I call the meeting to order.
Welcome, everyone, to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. We have on the docket today supplementary estimates (C), pursuant to Standing Order 81(5). We also will be discussing the main estimates.
I want to welcome our guests. We have a long list of people here. I'm going to try to get through it.
First of all, from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, we have Catherine Blewett, deputy minister; Tony Matson, assistant deputy minister and chief financial officer; Jeffery Hutchinson, commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard; and Philippe Morel, acting/senior assistant deputy minister, ecosystems and fisheries management. From DFO as well, and certainly no stranger to this particular committee, Trevor Swerdfager has been here quite a bit over the past little while; he is senior assistant deputy minister, ecosystems and ocean science. Also from DFO, we have Sylvie Lapointe, acting/assistant deputy minister, ecosystems and fisheries management.
We also have with us Mr. Terry Beech, the MP for Burnaby North—Seymour, who is also the new parliamentary secretary.
Last and by no means least, returning to us once again is the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.
The schedule today requires you to be here. You said you were going to be here for an hour, but I'm going to let you start with the news to the committee. There's a change in that, I believe.
Minister, please proceed with your opening comments.
Yes, and the change is not that I'm here for 15 minutes.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and colleagues.
I know how important these meetings are. I always want to be available and will be available any time that I or my colleagues at the table, whom the chair generously introduced, can be here. I am happy to stay until 10:15 for 90 minutes with my colleagues, if it's the desire of the committee, to answer questions. If not, I'm also happy to come back at another moment. Really, I'm in your hands. We can extend that one hour by another half-hour if that's the desire of members, but we can play it by ear, Mr. Chair. As always, we're in good hands when we're in your hands.
I won't introduce my colleagues at the department. You, Mr. Chair, did that. I'd just point out that you have met many professional women and men here who serve in our department, and I continue to be inspired by their work every day that I have the privilege of working with them.
Terry Beech is new to his particular function. You know him as a colleague in the House of Commons. I feel privileged to have a British Columbian and somebody of his experience and his insight working with me. I was very happy when the made that decision. It's the first time we have the chance to appear together at a committee table like this, and I'm very happy to be here with Terry.
Also, Mr. Chair, you referred to Jeff Hutchinson as the commissioner of the Coast Guard, and this is his first appearance at a standing committee as the new commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard. The made that appointment some weeks ago. We lost a remarkable woman, Jody Thomas, who has gone to a role at the national defence department, where I'm sure she'll continue to serve in an extraordinary way, but we're very lucky that Jeff accepted the Prime Minister's offer and will be leading that critical national institution. Jeff, in your new role as commissioner you have more gold on the uniform, a few extra stripes, and it's the first time that he and I will be together at this table. I wanted to just highlight that.
Mr. Chair, we are here, as you noted, to talk about estimates and supplementary estimates (C). That's a fundamental part of the work of Parliament, so it's a privilege and it's something I take very seriously.
Before we talk a bit about supplementary estimates (C) and the main estimates and any issues that members would like to address in their questions, I want to thank you for the work you have done, particularly with respect to the review of the Fisheries Act. We have followed your work, and I know thousands and thousands of Canadians have followed your work very closely.
We have your report. Under the rules, we have a certain number of days to provide a government response. However, as I said to you the last time I was at this table, we recognize the urgency of moving properly but expeditiously. It is very much my hope that we will not take that full amount of time, so we are working diligently and expeditiously to respond to your recommendations in your report. My commitment is to try to get back to you and to Parliament in a period of time that is significantly less than the time that the rules might prescribe, because I think it recognizes and validates the great work that all of you have done.
I also note that you're going to be doing some work on marine protected areas, again something that is critical for us as a department and a government. I look forward to collaborating with you and I thank you for working on that.
I also note that Pat Finnigan would be happy to see your work on Atlantic salmon. In my province of New Brunswick that is critical, but also across the region, in every province including Quebec. It's an issue that economically and from an ecosystem perspective has huge potential and huge concerns.
