Thank you, Madam Chair, for having me here today to share the story from the Pacific coast.
My name is Duncan Cameron. I'm a fourth-generation fisherman from Pender Harbour, British Columbia. I grew up fishing with my dad for salmon, halibut, and herring spawn on kelp. At 18 I started running my own fishing boat while studying at marine school for my 60-tonne, and a few years later my 150-tonne, ticket.
Although I really enjoyed fishing it was hard for me to see a future in it and entry to fisheries beyond salmon were too rich for my blood, and the price at the dock was very poor compared to the price at the fish counter. I started working in other parts of the marine industry and found myself a good union job with a tugboat company at 20 years old. It paid well, had good benefits, lots of time off, and I got to be on the water.
Unfortunately, it wasn't fishing. I returned to fishing at 22 and am 30 now, and in any given year I may fish halibut, salmon, spot prawns, and Dungeness crab. In the last 10 years licences have only become more unaffordable. I own two boats and have to lease all the licences I fish with. I am lucky enough to come from a family that has fishing licences and it is really the only way I've made it this far in fishing. My father leases me his halibut at a more generous rate than the industry standard, and has let me use his boat as collateral while I have taken loans out over the last 10 years.
There is no real succession plan here that could take place for halibut ITQs to me. He could set up a lease-to-own framework where he would give me a very attractive lease rate, but this is a gift, not a succession plan. A lot of the stories you hear from the west coast are just that. Very few young people are left, and almost every one comes from a fishing family with licences. There is a saying on the Pacific that if you want to make a million dollars in fishing you should start with $2 million.
That does not have to be the future we choose, though, and that is why I am here today to thank you for working on a bill that supports independent fish harvesters, including economic and social and cultural factors.
Let me tell you a little more about Pender Harbour, where I grew up. Pender Harbour used to be primarily a fishing and logging community. Sustainable primary industries funnelled money through the community, creating all sorts of secondary economies. At one point there were seven boat-building companies operating out of Pender Harbour. Many of the hulls you see on the B.C. coast and in Alaska originated from Pender Harbour. Within this vibrant economy there was a great sense of community, tradition, and respect for the ocean.
Now if you cruise around the harbour, it's mostly mansions with blinded up windows. Please do not confuse us with a failed industry asking for a bailout. This is an industry with a failed policy and we are suffocating underneath. With the correction of this policy we can bring life back to coastal communities.
After hearing this, it probably sounds like another story you've heard too many times, so let's get down to the facts. Under this current policy the value is no longer in the catch, but in licences or quota. Catching fish is simply a marginal cost to licence-holders and quota holders. Even fishermen who invested in quota just to lease out can no longer see the point when they are competing with a seafood company that has revenue streams other than just leasing. If this is not stopped, it is only the beginning of consolidation. I don't think I need to tell you where a consolidation cycle will end up when we are already seeing corporations abroad settle for lower returns on investment in our industry. On that I am referring to the recent sale of ITQs for over $50 million in one sale abroad.
Now I would like to refer you to an example of a new entrant, or someone who already has halibut quota, trying to buy more halibut. The prices I am citing here are the current prices for this week, roughly. It can be hard to gauge the actual price of buying quota because this time of year it doesn't move very often, so I've put it between $100 and $115 and chosen the low end for my example. The lease price this year has come down because the dock price has come down and the difference between the two is basically the bare minimum. The dock price here is $7, the lease price is between $5 to $5.50.
In my scenario here, a fisherman or a new entrant takes a loan out to purchase 10,000 pounds of halibut quota. Let's assume that the person can make a 20% down payment and that he will get the low end of the price at $100 per pound. To give this scenario a fighting chance, let's also assume that the person also has a boat with a video monitoring system and all the required gear. Please note that only a few banks will actually make this loan on any fishing privileges or halibut quota and the collateral would likely be set at 60% of the actual market value due to conditions with licensing. There would need to be significant collateral put up in addition. Let's assume that, being at $100 per pound, the interest rate is 5% for ease of math, and the payback period is 10 years, which, in my opinion, is quite a long period in what is a very dangerous industry.
