I call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 43 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.
This meeting is taking place in a hybrid format pursuant to the House order of June 23, 2022.
We will begin in public to hear testimony from witnesses. Following that, we will go in camera to discuss committee business.
Before we proceed, I would like to make a few comments for the benefit of witnesses and members.
Please wait until I recognize you by name before speaking. For those participating by video conference, click on the microphone icon to activate your mike, and please mute yourself when you are not speaking. For interpretation for those on Zoom, you have the choice at the bottom of the screen of either floor, English or French audio. Those in the room can use the earpiece and select the desired channel.
Please address all comments through the chair.
Finally, I remind you that screenshots or taking photos of your screen is not permitted.
The proceedings will be made available via the House of Commons website.
In accordance with the committee's routine motion concerning connection tests for witnesses, I am informing the committee that all witnesses have completed the required connection test in advance of the meeting.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted on October 4, 2022, the committee is resuming its study on the impacts of climate change.
I would like to welcome our panel of witnesses: representing CBCL Limited, we have Vincent Leys, senior coastal engineer; representing the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation, we have Kathryn Bakos, director, climate finance and science, and Joanna Eyquem, managing director, climate-resilient infrastructure; representing Oceans North, we have Susanna Fuller, vice-president, operations and projects; and representing the Cape Breton Fish Harvesters Association, we have Mr. Michael Barron, president.
Thank you for taking the time to appear today. You will each have up to five minutes for an opening statement.
I'll begin with Mr. Leys, please, for five minutes or less.
My name is Vincent Leys. I work as a senior coastal engineer with the Halifax-based consulting firm CBCL. I've spent more than 20 years studying coastal processes and designing coastal infrastructure. My main geographical area of practice is the east coast of Canada, with a focus on such federal infrastructure as ports, ferry terminals and national parks, and a special emphasis on small craft harbours managed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, of which there are several hundred.
Small craft harbours are the backbone of many coastal communities around the region. These harbours sit on the front lines of storm and climate change impacts. Many of them were hit particularly hard by hurricane Fiona. Since the end of September, I've been busy working on the implications of hurricane Fiona from the standpoint of coastal processes, storm impacts, infrastructure maintenance and repair, and engineering design.
The force of the storm was well documented as possibly the strongest tropical storm to hit Canada, as gauged by the historic low pressure. The intensity of the storm in terms of storm surge level and wave action is unprecedented for the hardest-hit areas, which explains the historic level of damage. That is notably the case along the entire north shore of Prince Edward Island, as well as areas of Cape Breton, the north shore of Nova Scotia, southwest Newfoundland and the Magdalen Islands.
Tide gauges along the north shore of Prince Edward Island measured the storm surge peak at two metres—two metres—above the normal astronomical high tide for the day. The entire north shore of P.E.I. and its infrastructure was under water. That included wharves, beaches, cottages and coastal roads. The deck of the fishing wharf at Red Head, P.E.I., had been at least two and a half feet under water before the storm knocked the tide gauge instrument out of service. The entire wharf was destroyed. This is one example of many.
The extreme storm surge allowed waves to hit communities inland where they would otherwise be protected inside coastal bays. Along sections of southwest Newfoundland, some communities were in the direct axis of huge Atlantic waves, causing unprecedented impacts to people and property.
For engineering purposes, the unprecedented storm surge has required us to revisit design parameters that were based on historical observations. For areas along the north shore of Prince Edward Island, we had to significantly increase the recommended design elevations for coastal infrastructure to account for the storm now being part of the dataset. This is in addition to the projected increase in mean sea level from climate change, which will worsen the impacts of such storms on coastal communities.
Now, quantifying the impacts of climate change on the actual frequency and intensity of hurricanes themselves is an area of active scientific research. Climate change projections indicate an increase in air and water temperature, including later in the season. These conditions will increasingly favour the development of large Atlantic hurricanes as well as their sustained intensity over Atlantic Canada. In addition, sea level rise will allow storm surges and waves to impact infrastructure further inland. Therefore, while the quantification of rising storm frequency and intensity remains challenging, climate resiliency is increasingly important for coastal infrastructure.
In recent years, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has been conducting structural condition assessments on its small craft harbour infrastructure for the purposes of asset management. These assessments are meant to produce rankings of infrastructure condition, from poor to good condition, that greatly help to prioritize immediate and long-term spending.
