Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to be heard on what I encourage the Chair to adopt as an emergency debate application. As the Chair knows, this request is pursuant to Standing Order 52. In particular, I draw attention to paragraph 6(a) which refers to the criteria and which calls upon the House to consider “the matter proposed for discussion must relate to a genuine emergency, calling for immediate and urgent consideration”.
For the people of the small town of Canso, Nova Scotia in the riding of Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough, this is perhaps the gravest emergency they have faced in a long time. That town is not unaccustomed to these types of emergency situations.
The decision taken yesterday by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to deny an application, a proposal for division 3O redfish, has left the town with very little hope. Its citizens were clinging to some hope that the federal, provincial and municipal governments would come to their assistance. Without the plant operating, the majority of the population of the town has no income, none whatsoever, because of the lack of industry, the lack of opportunity that exists for the town today. The people there have been struggling for generations to make a go of it in the fisheries. There was a time when a very prosperous and lucrative fishery existed in the town.
The mayor of the town, Frank Fraser, along with his counsel, MLA Ron Chisholm, the Canso Trawlermen's Co-op headed up by Pat Fougere, the union, the plant workers and everyone in that vicinity are looking to the government for some solution, some ability to keep the town afloat.
The town is completely reliant on that one industry. The people there are now entering a black hole, a period in time in which they have not worked enough hours. Their EI is running out. They have no access to any other government program. They literally have no means to support themselves and their families.
The small businesses that have existed in that town have closed their doors. Many citizens have already left for places where they can secure employment. Over 30 houses in the small village have been put up for tax sales because of tax arrears. Bankruptcies are looming. A majority of the children in town rely on a breakfast program that is offered by the municipality. It is truly a grave situation.
The responses to questions in the House by the acting minister of fisheries are insulting. It is pathetic to suggest that this is somehow a political issue. Time and time again we have seen Canso in many cases used as a political football.
This is a crisis situation for Canso and there appears to be no ability for the people to get out of it. They are looking to the federal government and to the Parliament of Canada to offer some solutions.
I suggest that by partaking in a debate on the situation it is also indicative of other communities in the Atlantic and Quebec regions, to which the minister referred in his letter. He said that there are other crises. I suggest there is none as serious or as grave as the one facing the town of Canso and its citizens.
Mr. Speaker, I very much urge you to please accept this application. If you need more consideration or more evidence to suggest that it be supported, I hope that at the very least you would hold your decision in abeyance until Monday. There is a town meeting scheduled for Sunday at which all citizens and all representatives will be present. I hope that the Chair will take this consideration very seriously.