House of Commons Hansard #63 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was elected.


Political Loans Accountability Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. member will have about nine minutes when the bill returns to the order paper.

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine has eight minutes left for his remarks.

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Madam Speaker, I will pick up where I left off last time, about a month ago. My colleague from St. John's South—Mount Pearl has proposed a very worthwhile bill. My colleagues in the Conservative Party have said that the collapse of the ocean fishery has already been studied and the federal government has already done all it can to restore the fish stocks that have collapsed. If that is really the case, the cod and other fish stocks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence would not be in danger or have almost completely collapsed. We know that the groundfish stocks, such as cod and ocean perch, are already considered to have collapsed. Their recovery prospects in the medium term are fairly poor, at best.

The cod population in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence is at its lowest level in 61 years of monitoring and is still declining. The mature cod population from 2008 to 2010 is estimated to be, on average, 37% of the average level observed from the mid-1990s to the end of that decade, and 10% of the average level in the mid-1980s.

Since 2009, there has been no cod fishery in the region because of a third moratorium imposed on catching cod in the southern gulf.

How can we rectify the huge mistakes that caused this catastrophe? We have to start with an inquiry, as the bill proposes. That will give us the scientific, ecological, economic and social information we need in order to rectify our mistakes, to undo the ineffective and often destructive fisheries management policies that the federal government has imposed on fishers.

An inquiry would allow us to understand the big picture, the economic, social, political, and scientific aspects of the fisheries collapse, which is without a doubt the biggest catastrophe that Atlantic Canada has ever faced.

We do know some of the causes of the fisheries collapse: overfishing, caused by a lack of essential scientific information needed to understand the true health of the fish species in the Atlantic and the Gulf of St. Lawrence ecosystems; overfishing, caused by weak international laws that allow fishers from other countries to decimate fish stocks with impunity; climate change, caused by greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and rampant urbanization, which has led to changes in water temperature and water acidification; and many other forms of human intervention that have damaged the Atlantic and the Gulf of St. Lawrence ecosystems.

When settlers first came to the coast 500 years ago, cod was so plentiful that sailors could scoop them up into their ships with buckets. The cod fishery is one of the mainstays of the economy of the Maritimes, including the Gaspé Peninsula and the Madeleine Islands, and it was one of the main reasons for settlement.

As recently as the 1940s, cod fishers were landing between 300,000 and 600,000 tonnes of cod per year. Then in the 1990s, the federal government banned cod fishing in response to the collapse of the cod fishery. By 1993, all Canadian cod fishing was banned. Today, in 2011, no real solution to the devastation of the cod fishery has been either proposed or implemented.

In the Gaspé and the Madeleine Islands, the loss of the cod fishery has been devastating. Not only were cod and other groundfish the mainstay of the economy in the region, cod was also a cornerstone of Gaspé culture, as exemplified by the tradition of cod curing, so famous to the region that it became known as the Gaspé cure.

The Gaspé Cure is the result of a drying method that is made possible by the climate on the coast of the Baie des Chaleurs, a dry, windy climate that provides ideal conditions for sun-drying cod.

Today, the Gaspé Cured company continues this century-old tradition that has been passed down over the years. The company has established a major processing plant in Sainte-Thérèse-de-Gaspé, one of the places in the Gaspé where fishing is most active.

According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, cod fishing has been the backbone of the Quebec fisheries, in both the Gaspé Peninsula and the Magdalen Islands. As a result, the community had become heavily dependent on these resources. However, the moratorium and the decline in total allowable catch have affected it severely.

In 1985, there were nearly 1,700 groundfish licences in Quebec, and more than 3,300 fishers and fisher's helpers were engaged in the cod fishery. At that time, the total cod landed values were in the order of $18 million. In 2002, there were fewer than 1,000 groundfish licences. In total, for all of Quebec, the number of active cod fishers and fisher's helpers was estimated at 1 150 in 2002 for landings of a total value of only $3 million.

Nearly half of those fishers are found in the Gaspé Peninsula. The sustainability of many coastal communities that depend on fishing is under threat at present.

This way of life in my riding is threatened in large part because of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' rules and regulations. Thanks to the department's questionable conservation policies, and thanks to its foot-dragging when it comes to taking real action on overfishing, the fisheries of the east coast have been mismanaged almost to the point of annihilation.

The minister said no to an inquiry into the state of the fish stocks in Newfoundland, even though federal management of the fisheries has clearly been a failure. An inquiry into the reasons for this failure is long overdue.

