Good morning, Mr. Chair and honourable members. I am actually very pleased to be with you today to get to know you better and to have you get to know me a little bit in my new capacity as associate deputy minister with Fisheries and Oceans Canada. I was going to introduce my colleagues, Cal Hegge and Dave Bevan, but as you said, you know them well.
They're here today because, as you know, I've only been in the department a couple of months and I don't pretend to know things that I don't know. So if there are specific questions on matters of interest to the committee for which I don't have answers, they will be able to help us get to those answers.
In my time at Fisheries and Oceans Canada I've been most impressed by the passion of your committee. I thank you for the constructive advice you have been offering, both in your current structure and over the years. It's been very helpful to the department.
My understanding is that I'm here principally to introduce myself to you and to bring life to the CV that you have in front of you.
I was born in Montreal and raised in Baie-Comeau. My father was a surveyor for Hydro-Quebec. He died when I was very young. So we returned to Montreal. I was educated as a scientist, and you will note from my experience that I have spent most of my professional career on the west coast, in British Columbia. During that time, I worked with resource-dependent communities, single-industry towns, essentially, primarily in the forestry sector. I worked with people who relied on forestry for a livelihood and were facing significant changes in their industry. These were Canadians who were doing their utmost to deal with a fundamental shift in their economy in the 1980s and 1990s.
These shifts were brought about by new environmental practices, changing markets and demographics, and new pressures from many sources. In fact, many of the issues that fishing communities continue to face today are much like the ones I addressed in the forestry sector. I have extensive experience working with those communities.
I came to Fisheries and Oceans from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, where I was the Senior Assistant Deputy Minister of Socio-Economic Policies and Regional Operations. In that position, I was responsible for most of the on-reserve social programs south of the 60th parallel. The annual budget for my sector was over $5 billion dollars, and I was accountable for the operations of the seven regional offices. Between the regions and headquarters, I was responsible for approximately 2,000 employees. I was also responsible for emergency management preparedness for the department.
I bring international experience with me, having served as Vice-President and Special Advisor to the President of the Canadian International Development Agency, and five years as Executive Director of CUSO, one of Canada's first and largest volunteer-sending organizations.
While at the Canadian International Development Agency, I was responsible to the President for developing a vision for a new priority branch, as well as its implementation. As the Executive Director at CUSO, I was accountable to the Board of Directors, the members and the donors for the quality of policies and programs. I was fully accountable for the financial soundness of the organization and its human resource management in a unionized and decentralized environment.
Prior to that I was deputy minister of transportation in British Columbia, after having served as vice-president of a crown corporation in charge of reinvesting in forestry communities.
As a provincial deputy minister I provided ongoing strategic and policy advice to the minister and cabinet on transportation and related policy and programming issues. I was accountable for all financial, administrative, and human resource management issues for the ministry. The ministry budget was $800 million annually, with 2,600 staff situated around the province.
As the vice-president of operations at Forest Renewal B.C., the crown corporation of which I spoke, I reported directly to the board chair and CEO. The crown corporation was decentralized across the province, and I was responsible for the development of programs, the establishment of six regional offices, and province-wide formal consultation mechanisms for policy and program development. My budget was $200 million per annum. I had 120 staff.
You can see from this list that I have spent a considerable portion of my career managing in a decentralized environment, experience that I think will serve us all well at Fisheries and Oceans. I am confident that the mix of experience and skills that I bring will serve me well in my new role, and hopefully will well serve the minister, the deputy, and the department.
As you know, there is no standard definition of the role of the Associate Deputy Minister nor is there a standard job description. As always, the Deputy Minister remains the accounting officer for the department and chairs its management committees. I am vice-chair to those committees and act in her stead, in her absence.
The Associate role is perceived as affording the Deputy Minister opportunities for workload sharing with the Associate. In turn, these opportunities provide the Associate with a chance to make significant contributions to the department, while rounding out some of their development needs.
I consider myself quite fortunate to arrive at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, as my duties are as I'd like them to be. They include direct management of key files, such as gravel extraction from the Fraser River, to complementing and supporting the leadership of our Deputy Minister.
In a department that concerns itself with a wide range of issues, from improving international fisheries governance to managing in-land waterways, serving alongside this Deputy Minister promises to be as rewarding as it will be interesting.
I have begun visiting our department and coast guard operations. In fact, I spent the night of my last birthday aboard a coast guard icebreaker sailing from Amherstberg to Sarnia, Ontario. That's not how I planned on spending my birthday, but it turned out to be a fascinating experience and a great learning experience for me.
