House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was conservatives.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 33% of the vote.

Statements in the House

An Act to amend the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act (Sambro Island Lighthouse) May 25th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Halifax for her very thoughtful speech. I am sure that what she said resonates with many people in coastal communities.

I would like to talk about the cultural aspect of lighthouses. Communities have depended heavily on lighthouses as a link that kept them safe. Many families have lived in very remote regions to operate lighthouses and in Halifax too. Maritime communities, including fishers and sailors, have depended heavily on lighthouses.

Many cultural communities have an interest in the work we are doing today to save not only the lighthouse in my colleague's riding, but those in all of Canada.

Can my colleague comment on the cultural aspect of lighthouses?

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act No. 1 May 15th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to my colleague's speech.

I think he talked up the Liberal party far too much in his speech because every time the Liberals formed a government, they did not balance the budgets like they say they did. Instead, they dipped into the EI fund and drained it completely in order to fund their promises.

The hon. member says that the other parties are making promises to make other promises. Unfortunately, the Liberal Party does not seem to be very good at math.

Let me just say that the Liberal Party's own leader said that budgets balance themselves. I think his party is having a hard time doing the math. Recently, the Liberals announced that they would bring in a program to help children, but that the program would run a deficit of $1 billion to $2 billion

Can the hon. member tell me whether the Liberal Party is going to drain the EI fund again to pay for its promises, or is this another empty promise the Liberal Party is going to cast aside as usual?

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1 May 14th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise and offer my thoughts on Bill C-59, the budget implementation bill.

Once again, I have a number of reservations about this budget. Sadly, we on this side of the House cannot support it. Once again, the Conservatives have slipped several measures into this budget in order to justify their lament that the opposition does not support certain measures.

For example, we would like to support the measures to assist veterans, but the Conservatives have slipped them into a mammoth budget implementation bill.

At 150 pages, it is shorter than some, like BillC-38, which had hundreds of pages. When the Conservatives were in opposition, they denounced mammoth bills, even if they had only a few dozen pages. Today we are looking at a 150-page bill.

This is stopping us from holding a full debate on the provisions of the bill. This was the case with Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, and now it is the case with Bill C-59. The opposition members, like the government members, who should be keeping an eye on their own government, are simply not able to do so with the means available to them.

I would like to point out that the Conservatives have imposed time allocation for the 96th time, limiting the time available to debate a bill as important as the budget. This makes no sense. The NDP would have liked to support certain measures in the bill, because they are ideas put forward originally by the NDP that the government decided to borrow. For this, I congratulate the government.

For instance, the tax rate on small and medium-sized businesses will go from 11% to 9%. The change will be made over five years, because the Conservatives have decided to spread the measure over a number of years, but it will be quite helpful to SMEs, which are the ones creating jobs in Canada. This measure deserves our support, but unfortunately, the Conservatives have combined measures that we can support with ones that we simply cannot support.

Moreover, the budget contains no measures regarding the Transport Canada wharfs. The Conservatives were very happy to spend time in eastern Canada recently, to underline their $33 million investment in the Transport Canada port divestiture program.

Unfortunately, this is the same $33 million that was announced last year, and $9 million of it has already been spent. There is only $24 million left to be shared among the 50 wharfs that the government is proposing to transfer. Two of the Transport Canada wharfs are in my riding, and just these two would exceed the amount of money that remains for the 50 wharfs across Canada that the government would like to transfer.

When the government says it is helping people, what does that mean in concrete terms? We cannot accept their offer, because it is just too little.

Recently, I heard a Conservative MP saying that the Conservatives had introduced one of the largest infrastructure programs in Canada’s history. However, this money will be spent in the future. They have announced amounts of money that the budget does not cover at all, and they are trying to make us believe that with a budget of $54 billion over 10 years they are going to spend the largest amount of money in Canada’s history on infrastructure.

Unfortunately, the facts tell quite a different story. Last year, the government spent only $250 million of the $54 billion. Its assistance to municipalities and organizations to implement infrastructure programs was extremely discreet.

