March 6, 2014

LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux

—because it would take a long time for me to draw that debate to a conclusion.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
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CPC

Bruce Stanton

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton)

I am not sure if the hon. member is seeking the unanimous consent of the House to waive the limit on time.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
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LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux

Sure I am, Mr. Speaker.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
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CPC

Bruce Stanton

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton)

I am not seeing any consent for that.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
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CPC

Joe Preston

Conservative

Mr. Joe Preston (Elgin—Middlesex—London, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the great and hard-working member for Huron—Bruce. His speech follows mine.

I would like to join my colleagues in voicing support for the implementation of the Canada-Honduras free trade agreement. On November 27, 2013, our Conservative government unveiled the global markets action plan. This strategy is part of our ongoing efforts to create jobs, growth, and prosperity for Canadians. The global market action plan will focus on 80 countries that have been identified as target markets for Canadian business. The plan aims to grow our exports, which are vital to Canada as a trading nation. For example, the plan foresees increasing the percentage of Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises that are active in emerging markets from 29% to 50% by 2018.

However, we will not focus only on traditional areas, such as exports. Canadian companies need to innovate to survive. Businesses that make science, innovation, and research and development a core part of their strategy are creating the kinds of skilled, well-paying jobs that we want here in Canada, so the plan will also work to stimulate new innovation partnerships.

Gaining preferential market access is also an important role of the government's strategy. We cannot afford to hold back while our competitors are securing important trade deals. We need to be sure that we can compete and that we can deliver on the expectations of Canada's exporters, investors, and service providers. They have made it clear that we need to help them open doors so that they can generate jobs and growth in their communities. This is precisely why bolstering Canada's commercial relationships in rapidly growing markets around the world, such as Honduras, is an important part of our long-term prosperity plan.

Our Conservative government is currently pursuing an ambitious trade and investment agenda. Last fall the Prime Minister announced that an agreement in principle had been reached with the European Union. Once the Canada-EU comprehensive economic and trade agreement is implemented, it will secure access to 28 diverse markets and more than 500 million consumers. There would be 500 million new customers for Canadian businesses. The agreement will cover virtually all aspects of our trade with Europe, such as goods and services, labour mobility, investment, and procurement, including sub-national procurement, to name just a few of the areas. Canada stands to benefit from access to the world's biggest market, with a $17 trillion GDP. This is a landmark achievement for Canada and Canadian companies.

While the agreement with the EU will bring important benefits for Canadian companies, it would be short-sighted to focus exclusively on one area of the world. In October 2012, Canada joined the negotiations for the multilateral trans-Pacific partnership, the TPP. This group includes 12 Asia-Pacific countries, and when we look at all of the current TPP countries together, we see they represent over 39% of the world's economy, with a combined GDP of $28.1 trillion. It is absolutely critical that we take advantage of this chance to favourably position Canadian companies in the Asia-Pacific market.

Looking beyond the TPP, talks are also well under way with Japan and Korea.

I would also like to highlight our Conservative government's most recent international trade announcement, the launch of modernization and expansion negotiations with Israel. During his first official visit to the region, the Prime Minister confirmed that we will modernize existing chapters in the Canada-Israel free trade agreement in the areas of market access for goods, rules of origin, institutional provisions, and dispute settlements. In addition to updating key areas, Canada will also seek to negotiate new chapters in the areas of trade facilitation, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers to trade, intellectual property, electronic commerce, labour, and environment. This undertaking will enhance the bilateral commercial flows by reducing technical barriers, enhancing co-operation, increasing transparency in regulatory matters, and reducing the transaction costs for businesses.

The updated Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement is yet another aspect of our broad international trade agenda. Modernization of free trade agreements, like the one we are undertaking with Israel, are about keeping Canadian companies competitive.

The issue of competitiveness is also at the heart of why we need to implement our free trade agreement with Honduras. The U.S. and EU already have free trade agreements with Honduras. How can we give our companies an edge if we cannot ensure they are getting comparable treatment? Keeping pace with Canada's main competitors is just one reason that we need to move forward with this deal.

