Thank you, Mr. Chairman. As I have said many times, it's good to be seen. Thank you for the kind words. Whether my health stands up or not I guess depends on how this committee meeting goes.
Good afternoon, and thank you for inviting me to appear today to discuss the main estimates of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. I want to thank my deputy, Matthew King, and other members of our department's management team for starting the discussion with committee members earlier on. I understand that Matthew has already introduced all of the staff who are here with me today.
Our chief financial officer, Roch Huppé, has presented the highlights of our main estimates to you already. The figures they contain represent a snapshot in time of government spending plans. Our fiscal outlook for the year ahead will be reflected more fully in the budget that will be presented later this month by my colleague, the Minister of Finance.
Before I get too far into my remarks, let me take the opportunity to thank this committee for your excellent work. You have been studying two important topics, closed containment salmon aquaculture and aquatic invasive species, and I look forward to receiving your reports.
Officials from my department have appeared before you on a number of occasions to discuss DFO's role with respect to the threat posed by invasive species and the need to work with international partners to combat it. To that end, I was proud to announce last year an additional $17.5 million over the next five years to prevent the introduction, establishment, and spread of Asian carp into the Great Lakes. As Asian carp are not yet established in the Great Lakes, it's important that we take action now to prevent their introduction.
Now let me take a few minutes to share with the committee members how we are advancing the strategic objectives of Fisheries and Oceans Canada as we head into fiscal year 2013-14. In the coming year, we'll continue to be guided by three strategic outcomes: economically prosperous maritime sectors and fisheries, sustainable aquatic ecosystems, and safe and secure waters. I understand that Roch has presented an overview of the DFO main estimates for 2013-14. You will note that one of the significant increases in our spending is the $76.7 million allocated for Canadian Coast Guard vessel life extension and the mid-life modernization program. This work will extend the life of vessels that have served us well in the past and enable others to reach their full operational life through modernization.
Our government is proud to invest in the coast guard to make sure it has the ships it needs to do the job. In fact, we have made unprecedented investments in the Canadian Coast Guard, including $5.2 billion to the coast guard in our 2012 economic action plan. That was on top of the roughly $1.6 billion we invested in the previous six years. To date, this has included critical spending for new mid-shore or patrol vessels, scientific research vessels, a new hovercraft, and Canada's first polar icebreaker. It also includes the completion of major repair work on 40 of our large vessels and the acquisition of an additional 98 new small craft and boats.
Last month, I had the honour of travelling to Newfoundland and Labrador to announce the government's $360-million investment to extend the life of several vessels in the coast guard fleet. This funding will benefit the shipbuilding industry across the country and build on the government's priority to support jobs and growth. This investment will extend the lives of 16 coast guard vessels across Canada and complete mid-life modernizations on two existing hovercraft over the next 10 years. Important work on the CCGS Amundsen is already under way and creating economic opportunities for Canadians.
We call that investing where it counts, making sure the coast guard has the ships it needs to do its job and helping to develop the Canadian shipbuilding industry across the country. We will continue to revitalize the coast guard fleet so it can maintain its focus on keeping our waterways safe and accessible, including in Canada's north, while creating jobs and economic growth across the country.
Renewing our fleet is taking place within the context of the Government of Canada's national shipbuilding procurement strategy by Public Works and Government Services Canada. The strategy aims to support a vibrant Canadian shipbuilding industry while also ensuring the highest value for public funds. My colleague Rona Ambrose, Minister of Public Works and Government Services, recently announced a series of preliminary contracts under this procurement strategy, valued at a total of $15.7 million for joint support ships for the Royal Canadian Navy and a polar icebreaker and offshore fishery science vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard.
Industry analysts have estimated that our shipbuilding strategy will contribute 15,000 jobs from coast to coast to coast, and over $2 billion in annual economic benefits over the next 30 years. I am proud to be part of a government that is following through on its commitment to build ships in Canada. The shipbuilding procurement strategy will mean long-term jobs and economic growth for the country, stability for the industry, and vital equipment for our men and women in the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Coast Guard.
