Mr. Speaker, I hope to lower the noise for just a little bit, if I may, in respect of my hon. colleagues.
I am proud to be standing here today to be talking about this significant act, there is no doubt about it. This is something that replaces an act that existed for well over 137 years, so certainly we take this very seriously.
What I would like to do in my allotted is just point out some of the questions that surround this particularly thick piece of legislation. Questions, I am afraid, probably outnumber all of the comments, all of the negativity, and even the positive comments that come from this. That is what is troubling to us.
For the record, we had requested the government to send this to a committee before second reading, to widen the scope and to gain some insight from across this country. This will not be addressed by sending the legislation to committee after second reading. Unfortunately, it was dismissed and here we are finding ourselves today at second reading.
I would like to start, if I may, with the few notes that I have made and delve into the act itself, as the parliamentary secretary did earlier. Some of those I will take some issue with; some I will have some positive comments about.
The provisions of Bill C-45 represent a significant redirection in the role of public policy with respect to the fisheries on our coast and our inland fisheries. Quite significantly, the devolution of authority appears significant enough to ensure a far greater role for the provinces in terms of management and activities associated with the conduct of the fisheries, as well as a new empowered role for fishers, communities and the organizations which either represent them, or more importantly, employ them. As we all know and my colleagues know, this has been going on for many years, the idea of co-management and the idea of a greater say, which leads me back to my first point.
It is unfortunate that here we are, taking the first step toward a regime where we can have more say in the fishery by the stakeholders, but yet this bill itself did not receive the same process. Suffice it to say, we are not off to a positive start when it comes to recommendations, and certainly with the input.
Let me discuss some of the initial recommendations, and again, my speech will be filled with many questions, some doubts, some positive comments, and some negative comments. But mostly clarification, so that hopefully, through the course of this debate, a lot of this clarification can take place. I would also like some clarification on how far the ministry is prepared to go when it goes to committee, if it goes to committee after second reading.
Let me begin with the preamble. When it comes to the preamble, one of the things it says is: “the conservation and protection of fish habitat and the prevention of the pollution of waters frequented by fish.” It also says that: “Parliament intends that Canada’s fisheries be managed sustainably”.
First of all, we have to talk about “managed sustainably”. There is need for more clarification on this issue and to flush out exactly what it is we are talking about here. The act is a little bit loose in many areas and unfortunately, that would be one of them.
It says “Parliament intends”, and there we have to deal with that as a contentious issue. Members will find that a lot of this act contains a lot of intends, wishes, mays, and all the things that sound great but lack a lot of teeth. Therefore, we are hoping that this part of the bill can be changed and amended. Unfortunately, in my opinion, I do not feel that it can be done to our satisfaction by going to committee after second reading, and this troubles me.
The preamble also states:
WHEREAS Parliament intends that this legislative framework be applied in a manner that fosters cooperation with the provinces and with bodies established under land claims agreements--
Therein lies, with some of the application principles, some of the doubts in some of the feedback that we are getting. No doubt about it, we are getting a lot of positive responses from the provinces. We are also getting a few questions, and a lot of provinces are also, in their own departments, still trying to go through the legal framework of this to wrestle with some of the concepts.
Subsection 35(1) of the Constitution Act recognizes and affirms the existence of aboriginal and treaty rights. It also talks about the stable access.
After that, we find that there is a contentious issue in the preamble itself. It states:
WHEREAS Parliament is committed to maintaining the public character of the management of fisheries and fish habitat;
Many people have commented and questioned, and no doubt about it we will hear a lot of comments and questions from my hon. colleague in the NDP about this particular issue, which I am looking forward to hearing, that the public character of the fishery itself has to be addressed and is something that cannot be addressed within the scope of a committee after second reading.
As a matter of fact, it is my understanding that in many instances in Parliament, as well as the standing committees, many of the attempts to fix a preamble cannot be done in committee after second reading. In many cases, it can be ruled out of order or when it comes back to the House, it can be ruled out of order by the Speaker. Therefore, it puts us in a bit of a bind. As my colleague pointed out in his questions and comments, where is the charter decision from a few years back?
