Good morning, Mr. Chair, and members of the committee.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the significance of recreational fishing in Canada. I've reviewed much of the very comprehensive information that you have been presented with by a number of sources on recreational angling from a national perspective. In the interests of not duplicating this information, I'd like to focus on the impact of angling from a provincial point of view.
The Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation was established in 1929 and proudly represents more than 33,000 members in 121 branches across our province. Ours is considered to be, per capita, the largest wildlife conservation organization of its kind in the world.
In opening, I'd like to address the benefits of recreational angling from an economic, conservation, and quality-of-life basis.
The economic impact of the heritage activities—hunting, angling, and trapping—are estimated to be approximately $15 billion annually across Canada. In Saskatchewan, a 2006 provincial government study confirmed that more than $500 million in economic activity was generated in Saskatchewan annually through these activities. This did not include first nation activities. A 2012 update on that information suggests that the number is closer to $600 million today, with $400 million of it derived from angling.
In Saskatchewan, more than 25% of our provincial population participates in fishing every year. Angling provides more than 1,500 full-time equivalents of employment in Saskatchewan. This was prior to Cabela's opening two stores in our province over the past three years and aggressive expansions into hunting and angling retailing by a number of other retailers, such as Canadian Tire and cooperatives.
This FTE total also does not include the employees of the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, or Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment staff, who number approximately 200.
In most jurisdictions, millions of dollars generated by licence and permit sales support conservation programs and projects.
In 1980, the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation convinced the provincial government to increase licence costs to create our fish and wildlife development fund or FWDF. Today, 30% of all licensed sales are dedicated to the FWDF and are used to provide habitat and fisheries enhancement and securement, to operate our provincial hatchery, and to provide funding for education, research, and program development in our province. Most of the $4.5 million generated by the fund is matched by NGOs.
From a conservation standpoint, in 2006 the SWF entered into a fisheries enhancement agreement with the provincial government to take on smaller enhancement projects that, although numerous, were considered difficult to manage. To date, we have completed more than 70 projects, many of which have turned out to be major enhancement works, well into the millions of dollars.
The SWF now oversees or partners in all fisheries work in the province. Effective October 2014, we have also taken on the administration role for the fisheries component of the FWDF and we administer and manage the provincial fish hatchery and culture station. We will be celebrating that facility's 100th anniversary this year.
In addition, millions of dollars are raised each year by wildlife federations to protect and enhance fisheries habitat and to provide funding for research, outdoor education, and management. We also actively finance and provide thousands of volunteer man hours towards invasive species programs and species at risk research and initiatives.
From a financial, volunteerism, and advocacy point of view, anglers and hunters are the backbone of today's modern conservation movement.
The quality of life benefits provided by these heritage activities are very difficult to quantify. In a recent survey in Saskatchewan, more than 50% of Saskatchewan residents stated that their proximity to and available access to nature were paramount in their decision as to where they would live. Another recent poll concluded that of the one quarter of a million Saskatchewan residents who annually fish, 79% considered the activity to be a major part of their personal culture, lifestyle, or tradition.
I personally grew up in a family whose social and family lives revolved around these activities and time spent in the outdoors. Over the years, I've come to realize that we share this way of life with millions of others in Canada from all walks of life, and its pervasive influence on our lives would escape most attempts to describe it. I can only suggest that participating in heritage activities with family and friends and individually is the essential component of the Canadian quality-of-life fabric that makes the hunting, angling, and trapping community who, why, and what we are.
We didn't experience the same types of issues. I believe you were referring to Alberta.
In some lakes in Alberta, you actually go through a draw system to be able to access the opportunities to angle on them. If I remember, if my figures are correct, Alberta has about 800 fishable lakes in their province. We have just over 80,000, so we have a lot of Albertans who fish in Saskatchewan. We're not within that area.
The only time we've had a decrease in our number of anglers, which was very short-lived, was when there was a major increase in the cost of licences a number of years ago. We had a decrease for one year in Saskatchewan, but that was quickly brought back up, and I would think that over a 10- or 15-year period, you'll see Saskatchewan licence sales continue to increase every year. We only have 1.1 million people in Saskatchewan and we have over a quarter of a million anglers.
