I call the meeting to order and welcome everybody here today. We're delighted to be in Port Hardy.
As many of you would be aware, we are the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans from the Parliament of Canada. We are in the process of completing a study on the small craft harbours program of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Our study has included bringing people to Ottawa to hear from them there; hearing from people within the department; travelling to the east coast of Canada, which we have done; and now being on the west coast of Canada. We've heard from many stakeholders and are certainly delighted to be here today to hear from you also.
Our committee is made up of all the parties of the House of Commons, including the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, the Bloc, and we're bringing along just a token of our appreciation for the NDP down here in the corner--just to make sure we cover all the bases.
We had a great time this morning. We visited a couple of harbours here in the area. I have to compliment you on the beauty of the area. I think we struck a great day for it, too, because many people we talked to this morning told us that we had a great day to tour the area. Certainly it's a great opportunity. A lot of the things that we see in our travels are similar in many parts of Canada, but as usual, there's always something that's a bit unique. There's no doubt there are some unique circumstances here on the west coast also.
I'd like to take the opportunity to recognize a former member of the committee, Mr. John Duncan, who has joined us here today. I'm sure many of the members of the committee know John from before. He was of great assistance in helping us set up here today, so we thank him for that.
Our process is that we have the opportunity to hear some opening remarks from some of the witnesses at the table, we open up the floor for questions, and then we go around the table and we do a round of questions, and we time slots for those.
The first thing I'd like to do is ask each and every one of you to introduce yourselves and the organizations that you represent, and then I believe it is Mr. David Schmidt who will start the presentations.
In terms of translation and the piece of technology that's in front of you, channel one is English and channel two is French. We have a couple of people here who converse in French, so we'd ask you to use that. The translation's happening at the same time as you speak, so sometimes you may have to slow her down a bit. That's not good advice coming from a Newfoundlander, because I usually do about 70 miles an hour myself. But most of the time we try to have the translation happen at the same time.
With that, I'd like to ask Mr. Schmidt if he would make the first presentation. The floor is yours, sir.
First, let me thank you for inviting me to this meeting. This took me kind of unaware, as I was only informed last week, so I wasn't exactly sure of the purpose and what I was supposed to say.
I'll start off by saying the Quatsino First Nation recently took over the Coal Harbour wharf through the divestiture program. That was in 2005, I believe. Since then, we've managed to keep things operational and just recently completed most of the major renovations that have been identified during the divestiture process. We've also managed to secure some outside funding to actually expand facilities and reinstall a fuel facility that had been taken out prior to our takeover.
When the Quatsino First Nation was first approached to take over the wharf--probably in 1999 or 2000--at the time we weren't prepared or set up and didn't have the management capabilities to do so, and it was turned over to another group. Unfortunately, they couldn't manage it themselves. Thus, in 2005 we ended up taking it over.
We thought this was extremely important for the north island communities, as it provides one of the only links to Quatsino Sound and provides a vital transportation link to the small village of Quatsino, as well as providing the Quatsino First Nation itself with an access point they previously did not have. The Quatsino are one of the only first nations without a major reserve on water in B.C.; as such, some of the history and traditions have been lost. So when the opportunity came up again to take over the wharf, we jumped at it.
To date, we have actually had no problems in dealing with Transport Canada or small craft harbours directorate. In reality, we're not exactly sure where we fit into the picture of the whole wharf community. There is some feeling that the wharf still belongs to the federal government on the public's behalf, and we feel it probably belongs to the Quatsino Nation. There is a kind of juxtaposition here that we're not really sure about. Clarification on that kind of issue is definitely required. We have some users of the wharf who aren't sure themselves and feel it's a free public dock for their own use.
Recently we attended a wharfingers meeting in Squamish, and while we received some answers there, it is still not exactly clear how we fit in the picture. That definitely needs clarification. If we're on our own, that means we have some serious digging to do to find funding to maintain and possibly replace the dock down the road when it does need replacing. If we still fall under the small craft harbours authority, then maybe we can talk.
For now, that's about all I have to say. Things seem to be going quite well for us.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, for the opportunity to present to you and your committee the situation we find ourselves in at Alert Bay.
I'm not sure if you all know, but Alert Bay is an island not even a quarter mile off Vancouver Island. It's split into two parts: one half of the island is the municipality of Alert Bay, and the other half of the island is the Indian reserve, the 'Namgis First Nation.
A brief history is that in 1958 the original Alert Bay boat harbour was constructed in front of 'Namgis Indian Reserve 1A. This was a small craft harbour, a DFO-supported facility.
In 1969 a new boat harbour was constructed by small craft harbours directorate, DFO, on the boundary between the village of Alert Bay and 'Namgis Reserve 1. The lease for the old Alert Bay harbour was abandoned by the federal crown.
In 1969 the 'Namgis First Nation had no option but to assume operational control of the old Alert Bay boat harbour, and it has consistently attempted to maintain the facility. Limited funding has periodically been made available from federal sources for maintenance of the harbour, but never for costly improvement of the original A-frame breakwater, a wooden breakwater that is really starting to fall apart.
In 1974 a ferry terminal was constructed on the east border of Alert Bay boat harbour, limiting the ability to expand the facility. In 1976 the plan to extend the new Alert Bay boat harbour to the west was not supported by the 'Namgis First Nation; the expansion would have blocked access and water circulation in a riparian zone and would have impinged on existing water lot leases.
In 1990 and 1993 major feasibility studies were completed for the rebuilding of the old Alert Bay boat harbour floats and breakwater, but no federal funding could be secured for implementation of the plans.
In 1994, $7 million in funding was supplied for the upgrade of small craft harbours on north Vancouver Island, but we could not access any of those funds for Cormorant Island.
