Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
It's a pleasure to be here today to discuss the main estimates and talk a little about my mandate letter and what it means for Canadians. Following my remarks, my chief financial officer, Marty Muldoon, will provide a brief presentation on these estimates, which I think will be useful for the committee.
As Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, I am responsible for managing Canada's fisheries and aquaculture, protecting mariners, and safeguarding our waters. A big part of my job is making strategic investments and ensuring strong financial management within my portfolio. Marty will go into a bit more detail on what's in DFO's and the Coast Guard's 2016-17 main estimates, which total $2.2 billion. This figure represents a 19% increase over last year, and is mainly due to funding for infrastructure projects and acquiring Coast Guard vessels.
To be more specific, I'm seeking $809.7 million in capital, mostly for the procurement of fleet, machinery, and equipment; $65.5 million in grants and contributions, mostly to support our aboriginal strategies and governance program as well as our fisheries protection program; and $1.2 billion in operating, for salaries and other operating expenditures. Additional funding that's related to the recently tabled budget will be sought through supplementary estimates.
While I have your attention, I want to speak about what budget 2016 means for my department and how it relates to my mandate. Over $197 million was set aside for ocean and freshwater science, monitoring, and research activities. This represents the fulfillment of a key commitment and the largest investment of its kind in fisheries and oceans science in a generation. This funding will allow us to hire new research scientists, biologists, and technicians; invest in new technology; and build important partnerships. Taken together, it will help us make more informed decisions about our oceans, waterways, and fisheries.
DFO, along with Natural Resources Canada, will receive over $81 million for important marine conservation activities, including designating new marine protected areas under the Oceans Act. We will also receive funding to maintain and upgrade federal infrastructure properties, such as Canadian Coast Guard bases. An additional $149 million will help improve infrastructure at federally owned small craft harbours.
DFO is one of seven departments and agencies that will share over $129 million to help our infrastructure adapt to a changing climate and help communities become more resilient to the impacts of climate change.
In terms of investments for indigenous peoples, DFO will receive over $33 million to extend the Atlantic and Pacific integrated commercial fisheries initiatives. This program will help first nations access commercial fisheries and build sustainable commercial fishing enterprises. Northerners, including Inuit, will also receive $40 million in federal funding to help build strong, diversified, and sustainable economies across the three territories. One area that will benefit from this investment is the fisheries sector.
In terms of Coast Guard investments, reopening the Kitsilano Coast Guard facility in Vancouver is a top priority. Over $23 million was set aside in the budget to reopen Kitsilano and expand its search and rescue services to include marine emergency response. The facility will also provide emergency response training to our partners, including indigenous groups, and serve as a regional incident command post in the event of a significant marine incident.
The Coast Guard will also receive $6 million to carry out technical assessment of the Manolis L, a shipwreck off of Newfoundland and Labrador, which began leaking fuel in 2013. Funding for this assessment will help us to find a permanent solution to this issue.
The Coast Guard was identified as one of several departments requiring additional funding to carry out critical mission services. A $500-million fund managed by Treasury Board will help us address things like acid rust-out. Once funding decisions are made, amounts will be submitted for parliamentary approval through the estimates process.
I sincerely believe that the funding I'm seeking through the main estimates, along with the funding laid out in the budget, will help me achieve my mandate and put Canada on the path to shared prosperity and a cleaner and greener economy.
Before I turn the floor over to Mr. Muldoon, I just want to say I appreciate everyone running down here after votes today. I know it took some scheduling challenges to finally get here, but I'm glad I'm here and look forward to hearing from you.
Thank you.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
The Fisheries Act, I think we all know, is an essential tool to support conservation and the protection of fish and fish habitat and the sustainability of our fisheries. I take very seriously my mandate to restore the Fisheries Act protections that were lost, and look forward to consulting with scientists, environmentalists, indigenous peoples, and all stakeholders in finding the best path forward to safeguard our oceans and waterways. For now, I intend to focus the Fisheries Act review on these lost protections.
Since my appointment as minister, I've travelled across the country and listened to a whole range of Canadians on their views of this review. They were constructive discussions and very informative for me and my departmental officials. I felt that it was important for me to go out and hear first-hand from stakeholders what their concerns and their issues were, to help me better understand the file. I will continue to engage with indigenous people and other Canadians throughout the review process, to hear what they like and what needs to be changed in the act to restore those strong protections for our fisheries.
Currently my officials are reviewing options to undertake this review. I can say at this time, though, that we will hold consultations with indigenous peoples, other Canadians, and all stakeholders. The specific processes and timelines will be announced before the summer commences. That's something I know is important. I've heard it from everybody from coast to coast to coast. I look forward to not only bringing back these lost protections, but also modernizing. As we all know, it's quite an old act, and I've heard from all kinds of users of the act that it does need to be modernized as well.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Absolutely. Again, I think I've met with more aquaculture industry stakeholders since I've taken office, because they seem to follow me around everywhere I go, but that's fine. I totally understand the issues and concerns they have.
Like I said, look at modernizing the act. I don't think aquaculture is even mentioned in the Fisheries Act. They've made it very clear that we need to modernize it and to recognize that industry.
