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.


Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:05 a.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I also thank the parliamentary secretary for being here. Could he tell us what plans the government has for small boat harbours, or any harbours, in three northern territories?

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:05 a.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I do not know if I can be very specific on this.

We know that some significant work has been done in Nunavut, for example, because it does not have current small craft harbours. A joint study was done with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Government of Nunavut and some other stakeholder groups to figure out what its needs were and what it would take to at least begin to meet those needs. The report identified seven locations that would probably be the priority locations if we were to move forward and build the small craft harbours.

I know the report was well received by the government. It is taking a look at how best to proceed to make that a reality.

I am not sure if we are working on any specific projects in the other territories. If the member for Yukon has some advice for the government, we would be happy to take it.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:05 a.m.


Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to join the debate today. In the House we always stretch ourselves to try to learn more about our country.

My colleagues from Etobicoke North and York South—Weston do not have a lot of fishing fleets in their ridings. However, with the questions being asked and the discussions taking place, I am sure they are learning more about coastal communities across the country.

I was elected to Parliament seven years ago. During the last five years, I have had the opportunity to sit on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. Without questions, of all the other committee duties I have had since coming to the House, I am comfortable in stating that the fisheries and oceans committee would be the least partisan of any of the committees on which I have had the privilege to serve.

My colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore takes great pride in the fact that he is the senior member of the committee. Over his time, 23 different reports have been tabled and of those, 21 have been unanimous. This speaks to the fact that the members of the committee come with the intent to do the work that will best benefit the fishers and the fishing industry.

The report before us today and the debate we have entered into is indicative of the work by the committee.

I have had an opportunity to serve with my colleague, the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, for a number of years. With the many issues throughout the fishery, he has ensured that the issue of the small craft harbours has been kept to the fore. I commend him for that and thank him for bringing this forward to the House.

In industry many things have changed. We bank with the use of machines and computers. Everything seems to be technologically driven. The fishing industry has not shied away from its use of technology. When we walk into the wheelhouse of any boat that is tied up at a wharf, certainly in my constituency, we cannot help but be impressed with the technology to which the fishers have access now. We look at plotters and computers and it is truly some great stuff.

Sometimes when the fishers are out plying their trade, harvesting the stocks, all of a sudden mother nature decides to change the conditions and a sou'west blows up, the wind starts to come in from the offshore and the fishers have to find safe harbour somewhere. They have to turn, head for shore and hope there is a safe harbour to which they can tie up and find some type of refuge from the bad weather.

When they come into harbour after fishing for the day, it is not only important there is a degree of safety, but they are able to offload their catch in a harbour that is functional, efficient and safe as well. This is the least we can offer these men who go out to harvest the sea.

Even with all the technology, which is wonderful, when we are offloading a couple of thousand pounds of crab, it is tough to do it from a virtual wharf. These wharves have to be safe and efficient. The only way to ensure that is to invest money in the infrastructure of these harbours.

The people in my riding live in coastal communities and the harbour is the industrial part of those communities. They are the light industry moorage of those communities. Therefore, it is imperative that we continue to support them and give these fishers an opportunity to come and harbour in a safe place.

Nothing is static in the fishery. When we look at wharves, we need to look at the money that goes in to them year after year. Living in a northern country, living in a country that is exposed to such harsh weather conditions, with the natural forces of nature, pack ice, storm damage, all these natural impacts have devastating effects on wharf structures. We just cannot fix it, walk away and expect it to be there year after year. Some harbours are impacted by back filling. Some need constant dredging year after year.

These things have to be done to ensure these places continue to be safe, that fishers have access in and out and do not have to wait outside for a rise in the tide to get in. For efficient function of these harbours, it is imperative that investments are made, sometimes on an annual basis.

Another thing that has had a great impact on our harbours is the increase in the size of the boats the fishers use. I am saying that is a good thing. If we walk into any of the harbours in my riding now, the fleets are in pretty good shape. We have had a bit of affluence within the fishery over the last number of years.

I know we focus on the downturn in the cod fishery, but in that other opportunities have presented themselves. We are all very aware of the increase in the crab fishery. For a number of years it was fairly lucrative, but not so much now. However, we had some very strong and productive years with the crab fishery.

With that and lobster, many fishers have reinvested in their own enterprise. As fishers, they have small businesses. They have reinvested in their enterprises by buying bigger and better boats. Bigger and better means safer.

Quite often with these resources, they are harvesting and catching the fish and crab a little further offshore. Therefore, they have to steam further before they set their gear. The further they go from shore, the more they are exposed to the hazards of the ocean and quick changes in weather.

Therefore, what we have seen is an increase in the size of the boats that many of our fishers use. With the increase in the size, obviously there is less moorage at many of the harbours now. We just went through a fairly significant investment in one of my harbours, Mabou Harbour. It was a great little harbour and very functional for many years. However, with the increase in the size of the boats, it made it impossible for all the fishers out of Mabou to access the harbour. Especially for many of the crabbers who went out into area 12, their boats were very substantive in size. With that and the rundown conditions of the harbour, we were able to justify the investment in Mabou Harbour, which has been very much to the benefit of the fishers in Mabou.

Some comments were made by my colleague from the NDP on the training, the liability and the volunteer effort that we had seen from people within the harbour authorities and the responsibility that they had assumed over the last number of years. We expect a great deal of these volunteers.

I think we have put more and more responsibility back in the hands of the fishers. I do not think it is a bad thing. I think they are willing to accept that responsibility. We can look at the demands that are placed on the fishers now with regard to science and the use the science data. When we see them trying to take charge of that industry, the one area they have really stepped up to the plate is operating their own harbours and being involved in harbour authorities.

However, with that, I do not think the federal government can walk away and just turn it over to the fishers and the harbour authorities. It is imperative that we stay with them as a strong partner. Part of that responsibility is to be there when repairs have to be made. When capital investments have to be made in infrastructure, we have to be there for them.

There is another aspect of harbours from speaking with some of my colleagues. Through the mid-90s when there was centralization and rationalization, the divestiture of some non-core, derelict, non-essential harbours, there was a program. I was supportive of the program, which was well intended.

The rationale behind it was that coastal communities would have a small harbour with seven boats and another one with six boats, et cetera. By centralizing them and creating a bigger harbour, we would be able to focus our resources on the bigger harbour. There was a great deal of common sense in that and for the most part the centralization and rationalization programs worked fairly well and there were some great success stories.

Little Judique harbour is a small harbour on the west side of Cape Breton Island. There are 14 or 15 boats that fish out of Little Judique harbour. It went through the assessment on the west side and things were centralized to Big Cove, but the fishers wanted to continue to fish out of that harbour. There was a divestiture and investment made with the harbour authority and the core group of volunteers has continued to provide services and a safe harbour for those fishers from that community. The volunteers are to be commended for the effort they have put into it and that is one of the success stories.

We can look at other areas and there has not been the same degree of success. Fisheries and Oceans officials who were involved in the rationalization can tell us that some of these harbours, that are no longer core harbours, should continue to be in the mix as they are still important harbours.