Mr. Crabbe, thank you, and welcome to committee today.
I appreciate your observations on the recreational fisheries conservation partnership fund. Initially it was a little more of a challenge to access it, largely because, as you mentioned, the stacking of the partner dollars from any other level of government would exclude you from taking advantage of that. Of course, members of the Conservative Hunting and Angling Caucus and members coming from the Hunting and Angling Advisory Panel heard the comment about that being a limitation to the recreational fisheries fund, and that has been changed now. So groups like yours can share provincial dollars as well as that federal funding and can stack it in order to maximize your use of that program.
Of course, you did say you made those changes to the way you've aligned it. But just so you know, those changes have been made, and indeed you can stack those provincial dollars with the recreational fisheries program now.
As I mentioned, in part it did come from the Hunting and Angling Advisory Panel, and I'm just wondering whether Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation has representation on the Hunting and Angling Advisory Panel.
Thank you for that. It's an interesting program and an interesting program name.
There is a focus on outdoor pursuits now, when you consider the hunting and angling advisory panel, the recreational fisheries partnership fund that's now going to total $50 million in just a handful of years, this study on recreational fishing by the parliamentary committee, the one going on currently in the environment committee on the value of hunting to conservation, and MP Norlock successfully introducing a private member's bill enacting a national day respecting hunting and trapping and heritage culture. I've been involved in hunting, angling, trapping, and outdoor pursuits my entire life as well, and I don't ever recall a time when a government has focused so much on outdoor pursuits.
I have a twofold question. Do you recall a time when the federal government has been as actively involved in celebrating and promoting and supporting hunting, angling, trapping, and outdoor pursuits in the past? Two, largely because we align these things as provincial responsibilities—most often wildlife management, wildlife laws, wildlife investment, conservation investment come at the provincial level—do you think it's just nice to have the federal government paying attention to this? Is it something we need to have, or do you believe it's essential that the federal government be involved in the way it is in this kind of discussion now?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Crabbe, thanks very much for being with us today.
Certainly, we've heard a lot of interesting information from you. It's interesting to hear that yours is the largest wildlife federation in the world, if I heard you correctly. I think that's quite impressive.
Certainly, we've also heard about the economic contribution of recreational fisheries in Saskatchewan. I think the $400 million from angling alone speaks volumes. The fact that you talked a bit about retail expansion and the value to community is also something we have to keep in mind when we're talking about recreational fisheries. I think these all play a huge part.
Part of our mandate in this committee is to figure out who's participating in recreational fisheries. You talked a bit about some of your educational programs in trying to get young people involved. Is there a specific demographic that is more prevalent than others when it comes to recreational fisheries or is it spread across the spectrum? Whatever your answer may be, is this a long-standing historical trend or are you seeing something different emerging?
I might mention that our claim to be the largest in the world is on a per capita basis. With Saskatchewan having a population of only 1.1 million, the people from the OFAH might take it personally if we said we were the largest.
We recently started a new electronic data platform for angling and hunting licences in Saskatchewan. It's only three years old, so we only have true data based on that. Of course, any children in Saskatchewan under the age of 16 don't require a licence and never have, so our information is based only on our own research.
I have a three-year-old grandson who caught his first fish at two years old. It's probably one of the few activities in the world that is somewhat accessible from two or three years old right through to 80 or 90 years old. It's a lifetime opportunity that I think people who fish understand. For people who don't fish, I would imagine it's difficult to describe it to them.
I call this meeting back to order.
We have guests from Winnipeg and Swan River, Manitoba, so I'd like to thank you, gentlemen, for joining us here today.
We generally allow about 10 minutes for presentations or statements, and then we proceed to questions and answers.
I'm not sure if Mr. Connolly or Mr. Borowski is doing the comments for the Swan Valley Sport Fishing Enhancement, but we'll start with Mr. Olson with your introductory comments and then we'll move on.
Mr. Olson, whenever you're ready, the floor is yours.
I want to thank you all very much for giving us a chance to speak to you today. It's quite exciting to be here to talk about fishing, one of my big passions and one of the great passions of the organization I run at the moment.
