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.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Absolutely. I've met with the sealing industry, the seal harvesters from Newfoundland and Quebec and the Magdalen Islands. I've committed to them that we as a government do support a sustainable, humane, and well-regulated seal harvest. You used the word “hunt”. When my staff says that, I always say no, it's not a hunt. It's a harvest.
This is an industry that's taken quite a hit over last number of decades, thanks to market blockages to the EU. We were able to negotiate an indigenous exemption, so that through our market certification program we'll be able to import those products into the EU. In my meetings, I've talked with other stakeholders in southern Canada and have said that we want to do what we can to try to maximize on that exemption.
I met with the folks from Quebec two to three weeks ago. They said that one of the things they've come to realize is that the sealing industry is not a huge industry, and that they're kind of going at each other, trying to take the other guy down and get their market. They've told me that they realize they're small enough that they need to work together to try to expand the industry and market access in different parts of the world. That's something that I've committed to work with them on.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
I think that before any decision is made on any species, the science would have to be done to make that determination. If the science says that there is an issue that we need to deal with then we'll look at the best way to deal with that issue. Without the science to show and tell us exactly what the problem is and what the facts are, it would be premature for me to declare myself one way or the other. But it's based on science. We've committed to reinvest in science. Hopefully we can work, not just with DFO officials, but also with the Pacific Salmon Foundation, with whom I've had discussions to look at ways we can partner on science so that we can have a broader base to draw from in order to make more sound decisions.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
In my travels, I've heard that from just about everybody. As I said, I've been very impressed with the expertise, enthusiasm, and contributions that everyone is bringing to the table on this.
I think right now we're advancing five areas of interest for designation, including Hecate Strait, Queen Charlotte Sound, and glass sponge reefs in the Pacific. There is also one up in the Beaufort Sea, and another in Paulatuk, I believe, both of which will hopefully be established this year.
We're also looking at St. Anns Bank, the Laurentian Channel, and the American Bank, all in Atlantic Canada, which are expected to follow the following year.
We're early on in the pre-consultation stages with the different jurisdictions to look at where we go next. Again, I've committed to everybody that it's not going to be done behind closed doors or without consultation. It's going to be done in an open and transparent manner, in consultation with stakeholders.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
What we've done is to not only reopen the search and rescue. If you look at the English Bay incident, we had departmental officials sitting down with other stakeholders in the area, They knew we needed to find a way to enhance the services there.
We'd look at having it as a training centre. We've heard from first nations groups up and down the coast that they want to be involved. They're there asking for training and telling us they have the ability to be our first responders.
So we're not just reopening this. It's like enhancing it three times, so it's a great—
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
As I said in my opening comments, our recent budget announcement of $197 million over five years starting this coming year is the single biggest investment in ocean science in a generation, and I think that shows we are committed to ensure that we have the resources we need to be able to do adequate science and to be able to make evidence-based, science-based decisions. As I said, I don't want to just bring it back to how it was. The Prime Minister always said better is always possible. I'm looking at ways to try to partner up. Everyone else does science, so why do we have to reinvent the wheel? Someone else is doing it; maybe we can find ways where we can partner up. We can have a partner, give them $20,000 towards a science project, and they can turn it into $100,000 worth of science, so we get more bang for our buck, and again, a broader base of science in order to make decisions from.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Well, I don't blame you for bringing that up, and I expect you to. To me, that's your job, and we have to respect that. I think we're committed to act on the recommendations of the Cohen commission, on restoring the sockeye salmon stocks on the Fraser River. I actually had a meeting with Justice Cohen when I was in B.C. before Christmas. It was supposed to be an hour, and I think it went on for about an hour and a half. He was a very interesting individual to sit down and talk to. I'm hoping to be out there again soon, at which time I hope to be able to provide detailed information on implementation and progress to date, and to announce a way forward on outstanding recommendations.
I think, as of now, about 31 of the recommendations have been implemented in whole or in part, so I'm looking forward to more coming in the near future.