Again, thank you for that work. We will take your report seriously and endeavour to carry on an ongoing dialogue. I'm certainly very happy with the work that all of you have done. For us, as a department and as a government, it's hugely valuable, and I want to thank you at this table.
I wanted to talk mainly about the department's spending plans. As I said, one of Parliament's essential duties is to hold the government to account for the taxpayer dollars it spends. That is a responsibility our department takes very seriously. There are never enough resources to do everything we would like to support Canadians.
Our department received voted appropriations from Parliament, and we strive to manage those funds in the best interests of Canadians and to provide an official accounting of how we use the money, as we are doing today. This is a tremendous privilege for us.
Supplementary estimates (C) contain key items that will allow us to deal with vessels of concern, notably, $17.7 million to address the threat of pollutants from the Kathryn Spirit near Montreal, and to undertake vessel life extension and refit work on the CCGS Hudson, the offshore oceanographic and hydrographic survey vessel of the Canadian Coast Guard.
Mr. Chair, in the main estimates 2017-18, a total of $2.2 billion is proposed. The main estimates total approximately $40.1 million less than last fiscal year. They reflect new funding announced in budget 2016, such as the investment in ocean and freshwater research in Canada. The slight reduction is due mainly to the conclusion of funding for temporary programs and planned funding variances for ongoing programs, and obviously if people want specific details on any of these we're happy to provide them. The chief financial officer and my colleagues at the department would do so.
As members of this committee know, our government has made a historic investment in aquatic sciences. I talked about this at this table the last time we were here; it was in this very room, actually. It's the largest investment in over a generation. Trevor and his colleagues at the senior level of the department have been doing a fantastic job at building what I hope will be world-class scientific capacity from the investment that Parliament gave us in aquatic sciences.
As an example, Mr. Chair, of the tremendous value we place on science, we hope and believe the $197-million allocation of last year's budget over five years can rebuild the ocean and freshwater science capacity of the department. It will strengthen evidence-based decision-making and also establish Canada's scientific leadership on a global stage.
We are well into the process of hiring 135 new biologists, oceanographers, and other highly skilled scientific staff. Their work will help us better understand Canada's aquatic ecosystems and what we can do to protect them. Re-establishing our capacity for science and research is going to serve all Canadians because the more we understand our oceans and ecosystems, the better placed we are to protect them and create sustainable economic opportunities.
It's not only about investing, for example, in scientific capacity for pure research in and of itself, which has a lot of merit; it's also about, as you know as members of Parliament better than anyone, making the right decisions and managing public resources for the economic and social future of the country, because so many of the communities that we represent at this table depend on the successful ecosystem management of these resources for, frankly, their successful economic future as well. We recognize the link there.
Colleagues will also know the announced in November—I was doing an announcement on the opposite end, Mr. Chair, in your province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and you were there with us that evening—what we believe is also a very significant investment in ocean protections of $1.5 billion to create a world-leading marine safety system. Transport Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard, and Fisheries and Oceans will obviously benefit from this investment, but the main beneficiaries we hope will be Canadians, the environment, and the Canadian economy. We think there will be far-reaching benefits to this investment.
The Coast Guard is an institution that Canadians care deeply about. It needs to be strengthened. It needs to be rebuilt. The women and men who serve in the Coast Guard do so in remarkable circumstances, with great courage and dedication, and I think we owe it to them collectively to give them the most modern, well-equipped, forward-looking institution that we can build for and with them. We think that this investment will be a key part of that. I will conclude here, because I want to have a chance for us to exchange and have dialogue after the chief financial officer gives some precise and brief comments.
Indigenous reconciliation for us is also a key priority. The Prime Minister said it. Other ministers have said it. Colleagues in Parliament in every corner of the House of Commons have talked about this, as well as in the Senate. We are really trying to up our game as a department and as a government in how we build a day-to-day, hour-by-hour relationship with indigenous peoples.
Our department is very much at the front line of managing one aspect of the federal relationship with indigenous peoples on all three coasts, but this needs to be nourished and strengthened and renewed. We think that these increased investments, including the oceans protection plan, will allow the Canadian Coast Guard to better partner with indigenous coastal communities.
