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House of Commons Hansard #109 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was fishery.

Topics

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

John Cummins Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

Madam Speaker, the member and I are singing from the same song sheet on this issue. The issue is that under the Fisheries Act the government has the ability to put in place a regulation.

If we look at section 184 of Bill C-62, the Fisheries Act, introduced in Parliament in 1996, it talks about offences under the act to which section 181 applies and the manner in which those offences may be described in tickets. It talks about classes of offences referred to in paragraph (d) and the amount of the fine for each class.

Basically, section 184 details sections under the act or it gives an overview of the regulations under the act, the government's ability to respond to violations and the manner in which it will respond to violations. As we indicated earlier, the joint committee provides the scrutiny to ensure that those regulations meet with the intentions of Parliament.

Bill C-52 gives that regulation making authority, although it talks about licensed conditions, to bureaucrats. It gives those bureaucrats the unfettered ability to put in place their own form of regulation to govern the fishery, to give access to quotas to friends of the government and to discriminate between groups of fishermen.

The question then becomes what recourse do fishermen have to challenge these conditions that have been attached to their licence? They will not be able to challenge offensive regulations in court because Parliament will have given bureaucrats the authority to make those regulations. The fishermen will not have the ability to come to us as members of Parliament and ask of how we can help them on an issue because Parliament will have given the bureaucrats the authority to act. In order to challenge a bureaucrat, we would have to change the law.

That is the problem with this legislation. It puts the fishermen in a very vulnerable position. It gives the bureaucrats the authority that one might expect the minister to have, but even the minister's authority is held in check by Parliament.

These bureaucrats will have more authority than Parliament even dreamt of giving the fisheries minister. That is why this bill is so offensive.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, we have touched on this. When we are looking at regulation that comes outside the scope of parliamentary scrutiny, then we are looking at something we do not want to see happen.

Again, many do not have the confidence in DFO because of the past track record in terms of managing the fishery and not fulfilling a mandate in terms of protection and conservation of the species. The more control that ends up in the bureaucracy, the less comfortable people will feel around the fact that the fishery will be protected.

If there is not a way for Parliament to have oversight on this, it will be very much a challenge for us to feel comfortable with that.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

John Cummins Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

Madam Speaker, one would have thought that members on the government side would have been eager to now stand in their allotted time and defend their bill, but apparently that is not the case. To be quite honest, I can certainly understand why the members opposite do not want to stand to defend this particular bill.

Let us look at the bill. Bill C-52 amends the Fisheries Act to “provide that a breach of a term or condition of a permission” granted under section 4 of the act, “or of a licence or lease” under the act is an offence. This amendment is meant to make it easier for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to enforce the act, so the department says.

The issue here is that Bill C-52 was before this House as Bill C-33 in the third session of the 37th Parliament, and as Bill C-43, again in the 37th Parliament. Both of these bills died on the order paper. In a sense, it does not really take a whole of thought to understand why.

At the introduction of Bill C-52, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans suggested that the bill comes about because the Senate and House of Commons Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations tabled a disallowance report, and the government failed to respond to that disallowance report with substantive legislation.

There is a problem there. If we look at the backgrounder document that the government distributed to members of the opposition and others, we will see that it states that this bill adds a clause to the Fisheries Act requiring licence holders to obey conditions of their licence, effectively moving the regulation in question into the act and thereby obtaining permission from Parliament for such a requirement.

That particular phrase rather clouds the issue, because it does not really tell the story of what this bill would do. The government says it would like to have passed the bill in all its splendour this afternoon and alluded to the fact that it is “hurry up” and that if the bill is not passed the Ontario minister will be unable to manage the fishery.

It should be noted today that the scrutiny of regulations committee first advised the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in 2000 that the governing Ontario fisheries regulations were illegal, which means that five years ago the government was advised that these regulations were illegal.

The regulations governing the Fisheries Act and the act itself actually make up quite a good document. It is 137 years old, as some members opposite suggested today, and to be quite honest I think it is still quite a good bill. The bill itself makes very clear what the minister's powers are and it makes very clear what the minister's obligations are when it comes to protecting the resource.

On the offence side, sections 181 through to 184 make clear the procedures that government must follow if it is going to enforce the act, and I think those procedures are laid out in a very clear fashion for everyone to understand. The regulations that flow from that act are scrutinized by the joint committee of the Senate and the House of Commons to ensure that the regulations are in fact consistent with the obligations as set out in this particular act.

