My name is Jackey Richard, and I'm the acting regional director of the small craft harbours program for both the Maritimes and the gulf regions. My jurisdiction covers all three maritime provinces. I'll just take a few minutes to basically give you a snapshot of the program within the region, starting with our asset base.
Historically, we managed 557 harbours across the entire region. Through a strong divestiture push in the mid-nineties we reduced that inventory to today's harbour base of 322 harbours. Of these, we consider 284 to be core. One hundred percent of these harbours are managed by harbour authorities. I think you might have received a handout that shows you visually the distribution of harbours.
As far as our harbour authority base is concerned, we have 242 harbour authorities that oversee the day-to-day operations and management of our facilities. We rely on the work of over 2,000 volunteer board members who support our programs. We have many harbour authorities that have been around for some time. Some date back 20 years, but the bulk of the harbour authority groups have been in operation for about 10 years.
As far as the industry the Maritimes and gulf represents, as we all know, harbours are an important link between the land and the sea and are the heart of many coastal communities. In the Maritimes and gulf regions, many of our harbours are diversified and support an expanded client base. Regional harbours provide access and basic services for the commercial fishery. They integrate increased participation of aboriginal communities and are making a place for aquaculture business that relies on our facilities.
The small craft harbours Maritimes and gulf infrastructure supports a significant commercial fishery, with landings valued at more than $1 billion. Aquaculture has also evolved, recording a value of about $300 million in landings.
Touching on our resources, money, and workforce, our average funding per annum is about $38 million for the entire region. During any fiscal year, we manage, on average, about 80 major projects.
From an organizational standpoint, considering that we cover all three maritime provinces, we are decentralized. Our organizational culture promotes working with the people, being resourceful, and ensuring the best value, in money and results, overall in delivering our program.
You've heard from previous small craft harbour witnesses that we face significant pressures. We face the same pressures already identified, which I'll recap. We are dealing with significant infrastructure safety and capacity issues, life-cycle management issues, funding shortfalls, and harbour authority vulnerabilities. Also, we still have some harbour authorities that we consider to be non-core and that we therefore need to divest.
In addition, we have program delivery challenges. We are dealing with increased complexities in getting our work done, increased project costs, and international competition for human material resources to deliver on our programs. Something that is not unique to small craft harbours is that we have a rapid workforce transition occurring within the small craft harbours program, not just regionally but nationally.
This ends my overview, and I'll turn it over to my counterpart, James.
Good afternoon, gentlemen.
B.C. has 27,000 kilometres of coastline. As the little handout demonstrates, we have a total of 157 scheduled sites, of which 78 of those are harbours, core harbours. We have 54 harbour authorities who manage those 78 core sites. Jackey alluded to our volunteer workforce of between 550 and 600 people, which includes our harbour directors and those volunteers from the community who assist in harbour operations. All but two of our harbours have paid staff to support their initiatives.
The fishing industry in British Columbia has approximately 3,000 commercial fishing vessels, and in 2005, the landed value of B.C. commercial fishing was in the neighbourhood of $365 million. The aquaculture industry generates another $340 million, so the commercial fishing industry and aquaculture are over $700 million annually.
We have a solid partnership with harbour authorities. Our major concerns are enhancing their viability skills so they can raise enough revenues to keep themselves going, to keep themselves independent.
A second issue is that we find a growing pressure on our waterfront. A lot of people want to move to British Columbia. The communities that support the harbours want to look at waterfront land as a better tax base, so they're looking at different kinds of opportunities on the waterfront. And one of the big pushes, from our perspective, is to get our harbour authorities more involved in community integrated planning to generate better strategic planning over time, so they don't get overrun by interests selling land and building condos right next door to a bustling harbour.
