House of Commons Hansard #91 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was airports.


Canadian Environmental Assessment ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, the members of the New Democratic Party will vote against these three motions.

Canadian Environmental Assessment ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2003 / 6:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, members of the Progressive Conservative Party will vote yes to these motions.

Canadian Environmental Assessment ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.


Jean Guy Carignan Liberal Québec East, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will vote in favour of these motions.

Canadian Environmental Assessment ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.


Ghislain Lebel Independent Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will vote no.

Canadian Environmental Assessment ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.


Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to be recorded as voting no to Motion No. 25.

(The House divided on Motion No. 25, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Canadian Environmental Assessment ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare Motions Nos. 25 and 27 carried.

Canadian Environmental Assessment ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Don Valley East Ontario


David Collenette Liberalfor the Minister of the Environment

moved that the bill be concurred in.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Canadian Environmental Assessment ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

moved that Bill C-328, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, there is nothing like the strong hand of a good Speaker to bring the House to order. We know how important private members' bills are; therefore, I am honoured to speak today to this bill that stands in my name.

First, let me say that this bill belongs not to me, but to all of the workers who come under the jurisdiction of the federal government. This bill belongs to them. It will help them and ensure that negotiations between employers and employees are more positive, more productive and that disputes are settled more quickly.

In a few moments I will demonstrate the need for this bill and explain its substance. The purpose of the bill is to prohibit employers that are subject to the Canada Labour Code from hiring replacement workers to carry out the duties of workers who are on strike or who have been locked out. It also includes fines in cases where offences are committed. This is a way to ensure that the integrity of the bill is respected.

Introducing anti-strikebreaking or anti-scab legislation, as it is more commonly called, in the House is nothing new. This is not the first time that we have tried to protect employees and workers to ensure they have equal rights during union negotiations.

The Bloc Quebecois has been working here in the House for equality for some ten years now. In Quebec, we have already had anti-strikebreaking legislation for 25 years, and it has proven very effective. I will come back to this a little later.

As a result, it is completely unfair that workers in Quebec who come under federal jurisdiction do not have the same right to healthy and dignified negotiations.

Earlier today, I received a press release that is very eloquent. It came from the CLC. This is not just any old union, but the Canadian Labour Congress. I want to read it because I think it is worthwhile:

Bill C-328, introduced by Monique Guay, MP for Laurentides, Bloc Québécois, enjoys the unanimous support of the Executive Council of the Canadian Labour Congress. It is on the agenda for debate late today, Tuesday, April 29th, in the House of Commons. Another debate is scheduled in the fall, that will be followed by a vote.

Between now and that vote, I encourage all workers to sign the petition and to use our web site to directly fax letters to their MPs to impress upon them the importance of prohibiting employers to use scabs during strikes or lock-outs.

That is very substantial support. The CLC is fundamental and it is also non-partisan.

We present bills to try to protect working people, working men and women. Such bills will help us in our attempts to wipe out partisanship and it is important to pass them for the improved well-being of all people, no matter which party presented them. In fact, I have already heard some hon. members say that they would vote against the bill because it came from the Bloc Quebecois. That is unacceptable.

When we have progressive things to propose—when we have bills that advance the cause of humanity—we must succeed in achieving understanding here, and we must vote according to our own conscience. For that matter, we have private members' bills on which members can vote according to their conscience and represent the people in their ridings.

Every member in the House—each one of us—has employees governed under the Canada Labour Code. Each one of us has a responsibility to ensure that they are well protected and that they can negotiate on an equal footing with their employers, through their union.

There are four main messages I want to get across here. Anti-strikebreaking measures are indispensable if we wish to have civilized negotiations during disputes.

I do not have to draw a picture, I just need to review a few recent disputes, for instance the Cargil dispute. These people have been out on the street for three years now. In fact, they cannot even demonstrate any more, because there is no more sidewalk. The employer has fenced off the street to keep them from protesting. This is absolutely unacceptable.

The Vidéotron dispute went on for 10 long months. Men and women got through Christmas on virtually nothing in order to try to preserve jobs. They tried to keep 500 jobs and this went on for ten long months. Things would have been different had there been antiscab legislation.

Moreover, my bill had been debated at that time and gained no recognition here. It was not voted on, so we could not see who would have wanted to vote in favour of it. This time, surprise. It will be votable and we will see who has the guts to support it, to vote in favour of it.

I have talked about Vidéotron and now I will talk about Secur, another dispute that dragged on, and even led to strike breaking. This is regrettable. No one wants that; if negotiating powers are equal this will not happen. People can sit down and negotiate. This is proven and I will demonstrate it later.

The anti-scab measures also promote industrial peace. Anti-scab legislation constitutes the foundation for establishing a fair balance of power between employer and employee, and I cannot repeat that enough.

With anti-scab legislation, people are forced to sit down and negotiate. Normally this brings about far faster resolution because the company must get back into operation and so everyone sits down and tries to find an area of agreement. This can only lead to better working relationships afterward because everyone gets what they wanted. Employers get happy workers, pleased to be able to keep working and often in far better physical and psychological shape to do a good job.

With anti-strikebreaking legislation, we will no longer have two classes of workers in Quebec. As I indicated earlier, there is something wrong with the fact that we in Quebec can conduct negotiations and have bargaining power while having anti-strikebreaking legislation, when at the federal level, a neighbouring society does not have such a power. That is unacceptable.

I would also like to mention something that is very important to me, especially given all the work done on this issue. I have a petition circulating not only in Quebec but everywhere in Canada. All stakeholders, those concerned, employees from any business can sign the petition and return it to us. It is also designed to raise awareness so that workers can express support for this bill to their MPs and ask them to vote for it.

A petition is circulating, and since the bill is not likely to come back for second reading before the fall, we have all summer to work, and to ensure that the public has access to this petition. It is on my website; I will give out the address later on. It is very accessible, and several copies are available. Every Bloc Quebecois member has a copy and will have it signed by all workers in their ridings. This is essential, it is important and the strength and power of the people, and the workers, lies in the ability to express their views and to say, “We want Ottawa to pass anti-strikebreaking legislation”.

There is also a broad consensus—and I was truly impressed—among the various unions about the importance of such measures. At least 27 labour unions have expressed support for my bill, and sent me letters asking that I persevere and put it forward again.

Understandably, debating bills that have not been declared votable is not very motivating for members, but we tell ourselves that it will advance the issue and that there will be discussions. Now that mine has been made votable, it has sparked wide interest of course.

These unions have sent me letters, saying, “Ms. Guay, we support you and your bill, and we want it to be passed”.

I am also asking them to inform their employees and their elected representatives and tell them that they must vote in favour of this bill.

I must talk about the negative consequences of strikes or lockouts. This has to be said. A strike or a lockout really does have numerous negative consequences, which are sufficient to demonstrate the need to introduce measures to reduce disputes.

During a strike or lockout, there is quite frequently a decrease in local or global economic productivity. Strikes or lockouts lasting longer than ten months in one region mean that people no longer have any purchasing power. These people experience financial difficulties. They often need to draw employment insurance and, then, perhaps welfare. They are no longer productive members of society. They continue to need assistance and often end up on the streets. This should no longer be happening in 2003. Since companies need their employees, they must treat them accordingly. This means respecting them during negotiations.

This affects not only business, but also an entire regional economy. In a riding such as mine, Laurentides, for example, if there were a strike at one of the big companies with over 500 employees, the entire Laurentides area would be affected. This entire area would no longer be able to function, no longer be profitable, and its economy would suffer.

So this is extremely important. As I was saying, this lowers the revenues of businesses and governments. This causes a drop in profits, and, consequently, a drop in the purchasing power of workers directly or indirectly affected. In some cases, this can even lead to socio-economic problems. It is true. It is a vicious circle. Ten months is a long time. What about three years of disputes. What about these people's state of mind? This is totally unacceptable.

These disputes also cause households to go into debt, because people want to continue to participate in society. They want to ensure they have everything they need. Some people are in more precarious financial situations than others. They are the ones that suffer; they are the ones who pay the price.

Labour disputes also cause stress-related psychological problems. The stress is constant. Workers do not know when they will be sitting down to negotiate and when there will be a frank discussion. Often, the employer will not budge for months on end. Nothing happens.

These workers are left with no voice and no resources because they cannot negotiate. If there was anti-strikebreaking legislation in place, the employer would not be able to play this sort of game. If employers want their company to remain productive, they will sit down with employees and the union and hammer out an agreement that is fair for everyone. Employers are capable of doing this.

I would like to talk briefly about Quebec's legislation. It has been in place since 1977. It is important to give some figures that will prove how useful anti-strikebreaking legislation really is.

Here are some figures I can give. Just prior to Quebec's legislation, in 1976, the average number of working days lost was 39.4. In 1979, it fell to 32.8. In 2001, it was 27.4 days. You can see the difference between 39.4 days and 27.4 days in 2001.

Since I have only one minute left, I will try to be brief. There are other colleagues here in the House who also introduced anti-strikebreaking legislation in the past. We almost won in 1990. We almost won in 1995. I sincerely hope that in 2003, the House of Commons will seriously consider my bill and vote in favour of legislation that belongs not to me, but to all workers across Canada.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Madam Speaker, I would first like to congratulate my colleague, the hon. member for Laurentides, for having introduced this bill, which has been long demanded by workers in Quebec and especially in Canada.

Quebec is experiencing the same thing, even if Quebec already has similar legislation, because some companies are federally regulated. So, as my hon. colleague was saying earlier, there was a ten-month strike at Vidéotron because there was no bargaining power.

In introducing this progressive legislation in 1977, Quebec was thought to be taking a chance. People wondered if it would work. They realized that the effects of this legislation have decreased the number of strike days, ensured that the two parties meet before the dispute and discussions become bitter. Today, employers and workers in general would not want to be without this legislation because it has helped create a very healthy climate.

To do so, the hon. member for Laurentides has introduced this bill, following in the steps of two other hon. members. I introduced such a bill myself when I was a Conservative member, and it was passed the next year. By that time, I had become a Bloc Quebecois member. It was passed, but only by 18 votes, I think. Thus, here in this House, a movement is building among all the parties to modernize our system of labour relations the way Quebec has done. It is also being done in another province, British Columbia.