The minister's refusal to allow the inquiry has an impact beyond the borders of Newfoundland. This mismanagement that destroyed the Newfoundland fisheries has either destroyed or severely damaged many of the fisheries in my constituency also. When an Atlantic fishery collapses, it does not affect only one province; it impacts all of the regions that are part of the species' habitat.

The commission of inquiry called for by Bill C-308 would provide Canadians with a rare but crucial resource needed to rebuild the east coast fishery: clear and accurate information based on the experience of independent scientific experts, fishers and other stakeholders who rely on the Atlantic fisheries.

I urge the government to recognize the national importance of the Atlantic fisheries and pass the bill. I also urge the government to recognize the importance of the Gulf of the St. Lawrence to all Canadians.

By passing Bill C-308, the government will finally open the door to creating a sustainable Atlantic fishing economy throughout Atlantic Canada.

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-308, the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery rebuilding act.

I would like to thank my colleague for introducing Bill C-308, which prompted this important discussion to take place on fisheries rebuilding; however, I will not be supporting this piece of legislation nor will the government.

With respect to the content of Bill C-308, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has already taken significant steps to rebuild cod stocks, including strict conservation measures, expanded scientific research, and are working on longer term strategies. Since the announcement of the moratorium in the 1990s, the government has been working with the province of Newfoundland and Labrador to address these challenges. Action teams have been established between the Government of Canada and each of the maritime provinces, including Newfoundland and Labrador.

These teams were asked to develop cod recovery strategies, which they did. On November 14, 2005, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador action team for cod rebuilding presented the strategy for the recovery and management of cod stocks in Newfoundland and Labrador. This strategy was developed through extensive consultations with a variety of stakeholders, including industry, academia, conservation groups and local communities.

This broad representation ensured that proposed rebuilding objectives and strategies were realistic and took into consideration conservation requirements, plus social, cultural and economic considerations. In some cases, external advisory committees were established with representation from a variety of experts and stakeholders to further assist the cod action team.

However, we all realize the impacts that the events of the 1992 cod collapse have had on the people in the fishery and in rural parts of Atlantic Canada are fully recognized. As the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl puts it, “The fishery is broken. The fishery is in perpetual crisis. The fishery can still be fixed. But it cannot be fixed without the facts”.

An inquiry can only reveal what we already know, the fish stocks were decimated in the late 1980s and early 1990s. We are all still recovering from the tragic collapse of the fishery on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and Labrador. To recover these fish stocks, we need to dedicate the resources we have to the task of rehabilitating the fish stocks, not to finding blame and throwing accusations.

Our government has fostered an open door policy for proponents to discuss solutions and to make recommendations. Through consultations and through working groups, we have been listening and will continue to listen. Having worked their local fishing grounds for generations, these fish harvesters have an intimate knowledge of their local conditions.

As many know, groundfish are still being harvested in Newfoundland and Labrador. In fact, 4,300 groundfish licences were issued in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2010. Last year almost 40 tonnes, $52 million worth of groundfish were harvested in Newfoundland and Labrador. That includes more than 12 tonnes of cod.

The government recognizes that these numbers have been historically much higher. Our government has met with stakeholder and industry representatives. It comes as no surprise that there are significant and systemic challenges facing today's commercial fishing industry.

The fishing industry is going through fundamental changes, driven by significant and unprecedented shifts in global economics, consumer demand, technology and, of course, conservation and environmental realities.

Fisheries policy decisions have favoured the short-term rather than the longer view. Some of these policies have limited growth, curtailed efficiencies and, frankly, made little sense in terms of the conservation of fish stocks.

It has become all the more evident that we must modernize our practices, policies and regulations to remove unnecessary barriers to industry growth, global competitiveness, and fish stock conservation in the 21st century.

My colleague from St. John's South—Mount Pearl knows enough about fisheries to understand that rebuilding fish stocks is extremely complex. There are many factors that need to be examined and there are several challenges to be faced. Sacrifices have been made and will continue to be required in order to rebuild Atlantic fish populations.

Since the cod collapse in the early 1990s, the government has made significant changes in the way it manages fisheries, not just in Newfoundland and Labrador but from coast to coast to coast. Challenges such as the cod collapse have become drivers for the development of sound, science-based decision-making practices, and fisheries management decisions incorporating ecosystem considerations and the precautionary approach to ensure the future of Canada's fisheries.

