The hon. member keeps shouting “misinformation”. The government is good at trying to turn the truth into misinformation. The hon. member cannot deny the obvious. The hon. member would not know, but since the NAFO meetings in Lisbon there has been a huge outcry about the shrimp situation on the nose of the Grand Banks. A lot of people have their you know what in the wringer over this situation. It is a very serious situation in Newfoundland and Labrador and Atlantic Canada. We suffer most when foreigners fish on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and Labrador; not central Canada or western Canada but Atlantic Canada.
Another recommendation in our report dealt with the early retirement post-TAGS program. The committee in its wisdom, after listening to those thousands and thousands of people affected, recommended that if the government came forward with an early retirement program it should develop a formula consisting of age plus attachment to the industry.
We recommended that. Everyone that came to our meetings recommended that. However, once again the minister of HRDC in particular did not accept the recommendation. I am sad to say that because thousands of people with 30, 32, 34 and 35 years of attachment to the fishing industry in Atlantic Canada have fallen through the cracks of the early retirement program.
I do not want to see anyone with anything taken away. We can look at someone 55 years of age with 10 years of attachment to the industry who will receive early retirement benefits. Then we can look at a person 54 years of age with 35 years of attachment to the industry who will not receive any early retirement benefits. There is an obvious unfairness and injustice.
Why the government did not accept that recommendation I will never understand. I have consistently said that there was not a need for the government to allocate any more than the $730 million it allocated to the program. There could have been a redirection inside the fund to take care of this problem.
I suggested very strongly to the minister of HRDC and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans in written form and verbally that they should have redirected the $100 million allocated to ACOA for community regional development. They could have redirected some of that money to early retirement and taken care of those people with 30 to 35 years of attachment to the industry.
There is a very serious situation unfolding in Atlantic Canada today. I know about the riding of Burin—St. Georges which I represent. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have always in large numbers gone away to look for work. They have always gone to Ontario, British Columbia or Alberta. It has been part of our life. However, in the rural communities of Burin—St. Georges and rural communities of other ridings that make up our province the out-migration is frightening. It is very difficult in most of our communities to find anyone under 45 years of age. Most of them are 50 years of age plus. Most of them are retired people or the few who hold government jobs.
That is what is happening in Newfoundland and Labrador and in a lot of communities in Atlantic Canada today. It is as a direct result of what has happened to our fishing industry, what has happened to our fish resource, our fish stocks.
Our report recommended a change in DFO policy and attitude so that as our stocks regenerate and rebuild there would at least be a future for Atlantic Canadians in the fishing industry. All we got in response from the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans was that he cast the report aside. He tried to downplay the report. He did not take the recommendations of the committee very seriously.
I am very disappointed by that because as all members of the House know the majority of members of the standing committee like all other committees are government members. There were nine of them. Nine of them participated in the writing of the report. Nine of them supported the recommendations of the report. Nine of sixteen government members wrote and supported the recommendations.
What did the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans do? He just threw it aside and said “hogwash, bunk”. The biggest problem in the fishing industry on the east and west coasts today is that the people in the industry do not have confidence in the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans because of that kind of attitude. At least the minister could have taken the report and very seriously reviewed and considered it. He could have at least responded to it in a meaningful way, which he refused to do.
The report from the committee generated a lot of attention in Atlantic Canada. There were 15 public meetings. Thousands of people appeared before the committee. They expected something to follow from the report and from the recommendations. All they got was more arrogance and more nose-thumbing from the Minister of Fisheries and Ocean, which is not acceptable.
We have some very serious problems in Atlantic Canada with the unemployed and the out-migration. There are some positive signs in some of our fishing zones, particularly in our southern zones, that our fish stocks are regenerating. In the province of Newfoundland and Labrador that I represent this year we had a commercial cod fishery with a total allowable catch which increased from 20,000 metric tons to 30,000 metric tons.
Fishermen I grew up with and worked with in the fishing industry when I was working my way through university tell me that there is more fish in the southern zones today than they have seen for the last 15 year. They have no reason to mislead me. I am one of them. I grew up with them. I am concerned about them. They tell me there are good signs of fish in the southern zones.
With the northeast coast northern cod stocks the signs are not so great, but within the last few weeks I was pleased to hear scientists say that there is at least some small sign of some regeneration in the northern cod stocks.
Our committee did not only hear about cod. We heard about red fish, turbot, lobster and scallops. You name it, we heard about it. The shellfish industry particularly is still a very solid industry. There are some very good earnings. Fishermen are doing very well. There is still a very good fishing industry in Atlantic Canada in other species.
I want to allude to the NAFO meetings and the observer coverage on foreign vessels.