This bill deserves to receive the support—and I hope it is unanimous—of the House of Commons. I invite all members to read this bill, to look at the arguments in its favour, and I think that they will hold a non-partisan vote, as the hon. member who spoke previously said, a non-partisan vote that will serve the interests of workers, and also serve the interests of employers, and encourage a dialogue between employees and employers in such a way as to settle longstanding disputes.

For example, we have one in Rouyn-Noranda. I have visited the workers at Rouyn-Noranda radio. It is incredible how they have been living for a year, and all the judicial proceedings they have lauanched. But all avenues are not yet exhausted, they say, and they think there may be another year or two ahead of them if nothing happens, unless legislation like this bill is passed.

That has happened in other situations as well, as the hon. member has said. In conclusion, as well as congratulating her, I would like to ask if she has yet had any meetings with the members of the other political parties here in the house, and if there is a good chance that her bill will be passed as a result of these meetings.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague because it is true, in connection with my reference to 1990 and 1995, that he had introduced a bill along these lines himself and was nearly successful with it. There were some people absent from the House and thus unable to vote. We feel there is an interest in this bill and that is why I am introducing it again, but I am doing so mainly to protect workers.

I have held discussions with various House of Commons colleagues and I think I have a degree of support. We shall see after today's debate, when we will be able to judge a bit better. What is important is to do this for the sake of working men and women.

My colleague and I have met with the Radio-Nord people. They are involved in a labour dispute at the present time. I hope that the journalists are following this closely because it concerns them personally. They are very often under federal jurisdiction when it comes to labour disputes and thus not protected by antiscab legislation.

What happens in a case like Radio-Nord, where we met with some of the employees who are trying to negotiate, is that the employer simply locks them out. We do not know how long this can last. It could be a month, two months, three months. The employer states categorically that it does not want to negotiate and there are still replacement workers carrying on in their place. If there were antiscab legislation , the employer would be obliged to sit down, to discuss things with staff and to find an area of common ground far sooner.

It is therefore essential that we vote for this bill.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

Madam Speaker, once again I am pleased to speak on the bill. I spoke on it when it was brought to Parliament under the old system and I am going to be bringing up the same points today.

The hon. member who proposed the bill said it would force negotiations. Maybe in some extremely limited situations it would, but this is not going to alter situations where there is simply a strike or a lockout. It only deals with one specific little narrow window, that is, where a company continues to operate by the use of hiring new replacement workers. For example, if a company is totally shut down, the bill would have no effect. If a company is running in a limited manner using management personnel, again the bill would have absolutely no effect.

The other problem with the bill is that it is really half a bill, because it deals with replacement workers. Replacement workers are found in a situation where the company and the union go on strike, the company says fine, go on strike, we will simply hire a bunch of new people who are not in the union and have them do the work. The original workers can stay out on strike as long as they want and it would not affect the company. The truth of the matter is that I do not like that. I do not agree with it. I do not like the whole system of strikes and lockouts that we have right now. I think it is something we should have addressed a long time ago and found some alternative for instead of maybe fiddling with little bits and pieces of it.

In terms of the specifics of the concept that the hon. member brought up, I do not agree with the company being allowed to hire people outside of the union contract and bring them in to do the work. There is a contract, an agreement. There is a resolution process in the event of the dispute, either a strike or lockout, and I think that both sides should have to live with that.

Unfortunately the hon. member's bill only deals with that one side. It does not deal with what I would have to call replacement companies. Here is what a replacement company is. When there is a strike or lockout, if a company cannot use replacement workers it is shut down, but the union members can still be on strike and can go to work at another job.

I have an example of this in my riding at a newspaper in my hometown. There was a strike between the newspaper and its staff. It was a very long strike and a very bitter one. In fact, I believe that the company was probably out to try to break the union. What happened is that the union started a newspaper. It was supposed to be a temporary measure to provide them with some revenue during the time that they were on strike, in essence so that they had some strike pay. I do not remember how long this has gone on now; it has been years. What happened in reality is that the newspaper they were on strike from they are still technically on strike from; however, we now have a new newspaper in our town that is run by the people who indeed are on strike and in addition, probably, by some new people they have hired since that time. In essence, the union has replaced the company.

I do not agree with that either, frankly. I do not agree with a whole lot of the process. I do not like strikes or lockouts. I think they are very unproductive. They were useful in the beginning because there had to be some kind of dispute settlement mechanism and that was the one that was used.

We have a power company in my riding. A few years back the workers there went on strike. They were out on strike for quite some time and management personnel kept the emergency things operating. There was not a whole lot going on so they managed to keep it running. I am sure it probably caused some problems for the company, but it also saved them a lot in salary. They did not hire any replacement workers. So again, this bill would have absolutely no impact on that operation. Months went by and eventually the workers, who had been doing without wages, went back to work. They will never make up the money they lost. The raise they got was essentially the same thing they were offered before they went out on strike.

I respect the hon. member's intentions in bringing forward the bill, but I do not really think it addresses the problem. It addresses such a small part of the problem, and only one side of it, that I think in essence it is problematic. I support collective bargaining, but there is a lot of misunderstanding about what collective bargaining is.

Collective bargaining is negotiations, conciliation and mediation. That is collective bargaining. Strikes and lockouts are not part of collective bargaining; they are the result of the failure of collective bargaining. A strike or a lockout is referred to as a dispute settlement mechanism.

When unions first started, they were needed. Boy, were they needed. In fact, to go back in Canadian history to the beginning of the last century, in certain provinces in Atlantic Canada a person could actually be put in jail for asking for a raise. It was a law on the books. One could go to jail for asking for a raise. That was what we would call an incredibly loaded system, all in favour of the employer. The problem is that when we start to try to deal with these issues and the pendulum starts swinging, sometimes it swings a little too far the other way. Sometimes we lose sight of what we are really trying to achieve.

I think that we need to try to find a way to get away from what we have in collective bargaining primarily today, and that is a very confrontational sort of system. There is a confrontation between the employer and the employee. We have in essence an economic tug of war between the two sides to see who can do without revenue the longest, the employer or the employee. Unfortunately under our current system the winner is often the party that loses the least, and that is not really a very good solution.

We need to come up with something that does exactly what the hon. member said at one point in her speech, that is, force negotiations. Because when the two sides are not negotiating, they are not settling anything. There needs to be some kind of alternative to strikes or lockouts as an absolute dispute settlement mechanism. One that I favour very strongly and which my party favours is final offer arbitration. We do not think that it should be arbitrarily the catch-all that solves all problems, because it is not perfect. Unfortunately I do not know of anything that is. Certainly strikes and lockouts are not.

If a company and the employees want to agree, they can do it through any number of different methods that do not involve a labour disruption, but I think we need to have something in place that says if parties cannot come to any kind of resolution or cannot agree on a dispute settlement mechanism, then there should be something rather than a strike or a lockout, where everybody gets hurt and there is a lot of collateral damage. In fact, in today's economy, particularly in the federal arena, a handful of longshoremen could go on strike in Vancouver and a farmer and his family in Manitoba could lose their farm as a result of that.

The world is getting far too complex for this. We cannot allow that kind of harm to occur. We must have something that says we will find a way to settle this dispute without it involving a labour disruption. I used to be an air traffic controller, which also comes under federal jurisdiction. The problem we had in trying to negotiate is that we were too powerful. If we could not settle and we tried to go out on strike, a relative handful of people could shut down the air transportation industry of this country. So we got legislated. What was the good of us having the right to strike if we were never allowed to use it because we were so powerful?

We recognize that policemen should not be on strike to watch people get mugged, raped, robbed or whatever else and say they are not going to help because they are on strike. We recognize that firefighters should not be standing on a sidewalk watching a house burn down, perhaps with a small child inside it, because they are on strike.

If we recognize that and say there has to be an alternative for them, then perhaps we should also ask why they should be penalized because of their importance. Why can we not come up with something that deals with the need for them to continue working but be dealt with fairly? Why can we not find that and then apply it to everyone?

I am afraid that I cannot support the bill. However, because I agree with some of the concepts the member raises, I will abstain when it comes to voting on this. I am labour critic for our party. It is a very awkward bill. I do not dispute that the member is trying to do some good or that there are some agreeable parts to her bill, but as I say, it is only half a bill. We cannot take a system, as bad as it is, and take away the tools from one side while leaving all the tools for the other.

Let us imagine a hockey team where one side was told it could not have a goalie. It would not be much of a game. There must be balance. As much as I think the member's intentions are good, the bill would produce an imbalance in the system. What we need to do is come up with a much more total solution so that everyone is able to continue to work, draw a salary, aid their community and not cause problems for other parts of our country as well.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Bramalea—Gore—Malton—Springdale Ontario


Gurbax Malhi LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on Bill C-328, which asks the government to amend the Canada Labour Code. The bill seeks to disallow employers under the jurisdiction of the Canada Labour Code from hiring replacement workers to carry out the duties of employees who are on strike or locked out.

This is not the first time this issue has been examined in the House. We debated a private member's bill similar to this one last fall. The issue of replacement workers has been considered very carefully by the government on a number of occasions and it remains of ongoing interest, but it is not a matter that I see requiring new legislative action at this time. I believe that part I of the Canada Labour Code is able to deal fairly with the issue of replacement workers in the federal jurisdiction by accommodating the competing values and interests of employers, unions and employees.

As hon. members may recall, the government proposed and the House passed a number of amendments to part I of the Canada Labour Code in 1999. Among other things, part I of the code deals with the use of replacement workers during strikes or lockouts. Some of the changes that were made to part I at that time addressed the issue of replacement workers in the federal jurisdiction. These changes were based on a lengthy and extensive process that included a study by an independent task force of industrial relations experts.

Over the course of these consultations, representatives of labour and management were able to agree on a number of key reforms. However, on the issue of replacement workers, the parties maintained firmly opposing positions and could not reach an agreement. In its report, the task force summed up the situation by saying, and I quote:

No issue divides the submissions we received more than the issue of replacement workers. Labour was nearly unanimous in favouring a legislated prohibition on the use of replacement workers. Management was equally unanimous in its opposition to such a proposal.