In 1995 the new Alert Bay boat harbour was divested by small craft harbours, DFO, to the village of Alert Bay. Substantial levels of maintenance funding have been available to the facility. In 2001, $100 million was made available for further maintenance and upgrades by small craft harbours of DFO facilities. Again, no money was available for Cormorant Island.
To date, the 'Namgis First Nation is still seeking support for an upgrade and expansion of the old Alert Bay boat harbour.
The result is that Cormorant Island has been harmed by the fact that DFO small craft harbours facilities have not expanded since 1969. The lack of adequate marine infrastructure has limited the ability of the 'Namgis First Nation to reduce its crippling levels of unemployment, by building its cultural tourism and fishing industries. Substantial opportunities for ecotourism development are being captured by other local communities.
This is unfair to the 1,500 residents of Cormorant Island. Other north Vancouver Island communities have benefited from substantial levels of DFO small craft harbour financial support for harbour development and expansion. This double standard of support is not equitable or acceptable—which is not to say that we do not support the work being done by our surrounding communities.
As for solutions, it must be accepted that the existing Alert Bay boat harbour cannot be physically expanded. Cormorant Island requires a second small harbour to adequately serve commercial and recreational fleets. The old Alert Bay harbour should receive a substantial level of federal funding support for the replacement of aging floats and ramps and for the head wharf, and for the construction of a new rock breakwater. And the 'Namgis First Nation and DFO small craft harbours should immediately strike a working group to explore ways in which the marine infrastructure on Cormorant Island can be improved. This is an issue of fairness and community survival. We must act together now to do the work that needs to be done.
As I've said already, the economy of Alert Bay, Cormorant Island, is pretty bad. The only future we see is in tourism. Without a proper breakwater, we won't be able to do that.
We see all these ships sailing by. Some come in and have a look, then keep on going, many boats that could be tying up in Alert Bay. The present breakwater that's managed by the municipality of Alert Bay is basically full at all times.
On behalf of the District of Port Hardy, I'd like to welcome the committee to our community. Despite the rumours, it's always beautiful here on the north island.
Port Hardy has had a longstanding relationship with small craft harbours directorate. We became the first harbour authority on the B.C. coast in 1986, and prior to that we actually enjoyed a lease for a number of years with the department.
Since that time we've been involved with many different projects in the growth of our harbour. We now operate three different sites here in the community. I believe the committee had an opportunity to visit two of them. In 2000 we also acquired, through divestiture, the Transport Canada wharf known as the Seagate Wharf here in the community. The district operates a seaplane base as well.
Today we've embarked on a major project with small craft harbours directorate. They are investing about $3.1 million in our waterfront with new concrete floats that I believe you saw. As well, we've been able to go out and look for contributions to the project. Right now, we stand at close to $3 million in planned improvements that we're planning over the next two years.
All in all, it's been a great relationship, and we look forward to working with small craft harbours directorate in the future as well.
I guess the first point I would make is that small craft harbours are really key to all coastal communities, historically, culturally, economically. I think Dave Schmidt spoke to a classic case of what happens when things break down and you lose that kind of facility.
Dave and I both came on the scene at about the same time that the divestiture of the Coal Harbour dock was in progress. It was clearly ill-planned, and the end result was that the entire area of Quatsino Sound lost, basically, a functioning dock, plus they lost the fuel capacity. It has been some time, but we're pleased to see that it's coming back.
I think that one of the key problems at the time of the divestiture, and Dave has really spoken to it just now, is this question of ownership. We were certainly given direction and indication from Transport Canada that the manner in which the divestiture would occur would provide for effective communication with all members, all stakeholders within Quatsino Sound.
This was the problem with the initial group that was given the responsibility for the dock. Essentially, they acted in isolation. By the time the Quatsino First Nation took over the facility, they had lost the fuel, the repairs were in considerably poor shape, and a number of things had happened.
We're pleased to hear and we've seen the progress that's occurred on the dock, but I think the Coal Harbour facility was an example of where all three things broke down. That is the historic value of the dock and the fact that it was the development of the settlement of much of the area for Europeans as they came here before the turn of the century, plus first nations. That was lost.
I think what has to be refocused on is that one of the key ingredients of the divestiture program was to develop a communications system with all stakeholders within the area. We're hoping, now that the Quatsino First Nation has had the opportunity to kind of get things back, that we get back to a point.... I think that's the first stage that we have to address, because we have equal concerns coming to us from constituents. I am the director for area C, which includes this area, and one of the key problems is that they're not sure of where and what is supposed to be happening.
I think that really goes back to the divestiture program in the beginning, because, frankly, the things that were supposed to be done weren't followed through. I don't think it served either my constituents or the first nations well, because it has left us in the position we're in.
I'm hopeful that out of these hearings, or whatever, this could be a key focus. How do you establish and maintain that all people who require these docks are part of the decision-making process, or are at least aware of what is going on?
I thank you for this opportunity.
I will be splitting my time.
I had a conversation earlier with a gentleman sitting in the audience. His name is Jerry Arnet. He's a fisherman, and he had an interesting quote for me. He stated that years ago they had a two-billion-dollar fishing industry and DFO's budget was a couple of hundred million dollars. Nowadays we find ourselves with a couple-of-hundred-million-dollar commercial industry here and DFO's budget is at $1.4 billion. So in that lies truth--or not truth, but to me it smacks of something we hear a lot, coast to coast to coast.
So that being said, I have some quick questions. I'm going to go down the line, but I have questions for you individually. I also want you to talk about your relationship with the small craft harbours program, whether it is good or bad and maybe a quick recommendation for us.
Very quickly, you said your situation is going quite well. That was your quote, meaning that your revenues, I'm assuming, are at a fairly healthy rate. Is that correct?
I'd like to welcome our witnesses.
I just want to follow up, if I can, on the divestiture issue. It seems to me that the issue of ownership hasn't been settled. David, from your point of view, that certainly jumped out loud and clear. Wasn't there any documentation or anything associated with your divestiture and the decision about who the rightful owner of the property is, or is that still in limbo?
