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GOVERNMENT OF CANADA RESPONSE TO THE REPORT OF THE STANDING
COMMITTEE ON FISHERIES AND OCEANS:  SMALL CRAFT HARBOURS: AN
ESSENTIAL INFRASTRUCTURE MANAGED BY

AND FOR FISHING COMMUNITIES



INTRODUCTION

The Government of Canada would like to thank the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans for its Ninth Report of the Second Session of the Fortieth Parliament, entitled, Small Craft Harbours:  An Essential Infrastructure Managed By and For Fishing Communities.

The Government recognizes the importance of small craft harbours to communities across Canada, including the importance of supporting and promoting economic growth in the North and of facilitating sustainable economic and social development that benefits northern inhabitants.  Since 2006, the Government has increased permanent annual funding for the Small Craft Harbours Program by $20 million.  In Budget 2008, the Government also committed a further $45 million over four years for the divestiture of recreational and non-core fishing harbours.  As well, Budget 2008 provided $10.74 million in capital funding for the construction of a fishing harbour in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, as well as $580,000 annually in ongoing funding, starting in 2014/15.

In addition, the Government’s Economic Action Plan as outlined in Budget 2009 provided substantial new investment of $200 million over two years to further address needs at core commercial fishing harbours.  This infusion of investment, together with the regular maintenance and repair budget of approximately $73 million per year, is addressing the most pressing repair requirements at small craft harbour facilities.  Over 250 projects across Canada at more than 220 harbours, approximately one-third of our core fishing harbours, are being undertaken with this new stimulus funding.  These improvements will also have the effect of reducing pressure on those volunteer Harbour Authorities that will benefit from this new investment.

The 2009 Budget also provided for an additional $17 million, over two years, to the funding previously announced in Budget 2008, to accelerate the construction of a fishing harbour in Pangnirtung, Nunavut.

These are very significant investments towards the construction, repair, maintenance and divestiture of small craft harbours across Canada, and are in addition to Small Craft Harbours’ regular program budget of $92.8 million (2009/10), including the $20 million permanent annual increase.

The Government also recognizes the very important role that Harbour Authorities play in the ongoing management of core fishing harbours.  A key priority for the Small Craft Harbours Program is to strengthen the sustainability of the volunteer-based not-for-profit Harbour Authorities.  To that end, the Small Craft Harbours Program is increasing the number of staff dedicated to providing business support to Harbour Authorities.  In addition, funding in the amount of $500,000 is set aside as part of the regular program budget, on an annual basis, for Harbour Authority support initiatives.

Once again, the Government wishes to thank the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans for its Ninth Report, Small Craft Harbours:  An Essential Infrastructure Managed By and For Fishing Communities.


THE SMALL CRAFT HARBOURS INFRASTRUCTURE DEFICIT

Recommendation 1:

The Committee recommends that Fisheries and Oceans Canada update its estimate of the cost of bringing the core harbours to an acceptable state of repair.

Response:  The Government supports this Recommendation


In late 2008, Small Craft Harbours estimated the cost of bringing core fishing harbours to an acceptable state of repair to be in excess of $500 million.  Since then the Government has invested considerably in the Small Craft Harbours Program, as outlined in the introduction above.  Given this new investment, and the fact that harbours have continued to age and deteriorate in the interim, it will be necessary to prepare a new estimate of long-term requirements.  Small Craft Harbours will update the current estimate in fiscal year 2011/12, after repairs through Economic Action Plan projects have been completed.

Recommendation 2:

The Committee recommends that Fisheries and Oceans Canada prepare a plan to bring the core harbours to an acceptable state of repair.

Response:  The Government supports this Recommendation

The Government recognizes the importance of small craft harbours to communities across Canada.  Over the past few years, permanent annual funding for the Small Craft Harbours Program has been increased by $20 million.    

