May 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. A lot of my questions have been addressed to a certain point. I’m just going to add on a little bit extra to each one.

First, I’m going to go back to the discussion we just had a few minutes ago on one of the questions my colleague Senator Wells had talked about: The problem where it looks like some people own the licence, but in reality, they don’t own the licence; somebody else owns it. Can you please clarify, as far as you’re concerned, will Bill C-68 fix that?

Ms. Sonnenberg: That’s the intent.

Senator Poirier: Great. That’s what I wanted to hear.

Second, you talked a lot about the PIIFCAF policy on the West Coast and the issues that are there. In your opinion, with the wording of Bill C-68 as it is now, can we reverse the situation for the West Coast? At the same time, are we doing enough to protect the coastal communities in Atlantic Canada?

Ms. Sonnenberg: I’ll take the B.C. part first.

Senator Poirier: Okay.

Ms. Sonnenberg: It is a huge situation out there. It will take time. It will take the industry to come together and find solutions that are a made-in-B.C. answer to what’s going on and to reverse some of the erosion of the ownership in that fishery. I don’t think it’s impossible. I never think that’s actually a word. I think anything is possible if you put the right people at the table and work through it. There are a lot of players who will have to come to the table and find ways forward.

There have been some positive solutions that could be used. I have great faith in the industry in British Columbia that they will find those solutions, but it will take time. There’s no doubt about that.

As far as the Atlantic situation goes, if this bill were to come into force, it will allow us to strengthen the policy, our harvesters’ position and to ensure that our coastal communities, which is what this is about for all of us. The protection of those communities — so people can live and work there — provide a sustainable source of seafood.

One of the things we don’t talk about much is the security around the seafood products we’re bringing in; that Canada has a very valued product. We know the people bringing that product to shore, and we can look at that as something to be — as we go along and see more issues around the food security. Something we really need to bring out more, all of us in the industry, is that we have this product, and we can have a source for ourselves, if need be. It is safe, secure, and we know exactly who handled it and where it came from.

Senator Poirier: Thank you.

For my next question, I would like to have an opinion on it from both of our witnesses, Mr. Lansbergen and Ms. Sonnenberg. It goes back a bit to the questions that were asked earlier on the regulations. I had questions for the minister awhile back. It was not clear from his answers exactly what I was looking for.

Have your associations been consulted on the language used for the licensing in the bill? Can you comment on what your expectations would be in the regulations — what you would like to see? I’m asking both our witnesses.

Ms. Sonnenberg: We have been consulted. It started with a broad-base public consultation. The federation was part of that last summer and fall, and we have continued to dialogue with the department on the formation of it.

Because of the nature of regulations, you don’t get to see the wording, of course, until it gets to the Gazette, from an overarching point of view, we’ve made submissions to the department about what we would hope to see and some clarity around certain situations, like the ownership of and how licences are issued and so on.

Yes, the department has given us their ear and that we have been able to plug into that as it goes along. The proof will always be in the pudding, when it gets to the Gazette, and we will be able to see what the drafters have actually interpreted from what they’ve heard from all the various stakeholders that weighed in when those consultations were had publicly.

Senator Poirier: It seems the timeline is not clear in the regulations. Did they give you an indication of the timeline?

Ms. Sonnenberg: My understanding is, and this is from a meeting this week, that the regulations could potentially be in the Gazette by mid- to late June.

Senator Poirier: Could our witness from P.E.I. respond?

Mr. Lansbergen: Yes. My perspectives on the regulations and the consultations are much like Melanie’s. DFO has had pre-consultations, where they’ve come up with consultation and discussion papers. They’ve reached out to stakeholders for those discussions. We’re pleased that those are happening. That helps because when they come out at an early stage, it gives us signals of where they are wanting to go and it helps us prepare for when they get to Canada Gazette Part I, which is the first stage of the draft regulations, where we see the actual language.

It’s important for us to be able to provide some comments on that.

It can be a complex step going from a consultation or a discussion paper, which are typically in slide decks, to go from that to real regulatory text. There could be some nuances that need to be strongly considered.

That’s an important step. But the whole process is important and having open, transparent consultations is very important. We’re pleased with what we’ve seen for the most part so far and hope that continues. We will participate throughout the process.

Senator Poirier: Thank you. I have some closing comments, if you allow, Mr. Chair.

The comments that you made about the changes depending on the fishing out there and economics in our community, I totally agree with you. I’m from a coastal area of New Brunswick, where fishing is a good portion of the economic development in our areas. That is a comment that I hear a lot. I just wanted to put that on record.

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