Actually, I neglected to mention that in my area, the hamlet of Quatsino, there remains the last Transport Canada dock maintained by Transport Canada.
In answer to your question, it's my understanding--and I spent a lot of time with this with the previous group--that after a certain period of time, I believe, ownership goes directly over. But there were requirements in the agreement that there would be communication and there would be a user group and there would be this kind of thing established. Frankly, we haven't pursued it. I think the Quatsino First Nation inherited a very difficult situation, and I think we are just now starting to hit the point. But I think that's key to it.
I believe, and I'd have to go back and check, that at the end of the day, ownership is directly transferred over to the parties. It indeed could have been transferred over. It was one of our great concerns expressed to the group that previously had the dock.
The agreement was signed in June 2000. It's a ten-year program. In the document we have, Transport Canada also gave the district $795,000 that was to be used for maintaining the infrastructure, not for any improvements. Again, however, we were able to use some of those funds to leverage other funds to make that dollar stretch.
That being said, this is a $2-million facility that the district will run on its own now. It's a financial liability for a community of under 5,000 people, there are no two ways about that. I can understand the bit of mystery the other folks here have, in terms of understanding their relationship with the Transport Canada process and the whole divestiture rationale. I think it's a challenge for all the small communities. It will be a challenge in our futures, as well, to try to maintain these docks.
At one time, Transport Canada or Fisheries and Oceans had alluded to a divestiture program, but they weren't saying that they were necessarily looking out for their own interests or speaking on behalf of Transport Canada or Fisheries and Oceans. Ultimately, this leads to confusion among the stakeholders.
In light of that fact, Mr. Smith, given the history of this file, have there been any written communications from Transport Canada or, after seeing for some years that this hasn't worked, have you had to react in a certain way? Have you been able to follow the history of this file through written communications?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you to each and every one of you for your presentations today.
I'll start with Mr. Cranmer.
I understand that DFO officials from small craft harbours directorate do sort of patrol the small craft harbours throughout British Columbia. They come and visit, and they see how things are going. When was the last time you had a visit from somebody from small craft harbours directorate?
Mr. Cranmer, I think the easiest way to get the answer to your concern is to, later tonight, write a letter to the clerk of our committee asking who actually owns the wharf. I know that small craft harbours directorate has nothing to do with it; it's a Transport Canada role. But the question is whether, after a certain period of time, it is officially divested to you or your organization, and then you're questioning who has the legal ownership of that particular infrastructure.
It wouldn't take that much to find out. A letter to the transport minister would give us that answer. If you wish to write to us later on, asking us to figure that answer out, then we could at least figure out who owns it, and then we could move forward from there.
Mr. McPhee, today you took us to the Port Hardy wharf, and you showed us the new concrete wharves that were coming in. I was quite impressed by that. I'm wondering if it's possible for you to tell us how that all came about, and why that particular concrete wharf is on a foam platform. I was quite impressed by that.
Also, sir, you had mentioned that things are going quite well. It's good to hear, as we have in previous presentations yesterday and today, that overall the relationship with the front-line small craft harbours people is quite good.
You talked about surveillance cameras. I haven't heard about that before on other wharves we've been on. I'm wondering why Fort Hardy would want to request that, and what advantages there would be if indeed you were able to have those installed for your harbour. Would you answer that if possible, sir?
And thank you for the tour this morning.
One of the questions that was asked was how we got along with the small craft harbours people, and whether we had a good working relationship with them. Then in the same question was what you could look at as improvements. One of them was closed-circuit TV or surveillance cameras down there.
Basically with the surveillance cameras, one thing is to try to offset any thefts that may go on down there. You advertise it to let them know that they are under a camera system, and it may curb the thievery that's going on.
We're not saying we have a huge amount of thievery at one given time, but when you add six or seven different incidents up, it becomes a significant amount of money. When you can grab a whole platter of halibut hooks--individually they're not that expensive, but when you consider the items themselves plus the time it takes for the fishermen to make this system up and what have you, it becomes a very costly thing.
The other thing would be the safety aspect. You're watching who is down there. You have a lot of undesirables down there, and we could end up having people falling in and drowning.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
It certainly is wonderful to be here.
I appreciate the fact that some of you have travelled some way to get here and bring testimony to our committee. We take our work very seriously, and we certainly appreciate the input.
I'd like to start by asking Chief Cranmer a question. The testimony you gave was pretty quick, and I tried to make as many notes as I could. You gave us a great history, going back to 1958. Am I to understand that the harbour that was built in 1958 is gone now--it basically doesn't exist any more? Do I have that right?
Right. It's a creosote wood one that over time has been taken out.
You talked about it being a hindrance to economic development because you're not capturing tourism opportunities with the number of vessels that are going by. They pull in, they poke in, they look around, they don't see what they want as far as being able to tie up safely, and they move on to some place else.
Do you have ideas about this? Have you commissioned a study, any type of report, or anything that would tell you what a breakwater would do for you as far as economic development? Have you had any consultant work done on that?
Okay, thank you very much. I appreciate that.
Mr. McPhee, thank you very much for the tour today. I certainly appreciated it.
I think it's the first time I've heard about installing security cameras to keep an eye on the harbour, and I'd certainly be interested to see how that turns out. I think the Department of Fisheries and Oceans requires fishermen to have cameras on their boats. I don't know if we've ever had it in such a way that we've required cameras to overlook the harbour.
I want to get the question I have for you on the table as a matter of public record. I'm going to ask you the same question I asked you on the harbour today, or on the wharf, and it deals with derelicts. I was quite surprised to learn at previous committee hearings out here on the west coast—and I believe we were in Richmond when I asked this question of the Harbour Authority Association of British Columbia—what percentage of berthage space is used up by derelict vessels or vessels that can't be removed given the current circumstances, the way the law is interpreted and read. I was told it's anywhere from 10% to 50%, depending on the particular harbour. But the number I got from you this morning was quite a bit different, and I am wondering if you could just basically restate what you told me earlier today as a matter of public record for this committee meeting.
