Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak to private member's bill, Bill C-228, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act.
First, I would like to commend the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam for having his bill debated at second reading. I know how tirelessly he has campaigned and worked on this. I know how much work goes into getting these bills to the floor of the House, and I would like to recognize his efforts.
Second, I would like to acknowledge the natural beauty of the rivers and lakes in my riding of Cariboo—Prince George, which are chock full of some of the finest fish on the west coast. From salmon to trout to char, Arctic grayling, dolly varden, Rocky Mountain whitefish, and even lean cod, we have it all in the Cariboo.
The fisheries are an important economic driver in the northern regions of our country, but they are struggling. A recent article in the Prince Rupert Northern View spoke of salmon being caught in Prince Rupert and shipped to Vancouver or China to be processed. The demand for same day catch or fresh-to-plate fish is high.
Demand for Canadian products is always high. While this is a good opportunity for Canadian producers and our Canadian economy, it does mean that it is putting jobs at risk.
Bill C-228 would ban finfish aquaculture in Pacific waters unless it were carried out in a closed containment facility. It would require that within 18 months cabinet conclude a transition plan for current licence holders, including specific support measures for corporations and workers affected or impacted by these changes. It also mandates that companies would have five years to phase out open-net pens.
British Columbia is Canada's largest producer of farmed salmon. Farmed salmon is B.C.'s largest aquaculture export. The wild and farmed salmon industries provide important economic activity for the province and for communities where families depend on the fishing industry to put food on their table.
Ninety per cent of all direct and indirect jobs in rural, coastal, and first nations communities are supported by fisheries. As a matter of fact, 78% of farmed salmon production comes from traditional territory. Nineteen first nations have joint ventures and partnership agreements in place with salmon producers. The salmon farming sector has become a significant economic driver and source of jobs for first nations communities, who provide an estimated 30% of the workforce in this industry.
If Bill C-228 were to be adopted, it would come at a significant financial and economic cost to our aquaculture industry, and a loss to those communities. This is an issue that has been studied at the fisheries and oceans committee numerous times over the years. Its most recent report was completed in 2013.
Unsurprisingly, the committee witnesses expressed a number of views on the matter of net-pen aquaculture. They pointed out that mandating closed containment and banning net-pen aquaculture without closed containment being economically viable could have a drastic effect on employment, especially in our rural coastal communities who have already been suffering from the lack of significant growth in salmon aquaculture production in recent years.
However, I do not just have economic concerns with this bill. It is worth knowing that environmental impacts are not unique to open net-pen aquaculture production. Closed containment aquaculture carries its own set of environmental impacts that, given the state of the industry, have been and are not well studied. The carbon footprint generated by a closed containment facility drawing in electricity, pumping in water, filtering waste, among other actions, is hugely significant.
Growing British Columbia's production in salmon in closed containment facilities at the current stocking density would require 4.16 billion litres of water just to fill the tanks. That is roughly equal to the water used by 135 million people, and if that were not enough, the current production in Canada alone would require 28,000 Canadian football fields, or 33,719 acres, or 159 square kilometres of land to grow fish in appropriate densities in land-based systems.
When it comes to this closed-pen aquaculture, and the environmental impacts in particular, more studies are needed.
The Conservative Party supports aquaculture development that is both economically sound and environmentally responsible. As it is written, Bill C-228 does not meet these thresholds. In fact, it was the previous government under Stephen Harper that put in place stringent regulations to protect Canada's aquatic species, both farm and wild, from disease. We worked with our provincial partners and developed some of the most stringent regulations in this industry.
A number of important changes have been made to environmental management regimes, including the relocation of poorly sited farms, new farm siting requirements, and the adjustment of stocking, harvesting, and sea lice treatment schedules in order to account for wild salmon migration seasons.
Conservatives made significant investments, which included more than $465 million per year on salmon alone, of which $20 million was directly related to activities to support sustainable management of sockeye, such as fisheries science, protection of fisheries habitat, salmon enhancement, and catch and monitoring enforcement. Finally, prior to the 2015 election, Conservatives renewed the sustainable aquaculture program, which would continue to improve the regulatory framework for the sector, support science, and require public reporting.
On the west coast, Abbotsford has a state-of-the-art health facility. It is called the Animal Health Centre. It is one of only three in North America and is probably the only institution in North America with two veterinarian pathologists certified by the American College of Veterinary Pathologists, who work exclusively with fish. That is on the west coast, in Abbotsford.
While Bill C-228 may have received ringing endorsements from Captain Kirk himself, it just doesn't make sense, certainly not from an economic standpoint and certainly not for those whose livelihoods depend on a sustainable aquaculture sector to put food on the table for their families. With more and more uncertainty in our forestry and resource sectors, and with the Trudeau government increasing taxes at every opportunity, communities like those in my riding of Cariboo—Prince George or those just north of us, like Prince Rupert, do not need more uncertainty.
If Bill C-228 were to be adopted, it would essentially be moving aquaculture away from small towns and into larger cities, where they are closer to resources and transportation hubs. I can say from first-hand experience that when jobs are slashed, communities are left without a lifeline. No amount of subsidization can make up for this fact. That is why I am unable to support Bill C-228 today.
It is the aquaculture industry that supports 4,900 direct, full-time jobs in this vast country, with salaries paid out to the tune of $106.2 million each year, which is 30% higher than other industries. If we want to include indirect jobs in that figure, we can add another 9,600. The industry contributes $500 million to the B.C. economy alone.
Bill C-228 would have a direct and immediate impact on our rural coastal communities. If we were to move it, based on the number of currently operating marine farms, conversion to land-based systems would result in an estimated lost investment in farm equipment of approximately $500 million. Capital investment in land-based systems for equivalent current provincial production can be roughly estimated to exceed $1 billion in capital investments alone based on the above figures.
Siting facilities close to urban centres would increase this estimate significantly. We know the price of real estate in the Lower Mainland is among the highest in Canada. We are not quite sure where we would find the amount of land needed to move these facilities.
Bill C-228 would put full-time, well-paying jobs in jeopardy during a time when we are faced with economic uncertainty and layoffs in many sectors across this country. I am not saying there are not benefits to closed-pen aquaculture. What I am saying is that more studies need to be conducted in terms of the impact of closed-containment aquaculture on our coastal communities, which need these jobs the most. Unilaterally banning finfish aquaculture unless it is carried out in closed containment is not the answer, and until the practice can be carried out in an economically and environmentally sound manner, I will be unable to support this bill.
With that, I again want to commend my hon. colleague for putting forth this bill and for the work he has done on it. Unfortunately, it has missed the mark.