DFO personnel assessing storm damage have communicated to me that the hardest-hit harbours were those that scored lowest on the asset condition studies. In other words, older and deteriorated infrastructure suffered the most damage, which is not a surprising result. Therefore, hurricane Fiona reinforces the necessity for asset condition assessment and continuous monitoring, followed by timely maintenance and replacement of infrastructure at the end of its life cycle. These elements are a critical part of keeping climate-resilient infrastructure for the benefit of the local communities.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak today.
As a geoscientist watching hurricane Fiona, I couldn’t escape a feeling of inevitability, seeing the impacts on the coastal areas of Atlantic Canada. Changing flood and erosion impacts on Canada's east coast were recently documented in the publication “Rising Seas and Shifting Sands”, supported by the Standards Council of Canada and the National Research Council, bringing together 60 subject-matter experts across the country.
The risks outlined include, as Vincent mentioned, coastal storm surge, often with high wind and heavy rainfall, as well as changing sea ice conditions, relative sea-level rise and coastal erosion.
The urgent challenge is to adapt to these more extreme and changing conditions.
I was encouraged by Friday's testimony from ministers, particularly the strong message from several parties that climate change is real. There was also discussion of moving people and infrastructure out of harm's way, which echoed comments made in October by of Environment and Climate Change Canada.
There are four key approaches to coastal adaptation. Our focus has historically been protection, for which we can use both natural and grey infrastructure solutions. We can also use avoidance by preventing development in areas of high risk. We can also look at retreat, pulling back infrastructure from areas, including homes, as referenced by Minister Bragg last Friday. We can also accommodate the risks; that is, live better with them. For example, even if areas are flooded, they may not be significantly damaged.
Selecting an approach requires us to understand the natural system so that we can work with, rather than against, natural processes where possible. In some cases, existing infrastructure, such as wharves or sea walls, is actually exacerbating climate change impacts, for example by stopping sediment moving along the coast or moving inland as sea levels rise. Other infrastructure, including housing, is in areas of high risk, where it does not necessarily make socio-economic sense to rebuild or defend.
In short, we need investment in coastal management that weighs long-term costs and benefits, as we discussed with Infrastructure Canada while developing input to the national adaptation strategy. There is specific opportunity to combine natural and grey infrastructure solutions to reduce risk while delivering multiple benefits and improving people's lives in our coastal communities.
Recovery is not just about building back quickly or building back higher or bigger. We need to build back better to maximize the return on our investment in social, natural and economic terms.
Building on what Joanna said, what are the financial consequences of the status quo?
The Intact Centre has identified ways to mitigate the physical risks of climate change across specific industry sectors, and the financial impacts those risks pose. As an example, the Intact Centre conducted the study entitled “Treading Water: Impact of Catastrophic Flooding on Canada's Housing Market” to determine if community-level flooding affects Canadian residential real estate and mortgage markets.
A key finding of the report showed that flooding caused a direct impact of, on average, an 8.2% reduction on the sold price of homes, solidifying the material financial impact to the Canadian housing market, a market that is already under-insured due to flooding. Currently 10% of homes are uninsurable in Canada relative to basement flooding.
There need to be strong recommendations to help homeowners help themselves, which then help local communities and national economies at large. To do this, flood risk needs to be transparent, and information needs to be made available to enable people to make their own decisions to protect themselves from all levels of flooding.
On top of the recommendations Joanna has offered, we recommend the following actions.
One, municipalities should distribute the “Three Steps to Cost-Effective Home Flood Protection” infographic to homeowners as a means to lower the risk of basement flooding. I've printed a few of these infographics. If you would like them, I'd be happy to share. This guidance was first launched in the town of Antigonish, and in Antigonish County, in Nova Scotia, about three years ago. Since then, towns across Canada have been including this infographic in property tax assessment mail-outs.
Two, the federal government should link the climate adaptation home rating program to the EnerGuide home energy audits program.
Three, the federal government should update the flood risk maps and ensure they're publicly accessible.
Four, the federal government should develop a flood risk scoring system based on postal code.
By mobilizing action, this would be a material contribution to retaining the equity within Canadian homes and supporting all levels of the Canadian economy.
Thank you for inviting me today.
I think you have heard a fair amount from Oceans North staff on a few topics lately, so my introduction will be brief.