I look to my colleagues from British Columbia, who see this reality in a way that I'm beginning to learn about. They are often the first responders, and these indigenous coastal communities in British Columbia are the best examples.
They inhabit a rugged, remote coastline. I had the privilege of meeting with representatives of the Heiltsuk Nation, who responded to the completely unacceptable circumstance that happened near Bella Bella with the tugboat and the spill of diesel fuel. The best way we can serve Canadians and protect marine ecosystems is to better partner with many of these communities. I hope and believe that a good portion of this investment will go a significant way to doing exactly that.
By way of conclusion, our department is an economic department for the Government of Canada. We make decisions hopefully in partnership with the fishing industry, with other Canadians, and with indigenous peoples to encourage and improve economic growth for Canada. We're also an environmental department, with huge responsibilities as stewards of Canada's oceans to better manage marine ecosystems and to provide the services and the remarkable work that the Canadian Coast Guard can offer Canadians and our partners globally.
Those are three areas we think about and worry about every hour of every day that we have the privilege of holding these jobs.
It will be a privilege for us to answer your questions and continue to work with all of you as we make an effort to contribute to something that Canadians care deeply about.
Now, with your permission, Mr. Chair, I'm going to ask the chief financial officer to provide details.
Then I'm happy to continue the questions.
Tony, do you want to...?
Thank you, Minister Leblanc, Mr. Chair.
Hello. Bonjour to you, committee members.
My name is Tony Matson, and I am the chief financial officer at Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard. We are pleased to be here this morning to provide the committee with an overview of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' supplementary estimates (C) for 2016-17 and main estimates for 2017-18.
I've prepared very brief remarks. This should allow plenty of time to go through any questions the committee members may have.
For the 2016-17 supplementary estimates (C), we are seeking Parliament's approval for a total of $17.7 million. This would bring our approved voted authorities to date to $2.624 billion, as $2.607 billion has previously been approved by Parliament through the main estimates, supplementary estimates (A), supplementary estimates (B), and transfers from central votes carried forward from last year.
This funding summary is presented on page 2—22 of the supplementary estimates (C) publication.
It is on page 2-50 of the French version.
To summarize, we are seeking $7.2 million in operating expenditures, $7.9 million in capital expenditures, and $2.6 million in grants and contributions.
As highlighted by our minister, the majority of our new funding requirements will be spent by the Canadian Coast Guard to address the threat of pollutants from the Kathryn Spirit and for vessel life extension and refit work for the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Hudson. These items are also presented on page 2—22 of the publication.
DFO is requesting $10.7 million to proceed with removal of the derelict cargo vessel Kathryn Spirit. This is a controlled, on-site dismantlement to completely remove the vessel from Lac-Saint-Louis. The department is requesting $7.3 million to extend the life of the Hudson to ensure the service gap is managed until the completion of the new offshore oceanographic science vessel, ensuring that programs continue to be delivered.
The remaining items listed on pages 2—22 and 2—23 of the supplementary estimates publication
or pages 2-50 and 2-51 of the French version.
are largely technical and routine in nature. This includes accessing revenues received from polluters for cleanup costs, seeking internal vote transfers to properly align existing reference levels, and transfers to other departments such as Shared Services Canada, which has been tasked to modernize our network connectivity. DFO is a geographically dispersed department, so network performance has a direct impact on productivity and mission-critical applications.
I would like to fast-forward to 2017-18. The Honourable Scott Brison tabled the 2017-18 main estimates on Thursday, February 23, on behalf of all organizations. The main estimates include all those items for which DFO has received previous approval or changes to funding profiles for multi-year initiatives where relevant.
With regard to numbers, we are seeking Parliament's approval for $2.081 billion. The breakdown of this amount is presented on page 98 of the publication,
or page 2-10 of the French version.
Under vote 1, operating expenditures, we are seeking approximately $1.3 billion. I would note that $749.5 million of that is for salaries.
