Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Fin Donnelly Profile
NDP (BC)
Okay. I'll come back to both of you on another question.
Ms. Shiels, you touched on derelict vessels. Can you elaborate a little on responsibilities and problems with harbours and jurisdiction and how the government could play a role in solving this problem?
Sarah Shiels
View Sarah Shiels Profile
Sarah Shiels
2018-11-06 16:16
Derelict vessels are a common challenge at small craft harbours, related to some of the other issues that we've looked at today. As fishermen purchase larger vessels to pursue the fishery, some of the older, smaller vessels are left behind and might be sold for scrap and then abandoned at a harbour. It's a common problem.
The Fishing and Recreational Harbours Act provides enforcement powers to enable or facilitate the removal of these vessels. It's contemplated by the legislation. As I've already mentioned, the enforcement officers designated by DFO are not willing to exercise those powers, so the alternative approach is through the courts or through a number of fairly cumbersome statutory processes. It can be extremely costly and trying for harbour authorities to try to remove these vessels.
I am aware that there is new legislation pending to address derelict vessels. My overarching concern with that legislation, which I have looked at, is that it is permissive, as is the current legislation, the Fishing and Recreational Harbours Act, and is dependent on the will of officials to act. There just are not the tools on the ground for harbour authorities to effectively deal with these issues.
View Bernadette Jordan Profile
Lib. (NS)
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, Minister, for being here today.
I have three quick questions.
The first is about the $250 million for small craft harbours. How will it be determined where that money is allocated?
That's one. I'm going to go through all three. It might be easier that way.
Secondly, with regard to abandoned vessels—and Mr. Hutchinson maybe can answer this for me—I know that we've had the program on the west coast for the smaller boats. I'm interested particularly in larger vessels and their removal. As you are aware, we have a few on the east coast. Of course, it's great that we're doing some work with the Manolis L and the Kathryn Spirit, but there are others. I'd like to know what the process is for removal of those vessels.
Thirdly, one of the things I hear a lot about now is enforcement, and the cuts that have been made to DFO previously with regard to enforcement and how these are affecting the local fishery. I'm just wondering if there's any movement to increase the number of enforcement officers on the ground.
Hon. Dominic LeBlanc: On the water.
Mrs. Bernadette Jordan: Exactly.
When you have a long coastline that needs to be protected by fishery officers, and you have one boat that takes in from Shelburne to Yarmouth, it's pretty hard to get to a problem.
If someone could address those three concerns, I would appreciate it. Thank you.
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you, Bernadette. I'll take a crack at the first and third questions, and ask the commissioner to respond on the removal of larger vessels.
On the $250 million, I want to thank you publicly for your help in securing that funding, Bernadette, with respect to small craft harbours. As you know, the department has a normal, existing program. It's a series of points allocated, and the normal A-base program of small craft harbours puts out about $100 million a year. That's woefully inadequate compared to the need.
That program will continue to operate with the priorities that are established—often in multi-year capital plans, and so on. Some of this funding will go to some divestiture projects. I think the budget mentioned four specific projects; they are not all divestiture projects, but were used in the budget as examples in different parts of the country of specific projects that would receive funding.
There's no doubt that some provinces and communities have asked us about divestiture, such that we invest what we need to, to get their wharves or their particular harbours up to a standard where a province or a municipality could take them over. To be honest, I don't think we have an exact proportion yet of what money will be used for divestiture. Obviously, we will use a significant portion of this money to complement the urgent requirement that had fallen off the table from the existing program. In your constituency it's some of the most lucrative and economically important fishing grounds in the whole country.
With you, I visited a number of harbours in your riding that are perfect examples of deferred maintenance. If you think of the economic impact of these harbours and the jobs they facilitate and the importance to the economy of these coastal communities, my hope is that over the next two years we can catch up on a great number of these projects that had been deferred.
We'd be happy to work with your office and others to get your priorities, and I say this as well to other colleagues who have small craft harbours in their ridings. We are wide open to receiving your views on priorities and we'll work with you to ensure that this new funding can meet some of those objectives.
On enforcement, you're absolutely right. One of the challenges I heard from Newfoundland to Bella Bella, British Columbia, was the importance of having more fishery officers, conservation and protection officers, habitat protection officers, but particularly fishery officers, C and P officers, on the wharves, on the water. I visited small detachments where there used to be five or six people and now they're down to three, but it takes two to patrol safely. You can imagine that with three in a particular detachment, you've massively reduced their ability to enforce the Fisheries Act. Their presence is a deterrent to those who perhaps might not be inclined to follow the law. It's also a safety aspect in many communities. These people are first responders.
In Bella Bella last week I met two fishery officers who are in an isolated detachment there. They are, in many cases, the only federal presence along that part of the coast. I chatted with them about some of the challenges in recruiting and maintaining their staffing levels. We will be increasing by at least 70, or I hope more, permanent positions of fishery officers across the country. Help is on the way for those working in detachments now. The money that we got—almost $300 million—with the new fisheries act that we're proposing, will be a good first start, but I'll continue to try to rebuild that capacity.
Before we run out of time, I'll let the commissioner respond as well. We know the importance of the Farley Mowat. That left. You and I saw that together, Bernadette.
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
That's right, and there are other examples across the country. Your riding is a good one, but perhaps, Jeff, you could provide details or some insight into our plan for some of the larger vessels.
Jeffery Hutchinson
View Jeffery Hutchinson Profile
Jeffery Hutchinson
2018-03-20 9:26
I'd be very happy to, Minister.
As people around this table know, Bill C-64 has now reached third reading stage. That bill forms part of a larger plan that fundamentally changes the situation around vessels of concern, primarily by creating liability for abandonment of vessels, which has never existed in the past, but also by squarely positioning that legislation in a risk-based approach. That's the segue to the answer to your question, Ms. Jordan.