We are a Canadian oceans-focused charity that works to achieve healthy oceans that support vibrant communities. We work closely with indigenous communities and non-indigenous communities throughout Inuit Nunangat and Atlantic Canada. We also engage on international ocean issues where relevant. We attended COP26 as part of the Canadian delegation to try to raise ocean issues in the context of climate change.
Over the last several years, we have significantly increased our engagement on ocean and climate, with a focus on emission reductions in marine industries, shipping, ports and fishing vessels, and assessing the readiness of DFO to manage fisheries in a changing climate.
In 2021, we released a review of fisheries management practices and policies where there is a clear gap in proactive incorporation of climate change. We have since published three peer-reviewed papers on fisheries and climate change together with academic partners.
Things are changing when it comes to incorporating climate change, as just this week the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna adopted a forward-looking climate change resolution.
Because of our growing work on the climate and oceans space, we've been engaged with consultations and provided advice on aspects of Canada's climate policies, from the emissions reduction plan to the national adaptation strategy and the yet to be released blue economy strategy. We noted that in budget 2021, fisheries were not included in the sections of the budget relating to industry and climate. We have also commented on the fact that a blue economy strategy for Canada must connect to our net-zero ambitions and address coastal infrastructure.
I recognize that you called us here today to speak specifically to hurricane Fiona's effects on fish harvesters, fisheries infrastructure and the role of climate crisis on storm severity. I think the witnesses you just heard from as well as those you heard from in the previous session gave some very specific recommendations on how to deal with that.
Many of us with offices in Halifax, Newfoundland and Cape Breton felt very directly the impacts of hurricane Fiona; however, it's our view that the impacts of the hurricane and perhaps our overall lack of readiness is a symptom of a larger problem in Canada, whereby our coasts and oceans are often left out of climate plans, or climate impacts are left out of ocean strategies.
We have been duly warned well in advance by scientists about the comprehensive IPCC report in 2019 on the oceans and the cryosphere, by the reports you have already heard of here today and by communities that are seeing the changes on an annual basis. Climate change is and will impact our coastal communities and industries into the future and even more rapidly than we have been experiencing to date.
I would like to leave you with three overarching recommendations.
You have heard from the other witnesses on the need to really look at our small craft harbours. In 2018, DFO completed a study on the vulnerabilities of small craft harbours to climate change. This report needs updating with new data that then needs to be linked directly into infrastructure upgrades and funding to assist the most vulnerable ports in Canada, many of which are in Atlantic Canada, to adapt and, in some cases, retreat where the impacts of climate change are not manageable over the long term.
The national adaptation strategy is fairly comprehensive; however, I know I worked very hard to make sure the oceans, the coast and the fishing industry were included in that. More work could be done to ensure that our adaption strategy really speaks to the impacts on our coasts. I also worked with the provinces on that.
The second recommendation is that Canada needs an overarching oceans and climate strategy. We need to be proactive rather than reactive to the changes coming to our coasts and oceans, which are only slated to increase in speed rather than decrease.
Coastal communities are increasingly vulnerable to storms and sea level rise. It's imperative that Canada develop a forward-looking, comprehensive strategy to adapt to and mitigate climate impacts, including nature-based solutions. Other jurisdictions are undertaking such work, including the U.S. This strategy should include predictions on what and where we might expect to have coastal fisheries into the future, given how much of our socio-economic well-being is reliant on fisheries in Atlantic Canada in particular. Provinces should be invited to join such a strategy and implement or develop coastal protection plans.
Finally, and this is again more of a thousand-foot view on this issue, we've noticed that the fishing industry, while maybe feeling the impacts of increased storms of intensity, is often not included in efforts to reduce emissions and to transition to net zero. Fuel costs are increasingly prohibitive, yet there are few incentives for fishers or boat builders to shift to low-emissions designs and engines. We have not started to switch our small craft harbours to electrification and to more sustainable renewable energy sources. In this line, more work needs to be done to shift our shipping to low emissions and electrify our ports.
I will leave it at that and am open to any questions.
Good afternoon, honourable members of Parliament. It is an honour to be here today to present the impacts of climate change and to discuss the effects Fiona had on some areas where my membership reside.
My name is Michael Barron. I'm the president of the Cape Breton Fish Harvesters Association and a board member of the Canadian Independent Fish Harvesters Federation and the United Fisheries Conservation Alliance, the UFCA.
