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House of Commons Emblem

Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans


NUMBER 145 
l
1st SESSION 
l
42nd PARLIAMENT 

EVIDENCE

Monday, May 13, 2019

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

  (1530)  

[English]

     Good afternoon, everyone.
    Welcome to our regular committee meeting, pursuant to Standing Order 81(4), main estimates 2019-20, votes 1, 5, 10, 15 and 20 under Department of Fisheries and Oceans, referred to the committee on Thursday, April 11.
    I'd like to start off by welcoming the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson for making himself available today. I believe the minister's here for an hour, and then the officials will stay for the second hour to partake in questioning.
    I'd like to welcome the officials: Timothy Sargent, deputy minister; Jeffery Hutchinson, commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard; Philippe Morel, assistant deputy minister, aquatic ecosystems sector; Jen O'Donoughue, assistant deputy minister and chief financial officer; Andy Smith, deputy commissioner, strategy and shipbuilding; Adam Burns, director general, fisheries resource management; and Mark Waddell, director general, fisheries and licence policy.
    Minister, we'll give the floor to you to start off with, for your opening remarks. I believe you're going to be handing off the opening remarks to one of the officials.
    When you're ready, the floor is yours.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you very much for the invitation to be here today. I will give some opening remarks, and then I think Jen will just supplement those a little bit.
    As you noted, I'm accompanied by a number of members of our senior management team.

[Translation]

    I'll give the committee a brief financial overview of the 2019-20 main estimates for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard before speaking about some of the accomplishments of my department.

[English]

    Through the 2019-20 main estimates, the department is seeking $2.994 billion, which represents a $548.4-million increase when compared to the 2018-19 main estimates.
    The increased spending levels represent new funding for the procurement and conversion of three icebreakers for the Coast Guard, including the newest member of the fleet, the CCGS Captain Molly Kool. The main estimates also include $155 million that is directed to the construction and engineering of a Coast Guard offshore oceanographic science vessel, as well as to the purchase of long lead items, which need to be ordered well in advance of the start of construction, which is targeted for the end of 2020.
    The main estimates also include a significant amount of funding for the small craft harbours program to deliver on its regular work, which is $92 million annual A-base funding. In addition, they include $150 million to deliver on the $250-million budget 2018 funding for small craft harbours. This is important because, in 2018, the commercial fishing industry had landings valued at over $5.5 billion. Today, this sector employs more than 77,000 workers from coast to coast to coast in harvesting, aquaculture and processing jobs. Furthermore, fish and seafood continue to be among the largest single food commodities exported by Canada, valued at almost $7 billion annually.
    The top three items that comprise our main estimates—commercial icebreakers, small craft harbours and the offshore oceanographic science vessel—each represent 5% of the total 2019-20 estimates, or 15% as a whole. Furthermore, on the overall change of $548.4 million between 2018-19 and 2019-20, these three initiatives correspond to $435.5 million or approximately 80% of the overall increase that the department is experiencing.
    Following my remarks, my officials will be able to share more specifics on how this funding will be used over the coming months.

[Translation]

    Mr. Chair, it has been 10 months since my appointment as Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.

[English]

    I am very proud to be part of a government that has been making decisions and real investments to fight climate change and protect our environment. From coast to coast to coast, whether it is increasing the capacity of our Coast Guard or investing in small craft harbours, the decisions that are made are ensuring that we are protecting our oceans for generations to come and for our communities that depend on them.
    The Canadian Coast Guard owns and operates more than 120 vessels of various sizes, strategically deployed on all coasts and major inland waterways of the country. In the past 18 months, six new small ships have joined the fleet, including search and rescue lifeboats and channel surveying vessels. We have announced the arrival of two more search and rescue lifeboats, the CCGS McIntyre Bay and the CCGS Pachena Bay, to join the west coast fleet. The first large ship under the national shipbuilding strategy, a specialized offshore fisheries science vessel named after Sir John Franklin, is expected to be delivered in June.
    We are strengthening the Coast Guard's authorities to support a more proactive, rapid and effective response to ship-source and mystery-source pollution incidents. The Coast Guard responds regularly to pollution incidents, mostly small in scale. However, it also proactively intervenes when required to mitigate potential spills. This past fall, the Coast Guard and its partners successfully completed the bulk oil removal of 208.7 cubic metres from the wreck of the Manolis L near Change Islands, in Notre Dame Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador.

[Translation]

    The government is making investments to ensure that the women and men of the Coast Guard have the tools they need to protect our marine environment and ensure the safety of mariners.

[English]

     Small craft harbours provide critical support to the commercial fishing industry, which in 2017 had landings of over $3.4 billion. As part of budget 2018, we invested $250 million, over two years, to renew our network of small craft harbours and to work with municipalities to enhance local communities and economies and foster job creation. This is in addition to the $92 million that will be invested in 2019-20 for repairs, maintenance, construction and dredging at core commercial fishing harbours across this country.
     Over the past year, Canada has been active and engaged internationally. One highlight was the G7 summit, where oceans and fisheries were featured as key issues. In addition, we sponsored the first-ever oceans conference at the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference, which was held in Nairobi, where we co-sponsored with Kenya and Japan. We also established the new DFO and Coast Guard region in the Arctic and signed a memorandum of understanding with the Government of Nunavut and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association to work together to explore the potential protection of areas in the High Arctic Basin, while supporting the development of a conservation economy in the region. We also established an inshore rescue boat station in Rankin Inlet.
    The government has committed to providing meaningful and effective protection to Canada's land and ocean spaces. To that end, we established an advisory panel on marine-protected area standards to consult with Canadians and provide guidance to the government on our approach to marine conservation.
    During the nature champions summit in Montreal last month, I announced a set of strong, clear standards for Canada's marine conservation networks, which will include two distinct forms of protection: marine-protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, such marine refuges.

  (1535)  

[Translation]

    We're well on our way to meeting the international 10% marine conservation target in 2020, as a result of real protection measures that will have biodiversity benefits for generations to come.

[English]

    Other progress includes partnering with indigenous peoples to respond to marine emergencies, and in the last year we provided marine safety training to 25 members from 17 first nations in British Columbia.
    We are also continuing to take action to protect Canada's endangered whales, including the southern resident killer whales on the west coast, right whales on the east coast and belugas in the St. Lawrence.
    We are working to leverage new research to refine and improve our approaches to managing fisheries in this country, with the resolve to provide needed protections, while supporting indigenous groups, fish harvesters, shippers and other stakeholders.
    One of my most important priorities as minister is restoring important fish stocks across Canada, including Canada's wild salmon populations. As you know, our government last year announced an additional $107 million to support the implementation of the fish stocks provisions that are proposed in Bill C-68. To contribute to better managed fisheries, these resources will increase scientific capacity to do stock assessments, including salmon stock assessments.
    We also announced the B.C. salmon restoration and innovation fund and the Quebec fisheries fund, both modelled on the successful Atlantic fisheries fund, to support projects focused on supporting stock restoration and resilience through infrastructure investments, promoting science partnerships and innovation and technology adoption.

[Translation]

    These are among many activities that will support our wild salmon policy implementation plan and management of aquaculture over the next five years.

[English]

    Canada's prosperity depends on making sure the benefits of a growing economy are felt by more and more people, with good, well-paying jobs for Canada's middle class. The government also firmly believes that economic prosperity and the long-term health of our environment can and must go hand in hand. We are continuing to make smart investments that are positioning Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard to deliver on these priorities for the benefit of all Canadians.
    Now I will turn it over to Jen to add a couple of extra comments.
    Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and committee members.

[Translation]

    My name is Jen O'Donoughue, and I'm the chief financial officer of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.
    We're pleased to be here today to provide an overview of the 2019-20 main estimates.

[English]

     I prepared brief remarks allowing time for any questions the committee may have.
    We are in the second year of the new estimates reform process and its purpose is to improve the alignment between the federal budget and estimates. The President of the Treasury Board tabled interim estimates back on January 28 to ensure departments were able to start the fiscal year.
    The key change for estimates reform remains the timing of main estimates, which now follow budgets. The main estimates were tabled on April 11. As with all supply bills, they were referred to committee where the contents are studied before voting takes place, thus our presence here today.
    Contrary to last year, itemized budget implementation votes are now included in the departmental vote hierarchies rather than in one single consolidated vote within the Treasury Board Secretariat. Specifically for DFO, items are included under votes 15 and 20. Similar to last year, budget 2019 items will only be made available to the regular expenditure vote of the department once they have gone through the scrutiny and due diligence of the Treasury Board Secretariat and are approved by Treasury Board ministers.
    The department's 2019-20 main estimates totalled $2.994 billion, including statutory authorities. This represents an increase of $548 million when compared to the 2018-19 main estimates. As indicated by the minister, the biggest increase, $151 million, is related to the procurement of icebreakers for the Canadian Coast Guard. Three icebreakers were purchased in August 2018 and due to timing this funding was not included in the 2018-19 main estimates. Funding was sought in-year via the 2018-19 supplementary estimates (A).
    The next large increase in funding is for the renewal of Canada's network of small craft harbours. Budget 2018 announced $250 million, of which $150 million is included in these main estimates. Due to timing, as well, year one funding was not included in our 2018-19 main estimates.
    We also have a $135-million increase in funding for the ongoing engineering work related to the Canadian Coast Guard's offshore oceanographic science vessel.

  (1540)  

[Translation]

    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be here this afternoon to present our 2019-20 main estimates.

[English]

    Thank you for that.
    We'll go right to our questioning now to the government side. We have Mr. Fraser for seven minutes or less, please.
    Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and I'll be sharing my time with Mr. Morrissey.
    Minister, thank you so much for being here, and to your officials, as well, for joining us today. It's always a pleasure to have you at our committee.
    I'd like to start by touching on one aspect that you mentioned in your presentation regarding small craft harbours. You're absolutely right to mention the impact that seafood exports, in particular, have on coastal communities in Atlantic Canada, where I'm from, and most particularly, the lobster landings that happen that happen in southwestern Nova Scotia, for example. Those are critical to the local economy. They're basically the backbone of the entire region's economic growth.
    We know that climate change is happening, that there are severe effects that can be seen at the wharves when you've got more intense storms. We know that it means that more dredging has to happen. We know, as well, that the growth of the lobster industry is fuelling more people wanting to get into the industry and also having larger vessels, which is creating congestion at many of our small craft harbours. Catches are up, the price is high because of the trade deals that are now in effect, but there are some safety issues. Small craft harbours have to be a very important part of your department's outlook for the future.
    I know investments have been made. Our committee made a recommendation that there needs to be a significant increase in the A-base portion of the funding so that planning can happen by your department.
    I wonder if you can comment on the importance of small craft harbours, the investments we've made and what you see for the future?
     This issue is obviously very important on the Atlantic coast, but it's also of significance on the Pacific coast, and increasingly is emerging as an issue of importance in the Arctic.
    The government has recognized the importance of ensuring we have funding to be able to address some of the issues that you talked about. Since 2016-17, we've spent almost $680 million in the small craft harbour area. That included $250 million over a two-year period that was allocated in budget 2018 in B-base funding to ensure we had sufficient resources to address some of the critical issues.
    Let me say a couple of other things. On a go-forward basis, we certainly are facing new challenges in the area of small craft harbours. Climate change is certainly a variable that we must account for now, both in terms of the damage that's caused through extreme weather events and the types of construction that we're going to have to think about on a go-forward basis to ensure we're preparing new facilities for that kind of interaction. We have to address the fact that the growth in the aquaculture industry is putting a significant number of additional boats on the water, and as you said, there is a growth in the size of the average harvester boat. All of these are creating challenges.
    I do think we need to continue to look at this, and certainly, our department is seized with it at the present time and looking forward to what the requirements are going to be, because the requirements going forward are certainly going to be a bit different from what they have been in the past. Significant investments have been made; significant funding is going into this critical area. But I am quite cognizant of the fact that we need to reflect on what we need to expect and what we must plan for on a go-forward basis.