Thanks.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
You're talking about the tanker ban on the west coast, and that falls under the Minister of Transportation.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
He's the lead minister on that. Our officials have been in ongoing discussions, and I'm sure he's going to be bringing something forward for us to have a look at.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
My own view on it is irrelevant, because I'm not here as an individual. I'm here as a minister of the Crown. As you're probably aware, there are diverse views on the moratorium, and I'm interested in finding a way forward with Minister Garneau that balances the need. As we heard, B.C. residents are all about the environment, but also look at ways we can grow our economy. We'll be looking at finding that balance.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
My understanding is that our officials are sitting down and looking at ways to move forward, where to go, and what we're going to do with it. When they come up with something for us to have a look at, then I'll be having a look at it.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
I was not aware if they were, but I did meet with those individuals just within the last month, or month and a half.
We've said there will be consultations that take place. Everyone who has concerns will have an opportunity to voice those concerns. I think one of the things we've heard over and over again is that we want to ensure we have a process in place that Canadians have confidence in, through consultations and input from all stakeholders. We're going to be developing a plan that Canadians will have confidence in and be able to get our resources to market.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Absolutely. Thank you.
The Atlantic salmon stocks have been steadily declining. I think there has been probably close to a 70% decline since 1971. In 2014, as I'm sure you're aware, some areas, such as the Miramichi River, had the lowest returns on record. Many of the salmon stocks have been assessed as being endangered.
Rebuilding these stocks will require a concerted effort from all stakeholders. Until the science shows us anything different, we'll continue with no retention of Atlantic salmon in the Gulf region. I'm hoping that, with our investment in science in this budget, we'll be able to gather more specific information in order to be able, hopefully, to reassess that decision in the future.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Over the coming months the department will be focusing on three main areas, one looking at increasing in-river monitoring of salmon returns on selected rivers, one doing more science on understanding survival at sea, and one working with the Atlantic salmon science community to contribute to effective salmon management and conservation.
I met with the anglers when I was out in New Brunswick. Everyone does science, and everyone wants to help to bring it back. We look forward to working with those groups to try to get the best information we can to move forward.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
This is something that we'll continue to raise with Greenland: to work on trying to come to an agreement on this. We recognize that this is where the salmon go. We'll continue to negotiate with them to try to come up with a plan to deal with this, so that they recognize the concerns and the issue we're facing in Atlantic Canada.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
As I said, hopefully, before too long we'll come out with a plan on how we feel would be the best way forward to do that review. It would depend on the consultations that take place and the feedback we get to input into it.
I can't really commit to any time. There's a lot that yet has to happen before a time frame can be nailed down.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
As I stated earlier, I hope to be in B.C. soon to put a little detail on the implementation and progress to date. I think with our reinvestment in science, there'll be some additional resources to help deal with some of the outstanding recommendations as well.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
I think both of those programs, to my understanding, were on an annual...and they were sunsetting. But I think both have been announced in the budget, so they will be reinstated. Marty was saying earlier that they'll come back in supplementary estimates (A) or (B). This is where you'll see that funding getting put back in.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
This doesn't deal with the ongoing maintenance. I know it's a challenge. I've met with many harbour authorities that do express the need to be able to find additional funding for maintenance, but this is strictly a one-time capital investment and not—
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
I know this is something I've had discussions with harbour authorities on.
I'll let Leslie take it from here.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Are you talking more about the conservation and protection program?
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
I think we have about 110 or 109 locations across the country carrying out compliance and monitoring to protect fisheries, fish habitat, species at risk, and aquaculture. This work is accomplished through the use of compliance and monitoring tools, including land and sea-based patrols, and aerial surveillance in some areas. Actually, I was invited to go on a surveillance this summer where they do the [Inaudible—Editor] and the offshore fisheries out there, out of Iqaluit, intelligence gathering and sometimes investigations. I think we have about 525 front-line fisheries officers, including I think about another 33 officer cadets who will graduate this year. These officers are also supported by approximately 200 contract and aboriginal fisheries guardians. Those are successful programs, both on the east and the west coast.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
That was the second thing that everyone in the industry I met with had in common: they all felt that—
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
—they didn't have their fair share of the quota. What I have told them is that we are going to look at stuff based on science and based on going through whatever species it is. There is an advisory committee of stakeholders in that area: for example, for northern shrimp. We will sit down with them and look at how it will be divided up based on the science.
