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House of Commons Hansard #120 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

The EnvironmentOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, we know the government has identified 142 heavily contaminated sites across Canada. One example is Big Grassy River First Nation on Lake of the Woods in my riding, which is heavily polluted with petroleum hydrocarbons. Eight years ago, the federal budget set aside $3.5 billion to clean up these sites.

Why has the government spent only a fraction of that money to clean up these toxic and deadly sites in Canada? The Treasury Board says it has been monitoring Big Grassy for five years. When will real action be taken to make Big Grassy River First Nation safe?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Thornhill Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question and I can assure him that the federal contaminated sites program is still continuing apace, but I would remind him it is designed to attack and remediate the largest contaminated sites across the country. For the hundreds of others, that is the responsibility of 16 various departments and agencies. I will try to determine for my colleague which specifically is responsible for the site in question.

Cultural HeritageOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-François Fortin Bloc Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government is not only cutting hundreds of specialized jobs at Parks Canada, but it intends to make off with Quebec's history by taking away artifacts from the days of Champlain, Frontenac, Beauharnois and Vaudreuil and even artifacts from the battle of the Plains of Abraham.

The Conservatives want to take away entire pieces of our memory, our identity and our culture by moving everything to Ottawa.

Will the minister drop his plans, listen to the concerns of the National Assembly and keep these objects from our collective heritage in their rightful place, or does he intend to perpetrate a hold-up of Quebec's history?

Cultural HeritageOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Thornhill Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for the question.

Our government recognizes how important culture and heritage are to Quebeckers. Of course it would be better to keep the artifacts in places where they can be admired by the public, but for now they will remain in storage. Nonetheless, I can assure the hon. member that the collection in question will remain in Quebec.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 60 petitions.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Terence Young Conservative Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present, in both official languages, reports of the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association.

I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the following report of the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association respecting its participation at the joint visit of the Mediterranean and Middle East Special Group and the Sub-Committee on NATO Partnerships held in Djibouti, Republic of Djibouti from November 14-17, 2011.

I also have the honour to present, in both official languages, the following report of the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association respecting its participation at the 78th Rose-Roth Seminar and the visit of the Sub-Committee on Transatlantic Defence and Security Co-operation held in London, Lincoln and Glasgow, United Kingdom from November 21-15, 2011.

I also have the honour to present, in both official languages, the following report of the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association respecting its participation at the Parliamentary Transatlantic Forum held in Washington, D.C., United States of America from December 5-6, 2011.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I move that the first report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, presented on Wednesday, October 19, 2011, be concurred in.

I will be splitting my time.

The first report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans deals with the snow crab industry in the Atlantic provinces and in Quebec. Snow crab is one of the most important species of crab in eastern Canada. It is harvested by fishermen from Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, particularly off the east coast of Newfoundland and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Snow crab is also one of the most valuable fisheries in eastern Canada. In 2008, the landed value of snow crab for the entire Atlantic region was $356 million, second only to lobster that is valued at around $600 million, and well ahead of shrimp that is valued at $258 million.

In 2010, the former minister of fisheries and oceans announced a drastic 63% cut in the snow crab quota. At the time, the minister said this was necessary to deal with the depleting stocks and to ensure long-term conservation. This sudden cut caused fishermen on the east coast a great deal of financial difficulty and raised many questions about fisheries management at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. I will speak more to that later.

On April 28, 2010, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans decided to conduct a study on the snow crab industry in Atlantic Canada. We met with scientists and officials from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. We held several hearings in Grande-Rivière, Quebec; Deer Lake, Newfoundland and Labrador; Sydney, Nova Scotia; and Moncton, New Brunswick. The committee also visited two snow crab processing facilities in Quebec and in Louisbourg, Nova Scotia.

This was a thorough study. Through our study, we were able to hear concerns about the management of snow crab in general, as well as very specific concerns. It provided an excellent opportunity for our committee to really get an idea of the issues facing coastal communities.

As noted in the report:

Common issues include the management of the snow crab fishery, and more specifically, DFO's fisheries management decision-making process, the use of available scientific advice, and the timing and the manner of communicating these decisions. In fact, many of the comments we heard could apply to many other fisheries on all coasts of Canada. In all regions, we also heard concerns about harvesting capacity, the need for some form of rationalization, and the current conditions for welcoming new and younger entrants into the fishery.

