal government.

The result of this will be that at the end of this year the town of Mulgrave will lose its shrimp peeling plant. It will move to Newfoundland where it can have access to the shrimp.

The owner of ACS Trading is a business person. He loves the town of Mulgrave. He pays very good wages to the people when they can get work, but the fact is that they have no access to the shrimp.

As a business person he will have to move his plant to Newfoundland where they have excess access to shrimp. Parts of Newfoundland are asking for Nova Scotian boats to go up there and help them catch all the quota they have. It is like a Klondike with the shrimp up there. Mulgrave got absolutely nothing.

The same applies to the town of Canso with respect to turbot. When I visited Canso there were 11 boats in the harbour, all of them from P.E.I. Every one of those boats had lobster licences, they had crab licences and as a bonus to them all they had tuna licences.

In this report we talk about adjacency. Adjacency means that those people who live closest to the resource should have first access to the resource, working in conjunction with the other provinces in the area. The problem is that Canso only has two tuna licences, while P.E.I. has hundreds.

These boats were catching tuna within a rock's throw of the dock in Canso. The people in Canso watched all their tuna being caught by other provinces. The people of Canso have no access to it, except for two little licences. It is absolutely incredible that this government can pit one province against another. The result is that these people have to go on EI.

Now, with the changes to EI, they cannot even do that. They go right to social assistance. These people have all the pride, all the love and all the hard-working skills to maintain themselves in a productive society. What is this government's response? It turns around and hits them and hits them and hits them with bad regulations that will do absolutely nothing for their future and their families.

What is the ultimate answer from this government? Move. In a town where their great, great grandfathers and grandmothers are buried, where all their ancestors lived, where they grew up, where they love to live, the response from this government is to move.

Move to where? Toronto? Next fall 2,000 people at the Boeing plant, the McDonell Douglas plant, are going to lose their jobs. How are these people who fished all their lives going to compete for jobs with highly skilled people from the Boeing plant? What is going to happen then? It is absolutely criminal.

I wish for once that members of the centrally based Canadian government would get out of their chairs, out of their offices and en masse go to the town of Canso to have a look at what is going on.

There have been 50 different requests in a year and a half from the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, from myself and from our party for the current Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to go to Canso to speak to these people. What is his answer? No.

These people even came up to Ottawa to speak to him. What was his answer? “I can't speak to these people”. He is the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. His job is to speak to people from the fisheries and oceans world and he refuses to meet with them. But he has absolutely no problem meeting with his friends, Mr. Bob Wright of the Oak Bay Marine Group, on the west coast. He receives one phone call and he is there. Thousands of people on the east coast of Canada deserve and need this man's attention and his department's attention to the failures of the practices and policies of DFO, and the answer is no because it does not fit into the general plan.

In conclusion what I am going to be saying is exactly what has happened to these people and why it is happening. The fact is, this government, in its slippery backhanded way, has privatized the fishery. Through the ITQ system the five big corporations on the east coast control over 70% of the fishery resources on the east coast. Right now they have 50% and through individual transfer quotas they have an additional 23%.

There was a gentleman from the great town of Sambro, near Halifax. He was 48 years old and had a grade five education. I watched him baiting his lines and putting them into a bait box. He looked at me with all the experience of the world, with a really weathered face and said “You can have it this way in the fishing industry. You can have one man make $210,000 a year, or you can have seven of them make $30,000 a year. Make your choice”.

My choice was very simple. People who can earn $30,000 a year are extremely proud people. They are proud of who they are. The recent Swissair disaster in Nova Scotia proved exactly how proud these people are. That fisherman was one of those people who late at night risked his life to see if there was any possible way to recover bodies or survivors from that ill-fated flight. That is the type of people these fishers, plant workers and families are. This government wants to shut down their communities.

At least Joey Smallwood when he was premier of Newfoundland asked them to leave. This government does not have the courtesy to meet with these people. These people, to put it in ocean terms, are the salt of the earth. It is an absolute disgrace. Every single Liberal member should be absolutely ashamed that these people can be treated that way.