Also, I am an independent owner and operator who fishes lobster, halibut and snow crab from a small coastal community in Ingonish, in northern Cape Breton.
Fiona arrived on September 24 and hit Nova Scotia as the lowest-pressure recorded storm in Canadian history at 932, millibars. For comparison, in 2019, Dorian was 958 millibars and Hurricane Juan in 2003 was 973 millibars. Once Fiona hit Nova Scotia waters, the pressure difference could have caused warmer than average water temperatures, which would help fuel intensity. Historically, in September, the Gulf Stream tends to bring slightly more relaxed waters to the Maritimes. However, that was not the case this past September, as the jet stream seemed to carry warm water from the tropics further up the Atlantic coast than average for the time of year, which could definitely be a result of climate change.
Fiona created a considerable amount of damage for the short period she graced Cape Breton with her appearance. As a result, some of our members, from Gabarus to Bay St. Lawrence, experienced significant damage. Some fisherman lost wharves with traps that were stored for the season, along with roads leading to wharves that were washed out entirely. There was an extensive amount of sand washed into one harbour, and at this point it isn't known if vessels can actually utilize the harbour.
These harbours have been divested for several years and have left many unanswered questions and slow reactions in terms of clear concise relief opportunities. In some other ports, boats that could not get hauled out of water also suffered some damage.
The community of Ingonish, where I reside and fish out of, also received a considerable amount of wharf damage. This wharf had been scheduled for repair for several years, but the repairs kept getting put off. The barrier wall that protects the harbour in the southern part of my town has had a void in it for the last five years, and this has quadrupled in size since. It is to the point now where the ocean flows through the opening every high tide. This void allowed an eight-foot tide surge to cover the only southbound road in and out of our town. It reached people's homes and forced them to evacuate along that shoreline.
Further north, the only fish plant received a considerable amount of damage, which I am sure you have all seen throughout the media. A road and a bridge were washed out entirely on September 24 and were not replaced until November 8.
Storms of this magnitude have been known to have a lingering effect on fish's behavioural patterns. After Dorian blew through in 2019, the ocean was a desert for almost two months. As a result, the groundfish longline fleet had many unsuccessful halibut trips. In the fishing industry there is always uncertainty and never a guarantee to make a paycheque when you cut your lines clear to go fishing.
Since Fiona, the same has happened to the fleet, and we have been left wondering when things will return to normal. The pressure drop seems to have a dramatic effect on the migration pattern of the halibut, but not just the halibut. Lobster fishermen in fall and winter districts can attest to different behavioural patterns. High operating costs this season are leaving many longline boats tied to the wharf, causing there to be less high-quality protein available.
Fiona only added to the deteriorating coastline off Cape Breton. Year after year, post-tropical storms and violent northeast winter storms have left many coastal communities waiting for an unrecoverable event. They all seem to be stemming from climate change, but unfortunately, given the recent destruction caused by Fiona, the writing is on our shorelines and in our waters. Climate change is here, and it is time to build the infrastructure needed to protect the pristine coastlines known worldwide for their vistas and beauty.
It is time for our political parties to work with small craft harbours to help protect our coastal communities, which rely on these aging and failing infrastructures. It is time to build them bigger and better, and it is wiser to deal with the many changes from both climate and changing industry.
Thank you to the committee for studying the impact of Fiona and climate change on Atlantic Canada and eastern Quebec, and I look forward to your questions.
Before I go to the round of questions, I of course want to welcome Mr. Bachrach, who is filling in for his colleague Ms. Barron. We will go to Mr. Small first, for six minutes or less, but I would ask the members of the committee to please identify who your question is for and not leave it just hanging for anybody to answer, because you'll be losing some of your time just sitting there looking to see who's going to answer.
Mr. Small, for six minutes or less, please.
It's good to see the witnesses here in person and, of course, Mr. Leys on Zoom.
My first question is for Mr. Barron.
In the last meeting, we heard from all Atlantic fisheries ministers that climate change is real. It's here, and we need to do something about it, in the context of coastal infrastructure. We also heard that we need to work together.
Mr. Barron, you highlighted that really well.
I want to unpack a couple of things here. When we say the words, “We need to develop climate resilience for small craft harbours,” for us here, and for those watching, can you paint a picture of what that means to you, as a harvester?
