This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #51 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was infrastructure.

Topics

A message from Her Excellency the Governor General transmitting supplementary estimates (B) for the financial year ending March 31, 2008, was presented by the President of the Treasury Board and read by the Speaker to the House.

Supplementary Estimates (B), 2007–08Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativePresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I have a copy of the supplementary estimates and a copy of the vote allocations for the House.

Trade AgreementsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Vancouver Kingsway B.C.

Conservative

David Emerson ConservativeMinister of International Trade and Minister for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, under section 32(2) of the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, I have the pleasure to table, in both official languages, four agreements entitled “Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the States of the European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland)”, “Agreement on Agriculture between Canada and the Kingdom of Norway”, “Agreement on Agriculture between Canada and the Republic of Iceland”, and “Agreement on Agriculture between Canada and the Swiss Confederation”.

I had the pleasure of signing these agreements on behalf of Canada last January 26, in Davos, Switzerland.

Taken together, they make up Canada's first free trade agreement in over five years and our first free trade agreement with European countries.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the following report of the Canadian delegation of the Canada-U.S. Interparliamentary Group, respecting its participation at the 60th annual meeting of the Council of State Governments-WEST held at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, September 16-19, 2007.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Norman Doyle Conservative St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth and fifth reports of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

The fourth report deals with Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act, including amendments.

The fifth report deals with the future House consideration of Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act.

I want to commend all members of our committee for their cooperation in putting this bill through committee with very minor amendments.

Internet Child Pornography Prevention ActRoutine Proceedings

February 14th, 2008 / 10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-506, An Act to prevent the use of the Internet to distribute pornographic material involving children.

Mr. Speaker, the Internet is not a safe place for children. In Ontario, this week alone, we saw 23 arrests of users, distributors and producers of child pornography. There is nothing more horrific than the crimes that involve children and that are committed against children.

In spite of the best efforts by police forces, this problem of child pornography is getting worse.

As legislators, we have the responsibility to do everything we can to stop the use of the Internet to distribute child pornography. The legislation which I table today would make Internet service providers more responsible for the content that is being transmitted to their customers.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I move that the second report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, presented on Wednesday, December 12, 2007, be concurred in.

I am—

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to interrupt my esteemed colleague, but I know that you would want to hear this point of order since I believe that you had advised the House you wanted to make a ruling on a previous point of order introduced a few days ago by my colleague from Vancouver East.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I do not mean to be disrespectful to the parliamentary secretary, but we have embarked on a debate on a motion and his point of order does not concern this debate. Can he do it later?

I will defer the decision, of course, knowing he is interested in making submissions on this matter. If it could be done later, I would be more than happy to wait and hear him later this day.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, in the spirit of cooperation and advice on this matter, I would gladly submit my point of order at a later time today.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

How much later?

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

At least no later than three o'clock.

We will hear from the parliamentary secretary then and I will be more than happy to accommodate him. Since the member was starting a speech on a motion, it is better to proceed with the debate currently before the House since the point of order does not concern this debate.

I will now turn the floor over to the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think members will agree that it would be bordering on rude and untimely for the government to stall the debate we will be holding in the next few minutes and hours, since this issue is of exceptional importance to the fisheries.

When we talk about fishing, it is true that we are talking about resources, fishermen, businesses and people who work in this field. But it is the small craft harbours, the infrastructures and the wharves that hold everything together. In fact, the wharves are absolutely essential to the fisheries. We recently discussed this in the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, and we tabled a preliminary report before the holidays, aimed at influencing the budget that will be presented on February 26.

The situation is more than urgent; it has become scandalous. To give you an idea, I would say that we are at the point of wondering whether the wharf is attached to the boat or the boat is attached to the wharf. If we are wondering that, then the situation must be very serious. It just goes to show the state of our infrastructure in Canada and in the regions I represent, the Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands. We know very well that there is a lot of fishing in these areas, and for some parts of those regions, fishing accounts for a significant number of jobs.

For example, in the Magdalen Islands, six out of 10 jobs are in the fishery. In the Gaspé, it is three out of 10. Along the lower North Shore, it is eight out of 10. That shows how important this is. It is clear that this issue is of fundamental importance to each of these communities, be they in the Maritimes, in the west, in British Columbia, or even in northern Quebec or Nunavut. We know that many coastal communities have the same basic need for adequate infrastructure: transportation infrastructure, infrastructure that can help them access high-speed Internet, infrastructure that enables them to watch us and hear what we are talking about today. They also need infrastructure such as small craft harbours and wharves. If there are no wharves, there can be no fishing, and if there is no fishing, there are no jobs.