  (1545)  

    That's excellent. Thank you, Minister.
     Minister, I would suggest—and you've been the guardian of small craft harbours for the last number of months—that we're seeing the impacts of years of funding cuts. I did some of the rough numbers, and they come to over $100 million. We're approaching a crisis situation in small craft harbours that will have to be dealt with in the future. But my question is more a positive one.
    You were in my riding back in March. You had a chance to look at some innovative projects we're doing through the Atlantic fisheries fund, which is extremely important to our small rural, coastal communities. They're doing a lot in innovation and creating jobs in these communities and have certainly expanded a lot on the aquaculture side.
    I would ask if you could briefly give us your perspective on this particular fund. How do you see it going? Will you continue to support this in the coming years? It has led to a lot of investment in my riding, which is primarily rural and dependent on the fishery.
    The Atlantic fisheries fund, as you will all know, is a $400-million program that is jointly financed by the federal and provincial governments, 70% federal and 30% provincial. It is a tool that's allowed us to encourage and foster innovation in the fish harvesting sector and to invest in the on-the-ground science that many of the fish harvesters feel is important to get done. It has been highly successful in its early implementation. It's been so successful that we've taken that model, copied it and launched a similar fund—smaller, of course, because the size of the fishery is smaller—in British Columbia, and one in Quebec.
    We believe we are seeing significant results across all four Atlantic provinces that are beneficial from an economic perspective for harvesters and coastal communities, and we are committed to that on a go-forward basis for sure.
    Minister, thank you for your comments on that. I want to go back briefly to small craft harbours. You recognize this as well, that we're seeing significant impacts from climate change in my home province of Prince Edward Island. This year, dredging has been required at small craft harbour ports that didn't require it before. How is the department going to respond to that growing challenge that is now very real and that we're seeing on a yearly basis?
     It is an important issue. I know you're speaking specifically about Malpeque Bay and some of the challenges there. There are a number of cases where the dredging issues are increasingly important, although there are also other harbours where maintenance is required simply as a result of climate change-related weather events.
    As I said in my response to the earlier question, the government has brought forward significant resources to invest in small craft harbours—$250 million in budget 2018 to be spread over two years—but we are very cognizant of the fact that the requirements in small craft harbours are going to have to be assessed in light of the newer challenges we are facing. One of these is the climate issue, which is creating issues that we haven't seen before that we're going to have to be able to manage, but also some of the economic drivers we're seeing with respect to the growth in aquaculture and the growth in the size of many of the boats.
    That is an active conversation within the department at the present time. We will endeavour to come forward with a view about what will be required on a go-forward basis.
    Thank you.
    Now we'll go to Mr. Doherty for seven minutes or less, please.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
     Minister, we understand that Irving is trying to sell two of its Arctic offshore patrol ships to DFO. We also understand that the Canadian Coast Guard did a study of these $800-million ships and determined that they're not suitable for Canadian Coast Guard use, neither as Arctic class icebreakers nor as buoy tenders nor for search and rescue duties. Minister, will you please provide this committee a copy of the report by close of business this Tuesday?

  (1550)  

    First and foremost, issues around procurement are the purview of the Minister of Public Services and Procurement.
    Minister, would you provide a copy to this committee?
    If you let me finish my answer, I'll let you finish your question.
    It's just a flat yes or no.
    I let you finish your question, if you would let me finish my answer.
    It's my time, sorry, Minister.
    Okay.
    Would you provide this committee a copy of this report by close of business on Tuesday?
    The issues related to procurement are the purview of the minister of procurement.
    All right.
    Minister, it appears that the OOSV has been delayed even further, forcing the Canadian Coast Guard to do another refit of the ancient CCGS Hudson. The refit was originally contracted for $10 million, from February to July 15, 2019. We understand that the work period will be extended by several months and by several million dollars, into at least late fall of this year or beyond. Will the minister please report by the end of the day Thursday how much money has been spent on the CCGS Hudson since 2012, and how much above the current $10-million contract the Canadian Coast Guard has budgeted to repair this 57-year-old ship?
    I'm happy to ask the Coast Guard officials who are here with me today to respond specifically, but there are normal procedures for reporting these kinds of things. Certainly, we are working to ensure that the Coast Guard has the capabilities it requires, whether that's vessel life extension or new ships, and we are going to ensure that the Coast Guard has what it needs to do its job.
    I can certainly ask the commissioner to respond specifically.
     I'd certainly be happy to work with the clerk of the committee to provide a summary of Hudson expenditures. It was from 2012, Mr. Doherty, is that correct?
    That's correct.
    Yes, and in a time frame that we'll work out with the clerk.
    Thank you.
    Minister, the Canadian Coast Guard has a need for an interim light icebreaker. We understand the minister received an unsolicited proposal for a Canadian-registered light icebreaker, the MV Arcticaborg, for charter or purchase. We also understand that this vessel is available in Vancouver and can serve the western Arctic this summer, where the Canadian Coast Guard has many operational gaps, including the inability to operate in shallow waters or readily respond to grounding or an oil spill. We also understand that Canada has until the end of this month to respond to its offer or lose this vessel to a company from Russia, also interested in the vessel.
    Given our extreme shortage of icebreaking assets, will the minister please advise why he's not acting on this opportunity and why the bureaucracy refuses to even view this vessel?
    First I would challenge the last part of your statement. We are not extremely short of icebreaking capacity, that is simply false. I'm certainly hoping you're not intending to say we should be skipping a process for large-scale procurement.
    We are going to work through the process to ensure that the needs of the Canadian Coast Guard are met.
    Are you acting on this?
    We are ensuring that we are moving forward in a proper and appropriate process.
    Thank you.
    Minister, the construction of the CCGS Diefenbaker has been deferred indefinitely. Canada's only large Arctic icebreaker, the Louis S. St-Laurent, is over 53 years old. Can the minister advise why the government is not seeking Davie Shipbuilding to either build this ship directly or subcontract to Seaspan?
     The Canadian Coast Guard has done an assessment of all of its requirements on a go-forward basis. We have certainly spent lots of time on that, as well as on options, with respect to how we will fill the various needs we have, over time.
    We are in the process of completing that work—
    Minister, can we get a copy of the marine assessment that the Canadian Coast Guard—
    We are still in the process of completing that work. At some point, it will be public.
    Minister, members of this committee have noticed that the Canadian Coast Guard has had two recent commissioners who have not attended Canadian Coast Guard College. Can you tell us when the Canadian Coast Guard will get a commissioner who has actually attended Canadian Coast Guard College?
    That's a pretty cheesy question.
    I am fully comfortable that the commissioner and the senior management of the Coast Guard are fully capable and equipped to do their jobs.
     Mr. Sargent, the department made a decision to revise the schedule of the OOSV. Will you table with the clerk, by the end of Wednesday, the full and complete operational and financial impact of this decision, including all of the positives and negatives, and a firm schedule for the delivery of this vessel, as well as the total cost?
    I'll ask the commissioner to respond to that.
    We'll be happy to provide the information we're able to provide that answers your question. Some of it, Mr. Doherty—the budget, for example—is under review. We won't have a final cost—

  (1555)  

    Thank you.
    —construction contracts.... We won't have a final date, but we can provide the implications of the rescheduling decision, and the programmatic decision that supports shipbuilding across the board. We'll work with the clerk on the appropriate timing for that.
    Thanks.
    Mr. Sargent, the department has agreed to push the date further back for construction and delivery of the polar class icebreaker, the John G. Diefenbaker. Will you be able to table with the clerk of this committee, by the end of Wednesday, the date you expect to receive delivery of the Diefenbaker, and the full operational and financial impacts of this decision?
    I'll once again turn to the commissioner.
    I think I can provide the same answer, that we'll work with the clerk to provide what information is available to you.
    Thank you. Mr. Hutchinson, I'll direct these questions to you, since Mr. Sargent can't answer them. Will you table with the clerk, by the end of Wednesday, any and all briefings, notes or memos you reviewed, related to the refresh of the national shipbuilding strategy?
    We don't have an initiative that we refer to as a refresh of the national shipbuilding strategy. If there were an initiative of that nature, I think much of what you're looking for would be subject to confidence—primarily, cabinet confidence.
    We would like to provide what we're able to, with respect to your question, sir. Perhaps this is another piece that we could discuss with the clerk, in terms of the appropriate scope.
    Thank you.
    That's your time. Thank you, Mr. Doherty.
    Before I move on to Mr. Johns, I would ask that you be aware that interpreters are having some trouble keeping up when people are speaking really fast. Please co-operate with the interpreters so they can keep up with the conversation.
    Mr. Johns, the floor is yours, for seven minutes or less, please.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I want to thank the minister for being here today and all of his staff and team for the hard work that you do. I really appreciate all of you being here today.
    I'm going to start with the oceans protection plan. In 2017-18, the shortfall was $63 million, in terms of money allocated and unspent. We don't have the numbers from 2018-19 yet, but were you able to meet the targets scheduled in the allotment for the oceans protection plan in 2018-19? Where are you sitting right now, in terms of the first month of the 2019-20 schedule?
    To ensure that you get the most accurate information, I will ask Jen to speak to that.
    In terms of the oceans protection plan, there has been over $800 million announced, so work is ongoing.
    Sorry, announcements are great, but how much has been spent? There's been $1.5 billion, really, announced.
    In terms of spending, although the numbers for 2018-19 aren't final, and we're still closing the books, we're now at approximately $325 million spent, to date.
    What was scheduled, Ms. O'Donoughue?
    It is a little bit lower than the initial allocation, once the projects were actually planned out. Some of the larger capital projects are taking a little longer.
     How much is a little bit?
    We'll have to go back and actually look at that number for you. They are still on track to achieve results within the five-year time frame.
    Can you get that back to the committee?
    Yes.
    Will you be able to also provide the committee with a list of the initiatives, including information such as geographic location, amount of funding and description of the projects, that have been funded by the oceans protection plan?
    In terms of funding?
    Yes.
    Yes, we can work with the clerk to provide that.
    And not just announced, but money spent as well. If we can get those separated, that would be great.
    I have a question for the minister. I want to follow up on the oceans protection plan. Does the technology to clean up dilbit still exist?
    There's obviously a lot of science that goes into answering that question, and some of that comes from scientists within the government. Some of it comes from reports, such as the Council of the Royal Society report that was done a few years ago, which was actually led by a scientist from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
    For any hydrocarbon that's spilled in a marine or an aqueous environment, the most critical issue is how quickly you get to the spill; that is, the amount—
     Minister, I just want to know the answer.
    In the work that's been done to date, diluted bitumen behaves very similarly in a marine environment to other forms of conventional crude. How much you can clean up depends on how quickly you get there. Certainly, the technology exists to ensure you can actually do most of it. In the context, for example, in Burnaby, when there was a spill from land that went into the ocean, it was almost 90% plus that was cleaned up.