I think our percentages are low compared to the number of boats we have in the harbour at any given time. The year we took over, I think there were three boats taken out and a couple more that should have been taken out or were in the process of being removed from the harbour, but we're not up to 50%. What you looked at this morning would have been 40 to 44 boats down there if it were at 50%. No, it wasn't that high. It's not that high.
You asked how the boats were removed. Again, there is the legal process that we have to go through or is to be gone through. The problem you have there is with the documentation. Most of what's required is non-existent. Then you talk to various people, one of them being a lawyer who attends the conferences down there, and, yes, it's all “We have these contracts, we have this, we should do this, and we should do that”. Then you talk to the other side of the table and they say you can have all the contracts you want, but they're not going to be worth anything when it goes to court.
The problem you're looking at is that you could have all this stuff, but the people who are reading it—and I would assume right through from the crown prosecutor in this municipality to the magistrate, and I'm not knocking them—their knowledge of that particular type of law is very limited. The people who are trying to manage it or to enact those laws into the municipal bylaws aren't going to understand a lot of that stuff, because it's going back to the old maritime laws and the like.
What I was stating was that somewhere along the line this process has to be streamlined so that the average lay person can understand it and use that documentation and enact these regulations into the municipal bylaws. But it has to be streamlined down to a layman's working level. It can't go with maritime laws that date back to the old Brits and stuff like that.
Thank you, Mr. Calkins.
Committee, we have time to do a three-minute round if we stick to our guns and the time. We need to allow time to clear the table to get ready for our next presenters. I'd ask for your cooperation on that. Three minutes includes your question, and leave room for your answers, because I will be sticking to it.
Mr. MacAulay, you're on for three.
I thank everybody for coming.
Mr. Schmidt, I'll continue with that line of questioning. I expect what you want on the record is that you want something done in a legal fashion. You want it in the report, and I'll let you word it, but you have a small problem compared to some with derelict vessels. Also, if somebody doesn't pay their fee for tying up, what do you do about it ?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
It's the first time that we have seen so many abandoned boats in British Columbia harbours. In fact, we have not seen any similar cases until now. You are suggesting that you be given the power to resolve legal problems, a kind of state power that would allow you to establish and implement regulations and legally collect entrance fees into your harbours.
When a fishing licence is issued, a deposit could be required. This could be valid until the licence expires or until the licence holder leaves that wharf. The deposit could then be returned. Otherwise the deposit could be used to cover the expenses of the harbours in question.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I always say that a quick way to find out who the owner is is to burn the boat, and that person will show up in a hurry. But that's off the record, of course.
First of all, Mr. McPhee, thank you for your services. You're an RCMP officer, by the way. And my best to your son, as well.
Mr. Cranmer and Mr. Schmidt, are your organizations part of the Harbour Authority Association of British Columbia?
Okay. Yesterday we heard from the president of the organization. I was quite impressed by the fact that all the harbour associations that are part of it actually talk to one another, and they have meetings once or twice a year. They exchange information on best practices. That way if somebody is having a problem in one harbour, they can ask someone else about it.
I would highly recommend that you get in touch with them to become part of their organization, because I think a lot of questions and a lot of concerns you have they can answer for you. And they'll also help you and point you in the right direction.
I asked the question earlier about those floating docks. How were you able to achieve that type of construction in Port Hardy? I was quite impressed by that. It looks to me like the wave of the future for wharf construction. I'm just wondering how you were able to identify the work that needed to be done, the work you did with DFO, and what we saw today.
Thank you, gentlemen, for appearing. I appreciate being able to be up here. I'm from British Columbia, so it's good to be home.
I just have a comment, and then I need a couple of points of clarification.
At the Port Hardy wharf, I was pleased to see that you've put in place some environmental innovations to address spillage and runoff that shouldn't end up in the water. It's very good to see that. I know that there are a few wharves moving in that direction. I'm pleased to see that.
In terms of the derelicts, I think we heard in other locations that the buyback programs in the past have kind of contributed to that increase in the number of derelicts. I wonder if that's your view as well. People decided to sell their licences, but they still have this boat that nobody wants, so they just let it sit there forever. Is that contributing to the problem, do you think?
That will clear up this session.
I just want to remind Mr. Stoffer that everything is on record here. If you want to make burning boats a recommendation, it would go forward in the report. You need to add dark, stormy nights to it, according to your testimony earlier.
With that, I would just say thank you to all our witnesses for your time here today. It certainly added to our study.
We're now going to adjourn for five minutes or so to prepare our next list.
I'm calling the meeting back to order.
Just to let our witnesses know, we're going to have the opportunity to call upon some of you to make opening remarks. Our process is very straightforward. After we receive some opening remarks—we like to give four to five minutes each for opening remarks—then we have an opportunity for a question and answer period, where we go round and each party of the committee has an opportunity to ask some questions. I'd say to you to feel comfortable; we're here to listen.
I'm not sure if all of you were here when we started the beginning of our last session, but we are the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans for the Parliament of Canada. We are in the process of conducting a study on behalf of the small craft harbours program of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. We have travelled to the east coast of Canada, and we're here this week hearing from people on the west coast. Certainly, even in our discussions thus far, while there are many similarities, there are many differences also—different concerns, different issues—and it's a learning experience for all of us on the committee. So we certainly welcome your input here today. We thank you for coming forward and participating in the hearings, and ask you to feel quite comfortable. Don't be worried about the mics in front of you. Just sit back as if you were at home in the living room having a chat with your best friend, and be quite comfortable.