Over the past few weeks, I had the opportunity to tour maritime Quebec. I went to the North Shore, the lower North Shore, the lower St. Lawrence, the Gaspé, and the Magdalen Islands. The tour ended with the annual convention of the Quebec Fish Processors Association in Quebec City. At the convention, it was clear that for some communities, fishing grounds represent borders that protect access to a resource. The people of Newfoundland have a protected fishing territory along the west and north coasts, all around the islands. Quebec has the same. That is why the people of the lower North Shore should be treated fairly, but they are not being treated fairly.

I had the opportunity to witness first-hand the terrible state of their infrastructure. It is scandalous and shameful, particularly given that the government records budget surpluses of around $11 billion to $13 billion in good years and bad. That is $11 thousand million, $13 thousand million. That is the reality of the situation. The government over there must do something. This is not about agreeing to a request. This is about being a good and responsible manager.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is responsible for the fisheries and the infrastructure and, therefore, it must help. It has a duty to provide good quality facilities in good working order to the people who live off the fishery and who need them.

This report was tabled in the House of Commons in mid-December. It says the situation has reached such scandalous proportions that the cost of rehabilitating the wharves that are considered essential has risen from about $400 million in 2004 to at least $600 million now.This shows that the government is not meeting its responsibilities. When a roof starts to leak and nobody repairs it, eventually it will collapse. That is exactly what is happening here.

There are many other aspects to this as well, including the people who do volunteer work. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has an annual budget for small craft harbours of about $100 million and another 25% of this—or $25 million—is provided by volunteers. There are harbour authorities in most communities and the volunteer board members do a very careful, responsible job of taking care of the facilities. They enable the government to save $25 million.

What do they get in return? They do not get the recognition they deserve. That is why a significant amount needs to be invested right away on February 26. The volunteers in these harbour authorities are not only frustrated and sickened by the situation but worn out as well. Ultimately, they bear the brunt of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ disinterest and lack of action. They are on the receiving end of the frustration expressed by the main users. In addition, these volunteer members of harbour authorities are also users themselves. They donate their time and sometimes even their money to help their communities help themselves and do what needs to be done.

Unfortunately, the government’s response so far has been so inadequate that the people in some harbour authorities, such as the one in L'Étang-du-Nord on the Magdalen Islands, are so disgusted they think it does not make sense any more and are thinking of quitting—and they are not the only ones. That is the reality. When a director of a corporation called the Administration portuaire du havre de pêche de l'Étang-du-Nord feels forced to sound the alarm and threaten to quit and just give up because he does not have the necessary support, it is both a cry of alarm and a heartfelt sob. That is why the government must respond.

I know that when the committee travelled to the region, we were able to see for ourselves. Sadly, we are forced to raise this issue year after year, just as we have to keep talking about the shrimp crisis in Quebec. People are being held hostage. Negotiations between processors and fishers are at an impasse. The plant workers are being held hostage. They never know from one year to the next whether they will have a job, when they will have work or whether they will be forced to take to the streets and demonstrate to get what they want. There is that as well.

These are the sorts of situations we see everywhere, and they are the result of the policy of inaction and the laissez-faire approach of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. That is why the department needs to be shaken up. It must recognize that action is urgently needed, especially on the issue of small craft harbours. If no action is taken, then like that leaky roof that has not been repaired, everything will eventually collapse. And that has happened. In Saint-Georges-de-Malbaie, for example, there was a beautiful wharf that, over time, was allowed to deteriorate from wave action. Finally, when the situation became critical, a solution was found in the form of pontoons used for mooring.

Things reached a point where, last year, these people had no infrastructure. They finally had to go with mooring floats, thanks to eleventh-hour assistance from Quebec City. It is being called a temporary solution. It is not permanent. This is no way to treat people who depend on a resource for their livelihood and are proud and happy to be able to do so, who have done so for generations and who are now wondering whether they have a future in fishing. The question has come up.