  (1600)  

    In terms of one thing, I will definitely commend the government on the increased support for the indigenous participation in commercial fisheries. I hope that will be targeted to the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation fishery and the Ahousaht v. Canada case, as well as a resolution to that. I'm not looking for a comment, I just wanted to state that.
    In terms of aquaculture, the future of salmon aquaculture is closed containment. We know that. The technology exists. It's economically feasible and the perspective jobs and economic opportunities are immense.
    A recent report published by the Fraser Basin Council concluded that 4,000 jobs would be created during the construction phase of recirculating the aquaculture systems and facilities. An additional 2,685 full-time, long-term jobs would be created through the operation and fish processing from land-based aquaculture facilities located on Vancouver Island.
    Will the government follow the Washington example and transition the salmon farming to save closed containment?
    As you know, we have taken significant steps to further evolve the whole approach with respect to aquaculture, and that involves moving toward area-based management. It involves much more rigorous framework for risk assessment, and it involves studying the issues around closed containment.
    The Fraser Basin Council report was a very interesting and useful report. What it did show though was that the internal rates of return for these types of facilities are extremely low at this stage, so we need to do more work, either to validate those results or to find ways to improve the economic position of closed containment farms.
    We would all be interested in seeing some form of transition, but it needs to be an economically viable one. We are presently working with the Government of British Columbia on a study that is helping to form policy in that regard.
    Washington state decided to move forward. Are you consulting—
    Washington state made a specific decision with respect to open net-pen farms. That doesn't mean it has a closed containment industry.
    It's moving away from it. It made it very clear that that's what it is doing.
     I'm hoping, and we're encouraging you to do the same.
    Will you commit to working with the province to save the remaining endangered interior Fraser salmon and steelhead, and immediately establish a test select fishery in the Fraser?
    We are working very closely with the province of B.C. on issues relating to interior salmon and steelhead. Those are both critical issues that need to be addressed. The province is very much engaged, because land management and agricultural use are critical pieces of all that.
     You're looking for funding for the B.C. salmon restoration funds, which obviously I've been calling for. We've been calling for that money to get out the door. Will some of that money go to hatcheries as well? Most hatcheries haven't seen an increase in over 30 years, and we didn't see it in the coastal restoration funds. We haven't seen it so far.
    Can the minister speak to that?
    Hatcheries are not the primary focus of the work on the salmon restoration and innovation fund. As you will have seen from the terms of reference, it's fairly broad, but the focus is very much on restoration.
    We are certainly open to conversations around hatcheries. We will be having those at tables focused on things like the Fraser River chinook. The issue around hatcheries is a controversial one. There are certain areas in which hatcheries have a role to play, but you have to be very careful from a scientific perspective as to the balance between wild and hatchery-produced fish in areas where the wild stocks remain healthy.
    That is less of a concern in areas where you have close to extirpated the wild stocks, but there is a scientific issue we need to work through. We are going to be doing that with first nations, commercial fishers, recreation fishers and environmental organizations.
     Thanks, Mr. Johns. Your time is up.
    We'll now go to the government side.
    Mr. Finnigan, you have seven minutes or less, please.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    I'll be splitting my time with my colleague, Mr. Hardie.
    Thank you, Minister, for being here. Thank you also for dropping into my riding last fall. It was very welcomed by all the recreational and indigenous communities that we had a chance to visit.
    Of course, on the mighty Miramichi, the Atlantic salmon is king. With all the diminishing counts that we see every year, what is your department doing to ensure that the species remains in our water as a source of food and income for generations to come and for our first nations communities? Also, I know that we're moving towards traditional knowledge a little bit, in partnership with first nations, which I'm very happy to see.
    Maybe I could have your comments on what we're doing to protect this species.

  (1605)  

    The issues affecting both Atlantic and Pacific salmon are not simple. They are complex, and they require a lot of work and thought, not the least of which are the impacts of climate change. Climate change for a species that is typically a cold water species becomes increasingly problematic in rivers and estuaries that become increasingly warm at times of the year when salmon spawning is often taking place.
    We are very much committed to working collaboratively with all of the partner organizations to conserve and protect Atlantic salmon. That includes the Atlantic Salmon Federation and a range of other organizations, including many of the organizations that we met with when I was in your riding. Through the Atlantic Salmon Research Joint Venture forum, DFO experts are working with leading researchers from conservation groups, academia and other governments under a more unified Canadian Atlantic salmon research agenda, so we're doing a lot of work with respect to research. This past year, the Atlantic Salmon Research Joint Venture hosted a signature event in Quebec City that was really focused on delineating paths forward for some of the issues facing Atlantic salmon. Some of the issues are obviously international, so we are working with NASCO to find ways to reduce Greenland's annual catch, which has been a big issue. We are going to continue to work on that.
    Of course, we need to continue to focus on projects that relate to things like habitat restoration. While it wasn't in your riding, I was in Nova Scotia last week to announce two coastal restoration fund projects—one on the St. Marys River and one on the West River—that are focused primarily on salmon restoration.
    It's a comprehensive approach. It's absolutely a priority for this government. We recognize how important Atlantic salmon are to coastal communities and to indigenous communities all across Atlantic Canada.
    Thank you, Mr. Minister.
    I'll share my time with Mr. Hardie.
    Thank you, Mr. Finnigan.
    Thank you, Mr. Minister.
    You had no end of tough calls to make, and certainly one of them had to do with the closures on chinook salmon out on the west coast. I got a message from a family who invested quite heavily in a boat last year, and they've seen their fishing window shortened by about six weeks this year because of the closures. They are wondering if there's a chance to review the balance, I guess, of the pain or the impact between the commercial fishers and the commercial recreational sector, mainly the lodges and guides, etc., to make sure that.... Again, there will be sacrifices, but they need to be equitable. Can you comment on that?
    As I mentioned in talking about Atlantic salmon, clearly the issues involved here are complex, and we need a comprehensive approach. With respect to Fraser River chinook, where 12 of 13 are listed or are in the process of being listed as being threatened, we are in the process of bringing forward Bill C-68 to strengthen protections that were lost under the previous government. We committed $142 million to habitat restoration, which is something the recreational fishers talk about a lot: the need for governments to actually spend on restoring habitat that's been destroyed. We announced in the fall $107 million for investments in the stock provisions part of the Fisheries Act to help us to do more stock assessments and those kinds of things to better manage the fisheries. We have convened, with the University of British Columbia, a symposium on predation by seals and sea lions, which is another topic of conversation. We have indicated to the recreational fishers that we are open to conversations around hatcheries and marked fisheries in a multi-stakeholder forum where we can surface some of the issues and have those conversations.
    We also need to ensure that a sufficient number of these fish are getting back to the spawning grounds, that they will continue to survive and, ultimately, that they will continue to recover. The restrictions that were put into place a few weeks ago are to do exactly that. Those restrictions are as stringent for the commercial fishery as they are for the recreational fishery, and in some respects, you could argue that they are even more stringent for the commercial fishery. We have endeavoured to ensure that we only have non-retention limits in place while the Fraser River stocks are in the relevant area, and those are opened again as soon as those stocks are gone. Before those stocks have left, it's not a closure of the fishery; it's simply non-retention. You can catch and release, but you must release.
    It is part of a comprehensive plan to ensure that we are not knowingly putting these Fraser River chinook on a path to extinction. That would not be something that's wise, and I wouldn't be doing my job appropriately if I allowed that to happen.

  (1610)  

     The committee dropped a report—our 21st—in Parliament last week on the whole issue of sharing risks and rewards in the west coast fishery, which seemed to have drifted badly out of balance. I know that it's early days and you have a lot on your plate, but I'm wondering if you've had any first-blush reactions to that report.
    First of all, I want to thank the committee for the work. It's certainly very interesting and I think has very thoughtful recommendations with respect to a range of issues on the west coast that are quite different from those on the east coast.
     I have met with many stakeholders who have wanted to talk about these issues. Certainly we have listened, and we are thinking within the department on some of these issues, but what I have told them is that we're not going to launch a major project on this while the committee itself is doing the study. We are going to wait for the committee's report. We are going to consider the committee's report. We will obviously respond to the committee's report, and we will do so in a thoughtful way.
    Certainly, there are a lot of issues that have been raised. As even people like Melanie Sonnenberg—who I'm sure you have met with many times—will tell you, it's very difficult to unscramble the omelette. Certainly, the issues around economic benefits and some of the other broader issues that were raised in the report are some things that we're going to think very seriously about.
    Thank you, Mr. Hardie.
    We're back to the Conservative side now.
     Mr. Arnold, five minutes or less, please.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    Thank you, Minister and all of the officials, for being here.
    We received a briefing on some of the numbers in the estimates. One that really piqued my interest was the $10.2 million for the disposal of small craft harbours, which is an increase from $500,000 previously. That's a very significant increase. Is it the intention of the department to divest itself of a number of small craft harbours? If so, how many, and where would they be?
    That is certainly public information, yes, and on small craft harbours, it's really focused on harbours where there are commercial fisheries, in support of commercial fisheries. There was a decision a number of years ago that there were some small craft harbours that would be divested, typically to the community-based organizations that wish to accept them. There are case-by-case examples.
    In terms of the numbers and why the number has gone up, maybe I can ask Jen.
    The number reflects the plans in 2019-20, but Mark probably has more detail in terms of the actual—
    Could you get the report to the committee before the end of the week, please, rather than chew up a whole bunch of time here now? Thank you.
    Minister, I want to question you a bit on the aquatic invasive species and that program. The commissioner's report that came out a few weeks back identified basically very significant problems with the aquatic invasive species program. I believe it's under the fisheries protection program. In her report, she referred to the fisheries minister's mandate letter. She stated that there were funding increases for the seven new fisheries officers to be deployed across the Arctic region and Quebec region by the 2021 fiscal year. The report said:
This aligns with the priority in the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard's mandate letter to increase...protection of freshwater resources in the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River, and Lake Winnipeg basins. However, as funding was significantly less than Fisheries and Oceans Canada's identified needs, the Department will make risk-based decisions regarding the resources allocated to protect fish and fish habitat from aquatic invasive species.
    Minister, over the past couple of years we've seen cases of boats that are infested with zebra and quagga mussels entering the provinces. Obviously, the system is failing. The commissioner's report shows how and why the system is failing. What is being done within the department to correct those failures?
    Certainly, the issue of aquatic invasive species is an important one, and it is an increasingly important one as we move forward in the era when climate change is changing the nature of the ability of these species both to come here and to survive and thrive. That is certainly why addressing climate change in a thoughtful and substantive way is a very important thing to do, but with respect to—