The government understands that each side has a legitimate reason for holding the position it does. I do not believe it is advisable to take one side or the other, such as Bill C-328 appears to do. I feel the appropriate legislative position is one that strikes a balance between these two opposing positions.

This is the approach that was taken when part I of the Canada Labour Code was amended in 1999. I believe this approach should be maintained and encouraged. In effect, the amendments that were made in 1999 are a compromise between the opposing positions of the employer and employee communities. The existing legislation does not impose a general prohibition on the use of replacement workers during legal strikes and lockouts.

However, the law does prohibit the use of replacement workers to undermine a union's representational capacity rather than to pursue legitimate bargaining objectives. Such an action could be described as an unfair labour practice. The intent is to provide employers with some flexibility to meet their operating responsibilities and to prevent them from using replacement workers to upset the legitimate bargaining objectives of a union during a work stoppage.

To this effect, the legislation provides an alternative for unions or employee representatives in the event of a dispute over the use of replacement workers. In other words, the changes that were made to the Canada Labour Code on the use of replacement workers in 1999 were designed to balance the opposite interests of employers and employees on this difficult issue.

If an employee group or union believes that an employer is engaging in unfair practices under this section of the code, they can file a complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Board. This board is an independent, quasi-judicial tribunal responsible for interpreting and administering part I and certain provisions of part II of the Canada Labour Code. Its members include representatives from employer, union and independent third party groups.

From time to time advocates for one side might cite specific situations where the issue of replacement workers is of concern to them, but we know that well over 90% of the disputes that arise between employers and employees under the Canada Labour Code are settled without a work stoppage.

It is premature to conclude that the amendments concerning the use of replacement employees are not working in the broadest public interest. It is, therefore, too soon to say that the law should be changed again, especially to move altogether to one side of the equation as Bill C-328 appears to do. In short, the current replacement worker provisions of the Canada Labour Code must be given a chance to work.

As the Minister of Labour often says, the best solutions to labour-management issues are usually those that the parties arrive at themselves. It is not our job, she says, to impose solutions, but rather to facilitate them. Bill C-328 appears to recommend imposing a solution that supports one side over the other, but it is unwise to move to that position so soon after the last amendments were made. There does not appear to be a consensus in favour of change and there is no convincing evidence to indicate that the existing situation is not working.

These arguments were made last fall when the opposition brought forward a bill similar to the current one and I stand by them again today. However, I am not denying that there is an important policy issue at stake here. I fully recognize that the issue of hiring replacement workers during work stoppages remains an unsettled one and that both sides hold very strongly to their respective positions.

I agree that the situation should continue to be monitored carefully. Nevertheless, I am not in favour of the kind of change proposed in Bill C-328 at this time and I will not support it.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Madam Speaker, I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-328, put forward by my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois, the hon. member for Laurentides.

This bill would prohibit the hiring of replacement workers during a strike or lockout and provides for the reinstatement of workers following a strike or lockout.

For many years the labour movement and the New Democratic Party have called on the federal government to ban the use of replacement workers during strikes and lockouts. Our federal party has passed resolutions demanding the government amend the Canada Labour Code to prohibit the use of scabs.

This private member's bill, introduced by the member for Laurentides, goes a long way toward achieving what our party believes regarding the use of replacement workers. If it were enacted, it would put an end to a practice that subjects trade union members to insult and unfairness, not to mention financial injury, and frankly stacks the labour relations deck in favour of management and against working men and women. For those reasons alone we will be supporting the bill.

Experience has shown that the prohibition on the use of strikebreakers has contributed to civilized industrial relations during work stoppages and it has also reduced the number of workdays lost due to strikes or lockouts. On the other hand, strikes and lockouts accompanied by the employer's use of replacement workers gives rise to several negative and unnecessary strains on the labour-management relationship, including prolonged and more bitter conflicts, more strikes and lockouts, not fewer, increased picket line confrontations and violence, less free and meaningful collective bargaining, and problems that actually make the problem more severe rather than ease the transition.

I recall a garbage strike that happened more than three decades ago in Ottawa. At that time I was working for the Canadian Union of Public Employees. The City of Ottawa decided in its wisdom to contract out the garbage pickup in Ottawa to a private company, and its first goal was to break the union. I say without fear of contradiction that it was a terrifying situation. The city police were called in. It was bitter and tense. There was damage on both sides and fortunately, people finally came to their senses and order was restored.

Those are the kinds of things that can happen when things do get out of hand. I would observe that these strains are often more pronounced in smaller bargaining relationships where the tradition of labour-management negotiations is not as embedded as in other labour-management negotiations.

The Canada Labour Code as it stands is weak on the issue of replacement workers. It prohibits their use as long as the employer appears to be negotiating with the union.

We look forward to having the member's bill examined in committee and discussing other amendments to the Canada Labour Code. These amendments would include prohibiting the use of both bargaining unit and non-bargaining unit employees, or any person, including those persons who have exercised managerial functions; prohibiting the use of persons engaged, transferred or hired after the earlier date on which the notice of intent to bargain is given and the date on which bargaining actually begins; prohibiting contracting work out of the establishment; providing protection from discipline for any person who honours a picket line; and an enforcement mechanism that would include permission for the union to enter and inspect the employer's premises in the company of a government labour relations officer and representative of the employer.

Our caucus believes that these are all achievable goals. They arise from a deeply rooted philosophy and are really a matter of political will.

A NDP government in Ontario passed Bill 40 prohibiting the hiring of replacement workers. The implementation of Bill 40 resulted in fewer work stoppages, moderate union demands at the bargaining table and civilized picket lines.

This piece of legislation that was introduced by the Bob Rae government in Ontario, of course, did not stand the test of time. It was immediately repealed by the Conservatives under Mike Harris when they came to power in 1995. We note that labour-management relations have not improved as a result. In fact, they are going in the opposite direction.

It is important to acknowledge this, perhaps especially today because as members know a new government in Quebec is being sworn in. I would predict that there will not be significant changes in the labour laws in that province as a result of the Liberals replacing the Parti Québécois. Why? Because it has been proven to work in Quebec.

The banning of scabs or replacement workers during confrontations or during labour-management disputes that occur in Quebec that fall under provincial legislation has worked well. We have seen it when the Liberals were in power in Quebec. There was no significant change to that legislation.

I fully expect that the Charest government will continue to honour that. We need to learn from the province of Quebec and how it has indulged in labour-management relations over quite a considerable period of time. It seems to be working well. We cannot seem to get it right in English Canada.

Any time replacement workers are used it seems to undermine the capacity of a union to represent its striking or locked out workers. Any uncertainty here could and should be resolved by a straightforward general prohibition on the use of replacement workers during strikes and lockouts as the bill calls for.

As I indicated, the labour code needs to be amended to explicitly prohibit the use of scabs. The New Democratic Party supports any and all legislation that respects workers' rights. For that reason we are pleased to support the bill proposed by the member for Laurentides.

Before I conclude, I listened to the member's speech and heard what she had to say about the three year strike at Cargill and the strike that went on for far too long at Vidéotron. Again, these are contrasts where the provincial legislation in Quebec did not apply. It was federal legislation. The Cargill strike was three years and Vidéotron was 10 months or something like that. This is unique in the province of Quebec. It happens because it falls under federal legislation as opposed to provincial legislation.

I listened as well to the member from the Alliance from British Columbia. He did not quite say that we do not need unions anymore. He did say that there was a time when unions were needed in this country. He went on to talk about final offer arbitration. He forgot or failed to mention that more than 90% of all negotiations are settled amicably without a strike or a lockout.

For the notion that firefighters would stand by while a house was burning down or a child was burning up, as it were, is simply ludicrous. When we have situations like that where essential workers are permitted to go on strike or are locked out, then essential services are provided as well. The trade union movement has been very good in this country, and I would say around the world, at ensuring that essential services are carried out when there is a strike or a lockout in progress.

This is a good piece of legislation and I would urge all members of the House of Commons to support it.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle Progressive Conservative St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want to say a few words on Bill C-328, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code.

We are all aware that the purpose of the bill is to prohibit employers under the Canada Labour Code from hiring replacement workers to perform the duties of employees who are on strike or locked out. We certainly need this kind of legislation in the country to balance the rights of all individuals, the rights of people who are on strike and the rights of the employers as well.

Clause 1 of the bill provides that workers get reinstated after a strike or a lockout is over. If the striker is not recalled, the onus is on the employer to prove why the striker was not recalled. That sounds eminently reasonable as well. Every individual who is on strike and withdraws services certainly has the right after a strike is over to go back to work. If the individual is not recalled he or she should have a right to demand of the employer that a reasonable reason be given as to why he or she was not recalled. That sounds eminently reasonable to me.

Clause 2 of the bill, proposed subsection 94(2.1), gives detail to the proposed legislation, namely that an employer cannot directly or indirectly employ people to do the work of those who are on strike or locked out. Again that sounds reasonable to me.

Proposed subsection 94(2.2) provides an employer with the right to take measures to avoid destruction of his or her property. I would certainly have to agree with that particular clause. Many employers I am sure suffer a great deal as well when a strike is on, when the strike gets a little out of hand and the employers suffer destruction of the property. This will give the employer the right to take measures to avoid destruction of his or her property.

Proposed subsection 94(2.3) actually constrains the ability of the employer to abuse the right that has been given to him or her under proposed subsection 94(2.2).

Proposed subsections 94(2.4), 94(2.5) and 94(2.6) give the Minister of Labour the tools to investigate breaches of the act.

It appears to me that everyone is covered under the bill. The employer is covered and is given certain rights. The employee is covered and is given certain rights. The government's interests under the Minister of Labour are looked after as well.

Clause 3 of the bill amends section 100 of the Canada Labour Code to provide a fine for people found guilty of breaching provisions of the act.

I support the bill. I have long been a supporter of the fundamental right of an individual to strike. I have always been very reluctant as a matter of fact to place any restrictions on an individual's right to strike, provided of course, and we all agree, that the strike is legal.