The question has come up so often that other questions come to mind as well, and I am saying this in a non-partisan way. Even before I got into politics, I realized that sovereignty would benefit Quebec when it came to issues such as fisheries. The federal government has responsibility for fisheries, but the situation is in total disarray.

Who arbitrates when Quebec and New Brunswick fight over herring in Chaleur Bay, when Quebec and Newfoundland have a dispute over halibut or cod, or when Prince Edward Island has a conflict with New Brunswick or Nova Scotia? The federal government. But things are deteriorating, because the federal government is looking at the situation with the eyes of an administrator or manager who is not necessarily kindly disposed toward Quebec.

Furthermore, the small craft harbour situation is getting worse. These people deserve better than what they are getting now.

Over the past few months, we have had the opportunity to meet with representatives from port authorities such as the Etang-du-Nord group and others. Furthermore, in my riding I personally meet with people from port authority after port authority and I can tell they are simply at the end of their rope. Not only do they want to be recognized for what they are doing, although everyone can see it, but that recognition needs to come with some concrete action, namely money.

It is as simple as that. It is not a matter of having money for the sake of it. We are not talking about helping the oil companies make more profits, so that Exxon and Exxon Mobil, who are making $100 million in profits a day, can say there is a catastrophe and that next year they want to make $150 million a day. That is not the issue.

The issue is about communities at the end of their rope trying to hang on to what they have paid so dearly for, realizing that their infrastructure is disappearing with the wind, the tides and the waves.

As I have said to many people and as people have said to me, a village's wharf is its heart and soul. If we must, we can always replace the heart, we can always mend it or put something else in its place, but when a soul is lost it is lost forever. The same is true of the wharf, since it is the soul of the village. I know very well that many of my colleagues know exactly what I am talking about.

Nonetheless, people throughout Quebec and the Maritimes are sending us a message of despair. They are in a situation that requires concerted action. This situation requires massive funding.

As I was saying, $100 million is invested in this every year and we see the situation deteriorate year after year. We went from needing $400 million to needing $600 000 million or more. This shows how far things have gone. That is why money needs to be invested there. We are talking about investment, not spending. We are talking about investment in the present and in the future.

Just imagine the positive message people receive when we listen to them, understand them, when we act and try to get things moving in the House of Commons, so that there is some actual forward movement by the government on this file. Now and in the future, it is important that what is done be more than just vigorous and on a large scale, that it respond to needs. And the needs are enormous. As I said, it is more than a question of infrastructure. It is not about a stretch of road that is missing somewhere and can be otherwise repaired. If there is no wharf, there is no unloading; if there is no unloading, there is no fishery; and if there is no fishery, there are no economic spinoffs. At the same time, we are losing an important aspect of our history and heritage.

I am talking about fishing in the context of wharves, but a wharf is more than just a fishing infrastructure. It is also a gathering place. People who live in communities like mine or who have had the opportunity to visit one know that wharves can also serve other purposes, commercial ones, for instance, as is the case in Anse-à-Beaufils. Ferry operators run the ferries that shuttle between Percé and Bonaventure Island, passing by Rocher Percé. Those people need an infrastructure to be able to berth. To some degree, they have such an infrastructure in Anse-à-Beaufils and Percé. They have that need. Thus, they can be used for commercial purposes, for tourism and also for pleasure.

It is therefore a relatively complex set of functions affecting various activities. A wharf in a community may revive the town and give it hope for the future. Obviously the wharf itself must be in good condition. If an institution, an infrastructure, a house, a restaurant or some other facility is deteriorating day after day, people will say we have to let it go, it is not worth it. People might even think that it should be demolished.

Is this the Conservative philosophy, or ideology, that explains its failure to do anything about small craft harbours? The answer is self-evident. I would like to think it is not, because that would be an affront to the community. It is an affront to people for whom good quality infrastructure is essential. We must not end up with people like those in Étang-du-Nord or elsewhere saying that the only solution is to let it go. Neither I nor the party I represent, nor the people who care about this situation, have any intention of giving up and abandoning these communities when they urgently need this infrastructure. That is why it is important to keep raising this question, day after day, session after session.