I ask the Liberals to go to the east coast to meet with these people. I ask them to read the east coast report and ignore what the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and his useless bureaucrats have done. I ask them to read it for themselves. If they do not believe us, they should go there themselves, have a look and talk to these people. Then they will understand once and for all that these people want to work. They do not want the damn TAGS program. They do not want the useless EI programs. They do not want social welfare. They just want to work. These people have been working the resource for hundreds of years. All they want to do is work.

I am giving this government one more chance to vote for concurrence in the east coast report. There were nine Liberal members who voted for concurrence in the report at committee. They agreed to it. It is a unanimous report. When we have the vote today we are going to see those people sit like little sheep and vote against it because they have been whipped into cowardice and do not have the balls to stand by what they read.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Perhaps the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore will retract the statement and then proceed. He has three minutes and 56 seconds.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, out of respect for the Chair and this House, I retract that last statement.

They do not have the courage to stand by what they wrote in the report. Their own minister will not even go down to meet with these people. The fact is that my beautiful province of Nova Scotia, the other three provinces of Atlantic Canada and Quebec have been devastated by the policies of this government.

Another thing this government has done with its so-called TAGS adjustment program is to off-load the responsibility for the care of these people onto the backs of the provinces.

On September 1 over 9,000 people in Atlantic Canada had to apply for social assistance. Before that they were either on the TAGS adjustment program or they were working, gainfully employed, but because of these policies they were destroyed by this government.

These people are now the responsibility of the provinces. What will the provinces do? They will download that responsibility to the municipalities. The municipalities will not be able to bear the burden. We have the result of the town of Canso. The people throw up their hands and say “We cannot handle it any more. We have to claim civic bankruptcy in the new year”. That is an absolute disgrace.

In 1995 we were in Catalina, Newfoundland, and there were 320 kids in the school. We were there in 1997 and it was down to 125. The town of La Scie, Newfoundland, does not have a volunteer fire department any more because all the guys left. There is no work for them any more.

I do not know how these Liberal people can sleep at night. Obviously they live in Ontario and Quebec. They do not live in the areas that I represent. Even the Liberal member for Labrador had tears in his eyes when we were talking to people in his area. These people are devastated and all he wants to do is help them.

I give him, the member for Malpeque, the member for Miramichi and all of the other members who are from that region the opportunity to stand up once and for all for their people in Atlantic Canada and vote for concurrence in the east coast report.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Reform

Gary Lunn Reform Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I too have travelled with the hon. member who just spoke and I have three questions I would like to ask him as he has again moved for concurrence in the report that was unanimous in having members rise in this House to stand up for their constituents.

As the member knows, the former chairman of the fisheries committee was removed by the Government of Canada. He has stated that publicly on the record. He stated that before the media, along with other members of the committee. I would like his comments on that. Does he believe that the chairman was removed from the committee for speaking the truth and that other members of the committee were dealt with by the government in the same way and forced to vote against their report?

I would also ask the member if one of the major components of the report is that not only the minister but the current structure of DFO in every community is not working.

I ask the hon. member for his comments on whether he believes the current structure of DFO can work or his comments on what he feels needs to be done.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Reform Party member from Vancouver Island for his question. He was with us on that tour. We also had the opportunity to tour his province to discuss the concerns of the west coast.

Although I did not mention it in my speech, when I came to House of Commons I honestly believed that a committee could be independent of government. I believed that a committee could listen to witnesses, write down their concerns in booklet form, in a pamphlet or in a report and present it to the House of Commons so that all Canadians could see it.

What was the response? It was typical. The government removed one of its most outspoken backbenchers, the member for Gander—Grand Falls. He had fought for over 24 years for the rights of fisher people in his riding. The response of the government was that he had to go. The DFO could not handle the truth so the chairman of the committee was silenced.

That chairman was able to bring five political parties together. We left our politics at the door and dealt with the problems on the east coast. I congratulate the member for being able to do that and I scorn the government for removing him from the committee.

Regarding the structure at DFO it absolutely has to change. It has to get out of Ottawa and to where the resource is. It has to start working with the people who work the resource. We should do that right away.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I listened attentively to my colleague. My question is based on what he was saying about the shrimp fishery.

Essentially we are dealing with Liberal provincial administrations in the four Atlantic provinces. All this shrimp is being transferred to P.E.I. or to Labrador and Newfoundland for processing. What does the government have against the premier of Nova Scotia?

