Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here today.
With me are members of the DFO senior management team, which includes: Matthew King, deputy minister; Jody Thomas, Canadian Coast Guard commissioner; Kevin Stringer, senior assistant deputy minister of ecosystems and fisheries management; Tom Rosser, senior assistant deputy minister of strategic policy; and Trevor Swerdfager, assistant deputy minister of ecosystems and oceans, science sector. Our chief financial officer, Marty Muldoon, is with us again.
I want to begin by reiterating the point I've made at past committee appearances that our government has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to protecting mariners, managing Canada's fisheries, and safeguarding our waters.
Today I'll provide members with a brief overview of DFO's 2015-16 main estimates before speaking to the recently tabled budget and what it means for my department.
I'm also here to speak to Bill . Illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing is a scourge that threatens our oceans and takes money away from fishermen. I hope that the committee will see fit to pass this important bill.
In regard to the main estimates, my department's request for this fiscal year amounts to $1.9 billion. This figure represents a net increase of $283.9 million over last year. This increase is mainly due to funding for the renewal of the Canadian Coast Guard fleet, including both vessels and helicopters, funding to renew the Atlantic and Pacific integrated commercial fisheries initiatives, and additional investments in small craft harbours across the country.
As you are aware, budget 2015 was recently tabled. We committed to getting real results for Canadians and these investments will protect our environment, ensure the sustainability of our fisheries, and support our government's priorities of creating jobs and promoting economic growth.
Under economic action plan 2015, I'm pleased to report that both the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard will be delivering a number of important investments to Canadians.
These include $5.7 million over five years to help secure new market access for Canadian seal products, and $30.8 million over five years to enhance marine transportation safety in the Arctic and further strengthen incident prevention preparedness and response south of 60°. Over the next five years, $34 million will be used to continue to support year-round meteorological and navigational warning services that will support northern communities and safe marine navigation in the Arctic.
Budget 2015 also includes $75 million over three years to continue to support the implementation of the Species At Risk Act to protect Canada's diverse species and secure the necessary actions for their recovery. In addition, $2 million is earmarked for the Pacific Salmon Foundation to support the Salish Sea marine survival project.
I'm also pleased to report than an additional $10 million annually, over the next three years, will be used to extend the recreational fisheries conservation partnership program, which will help support an already robust and successful initiative.
More good news for Canadian fishermen comes from increasing the lifetime capital gains exemption to $1 million for owners of a fishing business, which will allow owners to maintain more of their capital upon disposition of their fishing property. This will make a real difference for our hard-working fishermen by allowing them to keep more of their hard-earned money.
Finally, recognizing the important role of small businesses in Canada as job creators, the government is further encouraging small business growth by reducing the small business tax rate to 9% by 2019.
As you can see, these investments continue to demonstrate our government's ongoing commitment to marine safety, to supporting responsible resource development, to protecting Canada's marine environment, and creating jobs and economic growth.
We're committed to ensuring that our fishermen are able to get delicious Canadian seafood on plates around the world. We have embarked on the most ambitious trade agenda in Canadian history and those in the seafood industry stand to benefit greatly. For example, Canada embarked on a historic trade agreement with the European Union. This was not only a game changer for Canadian businesses but a watershed moment for our fish and seafood industry in particular.
Canada is the world's seventh-largest exporter of fish and seafood products. The European Union is the world's largest importer and the demand from this market will only continue to grow. By opening up new markets in the EU and improving access for fish and seafood, CETA, as well as our trade agreement with South Korea, will result in job creation, higher wages, and greater long-term prosperity for our fishing industry.
As the government we're continuing to look to the future on how we can unlock even more international markets for Canadian businesses. Of course, unprecedented access to global markets is a moot point if we're not making significant and strategic investments here at home. As you know, this past November, announced significant federal funding for DFO and coast guard infrastructure projects. Over the next two years, we will invest an additional $288 million in a vast network of more than 1,000 small craft harbours across the country.
