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View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
Thank you.
I actually appreciate the opportunity to come here today, as I suspect that a great deal of discussion has taken place in all of our ridings across the country, from coast to coast to coast, since Canadians are, in fact, quite concerned about what is taking place and what has been taking place in Ottawa over the last number of months.
In the past we attempted to deal with this, even prior to the House adjourning, or taking a recess, back in June. As members would know, it was the leader of the Liberal Party who brought forward four motions of substance. We attempted to get those passed. They are now referred to in the letter that Mr. Cullen has brought forward. I think it is important to note just how those motions, had they been passed, would have resolved a lot of concerns that many Canadians have today.
Unfortunately—and the record will show this—it was the New Democrats who actually prevented the motions from passing in the first place. So, on the one hand, we're glad to be here: we want to see changes. We want more transparency. We want those things, because we know that Canadians want them and are demanding them. We have seen strong leadership within our own party with regard to coming up with ideas on how we will be able to do just that.
I really believe that one of the first things we as a committee should do on this agenda—given the fact that back in June there appeared to be just a minority of New Democrats who were uncomfortable with the motions proposed by the Liberal Party—is to review those motions put forward by Mr. Trudeau and get the unanimous support of the committee. I think that would be a reasonable thing to ask. We've had the opportunity to review the motions. Everyone has had a copy of them, Mr. Chair. People are familiar with them. We would be doing a great service to Canadians if people would agree to let those motions pass.
Whether it passes unanimously today or not—and I will ask for that, Mr. Chair—as much as that would be great to see, I can tell you that we as a caucus are prepared to do it. We are committed, because we recognize what Canadians want us to do, and we're prepared to demonstrate that through leadership and to implement certain aspects of it ourselves. The question is to what degree other members are as well. I suspect that all members have had the opportunity to canvass their constituents and to find out that there should be support.
Mr. Chair, I'm not entirely sure of the proper procedure, but I am going to ask if you could canvass to see whether, in fact, there would be unanimous support for the four motions that were brought forward by Mr. Trudeau back on June 10.
I can quickly read them, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Trudeau moved:that the Board of Internal Economy begin posting the travel and hospitality expenses—
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
With your assistance then, Mr. Chair, I would be interested in moving that as an amendment to the motion that Mr. Lukiwski has brought forward, if I can do that.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
I think a big part of it, Tom, is recognizing—which I wasn't too sure of in terms of the most appropriate way of bringing it forward in the form of an amendment—that what we're looking for is just getting the recognition from all three political parties that these suggestions or motions that were brought forward back on June 10 are very tangible and whether in fact they're supported by all political parties.
Now, it might not necessarily be appropriate as an amendment. That's why I was looking to see if we could get the unanimous support of the committee to at least acknowledge their existence and in fact support them, because what we're talking about is not studying them per se, but rather adopting them.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
Okay. On that particular point, then, Mr. Chair, I appreciate your comments and I'll look forward to maybe a more appropriate time, when we could actually have some dialogue on the four motions that were brought forward by Mr. Trudeau.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
Yes. I was hopeful that maybe we'd be able to draw some conclusions if possible, at least before the end of the day, so that we would have something tangible prior to the end of the meeting. I will hold off on providing more comments in regard to those particular motions, but suffice it to say that we're glad to be here today. We're anxious to see some movement in this area. We'll have to wait and see where it goes.
Thank you.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
I note that December 2 is the final date—
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
—that's being suggested. Nothing prevents us from actually reporting a little earlier than December 2, if this gets done.
I don't see anything wrong with our trying to organize meetings for this September going into October. I don't think we have to wait until we're back in session, necessarily. We are going to get prorogued by the looks of it.
I would be open to setting some actual dates if we could, Mr. Chair. I think there would be a great benefit for us in terms of a planning perspective and from a witness perspective. We're here to set an agenda. I'm prepared to open up the calendar and see if we can set some dates.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
I've only served on one committee, the immigration and citizenship committee. I know that when we set our agenda, Mr. Chair, what would often happen—not often, but always—was that there were government witnesses, official opposition witnesses, and third party witnesses, and it was determined in terms of what sort of numbers we were looking at.
This is the appropriate time and place for us to be able to talk about those numbers. That then allows you to get a sense of what sort of time is going to be required to do the review. I don't believe that we have to wait indefinitely for you as the chair or for the government to come back and say that we're going to have x number of witnesses. I think now is the most appropriate time to try to resolve that if we can.