I represent a group called the Manitoba Wildlife Federation. We have about 14,000 members in Manitoba, so we're quite a large group. We are organized.
The most powerful thing about our group, and I think the neatest thing and the reason the group is so special, is that it's organized in clubs. Right now we have 95 clubs spread across Manitoba. Just about every part of Manitoba has a Manitoba Wildlife Federation club. What's great about that is that it's driven completely by volunteers, and they are really great, passionate people.
When I got the invitation to speak I tried to think about the most important thing to say today. In talking to the clubs and people I think the most important thing is to point out the importance of recreational fisheries and why they are important.
An incredible connection happens when you go out and fish. It's not that endangered species or endangered fish are not important; they are, they're very important. We all have an obligation to conserve our biodiversity across Canada, but there is something about the act of doing, of catching a fish, of being out there, and actively participating in the stream or lake and catching that fish and maybe eating some as well and connecting to the food aspect of it. It's a special, deep connection that motivates people in more than any other way you could connect them to water, in my view.
You can talk about clean water, you can talk about endangered sculpin, but when you get someone out there fishing in the lake or stream, they develop a passion and a connection and a reason to volunteer and a reason to care. It's that emotional connection to those waterways and to those fish that drives people to do incredible things.
I won't bog you down with the hundreds of projects our clubs have done. I'll just provide a couple of examples.
Because of that connection to the fish and fishing, they'll spend hundreds of hours rehabilitating and cleaning streams. We have a lot of examples of that in and around towns and cities where the streams often get clogged or polluted or plugged up with garbage, and the clubs will organize and go out there to clean up those streams and free up those spawning areas for the fish. That is incredibly valuable and important, not just to the pike and the walleye, but also to all the invertebrates and the entire ecosystem that's thriving in that stream.
Our clubs often do spawning enhancement work, so they'll rehabilitate spawning areas in the creeks and streams. We just did a project in Winnipeg on Sturgeon Creek, where we put in spawning structures. We're still working on it.
The reason we all volunteered is that we grew up fishing in that creek and I still fish in that creek today. When the season opens here in a few weeks, on a given night there will be anywhere between 40 and 50, and as many as maybe 74, people fishing that creek in one evening—city people, kids, men, women, old, young, all engaged in the creek. They're connected to the creek, they care about the creek, and they clean it up. Again, it's that connection to the fishing that drives them. It's why they're there and it's why they volunteer.
The recreational fishing passion connection creates stewardship. It creates a sense of ownership so the clubs feel as if they own the lakes and streams, in a positive way. They feel responsible for it.
I think that's a powerful notion for government because there is not enough money in government to be able to pay for everything all the time. We have to mobilize communities. You have to get people to do the work. You need the volunteers. We can't afford to pay people to do all this stuff, so it's that stewardship and that ownership that is the magic that comes from the fishing. Without the fishing it just isn't going to be there at the same level.
There is definitely an economic impact. I'm sure the folks in Swan River will talk a lot about that. They have incredible things going on up there, obviously.
There are lots of parts of Manitoba where trout has been stocked by local groups who want to see economic diversification, and it does it ever drive it. People are showing up from all over the world now to fish in these trout ponds and trout lakes.
We have a little club in Lac du Bonnet that just raised about $200,000, mostly local dollars in grants and from local businesses, to establish trout in a bunch of ponds called the Blueberry Ponds right here in Lac du Bonnet. People are now coming to Lac du Bonnet to fish, or they're going there for other reasons and then they add the fishing. The fishing seems to be a reason for them to go there, so it's a way to get people to go to rural areas and support small towns. That is really, really important at a time when there are not so many options to get people to go to small towns and rural areas to recreate and spend money out in those places. It's really important from an economic perspective.
The last thing I'll say is that one of the things I'm most passionate about is seeing young people fishing. One of the neat things about that is how it connects them to streams, rivers, and water quality—things that we want to do that you can't do in the classroom. You can't do it by telling them. You can't reproduce or replicate the excitement of a fishing rod bending over and the thrill of something pulling on the other end. It has to be primeval. It has to be something hard-wired into our brains. I've never seen a child or new person do it and not get excited.