With respect to the Canadian Coast Guard, over the next two years an additional $183 million will be authorized for repair, life extension, and procurement of vessels and small craft. This funding is in addition to our unprecedented investment in the coast guard's fleet renewal program. The coast guard vessels and small craft benefiting from these new funds will support activities linked to search and rescue, gathering scientific data, responding to maritime incidents, and assisting conservation and protection officers.
In addition to this work, Fisheries and Oceans is also responsible for the stewardship of a number of laboratories and other federally owned assets. Over the next two years we will allocate an additional $80 million in 195 projects to upgrade science facilities, Atlantic salmon fishways, lighthouses, search and rescue stations, and federally owned buildings across the country. These infrastructure investments will help support the continued delivery of quality services and support the science and research that represents the foundation of our work.
In Canada we take pride in knowing that our fisheries and aquaculture operations are sustainably managed. This is the case for all species, but I'd like to note in particular our commitment to the conservation and protection of wild salmon. Our scientists are actively monitoring salmon populations in key indexed rivers to better inform our management decisions. We've also implemented more stringent measures for recreational salmon fishing in some locations in support with this rigorous enforcement effort. On the west coast we're seeing the benefits of this work with improved returns of some important salmon stocks. With Atlantic salmon on the east coast however there are still concerns, particularly in the southern region.
I'm personally committed to this issue, which is why last December I announced the establishment of a new ministerial advisory committee on Atlantic salmon. The committee is made up of key stakeholders, who will provide me with recommendations on the future direction of conservation. Last month I attended the committee's inaugural meeting in Halifax, along with experts from across the Maritimes and Quebec. Together they will examine conservation and enforcement measures, as well as predation issues. They will also develop a strategy that addresses international fishing in areas for advancing science. I'm pleased to report that this work is already coming to fruition. After just two meetings I asked the advisory committee to submit a set of interim recommendations that could be acted upon immediately. Based on these recommendations, I recently announced new conservation measures for Atlantic salmon recreational angling throughout the gulf region. All of these management measures were supported by key stakeholders and further demonstrate how we are listening to the concerns of local fishing and conservation groups.
Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing is another area where we're taking decisive action. Canada, of course, has been a leader in global efforts to deter this type of fishing. We know that strong governance of the high seas through regional management fisheries organizations is integral to reducing illegal fishing and protecting the interests of legitimate fishing. Bill , which is before you for consideration, proposes some amendments to the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act in order to fully implement the international port state measures agreement. As you're aware, this bill proposes amendments that, if accepted, will broaden enforcement authorities and strengthen prohibitions against the importation of illegally acquired fish and marine plants.
Canada already has a robust regime in place to control access of foreign fishing vessels to Canadian waters, but we know that more needs to be done on a global scale, and that's why passage of Bill is important to our government.
I urge the committee members to improve the amendments proposed in Bill . Again, the sustainability of our fisheries is a top priority for us. Together with our partners we're committed to improving the way fisheries and aquaculture are managed through science-based reforms, stakeholder and aboriginal engagement, and better access to export markets for Canadian fish and seafood. We're also committed to renewing Canadian Coast Guard assets and its services to Canadians to ensure a safe and efficient navigation and bolster our already robust response to maritime incidents. Going forward we'll continue to ensure Canada's natural resources are developed sustainably and responsibly through strong regulatory frameworks, sound science, and strategic investment.
Over the last year you've discussed and considered many important policies and issues facing our fish and seafood industry at this committee. As we look ahead, I want to thank the committee for your hard work and your assured commitment to Canadians.
I will now ask Mr. Muldoon to explain the estimates.
Thank you, Mr. Chisholm and Mr. Chair, and thank you to the minister.
I have two sets of questions and I'm going to get both sets of questions out before I ask you to answer, Ms. Minister.
I will reiterate, though, what Mr. Chisholm said about our having 10 minutes on this side to ask questions; that barely skims the surface in terms of the budget and the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act.
My first question has to do with northern shrimp and the science around the setting of this year's quota. In October 2014, at the 36th annual meeting of NAFO in Spain, it was recommended to place a moratorium on northern shrimp in the NAFO regulatory area of the Grand Banks, so everybody in my province, Newfoundland and Labrador, expected a huge cut in the quota for 2015. But what happened at the end of the day, as you know, Ms. Minister, is that the 2015 quota is left pretty much unchanged from 2014. What we heard in Newfoundland and Labrador was that there was new science. The reason the quota is static for 2015 is due to new science.
