Good morning, everybody. Welcome.
We welcome our guests again, who certainly are no strangers to this committee. I think we just saw you, as a matter of fact, and here we are once again. This is déjà vu for all of us, but nevertheless it's important.
Pursuant to Standing Order 81(5), we are considering supplementary estimates (B) 2017-18. We have to dispense with votes 1b, 5b, and 10b under Department of Fisheries and Oceans referred to the committee on Thursday, October 26, 2017. We have to refer these back to the House.
We have Kevin Stringer, associate deputy minister; Jeffery Hutchinson, commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard; Tony Matson, assistant deputy minister and chief financial officer; Andy Smith, deputy commissioner, strategy and shipbuilding; and Sylvie Lapointe, assistant deputy minister, fisheries and harbour management.
I understand you have a one-minute verbal presentation, and then we go to a video presentation.
I'm assuming, Mr. Stringer, you will be doing it.
It's a pleasure to be here today on behalf of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the Canadian Coast Guard to discuss supplementary estimates (B). I would have liked to begin by introducing some of my colleagues, but the chair has already done so.
Through the 2017-18 supplementary estimates (B) exercise, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is seeking $55.3 million that will be used for a variety of initiatives. Our chief financial officer will provide an overview of areas of funding. However, before turning the floor over to Mr. Matson, I want to say how proud DFO and the Coast Guard are of the progress we've made this past year. We recognize that much of our success stems from the historic investments that have been made in our department and a renewed commitment to scientific excellence, marine safety and the protection of our marine environment.
We also recognize that work remains to re-establish Canada as a world leader on all matters related to the health of our oceans and aquatic resources.
We are confident these important investments that we are discussing today will assist us in this regard.
And now I'll turn the floor over to Mr. Matson who will run through a presentation, after which we will all be pleased to answer your questions.
People are working on a slide presentation in French and perhaps in English. Tony's going to speak English. The presentation at this point is in French. We're working on getting the English up there as well.
Thank you, Mr. Stringer.
Hello, Mr. Chair, and committee members.
My name is Tony Matson. I am the chief financial officer at Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Let me reiterate our associate deputy minister's message by saying that I am pleased to be here this morning to go over the 2017-18 supplementary estimates (B) of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
I prepared very brief remarks. This should allow plenty of time to go through any questions the committee may have. I would like you to follow along using the provided power point presentation, as my opening remarks are aligned with that document.
As outlined on slide 2, we are currently in the midst of the second supply period. Section 26 of the Financial Administration Act requires all spending to be approved by Parliament. Supply bills are referred to committee, where the contents are studied before voting takes place, hence our presence here today.
The honourable tabled the 2017-18 supplementary estimates (B) on Thursday, October 26, on behalf of all organizations. Earlier that month, on Friday, October 5, he also tabled the 2016-17 public accounts.
I'll move now to slide 3 and provide a summary on Fisheries and Oceans supplementary estimates and authorities to date. We are seeking Parliament's approval on a grand total of $55.3 million, which is broken down by vote as presented in the table. This would bring our voted authorities to date to $2.662 billion, as $2.606 billion has already been voted by Parliament through the main estimates, supplementary estimates (A), as well as transfers from central votes for our carry-forwards, and an advance from TB vote 5 for emergency assistance related to severe ice conditions on the east coast.
Although supplementary estimates (A) was directed at budget 2017 items and/or other key initiatives, three other budget 2017 items—aquatic invasive species, small craft harbours, and enhancements of the indigenous fisheries program suite—were not sufficiently developed at the time for inclusion back in the spring. All three items are included in these supplementary estimates (B).
Please note that the numbers quoted are those you are being asked to vote on. The bottom line numbers in the table include statutory authorities, more specifically, employee benefits, which has its own separate enabling legislation and is presented for information purposes only.
The table is an exact reproduction of what is presented on page 2-32 of the supplementary estimates publication
or on page 2-80 in the French version.