It is disgraceful that the government is congratulating itself about money it has never spent and that it is trying to make people believe that it is carrying out this program, even though it is a phantom program, since we are unable to find this money.

Furthermore, this budget does not help the regions, and in fact the opposite is true.

The Conservatives say that they have balanced the budget, but once again, they have done so using both the contingency fund and the employment insurance fund.

This year, the government is planning to filch $1.7 billion from the employment insurance fund to balance its budget. It likes to brag about its $1.8 billion surplus, but it is pretty clear where that money came from. The government is even planning to help itself to $17 billion from the employment insurance fund over five years. It is quickly catching up to the Liberals' record. They too bragged about balancing a budget, and they too did so at workers' expense. Since the Chrétien government's reform, the government has taken $57 billion from the employment insurance fund. The Liberals swiped $50 billion, the Conservatives $7 billion. Now they are planning to snatch another $17 billion from the fund.

They say they are going to balance the budget, but they are doing so at the expense of the poorest, the neediest. Seasonal workers and workers who lose their jobs will pay the price. Roughly four out of 10 workers are not even entitled to employment insurance benefits even though they all contribute to the fund. Those people will never see a penny. The government is busy taking money from the insurance fund and, instead of giving it to the people who contribute, funnelling it into programs that will benefit Canada's wealthiest people.

With regard to the Conservatives' proposed income splitting, the Parliamentary Budget Officer clearly said that only 15% of Canadians will benefit, and most of them are among the wealthiest people in this country.

The wealthiest people do not need more help. There are some Canadians who are unemployed and others who are facing job losses. Today, 1,700 employees of Bombardier, a pillar of Canadian industry, are unemployed. They are facing an employment insurance fund that has been pillaged repeatedly by the government. There is no more room to manoeuvre.

When the government says that it has balanced the budget, it means that we are at the point where the government has squeezed programs so much that there is no more room to manoeuvre. Someone who has lost a job or works part time will find it very difficult to make ends meet.

Today's budget is simply not going to help the poor, and that includes measures like income splitting and tax-free savings accounts, or TFSAs. The tax-free savings account limit is being raised to $10,000. In my riding, I can tell you that the number of people who can take advantage of that and put $10,000 into a tax-free savings account is very small. What is more, that money will then not be spent in the riding; it will sit in a savings account.

We need programs that put money in people's pockets and encourage people to have a greater impact on their local economy. Those are the kinds of programs that will help grow the economy. We need to help small and medium-sized businesses, because they create jobs, and that is what will help create wealth. What matters to the NDP is putting money into the pockets of people who really need it, rather than giving more to rich.

I am very disappointed in this budget, which once again gives priority to people who will perhaps vote for the Conservatives in the upcoming election. Unfortunately, the people who are being ignored by this government and who will not get the help they need from this budget are precisely those who are currently unemployed or otherwise struggling. The budget contains very little for those individuals.

However, the budget does include something that I think is good for retirees regarding registered retirement income funds. Now people will have the choice to put off withdrawing from their RRIFs a little longer. This will help people who are retired. However, let us not forget that those who do not have the means to put enough money in an RRSP will have to wait until they are 67 before they can get old age security. They will pay dearly for not having enough money in an RRSP. This was done without warning and without consultation. The government simply imposed this.

These people did not have enough time to adjust their budget and now have a major deficit for their retirement years. This budget will do nothing to help them.

We absolutely need to have a budget that will help the less fortunate. The government has a role to play as an advocate for the people who are most in need. The government should help those in need, but unfortunately the budget before us does not do that.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1 May 14th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her presentation. I think this shows us the extent to which the Conservatives like to dream in Technicolor.

My colleague ended her speech by saying that the budget was really making things better for people living in New Brunswick. I would like to point out that a lot of people in New Brunswick who work in the oil patch in Alberta have lost their jobs. I do not see anything in the budget that will help them. In addition, I would like to point out that many of the workers in New Brunswick are seasonal workers and that the budget will be digging even more deeply into the employment insurance fund, for a total of $17 billion over five years. That will bring the amount that the government has taken out of the EI fund to more than $24 billion. This is coming close to the $50 billion that the Liberals took. Things are obviously going well. At the same time as they are taking money from New Brunswickers, the government is proposing measures that will benefit only the wealthiest 15% in Canada.