Therefore, I do not have a problem with the Fisheries Act and neither does the Senate and House of Commons Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations, which makes it very clear that within the act itself the government has the authority to manage the fisheries.

If Bill C-52 is not passed today, it does not mean the end of the world, as the Ontario Minister of Natural Resources suggests. It simply means that perhaps a little more work is going to have to be done by the bureaucrats to put in place appropriate regulations to ensure that those regulations are in compliance with the Fisheries Act and meet the demands of the act. That should not be too difficult for government to do. In fact, that should be the obligation.

I would like to now turn the clock back a little. My friend from Winnipeg will probably remember this issue better than most. I am referring back to March 6, 1986, and a speech in the House by the Hon. Ray Hnatyshyn, who was the President of the Privy Council at that time and the minister responsible for regulatory affairs. At that time he introduced in the House the citizens' code of regulatory fairness. He stated that it was a unique initiative based on the principle that Canadians are entitled to know in as much detail as possible exactly how government regulations are to carry out responsibilities. Citizens have a right to know the rules of the game and know that they will be fair.

That is what the citizens' code of regulatory fairness was all about. I will quote from the guiding principle of this regulatory policy. Principle No. 6 notes, “Regulation is legislation and, as such, will be brought more fully under the control of elected government representatives and subjected to more effective review by Parliament”.

Principle No. 7 of the regulatory policy stated that “the public has an important role to play in the development of regulation and the government will increase public access to and participation in the regulatory process while simplifying procedures and restricting legalities to the minimum”.

Is that not interesting? Back in 1986, almost 20 years ago, introduced in the House was a document which in fact I think speaks very clearly about what the government is not doing today and what it should be doing, the document being, of course, this citizens' code of regulatory fairness.

According to the policies and the guiding principles of this piece of legislation from 1986, it required public participation in the regulatory process and input from the public to ensure that the public fully understood the regulatory process that they were to be governed by and guided by, and that they had input. “Anything but” is the case today.

The code's purpose, as Mr. Hnatyshyn stated, was “to provide a high set of standards for ensuring regulatory fair play”. He said, “The code also provides an explicit basis for judging the performance of regulators. In this way, the code is intended to regulate the regulators”.

There is no regulation of the regulators in this particular bill. In fact, what the bill does is give the departmental bureaucrats, who visited upon the country the cod crisis of 1992 and who visited upon fisheries on the west coast the disaster of 2004, the ability to make regulations on the fly without public input and without the scrutiny of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations. It gives them carte blanche to do what they want and to establish regulations as they see fit without any scrutiny whatsoever. For me, that goes beyond the pale.

I do not want to give the minister the power to have bureaucrats create regulatory offences without some safeguards; I am not prepared to simply turn over to fisheries bureaucrats the ability to make regulations governing the fishery without the appropriate scrutiny. I think that is wrong and I think that for this place to allow this to go forward is just outrageous. It is beyond the pale that the government would bring in a bill of this sort.

The citizens' code of regulatory fairness addresses this issue as well in point 6 of the code. It states that “the rules, sanctions, processes and actions of regulatory authorities will be securely founded in law”.

If a bureaucrat can make regulations on the fly, where is the guarantee that those regulations would be securely founded in law? Where is it? Where is the scrutiny to see that in fact the regulations the bureaucrat is putting in place are regulations that were envisioned by this place when the Fisheries Act and its amendments were passed? It is not there.

Point 7 of the code states that “the government will ensure that officials responsible for developing, implementing or enforcing regulations are held accountable for their advice and actions”.

Accountable? When have we ever held officials in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans accountable? Can anybody name one official in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans who was held accountable during the cod collapse on the east coast or during what went on last year on the west coast? The crisis last year was about the fourth we have had since 1992 and nobody has ever been held to account.

In fact, let us look at one of the latest newspaper headlines: “Ottawa pays officials $32-million in bonuses”. There is also a graph showing us that 223 of 237 executives at the fisheries and oceans department received bonuses totalling $1.7 million. Those bonuses went to officials and executives of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans last year when those boys last year cost the economy of British Columbia probably $70 or $80 million, at a modest estimate, and maybe even as much as $150 million, also a modest estimate, because of lost opportunities in the next cycle of the 2004 fishery. In other words, in 2008 the loss to the economy of British Columbia could total $150 million, yet those guys received bonuses this year.