We will now shift to slide 4 of the presentation which itemizes those items contained in the supplementary estimates. You can also find these on pages 2-32, 2-33, and 2-34 under the explanation of requirements section
or on pages 2-80, 2-81 and 2-83 in the French version.
The highest dollar value item in these supplementary estimates is actually not new incremental funding. It is an adjustment to existing funding where we are re-profiling approved funding from 2018-19 to 2017-18 to reflect the new contract structure with Vancouver Shipyards, recently approved by the Treasury Board ministers to ensure the successful completion of three new offshore fisheries science vessels.
The next largest item is one-year funding for the Atlantic fisheries fund program that will support the fish and seafood sector in Atlantic Canada with targeted actions to stimulate the region's economy and increase job opportunities for Atlantic Canadians. and announced this seven-year program back on March 10, 2017, and reiterated the importance of boosting the economy and increasing employment opportunities for middle-class Canadians in coastal communities.
The last two items are budget 2017 initiatives. There is $5.7 million being sought to address the threat of aquatic invasive species, such as Asian carp, in high-risk waterways. Budget 2017 committed $43.8 million over five years, including $10.7 million on an ongoing basis, to bolster Canada's efforts in monitoring and controlling. As well, $5 million is one-year funding to further support small craft harbours. This budget 2017 funding helps us continue to play a major role in ensuring that small craft harbours are well maintained and safe.
Slide 5 starts off with our third and last budget 2017 item, which is another piece to this commitment to promote the economic resilience of indigenous communities. This $3.6 million, $82.2 million over five-year, item includes $28.6 million in ongoing funding and will allow us to kick-start a new commercial program, the northern integrated commercial fisheries initiative, and to enhance our current collaborative management programs.
More concretely, as an example, this will allow certain indigenous groups that are currently ineligible under our current Atlantic and Pacific initiatives to access funding to support aquatic development, and new access capital tools for the commercial programs.
The second item on slide 5 is the renewal of funding, $3.4 million this year, $20.2 million over five years, of which $4.2 million is ongoing. This will fund the HR and operating costs necessary to support the negotiation of land claims with first nations.
The remaining two items on slide 5 are technical, routine, and non-controversial in nature. They appear in supplementary estimates pretty much every year.
Slide 6 covers a few lower-dollar initiatives and a couple of vote 10 transfer payment re-profiles to ensure our funding profiles are being aligned to update project timelines or to match recipient requirements.
Finally, in terms of the conversions for our votes, there are multiple transfers that are neutral either for the government or for the department.
If you have any questions about these 14 transfers, I am sure we will be able to provide you with additional information.
This concludes my opening remarks on supplementary estimates (B).
My colleagues and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
This is largely built on and connected to the Atlantic growth strategy. There are three points I would make.
First, it is linked to the Atlantic growth strategy.
Second, of the four components of it, which are innovation, infrastructure, science research, and marketing, marketing is national, so it is available to both coasts.
Third, I would say that if you're looking for a comparison, it's funding that we put forward to support the Cohen initiative and similar responses that are focused on the west coast. In addition, the oceans protection plan is a national program, so many of the resources also go to the west coast.
We do watch carefully to ensure that we're providing support on all three coasts, but this piece in particular is for the Atlantic provinces.
I just want to continue for a minute or two on my colleague's line of questioning when it comes to small craft harbours. Of my communities, 99.9% have direct access to the ocean. There is only one community I can think of that is not bordered by salt water. They are very dependent on small craft harbours. Not all of them have a small craft harbour facility, because not all communities have fishing activity, per se. They may use the next community, or one that is two communities away.
I don't envy your work when it comes to small craft harbours. You can go into a facility and spend $1 million, $2 million, or $3 million, and that can get wiped out overnight by a storm surge. You can spend massive amounts of money, and the environment and the weather can destroy it all in a matter of a few hours. I can see how it's hard to keep up. I guess when you are trying to allocate the funds to where you're going to spend the money, a lot of it would be reflected in the busier harbours: the type of activity, the number of landings, and the number of fishers in that particular zone. When you look at $5 million as a budget item, you're not going to get much done with $5 million.