  (1615)  

    Minister—
    —aquatic invasive species, there were a couple of things with respect to the commissioner's report.
     The first is that we accept her recommendations and certainly will be working to meet many of the comments she made, but it is also important to note that both the scope and the timing of her report exclude a number of things that have been done. Her report, because hers is a federal agency, also does not focus on the fact that aquatic invasive species is a shared federal-provincial jurisdictional issue, where you need to work with the provinces.
    In budget 2017, we allocated $43.8 million over five years. It was a significant increase in funding—
     Over 80% of that went to species in the Great Lakes, leaving less than 20% spread across the rest of the country.
    Are the funds going to be used equitably across the country?
    It's a significant increase in funding relative to what had been funded under the previous government. We recognize that more will need to be done. Part of that needs to be done through a federal-provincial framework and we have been working with all of the fisheries ministers across the country to develop that. We intend to ensure that this is an issue that gets attention going forward. We said that in the response to the commissioner.
    Is the funding sufficient?
    As I said to you, we accept the recommendations of the commissioner and we are working to ensure that we are addressing all of them.
    I'll move on to another subject here about the restrictions on top of restrictions that seem to be coming along here.
    DFO's web page for the salmonid enhancement program contains information about the state of the Pacific salmon runs in the States, saying that “many individual runs are still threatened by too many fishermen and too little habitat.” Meanwhile, a news story on May 10 quoted Liberal MP Pamela Goldsmith-Jones as stating that anglers “are as interested in conservation as anyone, but aren't accepting that they create a risk to [salmon]...mortality.”
    Do you agree with your department's web page and your Liberal colleague that it is the anglers who are to blame for the state of Pacific salmon stocks?
    Give a very short answer, please.
    No. I think that this is, as I said, a comprehensive issue. It's industrial development over long periods of time, it's climate change—
    You said no, but the fisheries are taking the biggest [Inaudible—Editor].
    It's the management of the fishery, and we need to ensure that we're taking a comprehensive approach to address all of those issues, which is exactly what we have done.
    Thank you, Mr. Arnold.
    I'll now go to Mr. Rogers for five minutes or less, please.
    Thank you, Minister, for being here, and to all of your officials.
    Minister, Clearwater Seafoods recently signed an agreement with several communities—actually, 14 Mi'kmaq communities in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador—on the future of the surf clam industry. This agreement fulfills commitments to reconciliation and keeps jobs in my riding—in the town of Grand Bank and on the Burin Peninsula. I have followed this file closely and worked with all involved, particularly the local union and Clearwater.
    I'm wondering if your department has reviewed this agreement. Where do you see the future of the surf clam industry going, keeping in mind the economic importance of the surf clam to Grand Bank and the Burin Peninsula?
    I certainly remain dedicated to ensuring that the process to award the fourth surf clam licence results in meaningful and measurable direct and indirect benefits for indigenous peoples. I certainly appreciate the efforts of Clearwater to include multiple indigenous communities in the proposal that it brought forward.
    I have met with Clearwater and I had a chance to talk to them about their report. I see this very much as a positive development in the context of the overall path to reconciliation. We will take the time we need to evaluate this proposal—both its advantages and disadvantages—and look at what options there may be before we come to a determination.
    I think it was very positive in terms of the work that's been done between industry and indigenous communities in that relevant area.
    Thank you, Minister. I want you to know that, as I have already indicated, I fully support this proposal. It keeps jobs in my riding.
    Mr. Minister, earlier this spring, there were proposed cuts of up to 30% in the crab quotas in Newfoundland and Labrador. During that time, I met with hundreds of fish harvesters throughout my riding in the most impacted areas. There was a severe concern about cuts of this size.
    I was pleased to see the size of these cuts reduced in this particular instance. Many harvesters said their catch rates were excellent last year. They are reporting to me that, so far this year, they are even better. I believe fish harvesters need to be consulted before the precautionary approach is administered.
    Could you comment on the process behind your precautionary approach, its implementation, and the way in which local harvesters' knowledge will be incorporated into this process?

  (1620)  

    Certainly, we are committed to the use of the precautionary approach in fisheries decision-making. It's certainly a key component of managing these fisheries in a sustainable way. It is something, obviously, that stakeholders and, in particular, fish harvesters need to have involvement in as we go forward.
    To ensure that we are supporting—and that everyone is supporting—the ongoing sustainability of the fishery, which is in everyone's interest, the department has initiated a working group that involves indigenous peoples, commercial fishers and other stakeholder representatives to develop a formal precautionary approach framework for the fishery, including reference points and harvest control rules.
    That table has been up and running. It has been working very well to date. In my mind, it is a model of how we can actually ensure that we are working together on a go-forward basis. I look forward to the output of the work that the working group is doing.
     Minister, I appreciate that answer. I really want to emphasize the importance of having the knowledge of harvesters as an integral part of anything we do going forward in this industry.
    Minister, the harvesters in the two particular areas where I get a lot of recommendations and information from—Bonavista Bay and Trinity Bay, in my riding—report that the crab quotas this year.... The harvest has been tremendous. It's been plentiful, and it's been quick. They've done extremely well.
    As you talk to scientists and to people in the department going forward, I want you to keep the information in mind that the harvesters are bringing to my attention.
    I will do so.
    Thank you.
    Now to Mr. Calkins, for five minutes or less, please.
    Minister, thanks for being here.
    You spoke about money in the budget for fisheries enhancement, particularly on the west coast. The British Columbia salmon restoration and innovation fund talks about increasing productivity. You mentioned in your opening remarks and through other conversations you've had here that basically there's nothing new on the front for hatcheries.
    Is that correct?
    What I said is that hatcheries are a tool, from a science perspective, that you need to use in a thoughtful way—
    I just want to know from the—
    —and so you want to make sure you're not overwhelming the wild genetic stock.
    Yes.
    It's a process that you need to be thoughtful about and a tool you need to be—
    Let me just ask you a question, then, that doesn't...my sense of knowledge of fisheries and aquatic sciences with my zoology degree.
    Are you spending more money in the budget on hatcheries, yes or no?
    As I said, the conversation around hatcheries is that we will be—
    So is there—?
    —going through at a table.
    The one area where we have put more money into fisheries relates to the south resident killer whale. We are enhancing the Chilliwack hatchery to provide more stocks for the whales.
    Chilliwack has to go through the lake in order to get there.
     Inch Creek and Capilano hatcheries don't have that same set of obstacles—
    There is capacity within the hatchery. The fish that come out of that hatchery go into the areas where the south resident killer whales forage.
    There are a whole range of reasons. If you would like the science behind it, I'd be more than happy to provide it.
     I already know it. I just don't know why you're not investing in it.
    I just said that we are.
    But they're not running at capacity, so why not?
    I said that we are.
    I was just there. I just visited both of those hatcheries. They're not running at capacity.
    We are putting in money as part of the whales initiative, to ensure we are providing the southern killer whales with more food to eat.
    Is there anything in the estimates to increase the number of spawning channels for chinook salmon?
    That is certainly part of the purview of the salmon innovation restoration fund.
    Okay, but nothing—
    There's $142 million in historic investment in salmon habitat restoration being done by the Government of British Columbia and the federal government.
    That's—
    It has never been done in the history of British Columbia.
    That sounds great in a news release.
    It is good.
    I'm just asking if there's anything that's going to be done on the ground.
    Are there any new spawning channels for—?
    We will have announcements to make with respect to the first projects out of that fund by June.
    Is there anything in the sense of predator control?
    As I said, there is a symposium that we're organizing with the University of British Columbia to bring together all stakeholders to have a conversation around seals and sea lions.
    Okay, so really what you're saying is that with $107 million, there's no new hatchery capacity, there are going to be discussions at a symposium with a bunch of academics, there may be announcements coming for spawning channels, and there is a complete closure of chinook salmon fisheries, which is going to cost the commercial sport fishing industry anywhere from $200 million to $500 million, depending on who you believe.
    I already know of lodges and guiding services that have completely shut down and lost all of their business on Vancouver Island, and $107 million is what it's costing them. You're taking money out of their pocket to basically tell them that they're shut down and out of business. I haven't heard anything from you about a compensation program or a package to offset any of the revenue that's been lost by any of these commercial fishermen.
    There is no way you are going to reconsider allowing these people to catch the transient salmon that are in the area other than in the sounds. You realize that you're going to put all the fishing pressure in the sounds this summer and completely decimate those populations. You know that's what's going to happen, right, Minister?