We also have first nations issues unique to British Columbia. We're involved with the B.C. treaty process in Indian Affairs to have them consider the 15 harbours that front first nations communities. These communities are not just commercial fishing harbours, they are often the ingress and egress of the community. There are no roads, so the only way in and out is by the harbour. So they particularly want treaties to understand that we don't want to be the last federal department standing by first nations when Indian Affairs settles a treaty with them. We think the harbour is an economic opportunity for first nations, so it should be part of the treaty process.
Jackey alluded to many problems. We'd like to have our people get more involved in how the community is changing around them, so we need design capability, engineering support, that kind of thing.
Climate change is having an impact on our harbours, so we need funding to take a look at how to better design or facilitate the changes of our commercial fishing fleet as they move from fishing for salmon to other species such as tuna, mackerel, sardines, and those types of fisheries that require larger boats.
It's a changing dynamic in British Columbia. We have solid partnerships with our HAs and see our business making them more viable and integrating them better with community aspirations.
Thank you, Mr. Chairperson. Thank you to the committee for the invitation and the chance to be here.
I am Geraldine Nickerson and I'm the manager of the harbour authority of Woods Harbour in southwestern Nova Scotia.
The harbour authority was incorporated in October 1995 but didn't commence business operations until January 1996. Our mandate is to provide safe berthage for all vessels within harbour authority waters and to provide a safe service area to all harbour users in the administration of their business while in our harbour.
We have three wharves, and we're rather unique in that we have one wharf of each classification. Our Falls Point wharf is a class A wharf—of course, our largest one—and this facility provides berthage to 82 commercial and recreational vessels. The Lower Woods Harbour wharf is our class B wharf, and it provides berthage and services to 32 commercial and recreational vessels. The Forbes Point wharf is our class C wharf, and it provides service and berthage to 11 commercial and recreational vessels.
We have a very lucrative fishery in our area. All three of our harbours are very busy. We're year-round, we're ice-free, and we are located strategically to the prominent fisheries: lobster, groundfish, herring, tuna, swordfish, and we also have an aquaculture venture going on.
Now, on the day-to-day management, I assume that.... In fact, I have to tell you I don't know why I'm here. Nobody gave me a “this is what we want to hear”, so I decided for myself.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Ms. Gerry Nickerson: You know what? I have that luxury.
In terms of my day-to-day management, as I said, I am the manager of the harbour authority. I was elected by the fishermen. We had 182 eligible voters and I got 168 of the votes. We had a 100% turnout, and I'm happy to say that we did it, because I know it doesn't happen often.
I have a 20-hour-a-week contract, or my contract states that I will work 20 hours a week. I usually work between 40 and 60 hours. I maintain an office on the site at our class A wharf. I take directions from a 15-member board...sometimes I take directions from a 15-member board.
Speaking of our board, I heard someone mention boards and burnout. We renew our board. As I said, we have three wharves; we have a 15-member board, and each wharf has equal representation. We make it like a “you have to serve this year” type of thing, so we change folks around, and it seems to work quite well for us.
I manage the facilities at all three of the wharves. I collect the fees. I assign berthages or work with my board on berthing plans, storage, and landings. I develop, or help to develop with our board, policies, regulations, fee schedules, and we look at rules and regulations that would help to ensure the safe usage of our facility.
I inspect our facility and report any required repairs. I try very hard to ensure compliance—and I'll get to more about that later.
I do just about everything. I manage repair and maintenance contracts. We have now started, just in the last couple of years, providing technological access/computer access to our fishermen in our office, so we're working hard on that. We also try to act as liaison between our fishermen and fisheries-related resources and all three levels of government.
That's a basic outline of what I do.
On the financial responsibilities of our harbour authority, I don't know how familiar everyone is with exactly what we pay. The harbour authority is responsible for the financial end of our operation. We have seven electric light bills. We take care of those. A big thing that's happened lately with our financial responsibility and our electric light bills or our electricity is that now Nova Scotia Power doesn't come on our wharves to repair any of their street lights and whatever, so we have to pay that. We pay for jimmy lifts, for our own electrician to come and do the work, and in the last year that particular area has really skyrocketed in the amount we pay.