There is another issue that is not addressed here and there is ample opportunity to address it within the preamble as one of the guiding principles, so to speak. There is an issue in my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador and for Atlantic Canada with regard to fleet separation and, more importantly, trust agreements. I think there is room in the preamble to address this issue, as mentioned to me by many groups.
Vertical integration will scare a lot of fishermen. It has always been the policy whereby what trust agreements do is freeze out the inshore fishermen and, therefore, is the cause of grave concern across this country. Some may like this policy, but for the most part they do not.
That is not addressed in this particular act, as it should be. I would compel the minister to please do this, to provide the standing committee the power to do this and, I go back to my original comment, to do this in committee before second reading would have accomplished this.
I will now go to some of the clauses beyond the preamble itself and again I have grave concerns as to whether the preamble can be fixed in this manner of going to committee after second reading. I would implore the minister to answer this question at some point in his speech. I am assuming he will be speaking during this debate.
There are specific clauses which should be examined. There is need for a very significant strengthening of a number of specific clauses. The following, while attempting to be comprehensive, is not exhaustive given additional concerns of respected clauses, not referred to, will likely arise.
I will begin with clause 3. There is the need to ensure that those participating in the fishery are clearly defined. For example, in clause 3 there is reference to organizations as being licence holders while in clause 43, the minister may enter into fisheries management agreements with an “organization”. Clarification around the term “organization” is certainly necessary within the scope of this bill. It keeps it open ended.
I go back to the theme that I talked about in the beginning. There are a lot of open ended variables involved here that need to be clarified, the scope of which, after second reading, is likely not going to be.
Let me go to clause 6. Under the provisions of clause 6, the application of principles, there is the need to strengthen these provisions which will ensure that the minister will take the strongest possible actions in order to ensure that the fisheries are managed in a manner consistent with sustainable development based on the principles, of course, of conservation. The wording of this clause does not necessarily reflect that priority. Again, it is a major question that needs to be clarified.
The implications of clause 7 require careful examination as well. On the surface, it would appear that the minister will be empowered to enter into agreements with the provinces to further the purpose of the act as contained in clause 2, which effectively will devolve management decisions to the provinces. Therefore, I have no contentious issue with that.
However, a lot of clarification is needed on questions of funding. It is touched on in this act, but what does it imply? Does it mean they must or they may? Again, we go back to that concept. If we look at some of the language that is contained within this bill, we will see that there are a lot of variables surrounding this particular issue. For instance, “The minister may, subject to the regulations, enter into an agreement with a province to further the purpose of this Act, including an agreement with respect to one or more of the following”. Again I go back to the issue of “may”. It facilitates cooperation, that is true, but there needs to be more clarification.
I understand from my hon. colleague that he is getting favourable responses from the provinces, and obviously we are off on a positive step. However, what he refers to takes place prior to the tabling of the bill, and I will touch on that in just a moment. The consultation process that my colleagues talk about in the Bloc as well as the NDP is an extremely contentious issue and one that needs further discussion, far greater than the scope of a committee that follows second reading.
Under the provisions of clauses 11 to 13, the federal government, through the minister, will be able to undertake programs and projects. The scope and range of these programs and projects are widely spread and imply that the federal government will be financially responsible for funding them both. Again, this is a matter which requires careful consideration.
Under the provisions of clause 14, “The Minister may”, and again I stress the word “may” “in order to carry out the purpose of this Act”, strike advisory panels. However, that discretion allows the minister not to strike panels as well. He may do in whatever case that he deems necessary. Therefore, the power, we would think, becomes far more stretched, far more varied, more wielding under the situation of “may”. For example, at the end of this day, I may jump off the House of Commons right into the lake, but I may not. The chances are I will not, but I may. So hon. members will get the point of--