Where is the accountability? The citizens' code of regulatory fairness says that these bureaucrats should be held accountable. I do not see any accountability in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, none whatsoever. What I do see with Bill C-52 is the transference of this regulation making authority from the minister or from this place to a bureaucrat, without any scrutiny whatsoever, none, zero.

Nobody is standing there saying that this particular licence condition does not meet the demands or the expectations of the act. It simply says that the bureaucrat can put in place a condition and nobody has any right to challenge it.

If the issue is brought to court, the court would simply acknowledge that Parliament put that regulation in place and it gave that bureaucrat the authority to make that particular condition that is attached to the licence and nobody can do anything about it. The court will simply acknowledge that the bureaucrat has the authority and it will do absolutely nothing to protect the fisherman who is hurt.

As I said to my colleague earlier, if a fisherman who is hurt by that particular piece of legislation comes to a member of Parliament, there is essentially nothing that we could do short of trying to obtain some change to the act to rein the authority of the bureaucrat, but nothing else could be done.

Not one member in this place should find any solace in this bill, nor should there be support for it. It is beyond the pale and my wildest imagination why anyone would want to give this authority to the bureaucrats who caused the destruction of the 2004 Fraser River sockeye run or who were directly responsible, in many ways, for failing to serve notice at the very least to government that there was a crisis in the cod fishery on the east coast before it was too late. Why would we want to give these bureaucrats authority to continue to act with licence? I do not know. I just plain do not understand it.

Bill C-52 would make it a criminal offence to break an unpublished secret law written by unaccountable bureaucrats.

Bill C-52 would put no limits on the nature and scope of the terms and conditions that can be imposed on fishermen.

Bill C-52 would put no limits on the penalty, the breach of every secret term or condition that is punishable by imprisonment. The penalty is not tailored to fit the crime.

Bill C-52 would remove the requirements to publish or make public the regulations.

There is no requirement in Bill C-52 that everyone in a fishery should face the same set of licence conditions. There is no requirement that every fisherman would face the same sets of terms and conditions to fish, so that the fishery then could be tailored and there could be different rules for different people.

Regulations under the Fisheries Act make those who write regulations accountable to Parliament as a whole and in particular the scrutiny for regulations committee, as well as the fisheries committee. In Bill C-52 neither the scrutiny for regulations committee nor the fisheries committee would ever see this new form of regulation. This is not a scheme of regulations that was ever intended by the Fisheries Act.

The Fisheries Act provides for open, public and accountable regulations. Bill C-52 would remove that. These amendments would undermine that scheme of open, public accountability that is built into the Fisheries Act. When regulations are created under the Fisheries Act, they are published prior to going into effect so that members of the public can comment on them.

That will not happen with these terms and conditions. When regulations are created under the Fisheries Act, a publicly available regulatory impact statement is a legal requirement. There is no such requirement for a term or condition as proposed under Bill C-52.

Bill C-52 is simply a way for the minister and the bureaucrats to regulate the fishery outside the requirements of the Citizen's Code of Regulatory Fairness. It would substitute the regulation of the fishery through public accountable regulations grounded in law and would substitute instead a scheme of regulations by unaccountable bureaucrats, all done behind closed doors.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 6th, 2005 / 5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Discussions have taken place between all parties concerning the 41st report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs affecting the list of members of the different standing committees. I believe that you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That the 41st report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be deemed tabled and concurred in without debate.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-52, an act to amend the Fisheries Act (terms and conditions of permissions, leases and licences), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Loyola Hearn Conservative St. John's South, NL

Madam Speaker, I hope the minister and his officials were listening when the member just spoke because they would have received a much clearer understanding of the bill than we have seen from them today.

The bill itself is just a two clause bill, very short clauses in fact. The government would like us to believe that it is a minuscule bill with no problems and a slight change in regulations. We should rubber stamp it and send it on.

Let me ask my colleague, is it not a fact that the changes in these clauses not only affect the people of Ontario but people involved in the fishery right across the country? This is a major change which could have a very negative effect on everyone involved in every fishery in this country. That is my reading and from high authorities I am told that this is correct. That is not at all what we are hearing from the other side.

I would like the member's opinion on that. What effects will the changes in these regulations have on fishermen, for instance, in his area, a long way away from Ontario?

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

John Cummins Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

Madam Speaker, my friend is absolutely correct. The bill does not just affect the Ontario regulations. In fact, when we look at the wording in the bill, it talks about everyone acting under the authority of a permission referred to in section 4 or of a lease or licence issued under this act that would comply with its terms and conditions. The bill applies coast to coast to coast. This is not an Ontario bill.