When it comes time for some members of our committee to converse in French, you have the opportunity to don your earphones here, and English is channel one on your dial and French is channel two. I'm glad we're only dealing with two languages; I have a job to keep those straight. But certainly we'll advise you of that anyway and make sure everybody is aware. We're having translation happening simultaneously as we speak, so I would just ask you to remind yourselves of that when you are speaking.
So on behalf of the committee, what I would like you to do first is to introduce yourselves and the organizations you represent. Then we will start with Mr. Wainwright, who will start off our testimony. Before we do that, I would ask each of you to introduce yourself, please.
On behalf of the harbour authority, I will describe Winter Harbour. It is the most western port on Vancouver Island, approximately an hour and a half drive from Port Hardy.
Our harbour authority is made up of five individuals, volunteers from our community. We run a facility that's roughly 100 metres long. We have a wharf head and we have floats. It is all maintained through small craft harbours directorate. We run the business of the harbour by collecting fees and looking after the facility on behalf of small craft harbours directorate.
Our clientele at the facility for 12 months a year are commercial fisheries; approximately three months a year it is recreational fishers. We have transient boats that travel the coast from all over the coast. They can be travelling from the United States, to the United States, to Alaska from American ports, or there are Canadian vessels that come through. We have international fisheries, tuna fisheries that use our facilities periodically, and we have government vessels, be they small craft harbours.... The navy vessels come and stay in our harbour. I think that's it for who we are.
I would say the facility has been in place for at least 40 years. It's a wood pile-driven wharf with wood deck and wood floats. There are other facilities in Winter Harbour. They're all private facilities. We have a store, fuel, hydro, and we have volunteer water. We're a community of approximately 20 to 30 people in the winter and 200 to 300 people in the summer, when the recreation fishers and tourists are in our area.
That's it. Thank you.
I am currently the manager at the Malcolm Island harbour in Sointula. I have been working with the harbour authority since 1989, which is 19 years now, I guess.
There have been a lot of changes since then, the biggest one being with the implementation of the so-called Mifflin Plan in 1996. I think our repercussions are ongoing; we haven't seen the end result of that. However, today our docks are full. All winter our docks are full. Per capita I would say we have the largest fishing fleet on this coast out of Sointula. We have a large lucrative pleasure craft clientele now, who come every summer to the harbour for the two months.
As much as we've experienced a lot of the grief and uncertainty and turmoil from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the small craft harbours program has worked really well with us. I think we have a good relationship.
Being on an island, our harbour is really critical for other services, including the ambulance, police, and fire. Hydro recently erected a building to be close to the harbour so they could service the community in power outages, which of course is usually in a big storm.
Our harbour is really the heart and soul of our community, and I cannot imagine our community without the public docks. Without our public docks, I think we really wouldn't have a community.
I think that's all I'm going to say for now.
Our community doesn't have any formal harbour committee, but I do have a written report.
Our community is located along the northeast shores of Quatsino Sound, 24 kilometres from the open Pacific Ocean. It was originally settled by Norwegians in 1895 as part of the B.C. government's effort to help colonize the remote west coast. We had a population peak of just fewer than 200 during the 1930s, but for the past three decades, Quatsino has had around 60 year-round residents.
We now have a fast-growing population of summer residents, and numerous fishing lodges are opening up. Our public facilities are very minimal. We have a one-room school with just five students, a historic Anglican church, a tiny full-service post office, and the centrally located government wharf.
While we haven't achieved the lofty goal of becoming the main harbour terminal between Canada and the Orient, which our first settlers had hoped, we are content to maintain our unique rural lifestyle. As we are without road access into our community, the water is our highway. The 12-kilometre stretch of water to the nearest wharf facility in Coal Harbour is our access route to the outside.
Our wharf was originally built in 1912 for off-loading freight and passengers from steamships. A float and gangway were added years later for private boat access and moorage. There are now 50 metres of well-lit moorage space along the main float, plus 26 metres along an adjoining float-plane dock. The heavy-duty hand crank winch is an essential part of the facility and is well used by residents and summer folks who need to move high volumes of goods and supplies in from town.
The wharf was almost lost in a fire five years ago. The community worked through the night and managed to control the blaze and kept it from spreading into nearby buildings and forest lands. The structure was downsized slightly and rebuilt within two years. The new smaller wharf shed offers shelter for those waiting for drop-off or to be picked up by boats and water taxis. Inside the shed, we've added community notice boards, a fire extinguisher, an emergency stretcher, and a two-wheeled wheelbarrow donated by Transport Canada for moving goods and small freight. There's no fresh water or electrical service available at the wharf, and volunteers maintain a small garbage receptacle.
Less than half the moorage space is taken up by small private boats, which use the facility year round. During the summer the floats are often full, and rafting, when necessary, is approved by Transport Canada.
We keep the loading zone clear for water taxis that drop off and pick up passengers constantly during the day. Currently, there are no commercial fishing boats tying up at the wharf.
While we have never had a resident wharfinger, the community does its best to ensure the wharf facility is safe and well maintained.
I represent Keltic Seafoods. Keltic Seafoods is right alongside the new floats that were just put in by the District of Port Hardy.
We have real concerns that we're not going to be able to get our boats in to offload. The two docks are too close together. We're now faced with moving our docks over about seven metres to the north, which is going to mean we're going to have to pull pilings, move electrical and water services, etc. If the boats can't get in to offload, there's a tremendous potential loss of income for Keltic Seafoods, approaching a million dollars a year. I guess our question is if there is any assistance from Fisheries and Oceans Canada to move our floats over.
I'll be brief. It's fairly redundant to go through what everybody has seen this morning.
I just want to state, though, that as far as the users of our docks, we have everything from commercial fishing vessels to commercial boats--that being tugs, charters, work boats, barges, and the like. We also have pleasure vessels in our docks year round. Of course that number increases starting about now and going to about mid- to late September. They can range anywhere from 10-foot dinghies to 120-foot dinghies. Also, the coast guard utilizes two of our docks. They have a lease contract with the District of Port Hardy for the third dock, which you didn't see this morning. That is the Seagate or the government dock. There are different names for it. The coast guard has a lease agreement there, a building, and they also have leased space.