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, to clarify the shrimp issue, it was not transferred anywhere. It was just given to Newfoundland and Labrador.

The ironic thing is that every time I rise to ask a question of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans he is not here. He happens to be the premier of Newfoundland at the same time so I have to ask the stand-in for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

There is no question that the Premier of Newfoundland has an awful lot of clout and an incestuous relationship with the people in DFO. Because of that the rest of the provinces and Quebec are falling behind. Our provincial premiers in the three provinces of Atlantic Canada and in Quebec have been unable to crack the dent within DFO and get it to listen.

If the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans does not want to meet with fisher people and their families, why would he want to meet with provincial premiers from those provinces?

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Bloc Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to get some clarification from the NDP member who just spoke. I also want to congratulate him for caring about the groundfish fishery.

Did I hear that the government set up a committee with a majority of members from the Liberal Party of Canada and some opposition members? The committee drafted the report after hearing a number of witnesses from all over Canada, people who were experiencing problems relating to the fisheries, people who had been invited or who had asked to be invited by the committee to make representations.

You will agree that the government spent a lot of money on that committee, which was nothing but window dressing. The whole thing was just for show. The government said “We are listening to you, we are taking note of your claims and we will ask the minister, following your testimonies, to amend various clauses of the bill”.

The report was unanimously approved and signed by all committee members. If I heard right, when the time comes to vote in this House, some members will go so far as to renege on their commitment and deny their involvement as well as the seriousness of the report, supposedly because the government does not recognize the time that members from the NDP, the Reform Party, the Bloc Quebecois and the Progressive Conservative Party have put into the report. We worked with diligence to produce that document. We members of this House have better things to do than just go through the motions when we sit on a parliamentary commission or committee.

I am asking the government and the members who sat on that committee to show some respect. When the House votes on the report, I hope that government members will rise and support it. I would appreciate it if the NDP member could tell the House, or explain more clearly, what happened to make these members vote against a report that they endorsed.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I give praise to the nine Liberals who were on the previous committee. They worked very hard. I give the former chairperson top credit for the work he did. The other eight Liberal members were extremely helpful. I will not deny that for a second, but at the same time so were the members from the Reform Party, the members from the Bloc, the members from the Progressive Conservative Party and ourselves.

We actually got together and put our policies and politics aside to work on the problems of the east coast fishery. It was a lot of fun to be part of that historical moment. The co-operation and communication among all of us were fantastic.

In answer to the member's question, the government voted against concurrence in the west coast report which was moved by the member for Vancouver Island North. Those Liberals voted against it. Some of them were not even here to vote against it although they were in Ottawa. If government members hold true to form I expect them to vote against it again.

That is why we are giving them the opportunity to stand in the House and prove one more time that the committee is not a waste of money, that when we meet these people in their communities, something the minister cannot or will not do, we actually listen. We offer them hope and encouragement to go on with their lives.

The Liberals have one more opportunity and I encourage every one of them to vote for concurrence in the east coast report.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak on this motion by the NDP member because there is indeed a fundamental problem in Canada, whether in western, eastern or northern Canada, when it comes to fisheries management.

Years ago, from 1922 to 1984 approximately, we benefited from devolution in the field of fisheries, and this was particularly true in Quebec. Then it stopped, and fisheries have done very poorly ever since. I would go so far as to say that the reason the fish are gone is because there is no more devolution. The fact of the matter is that the whole fisheries area has been terribly mismanaged.

All sorts of problems are being experienced. Two reports have been tabled in Parliament, but the federal government is still turning a deaf ear. In fact, the last report saw the chair of the committee resign and be replaced. Today, a new one is depicting a situation urgently requiring that the government act on this report. We are facing a crisis both on the west and the east coast. It is important that action be taken very soon, in the next few weeks or months.

We should support this report and make sure that the government acts on it. Perhaps it has finally become clear that, with respect to fisheries as well as many other areas, the jurisdiction granted to the federal government under the constitutional document of 1867 should have been granted to a more local authority instead, an authority that could properly manage fisheries within that region.

The situation of fisheries in western Canada, in the Pacific region, is not necessarily the same as in the Atlantic region, and the economic impact may not be the same either. We know how important salmon is to western Canada. Solutions must be found that are tailored to the situation over there. Viewed as a percentage of Quebec's overall economy, the fishery is not a key component. But, for the regions affected, the Gaspé, the Magdalen Islands, the entire North Shore, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the repercussions are serious.