So this person heads out on a trip to catch their new 10,000 pounds, and it's a great success. They avoid incidental bycatch, and have no gear loss or unexpected costs. The landed value is $70,000. Now let's remove expenses: bait, $1,000; monitoring, $1,500; fuel, $1,500; and food, $300. Once again, these are just estimates. Here comes the big expense—$50,000 to the quota holder.
Because of the high cost of buying halibut quota, it is pretty standard that the owner will take the market lease off the top before dividing up crew and boat shares if that quota has recently been purchased. People who outright own their quota already may do the same, or may give the crew a bigger share off the top. So we'll set the boat share at a relatively small share of 25%, the skipper share at 35%, and the two deckhands at 20% each.
Now that the trip is over we have to make a boat payment. On this loan for $1 million, with $200,000 down, and $800,000 remaining at 5%, there is a $40,000 interest payment to be made the first year, and an $80,000 principal payment.
The only problem is that even with the $50,000 taken off the top, and if the skipper takes all his income and the boat's income and puts it towards this payment, it adds up to $59,420, which is half of the required payment for the first year.
These prices are based on estimates on April 24, 2018, and the sharing landed value left over after expenses can differ from boat to boat.
I've heard several times that this bill will be permissible, and that it will be up to the fishermen to put this legislation to work. But how can we do that if licence-holders decide how the fisheries will be managed? You'll be giving us a vehicle to get where we want to go by giving the keys to the people who already have control over us.
I would like to ask if you could please change the wording in the act to support active fishermen, not just licence-holders. Can you please define what is an inshore fleet for B.C.? And can you please give clear direction when this bill passes, and I hope it does, to the Pacific region that we are going in a new direction and away from the toxic policy that we already have?
I think I have a couple of minutes left and I know you've heard a lot about owner-operator policy, and I'll just quickly touch on another change to the act here because I know it's a very broad act.
I'd like to talk now about something you're putting forward that I do not agree with whatsoever and I think it will cause further disconnect between the DFO and coastal communities. The change to give more power to enforcement officers will not help our coast. I understand the idea of giving them a big stick if it's used cautiously, but that is not what happens here. They have been irresponsible with their power time and time again.
Where I fish in the central and north coast of B.C. they are often only in a field office for one or two years after transferring. When they first arrive they often do not understand the conditions of licences properly for the local fisheries, and intimidate people, not understanding any of the science. Most of our fisheries are already fiercely monitored. I am engaged in an Area B Dungeness crab fishery. We are monitored any time we are on deck, by video, RFID scanner, hydraulic sensor, GPS, and speed indicators. All the data is uploaded to a cellular modem and audited to our service provider, who we pay heavy fees to already. The people who audit the footage have a very clear understanding of both the management plan and conditions of licence. Infractions are reported to the operator of the boat and the manager. Giving more power to fisheries officers is only going to create tension on the water and we already have monitoring in place.
I truly beg you to consider properly funding the charter patrolman program instead. It has been gutted down to nothing. I cannot think of a more important job on our coast than charter patrolman. I would encourage you to research more about this program. People from other countries are even doing documentaries on them now as they see what an important role they play in our ecosystem, even though there are only a few left. I have grown up watching them being replaced by people with handguns and bulletproof vests who bully people around with conditions of licence they don't even understand.
Thank you so much for your time. I realize this was short, so if you have any questions on other topics or changes to the act, I would gladly answer them in question period. Thank you.
Thank you, Madam Chair, for having me here today.
My name is Tasha Sutcliffe. I'm the Vice-President of Ecotrust Canada. I also grew up in a fishing family. I spent my first birthday on a salmon troller, and I have spent my working life in fisheries and with the people and communities reliant on them.
Twenty-four years ago Ecotrust Canada came together, powered by the vision of people and nature thriving together. We believe that Canada's rural and remote communities can create vibrant and prosperous livelihoods and greater well-being through the use, stewardship, and co-management of local natural resources.