Thank you very much, Mr. Leys. I apologize for interrupting. I want to stay with you on a couple of items.
Since 2016, the current government has invested nearly $1 billion. The Conservative government previous to that...less. However, it sounds as if, despite these important investments, more needs to be done, obviously, to ensure our harbours are ready now and in the future.
I want to get a sense of the cost. I know this might be an unfair question, but if you look at the small craft harbour wharves in Atlantic Canada, to the best of your ability, can you give us the ballpark for getting harbours climate resilient? I'm referring to the infrastructure you talked about that needs to be bolstered to withstand Fiona and other types of storms that are literally on the horizon.
That can be a complicated math question, and the numbers can balloon pretty quickly if you estimate that this will be for several hundred small craft harbours around Atlantic Canada. I think the ballpark number is around 800, with a lot of them in Newfoundland for one, as well as others in P.E.I. and Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. A new wharf can be $1 million or more, and for an entire small craft harbour you're talking certainly several million dollars if you're talking new infrastructure. If you multiply that by the number of harbours around, that's certainly a huge number.
The key is to prioritize. As you said correctly, there's been a lot of recent investment in it, which has been extremely useful, as was mentioned, with the priority placed on asset management. Those harbours with more recent structures are the best in terms of climate resiliency in the face of hurricane Fiona. It's really about taking the harbours that have extensive use, in which the structures have deteriorated. These would be the priority.
In terms of a total number for investment, I would defer that question to someone from the small craft harbour department, because they would have a better picture on the total numbers.
I'd like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to a number of fishers' organizations that are here this week in connection with Journée mondiale des pêcheurs artisans et des travailleurs de la mer. We are happy to have them here with us on Parliament Hill.
During our midday discussions, they spoke to us of their serious concerns about the impacts of some fishery closures, as well as climate change and what hurricane Fiona did to the Magdalen Islands in Quebec. Also in Quebec, climate change has been affecting the St. Lawrence River, with some parts completely under water. There is also Place Royale in Quebec city and the silting up of all our wharves. At Isle-aux-Coudres, for example, annual dredging is required and I have witnessed that first-hand myself.
Ms. Eyquem and Ms. Bakos, your approach to natural elements is something I'm keenly interested in. Rockfill has been used in the St. Lawrence River at certain locations because of shoreline erosion. That has been done at the Magdalen Islands as well. The rockfill technique raises concerns, because we can see that the river is eroding the sediment underneath the rocks. As a result, this may not always be the best way of doing things, even though it is being used widely and very quickly, without too many questions being asked.
You were talking about dealing with natural elements. Could you give me a concrete example of how such an approach could be used as compared to the traditional rockfill approaches?
Thank you for your question.
In Canada right now, grey infrastructure solutions appear to be the usual ones, by default. I'm from the United Kingdom and I've worked extensively in the Netherlands, where several methods that involve natural processes were used. It's also being done in several other countries. For example, at Percé, Quebec, there was the beach rehabilitation project, which was largely based on a natural process.
Erosion is a natural process. The problem with rockfill is that it gets in the way of sediment transport. The sediments that are not eroded are not moved, and hence not deposited on beaches. When you have grey infrastructure, it's important to know what the natural system is in order to decide on a process to adopt to make the changes. It's like functional units, and our grey infrastructures prefer natural systems. That means that it's a good idea to know how it all works.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to members of the committee for allowing me to sub in in the place of my colleague and participate in this interesting discussion. I have promised I'll behave myself. We'll let be the judge.
I wanted to start my questions with one to Ms. Fuller. Most of this conversation has focused on adaptation to the impacts of climate change that we know are coming and that, in many ways, are already here. You spoke in your presentation about the importance of mitigation. These two concepts are very different in some ways, especially when it comes to the time frame over which they need to take place.
How do we ensure that the conversation about mitigation doesn't get lost as we deal with the very immediate imperative for adaptation and things like dredging, rebuilding wharves and that kind of thing?
How do we ensure that the long-term need for us to drive down emissions and mitigate the worst impacts of climate change doesn't get lost in the conversation?
That has and will continue to be the challenge, and we will have to keep being able to react to emergencies that are going to increase in frequency and intensity.
At the same time, I mentioned some of the work we've been doing in the fishing industry. When I read budget 2021, for example, there was quite a bit in there about the agricultural industry and helping agriculture shift to lower emissions and adapt to climate change, but there was absolutely nothing in there on the fishing industry.