Is my colleague not ashamed to say that they are going to balance the budget and it will be a good thing for everybody? Basically, she is saying the opposite of what her own Minister of Finance has said. He said that it would be our grandchildren who would be paying for this budget.

Ferry Services to Prince Edward Island May 8th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Cardigan for his speech. He raises a very interesting question, especially for the people of eastern Canada, the Maritimes and Quebec, where there are many ferries.

We are all wondering how it is possible that budget 2015 makes no mention whatsoever of ferries and provides no funding. We heard the parliamentary secretary say that the Conservatives are interested in examining the issue of ferries. I would like to get it in writing that they are willing to support us in eastern Canada with real measures to support ferry services throughout the Maritimes and in western Canada.

When the Liberals were in power, they abandoned and dismantled public services. One example is CN, which is a basic, essential service across Canada and one that they utterly abandoned.

Is it not true that the Liberal Party developed the bad habit first and simply paved the way for the Conservatives, so that they could do what the Liberals did, only faster? Is that not the case? Are the Conservatives not simply Liberals in a hurry?

Business of Supply May 8th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, there was a lot of material for careful reflection in the comments of my colleague from the third party. However, I will bring the topic back to the motion in front of us.

The member for Sarnia—Lambton, the previous Conservative speaker, mentioned over and over again that her government is doing a lot for women, including measures that have to do with what the Conservatives call the family tax cut but what in fact most people are calling income splitting. We know from the Parliamentary Budget Officer that income splitting will only benefit the richest 15% of Canadians.

We know that single-parent families are four times more likely to be poor than other families in this country. When the member for Sarnia—Lambton said that a lot of Canadians are no longer on the tax roles, I question whether those families are in fact the poorer families who simply do not make enough money to be at the level where they could be taxed because they have insufficient annual income.

I would like to ask the member, when it comes to unfair, regressive tax measures where we have direct consumer taxes on feminine hygiene products, where these families have insufficient funds to afford a quality of life that most Canadians expect, how in the world will a direct tax that has not been touched by the government—

Safe and Accountable Rail Act May 7th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I will try to be brief. Today, we are debating a bill that will supposedly improve rail safety in Canada. One of the government's main responsibilities is definitely to ensure public safety.

There has been a spectacular increase in the amount of oil shipped by rail. In 2009 there were 6,000 cars transporting oil, whereas last year, in 2014, there were 110,000. Canadians certainly have the right to ask questions, especially whether their safety is really this government's priority. The Lac-Mégantic disaster showed that there are serious flaws when it comes to safety.

Today, we have before us a bill that will not improve rail safety, but will instead address the issue of insurance after an accident. This is a reactive rather than a proactive bill.

We do not improve the safety of Canadians by sending a cheque after an accident occurs. We must improve the public's safety. The quality of Canada's rail system is very questionable, primarily because of the bills passed by successive governments in the past 20 years. That is what I am going to talk about.

I welcome the opportunity to address the government's bill, Bill C-52, the so-called safe and accountable rail act, which is a revised version of the existing Canada Transportation Act.

The biggest problem I have with the legislation is that it is based on an act that was inadequate when it was passed in 1996 by a Liberal government, and in turn, that bill was based on an even worse act passed by the Conservatives in 1987.

What we are being asked to do now, frankly, is comparable to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. We have a fundamental responsibility to ensure safety, not to spend hours discussing insurance liability for rail companies. That is certainly a first step, and it is why I am going to support the legislation, but it is a tiny step. We need to go an awful lot further.

The changes proposed today are only the beginning of an answer. Canadians need a new act that is based on fundamental elements that have been lacking all along. From the very start, the current act has lacked the basics necessary to maximize the performance and safety of our multi-modal transportation system and especially its rail component.

