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House of Commons Hansard #135 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was centre.

Topics

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

9:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The House will have noticed that I voted twice on the last motion. I apologize for my bipolar voting condition. I would like to have myself recorded as voting against this particular motion.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member voted twice. It has been the practice that when a member votes twice, he then indicates which way he meant to vote. In this case he has indicated that he meant to vote against. That is how it has been when a member gets up on both the yeas and the nays.

(The House divided on the amendment:)

Vote #272

And the result of the vote having been announced: Yeas: 144; Nays: 144

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Since there is an equality of voices, it has been the tradition that at second reading the Speaker votes in favour of a motion at second reading, so I will declare the motion carried.

Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House resumed from June 5 consideration of the motion.

Governor GeneralPrivate Members' Business

10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on Motion No. 313 under private members' business.

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

Vote #273

Governor GeneralPrivate Members' Business

10:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Fisheries and OceansAdjournment Proceedings

June 6th, 2012 / 10:10 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, these adjournment proceedings are normally called the late show, but I think we are into the late, late show tonight. However, I do want to put a question to the minister's representative here tonight on what are known in the industry as “fleet separation” and “owner-operator” policies.

I have a very simple definition for anybody unfamiliar with the terms. The fleet separation policy prevents a company from both catching and processing seafood. In others words, a company could do one or the other, but not both. The owner-operator policy requires that the fishing licence holder catch the fish.

It is not that complicated if one understands the industry. However, they are immensely important policies to the practitioners of the fishing industry, meaning the fishermen in the boats, the owners of fishing licences, and the men and women who engage in the fishery.

These policies of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are not written into law or even regulation, which is a detriment. They apply to the east coast fisheries, but not to the west coast.

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans engaged in what he called a “consultation process” recently, suggesting that there should be some discussion about these policies. This was taken immediately as a threat, and I think rightly so, by the fishing industry and participants in the owner-operator policy, because the minister released a document in February called “Preserving the Independence of the Inshore Fleet in Canada's Atlantic Fisheries”.

It was called a “discussion document”, but it opened up the floodgates and suspicions, because there is a group in the Atlantic, the industry companies, that want to see that change.

The minister's thoughts are on “modernizing the fishery”. This is code in the Atlantic for turning over the fishing licences, catches and quotas to individual transferable quotas, which would be the end of the independence of the fishers in Atlantic Canada. This is what the fishers themselves say.

The industry participants brought together some 30 to 35 organizations and groups throughout Atlantic Canada and Quebec to respond to that document.

Their response, dated March 20, makes it very clear that they are unhappy with the government in bringing this forward. It is contrary to the agreed-upon participation in any review of policy, and they condemn it. They said that the approach taken by the minister was a perfect example of the top-down, centrally controlled, non-transparent and manipulative policy process that the department said it would move away from.

After significant analysis, the first recommendation they made was that legal entrenchment of the owner-operator and fleet separation policies should take place.

I want to know whether the minister is prepared to follow what the legislatures of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the opposition parties have said. Will the minister commit to keeping these fleet separation and owner-operator policies?

Fisheries and OceansAdjournment Proceedings

10:15 p.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, indeed, we have heard a lot of opinions on these two policies, and on a number of others as well. I am not here to say whether I agree or disagree, or the minister agrees or disagrees, with what he is saying. However, I am saying we need to be able to have a discussion on these issues. I am not alone in this position. In the words of the host of The Fisheries Broadcast in Newfoundland, John Furlong, it is time to have a discussion without fear of recrimination. I hope he agrees with that.

In fact, we have heard a broad spectrum of views and many people have impressed the importance of reviewing the origins of policies.

My colleague has defined the terms “owner-operator” and “fleet separation”. However, let me provide a bit more and perhaps a bit of history on it, as well.

The fleet separation policy was introduced in the Atlantic fishery in the 1970s. It states that corporations and processing companies may not be issued new fishing licences. Originally, the purpose was to separate the harvesting sector from the processing sector to help prevent any one group from controlling the supply chain.

The owner-operator policy was introduced in the 1980s to address an imbalance that actually emerged from the fleet separation policy. This policy requires licence holders to be on board the vessel to personally fish the licence. It was designed to support the individually operated inshore fleet, as my colleague has said.