The positive side of all this, given how we have taken up this battle in recent months and years, is that we are starting to see some recognition of the situation. I recall that the first few times I talked about small craft harbours at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans I was told that the universe was unfolding as it should. This was paradise, or close to. In other words, no one saw the problems. Today, the problems are being recognized. In order for that recognition to be genuine, responsible and complete, there must be action to go with it. Ultimately, that action consists of the preliminary report submitted by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. That committee examined the subject for several months, and in fact for several years. The members came to the conclusion that action was required, in the form of massive investment in small craft harbours. There is no other way. To say otherwise is to lull the population and is disrespectful to the people in these communities.

I repeat: it is disrespectful to the people in these communities; it is disrespectful to their entire history; and it is also disrespectful to the future that that history may hold.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from the Bloc for raising this very important issue in the House. I come from a community that has a number of small craft harbours, many of which have been divested.

As we talk about the importance of these harbours in our communities, I would like the member to comment on the fact that in many of our communities, in places such as Maple Bay, Chemainus, Ladysmith and Mill Bay, these small craft harbours actually provide the link to some of the other islands. These harbours are the only places where people can dock their boats and get access to some of the smaller islands that do not have access to ferries and other means of transport.

I wonder if the member could comment on the fact that in some of our communities these small craft harbours are an essential transportation link. They must be maintained and it must be a federal government responsibility.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. I will go into more detail.

Wharves can represent an intermediate point between two destinations. It is true that they do not spring up by magic; they are not mushrooms. At some point, communities needed them. Some needs may have been much greater than they are today because of a type of fishery that was popular. At the same time, these wharves could be used to revitalize a transportation network consisting of fishing boats, commercial vessels, transport vessels, pleasure craft and other types of vessels. It would be a transportation network.

I would like to go into more detail about another aspect, and that is security. Infrastructure in certain locations—as I said earlier, they do not spring up by magic—could be used for protection during storms, which can arise unexpectedly. Given the ongoing climate changes, not only would a wharf located in a certain location be used for transportation, it would also serve in dealing with a situation where safety was at issue, perhaps a life or death situation.

Let us imagine that someone in a boat was faced with some kind of emergency situation—maybe something was wrong with the boat, there was trouble at sea, it was taking on water or any such thing—and the wharves had disappeared over time because they had not been maintained. If we and our successors are not responsible managers—for our predecessors were not—we will be responsible for these deaths. I do not wish to be dramatic, but that is the point we are at.

I am thinking of the wharf at Pointe-aux-Loups, in the Magdalen Islands. It is used possibly by only a few fishermen; however, it has a strategic geographical location. That is why a wharf can actually be much more than just part of a transportation network. I acknowledge, based on what my colleague just mentioned, that that would definitely allow us to have transshipment infrastructure, but it is also a good thing in terms of security.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question about the study.

The member talked a little about the effects of climate change. The government has a lot of problems with that concept, and with the plan we need to counter those effects, of course. We know that on the west coast, in the Queen Charlotte Islands, there are now a lot of problems related to climate change, such as changes in sea level. What will happen 10 or 20 years from now?

My question is simple. Does the minister have an arsenal of action plans to address the future realities of climate change?

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. In fact, I was able to understand it 100%, even 150%, because he spoke in French. I appreciate that.

The climate change file has become much more important to the harbour file than it was before. Waves and tides cause wear over time, but climate change is causing sea levels to rise. Fall and winter storms are now much worse than they used to be, and that affects infrastructure.

I do not remember the exact date, but a few years ago, senior departmental officials appeared before the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. I asked them if they had analyzed the impact of climate change on small craft harbour infrastructure. Their response was as disappointing as the current Conservative government's compliance with the Kyoto accord. The Conservative government is being just as irresponsible about the Kyoto accord as it is about climate change. That is why some of the recommendations address this issue. We will come back to this subject often. We will fight this fight every day. We have to have a better understanding of climate change because it certainly does have repercussions.

Recently, I saw a report about communities of people who lived on disappearing islands. The people were forced to leave. Not only were they leaving their birthplace, their heritage, but they were ending up in slums. That is another reality of climate change. There is a human aspect as well as an economic one.

The impact of climate change is extreme. I see it first hand every time I go to the Gaspé or the Magdalen Islands. Storms are much bigger than they used to be, so they have a much more negative impact on small craft harbour infrastructure.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine for his tenacity on this issue. I remember a few years ago the Bloc Québécois created the St. Lawrence Caucus. We went to the Gaspé region and met with people who spoke about this situation. My colleague's speech today reflects exactly what these people told us.

