April 9th 2019 - Bill C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence - Various Witnesses
Senator Poirier: Thank you all for being here. I have a couple of questions, and I’m sure the chair will let me know when my time is up.
My first question is for Ms. Burridge from the BC Seafood Alliance. You talked about stability and predictability touching the provision regarding the licensing policy. I had questioned the previous witness on the proposed modifications, which we were told by the minister would be made by the regulations, and the witness from last week seemed satisfied. Could you please elaborate on your concerns concerning the modification to the licensing policy, and in your view, what would be the best approach to improve the licensing?
Ms. Burridge: In my view, licensing policy should be policy and should not be in legislation at all. I think that DFO’s priorities should be stock assessment, conservation and enforcement. How people run their business is not, I think, a matter for the law, so long as it is legal.
Senator Poirier: Thank you.
Ms. Ellis, will Bill C-68 help the West Coast fisheries to adopt to a similar fleet separation to strengthen the independence, and if not, how can Bill C-68 be amended to achieve that goal?
Ms. Ellis: I think the passing of Bill C-68 will be helpful because of the clause where it says the minister can take into consideration the socio-economic and cultural factors in the management of the fisheries. I’m hoping that will give strength to a deeper look into the West Coast fisheries and how the socio-economic aspects are faring. I think the amendments that could also help the West Coast would be to be putting in amendments that include promoting and preserving owner-operators in all of our fisheries, not just commercial, inshore and Atlantic.
Senator Poirier: This one is to all three. I want your opinion on part of the bill that has been barely touched. It is on the licensing in the fisheries. Bill C-68 is proposing a wide range of modification to the licence, and we talked about that. When reading the appropriate section, it’s not clear. Last week, I questioned the minister on Tuesday, and his answers were really not clear, either. Like most of his answers, he says it will be put in the regulations, for which the timeline is also not clear. Is that worrisome for your respective associations? Have you been consulted on the language used for the licensing articles in the bill? I’d like to hear from all three of you.
Ms. Burridge: I think that gives me concern too. The licensing provisions are enabling provisions. The minister can already do any of those things under his discretion. I don’t think it needs to be in legislation. In terms of have we been consulted, we put in comments on the East Coast preservation of the independence of the inshore fishermen, so I guess that counts as consultation. But really speaking, all these social and licensing parts were dropped into the bill at the last minute, following a very extensive consultation on the habitat provisions, so I do not feel this was appropriately done, and I wouldn’t want to see further changes without full consultation with people on the West Coast.
Ms. Ellis: I’m concerned, just seeing that things are too complicated or more complicated, but I am optimistic about the minister’s comments that the House of Commons is looking into it with a review and I’m hopeful for some positive things to come out of that.
Mr. Chidley: Consultation is kind of a mean word in one sense. Does consultation to a half dozen or a couple of groups make your commitment fulfilled? Consultations, we didn’t hear a lot about changes to licensing aspects with this because, in fact, Bill C-68, I would probably say encompassing environmental issues, it’s probably one of the quieter things. That’s probably why you haven’t seen many independent fishers in front of you, because people weren’t focused on it because it has been on the go so long and it gets not defeated on the order table but cancelled or change the government. You are hoping that finally when they get to something, it’s not rushed ahead.
This would have been a great assignment for a group like the defunct FRCC that used to be here to take it to the field and see what changes were necessary as opposed to having the Senate bring people in. In my mind, we need to do further consultations on it because it’s not the look of the car; it’s the nuts and bolts that keep it together. I agree with the previous speakers. That’s the problem where we go with licensing conditions is it’s how they operationalize everything. We haven’t seen that. You’d like to see some of that before you could actually pass solid judgment on it.
Senator Poirier: Thank you both for being here.
I have a couple of questions for the mayor. When they appeared before the committee on April 2, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard said there was an intention in Bill C-68 to ensure that there’s a strong Indigenous participation. In your view, would the Fisheries Act, as amended by Bill C-68, ensure this strong Indigenous participation? Either one can respond.
Mr. Helin: No.