We were at the fishermen's wharf this morning. The coast guard also has leased space down there, as does the RCMP and B.C. Parks. The navy was in on a number of occasions last year. They have been in there with their frigates tying up out there. It's a year-round facility. We don't have the winters you have back east with the heavy ice and everything.
I can't think of anything else offhand that would assist you right now, other than that you saw the same floats this morning. Some of you didn't ride in the truck going down. The ones who did, though, had a good walk around. You can see the facility that's being built, which is right next door to Keltic Seafood, Jack Masterman's facility there.
That's about all I'm going to say right now on that.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
On behalf of our town, I wish to thank the committee for including Port McNeill on your itinerary to northern Vancouver Island. With your membership from all sections of our country, you have a great opportunity to observe how difficult the challenges of governing the different regions are. Being so far from Ottawa, it makes it difficult for us to get our concerns heard, regardless of the hard work of our members of Parliament over the years. That is why I greatly appreciate your hands-on visit.
You have seen our harbour and the crowded nature of each section. The commercial section is close to capacity at the moment, and the fishing season has not yet begun. The recreational and tourism section is well used and will be stretched to capacity over the next few months.
Our harbour is attractive to each type of boat owner, owing to the proximity of our town centre to the harbour, unlimited supplies of the best fresh well water on the coast, and first-class welcoming management by our harbour staff. That's what makes this so important. We see our harbour as an important economic driver as we service local and visiting craft, and work with the people who rely on marine access to their communities and Broughton Archipelago and the adjacent mainland of British Columbia.
With the challenges facing our forest industry, it is necessary for us to avail ourselves of every opportunity to diversify our economy, work with the fishing and aquaculture industries, and position our community to benefit from oil and gas exploration, which I hope will see the development of that industry in our area in the near future.
I have reviewed your list of possible questions, which are listed in your travel schedule, and note the question on relationships with DFO. We have an excellent relationship with the small craft harbours branch, as we realize the necessity of a mutual, practical, cooperative approach to management. Our town council was instrumental in the founding of the harbour authority association some years ago, and has been an active participant ever since. We have found there is a sincere desire to work with us in our ongoing day-to-day operations and in developing our long-term plans. We have never felt the need for a referee or an ombudsman to help in our negotiations with small craft harbours directorate.
Our experience with other levels of DFO has not been as positive and may only be cured by some changes in their approach to working with local government. We have two current examples. In one, we have been refused permission to clear the weeds and undergrowth from a ditch on our main street, which is a danger to traffic and pedestrians.
In the second example, the company that operates the only fuel dock on our waterfront has been refused permission to dredge their dock water lot so they can lessen the distance to their service area. They have had to build and maintain an unnecessarily long floating walkway and piping system to get to deep water. The town supports the project wholeheartedly, but the request for dredging has been turned down. Yet permission has been granted in nearby Campbell River to dredge and construct a huge shopping centre off the waterfront there.
When the locally elected government is supportive of any project like this, I believe there is a need for other levels of government to respect the input of the local government, in this case the town. And the bureaucrat who is representing the higher level of government should have to listen and justify before an ombudsman the decisions that are limiting such a project.
I believe a second look should be taken and that an ombudsman should be available in situations like this. It would not need to be invoked very often, so it could be a respected local or regional citizen with common sense, someone like the mayor of Port Hardy as an example, or any one of the managers you see around the table.
I present this respectfully and with appreciation for your presence. Thank you very much. And I'm trusting that there was Irish interpretation for my remarks.
Thank you, Mayor Furney, and I understood you quite clearly.
Before we move any further, I would like to recognize the presence in our audience of Robin Richardson, from small craft harbours directorate, DFO, who has been travelling with us over the past couple of days and I'm sure is familiar to many of you here at the table. I thank Robin for being here again today.
We'll begin our questions with Mr. MacAulay, I believe.
That is very definitely so.
But the whole concept of cooperating with local government is so important that it needs to be emphasized, with the committee and hopefully by the committee, that there is a need for a situation in which you end up with an immovable object and an irresistible force, which quite often happens when you're dealing with bureaucrats. It doesn't happen with elected people, because we find out very quickly that's not a way to get re-elected. Bureaucrats don't have to worry about getting re-elected.
Unfortunately, personalities creep into something like this, and I'm sure it happens everywhere. It has happened to us in clearing a ditch on our main street, which virtually runs dry in the summertime and has water in it in the winter because it drains the lower part of our community. There are weeds in it that are six to eight feet high, and we've been told we can't cut them.
I respect this committee, because it's obviously loaded with commonsense people; I talked to most of you this morning. I think it's a great message to take to any senior level of government, and for that matter any junior level of government, because the same situations can happen at the lower level of government.
Unfortunately, the process for a small community that is a poor community.... We don't have any industrial taxation in our community, as an example, and most of the wharves or floats that we've created in our community have been created by local taxpayers. We have about 7,500 lineal feet of moorage at the present time, and we peak at more than 200 vessels at a time in a busy period.
There's a real need for us to continue to function. The private developer who has spent money building a long walkway to get out to deep water supplies fuel there, but he can't get permission to dredge; yet they've dredged in all sorts of other places. In downtown Vancouver there has been dredging going on there for the last few years in developing a conference centre; obviously there were no refusals there. But a tiny little place like ours, which can't afford to go to court or go to higher levels, or to Ottawa making pleas to the minister, just can't afford that kind of thing. We're being penalized in the meantime by someone who is taking a very narrow approach to their responsibilities and not using very much common sense.
I like your comments, and it's true that you have to listen to the people who make things happen.