I would like to ask my colleague a quick question. Is one of the problems not that Fisheries and Oceans Canada has often taken a very vertical and bureaucratic approach? The department claims to be responsible for fisheries and it has noticed that stocks are diminishing. But it forgets that these wharves can have several uses and can help develop new types of fisheries, so new species can be fished.

In essence, is all of this not because the government sees no need for a land use policy? Our communities are producing very useful things. In big cities, people like to eat seafood products. Does the government's attitude not mean that small craft harbours get put aside? They were deemed to be useless, when in reality, this is not the case.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague who is one of our Bloc Québécois caucus members from eastern Quebec. We indeed had the opportunity to meet some people who are experiencing these realities, who see just how much their situation is not understood and how no action is being taken on this.

We have all no doubt heard about a divestiture program. What we should be talking about is a program to get rid of our wharves. That is exactly what happened in various communities. That is why a yellow light should go on. Yes, it is true that some communities and groups may be able to take on such things as wharves and infrastructures. However, the government's strategy, and the Conservative strategy in particular, must not serve negative interests, with the sole goal of getting rid of wharves. For if we get rid of wharves, what are we getting rid of? We are getting rid of an infrastructure that must be repaired, and it must indeed be repaired.

Besides, every time a divestiture program is implemented, money is granted not for development and organizing something to create an infrastructure that better meets a development need, but simply to repair something that is worn out because of time, and government inaction and irresponsibility. That is also what the divestiture program means. This is why we should instead be talking about a program to get rid of small craft harbours.

As we speak, people's eyes are wide with interest concerning this file. This is the current reality for these people thanks to the government's failure to act. But they would like not only to survive, but to continue to extend this over several years and focus more on the future and development. It is all well and good to repair infrastructures, but they must also be developed.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond at least for a few minutes to this motion from my colleague.

Small craft harbours are of course very important across our country. They are important even in my riding. It is not a coastal riding, but along the Fraser River we have two harbour authorities. One is the Mission Harbour Authority, which looks after the Mission Harbour and the Whonnock Harbour, and the other is in the Albion area. They do a lot of good work. I am proud of the initiative they bring to the challenges they face.

In fact, not too long ago they were recognized with a special award for the work they did when they were facing the challenge of a possible major flood along the Fraser River, a very serious prospect. The work the Mission Harbour Authority did in preparation for that, not just in its own harbours but in helping other harbour authorities all along the river, was recognized by the special award. I commend them for that as well.

In British Columbia, we have the largest harbour in all of Canada, the Steveston Harbour, run by the Steveston Harbour Authority. I had an opportunity to be there as well and to see the things they do. They do a very good job there. It is not without challenges, of course, but all harbour authorities across the country are facing challenges.

In our committee we have had the opportunity to speak to some representatives from harbour authorities and harbour authority associations from across the country. I think we are getting a good sense for what they are facing, what they are up against and the key things they need to address and also for the responsibility of this House and the government to be serious about those issues. I can assure the members of this House that the government is serious about small craft harbours and the challenges they face.

Before moving on, I would like to say that the Pacific region harbour authorities are in a rather unique situation. These harbour authorities have risen to the challenge in a way that I think is perhaps less common in the other regions. They have really put their minds to innovative ways in which they can meet their funding challenges in terms both of enterprises they can be involved in as well as revenue generating activities.

In fact, I think it is true that of all the additional revenue that small craft harbours generate across the country, about 30% or 40% of that comes from the Pacific region, which certainly does not have a very large percentage of the small craft harbours across the country. The Pacific region has come up with some innovative and creative ways of actually generating the kind of revenue that it needs to be able to do the maintenance on its harbours.

Let me also say that the government is very well aware of the funding challenges. In fact, if we look at the figures, and I think it is important to do so, we will see that in round figures about $100 million is being spent in this fiscal year for small craft harbours. A similar amount was spent in the last fiscal year.

However, more than a decade ago, in the years of the Progressive Conservative government, the government actually spent about $150 million, again in round figures. As we went into the Liberal governments in the 1990s with their deficit cutting measures, a very significant amount of the funding for small craft harbours was cut. In fact, the amount went below $50 million. It went from $150 million to below $50 million for a year or so. In the years since then, the amount being spent has been coming up a little and now we are at today's figure.

