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.