Can you comment on the new science and can you release that new science? What exactly is that science?
The second question has to do with northern shrimp, but with the LIFO policy, the last in, first out policy. I know that for the second year in a row a delegation was up in Newfoundland and Labrador—I believe they met with you yesterday, Ms. Minister—and the headlines back home in Newfoundland and Labrador have the minister apparently softening her stance on the LIFO policy, considering its economic impact on rural communities in Newfoundland and Labrador. Are you softening your stance?
So there are two questions there, Ms. Minister.
Thank you for the question.
As the minister noted, there has been no reduction to the coast guard environmental response budget, and there has been no reduction in our on-water response capacity in terms of response specialists.
With regard to the Simushir incident, in fact that was a very well-executed response. A freighter off Haida Gwaii, not in Canadian waters, not in the 12-mile zone, was adrift, and we kept it off the rocks. We kept it safe until an ocean-going tug—we're not tow operators—could arrive to tow it into Prince Rupert. The coast guard did exactly what it was expected to do. It arrived, assessed the situation, and saved that vessel from the rocks through some quite brilliant seamanship, in fact in very difficult weather conditions.
With regard to the Marathassa, the coast guard was on the scene within 20 minutes of a notification of sheen on the water. It worked from five o'clock on Wednesday evening Pacific Time, well into the day, 24-hours straight, to get that vessel identified, to have the master admit that it was his vessel, to skim the pollutant off the water, and then to boom the ship, and it continued that work. Today we expect the Marathassa to leave Vancouver harbour. I have been quite vocal that it was quite an extraordinary response by the Canadian Coast Guard, and I still believe that it was.
While you find your way to slide 5, where I'll begin, I'll just reiterate a point I'm going to come back to a little bit later, which is found earlier in the deck. That is, these main estimates include only those items, as the committee would well be aware, that had been approved in previous estimates processes. That fact becomes important when I get you to slide 5, and I'll just point out that while there is, as the minister pointed out, a $284-million rounded increase this year, that excludes the amounts we will bring in through supplementary estimates for the federal infrastructure funding approvals.
On slide 5, you will note the disbursements between our operating and capital expenditures, etc. This is just to give a demonstration of where that $284 million affects us. The primary driver's on our capital side, and I'm going to just highlight a few more points.
While it looks rather large, remember that this is main estimates over main estimates, so what we started with last year and what we started with this year. Where we ended last year is only $26 million short of the 2015-16 main estimates. Said again, we are starting with $1.889 billion in these main estimates, and the 2014-15 ending expenditures for the department will be in the order of $1.86 billion. It's very close. That's a lot of shifting and mostly just timing.
Let's turn to slide 6. As Minister Shea had highlighted, the main story this year for DFO's estimates is asset renewal. While this page won't add up to exactly this figure, it's awfully close. I would just point out that $249 million of the $284 million is about asset renewal for the coast guard fleet—land, air, and marine.
In the first one, approximately $114 million is for the procurement of light-lift helicopters. I'm pleased to state that the organization has taken receipt of its first helicopter. It was delivered at the very end of 2014-15, and the remainder will follow over the course of this year and next.
The next item is $44 million for the offshore fisheries science vessels. Work has been done at the Vancouver shipyard. As the committee is probably well aware from the last few different times of main and supplementary estimates appearances, there are three vessels involved in this build. At this point, these funds are necessary for preparations before construction. We've gone ahead with the purchase of long-lead items: the sophisticated navigation systems, the propulsion systems, those kinds of things that are necessary, as well as the engineering and design work.
There's $41 million for life extensions and modernizations. Just as a point of clarification, the mid-life modernizations are basically an activity we undertake after a vessel has exceeded 50% of its planned useful life, and they don't add to the life. They basically recondition the vessel to continue and meet the full expected life. By contrast, a vessel life extension, which we're using quite extensively right now while we implement our overall vessel renewal program, is an extension to the life of the vessel. If it was meant to be on the water for 25 years, we may get it to 30 years through a VLE, or a vessel life extension. So $41 million is included in these main estimates for that purpose.