I have spoken with commercial fishermen in Ontario and they are uncomfortable with the bill because it gives the minister some authorities for which there is no accountability. That is the bottom line issue here. As I said, under the current act there is openness and transparency. The government is committed to publish these regulations in an open way. They must be published in the Canada Gazette. However, under this bill, there are no limits on the nature or scope of the terms of conditions that can apply or be imposed on fishermen. There are no limits on penalties that can be imposed and the bill would remove the requirement to publish or make public the licence conditions that would apply.

That is simply wrong and I cannot state it enough. I find amazing the audacity of a minority government to bring a bill such as this forward. What do the Liberals think we are? They thought they could rush it through. They brought it in last week thinking they would rush this baby through so fast that the opposition would not have time to look at it. Well some of us have been around a little while, like my colleagues from the Bloc and across the way from the NDP, and we have seen this stuff before. We know what these guys are up to and we will not tolerate it.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, I really regret the rhetoric of the member opposite because it is at least in part misleading the House. This bill contains an analogous provision to what was in the regulations.

The government introduced this bill because it was requested by the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations and the member opposite knows it. He does not seem to be able to figure out why the bill is here. The bill is here because the committee requested it, even to the point of putting a disallowance motion on the table, which will be dealt with by the House later this week.

The member's assertion that regulations will not be published or scrutinized is nonsense. Regulations will be scrutinized in precisely the same way that this regulation was scrutinized.

I regret that he has taken this so personally. He might have taken an opportunity to advise the House that he himself was charged under the Fisheries Act. I believe he was charged and I stand corrected if I am wrong. He has a personal grievance and vendetta, and I regard that as a conflict of interest. I think he should have mentioned this to the House. I hope he will address that when he makes his remarks.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

An hon. member

Apologize.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

I will not apologize for anything because it is a fact.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Conservative

John Cummins Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

Madam Speaker, yes, I was charged under the Fisheries Act for protesting the heavy-handed and illegal regulations that the government has put forward.

In fact, the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations, which the member sits on, found those same regulations to be illegal and advised the government that it lacked the internal fortitude to put a disallowance motion in the House because the committee at that time was dominated by Liberals who would not call their own government to account. That is the issue.

If the member can take a shot, I will take a shot. He is a lawyer and should know better. Perhaps if he was a good lawyer, he would be practising law rather than sitting here blathering on like he is doing right now.

Let us take a look at what the committee said. The committee said very clearly that the government can continue to operate the fishery without this particular provision. The committee made it very clear in a letter to the minister that its comments did not imply an endorsement of the amendments and said it could conceive that some parliamentarians might object to subjecting such non-compliance to penal sanctions that include imprisonment.

The committee went on to say that to deprive citizens of their liberty on the grounds that they have failed to abide by a 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. I agree with the committee's statement. It is unfortunate that the member opposite does not.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, the member should be careful about putting words in my mouth. I actually agree with the contents of the letter sent by the committee. In fact, I think the committee was unanimous on this matter.

The committee was also unanimous that if the government introduced a bill such as is before the House now, it was prepared to withdraw, if it could, the disallowance motion currently on the table. The committee acted in a non-partisan way without personal interest in an effort to force the government to achieve the end being sought by this bill.

The member opposite continues to personalize this. It is his prerogative to do so if he wishes. As a member of that committee for a very long time, I can tell the House that the contents of this bill resolve completely the concerns of the committee in relation to the legality of the regulation. If members opposite do not want to see it that way, that is their prerogative.

However, in turning this into a partisan issue, because the committee has never made issues partisan and deals only with legality, he runs the risk of causing the committee to go off course and fail in its future work in scrutinizing the regulations made by the government on behalf of the House.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

John Cummins Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

Madam Speaker, just in case the member opposite had not noticed, this is a partisan place. Government's job is to propose legislation. Our job on this side of the House is to find fault with it, if fault is there. We have found a very reasonable and legitimate fault with the bill. In fact the committee itself found this fault with the bill and we concur with the committee's finding. It is as simple as that.

I did not personalize this debate. The member opposite did. My comment back to him was that if he wants to shoot that way, I can shoot back and I do not mind doing that. I would prefer not to, but I will and he ought to know that.