These policies have evolved over time in response to specific requests. Many rules have been adopted over time to allow for exemptions. This has led to regional variances that complicate the administrative process and may create unfair advantages. For example, in Newfoundland and Labrador, a fisherman can get a 120-day exemption from the owner-operator policy, allowing someone else to operate his vessel. In the Maritimes region, the initial exemption only permits 30 days.

Another example is, in some cases, processors were providing capital to harvesters in order to secure a supply of fish. In some cases, trust agreements did indeed put control and decisions in the hands of the processors.

As a result, another policy was introduced in 2007 to preserve the independence of inshore harvesters and strengthen the owner-operator and fleet separation policies. Last year, the fleet separation policy was further amended to allow wholly owned corporations to hold fishing licences. There has been some evolution of these two policies.

Typically, with every rule and policy that has been adopted over time, exceptions or exemptions have had to be adopted to provide the flexibility that harvesters need to properly manage their business.

To be clear, our consultations were not focused solely on the owner-operator and fleet separation policies, though we recognize their importance to harvesters in the Atlantic.

These policies, and others, are complex, often with inconsistencies between fisheries and regions. They need to be considered in today's context to see if they remain effective in the face of fluctuating resources and changing market conditions.

We continue to believe that the fisheries can, and should, contribute more to the Canadian economy and generate more wealth for those who work in it. We are always looking for ways to give industry the tools it needs to operate in an environment that is more sustainable, stable, and economically prosperous.

The purpose of the work that we are doing in the consultations and continued review is not to arbitrarily remove policies, but to see where unnecessary complexities and inefficiencies exist and question barriers for improved economic prosperity for fishers.

It is for these reasons that the minister and his officials went out to speak with Canadians with an open mind to hear their views on what works and what does not. Now we are considering the feedback we have received through in-depth and objective analysis. This will allow us to better understand the issues and know the best way forward.

Fisheries and OceansAdjournment Proceedings

10:20 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I agree that there will be a need for some flexibility and some change.

The main concern has been the failure, and we see it here again today, of the minister and the political leadership of the department to affirm these policies and to guarantee the independence of the core fishing enterprises--fleet separation and owner-operator policies are designed to maintain that--and not to have what happened in British Columbia with the individual transferable quotas. That is what is being feared.

The minister and the department must say, “We will maintain these policies. We will give them legislative status or regulatory status.” Then we can talk about the details that might need to be adjusted.

However, what has happened here is that the whole shebang has been put on the table, without any sense that the protection of this $400 million industry in the hands of independent fishing enterprises is going to be maintained. That is the fear. That is why these legislatures have supported these policies and want the Government of Canada to maintain those policies to protect those fishermen and their communities.

Fisheries and OceansAdjournment Proceedings

10:20 p.m.

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, it seems to me if one takes the approach that the member is suggesting, then the consultation is a farce.

The minister said the fishermen agreed with us that this should be a prosperous, sustainable, stable industry. He asked if there were any polices that they had difficulty with that should be changed to allow a more prosperous future where they can survive and thrive.

If the member thinks that every fisherman in Atlantic Canada who contributed to this particular issue wants to maintain these two policies, then he is mistaken. There are two views on this and the minister is considering them both and then we will move forward.

Division on Private Member's Motion No. 313Adjournment Proceedings

10:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before we proceed further with adjournment proceedings I would like to bring to the attention of the House that there was an error in the announcement of the vote result of the last recorded division on Motion No. 313 in respect of the Governor General. The correct result in fact is 141 for and 147 against. Therefore, I declare the motion negatived. On behalf of the Table, I apologize for this error.

The hon. member for Dartmouth--Cole Harbour.

Fisheries and OceansAdjournment Proceedings

10:20 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise tonight and talk a bit more about the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' policy on owner-operator fleet separation.

My colleague, the member for St. John's East, was on his feet a moment ago raising some of the concerns that we have about where the government is going. He referred to the report that the minister put out which talked about modernizing the fishery and asking for people to provide input.