The current ongoing scientific research may help further define the known causes that may have contributed to the collapse of the groundfish stocks in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The degree of accuracy with which possible outcomes can be predicted would not be increased by shifting funding from the research currently being done to the management of an inquiry.

A moderate fisheries management framework would enable us to focus on maximizing value and quality of output rather than quantity. Our goal would be to establish a coherent management system that would benefit individual fishermen and industry stakeholders in both the short-term and long-term.

Changes in fisheries management practices in Newfoundland and Labrador are reinforced by measures taken by the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization. These changes address long-standing challenges and opportunities associated with the management of international straddling fish stocks. A significant change has been to identify stock rebuilding as one of NAFO's main objectives.

In fact, Canada's leadership at NAFO has led to the implementation of a number of innovative plans for the recovery of stocks currently under moratorium, and to rebuild other fragile stocks based on scientific advice and the precautionary principle.

In October, I have been informed that my colleague from St. John's South—Mount Pearl quoted Rex Murphy's article, “Newfoundland is a province in denial”, in which Mr. Murphy offered some advice to our colleagues across the way.

We can assure him that we are working with the province to build policy that is more than about oil and more than about fighting with the federal government.

The purpose of Bill C-308 is to launch an inquiry into the collapse and recovery status of Newfoundland and Labrador's fisheries. An inquiry is not the path toward a competitive Canadian economy. An inquiry will not look at solutions that would help Canada strive in these times of fiscal restraint.

This government, including Fisheries and Oceans Canada, is rolling out a transformative agenda that would carry us forward toward international competitiveness and prosperity for Canadians.

The commission of inquiry into the decline of sockeye salmon in British Columbia is looking into improving the sustainability of the fishery, fisheries management policies, practices and procedures, and the factors influencing the management of this stock, including environmental changes and marine conditions.

These are areas that are already being examined and monitored in the Atlantic.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada was a key contributor to the Cohen commission of inquiry in British Columbia and continues to support the work of the commission. Recommendations made with respect to management of sockeye salmon in the Fraser River will be reviewed and will be considered in fisheries management decisions as they apply across Canada.

Implementing market-based approaches to fisheries management has proven successful. Other countries, and even some fisheries in Canada, have adopted change and, as a result, have seen flexible, market-oriented fishing seasons, improved product quality, increased economic value, a decline in instances of overfishing, and improved safety.

I believe strongly that with some changes at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Canada's fishing industry has the potential to generate much more value. We will see the department untangle and standardize rules and processes.

We must increase transparency for decision-making and strengthen environmental sustainability in Canadian and international waters to ensure Canada's distinguished international reputation as a source for the finest sustainable seafood in the world.

Our government believes that the private sector is the driver of the Canadian economy, but we certainly have a regulatory role in this particular industry. We will continue to engage industry and stakeholders to work together toward a solution and respond to these complex and interrelated challenges.

The government is making the necessary investment to protect Canadians and create jobs now, while laying a strong foundation for long-term economic growth.

Our actions have already included providing to fish harvesters the same lifetime capital gains exemption enjoyed by farmers and small business owners and supporting coastal communities, through regulatory initiatives in support of the aquaculture sector and through investments in small craft harbours.

Canada is 144 years young and yet we have barely scratched the surface of our full potential, be it here at home or on the international scene. This is a country that is just brimming with confidence. It is strong, united, peaceful and prosperous. It is a Canada that will accept no limits, no bounds, and no ceiling to its great future. We are simply the best country in the world. Its unbeatable spirit has been leading us out of the global recession in the best position in the world.

Given these ongoing efforts, a judicial inquiry would represent a costly and duplicative exercise that would simply reinforce the need to continue focusing our efforts productively on future opportunities for Canada's fisheries and the Canadian economy.

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to be standing here once again to talk about something that is certainly a topic of discussion in my riding, which is probably the understatement of the night. Northeastern Newfoundland is predominantly my riding, as well as central Newfoundland or, as the fishermen like to call it, parts of 2J, 3K, 3L.

I would like to commend my colleague from St. John's South—Mount Pearl for bringing this bill forward. I have the honour of being one of the seconders of this legislation and it may come as no surprise that I speak in favour of it.

I have a few comments about the earlier speaker. I understand the intentions of wanting to create the right markets and the situations by which our harvesters can get more value from the occupation that they have to the point of being able to pass it on to the next generation. However, putting things in the window, like a capital gains tax, is probably not what we want to rely the entire fisheries policy on, given the fact that the value of that catch has decreased so badly that the capital gains tax is probably worth even less than that 1¢ people got off the price of their Tim Hortons coffee this morning.