The maintenance and safe, effective operation of a national transportation system fully addressing the needs of this country, the private owners of the majority of that system, and the shippers and passengers who depend on it requires that it be conceived as a whole. The essential elements would be policy, legislation, planning, and adequate funding, which the government sorely lacks in many fields of its jurisdiction.

Legislation is but one element in the development of a comprehensive and effective national transportation system. However, the Canada Transportation Act lacks many of these building blocks, the most elementary being a basic national policy balancing public and private interests.

As is said in the introduction to this legislation's review discussion paper, Canada's transportation system is “substantially more market-based, deregulated and competitive” than it was in the period before the Mulroney Conservatives introduced their deregulatory act in 1987.

In fact, our transportation system today is largely based on a laissez-faire approach that reserves only a few areas for public oversight. Its most vital flaw is the lack of an underlying, proactive policy.

As a result, Canada's transportation system is a series of silos that have been cobbled together by multiple and often competing owners without a comprehensive plan. All of them have wound up being patched up with this makeshift legislative and financial band-aid to correct the flaws created by a boundless faith in this hands-off, strictly-for-profit approach. It is totally unrealistic.

The VIA Rail Canada program, funding for remote airports and roads, scattershot safety fixes, a last minute renewal of federal funding for the Algoma Central passenger service and the government's Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act, these form a patchwork of intervention in a system that the government likes to think does not require intervention, yet it continues to intervene.

There is no central policy or plan at work here, and it has been said that this type of necessary intervention is too frequently only taken by governments such as this in the run-up to an election. Pardon the pun, but this is no way to run a railroad. It is certainly no way to run a country.

The Canadian approach is far different from that taken by other countries that view transportation not just as a business, but as a potent tool for national, economic, social and environmental growth and security. This especially applies to the rail sector.

The United States took a similar laissez-faire approach to railroading for decades. With the construction of its highway interstate network, the national rail system there drifted along without benefit of a clear policy, nor comprehensive planning, nor balanced or sustainable funding, very similar to Canada today. The result was the collapse of large parts of the system and the need for government intervention under crisis conditions.

The revision of the U.S. approach to railroading is now under way with the enunciation of clear, inclusive policies that are interlocked with legislation, planning and funding to realize this new national vision. The objective is to maximize the potential of rail in concert, not in competition, with the other modes.

Making changes to the limited amount of legislation embodied in this CTA is only a small part of the solution. Without a clear and comprehensive national policy, even the best legislation will fail because it is based on what amounts to an absence of policy. Revising the CTA in the absence of enlightened and proactive policies cannot and will not decisively correct its major deficiencies.

There are two specific areas that concern me greatly. The first is the safety of the transportation network that has evolved under the current CTA and the predecessor deregulatory act on which it is based. This especially applies to rail.

We have now gone through a wave of rail accidents that have demonstrated how much our system has declined. If this was only to include Lac-Mégantic, that would already be much too much, but we have experienced numerous major derailments, both before and after that disaster, that have demonstrated that our rail system is degrading, and degrading rapidly.

Just as bad, it is not being monitored adequately on behalf of the public. What we have now is a self-regulating rail safety network, and it is not working.

Our rail safety regime under the CTA is badly flawed. It provides inadequate protection for individuals, inadequate protection for communities and its workers. In the pursuit of profits, corners are being cut and this inadequate attention to safety is not being revealed until it is too late. What we have now is reactive rail safety legislation.

To be effective, there must be a new safety legislation within the CTA that is not only better, it must be vigilantly enforced. Any new legislation must recognize that the public interest can only be adequately protected when the regulator has the power and the resources to enforce the rules.

Some believe that compelling the railways to carry more insurance is the answer. This is the very basis of this current legislation. While it is part of the solution, this is reactive in nature and after the fact. It does not prevent accidents; it merely analyzes them after they have occurred.

Funds should also be invested in improved infrastructure and safety appliances, which would prevent fiery derailments that pose an unnecessary risk to public safety. I am extremely disappointed that the bill does not include the implementation of a safety system that would have a major impact on Canadian rail safety. PTC, positive train control, a highly effective high-tech system, has been mandated by the U.S. Congress for all main lines handling passenger trains and freight trains carrying dangerous goods.

