Mr. Speaker, as always, it is an honour to speak in the House on behalf of my constituents from Surrey North.
I come from British Columbia and along the coast we have many families and fishermen who are supported by the fishing industry. The bill is extremely important to British Columbians and many people living in my constituency.
The bill would require Canada to ratify the UN Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, which Canada signed in 2010. I know that my colleagues in the House agree that this is a good bill and a sign of being part of and working with the international community to not only preserve but manage our fishing resources. The agreement was signed in 2010, yet it took the Conservative government four years to bring the bill to the House.
Not only that, members will notice that the bill begins with an “S”. For people listening at home, that means the bill was introduced in the Senate, the unelected, unethical, unaccountable Senate. I would have preferred it if the bill was introduced here in this House, which is represented by the people. It is a small issue but I do want to point it out.
Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing undermines sustainable practices of legitimate fishing operations, including those in Canada, and presents unfair market competition for sustainable foods. That is the issue. There are estimates from a number of different studies that point out the economic loss worldwide due to pirated fishing ranges from $10 billion to $23 billion annually. This represents approximately 40% of the catch.
Commercial fisheries in Canada contribute about $5.4 billion in economic activity in this country. Not only that, it generates approximately 71,000 jobs across this country, on the west and east coasts.
There are a couple of issues that I want to point out.
One issue is on conservation, because fish are not unlimited. We know that this is a limited resource. Obviously, we must make sure that we regulate and prevent this illegal, unregulated, unreported fishing in order to ensure the sustainability of this resource, which provides many jobs not only in Canada but worldwide. It is a source of food that is valued across nations, so we must work with other countries to ensure that this resource is sustained.
The other aspect is that not only do we have to manage and ensure sustainability but we also have to enhance fishing stocks. How do we do that? There are many ways, and I will get into that. However, the record of the current government in regard to ensuring the enhancement of the fishing stocks and the environment has been terrible.
We have heard in the House of the cuts that are being made to Fisheries and Oceans Canada and to surveillance. It is fine and dandy to bring in a bill to ensure that we would protect the fishery from illegal and unreported fishing, but if there is no substance or teeth to the bill, how would we ensure that the law would be implemented? What we have seen from the Conservative government over the last three years that I have been here, and before that, is cut after cut to the very people who enforce these laws and regulations.
In the House today, someone pointed out that there was a $4.2-million cut to surveillance. However, I heard the parliamentary secretary say that it was not that much. How much is it?
Even the Parliamentary Budget Officer has tried to get information from departments in regard to where the cuts are and who they are affecting. However, under the current government, government departments, whether it be Fisheries, the military or Defence, are all refusing to provide information to the Parliamentary Budget Officer. On one hand the parliamentary secretary says that the cuts are not that much. How much are they? Let us know. Let Canadians know how much the cuts are to these departments.
I talked about sustainability. We have seen cuts to the environment. For example, 99% of our lakes, 99% of our rivers have been removed by the Conservative government from the Environmental Protection Act. On one hand, yes, we are trying to ensure we are protected against illegal fishing, unreported fishing and we curtail it. On the other hand, we need to ensure we provide environmental habitats for these fish to flourish and to come into our rivers. However, we have seen cut after cut in these areas where the government is failing to protect.
We have seen another side of things from the Cohen report. I come from British Columbia. This year we had a bumper crop of fish coming into the Fraser River. It was estimated that 26 million came into the Fraser River. In other years, we do not see as many fish coming into British Columbia, and that is because the government has made cuts to scientists. We need to understand what the oceans are all about. However, the government has not only made cuts to the scientists who study the ocean to find out about fish habitat and fish behaviour, it has also eliminated a number of facilities that monitor these kinds of experiments.
The Cohen report talked about fish coming into British Columbia through the rivers. We have seen that one year we get so many fish and another year we do not get as many. In order for us to protect our fishing resources, to protect and ensure that we understand the fish, we need to invest in science. We need to invest in enforcement. However, time after time we have seen the government shirk its responsibility in regard to ensuring the well-being of our families. It should ensure not only that the jobs being provided are protected today, but are protected in years to come, generations to come.
That is how ones works with the international community to ensure treaties like this are actually implemented, so I do commend the implementation by the House of the treaty to protect unregulated, illegal and unreported fish. We need to work with the international community to ensure more countries sign on to this treaty to ensure its implementation. There are only a handful of countries that have signed this, and we need a minimum of 25 countries to ensure that this is implemented.