I do want to talk about stock rebuilding. I bring that up because we did a study with the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, as my colleague across the way, from British Columbia, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, can remember. It was November 2005. We paid visits to eastern Newfoundland, to Bonavista in my riding as well, and Twillingate. In those areas, what we saw and heard was, to me, some surprising testimony about how all the efforts being made to help recover a stock were not showing the results we wanted. Time and again, the stock assessments were showing, in the offshore stock, less than 2% of what they were in the 1980s.

Again, over quite a period of time, from the time of the moratorium when the directed fishery was ended on a mass scale, that was July 1992, until now, we have not seen that recovery. By his own admission, the member who just spoke talked about over 800,000 tonnes of a catch in the late 1960s and now down to 12 tonnes. So we can talk about markets all we want, but this is a question about stock rebuilding and how we go about doing that. Even the Auditor General, a few years ago, pointed out that it has been a dismal failure over the years and therefore we have to look at it. I am not specifically blaming any one particular government. I blame them all, as we should blame ourselves as well.

However, there is one element that the government needs to look at and I think has failed somewhat on this scale. The Conservatives entered into negotiations with NAFO. For anybody who is watching at home or in this House, NAFO is the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization, the international body that governs the offshore stocks outside of our 200 nautical mile limit. In this particular case, we saw bandying to the point where there was trade and negotiations going on that did not work in our favour, only to find this out after the fact. When the House voted to go against these NAFO agreements, the government went ahead and decided to reverse that and go ahead with this agreement, which I think is a shame, with species such as turbot, not just cod or Greenland halibut as it is called.

However, in the meantime the offshore directed fishery from international fisheries, primarily western Europe and I will not pick out any of the countries as they know who they are, have had their time on the open water. We have seen a lot taken from us in that particular vicinity, not only outside the 200 nautical mile limit but inside the 200 mile limit as well. When I look at the state of the fishery now in the northeast, and again I will restrict my comments to just the northern cod species, we see a small directed fishery taking place. In excess of 2,000 pounds would be the average. We are looking at a recreational fishery isolated to four weeks, three in August and one near the end of September. Right now, we are seeing an overabundance of cod.

I remember when we did the study and we talked about the fact that there was an offshore stock and inshore stock. The science was saying that the offshore stock was quite low. In many cases, the science was saying that the inshore stock was also very low. However, our own fishermen told us that this was not the case.

We have situations now where a bycatch of cod on the inshore becomes drastic. Believe it or not, for many of these fishermen, the cod has become a nuisance species on the inshore. Therefore, when they say that enough studies have been done, I do not agree.

In this case, why do we have a stock that is in danger, overfished, yet on the inshore we have stock in abundance? This past season was a successful season for those who had the small quotas. These are the questions we need to ask and we need to ask them each and every time.

Right now, as members know, we have to take into account elements like climate change and seal populations. The seal population itself has grown exponentially just in the past two or three years, millions upon millions. To this day, even during the study we did in November 2005, there is not an exact science as to how much, or even why, these seals are eating all the biomass of cod. It is incredible. We need to look further into this.

When the government decides it will get to its deficit cutting and budget measures, but announces that the science assessments will be over a three-year period, it is a major mistake.

Stock assessments are on an annual basis and I would argue there should be more than that. It should be done twice a year, or three times a year, or even more, if the science that had been invested in was bad. As Conservatives say, it was bad to begin with, but they said that they would fix it. I remember former minister Loyola Hearn saying much the same, but it did not get much better. In fact, it is much worse as far as the science investment is concerned.

The recommendations of the FRCC show up in our report quite extensively. It is quite incredible. Why would they do this? I remember being on the government side with the Conservatives in opposition. They told us about all these changes that we needed to make. We fell short of these goals, but now it is even worse.

However, we should do this study. The effects of the offshore fishery, the international markets, those people who line up along our 200 nautical miles looking for fish and who are certainly not flying the flag of Canada, needs to be reassessed. We need to reassess the biomass itself across the northeast.

Cod was the king species that sustained a people for hundreds of years. My colleague pointed this out in his speech some time ago, and I will not reiterate. However, where I come from, we all know what it meant to us. Now we find that the king species are the snow crab and shrimp as well, but even those are not near what cod brought us over the generations.