In addition, Budget 2008 and Budget 2009 provided substantial new investments towards the repair, maintenance and divestiture of small craft harbours across Canada, on top of funding provided for the construction of a fishing harbour in Pangnirtung, Nunavut.  The Program’s current regular program budget is $92.8 million (2009/10). 

As mentioned in the response to Recommendation 1, in fiscal year 2011/12, after the completion of harbour investments through Economic Action Plan projects, Small Craft Harbours will update its estimate of the cost of bringing all core fishing harbours to an acceptable state of repair.  Once the cost estimate has been updated, Small Craft Harbours will undertake a review of the longer-term facility investment, repair, maintenance and dredging requirements and develop plans accordingly.  Plans will be implemented as funding permits.


SAFETY ISSUES

Recommendation 3:

The Committee recommends that Fisheries and Oceans Canada incorporate a requirement for maintaining safe facilities when preparing its plan to bring the core harbours to an acceptable state of repair.

Response:  The Government supports this Recommendation


The Government, in developing the Small Craft Harbours annual expenditure plan, uses a priority ranking system which gives the highest priority to safety related repairs (including dredging) at core fishing harbours.  Only after safety considerations are addressed, are other operational requirements taken into account.

Recommendation 4:

The Committee recommends that Fisheries and Oceans Canada ensure that there are adequate funds in both its operations and maintenance, and its capital budgets for recurrent dredging and related activities.  The amount of this funding should take into consideration the increasingly stringent environmental standards and regulations that apply to these activities, especially with respect to the protection of the fish habitat.


Response:  The Government partially supports this Recommendation


Dredging is considered on the same basis as any other urgent repairs need and, as such, it is funded from within Small Craft Harbours’ maintenance and repair budget.

Dredging needs vary from year to year and are often difficult to forecast.  The Government acknowledges that safe access to harbours depends on adequate water depths and channel clearances, however, full-time access for all classes of vessels is not cost effective, nor is it realistic given the often unpredictable weather conditions.  The Small Craft Harbours Program is committed to ensuring safe harbour access at the start of the fishing season.  As funding permits and depending on the criticality of the situation, in-year dredging may also be undertaken.

Recommendation 5:

The Committee recommends that Fisheries and Oceans Canada adopt a longer-term approach to solving dredging problems that could be addressed by permanent structures such as breakwaters.

Response:  The Government partially supports this Recommendation


As previously stated, the Government recognizes the importance of annual recurrent dredging to provide access to its core fishing harbours.  The application of longer term solutions must be undertaken on a case-by-case basis and where it is cost effective to do so.  Longer term investments to alleviate recurring dredging needs are often limited by current budget priorities.  In the longer term, to decrease the need for recurrent dredging, the Department will be giving consideration to placing greater emphasis on longer term solutions such as adding breakwaters and groynes, and reducing service levels at harbours that require frequent dredging. 

Recommendation 6:

The Committee recommends that, where there is a need to dredge beyond the harbour basin and the entrance channel for which the Small Craft Harbours Program is responsible, Fisheries and Oceans Canada coordinate with the authorities responsible for dredging these waterways to ensure safe access to the harbour at all times.


Response:  The Government partially supports this Recommendation


The Government of Canada is aware of the interest and concern of the boating public regarding dredging requirements in commercial channels in many coastal and inland areas.  DFO is prepared to work and meet with other government departments, organizations and individuals to explore options and facilitate means to address these needs.  However, for the reasons set out below, the Government can only partially support this Recommendation of the Committee.

During the 1990s, the Government decided that, unless within its own property or where required by an international agreement, it was not the responsibility of the federal government to undertake dredging activities.  As such, the Canadian Coast Guard’s (CCG) dredging program in commercial channels was terminated, except in the international waterways of the Great Lakes where Canada has a treaty obligation with the United States.  Apart from this exception, while DFO through the CCG retains the responsibility to ensure navigation channels are safe and meet environmental requirements, DFO no longer provides maintenance dredging in commercial navigation channels. 