How many government witnesses do you yourself expect to have, Tom?
View David McGuinty Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Just by way of opening remarks, I join my colleagues in saying our sympathies remain with the people of Lac-Mégantic. This has been a terrible tragedy and a shocking loss of life. Canadians from coast to coast to coast are shocked, and their hearts and their support are with the people of Lac-Mégantic.
The Transportation Safety Board, the police, and others are still investigating this tragedy, one of the most tragic in Canadian history. In fact, this morning we counted a total of almost nine currently ongoing or prospective investigations, Mr. Chair.
The Transportation Safety Board has 20 people on the ground in Lac-Mégantic full-time and 10 here in Ottawa. There is a criminal inquiry. There is a formal coroner's investigation. Transport Canada is investigating with respect to regulatory compliance. Environment Canada is investigating with respect to spills and tankers. Quebec's ministry of the environment and sustainable development is investigating. A class-action lawsuit has been launched by the people of Lac-Mégantic. The railway's own internal railway investigation is pending, and the Quebec government is possibly going to be pursuing a public inquiry.
I think as we go through this meeting this afternoon we cannot lose sight of the people of Lac-Mégantic. I know there are always procedural difficulties in a committee like this, but I think you have to remain focused on making sure the people of Lac-Mégantic get the support they need now.
I know our colleague from the NDP assures the committee that if we pursue an immediate study there will be no impact on those resources. I wish I could say that with the same absolute certainty.
I think the single next most important thing is that the ongoing investigations be thorough, complete, and professional. I don't think we can be calling witnesses to Ottawa, Mr. Chair, who are needed at the site of the disaster, for example. The residents of Lac-Mégantic and all Canadians deserve no less than to get all the facts and the truth of the matter. That's why we have to ensure that these investigations are unimpeded, that they are resourced properly, and that they are not obstructed, particularly with politics.
We need to make sure that the Transportation Safety Board, the police, the firefighters, the coroner's office, and all first responders have the resources they need. Are those resources sufficient? This committee can't answer that question. Is the federal government providing enough assistance? An announcement was made yesterday. If they have all the necessary resources, we must let them proceed without political intervention or disruption. I don't know if this committee can answer the question of whether the $60 million announced yesterday is sufficient or not for the people of Lac-Mégantic.
Of course we can't prejudge the outcome of the current investigations, and only a fool would attempt to do so. To have hearings before they have completed their investigations may be premature. We have heard many questions raised here today. There are other questions that might be addressed in due course. Is the relief money for the victims and the businesses—the people of Lac-Mégantic—sufficient? I'm not sure we're in a position to answer that question, but it is a very important question that does have to be addressed immediately.
With respect to liability issues, is the $25 million in place sufficient? The common consensus is it's probably not. Is the Canadian taxpayer going to be asked to pay for the cleanup if the company becomes insolvent? Has the government instructed Justice Canada to prepare the necessary and requisite legal opinions and not to wait? I understand. I think all Canadians understand the calls of the population for immediate answers. We cannot prejudge the conclusions.
I have full confidence—and I know everybody here does—in the Transportation Safety Board and the police investigation. Everyone has questions about this event. Once again, it might be premature to put forward any recommendations until the investigation is complete.
Let me also say that, looking forward, when I look at the motion that's here, we should be cognizant of the fact that the Transportation Safety Board has, unusually, written two letters to Transport Canada and the government with respect to unattended trains and trains carrying dangerous goods. This is new for the Transportation Safety Board, as far as I understand it, early in the midst of an incredibly important investigation. This is out of the ordinary. There are no conclusions here, but the question might be, what motivated the Transportation Safety Board to take this unusual step?
There have been recommendations made from other accidents over the past few years, as has been alluded to earlier. An inventory conducted by our analyst and researcher could be compiled this summer and would be helpful to all members of this committee. The question of the status or implementation of those recommendations is something that this committee, I think, has to turn its mind to in due course.
So I think we have to focus on what is emerging from the investigations, for example, the recent TSB statements, the measures that were released an hour-and-a-half or two hours ago. There is nothing wrong with these, in terms of being starting points, but once the investigations are done, or at least in mid-course or further along, we will be able to offer specific regulatory and legal responses. Because these investigations are going to be specific—I think we can anticipate that—we will have to respond to what the government is being called upon to do. That is where I think our role as legislators kicks in and really begins.