L'Archeveque harbour is on the east side of Cape Breton Island and it is the only safe port. It was divested and they have done a pretty good job of running it as best they could. There are seven or eight core fishermen who work out of there, but during tuna and crab season additional fishers come to the harbour. It is the length of the coast that it provides safe harbour for, from Little harbour down to Fourchu. It is a significant area of coastline that L'Archeveque has to provide safe harbour for, but as a divested harbour it is having trouble to remain running.

What I would like to see, and I know this is a shot in the dark because it is tough enough with core harbours, is an envelope of money, an allocation. If these divested harbours could on occasion make application for some type of capital project, that would go a long way.

As the program and the rationalization went through in the late 1990s, that is when the boats started getting bigger in my community. Through the industry there was a fairly significant bump in the size of the boats on the east coast. As some of the harbours were being developed then and the boats got bigger, there was no room for some of the fishers in the divested harbours to move to the core harbours.

I was just at the end of the wharf in Charlos Cove in Guysborough County this past weekend and two or three fishers might go somewhere else. They might be able to go to Larrys River, which is a few miles away. There is no room there any more. It may have worked a number of years ago, but with the bigger boats now there is just no room. It would make sense for a divested harbour like Charlos Cove to have access to some type of envelope of money, so that the investment could be made and they could continue to fish off that wharf.

There are some issues that money cannot fix, but there are other issues where money could make a substantive change and an improvement. We think this is certainly one area where, if additional funds were allocated to this program, they could be well spent and well invested.

Certainly, I would like to see the program for scoring the merits of different harbours weighted toward small craft harbours as it is somewhat disproportionately weighted to the bigger harbours; nonetheless, I think most fishers see it as a pretty fair system. However, with additional money, this would be a better program.

We received testimony during the course of the study. Let me quote Mr. Robert Bergeron, small craft harbour director general. He stated: “It now appears that 28% of small craft harbour core infrastructure is in poor or an unsafe state”. That is fairly significant. That is up 7% from the 2001 estimate.

Of course, it goes back to what I was saying. Nothing is static here. Mother Nature plays foul with a lot of these harbours. These harbours are exposed, so naturally the asset will continue to diminish. I think that is where we have to go and I would hope that the government will see that.

Mr. Gervais Bouchard, small craft harbours regional director for the Quebec region testified that:

There is no doubt, in light of our current financial resources, that we are having a very hard time keeping operations safe in all locations.

He also stated:

So we face many problems, including user dissatisfaction because of safety and accessibility issues in inactive harbours. This is a result of the low rate of recapitalization.

Not having read the entire report, only aspects of it, I think what we will see recurring is that this problem is about additional funding. This problem is about putting more money toward fixing this problem. The formula probably is not too far off, and I have not seen anything through the document that elaborates greatly on what is wrong with the formula. Everything seems to come back to the amount of dollars that are available.

As we approach the big date of the budget coming forward to the House and the finance minister bringing the budget forward in the next number of weeks, I would hope that there is some type of recognition here for small craft harbours, some additional dollars.

I know it is tough over on the government side. The cupboard is relatively bare now. With the cut of two percentage points to the GST, there is not a whole lot left in the tank over there and there is not a whole lot of play in the budget this time round.

I guess if we can speak to one thing, we do not want to say “I told you so”, but many Canadians told us so, that it would handcuff this government from making those key investments, making those investments in infrastructure, or programs, or whatever it might be.

I think this probably typifies the case. I do not know if it is catastrophic or if it is a national emergency but, certainly, we know that with some of the new investments, and the parliamentary secretary spoke about the new investments in Iqaluit, and the state of some of the harbours not just on the east coast but on the west coast as well, additional dollars are needed.

I would hope that the finance minister, through the presentation of the next budget, will find the merit in this. I would hope that the parliamentary secretary, along with his minister, will make a strong case to put this forward at the cabinet table and we will see additional investment in this very important issue.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.


Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague who, like myself, was a member of the fisheries committee. I certainly miss this member's presence on the committee and wish him all the best in whatever committees he is currently working on.

The member talked about an envelope of money that could be available for a small craft harbour that has been already divested. It seems a little bit counterintuitive to me because the whole purpose of going through the divestiture was part of the rationalization process to take those harbours that were not considered core harbours out of the purview of the federal government.

The policy of the small craft harbours program is to bring these harbours up to a safe and acceptable standard before the divestiture process even occurs. To now actually bring more money to the table, for harbours that we have basically already brought up to a standard that should have been acceptable to whoever took it over, does not seem to make any sense to me especially when we have shortfalls.

Admittedly, we have shortfalls in the small craft harbour program. It has been clear. I asked the question in committee when these deficits actually started to accrue as far as infrastructure deficits. It started in the early 90s. The question was answered that it happened around 1993 or so and I do not think that is a coincidence if Canadians look back at some of the cuts that needed to happen.

Does my colleague really think that it is the right thing to do to start spending federal treasury money on harbours that are divested, given the fact that the rationalization process was meant to actually give those harbours over to someone who was outside the purview of the federal government?

I might also remind my hon. colleague that the Government of Canada does have the building Canada fund which is a $33 billion fund that has various pots of money for municipalities and, for example, if the harbour he is talking about was actually divested to a municipality. If it were of significant importance to that municipality, that municipality would have the option of applying for a grant to do any major capital investments.

Is my hon. colleague suggesting that the Government of Canada reverse its position, which was a position taken by the previous Liberal government, of divesting harbours and bringing those harbours back into the fold through an envelope of money and actually further burdening the problem of the shortfall of money that we have for the harbours that are currently under the Government of Canada's jurisdiction?

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:30 a.m.


Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, the question from the member for Wetaskiwin is a fair one. I believe that the rationalization through the mid-1990s was well intended and that the Liberals did it for the right reasons. The whole purpose was that it would pay dividends and benefits in the longer term.

Because of the change, and I indicated several in my presentation, in the size of the boats, and their increase in size, individual boats are taking up greater room in some of the core harbours. If there was a reassessment and an inventory done now on the harbours, we would see that the harbours we invested in through the mid-1990s are being stressed because of the increase in the size of the boats over the years.

The member is absolutely right, and I certainly would not duck this, that cuts were made in the 1990s. Past Liberal governments had to come to terms with the fiscal situation of the country at that time. Cuts were made in small craft harbours. Cuts were made in health, in transportation, in every sector. Nobody escaped the wrath of the cuts. All Canadians felt the impact. Certainly the fishery felt the impact. Those cuts were significant, but they were necessary.

Those cuts have put us in a financial situation that is not bad. We have had some very strong and prosperous years. We have been in a surplus situation over the last number of years, not so much with the GST cut to 5%, but there is not so much there now, and that is why we are handcuffed in making the key investments in places like small craft harbours, key infrastructure like that. I do not know if the federal government is going to have the opportunity to help some of these industries along.

The member's point is well taken. I just think that if we did a reassessment of the inventory of the harbours that we have now, we would see that some of the harbours that had been divested still have merit as safe harbours or even could take some of the strain off the core harbours.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:30 a.m.


Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was listening to my friends, the member for Wetaskiwin and the previous speaker, talk about the divestiture of harbours. The question was whether there was sufficient money and the accusation was that there was not enough room because 2% was used. He is not totally incorrect. The 2% does of course limit the amount of tax the government is taking from the people of Canada, but at the same time, it does permit the people of Canada to spend some more money, perhaps on things like bigger boats.

I want to inform my hon. friend that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans did attend at a harbour in my community to divest that harbour to the community of Port Hope, something the community of Port Hope wants. People in Port Hope want it because they want to develop the harbourfront. They want to make it more beautiful in order to attract tourists. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans will be supplying some funds so that the harbour can be dredged. The harbour is already in a relatively good state of repair. This will facilitate economic development in that community. I think that was the whole reason for the divestiture of harbours.

Previous governments of Canada prior to the 1990s perhaps were well intentioned in acquiring harbours throughout the country. Port Hope's harbour is on Lake Ontario. It is a prime tourist area.

I think my friend is somewhat mistaken in the figure of 2%. There have been many other tax advantages and tax reductions given to Canadians, particularly to families. Of course, there is economic change going on in North America and indeed in most of the industrialized world. As we move to a knowledge based economy, some of the jobs that require a lot of labour, particularly in the manufacturing area, are moving out. Those jobs are moving to the Pacific Rim where people work for 50¢ an hour. In Canada people cannot live on that hourly rate. That is why the Government of Canada reduced those taxes.

The government has not prohibited the ability to divest those harbours to make our communities more beautiful. Actually, this divestiture just took place. I think drawing that equation to the reduction from 7% to 6% to 5%, although not entirely incorrect, is a minor aspect to this.

Does the hon. member not think that the divestiture of harbours is a good idea for communities and municipalities in order to increase the the tourism industry?

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:35 a.m.


Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I think it is great. Whenever we can give a community or a group more control over its own future and destiny is a positive thing. However, I still think there is a responsibility for the federal government to play a role.

My question is focused on how much latitude the government now has to make investments. We are talking about harbours today. We could be talking about industry, certainly the forestry industry or manufacturing. We could pick any topic. I still believe that the government can play a role in helping those sectors.

I question whether the government is going to have any kind of latitude or impact. We will see that in the next budget when it comes forward. I would hope that the government would come forward. I would be as happy as my colleague from Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine if the government came forward and said it was going to allocate $200 million for small craft harbours. That would be great. However, I do not think there is anything left in the cupboard and I am not expecting a whole lot when the budget is tabled.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:35 a.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to this motion regarding the report, “Safe and Well-Funded Small Craft Harbours: A Clear Priority”. I am pleased that the member from the Bloc brought forward this motion today.

I want to specifically address a number of things in the report because they are important factors in my own riding of Nanaimo--Cowichan. Earlier, the parliamentary secretary talked about the fact that small craft harbours in British Columbia are largely well managed. He is absolutely correct. However, I want to talk about some of the challenges.

The report talks about the economic impact that the small craft harbours have on our coastal communities. Certainly in my riding of Nanaimo--Cowichan we welcome the positive economic impact of the small craft harbours.

A range of activities happen at these harbours, including commercial fisheries, sport and recreational fisheries, and boating. We are a destination in Canada and in the Pacific northwest for recreational boaters. We have some of the finest coastline and islands which boaters can visit. Whether it is Protection Island or some of the other small islands, boaters can anchor and enjoy the beauty, or they can come into the harbours in Chemainus, Ladysmith, Maple Bay or Genoa Bay. We have a number of very fine harbours.

The diving in my area is known around the world. Over the last couple of years some appropriately and environmentally cleaned up vessels have been sunk. Divers come from all over the world to explore the seabed and look at some of the man-made artifacts.

Small craft harbours are an essential part of our economy. In the village of Cowichan Bay there is a vibrant small craft harbour and the town itself is built up around it. People come from Nanaimo and Victoria to spend a weekend in Cowichan Bay.

We understand the economic impact and the need to ensure that these small craft harbours remain economically viable.

The report talks specifically about the fact that in 2003, DFO commissioned a study to assess the economic impacts of the small craft harbour network of fishing harbours in British Columbia. According to the study, the economic activity related to its expenditures associated with the region's 101 fishing harbours for 2001-02 totalled $800 million: $500 million from commercial fishing, $200 million from marine recreation, and $100 million from other activities such as aquaculture, marine transport, et cetera.

The report indicates that the direct economic impacts of these expenditures were estimated at $485 million in annual gross domestic product, $245 million in annual labour income, which is wages plus benefits, and 6,135 person years of annual employment. The total impacts, including direct, indirect supplier, and induced consumer spending impacts, were even more important.

Mr. Boland, the regional director of strategic initiatives, Pacific region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, appeared before the committee. I want to read some of his testimony into the record. From coast to coast to coast, small craft harbours are important, but I want to talk specifically about British Columbia.

Mr. Boland said:

B.C. has 27,000 kilometres of coastline...we have a total of 157 scheduled sites, of which 78 of those are harbours, core harbours. We have 54 harbour authorities who manage those 78 core sites.

He talked about the volunteer workforce of between 550 and 600 people, which includes harbour directors and those volunteers from the community who assist in harbour operations. When I was on the North Cowichan council, I was fortunate enough to sit on the harbour commission. I had an up-close view of how important the volunteers are for the operation of our small craft harbour.

Our harbour commission was made up largely of volunteers with some support staff from the North Cowichan council, who worked tirelessly in terms of overseeing the efficient management and function of the small craft harbour over which North Cowichan has responsibility. I understand how important these volunteers are to the ongoing operation.

Mr. Boland went on in his testimony to say:

The fishing industry in British Columbia has approximately 3,000 commercial fishing vessels, and in 2005, the landed value of B.C. commercial fishing was in the neighbourhood of $365 million.

That was in 2005, but in my own riding of Nanaimo--Cowichan we saw some really disappointing returns this year in the runs on the Cowichan River. So although commercial fishing has been a really important part of our economy, we have called on DFO to put a lot more attention on and effort into habitat, conservation, protection and enforcement.

When we talk about the importance of these numbers to our communities, we really need that kind of focus and attention. When we see the kinds of runs that we saw this year in the Cowichan River, which is an indicator river in British Columbia, it raises flags all over the province. We are hopeful that DFO will pay attention to the very serious issues that have been raised around some of these indicator rivers in British Columbia.

Mr. Boland went on to talk about the fact that there are some concerns. It is part of these concerns that I want to raise in the context of the debate that is happening in the House today. I have stated what the economic importance is to British Columbia. I have stated how important it is to the viability of some of our communities. I agree that divestiture, if it is done properly, is really important in terms of local community control. Again, I think the municipality of North Cowichan is a good example of how a municipality can take on and run with a divestiture, but there are some problems.

Mr. Boland raised a major concern about “enhancing the viability skills” of harbour authorities “so they can raise enough revenue to keep themselves going, to keep themselves independent”.

He then said:

A second issue is that we find a growing pressure on our waterfront. A lot of people want to move to British Columbia. The communities that support the harbours want to look at waterfront land as a better tax base, so they're looking at different kinds of opportunities on the waterfront. And one of the big pushes, from our perspective, is to get our harbour authorities more involved in community integrated planning to generate better strategic planning over time, so they don't get overrun by interests selling land and building condos right next door to a bustling harbour.