That excitement is so special and so unique, we can leverage that. Then we can say, “Hey, do you know what? We're doing a stream cleanup here in two weeks. You enjoyed catching that fish? For that fish to thrive in here, we have to put back. We have to do things to make sure that they're healthy.”
In closing, if I could say one thing about the importance of recreational fishing, it would be that a magical connection occurs there with people that turns into all kinds of amazing things at the local level in terms of conservation, not only of recreational fish species but all the other species that live in those areas, and of course the water quality that we rely on as humans as well.
I think that's enough from me for now. Thank you for this opportunity.
Thank you for the invitation to participate in this; I was quite surprised last week.
We have just had our 29th annual sport fishing banquet. Our group was one of the first original volunteer sport fishery groups in the province of Manitoba. Privately, we've raised close to half a million dollars over the last 29 years. All of that has gone back into the area around here through research, through enhancement, through education in our school systems.
We feel that things have really changed in this province in the last 10 years. Unfortunately, there's been a loss of investment from our provincial government on the importance of our fisheries. We have taken it upon ourselves to step in and continue where we feel the province left off.
The Province of Manitoba has created a fish and wildlife enhancement fund. From that fund, we have probably accessed close to $70,000 in the last six years. From that, we have stocked lakes, we've done research, we've done management decisions on the water bodies, and we've improved fishing. We've also felt in the last two years that the young people—they're the next generation who come along—are more important than a lot of other issues.
We spend a lot of time in the schools. We do a fish camp for children. Right now, Don Lamont, a known outdoors person, is here for the last two days. I believe he's going to six different schools. He's doing education on fisheries and the importance of getting out, and fishing, just to be outside.
Fishing is a big industry here—it's approximately $400 million in Manitoba—and it's a fact that you don't have to have a $30,000 boat. All you have to be able to do is drive to a lake, or drive to a shoreline, and you can catch a fish. Sometimes it's not even about catching fish, it's just to be outside and enjoy the day, whether it's summer or winter, whatever the weather it is. It's hard to explain. If you enjoy fishing it's in your blood.
I've fished in Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba, British Columbia, and Alberta. I can honestly say that the Swan Valley, about five hours from Winnipeg, has some of the best sport fishing I've seen. We have a massive range of different species of fish.
There are people coming here from the United States. It's a big economic and social business. We have first nations. We have Métis people. Everyone takes a portion of the fish. It's a big social and economic thing in the rural area and even in the cities. It's not specifically based on race, or based on income, or based on anything. Anyone can do it. Other than that, I don't have a whole lot to say.
The only concern I wanted to bring up in our discussion is invasive species. Invasive species is a Canadian-wide issue. It's getting worse. There are Asian carp just south of our border. We now have zebra mussels in Manitoba, which we never had before. An example that we see of an issue is at our border crossing, which is our front line of defence on things coming into Canada.
A friend of ours, last April, went to Michigan and bought a boat. He's an outdoor guy. He bought a boat in a zebra mussel hot spot in the United States. He crossed the border crossing east of Emerson. He specifically asked if they were interested in checking his boat for invasive species. He was told by the Canadian border crossing they have nothing in place to prevent invasive species from coming into this country.
We have rusty crayfish now. We have zebra mussel now. We need to all work together. We're trying to do our part. Unfortunately if the border isn't doing it's part, we're going to have some big issues. It's not just Manitoba, it's Canadian-wide. That's pretty much what I have to say in closing.
I'm not sure if Pete has anything to say.
If I might, I would like to say a few words. I think Mr. Connolly has said almost everything.
I'm Pete Borowski of Swan Valley Sport Fishing Enhancement. I was involved with the sport fishing enhancement group in Dauphin, where I lived about 17 years ago, and then I got transferred up to Swan River. I went from a very good sport fishing enhancement group to the best, or anyway the first, and in fact back in 2000 or 2001—I forget the exact year because my memory is getting poor in my old age—a couple of members of our group were able to go to Ottawa and receive the recreational sport fishing award from the Governor General. I was lucky enough to be one of them. It was quite an honour.