The Government, however, as outlined above, retains responsibility for dredging within its own harbours and Small Craft Harbours, subject to available funding, may dredge the entrances and basins to its own harbours.  Any additional dredging not strictly required for access by small commercial fishing vessels to small craft harbours would be outside the Program’s mandate.

Recommendation 7:

The Committee recommends that Fisheries and Oceans Canada help Harbour Authorities to recognize and respond to the local effects of climate change.

Response:  The Government supports this Recommendation

The Government recognizes that Harbour Authorities, with their local knowledge and on-site presence, have an important role to play in advising Small Craft Harbours on local conditions, impacts of severe weather on harbour operations, and in proposing possible solutions, however, the Government notes that the general responsibility for monitoring effects and determining longer term implications for site developments and engineering is the responsibility of the Small Craft Harbours Program.

Responding to the local effects of climate change is becoming a growing issue of importance, especially with respect to rising sea levels, reduced formation of shore-fast ice and extreme weather events such as storm/tidal surges, storm-related underwater subsidence, hurricanes, and ice impacts.  Potential climate change impacts are consistently taken into account during the early stages of any project.  The Small Craft Harbours Program has begun a study to increase its understanding of the impacts of climate change to identify the specific risks, vulnerabilities to the Program, and opportunities from an infrastructure perspective.

This study is the primary phase of Small Craft Harbours plan to adapt proactively to climate change impacts and incorporate climate change considerations into the management of its infrastructure.

The results of this study will be shared with Harbour Authorities.

Recommendation 8:

That Fisheries and Oceans Canada analyze harbours scheduled for divestiture or decommissioning, with a view to identifying those that could remain in the department’s inventory and be maintained because of their value as safe havens in case of bad weather conditions.

Response:  The Government partially supports this Recommendation


The Government appreciates the important role that Small Craft Harbours and other government and/or private harbours play in offering safe refuge to mariners in distress and the safety of the maritime community is, indeed, a priority for DFO. 

Since the 1990’s, the mandate of DFO’s Small Craft Harbours Program has been narrowed to focus solely on commercial fishing harbours.  All recreational and non-core fishing harbours (i.e. those at which there is little or no commercial fishing activity or the facility is no longer required) were slated for divestiture.  Under the Small Craft Harbours Divestiture Program, DFO’s Small Craft Harbours facilities are offered at a nominal cost, first to other federal departments, then to the province, municipality, local non-profit organizations, or First Nations.  A condition of transfer in these situations is that eligible recipients assuming ownership of harbours must operate them according to their original purpose while keeping them safe and publicly accessible for at least five years.

The safety of boaters, both commercial and private, is a concern of both the public and private sectors.  The provision of safe havens in severe weather is a responsibility shared by the maritime community as a whole.


MANAGEMENT OF ESSENTIAL HARBOURS BY HARBOUR AUTHORITIES

Recommendation 9:

The Committee recommends that Fisheries and Oceans Canada assist Harbour Authorities with the development of short-term and long-term business plans as well as capitalization plans.

Response:  The Government supports this Recommendation


The Government recognizes the very important role that Harbour Authorities play, as lessees, in the ongoing management of core fishing harbours.  A key priority for the Small Craft Harbours Program is to strengthen the sustainability of the volunteer-based Harbour Authorities.  Since May 2008, further to a Functional Review of the Small Craft Harbours Program and within its existing operating budget, DFO has increased the number of positions dedicated to providing business support to Harbour Authorities, including assistance in the preparation of business and capital plans.  In addition, Small Craft Harbours has been setting aside $500,000 from its regular program budget on an annual basis ($100,000 per Small Craft Harbours region) for Harbour Authority support initiatives.  Small Craft Harbours is committed to providing Harbour Authorities with the tools they need to effectively manage our harbours and has developed a section in both official languages on “Tools for Harbour Authorities” on the Small Craft Harbours Internet site and is developing other national and regional specific tools and training modules to further assist Harbour Authorities in building on their management and business development capabilities.