Bill C-328 is a way of making the right to strike more effective once a strike becomes a reality. As I said a moment ago, if it is a legal strike, I would be very reluctant indeed to place any restrictions on an individual's right to walk out legally.

There are people who might say that having Bill C-328 is like the labour movement wanting to have its cake and eat it too. However, I would have to ask, what use is cake if one cannot eat it?

Why should anyone be satisfied with having a right but no means to effectively enjoy the right?

All of us have seen many strikes in our lifetime. Some have been easygoing and friendly; others have been very acrimonious, loud and bitter. In every case however, the introduction of a replacement worker has always made the matter much worse than what it really should be. It has always raised the temperature on the picket line when a legal strike is in progress and all of a sudden a replacement worker is bused in. It always sets the devil, if you will, in people on the picket line and well it should. When people have been on a picket line in the rain for days, the sight of replacement workers being bused in is really a bit too much for people to handle.

The employer has certain rights, but we have to remember that the individual has the right to strike. He has won the right to strike and there should not be replacement workers coming in. When it happens, shouts will sometimes replace dialogue. Very often we see that push comes to shove and we see violence on the picket line. Maybe the bill will have the ability to curb some of that. Implementing Bill C-328 would reduce the incidence of acrimony and violence on the picket line.

Very often management employees do as much of the work of the striking employees as they can. However when those management employees start hiring assistants to help them do the work of the strikers, they are asking for problems. They are asking for trouble, because when they do that, it is another kettle of fish. A strike is about withdrawing services. It is not about having the services replaced with the services of other people.

We have to remember something very important as well: Life has to go on when the strike is over. Things get back to normal a whole lot more quickly if there is no nasty incident happening on the picket line and no people are shouting and fighting because replacement workers are coming in. Doing things professionally and rationally is in the best interests of both management and labour.

Let me conclude by saying that in labour relations, let the strike and the lockout be the weapons of the differing parties. Without something like Bill C-328 in spirit or in law, the weapons in labour conflicts can be harsh words or even fists. Let us have Bill C-328 or something like it. In other words, let us have our cake and eat it too.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.


Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, my understanding is that I have one minute remaining. I too would like to speak to this bill, to support it and to thank the NDP member and the Progressive Conservative member who have expressed clear support.

As for the Alliance member who told us that he finds half of the bill really great and the other half not so great, we wish that he would be specific. After clarifications are provided and the situation of some people at Radio- Nord for example is examined, perhaps the members of that caucus will support the bill.

I also think that the parliamentary secretary ought to seek the views of workers. What he is saying does not seem to reflect what we are being told by workers when asked about this bill.

I will stop here, since I am getting the signal that my time is up. I hope that, together, the members of this House will ensure the success of this bill by supporting it so that working relations can develop in Canada as they did in Quebec.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

Cod FisheryEmergency Debate

7:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The House will now proceed to the consideration of a motion to adjourn the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter requiring urgent consideration, namely the cod fishery.

Cod FisheryEmergency Debate

7:15 p.m.


R. John Efford Liberal Bonavista—Trinity—Conception, NL


That this House do now adjourn.

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by thanking you for allowing me the opportunity to introduce this debate. I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.

This debate was brought on as a result of the minister's decision last week when he went to Newfoundland and Labrador and closed down the cod fishery, a decision which we, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, believe was wrong. We want to take the opportunity and the time in this debate to convince the minister that a mistake was made last week. In the best interests of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, let us work together to reverse the decision and put a plan in place that will build not just the cod stocks but the fish stocks of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Our intent is to convince this hon. House of why we as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians believe it was the wrong decision and how we see the decision can be changed to benefit the industry of Newfoundland and Labrador and the people of that province.

We do not mind admitting when mistakes are made. It is only those people who do absolutely nothing who do not make mistakes. Mistakes are made to be corrected. We are going to ask the minister to listen carefully this evening to our plea and to the reasons that we believe it was the wrong decision.

I need first to talk about the fishing industry of Newfoundland and Labrador, how it came about and what type of impact it has had on the people over the hundreds of years they have lived in that province. It is the only reason the people came across the Atlantic Ocean some 500-plus years ago to settle in the communities. It was based on the massive cod stocks, the massive fish stocks in our waters.

Very few people realize that at one point in time we had in excess of 2.5 million tonnes of cod fish in our ocean besides all of the other species. It is unbelievable to know that today we are now discussing in this hon. House the closure of two of the final stocks in the northern gulf and along the northeast coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. There is only one stock remaining along the south coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.

We have to understand how we got there. We are not going to point any fingers at anybody in the country of Canada except around Newfoundland and Labrador, to companies both Canadian and foreign. I will use only one word to describe how we arrived at the closure of the fishery in 1992: greed. There was no respect for conservation. Taking into consideration that we had the largest fish stock unequalled anywhere in the world, it was reduced to a closure in 1992.

We are blaming it on nobody, only the greed of large companies, factory freezer trawlers and foreign trawlers. We will also take some responsibility ourselves because those of us who sat idly by and allowed it to happen must share some of the responsibility.

The fishing industry has always been, is today, must be and will be in the future the backbone of the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador. There is no other reason the rural communities of Newfoundland and Labrador can exist without the fishing industry. It is no different from the farming industry in other parts of Canada. It is no different from the manufacturing industries in Ontario and all of the other centres around this great country of ours.

We want the government and the minister to understand the importance of making the right decision to benefit not only the people living in those communities today, but the people of the future. If we do not put the right building plan in place, the right management plan in place, then we all know that the stocks will never, ever return for generations and generations to come without some magnificent miracle by nature itself.

I have already said that the stocks went to an all time low in 1992 because of mismanagement. There is another thing I want to point out. Since 1992 to the present day, there has been no rebuilding management plan put in place.

The only time we hear from DFO is in a reactionary situation when a crisis takes place. That is a key fact that we must remember.

The minister did not cause the decline of the fishery. The minister inherited a problem. That is why we formed an all party committee in Newfoundland and Labrador and offered the minister a partnership to deal with a major situation, a situation that could have been avoided.

The other thing we have to recognize is that the fish stocks are not only part of the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador and not only do they give us a reason to stay in that province, but they also are part of the world food chain. That in itself is a major issue.

It is not the same as the oil we take out of a well. When the last barrel is taken out the well is dry. The fish stocks are renewable resources, all the cod, the caplin, the herring, the mackerel, the crab and the shrimp. All we are saying is that they must be managed properly.

When we came forth with the all party committee report we were not asking the federal government for millions of dollars. We said that we did not want money. We said that the government did not have to close this little fishery and that it did not have to give us any money. All we asked for was that the government allow the fishermen go in their boats, and that it put an appropriate rebuilding plan in place.

If we had come asking for another $1.5 billion or $1.7 billion I could understand the government's reluctance to talk to us because we spent a lot of money after 1992. However the all party committee from Newfoundland and Labrador did not mention money.

We offered the present minister a partnership to work with us. We gave him some 19 recommendations. We asked him to come back and sit down with us to discuss each recommendation. We wanted to take the responsibility of developing a plan, knowing full well that we could work together to rebuild the stocks in the short term.

Even if we had done everything right and everything to perfection, we knew the stocks would not return to the way they were in the 1970s and 1980s for generations to come, but we knew we had to start the rebuilding process.

If we do not start the rebuilding process communities will disappear. People's lives will be reduced to a welfare state again. That should not be happening with the ocean that is out there which can provide the jobs the people in the communities need, not only the people directly in the fishing boats but those people who are living around the spin off industries that create the economy of our province.

I want to read some numbers. We are talking about closing the fishery along the northeast coast where only 3,500 tonnes of fish were caught last year. That is all they are asking for this year. The fishermen in the gulf caught approximately 6,000 tonnes. We are talking about 10,000 tonnes or 9,500 tonnes last year. That is all we took away.

According to the minister's own advisory committee, his own scientific information, last year in the gulf alone the grey seals and the harp seals consumed 39,000 metric tonnes. The minister's own scientists sent me a letter saying that last year the seals consumed 900,000 metric tonnes of caplin. This is a million times more than what the fishermen took out of the ocean last year.

One might ask why this is happening. We caused it to happen. We fished for 500 years and hunted seals for 300 years. We kept the ecosystem in balance. However we then we became greedy and overfished. At he same time we allowed the animal rights protestors to stop the sealing industry. Therefore we have allowed the balance of nature to get out of control.

I ask the minister to listen to what we are saying. I ask him to reverse his decision and give us an opportunity to sit down and put an appropriate building plan in place, and to recognize how little fish the fishermen are asking to take out of the ocean compared to the mortality rate.

It is necessary to deal with this for the benefit of our communities. It is the best way to ensure that Newfoundland and Labrador, with its rural economy, can grow and survive. It is a right and part of our culture to be a part of this great country of Canada.

Cod FisheryEmergency Debate

7:25 p.m.


Bill Matthews Liberal Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, first I want to thank my colleague, the member for Bonavista—Trinity—Conception, for sharing his time with me.

I am pleased tonight to take part in the emergency debate on the fisheries, particularly the cod situation in Newfoundland and Labrador.

I want to say at the outset that I cannot support the decision that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans made last Thursday when he announced the closure of the northern and gulf cod stocks.

The minister's announcement, particularly as it pertains to the northern cod stocks, pretty much tied in with the recommendation of the all party committee and the FRCC. Where the big difference lies is in the gulf cod situation. There the minister has gone from a 7,000 metric tonne allocation to no fishery at all. He shut down the fishery in the gulf. I therefore cannot support the minister's decision, and there are a number of reasons for that.

I have two main reasons for not supporting the minister's decision. My colleague alluded to both of the reports. The first report was from the all party committee from Newfoundland and Labrador, a committee made up of provincial and federal politicians; members of the Senate; leaders of all three political parties in Newfoundland and Labrador, including the premier, the leader of the opposition and the leader of the NDP; and parties in the House of Commons. The other report was the FRCC report.