Rounding out that approximately $250 million are three more items. There's $40 million for the medium-lift helicopter program. Seven helicopters will be purchased under that initiative. The first is due one year from this summer. As well, though it's not on this list because it's a little bit smaller in aggregate value, there is $6 million towards the polar class icebreaker that gets us going on some very early stages of that program, and some refit money for the CCGS Amundsen vessel.
Then you see the remaining items here. Renewal of the Pacific and Atlantic integrated commercial fisheries programs was announced last year in budget 2014. Last year we supplemented that money, but this year I'm able to book it in through the main estimates, so you see it here. Then the $22 million was also a 2014 item, and we were successful in utilizing close to half of the $40 million announced under 2014. We ramped up quickly. We got $17.8 million into the program and into the field to the harbours that needed it, so the difference, the $22.2 million, is what you see here being put through the main estimates this time around.
Of course, as we report in every main estimates, this is the final reduction for the department under the reviews, and every other department has incurred outside of targeted review. We were one of the few that went through that and we have successfully met all of those objectives.
I did take notice of a line item on page 5 to note where the funding had increased for the department.
I also wanted to point out slide 7, capital vote redefinition. It's a notable item that any department that has capital in its vote structure will be going through this year, and it is a one-time reset.
Basically what happened was that all of government was looking at how capital is codified in its systems and realized that everybody treats capital projects slightly differently when it comes to work on the borderline between maintenance work and minor capital work, so now all departments that have capital launched a major reset. No money has been taken away from the department. It's net neutral. But basically now all activities that should be in the operating vote are going to be in the operating vote, and capital activities are purely defined against the government's accounting standard.
For us, that means $88 million is basically moving between votes. It's so many different little places. I can do the bulk of it for you. If you were ever to ask me to unpack that for you, I can kind of describe it. Basically what it means is, for instance under the coast guard, where they would have been, maybe under our acceptable accounting practices, spending a great deal of money to maintain a vessel, through its capital program that money will now be on its operating side. It's still in the program. It hasn't left the department.
There is one example, and that's the last slide, number 8, regarding capital redefinition. This is the only example in our main estimates where we actually move money from one program to another in our program activity architecture, our program alignment architecture. It's very small. It's $3.8 million shifted between where it used to be spent under operational readiness or fleet readiness. We took the opportunity this time around, because we always, every year, in year, had to transfer this money over to our maintenance dredging program. This time, while we did the capital redefinition, we also aligned it with where the activity actually occurs. I just wanted to point that out for full and transparent disclosure.
I'll pass by the next number of slides. I put them in here every year with the committee to give you somewhat of a better lens, looking by program, of where the organization uses its resources.
I'll draw your attention to slide 13, the last slide. As you're well aware, we won't get the main estimates until they have been voted, through this process and others, but I would point out that interim supply is now in place. It was passed by the Senate on March 31. We're out of the gate for the first three-twelfths of the fiscal year, with all votes' operating authorities of $450 million.
Again, this is just a reminder that we will probably increase, I would say, substantially the operating authorities of the department over the course of this year for three reasons. First is the bringing in of the year-one installment of the organization's allocation of federal infrastructure money. Second, we will bring in the operating budget carry-forward amounts that we will be eligible to carry forward, and third, the capital budget carry-forward amounts, as well.
That was it, Mr. Chair, for a bit of a flavour of what the main estimates entail.
I first want to point out how deplorable it is that the official opposition only had 10 minutes to ask the minister questions when we are supposed to be dealing with the fundamental aspects of Bill , as well as the 2015-16 Main Estimates. It's a serious breach of the fundamental principles of responsible government. So we will have to focus on the remaining hour, starting with the main estimates.
An amount of $40.9 million is planned for extending the lives of Coast Guard vessels. Of that amount, $13.6 million will go to Davie Canada Yard, in Quebec. That's pretty good news, but it is not a lot considering that $33 billion is currently allocated for the construction of new vessels.