The committee also said, and this is what is particularly disturbing about it:

In the event the Houses agree to revoke this provision--

--and it is talking about 36(2) of the Ontario fisheries regulations--

--your Committee would expect this decision to form a precedent for the removal of similar provisions in other regulations under the Fisheries Act.

That is troubling.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Conservative Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Madam Speaker, there is a lot of shooting going on here, but let me take this opportunity to debate Bill C-52, an act to amend the Fisheries Act.

As has already been mentioned, the bill would add the following section after section 9:

Every one acting under the authority of a permission referred to in section 4 or of a lease or licence issued under this Act shall comply with its terms and conditions.

It goes on as well to add the clarification:

For greater certainty, those permissions, leases and licences — including their terms and conditions — are not statutory instruments for the purposes of the Statutory Instruments Act.

On the surface this seems to be a benign addition to the Fisheries Act. What could be wrong with stating that someone who is issued a licence, for example, is expected to comply with the licence's terms and conditions? It would appear to be the government's position that this is little more than a housekeeping measure. I am well aware of the fact that the government made every effort to try to get this passed at all stages.

In the few minutes that I have I will explain why in my opinion this is not benign, and why Parliament should proceed very carefully. In order to do that let me begin by providing a little important background.

Although it is true that the legislation has been presented with little or no advance notice, its genesis has been actually several years in the making. I will attempt to make a long story short.

The Ontario fishery regulations contain a regulation in section 36(2) that provides the following:

No holder of a commercial fishing licence shall violate any of the terms or conditions of the licence.

Although it is stated negatively, one will notice that it is similar in substance to the bill that is before us today. As has already been pointed out, this regulation has troubled the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations for some time. In fact, this provision was dealt with by the committee in its second report in the second session of the 36th Parliament in 2000. It concluded:

The regulation not only lacks legal authority, but trespasses unduly on rights and liberties, and represents an unusual and unexpected use of the enabling authority.

Put simply, it was and is the position of the committee that regulations imposing sanctions or creating offences must be expressly authorized by Parliament. It is important to understand that because it is the same principle in play with the legislation before us today. Without this measure, a term or condition of a licence is not considered a provision of the act, so the violation of such a term or condition does not constitute a contravention of the act or regulations. However, the regulation in question in Bill C-52 makes it a legal responsibility to abide by the terms and conditions of a licence. It follows then that any contravention of those terms becomes a violation of the act and attracts the offence and punishment section of the Fisheries Act, section 78. The sanctions in that section are considerable so let me read them into the record:

an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable, for a first offence, to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand dollars and, for any subsequent offence, to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year, or to both; or

an indictable offence and liable, for a first offence, to a fine not exceeding five hundred thousand dollars and, for any subsequent offence, to a fine not exceeding five hundred thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or to both.

Those are pretty significant penalties, so we ought to be very careful here.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has continued to maintain that the questionable regulation is valid in spite of the continued disagreement of the scrutiny of regulations committee. It has argued in the past, for example, that the regulation merely imposes a standard of conduct or a requirement. The scrutiny of regulations committee concluded that the argument is best characterized as disingenuous.

In spite of the belief that the regulation was valid, the minister twice introduced a bill in the 37th Parliament that was intended to provide a legislative solution. Both died on the order paper.

To finally make a long story short, the scrutiny of regulations committee lost patience with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. On May 9 it issued a disallowance report to send a clear message that the offence-creating regulation was not authorized by the act and the process to have it revoked was started. That appeared to catch the attention of the minister and he finally introduced the bill that is before us today.

An obvious question is, does this solve the legal problems highlighted by the scrutiny of regulations committee? In fact, the committee was asked that very question when similar legislation was introduced in the last Parliament. The committee answered unequivocally, “We are pleased to confirm that the proposed amendments would, if adopted, remove the basis for the joint committee's objections”.

That is the good news. I do not think anyone disagrees that this bill will solve the minister's legal problems. However, and this is the crucial point, that does not mean Bill C-52 is good legislation. In fact, the standing joint committee recognized that other important issues need to be addressed. In that same letter from which I just quoted, the committee went on to add:

Our acknowledgment that amendments included in Bill C-43 --

--the bill number in the last Parliament--

--would resolve the Committee's objections to the legality of the relevant regulatory provisions does not imply an endorsement of those amendments. Particularly as regards the proposed section 10(1), which would impose a legal duty to comply with the terms and conditions of the 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 a requirement imposed by a public official in the exercise of administrative power, such as a term or condition of a licence, could be thought undesirable as a matter of legislative policy.