There are other benefits to the free trade agreement as well, which I would like to reiterate. First, the agreement would help Canadian producers and exporters by eliminating tariffs. That is what free trade does. This will help a variety of Canadian companies and sectors, such as chemical products, wood, pulp, pulp and paper products, vehicles, auto parts, as well as fish and seafood. It will also be advantageous to Canadian agriculture producers in areas such as beef, pork, and processed potato products. Canada's service providers would enjoy enhanced commitments in sectors of export interest to Canada, such as natural resources, professional services, information and communication technologies.

Moreover, Canadian investors would be protected by the agreement's legally binding obligations to ensure they will be treated in a non-discriminatory manner and have the ability to access transparent, impartial, and binding dispute settlements.

As part of Canada's 21st century approach to trade agreements, Canada has also included language on corporate social responsibility, as we heard from my colleague earlier in this free trade agreement. This acknowledges Canada's expectations that our companies observe internationally recognized standards of responsible business conduct, both at home and abroad.

Our commitment to supporting good corporate governance does not end there. Along with the free trade agreement, we are also ratifying parallel agreements between Canada and Honduras on labour co-operation and environmental co-operation. This is part of our commitment to make sure that labour and environmental practices do not suffer at the hands of increased trade.

With such a comprehensive approach to free trade agreement negotiations, it is no surprise that the resulting Canada-Honduras free trade agreement is a high-quality agreement. Its benefits, and those of the government's and other international trade initiatives, should be clear to all hon. members. That is why I am urging that this House adopt this agreement.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
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NDP

Pierre Nantel

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pierre Nantel (Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to participate in this debate. The Conservatives are always saying that the NDP is against free trade and jobs. If you listen to them, you would think we were against breathing.

We have the right to wonder how an agreement like this will benefit the people of Longueuil, whom I represent. It is not because we are closed-minded. For example, we are well aware that free trade with Europe will be extremely beneficial to the cattle and beef industry. It is good to see the benefits of that agreement: we are going to sell Europe something and Europe is going to sell us something else. I agree that that has to be regulated.

However, what am I supposed to tell the people of Longueuil about the practical benefits of an agreement with a country such as this? Am I supposed to tell them that this free trade agreement is a good idea? We are going to sell Honduras certain products. The member mentioned a few sectors, but things are still rather unclear. What is more, the benefits of the agreement do not carry much weight when people realize what the political situation is like over there and even less so when they hear that we are taking in Honduran refugees. How can we reconcile these two things?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
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CPC

Joe Preston

Conservative

Mr. Joe Preston

Mr. Speaker, I was reminded earlier that yesterday was the trade deadline in the NHL. New Democrats are so much against trade that they wanted to cancel that day too.

I cannot speak specifically to the member's riding; I can tell him what it means to Elgin—Middlesex—London, my riding. I am certain that if that is the case, it would help all places across Canada, but certainly it would benefit in the area of agricultural goods and the movement of beef and pork, as I mentioned in my speech.

Ours is an area of southern Ontario that drastically needs the trade that fell off from the United States during the economic downturn. It would benefit the manufacturing equipment that we make, and the chemicals that Canada can sell around the world.

I mentioned industrial machinery. Vehicles and auto parts are another sector. All of these things currently have very high trade tariff levels in Honduras, up to 15%, and they would disappear with a free trade agreement. That would certainly mean that manufacturers, small businesses, and small machine shops in my own riding could have work through free trade with Honduras.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
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CPC

Harold Albrecht

Conservative

Mr. Harold Albrecht (Kitchener—Conestoga, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's comments about the importance of signing this free trade agreement with Honduras.

I would like to put on the record, again, that many of the New Democrats, in fact all of them, are against trade. Specifically, the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour said that trade agreements are job destroying, and the NDP member for British Columbia Southern Interior has written that free trade agreements threaten the very existence of our nation.

I think it is important to note that the NDP does not understand how trade can lift people out of poverty and promote human rights and provide security.

I wonder if my colleague would comment on how he feels this free trade agreement would improve investment, increase job creation in Honduras, and here, as well as lifting the Honduran people out of some of the difficulties they are currently experiencing.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
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CPC

Joe Preston

Conservative

Mr. Joe Preston

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Kitchener—Conestoga for his hard work, now and in the past, in Honduras.

As a small businessman, an entrepreneur my whole life, it has been about trying to create economic opportunities. I think we raise the standard of living and the approach of any entity, whether it is my riding currently, trying to create jobs, or doing trade with Honduras and offering them a greater opportunity to trade with Canada and thus create jobs and some financial wherewithal.