I realize marine safety is one of many key services we provide Canadians from coast to coast to coast. That trip certainly gave me pause to appreciate the breadth of Fisheries and Oceans' responsibilities across Canada and the importance of our work, from fisheries and oceans management and policy to aquaculture, science, and small craft harbours.
I also had the opportunity to accompany the minister and the deputy minister to the Boston seafood show recently, and I attended a meeting of the Atlantic Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers. I've had the pleasure of meeting many of the department's lead scientists at a national management meeting last month and in my travels.
In Boston I was afforded the opportunity to meet with many industry representatives and to hear them eloquently describe their reality. It was highly instructive for me.
I can tell you that everyone I've met at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has been a true professional. As time permits, I will continue to visit our regions and operations. I'm planning to visit the department's regional offices in Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec in the very near future. In early April I will be visiting three arctic communities as part of the Inuit arctic tour. This program provides historic, economic, and social context to government officials whose work involves northern development.
All of this is to say that I'm sincerely looking forward to the opportunities and challenges ahead of me at Fisheries and Oceans Canada. I also look forward very much to working with this committee and to the guidance you will provide.
Thank you for inviting me today. I'm here to answer your questions.
Good morning, Ms. Dansereau. It's a pleasure for me to see you. We nearly had to fight to get you to appear in committee for two hours, which made me lose my temper. I found it inconceivable that the legitimacy of such a request and the fact that the committee is master of its own agenda could be questioned. In that sense, that very much disappointed me. I got the impression that the department ultimately wanted to control the agenda of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, which is a committee of Parliament. And I can't accept that. That's the impression I got, since we've been wanting to meet you for quite a long time.
I said that at the outset, and I said it again, and I can look you squarely in the eye and say it again: we didn't ask you to appear in committee to conduct an inquisition, pick a fight or cast doubt on your appointment, not at all.
In view of what is currently happening and what could happen, I think it's important to have an opportunity to meet you in order to determine your administrative responsibilities and your vision of the fisheries file and to see how your experience could help you work through that. It's just that.
Consequently, I didn't at all appreciate the way the department reacted to your appearing for one or two hours. That's my first comment. Now matters are clear.
I've done some research on you to get a better idea of who we're dealing with, not to investigate you. I'd like to understand the path that has led you, with a certain enthusiasm, to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Your experience is quite different, in a different field. Earlier we talked about forestry and international work, in a way, with CUSO.
This isn't my case, but unfortunately people get the impression that Fisheries and Oceans isn't the most glorious department in the government. Some people aspire to work in the Department of Foreign Affairs, for example. That looks very good. Some ministers are no doubt very pleased to be in the Department of Foreign Affairs. Others may aspire to the Department of Defence.
How can we explain your enthusiasm for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans?
Thank you for that question, because it's very interesting. First, I apologize for being late.
It's true that it's sometimes hard to explain my career path. I see a very clear common theme running through it. When I decide to change jobs, it's because I've thought about it very seriously. Economic development in the rural regions is a passion for me. Forestry and transport inspire me as well. One of the reasons why I liked working in transport is that a good transportation system and a good road system are supports for economic development in Canada's rural regions. Forestry, transport and fisheries have common challenges, such as assisting the communities and individuals that want to work in the rural regions. There's a similarity for me.
It was somewhat the same thing when I worked internationally. I worked with communities in Africa and South America. They were also concerned about their own development.
Here's a little story that goes back to the start of my career. As you know, I studied microbiology at university. I am a microbiologist by training. My primary interest when I entered the public sector was... I knew that Canadians were extremely afraid of biotechnology. I thought it was important to get involved in developing rules for biotechnology. When I was in British Columbia, that work was being done in forestry. That's where I started my career in forestry. Now I'm very happy. A few weeks ago, I visited a lab in West Vancouver where they're working on biotechnology regulations. That was a return to the start of my career.
The department does a little bit of everything I'm interested in. In addition, as senior managers, the competencies and skills that we develop are transferable from one department to another. If you develop good, transparent management, good human resources management and good financial management, you can transfer that from one area to another.
I love the public service, and I love working in it. That's very important for me, and I could talk about it all day.
First of all, Madam, welcome to Ottawa.
As my colleagues indicated, your résumé is very impressive, and I congratulate you on that. I wish you the best of luck with DFO.