This group does a lot in the area and in lobbying the governments and trying to get them to do a better job. We're feeling that the governments are dropping the ball. In fact, they've lost the ball. We have people in the province who have knowledge and are willing to work, but when you have no budget and you can't leave the office, that doesn't make for management. That makes for analysis of problems and analysis of data, but you have to be out on the landscape.
As Mr. Connolly has said, we are accessing this provincial fisheries fund and are able to utilize that. I won't say what is the percentage of work we're doing that the province should be doing, but it's becoming higher every year, which is a sad comment on fisheries management in Manitoba. Over my years, I worked in resources in the forestry end of things, but continually seeing people outside....
People enjoy the outside. I ran across a situation one time down in Spruce Woods, an area about 80 miles west of Winnipeg, where there were problem kids from a high school who could never get along and who were criminalized and into vandalism and all kinds of difficulties. Put into a common building to look after themselves for three or four days, everybody got along. They fought halfway out to the field but they got there. Everybody calmed down, enjoyed themselves, and had a wonderful outdoor experience. There was no fishing involved, but it just shows you the things that can happen when people are outdoors and recreating. It's good for everybody.
I don't want to go on forever so I'll cut it off there, but thank you for having us here.
Probably five or six years ago in Dauphin, DFO rebuilt the train station. They had 30 employees. Their presence was unbelievable. They were everywhere. Now that building is empty of DFO staff. Any information that we have to deal with DFO on is based out of Ottawa now, including all of our permits, all of our applications, and anything involved since then.
We have accessed two projects through the RFCPP. One was for spawning shoal improvement, where we went into a lake and built spawning shoals. The second one was to remove beaver dams in order to have our walleye swim upstream and spawn. We've been doing that for probably six years, and this is the first time that we were able to partner with the federal government. Both of these projects are a huge success.
We really don't see DFO inland anymore. At one time they were there, and now they really don't exist.
By the way, Mr. Chisholm, I'm actually from Liverpool. I grew up there and moved away when I was 21.
In terms of DFO's presence in the province, I can't remember which years it was when they had staffed up and had a lot of enforcement of people on the ground out here. I do remember at that time I was working with farm groups, and it wasn't seen in a positive light. To me, and from our organization's perspective, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' role in experimentation is outstanding. I think it's not positive that the research facilities have been abandoned. I think that was an important role for DFO.
In terms of the other side, as a landscape-level enforcement agency I don't think it worked. Predictably, it had no chance of working in an agricultural landscape. Maybe regulating point source polluters and pulp mills would be a possibility, but the rural communities push back very hard. They called them fish cops. Any time you have enforcement people going on to farms and telling farmers what they can and can't do, it just doesn't work well. There's a need for rules and there's a need for regulations. I think what we've learned in the last 15 years is that how you approach rural communities is the key.
In terms of how DFO relates to us here, I think those recreational grants are outstanding because they create partnership and stewardship. It gets the local groups like us and others working with the federal fisheries department. I think getting back to some of that experimentation that they were doing is also really important.
On the regulatory role, our group would urge caution. In the future, if DFO was thinking about enforcing the Fisheries Act on the landscape, we'd like to talk about doing that in a different way.
We have people talking about that tiger trout situation. It's in a lake called Twin Lakes, which is on the.... We are on the west side of Manitoba here about 10 miles from Saskatchewan, so we get a lot of Saskatchewan people coming here. I've personally met a guy who lives in Alberta, has the whole river, lives right in Calgary, packs up the Bow River fishing boat, and comes here annually to spend two weeks with friends. They all gather up and go chasing our tiger trout and our triploid rainbow trout.
I don't know how well you gentlemen know the lay of Manitoba. We have what we call mountains here, the Porcupine—they're really hills— the Duck Mountain, and the Riding Mountain, which is a federal park. But in these two hills or mountains, which are about 1,500 feet elevation above the surrounding area, we have 100- to 200-foot deep lakes that are 1,000 acres, 200 acres. Sometimes there are 20- 30-acre lakes that still have 60 feet of water in them.