On oil disposal, with all of my vessels, there are usually two to three times a year that we do a really major...when everybody's changing their oil and everybody's cleaning up. We consider it very important to do this within environmental parameters, so we have oil disposal buildings. Our oily containers and rags, things like that, are in one spot; our used oil is in another. It's very costly to have this properly disposed of, although within the last two years we were able to identify a source to which we could sell our used oil. So instead of our having to pay to have it removed, we are having it removed and generating a small amount of income.
On garbage disposal, you may not think garbage disposal on three wharves of the size we have is much, but it is a lot. In fact, it probably is costing us about $1,300 a month for garbage disposal.
Snow and ice removal is another factor.
Legal fees have come up just recently. We now have a lawyer who is retained by the harbour authority. There have been several incidents in the last two years for which we've had to use her services, and unfortunately, the number of times we need to use our lawyer is increasing.
Then there is a contribution to funded projects. We do that, of course. As you all probably know, we have a 20-80 split with the small crafts and harbours program on most of our small maintenance projects, our minor works projects, and we also cost share with the provincial government.
One thing that is a financial responsibility of ours is payment for projects while we're waiting for funding. That uses up a huge amount of what little money we have.
Next is revenue generation. I had this down, and I was sitting over there listening and I heard it come up over and over again, and I said, wow, it's good that I included it in what I had to say today, because apparently you're all interested in it.
How do we generate revenue? We're very lucky, in a way, at the harbour authority in Woods Harbour because we have a very lucrative fishery, a large number of boats, and the three different wharves. It's not as if we have one little wharf and six vessels. We generate our revenue through user fees, and that includes berthage fees. That's what each vessel pays, of course, to dock at the wharf. We have licence fees, which include unloading licences, truck access licences, lobster cars. That's about it for the licences. Oh, I also have reefer licences this year, and we have subleases.
We have in the past couple of years endeavoured to increase our revenue generation. When I came on board, it was about three years ago. I don't think anyone had really looked at generating revenue before. But I look at the harbour authority as a business and that perhaps we should be running it as a business to the best of our ability. So I started pushing for increasing revenue. In the last years, we've increased the number of private hoists on the wharves by two and we have also started licensing reefers on the facility--we're unable to increase our subleases--and we will be able to do more as time goes on.
The revenue we generate by user fees is adequate to cover our operational expenses and our minor repairs. We are, however, still entirely dependent on the government for major repair and expansion.
I should say, before stopping there—and this is just my opinion and something we talk a lot about on the board—as far as major repairs and expansions and being dependent on the government is concerned, we don't feel that we should be constantly going to the government with our hand out. It isn't the right way to do business. If we're going to be looking at operating as a business, then we should be taking some responsibility for generating our own revenue.
If I come to you with my hand out and it's empty, you're going to look at me and say too bad for you; you want me to fill it. But if I come to you with two hands and I have something in this one, saying, I can contribute this, but what I need is some help from you in this hand, then I think we're able to do business a little better.
That said, when I talked to Stephen, I asked him what I should talk about. He said to talk about what I do, and about some challenges and problems. So here we are at the problems.
Our number one problem at my harbour authority is overcrowding, lack of space, and I want to talk about that at length.
Our solution to our overcrowding is very self-explanatory. We need a larger facility.
Our wharves are all basically crib structures. When they were built they were built to accommodate a vessel that was 36 feet in length and 10 to 12 feet in width. I don't know if any of you can picture this, but we berth our boats abreast of each other, so when the wharf was built, we had two fingers coming out—the main wharf and the fingers. I brought you some pictures, but we'll pass them around later. We would be able to put perhaps four or five vessels on this finger and four or five vessels on another finger, and that still allowed safe navigation in and out of the berth.