In fact, that is the question before us. As parliamentarians, do we object, do we find it undesirable that non-compliance of a requirement imposed by a public employee in the exercise of an administrative power can result in penal sanctions that could include imprisonment? I do not know about you, Madam Speaker, but when I go to jail, I prefer it to be for violating a law that has been passed by a parliament or for contravening a regulation that has been subjected to thorough scrutiny.

I am one of those parliamentarians that objects to putting this kind of arbitrary power in the hands of a public official.

Let me mention as well that I have the duty of being on both the fisheries committee and the scrutiny of regulations committee. Contrary to the way the member for Scarborough—Rouge River has recalled it, yes, we agreed that if this bill was passed it would address the concern of the committee regarding the legality. I did not hear any agreement to revoking that regulation.

Even in our last meeting we expressed the problems that were addressed in this letter. Yes, this solves the minister's legal problems and we know he knows that he has a problem. We still have a legislative policy issue that we need to resolve.

The government appears to be quite committed to getting this bill passed. The Liberals must believe it is important. In fact, as has been quoted already, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans sent a letter to the joint chairs of the scrutiny of regulations committee on April 19. In the letter he referred to a letter that he had received from the Ontario minister of natural resources. In that letter the minister sent to the committee he said:

As you will see in Minister Ramsay's letter, revoking subsection 36(2) of the OFR [Ontario fisheries regulations] would have severe negative implications on Ontario's commercial fishery and threaten sustainability of Ontario's fisheries resources.In transmitting Minister Ramsay's letter I would like to impress upon the committee that revoking subsection 36(2) of the OFR would have serious negative effects on fisheries conservation and management in Ontario. I would also like to re-emphasize my intention to carry out a broader renewal --

The letter from Minister Ramsay went on to state:

Terms and conditions are currently the only mechanisms by which Ontario can establish allowable quota, areas where fishing can occur, designates who can take fish under a licence, reporting for commercial fishing licences. Without this provision, Ontario would literally have its hands tied with respect to enforcement of the commercial fishery. It is entirely likely that the revocation of subsection 36(2) would result in chaos in this sector and threaten the sustainability of our fisheries resources.

Of course, this is the threat the minister wants to leave before us. He will probably tell us on Wednesday that if we revoke the regulation and defeat the legislation we will be left with chaos in Ontario and, maybe by extension, elsewhere in the country. That, I think, is to misunderstand the situation a little.

The scrutiny of regulations committee responded to that in its most recent report. It states:

In closing, the Committee wishes to briefly address the statement by the Ontario Minister of Natural Resources that:

I just quoted that statement. The report goes on to say:

To the extent this comment suggests that disallowance of section 36(2) would impair the ability to impose terms and conditions of licences, it does not reflect a clear understanding of the nature of section 36(2). Disallowance of that section may change the manner of enforcing compliance with terms and conditions of licences, but would certainly not affect in any way the ability to impose such terms and conditions.

We need to ask and answer what remedies would be left to the government if the legislation is defeated, as I think it should be. As the letter has pointed out, the mechanism of imposing those terms and conditions is still there. It is another question whether the department should have that ability to impose those but it still does under the current Fisheries Act.

The government would still have the ability to impose these terms and conditions but what will the mechanisms be to enforce those? Under the act it still has the power to revoke or cancel a licence. I understand that the minister does not like that option but that is an option left open to him.

Another option, which has been mentioned in more detail by my colleague from Delta—Richmond East, is that we could expect the ministry, if it wants to regulate the industry, to put forth its regulations. It should go through the process, those things that are subject to the Statutory Instruments Act and gazette them. It should tell fishermen what they can expect if they sign on to these licences, what the terms and conditions will be and what they can expect if they violate these conditions.

This appears to me to be flawed legislation. The unintended consequences could be enormous. If I were a fisherman, I would be very concerned about this and I know many of them are. On behalf of many fishermen in my riding of Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, I will be voting against this.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, the remarks by the member opposite have been helpful. We may not agree on all elements but I do want to recall for him, because he said that he could not remember an agreement or understanding at the committee involving what might happen if the government introduced legislation such as this, and read the words of the member of his own party who was in the chair at the time we discussed it. The chairman said:

We have another...meeting on June 2. Until then, we will keep the communication channel open and watch to see if any legislation is on its way or being introduced....In case we have to withdraw that disallowance report in lieu of the assurance that we will get, then probably we can talk with each other and the House leaders to seek unanimous consent to withdraw, if we can.