As well, it was also noted in the report:

Other issues were specific to individual regions. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the committee heard concerns about the price received by fishermen for their catch and how the price is set. A number of comments were made about the relationship between the harvesting and processing sectors, and the level of vertical integration in the fishery. Some witnesses pointed out that alternative models for the industry existed. In Cape Breton our hearings were mostly focused on resource sharing arrangements among traditional and Aboriginal fleets, and core company quota holders. We heard divergent views on ministerial decisions made with respect to these sharing arrangements. Sharing arrangements were also an important topic of discussion at hearings in Moncton.

After our hearings were complete, we spent a great deal of time discussing our final report. The committee provided a report that includes 11 recommendations and I have the report here. It presented the report to the federal government that the committee felt would improve the management of snow crab.

One recommendation that I strongly agree with is recommendation 2, which reads:

That all of Fisheries and Oceans Canada's future fisheries management decisions be based on the precautionary approach when a formal decision-making framework exists, and that in the absence of such a framework, decisions be based on the elementary principle of precaution.

Because of the apparent fisheries management issues in 2009 and 2010, many of the witnesses called for an inquiry on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. For example, the report reads:

Acccording to Mr. Daniel Desbois who represents traditional crab fishermen in CFA 12, DFO's management practices “raise a great many questions as to whether the resource is being managed in the public interest and in a manner that is consistent with new departmental policies and the principles laid out in the Fisheries Act and the Oceans Act”.

During our study, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans really had the chance to learn about the hardships faced by the fishing community where appropriate management does not occur, particularly on the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. It was interesting because the officials at DFO said that because snow crab was cyclical, it should be predictable when the stocks would be low and stated that they “[didn't] think taxpayers should take care of subsidizing the fishery over the low part of the cycle when there are going to be good profits ahead and they have had good profits in the past”.

However, this is why it is so important to go to coastal communities to hear their concerns, where we heard a different story. Many fishermen said that they could not afford a low-income year because they faced so many financial obligations. We heard about deckhands and plant workers who would not qualify for employment insurance. We also had the opportunity to hear about the financial strains that many communities in the Gaspé already face with plant closures, downturns in tourism, moratoria and lay-offs. We also heard from first nations communities in the region where the results of the cutting of the quota had a severe impact on their economy and their society.

The overall message that we provided to the government in our report is summed up well in our conclusion. I just want to take some time to read this because it really says it well and it is important. It reads:

The Committee believes that the TAC [total allowable catch] reduction in 2010 would likely have been smaller than 63% if the Minister had accepted the advice of her department to reduce the TAC in 2009 instead of maintaining it at the 2008 level. In retrospect, the 2009 decision was considered by some not to be a prudent one with respect to the sustainability of the fishery. Therefore, the Committee wholeheartedly welcomes the application of the precautionary approach to this fishery. That said, the impacts of the 2010 decision, and more broadly of DFO's management of the snow crab resource in recent years, on fishermen, the industry, and communities were far from being negligible. Even though the biology of the snow crab is well known, and a decline in the harvestable resource was expected, it is important to find a better way to prepare for and mitigate the impact of the ups and downs of this cyclical resource on all stakeholders.

While these recommendations that we suggested will not fix the damage that was done to the fishermen and their coastal communities, we believe that this report and the recommendations included in it will help provide guidance to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans as well as the minister in future.

On a personal note, I very much enjoyed the trip to the east coast. I found it extremely informative. I was able to talk first hand with fishermen who were affected and who had been working hard for their communities to make a living, not only with respect to snow crab but many other species in which they were involved. However, snow crab was in the report that we looked at and—

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

May 9th, 2012 / 3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I had the great pleasure to serve for a period of time on the fisheries and oceans committee. I served with my colleague. I know his words are sincere when he talks about it being his first trip to the east coast.

It is a completely different fishery on the east coast than it is on the west coast. I know that it was very informative. What I think he understood, coming back from those hearings, was that the fishermen in the gulf and along the east coast understood fully that the longevity and the strength of that industry was based on sustainability and on conservation. They have taken incredible measures over the years to ensure the resources continue to provide them with a livelihood.

It has been awhile since I worked on that report, but the year before the big downturn there had been an allocation, or an exploitation, rate set by the minister on the recommendation of the science that was received from DFO officials. The industry, the processors, felt they needed more product, so they made a plea to the minister at that time. She in turn increased the amount of quota.

Does the member think that—

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I have to stop the member there to allow more people to ask questions.

The hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed travelling to the east coast with my hon. colleague and appreciated his input while he was on the committee. We had the opportunity to hear first hand from fishermen and others involved in the industry. What we clearly heard was that the decision in 2010 by the minister was what triggered this report. It triggered us taking a closer look at why the deep cut had to happened. Against the science and the advice of the department, the minister went ahead and made the 63% cut, which we know could have been avoided had the minister followed the advice of her department.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, if DFO had followed what it should have done, is it not true too that maybe a mistake was made by the department last year? When the DFO quota went down, many of the crab fishermen talked about the way the test was done and they challenged the answer from DFO with respect to that. I do not believe DFO doubled up the quota because all of a sudden within one year, from last year to this year, there were more crabs in the sea.

It sounds like, and maybe my colleague remembers, when the salmon appeared in British Columbia. Is it not the same story?

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague raises a great point. We are talking about snow crab, but the question about the biomass on all coasts of this province is critical. He points to salmon. In 2009 we had a collapse on the west coast of the Fraser River sockeye run where just over a million salmon returned when usually between 8 million and 20 million were expected. Then in 2010 we had a huge return.

The important factor is science. Science combined with traditional local knowledge is critical. The fishermen can often provide that local knowledge, which is critical for making important decisions, but once that information comes forward, it has to be listened to by the minister.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order pursuant to Standing Order 62. While my friend and colleague, the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam, just gave an excellent speech, I think all members in this place are very anxious to continue the debate on this important subject. My hon. colleague from Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine clearly rose to seek the floor at the same time as the member for Acadie—Bathurst. Perhaps he had difficulty catching your eye.

Pursuant to Standing Order 62 I therefore move:

That the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine be now heard.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

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

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

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

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #188

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion lost.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Acadie--Bathurst.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleagues for giving me the confidence to give this speech.

This is an important matter. The Report on the Snow Crab Industry in the Atlantic Provinces and in Quebec is a subject close to my heart.

When I was a miner, my first responsibility as union representative was to travel to the Acadian Peninsula and begin working in the fishing industry to represent the men and women of that industry. Although fishing is seasonal in nature, it was what most people did for a living. At that time, the fishery was in good shape in the Atlantic provinces and in Quebec. People worked up to 35 weeks a year. In the Atlantic provinces, 35 weeks of fishing is a big deal.

I remember that in 1988, the crab stock collapsed. At the time, the quota for crab fishermen was about 30,000 tonnes per year, but because of the collapse, the quota dropped to 7,000 tonnes per year. It was a crisis. I remember that at the time global quotas were introduced, meaning a period during which all fishermen could fish as much as possible.

Some positive steps were taken. For instance, individual quotas were introduced. At the time, each fisher had a quota. Introducing individual quotas helped put an end to overfishing. No one can deny that overfishing was a problem.

Ghost traps were even used in crab fishing. Any hon. members with an interest in the history of that time will learn that fishers put traps in the sea and left them there. Fishers were entitled to a certain number of traps, which were called “ghost traps”. Fishing continued even through the winter. It was year round. If the fishers took the traps out of the sea, they risked getting caught, so they left them in the water. When the traps stayed there over the winter, that was ghost fishing. The crabs entered the traps and could not get out. During the period when fishing was not allowed, the crabs died or ate each other. Then the traps would fill up again.

The individual quotas eradicated the ghost fishing problem. I remember at the time that Fisheries and Oceans Canada issued a directive whereby the fishermen could recover the traps without being arrested, regardless of who those traps belonged to. The fishermen cleaned up the ocean and the bay and it was the best thing that could have happened. Then the quota of the crab biomass increased to a level at which people could make a good living from the crab industry.

After some time, quotas were shared. Indeed, it is contradictory. The traditional fishermen say that it is up to them; that they have worked hard; that they have made sacrifices; that they worked when they were entitled to only 7,000 metric tonnes; and that they went through tough times. Now that they have been assured that the stock is coming back, the fishermen believe it should be theirs alone.

There are communities where people are living in poverty and where the fishery is not doing so well. For example, the cod and groundfish fishery is now closed in Atlantic Canada. At home, in the Acadian Peninsula and in the Gaspé, it is closed. There was quota sharing between the coastal fishermen and the aboriginals. Now, the aboriginal peoples have access to the fishery, which is important.

As my colleagues know, a report was prepared and I was asked to study it. I would like to congratulate our colleagues who visited the regions. It was important to the people. The member for Westminster—Coquit—