  (1625)  

    There are quite a number of things that are just not correct in terms of what you said.
    There is no complete closure. There is no complete closure anywhere. There is a catch-and-release fishery even while the Fraser chinook are in the area.
    Nobody pays $4,000—
    The $107 million is actually—
    Nobody pays $4,000 to—
    —associated with Bill C-68, which is to implement the stock assessment provisions within the bill. They don't have anything to do with habitat restoration. That's $142 million—partnering with the Government of B.C.
    We have put in place the most comprehensive approach to addressing the decline in the Fraser chinook in the history of British Columbia. It is something that needs to be done if you are somebody who believes that these fish need to be saved. I, for one, do.
     The Omega Pacific Hatchery on Great Central Lake on Vancouver Island has the capacity to do 12 separate strains.
    I'm more than happy to talk about the science with you.
    They have the capacity to do 12 separate strains. Why is the department not funding any—
    I am more than happy to discuss the science with you. I think I've answered that question, in terms of hatcheries. I am more than happy to talk about the science with you.
    Well, then it would be a one-sided conversation, because I'm the guy with the science background, Minister.
    I already know the science. I'm asking you why the funding is not there and why the department is not actually investing the money at that particular hatchery, which can do 12 strains, 12 different imprints on Chinook salmon, yet it's sitting there—
    I think I've answered that question many times.
    There are issues around the hatchery related to the dilution of wild stock, so you have to be thoughtful about how you use the tool. While you may have a zoology degree, within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, there are hundreds of marine biologists and zoologists who provide advice and work on this every day.
    —and they're telling me to ask you these questions.
    Thank you, Mr. Calkins.
    Now we'll go back to the government side and Mr. Fraser, please, for five minutes or less.
    Thanks.
    I'd like to turn, Minister, to the Atlantic fisheries fund. One of the components of the fund deals with partnering with industry on scientific research and it is so important to understanding what's going on in the oceans with our fish stock. I know that under the former government, there were cuts made to scientific research. There were research libraries closed that contained important data to understand the background so that plans could be made to ensure a healthy, thriving stock for future generations of fish harvesters.
    I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about the Atlantic fisheries fund and the work being done to enable industry to work with government on collecting good data.
    It's an important tool. Certainly the reinvestment in science and the scientific capacity of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is extremely important. It was the department that was most thoroughly brutalized, with respect to scientific capacity, by the Harper government.
    We have hired about 300 additional scientists to restore the capacity within the department. We have invested significant sums to ensure that the science on which we are making fisheries management decisions is sound.
    However, it's also important that we are reaching out to ensure that we hear the priorities of fish harvesters and that we are able to utilize some of their expertise. Those are fish harvesters but they are also academic institutions and others. The Atlantic fisheries fund, through the pillar relating to science and science investments, allows us to do exactly that.
    Right.
    I'd like to turn for a moment to safety on the water. Fishermen obviously deserve to come home at the end of the day like anybody else. There have been far too many examples of tragedies on the waters. The Coast Guard does a good job patrolling our coast and working with industry to keep fishers safe. I know there have been investments made in the Coast Guard. I'm wondering if you can talk about the safety aspect and how that has been improved under our government.
    There are probably a number of elements to that, but certainly part of that relates to initiatives under the oceans protection plan that have allowed us to invest more in our response capacity. These include, for example, the reopening of a number of Coast Guard bases that were closed under the previous government. That includes the Kitsilano Coast Guard base in Vancouver but it also includes a number of facilities on the Atlantic coast.
    The investments made to ensure that we are able to respond to fish harvesters' issues and incidents—to ensure that we can respond to pollution incidents that may happen in the waters—have been a significant focus of the oceans protection plan.

  (1630)  

    Minister, do you have any minutes left? I was hoping to get to the NDP for a couple of minutes.
    Okay, sure, if it's just two minutes.
    When can we expect a response from the government for the “West Coast Fisheries: Sharing Risks and Benefits” report? Do you have a timeline?
    Maybe I can turn to my deputy.
    We don't have a timeline as yet. We're really taking the time that it needs to analyze the report. We are actively looking at it right now.
    You know that we oppose the so-called modernization of the MCTS centres. Closures in Comox, Ucluelet and Vancouver were meant to save money. My understanding is there's lots of overtime. Has it saved any money?
    Maybe I should ask the commissioner.
    I actually have the deputy commissioner of operations here. He could answer that question better than I could, Mr. Chair, if he were allowed to come to the table to speak to it.
    Has it saved money?
    Yes, it has.
    How much?
    The exact number we could provide later, but it's in the—
    Could you get that to the committee? I'd like to get it.
    Yes. It's in the millions.
    Can you do that for the last few years and each year broken down?
    Yes, we have that.
    Thank you.
    I have one more comment. Kennedy Lake, in my riding, didn't have a single recorded sockeye salmon return last year. It's the first time in our history. We have fishers who are out of work. They haven't been given EI. There's no compensation; area G trollers still haven't gotten their compensation from the Pacific Salmon Treaty.
    You've announced $17 million here, and we're in a crisis with our fish. How did you come up with that number? Communities are looking for a lot more. You know how desperately we need to get money injected into restoration and into our communities. We've talked about enhancement. We may not agree on that piece, but we desperately need more than this, sooner than later. That $17 million isn't even close to what we're expecting.
    With respect to restoration, that is exactly what the $142 million is intended to do, to provide funding for community groups on the ground to engage in restoration-related work. I think the $17 million you're talking about is the Pacific Salmon Treaty funds.
    That is correct, yes.
    We are looking at that in the context of a range of different applications for it on an go-forward basis.
    But you can't have that money sitting there when it's meant to do exactly this, and these fishers are.... People are losing their houses right now. They can't wait till August 20 to open a fishery and not get anything between now and then.
    I'm hoping you'll come back with something sooner than later.
    Just to clarify, it's not August 20, though. The catch-and-release fishery is open the whole way through. For some areas it's July 15, and for some it's August 1.
    I'm talking about the commercial fleet.
    The commercial fleet in the north, yes, starts August 20.
    The commercial fleet is in trouble, and there hasn't been any offering from the government. I'm hoping you're going to do something immediately to support these fishers and their families. It's part of our culture and our coast, and it's important that we do everything we can, and I haven't seen anything.
    I totally recognize that, and it's certainly something that is obviously a cause for lots of concern. I don't minimize the impacts in any way.
    I've brought a lot of concerns and ideas to you—
    Thank you, Mr. Johns.
    —and we're hoping you can answer that.
    Thank you.
    Again, Minister, thank you for making yourself available today. I understand the officials are going to stay for the next hour, so we'll continue on with questioning.
    We'll suspend for a moment while the minister is saying his goodbyes.

  (1630)  


  (1635)  

    We'll start again and get into the next hour.
    I will remind everyone that we are extending a little bit at the end for some committee business. We're going to extend for 15 minutes or so.
    We go now to questions for the officials from the Liberal side.
     Mr. Fraser, you have seven minutes or less.
     Thanks very much.
    Picking up on the last exchange that I had with the minister regarding investments in the Coast Guard, I understand that a number of investments have been made over the last couple of years to enhance the safety profile of the Canadian Coast Guard in order to keep fishers safe on the water. Could you go into some details about some of those things? For example, in the estimates, I believe there are 40 emergency tow kits. Have other similar types of investments been made that will be important for keeping fishers safe while on the water?
    Absolutely. I'll turn it over to the commissioner for more detail.
     We have made a range of investments in improving on-water safety. We had contracts for 12 search and rescue boats, as you may know, under the OPP. That was increased to 20 search and rescue lifeboats. Those boats are coming into service. I can tell you that there's never been a shipbuilding project in the Coast Guard that people have been more proud of, because of the capability of those boats.
    Because of the investments and comprehensive review, we've been able to reassure ourselves that our front-line people are trained and at the ready. We have restored training dollars. There was a period of time when we felt like we were putting our training dollars into our gas tanks. Now the training program is reinvigorated. As you mentioned, there's the deployment so far of 49 emergency tow kits, of which 25.... Let me rephrase that: 25 large vessels will be equipped with emergency tow kits. I rephrase it because in some cases a ship could have more than one, but 49 of them have been deployed so far. That number will soon exceed 60. They are both land-based and ship-based. We have two emergency tow vessels in service under lease on the west coast, which provides us with a significant capacity to prevent problems before they reach our shores. Particularly when large vessels—not usually fishing vessels, which was the focus of your question—find themselves in difficulty, we have better capability today to respond than we did just a short period ago.
    I could go on; there are other investments, such as the reopening and opening of new lifeboat stations across the north shore of Newfoundland—in St. Anthony, for example, and Old Perlican. One reopening that wasn't mentioned earlier is the St. John's MRSC, a search and rescue coordination centre. It's a sub-centre from JRCC Halifax, which has also given us surge capacity when things on the water have been more difficult.
    Can I just follow up on that point and ask about your working with the Canadian Forces? I have Greenwood in my riding as well. I know on “dumping day”, the opening of the lobster season in southwestern Nova Scotia, it's a major operation, coordinated between the Coast Guard, as I understand it, and also the search and rescue units from Greenwood to patrol the maritime coastline. I am wondering how well coordinated that is, in your view, and if there is anything more that could be done to ensure good results.
    This is a seamless system in which Canadians can have a huge amount of confidence. I think that was underscored in the recent Senate report on search and rescue called “When Every Minute Counts”. We work very closely with our forces colleagues. As you know, in the JRCC our operators and their operators sit in the same room. They can speak with each other as easily as you and I are speaking now—except they don't need the microphones. When it comes to an event like dumping day, we are, as we'd say, “lashed up”. We have their assets deployed. We have our assets deployed. We have incident command in place.
    This is a system that works extremely well. It's a strong partnership. It's a model for other countries to follow. They do come and visit us to see what they can take away. Could it be stronger? With the investments we are making on both the forces side and the Coast Guard side, I think the right investments are being made to keep the system strong.

  (1640)  

    It's an impressive undertaking. I commend the work you do to ensure that our fishers are kept safe, especially at that time of year, when it's extremely risky getting boats out on the water.
    This question is for any of the officials. I asked the minister about the Atlantic fisheries fund, and we talked about the science and research component. I know there is also a focus on export readiness and ensuring that processors are able to perhaps have the tools they need in order to expand markets around the globe. Do you have any comment on how that's going under the Atlantic fisheries fund, as far as seeing new growth in emerging markets around the world is concerned?
    Certainly that's a key strand of the program, along with innovation as well. I think one of the good things about the program is how the different strands work together. If the industry is going to serve the increased demand for seafood around the world that we're seeing from both existing markets and emerging markets, it will need innovation. It will need new techniques. It will need labour-saving technology. A lot of the projects that are rolling through the Atlantic fisheries fund right now are very much in that direction.
     I'll quickly go back to my very first question of the minister regarding small craft harbours. I think everybody understands why those investments are so important.
    With regard to repair work that needs to happen on a timely basis, I know there are certain examples at least in my riding and in other areas of Atlantic Canada, and perhaps on the west coast as well, where it does take some time to get those repairs done. Is there something that could be done to improve the efficiency with regard to not only identifying those but also getting the funds to the wharves to ensure safety?
    We're always looking for opportunities for improvement. Our regional directors general and the area directors work very closely with the local communities to understand what their needs are. The needs can change from year to year. Of course, we have growth in industries like aquaculture, for instance, that are also putting strain on capacity in the small craft harbours.
    It has to be very much a conversation with the local community to find out where the pressure points are, where the deterioration is happening, what the areas of high priority are. It's just an ongoing conversation.
    Thank you.
    Now we go to the Conservative side. Mr. Doherty, you have seven minutes or less, please.
    Thank you.
    Mr. Sargent, will you table with the clerk by the end of the day Wednesday any and all briefing notes you reviewed since becoming the deputy related to the renewal of the Canadian Coast Guard fleet, including but not limited to light icebreakers, medium icebreakers and heavy icebreakers?
    You're asking about information on the Canadian Coast Guard—
    I'm asking if you'll table any documents that you reviewed since becoming deputy.
    The government releases a lot of information about the national shipbuilding strategy. Of course, this is something that we do with Public Services and Procurement Canada as well as the navy.
    Is that a yes or no?
    Not all of those documents can be released to the public, but the government does release quite a lot of information. I think in some of the early conversations, as well, there's additional information.
    Thanks, Mr. Sargent.
    Mr. Timothy Sargent: We'll provide—
    Mr. Todd Doherty: Mr. Sargent, can you table with the clerk of the committee by the end of the day Wednesday any and all reports or briefing notes prepared by your department in the last five years relating to the Canadian Coast Guard using or integrating Arctic and offshore patrol ships?
    I think I'll give the same version of the answer that I just gave, which is that the government provides a lot of information about the national shipbuilding strategy. If there are specific areas where more information is required, I'm certainly interested to know what those would be.
    I'll go on, then. Mr. Sargent, my time is short. Media reports indicate that the department is about to be given two AOPS.
     Can you please provide by the end of the day Wednesday any and all published Canadian Coast Guard reports, department plans or departmental budgets indicating that the AOPS are part of the Canadian Coast Guard fleet renewal plan, as no one on this committee has seen such a plan.