Much of our work has been focused on fisheries in rural communities on the Pacific coast, where we have worked to co-create sustainable fisheries solutions, such as licence banks, traceability, small fishing loan funds, and first nations-led monitoring.
Today I'm here to speak in favour of Bill as legislation that stands to improve the Fisheries Act, and to affirm that fisheries and fish harvesters must have the same opportunities on all coasts.
First, I have some general comments on the bill.
At Ecotrust Canada we applaud the recognition of indigenous traditional knowledge for consideration in decision-making, the new ability of indigenous governing bodies to enter into an agreement with the minister, and the commitment to consider any adverse effects that a decision by the minister may have on the rights of indigenous peoples. We also applaud that traditional knowledge, in a more general sense, can include the knowledge of harvesters who have been working the coast for generations.
We are heartened by the new definitions of “fish habitat” and of “fishery”, which return protective measures to all fish and their habitat, not just those that are of commercial interest. This will help maintain the health of the ecosystem and, in turn, the many tangible and intangible benefits a healthy ecosystem provides.
Additionally, Bill introduces important new considerations for decision-making by the minister, all of which are important to viable fisheries, ecosystems, and coastal communities, and all of which are inextricably linked.
On the addition of social, cultural, and economic considerations, we emphatically endorse the inclusion of social, economic, and cultural factors for consideration by the minister in the management of fisheries, and our hope is that this will lead to greater parity between the Atlantic and Pacific regions. Our experience tells us that these considerations in the management of fisheries in coastal B.C. are necessary to help rebuild sustainable economies, local jobs, and thriving coastal communities that will help current and future generations of harvesters on the west coast.
To protect access for fish harvesters and communities, we recommend that the language in the bill not limit such considerations to “inshore fisheries” only. Though inclusion of this term is applicable in Atlantic Canada, we must ensure that the language does not exclude fish harvesters in the Arctic or the Pacific. For instance, it will be necessary to consult independent fish harvesters in the Pacific region to determine appropriate terminology and parallel policy if this is a prerequisite to the inclusion of social, economic, and cultural considerations in the management of the fishery.
On the independence of fish harvesters, the openly transferable, unregulated, and non-transparent market for licences and quota in B.C. has invited speculative investors and corporate consolidation of licences and quota, including by offshore interests. This has seriously impeded the independence and viability of our skippers and crew, as you have heard from others.
We applaud the insertion, in subsection 43(1), of a new scope of regulation under the Fisheries Act to address circumstances that would tie the licence to fish with a requirement to personally carry out any activity authorized by the licence. This, combined with a new ability to make regulations that would prohibit the transfer of licences except under prescribed conditions, can strengthen owner-operator and fleet separation policies, preserving the independence of those with fishing licences and enabling them to enjoy the full economic benefits from their labour.
The key term needing clarity to ensure that this clause would achieve its intended benefit is “licence holders”. We assume here that this is meant to refer to fish harvesters. This, however, is not a given, especially in B.C., where licence-holders are increasingly not fish harvesters. We recommend that this term be replaced with “fish harvesters”. Furthermore, as these clauses refer to where these restrictions already exist, this emphasizes the need to review current policy in the Pacific region and to understand how policy reform can occur on a fishery-by-fishery basis.
On the need for a stronger and more inclusive future for B.C.'s future, at Ecotrust we have observed, through our research and our close ties to coastal communities and fish harvesters, that unrestricted transferable quotas and licences have not worked for them. We have seen increasing and untenable debt loads, an aging industry, and a dramatic loss of jobs and incomes. Recent analysis of Statistics Canada tax filer data reveals that in 2015 the average fishing income for B.C. fish harvesters was $19,100, which is less than half the average fishing income earned by Atlantic Canada's fish harvesters of $42,795.