There should be different solutions to this sort of problem in each of Canada's regions. For many years now, a blanket approach has been taken. Solutions have been imposed by the federal government, backed by technical and staff expertise that may be useful, but that does not include on-site visits to ensure that the decisions taken are advancing the industry.

The government has been forced to learn a great deal from the many errors made. Because there are no more fish in the oceans, the emphasis is on developing aquaculture. This is a promising and important sector, but it should not be developed purely for lack of anything better.

Turn-of-the-century pictures depicted Europeans, Quebeckers and Canadians fishing off Canada's shores. There were fish in abundance for people from throughout the world. Today, we are faced with critical situations that have nothing to do with natural cataclysms and everything to do with bad management.

I think the federal government has to approach this problem from a very different angle. It has already received some very important messages from Canadian parliamentarians. It is high time it listened. It has to be able to tell the inhabitants of these regions that they have a future, that there will be better management in the future. This would also give local authorities improved control.

When the future of one's community is at stake, one takes a very different approach than if one were doing a report on the fishery for another part of Canada. When one lives in Ottawa and does a study on the fishery in western Canada or in the maritimes, the implications are not the same as if one lived in the communities affected.

I therefore hope the federal government will listen and that this House will take action on the member's motion.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the hon. member's statement and he is absolutely correct. However I have a question for him.

After $4 billion being spent on readjusting the industry, thousands of people and hundreds of communities are in turmoil. The resource itself is in serious depletion and in serious trouble. We have not even had an inquiry on this subject yet.

Would he not agree with what I have been calling for since I got here, some form of a judicial inquiry into the practices and policies of DFO? Would he not agree that an inquiry or a total review of the current DFO would be necessary?

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, the present situation is rather desperate.

A few years ago, the Atlantic groundfish strategy was put into place. Judging by its words, the federal government's intent was to face the problem head on, and to try to find a solution. In practice, however, nothing has been done, and the program has served instead merely as a support program.

Of course, people needed to survive, and they needed a minimum income to do so, but the fundamental objective of the program, which was to ensure diversity in regional economies, was not realized.

Today the hon. member is saying “Ought we not to have a committee, an in-depth study, a commission of inquiry?” Something to put the fisheries back on track. We have to find the right solution, and we must not have commissions lasting two, three, four, five or ten years, because the situation is urgent.

All manner of solutions have already been proposed by the people living on the coast, and proposals have been made in reports by various parliaments. Let us find a solution. It could be called a task force or go by some other name, but the important thing is that control over the decisions on this matter be given to elected representatives.

I think we have had proof already. The government authorities have abandoned their responsibilities in this area, in many cases turning them over to people who did not necessarily share the same concerns for developing the regions in question. The message I pick up from the hon. member is that yes, action is urgently needed, and that solutions require us to have a clear picture of the situation, but the action must be immediate. Action must be taken to allow these regional economies to get back on their feet promptly and not to have to continue to live with today's reality of a subsistence program for a number of years more, while the objective of economic diversification remains unmet. Nowadays, we no longer even dare refer to that objective.

The communities are up against a brick wall, with no future in sight. If this were not the case, it would be worthwhile for the House to follow up on the hon. member's motion.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Gordon Earle NDP Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I commend the hon. Bloc Quebecois member and also my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore for their comments about how important this east coast fishery report is for the Atlantic region. It is of significance to my community of Halifax West where there are many fishing communities. The importance of the recommendations in that report cannot be underscored enough in terms of how it will assist the people in those communities.

As a member I find it very disturbing that people can deal with a report or an issue, come to a conclusion and then not have the strength and the courage of their convictions to vote in favour of what they decided was in the best interest of all. Before I entered politics I said that I would not allow politics to change me. It saddens me as I sit in the House and watch time and time again the faces of people on the government side as they vote on issues in a manner other than which they believe. It is very discouraging. I have talked to many people individually. We saw it happen with the APEC situation. People have told me they believe in the human rights issues involved but when it came to the vote we saw a different thing.