I am well aware, though, that this issue has been with us for a long time. In fact, funding for small craft harbours was the subject of a previous concurrence report, in June 2006, I think. When we dealt with it then, it was the will of this House to recognize the fact that there was a significant funding shortfall and that small craft harbours required more money.

The House generally supports the fact that infrastructure needs to be improved and we recognized that in the 2006 Speech from the Throne, but the facts, and I think they have been pointed out by my colleague and others, are as follows. When we did a study a couple of years ago to try to figure out just where we were at in terms of infrastructure, whether we were falling behind and how much it would cost to bring small craft harbours up to a good condition, the facts were clear. It would take perhaps $400 million, according to that report, to put us in a place where we would consider the small craft harbours to be in good condition.

That was only part of the problem. That is only part of the money that would be required. That is the for existing core of small craft harbours the government owns. We also have a divestiture program for those harbours that are no longer used by the commercial fishing industry and that need to be divested to other entities and interests. Sometimes they are divested to communities or other non-profit organizations, which would manage them on behalf of the community, for example, perhaps for recreational activities.

It takes money to bring these harbours up to the condition where they can be divested to these other bodies. Certainly money is required for that. While this interim report from the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans that we are looking at today does mention a general amount, in order to do everything in terms of bringing our existing core harbours up to the state we require and would hope to achieve, and for our divestiture program and some new harbours, by some accounts a large investment is needed.

Nunavut, for example, has no small craft harbours and clearly we see a need there. We have looked at the possibility of developing harbours in seven locations. However, as I have already said, a large investment is required for all of these things, by some accounts perhaps up to $1 billion. It is an important priority and the minister has said that time after time. Just today, in fact, in our committee, he said that this is an important priority for him and our government and we will continue to work toward this in the best way we can.

This government is behind our fishing industry. It is behind the stakeholders who use our harbours. Of course we need to do more than just fix our harbours. We need to look in a broad way at our fishing industry. The government has done that. We are undertaking some key initiatives and have made key progress in that area.

We have the Atlantic fisheries renewal and have made good progress there. The minister has met with fisheries officials from region to region and province to province. He has also met with stakeholders from the industry and from communities. We have been getting them together and have asked them about what we need to do and what is important to them as we try to sustain our fisheries in an economic and environmentally friendly way in their regions.

Those have been very productive meetings. Committees were set up, reports were received, and action plans are being worked on and put in place as we try to make the kind of progress we need to ensure that the fishing industry in Canada is as productive as possible. Many will have heard about the ocean-to-plate initiative that the minister and his department have adopted. We need to figure out how we can do this so that stakeholders benefit as much as possible and also how to do it in a way that is sustainable.

On the west coast, we have the Pacific initiative to integrate commercial fisheries. It is a very important program and I am proud to be a part of it and am supporting it as best I can. The government has invested $175 million to make sure that we know how to proceed and how to integrate the fisheries between the commercial stakeholders and the aboriginal groups that are already part of it and want to be a bigger part of it. That takes money. We are committed to that program. We have stepped up to the plate with $175 million to work on all of the elements in the Pacific fishery that will be a part of this.

I am very pleased to say that one of the hallmarks of our minister's approach to the challenges and tasks of his job is the way he is able to collaborate. It is one of the most important things he does. Nowhere is that more evident than in British Columbia, where we have worked with a variety of groups and particularly the government of British Columbia and the ministers for fisheries and aquaculture.

This is important to us. We do want to support in general the motion to concur in this report, because we do believe that small craft harbours are a very important initiative for us. They are important to this country.

We own them, and as Canadians, with the Government of Canada, it is important for us to take the steps we need to take so that in the future we can look back and say that we did our duty, we fulfilled our responsibilities, and we brought our small craft harbours up to the condition that they ought to be in. We are working toward that.

Can that be done overnight? I do not think so. I think all of us in this House know that this is quite a large task. We need to be taking steps toward it and the government is doing that. I think members are going to see in the months and years to come that we are making some very good progress in addressing our infrastructure deficit with regard to small craft harbours.

I can assure this House that the government is committed to moving in that direction and achieving that goal.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to the speech given by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

While one could say that it was interesting in certain respects, in several other respects it was very disappointing. We are not talking about a government that was just recently elected. The Conservatives have been in power for more than just a couple of weeks. They have been in power for over two years now. We are talking about a situation where, in budget 2006, in the supplementary estimates in fall 2006, in budget 2007 and in the supplementary estimates of 2007, they could have done something, but they did not. They did not do so, since all they announced was that they were going to stick with the $20 million that has been scraped together over five years. This budget of $20 million a year will be included in the regular budget. That is probably the answer I will get.