Over the period of 2000 to 2015, average income from fishing employment in B.C. dropped 28% in constant dollars, while the Atlantic provinces combined saw an increase of 45% after inflation in fishing incomes. It might be suggested that this drop in income for B.C. must be due to a collapse of the fishery or an equivalent loss in landed value. However, B.C. landings did not decline over that period. In fact, they slightly increased. They did lose 25% in market value, but the loss in total employment income for the industry was over 40%. There was also an 18% decline in that period in fish harvester jobs, which is nothing compared to the drop that we've seen over a longer period of time. Clearly, by the numbers and facts, the objective to increase incomes and improve enterprise viability through ITQs and fleet rationalization is not being achieved.
We know that sustainable small-scale fisheries can provide multiple benefits to their communities. Fish harvesters are small businesses. They run operations, employ crew, buy local supplies, and give back to community, ensuring that their family members, community members, and country members have healthy and high-quality foods, and they risk their lives to do so. There are many layers of value, from the landed value all the way through to a host of impactful, intangible values such as intergenerational knowledge transfer, gift and trade of food, and local stewardship.
These are all compromised under the current policy framework in the Pacific. In B.C., fish harvesters are struggling, as landed value is increasingly going to the non-fishing licence owner rather than active harvesters. Wholesale value and local employment are lost as processing leaves adjacent communities, and the less tangible benefits of the fishery that have formed the fabric of the coast for generations, and for first nations since time immemorial, are being eroded.
As you've heard already from others, change is needed. We need to transition respectfully and responsibly to an industry that young people can get into and thrive in for generations to come. In February of this year, we convened, along with our partners, a large and diverse gathering of food harvesters, organizations, and community groups. Among the over 120 participants were young and old fishermen, coastal community mayors, first nations leaders, academics, and environmental organizations. Despite the diverse perspectives and interests in the room, the gathering came to agreement on the need for fisheries policy reform in the Pacific region, and drafted the following consensus request:
||That the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, perform an independent review of BC commercial fisheries licensing policy, built on a transparent & inclusive process, to:
||a) Ensure fisheries licensing policy in the Pacific region supports independent fish harvesters, First Nations, and the revival of rural fishing communities, and
||b) Determine how “social, economic, and cultural” objectives are to be achieved in Pacific region fisheries.
It is our hope that this committee will support and actively engage in such a review.
The gathering also came to agreement on a list of principles for policy reform that can easily be translated into a vision for the future of Pacific coast fisheries. These can be found in the proceedings report I have provided to the committee clerk, and I hope you'll read these.
I want to express that although the language of the bill is permissive for B.C. to push for change, there's a need for leadership by government to explore options, help bring people together, and develop consensus across the industry on ways to address these challenges and move forward.
In conclusion, we believe that Bill represents a unique and powerful opportunity to achieve positive change for first nations, active fish harvesters, and fishing communities in British Columbia. To enable this, we hope you will consider these simple language changes that can create opportunities for better implementation. We urge you to remember the voices of the young B.C. harvesters you've heard—Chelsey, Cailyn, James, and Duncan—as they represent a positive future for our fisheries.
Finally, we will continue to offer our expertise, research, and analysis in any way we can to support our community partners and the government in working hard on the common goal of creating a fair, prosperous and sustainable Canadian fishery from coast to coast to coast.
Thank you again for the opportunity to appear here before you today.
Thank you, Madam Chair, and members of the committee. Good morning from British Columbia.
As the chair said, my name is Margot Venton. I'm a Staff Lawyer with Ecojustice Canada, a national charity dedicated to preserving and protecting the environment using Canadian law. We have approximately 20,000 donors throughout Canada.
I've been a staff lawyer with Ecojustice for 20 years, and my perspective on the Fisheries Act is informed by those years of advising and representing clients on marine species, fisheries, and aquaculture issues. I've been counsel in a number of legal cases interpreting and seeking to enforce the Fisheries Act, including the habitat provisions.