This report provides another opportunity for those people who are seriously concerned about the well-being of the fishers on the east coast. It provides an opportunity for them to stand up and be counted and to do what is right in the eyes of all.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member's remarks made me think about the fact that the Bloc Quebecois critic on fisheries, the member for Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-de-la-Madeleine—Pabok, is responsible for a committee covering between 70% and 80% of Quebec's fisheries. The part not covered is the north shore.

This member has expertise in the area and has spent a lot of time in the past year working on a report. He left it up to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans to produce a report on the situation in the Atlantic region. This report was unanimous on the whole situation. The committee did a thorough investigation.

The member was involved in consultations throughout the area and today he can say that the report on western Canada is valid as well.

This Parliament should pay tribute to the members who took part in this task, especially those with expertise in the area, who claim to speak for the fisheries sector. Their arguments should be heard and the report read so there will be a follow-up to provide a way out of the trap people are in today. This trap has created a total catastrophe in the fishing industry.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Louise Hardy NDP Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member if he sees this as an overall pattern in the direction that the government goes. The government denies or mismanages resources and forces people off the land and away from their resources, whether from the land or water. Then the government makes it doubly difficult because the former support of unemployment insurance is no longer there to carry people through a hard time.

I do not know if anyone in the House realizes this, but the fishery in the Yukon was severely affected this year. Very few salmon came up the river. The people who depend on it to catch three to fifteen fish a day to make it through the winter are no longer going to be able to do that. People do not think of the Yukon River flowing up into Dawson but it is dependent on the oceans and how we manage our oceans and the fisheries.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, the situation today in the fishing sector is the result of a fundamental choice made by “Canada's economic thinkers”, a few years ago. Whether it be information on employment insurance reform or the government's budget choices, there is an underlying force encouraging people to move where there are jobs.

The decision was made in Canada to no longer guarantee the future of communities. Instead, the people in the communities would decide to go wherever the market required, regardless of their skills, expertise or the fact that they had raised families in a given community. This basic choice underlies a number of government policies. Today, several thousand people are living with the very negative effects of this choice.

The member gave the agricultural sector as an example, but the same situation exists in the fishing industry. I think it is in this industry that we see more of the effect of this basic choice, where a few years ago they were saying “the future is the law of the market, there is no need to guarantee the future of small communities. We just have to move the people”.

The first experiments in this regard were carried out in the Gaspé peninsula. You will remember that some 20, nearly 30, years ago, the people who lived in the area were moved so Forillon Park, a federal conservation park, could be established. The people living there were moved out and into low cost housing outside the park. At the same time, people from outside were hired to work in the park.

This is the sort of experience that resulted from a principle I consider unacceptable, one that should be changed. We in Canada must debate the matter of priorities to make sure that people can live in their community—rural or urban—and that we never again go through experiences like those of today in the fishing industry.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

Reform

Gary Lunn Reform Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to comment on this issue. I thank the member for moving concurrence. He is really asking for the government members who participated in the writing of this report to stand up for their constituents and to vote for the report. This matter goes a lot deeper than that.

In effect what we are talking about is that the committee performed a consultation process as committees do. It spent a lot of taxpayers' money, and rightly so, going around listening to Canadians, coming back and writing a report with recommendations. The problem that has arisen out of all this is that we have ended up with a report that is deeply critical of the government, its policies and its department. The government had a very, very significant problem with this.

The government had to make extremely radical changes. The government had to remove the chairman of the committee. The government had to make changes on the committee because it did not like what was reported.

The government has made the committee ineffective. It has completely stripped the committee. This was the government's solution. It saw no other way around this. The government could not stop the committee from writing this report.

In fact a majority of the members of the committee who signed off on this report were Liberal members, members from the government. They had an opportunity in committee to vote against this report. Not only did they vote in favour of it, in many cases it was those members who wrote the recommendations.

The issue goes even further than that. This demonstrates how ineffective this House is. It is not just the committee. The government silenced the opposition members. We need to change how this whole system operates.

We spoke earlier of the systemic problems within DFO. Every member on the committee talked about that. They recognize what needs to be changed. They recognize that we have to move control from Ottawa out to the regions. That was talked about over and over and over again, that it did not work in a country such as ours with people in Ottawa making decisions on how to manage this fishery. Again the record speaks for itself.