Mr. Wainwright, you indicated that you're dealing with a small population, I believe, but you mention that volunteers take care of your harbour. You have a lot of transient boats; in fact, you have international boats.
How do you handle the fees, what fee structure do you have, and do you have any trouble collecting the fees?
In the winter we caretake. We do share the revenue from moorage with the caretaker—25% goes to the caretaker. What we do is that we just collect the numbers off the boats, and small craft harbours directorate cooperates with us and gives us lists of owners of the boats. We just mail the invoices to the owners of the boats. So there is nobody going down on the wharf and putting their hand out and collecting fees in the off season. It's either the honour system, with them coming to see somebody in the community, or....
In the summer we do hire, but we have difficulty hiring people because of the limited number of people available for that type of work. So we rely on the businesses out there to assist, and one of the businesses in the harbour assists with collecting moorage through its employees or the owner.
That's how we run the harbour. We're so few in number that the people who we use for those also sit on the harbour authority and help us run the harbour.
Our fee structure is 15¢ a foot for commercial vessels per day. I don't have the fee schedule for the recreational fishers. In the high season in the summer, we charge more for the recreational fishers.
We don't catch everybody when they come to our wharf. If somebody pulls in for half a day or a day in the winter, very often we don't chase them. Our facility is definitely open. And because we're on the west coast of the island, where there's not a lot of protection from the elements, we do see barges and all manner of vessels coming into the harbour. We see the trawler fleet, which offloads at Port Hardy and then comes to our wharf to mend its nets. So all kinds of incidental traffic hits our wharf.
You don't have much problem with the odd one that you lose, and you don't have a problem collecting your fees.
What we've been told by some of the other groups that we met is that they have difficulty with people who come in and use their power, and whatever, and then just tell them, more or less, take a hike.
So you don't have that kind of a problem. That's a good thing.
Ms. Williams, it was a very nice visit that we had in your area this morning. Your father took me around on a tour and it was very interesting.
You tell me that the harbour authority started in 1989 and that you were with them then. It's a pretty important piece of infrastructure, when you have no way to drive to a hospital or anywhere else. Would you like to expand a bit on that and how small craft harbours work? How do you collect your fees?
We've heard a lot, too, about abandoned vessels. Do you have this type of a problem? I could see when I was there that you have lots of traffic, so it would be very harmful if you had people just abandoning their vessels there. So I'd just like you to expand on that.
Firstly, I think we were a harbour authority before 1989. It was 1988, or from 1985 to 1988. I know we talked about that earlier today, but I don't know the exact date; it was in the mid-eighties. We were a harbour authority when I started in 1989; it was already well formed then. We were one of the first ones—or maybe the second one, as I guess Port Hardy was the first.
Regarding the fees, we do all the invoicing, billing, and accounting right in the harbour office. I don't believe you had an opportunity to come in there today.
As you know, Sointula isn't incorporated. We have no town office or council, which makes us different from all of the other harbours in the area. So we have no problems collecting our fees. Being in a small community, with most of the people living there, they will see you in the store and say, “Oh, I forgot to pay my bill”. So there's that kind of accountability all the time, and we've absolutely had very few problems with that.
And the same goes for the derelict vessels. The odd one has been plopped into town, but it has never been a commercial fishing vessel. People who have abandoned their vessel usually deal with it themselves, one way or another. It's never been left as our problem. There was one recently that I thought was going to be our first one that we would have to know what to do with, but it just disappeared.
The future is interesting when you speak of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. I would love to know the future. I think the fishermen who are trying to make a plan for this year's season would like to have even that much of a future in two or three months. We're going to the thirteenth fishing season now since the Mifflin plan, and every year there is the same uncertainty around whether we are going to get to fish and how long we are going to fish. This year this quota vote has happened, and a lot of the guys and gals are feeling right now that they may not get much opportunity to fish this year. It's looking like that.
What's going to happen to our fishing fleet in the future? I would like to ask that question to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. They have never been honest and transparent, and that's what I would love to see. If there is a plan for our harbours and what's going to happen, please have some honesty, transparency, and openness to the people. It has not happened in the past.
I'm not worried that the boats are going to be abandoned or left in our harbours. I know people will take care of them. Right now probably a good dozen of our pleasure boats are former fish boats that the older retired fishermen have kept up and maintained, and they are used for pleasure purposes.
My next question is for everyone, and you may all respond.
In visiting your facilities, I noted that they are extremely busy at this time of year. I imagine that, with tourism, they will be even busier over the next few weeks or months.
How do you deal with this problem? Are you able to say that your infrastructure is adequate given the number of users? In Quebec, we have similar facilities. At first glance, it gives the impression of everyone being packed in like sardines, if I may say so.
Thank you for the question. It's a subject that's near and dear to my heart. Having helped administer a municipality for the last 40 years, I know a little bit whereof I speak.
It is very important to work well with other levels of government, which we do as a municipality. We work as active representatives or participants with our regional district, which is like a county council. We work well with the provincial government, the various departments we have to work with that have an ability to function well on our behalf, such as highways, as an example.
The Department of Highways has been very cooperative with us. There were no roads whatsoever when I first landed in Port McNeill. There were a couple of roads into the bush for logging, and that was the extent of it. There was no road to Port Hardy or Port Alice, and no road south to Beaver Cove or to Campbell River. The highway virtually stopped at Campbell River.
I've been involved at one level or another with ongoing developments as the need has arisen. We had chambers of commerce before we had municipalities. The chambers of commerce worked almost as municipal councils in getting a message across to the other levels of government.
About the only problem I've ever seen, because we've always maintained a really good relationship with each level of government, was that once in a while we'd run up against someone who had his jockey shorts in a knot and couldn't overcome the problems he had, and that could be reflected back into the relationship with us.
If there were a system of an appeal process there, which there is in many other levels of government, and advisedly so, it could make it much easier for little people in little communities to get their concerns across in a serious way and at a respected level.