  (1645)  

    Again, information on the national shipbuilding strategy is put out by Public Services and Procurement Canada. They are the department ultimately responsible for that.
    Thanks.
    Mr. Sargent, can you table with the clerk by the end of the day Wednesday any briefing note or memo you have reviewed related to the total funds the department has set aside for the acquisition of the light icebreaker? When will this vessel be acquired by the Canadian Coast Guard?
    For questions on that specific vessel, I'll turn to the deputy commissioner.
     The light icebreaker is subject to a request for information that recently closed. With respect to when that vessel will be delivered, we're envisioning that this will occur in the 2022 time frame.
    Great. What I was asking for was if Mr. Sargent could table with the clerk by the end of the day any briefing note or memo that he has related to the total funds the department has set aside for the acquisition of the light icebreaker. We've answered part of it, when the vessel will be acquired by the Canadian Coast Guard. We want to know about the funds that have been allocated for this light icebreaker.
    I'd be happy to work with the committee clerk to provide that.
    Thank you, Mr. Smith.
    Mr. Sargent, let's see if you can answer this one. Can you explain to the committee why there has been such a significant delay in the Canadian Coast Guard acquiring the offshore fisheries science vessels?
    Building a ship, especially a new ship, is a very complex undertaking. It's to be expected that schedules and budgets would have to be adjusted for the first class of ships built in a generation. Both shipbuilders in Canada renew their skills in estimating and costing.
    The national shipbuilding strategy is a long-term commitment to the shipbuilding industry. It certainly is looking to continue assessing our progress.
    Thank you, Mr. Sargent. We've heard the talking points.
    Mr. Sargent, can you or will you be able to table with the clerk by the end of Wednesday the total allocated budget broken down by each vessel the department has set aside for these acquisitions?
     I'll turn to the commissioner for that information.
    We'd be happy to provide the budgets that have been published previously.
    Thank you, Mr. Hutchinson.
    Mr. Sargent, will you be able to table with the clerk, by the end of the day on Wednesday, the risk mitigation plan that the department currently has for oil spill recovery?
    On spill recovery....
    We would work with the clerk of the committee to provide that within the time limit.
    Thank you, Mr. Hutchinson.
    Mr. Sargent, can you table with the clerk, by the end of the day on Wednesday, any management plans that you have to improve the efficiency of the Canadian Coast Guard?
    Did you want to defer on that one, too?
    Sure.
    Mr. Sargent, it was directed at you as the deputy.
    Well, I'll take guidance from the chair on that, but I think we're here to answer your questions to the best of our ability. I would submit that the official who's best placed to answer that will be the one to provide the best answer.
    Working with the clerk of the committee, we'd be pleased to provide the management plans that we have.
    I'm trying to think of specifics related to efficiency. We'll try to put an emphasis on that as we provide information.
    I appreciate that. Thank you, Mr. Hutchinson.
    I'll turn the rest of my time over to Mr. Arnold.
    Thank you.
    Mr. Sargent, I don't see it anywhere. I haven't picked up on it anywhere in the estimates yet, but unreported and unregulated fisheries have continuously been pointed to, both in international waters and even more specifically in some of our river systems. We've previously brought this to the attention of the former deputy minister, who seemed quite interested in following up on this.
    Is there anything in your work plan that would look at unreported and unregulated fisheries? We know that in order to manage any fish stocks, you need to know not only what's there, but what's being taken. Have you done anything or have you been briefed on any of that?
     There are a variety of elements to the question you've asked.
    Internationally, we're engaged in fora around illegal and unreported fishing. Domestically, in terms of, for example, ensuring that we're aware of the recreational catch, we have engaged in a series of consultations on the east coast around establishing a recreational licence, seeking the views of harvesters there, and that's an important step in seeking further information.
    We're also engaged in developing electronic logbook programs, again, to further enhance the information—

  (1650)  

    That's offshore. I asked specifically about in-river fisheries, the unreported and unregulated fishing that's taking place in our river systems.
    I think what you're getting at is the enforcement piece.
    I'm asking in terms of even getting a handle on it. It seemed to be a foreign subject when I asked the question six or eight months ago, but it has developed a lot of interest. Has that interest even been brought to you in a briefing?
    Our conservation and protection branch is very engaged in understanding the extent to which there is illegal or unreported fishing. They have many investigations under way. I can't comment on specific ones, obviously, but it's something we take very seriously. We need to understand what the total catch is that's being taken out of a given river system.
    Thank you, Mr. Arnold. You've gone over the time.
    Mr. Johns, you have seven minutes or less, please.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    Thank you all for being here.
    I'll start with the question I asked the minister earlier, about the commercial fleet not being able to fish until August 20. Obviously a chunk of the sports sector is going to be catch-and-release, which is having a huge impact on their sector. We've asked for extended EI money to be supported through tourism or Destination Canada to help support the sector, and compensation or releasing some of the Pacific Salmon Treaty money.
    Mr. Sargent, have you given recommendations to the minister about tools he can use to help support the commercial and sports sector fleets?
    Obviously the advice and recommendations we give to the minister are confidential, but what I can say is that we did a lot of consultations before this decision was made. As you know, we have a whole process set up to do that.
    Nevertheless, there are significant impacts, particularly on the commercial sector, which you talked about. Certainly we're very conscious of that. The minister spoke about it quite eloquently beforehand.
     One thing people in the commercial fleet often ask about, especially the area G trollers, is whether that $17 million is still sitting there—the money from the Pacific Salmon Treaty—without collecting interest. Can you confirm that it's not collecting interest? What is the plan for that money?
    Do you know? Does it collect interest?
    To my knowledge, it doesn't collect interest at this time.
    When you look at the history of it, this money was intended to be there to compensate area G trollers. We've exhausted the buyback program. What is the plan right now for that money?
    I think the minister did speak a little bit to that earlier. He said it was something he's looking at. We don't have specific—
    I've heard that for a few months, and I heard it from Minister LeBlanc when he was the minister.
    Speaking of the minister, going back, I worked with Minister LeBlanc very closely and with the previous commissioner, Jody Thomas, on the Coast Guard. We tabled a motion in the House on the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary especially for remote and indigenous communities. Commissioner Hutchinson, maybe we could get an update—it was following the Leviathan II disaster. It affects those nations and we have been working closely with them. Maybe you could provide us with an update on where that's at.
    The Coast Guard Auxiliary, particularly for indigenous people and for remote communities, has moved forward in a very meaningful way both in the Arctic and on the west coast since the implementation of OPP.
    For example, on the west coast, we have worked with indigenous communities to form a board to oversee the implementation of the auxiliary. We're now consulting with individual communities. It's not something we want to force on anybody; it's something we want to give the communities the opportunity to participate in. Last year, the community boats program delivered four boats to communities that may not otherwise have been able to participate in the auxiliary. That increased by a significant number this year. I think we confirmed 13 boats this past year.
    In the Arctic, we have used the existing framework to expand auxiliary training into many communities. I have the number 16 in my head—if I'm wrong on that, I'll correct it later, sir.
    The last point, going back to the west coast for a second, is that our training programs have now trained over 50 indigenous participants from 30 different communities. This means that 30 communities now have very capable, well-trained people to go and respond. You may have heard the story before—I ask your forgiveness if I'm repeating it—but we trained some folks from the Prince Rupert area. Within weeks of them going back to their community, I was in one of our helicopters when they called us and said they had just used their training to find somebody they wouldn't have found otherwise.

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    I want to thank you also, because I was invited to attend the meeting last summer and join you and stay up with that. Keep pursuing it—we urge you to do so.
    Thank you.
    We urge you to continue with that work.
    I want to ask about the divestiture aspect of the small craft harbours program. As a west coaster, we always look at it as kind of being bullied. It's divest or destroy, right? Minister Garneau helped us back off on divesting the Lasqueti dock and the Bamfield dock, and then Bamfield thought they'd better take it because they were worried it could be destroyed. Tofino took theirs some years back, and now they're in real trouble trying to keep that dock maintained. They don't have the money to do it. A lot of the indigenous communities rely on that dock for transportation and they don't have the funding to maintain it.
    Can you tell me how you're going to go back to those communities that have taken on small craft harbours through the divestiture and are now worried that they're going to get destroyed? These are critical pieces of infrastructure.
    I have one piece of clarification. The amount of money in the estimates is an “up to” amount to give authority for the grants. It's part of our authorities process.
    Sure.
    As to the actual divestitures, my understanding is that there's still planning under way. I'll defer to others who have more details on the planning, but if we go through and determine that divestiture isn't the right option, then we look at a different funding source.
    Sure, but you know most of these communities don't have the capacity to take it on in the long term. They don't even have the tools to collect revenue, a lot of them, the way they're designed.
    For a small craft harbour divestiture, it's very much a case-by-case thing. It's not that we tell people they have to divest a harbour. We only do it when we think that the capacity is there and there's actually a desire from folks to do it.
    I haven't seen anything on plastics, any funding for cleanups. We've heard loud and clear that it needs to happen. Is there any money planned for that?
    Also, we haven't gotten a breakdown of the southern resident killer whale funding and where that is in terms of the schedule on that.
    There is $2.3 million in the estimates under the grant under the innovative solutions Canada program that is related to plastics.
    Perfect. So there are eligible applicants for that.
    Yes. There are terms and conditions related to the program.
    On SRKW, we haven't gotten anything on that. Are you able to send the committee the breakdown of what that looks like, that $167 million and what the plan is with that?
    Not at this point in time.
    Now we will go to Mr. Morrissey for seven minutes or less.
     I believe you are sharing your time.
    Thank you.
    My question is possibly to Mr. Waddell, as you're under fisheries and licensing policy. One of the irritants I deal with in my office, as a member of Parliament, is getting calls from fishermen who cannot get through to DFO offices as it relates to transferring simple licences and applications. It's extremely frustrating. Come the weekend they want to do it; they're getting close to starting the seasons. It's an issue I deal with a lot and there has been no satisfactory resolution to it. It's unacceptable.
    When somebody decides they're going to acquire a licence, it could be a week before fishing season starts, because again, the Government of Canada says when you're going to start. The answer is that it could be four weeks before they get around to transferring it, which is a simple transfer.
    Could you comment on that briefly?
    Part of that is we do have service standards that start with in terms of doing a transfer. We have a 30-day service standard.
    I know you've had significant cutbacks in the past.
    We buttressed those, particularly in your riding. We have added to the Tignish catch certification office, which is the same office—
    That's not the office that these transactions go through.
    It does a lot of the online support for those using our national online licensing system. They all field the first volley of calls, then they work with regional colleagues to prioritize those works and initiate transfers.
    It's something that I would suggest that the department look at, because over the years there's been a lot of reduction in front-line staff. You cannot walk into an office and get a person to talk to you. I get that complaint a lot. They simply said, they have nobody there to talk to you about the licence. That occurred in the previous government, not with ours, so it's something I'm asking you to do.
    The other one is small craft harbours funding. We have a couple of hundred million dollars. We made some announcements last year, in my own particular case, and I don't think we got to tender stage yet. That is an inordinate amount of time from the time funding is approved, until it gets through all the design stages and finally gets out to tender.
    I did an announcement in July of last year. We were advised earlier than that and it still hasn't gotten to tender. That, in my opinion, is unacceptable at a time when we're attempting to get money out the door. As a government, we make announcements and commitments to small craft harbours and it just appears to be way too slow to be getting funding out.
    Who wants to comment on that?