The FRCC report and the all party committee report were together on a couple of points. One point was that there should be an information fishery in the northern cod zone, and we respect that. An information fishery was all that the very fragile biomass of cod could sustain. The difference in the gulf is that the all party committee recommended a limited commercial fishery. We did not say that the minister had to keep the total allowable catch at 7,000 metric tonnes. We said that it should be a limited commercial fishery.

The Fisheries Resource Conservation Council, the minister's own advisory council, people appointed to advise the minister, recommended a 3,500 metric tonne fishery in the gulf. Even if the minister had not been willing to have a fishery somewhere between 3,500 metric tonnes and 7,000 metric tonnes, which, in my own personal and humble opinion, my recommendation to the minister would have been a 5,000 metric tonne fishery where the minister could have reduced the catch by 2,000 metric tonnes in the name of conservation, he could have gone to a more friendly gear type with hook and line. We could have taken more action on seals and some other actions recommended by the all party committee.

In my view, a 5,000 metric tonne fishery, done under the recommendations of the all party committee and the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council, would have given this stock a much better chance of rejuvenation and regeneration than what will happen now with a total closure.

I would not be standing in the House tonight suggesting that if I did not seriously believe that was what should have happened here. The all party committee gave the minister a very comprehensive fisheries management plan. In my view again, it is the first time in the history of this country and of our province where a federal minister of Fisheries and Oceans has been given a comprehensive fisheries management plan to deal with the cod situation in the gulf.

Having said that, I think I have explained why I have difficulty supporting the minister's decision. The most lingering question in the minds of Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans, in particular those fishermen and fish plant workers, and those communities affected by the minister's decision, is why the minister did not listen to the recommendation of his own conservation council.

There is a debate as to whether 3,500 metric tonnes is a real fishery or not, but if the minister had accepted the advice of his conservation council, then the people could have decided that for themselves. If they did not want to pursue the 3,500 metric tonne fishery or if fewer of them had pursued that 3,500 metric tonne fishery, it would have been a decision that they would have made.

However we felt, and we still feel as members of the all party committee, as do people who I have talked to in Newfoundland and Labrador, that there is a real need to have a limited commercial fishery in the gulf for all the right reasons. It is not because we do not believe in conservation. It is because we do believe in conservation. We believe the best way to deal with this issue is to engage people, sectors of the industry and, in particular, harvesters on the water.

If we take them off the water and do nothing else, we will, in my view, further decrease the biomass. We have done it for 10 or 11 years. We shut down the fisheries and did nothing else.

I ask members in the House tonight and others listening if they can please tell me what the state of the biomass is today after 10, 11 and 12 years of moratorium? The biomass is worse. Obviously closure is not the answer. People must be on the water. Other measures must be introduced in the name of conservation and in the name of rebuilding these fish stocks which are so important to the people in Newfoundland and Labrador and our rural communities.

As my colleague from Bonavista—Trinity—Conception has so rightly said, it is a Newfoundland and Labrador resource, it is an Atlantic Canada resource, it is a Canadian resource and it is a world resource. It is a food, a protein for this world that we are talking about rebuilding. Who in the name of God can talk against conservation? Who can talk against proper measures to rebuild that important resource for all of us, including the whole world?

Ten minutes is not very long in a situation like this but I respect having the time, and I know other members want to speak, but there is another thing I want to say.

I want to again go on the record again as saying that I do not support a closure. I support a limited commercial fishery. The minister has the authority to shut down the fishery which he announced last Thursday. I ask him to reconsider that. I ask him to at least reconsider establishing 3,500 tonnes at least in line with his own conservation council's recommendation.

When we have shut down fisheries in the past, many important components were part of that closure. There was an early retirement program based on certain criteria: age and experience in the industry. There was a licence buyout program for those who wanted to sell out their enterprises, who wanted to get out of the fishery because of their age or because they really did not see any hope.

This time there is no early retirement component and no licence buyout component. I asked the minister today in the House, as I did the day before yesterday, why those components were not there if he himself had made this decision. I also wanted to know why there was no extension to the employment insurance benefit program for those people who would be exhausting their benefits in the next few days or in the next two or three weeks, or for those who will not be able to fish lobster and crab because of the ice.

I have asked very legitimate questions that must be answered by someone in authority in the government. I think it is totally unacceptable that we have not seen fit to extend the employment insurance benefits to those people who need them, those people who have paid into the fund and those who have contributed to the surplus. We would not be precedent setting. We have done that on a number of occasions in the past. Why is it different this time? We cannot treat the people any differently this time than we have treated them in the past.

I have talked about the components. We have extended EI. We have had provisions for early retirement. We have had licence buyout programs. The people affected this time should have the same treatment. They cannot be discriminated against.

Every decision on the management of this resource is a federal government decision. The size of the boat, the type of gear, the length of the season and the total allowable catch are all federal government, DFO related management decisions. We have to take responsibility for it.

Those people who will be negatively impacted because of a decision made by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans must be treated fairly. We cannot treat them differently this time in 2003 than we treated them in 1992.

In conclusion I want to ask the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans for Canada to please reconsider his decision and to please take the advice of his fisheries resource conservation council and at least set the total allowable catch at 3,500 tonnes.

I ask the minister and other ministers to please consider an extension of the employment insurance program, to bring in an early retirement component and a licensed buyout program for those people who want to take it. There may be those who do not want to but the opportunity should be afforded them.

I ask the minister and other ministers in related portfolios in the government to please consider this on behalf of the people I represent and we all represent in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Cod FisheryEmergency Debate

7:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John M. Cummins Canadian Alliance Delta—South Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is not with a great deal of pleasure that I rise to speak to this issue because it is one that we addressed not that long ago in the House, the concerns that many of us had about the fisheries in Newfoundland and Labrador and elsewhere in the country. It is also a problem in a sense that is symptomatic of the fisheries department. That is what disturbs me the most.

I have been in this place almost 10 years and during that time there have been five federal ministers of fisheries. On the west coast, the sockeye salmon has a lifespan of about four years. It is said that the average fisheries minister does not last half the life cycle of the odd sockeye salmon. That is part of the reason we are standing here today. It is because there is no commitment on behalf of the government to putting in place the kind of leadership that is necessary to manage the fisheries resource in this country.

It just does not stop there. If we look at our fisheries committee, I have sat on the fisheries committee for the best part of the last 10 years. Certainly fisheries issues have been at the forefront of my interests in Parliament, aside from other constituency matters. Yet there are members in the House who have been here much longer than I, and unfortunately when I look at that committee, I am probably the senior member on it. That is not healthy because it says that there is a lack of corporate history and understanding of these issues and that is reflected in the very committees of the House, the committees that are charged with the responsibility of managing the fisheries resource.

It goes on from there. We have a new deputy minister now and this deputy minister is not a man who has a history in the fishery. He was a rear admiral, a navy man. I have not a clue what to say about the talents that individual will bring to the table when it comes to managing the fisheries resource. I have not a clue what to say about the kind of leadership he will be able to exert on the department. He is not somebody to whom I would want to go for advice if I were the minister of fisheries for this nation. I certainly would not be looking to an admiral for advice about fisheries matters.

However it just does not stop with the deputy. If we look at the assistant deputy ministers here, again they are largely inexperienced when it comes to management of the fisheries. They are people who may have demonstrated the ability to manage elsewhere in the government, and for some reason someone in the Liberal government feels that they are capable then of being a manager in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. However what do they bring to the table when it comes to accepting the advice of those people in the department who are working the field, who have a knowledge of the fishery and who have made it their life's business?

Of all the deputies in the department now, the only one that I can think of who has dedicated his civil service career to the fisheries is Mr. Chamut. Lord knows I have had many a battle over the last 10 years and before that with Mr. Chamut but for sure he has dedicated his civil service career to the fishery, he is knowledgeable and when we engage him in debate we know that we are debating someone who understands the fishery. He may not come to the same conclusions as us but at least he has some knowledge. Unfortunately, because of the requirements in this department, he is precluded from accepting or being promoted to the lead position in the department.

We have a problem in the fishery on the east coast and we have a problem in the fishery on the west coast because there is no competent leadership in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. There is no competent leadership at the political level. There is no competent leadership within the department.

As a way of an example, a couple of years ago the department put in place a manager whose career before that had been in the Coast Guard. The previous year this individual had been running a boat for the Coast Guard and all of a sudden he was deemed fit to be a manager of the Fraser River fishery. With that kind of leadership, I see the troubles continuing.

I am bothered by what I see here today. I am bothered by the decisions the minister had to make. I do not agree with many of the decisions he has reached but he certainly has my sympathy because he has a huge job and he does not have the troops backing him up.

It is common knowledge that some of the largest Newfoundland towns are now located in Alberta. That is a sad commentary. It gets to the very heart of what it means to be a Canadian and what it means, I am sure, to come from the great province of Newfoundland and Labrador because there are no job opportunities there. One of the major industries is being run by people who really have no business being in the position of managing a fishery because they do not have the experience and they do not have the background. However that is part of the problem we are facing in this country, and this lack of leadership is largely the reason why we are here today.

I mentioned that I had some sympathy for the minister and I do. However I have to be very critical of the decisions he has made recently and of the failure of the Liberal government over the past 10 years to make decisions that should have been made.

We know, as one of the members previously said, that the cod stocks on the east coast are in worse shape now than they were in 1992. In some areas they are only a fraction of the level that they were a decade ago. The reason for that is the government has taken no aggressive conservation measures to aid in the rebuilding of fish stocks on the east coast.

The government has allowed other fisheries to disturb cod spawning areas. Seal populations have mushroomed, moving in like a pack of wolves on a herd of unsuspecting lambs, attacking cod spawning and nursery areas, all without any response by the federal government. In fact this decade of moratorium has really become a free lunch program for seals.

The information that the department gives us, for example, on the harp seal population shows that in the 1970s the seal populations were at their lowest. In 1972, according to DFO estimates, the seal population reached a minimum of 1.85 million seals. By the 1990s, the harp seal population was increasing, it claims, at a rate of 5% a year, reaching 4.4 million seals in 1992. In 1999 the population had reached the level of 5.2 million seals.