I thank this committee for this opportunity to again engage in the ongoing review and improvement of the habitat protection provisions under the act. This is a really important stage in the lengthy process of law-making. It's the time for the committee to get the details of these provisions right. It's really the last opportunity for us to ensure that habitat protection provisions are as strong and as functional as they can be. We are pleased that the amended legislation will restore the lost protections previously afforded fish habitat, through the reinstatement of the prohibition against harmful alteration, disruption, or destruction of fish habitat, which we all refer to as HADD.
There are five areas where, in our opinion, the bill falls short of fulfilling the mandate to ensure modern safeguards for the protection of fish and fish habitat. I'll only have time to present today on two of these areas, which are the need for a conservation purpose in the Fisheries Act, and amendments necessary to ensure that the cumulative effects of individual HADDs are effectively addressed and assessed.
In addition to those two topics, our written brief will also address the need to ensure that environmental flows and fish passage are protected as aspects of fish habitat, the need to strengthen the provisions dealing with rebuilding depleted fish stocks, and finally, the need to ensure that climate change is an express consideration in proposed section 2.5.
Turning to amendments necessary to confirm the conservation purpose of the Fisheries Act, the purpose of a statute is to reflect both Parliament's intent in passing the legislation and the minister's mandate under the act. Our fisheries are a common property resource. They're held by the government in trust and managed by the minister and DFO for the benefit of Canadians and of future generations. A clear conservation duty flows from this arrangement. The purpose section of the bill, as currently proposed, is largely descriptive of the minister's management responsibility. It should be strengthened to better reflect the outcomes the law is intended to deliver.
Canadian case law interpreting the fisheries' power under the Constitution supports the position that the Fisheries Act should have a conservation purpose, and the Supreme Court has clearly stated that the conservation of the fishery is the minister's primary obligation under the Fisheries Act.
The purpose section should also clearly articulate that the purpose of the act is to provide for the sustainable use of the fishery, consistent with Canada's commitments under international law. Therefore, we recommend that the purpose section be amended to clearly state that the purpose of the act is to provide for the long-term conservation and sustainable use of the fishery, in addition to the proper management and control of fisheries and the conservation and protection of fish and fish habitat.
In his testimony on April 24, the minister stated that he was open to amending the purpose section to add reference to conservation and long-term sustainability of the fishery. The committee also heard Tuesday from three young people from fishing communities in Canada, and their testimony underscored the important role that fishing plays, not just in the economy but also in the culture of coastal communities. Adding long-term conservation and sustainable use of the fishery to the purpose section reflects Canada's commitments to the international community, to Canadian case law interpreting the fisheries' power, and to the long-term survival of coastal fishing communities.
I'll now turn to the amendments necessary to enable assessing and addressing cumulative effects. The need for the Fisheries Act to address the cumulative effects of individual HADD authorizations was raised by many witnesses, including Ecojustice, before this committee in the fall of 2016.
The committee recommended that cumulative effects be addressed in the act, and the introduction in the bill of section 34.1 requiring the consideration of cumulative effects when authorizing or permitting certain HADDs, as well as the public registry, are both welcome additions that will help address cumulative effects. However, further changes are necessary to ensure that cumulative effects can be both effectively assessed and addressed.
This is because fish habitat is degraded not only by major projects, but also through the impact of smaller-scale works, undertakings, and activities. To stem the tide of incremental loss of habitat, DFO needs to do a better job of considering and addressing this cumulative loss of habitat through small projects. The act needs to provide a framework to enable DFO to do this important work.
It is important that whatever system is adopted is practical and manageable. To be effective, a cumulative effects provision needs also to be comprehensive, so simply ignoring certain HADDs out of a quest for administrative or regulatory simplicity will result in a cumulative loss of fish habitat if it continues over the long term.
We propose two amendments to better enable the assessing and addressing of cumulative effects. I will first outline the amendments proposed to ensure the act provides a framework to address the cumulative effects of individual HADDs.
The bill is vague on whether and how the cumulative impact of HADD sanctioned under the act will be addressed. While the proposed new subsection 35(1) imposes a strong prohibition against HADD, it is of course not an absolute prohibition. HADD is sanctioned in many ways, including the six categories of exemption currently proposed under subsection 35(2), which include HADD authorizations, permits for HADD of designated projects, and harm exempted from the prohibition through regulation.