That does not mean that each of us cannot go forward and continue with our own internal assessment of what's been happening over the last several years. It does not mean that our analyst cannot be instructed to go forward and work with the Library of Parliament to provide us with a more fulsome picture of where we're coming from, how we arrived at the situation and, hopefully, to inform us of what we're going to learn from this terrible tragedy at Lac-Mégantic.
I think that's where we ought to be focusing, in terms of the motion that's been tabled by our colleagues in the Conservative Party. I don't think any more bickering about procedural rules is going to help the people of Lac-Mégantic. If the government can continue to ensure that all of those on the ground have everything they need to do their job, I think we can have some confidence as legislators that we've done what is immediately the most important thing.
View David McGuinty Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thanks, Mr. Chair.
Just before we call the vote—I think that's where you're moving procedurally—
View David McGuinty Profile
Lib. (ON)
—could I ask a question of clarification through you to Mr. Watson?
The Chair: Certainly.
Mr. David McGuinty: It speaks to the question of timing that Mr. Holder raised a few times.
Can you give us some idea of the parameter of “when” is? When are more findings of a TSB investigation likely to be released? Is he looking at the possibility? Is there an interim report to be released by the TSB, and what does he think might constitute sufficient findings to trigger the study going forward? That would be helpful for all of us to get a better idea of what's implied in the motion.
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2013-06-18 11:43
Thank you, folks.
It's nice to sit in at a fisheries committee for a meeting. I think it's fair to say that the conservation measures implemented as long ago as 15 years have been successful in the lobster fishery, if not almost too successful from a fisherman's point of view, in terms of pricing at the moment.
I’m probably the only one around this committee who remembers the escape mechanisms, nicknamed the Mifflin spawn scraper due to the opposition to Fisheries Minister Mifflin’s putting in those escape mechanisms. Fishermen were strongly opposed at the time, but now they think they're one of the best things ever invented.
Adam, to your comments on whether there is a crisis, I would say there certainly is at the fishermen's level. I met with a fisherman on Saturday, an established fisherman who owes absolutely no money on his boat’s gear. He said he was able to pay the fuel and pay his labour bill, but he doesn't expect to have money left over for his own labour—there's still a week left—or if he had debt, to pay it.
One of his colleagues is a young guy who paid $340,000 for a fishing boat last year. I can tell you that when the banker comes calling, asking that young fisherman…there's a very big crisis. So I want to establish that there is a crisis, and a very serious one, on the water.
Isn't the real problem this year one of too many lobsters and not enough processing capacity, and a lack of market?
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2013-06-18 11:46
But, Nadia, the situation this year is this. When a crisis was evident from the beginning, we have seen the federal government, instead of decreasing costs to fishermen, downloading costs to them—including gear tag charges, lack of observers. There is an endless downloading of costs by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, by the Government of Canada, through budget cuts and everything else. These are additional costs to fishermen when they can least afford them.
You heard me talk about this 15 years ago. Why is the federal government not trying to establish some safety nets in the fishery as we have for farmers, such as AgriStability and AgriInvest? In the good years, you set money aside in some programs that are shared with government to help you in a financial crisis.
You know that in the natural resource sector you're going to have boom and bust, supply and demand, so how come, after all this time, there is no safety net program to protect the income of fishermen and their families when you have a crisis such as this? Now we're against the wall, and some people are likely going to go broke.
The second area I think the federal government has a responsibility in is not just Canadian lobster, but it's also Maine. Are there any discussions taking place with the Americans on the cross-border issue of how we feed the market rather than dump into the market?
Is there anything happening in those areas?
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2013-06-18 12:14
I want to come back to the situation in oversupply and how it relates to or involves Maine as well. Are there any cross-border discussions happening to look at how to manage supply?
I'm a little worried by some of the things you have said. They kind of lead me to believe that you may be leaning towards a quota system.
I think in your own words, Kevin, you indicated that there hasn't been a precipitous decline in lobsters that you know of, and that has been with the effort fishery. I know there's a tendency towards DFO management by DFO management, because it would make it easier for them if there was a quota system, but the effort fishery has worked well in lobsters. It's one of the most healthy fish stocks out there. So the effort fishery has worked out.
Our problem isn't conservation at the moment. Our problem is oversupply. To go to a quota system is not necessarily going to solve that problem.
Have any discussions taken place on the cross-border issues—because we can't do it alone in Canada, I'll admit that—to look at somehow managing supply to feed the market?
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2013-06-18 12:15
That's for sure.
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