Part of the concern that folks in the industry where I come from had with this is that there was no mention whatsoever in the report about the owner-operator fleet separation policy. The report was silent in fact. Some people were taken aback by this. It was only after some of the sectors began talking with one another that they recognized what seemed to be going on. They forced the government to extend its consultation period by at least another week so that they would have the opportunity to provide some comments. People in the industry have said to me that they want the government to back off making any decision on the owner-operator fleet separation policy until there has been some clear consultation on the policy itself before it moves forward.

I want to say a couple of things about why I believe this policy is so important.

The inshore fishery, dominated by the owner-operator fleet separation policy, is the largest and most productive sector in the fish harvesting industry in this country. As it has moved over the past 20 years from a predominantly groundfish base to a more shellfish base and higher landing values, the inshore fishery has become by far the most valuable and the most successful fishery in this country.

The fishery supports over 1,000 communities throughout Atlantic Canada and Quebec. Many of us on this side of the House and people throughout that region are concerned that this move to get rid of the policy will result, as it did on the west coast, in greater concentration not only in ownership but also in control of the fishery and the people who work on those vessels. We are concerned that it will be concentrated in larger centres and in the hands of people who have absolutely no connection with the fishery in terms of harvesting methods, in terms of conservation and in terms of how the industry moves forward from here on in. That is the issue.

Would the parliamentary secretary not agree that the department has to back off and engage in an open and transparent dialogue with the industry before it moves further in this direction to change the owner-operator fleet separation policy?

Fisheries and OceansAdjournment Proceedings

10:25 p.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, my colleague began with something of a conspiracy theory and that is not the case here. He ended by saying that the Atlantic fishery is doing so well. In some cases it is and in some cases it is not. I believe he can think of some fisheries where fishermen are not making a living.

Our commitment as a government is to improving Canada's fishing industry. We think that the industry can do better in terms of providing a livelihood for Canadians and contributing to the Canadian economy. It was for those reasons that we went out to speak with Canadians with an open mind to hear their views on what works and what does not, because we certainly heard about some things that do not work. We wanted to hear directly from those who make a living in this business, about what they need not only to survive, as I said earlier, but also to thrive in an increasingly competitive and global marketplace. The process that was followed in this national engagement was threefold.

We wanted first of all to inform stakeholders of recently announced improvements to the fisheries management regime. Of these changes, such as longer term management plans and multi-year science advice, it is important that fishermen know that this is a transition we are making and we think it will provide the industry greater stability and better enable fishermen to make long-term business decisions.

Second, part of the consultation included getting feedback and input on new draft policies and tools that aim to improve the sustainability of the resource. The government recognizes that sustainability of the resource is critical to the economic prosperity of the industry. If we do not have any fish, it does not matter if we have the right policies. Sometimes it is easy to forget that. For example, a modern fisheries management approach needs to address issues around bycatch and there were some discussions about that. Implementing policies like these is not only good for the resource, but it is also good for the industry in that it helps prove to retailers and consumers that the product was harvested in a sustainable way.

Third, we wanted to hear people's thoughts on how the complex web of rules currently governing fisheries could be streamlined. In short, we asked the question, “What do you need to be able to compete on a global scale?” Again, there were no pre-conditions on what could be suggested. We wanted to hear all views. When someone suggested that we change a specific policy, our reaction was “Why?”, not “Sorry, we can't consider that”. In examining an issue as complex as Canada's fisheries management regime, we cannot arbitrarily exclude key elements in our analysis. We have to look at the whole system and all of its rules, policies, practices, management measures and regulations, and we have to look at how each of those parts interacts with the others. Then we have to ask whether this system is achieving the goals that we think it should and if the system is providing Canadians with a sustainable resource and improving economic prosperity. Those are the questions we have been asking to which we have been receiving responses.

In general, the response to this process was encouraging. It yielded thousands of responses from people, including independent harvesters, processors, aboriginal groups, NGOs, academics and the broader public, some even from outside the country. All of these views and opinions need to be considered if we are to examine fisheries as a whole. As I have said, we are now in the process of reviewing and analyzing all of the submissions we received. This input will help guide the minister and his officials as we move forward to work to continually improve fisheries management in Canada.