Further, HADD can be sanctioned under sections other than 35. DFO has yet to provide any details of what, if any, HADD will be authorized under codes of conduct. It does not appear that cumulative effects is a required consideration when developing these codes of practice. Also, DFO is still talking about using letters of advice, which doesn't appear anywhere in the act. The letters of advice are sent out outlining to proponents willing to undertake an activity how to avoid HADD when carrying out a project. They are unenforceable and, as far as we know, not monitored; they often result in HADD.
To address the incremental loss of fish habitat, DFO needs to deal with the totality of all this sanctioned habitat loss. We propose the following amendments to ensure that the framework of the act supports fully addressing cumulative effects. These recommendations could be adopted individually or on their own.
The goal is to signal to the bureaucracy that one way or another, HADD is supposed to be addressed. Whether that is through compensation elsewhere, or directly requiring restoration, those details will be up to DFO. It can be worked out in the regulatory phase, but if the intent is not clearly signalled now, it likely won't actually happen later.
We propose amending section 35 to add that “[a]ny work, undertaking or activity that results in [HADD] is an offense unless sanctioned under section 35(2).”
This would stop the authorization of HADD outside of the regulatory scheme. Additionally, if DFO is intent on keeping the letters of advice tool, we recommend that section 35(2) be amended to include letters of advice as an express authorizing tool. This would bring this practice inside the regulatory scheme and make it more enforceable.
Alternatively, or additionally, we recommend amending subsection 35(2) to add that “[t]he Minister shall ensure compensation for all [HADD] permitted or otherwise enabled under s. 35(2) or through projects carried out under codes of practice.” This again clearly signals Parliament's intent that all this incremental HADD is to be addressed somehow, leaving to DFO the flexibility of how they do that.
Finally, I'll turn to amendments to enhance the assessment of cumulative effects. Obviously, to do a good job of addressing cumulative effects, you need good information about what HADD has happened in a particular estuary, lake, or river.
We propose strengthening the ability of the new registry to be a useful tool for assessing cumulative effects on fish habitat by adding to the minimum requirements of documents that necessarily need to be posted on the registry. This includes—
Thank you very much, Madam Chair and members of the committee. Ontario Power Generation appreciates the opportunity to appear before you today at the standing committee.
OPG, Ontario's largest clean-energy generator, is focused on safe, reliable and sustainable electricity generation. The company's electricity generation portfolio has an in-service capacity of over 17,000 megawatts. We operate two nuclear power generating stations, two biomass-fuelled thermal generating stations, one oil-and-gas thermal station, 66 hydroelectric generating stations, and one wind-power turbine. As of 2018, I'm proud to say, our power generation is more than 99% free of smog and carbon emissions and maintains a critical role in Canada's greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.
OPG has also long been involved in fisheries management in our province, including more recently our work on American eel, lake sturgeon, and Atlantic salmon restoration and recovery efforts across the province, and also including proudly working with our first nations partners on a number of these initiatives.
OPG has also been very actively involved in all aspects of this federal review and supports the delegations—both written and before this committee—coming forward from the Ontario Waterpower Association, the Canadian Nuclear Association, the Canadian Hydropower Association, and the Canadian Electricity Association.
Like many other proponents commenting on Bill , permitting certainty and regulatory clarity are of paramount importance to our organization. While OPG applauds the government's efforts to implement modern safeguards in the act, we believe that additional amendments are required to properly balance the environmental protections the government seeks to attain with the interest of the end-use consumers and customers, and to maintain Canada's leadership role in low-carbon electricity generation, both domestically and through exports.
Of interest to OPG are the following recommendations to improve the act. I'll start with no order of preference here, but will simply be stating them as we go. We'll start with the purpose statement.