One of the concerns we have, of course, is getting information out to the fishermen in their communities in a timely fashion. I have three e-mails here that came to me in the last couple of days, and they're typical of what I get throughout the country on a regular basis.
Here's one from the Sportfishing Defence Alliance. It says that for 82 days now he's been waiting for one simple answer from a DFO official named Mr. LeBlanc. He hasn't gotten it yet, and he wants to know why.
Here's another one. Another gentleman in Victoria has been waiting for a long time on an answer regarding reinstating salmon enhancement programs—still no response, even though he's e-mailed, phoned, and the whole bit.
Here's another one that is quite disturbing, from the west coast troll fishery. It comes from Kathy Scarfo and Roy Alexander, who I'm sure Mr. Bevan would know. I'll just read it to you:
|| Last week, we were officially notified by the DFO negotiator on the Pacific Salmon Treaty that the U.S. had made an offer to eliminate our fishery for $16 million. DFO lead negotiator informed us that they intend to return with a counter proposal that while not completely eliminating us would result in enough fish for only 6 of our 168 licenses. While in principle, we disagree with the elimination of our fleet, we have been warned by your officials that if we did not accept the buy-out as proposed, they would continue to reduce and eliminate all access to fish from our licensed fleet and we would be left with nothing.
I just can't see why DFO would operate in a manner of that nature. What I would like to do is to give you these—I know you're new here—and ask that you or your officials when you have a chance could call these individuals and give them the answers they're looking for. This particular one is most urgent. They're asking for a meeting with some senior officials, if that's possible.
The reason I do that is because that is consistent with what we get across the country. They send e-mails, they phone, they go to meetings; all they're asking for are basic answers, and they can't get them. I'm hoping that while you're here, being new blood in the department, you could shake the department up a bit and make them understand that if the taxpayer is looking for a response to a question, even if it's not the answer they like, they should have it in a timely manner. Would you agree?
On another issue, we had discussions before regarding the coast guard itself. It's probably unfair to ask you this at this time, but it's just something to reflect upon in the future.
A certain party that is in government now actually assured us that one of its goals may be the opportunity of the coast guard to be not a special operating agency, but a stand-alone agency. There's been a lot of talk, at least down on the east coast, about actually moving coast guard out of DFO and into the realm of, say, the public safety minister. Instead of Mr. Hearn, it would be .
Those discussions were when the Liberals were in power and also with the Conservatives, although nothing has really moved on it. It's just idle chat right now. We'd like to make the minister's life a lot easier, to give him less responsibility.
Is that something you would consider even looking at, in order to ensure enhanced safety and security measures, revamping the coast guard, not just for fisheries and environment and immigration, but also to aid in our security of our three oceans, to make it a stand-alone agency under a new minister, in this case the public safety minister? You don't have to answer if you don't want to.
Thank you, Ms. Dansereau, for coming. It's always a delight to welcome to committees on Parliament Hill somebody from Baie-Comeau, and having spent most of your adult life in B.C. is also a good thing.
I have one issue I want to raise with you, and then I'll pass it over to one of my colleagues. I understand from your comments that one of the files you've been given is the whole issue of gravel removal, particularly on the west coast. As you know, the Fraser River runs through my riding, so it's an issue I follow fairly closely as well. It's never without controversy in my riding and in the area.
When gravel extraction is done on the Fraser River, I think there are two things I'm looking for, and whether they can both be done at the same time I don't know. One is that DFO officials aren't overly obstructionist, that they're actually part of the process in a constructive way, but also that DFO is doing its job in terms of protecting fish and fish habitat. Some would think you can't remove gravel and do that.
I'm just wondering what your comments are on this, what your involvement is, and if you can comment at all on the gravel removal projects that are probably nearing an end. As I understand, the authorizations were for March 15 and perhaps to the end of the month. What can you tell us about the approach that DFO takes with respect to gravel removal in these projects in particular?
For those who know the history, it's a very interesting situation. It's a typical resource quandary, because protection of fish has to be paramount to the department, but for the province there's a very real concern that, depending on how the snowpack melts in British Columbia, there can be flooding and there are many communities along the Fraser that could be affected by that flooding.
The province, at the moment, has situated gravel removal in the hands of its provincial emergency response program, PEP. My responsibility right now is to work with the provincial government and our people to help get us away from a crisis response to how this should happen and develop more of a long-term planning approach, which takes as its core the two fundamental requirements—that we remove the gravel in such a way that we ensure maximum flood protection, while protecting fish to the maximum of our ability as well.