Fisheries and OceansAdjournment Proceedings

10:30 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary mentioned the fact that not everybody in this sector is making a living. I will recognize the fact that there have been extraordinary stresses and strains on individual fishers in this sector. However, it is important to recognize that the owner-operator sector is the most productive and successful sector within the fish harvesting industry in this country. The problem that some of the fishers have had is directly as a result of the management practices and policies of the minister's department. The answer to that is not to get rid of all these small owner-operator fishers who ensure communities are going to survive throughout our region and to concentrate the value in the hands of fewer people. That is not the answer. Let us have a responsible and reasonable discussion about this and try to deal with some of the problems, not give up on it.

Fisheries and OceansAdjournment Proceedings

10:30 p.m.

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, in fact there are some prosperous, well-managed fisheries on the west coast as well that operate by a different set of policies.

The minister, as I said, went to the east coast to see what works and what does not work. Both speakers so far have indicated that many fishermen and fishermen's groups have given us input that the owner-operator policies and fleet separation are important. We are certainly aware of their feelings on that and we are taking that into consideration.

We try to keep our eye on the goal, which is productive fisheries, sustainable fisheries that provide a living for people, that provide prosperity for communities and that will be there for future generations as well.

Fisheries and OceansAdjournment Proceedings

10:30 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rose in the House to ask the following question:

Fleet separation and owner-operator policies protect jobs and prevent the concentration of power in the hands of a few companies. These policies enable coastal fishers and communities to make a living from fishing. It is not an easy livelihood, but coastal fishers are proud of it.

The minister is conducting consultations, but fishers do not want the law to change.

Will the minister respect the will of independent fishers and coastal communities rather than putting the interests of big corporations first?

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans responded:

Mr. Speaker, consultation is seeking advice. That is exactly what we are doing.

The fishing industry is made up of thousands of very capable entrepreneurs who were held back by rules and regulations that disallowed them from making an honest buck because of government policies. The fishermen I know are happiest when they are pulling their nets and not dealing with bureaucracy.

I am looking at the situation, and what people want is for coastal fishermen to be able to sell their licences to companies. That is how they put it. It is as simple as that. Yes, that can be shared; there is no use hiding it. Some might want to get as much as possible for their licence, and if they can sell it to a company, they might get a good price, and then they can wash their hands of it and move on. But what does that mean for the community, for the region?

I will say one thing that I am sure people will agree with. Usually, someone who owns a company wants to make money. That is the goal. If the company is not making money, what does it do? It closes temporarily.

However, I would like to remind the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans of something. Whether he makes money or not, a fisherman goes out to sea and fishes. I have never seen fishers anchor their boats and say that they are not going to fish. They go out, whether they are making money or not. Times may be tough, but that is the reality of the fishery. These people have fishing in their blood. That is what they want to do.

These people are asking us to protect them, because when they sell their licences to large corporations or industries, it does not stop there. It is no wonder that people from other countries have commented on this, as the parliamentary secretary just stated. Well, sure, that is because they would perhaps like to have these licences and then control the fishery.

The government would be making a huge mistake if it were to put this in the hands of corporations rather than in the hands of fishers. They need to continue to learn to live together for the well-being of the communities. Even the premier of Prince Edward Island has said that if the federal government sells licences to corporations, that will kill rural areas. That is all we have left in the Maritimes, in Atlantic Canada.

Here is hoping that the government does not get involved in this and start listening only to the companies. When companies from other provinces came to buy the fish processing plants back home, what happened? They closed those plants and left because the plants were no longer competitive. The companies did not create jobs. They cost us jobs.

We are again asking the government to ensure that these licences will not be sold to corporations.

Fisheries and OceansAdjournment Proceedings

10:35 p.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his views on this. He presents them very passionately. Would it not be better if people could go out fishing and also make a living? That is really what we are all about.

There is really no doubt, I hope the member agrees, that Canada's fisheries management regime has become very complex. We are not arbitrarily excluding any part of it as we review it. We are looking at the whole system, all of its rules, policies, practices, management measures and regulations, and looking at how all the parts interact. We are looking to the future, as I have said already.