Recommendation 10:

The Committee recommends that Fisheries and Oceans Canada assist Harbour Authorities in their efforts to raise funds from other sources, including federal, provincial, and private sources.

Response:  The Government supports this Recommendation


As indicated in the response to Recommendation Nine above and Recommendations Eleven and Seventeen below, a key priority for the Small Craft Harbours Program is to strengthen the sustainability of the volunteer-based Harbour Authorities.  Small Craft Harbours recognizes that leveraging funding from other sources is a very viable option available to assist some Harbour Authorities in realizing their business goals for their harbours.  In their ongoing dialogue with Harbour Authorities, Small Craft Harbours regional staff provide Harbour Authorities with guidance, in the language of choice, as to what funding opportunities might exist, and also often participate in meetings between Harbour Authorities and other organizations to assist in explaining how these other organizations might be able to complement the funding provided by the Small Craft Harbours Program. 

Further assistance is provided to Harbour Authorities through the development of tools, training, workshops, conferences as well as personal meetings with dedicated Small Craft Harbours regional staff contributing to assist Harbour Authorities in their business development capabilities, including revenue generation opportunities.

Recommendation 11:

The Committee recommends that Fisheries and Oceans Canada assist and encourage Harbour Authorities to establish partnerships with local organizations where possible.

Response:  The Government supports this Recommendation


The Small Craft Harbours Program is a strong proponent of initiatives aimed at strengthening the Harbour Authority model (refer to Recommendations Nine, Ten and Seventeen) and has, since the inception of the Harbour Authority program in 1988, encouraged either the amalgamation of several Harbour Authorities into one larger entity and/or the pooling of Harbour Authority resources to enter into cost sharing arrangements for administrative or management services.  With respect to Harbour Authority amalgamations, at the current time nationally, there are 84 Harbour Authorities that manage more than one harbour and there are other groupings of Harbour Authorities who are currently considering such an amalgamation.


PROJECT APPROVAL AND FUNDING

Recommendation 12:

The Committee recommends that the limit on contract signing authority for Harbour Authorities managers be increased from $40,000 to $200,000 for minor capital and repair projects, and that, where possible, priority be given to hiring local enterprises to do the approved work.

Response:  The Government partially supports this Recommendation

The Government of Canada acknowledges that there are potential benefits from increasing the authority limits for non-competitive construction contracts with Harbour Authorities and give priority to local enterprises to perform the work.  However, such an amendment has implications for existing government regulations, financial policies and authorities, processes and controls, and possibly existing federal trade agreements.  DFO recognizes the capacity of some Harbour Authorities to manage larger projects and will explore options to increase their involvement in their delivery.

Recommendation 13:

The Committee recommends that Fisheries and Oceans Canada streamline the review and approval process of Small Craft Harbours projects to ensure that projects be approved, announced, and tendered by June 1st, where possible, and that Fisheries and Oceans Canada provide clear and transparent accounting of funds related to project costs and administrative costs associated with the department or Public Works and Government Services Canada.

Response:  The Government supports this Recommendation.


Effective in 2007/08, DFO has changed procedures and the annual Small Craft Harbours Expenditure Plan is now finalized before the beginning of the fiscal year.  Project tendering and announcements take place as soon as possible thereafter. 

The Department keeps detailed financial records on a project basis which are reported by total project costs.


THE FISHING AND RECREATIONAL HARBOURS ACT

Recommendation 14:

The Committee recommends that Fisheries and Oceans Canada review and modernize the Fishing and Recreational Harbours Act and its regulations to reflect the current management reality of small craft harbours.  In particular, definitions of “Harbour Authority”, “derelict”, and “harbour manager” should be included or updated.