The member is right in the sense that we have to do a more extensive study. The hon. member talked about the studies that had been done in his speech. Not really. The right studies have not been done yet. It takes a vast effort to look at how we can rebuild the species and not just the one species, but ecosystem management itself.

Fishermen, such as George Feltham from Eastport and Rick Kane from Bonavista North, were quoted in this study. They are harvesters, one with a smaller boat and one with a very large vessel. They talked about how they would go out to catch snow crab and shrimp in their nets and find large cod. How is this happening? Within the inshore regions, why do we show high numbers of cod, yet each and every time, northern cod gets close to the endangered species list? Do we know that this is the case?

When fisherman tell me that they went out and it took them three hours of fishing to catch their quota of over 2,000 pounds, and they are not big boats either but it is a lot of fish in a very short period of time, then one has to ask why this has happened. The fact is science is telling us we cannot have the fishery we used to have and that there is a long way to go. Somebody is wrong, and it is not the fishermen who show me the fish on the wharf.

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of Bill C-308, Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act. I want to acknowledge my colleague from St. John's South—Mount Pearl for his tireless advocacy for the Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries and the people who depend on them.

In July 1992, John Crosbie, the then federal minister of Fisheries and Oceans, called for a moratorium and closed down the northern cod fishery. The cod fishing moratorium was supposed to last two years. We are approaching the 20th anniversary and there is still no rebuilding plan in place.

Newfoundland and Labrador commercial groundfish fisheries have seen little if any recovery since the early 1990s. The people of Newfoundland and Labrador had fished their waters for cod for over 500 years. It was said by British fishing captains in the 1600s, that the cod “was so thick by the shore that we hardly have been able to row a boat through them”.

The cod fishery was the backbone of Newfoundland and Labrador and the closure cost 39,000 people their jobs. It devastated coastal communities, which have yet to recover. This was the largest layoff in Canadian history. Approximately 80,000 people have left Newfoundland and Labrador since the cod fishery collapse.

The East Coast Report, an interim report tabled in the House of Commons by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans in 1998, helped to frame the social and economic implications of the collapse of groundfish in Newfoundland and Labrador. Many people who appeared before the committee explained the devastating financial effect of the collapse on their personal lives. In communities across the province, it was clear the way of life that existed for hundreds of years was being lost.

In the same report, witnesses indicated that fishermen in coastal communities had very little confidence in the ability of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to manage the fishery. There were complaints that DFO policy-makers in Ottawa had no grasp on local issues. Further, there were concerns about enforcement, science and foreign fishing. I reference this report and the testimony because several years later we still have not addressed these concerns.

There have been studies on the collapse of the fisheries in Newfoundland and Labrador over the years. There have been several recommendations made. One of the last reports produced by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans was entitled “Northern Cod: A Failure of Canadian Fisheries Management”. The report stated:

Concluding that overfishing was the cause of the collapse of the northern cod stock should not surprise anyone. Others who have studied this issue have come to the same conclusion. However, the Committee felt that it was necessary to travel to Newfoundland and Labrador to fully understand the factors that allowed the “world's greatest fish stock” to be grossly overfished for so many years. In our view, the major factor was clearly mismanagement.

It also concluded that the failure of the northern cod to re-establish itself was a lack of vision and long-term planning.

Nothing has been done with this report. These recommendations have yet to be acted on. There has been very little real analysis as to what has been successful and what has not.

The Conservative government likes to talk about streamlining and modernization, implying that fisheries should be run like a business, but successful businesses create plans with vision, goals and targets. Successful businesses understand the importance of innovation and research. None of this is happening.

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans recently stated that “the fishery is broken”. However, rather than implementing the recommendations from the 1998 report and the 2005 report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, the government is moving backward and making cuts to the department, including science and enforcement. Instead of putting forward a concrete plan to rebuild the fisheries, the government is determined to move forward with its reckless cuts.

We need to take a serious look at the future of Canada's fisheries and our many coastal communities and their local economies. This bill provides a real opportunity to take a fundamental look at the direction of Canada's fisheries and how we might rebuild our once great fishery.

Hans Rollman, a Newfoundland columnist for The Independent, wrote:

In short, this is not just an inquiry to lay blame for some long-over historical event. This inquiry is about our future. If it does not happen, we will be unprepared, uneducated, and unable to meet the demands and challenges our future world and economy...