Moreover, when it comes to the construction of those new vessels, the government has experienced a variety of fairly worrisome difficulties, including delivery delays and cost escalation. In 2010, when all that started, Davie Canada Yard was in pretty bad shape, but it was restructured to such an extent that Lloyd's List North American Maritime Awards recently recognized the yard with an award for excellence.
Regarding the issues related to the building of new vessels, can we expect the $33 billion that has been allocated to ultimately be released? Can we expect future decisions to include the Davie Canada Yard in Quebec City?
Thank you for the question.
In terms of the incident itself and how it rolled out, at 4:48 p.m., Pacific Time, on April 8, the coast guard received the report of pollution in Vancouver harbour. It was described as a sheen. Port Metro Vancouver tasked a vessel to go look at that sheen, and the coast guard sent a vessel to English Bay.
Concurrently, we alerted emergency management partners, including provincial and municipal authorities. We started the process of alerting immediately, and had informed all of our partners by 9 p.m. that evening.
Initial reports from the scene indicated unrecoverable sheen, and we didn't really have a good indication of what exactly the complexity of the situation was until we had photos from overflights. It was an aircraft of opportunity that saw something looking unusual on the water. It was a flat night. The sun was setting, and it was hard to see the oil, the substance, on the water.
We went to the anchorage and looked to see what vessel it could be. There was no gushing spill. It was a slow leak from what we now know to be the Marathassa. The tide was changing, so the substance was moving quite significantly.
We contacted the master of the Marathassa. He denied it was him. We ended up boarding the vessel and inspecting, but because of the nature of the actual problem on the vessel, it was difficult to determine who was leaking. By nine o'clock, we had determined that the situation was significant and contracted with the WCMRC, which is the response organization and the responsible party for oil spills in Vancouver harbour, to come out and start addressing the incident.
The way we attacked the problem was twofold. We started by skimming, because at that point we still didn't know it was the Marathassa. Skimming the substance that was sitting on the water surface ensured that the substance didn't reach the beaches and it prevented a significant problem on the shores.
Over the evening, despite the master's refusal to accept responsibility, we boomed the vessel; 1,520 metres of boom were used. We boomed and skimmed at night. That was the first time we had ever done that. WCMRC has recently invested in new equipment to allow them to operate at night. That was a first for Vancouver harbour.
An incident command post was set up. We had an incident commander on Wednesday evening. By 10 a.m., Pacific Time, we had an incident command post with all partners established in Port Metro Vancouver. By the end of the day, on the 9th, we had a unified command, which means the coast guard was sharing the decision-making of how we were going to attack the problem with every partner who wanted to be involved. At that point it was the Ministry of the Environment, Environment Canada, Transport Canada, several first nations, the City of Vancouver, other municipalities, and multiple private sector partners, including the people who respond to dangers to wildlife, birds, mammals, and fish.
We focused our operations on the high-impact areas, based on the information we had from Environment Canada. We work as a partnership. The coast guard is the operational arm. Environment Canada and Transport Canada regulate and provide scientific information to us.
Based on information on the scene, on Thursday the 9th Transport Canada began to identify that it was in fact the Marathassa. At this point the master was still denying it was him. We sent samples of the substance to a lab to determine what the vessel had on board versus what was in the water, and to ensure it was a match. At that point we were able to identify unequivocally that it was the Marathassa.
Through the unified command, we continued to coordinate response efforts until today. At the height of the response, we had 75 personnel in the incident command post, and 100 personnel working on the water and the shorelines.
Thanks again to the witnesses.
When the minister was here, she made a comment on the seal hunt. She spoke about her “rock solid” support. I kind of snickered at that. I didn't mean that as a sign of disrespect, but considering the circumstances that we're in with the seal hunt.... Under this Conservative government, we've seen the most bans in history on Canadian seal products. That's not debatable. It's just a fact.
We've seen bans in Russia, the European Union, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Taiwan, and now we have this announcement in the budget of $5.7 million over five years to market Canadian seal products. That money comes in the context of`Carino, one of the largest buyers of seal products, which has decided not to buy any seal pelts this year. Instead, it's going to rely on its inventory. Also, the Canadian Sealers Association has closed its office.