I would like to know this from the government. What level of seals it feels is appropriate for the east coast? Is it the not quite two million that were there in the 1970s or is it some other magic number? If we are talking about two millions seals or three million seals, I would like to know how the government intends to get there because the plan that the minister has offered, the $6 million to examine this problem over the next couple of years, will not do the job. What is needed is some action on that front now. I would like to know just what direct action the government intends to take on this very critical area.

We have had a decade of seismic testing that went forward in fragile spawning stocks throughout the coastal waters on the east coast. Foreign fishing continues just off the continental shelf. The fisheries committee of the House and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador both called on the federal government to take over responsibility for the fishery on our part of the continental shelf extending beyond our 200 mile limit. That notion was rejected by the minister, and quite incorrectly so.

The support the minister had from all parties in the House of Commons and from the Newfoundland and Labrador government would have served him in good stead if he had decided to take it. However he chose to ignore that support and it weakened dramatically his efforts or influence at NAFO. That was a sad mistake by the minister.

The government, in making the decisions it did with this closure, failed. It took the advice of the scientists but it failed to take into account the vast knowledge of many of the people and fishermen living in many of the coastal communities of Newfoundland and Labrador and elsewhere had and were prepared to offer to the government.

The FRCC did not make that same mistake. It took the advice of the scientists and then went out and listened to the people. The decisions it made and the conclusions it came to were remarkably different from the conclusions the minister arrived at. Most important, the ban that the minister placed on fishing was not one that was supported by the FRCC.

I, and I am sure other members in the House, support a science-based fishery. I do not think there is any question about that but we also have to look elsewhere. There are other people who have a good handle on what is happening and those are the people who also manage the fishery. Those are the people who fish, as well. They have something to say because they have seen what has happened.

That is what the FRCC did when it took into account all the information it had that was available to it. It came to the conclusion that the best solution was a small ongoing fishery based on the information the fishery could provide to the scientists on an ongoing basis. Also it was to convince people that there was some hope.

If the fishery is shut down entirely, people will come to the conclusion that after 11 years of a moratorium it is not going anywhere and that the stocks are worse. If it is completely shut it down, it says to them it will continue to go downhill and there is no hope for the future.

The small fishery that was recommended was to serve two purposes primarily. One was to provide some ongoing scientific data. The second was that it would provide some hope to people that the fishery could survive and if the department was prepared to pay attention to the other issues, the fishery could revive.

One of the main issues was the seal predation. This is not something new. It is something the FRCC called for before. It is saying that there are certain spawning areas that must be seal exclusion zones. I heard members opposite laugh at the notion of a seal exclusion zone. They said that we could not put fences in the water or we could not do this or that. I understand that fully but I also know we have to somehow make the effort to ensure the spawning stocks are not preyed upon by the seals.

The kind of action that has to be taken will not be pretty perhaps to many people. We sure are not going to do it by running around trying to neuter seals. We will have to do it the old way and that is to have a cull. That to me, Mr. Speaker, is as plain to me as I am standing here and you are sitting there. The cull is especially needed in the seal exclusion areas about which the FRCC is talking.

The other issue that is most important is the one of seismic testing. Seismic testing is a critical issue and we have not done much in the way of science on that. However work has been done elsewhere and it is fairly conclusive, much of it done in Norway.

DFO scientists have advised the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board that seismic shooting kills plankton, including eggs and larva of many fish and shellfish species. The scientists noted that little scientific studies have been done on the spawning areas in Canada. However, they pointed to Norwegian studies on cod which they believed would be applicable to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

This is what the Canadian scientists told us. They said that cod moved at least 30 kilometres from the air guns that are used during this seismic testing. They noted the abundance in catch rates of cod did not return to levels observed prior to the seismic testing over the five days of observation following the testing.

They said that in other areas fisheries catch rates have been depressed by 50% within tens of kilometres of seismic shooting in certain areas. Similar effects have been reported for cod and the snow crab fisheries on the St. Pierre Bank.

The scientists noted that the west coast of Cape Breton and the Sydney Bight are key spawning and feeding grounds for cod. They warned again that any impacts from oil and gas exploration will be amplified due to the small, shallow, and closed nature of the environment there and of the high biomass and diversity year round.

This is compelling evidence that we have from Norway and yet it is ignored. It almost brings to mind the department's failure to look internationally for scientific evidence on other matters, including the aquaculture that we have talked about in the House.

Recently, Norwegian fisheries scientists reported in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences that seismic shooting severely affected fish location, local abundance, and catch rates in the entire investigation area. They noted that troll catches of cod and haddock declined as well. They said that abundance of catch rates again did not return to pre-shooting level for five days.

Why is it that the minister is prepared to force fishermen off the water when he is not prepared to take action against this seismic testing? Why is it that he is not prepared to call to account and hold to account this type of testing in these critical areas? Why is it that he is ignoring the advice of the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council?

I find it bothersome and troubling. As I said, the three issues here are that the minister has forced fishermen off the water against the advice of the FRCC. He is ignoring the recommendations and failing to take action now on the seal issue, one that is crying out for need. He is ignoring the advice on the seismic testing.

Without those three components the hope for a recovery is pretty slim. What is needed in this area is leadership. That leadership unfortunately has been lacking in the government for the past 10 years that I have been in this place. That leadership is not evident at the department right now because of this process of bringing managers in from elsewhere, rather than promoting from within the department and demanding excellence in fisheries management and an understanding of the fisheries resource within the department. It is exasperated as well by the minister's failure to take into account the knowledge that is out there about scientific testing.

I hope beyond hope that somehow the government will pay some attention to the debate. I hope that the minister will take another look at the decisions he has made. One of the best premiers that British Columbia ever had was W.A.C. Bennett. Bennett was a strong man and he made good decisions. He was always there and always willing to take a second look. That is what made him a great premier of British Columbia.

I would like to see this fisheries minister be remember as a great fisheries minister. I would like to see him take a second look.

Cod FisheryEmergency Debate

7:55 p.m.


Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As my hon. friend from Delta—South Richmond said, it is definitely not with great pleasure that I rise here today to speak about the moratorium that has been announced.

As a great and well-known historian said, history repeats itself, but never looks the same. Unfortunately, the impression we are getting here from the government is that history does repeat itself and looks much the same as before.

We can look and look for the reasons behind the moratorium— because of climate change, as some scientists have said; or because of the never-ending growth of the seal herds; or because of foreign overfishing—it does not change the fact that the real reason we are in this mess today, along with all the fishermen in Gaspé, the Lower North Shore, western Newfoundland and Labrador, is the federal government's mismanagement of the resources.

Let us ask ourselves the question quite simply. If there had been proper management, would we be facing a moratorium today? The answer is no. If the resource had been well managed, we would not have a moratorium today. No one has mentioned resource management since 1990 or 1992, except for imposing the moratorium. You can talk about the resource for 50 years, or 250 years. In Gaspé, as in Newfoundland, it is a 250-year-old tradition that is disappearing today.

There are communities, fish plants, businesses, women and men who are going to find themselves without work because the plants are going to close their doors. These are the people who get sent directly to social assistance. Because, despite official statements, the assistance plan offered to the people is shamefully small, does not meet the real needs of the people, and leads nowhere.

The announcement to the plant workers led, in my view, to a great deal of frustration. It had already been strongly rumoured in November or early December that there would be a total moratorium on cod fishing. I criticized the minister for this and I am going to do so again. At the time, he caused families and workers in the Gaspé Peninsula to panic, a month before the Christmas holidays.

I think that, from that moment on, serious consideration should have been given to developing an assistance plan so that, as soon as a moratorium was announced, we would have been ready to take action and offer assistance to these people.

What I find frustrating about all this, is obviously how badly this resource has been managed. It is obvious. Perhaps the current minister cannot be blamed for this bad management, but perhaps his government can be. There has been a moratorium on cod for ten years, and for ten years people have known that this stock is not being rebuilt. Therein lies my criticism of this government.

Consider what other countries do in similar situations, such as Iceland, for example. Iceland has managed to solve this kind of problem and, today, it has an abundant resource. But how? It is because the Government of Iceland took action when it was needed, even against the UK. Remember when Great Britain threatened to send in its war ships so that fishers in the UK could continue to fish inside Iceland's zone. Thanks to the resolve of its government, Iceland, which is a very small country, managed to protect its resources. It managed to ensure that this resource has prospered, and today people are making a good living off this fishery.

I understand the frustration of people in Newfoundland and Labrador, and I also understand the frustration of people in the riding of my hon. colleague from the North Shore. These people live exclusively off this resource. Entire communities may disappear, and the message they are being sent is “leave”. People in the Gaspé Peninsula are being told to leave. About 1,400 people are affected, and some observers say it is 2,000.

They are telling people to leave. People are being told they have no future in the Gaspé, that they have no future in Newfoundland or on the Lower North Shore.

We know perfectly well that the moratorium that has just been declared will not last for only two, three or four years. We know that the resource has not come back since the early 1990s, and that it will probably not come back in the affected zones because of a whole host of factors.

One of the factors people talk about, and I will come back to it, is the ever increasing numbers of seal herds, especially the grey seal. According to some observers, a seal consumes one tonne of fish per year, on average. Do you know what that means when there are five million seals? It means five million tonnes of fish.

When they say five million tonnes, it does not mean five million tonnes of whole fish. As some of our colleagues explained, or maybe they did not have enough time, the seal is a predator. The seal prefers the liver. What does the seal eat? It only eats a very small part of the fish. What do five million seals represent when we are talking about one million pounds? That is a lot more destruction, and a whole lot of destruction when you consider a herd of five million seals.

This is another good example of poor resource management. The seal is a resource that we could have started developing ten years ago. In fact, we could have started harnessing this resource or encouraging certain companies to adapt and move toward processing seal products.

I asked questions in the House about the seal industry. I was told, “Yes, there are markets”. There are markets but we cannot make it work, even with quotas of 350,000. Last year, 312,000 seals were harvested. The industry was not encouraged. The federal government had not invested in research and development to develop a valid industry that could have gradually replaced the ground stocks industry, knowing perfectly well that the resource was not coming back.