This is where these cold-water species go, and they are extremely successful. It's been like that since I've been fishing in the 1970s in this area. It's not unusual to go see through the ice when you're ice fishing—because we have lakes where you can see the bottom—sitting on top of the ice in 25-foot water, and see 30-pound lake trout go by, which is more a rarity because they get caught before they get to that age. So we have a tremendous diversity from the walleye in Lake Manitoba. Lake Winnipegosis is commercially fished and sport fished all the way to these trout, which add a tremendous balance of fishing activity in this area.
In our view it's really important because, if you want to engage people in conserving water and lakes, if you want to engage the citizens in water quality, if you want to get people caring about endangered species that live in those waterways, the best way to get people engaged is through fishing. It just creates this immediate connection, love, and passion for the waterway, and once you hook them through fishing, you've got them. You've got their attention and you've got their minds and hearts. You can have conversations about endangered species. You can talk about water quality. You can talk about the need for wetland conservation to deal with flood mitigation.
You want to try to engage citizens in Canada on all of those issues citizens in Canada. In our view maybe the best way to do it is through a strike on a hook on a rod, with the bending of the rod, and the excitement. There's just something about it; it's magic. You can't take human beings fishing, get them hooked up on a fish, and not see them get excited. They're always fired up about it, then it always leads to great thing. So for me, it's a way in.
The gentleman from Swan River talked about how government can't pay for everything anymore. You know, they talked about how the hatchery is now on the backs of the fishers, and we don't mind that because we have a passion. We realize that government is not going to save us from all these things and can't pay for everything. So, if you as a government are going to try to engage the citizens and you're going to try to get all these things done on the landscape, how will you do that? I think those recreational fishing grounds are awesome. Anything you can do to get people fishing is going to pay off in spades economically and environmentally.
I think it's incredible. I am not sure what Mr. Connolly and Mr. Borowski would say, but I think it's amazing. Thanks to groups like those gents in Swan River, I don't think it has ever been better.
I'm going fishing this weekend in Ontario, and I was talking to a fellow out there who is 87 and has been living out there and fishing. He says it has never been better. With modern slot limits and modern management, in spite of declining government revenue, there has been so much done to enhance fisheries. To me, the good old days are now, and I think it can even get better.
Now we have to leverage the excitement and the quality of the fishing into more. How do we use that to get more people into fishing? How do we then engage these people who are fishing into enhancing water further and dealing with water quality, and get their attention on flood mitigation? How do we make the link and say “You love the fishing. It's as good as it has ever been. Well, we need your help right now”? We have other issues on the waterways too, such as invasive species, as the gents were talking about in Swan River as well.
The good old days are now.
Going back to the DFO scenario, when they geared up and came in with bullet-proof vests and guns on their hips, I was still currently employed with the Province of Manitoba in conservation and forestry.
We have a large company that produces OSB here to the tune of more than a million cords of wood a year, basically using hardwoods—poplar and birch—and to a lesser extent some softwoods. And wow, did things become difficult—extremely difficult. They pointed out some good things, such as better small stream management scenarios in places such as Duck Mountain and the Porcupine Mountains. That was good, but they made operations extremely difficult and added a lot of expense.
The Province of Manitoba has initiated, over the last 30 years, groups called water conservation districts, which look at major rivers in this province that have water-quality issues, drainage issues, and issues involving conflicts with agriculture in which fields are flooded and put under water. I think that if DFO is looking for something to work and to get farmers to do a better job, you work with those conservation districts. They are local people; they have context on the land base, because the municipalities are on their boards of directors. They do an excellent job of talking and working with farmers, grassing waterways, improving stream crossings—ford crossings—making them fish-positive. They are a tremendous group to access and to work with.
As I said, I've been involved in conservation since the 1970s. Going back, there were four fisheries employees in this region, which runs from the American border all the way up to Township 51 in this province. Those were field people.
They went out on Lake Dauphin. They created spawning ripple structures on the major streams that go into Lake Dauphin, which is a major walleye sport fishery in this province. They were engaged in getting stocking trout and trying different fish and doing a tremendous amount of work.