I happen to be a very large believer in referees. You couldn't run a hockey game without a referee, and you really can't play the game of government without referees. The most logical conclusion I come to, then, is that we should have a referee.
A referee is essentially an individual with common sense who knows a little bit about each thing, can see through the BS that he's going to get, and gets down to practical brass tacks of making sure that everyone lives up to their obligations.
The two little examples I mentioned are honest-to-God examples. I didn't want to bother your committee this morning by showing you the ditch covered in weeds, bushes, garbage, and all the other things that get blown into a ditch on a city street, but that's the kind of thing I'm referring to.
The person who is ready to spend a lot of money on dredging and building a really good facility to handle the commercial and the recreational fishery--with services, water, electricity, moorage, and other services, such as fuel, for example--is up against a stone wall right now. And this is a classic example of where a referee is needed.
Mr. Masterman, you had indicated a concern about the new harbour construction going on in Port Hardy. I was quite impressed by the style of that construction and what it could mean. I was unaware that it was interfering with your private business.
Did you have any conversations with small craft harbours directorate or the port authority prior to the installation of those wharves, which may or may not affect your business?
Could I answer that from a field perspective? I also sit on the regional district board as the area director for area B within the regional district, which encompasses from north of Port Hardy to Brooks Peninsula, which is south of Winter Harbour. Winter Harbour is kind of in the southwest corner of my area of representation.
My wish at this point in time would be for mooring buoys to be maintained within my area. And I see the issue of mooring buoys came up six or eight years ago. There was a reluctance on behalf of the small craft harbours program and Fisheries and Oceans Canada to see them reinstalled. They wear out. They're for marine safety. One set of buoys is within a provincial park area and the other two sets of mooring buoys are south of my community—they're for emergency purposes.
You also spoke of what happens in the summer when we get more traffic. Our commercial fishers very often stay on mooring buoys when the recreational fishers are around. The commercial traffic stays closer to the fishing grounds when the weather is better.
Our harbour authority feels we're well treated by the small craft harbours program and by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, but if you could pay some attention to the mooring buoys, I think it would help our area, and for the fishers who come to my area from all over, it would certainly help from a safety perspective.
I know it's difficult to fund everything, and the last time they replaced them they said it would be difficult to find funds to replace them again. They're starting to look a little shabby, so I hope there is some initiative, some funds that can be put towards those mooring buoys.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'll probably be splitting my time with Mr. Calkins as well.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for coming. We appreciated the opportunity to see your facilities and to get a good idea of what you're doing here. I was certainly impressed with what we saw.
As we've crossed the country—certainly on both coasts, and we're heading to do some work in central Canada as well—I'm trying to get a sense of what the various governance models are. Now we're sort of into the harbour authority era, and largely we've heard it seems to be working well. There are some challenges, certainly, some of which we've heard here.
I might have missed it, but I think in your case, Lorraine, the Lions Club must be the lease holder, I suppose, of the water lot. I'm just wondering how that came to be, how it works, how the club itself plays a role in the management of the harbour, and so on.
Secondly, and this can be to others of you, when we had the Pacific region representatives in Ottawa talking to us about some of their issues with respect to small craft harbours—and that's what we're really trying to focus on in this trip and in this study—they made the point that the Pacific region harbour authorities have developed an ability to generate revenue outside berthage, moorage fees, and so on. I wonder whether you have any examples of that.
In fact, they were making the case that perhaps 50% of all the additional revenue generated by harbour authorities was generated here in British Columbia., and obviously we don't have 50% of the harbour authorities across the country. In fact, it's a considerably smaller percentage.
I have two questions on that. Are there are any other activities that you do to generate revenue for the harbour, in addition to fees?
With respect to fees, what is your process in deciding what to charge? What process do you go through to come up with the number? I'd appreciate knowing that.
Perhaps, Lorraine, you could start.
Our authority and our community are so small that our harbour authority actually runs the waste disposal for the community. We do that in conjunction with the small craft harbour so that we can both survive by doing it. In other words, in the summer we have an influx of a tremendous amount of garbage. We provide a garbage trailer, and we charge for the service.
Our goal as a harbour authority, with the few people we have, is to break even at the end of the year. We have some funds from when fishing was big on the west coast and there were lots of fishers. We still have some funds in our bank account from times when we leased substantial portions of our wharf to fish buyers. They have long gone, so now we rely upon the daily rates, in conjunction with some rates we charge the community to bring their debris to our garbage trailer. We haul it away.
As I said, we're so small—a lot of it's volunteer—but our goal is to break even. I don't know whether the inference was that we collect money and make lots of money from our harbours, so that we could maybe sustain them. That's not the case.
I realize some of you may have some more questions, but we have to be out of here at 4:30. To do a fair round for everybody, time doesn't allow. If there are any questions that you want to ask after we clue up, if you want to talk to any of the witnesses, feel free to do so.
I'm sorry, but if we allow one group to have a couple of minutes then we have to allow everybody to have a couple of minutes, and time is not going to allow us to do that. I'm sorry about that.
Here's the hammer. I'm sorry.
I want to thank our witnesses for their presentations here today. It's been a great exercise indeed. And thank you also for our tour this morning. It certainly gives a different perspective to what we're trying to accomplish in our study, and I'm sure some of the things that have been brought forward here today will be incorporated into that study.
Over the summer months our study will be prepared by our analyst for us to review in the fall, to present to the House of Commons in the fall. So if there's anything that comes up or something that you may remember that you didn't bring forward today or didn't hear here today that you think will be of importance to our study, please feel free to forward it to our analyst or our clerk, and we will make sure it's considered and incorporated into our study.
Once again, I want to thank you for a great visit to this part of Canada. It's been very worth while. Thank you for your presentations here today, and have a safe trip home, everybody.
The meeting is adjourned.