The issue, therefore, was clearly discussed and a consensus was reached to consider the withdrawal of the disallowance motion if the legislation was introduced. I am very disappointed that his party is not prepared to support the legislation as introduced. In fact, I suggest an implication of this non-support, even from members of the standing joint committee in that party, is to undermine the disallowance process.

If this position persists, I suppose I and perhaps the other Liberals and who knows, other members of the committee, will have to take a different view of the disallowance matter when it comes forward. That can only impair the future work of the standing joint committee and I very much regret the position taken by members opposite.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Conservative Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Scarborough--Rouge River for that reminder but if he were to continue on reading the transcripts he would come to the place where the chairman of the fisheries and oceans committee brought to our attention in our very last meeting that the minister was bringing forward this legislation. In the meeting that the member refers to we had no legislation before us to know what it might be or what it might say. We knew it might solve the legality issues but I assumed we would still have to face the policy issues.

He would know that in the very next meeting the chairman of the committee encouraged us to go to our House leaders to see if we could get this run through the House at all stages with little or actually no debate. When that suggestion was made to us as committee members he will remember that at least one member, myself, raised the concern that there would be policy issues that we in this party might not find acceptable. If other parties did I guess that would be up to them. However It did not sound like good policy to me which is why we are here today.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

John Cummins Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a little late in the day on this but we asked the Library of Parliament to see if it could find similar provisions to what the government is proposing in Bill C-52. It found similar provisions in only two other statutes, one regulating nuclear facilities and the other regulating airlines. Both have regulations by public regulatory tribunals, not secret regulation abilities by federal bureaucrats.

This particular bill is away out there when it comes to anything that has ever been passed by the House. The House has never given that sort of authority to anyone.

I know it is late in the day and I am springing it on my good friend but I wonder if he would care to comment on that. As I said, there are only two similar statutes and both of those have public regulatory tribunals governing them.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Conservative Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Madam Speaker, I do not have much to say except to thank my hon. colleague for that information. As I was preparing to speak to this, that was precisely the question I was wondering about.

The government, in its little single page document that it finally distributed at the 11th hour, which I just saw this morning for the very first time, to give us reasons why we should support the bill did not mention anything about that and whether this was a normal approach to doing business.

It occurred to me that it probably was not, otherwise the government would have given us some support for that. I can understand why it is not and I appreciate the hon. member for giving me that information.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Loyola Hearn Conservative St. John's South, NL

Madam Speaker, having to sit through this all day, I know you are now very familiar with some of the fishery problems throughout the country and, heaven knows, we might have our first female minister of fisheries very soon. I think I could say that would probably be an improvement.

My colleague, who is quite familiar with some of the fishing problems in his province, knows full well that there are some extremely serious issues facing the country. We have spent all afternoon dealing with a two clause bill. People might ask why we would spend so much time. It is simply because that little two clause bill would have a major effect on every fisherperson in this country. Every species that is fished and the people who fish them would be affected if the legislation came into place, which is why we had to bring this out.

I would like my colleague to comment on the fact that there are other major issues that are never debated in this House. It is amazing. It is only when we have questions, although we never get clear answers from the minister. At times it is frustrating to know that we have problems on the west coast with the salmon fishery and numerous fisheries. We have problems on the east coast and all kinds of problems in between. Yet, except for the standing committee, a tremendous standing committee where a lot of these issues are discussed, seldom do we hear the fishery issue being debated in the House. The only time we see the minister give anybody the opportunity is when some seemingly minuscule bill comes in that they try to ram through. As my colleague from Delta--Richmond East said earlier, this is something that we are aware of, and the Bloc and the NDP have caught on to the fact that this is extremely important legislation.

I just wonder if the member, in the 30 seconds he has left, would tell us whether or not we should be debating other important issues concerning the fisheries.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Conservative Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Madam Speaker, yes, there is a lot of work to be done and certainly we on this side of the House and those of us in British Columbia are well aware of this, and I am sure in Newfoundland as well.

Let me just say that I take my role here pretty seriously and one of the questions I always ask myself when looking at any legislation is whether it is clear that it has been significantly thought through to be confident that there are no unintended consequences.

I have asked myself about this and the answer is no, I am not confident and I need to vote against it.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Fisheries ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Madam Speaker, I asked the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans a question in the House of Commons on May 30. The parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development responded to that question.