Fishermen like Michael Barron and those who I grew up with in Cape Breton have been left out of the conversations, whether they are on adaptation or mitigation. We haven't included people who rely on the ocean in a lot of these conversations and in our policy discussions, and there's a huge opportunity to do that. We'll have to prioritize both at the same time, if that is possible.
Canada is doing quite a bit on its emissions reduction plan. I don't see the fishing industry included in it right now. I know there are some efforts to build some lower-emission lobster vessels. Oceans North is really pleased to be part of that, and we'll be launching an initiative in the next couple of weeks.
However, we have to include the people who are most impacted in being part of the solution. I would encourage the Canadian government to do that in all the ways it possibly can.
I'll turn now to Mr. Barron on the same theme.
You mentioned that the impacts of climate change are very much here. I'm curious about what you've observed in your conversations with fishermen when it comes to their perceptions of the issue and their openness to technological changes or changes in practices that drive down emissions and start to deal with the actual source of the problem.
I can imagine that it would be hard, when you're out there in a boat, to connect maybe switching to an electric motor to this huge global challenge of climate change and the impact it's having.
Do you see people's thinking shifting in that way?
There's not so much a complete shift. The discussion has been had and I have sat in on a presentation on hybrid engines and stuff.
One thing I'd like you to know is that wild captured fish is one of the lowest-carbon protein sources. In wild fisheries, for example, it is one to five kilograms of carbon per kilogram of fish caught, whereas red meat production is 50 to 750 kilograms of carbon. That's one thing that has to be discussed here, too. You have to understand.
When you mention these hybrid engines, you have to understand that when we're out in the elements, the one thing with running a diesel engine is that we're guaranteed to get home.
There are no standards in terms of a definite guidebook for now. Certainly the official projections from the IPCC are what we use for, first of all, sea level rise. Depending on the emissions scenarios, you get different rates of sea level rise anywhere from today to into the next century.
We use that for flood and inundation levels. We also use that as input conditions for wave modelling, for example. When we look at wave forces, the amount of wave energy that hits the structure will depend on the water depth. You can imagine that as sea levels are rising that will allow bigger waves to come closer to shore. We do use that.
The more tricky thing is about developing.... I was mentioning these changes in storm intensity. There is no clear consensus yet as to what to use in terms of increasing hurricane intensity and/or frequency. It's an area of evolving science. In terms of storm surge statistics, we use the past because that's what we have.
I mentioned that the calculations have to be updated. With Fiona, the data point now lies outside the range of what has been historically observed. All of a sudden, your extreme one per cent probability storm gets higher because hurricane Fiona is now part of the statistics.
It's an evolving practice.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you again, witnesses, for being here today.
I'd like to just follow up, as a start, Mr. Leys, on something you said. You said the costing is around $1 million to Mr. Kelloway's questions in terms of wharf repair or wharf replacement. On the south shore of Nova Scotia, as you know, going from Prospect all the way down to the tip of Shelburne County, I have lots of small craft harbours, probably the most in the country, and just as many devolved wharves that used to be small craft harbours.
In Port Mouton, for example, DFO recently did a rebuilding of the breakwall. That alone, just on the breakwall, cost $5 million, and it's already being breached because they didn't build it high enough in one corner. Everybody knows Lunenburg. It has one public wharf, which is a small craft harbour. It's a historic wharf that has existed for about 140 years. It's called the Railway Wharf. The engineering estimates come in, and it's not a very big wharf, at $15 million just to replace it.
DFO estimated—and I haven't seen an update—that in the path of hurricane Fiona over 100 small craft harbour wharves were damaged. Some were left with some operational problems, and over 20 wharves were demolished. That's just the small craft harbour wharves. It does not include the ones that DFO has devolved to communities. I'm having a hard time seeing the government's $100 million for hurricane Fiona wharf relief. They've increased, in the economic statement, Fiona relief to $1 billion, but the economic statement doesn't allocate any more than $100 million for wharf relief. When I look at those numbers, I see that just to repair the 100 wharves alone is going to be about half a billion dollars. That's if you can find the engineering help and construction help like your company provides.
Are you sure that when we have to complete the north shore of P.E.I. where the wharves are all demolished, it's going to cost only $1 million or $2 million for those wharves, when in my own riding it's costing $15 million for a wharf?