PTC would have had substantial impact on the Lac-Mégantic tragedy. In fact, it could have prevented it by alerting employees of the impending catastrophe as soon as that train began to be under way. There could have been intervention at a critical time. At the very least, the PTC system would have allowed for the minimization of the eventual derailment that led to the devastating explosions and the horrible loss of life. This bill does not even contemplate the application or the requirement for advanced technologies such as PTC.

I would also point out that the requirement to safely equip and maintain operations with advanced systems such as PTC would generate a domestic economic uplift. It would stimulate Canadian railway supply industries and creates jobs, such as in La Pocatière, Quebec and in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Private railway funding of large insurance policies usually just goes to offshore insurance companies and does nothing really to improve safety.

Furthermore, legislation aimed at improving rail safety must recognize that it requires on-the-ground inspection by trained government personnel who have the power to rigidly enforce the rules. There must be an adequate number of them to do it on a constant and daily basis.

I also believe that CTA needs to be revised to play a major role in proper functioning of our passenger rail service, VIA Rail Canada. There is precious little in the act today aimed at establishing the mandate, rights or obligations of our national passenger service, or even other passenger or commuter operations. I attempted to correct this situation with Bill C-640, An Act respecting VIA Rail Canada and making consequential amendments to the Canada Transportation Act, which would have required consequential amendments to the current CTA. That overdue legislation was defeated by the current Conservative government.

There is little in the current act to protect and direct the provision of a proper rail passenger system. There is, in fact, only one clause in the current CTA that affords any legislative rights in delivering a necessary service to millions of Canadians. When it has been applied on a very few occasions, it has been helpful but it does not go far enough in establishing VIA's right to operate on the lines of the privately owned freight railways.

VIA, like the whole transportation system, will never function effectively as long as our national transportation system is based on legislation that does not allow for the protection of the public interest. Nor does it respect the fair rights of our for-profit freight railways. These two are not mutually exclusive. A strong and healthy transportation system is vital to improve Canada's global competitiveness, security, social well-being and environmental performance. We won't have that as long as we allow our multi-modal system to function in what amounts to a policy vacuum. That is what we have today under the CTA, and no amount of tinkering is going to correct it.

As other nations with which we compete have demonstrated, the federal government needs to become much more engaged, innovative and supportive in addressing the numerous challenges that stand in the way of delivering safe, modern, adequate and sustainable transportation services across our land. To be truly effective, the CTA needs to be revised on the basis of a comprehensive national transportation policy that takes into account the needs of all stakeholders, public and private. This is a matter well beyond any revision of the act, solely presented here before the hon. members. It must originate at the highest levels of our federal government and it must include a serious dialogue.

The current bill was presented to a parliamentary committee in two sittings. This very important piece of legislation was rammed through much too quickly. Many stakeholders did not have the opportunity to speak. We need to take all of the steps necessary. This bill is simply a first step.

Let us remember that when the minister recently, with her American colleagues, announced new regulations regarding the transportation of dangerous goods, the minister and her American counterpart said that from now on, in urban areas of 100,000 people or more, the speed limit for dangerous goods will be 40 miles an hour. The problem with that is that it is not the density of the population nearby that is the real problem; it is the quality of the railway itself.

There are many areas of this country where we have allowed companies not to complete sufficient rail maintenance. They have deferred it to future periods, and when the rail cars run on these inadequately maintained rails, there is risk of accident. The government then has to act in a crisis situation, such as it did in northern New Brunswick, where it had to negotiate under the gun with a rail company to ensure that the railway was going to be properly maintained over the next 15 years.

This should not be managed in a crisis mode. We know the problem is the quality of the rail itself. We know that private companies are self-monitoring. Without proper supervision by the government and its agencies, this problem is simply going to be compounded. Again, the amount of rail transportation of our oil products is skyrocketing, and the danger to the public goes up at the same rate.