The link between flooding and the growth of gravel, because gravel keeps getting deposited every year, is not necessarily straightforward. It's a matter of picking those sites where there would be maximum benefit to the flood control program, recognizing that the bulk of the flood control program has to be the building up of the dikes and the other work the province has to do, but gravel removal has a certain role in it.
To answer the specific question, for this year the removals that were planned for this spring are almost complete, and now we're working on a medium plan for what needs to be done next January and then a long-term plan so that we don't have to deal with this on a yearly basis, out of fear of what may happen. As in all resource management, it ought to be on a planning basis, and that's the plan we're putting together right now. I think we're generally satisfied.
I would like to thank Ms. Dansereau for appearing at committee today. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
I look at this as an opportunity for the committee to get to know you a little better and for you to get to know us. Most times we're fairly civil to one another and the committee doesn't work too badly, but we never miss an opportunity to take a shot at the other team, so to speak. I wouldn't want to miss mine this morning. I do congratulate you on your new position, and I'm sure that bringing a fresh face to DFO, with all respect to Mr. Bevan and Mr. Hegge, is not a bad thing.
I have to pick up a little on the point that Mr. Byrne made on the WTO. I would expect that you would find it refreshing that finally we have a minister in charge of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans who has taken an issue that the Liberals hid very successfully for five years--and I realize you can't comment on politics and I appreciate that--and made sure no one knew who was at the WTO, and finally has allowed the sun and the air of the light of day to flow upon it. We now can actually do something about it, because it is a very important issue to all of us, on both coasts.
I'm sure Mr. Stoffer will get his press release out immediately on the three e-mails that he gave you today and be able to say that he has passed them right off and now they're looked after, and I appreciate that. But I do have two questions that have bothered me for my ten years as a parliamentarian, ones that have not been answered yet by the department or any government. I was hoping we would see some of this in the Fisheries Act, and it's not there. And that is, how we deal with the question of boat length and the fact that boat length no longer is there for safety reasons. It was an artificial measure put in to control the catch. Now that we've gone to ITQs, everything is in a quota system except the lobster fishery, and that is partially in a quota system because it's limited by the number of traps.
On the boat length, I have fishermen fishing out of Riverport, fishing out of small harbours in southwest Nova Scotia, who fish off of Georges Bank. They're out 180 miles offshore. There's something wrong with doing that in a 37-foot boat, because you can't have your lobster licence transferred from that 37-foot boat to a 45-footer or even a 50-footer. That's a safety issue that really I would like a fresh set of eyes to have a look at and maybe do something about.
The other thing that the ITQ system brought in was the ability to sell fish. We have far too many former fishermen who have used it as a retirement system, who no longer fish. Many of them don't even own a boat, have no intention of fishing, and yet they have 20 tonnes of haddock quota or they have cod quota and they're selling that quota to fishermen who want the fish. Those are issues we've been grappling with. I think the former government grappled with them. I know that the officials grapple with them. But we really do need to do something about that. And I realize that's not as simple as saying this is what we'll do tomorrow.
Do you have any thoughts on those two issues?
First, my longest job wasn't for four years. I believe the shortest lasted five years. You can change jobs within the public service, but it's still the same employer. So in the provincial government, it was longer than four years. However, I held one position for five years that I knew, when I started, would not last any longer. I thought that, in personal terms, you could only do that kind of job for five years. The federal government is changing, and we have to change.
I believe the purpose of your question is more to determine my way of governing and the kind of manager I am. I must admit that all my employers were very disappointed when I left, and my employees as well, but that wasn't because I was too soft. My demands are quite high, but I provide employees with a very significant degree of support. I take them and their personal lives very seriously. At the British Columbia Ministry of Transport, there were approximately 2,600 employees, and I knew virtually everyone's name and background when I left.
I take the job of human resources manager very seriously. I think that all those who go to work in the morning should feel that their work environment is energizing. They don't necessarily always have to be happy and smiling, but the work should at least be energizing. It is somewhat my responsibility as a manager to be sure that they play a part in what we develop together. I take human resources seriously, and financial management as well. As I said earlier, I take that very seriously. I work in a professional manner, because I also think it's important at times to change environment.
When I left British Columbia to come to Ottawa, it was also for personal reasons, which we don't need to discuss here. It was the right time to do it. My daughter was at a certain age, and she was on the east coast. So I wanted to move back toward the centre.
Thank you for the question. It is an ever-perplexing question, even for those who sit in the seat. I think you've all met associate deputies before.