Senator Poirier: No?
Mr. Helin: No. On any of those bills. That’s why I say, what is consultation?
Senator Poirier: Ms. Westaway, do you have anything you want to add?
Ms. Westaway: The tools are there, but what I’m hearing the mayor say is it’s all about the good faith and meaningful consultation. You can’t have lip service. We would have to have agreements where the mayor’s community was consulted regularly and where the Dene were consulted every year. We’re looking at those types of opportunities that are in the bill, but it requires people, and DFO has to fulfill it with good faith.
Senator Poirier: Mr. Mayor, in your opening statement, you talked about the improvements you want. Does or can Bill C-68 address the improvements that you want?
Mr. Helin: I would say not specifically. You talk about owner-operator of a quota or of a fishing vessel. In B.C., we’ve got Jimmy Pattison, who owns a lot of the quota and boats, and he’s moving his operations to Alaska because it’s cheaper to do business there, shutting down a fish plant in Prince Rupert that employed a lot of people from Prince Rupert.
I will use halibut for an example. If you want to buy a pound of halibut quota right now, it will be $130 a pound. Do the math. We can’t afford to buy quota. How do we get access to quota? It’s not just halibut; it’s geoduck and all those species that are worth money that we don’t have access to.
Senator Poirier: Is there an amendment that you see could bring the improvements you want on Bill C-68?
Mr. Helin: But you have to have the ear of the people — the fisheries minister, the regional director, the local fisheries officer in Prince Rupert. We don’t seem to have that. We want to work with people to improve that, but it doesn’t seem to happen.
Senator Poirier: If I understand right, there’s been no consultation with your group on Bill C-68?
Mr. Helin: No.
Senator Poirier: Thank you.
Senator Poirier: I have a couple of questions. My first one is for Ms. Fuller. In your speaking notes, one of your suggested improvements is to ensure the goal is to rebuild stocks to healthy levels. Could you elaborate a little bit on this suggestion for us?
Ms. Fuller: Sure. In the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Sustainable Fisheries Framework, there is guidance on rebuilding that includes a precautionary approach framework. That precautionary approach framework has stocks in three zones. One is critical, not good, red; cautious is yellow; and green is healthy.
Our concern in proposed section 6 right now is that it’s to rebuild at just above the critical zone, which is just above, which means that we don’t know a stock could actually continue to rebuild unless the goal is actually to get it healthy. For example, cod fisheries were open in 1998 to Newfoundland, and fishing increased fairly quickly. There were fairly high fishing levels when it started to rebound after the initial collapse, and it went back down quickly, so we’d like to make sure there’s a longer-term view to rebuilding those stocks. And I am mindful that not all stocks can be rebuilt at the same time and together, but that we should aim for healthy.
Senator Poirier: Great. Thanks.
The next question is open to anyone who feels they would like to answer. The minister appeared before the committee on April 2, as well as the Canadian Coast Guard, and they explained that there was $107.4 million over five years that had been announced in the Fall Economic Statement and that a further $17.6 million per year was also announced on an ongoing basis. These funds were committed to help implement the Fisheries Act. In your view, are the proposed funds sufficient to implement the Fisheries Act as far as you’re concerned?
Mr. Bates: It’s a lot of money. Historically, as an addition to the department, some of that money is directed to important projects. The proposals we’re recommending won’t cost much money at all so would have a negligible impact on any of that. It’s hard to say, without knowing their budget intimately, whether that would be enough, but I think as a starting spot that’s pretty good.
Mr. Kindersley: The only comment I would have is that some of those funds go towards the Great Lakes. It’s not all spent on the West Coast and the East Coast where a bulk of DFO work exists. There needs to be some attention on what’s happening in the Great Lakes to preserve and protect them.
Ms. Fuller: It’s a significant investment. We’ve seen reinvestment in DFO science and management, and there’s a lot of work to be done in rebuilding plans. I will say, however, that some of the hard work doesn’t cost money; it’s decision-making that is hard. That money needs to be matched with difficult decisions.
Senator Poirier: Thank you.