Interventions in Committee
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View Terry Beech Profile
Lib. (BC)
Good morning, everyone. Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.
I'd like to start by thanking everyone on this committee for their hard work and for the relationship that we've been able to develop over the last number of months. Everybody on all sides has been very good about making sure that not only your riding issues are brought to the floor but also that we can work together on issues that affect the whole country. It has been a very positive relationship and I've enjoyed it greatly, so thank you.
Since the chair already introduced the staff, I'm going to move past that, but just know that there is a small army here as well, so if you have any specific details that you'd like to get into, we're well suited to get into the fine details.
I am here today to discuss the supplementary estimates (A). Specifically Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard are seeking Parliament's approval on $359.4 million for the following items: $166.7 million to maintain mission-critical services to Canadians, $145.5 million for the oceans protection plan, $32.2 million for the renewal of the Atlantic and Pacific commercial fisheries initiative, and $15 million to support negotiations on fisheries and marine matters.
Today, on behalf of the minister—and Minister LeBlanc sends his regrets for not being here today—I am pleased to share that our government has invested approximately $3 billion into the core operations for Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard through budget 2016, budget 2017, the oceans protection plan, and following a comprehensive program review. With these investments, Canadians will soon see a noticeable difference in the services they receive from Fisheries and Oceans and the Coast Guard. These important investments will improve the scientific evidence that decisions are based on, modernize aging infrastructure and IT capacity, renew efforts to restore habitat and rebuild depleting fish stocks, expand marine conservation and protection measures, create safer waterways for marine navigation, speed up response time for search and rescue missions, and strengthen our environmental response capacity.
These new resources will do more than just replace programs that have been lost in years past, as our oceans today face new threats with climate change, including flooding, droughts, and severe weather storms on every coast.
Our economy depends on safe navigation through waterways and ports that are busier than ever before. Our government has new priorities pertaining to reconciliation with Canada's indigenous people, working with municipal and provincial partners, and becoming global leaders in sustainable development.
The new investments will help DFO and the Coast Guard build the programs and services that Canadians need into the future. We know how much Canadians value DFO and Coast Guard programs. We understand how important these services are to Canadians. On the minister's behalf, I want to assure you that we are committed to maintaining those services related to Coast Guard's presence in inland waterways, that the Coast Guard dive team will remain at the Sea Island base, and that all elements of the salmon enhancement program will continue.
With significant, new investments in DFO and the Coast Guard, we will, in fact, be enhancing search and rescue services on all coasts and working with community partners on a number of ecosystem restoration projects. As you know, there are more demands on Canada's oceans and coastal areas than ever before. It is therefore vital that Canada have a plan in place that protects our oceans in a modern and advanced way and that ensures environmental sustainability, safe and responsible commercial use, and collaboration with coastal indigenous communities.
In order to meet these objectives, Prime Minister Trudeau announced a $1.5-billion national oceans protection plan last fall. I'm pleased to report that DFO, the Coast Guard, and other federal partners are making steady progress on key elements of this plan. For example, from a Coast Guard perspective, we are increasing search and rescue capabilities by investing in seven new lifeboat stations, four in British Columbia and three in Newfoundland and Labrador. A 24-hours a day, seven days a week emergency coordination capacity has been created within existing regional operation centres in Victoria, Montreal, and St. John's, complementing the new 24-7 emergency coordination capacity with the national command centre in Ottawa.
We are purchasing and installing emergency tow kits on 25 of the CCG's large vessels and leasing two new vessels on the west coast with the ability to tow large commercial ships and tankers.
We are creating four primary environmental response teams, which will strengthen the Coast Guard's on-scene capacity during marine pollution incidents. We are partnering with the Coast Guard Auxiliary to expand its network of over 400 search and rescue volunteers who engage in environmental response. We are also partnering with indigenous groups, coastal communities, and the private sector to ensure a faster and more efficient response to marine pollution incidents.
We are strengthening the Coast Guard's marine communications and traffic services centres to ensure uninterrupted communications with mariners.
The Canadian Coast Guard's efforts to deal with abandoned, derelict, and wrecked vessels, such as the ongoing operations related to the Kathryn Spirit and the upcoming work to be done to the Farley Mowat, speak to the organization's commitment, and that of its partners, to ensuring that such vessels of concern don't pose immediate risks to public safety or the marine environment.
This level of commitment will be enhanced by the oceans protection plan. Our government will continue to work in collaboration with provincial, territorial, municipal, and indigenous organizations to support the cleanup of smaller vessels that could potentially pose risks to Canadian coastal communities, while implementing a robust polluter-pay approach for future vessel cleanups.
In addition to this work, we have created a national, $75-million coastal restoration fund, which will be used for the preservation, protection, and restoration of marine environments and coastal habitat over the next five years. DFO scientists are undertaking a science-based review of three endangered whale species in Canada: the North Atlantic right whale, the St. Lawrence estuary beluga, and the southern resident killer whale. Online public engagement will be available soon. Harbour authorities, along with other eligible recipients, will have access to $1.3 million under DFO's small craft harbours program for the removal and disposal of abandoned and wrecked vessels from federally owned commercial fishing harbours.
Our government is committed to the long-term health of our oceans. In order to deliver on the minister's key priorities and commitments, a historic $1.4 billion is being invested in DFO and the Coast Guard over the next five years. Just to be clear, that is on top of the oceans protection plan. This will help shore up a number of key program areas, including an aging Coast Guard fleet; a wide range of communication towers, buoys, and maritime radars; search and rescue training; sustainable fisheries; conservation and protection activities; and the physical infrastructure and information technology the department needs to carry out its mandate.
The latest investment in DFO and the Coast Guard will also provide the resources required to support sustainable fisheries management, which includes the development and update of integrated fisheries management plans, or IFMPs. This will help address some of the concerns that were expressed by members of this committee and by the Auditor General. It will enhance DFO's capacity for conservation and protection, while investments in infrastructure and information technology will give employees the facilities and tools they need to do their jobs.
Before closing, I want to mention that the historic investments being made across DFO and the Coast Guard will result in the hiring of approximately 900 new staff, who will help deliver our ambitious mandate. DFO is working hard to accommodate this growing workforce.
Mr. Chair, this year Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday, but this is also a milestone year for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, whose heritage dates back to Confederation. While steeped in history, DFO is at the forefront of shaping Canada's domestic and global responses to very modem challenges. The historic investments I spoke about today will help ensure that Canada remains a world leader in all matters related to our oceans.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
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