The boats did increase to where they could be less than 40 feet. Generally, they were less than 40 feet in length and maybe 17 feet in width. That was considered a good-sized vessel. It stayed that way for a long time, until perhaps four or five years ago. Then all of a sudden we started seeing vessels come in that were 50 feet in length and starting at 24 feet in width. And they are getting wider. I haven't seen it myself, but I hear there's one coming off the slip that's about 25 or 26 feet wide. They're going to be square pretty soon.
If you just think about it and do the math, now we have a 24-foot vessel that we have to berth and put beside another 24-foot vessel, so that is 48 feet. Those two boats are taking up basically three to four berths that would have been used with smaller vessels. So our numbers are coming down, but we're becoming overcrowded because of the size of the boats.
Stop and think, too, of those two fingers. I have two vessels over here that are 24 feet wide, and I need some water in there for them to move around. Then over there I have to put a small boat and a big boat, so maybe I'll go with a 17 foot and a 24 foot. It's not only tying them up; it's navigating in and out. It takes about 60 feet to turn a boat that's 50 feet long and 25 feet wide, and when you're trying to do it in 20 feet, it just doesn't work. It depends a lot on the captain too, and whatever. It all looks easy in perfect conditions, but if you get a little weather going and you try to get those boats in and out, it is just not working.
In 1968 the average vessel cost about $5,500. That was about 36 feet by 12 feet. Now we're looking at upwards of $200,000 per vessel—and that's your livelihood. You're trying to put that into a facility where it's getting banged to pieces every time you do it. You're losing equipment. You're losing the sides of your boat, your ribbing, your windows, everything else. The wharves were not built to accommodate the newer vessels.
That's an issue for us.
How do we solve it? We need more room. When we look at designing or building a new facility, we have to look at the reality of what the men who bring those boats in and out are going to be dealing with. We looked at some plans that came down to Woods Harbour for a proposed expansion to the Falls Point facility. It had a basin of x number of feet. The engineers who designed it, with every good intention, were saying, okay, this is what we should do and this will work. They unrolled it, and I think they thought we were going to say yes, okay. Fortunately, we looked at it and said no, that won't work. We have to be very careful when we build or expand, in whatever we do from now on, that it's going to be built to accommodate the vessels that are in place now.
I'm sorry I got a little bit carried away.
Did I answer your question on that one?
On obstacles in generating revenue, again, it's the size of your facility and what you have in place. Now, I have 315 registered fishers. If I had a larger facility or if we were more up to par, we could definitely take more. With the divestiture happening, we need to be planning, as you said, where we are going to put those other vessels. And those newer vessels, additional vessels, are going to generate more revenue.
I have three subleases, and there are processors and whatever. I can't see where we would ever get more subleases, but we have those subleases and our processors have unloading licences. Is everyone familiar with what an unloading licence is? It's a permit for my buyers and my processors to come on the wharf.
As I said, we put two new hoists on this year to accommodate two more unloading licences and two more of our processors. What this does is not only generate revenue for our harbour authority, but it contributes to the economic stability of our community, it supports small business, and it simply is a win-win situation.
We don't have the room to do that anymore. It's not that I look at a chart and say we can't do that. We go down on the wharf and we walk it through. We have to think of how we can turn a truck, where can we safely put a hoist and unload, how can we swing a boom so it's not going to hit the boat, that type of thing. We don't have the capacity or the physical room to do that anymore. So that is an obstacle to increasing our revenue.
We have two—I guess we could call it an aquaculture operation. I have rockweed harvesters on site. Last year I had six, with their outboards. This year I had 11, and next year I'm hoping for upwards of 15 to 20. I need to have the space to accommodate them. What we did last year, which was really super, was to get some floating docks from the province and we used them. The men built them themselves, which was a great help. Then we put them parallel to the wharf. They're for our outboards. The men built a stairway going down to them, and they're lit. It's fantastic. When they're done with the rockweeding, we haul them down to Forbes Point and use them for our small lobster boats. So that's great. I'm hoping to get more of those. We'll increase our revenue.