Mr. George Henderson (Egmont) moved:
That this House condemn the Government for its inept management of Canada's fisheries in Atlantic Canada and its lack of political will to assert Canada's rights in the Canada-France dispute and for its willingness to allow Americans to exploit its weaknesses in order to gain control over processing in the fishing industry.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to present this motion to the House pursuant to Standing Order 82(12).
This Government has been a major disappointment to our fishermen, especially, of course, inshore fishermen. Since 1984, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has ignored the needs of our fishermen. Time and time again this Government has tried to pinch every last dollar from our fisheries programs.
Let us review this Government's record. The budget estimates give us the big picture. In 1984-85 the Department's budget was about $690 million. In the first full year under this Government, 1985-86 the budget was slashed to $620 million. In 1986-87 it was cut even further to $550 million. This, of course, is roughly the budget for the current year.
Using the 1984-85 budget as a yard stick, this Government has accumulated nearly $350 million worth of cut-backs in this Department alone. Obviously, the Minister of Finance (Mr. Wilson) does not have any fishermen in his riding. In his November 1984 Economic Statement, the Minister of Finance announced that the Government would, among other things, privatize the Fishing Vessel Insurance Plan. Had this been carried out, many fishermen in our outlying communities would not have been able to insure their boats. Little wonder our fishermen were outraged and the Government had to change its mind. Indeed, the plan was kept, but the Government has now increased the premiums so high that fishermen can get cheaper rates from private companies. The Fishing Vessel Insurance Plan is now of little benefit to our fishermen.
In February 1986 the current Minister slashed the Fishing Vessel Assistance Program which was introduced in 1942. This program helped fishermen to purchase new vessels or upgrade the quality of those they already had. The program recognized that fishermen sometimes had problems setting aside enough savings for a large investment. The Minister, of course, may argue that the provincial loan boards already provide enough assistance for fishermen, but it should not be forgotten that provincial approvals often hinge on federal assistance.
By cancelling this program, the federal Government also caved in to the United States International Trade Commission. In its tariff ruling against our fish exports, the commission ruled that the Fishing Vessel Assistance Program provided a subsidy to our fishermen and was therefore countervailable. The Minister even admitted that the American ruling was an important factor in his decision to cut this program. We know that the American commission was under heavy pressure by a New England fish lobby to kick our fishing industry out of their market. But to have our own Fisheries Minister swallow this American argument hook, line and sinker is absolutely ridiculous.
The real reason for the American protectionism is the fact that our fish stocks are in better shape than theirs. The American belief in a free-for-all fishery has led to the depletion of their stocks.
The Government seems to have two ways to deal with programs for our fishermen, either eliminate them altogether, such as was done with the Fishing Vessel Assistance Program, or weaken them enough to make them practically worthless, such as was done with the Fishing Vessel Insurance Program.
Yesterday, we discussed the Government's record on the Small Craft Harbours Program. We can hardly mention the subject of fisheries without noting the tuna incident of 1985 and Dr. Art May, the former Deputy Minister of Fisheries, who became the fall guy for that controversy. Dr. May, a great Newfoundlander, was one of the key players in establishing Canada's fisheries management system, generally recognized now as the best in the world. He is a world class scientist who was able to talk to our fishermen. It is little wonder the morale of the Department has sunk so low.
Then there was the bail-out of Bayshore Tuna when the Minister rejected the advice of his own Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Advisory Committee and gave a quota of 401 tuna to Bayshore Tuna which then sold it to Japanese vessels. Bayshore Tuna received middleman profits for doing absolutely nothing. We
November 20, 1987
learned later that the lawyer for Bayshore Tuna was Mr. John Grant, a director of the Progressive Conservative Party's national executive and a Tory appointee on the Canadian Development Investment Corporation.
Then, to make matters worse, in January of this year we had the Canada-France agreement on quotas and boundaries. In order to get France to sit down to discuss the possibility of sending the St. Pierre and Miquelon boundary dispute to international arbitration, Canada agreed to give France future considerations for quotas of northern cod. The deal was hatched in the Office of the Prime Minister (Mr. Mulroney). Even the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans (Mr. Siddon) may not have been consulted before the deal was signed. Of course, the Province of Newfoundland was completely ignored in the final negotiation. The Minister of Transport (Mr. Crosbie), the regional Minister for Newfoundland was ignored. But the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans rose in the House to try to defend the indefensible. He could not.
The Minister of Transport, after forcing the Prime Minister to sign his letter of ultimatum, then became the federal Minister of Fisheries for Newfoundland and Labrador. Then the first thing the Minister of Transport did was make a video featuring himself, including a cameo appearance by the other Minister of Fisheries. The Province of Newfoundland was covered with pamphlets.
On March 5 the Minister of Transport told CBC Radio that his propaganda project would only cost $40,000. However, the newspaper reported that the video and pamphlets cost the Canadian taxpayers about $200,000. We know the Minister of Transport does not like his present job and that he would rather be in Finance, but he has ruined his chances with his splurge on these videos. He came in five times over budget. This is typical of Tory hyprocrisy. It cuts back on fishermen and spends freely on videos. To add insult to injury, the other Minister of Fisheries had to pick up half the cost of the Minister of Transport's publicity campaign.