We also have first nations issues unique to British Columbia. We're involved with the B.C. treaty process in Indian Affairs to have them consider the 15 harbours that front first nations communities. These communities are not just commercial fishing harbours, they are often the ingress and egress of the community. There are no roads, so the only way in and out is by the harbour...We think the harbour is an economic opportunity for first nations, so it should be part of the treaty process.

Mr. Boland went on to talk about climate change. He said:

Climate change is having an impact on our harbours, so we need funding to take a look at how to better design or facilitate the changes of our commercial fishing fleet as they move from fishing for salmon to other species such as tuna, mackerel, sardines, and those types of fisheries that require larger boats.

In terms of climate change, Mr. Boland was talking specifically about the way species are shifting and how we are seeing some species in our waters that we have not seen in the past, how the fishing season is moving because of warming water temperatures, and a number of other factors.

However, there is another impact on small craft harbours. That has to do with changing water levels and storm damage. Over the last couple of years, we have seen some of the most severe windstorms in B.C.'s history. That kind of storm damage, which many argue is attributable to climate change, needs to be factored into the kind of money that is required in order to maintain small craft harbours on an ongoing basis.

There are a couple of other points in the issues that Mr. Boland addressed around the importance of small craft harbours. He talked about some of the first nations small craft harbours that are literally the lifeline to the outside world. In many communities there are no roads and in some no airports. The only way people can get in and out of their communities is via boat. These small craft harbours in first nations communities are a lifeline to the outside community, but they are also an economic opportunity. It is important to factor that into any equation here.

In some of our communities, the small craft harbour also serves as the point where medical evacuations can happen. For example, on Thetis and Kuper Islands, which are serviced by ferries, when the ferries do not run there needs to be a point at which a medical evacuation can happen in the off-hours. For a while, there was a challenge in finding a place where a medical evacuation boat could have a slip to deal with medical emergencies, on Kuper Island in particular.

Therefore, small craft harbours in many of our communities are a vital link for people who have a medical emergency. It is important that we continue to talk about how much these small craft harbours mean in many of our smaller communities.

One of the things we talked about is divestiture. I want to reference the minority report that the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore raised when the committee tabled its report. I want to read for members part of his position, because I think this is an important element when we are talking about divesture. He said:

It is the NDP's position that any divestiture of wharves or small craft harbours must have financial and human resources in place long before the divestiture takes place.

Furthermore, the NDP maintains that the federal government must continue to be a partner in supporting small craft harbours and wharves--even after the divestiture of a small craft local harbour authorities. The federal government should continue to remain a partner after the divestiture to assist with necessary maintenance like dredging or critical repairs to infrastructure. Fishermen and SCH boards simply cannot afford to pay or raise money for critical infrastructure improvements. Fishermen and coastal communities should not be required to shoulder the burden for critical infrastructure improvements to small craft harbours. In so many remote regions of our country, small fishing harbours are indispensable and remain critical infrastructure for economic development opportunities in our coastal communities.

I absolutely support the call of the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore for this ongoing partnership when divestiture happens. As I said earlier, divestiture is an important tool in having local control over a valuable resource in our communities, but many of our small communities simply cannot afford the ongoing repair and maintenance once the terms of the divestiture are over.

I want to turn briefly again to the North Cowichan municipal Chemainus small craft harbour. A couple of years back, an expansion was required. Again, of course, when we are talking about revenue generation anyone of us who has written a business plan knows that we have to crunch the numbers. What happened in Chemainus was that they needed to extend the docks in order to have the revenue generation to maintain the viability of the facility.

Representatives of the municipality of North Cowichan sought other partners to assist in this dock expansion. They were over $300,000 short. They were fortunate in that they made an application to the Department of Western Economic Diversification and ended up with the $300,000-plus required to take on the whole package, but it was such a complicated process.

In regard to that, let us look at smaller municipal councils. In many of our smaller communities, where these small craft harbours are, there are small municipal councils that do not have extensive engineering capacity. North Cowichan does have extensive engineering capacity, but many of them do not. Many first nations communities do not have that kind of engineering capacity or the environmental capacity.

The expansion in Chemainus was extremely complicated, of course, because there was dredging and it had to happen at certain times of the year in terms of fisheries. It was an enormous undertaking for a small municipal council.

It is an example of where that partnership with DFO and the Ministry of Transport is absolutely essential. That financial partnership and that expertise partnership are absolutely essential in order to make sure that those small craft harbours are operating in the most environmentally friendly, responsible and sustainable way. This is an important role that the federal government can continue to play.

Other members in the House have touched on a couple of these issues, but I want to raise the issue of volunteers once again. I spoke about the fact that the harbour commission members at North Cowichan council were all volunteers. These men and women put in countless hours.

This issue did come up before the standing committee, which talked about the need to address “volunteer fatigue and the need for additional support within Harbour Authorities”. I want to raise a couple of points from the report, which stated:

Harbour Authorities are typically non-profit, locally controlled organizations which operate and manage harbours. According to DFO, they are an efficient way of offering services, strengthening public investment and providing opportunities for communities to participate fully in the planning, operation and maintenance of harbour facilities.

I would agree with all of that. Harbour authorities are a way to make sure that the ongoing local operation is connected to the community plans and to the vision that the community has for itself. In many of our communities that are not so remote, such as Chemainus, Ladysmith and Cowichan Bay, these small craft harbours are right in the middle of our town centres. It is important that the local communities have some control over those facilities and that they are integrated into the community planning.

However, the report raised a couple of concerns around what is happening with volunteers. It stated:

For a few years now, these volunteers have experienced frustration due to insufficient budgets to maintain the harbours; increased complexity in harbour management; the difficulty of recruiting new volunteers; and, apprehension regarding the responsibilities and liability related to management of deteriorating facilities.

Testimony from the report stated:

“Volunteers are experiencing frustration. They are physically and morally affected by the present situation. They have given a lot to their community, and when they see their fishing harbour deteriorate from year to year for lack of funding, they become discouraged”.

Again, I know how many hours many of these volunteers invest in what is often a love for them. They have a passion for their small craft harbours. Either they are fishermen or recreational boaters, or they are recreational sport fishers or divers. Whatever their background is, they bring that passion to making sure that their small craft harbour stays viable for their ongoing use and for the use of their children and grandchildren.

In my community we are very fortunate, because we are not facing the same situation as other communities around deterioration, but I know that the volunteer hours people put in do wear them out. I think we need to look at how we support those volunteers, whether it is with infrastructure to help them coordinate their meetings or in making sure they have opportunities to go to meetings. In British Columbia, the association of small craft harbours has regular meetings where volunteers get to participate, learn about good ideas and gain support. It really is important that we look for ways to support the volunteer activity that happens in this country around small craft harbours.

The last issue I want to turn my attention to is the development of new small craft harbour infrastructure in Nunavut. The standing committee's report states:

Significant increase[s] in economic spin-offs in terms of employment and capacity building are expected to emerge from the development of the territory's fish harvesting, processing and marketing sectors. Without functional harbours however, this will likely not happen.