Under vote 5, capital expenditures, we are seeking $752 million. I would note that the majority of this capital funding is for limited one-time investments, and that only about $134 million of that is ongoing funding.
For vote 10, grants and contributions, we are seeking $71 million.
The remaining amounts presented in our estimates are contributions for the department as a whole for employee benefits and the minister's salary and car allowance. They are presented for information purposes only, as they have their own separate enabling legislation.
Considering our net decrease year over year is only about $40.1 million, I will highlight quickly a few adjustments that are part of the delta.
As the minister pointed out, the biggest increase is tied to the funding announced in Budget 2016 for ocean and freshwater research in Canada. The main estimates include funding in the amount of $41.3 million.
The next big-ticket item is funding to address, again, the threat of pollutants from the Kathryn Spirit, and $20 million is included in these main estimates to ensure the successful and complete removal of the derelict vessel from Lac-Saint-Louis.
Let me now shift to key examples of reduced funding profiles when compared to 2016-17.
The largest decrease is a scheduled funding profile change of $43.6 million for the construction of three offshore fishery science vessels. With regard to infrastructure investments, at this point there is $40 million less in our opening reference levels because of the successful completion of 2014 federal infrastructure initiatives.
Funding related to the most recent budget 2016 announcement for further investments in maintaining and upgrading federal infrastructure assets is included in these main estimates and is for the most part progressing as planned.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for allowing me to complement Mr. LeBlanc's opening remarks on our final supplementary estimates for this year and for main estimates for 2017-18. My colleagues and I would be happy to entertain any questions you may have.
As I've said to colleagues in the House of Commons, we recognize the importance of aquatic invasive species. The Asian carp has come up in Parliament a number of times. It represents a very significant threat and challenge.
We know that investing in science is part of the answer. It's not a perfect answer, because to understand and anticipate what these invasive species mean and can do and the threat they represent is only part of the answer. We need to make investments in infrastructure and other methods that will, in fact, reduce and or eliminate the threat.
Mr. Chair, through you to Ken, provinces have a key role to play in this area. We have been very encouraged by our discussions with the Province of Ontario and the Province of Quebec. I spoke with the Manitoba minister with respect to Lake Winnipeg. They will work with us and are anxious, frankly, to partner with us, because they recognize the impact this can have on their fisheries as well.
The other thing that is of considerable importance for us is to work with the United States. Over the years they have made historic investments, particularly in the Great Lakes context, but as you have noted, Ken, the St. Lawrence system is hugely impacted by this. We will continue to work with the United States.
I'm hoping that we're in a position to announce increased investments in multilateral or binational organizations like the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission and in working with a number of governors from the Great Lakes states who also have, frankly, very innovative and very forward-looking research solutions that not only monitor but counter the effects of invasive species. It's all hands on deck for us, but we're prepared to allocate additional resources, and the Government of Ontario, frankly, has been one of our best partners in this regard.
The minister and I issued a statement recently that talked about our commitment to work together on this. and we will be there
to the extent possible
with what is possible financially, because we recognize the priority this has for the long-term economic and environmental viability of so many ecosystems.
Again, through you, Mr. Chair, Ken, thank you for the work that you have collectively done.
Right now we are going through every one of the recommendations, obviously, and preparing a detailed—and I hope you'll find compelling—response to the recommendations. At the same time and on a parallel track, we're consulting with provincial partners. Now that we have the benefit of your report, the provinces and indigenous groups will have, from our perspective, a key role to play in offering advice and guidance as we ultimately prepare government legislation.
I will go to cabinet to get the authority to introduce government legislation. I hope and believe you'll find, based on a lot of the work you did as a committee, that legislation then will ultimately go through the normal legislative process. I hope I'll be back at this table to discuss it with you. It will be drafted in such a way that if this committee and the Senate have suggestions for better ways to do it, we will be open, as we always should be, to amendments and suggestions on how we can get this right.