That has basically ground to a halt because, as Mr. Connolly said, when you can't go to the field to do the job, you aren't doing much of a job. The knowledge and the expertise are there, but without money to operate, nothing happens. It's a very sad comment to go from the 1970s to now. Luckily, we sport fishing people are here with access to funds, so that we can try to do some of this.
The majority of us—I don't include myself in it, obviously—are still working people who have jobs, who have to earn a living. We're all doing this after hours or even by taking days off. Mr. Connolly could be hitting his thumb with a hammer right now, but he's sitting here and pleading our case for better fisheries and better fisheries management.
On the first question, the funds for our clubs, they get the odd provincial grant but very few. The money is 90% private. It's membership dues. They put on local fundraisers as Mr. Connolly and Mr. Borowski were just talking about in Swan River. Our clubs do the same things. They put on local fundraisers. They have raffles. They work their butts off to raise the dollars privately, and then they spend it locally. They appreciate what they do. They value their money because it's hard to raise.
There's one big part to this. What the provincial government has been getting in Manitoba it has been getting out of the fish and wildlife business steadily for a decade. We understand health care is expensive, and we have an aging population, and crime. There are big issues. We know that; we get that. But the thing we don't get is we are such a cheap date as a recreational fishing community. We're talking about small dollars and we're talking about massive leverage.
If you put a little bit of money into these communities, you're going to get back tenfold in private fundraising. You get leverage. Those recreational grants kick-start things. You can't afford to pay it all. You have all these other big needs as a federal-provincial government, but you can kick-start stuff.
Those little grants are so important now more than ever because the province is getting out of that business. We cannot afford to hire a whole bunch of people to enforce fishery regulations anymore. You can't afford to pay us for all these spawning structures, but you have us. We'll do it. We can be your fish cops. We care about those streams. We're not going to let people hurt those streams. No one cares about those streams like us because we live in them.
So yes, it's private money, and yes, we'll continue to do it because we have to, because we can't help ourselves. We have that passion for it.
What was the second question?
My good friend and colleague Mr. MacAulay just said a minute ago that we don't often get witnesses who are as passionate as you are about what you're doing. It's really been a pleasure to hear you.
I want to say that Mr. Sopuck probably really stuck his neck out bringing people whom he represents and cares about right into the room with his colleagues, who know him well.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. John Weston: You know, you really like to see an elected official who draws on his extensive experience, who works in a wheelhouse of relevance for the people he represents, and then takes those gifts not only for the people he represents but also spreads them around the country. I've had the pleasure of having him in my riding, as have my colleagues. He's taken your passion and translated it right around Canada. It's been a real pleasure to be at his shoulder as he's led our charge into this recreational fisheries partnership program. This is an exciting day for all of us to hear how it's rolling out where you are.
I was really intrigued to hear you wax so eloquently about the importance of recreational fisheries.
I'll ask you first, Mr. Olson, to elaborate on what you said about how it energizes people, and on what you think has been the involvement of people in this specific program that has put $55 million into angling. How has it been specifically borne out in your community?
I think the way it's been borne out is that, from what I've seen in Manitoba, it creates partnerships.
There are two things here. First, there's this fishing passion. To my mind, this is an intelligent, targeted grant. It's targeting a bunch of us passionate kooks who spend too much of our own time and money on this. The thing about fishing is this passion, which I'll come back to. The thing about the grant is that it leverages the passion. That's a lot of money across Canada. It's not a lot of money in the big picture of the federal budget, I would argue, but it's a lot of money to us. It's a lot of money from a leverage perspective. When you put that money in, you'll get way more than that back from us in our own money.
Those grants are never enough to pay for the whole project, which I think is brilliant. One time I had a donor, when I used to work for another organization, who said, “Don't give an organization too much money, because it will take away their drive for fundraising.” There's a magic about a grant size, right? The right size of grant is significant enough to get a project moving, but it's not so much that it takes away the need to raise other moneys. You want provincial money in there. We want the local community to fundraise and raise dollars too. There's a magic about that. The big thing it does, though, is it creates partnerships in stewardship. It makes the local community feel supported by the federal government. It makes them feel energized.