The report goes on to talk about the fact that over a number of years reports that have been generated have talked about the importance of harbour infrastructure for Nunavut. What is actually being looked at is fishing harbour infrastructure in seven small communities, including Pangnirtung.

I had the good fortune to be in Pangnirtung last summer. We were looking at a number of factors in Pangnirtung, but one thing we did was look at the small craft harbours up there. Of course in the north the conditions are substantially different than they are in my part of the country on Vancouver Island. Although we have serious tidal issues and we have good tidal swings in my area, we do not have the kinds of tidal swings they have in the north and we certainly do not have to deal with the ice conditions.

The investment in small craft harbours in the north seems like it needs that attention. When we are talking about economic development and opportunities for people in the north to not only maintain their sovereignty but also to expand their livelihood, it would seem like a good investment.

In conclusion, I want to thank the member from the Bloc for bringing this motion forward today. I think it is an important debate to have in this House as we recognize the importance of these small craft harbours in our communities, not only as economic or recreational links but often as the safety link, the link to ferries and to other communities that simply do not have road infrastructure.

I would encourage all members in the House to support this motion. I hope the government will follow through and make the kinds of investments that are needed in small craft harbours in order to keep their viability in our country.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:55 a.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission B.C.


Randy Kamp ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I found the comments made by the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan thoughtful. She raised some important issues, particularly the issue of the economic impact to small craft harbours.

She referred to the study that was done in B.C. That is very important to bear in mind as we consider this topic. We are not just talking about keeping a particular piece of infrastructure well maintained, but it has a lot of spinoff benefits as well.

I want to draw the member's attention to the supplementary opinion by the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore on behalf of the NDP. I am just a bit confused by it and I hope she can help me understand it better. It says that it is the NDP's position that any divestiture of wharves, the small craft harbours, must have financial and human resources in place long before the divestiture takes place. I wonder if she can just give us a bit more on what that might mean.

The part I am most confused about is where it says, “The federal government should continue to remain a partner after the divestiture to assist with necessary maintenance like dredging or critical repairs to infrastructure”.

Even before that it says, “The federal government must continue to be a partner in supporting small craft harbours and wharves, even after the divestiture of a small craft harbour to local harbour authorities”.

That is where the confusion comes because harbour authorities are those bodies that run the harbours that are not divested. They operate and manage on behalf of the federal government those core harbours. When we go through the process of divestiture, the government is basically selling that harbour to somebody taking it over, in most cases, to a community or non-profit group. There is a bit of confusion, but I think this question has been raised before.

What is divestiture all about if somebody takes it over and then the federal government, according to this paragraph at least, is responsible for dredging, maintenance and so on? Those are exactly the things that the small craft harbour program does with the non-divested harbours, so what is divestiture doing if we are making all the same financial commitments that we had before divestiture?

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings



Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, although I cannot speak on behalf of the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, I can speak to my own experience.

In my region, as the parliamentary secretary rightly pointed out, harbour authorities are non-divested. We have a harbour commission which is a divested authority and so perhaps there was some language around this that is a little different from what was stated by the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore.

When we are talking about divested in our area, a harbour commission, I think that one of the challenges that we have faced, which is where the financial resources becomes a factor, is that for the ongoing normal operation and maintenance, often the local authority, the local commission can do the fundraising and generate the revenue.

More problematic is where we have these huge capital projects and it is very difficult for smaller municipalities and non-profits to actually raise those kinds of funds. For example, we had to look at an enormous upgrade to one of the breakwaters in one of our harbours. The problem with it was that it was simply beyond the financial capability of the local municipal authority to raise that kind of funding.

In my view, the kind of partnering that would happen would include some recognition. There is some infrastructure money, but that often falls in line with a whole bunch of other municipal projects, so there needs to be a specifically allocated pot of capital that small craft harbours, that are divested, could access for some of those larger capital projects. In my view, that would make them much more viable.

This should include all the accountability measures that we all recognize are really important around the expenditure of government funds, but that kind of partnering would actually make these harbours much more viable.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings



Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for defending the small craft harbours of her region. For those Canadians who live in the centre parts of the country, without access to oceans, there is not a proper understanding of how vital these harbours can be, not just for the recreation and the commercial requirements of the community but also for basic safety concerns.

I would like to hear the member's comments on an incident that happened some months ago on the north coast of British Columbia, which was the tragic sinking of the Queen of the North, in which a ferry ran aground and sunk quite quickly. The crew were diligent in getting almost everyone, unfortunately not everyone made it off the ship, into life rafts but they were on a relatively isolated part of the coast.

It was only through the incredible and courageous work and dedication of the folks of the Hartley Bay community that they were able to scramble enough fishing boats and people in the dead of night, on a cold night, to get out and save the lives of many travellers who did not have the clothing or any of the equipment necessary to survive the night when it is that cold.

The reason I am asking this particular question is to partly celebrate and honour the people of Hartley Bay and what they were able to do but also to recognize the lack of support which is noted in this report. We have heard the parliamentary secretary talk about it, just the basic financial and training support in terms of the infrastructure but also the emergency services, the training for people to handle situations like this for places like the central and north coast.

What does this actually mean? What are the consequences of the government not stepping up to the plate fully in a proper way?

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think Hartley Bay is a really good example of how those small craft harbours are so essential and are the lifeblood in many of our communities. Hartley Bay was a good example of course where community members put their own lives at risk to perform a rescue operation for what could have been a much larger tragedy.

In many of our communities, and I know this is equally true on the east coast and in the north, they are often subject to some fairly severe weather conditions. Those small craft harbours often play vital roles during a rescue. Whether it is on the west coast of Vancouver Island or places like Hartley Bay, those small craft harbours are a vital rescue point.

I mentioned earlier about the fact that sometimes the small craft harbours are simply the place where emergency boats can do medical evacuation as in the case of Kuper Island. However, in this case the Hartley Bay people really need recognition of the fact that they performed a vital service and support for those volunteers is critical.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.


Joe McGuire Liberal Egmont, PE

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member to elaborate on the environmental concerns that she touched upon again.

I know that on the east coast there are more storm surges than there ever were before. They are much more intense and much more damaging than they ever were before. Fishermen tell us that they have not experienced previously some of the storm surges that they have in the past five or six years.

I know in the year 2000, during a federal election campaign, one of our worst storm surges occurred in Prince Edward Island and along the east coast where it almost destroyed three of our harbours. Yet, we as the federal government have not taken any steps that I can see, either by the previous government or the present one, on planning for these contingencies on how to deal with these very damaging events of nature and the effect that they have on our small craft harbours.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, at my end of the country one of the things that we are looking at is the fact that we are having to reassess the strength and the viability of some of our breakwaters because of the storm surges that we are seeing, the high winds, and the kind of wind and wave damage that is happening. That is an enormous cost for many of our communities and many of these divested small craft harbours. We really need to look at a mitigation strategy around climate change and the impact that it is having on the small craft harbours.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.


Joe McGuire Liberal Egmont, PE

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the human dynamo, the member of Parliament for Yukon.