We have to take our responsibilities seriously. The government has taken only a very small step in that direction with this legislation. We need to do an awful lot more to prove to the Canadian public that we are taking our job seriously.

Port State Measures Agreement Implementation Act May 7th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the questions. They certainly merit a lot of attention. In the few minutes I have in front of me, I do not think I could do them justice.

Certainly, the government has been seen, over and over again, to reduce its responsibilities as much on the international scene as locally. Bringing us back to a 12-nautical-mile limit, instead of the more modern 200-nautical-mile limit, shows that the government is looking back and not forward. It needs to improve its responsibilities. With respect to protecting our coasts and fisheries, I think actions speak louder than words when we close Maritime traffic control centres, close Coast Guard stations, and challenge communities themselves to replace the work that Fisheries and Oceans and the Coast Guard are supposed to do on our behalf. We are asking people to do things that they simply are not equipped to do. Government is the best vehicle to protect our coastlines and to ensure our fisheries are sustainable, and we need to have bills in front of us that reflect that engagement on the part of our government. Unfortunately, what we have seen from the government are bills that gut fisheries protections and coastal protections. Its priorities are upside down, and they certainly are not sustainable.

Port State Measures Agreement Implementation Act May 7th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, starting with the last question, the committee could have moved this forward. We remember that this bill was initially presented to the House as Bill S-13 but, due to prorogation, the bill died on the order paper.

Certainly when it comes to ratifying international agreements, we should be more timely. It would be best to ask the parliamentary secretary why the government has not been more forthcoming in bringing these bills forward.

Going back to the member's first question, when Fisheries and Oceans officials are brought to the committee and asked direct questions on the impact of this bill and the value of illegal fishing in this country, it is abhorrent that they cannot answer. It is unfathomable to me that our ministries do not have the resources at their disposal to be able to know the state of the fisheries in Canada. If we ask them specific questions, they should be able to come up with specific answers. To this date, they still have not. I am still waiting, and I would love to hear more precision from the government regarding fisheries activities in this country, because I know the Conservatives have gutted the Fisheries Act and they have gutted resources to the ministry. It is about time they started investing.

Port State Measures Agreement Implementation Act May 7th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to rise to comment on Bill S-3. As the parliamentary secretary mentioned, this is the act to amend the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act, also know as the port state measures agreement implementation act.

The title does not really explain what the bill does. It is not really about protecting the coastal fisheries, but rather controlling illegal fishing as well as unregulated, illegal and unreported fishing. That is a good thing. The bill goes in the right direction and it deserves our support. It is about time. As the parliamentary secretary said, certain aspects of the bill were already brought forward by the United Nations several years ago. Now with Bill S-3, we can ratify the UN agreement. That makes me very happy, and I am very grateful to the government, which rarely acknowledges the United Nations and its agreements. I am very pleased that today the government is prepared to support an international agreement. It seems to me that the Conservative government is uncomfortable with international agreements, and it is about time that it took them seriously.

Before I continue with the rest of my speech, I want to point out something that the parliamentary secretary said about the ships entering our ports. As he clearly indicated, in the past and even still today, until this bill is passed, ships that come into port undergo inspections on a voluntary basis. It is true that, with this bill, the minister will have the discretionary power to authorize an inspection. However, once again, he can do so only if the state that issued the vessel its licence gives its approval and requests an inspection. It is not just a matter of ministerial discretion. The foreign country must first authorize the inspection. I would like to come back to the testimony we heard when this bill was sent to committee. It is extremely rare for a country to ask Canada to inspect a vessel because of the possibility of illegal fishing.

I do not see anything in this bill that will really improve the situation. Other members have mentioned it and it is true that illegal fishing in Canada is mostly under control. It is mainly a problem in the Canadian areas outside the 200 mile limit. I am thinking, for example, of the Grand Banks off the eastern coast of Newfoundland, which are outside the international limit of 200 miles. Canada does not really have surveillance powers and cannot prevent ships from engaging in illegal fishing there.