Can I ask you another question that's been bugging me? I've had chats with lots of members about it.
In terms of building back stronger wharves, which we have an opportunity to do here because we have an unusual amount of money that we didn't have before to deal with small craft harbours, are we going to build them back? Are the engineering firms going to build back wharves the same way, with the same old 150-year-old-plus technology of treated wooden wharves?
In British Columbia, they're building them with steel tubes on floating concrete wharves, and they have large vessels on them. They seem much sturdier. I don't understand why in Atlantic Canada we're still building wharves the way we did 140 years ago.
If we have to keep replacing them because of storms, it would probably be cheaper, but that's just a wild guess.
Thank you very much, though, for those answers.
Mr. Barron, you talked about the damaged harbours that aren't small craft harbours. I think there are a lot of them beyond the ones that the and the Department of Fisheries are focusing on in terms of small craft harbours. Those used to be small craft harbours and were usually devolved to a community group or a not-for-profit group to manage that hadn't had the capital to keep them up to speed or the ability to charge enough wharfage fees to maintain them as effectively as possible.
Do you think DFO or ACOA—or the special programs out of ACOA—should go to those harbours as well?
Thank you, and thank you very much to all the witnesses for appearing.
First, I think I'll continue the cost discussion for now.
Ms. Bakos, I know the Intact Centre has done some work over the years on the cost of climate change on infrastructure.
I think you, Ms. Eyquem, referred to insurance costs and the effect on the housing market.
Do you have estimates on the insurance costs accrued from Fiona so far?
I'm glad you covered that, because part of my follow-up question was on the uninsurable costs.
Can you comment on the costs of infrastructure investments? I might add that the $100 million promised so far is a start in what the federal government is committing to, but regardless we can see that we may need to go a lot further than that.
If you compare the cost of infrastructure investments in the first place—solid infrastructure investments looking to the future—to the recurring cost of destruction, including loss of income, loss of economic opportunities, lost homes, insurance costs and uninsurable costs, is there any comparator there?
I think one of the key things we need to look at is the climate vulnerability of major species. We are seeing species shift where they're occurring, and people often fish the species that are not too far from their wharf or from their home. I think we need to look at where species are moving and then where we expect them to be in 20, 30, 40 and 50 years.
We already know that the Gulf of Maine is warming very quickly. There are no more lobster fisheries in some parts of the United States. That's a species that is moving farther north.
We need to look at that shifting of species so we can adequately plan for the fisheries of the future.
Thank you to the witnesses. You've been extremely helpful.
Ms. Fuller, you said earlier that we had been failing to call upon the expertise of fishers and their knowledge of the area. That's exactly what I understood when I met some fishers at noon, and they told me about their familiarity with the environment and their deep-seated desire to protect the fishery.
What is the Department of Fisheries and Oceans failing to do to start a more productive conversation with fishers and to be on the same page with them? How can it improve its communications with them?
Okay. I think I got that. My French is okay, but I will respond in English.
What probably needs to happen are real community-by-community discussions on what fishermen are seeing in terms of climate change, how they see themselves adapting and also what they need to adapt. Those aren't really happening.
In the national adaptation strategy, the fishing industry wasn't really included until the very end. I don't think that was on purpose—I just think that dealing with climate adaptation is a giant task—but for our coastal provinces we really need to speak to the people on the water about what they're seeing and over what time frame, and to start to adjust in using that knowledge.
That being said, I know fishermen are very busy and have a lot of things to do on top of just going fishing, which is a huge job, so I would look to organizations like the federation of independent fish harvesters to ask how those consultations and that outreach can be done most effectively. It needs to start being done on an annual basis, because otherwise we're going to be faced with these constant changes and with just reacting to change as opposed to being proactive.
The Canadian Independent Fish Harvesters Federation would be a good place to start in trying to engage fishers more in the conversation.
Well, one reason is that our coasts are and have been resilient. We have relied on them to protect us from the ocean and storm surge. Think of ecosystems like salt marshes, eelgrass beds and kelp beds, which all attenuate the impacts of storm surge and sea level rise. It's about thinking how we best protect them and allow those natural ecosystems to help our coasts be as resilient as possible.