Response:  The Government partially supports this Recommendation


The Government recognizes that the Fishing and Recreational Harbours Act (FRHA) and its associated Regulations have not been updated to reflect the revised focus of the Program since 1995 and to reflect the current management model for core commercial fishing harbours which relies on Harbour Authorities to manage and operate these harbours.  Upon completion of the Economic Action Plan, DFO will consider what changes could be required to modernize the FRHA and will develop a proposal to better reflect the current management model.


DERELICT VESSELS

Recommendation 15:

The Committee recommends that Fisheries and Oceans Canada consider legislative changes to facilitate the removal of abandoned and derelict vessels from its harbours.

Response:  The Government supports this Recommendation


FRHA provides the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, in its sections on removal, seizure, detention and sale (Sections 14 to 19), with the power to remove abandoned or derelict vessels located on departmental property.  While enforcement officers delegated by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans have exercised these powers on an occasional basis in the past, the process, however, can be arduous, litigious and potentially costly to the Department.  The Department will continue to work closely with Harbour Authorities to explore means of simplifying existing processes which can be put into effect, including the possible review of the FRHA.


SUCCESSES AND FAILURES IN DIVESTITURE OF HARBOURS AND TRANSFER TO LOCAL INTERESTS

Recommendation 16:

The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada honours in a timely manner its financial commitments to undertake environmental remediation projects needed prior to harbour divestiture.

Response:  The Government supports this Recommendation


It is government policy to acquire, use, and dispose of real property in a manner consistent with the principle of sustainable development.  Before disposing of real property, departments must ascertain the environmental condition of the property and determine whether or not remediation is necessary.  In cases where environmental remediation is required, the government may opt to undertake the remedial action prior to divestiture or, if it is determined to be more advantageous to have the party acquiring the property carry out the remediation, the department must take steps to require that the acquiring party, as part of the transaction, carry out the remediation within a reasonable length of time.

For those cases where the environmental remediation is to be undertaken by a department prior to title transfer, the objective is always to try to do so in as timely a manner as possible.  Some divestitures, however, are quite complex and some stages take longer than anticipated and at a greater cost than anticipated.

Recommendation 17:

The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada recognize the heritage and cultural attributes of fishing harbours as well as their tourism and economic value, and

That the Government of Canada allow Harbour Authorities to be eligible to receive financial support from federal economic development agencies for projects intended to take advantage of those attributes.

Response:  The Government supports this Recommendation


The Government recognizes the important and broad role that small craft harbours can play within communities across Canada, especially in rural and remote areas of the country.  Small craft harbours are often the centre of an array of community activities and may even be the focal point of the community.  Some harbours have historical significance and attract wide attention for a variety of reasons, particular from a tourism perspective, and provide opportunities to serve numerous community interests.

Currently, local Harbour Authorities are eligible applicants for selected programs provided by some regional development agencies.  With the help of Small Craft Harbours, some local Harbour Authorities have already developed close working relationships with regional development agencies that have proven to be beneficial to their communities.


NEEDS OF EMERGING SECTORS

Recommendation 18:

The Committee recommends that Fisheries and Oceans Canada review the mandate of the Small Craft Harbours Program to acknowledge that, while it primarily provides harbours that are open, safe and in good repair for the commercial fishing industry, harbours are used and managed for other purposes, including those of recreational and Aboriginal fisheries, commercial sport fishing and emerging sectors such as aquaculture.

Response:  The Government partially supports this Recommendation


The current mandate of the Small Craft Harbours Program is focused primarily on Canada’s commercial fisheries, which includes Aboriginal commercial fishers and the aquaculture sector (for non-dedicated use).  Services to other users are generally provided on an “as possible” basis.  These other clients are varied, but generally include: recreational boaters, recreational anglers, tourism, and other commercial users.  Harbour capacity is normally the key determinant as to which non-commercial fishing users and what numbers may be accommodated at a given harbour.  Any possible broadening of the current Small Craft Harbours Program mandate would need to be considered firstly in light of the Program’s ability to provide services to its existing primary clientele.  