We have known for the last seven, eight or nine years that the resource is not coming back. There was another resource that we could have harnessed and we did not react accordingly. As for the assistance plan now being proposed, we need to consider the option of changing over plants. We need to start processing seal products and to start developing other markets that are different from those that we already have.

As I was saying, I have asked questions of the Minister for International Trade, among others, about why the negotiations, especially those with the Americans, are not getting anywhere. How is it that it is still banned today when there is a seal herd busy destroying the resource in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and off the shores of Newfoundland? How is it that they have not made it an urgent matter to negotiate the opening of a new market with the United States involving seal products, among other things?

The answer we are given is that negotiations are under way. If this is anything like the way things are usually done with international trade, if it is anything like the softwood lumber situation, we can wait a long time and cannot take the outcome for granted. If we depend on the Minister for International Trade to open up new markets in the U.S. we will be waiting a long time. As hon. members can see from that situation, results are a long time coming. Not only a long time, there just are not any results.

I would like to come back to the assistance package being offered. It has a strange resemblance to the plan offered in connection with softwood lumber. It has such a similarity to that situation, where the sawmills continue to shut down. Thousands of jobs have been lost and people have had no assistance. None whatsoever. There is supposedly a program in place for softwood lumber to help the communities but it has not necessarily helped the softwood lumber workers.

What I am calling for when I speak about a true assistance plan—and this is one of the things i have been saying since the moratorium was announced, and even before that, and on which I have asked many questions of the minister in this House—is a plan that will help the people affected by the moratorium. It is a plan that will help the affected workers. These are the ones that need to be helped now. Some in the Gaspé, as some of my colleagues have already pointed out, are already in those gaps as far as EI is concerned. It would have been necessary to extend EI benefits for these people so that they can, even if it takes three, four or five years, get training, change direction, make a decent life for themselves. This would have been important in the assistance plan.

Another important aspect of this aid package would be to provide assistance to the industry, to the businesses.

In our region, when we look at dried, salted fish, several businesses are jeopardized and are at risk of disappearing. We are talking about people who dedicated their whole life to developing these businesses and, all of a sudden, they are told, “You are going to close down; the business will no longer exist, and you will lose everything you have worked for”.

I think there is a liability and it rests with the federal government. Everyone recognizes that the federal government has the sole control and management of the resource and that we are in the position we are in today because of its management.

Had I been here in 1992, I would have said the exact same thing. Successive federal governments, regardless of stripe, have all totally mismanaged the fisheries.

One can wonder if the fisheries are important at all to the federal government. Does the government really care about the thousands of jobs at stake? Is it really important that the region and the people in the east can continue to have a decent living? This is not obvious to us in the east.

The resource has been mismanaged for years. For years we have been paying the price. Today, again, in a region where the unemployment rate is over 20%, we are being told, “1,400 jobs will be lost”. Do you know what that represents for us? That is roughly the equivalent of 30,000 jobs in Montreal. It would be a catastrophe on a national scale if Montreal were to lose 30,000 jobs, but it is not a national catastrophe because the jobs are only being lost in the Gaspé, along the Lower North Shore and in Newfoundland. That is the difference.

The east has never been given a fair shake by the federal government. This government has never acted intelligently to develop a new economy in our regions.

Here is another example. In 2000, during the election campaign, the Liberals came in and announced a plan to spend some $30 million, supposedly through Canada Economic Development, to help develop the Gaspé. Do you know what it was for? It was solely for loans and there was almost nothing for business. It was the Government of Quebec, with what little money it had at the time, that contributed.

I am convinced that the government that was just elected in Quebec City will continue to do the same thing. If we want to develop the regions, we have to rely on ourselves alone and not on the government, which only collects taxes from us and gives us nothing back in return.

For another example, take the case of air transportation in our regions. If ever a government has abandoned the regions when it comes to air transportation, it is this government. I could give all kinds of examples. postal services, land transportation, transportation systems in general. How are we supposed to develop a region if it is impossible to have an air transportation system that works properly? This is one of the problems we are currently experiencing.

Again, we are being told that the private sector will develop, but that is not true. Without government intervention in regions like ours, it is absolutely impossible.

I want to come back to the assistance plan announced for us concerning Canada Economic Development. If Canada Economic Development added $7 million in the Gaspé every year, that would be $14 million. However, if Canada Economic Development used the same criteria as previously announced, then it is useless.

It is a totally useless assistance plan because, in a region where the economy is in trouble and where the unemployment rate is 22 or 23%, development cannot happen the same way it could in Toronto or in Vancouver. The criteria have to be changed and adapted so that very small businesses can create one, two or three jobs, and slightly larger businesses, small and medium size businesses, can also have access to the Canada Economic Development program. However, for the time being, the criteria are such that each time or nearly each time a business person submits a project, he or she is told that it does not qualify. I have good examples of that.

Last week, a business from Pointe-à-la-Croix came knocking on the door of the Canada Economic Development office in Gaspé. It was told that its project was stupid, or almost. That is what these people were told, even though their project is very good and is supported by the Quebec government. Among its sponsors is the Liberal member who was just re-elected in the riding of Bonaventure.

The federal government, through Canada Economic Development, told these people that it could not help them with this project. We see that constantly in our regions, particularly in the Gaspé peninsula.

Yet the riding of Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-de-la-Madeleine—Pabok is well represented by a Liberal member. That should change things, but it does not. Day after day, people will realize that because both he and I are told the same thing each and every time, namely that the projects do not meet the criteria, that they are not good, and so on.

This is what we heard when we went to Newfoundland with the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans not too long ago. There was an assistance program in 1992, but every time a project was submitted, the answer was that it did not meet the criteria. This is what the officials were telling people and, in some areas, the money was not even spent entirely. It is as simple as that. No project by these people could meet the criteria of Economic Development Canada. It is impossible for our regions to do what is done in Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver.

In conclusion, I will say that the seal, among others, has been often targeted, and there are several reasons for that, but the most fundamental reason is the mismanagement by the federal government, its inability to manage the resource. Things have to change, and quickly.

Right now, there is pressure on other resources, for example, crab, lobster and shrimp; further resources are not being developed in an efficient manner. We cannot let the moratorium be extended to other species, because we will find ourselves in the same situation.

I ask the government to undertake, for once, to really manage the resource with a vision for the future. This must not be a vision for a week or a year, but a vision for the future, over a 10, 15 or 20 year period. This is the only way to manage this resource.

Cod FisheryEmergency Debate

8:10 p.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I wish to thank the Speaker of the House of Commons for the opportunity for members of Parliament from all parties to debate what I consider to be a serious issue facing this country today.

I also wish to honour all those firefighters who are here in Ottawa today lobbying on behalf of their members across the country for serious issues. We congratulate them on their lobbying efforts and wish them good luck and Godspeed in the future.

Many people have asked me over the last few days why I do not ask the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to resign. I do not think that will help in the debate. I happen to like the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans as a human being. He is a decent person and a good family man. I do not blame this entire action on him. I blame it on the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the government for the inaction that it has displayed over the years, especially to the good people in Newfoundland and Labrador. We cannot go forward unless we know where we have been.

I want to honour and commend all the elected officials, the members of Parliament, the MLAs and the municipally elected people of Newfoundland and Labrador for the great work that they have done. I honour those members of Parliament from Newfoundland and Labrador, Liberals and Tories--unfortunately, there are no New Democrats, but we are working on it--for their outspokenness in defending the interests of their people. They should be congratulated and I say that in a non-partisan manner.

In 1949, when Canada had the privilege of joining the province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Confederation, those people in Newfoundland and Labrador gave Canada one of the finest, richest, most plentiful resources in the history of any transfer of one nation to another. It was the fisheries resource.

We should ask ourselves, in the last 54 years have the people in Newfoundland and Labrador been well served by Liberal and Conservative governments on the protection of the fish stock? The answer is an incredible no.

Since 1989 the government and other governments have spent over $5 billion of Canadian taxpayers' money readjusting the east coast fisheries. Where are we today? We should ask ourselves as taxpayers, are we well served by our tax dollars in this department? This department gets $1.4 billion of taxpayers' money every year to do one thing and one thing only: to protect the habitat of wild fish and protect the wild fish themselves.

However, on all three coasts and in inland waters it is the most resoundingly disgraceful display of management that I have ever seen. I have been on the fisheries committee since 1997. There have been close to 20 reports handed to the government. The vast majority have been unanimous. It is unbelievable that our 1998 report of the east coast report that was chaired by George Baker of Newfoundland was completely ignored by the government. If action had been taken on those recommendations in 1998, I am sure we would not be here tonight debating the decline of the cod stocks.

In 1973 the then Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Romeo LeBlanc, cancelled and cut out the fisheries research board. That started the decline of science in our fisheries.

This is where I go to the thrust of my speech. What the minister and his department are doing, knowingly or unknowingly, is dishonest to the people of Canada. If we were to privatize the resource into corporate hands, we should tell the people of Canada and the fishermen and their families exactly what we were doing. That started with the 1982 Kirby report when National Sea Products and Fishery Products International were created. That started the corporatization of our fish stocks in this country.

In 1996 we had the Mifflin plan on the west coast. Overnight half the commercial fishermen were gone. Anyone who was in Sointula when we did our west coast reports in 1999 will remember the fishermen in their forties with their families crying before the committee. They were crying with tears in their eyes and asking why the government did that to them. Our only answer was that the government was privatizing a common property resource into the hands of the corporations. Look at the west coast now. One man, Jimmy Paterson, effectively controls over 45% of the salmon stocks on the west coast of Canada.

That is ridiculous and uncalled for, which is why I am really upset with Mr. Crosbie, the former fisheries minister of Canada, who is now in Newfoundland. He says that the only way to solve this problem is through ITQs, individual transferable quotas. That is the privatization of a common property resource that belongs to all Canadians. He wants it to go into the hands of a few so that those very rich multinational corporations can make an awful lot of money off a public resource. How do they do it? They rape and pillage the resource. They give the minister no other option but to cancel out the fishery and get rid of the independent fisherman and his or her family.