It goes on to this House. It makes this House ineffective. The Senate is ineffective. This is recognized by all Canadians. We hear over and over again that there needs to be change.

It is the same thing in this House. The Government of Canada, a very few people on the other side have control. The majority of the people on that side of the House have to sit back and do as they are told. They have to take their marching orders. We have a handful of people running this country at a great expense to the taxpayers. It is appalling.

This is just one small example of what goes on in this House. The east coast report is written. The committee, 16 members of parliament, travelled through some 15 communities, five provinces in Atlantic Canada, wrote a very comprehensive report and made numerous recommendations to the government. What was the minister's response? The minister scoffed at it. He looked at this report and tossed it in the trash. The minister was not going to listen to this.

The minister's problem was that nine of his government's own members, his own parliamentary secretary, the junior Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, signed off on the report. The government said “We have to make some changes. We have lost control of this committee. First of all we had better fire the chairman. The chairman would appear to be part of the problem”. The chairman has had a lot of experience, 24 years in this House. The government removed the chairman and started to make changes.

We have not had an adequate response from the government on this report. There are a lot of good recommendations. Again I emphasize that this is an example of how we have to reform this federation. It clearly is not working. We have to look at that. Canadians are demanding that change, and it goes from the committees to this House.

One of my most positive experiences in my first year as a member of parliament was the fisheries committee. I said that over and over when I travelled through British Columbia and in my riding. One of the more positive experiences was working on a committee with 16 MPs from five political parties. We left the political biases outside the door, focused on solutions, on what was best for Canada and how we could best put forward some alternative solutions.

Imagine trying to get 16 members of parliament from one party to agree, never mind from five. We had the NDP, the Bloc, the Reform, the Progressive Conservatives and the Liberals. Sixteen members of parliament agreed on some possible solutions which could improve the situation in Atlantic Canada and which could improve the disparity that is out there.

What did the minister do? He tossed it in the trash. He did not want to look at it; it might have made some sense. Actually it might give the committee some credit. It was not his ideas so there was no way he could listen to it. He threw it away.

I want to go back to how ineffective the government is. It sees an opportunity to do something positive, but it has that tight group that surrounds the Prime Minister. He is the one who has control. He is the one who fired the chairman of the fisheries committee. That was stated by the member in the media.

I have no doubt the Prime Minister is the one who is saying that we have to rein in this committee. People across the country are listening to the committee. The media is listening to it. The media is reporting it. I think we wrote three reports last year and are about to complete two more from one year's business. It made numerous recommendations, but the government absolutely refused to pay attention.

We need change. Canadians want change. I had people call me last week about this committee of which I am still a member. My first thought was that if the government's response after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers' money—and this is what it cost for us to travel here and there and do this work—is to literally toss it in the trash can, why would it spend that kind of money?

I recognize the government is in power and is the ultimate decision maker. However it tossed aside a report with which the majority of committee members agreed. Nine of the government's own backbenchers including the junior minister of fisheries and oceans signed off on this report. They participated in its writing. They participated in going through the report line by line, word for word, and when it came to the House it was tossed in the trash can because the guy at the top of the triangle said “Sorry, boys, we cannot do that”. This is inexcusable.

It is a clear demonstration of how this federation has to be reformed. From the committees to the House of Commons to the Senate the system is not working. This is only one example, a minuscule part of the Government of Canada.

I look at the amount of money that has been spent and I have to honestly say to all taxpayers that they are not getting the bang for their buck. They are not getting the value for the dollars spent.

I do not expect the Government of Canada to adopt every principle or to adopt everything we say, but it should have listened to us. Its own members wrote this report and walked into the House, but the guy at the top of the pyramid said no. They all followed behind like a bunch of sheep. Why did they go to the committee in the first place? Why were they even there?

What the government is doing is inexcusable. It has been the most frustrating part of my experience in Ottawa, after spending a year in a good working relationship with members from all parties, for it to come to the House and be tossed aside and ignored.

The problem lies at the top of this pyramid with the minister and the senior cabinet ministers. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans had absolutely no interest in following any of the recommendations.

I conclude by saying that this leads to a much bigger issue. The issue is that we have to reform this federation. We have to reform how the government works. We have to be accountable to the people to ensure that they are getting the best value for their dollars. There has to be change. This is a clear example of that.