Madam Speaker, not so many weeks ago, in the middle of the federal election campaign, I met a Newfoundland fisherman by the name of Paul Critch. Paul owns a 60-footer and she was tied up at Prosser's Rock boat basin on the south side of St. John's Harbour, the largest fishing port in my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Paul is about my age, maybe a couple of years younger, in his early 40s. He is strong and he is capable. We do not see as many such men on the wharfs these days I am sad to report. Paul Critch is also a fifth generation fisherman. We stood there on the wharf on the edge of the North Atlantic Ocean, about as far away from Ottawa as one can get in this country, a place that many federal bureaucrats, even those with DFO, probably cannot even imagine. We had a conversation about the fishery and where the fishery was headed.
Paul said that he named his boat Chelsea and Emily after his two daughters. Upon the birth of his second daughter, Paul said that his father remarked, “Thank God it is not a boy. A grandson would have to go into the fishery, and who wants that?”.
This is what Newfoundland and Labrador has come to in terms of our once great fishery, the greatest fishery in the world on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, the fishery that we presented to Canada in 1949.
Sixty-two years later and our commercial groundfish fishery for species such as cod and flounder are on their knees. They have been managed to annihilation. History of the Newfoundland Cod Collapse is the title of a book that was released in 2010. As the title indicates, managed annihilation contends that northern cod were administered into virtual extinction. I give members three guesses as to who did the administering.
We are supposed to run out of oil. We are not supposed to run out of fish. We have hit rock bottom. The time to rebuild is now. Better late than never.
It has been 20 years since the northern cod moratorium and commercial fishing was stopped off the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador for the first time in 500 years. It has been 20 years since the biggest layoff in Canadian history and what has been done? Nothing. Rebuilding is the furthest thing from the mind of the Conservative government. Rebuilding is a foreign concept.
I sat and listened to the Minister of Finance, the member for Whitby—Oshawa, Monday as he tabled his budget. I listened to every word. It is a wonderful thing to be able to hear a member of Parliament when he or she speaks.
I compliment the leader of the New Democrats, the leader of Her Majesty's official opposition, for his no heckling policy. Before this life, I worked as a journalist for almost 20 years. I have sat in the gallery of my home legislature and watched as politicians behaved like insolent children. It is not a pretty sight and it can be an embarrassing sight.
As I read this morning in the Ottawa Citizen:
We need passionate, even biting, debate in Parliament. What we don't need are childish insults and grandstanding.
I listened to the Minister of Finance when he spoke so proudly of the budget but I saw more of the same for my province. We have hit rock bottom but the Conservative government sees fit to pound us further into the ground. That will be enough of that.
Under program review, the Conservative government has seen fit to further cut the budget of Fisheries and Oceans Canada by almost $85 million. That will be $9.1 million gone this fiscal year, $18.9 million gone in 2012-13 and a further $56.8 million gone in 2013-14. That will be $84.8 million less for the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans to continue doing what little work it is doing today. On top of that, according to federal budget estimates, DFO's overall budget is almost $145 million less this fiscal year than last fiscal year, plus, as I have outlined, $87 million in savings targeted by the Conservative government in cuts to DFO.
To make matters worse, and, yes, they can still get worse, the Minister of Finance spoke in this chamber Monday about finding a further $4 billion in savings. Where is that $4 billion going to come from? From fisheries? As they say where I come from, “You can't get blood from a turnip”. The people of Newfoundland and Labrador, the fishermen of Newfoundland and Labrador have nothing left to give.
What I so dearly would have loved for the Minister of Finance to announce Monday was an inquiry into the fall of the Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries. The fisheries fell almost 20 years ago and they have yet to rise. The question is, why? The call for an inquiry is supported by my party, the New Democratic Party. Where does the Conservative government stand on an inquiry into the Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries?
John Crosbie once asked, “Who hears the fishes when they cry?” I can answer that: no one.
I have another question, a bigger one. Who hears the fishermen when they cry? The New Democrats hear the cry.
Do the Conservatives hear the fishermen when they cry, the few fishermen who are left?
I will continue to listen when members opposite take to their feet. The fishermen of Newfoundland and Labrador will be listening as well.
Maybe some day we will want our sons to be fishermen again and our sons will want to be fishermen.