The one thing I have committed to is to ensure that we have a system in place that, one, everyone agrees with—they may not all like it, but they will all agree with it—and, two, has certainty, so it is not going to change. I am not going to go in and change it tomorrow. I think there needs to be the ability for that process to determine what those quotas are, and to be strong and in place, so that it makes it more difficult for someone like me, as the minister, to go in and fiddle with it and change it. These are discussions that I am having, and have been having, with industry on how we can move forward and strengthen that.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
I think it's premature to respond either way, but the one thing I would say from a departmental perspective is that whatever direction this is going in, the needs of the commercial fishermen must be met, and there needs to be some stability not just in Manitoba, but in Alberta and NWT as well. I think whatever direction goes forward with whatever government, we'll need to ensure that the needs of those commercial fishermen are met.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
The evidence, as far as the science on biomass, is down. That's not a secret, and you are correct that the inshore and the offshore are polar opposites on last in, first out policy. We made a commitment to review that policy. I've met with them, but the one thing they do have in common is they both want to ensure the sustainability of the stock for the future. It's in both their interests, so they can use that as a building block. They do have something in common.
I assured them it would be set up as a minister's advisory panel. It would be independent, it would be done in an open and transparent manner, and the panel would do its consultations, do its work, and provide me with a report. I'm hoping to have that report by the end of June. No decision is going to be made on any allocation for SFA6 until after that.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
As you all know, I made a decision in December to leave things the way they were for this year, and to look at more science before making a decision whether to allow more entrants into that fishery. This work is under way right now in conjunction with the offshore clam advisory committee. I think they're meeting next month, some time in May, as part of that process. A science meeting on the Arctic surfclam will be held in June to review the available science information and assess the potential approaches for a spatial management plan for that fishery. Managing fisheries based on robust scientific evidence is a priority for this government, and I won't be making any decisions on new entrants until this work is done.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
It will be May 1 for search and rescue, and then the other stuff will continue on. They have to refit the building. That work is going to go on during this year, and the other enhancements will be going on over the next year, year and a half, as well. There will be people on the ground there May 1.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Yes, I know we have a peer-reviewed science process right now where we'll get data, and that has helped us in a number of areas. Whenever we do our science it's shared around with other groups to be able to review and ensure that we got it right. Let's ask Ms. MacLean if she would like to elaborate on that.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
As I said earlier, I'm working with my colleague Minister McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, on developing a plan to achieve this. We'll hopefully be launching in the next three to four weeks, if not sooner. I can't really say anything until then.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
Absolutely. As I said earlier, everyone, to my surprise, wants to help us achieve these targets. I assured all the different stakeholders, all the different jurisdictions, that there will be an open, transparent, and consultative process.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
There will be, as I said, a small craft harbour portion of it. Our Coast Guard vessels, the offshore fishery science vessels, other smaller vessels, and search and rescue vessels are included in it, and also investments to improve our infrastructure and our assets across the country, which will help enhance our ability to achieve our mandate to ensure that we're supporting service delivery and operational requirements.
The Coast Guard over the last number of years has had to make some pretty tough decisions, and I think some of that maintenance has fallen behind. Here, we're looking at doing this investment to make up for some lost time. We have some catching up to do.
View Hunter Tootoo Profile
Ind. (NU)
I just want to say thank you, Mr. Chair and committee members, for your questions. I'd also like to thank my officials, who helped get me ready for this, and my parliamentary secretary Mr. Cormier, who keeps me up to date with what you are doing. I'm sure we'll be seeing each other again; I look forward to it.
Again, thank you for your questions.
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