I've been travelling on both the east and the west coasts, and those jurisdictions are very eager to promote growth in that industry. Finding ways to modernize the act to reflect this new industry as far as the act goes is going to be important. Whether it's creating a separate aquaculture act, or finding a way to modernize the existing act to include those concerns and those issues they have, is yet to be determined.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
That's again something I've heard in my travels that's quite near and dear to everybody's heart, whether it be the fishing industry, the aquaculture industry, or all the stakeholders. I certainly recognize the important role that small craft harbours and commercial fishing and aquaculture play in many communities on our coasts.
The amount, in my understanding, is $148.6 million that was recently announced in the budget for small craft harbour improvements, which I think clearly demonstrates our commitment to ensure that our harbours are safe and accessible for commercial fish harvesters across Canada. We also value the significant contributions to.... As I said, I've met with a number of these harbour authorities in my travels, and they're very dedicated. A lot of them dedicate their own personal time to ensure harbours are safe and well managed—
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you for your question, and I'm glad I'm finally here as well.
I think there were some amendments that people were concerned about—the lost protections—but there were also some positive amendments that were made in there. As I said, I met with Canadians from all three coasts, and some of them I've heard say that we should just revert back to how it was before. We're looking at options to restore lost protections in the near future, and that balances with our engagement to proceed with an open and conclusive process. I don't want to just jump and say, okay, we're going to revert back to the old, because not all the changes took away some protections. There are also some positive things in there, too. I think if I just went and changed it back to what it was, it takes that away. As I said, I've committed to consult with Canadians on this, so if we're having consultations and those people in your riding want to come and make those observations and recommendations for the review panel, they'd be more than welcome to.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
As I said, it was an important decision that was handed down last week. The government's going to be taking a look at it and going through it and determining exactly what our obligations are under that. It would be a little premature for me to say right now one way or the other until it's been thoroughly reviewed by the government. We will be taking a close look at and determining what their obligations are as a result of that.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
I don't have a problem sitting down and discussing issues with other stakeholders. I know this is an issue with the province, and I've met with all stakeholders. Whether they be recreational fishers, anglers, indigenous groups, I've committed to open to dialogue with everyone.
Actually, I met with a group this morning who said they'd been trying to get in the door with a request. No one has talked to them, and I told them—just as I did when I was in New Brunswick with a first nations group over there—that our officials are here to work with them on whatever the issues are and to do anything we can to help make progress on certain issues. Basically, we're all in this together. Having that dialogue is important to being able to make progress. That's the only way it's going to happen.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
The closure of Comox, I've said it over and over, won't diminish the safety services of the Coast Guard. I think this is something that's been part of a project to modernize and consolidate our MCTS centres since 2007. This is the final stage in that process.
You know, it's never easy. Certainly I think by moving forward we'll give some certainty to the employees who have been struggling. They were notified a little over two years ago, I think, around two years ago, that the centre would be closing. We're at the final stage of this project that has been going on since 2007.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Thank you. I think my mandate letter is pretty clear, to restore lost protections. I'm sure once we decide on the process of how that review will be conducted, I'm quite confident that through that review process this is something that will be mentioned over and over again. I'm committed, and I've been mandated by the Prime Minister to bring back those lost protections. We'll do that in the best way possible.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
I haven't seen that letter yet, but when I do see it, I will be having a close look at it. I'm not going to commit to anything until I see what the letter actually asks.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
We both know that this process falls under Environment and Climate Change. I am sure Minister McKenna, just like me in my mandate to review the Fisheries Act, is working.... Our officials are working together to figure out the best way forward to conduct that review and get it done. I am hoping that some road map for that will be unveiled by the summer.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
I know my officials are currently finalizing a small craft harbour project list for the 2016-17 fiscal year. Thanks to the additional $148.6 million in new funding received under our budget this year, for the next two years, we will be able to make a lot more people happy and do more of the much-needed projects this coming year. Funding priority is given to safety-related projects at the core fishing harbours, to address things like rust-out and improving the operations and conditions of the harbour. Projects at core fishing harbours are selected based on the following criteria: safety or risk management, functional need, harbour activity and—here we go—long-term plans, economic benefit, and the state of preparedness of the project.
These projects are carried out across the country, with the majority in the Atlantic provinces, where there are more of them. I think about 70% of the harbours are located out there.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
I have been asked a few times in the House about the St. Catharines piers, for example. We know that there is an issue out there. The Coast Guard will deal with wrecks and derelict or abandoned vessels where there is a pollution risk coming from it. Transport Canada will deal with it if it is posing a hazard to safe navigation. The system we have here in Canada is based on the “pollutor pay” principle. To be able to deal with it, we work in collaboration with our federal and local partners to hold these negligent vessel owners accountable to the full extent of the law. Having said that, I think our officials are sitting down and looking at how we can improve on that process or things that may be missing. These are things that we are discussing at an officials level right now between the Coast Guard and Transport Canada.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Well, yes, I think it is both exciting and terrifying. Again, that's something I've discussed with all stakeholders who deal with the water and our oceans, whether it be fisheries, environmental groups, oil and gas, and all the provinces and territories reps I've met with.
One thing that I was very happy to hear is that all across the board everyone is supportive of us reaching our targets, and they are committed to working with us to help us achieve those targets. To me, that was very exciting, because usually when you get all these different groups sitting around the table they disagree on certain things. It was nice to see that here's something where there is some common ground from all sides. It was nice compared to some of the other discussions I've had with them on other issues.
Together with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, we're developing a plan on how to achieve this. I've said all along that these are very ambitious targets. We're hoping to be able to launch within the next three to four weeks how that's going to unfold, if not sooner.
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