Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill that was introduced by the fisheries minister. First of all, I must say that, with this bill, the federal government is not taking any action to ensure that, in the future, fishing will be done in a responsible way, that is, in a profitable and sustainable way, from viewpoint of both the environment and of industry workers.
To me, this bill represents one of the worst to be introduced in the House since our election. Yet, it should be the bill of the century. It combines several acts, some of which have existed since 1867. It is one of the worst bills I have seen, because it does not take into account the industry itself. Also, it does not take into account those who work in it and, particularly, those who depend on it.
Did this bill try to do anything to solve the problems of overcapacity? Absolutely not. Was there any attempt to solve the problem of industry revenues, of the industry's viability? Absolutely not. Dis this bill try to do anything to solve the problem of over-regulation? No.
Furthermore, this bill does not take into account Quebec's demands with regard to fisheries. Thus, this bill has the same characteristics as many others, that is, that the federal government keeps on acting unilaterally and maintains its centralizing perspective, which the Bloc Quebecois has always rejected. This is also unacceptable to the stakeholders in the industry.
The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has obviously learned well, and learned fast. I must admit that his predecessor was rather good when it came to federal paternalism. Notwithstanding his role in the now famous October 1995 demonstration of love, his predecessor never showed Quebecers he was aware of their needs and concerns regarding the fisheries industry.
While this bill establishes a regime for the conservation and management of fisheries, the minister's priority is to issue fisheries management guidelines. Does the minister realize that, before issuing such guidelines, he should have asked himself what the fishing industry is like in Quebec and Canada?
We all know about the current depletion of fish stocks. In fact, this depletion led to a moratorium on Atlantic groundfish. On the west coast, major steps had to be taken to ensure a degree of control over stocks. This goes to show there is indeed a serious problem. Will this bill solve this problem?
Let us see how the minister intends to go about it. As far as he is concerned, stock management simply does not exist. There is no mention, anywhere in this bill, of this important concept which is, I might say, vitally important to the fishing industry.
There are a number of questions, important questions, that the minister should have asked himself, questions like the following: Who will the fishers authorized to harvest the resource be? Should fishing become a profession, with a limit to the number of fishers? What types of vessels should fishers use? This bill does not answer any of these basic questions.
Is the minister blind? Does he have a vision for the future of this industry? There is no hint of that in here. This bill will put in place a regime for the conservation and management of fisheries. It provides the minister with new powers. If the bill is passed, the minister will be authorized to enter into agreements with fishers' associations or organizations.
These agreements could have a serious impact. There could be agreements on harvest limits and conservation measures for instance. How many licences will be issued and how much will they cost? What will the responsibilities and funding measures applicable to fisheries management be? To all these questions, the minister does not provide an answer.
The agreements could also state that fishers are required to contribute to biological research. As if it was not bad enough that they have to pay to have the right to fish, they could also have to pay for research. Now I have heard it all.
The government will go so far as to provide guidelines regarding the decision to be made in case of major violations of the act. But who will be part of this group of fishers? We cannot find out. There are no guidelines on this issue. With whom will the minister negotiate? Let us not be fooled. We know very well that the minister himself will decide who will sit at the negotiation table. He will invite his friends, of course, and should the minister not agree with those sitting at the table, who will form the group of fishers? The minister will have full authority to renege on his word.
The fishing industry needs clear and precise answers. It has been plagued by uncertainty for too long to now be presented with solutions such as those proposed in Bill C-62. This industry, and a large proportion of those who live off it, has had to put up with unstable and inadequate revenues for too long. Is this what the minister wants to offer to these people?
In Quebec, we feel the fishing industry is one that must be looked after. We feel it is one of the economy's engines. Consequently, our approach is totally different from that of the federal fisheries minister. The Quebec government's official position on fisheries is the one that was stated at the 1994 conference of fisheries ministers, in Victoria.
Quebec then publicly asked the federal government to give to the province full authority over fisheries management. Quebec wants to take full responsibility for the stocks fished by its residents. It is of course understood that any transfer of responsibility should be accompanied by a transfer of the budget set aside for this purpose.
Quebec wants its fair share of fish stocks taken by residents of more than one province. Let us consider how the industry in Quebec sees this share. I would like to point out at this point that Quebec's position was unanimous, including the government and all partners who took part in the forum on Quebec maritime fisheries.
The industry in Quebec believes it is essential to get out of the traditional pattern of interprovincial competition and concentrate on joint management of a renewable resource. A quota would be applied to the available volume of a particular species and would determine how the industry would manage that species.
If this mechanism is applied to all species, it will determine the resources available to each province. This will put an end to provincial bickering. There will be no more lobbying to appropriate a greater share of traditional resources.
Professional fishers would then enjoy stable access to their resources and feel more secure in the major investments they must make in this industry. Once their share is established, the industry and governments, federal and provincial, would be able to concentrate their efforts on developing this sector on a sound basis.
The entire industry stands to gain. When we know what we are entitled to and what is available, we are in a better position to manage the resource and subsequent processing. The minister is aware of the Quebec government's position in this respect. He was advised of this position in September by the Quebec Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
Once again, the federal government is encroaching on Quebec's jurisdiction. We see duplication in matters such as the conservation and protection of fish habitat and pollution prevention. In case the minister did not know, Quebec has happens to have a Minister of the Environment and Wildlife. He is responsible for the protection and use of the aquatic environment and the resources found therein.
Quebec has jurisdiction over civil rights, private property, municipal authorities, physical planning and resource management, and this includes any matter of a local or private nature. It is therefore up to Quebec to take the responsibility for managing the aquatic environment and to take all necessary steps to protect it, to ensure the quality of that environment and to conserve its resources.
So what is the federal government doing here? Why more duplication? This is unacceptable federal encroachment. Since
1993, we have said repeatedly in this House that this government is increasingly encroaching on the jurisdiction of the provinces.
This government must absolutely allow the provinces to decide if they rather be subject to federal standards or to their own. Quebec has asked not to be subject to federal standards. The minister must reconsider and respect Quebec's wishes, thus preventing costly duplication.
I would like to draw attention to the new structure imposed under Bill C-62. This bill provides for the establishment of fisheries tribunals. The members of these tribunals could be appointed by the government for three year terms, and then be reappointed. As if the government had run out of places in the current structure to appoint its friends, it is now creating fisheries tribunals. This way, the minister retains complete control over the sentences handed out by these tribunals. We know full well that those who are appointed by the government must toe the government line.
Does the industry agree with the proposed creation of fisheries tribunals? No, it does not. Those involved do not want to answer to an administrative tribunal. We have magistrates in Quebec and Canada. Our judicial system is very efficient. The people in the fisheries industry want to be treated like any other citizen, they want to be tried by the judicial system in place, not some new structure.
The minister must abandon his plans to establish fisheries tribunals and go back to the drawing board as soon as possible. He must review his bill. He must listen to what the industry has to say. He must also take into account Quebec's demands, and ensure that his bill meets the needs of those who depend on the fisheries.
The fisheries industry is too important an industry, in Quebec as well as in Canada, to have a bill imposed on it that does not meet the needs of those who depend on it. It is therefore imperative that the minister go back to the drawing board.