So for the $5.7 million, while it's welcome, and while it's good news, I couldn't help but snicker when she talked about rock solid support.
I have two questions on that. Number one, where do you hope to get the markets? Where do you plan to focus that $5.7 million effort over five years? Also, will the money be spent directly by DFO or will the money be spent by the Canadian Sealers Association?
Thank you to our witnesses.
When I look over these estimates, there are always bigger numbers in them. In our review of them, I think, like Mr. Sopuck indicated, that I'm interested in results and not always the process of things. I just want to highlight a couple of points to you that I think are more congratulatory in nature. I've obviously spent some time travelling around the country and I have a couple of recent examples that I'd like to just bring to your attention.
You know that the results that you're providing and these asks that we're seeing in some of these line items are good investments. I've met with a number of consultative working groups that meet on a regular basis with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, including members of the hunting and angling advisory panel, and they're very pleased with the work and relationship that they have with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. I heard that very recently.
They also highlighted to me, which I think is worth passing on, that the educational strategy that has been deployed at the front-line level by officers instead of enforcement response actions has been well grounded. It seems as though their education and discretion in deployment is winning favour in the communities across this country that I've spoken to. I think that's equally important for you to realize because a lot of what you're doing, a lot of what we're asking for in this budget in terms of big numbers, makes a difference to day-to-day Canadians and individuals in this country.
In respect to the coast guard, I had a great opportunity several months ago to board the Laurier with Captain Bill Noon. At that time he was doing a huge school engagement when they returned from the Franklin expedition and had the bell on display. I can tell you right now that the coast guard connecting with Canadians, in particular the youth of our country, is a great way to build those bridges and a great way to invest in the historical contributions that the coast guard is making.
In respect to the investments around the helicopter fleet, there was an interesting anecdotal story there about how the coast guard pilot at the time was engaged in three different activities, one being scientific research and one being a search and rescue mission, on the very same day that they discovered pieces that helped lead us to find the Franklin ship. It shows the diversity and the interoperability of those services and the exchange that the coast guard has with Canadian Forces, particularly in the high Arctic.
I know your investments in small craft harbours are making big differences in Arctic communities. The recreational fisheries partnership fund, with 2,000 linear kilometres of stream habitat restored now, is a wonderful investment. There are great community-based projects with thousands of volunteers, millions of dollars leveraged, great community partners, and smaller contribution agreements like the ones that you sign onto with the salmon subcommittee for the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board to let them do the important work that they need to do across transboundary waters.
I think it's important for us as parliamentarians to thank you and acknowledge the great work that you're doing, which makes a meaningful difference in individual lives and are very much kitchen table discussion items for families in this country.
I want to ask one piece about the Pacific and Atlantic commercial fisheries initiative. I'm just wondering if you can provide some information about detail around first nations participation and maybe some other accomplishments in the program, because I do see line items around aboriginal strategies and governance. I was pleased to be at a fisheries hatchery fully run by first nations communities in Penticton recently. These are great success stories, and if you could just provide a little bit of information on how these main estimates will deliver those programs for Canadians and first nations, it would be wonderful to hear.
Thank you very much for all of that.
In the main estimates the two programs, the Atlantic integrated fisheries program and the Pacific integrated fisheries program, are both highlighted to the joint tune of $33 million per year. It does important work.
Our overall relationship with aboriginal groups is enormously important and we have a set of programs. We have those two. We also have the aboriginal fisheries strategy program, which is $22 million a year, and we have the aboriginal aquatic resource and oceans management program as well, which is $14 million a year. Then we have a species at risk program with first nations and aboriginal groups.
All are important in terms of the relationships and they are bearing results. They do assist us in terms of effectively managing a fishery and the other things that we have to manage effectively. We're also seeing results in communities. They're becoming major players in the fishery themselves. The training aspects of these programs are around business development, around fisheries management, around training in governance, around developing operational policies, and around harvest training. All those types of things are bearing fruit.