On the stated definition of “fish habitat” in subclause 1(5), the “conservation and protection of fish” in proposed paragraph 2.1(b), and the prohibitions listed in proposed sections 34.4 and 35, OPG acknowledges the government's stated desire to “restore lost protections” in order to conserve and protect fish and fish habitat. It is vitally important, however, for consistency of application, that all of these sections align with the higher-order objective of the purpose statement, which is stated in proposed paragraph 2.1(a) and that is for “the proper management and control of fisheries”.
As currently written, the purpose statement seems to establish two distinct clauses: one being the management of fisheries as a resource, while the other, along with the prohibitions in proposed sections 34.4 and 35, seem to focus on and pertain down to conservation and protection of each individual fish.
OPG has concerns with this interpretation and application of the prohibitions themselves. While the purpose statement focuses on fisheries as a resource, which we support, the prohibitions seem to focus, again, on individual fish. OPG recommends that this uncertainty can be remedied in the purpose statement with a simple amendment, that is, “the proper management and control of fisheries through the conservation and protection of fish and fish habitat, including by preventing pollution” would clarify this for our organizations.
Secondly, on the specific prohibitions and exceptions—specifically, proposed sections 34.4. and 35—they also seem at times, when you look downstream at the application of the act, in slight contradiction to the first purpose statement, which is to manage the fisheries as a resource. The proposed prohibition under proposed section 34.4, for instance, suggests that any incidental death of fish, potentially a single fish, could be construed as a contravention of the act without a permit or an authorization. This is a critical distinction for large power-generating companies.
The prohibition focusing on individual fish, as opposed to fisheries, is concerning to generation proponents across the country. The government could further address this concern by amending proposed subsection 34.2(1) to include the establishment of a code of practice which would allow some incidental harm to fish while still maintaining the act's stated purpose, which is the “proper management and control of fisheries”.
Similarly, proposed section 35 is reintroducing the prohibition of HADD, as we've already heard mentioned, that being fish habitat or “water frequented by fish”, and we would recommend that a reasonable scope come to this application. For example, exemptions, including intake canals, penstocks, and things of that nature, or ancillary structures next to power generating facilities that were built for the purpose of facility operation and not intended to be frequented by fish, but sometimes are, should be considered. Such exemptions should be considered.
We'll move on to proposed new sections 2.5 and 34.1. These state factors to be considered by the minister.
We believe there could be greater alignment of these two provisions with the proposed Impact Assessment Act. Specifically, proposed sections 2.5 and 34.1 list the factors that the minister “may” or “shall” consider when making decisions under the act.
OPG, along with our industry colleagues, believes there is a need to align these sections in the Fisheries Act with the proposed IAA specifically wherever the public interest is considered. Under the impact assessment, the public interest is considered, and this is left out of these provisions under the proposed Fisheries Act.
When a project designated under the Fisheries Act has already gone through an impact assessment and has obtained a positive decision, the impact assessment decision statement should inform and streamline the permitting and authorization process under the Fisheries Act. This could be made explicit in a decision statement issued under the impact assessment articulating the expected economic outcomes of the project, including their relevance to the public interest.
I'll move on to inter-jurisdictional collaboration, a theme that we've identified across our organizations. Inter-jurisdictional regulatory regimes are not new to us; they are governing powers that govern us. They are very complex and often include numerous stakeholder and indigenous interests. Navigating these regulatory frameworks is a critical requirement for the safe and reliable operation of power generating facilities. That's from the federal to provincial to municipal jurisdictions.
To this end, and specific to water management, OPG strongly believes that wherever equivalent or existing provincial water management regimes exist, proposed section 34.3 of the act, whereby the minister has the ability to mandate flow around obstructions, only serves to add to the complexity and uncertainty of these inter-jurisdictional controls.
In the case of OPG specifically, our provincial hydroelectric power plants are already governed by numerous water management agencies and regulatory policies, including but not limited to provincial water management plans, Parks Canada on the Trent-Severn Waterway, the International Joint Commission on our boundary waters, and federal water control boards such as Lake of the Woods Control Board.