I have served on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans for a number of years and I was the chair of that committee for a number of years. I must say that some of the most interesting times that I spent in the House of Commons were those years that I served on that particular committee.

Sometimes it was heavy, hot and heated in the committee because it was during a time of change when the Canadian Coast Guard went from Transport Canada to DFO. It was also the time when many of the port authorities were set up. People inherently resist change, but this made it one of the most interesting periods of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans for some years.

I am also very proud of the role that my party played at that time in setting up the port authorities that members are talking about today. Previous to harbour authorities, harbour repair was based more on which side of government a particular MP sat. That fact determined whether or not his or her harbour would be repaired.

I know that in my particular riding of Egmont, and if anyone looks at the map, they will see the importance of the fishing industry to my riding. Fishing is probably the most important industry in the province or in my riding. The 11 or 12 harbours there, now with the addition of the Lennox Island First Nation harbour, received almost no repairs for over 10 years.

The story I like to quote, when I speak with fishermen, is when the chairman of the fisherman's group in Howards Cove sent a letter to the minister of the day, with a copy to me, along with pictures of himself and his fellow fishermen standing in the basin of his harbour on a sand dune. The caption asked to please dredge the harbour so that the fishermen could go fishing in the spring.

I went to the minister of the day, who is now the Lieutenant-Governor of the great province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and showed him the pictures. We had a meeting. He did come up with the dollars to do the dredging and I give him credit for that. Knowing his sense of humour, which he still retains to this day, he said that now I owe him a big favour.

At that time the minister was trying to increase the carapace size of lobsters. He wanted fishermen to leave bigger lobsters in the ocean to propagate and grow larger. The minister said that I now had to support him in increasing the carapace size of lobsters to two feet between the eyes. Anyone who knows John Crosbie would know exactly what he was referring to there.

In 1993, when Brian Tobin was the minister of the day, we had to address the great problem that was coming in small craft harbours and the lack of dollars that were allocated, and the way they were allocated to the Atlantic provinces and probably to the whole country, whether it was recreational harbours or active working harbours.

The previous Liberal government implemented the concept of fishermen taking control in managing the infrastructure of the harbours that they used every day, and to priorize what had to be done in the long term. It was up to us as politicians to furnish the dollars that could address those problems.

It was astronomical the amount of dollars that were required to bring many of the harbours up to scratch. I know in Judes Point in Tignish Shore, which is the largest small craft harbour in Atlantic Canada, the harbour was basically returning to the earth. It was a very dangerous proposition for the fishermen of Judes Point to go out through the run at Tignish Run. They were taking their lives in their hands twice a day going in and coming out with the timbers that were leaning into the run.

Miminegash and Northport, two other very large small craft harbours in my riding, had not seen any kind of repairs, almost no minimum maintenance, for quite some time.

This happened quite often. In those years it was the position of the Atlantic caucus that we should set up a different way to do things. We should give the fishermen a bigger role to play, a role that would tie them into their workplace more often. Before it was totally the government's responsibility and there was a hostile situation between fishermen and government officials on the condition of the harbour and what to do about it.

Even though the federal government still owns those properties, they are managed and run by local fishermen on their own time. Some harbours have difficulty getting enough fishermen to volunteer for those positions. The difference in the attitude of the fishermen before the harbour authorities were instituted and today is like night and day. There will always be problems and a shortage of dollars.

In the past two years of the Conservative government, it appears we have gone back to when the bureaucrats used to say they were colour-blind. Now the colour is a little more tinged on the blue side if we look at what has been done in my riding over the past two years compared to what was done before on a regular implementation basis. The only work that has been done in the last two years is work that was already approved before the change in government.

According to the information I have, $5 million or $6 million worth of repairs was required, from Tignish, West Point, Skinners Pond, Miminegash Harbour and so on. It is difficult for the fishermen and the harbour authorities to get any kind of an answer as to whether those repairs will even start to be carried out or if they are approved. There is supposed to be a grading system whereby the budget will be allocated among the large harbours, A harbours, B harbours and so on. The harbours I have talked about are large small craft harbours that need continuous repair and dredging.

On the Northumberland Strait side, the harbours of Cape Egmont and Egmont Bay need to be dredged almost every three years as a matter of course. The sand runs from west to east and these harbours eventually fill up with sand and have to be dredged. It is part of the minimum maintenance of that harbour. Every year they have to practically beg to get a dredge allocated to the area so they can go fishing.

It is always a battle for members of Parliament to get the government of the day, whether Liberal or Conservative, to allocate the proper funding for the program. When the right hon. member for LaSalle—Émard was minister of finance, he would make his rounds to all the caucuses and we were able to convince him to put $100 million into that program. To give him his due, he implemented that. The fund over the five year period has now expired. The fishermen need the program not only to be reinstituted, but to be upgraded as well.

As stated in my question for the previous speaker, the amount of damage done by storm surges and the environmental conditions of today can cause a lot of damage to small craft harbours no matter how well the wharves are constructed. They need to be protected with rock and granite.

After the storm surge of 2000, the damage done to Seacow Pond,Tignish Harbour and Miminegash will not re-occur because of the repairs made at that time to protect those harbours. This needs to be continued.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission B.C.


Randy Kamp ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I want to make a clarification. The member referred to the $100 million funding from his government when it was in power. We recognize that. It was over a period of five years, so it was $20 million a year. I think he may have left the impression that the funding ended, but this government made it permanent. Rather than it remain a program that would sunset, it is now part of the permanent funding of the department. It is part of the A-base funding. In addition, there was some transformational funding that the department had, and $11 million of that went into small craft harbours as well.

This government has done a fair bit when it comes to beginning the process of addressing the shortfall.

The facts are clear. The shortfall really started to get worse in the mid-1990s when the budget went down to just above $50 million. At one time, it was closer to $150 million. Therefore, some of the infrastructure deficit we have to deal with now is as a result of those policies in the mid-1990s.

I assure the member that the department carefully applies a priority approach to the funding of all harbour repairs at commercial fishing harbours. I think he left the impression that somehow his harbours have been left out. I am not sure what he intended to imply, but if they were, it is because they were not considered priorities at this time. I am sure if they become priorities, then they will be adequately funded.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.


Joe McGuire Liberal Egmont, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the parliamentary secretary cleared up that matter. It is good to know those dollars are there, as I was left with the impression that they were not incorporated.

It stills leaves the fact that the program continues to be underfunded. Any study that the committee has come up with on small craft harbours, continuously and unanimously all parties have agreed the program is dramatically underfunded.

I know paying off the debt is a good thing. Our government balanced those budgets in the 1990s. We have put some of the surpluses into paying off our long term debt. However, surely we can use some of that to build up the infrastructure of small craft harbour. The longer we leave the repair of those harbours, the more expensive they will become. We might as well fix a leak now than fix the whole harbour a little later on.

It is incumbent upon all members of Parliament to convince the government that the budget for this program has to be increased substantially.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, could the member comment on the fact that we do not only build a harbour, but it is there forever? In particular, in my riding, which is as far as away as can possibly be from his riding in the country, climate change is having a dramatic effect. Is it having an effect in his riding?