What we're also now seeing is an expansion of aboriginal groups using their own funds and funds from elsewhere into other parts of the fishery, by becoming involved in hatcheries, becoming involved in aquaculture, becoming involved in processing, becoming involved in vessel maintenance, and developing those types of facilities with the core funding that we've been providing over the years. AICFI and PICFI are the two highlighted this year, and with some important funding.
You've asked for some numbers. In B.C., 97 first nations participate in 25 groups. These are groups of first nations that work together. On the Atlantic, with the AICFI program, it is 31 first nations of the 34 involved. It really does get most of the first nations that we have relationships with involved in the fishery and becoming players and partners with us in it.
Not a problem, we can do that.
Essentially the key thing is that many of the resources that we have available in the science sector now are focused very much on oil spill preparedness, response, and understanding things like and including Bunker C. We look at three things: how something behaves when it gets into the environment chemically and so on; what is its fate, i.e., where it goes; and what its impacts are.
Bunker C, or fuel oil number 6, is well known to us not only in DFO but within Environment Canada, which is really the expert on fuel content and quality. We are at a point where we know that we have some significant history with this particular substance. It behaves in a way that is quite predictable. Most of it as a result is skimmable. I don't know if that's an actual word, but we are able to skim very easily most of that off.
If we have large amounts of it that get into the ecosystem and persist for a while—as you point out it does have a degree of persistence to it—toxicity is always a measure of amount versus exposure. In this case we think that the exposure level to organisms is quite low. We have not yet detected any significant impacts from the spill on the biological community. We have not yet completed sampling of the sea floor, and the nematode community, and so on. We expect, but we don't know yet, that the impact of that will be minimal. I can't say for sure that those sampling activities have been done because it's a bit too early yet.
By and large the point is that this chemical, or this fuel rather, is well known to us in the community. We've worked with it extensively and we think we have the measures in place to deal with it.
Thank you for the question.
I can start off, and maybe Kevin can come back to the two programs in question.
The issue of implementing the section 35 rights is something, I think, that is at the forefront of everything we do in our department, particularly in British Columbia. There are a number of processes going on now that were announced by the minister of AANDC last summer. For example, we are now happily back at the treaty table in British Columbia, where we anticipate accelerating work with five or six first nations who need to complete fisheries chapters to complete a treaty. We're hopeful that the work will carry on over the summer and into the fall and yield results.
We're just at the beginning stages of doing what could be interesting work with, for example, the Haida, where we are just now sitting down with them and trying to work out terms of reference and a way forward, where we'd get into sustained discussions and consultations about what incremental treaty arrangements would be, again with the idea that we are going to give life to the section 35 protection, but not necessarily inside the treaty process.
Similarly, we are starting discussions with the coastal first nations. Here we're asking and wanting to sit down and begin to have discussions about what non-treaty arrangements would look like.
These initiatives, I think, are to a major degree influenced by the various reports of Mr. Doug Eyford, who did quite a lot of work on behalf of the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs. We are now on those three initiatives working quite closely with our colleague departments in British Columbia and with first nations to find a way forward.
I had two things. I just wanted to correct a matter of record.
Earlier in my remarks, at the very tail end, I said there was $6 million for the polar class icebreaker. Then, as well, the refit money is in the budget. I said that was for the CCGS Amundsen. Actually, I wanted to state for the record that it's for the Louis S. St-Laurent.
Second, regarding the member's question on the science program, I admit I wasn't quite sure where you were seeing that number, because in our department we treat science as an enabler of many different programs, so it doesn't show up as a line item in the main estimates. But to answer your question and, I hope, to adequately remove the need to provide an answer to you in writing, over the last couple of years, as the committee is well aware, we have seen a lot of severance settlements, and those kinds of things in the government as we have gone through those changes, from an HR perspective. That was the same for the science side.
You will see as a printed item in our main estimates under the science program, “Hydrographic Products and Services”, a $4 million reduction. Two million dollars of that is due to us no longer needing the money that was provided to pay those severances. The other $2 million had to do with some royalties we received. This year we don't have them, so they're not there. It's a reduction in the main estimates, but it's not an actual take-away from the science program.