We are listening to Canadians with an open mind to hear directly from those who make a living in this business about what they need not only to survive but to thrive. In listening to Canadians, and I know they do not believe this, we heard diverse views from all three coasts about how fisheries management needs to change. There is an appetite for change out there, maybe not on this policy, I do not know, but Canadians want a system that delivers strong sustainability outcomes and maximizes the economic value of the resource.

Looking at an issue objectively requires more than just listening to the loudest speaker in the room. It requires careful analysis of the facts. Therefore, along with the input we have collected, we have to look at the context in which these policies were created, the scientific data and study our international competitors so we can improve upon known best practices. It is now up to us to review and analyze all of the information we have, and that is what we are doing.

As I have said a few times tonight, no decisions have been made concerning how any fisheries policies may change.

Many harvesters told us that fisheries management needs to better reflect their business needs. They point to inefficiencies in the current fisheries management system characterized by a complex web of rules and policies. With its rules, DFO dictates whether or not someone may fish, what may be caught and by whom, where and when they fish, how much they may catch, the boats and equipment they may use, where to land their fish and what may be done to fish before it is landed. All these rules differ from one fishery to the other.

Undoubtedly, it was not the intention to end up with such a complex regime. While there may be conflicting opinions about certain policies, I think we should all be able to agree that improvements can be made. We have heard voices advocating for the preservation of owner-operator and fleet separation policies. Clearly, that is the case. However, we must also recognize that others have asked for greater flexibility, however we produce that.

Fishermen are resourceful entrepreneurs. Like other businesses, those with the ability to employ ingenuity, creativity and respond quickly enjoy the greatest success. Like any other enterprise, they want the flexibility to adapt their business in response to fluctuating resources and changing markets and position themselves as competitors on a global scale.

Many of the policies we have in place today were first put there in the 1970s, as I said earlier. However, we should think about the changes that have occurred since that time. China was just taking its first tentative steps toward capitalism. Consumers in those days were not particularly concerned about the sustainability of their food sources. Large-scale aquaculture operations were still years away. The policies that were put in place were developed to work in an environment before the global economy really existed in the way that it is today.

It is prudent to take a look of these things objectively and learn how we can enable our fishing industry to prosper. It is our duty to continuously search for improvement. That is what we are doing.

Fisheries and OceansAdjournment Proceedings

10:40 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, the issue is not whether they are able to take an interest in fisheries policies and try to improve them. That is not the question. What they want to do is take the licences of inshore fishermen and sell them to corporations. They want to take vessels under 65 feet and sell them to the industry. This will hurt communities.

The premier of Prince Edward Island openly said as much. The premier of Newfoundland also passed legislation to that effect, as did the premier of Nova Scotia. Is the Conservative Government of Canada willing to listen to these three Atlantic provinces and the Quebec National Assembly, which have passed legislation to that effect?

Does it mean nothing to the Conservative Government of Canada that four provinces in Canada—five with New Brunswick—are publicly saying that they do not want these licences to be sold to big corporations?

What about consulting the Atlantic provinces? Will British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario make decisions about the fisheries in the Atlantic provinces and Quebec? Come on.

During consultations, they have to open their eyes and their ears in order to understand what is happening in Canada and what people in Atlantic Canada want.

Fisheries and OceansAdjournment Proceedings

10:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The time that was allowed is finished.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

Fisheries and OceansAdjournment Proceedings

10:40 p.m.

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, perhaps I can wrap this up by making sure that we understand together what the role of the Government of Canada is in fisheries management.

At its core, I think we can boil it down to this. It is responsible for ensuring the conservation and protection of fish. In other words, that there is something out there to fish, and then ensuring the orderly management of the fishery. That is what the Government of Canada does in this fisheries world.

Therefore, when the government reviews its policies, which we think we should do from time to time, we have to look at the whole system and all of the management measures to identify what does and does not work in today's context. We need to remove barriers to the entrepreneurship that defines this industry because we continue to believe that fisheries can contribute to the Canadian economy. It is about continuously improving how we do business and providing industries with the tools they need to operate in this environment that is more sustainable, stable and economically prosperous.

Fisheries and OceansAdjournment Proceedings

10:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 10:45 p.m.)