As you know, departments are very large, very complex, very high stress, and very demanding. The myriad of files that any one person can look at on a given day is phenomenal.
The associate deputy does not have a particular, specifically written job description with line responsibilities in the same way as an assistant deputy minister does. We have what is commonly known as “two in a box”. It's a box of deputies that has the senior deputy minister, the deputy minister, and the associate deputy minister. We complement--with an "e", not an "i", although sometimes we do the other too--each other in terms of our knowledge and our abilities. It really is about workload sharing, as I said in my introductory remarks.
Each mix of associate and deputy will reach its own conclusions on how best to divide up those tasks. In some departments it does almost result in a set of line functions. In other departments, it never does. It's about which files should we hand off right now because they need particular attention, and that would shift, as it should shift. It's about development opportunities as well for the associate as they come up through the system.
In our case we've decided that it will be about specific files. I will be looking at and managing in terms of general specifics, if I can say that, the executive services and how to keep that all straight, and the values and ethics component of the department. Those people will report directly to me as well.
On the issue of executive services, clearly in any department it requires constant refreshment on how it's done, as governments change. I have recently done a review of the correspondence systems. I did that when I was at Indian Affairs and I will do that here as well--how best to serve people as they write in to make sure that we actually get responses out in time and that type of thing. Your questions are well placed in that regard.
So it's the executive services and support to the minister in that way, specific files, and overall workload sharing with the deputy.
This is a question for all three, but, Ms. Dansereau, I'll start with you on this one.
On oceans management, of the five major ocean areas I've received quite a bit of input from the PNCIMA, which I'm sure you're familiar with, given your experience with the west coast.
PNCIMA talked about how there seems to be a lack of a grand vision as to what our oceans management strategy is today. They talked about how many of the projects are being siloed into different areas, and I speak specifically of the marine protected areas. Within these areas, obviously, we have some troubles with stakeholders and how they feel about how the marine protected areas are working, but their problem is an overall strategy because it lacks an overall vision.
Given your experiences with PNCIMA, and maybe you've had experiences through your work in the forestry as well, because lately there's been a pine beetle issue and how it is going to affect the oceans and forestry, I want to know how you feel about this particular file and how you see the vision of the current strategy of our oceans management.
Definitely the dynamics are changing. I don't know if the percentage is right or wrong. I know that the percentage on the land side was subject to years of debate, back and forth, give and take, analysis of function, analysis of need, and analysis of social impact. We must take social impacts into consideration as we make these decisions.
It's that old Brundtland report approach to things that's still, in my mind, valid. We still need the three pillars, because if you don't protect the environment, you don't protect people, and if you don't protect people, you're not protecting the environment.
That still has to be central to whatever the decision is. Rather than picking a percentage to say that's our goal, I think we need to determine what the needs are and, as governments always have to, balance the priorities, balance how we manage these things in the same way as we will manage gravel extraction in the Fraser--what are the basic needs that we have, and how do we best achieve those?
I have no idea if the percentage, as it currently exists, is the right one. I know that these things are going to require, probably for the next 100 years, give and take on the part of the people who have an interest in those questions.
Good for you for doing that.
One of the recommendations I would make, if you get the possibility, is to meet with the hunters and trappers organization that is very involved in the fishery. Mr. Bevan knows that very well. Most people, when they travel to Nunavut, go to Iqaluit. If you can get a chance to go the high Arctic and Arctic Bay, where fishing concerns are just starting to emerge, that would be very helpful for them to at least know that they have an ear at DFO in that particular regard.
Also, in your forestry background, you mentioned your concern about the environment and protection and trying to match economic opportunities with protection of the natural waterways. One of the concerns we have, and Mr. Bevan knows this quite well, is regarding the mining effluent act, schedule 2, where some companies have permission to use vibrant, healthy lakes as tailing ponds. We had that example in Newfoundland and we have it now in Nunavut coming down, and there are scheduled lakes across the country that are slated for destruction as well.
I'd just like your viewpoint on that, or if you haven't had a chance to study that yet, you could come back at a later time.
One of the concerns we have is that mining companies, we believe, should have independent, separate tailing ponds, free and clear of any natural waterway. This act allows them in some circumstances to actually use those lakes as their tailing ponds, which causes quite a concern for a lot of environmentalists and fishermen.
My last question is for Mr. Hegge.
Sir, what do you see as your role in working with the new associate minister as we go down the road?