  (1700)  

    The only comment I would offer on that, sir, is that my understanding is 96% of projects that were announced in part of budget 2018 funding have been initiated. I'm not aware—
    What's your definition of initiated?
    Begun.
    What's your definition of begun? I'm talking about activity on the wharf. Don't give me that kind of an answer.
    I understand that full well. I'm not familiar with the specifics of the project you might be alluding to, so we could follow up.
    Yes. Some are delayed. You lose credibility with your fishers.
    I want to go on because I'm going to share my time with Mr. Finnigan.
    This is about the Coast Guard. You made reference to coordinating and the services that are available—to my colleague, Mr. Fraser—when the lobster season opens in southwest Nova Scotia.
    I've been working for some time with fishermen in P.E.I. about getting better supports coordinated with the Coast Guard and DND search and rescue. We keep getting push-back.
    In the spring of the year, in the Gulf region, which affects P.E.I, Îles-de-la-Madeleine and up to northern New Brunswick, the water temperature is around zero, versus the opening of the lobster season in southwest Nova in November when the water temperature is probably around 10 Celsius or so. You all know the impact of the water.
    There appear to be two standards when it comes to providing rescue service capability for opening up of lobster seasons. It's something I would like to see the Coast Guard coordinate more with DND. I'm not saying reduce the services. The services in that area should be as adequate and strong as they are in southwest Nova. In my opinion they're not.
    Could you provide to the committee, between DND and search and rescue, what services and asset capability is available at the opening of that November lobster fishery?
     I'd be happy to summarize that for the committee.
    The Coast Guard is adapting to climate change in real time. As we go through shoulder seasons, in particular—and shoulder seasons are the seasons between our summer icebreaking and our winter icebreaking, and our winter icebreaking and our summer icebreaking—we have to look very carefully at how we're deploying assets to make sure we have maximum coverage. Because those seasons are becoming more unpredictable, the ice and the water temperature are more unpredictable.
    We would be happy to summarize our search and rescue posture in the seasons you're talking about.
    Thank you, Mr. Morrissey.
    I think you said you were either sharing or splitting. I know you're not splitting; you're sharing.
    You have a minute and a half left.
    Mr. Finnigan.
    I do not control the answers.
    I have several questions, but one in particular.
    The Atlantic fisheries fund was set up to do commercial fisheries especially. I know there's been some talk with the Higgs government in New Brunswick to possibly use a chunk of that money to do some restoration projects on the river, especially the Miramichi, but other rivers.
     Can anybody tell me how those talks are going? Are they willing to partner on that fund sharing, using that fund for those kinds of projects?
    I'm not in a position to comment on any discussions like those.
    Right now there is no funding for project restoration, and there is a chunk of money there. I know there's been some negotiation. We need some money to restore some of those river issues we're facing.
    We're well aware of the needs of habitat restoration. Certainly the Government of New Brunswick is interested in this, as are we. Whether we can do it under this particular program is another question.

  (1705)  

    You have 20 seconds.
    Some money is supposed to have been transferred to use traditional knowledge in the management of the Miramichi River. Can you tell me what amount of money? I'm getting different answers from different people. Do we know what that fund is, and is it adequate?
    Specifically on the Miramichi River, Jen, do you know?
    I think we would have to get back to you on that.
    Can you, please.
    Thank you.
    Now we'll move to Mr. Arnold, for five minutes or less, please.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    Thank you all for being here. We'd like to see you more often, but it's like pulling teeth to get the minister and the officials here.
    Earlier in the minister's testimony, he referred to the B.C. salmon restoration and innovation fund being a parallel or a mirror of the Atlantic fisheries fund. That's an interesting comparison.
     From what we've seen, most of the funding in the Atlantic fisheries fund has been geared toward the upgrading of equipment, processing and more efficiencies within the fishing and processing fleet.
    I beg to differ, but I don't believe that's necessary on the B.C. coast. In fact, the opposite may be true. We may be overfished for the state of our stocks.
    Is that the case? Was the minister incorrect in stating it's going to mirror the Atlantic fisheries fund?
    The two programs do differ, as you imply. The B.C. salmon is a restoration fund. It's aimed at restoring fish habitat, habitat for salmonids. It doesn't have the same streams that the Atlantic fisheries fund or the Quebec fisheries fund has in supporting industry.
    On the DFO website, it refers to “Innovation to encourage the development of new technologies to increase productivity”. Is that productivity of the fishing fleet, or productivity of the streams and so on?
    Are you referring to the Atlantic fund or the B.C. fund?
    This is the B.C. fund.
    That's productivity of the fisheries.
    Productivity?
    Productivity is a technical term. It describes how many new salmon arrive.
    Thank you for that clarification.
    We've all seen the measures being taken to help restore the southern resident killer whales. In doing some research, it's not easy to see that the southern resident killer whales are not at their lowest level ever. That was in 1976, when they were down around 71. They rebounded to 98 by 1995, a fairly significant recovery over a time period of about 20 years.
    What allowed them to increase during that time? With the measures being taken right now to restrict fisheries—commercial fisheries, recreational fisheries—are equivalent measures being taken to address the pinniped predation situation? We've seen reports stating that harbour seal consumption around that same time frame, the mid-seventies to the mid-nineties, and current now, was three and a half million individual chinook. Now it's at 27.4 million individual chinook. Are the same steps being taken to manage those competing predators that are being taken against fishing opportunities?
     There is a lot we don't know about southern resident killer whales and why their populations fluctuate. We do know that prey and the availability of quality prey are really important, but things like physical and acoustic disturbance, environmental contaminants and climate change, for instance, are affecting not just the killer whales themselves, but also the prey that they feed on.
    With respect to the seals or the sea lions, as well, and the pinnipeds, again, it's very complicated. Yes, sea lions can eat some of the prey that the SRKW do, and to that extent they are a competitor, but sometimes they eat competitor species to chinook, so they eat hake, for instance, which are chasing the same fish that the chinook are.
    Pinnipeds can also be, themselves, prey not for the southern resident killer whales, but for transient killer whales, which are also in some trouble.
    That's why the minister referred to the fact that we do need to understand more the complex interactions between the predator and prey in the—
    Are there any measures being taken to address the pinniped populations as they are? Their numbers are tenfold what they were in the mid-seventies.

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    On the west coast?
    On the west coast.
    Specifically we need to really understand the science better.
    You're not doing anything, in other words.
    Well, what we're doing is the science and we're actually—
    More studies, but nothing on the ground—
    —bringing everyone together in order to understand what the best way forward is to look at a specific problem.
    Rather than addressing the probable largest competitor for food, you're doing nothing on the ground.
    We need to understand whether that's really the case, and what would happen if we were to take measures and how significant that would be compared to the other things that affect southern resident killer—
    You're not listening to the fishermen on the ground.
    Thank you, Mr. Arnold.
    We will now go back to the government side. We have Mr. Hardie for five minutes or less, please.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    What's the latest on the Nathan E. Stewart? Have we cleaned that up? Have we recovered everything there?
    In a word, yes. The operation is done. There is some ongoing conversation about what residual health impacts there may be, but that's really not a Coast Guard lead or a DFO lead. The cleanup is done and the operation is done.
    I'll look a little further down the table, then, and find out in fact what those residual health impacts were because it would appear that there was some contamination of certain beds where the local indigenous people were harvesting. Do we know anything about the recovery of those contaminated sites?
    I believe we would have to get that information from our Pacific regional director general, which we can do.
    I wouldn't mind that information being submitted to us because it's something we need to follow.
    One thing we did hear from the people who live there—and this was when we were actually out inspecting small craft harbours—is that they could have, based on their local knowledge, mitigated the damage caused by the Nathan E. Stewart, but they were forbidden from doing so by both the Coast Guard and through workers' compensation in British Columbia.
    This all goes back to something we've heard—and our colleagues on the Conservative side referenced it as well—and that is the use of local knowledge and basically trusting them to know what they're talking about when they come up with a suggestion, etc.
    I am wondering if, for instance, at the reopening of the Kitsilano Coast Guard base and the training that's going on there, we are in fact doing a better job of understanding the local knowledge as well as giving our indigenous people the tools and the training to do this work. Are we trusting them a little more when they come to us and say that they know how to fix this thing, and do we stop getting in their way when they want to do it?
    Under the oceans protection plan, we are working diligently to reframe the relationship you've just referred to. One piece of that is regional response planning. I know that sounds like a bureaucratic term, but in fact, our intent under regional response planning is to have environmental response planning that is unique in the world. It will be unique, and is unique, because of its ecosystem approach, for one, and also because it explicitly seeks to incorporate traditional knowledge from indigenous and coastal communities.
    In one of my previous answers, I was talking about the search and rescue training we've done on the west coast, and it put me in mind of a video you can find online of one of those training sessions. You hear an indigenous person talking about how special it is to bring what he knows about that area into the training we've provided. I use it only as an example to say that this is more than talk; this is actually happening.
    Yes, our training is the formal environmental response training, but we do that with open hearts, open minds and open ears, to hear what our indigenous partners care to share with us. We want to work together, and as I said earlier, regional response planning is the framework that allows us to bring all of that together. Yes, in a word, we need to trust them, and we also need to win their trust for what we bring to the on-water approach.