As a department, are we seeking to start off with some big numbers again in the upcoming budget? You said that, for two years, you had $149 million. I know that's nowhere near enough.
It is an issue. In fact, it's a really interesting story. It is a species at risk in the St. Lawrence.
It was a species of concern in the Miramichi many years ago, and then there was an explosion of them about five years ago. We've opened up the fishery. We've done a lot of studies, including stomach contents, how much they are eating. We're concerned about lobster, but we're really concerned about salmon, and are they eating fry. We've assessed that. There is a fishery each year. About 4,000 recreational fisheries participate in it, but it is an ongoing issue.
We have seen some reduction in the numbers in the last year or two, but it's still a much larger number than it was. In terms of valuable species, it is salmon, lobster, other species that we need to make sure are being managed effectively, and, yes, striped bass are a challenge there.
Hello, everyone. Welcome back.
Just as a reminder, I need five minutes of your time at the very end to go in camera about some very important things. I just have a couple of questions to ask, and it won't take more than five minutes, which means that an hour from now, we should be done. I know some of us have committee afterwards.
A very special welcome to our guests. First of all, raise your hand if you can hear me, for those joining us by video conference. As I say your name, could you please raise your hand.
I have the executive director of the Prince Edward Island Fishermen's Association, Mr. Ian MacPherson. We also have the president of the Prince Edward Island Fishermen's Association, Melanie Griffin. Is that correct?
Thank you, Chairman Simms.
The Prince Edward Island Fishermen's Association once again welcomes the opportunity to present to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.
My name is Ian MacPherson, and I am the executive director of PEIFA. Our president, Bobby Jenkins, was unable to attend this morning. He sends his regrets. I am joined, though, by Melanie Giffin, our PEIFA staff member who is handling the marine protected area file. Melanie is a lobster biologist and also has extensive knowledge regarding other marine species.
With all due respect to the committee, I would like to request that, in future, more lead time be provided to our organization when requesting a presentation to the committee. We were invited this past Friday afternoon to present this morning. There are many important files occurring in the fishery at present, and we have a keen desire to make our presentation as complete and informative as possible. We thank you for your consideration of our request.
The PEIFA represents 1,280 independent owner-operators who participate in our local fishery. Each of our captains has a sizable investment in equipment, training, and sweat equity to make their fleet successful. Therefore, very few people connected with the fishery have a bigger personal investment at risk should our fisheries not remain viable and sustainable. As a side note, we would like to commend and this committee for supporting the strengthening of the owner-operator and fleet separation policies at this critical time.
The harvesters of Prince Edward Island have supported many conservation and gear reduction initiatives and the Marine Stewardship Council certification of our lobster fishery. These efforts are assisting in keeping our fisheries viable for Canadian generations to come. Therefore, when we speak of our concerns with the marine protected area and Bill , we are speaking from the perspective of making our fisheries better. Recent announcements have confirmed that Canada has met the 5% target on MPAs with a further 5% being targeted by 2020. We know that these areas will be national in scope, and for the most part the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which is our fishing area, has not been significantly impacted at this time. However, several areas are under consideration. Our concerns rest with a number of unanswered questions regarding the MPA program, how the process is being conducted, and the lack of new information.
In terms of some proposed changes outlined in Bill , the PEIFA has been a strong advocate of enforcing the rules and regulations around the fishery and setting sufficient deterrents to prevent future abuses. There have been cases in the past when fines have been viewed more as a cost of doing business rather than the deterrent they are supposed to be. The PEIFA is not in a position to comment on the amounts of fines that are stipulated in the offences and punishments section of the national strategy, proposed sections 39.6 to 39.92. We do, however, support updating and strengthening the powers of enforcement officers as outlined.
We are supportive of a review process that will assess whether an MPA is achieving some, or any, of its intended targets after five years. We support the suggestion that compensation may be provided to an interest owner should their activity be discontinued because of the marine protected area designation.