It is hard to know who in the Conservative Government is standing up for the interests of our fishermen. Is it the Prime Minister's Office, External Affairs, the Minister of Fisheries or the Minister of Transport? Who in Cabinet is standing up for the interests of the fishermen? I do not believe we do not have anyone standing up for them.
I now want to turn to free trade in the fishery. The Prime Minister has hailed this trade deal as a cure for regional disparity. I would ask Hon. Members to remember that this is the same Prime Minister who, in 1984, said that he was not afraid to inflict prosperity on Newfoundland. The people of Atlantic Canada know differently. This Government has a poor record in keeping its promises.
The people of Prince Edward Island were very concerned about the federal Government's intention to sign a free trade deal with the United States. Their fears are now well justified. The Minister for International Trade (Miss Carney) went to Prince Edward Island several weeks ago where she had a disastrous road trip. She insulted the United Church of Canada and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. On a radio show she declared, "It is not an appropriate thing for
the church to do. There is a lot of danger in a church group lining up with the Opposition Parties on economic issues". Just because some groups make independent appraisals of free trade that may coincide with that of the Opposition Parties against free trade, it does not say that they are lining up. They have the right to make their decisions on their own and should not be criticized for that. There is a great deal of danger, of course, as the Minister said, in these church groups lining up with Opposition Parties on economic issues. The Minister for International Trade does not like the message so she tries to shoot the messenger. I can tell her that it will not work in Prince Edward Island.
The Prime Minister and his Ministers have said that a free trade deal will guarantee secure access for our fish in the American market. The U.S. market is our most important market, especially for our producers in Atlantic Canada. They have been extremely worried with the growing protectionism among American industries. The threat of countervail action is a very real concern, especially for our fishing industry which has fought two countervail actions in the past three years.
In January of 1985, the American Department of Commerce slapped a 24 per cent duty on our export of dried salt codfish. The then Acting Minister of Fisheries, the Hon. Member for St. John's West, was asked if the Government was going to protect our access to that market. As reported at page 1823 of Hansard for January 30, 1985, in response to a question asked by myself, the Minister said:
At the appropriate time, if and when it becomes necessary for influence to
be exerted, the Prime Minister, because of his relationship with the President
of the United States, will be able to be very effective.
Not only did this duty remain in place but, as my colleagues have pointed out, many times since then there have been many more American countervail actions. The list even includes our fresh groundfish exports and a duty of 5.8 per cent was laid on them in March of 1986. There is no doubt that the Americans consider the seasonal UI benefits for fishermen as an unfair subsidy. Under current American trade law, which was also in place for the groundfish case, the UI benefits were not defined as an unfair subsidy to our fishermen because they were available to the general public, subject to certain criteria.
Against this experience it is hardly surprising that our fishing industry wanted protection from those countervail actions. They are very expensive, time consuming and disruptive.
Has the free trade deal kept the Prime Minister's promise of secured access? Will our fishing industry be protected from future harassment? The answer is no. Even Simon Reisman has now admitted that the free trade deal does not protect us from American countervail actions.
To make matters worse, the free trade deal does not protect our fishing industry from the provisions of the omnibus trade Bill presently before the U.S. Congress. We know that the Prime Minister calls the binational review panel a great achievement. But the panel can only decide if trade laws have been fairly applied. But what if the trade law is unfair to begin with?
November 20, 1987
Let us look at one provision of the U.S. trade bill which defines an unfair subsidy. It defines it as "any advantage that would not exist but for government action". Under this definition our UI program could be interpreted as an unfair subsidy. The American fishing lobby could even launch more actions against our export. This legislation could be approved before the trade agreement takes effect on January 1, 1989.
The Minister for International Trade must have forgotten comments she made about this Bill during the free trade debate on March 16 of this year when she said, as reported at page 4178 of Hansard:
There are hundreds of protectionist Bills awaiting action in the Congress. That mood should convince even the most skeptical Canadians that our trading relationship with the Americans is under attack. The new trade Bill would resume that attack if we are unsuccessful in our trade negotiations.
The Minister for International Trade obviously knew about all those protectionist bills that were in the U.S. Congress. I, like most Canadian fishermen and most Canadians, would have thought that this would have been one of the most important items to be addressed in the free trade negotiations. Those should have been negotiated before any trade deal was signed. When we know that something is taking effect in the United States that will harm our industry, whether it is fishing, agriculture, or anything else, and we are dealing with that country, obviously that would have been one of the things that should have been negotiated and covered under a trade deal. The Minister has flunked her own test.
Other Ministers should also swallow their words. On July 2 the Minister of Transport told the St. John's Board of Trade, as reported in the Evening Telegram of July 2, 1987:
Unless we get out from under the threat of countervail and other U.S. trade remedy laws and unless there is an effective dispute resolution mechanism to bind the Americans to their commitments, a free trade agreement with the United States would not be a good deal for Canada.