It could examine DFO enforcement programs and determine whether they are truly underfunded or ill-equipped to deal with current problems or future problems, like our changing ocean ecosystems. The inquiry could examine the environmental impacts of fishing technologies, the distribution of inshore and offshore quotas, the quota allocation system and allowable catches or limits. It could inform the minister and the department what type or scale of fisheries we would need or how we would move forward to a truly community-based fishery based on co-operative management. It could help us learn how to prevent future collapses or deal with unprecedented changes to our oceans, whether it is climate change, acidification, overfishing, pollution or habitat loss.

All of this could be achieved by doing a serious examination of the greatest fisheries collapse in Canadian history. We owe it to future generations to act now. That is why this bill must pass. Canadians deserve an inquiry that will pose real solutions and rebuild what has been lost. As the bill states:

—the fisheries are a renewable resource which can, with revitalized conservation and management practices, be rebuilt for the benefit of present and future generations and contribute towards the economic growth of rural Newfoundland and Labrador and all of Canada;...

I urge all members of the House to support Bill C-308.

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to follow my colleague, the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam, our fisheries critic on the bill.

I want to commend the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl for bringing forth this private member's bill. It was an extremely important reason of why he ran for Parliament. It was also part of our party's platform in the last election. We called for an inquiry into the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery to talk about a recovery plan.

The story of the collapse of the Newfoundland fishery can be pretty simply told. I want to tell the House about a book which outlines some of the major problems. It is called Distant Water by an American individual named William Warner. He wrote the book in 1983. In the book he talks about the three things that came together that caused the initial devastation of one of the world's, if not the world's, most significant source of protein.

We have to remember that this fishery, which has been going on for 500 years, fed Europe through many centuries. The fishery was not a local fishery. It was a distant water fishery from Portugal, Spain, the Basque country and England. It sustained Europe throughout many centuries and was one of the most significant protein sources in the entire world.

In the fifties and early sixties, three things came together. First, believe it or not, there was a surplus of tankers, so shipyards that made big tankers were suddenly not very busy. Second, flash freezing techniques and plate freezers were invented. Third, the Germans developed a mechanical filleting machine.

The British started developing a distant water fishery from York, followed by East Germans and Russians. Pretty soon there was a huge distant water fleet coming from Spain, Portugal, East Germany, Poland, the Soviet Union, Cuba, and even as far east as Asia. This fishery was so efficient and enormously successful that by 1968, and that is the peak year others have mentioned, 800,000 tonnes of cod fish were taken from the north Atlantic.

The subtitle of the book Distant Water is “The Fate of the North Atlantic Fishermen”.

By 1992 the catch rate was way down because the fishery could not sustain it. It is estimated that the biomass of fish that was there could actually sustain 400,000 tonnes per year on an ongoing basis. That is the amount of biomass that was lost not only to Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada but to the world in terms of a food source.

One of the previous speakers talked about 12 tonnes, but I think he meant 12,000 tonnes of cod being caught in the last year. The annual catch is closer to 20,000 tonnes, but that is 20,000 out of a potential 400,000 tonnes.

The question has to be asked, where is the recovery plan? We have a recovery plan for the pine marten and for the British Columbia marmot. Where is the recovery plan for the cod stock that sustained Europe for centuries and Newfoundland fishermen for 500 years? About 40,000 people lost their jobs and their livelihood in 1992 as a result of the cod moratorium. With the recovery potential of 400,000 tonnes and we are up to 12,000 now, there is a long way to go.

The story of how the fishery collapsed is fairly easily told.

What is important about the bill is actually subclause 5(d), which is asking, pertaining to the terms of reference, to develop recommendations for rebuilding and improving the future sustainability of the fish stock including, as required, changes to the policies, procedures, et cetera, and talks about management of boundaries and all of the things my colleague, the fisheries critic, just so eloquently disclosed.

That is all we need. We need a recovery plan. We need some objective, evidence-based report. We had it from the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans in 2005, talking about fisheries management. The impetus is there.

There needs to be some evidence-based approach. Let us examine the things that the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor talked about in terms of the fact that there seems to be recovery in some places. We need to hear from scientists. We need to do a proper job.

It is not good enough for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, as he did here in the House and elsewhere, to say the fishery is broken. We do not say the fishery is broken and then walk away from it, and leave it to private enterprise or private industry. If we have this devastation and this loss of a critical food resource for Canada and the world, we have to do something about it. We do not cut back on science if science is needed to answer the questions.