The Speaker was in the Chair on that day. My question was as follows:

Mr. Speaker, in 2003, the Gullyfish processing plant in Shippagan was destroyed by arson. In 2004, the Oceanis plant in Shippagan closed. Now the Bluecove plant in Maissonnette has just closed. Since 2003, over 600 employees have been affected.

My question is for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. Will the minister implement a program to help the employees at least qualify for employment insurance, or set up an early retirement program, or will he wash his hands of this and leave these employees and their families penniless?

I must admit that I was extremely pleased by the parliamentary secretary's answer, and I quote:

Mr. Speaker, we are always very concerned when people become unemployed and when large numbers of people in a region become unemployed. The Department of HRSD provides assistance to employees and employers when something like this occurs. Our officials go to the premises concerned, or to a mutually agreed to site, and they help employees apply for EI. The federal government is helping in this case.

I asked my question last week. Will something be done for the people working in the fish processing plants in the Acadian Peninsula and the Petit-Rocher region? I am getting calls from all these people who are working in the fish processing plants in the Chaleur Bay region. Is the federal government prepared to help these workers?

Today alone, I got thirty calls from employees who did not have enough hours to qualify for EI benefits.

The parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development was very clear in his reply. He indicated that there were programs in place. He clearly boasted of his intention to help out the affected workers. Since the question was asked, we have yet to hear anything about the kind of help that will be forthcoming for the workers who have not accumulated enough hours to qualify for EI benefits.

There is another problem as well. If people do not qualify for EI now, next year these same people will have to have 910 hours because of the 1996 changes before they will be eligible. Yet last week the government said it would be helping workers in this kind of situation.

Now that the government has stated that clearly in the House of Commons, I would like to know whether it is prepared, and when it will have a plan for helping those who cannot accumulate enough hours to qualify for EI?

I am expecting the parliamentary secretary, who is going to answer my question this evening, to also be able to cast some light for us on his answer of last week. Perhaps he will tell us that the Liberal government is not helping the workers, or that it is only helping those who are in certain parts of the country. Or maybe he will tell us that the government is going to treat everyone the same way, and that it is prepared to help those who are out of work and in dire straits.

Fisheries ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Madam Speaker, I can only repeat the fact that the Government of Canada is always concerned when a large number of employees are laid off, whether a company closes or whether a company burns down. As always, our goal is to help Canadian workers to get back to work and to provide the employees with interim measures as quickly as possible.

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada provides assistance to employees as well as employers when a mass layoff takes place. HRSDC officials go to the employers' premises or a mutually agreed upon site, as I said, to help employees apply for employment insurance and process claims as quickly as possible.

Employers are invited to provide application information for affected employees to Human Resources Centre Canada. This streamlines and accelerates the processing of claims. Employees are also provided with information on programs and services available to help them get back to work.

Procedures for large scale or mass layoffs are usually developed based on regional or local needs. When employment insurance claims are filed with record of employment information directly from the employer, the department can finalize them without delays. If records of employment are not available at the time of the on-site information claims-taking session, the employer may be requested to retain the applications and send them to the local office with records of employment.

The department also has an automated program designed to help local offices and employers handle a mass layoff. The program facilitates the management and processing of mass layoff claims electronically. Employers provide a list of social insurance numbers of affected employees and the program automatically completes most of the data required on the application for employment insurance benefits. The applications are then printed and sent to the employer which will give them to the affected employees or bring them when taking the group application for benefits.

We recognize the fact that when massive layoffs occur there are often economic impacts on the community and the families of affected employees. As always, our goal is to assist workers to get back to work as soon as possible.

Fisheries ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Madam Speaker, frankly, I cannot believe my eyes or my ears.

That was definitely not the question I asked last week. Following the closure of fish plants in the Acadian peninsula, I am asking the federal government whether it plans, through some programs, to help those affected accumulate enough hours of work to qualify for employment insurance.

Last week, in response to my question, the parliamentary secretary said that human resources officials would be helping the workers fill in their EI forms. People do not fill in the EI forms if they have not worked the required number of hours.

I asked the government if programs would be implemented to help the workers or if they could take early retirement, to get out of the fisheries industry. I am getting the same answer today as I was given last week. The Liberals missed the point. They would need experts to explain the situation to them. They should come and meet the people in the field.

I would like an answer from the government. Will programs be implemented to help workers accumulate enough hours of work to qualify for employment insurance, yes or no?