That was stated by the Minister of Transport.
As mentioned earlier, Simon Reisman has admitted that the threat of countervail and other American trade remedies is still around. What has the fishing industry said about this so-called dispute settlement mechanism?
When he was commenting on the free trade, Ron Bulmer, the President of the Fisheries Council of Canada stated on the CBC radio fishermen's broadcast program:
Our disappointment of course, is in the binding dispute mechanism. We had hoped that there would be some real progress in that area ... we're not going to save a dime, we're not going to prevent being hassled so we didn't get what we wanted in the binding dispute mechanism?
The Minister of Transport should now realize that this is a bad deal. Of course, the Minister will argue that the removal of tariffs on higher processed fish products will create thousands of jobs in the fishing industry. I wonder if the Minister seriously thinks that Fisheries Products International will close its plants in Massachusetts to expand its plants in Newfoundland. That, Mr. Speaker, seems very unlikely. The Prime
Minister is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of Canadians, and I believe that he will not succeed.
Inshore fishermen, particularly those in northeastern Newfoundland have had four poor seasons in a row. In some communities, catches have dropped by as much as 75 per cent. The fishery is the only source of income.
While the large companies with the large offshore trawlers have done extremely well, the inshore fishery has been a dismal failure. The Minister of Transport says that the price of fish has increased; the value of landings are up. He ignores the problems of the inshore fishery. Since 1984, in zone 2J3KL, the inshore catches have dropped from 96,000 tonnes to 71,000 tonnes. In 1987, the Government even cut the total allowable catch by 10,000 tonnes. But things have only become worse. The Government has set up a task force, but it must show a real commitment to the inshore fishery.
Another issue is foreign overfishing off Canada's East Coast. Since the imposition of the 200-mile limit in 1977, the foreign fishing effort in Canada's waters has been gradually replaced by our domestic vessels. For instance, the total allocations to foreigners of Canadian managed stocks have declined from approximately 600,000 tonnes in 1977 to
280,000 tonnes in 1985.
Those allocations are intended to prevent overfishing of transboundary stocks which straddle the 200-mile limit. The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), composed of 12 countries including Canada, allocates those stocks to its member countries. However, the quotas set by NAFO depend entirely on voluntarily compliance of its member nations. Given the increasing value of fish products, those countries have been severely overfishing.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans estimate that NAFO members, excluding Canada, have caught twice the allowable catch, 68,690 tonnes, set by NAFO. I wish to point out that, for every 1,000 tonnes of groundfish overfishing by foreign vessels, it is estimated that more than $1 million worth of landings is lost to Canadian fishermen. Once processed, that amount of fish equates to full-time, year-round employment for approximately 100 plant workers on shore.
This problem is compounded by the fact that several countries, for example, the United States, Mexico, and South Korea, are fishing those transboundary stocks, but they are not members of NAFO. Of particular concern is transboundary stocks in the area known as the nose and tail of the Grand Banks, located just outside the 200-mile limit. This is very serious, because those stocks cross those boundaries, and while they are sometimes outside the 200-mile zone, they also come into the Canadian waters. Any overfishing outside the 200-mile zone is very serious, especially in the nose and tail of the Grand Banks. The Minister knows this, and I know that he understands this fully and well.
November 20, 1987
In this case, 1 think that we have all tried to get those countries to manage the stocks outside the 200-mile zone within the FO.l. This has also fallen on deaf ears, and I think that action must be taken either through negotiation or by unilaterally declaring that the nose and tail of the Grand Banks should fall within Canada's management jurisdiction. This measure would have the unanimous support of the entire fishing industry.
I know that you are signalling to me, Mr. Speaker, that 1 only have a minute left. I have many things that I would like to cover. One of the issues that is very important is the sealing problem in Atlantic Canada. 1 brought this up myself not too long ago with several members of the Canada-European Parliamentary Conference in Banff. France wants more fish, and the European Economic Community wants more fish. They are very ones that bowed to the pressures and curtailed the seal hunt. I know that the Minister and most of us on this side of the House agree that something must be done, but today 1 would have to call upon the Government to do something constructive, certainly with a grey seal cull.
The proliferation of grey seals has become one of the major problems in our Atlantic fishery. The increasing population has been confirmed by scientific surveys. The grey seals are consuming more fish and damaging more gear. They also cause widespread seatworm infestation in certain groundfish species. For fish processors, this entails substantial costs because of lower valued products and the additional outlays for more personnel and equipment. The entire fishing industry has called for control measures. For instance, an annual cull conducted during the breeding season in the major breeding sites, such as Sable Island.
We heard this when the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans went to Atlantic Canada. Many people came before us and expressed their total dismay at what was taking place. Yet, we are still waiting. I know that we have had the Malouf report, but there has been no great action on that. Given the international aspect, this issue must be handled carefully. A cull of the grey seals has unanimous support of the entire fishing industry.
Subtopic: BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic: ALLOTTED DAY, S. O. 82-FISHERIES-ALLEGED GOVERNMENT MISMANAGEMENT