We have more than a responsibility for the people and fishers of Newfoundland and Labrador. We have a moral responsibility as a country to attempt, if it is possible, to regenerate this fish stock for the sake of helping to feed the world and support the people of rural Newfoundland who have lived for generations and centuries on this resource.

The predecessor to the riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl, which used to be called St. John's West, is my neighbouring riding. That was the riding that was held by John Crosbie when he was fisheries minister and the moratorium was brought in, in 1992, so it is very fitting that the current member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl is bringing this forth 20 years later, saying, “Where is the plan to recover the stocks”? Twenty years later, we are at 5% of what we were 20 years ago.

Now the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl, the successor to Mr. Crosbie, is here telling the Conservatives again, “Where is your plan? Don't just say the fishery is broken, say the fishery has a problem”. There has been a failure to adopt a rebuilding plan. We want to have an inquiry to talk about that, just as we did in British Columbia. The Cohen commission is doing it in British Columbia.

One of the members opposite asked, why would we repeat that on the east coast? There is nobody from Newfoundland to B.C. going to talk about salmon in the Fraser River. We want to talk about cod fish in Newfoundland and Labrador and we want someone to do the same kind of study as is being done in British Columbia, with regard to the value of that fishery and the sustainability of the cod stocks.

The member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl said that we have oil right now and it has been very good for our economy. It has been very good for the provincial government's coffers. It has been very good for the federal government's coffers, better for the federal government's coffers, frankly, than it has been for the Newfoundland government's coffers. Any study will show that the benefits to the federal government are greater than the province. That may have changed slightly in recent years, but that is not a forever resource.

What we need to do is examine not why the cod has diminished because overfishing is the issue. Who did it and when is not necessarily what we need to get into. We need to get into how it is going to come back.

I will just leave the House with the fact that the fundamental problem with the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery is the lack of fish. That seems pretty basic. The way to answer that problem is not to say that the fishery is broken. It is to say that we need a recovery plan for the species, for the stock, and for the sustainability of Newfoundland and Labrador culture and way of life. It is to provide, as we should, the restoration of a prime source of protein, of food, for Canada and the rest of the world.

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Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I very pleased to speak to Bill C-308, a private member's bill presented by my colleague for St. John's South—Mount Pearl, and I am very proud that he has brought forward this bill. I also heard the member for St. John's East, the member from British Columbia and the other government members who spoke to this bill. It is unfortunate that the government opposes this bill.

The members spoke very well on the topic of the bill. They proposed a public inquiry to try to find answers and to restore our fish. I come from northeastern New Brunswick, and I do not have to tell you that my riding is bounded by the ocean, Chaleur Bay and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It is the most beautiful riding in Canada. We have the ocean on one side, and the forest on the other. We have everything. But it is unfortunate to see what is happening. I do not want to mix fishing with forestry, but we have lost both our fish and our forest because the paper mills in Miramichi, Bathurst, Dalhousie and New Richmond have been closed. The primary sector has fallen.

Who would have thought that this would happen? All the fishermen said that they once had fish in abundance. I remember going to the Shippagan harbour with my parents when I was very young, and the people working at the plant were walking around with wheelbarrows full of fish. Cod were falling off every side. There was fish in abundance. What is going on now? There are no more. It was closed in 1992, as my colleague for St. John's Eastsaid when talking about Mr. Crosbie, the former Minister of Fisheries. I have never been a fisherman, and my family has never been a family of fishermen. I was a miner and worked underground, but not far from the ocean. I was about 2,300 feet underground and had nothing to do with the ocean.

However, when I became a union representative in 1988, I started to get involved in the fishing industry and began working with the employees of fish plants in the Acadian peninsula. That is where I saw the damage that occurred in the communities when the groundfish fishery was eliminated in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

I have read newspaper articles when the media has covered this subject. They used words like “managed annihilation”, “the biggest failure of Confederation”, “national embarrassment” and “national disgrace”.

The collapse of the cod fishery off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador two decades ago is now considered a legendary environmental and economic disaster. I would go further and say that it affected not only Newfoundland and Labrador, but the entire Gulf of St. Lawrence and every other Atlantic province. It was a national disaster.

“An inquiry would reveal telling similarities with agriculture—small coastal fisheries are equivalent to the family farm, and the big freezer trawlers are the ocean's equivalent to the mega-farm. Such an analysis would inevitably lead to the realization—which is always the case when people band together—that in one way or another, we are all in the same boat. It is not surprising that the Conservative government is not taking the request for an inquiry by the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NDP seriously.” That was an excerpt from an article written by Helen Forsey, published in the November edition of The Monitor, a publication by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

I could read aloud a lot of other newspaper articles were journalists have picked apart these issues.