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.


Joe McGuire Liberal Egmont, PE

Mr. Speaker, climate change is having a dramatic effect. It is increasing the bills.

In the Miminegash Harbour the last storm surge cut through a sand dune, came in on the wharf, lifted up a huge part of it and set it aside. We deal with that kind of power. We must have barriers and walls to withstand the sea. If we do not do a good job of that, it will continue to cause a great deal of damage that will have to be repaired, which costs a great deal of money.

Why not take preventative measures now, put up those walls and those barriers now, so we will not have to deal with all these damages in the future?

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, before I start, I want to comment on a remark by a member of the government on the new $33 billion building Canada fund. This was made after the member for Egmont explained the serious underfunding for small boat harbours.

It gives me an opportunity, as many members have already mentioned, to talk about the deception that some government members have tried to foist on mayors and city councils and Canadians in general, that $33 billion in new dollars could be used for small boat harbours or anything like that.

First, a good proportion of that money was already earmarked under Liberal programs, such as the gas tax, et cetera. This is ongoing funding of Liberal programs, including money for the Pacific gateway. That leaves only about $7.4 billion. Therefore, it is not $33 billion; it is $7.4 billion.

The $4 million of that $7.4 billion in new money is for the Asia gateway. I do not think a man or woman will jump in a little motorboat and go to Asia, so probably will not to be used for small boat harbours. Then there are $2.1 billion for gateways and borders. I do not really think small boat harbours will be funded because they are on the border. Then there are the PPP projects, for $1.3 billion. There is no word on what that might be and no suggestion that it might be small boat harbours. Then direct funds to the provinces are $2.3 billion.

That leaves $1.3 billion, and it is not over one year. It is over seven years. Therefore, if something needs to be done soon, we do not have $33 billion to do it. If we consider all the sewage, water, road and recreational problems, I do not think a lot of that will go for small boat harbours. In fact, I would like to see exactly how many projects under the building Canada fund have gone to small boat harbours this year. Therefore, that was not a very practical suggestion.

I will speak to the motion from three unique perspectives, the three responsibilities I have in Parliament. The first is as critic for the north. The second is as co-chair for the very large outdoor caucus of Parliament. The third is as chair of the rural caucus. I hope to give some different perspectives on the motion and on some of the items contained in report. Virtually every member of Parliament from all parties has suggested, and credit to them, the importance and the need for more funding for these small boat harbours.

As chair of the rural caucus, I think we all know there is a huge unemployment problem the rural areas, much more than in urban areas. It is not necessarily easy when one industry town loses that industry. There are not a lot of options to create a sustainable community immediately.

If I do not run out of time, I will go into the economic benefits small boat harbours have to rural communities in great detail. It is one of those unique, rare instances.

When we have found a solution, why would we not fund it rather than do more studies? Also, if we do not do something in the rural areas, we then have a huge migration to the cities. It is not totally healthy to have an empty countryside. I could elaborate on that at great length but I probably will not have time.

In 2007-08, we have $97 million for small craft harbours, which is 4.5% lower than last year, so there is room to move. I think people are all in agreement with that. We are all looking anxiously toward the budget.

As the critic for the north, I want to focus in on the north for a few minutes and the benefits the motion would have for the north, and some of the other related initiatives in the north for which our party stands.

First of all, as some members have mentioned, the report suggests building seven new small craft harbours in Nunavut. I am very thankful for the strong leadership of the Liberal Party in announcing that we would forthwith build and fund harbours in Pangnirtung, Clyde River, Kugaaruk, Pond Inlet, Chesterfield Inlet, Repulse Bay and Qikiqtarjuaq.

Those harbours in Nunavut would be very important in an area of extreme high unemployment and would create opportunities for employment. People have been trying to do that for decades but there are limited possibilities. This would be a very natural one. It is one that people of Nunavut want. The government was involved in the report. It is certainly an area we could help. It would be an obvious area to support.

They could be used by the local fisheries, which could get bigger because the ice is rapidly disappearing due to global warming. There is already an active fishery of turbot, shrimp and a few other species. One can imagine the difficulty Nunavut fishermen face in that harsh environment if there are no harbours in which to dock their boats. I was fighting for more quotas for the fisher people of Nunavut because not all the quotas in their area even go to them, but it is pretty hard to argue for that if they have no place to store their boats safely between fishing trips.

Another high priority for us, and the Liberal leader again has taken great leadership in this area, is to encourage an enhancement and acceleration of the mapping of the north. If we do not map the seabed in the north we could lose what could have been part of Canada. Once again, harbours can play a role in ensuring that the people doing the mapping have access to the appropriate harbours.

There is another related area on which I am also proud of the Liberal leader. We would ban dumping of garbage and food waste into the Arctic Ocean. It was announced last year that was going to happen. I also have a private member's bill to that effect.

I will mention some other important reasons much more quickly than I would like because I do not have too much time left. Small boat harbours are social centres for the communities, going back to the days of Christopher Columbus. On windy days these spots are social places, gathering places. On the east and west coasts they are a great tourism boon. They keep Canadians in Canada and enhance the revenues of local businesses. It is a clean way of getting foreign exchange if Americans and others harbour their recreational boats and sailboats in Canada. It is a great way to create business revenue for Canada.

We have to remember that there is a difference. It is not the same as people in inland cities who go to cottages. Boaters cannot just leave their boats near the beach overnight because the tides rise up and down and their boats would be gone in the morning. Appropriate structures are needed to handle that.

Safety is also very important on the coasts and in the north. I remember one case where some Yukoners got an award for rescuing some people in a boat. The people were very close to dying because of hypothermia. If there is no harbour with boats, how are people going to get out to save people?

The other thing is that it is very helpful for our aboriginal fisheries and commercial fisheries. Over 74,000 fishermen could be affected. Having an active small boating area on the coast helps prevent drugs from coming into our country. There is security. Illegal immigration is occurring more and more on our coasts. There is aquaculture. The 101 harbours in B.C. contribute over $800 million in related economic development. There is scuba diving.

As chair of the outdoor caucus, I can say it is a huge bonus to Canada to have recreational fishing. The people who fish outnumber those who play golf and hockey in Canada, people over 15.

In conclusion, there are all sorts of benefits, more than what someone might think on the surface, in these harbours being effective. It is a very important role that the federal government must continue to play.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission B.C.


Randy Kamp ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the interest of the member for Yukon in this issue and his involvement in the outdoor caucus.

I think the hon. member is right, and the member for Egmont said this as well, that there is a funding shortfall for small craft harbours. We all acknowledge that.

Members on the other side are pushing us to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on small craft harbours and we understand that need. However, the Liberal Party governed with a majority and after some years they started having surpluses. I think 1997-98 was the first year with a surplus. In that year the small craft harbours were funded at $56.9 million. Remember that the amount is about $100 million today. The following year it was $56.3 million. The year after that it was $62.8 million. It started to go up a little. With a number of years of surplus with all of the taxation powers the Liberals had, the funding never got above $90 million.

