Mr. Speaker, I know what the minister is trying to say. He is trying to say that guy over there embarrassed him so he tried to clarify his position. He still talks about close consultation. I asked the minister specifically if he had meetings with the committee and with whom. He did not say he had, but that is the impression he left.
All I wanted to do was clarify the impression. The minister did that. I accepted his explanation earlier. I just wanted to get it on the record so the people across the country knew the kind of consultation the minister had.
I also asked the minister if the committee had given approval to the amendments. I do not want to misquote him because he can get the blues and correct me. Maybe the minister could read the exact words, but I think he said that he agreed with something.
I would like to put some comments on the record. It is a letter to the minister from the joint committee. It states:
We thank you for your recent letter in relation to the reintroduction of legislative proposals included in--
It was the old Bill C-43 and now Bill C-33 I believe. I am interested in what is meant by “We thank you for your recent letter”. I am wondering if that is the extent of the consultation. The letter goes on to say:
You have asked for the Committee's views “on whether the amendments as proposed in Bill C-43 address the Committee's issues”. We are pleased to confirm that the proposed amendments would, if adopted, remove the basis of the Joint Committee's objections to the Aboriginal Command Fishing Licences Regulations and to SOR/8993, the Ontario Fishery Regulations, 1989. We would appreciate your advice as to when you propose to reintroduced the proposed legislation.
The minister undoubtedly has reintroduced legislation and the committee members are asking about his views. The letter further states:
Our acknowledgement that the amendments included in Bill C-43 would resolve the Committee's objections--
The committee members are saying, “Yes, our objections are met”. The letter continues:
--[in relation] to the legality of the relevant regulatory provisions does not imply an endorsement of those amendments....
Therefore, the committee is not endorsing the amendments that the minister proposed to make. The letter goes on:
Particularly as regards the proposed section 10(1), which impose a legal duty to comply with the terms and conditions of a licence, we can conceive that some parliamentarians might object to subjecting such non-compliance to penal sanctions that include imprisonment. To deprive a citizen of his liberty on the ground that the citizen has failed to abide by requirement imposed by a public official in the exercise of an administrative power, such as a term or condition of licence, could be thought undesirable as a matter of legislative policy.
Given that the matter is one of policy and, as such, lies beyond the remit of the Joint Committee, we do not wish to be perceived to be taking a position on the desirability of those legislative amendments. We trust that this will be satisfactory....
It is signed by the joint chairs and the vice-chair of the committee. One of the two joint chairs of course is one of our members and the vice-chair is a Liberal.
Therefore, the committee is raising a major concern about the amendments the minister intends to put forth. Will the minister during the debate over the next couple of weeks clarify for us why he is bringing in a bill that might have an adverse effect on the people who will be affected?
The minister talks about the scrutiny of regulations committee, and let me give him credit. He is a new minister and there are things he is doing and there are issues he has taken up. The way he is presenting himself on the issues is refreshing compared to what we have seen in the past. However, maybe it is time for this new minister to realize that he has a department under his thumb which, if properly run, and for which, if he does not let himself be run by some of the bureaucrats who have been around and if he wants to set a direction that should be set on fisheries in this country, we have a chance to take a renewable resource from the west to the east to the north and in the Great Lakes, of course, and at points in between, because we have tremendous fishery resources throughout the country.
If there is some proper management and if there are some proper regulations put in, if we eliminate, as we saw when I raised some of the points earlier in question period, the manipulation of that resource for the sake of friends and colleagues as we have seen in the past, if we properly manage and let this resource grow and multiply, if we see that it is harvested properly, if we see it is processed properly, and if we get the right markets, the amount of employment and the enhancement of the economy that could be derived from the proper care of this resource would be phenomenal.
We get caught up in the Atlantic provinces, and I look at my friend from Cape Breton, and off Nova Scotia in the minister's own province, off my province of Newfoundland and Labrador, where we have tremendous oil and gas resources. A lot of people look at us--and what is that old saying we cannot say anymore because it is not politically correct?--and say, “Why are you flogging a dead horse? Give up on the fishery, boy, it's a thing of the past. Oil and gas is the order of the day”.