They did this to the farm families on the prairies. In 2001, Saskatchewan and Alberta lost 22,000 farm families, independent people who are gone from the industry. But the land is still producing. Companies like Pioneer and Cargill have moved in and taken over. We are moving to a corporatization of our agriculture and now we are doing the exact same thing to the fishermen. That is unacceptable.

All the people in Newfoundland and Labrador and in my province of Nova Scotia, in P.E.I. and in New Brunswick, want to do is fish, look after their families and live in their ancestral homes in their communities of Port au Port, L'Anse aux Meadows, La Scie, Gaultois, Burgeo, Ramea, and it goes on and on. These are historic names in the great province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

What is the response from the federal government? It is “bye-bye, time to go”.

In my office I have a picture from Ted Stuckless, a great Newfoundland artist. It is a picture of a guy sitting up in a dory with a make and break engine. He is rolling a cigarette, he has logs in the boat, and he is dragging his home from one end of the bay to the other. At least Joey Smallwood, the former premier, had the courage to tell people he was going to resettle them. This government does not even have the courage to tell Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, “You're going to move, folks”. Anyone who does not believe that these people are going to have to move like their brothers, sisters and cousins did in 1992 is sadly mistaken. That is the legacy that this Prime Minister is going to have to wear. That is shameful and it is unacceptable. The people deserve more.

A lot of people out west where I grew up used to think of Newfoundlanders as the 10-42 club: work 10 weeks and get 42 weeks of EI. I have been to Newfoundland many times and that is not the case at all. These are hard-working people. They are industrious people. I am surrounded by them now. Their representatives are here and they have done a great job representing the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

What is our response? How are we going to solve it now? Cut out their livelihood. Guess what we are going to do, Mr. Speaker. We are going to give them enough money for a make work project. Why? So they can get EI. And then what, Mr. Speaker? Then what are they going to do? Nothing. These people have been screwed royally by this government and it is unacceptable.

This is for the good people of Newfoundland and Labrador: I understand the frustration they have with the minister for ACOA, the minister of fisheries, the Prime Minister and everybody else, but I ask them, please, I beg of them not to burn the Canadian flag, or any other flag, for that matter. The people of Newfoundland and Labrador gave with their blood in the Battle of Beaumont Hamel, one of the greatest battles of all time. They died under the flag. We have peacekeepers from Newfoundland and Labrador who died under the Canadian flag.

I beg the fishermen, their representatives and the people in Newfoundland and Labrador. I know they are mad. I know they are angry. But I beg them not to take it out on the Canadian flag. There are other ways of doing it and more peaceful means of demonstrating their anger at this government, and we will be there to help. I will not be there by myself. I work on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans and I am blessed and honoured to be able to work on that committee with such great people from all parties. I have worked with some great members since 1997 and I continue to do so now. It is an honour to work with that committee. That committee will be in St. John's, Newfoundland on May 7. We want to hear the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. We want to hear what we can do to present their concerns and to bring their concerns back to Ottawa. We will not let them down in this fight. We will continue to fight for them. We need to help them out.

Let me move on now to the fact that an all party committee of Newfoundland and Labrador provincial and federal representatives took a great political risk by getting together in a non-partisan manner to come up with recommendations to present to the federal government. I was honoured to hear them. The member for Bonavista--Trinity--Conception was the chair of that committee. The premier of Newfoundland, Mr. Grimes, with the opposition leader, Danny Williams, the leader of the NDP, Jack Harris, and industry representatives came up with what I thought was a very good report.

All the minister had to do was say that if the people who live by the resource, honour the resource, have a reputation on the resource, and live adjacent to the resource thought this was the way to go then he would honour that agreement. But what did the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans do? He literally slapped his own colleagues in the face by ignoring the report, absolutely ignoring it. I find that incomprehensible.

In fact, that was not the only report the minister ignored. The minister stands up and says, “I am for conservation”, but he also ignores the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council report. Let me read into the record what the council said. It is a great book. One only has to go page 6 to get the whole thrust of the report. It states:

The Council is unequivocal in stating that for both cod stocks, the urgency of the situation this year means that the “status quo” is no longer appropriate. In its analysis of a complete closure of the Gulf cod stocks, the Council concludes--

This is the minister's council.

--that this too is an unrealistic option that would in no way guarantee stock rebuilding. The difficulty the Council has with such a draconian approach--

I did not say that and the Newfoundland representatives did not say that. The Fisheries Resource Conservation Council said that.

--is that, taken on its own, it does nothing to assure prospects for an immediate, substantial and durable improvement in stock condition. Moreover, there is a view that a closed fishery--and an alienated fishing sector--would actually result in an increase in unreported mortality.

This is exactly what the member for Burin--St. George's said so eloquently. The council continued:

The Council judges this to be a real threat that could inflict continued undetected harm to the resource.

In rejecting the wholesale closure option, the Council acknowledges that only in partnership with fishermen--who must take responsibility themselves for stewardship of the resource--

That is exactly what New Democrats have been saying year after year: that we have to eliminate this top down approach of managing our fish stocks from Ottawa to the water. We must institute a policy of a community based, cooperative, co-management agreement of the fish stocks. The Fisheries Resource Conservation Council says that. This idea is not new.

Mr. Speaker, if you ever have the opportunity to go to a great island off Newfoundland, Fogo Island, you will meet people with a cooperative nature who have co-management of their fisheries resource. That is the shining light and an example of exactly how we should be moving in the direction of management of our fish stocks.

Another example of this is Sambro Fisheries Limited in my home province of Nova Scotia. This is another great example of DFO, the province, the fisheries and the community getting together to work out quotas, enforcement, scientific information, et cetera, and it works. The top down approach is no longer good enough. There are 1,600 people working for DFO at 200 Kent Street and nobody in that department fishes for cod or crab or lobster or caplin in the Rideau Canal. We have to reduce that department in Ottawa and move those people to where the resource is. That will change it around.

One of the major problems we have in fisheries management in Newfoundland and Labrador and around the country is the lack of Coast Guard patrols. Last year I was in St. John's, Newfoundland, and I asked the Coast Guard for Newfoundland and Labrador just how many patrol boats were patrolling the coast of Labrador and Newfoundland at that time. There was one. There were seven vessels altogether and one was patrolling the waters. I asked where it was: in the harbour.

Where is the enforcement? Where is it? This is unbelievable. We do all these reports and give them to the minister and he shuts them down every single time.

Now I come to the other crux of the matter. The all party committee of fisheries and oceans of the House of Commons did a report on foreign overfishing in the 200 mile limit. Last year, we heard that the Russian vessel Olga had 49 metric tonnes of moratorium cod in its hold. It was not allowed to have those fish on its boat. What happened? The ship was sent back to Russia. For what? What was the Russian government going to do to the captain and the fisheries?

I have a document from people within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. It is a Russian manifest of fish caught before April 8, 2002. This is the type of document I am never privileged to have. There are certain people in DFO who had the courage and the chutzpah to forward this type of information to members of Parliament so we can expose the truth.

My good friend from Burin--St. George's has advised me that the people of Gaultois cannot fish for redfish. Why? Because there is a huge bycatch of cod in that area and they cannot risk it, but this Russian vessel was caught before April 8, 2002, with 269,000 kilograms of redfish. The bycatch of cod was 7,650 kilograms. Also, on the hold of this ship was found 990 kilograms of frozen cod liver. To have that amount of cod liver in a boat, they would have had to catch 66,000 pounds of codfish. That cod is under moratorium. What are they doing with that fish in the hold?

That is one vessel out of the hundreds that are raping and pillaging our oceans. We are the coastal state and we have the responsibility to protect those fish stocks. What does the minister say? He says, “There is not much we can do, folks, we are just going to have to shut out the Newfoundland and Labrador fishermen and get rid of them. We will appease the foreigners and take care of the corporations and tell those hard-working, decent people in Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec that they cannot have any, that these ships will come into the ports of Newfoundland and Labrador and they will brag about all the fish they catch”.

Another thing in regard to these boats was the Tynda , operated by Master Vladimir Shakmaev. There were 34,000 kilograms of fish meal in the hold of the ship. There would have to be 580,000 pounds of groundfish to have that much fish meal. None of that groundfish was reported. What type of groundfish was it? We do not know. It could easily have been cod. It could have been haddock, pollock, plaice or turbot.

Cod FisheryEmergency Debate

8:25 p.m.

An hon. member

Small cod.

Cod FisheryEmergency Debate

8:25 p.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

We do not know. It could have been small cod or all kinds of things. We simply do not know. Why do we not know? Because we do not have the guts to stand up to the foreigners and tell them to stop overfishing our stocks.

We have the ability, we have the right and we have the responsibility to protect those fish stocks for all of mankind. All we are asking is that the government emplace custodial management in the fishery. If that is done we will not kick out the foreigners. We basically will tell them that they can fish but they will fish under Canadian management rules. They will fish and we will check the holds. We will make sure they catch only what they are allowed to catch and then they will leave. If we do that, very clearly we will look after the situation.

As well, there is the situation of seals. It has been brought up many times. In a seal report by the member for Miramichi, who was our chairperson, we said we needed to develop markets for seal products. What is the government going to do? It is going to spend $6 million to study how seals eat cod. In order to harvest the seals in a sustainable manner in a way such that we can export that great product, we need to develop markets around the world. That would be a wise investment in terms of reducing the seal population. To announce a cull of seals would be disastrous for the rest of the industry.

I do not know what else I can say except that I am very upset by and disappointed with the decision of the minister. He had options. He said it was based on science, but his own scientists say they ran out of money to complete the surveys.

They did not even include catch data from fishermen in his report. Yet he still decided to get rid of it. That only leads me to conclude that they want to eliminate the independent fisherman and his family and turn it over to the corporate sector. If they are going to do that, they might as well have the courage to say so.

In the end, I want to congratulate the people in Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec for what they are going through and for keeping their heads held high. I can assure everyone on behalf of my party and the colleagues of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans that we will do what we can to try to convince the minister, his department and the Prime Minister to change their minds, to go back to the people in Newfoundland and Labrador, listen to them and input the policies and regulations that the all party committee had stated we should do. If they do that, it will go a long, great way.