So there's a real good thing there, but it's the recreational passion thing that drives it. You're tapping into that with that grant, and that is brilliant. That's a brilliant thing to do. I would say, “Where else can you do that?”
It's an incredible strategy, in my mind, for a government to take. I think it's smart.
It's definitely unique, and it is definitely a model, whatever party you are from, that politically affects a lot people who fish. They all benefit from it. Nobody that I know of can say bad things about this program because it does get people outside. What's the biggest problem with a lot of people today? They're not going outside. The more money the government can assist us with in projects that are promoting outdoor fisheries is healthy for the country. It's healthy for our communities, it's healthy for our kids, and it's healthy for our waters to improve issues. We all work for a living. We can only volunteer so much. We need to have that extra helping hand. Our logo for Swan Valley Sport Fishing is “Giving Fish a Helping Hand”. That's our mandate. That's what we're trying to do.
This fund is very interesting. I sat with Mr. Sopuck on the original fisheries enhancement fund, at its start. Bob saw that fund work and the benefits of it. Even though it was created by the NDP, he still couldn't argue about the quality of it. He was at our banquet a few years ago, and Rosanne had presented us with a $100,000 cheque for some fisheries research enhancement work. As we were leaving the stage, I patted Bob on the back and said, “Bob, do you ever think that one day the feds will step up and do something to help us?” He looked at me and said, “Don't you worry, this will happen and we will help everybody in this country”. I must commend Bob. He did an outstanding job. I was amazed that not only has it worked for one year, but it has also continued for a couple of years. It just wasn't as case of, “Here's a bunch of money. We're going to flash it and then it's going to go away”. This has big implications for future planning of work. We know that we can look at projects that require money, say projects three years down the road, and can say, “You know what? The federal grant can help us. We can stay on track with our improvements”.
I would start by saying that our organization has talked about that a lot and I don't want to create an impression that we're not fans of DFO. We see the need for DFO. We don't know all the details, but our perception is that DFO has been a staunch and stalwart defender of sealing, for example, off the coast of Newfoundland and in the north. We appreciate that. We appreciate their science.
If I could just go back to the border issue, as I didn't get a chance to comment on it. But on invasive species, the border situation here is dire. I don't know if that's a DFO thing or if DFO could take a role in that. However, just to put it into perspective, when our season opens here in just about a week and a half or so, there will be hundreds and hundreds of boats coming from America to fish because the fishing is so good. Those boats often come from Great Lakes states where there are zebra mussels and other things like spiny water flea—you name it. Right now it's an open [Technical difficulty—Editor].
My buddies come up to fish from the States, and they're not getting checked at the border, so that is a disaster waiting to happen for us here. We think that would be a good role for DFO. I don't know if that is what they do or if that's something that makes sense for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
On the fish police era, to me that strikes at the heart of a really big issue that we have to deal with in landscape conservation. Most of our landscape in prairie Canada is farmed. If you're going to do something good for water, fish, wetlands, animals, or wildlife, and you want to sequester carbon, whatever you want to do on that landscape is going to be about farmers.
In dealing with farmers in rural communities, if you want to club them with a stick, you're going to turn them into enemies. The same person who will stop at two in the morning and help you change your tire is an amazing person. They're lovely, and they're giving, until you go on their land and threaten their land rights. The moment you go and club them with that stick, you better know what you're doing—there had better be a bloody good reason for it—and you'd better have exhausted every other opportunity first. Carrots get you a lot further with rural communities.
There have to be rules and there needs to be enforcement, so there's a balancing act there. It's a fine line. Reasonable rural communities know that there need to be rules. They get that, but the initial approach can't be to cop-up and get on the landscape. You can't police the landscape. Are you going to have a fish cop on every section of land looking for infractions? We have to engage those communities and get them doing it with us and for us. We have to get the people, the citizens, involved in policing, because you can't pay enough people to do it. If you alienate them, then you create enemies. You get resistance. You get hard feelings, and you get fractured relationships.
Going forward, this grant is only one small example. There have to be lots of other ways that a group like DFO can engage rural communities to get them buying into the Fisheries Act, understanding the Fisheries Act—