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    I wish you well in those efforts, because I think it is really important.
    The National Energy Board was called in to do additional review, with respect to the Trans Mountain expansion, and to look at the waterside issues, which I don't think were really even considered when the first reviews were taking place. Was the Coast Guard consulted by the NEB in the process of doing that review? If so, what did you tell them?
    We have been involved with the NEB review from the early days of TMX. We've provided a lot of information. It would be difficult for me to summarize either from the first consideration or from this consideration, everything—
    May I ask about your level of confidence with the safety?
    Your time is up, I'm sorry. You can't jump in like that.
    Mr. Sopuck, you have five minutes or less, please.
    Regarding the seals, I find your response absolutely appalling. The data are really clear. I'm looking at an article about research one of your staff, Dr. Olesiuk, did on the Puntledge River, in 2010. Three dozen seals had killed 10,000 adult chum salmon in the fall spawning run. There was a study in Scotland....
    You talk about indigenous knowledge. The Stó:lo Tribal Council has repeatedly asked for permits, so that fishermen can legally shoot seals. If you cared about indigenous knowledge, you would approve that.
    Also, the article states, “In Scotland, a study found that taking a single seal out of the Moriston River increased the sports salmon catch by 17 per cent.”
    Mr. Sargent, you will never get certainty in the natural world. Your department has been conducting research for 100 years, yet you're all afraid to use the research to actually do something about it. I would urge you to take the advice of this committee, which has recommended a seal harvest over and over again, unanimously. Yet, you continue not to do it. I find that appalling.
    Mr. Morel and Mr. Burns, I want to talk to you about the Miramichi. I've fished it a few times. As you know, the smallmouth bass issue is critical. The Miramichi Salmon Association has come up with a plan to use rotenone to eliminate the smallmouth bass in the Miramichi. This is one of the least toxic fish toxicants you could ever have. In fact, aboriginal people in South America used it to collect food, yet you continue to refuse to allow the elimination of smallmouth bass from that particular lake.
    If smallmouth bass get into the Miramichi—they're a non-native predator—that's the end of that multi-million dollar salmon fishery. How could you be so obtuse?
    The only thing I can do is repeat the answer that my colleague from science provided to you last week. They're conveying some activities to remove the smallmouth bass from the tributaries of the Miramichi River. It's been proven to be somewhat efficient in a way that does not have a negative impact on the ecosystem.
    As I told you, this is not my sector. I can repeat that to you, but the only thing I know is that this information has been provided to me as one of the measures being put in place to try to reduce the interaction between the smallmouth bass—
     I don't buy that for a minute. There has never been a single case of a non-native invasive harmful species ever eliminated by fishing.
    Every smallmouth bass female, as you know, lays thousands and thousands of eggs. When the fry hatch, they're extremely small. They'll go through any fish fence. This is a time bomb waiting to happen, yet you're more than happy to use fish toxicants on the lamprey eel in the Great Lakes. You think it's a great idea to use a chemical to eliminate them.
    The track record of rotenone goes back 50 to 60 years. It's been used countless times to manage fish communities. Again, I think your decision is completely wrong.
    Frankly, what I find about your department is that the higher-ups in your department think your clients are the fish. They're not. Your clients are the people who use the fish. That should be your primary concern. The Atlantic salmon fishery in New Brunswick has been estimated to be worth $135 million and thousands of jobs.
    Speaking of Atlantic salmon, our committee produced a unanimous report with 17 recommendations. None have been followed. Why is that?

  (1720)  

    We certainly see the role of the ministry and department as being stewards of a natural resource that all Canadians can use and enjoy. In order to ensure that resource continues for the future, and for future generations as well, we have to think of how it impacts not just today, but down the line.
    Don't lecture on sustainability, thank you.
    I just want to give you the context for decisions that we make.
    What was the last part of your question?
    Why have you not implemented the 17 recommendations in the unanimously approved Atlantic salmon report from this committee?
    We can get back to you on the status of the implementation of those recommendations—
    The minister did, with a letter. We had the words “restore” and “replenish” many times in that report, yet restoring Atlantic salmon was not even included in the minister's response. That's appalling.
    Thank you, Mr. Sopuck.
    Now to the government side. Mr. Rogers, you have five minutes or less, please.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    Mr. Hutchinson, I want to focus on the lifeboat stations that you talked about, particularly because one of these is in my riding, in Old Perlican. I know there are designated spots like Twillingate and St. Anthony. I know some great progress has been made. Harvesters, mariners and people in the recreational sailing industry and commercial industry are really pleased to see this new facility and the security and the services it's going to provide for these mariners.
    When do you anticipate that this lifeboat station will be completed and fully operational?
    That's an excellent question. I normally have that date at the top of my brain, but I don't right at the moment. We're fully operational next season, is that correct?
     Yes, fully. It's going to ramp up. The station won't be ready until [Inaudible—Editor].
    It will be fully operational next season. We'll have temporary resources in place in the meantime.
    When you say next season, do you mean in the fall?
    It's springtime next year.
    Okay. I know that construction seems to be going really well. People in that community and along that coastline are excited about it.
    What about the Twillingate site and St. Anthony? I understand that St. Anthony is just a renovation of and improvements to the current site. Twillingate is a new site as well.
    It's on the same time frame. St. Anthony has already received its new offshore search and rescue vessel. I believe the renovations to the building will be done in the next 12 months.
     This summer it will be fully operational.
    Thank you very much for that.
    Also, we haven't received any particular notification of the official opening of the St. John's rescue centre that was returned and restored to St. John's after it was closed by the previous government amid great disappointment and protest by harvesters, mariners and certain individuals like Merv Wiseman, who I can recall championing that cause. It was also a major issue during the last federal election.
    Are you aware of when there might be some kind of official event or grand opening announcement for that particular facility, which is going to provide a crucially important service to the east coast, particularly to Newfoundland and Labrador?
    My recollection is that we did have an event for the MRSC and I will get you the date that occurred. Then, with the new southside base that's opening.... My sister tweeted me the other night and told me it was all lit up and the construction is going very well. We're in the planning process now for a grand opening date for that.
    Again, thank you for that. I'm just excited about the fact that it's going to be reopened, of course. I would love to have the opportunity to attend that kind of event.
    Looking at the St. Anthony and Twillingate facilities, I think about the kind of service that you as Coast Guard provide in terms of icebreaking during the springtime. We've had major ice conditions again this spring. I'm assuming that's not going to be part of your duties, that the regular bigger boats, icebreakers like the Louis S. St-Laurent and others, will continue on with the schedule they're on nowadays.
    The opening of the lifeboat stations and those assets will have no bearing. We will continue to deploy heavy assets for icebreaking, as needed, for the ferry routes and for the opening of the fisheries, as we have in the past.
    Will these lifeboat stations be staffed 24-hour services or on call? How will those operate?

  (1725)  

    They'll have the same posture as our other lifeboat stations, which will give you effective 24-7 coverage, but it doesn't mean that we'll have people sitting at tables, up all night, all the time. You will have effective 24-7 coverage between people who are at the station and people who are on very short standby to return to the station if there's a call.
    Is that with a very short response time?
    Yes. We're away from the dock in 30 minutes in all cases.
    Okay. Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity.
    If I might just clarify that, our official response time is 30 minutes away from the dock. We actually average about six minutes away from the dock, and that will continue.
    That's impressive. Thank you, sir.
    Thank you, Mr. Rogers. You did mention you were going to share or split your time, but I guess you forgot that.
    I'll go to Mr. Johns now, for three minutes or less, please.
    Thank you.
    I have just a quick question around the main estimates for indigenous participation in commercial fisheries. Can you tell me how much of the $78.8 million is allocated for PICFI?
    Jen should have that.
    Do you want me to come back to it?
    Yes, if you could get that to me, that would be fantastic.
    Yes, we'll do that.
    Again, I didn't get an answer on this. How did you come up with $17.1 million for the British Columbia salmon restoration and innovation fund? The needs are serious. We're in this desperate situation. How did you determine that this was the amount you're going to roll out, of the funds that are committed, the $142 million? Why $17 million only, and especially at a time when people are out of work; fishers aren't able to get to work? This is an opportunity to mobilize people.
    I just have to state that, literally, we have thousands of people in British Columbia—most of them sports fishers, recreation fishers or commercial fishers—who are doing that work, that restoration work. This is an opportunity to empower those people and mobilize people up and down the coast, who haven't been resourced for years. The $17 million isn't going to do it. Really, we need to get a lot of money out the door. There's a lot of damage that we need to catch up on fixing.
    We're working as hard as we can on the B.C. salmon restoration fund. As you said, there's a lot of activity in local communities. It is a way for local communities to participate in rebuilding healthy fish stocks in British Columbia.
    This is a joint program with the Government of British Columbia. It's also an application-based program. We put out a call for projects, then we and the province have to go through them and decide which ones we want to do. There's always going to be a certain amount of time required to do that, but your question is very well taken, sir. We do want to move as fast as we can.
    Yes.
    I'm hoping I'll get another round. I think I have 45 seconds left.
    Yes, exactly.
    I know that we closed.... Well, not “we”. I certainly wouldn't have closed the MCTS in Comox, Ucluelet or Vancouver. In fact, we were very much opposed to it. You did close the one in Ucluelet. I know that the community has lost those jobs. It lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue. It would like to get that building as a compensation piece, if you want to call it that, that could be used for higher learning, to create jobs and support the local economy, working with first nations, working with education around a marine economy. Can you maybe provide an update? Is that going to go through? Is the government going to transfer that building to the community?
    We'd be happy to come back with the plans for that building. I don't have them in front of me.
     I just know it's costing a lot of money as an empty building right now.
    While we're speaking about MCTS, to go back to your earlier question, we had the numbers in front of us. We didn't have the totals. The savings per year from the MCTS consolidation are running at $10 million to $11 million a year.
    There would be no problem—
    Thank you, Mr. Johns. You were trying to slip in another one there.
    I'll say thank you to our witnesses for giving us two hours of their time today. It's greatly appreciated by the committee. The information you've provided I'm sure will be of great value.
     I'm sure we'll see some of you back again in the near future.
    Thank you.
    We have some motions on this that we have to get passed.
     We're voting on the main estimates 2019-20. We have to do this first. We're not into committee business yet. We're still on the votes on the mains.
DEPARTMENT OF FISHERIES AND OCEANS

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Vote 1—Operating expenditures..........$1,727,118,371
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Vote 5—Capital expenditures..........$801,787,391
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Vote 10—Grants and contributions..........$293,046,191
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Vote 15—Canada's Marine Safety Response..........$11,336,025
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Vote 20—Fisheries and Oceans Canada-Advancing Reconciliation..........$5,069,400
    (Votes 1, 5, 10, 15, and 20 agreed to on division)
    The Chair: Shall I report the main estimates to the House?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Chair: We'll suspend now to go in camera.
    [Proceedings continue in camera]
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