Let me turn now to Canada's fisheries sector, which continues to go through fundamental changes driven by significant and unprecedented shifts in global economics, market demand for sustainable seafood, and environmental realities. We have reviewed and updated our approach to fisheries protection. The amendments make our regulatory review and approval process more effective and efficient, while strengthening our protection for fish and fish habitat. In addition, we will now be able to identify ecologically sensitive areas that require additional protection.
As I mentioned when I was here last year, many parts of our old regulatory system were not effective. Rules were applied differently in various regions of the country and often we lacked the regulatory muscle to enforce regulations. We were creating red tape reviewing perhaps as many as 95% of small projects that simply did not need that level of oversight. All the while, we were diverting limited resources away from our main task: protecting commercial, aboriginal, and recreational fisheries.
Under the new act, we will strengthen our ability to work with our partners—other levels of government, conservation groups, and the private sector—to protect the productivity of Canada's fisheries while providing much-needed clarity to Canadians. We believe that by improving our partnerships, be they with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments; aboriginal organizations; conservation groups; and others, we can improve the protection of our fisheries resources. For anglers, the changes to the Fisheries Act recognize the importance of the recreational fishery and provide protection to these fisheries to support their productivity now and in the future.
For conservation groups, the changes allow the minister to enter into agreements that enable the groups to undertake measures to enhance fisheries protection. For industry, the changes provide greater clarity on the types of activities that will be reviewed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. These include regulations clarifying Fisheries Act changes and timelines for issuing permits.
For provinces and territories, the new measures enable further opportunities for partnerships and working together, including broad agreement-making authorities. For landowners and municipalities, the new measures provide regulatory certainty as to whether and how the fisheries protection provisions apply to them.
We are also committed to supporting the sustainable development of the Canadian aquaculture industry. Aquaculture is an industry that creates wealth because it relies almost exclusively on export markets for its revenues. Our government is proud to support the development of aquaculture. It is an industry that is helping meet growing global demands for fish and seafood, and also creating jobs and growth in communities right across Canada.
As the industry continues to grow, we will provide management and regulation to ensure wild fish stocks are protected, and that aquaculture in Canada is developed in an economically viable and environmentally sustainable manner. That will allow the industry to continue to bring economic and social benefits to Canada and assure the public that there is a sound regulatory regime in place. We will continue working with the industry to ensure that we build on the progress to date and confirm Canada's place as a world leader in sustainable aquaculture.
Another very important initiative our government is taking is the Canada-EU trade agreement, which will greatly benefit Canada's fish and seafood industry. The EU is the world's largest fish and seafood market, with a global import market averaging $25 billion annually during 2009-2011. Current EU tariffs on Canadian fish and seafood products average 11%, with peaks of 25%. These high tariff barriers would be eliminated under an ambitious Canada-EU trade agreement. Eliminating tariff barriers would increase sales of Atlantic Canada's world-class fish and seafood products in the lucrative EU market of 500 million consumers. This would directly benefit the fish and seafood industry in Canada and create more jobs, higher wages, and greater long-term prosperity.
Finally, our government understands that science is crucial to the sustainability and growth of Canada's fisheries and oceans. Science remains the backbone of this department. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is mandated to protect Canada's fisheries, so much of our scientific work is related to fisheries management and conservation. Our approximately 1,500 scientific staff members do a wide range of research on Canada's oceans, in addition to their many other duties including providing support for fisheries protection provisions and species at risk. They do work in Canada's Arctic, an important priority for this government and for Canada. We have class-leading hydrographers who provide charting services to the marine and transport industry. We have an excellent team working on ways to protect Canada's fisheries from aquatic invasive species like Asian carp.
Our scientists are working with colleagues in other departments and with academia to provide advice based on the most current knowledge on a range of important matters. These are just a few examples of the great things our scientists at Fisheries and Oceans Canada are doing for Canadians. We are proud of their work and will continue to support them. We take seriously our responsibility to conserve and protect these resources and to ensure that they contribute to the economic prosperity of our country today and for future generations.
I'd like to thank you very much. I'd be happy to address any of your questions.