Recommendation 19:

The Committee recommends that Fisheries and Oceans Canada facilitate access to federal non-DFO wharves through interdepartmental agreements when local harbour users identify a need that cannot be otherwise accommodated by the neighbouring Small Craft Harbours infrastructure.

Response:  The Government supports this Recommendation


There are many instances where local harbour users have formal and informal arrangements with Transport Canada, Port Authorities, owners of former Transport Canada harbour facilities, provincial and municipal authorities, and private owners for the cooperative berthing of fishing vessels at other than DFO’s harbours on a permanent or seasonal basis. Additionally, there are some instances where Transport Canada and DFO harbours are co-located or adjacent. Generally, these arrangements function well, especially where there is a need to address periodic instances of harbour congestion at DFO harbours. 

Recommendation 20:

The Committee recommends that Fisheries and Oceans Canada work with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada to improve their coordination in establishing and maintaining harbour facilities in Aboriginal communities.

Response:  The Government supports this Recommendation


While the situation varies considerably across the country, there are a number of small craft harbours located in or adjacent to Aboriginal communities, many of which are currently used by Aboriginal commercial fishers.  Despite the increasing number of Aboriginal communities becoming more engaged in commercial fishing, the preponderance of Aboriginal fishing still is undertaken for sustenance, social, and ceremonial purposes.

The Government supports participation in commercial fisheries by First Nations.  For example, the Government has developed the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy which promotes access and capacity building in Aboriginal communities.

Many of the commercial harbour sites at or adjacent to Aboriginal communities meet a number of community needs such as general transportation, community re-supply, access to water, protection to vessels, etc.  These facilities serve as general purpose community assets.  However, there are some Aboriginal communities with commercial fishing activity which are without any harbour infrastructure.

Where there are opportunities for synergies between the commercial and other fisheries occurring in Aboriginal communities, or where there are opportunities to work with other federal departments (e.g. INAC, Transport Canada) or other harbour owners to help ensure harbour infrastructure for Aboriginal communities, especially in remote areas, DFO will continue to actively pursue them, where financially possible and effective.

HARBOUR NEEDS IN NUNAVUT

Recommendation 21:

The Committee recommends that Fisheries and Oceans Canada confirm its objective to construct all the harbours identified for small communities in Nunavut.

Response:  The Government partially supports this Recommendation


The Government is committed to supporting and promoting economic growth in the North and to supporting sustainable economic and social development that benefits northern inhabitants, particularly indigenous peoples.  The construction of a fishing harbour at Pangnirtung, one of the harbours that was assessed in the joint DFO/Nunavut 2006 Nunavut Small Craft Harbours Report, demonstrates the Government’s commitment to this objective.  This initiative supports the Economic and Social Development Pillar of the Government of Canada’s Northern Strategy announced in the 2007 Speech from the Throne.

The harbour at Pangnirtung will not only directly support the local fisheries and their expansion, but also supply the local fish processing plant with necessary fish landings and contribute to supporting employment at the local level.  The harbour also will support other users and community needs, including the annual community re-supply effort.

While there are no plans to construct additional commercial fishing harbours in Nunavut at this time, discussions continue with the Government of Nunavut to identify harbour priorities for the ongoing development of the Territory’s commercial fishing industry.

Recommendation 22:

The Committee recommends that the Department review the assessment of harbour needs for communities such as Arctic Bay, Grise Fjord and Resolute.

Response:  The Government partially supports this Recommendation


The Government is committed to supporting and promoting economic growth in the North and to supporting sustainable economic and social development that benefits northern inhabitants, particularly indigenous peoples.  Fisheries and Oceans Canada holds regular discussions with the Government of Nunavut on an array of departmental issues, among them are fisheries and infrastructure requirements in Nunavut.  The Department will continue to work closely with the Government of Nunavut to identify harbour priorities within the overall plans for the ongoing development of the Territory’s fishing industry.