Even though Canada has had a moratorium on cod fishing since the early 1990s, illegal cod fishing continues outside the 200 mile limit. I do not see anything in this bill that would give us the tools we need to better control the situation and ensure that this fishery is managed properly. The parliamentary secretary was saying that the bill would help achieve a sustainable fishery. It will support over 80,000 jobs in Canada that depend on the fishery, but once again, it will not help reduce illegal fishing in Canada's offshore waters.

I would have liked to see a much better international agreement than what we have in Bill S-3, since illegal fishing will continue on the Grand Banks even if this bill passes. We missed a golden opportunity here. However, once again, I will say that this is certainly a step in the right direction.

I would like to point out a few facts. A 2008 study commissioned by the United Kingdom estimated that the global economic loss due to illegal fishing is over $23 billion per year, representing 11% to 19% of total global reported legal catch.

This is obviously something that we need to get under control. A few minutes ago my colleague mentioned that illegal fishing has an effect on prices. This is true. The facts show that illegal fishing drives down the prices of fish products. Passing Bill S-3 will finally help bring about better control of the prices on the international market. That is certainly a good thing. However, one of the big problems with this bill is that 25 states will have to ratify it before it becomes binding. Just 11 states have ratified it so far.

I have not heard anyone talk about any plan the government might have to ensure that enough other countries support the agreement to make it binding. I am confident that Canada will ratify this agreement if we pass the bill. However, we need quite a few other states to make it binding, and there is no plan for that. I did not hear the parliamentary secretary to the minister say anything about a plan to make the agreement binding on the international stage. I hope that the government will provide more details about that because the clock is ticking. This agreement has been awaiting ratification for several years, and we will have to keep waiting until 14 more countries ratify it.

Let us remember that the bill amends a number of Canadian bills. Bill S-3 itself will not create a new law. It will ratify the international agreement and amend existing Canadian laws. Since that has already been covered, I will not talk about the bills that will be amended. I might get back to that in a few minutes.

I would like to reiterate a point made by my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam a few moments ago. It is fine to amend the laws in order to ratify the international agreement, but Bill C-38, an omnibus budget bill, amended the Fisheries Act and the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act. The amendments went so far that we wonder whether the government is serious about protecting the environment and the fishery. With the amendments in Bill C-38, we have reached a point where the federal government is shirking its responsibilities with respect to protecting the fishery, and with Bill S-3 the government is saying that we will have a sustainable fishery. I find it very hard to believe that we can have a sustainable fishery in Canada if we have reached a point where we cannot even report on the state of the species in our waters.

During debate in committee, we heard that the bill did not address the problem of the cuts made to Fisheries and Oceans Canada in recent budgets. The budget for monitoring illegal fishing, the focus of Bill S-3, was cut by $4.2 million. Fisheries and Oceans Canada does not have the tools to do what it is being asked to do in this bill. It is all well and good to say that we want a sustainable fishery, that we want to more closely monitor illegal fishing in Canada, but we need the tools for that. With budget cuts to Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard, we suspect that our ability to perform these roles will diminish.

I would also like to point out that marine communications and traffic centres are being closed. The government wanted to close the Quebec City marine rescue sub-centre, but fortunately the NDP was there to defend it.

All of these valuable tools allow better surveillance of our waterways and illegal fishing. However, when these surveillance tools are eliminated, any legislation we pass becomes meaningless. We should reject bills that are of no real substance. There have been too many cuts at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and this government has basically gutted the Fisheries Act. We all remember how much frustration there was when Bill C-38 and Bill C-45 passed.

Fishers, coastal communities and the fish processing industry are being asked more and more to be the only protection officers. They are being asked to do what Fisheries and Oceans Canada should be doing. All of those people pay taxes and expect certain services, but unfortunately, those services have been eliminated. The role of Fisheries and Oceans Canada in coastal communities is diminishing every year, and now we have a bill before us that claims to increase surveillance of our waters. The people of my region would therefore be right to question how this is going to be done. How can our waters really be monitored with so many cuts to Fisheries and Oceans Canada and, more importantly, the Canadian Coast Guard?

To come back to the bill and the amendments it will make, it is important to note that this bill is not just about surveillance and control. There are some aspects of the bill that we did not talk about today but that deserve our attention.