Perhaps the bill should go further. There should not be an inquiry only in Newfoundland, but also in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. In fact, there should be an inquiry in every Atlantic province to determine what went on.

The member for St. John's East is right; we do not want to accuse anybody. The fish are no longer there, period. Fishers and scientists need to work together to find solutions to bring the fishery back to the Atlantic.

We are talking about resources, food and jobs for these people. Rather than calling them a bunch of lazy slackers who do not want to work, like the member for Madawaska—Restigouche did by saying that too many people remain jobless in order to get employment insurance, why does the government not hold a public inquiry to get people back to work?

In my riding, people worked up to 35 weeks a year in the groundfish fishery, including crab, cod, and redfish. These are hard-working people, men and women who used to get up in the morning to go to work. What happened is unfortunate.

If the government wants to do something positive and if it has nothing to hide, why does it not sit down with scientists, fishers and experts and come up with solutions, for example, a public inquiry? Before fixing the problem, the root cause needs to be identified. Perhaps it was because of overfishing; but there may be another reason. The experts need to work together.

That is why I am going to support this bill. It is our hope that the government will reconsider things and admit that holding a public inquiry would not be the end of the world. An entire industry has shut down. That is not right. We need to get to the bottom of things and come up with solutions.

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Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Ryan Cleary St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, there has been a major breakthrough in the fisheries since the introduction of my private member's Bill C-308, the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery rebuilding act. The breakthrough took almost 20 years. It took tens of thousands of job losses, the biggest layoff in Canadian history. The breakthrough took unparalleled out-migration from the outports of Newfoundland and Labrador. The breakthrough came after untold suffering and hardship and a devastating blow to our heritage, a blow that still threatens our culture. The breakthrough is the long-awaited acknowledgement that the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery is broken.

The word “broken” has been used in recent weeks to describe the state of our fisheries. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has used the word “broken”, as has the CEO of Ocean Choice International, one of the largest fish companies in Newfoundland and Labrador left standing.

Now that the acknowledgement has been made that the fishery is broken, the question now is: How do we fix it? The cracks in the broken fishery begin at the very foundation, the management. With Confederation, part of our dowry to Canada was the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, one of the richest fishing grounds on the face of the planet. Sixty-two years later and commercial stocks such as cod and flounder have been virtually wiped out. Stock after stock has failed under the current management regime.

The management has not worked, and it cannot be trusted to fix what has been broken. Twenty years and there has been no recovery plan. Shameful. Our future is too important to leave in the hands of the bureaucracy and the system that brought our fishery to its knees in the first place.

One of the only reports that has been carried out in recent decades on the state of fisheries management was written in 2005 by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. The report is entitled, “Northern Cod: A Failure of Canadian Fisheries Management”, the key word being “failure”.

The report took DFO to task for failing to recognize mismanagement as one of the reasons for the stock collapse, describing DFO's lack of long-term vision as astonishing.

On September 12 of this year, I held a news conference in St. John's to announce my private member's bill calling for an inquiry into the Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries. The news conference was made in the same hotel room where then federal fisheries minister, John Crosbie, shut down the northern cod fishery in 1992.

Within hours of that news conference, Canada's current Minister of Fisheries and Oceans announced there would be no inquiry. His reasoning: the minister pointed out that some areas of the eastern Scotian shelf have seen some stock improvement. The ignorance is astonishing. The Scotian shelf is off Nova Scotia, not Newfoundland and Labrador.

When the Conservative government says no to my bill before the Conservative government has even seen my bill, that is a testament to the importance it gives to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. When the Conservative government says no to my bill, it is saying no to the future of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is saying no to the future of our culture and the sustainability of our heritage.

The Prime Minister once said that the Atlantic provinces have a culture of defeat. Saying no to an inquiry will ensure that defeat. How can the Conservative government say yes to an inquiry into the disappearance of British Columbia salmon stocks and no to an inquiry into the Newfoundland and Labrador cod stocks? Are our fish, our cod fish, are we any less important?

John Crosbie once asked, “Who hears the fishes when they cry?” My question for the Conservative government is this: Who hears the fishermen when they cry?

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Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

It being 6:30 p.m., the time provided for debate has expired.

Accordingly, the question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members



Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.