We're going to proceed expeditiously. It's a mandate requirement the gave me. It's also important to note that this review of the Fisheries Act is also part of our broader government agenda, which includes, for example, reviewing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Navigable Waters Protection Act. We have different reviews going on across the government.
I seem to be the first one out of the gate, thanks to your work in terms of the Fisheries Act, but we're going to be expeditious and rigorous, and we look forward to a continued interaction with all of you as we prepare government legislation.
Have I ragged the puck on your question, Pat? Go ahead.
Thank you, Mr. Finnigan, for the question.
Like my colleagues here today, I was saddened by the tragic passing of Christian Brun. As I have said publicly, he was a friend of mine and a source of great inspiration. Later this morning, in fact, I am meeting with Melanie Sonnenberg, president of the Canadian Independent Fish Harvester's Federation. Discussions between the organizations and the Maritime Fishermen's Union will continue.
I took note of the evidence that you received at your committee hearings. I took note of the expression of support on the east coast and from some people on the west coast, but I recognize the different culture and the different management regimes that exist there. It's not the same context at all.
I have thought for a long time—and I've shared this with my colleagues, the deputy minister, and our other colleagues here at the table—that we need to strengthen our own application of this policy, whether it's PIIFCAF or other instruments, when we as a government, as a department, say this is a sacred management principle for the fishery on the east coast. We all have in our constituencies, or certainly on the east coast, anecdotal examples of where we looked the other way or we weren't as rigorous as we could or should have been in enforcing a policy that is foundational to the management of the inshore and midshore fisheries on Canada's east coast.
I will be working with my colleagues in the department, and ultimately with my colleagues in the cabinet, to see if and how we could strengthen our government's ability to enforce that policy. There are different ways to do it. You can legislate it and you can do it by regulatory instrument, and all of those are certainly under active consideration.
I will come back and talk to you once we have arrived at sharper decisions, but this is something that I will move on. I will move on it aggressively, and I will be thoughtful and rigorous in raising our game in enforcing this policy, as well as in making it endure and protecting it perhaps from different winds of the future.
Minister, I thank you, your parliamentary secretary, and your department officials for being here today. I appreciate you coming to the committee to answer our questions.
I want to talk first about salmon disease. Earlier this week, I had an opportunity to ask you how you were planning to protect wild salmon now that the deadly disease of HSMI has been confirmed in B.C. salmon farms.
Minister, you responded, and I quote:
||The member knows that we believe that middle-class economic opportunities on both coasts depend on aquaculture and wild fisheries, and we think the two can coexist safely together.
The Cohen commission and numerous studies, including a recent study and a study published in Marine Policy, concluded that B.C. salmon farms present a greater than minimal risk of serious harm to wild salmon due to the transfer of sea lice and disease. Both of these studies confirm the findings.
I have a few questions for you.
Do you really believe that wild fisheries and aquaculture can coexist safely when the science has proven time and again that they can't?
What is your plan to protect the wild Pacific salmon industry from this deadly disease, which has the potential to destroy not only farmed salmon but the wild salmon economy?
Will you heed the advice of salmon advocates like Alexandra Morton and scientists like Dr. Kristi Miller, who are asking that this research team be allowed to continue their important work?
Do you agree that they must do this work and that it must be continued in the interest of all Canadians?
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, Fin, for your questions. I'll offer a few brief comments, and then I think Terry wants to add something. Trevor is in the best position to provide specific answers for you and for the committee with respect to the scientific aspects of the disease concerns you raised in the House of Commons.
You asked if I believed that wild fisheries and aquaculture can coexist safely. My view is yes.
Some people disagree with that. I respect that and understand that, but that is not our position. That's certainly not the position of our government.
We recognize that for every scientific voice that raises concerns, we need to double down and do the research in a transparent and open way that is accessible to Canadians to ensure that the protections and the measures in place are in fact effective.
I note some of the scientific advice or comments you referred to. We also have others who have a different perspective. We'll continue to be guided by the best scientific advice we can get, and to share it with Canadians.
I fundamentally believe that middle-class economic growth depends on successfully managing both aquaculture....