The PEIFA continues to have numerous concerns around the proposed oil and gas development known as Old Harry in the waters off Newfoundland and Quebec in the Magdalen Islands. We find it contradictory that we can be discussing MPAs in one area of the gulf, and oil and gas development in the same general vicinity. As we understand it now, you can have a limited fishing zone in a designated MPA area, yet oil and gas development may be allowed. This is a troubling example. The continued granting of exploration permits for this area and the suggestion that a rigorous environmental assessment will ensure safe exploration are also troubling to the harvesters in the gulf. This suggests that this type of development is a fait accompli. MPAs and oil and gas development do not mix. Bill should reflect this.
The PEIFA has specific questions on MPAs that require answers or clarification.
One, we understand that some areas may be shut down with exemptions. What does that mean, and how will it work?
Two, if an MPA is declared but target results are not achieved, how will this be assessed? How often will MPAs be reviewed?
Three, is there a possibility that some protected species will be identified and others can be added after an MPA opening? Will there be additional consultation if this happens?
Four, is the Governor in Council able to make decisions separate from the minister? Why is this role being expanded?
At present there are two newsletters per year being produced with updates on the MPA process. We find this to be too little information, too infrequently.
We would like to have language added to the proposed changes which stipulates that more industry consultation take place before an MPA is designated. We are keenly aware that the federal Ministry of Fisheries has had and continues to have ultimate discretion in making decisions involving the Canadian fishery.
The PEIFA is advocating for a process that is transparent and more inclusive of the experts who make their living from the ocean. This is a serious, long-lasting process that requires a high degree of dialogue and true consultation. Recent issues with whale mortality in the Gulf of St. Lawrence underscore that the ocean is a fast-changing environment. We must also have a process that addresses these changes while not severely limiting the ability of our harvesters to supply food for Canada and beyond.
We ask the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans to take our input into consideration when drafting changes to Bill .
I'll answer that one. I believe you're referring to the Marine Stewardship Council MSC certification.
Basically, for other people in the room, that's a third party certification body that comes in to look at a specific fishery. I can only talk to lobster because our Prince Edward Island fishery is certified for lobster. Basically, they look at the number of traps, the length of the fishing season, the types of traps that are used, how the biomass is protected or sustained, and a whole number of things. They audit both the harvesting side and the processing side, and it is basically a consumer-driven certification in that the organization certifies that the fishery is, in fact, sustainable.
There are annual audits that are conducted, and then by every fifth year you have to be recertified. They initially grant a five-year certification, and then you would have to be recertified in year four to have it continue.
Thank you very much, Mr. Morrissey.
Just a quick reminder to everybody, all of our guests are by video conference so I'd like to ask my colleagues if they have a question for a particular individual, please say that individual's name and then ask your question, because it's hard for them, obviously, to establish eye contact.
By the same token, to our guests from Prince Edward Island, if you wish to comment on a situation, please raise your hand so that the person asking the question can acknowledge you. It makes it a lot easier that way.
In the meantime, we're going to Mr. Doherty, for seven minutes please.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to our guests.
Mr. MacPherson, you could not have spoken truer words in your opening comments than when you said more time is needed in terms of getting it right as we move forward with a piece of legislation that is going to impact so many people who live in our coastal communities and depend on fishing to support their families, to support others, and to support their communities.
Bill is being pushed through very quickly. On this side at least, we feel that adequate consultation has not been done. In your earlier comments, you were saying that the tight timelines to accomplish these goals make you feel that it is being rushed through.
We all agree that we should do whatever we can to conserve our waters and make sure the fish are there for the future. There's probably nobody else in this room who understands that more than the three there.
Bill will have an impact on our coastal communities. It will mean fisheries closures. The minister was before us last week and did state that there will be fisheries closures.
One of the things you commented on was that there was compensation. You were happy to see that there was compensation for displaced fishers. Did you know that Bill does not offer compensation for fishers? It only offers compensation for oil and gas companies if their certificate has been pulled.