Further, the Ontario Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act in Ontario and the Water Resources Act regulate water power facilities through our province and include in their provisions the management, perpetuation, and use of the fish, wildlife, and other natural resources dependent on lake and river ecosystems. Suffice it to say, we have a lot of governance in this issue, and proposed new section 34.3 presents some concerns to us.
It is for these reasons OPG recommends that proposed new section 34.3 of the act should only be applicable in cases in which equivalent provincial or jurisdictional powers do not already exist.
If, however, the government intends to maintain these provisions, OPG insists that a vital amendment is required to the act, that being that prior to making an order under proposed section 34.3 for the management and control of an obstruction, the minister be required to consult with any provincial or federal authority also exercising, in this area of water management, powers that may overlap, may be in conflict, or may be inconsistent with the terms of an order to be issued by the minister.
Finally, OPG has long advocated for and welcomes the provisions in the act for a habitat banking system that advances the effective and efficient management of Canadian fisheries' resources. We also welcome the flexibility afforded the governor in council under the proposed legislation for designing this scheme.
On this point, however, OPG would also recommend adding flexibility to widen the potential creation and use of credits by project proponents and third party groups in a manner that advances both fish habitat conservation objectives and economic objectives. Improved clarification regarding the calculation and eligibility of offsets should be a focus, moving forward. We encourage the government to maintain a flexible, modern approach when working with proponents on the applicability of a habitat banking and offset system.
Secondly, and consistent with such other credit and debit systems as our cap and trade emissions system in Ontario, there should be a capacity of the governor in council to regulate not only the creation, allocation, and management of credits, but also their exchange in trade.
As mentioned, OPG has worked extensively with our parent organizations, the Canadian Electricity Association, the Canadian Nuclear Association, the Canadian Hydro Power Association, and the OWA in preparing these respective submissions.
I can safely say that the electrical sector is unified in our position that Bill requires amendments to best serve all parties—
Thank you for that question.
First of all, I think I've said a lot on the purpose and the changes necessary to ensure that we address all the cumulative effects of fish habitat loss.
With respect to those last proposals, on making sure that the act is a tool for assessing cumulative effects, the bill as you all know proposes adding a public registry. That, we think, is a very useful tool, extremely important for improving the transparency of decision-making within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, for a whole bunch of reasons.
Also, this registry could be a very useful tool to enable the assessment of the state of fish habitat in a particular lake or estuary. However, it's only going to be a useful tool if we include all the instruments that are relevant to that place. Right now there's a short list of things that will be included, but it won't include such things as habitat that is sanctioned under regulations. In an estuary where there are multiple fish farms, for example, you won't necessarily have that information come up on the registry, and as we know from Tuesday's report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development there's a big problem with fish habitat and fish farms, particularly in British Columbia.
Those kinds of things all need to be in some place where everyone can see them and where DFO has them all together and can use them as an assessment tool.
Turning to other areas that I haven't had time to touch on and will speak about in our brief, climate change needs to be a consideration in the Fisheries Act somewhere. It's one of the major threats to fisheries production, particularly for species such as salmon, which as you know is of huge concern on the Pacific coast.
Also, we need to ensure that environmental flows are protected under the Fisheries Act as an aspect of fish habitat. My colleague from West Coast Environmental Law spoke a little about that on Tuesday.
We have proposed one particular tool that we think would be quite useful, which is adding a clause to the obstruction provisions to allow for a member of the public to request that an obstruction be removed or that a potential obstruction of fish habitat be investigated, ensuring that DFO would have to at least investigate and respond.
We think this is a nod also to the vastness of Canada and the real challenge we have seen within the department of having enough resources to be out in the world actually looking at what's happening in fish habitat on the ground. We need tools to enable Canadians to participate with DFO in this important job, just because Canada is so big, really.
The final provisions that we think need to be strengthened are those with respect to stock rebuilding. We think it's amazing that those provisions have been introduced in the act as a concept, but we need to make clearer that there are end goals for healthy fish stocks that need to be added into the act, to make that provision more functional for ensuring that stock recovery actually happens.