Our approach to those larger vessels is risk-based. You've already noted that we're taking action on some of the larger vessels that pose a more immediate risk, like the Kathryn Spirit and the Manolis L. We expect, as announced in January, a long-term plan for the Manolis L will be out this year. Kathryn Spirit is already being dismantled, or “broken” as we say.
As for the other large vessels, we have ongoing technical assessments scheduled for many of them. For Corfu Island, for example, the technical assessment is ongoing. The order in which those will happen are risk-based. For example, we'll be undertaking technical assessments of the Matterhorn and the Petrel this year. We have Cormorant down for next year.
As we're able to get to vessels, we get to them, and that generally then leads to a funding decision. Where we are dealing with the situation with a smaller amount, say, in the hundreds of thousands, we'll generally take that out of our environmental response program. Where you're into the territory of, say, a Kathryn Spirit, which is over $10 million, almost in the tens of millions of dollars, then a larger funding decision is required because we don't have the program dollars.
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
I call to order this meeting of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities of the 42nd Parliament, pursuant to the order of reference of Tuesday, December 5, 2017, Bill C-64, an act respecting wrecks, abandoned, dilapidated or hazardous vessels, and salvage operations.
From the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, we have Froozan Housany, senior policy analyst; Kathy Nghiem, acting director, preparedness and response; Marc Sanderson, acting director general, national strategies; and Yvette-Marie Kieran, legal counsel, legal services.
From the Department of Justice, we have Jaime Bishop, legal counsel.
From the Department of Transport, we have Marc-Yves Bertin, director general, marine policy; Ellen Burack, director general, environmental policy; Jeffrey Johnson, manager, clean water policy; and Michelle Sanders, director, clean water policy.
You are all here to answer questions from the committee, to comment on the various amendments, and to provide the committee with that information. Thank you all for being here.
We will move right into the bill.
Pursuant to Standing Order 75(1), consideration of clause 1, the short title is postponed.
If I have the support of the committee, when there are no amendments, I would like to group the clauses so that we can move along swiftly. Otherwise, we could be here until eight o'clock, and we do have a vote.
Do I have unanimous consent to group them when there are no amendments?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Thank you.
(Clauses 2 to 4 inclusive agreed to)
(On clause 5)
The Chair: There is a government amendment, G-1, moved by Mr. Fraser.
Mr. Fraser, would you like to speak to it?
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2018-02-26 15:35
Very briefly, since I don't want to take up much time, you'll see that a series of government amendments have been put forward. They largely amount to corrections of drafting errors or potential oversights.
It's a fairly complex bill. I think the consequences are straightforward. I'd be happy to let the department officials explain, but when I saw the reasoning, it made eminent sense to adopt these. I don't expect them to be controversial, but I don't want to prejudge the analysis of my colleagues.
Ellen Burack
View Ellen Burack Profile
Ellen Burack
2018-02-26 15:35
This amendment is to deal with an oversight in importing the provisions from the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. In that legislation, the government had existing authorities that enable regulations to deal with heritage wrecks. This amendment will allow the retention of those authorities.
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any further questions or comments?
All those in favour of amendment G-1?
(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])
(Clause 5 as amended agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: We can now group clauses 6 to 20.
All those in favour?
(Clauses 6 to 20 inclusive agreed to)
(On clause 21)
The Chair: We will now move on to NDP-1.
Ms. Malcolmson, would you like to speak to it?
View Sheila Malcolmson Profile
NDP (BC)
Maybe I'll describe it first, and then I will certainly appreciate the government witnesses' advice.
The first one would change it so that the minister “must” take the measure. This was based on testimony from Anna Johnston, from West Coast Environmental Law. Her interpretation was that the legislation was discretionary in nature and called into question whether the decision-makers would actually take the measures necessary. Her recommendation in a number of places was that where it says that the minister “may”, the wording instead be changed to “shall” or “must”.
We pulled out the sections that had a clear environmental impact. That was our criterion for which ones to recommend.
This would give more accountability and more confidence to coastal communities that actions outlined in the legislation would in fact be taken, and if not, that there would have to be some rationale provided.
Marc Sanderson
View Marc Sanderson Profile
Marc Sanderson
2018-02-26 15:38
I'd submit that not all wrecks that are a result of maritime casualty necessarily pose a hazard that warrants federal intervention immediately. What's important is that government officials have the ability to establish priorities based on the degree of hazard or risk, as determined through science or other evidence, in consultation with local communities, indigenous groups, and other jurisdictions in the case of flag states for international vessels. Removing the minister's discretion would require the federal government to intervene in all cases, even those in which the owner is willing and able to act but needs more time to address the wreck, without creating additional risk.
This is contrary to the principle of polluter pays, one of the central objectives of this legislation. This amendment would also impose a significant burden on taxpayers, because it would require action on all wrecks, not just those that pose hazards.
View Sheila Malcolmson Profile
NDP (BC)
What we've been hearing from coastal communities is very much that they want the polluter to pay, that they want the vessel owners to take responsibility for their pollution problem, but without the minister being willing to act and to enforce the regulations and force action upon the vessel owner, we may end up not so far ahead of where we are right now.
The actions described here are not that the minister himself will in every case go out and remove the vessel and pay the bill—that's not it at all—but if there are no teeth to this measure and no accountability, then we're going to continue on as we have on our coasts for decades, with people who will push the limits of the law and not take responsibility for their possessions and pollution. They'll continue to be a problem for our environment.
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
All those in favour of the amendment proposed by Ms. Malcolmson?
(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])
(Clause 21 agreed to)
(On clause 22)
The Chair: Ms. Malcolmson, would you like to speak to NDP-2?
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