It's nice to speak with somebody from the other coast. I'm from British Columbia.
We too have been looking at marine protected areas and the impact, on the north coast especially, because some have been put in place up there.
There may be a little clarity needed with respect to Bill . I'm just going to read this. “Clause 5 of the bill amends the Oceans Act to empower the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard to prohibit certain activities within a marine area of interest...identified for conservation...”.
This is, if you like, an emergency measure to deal with what the department and the people on the ground see as a troubling issue. We could perhaps think back to 1992 when the cod moratorium was instituted in Newfoundland and along the coast. We saw that coming. A provision like this perhaps could have prevented such a drastic collapse of that fishery, when everybody knew that things were under stress and something needed to be done.
The main element of Bill is to give the minister powers to basically freeze the activities in a certain area, using the precautionary principle, while they look at the elements that may be necessary for a marine protected area sometime in the future. What we heard generally here was an interest in preventing certain things, especially oil and gas exploration and seismic testing, but not so much to change the fishing activities that were going on.
If this provision comes in, although some fishing closures might take place, for the most part, the focus—which at least I heard anyway—is on the extraction industries. If we look now at your areas of interest and your commercial activities, have you noticed any particular changes with respect to what you fish and where you fish, or has it been, if you like, fairly constant over the years?
There have been some different changes, some small changes.
Ultimately, as an industry, the stakeholders are very aware of the changes. They are the first ones to step up and say that maybe we should create a working group and have discussions about how we can maintain, sustain, and possibly improve this, rather than leaving it until the last minute, as you mentioned with the cod, where it was a full-on fishery until it was depleted.
There were questions this year, specifically with the mackerel fishery. Because in the gulf region we deal with four different provinces, and different provinces have a different outlook on what they're seeing. The result of that has been a working group that was created. The first meeting of the Atlantic mackerel rebuilding plan working group is going to be on December 5, to have a better look at that fishery, what's being done, how we can improve that stock rather than depleting it.
I think that we've learned, since the cod industry, how to improve on those things. I understand that when you look at marine protected areas in terms of a specific species, that's to try to save them.
I guess my question, when it comes down to that, is if you're going to put a freeze on a species, or on an area because of a species, what are the rules and regulations around that freeze? Is it just long enough to confirm whether or not the species is doing okay and can be continued to be fished?
If I could, I'd like to interject here.
The freeze, as I understand it, is the freeze to the current activities. Whatever is going on now would be for the most part allowed to continue. The minister would put about a five-year span to review the situation. It may be a step toward a marine protected area or simply to allow the stocks to recover. What's going on now, for the most part, would continue.
With regard to your comments about the process you're using right now where you see some problems, could it then be integrated with the minister's decision-making ability under Bill to put in, if you like, an interim freeze on activities in an area, i.e., maintain what's going on but protect it against other activities that might want to come into the area?
Can you see a crossmatch between what you're doing and what the minister could be doing?
Thank you to the panel for being with us today.
Fishers have always been involved in the protection of their resource. Over time they all realize that, when the resource is gone, there won't be a lifestyle or a way to earn their living. I think they've done a terrific job. We're increasing the carapace size for the lobster.
Fishery closure, whether there is an MPA or not, would be regulated by DFO, I would assume, because, if the resource dwindles, at one point DFO would step in, as they always have. I think that's their duty, to make sure the resource is protected.
I think we have a minister who is very closely connected with the fishing communities. We were talking about owner-operators, and he realizes the importance of having community fishing going on, and I think we can respect that.
I think, from what I've heard—and we've heard different versions of it around the table—the minister has said that, whether you can fish in an MPA or not, there will be other areas surrounding it that could be open.
Having said that, Mr. Arsenault, I know maybe some of the information hasn't trickled down as much as you would appreciate, but how comfortable or uncomfortable are you with the fact that we want to protect ocean areas on our coast?