I am curious as to why the previous government did not accept this challenge if it was so obvious that there was an infrastructure deficit. Why did the Liberals not do something when they had the opportunity to do so?

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate most of what the parliamentary secretary had to say today, but unfortunately, he is now participating in the very annoying habit that members of the government have and which really upsets Canadians. When people ask members of the government what they will do about something, they talk about the past and how everyone under the sun did not do this or that. Is that really a solution?

For instance, yesterday evening we had a debate until midnight about the pork and cattle producers of Canada. People have lost their jobs. They do not know how they will feed their families. The family farm has been there for generations. Government members say that people did not do this or that. That type of answer does not provide a forward thinking solution.

The parliamentary secretary referred to the Liberal Party. As I said earlier, we committed to the seven new harbours in Nunavut. It was done last year. It is a very strong area for us.

I prefer to look at the future. I hope the government will go back to supporting the volunteers again with the money it has. It is the Department of Fisheries officials and not us who have said that the volunteer burnout is very important. The volunteer initiative, which did not cost Canada very much, was very important and I hope everyone in the House will agree to fund that again.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, this has a connection with the last question from the parliamentary secretary about choices and priorities, that when the Liberals were in power they chose to make a lot of pretenses about the effects of climate change and wishing to spend money on things. My hon. colleague from the north is feeling the effects of climate change in his constituency, yet little was done. We now have a government that has taken a long time to even believe in the science. Still, little has been done.

When I look through this report, I am trying to understand how much government is taking into account the effects of rising sea levels and increased storm activity changing the very nature of the environment around our coastal harbours and our small craft harbours. I see mention of it, but very little direct attention paid.

I know the hon. member was involved in some of the discussions. Was there any serious input into adapting our coastal harbours to a reality rather than building in things that will cause us great harm and concern later? Are there plans in the future from his committee or other committees to actually get at this question of adaptation? This is a serious and important issue that Canadians would like to see addressed immediately.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the hon. member brought up adaptation, because I have been pushing it for at least three years now. It is very important, especially in the north. We have to invest in that.

It is very disappointing that the person who is supposed to be the environment critic does not know what many excellent government employees and the government did in the last term with EnerGuide. Thousands of Canadians applied and got money for that. People knew about the renewable resource investments of millions of dollars, the wind energy investments of millions of dollars, biodiesel, clean carbon, carbon sequestration, all the things that were done by the previous government, some of them leading the world in cutting greenhouse gases.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia


Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the concurrence motion on the committee report regarding small craft harbours.

I am sure every member in the House recognizes that our present Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has been a great advocate, proponent and supporter of fisheries infrastructure and the industry itself across Canada. He was faced with some difficult and onerous tasks when he took over as Minister of Fisheries and Oceans from the previous Liberal government.

The Liberals had cut aid based funding in 2005 by $20 million. After we formed government, the Liberals tried to bring forward a motion in committee asking that the funding be reinstated. Not only did the minister reinstate the $20 million, but he added $11 million to that base funding.

Without question there is a huge infrastructure deficit in small craft harbours. Through good management and prudent fiscal policy our minister has attempted to address this infrastructure deficit, but it will be ongoing. In the present fiscal climate it would be irresponsible to suddenly find $600 million to fix all the problems left by the previous government. However, there is a plan and that is what we really need to talk about.

There is wharf infrastructure on the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, inland on the Great Lakes, and in the high Arctic. This wharf infrastructure did not establish itself overnight and some of the problems with it are not going to be fixed overnight.

What I have seen from our present minister is a willingness to look at that infrastructure in order to develop some policies and procedures that would allow us to continue to invest in fisheries infrastructure on an annual basis a reasonable amount of the public purse. As the present minister and I have said many times, the wharf is to fishermen what the highway is to farmers. Highway infrastructure is still needed by the fishery to get its products from the wharf, but a boat cannot be put in the water and hauled back out without some wharf infrastructure. This is all part of a viable realistic and achievable fishery, especially the small boat fishery, that class of boats under 64 or 65 feet.

The dynamics have changed. There are a number of wharves throughout my riding of South Shore--St. Margaret's. There is the East Dover wharf, the West Dover wharf, Port Mouton or Lunenburg County in Riverport. There is also Clark's Harbour and Woods Harbour. Those are only a few. There are dozens more.

Those wharves were built for 35 foot boats with maybe only 14 feet of beam. Today's boats are 44 to 50 feet, the same boat class, but they have 23 to 26 feet of beam. There is no comparison. One boat today takes up the same amount of space that two boats would have taken up 25 or 30 years ago. I am sure my colleagues opposite recognize that this has put an added strain on the fishery and on the wharf infrastructure.

We now have boats that are tied up abreast. Where we would put perhaps two, four or even six boats abreast in the past, we can get three today.

I have a number of wharves and Woods Harbour is a prime example where we might have 55 to 65 boats tied up, all fishing out of one or two smaller wharves. To get that boat that is tied up against the wharf out when that fisherman wants to leave, and he has five boats tied up alongside of it, that is quite a job.

I think it is important to mention priorities and some of the issues that the other members have mentioned. I believe members who spoke earlier have recognized that small craft harbour infrastructure is a priority. I certainly recognize that, our government recognizes that and, In particular, the minister recognizes that.

In 2006, I know for a fact there was unanimous support for another such concurrence motion, similar or the same as the motion today, but the financial value asked was different. It has increased by about $50 million in this interim report. However, the principle is the same.

To recognize the value of the harbours and their accessibility for those who use them and even the volunteers who run them, and very often they are volunteers who run them, is significant. There is a principle involved and the government supports that principle. We recognize the importance of traditional industries, such as the fisheries, as we will find in the most recent Speech from the Throne.

I do not mean to belabour this subject but we need to talk about the government's priorities and the government's costs.

This morning, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans was in committee. A question was asked of the minister and he restated the fact that small craft harbours and wharf infrastructure in coastal Canada continues to be, not just a priority for the government but a priority for the minister. He recognizes the challenge that he faces, and it is not one that we take lightly.

If we look at the small craft harbour program with the priority approach, we could have 10 harbours and we need to prioritize them. There is no way to get around it. We have to say which harbour needs assistance on a priority basis and we also have to balance that with the amount of dollars that some of these harbours bring in.

I have many harbours throughout the South Shore—St. Margaret's riding where some wharves would probably bring in excess of $100 million. There are others that would work hard to bring in $5 million. It is a different fishery in different locations.

However, if we look at that small craft harbour program in 2006-07 and 2007-08, it has received an additional $11 million through the Department of Fisheries and Oceans transformational plan. That funding falls to $8 million in 2008-09 and ongoing.

Therefore, let us be clear about dollars. While the program was scheduled to lose $20 million in sunset funding at the beginning of 2007-08, cabinet in December 2006 approved adding this $20 million permanently to the program's budget, A-base funding that I mentioned at the beginning of my speech.

This A-base funding is important because the $20 million that the Liberals cut from the program was never guaranteed A-base funding. It was simply funding that would never be available again. It was a kind of one time only funding.

When I rose to my feet I know the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound wanted an intervention. Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound. I understand I have a bit of time left, so I will take a couple more minutes because I have a few more things to say.