Working with the international community is something the government has lost. I'll give you an example. Fish do not see boundaries. They travel around from one country to another, one ocean to another. Therefore, we need to work with other countries, but the record of the current government has been horrible.
There was a time when we were viewed as peacemakers. Canada was viewed as a country that would bring others together, but that is not the case now. I will give a prime example of that. In the history of the UN Security Council, we have always had a seat on a rotating basis. We ran, and other countries supported our position and voted for us to be on the Security Council. For the first time in the history, the 50-odd years, of the UN Security Council, the government did not even want to run a candidacy for that seat because it knew we would not get the support of other countries to have that rotating seat on the UN Security Council.
That is the government's record. On the other hand, the NDP leader was the Minister of the Environment in Quebec. He has worked with environmental organizations. He has worked for the sustainable development of our resources. I can assure the House that the leader of the NDP will work with the international community to ensure that we have sustainable fisheries, sustainable resources, not only for this generation but future generations.
I would encourage not only the Minister of Foreign Affairs but also the Prime Minister to work with other countries, to encourage them to sign this treaty so that we can sustain this very valuable resource for Canada and its future generations.
We have talked about this a little, but in order for us to implement this law, we need tools and people, initial resources, as well as surveillance tools to detect unreported, illegal, and unregulated fishing. However, we are seeing cuts under the government. Not only that, we have seen cuts to the scientific community. The government is cutting scientists who would help us enhance the fisheries and their related jobs and products. It is muzzling scientists. The government is not even letting them talk about some of the issues and problems we are facing and how we could solve those problems.
On one hand we need to protect managed fisheries, and on the other hand we need to enhance the fisheries. We need to enhance the habitat and ensure it is protected. Under the current government, 99% of our lakes and rivers do not have environmental protection.
On one side we need to make sure we do not have illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, because we need to preserve and sustain those fisheries. On the other hand, we also need to enhance and ensure that we provide a place, a habitat for the fishing stock to grow. For that, we need to make investments in habitat, science and other resources that will provide that habitat for fishing stock to flourish.
Under the Conservative government, time after time we have seen cuts to our fishing resources and to the environment. Earlier I heard my colleague from Quebec talking about the east coast, and how we need to provide security and safety for the fishing vessels, the brothers and sisters who go out on the rough oceans to fish. It is a very dangerous job. We need to provide enhanced security for them in order to ensure that they bring in their catch.
I heard from my Quebec colleagues earlier and read in newspapers that sometimes when fishing vessels in rough waters on the east coast phone for help, the call is picked up somewhere in Italy.
I am from the west coast of Canada, and even I do not understand the accent in the Maritimes. We need local people. I have colleagues from Newfoundland, and they have a distinct culture. We need to ensure that we do not send their distress calls overseas where their language will not be understood.
On the west coast we have seen cuts to the Kitsilano Coast Guard. My colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam pointed out that two hovercraft are out of commission now. On the one hand, cuts are being made to services that are required to support our fishing industry. One the other hand, we are not providing protection for fish in our rivers to make those fisheries sustainable over a long period of time and taking steps to protect them against unreported and illegal fishing.
I would encourage the government to work with other nations, bring them on board, and provide the leadership role that the government has not provided in other areas. We saw this not only last year when we lost a seat on the UN Security Council but in other areas where it failed to provide that leadership.
On this side of the House, we have a number of issues with the bill that have been pointed out already. We hope that the government will listen to some of the amendments that we will offer to ensure the bill has teeth and will protect fishermen and communities and jobs in this country. I am hoping that amendments would be entertained at committee stage. Over the last number of years, we have seen many amendments to enhance various bills.
Sometimes the Conservatives rush bills through with typos in them. We have seen a number of bills at committee stage that Conservatives were told were unconstitutional. We pointed out at committee stage that the crime bill and a few other bills would be ruled unconstitutional, yet the Conservatives failed to take that into account. They not only failed to take that into account; they simply refused to entertain some of the recommendations that the opposition parties had. Those recommendations were based on facts, science, and legitimate concerns from communities and stakeholders.
I am not going to get into facts and figures, because the Conservatives do not believe in them. They do not believe in science or concrete numbers, so I am going to leave that for another day.
In summary, this is a good step. Hopefully we will get some amendments at committee stage to enhance the bill.