Over 50% of the fish and seafood consumed in the world comes from farmed operations. It's farmed fish, and it comes from aquaculture. We need to do it in the best way possible. We need to be global leaders in doing this safely. We can be inspired by the work of other countries that have frankly, in our view, done a good job at it.
We'll continue to do that—to be transparent and open, and to make changes as needed to ensure that we're reaching the level of safety and rigour that Canadians expect.
With respect to Ms. Morton herself, there's an ongoing litigation case that is yet unresolved, so I don't want to comment specifically on her views or her specific issue, but I recognize that she represents a perspective shared by many others.
I had the experience of seeing the Farley Mowat
in your community with you last summer. If you ever need a reminder of why this is a problem in so many communities, that is one of the gruesome ones that Shelburne is facing.
I share and understand your passion and I salute your work in Parliament on this issue. I know my colleague, the , shares my view that your interventions and your work have been hugely constructive. They, frankly, convinced us, in the oceans protection plan that the announced last fall, to really try and up our game with respect to this scourge that affects so many communities and represents such an environmental and in some cases navigational concern.
The oceans protection plan will allocate some funding. We have not yet had the actual Treasury Board approval for the specific amounts of money. Once that is completed—and it's coming soon; it's not months way—we'll be in a position to offer much more precise information. Suffice to say that we will be taking our responsibility within the funding that we have to deal with the most critical issues.
More importantly, and perhaps in terms of looking ahead, and I will be looking at legislative changes. If we all say and believe the polluter pays principle is fundamental to many of these conversations, it does seem strange that you can't abandon your car on a four-lane highway in New Brunswick, take the licence plates off, and just say, “Look, I don't need that car anymore” or “It doesn't have any value and it's too expensive to tow it”, and just ditch it on some shoulder on a highway, yet people get away with doing that in rivers, lakes, and marine ecosystems to the extent they do.
It's a global problem, but we think the owners of these vessels have to be held to account and have to pay the bill. Canadian taxpayers can't fund every single one of these, which in many cases have been existing for decades. This is a horrible problem that we have arrived at after many years of abusive practices by the owners of these vessels.
We're going to be doing two things. We're going to be dealing with the most urgent ones the best way we can, recognizing that public funds can be part of that solution. I'd be happy to provide details as we have them. More importantly, we're looking at changing both the legislation and the authority of Transport Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard to hold people to account at the time these horrible incidents are created, and not 10, 20, or 30 years out, when we say, “Oh, geez, that's a problem, isn't it?” Taxpayers are then on the hook for a huge amount of money. That is unsustainable.
Jeff, do you want to add something specific on that point?
Regarding the Fisheries Act review that we did, I would like to make a couple of comments. Manitoba Hydro was one of our witnesses. They are proponents in projects all the time and deal with the act on a regular basis. They were very clear in their testimony when they said that evidence for loss protections is not apparent. A proponent who dealt with the old act and the new act, then, was very clear that they were still rigorously required to protect fish habitat.
As well, the 2009 report of the commissioner of environment and sustainable development, which looked at the work the DFO did in habitat protection under the old Fisheries Act, concluded that DFO could not demonstrate that it adequately protected fish habitat and, by extension, the fisheries.
One question we asked many of our witnesses was whether they could prove any damage to the fish populations as a result of the changes that were made to the act in 2012, and not a single person could provide any quantitative estimates, other than mere opinions.
Having said that, the exercise of reviewing the act was a very positive one for me and for all of us on this side. I think we worked well together with all parties. We had very intense discussions and I think came up with a report that you will find quite useful.
I'm not expecting you to make any comments on the recommendations, because I know it's under review, but I want to emphasize that one area the committee was fairly strong about was the protections for farmers, agriculturalists, and rural municipalities.
I don't have to tell you, minister, what it was like under the old act: the so-called “fish cops” descending on prairie communities and looking at drainage ditches and so on. We would hope that your department and you will take those recommendations on dealing with the rural municipalities and farm communities extremely seriously, and I'm sure you will.