Oil only lasts for a while. Gas only lasts for a while. Eventually the oil will be gone and the gas will be gone. And we have seen some great mines come and go. We have seen places like Bell Island, and we can go across the country, pick a province, and pick an area or the mines. Certainly, again looking at my friend from Cape Breton, he knows all about it. People lived for years and raised their families based upon working the mine. Everybody was proud to be a miner. We had whole communities such as Buchans and Bell Island in particular, I think, wiped out when the mines closed. There is only so much ore in the ground and it does not grow. It may develop over hundreds and thousands and millions of years but it does not grow back.
Fish, on the other hand, can grow and multiply rapidly, but not if we pursue the direction we are seeing happen and not if we let every enemy of the cod, the salmon, the herring, the squid and the whole works, every enemy of the species, go out and just pursue that fish.
With the science we have today, with the big dragger stuff we have, with the technology we have, we can find every last fish in the ocean. Unless somebody manages that resource, and with some teeth, we will see that last fish being caught. That is a travesty and the minister has a heavy responsibility on his shoulders.
So when we talk about scrutiny, I believe that instead of worrying about rushing in bills that may cause all kinds of problems, we should be looking at the resource we have and trying to bring in some bills we can enact into law so that we can address what is happening to our renewable resources, so that we can address the predators, whether they be human or animal, so that we can make sure there is a balance in nature once again, and so that we can make sure that those from other countries who share that resource do so under the rules and regulations that are set out.
We have not seen any leadership in fisheries. Over the last number of years, way back, we have seen governments that have thought more about being friendly and appeasing their friends across the ocean than they have about the people who live within the borders and the boundaries of our country. That has to change.
Let me say this to the minister. There are so many games being played today within the fishery, many of them completely outside his control. There seems to be this big package of greed that has developed and everybody wants a piece of what is left. Nobody cares about the other person. Whether the plant workers get any more work does not matter as long as we can catch the fish, whether I can catch more than the next guy whether I can sell it or not, and if I can keep the other guy from getting any. All of this stuff is developing. That is terrible stuff. The only way this can be cured is with a firm hand at the helm. I believe that is the challenge to the minister.
I suggest to the minister that instead of worrying about little things, which may cause major problems, as the committee points out to him, he should start looking at the big things that could solve a lot of our problems.
In the two minutes that remain to me, let me pick up on another phrase that the minister talked about, “democratic reform”, and letting committees have more say. If the minister had not used that phrase, I would not have asked him the questions I asked. We hear so much from this continuation government, the Liberal government continued, phase two. We hear so much from these Liberals about democratic reform and the democratic deficit. We certainly have a democratic deficit. We all realize that. We have a democratic deficit that is widening daily. We had a new Prime Minister come in with the old government and he talked about addressing the democratic deficit. In reality, that is the biggest joke we have heard for years, because all we have seen is a widening of the democratic deficit.
Ministers have been told to go out there and pretend the government is doing something. When the minister talks about the great work of committees and having to use committees more, and about how the government has to consult with them and it is consulting with them, and committees are advising, we find out that is really not the case. The minister writes a letter to the committee. The committee basically responds and says to him, “Mr. Minister, phase one, yes. The legislative part needs to be tightened up, but the amendment you want to make, we cannot say because it is not our job. We do not have the jurisdiction to say, but we would suggest to you that you are way off line and we think these amendments can cause irreparable harm”.
So there are two things. Number one, there is no consultation. Number two, when committees talk to the government members, they ignore them. That is not correcting the democratic deficit. That is just digging a hole for themselves. It is like being down three to two and playing a bad game. We have to get our act together and try to turn it around. It can be done. We must have faith. It can be done, but it takes leadership.
My time is up, but I will say to the minister that he has a tremendous challenge ahead of him. He should forget the facade. He should forget about trying to appease government and just coming out with the little frills. Let us attack the big issues and, instead of making critical remarks from this side, we will work with him and applaud the efforts that he will put forward, I am sure, on behalf of the government and on behalf of our country.