For example, the bill will change the definition of “fish” and add a definition of “crustacean” and other species that will now be subject to the protection regime set out in the international agreement signed through the United Nations. That is a good thing. We need to broaden the definition so that it covers more than just traditional products. Things are not at all like they were in the 1980s, when we could fish large quantities of cod. Crustaceans have become much more popular on the international market, and the government is right to add them to the definition to widen the jurisdiction.

However, where is the support? This year, coastal communities had a lot of problems because the winter was so cold. Unfortunately, the Canadian Coast Guard and icebreakers were not around very much to help coastal communities prepare for the shellfish season. In eastern Canada, the start of this fishing season was significantly delayed, which will affect the industry's profitability and the income of many fishers. We can do as much as we want to control illegal fishing, but if our fishers are the last ones to get their products on the international market and that market is already flooded with legal products from other countries, it will be difficult to remain competitive internationally.

The bill supposedly enhances protection for legal fishing, but fishers need certain tools in the field to benefit from that protection. I am wondering why this government believes that this bill will be enough to help coastal communities.

Even today, fishers in the Magdalen Islands think that Fisheries and Oceans Canada has not consulted with them enough regarding a number of aspects of the fishery. That is something that I hear often. There is almost no consultation. Consultation was conducted fairly regularly on this bill. For example, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans examined it and heard from witnesses, which is a good thing. However, when it comes to consulting coastal communities on the real impacts of legal fishing, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is basically missing in action.

I am very grateful to the parliamentary secretary and the members of the standing committee for studying this bill so thoroughly, but I would like them to go much further.

When the parliamentary committee is called on to discuss the impact of a bill on the other changes Canada has made to its laws, then maybe it should focus on that, especially on the changes made by Bills C-38 and C-45.

Let us come back to the bill before us today. The international fish trade is worth roughly $130 billion. International fishery is a highly valuable industry on the world market.

However, there is practically no illegal fishing in Canada according to testimony in committee. When departmental representatives were asked the question, they were unable to describe the extent of illegal fishing in Canada. They said it was hard to put a number to it because there were very few facts available and, if I understand correctly, little to no monitoring.

Again, we would be hard-pressed to improve our ability to monitor and quantify illegal fishing in Canada with this bill, if the resources are not on the ground to truly assess the extent of illegal fishing.

It is all well and good to give the minister discretionary power, but, to start with, the government always grants fishing vessels a licence. The licence request is key in ensuring that Canada can monitor and search a ship suspected of fishing illegally.

This bill goes in circles. I would have liked to see measures that were much more beneficial to the fishery.

The testimony in committee was given by a Fisheries and Oceans Canada representative, Allan MacLean, on March 12, 2015. That was not that long ago. A question was asked in English by an NDP member:

If the purpose of this is to prevent illegally caught fish from coming into Canada, don't you have any estimates on how much fish is coming into Canada, or any idea of what kind of problem it is, or the extent of this problem?

Mr. Rosser replied:

—it's hard to be certain about the level of illegal activity.

Once again, the department is simply not able to tell us the extent of the problem.

Today we are debating a bill that the parliamentary committee spent a lot of time studying, and the department itself cannot answer a simple question about the extent of the problem. The department does not even know.

I think it is important to ratify United Nations agreements, and I am pleased that the Conservatives are ratifying an agreement, because I think they have some reservations about ratifying UN international agreements. Nevertheless, they will do so with this bill and that is very good.

However, I do have to wonder something. If the government does not even know the extent of the problem, would it not be a good time to conduct an investigation? Should we not beef up resources at Fisheries and Oceans Canada so that the department can do the work this bill is asking it to do?

The government cut $4.2 million from surveillance, maintenance and marine traffic and rescue centres. We should beef up these resources. We are jeopardizing mariners' lives and the outcome and value of the fishery if we do not improve the resources at Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Unfortunately this is not addressed in the bill, but the bill is a step in the right direction. The government should start investing in the fishery instead of just passing bills that have no substance.