One of our recommendations—we also made recommendation 15—was that there be a widely representative advisory board set up to advise DFO on the implementation of the Fisheries Act.
There is a precedent for this, minister, as you know, under the Species at Risk Act: there is an advisory board. In fact, the individuals who are on that Species at Risk Act advisory board would be ideal for an advisory board under the new Fisheries Act.
I would like to ask a question, though, about the research science program. One of the recommendations we made in the Atlantic salmon report, which was a unanimous report and one that all of us are very proud of, was that a number of these new scientists be assigned solely to the management and conservation of Atlantic salmon.
Would that be a possibility? We declined to put a number down, but we would like to see a sufficient cadre of scientists dedicated full time to the Atlantic salmon resource. Would it be a possibility?
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, Mr. Sopuck.
You asked a number of questions. You went from the Fisheries Act to salmon science. Let me try to cover it briefly. With respect to the salmon science, Trevor or others might add some precision.
I hear what you're saying. We've had this conversation at this table before. I think you and I have, in many cases, more of a common understanding than perhaps people would imagine.
We don't see restoring loss protections in the Fisheries Act as the best instrument to cancel country and western music shows. There may be other reasons to cancel country and western music festivals, but the Fisheries Act isn't the best one.
We've all heard the horror stories, but some of them may be fake news and some may not be. It doesn't really matter, other than that it reminds us to be conscious that small rural farming communities, including some that I represent in my own riding, will not want to see what is a legitimate exercise that we committed to Canadians in the election to undertake.... We made a precise commitment in the campaign that we would restore these loss protections, so we will do that, with your help and with the help of Parliament, obviously. In no way is it intended to traumatize people who are conducting otherwise responsible and sustainable agriculture or rural community development.
However, we do believe—and this is where we may differ—that the changes made some time ago had a negative impact or an unfortunate impact. I don't want to characterize it, because it will then engage a conversation between us. One reason we think it was hard to get quantitative analysis is that there had been a significant reduction in scientific assets, so we think the conversation around what the impact in fact is will be a lot better if we have transparent, open, robust, and globally credible scientific evidence.
That's a perfect bridge to your specific question around Atlantic salmon. I share your view that this has to be a priority, and I salute the work your committee did on it. It's critically important for a number of communities.
You asked a specific question about a specific, dedicated science asset. You also recognized that we won't respond at a committee on estimates to a report that we will be thoroughly and properly responding to in the parliamentary process.
Trevor may want to add a specific comment on the scientific—
Thank you, Mr. Donnelly. We appreciate it.
Thank you to everybody.
That concludes this meeting, as far as the witnesses are concerned. Again, I'd like to thank the department officials for being here, including Ms. Blewett; Mr. Morel; Mr. Swerdfager; the parliamentary secretary, Mr. ; and Commissioner Hutchinson. Thank you, Mr. Matson and Madam Lapointe. Thank you so very much for being here, all of you. In absentia, I say thank you to the minister as well.
Before everybody leaves, of course, we have to do the business of why we're here, which is the estimates. We're going to start with supplementary estimates (C) from 2016-17.
||DEPARTMENT OF FISHERIES AND OCEANS
||Vote 1c—Operating expenditures..........$13,170,350
||Vote 5c—Capital expenditures..........$7,540,606
(Votes 1c and 5c agreed to)
The Chair: Shall I report the votes on the supplementary estimates (C) to the House?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Now we move on to the main estimates for 2017-18.
||DEPARTMENT OF FISHERIES AND OCEANS
||Vote 1—Operating expenditures..........$1,258,375,596
||Vote 5—Capital expenditures..........$751,805,774
||Vote10—Grants and contributions..........$70,969,884
(Votes 1, 5, and 10 agreed to)
The Chair: Shall I report the votes on the main estimates 2017-18 to the House?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: It will be done at the earliest possible moment, which will likely be tomorrow.
Once again, committee, thank you so very much for this. Again, thank you to our parliamentary secretary and the officials at DFO.
The meeting is adjourned.