With regard to the overall framework, Canada has a lot of bits and pieces, but we are not dealing with coasts and oceans comprehensively and, as well, we're not dealing with them actively with the provinces. We really need a much more comprehensive framework that allows us to be reactive and have money available when things like Fiona happen, but also to really think forward into how we protect spaces. How do we start to manage the retreat of communities? How do we plan for the fisheries of the future? How do we make sure our marine industries are encouraged to be a part of emissions reduction?
That whole knitting together of the bits and pieces, which we have in different policies across Canada, just hasn't been done for the ocean. We have the longest coastline in the world, so it seems to me that we should probably start to put that together into an overall climate strategy for our coasts and oceans, which to date doesn't exist. That would be an excellent endeavour that Canada should undertake.
We've heard testimony about the money that was spent by former governments and by the current government. The government has talked about adaptation and resilience, but we haven't seen that. We heard testimony earlier this week or last week about a small craft harbour that was rebuilt two years ago but was destroyed by the storm.
Spending money isn't the answer. It's in design and engineering, and I think that's your purview, Mr. Leys, more than anything.
The question is for you, Mr. Leys. How can small craft harbour construction or repair progress if the tendering authority does not have the required funding secured? Is it possible, and if so, how?
That's a good question.
If funding is not available, you want to start out with a project that will allow for future upgrades.
For example, if funding is not available to put your wharf at a certain elevation, you want to at least make sure the structural members to support it are strong enough that it can be raised in the future.
If funding is not available for a big enough breakwater, you want to make sure it is wide enough and you have enough clearance in front, so you can augment it later as funding becomes available, and that has to be incorporated in a long-term plan.
I'll start with you, Mr. Barron. We hear a lot about taxes and taxes in response to hurricanes, but no one has really answered the question on how a tax stops a hurricane.
Beyond the “tax solves everything” approach, can you tell us, practically, in alignment with what we've heard from others from the region, what steps we can take in adaptation to make sure our coastal communities are better prepared for the inevitable storms that are coming as a result of climate change and what we're seeing? Beyond the “tax addresses everything” approach, what are the practical steps we as a government can take to address the immediate needs of our coastal communities as far as infrastructure goes?
My question will go to Mr. Leys, and then I want Mr. Barron to speak to it.
Suffice it to say that successive governments, some more than others, have not spent enough on small craft harbour infrastructure. That's established; that's given. Fiona has demonstrated the impact of that.
We recognize that the money announced by our government is a first step. We've made that clear. At the same time, the Government of Canada set aside a billion dollars a couple of weeks ago to accept the cost that's coming from the four provinces under the DFAA agreement. Some of the infrastructure Mr. Barron referred to could be covered under this if it is not small craft harbours. Small craft harbours, under the Financial Administration Act, are the only property the Government of Canada can spend money on to improve. There may be a source from there.
My question follows what Mr. Small and Mr. Arnold raised. The concern I have is that while we can appropriate money, it's not going to immediately translate into work getting done.
Mr. Leys, do you have any recommendations to this committee that would allow a faster process while protecting the taxpayers' public funds, a faster process that could go from dedicated funding to projects getting under way? This is one of the frustrations I pick up from harbour authorities. Could we use harbour authorities more?
Mr. Leys, you could briefly speak to that. From your experience, can you recommend anything to this committee that could speed up the process? If there's a lot of money to spend on fixing things up, you have to have contractors in place, you have to have adequate design, you have to have oversight, and you have to ensure that public funds are spent in the right place.
How do we resolve that conundrum?
Yes, I definitely believe that.
In the case of my community, the two local heavy equipment contractors were there pretty much within a week of Fiona, doing the beach cleanup and moving the rocks they could move and putting containers back in place.
The local contracting companies and the local harbour authority have worked very well together in response to Fiona, but when the big project has to start, the smaller contractors within the community don't have the means, the capabilities or the equipment to do it.
In the interim, the harbour authority has been good at working with locals to get stuff going.
Thank you, Mr. Morrissey.
That concludes our rounds of questioning. We agreed to go into committee business for the last portion of our meeting, which takes a few minutes to change over to.
I want to say a big thank you to Mr. Barron, Ms. Bakos, Ms. Eyquem, Ms. Fuller, of course, who's no stranger to the committee, and Mr. Leys. Thank you for your time here today and for sharing your knowledge with the committee on this very important topic.
We'll suspend for a few moments.
[Proceedings continue in camera]