That it is ridiculous, since, at present, we are not moving forward; we are stagnating. Frankly, we are going backwards. In fact, by the department's own admission, the situation is getting worse every year. If we continue to invest the same amount every year, the situation will only further deteriorate. Thus, there is no progress in announcing that they will stick with the $20 million every year. That amount needs to be much higher.

The other issue I would like my hon. colleague to address is the number that he is throwing at us, namely, $1 billion. That is what I heard. I would like him to break it down, simplify it or at least explain it to us.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, in my colleague's questions he is right when he says that we face some challenges in coming up with that kind of money, but in fact, as he anticipated, with regard to the $20 million that was part of the funding that was supposed to sunset, the government took a look at that and saw that it was going to put us in a much more difficult position. We were going to go behind, as he said.

Our government turned that into A-base funding to make sure that it would be part of our regular commitment. In addition to that, if he will recall, the department and the minister also committed to looking at all other means within their existing envelopes of funding to see where they could come up with additional funding that could go toward the needs of small craft harbours, so clearly we are committed to that.

In terms of the big number, I do not know that I could break it down any more than he could. We know from the 2006 study done a couple of years ago that it might take as much as $400 million. There have been various calculations done to figure out what it might take in today's dollars to do that same amount of work and what additional deterioration might have taken place since that study was done. On top of that, there are the funds that would be required for divestiture, new initiatives and perhaps expansion of some harbours, which some harbour authorities tell us is required based on the larger ship sizes today. There are all of those factors.

We do not know what the number would be. In fact, I think one of the important things we need to do, which both the committee and the minister and his department should be looking into, is to figure out in real terms, in 2008 dollars, what it is we are looking at in actual amounts.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for participating in this important discussion. My question has to do with the role of volunteers in our small craft harbours.

The committee report talks about the key role volunteers now play, given the divestiture program has been underway for many years now, and how they are responsible for operating of a lot of the small craft harbours. The report points out that they are increasingly frustrated both by the need for fiscal infrastructure investment in the small craft harbours, which they do their best to operate, and the need for training and alleviating some of the responsibilities on which they have taken.

These small craft harbours are often operated by non-profit societies or small municipalities. The report points out that 135,000 hours a year of volunteer time goes into maintaining them, ensuring their proper operation, but they need help. One of the ways the federal government can do that is to make a commitment to these harbours to support the volunteers who do this important work.

Could the parliamentary secretary comment on that aspect of the report?

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11 a.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Burnaby—Douglas raises a very good point. Let me provide a little clarification though.

We have core harbours that are usually fishing harbours. They primarily support the commercial fishing industry, although other activities take place there. Recreational boats tie up there from time to time. We then have the non-core harbours and those are usually divested. They might be owned by a non-profit organization, or a community or municipality.

The core harbours are the ones that continue to be owned by the Government of Canada, and in almost every case are managed by a harbour authority. A harbour authority might manage one or more of these small craft harbours. They receive their funding from the small craft harbours program. They generate revenue of their own by rents and other activities in which they are involved.

In most cases those harbour authorities are run by a board. In many cases the harbour authority board then hires a manager. Often an employee manages those. The board members are volunteers, and much of the work in those harbours is done by volunteers. If the volunteers are not there to do it, as they have told us in committee, they are unable to get the job done with the funding available to them.

The member is quite right that volunteers play a very significant role, certainly in the non-core harbours and also in the core harbours that are owned by the Government of Canada and managed by the harbour authorities. We should take every opportunity, and I know I do, to commend them for the good work they do on our behalf.

As we talked to the harbour authorities, the one thing we learned was the good relationship between the harbour authorities and the small craft harbours program. Let there be no misunderstanding, they work together well.

The small craft harbours program is part of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Its officials manage these programs with the harbour authorities, and there is good cooperation. They are committed to training, and a significant amount of money is invested every year in that. Could we do more? I am sure we could. We are listening to them to find out what specific kinds of training would benefit them the most as we move forward. However, we do appreciate the work of these volunteers.