Improving the standard of living helps us around the world, wherever we have done trade agreements. Some might say, “Well, it is Honduras. We are talking about millions, not billions or trillions”. Well, the millions mean something to somebody. It means something to an entrepreneur in Honduras. He or she can reach out to some 35 million more customers in Canada because there has been a free trade agreement. It gives them the opportunity to do better with their family, with employment, and to hire more people in their own community too.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
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CPC

Ben Lobb

Conservative

Mr. Ben Lobb (Huron—Bruce, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House to speak to the Canada-Honduras trade agreement. I have been listening intently to the other speakers.

First and foremost, it is important to point out, as a previous speaker has already mentioned, that Canada is already trading with Honduras. It is not that we are not doing trade with Honduras and are now exploring this; we are doing millions of dollars in trade with Honduras currently. We are talking about the reduction or elimination of tariffs. That is where we are as far as the debate goes and the essence of the trade agreement.

Once this agreement is in force, nearly 70% of the tariffs that are in place today would be eliminated. Over the length of the deal, which is to be fully implemented within 5 to 15 years, over 98% of the tariffs that are currently in place between us and Honduras would be eliminated. That is important to recognize.

The population is about 8.3 million people. Over the last 25 years, the population has almost doubled. This is a very fast growing country. With countries that are fast growing, there are tremendous opportunities for growth and innovation, certainly for growth in our trade.

The population in Honduras has grown between 3% and 4% for the last number of years, and not only is the population growing, but its economy is growing as well. It is not a very industrialized nation. That in itself presents many more opportunities for Canadian manufacturers, whether it is in plastics, or any other products that may be needed in an economy that is growing, diversifying, and moving forward.

It is also important for people to note that we are not the first country trying to finalize a deal for trade with Honduras. The United States signed its trade agreement with Honduras almost 10 years ago, in 2006. The European Union signed one in 2013. Certainly there is a precedent there, which leads to my next important point, which is that Canada participates in the tariff elimination so our agricultural producers can compete with American producers and enjoy the same opportunity that they do

I will give an example of where that is hurting producers in my riding of Huron—Bruce, with edible soybeans and the lack of a deal with South Korea. There are extremely high tariffs on edible soybeans. The United States has its trade agreement with South Korea, and this is putting producers at a disadvantage in Huron—Bruce today. It means that the premium, not the price, not the basis, but the premium that a producer of edible soybeans would receive, is diminished because of the tariff that is applied to them. That is what we are talking about.

Again, Huron—Bruce is in southwestern Ontario. A lot of beef and pork is grown there. To give the size, scope, and scale just of Ontario, we are looking at about 4.8 million hogs and 600,000 head of cattle per year that are taken to market. There is tremendous opportunity in the red meat sector with this trade deal.

Of note in the last number of years, and I give Jim Clark from Ontario Corn Fed Beef top marks on this, is that a brand of corn-fed beef has been developed that is reaching across the world as a premium product. A lot of the beef producers in Alberta are sweating because they know that corn-fed beef from Ontario is the best. About 55% of the cattle in Ontario are going to this program, and for those producers, there is opportunity.

I should also mention some of the tariffs, on a percentage basis, that some of our producers would experience. Beef and pork are both at 15%.

Another product that could certainly be exported from Huron—Bruce, and from coast to coast, is maple syrup. It is about 10%, on average. We are looking at about 10.5% on agricultural products going into the Honduran market.

We have over $3 million a year in sales to Honduras. There is a great opportunity to grow that by working with people on the ground to knock down those barriers and get more products into the hands of the Honduran people.

I would also note that it is vitally important in a lot of these projects and trade deals, certainly with developing nations, for there to be a world-class port facility. Honduras, fortunately, has a world-class port facility that allows for containers to be shipped in and out. That in itself is also of value. Again, that is likely why we have had a long-term trade relationship with Honduras.

We should not only look at what is in it for Canada on an export basis; we should look at what we are bringing in and the value for the people in Honduras.

There are some products that we as Canadians consume a lot of, which would be coffee, bananas, pineapples, bananas, etcetera. Even though they may not be milk and eggs, for most Canadians these are staples in many of our diets. The reduction of tariffs on those products coming in would be good for Canadians. It would be good for all Canadians, regardless of income and wealth. It would allow their families to put those products on the table at a lower cost than they are today.

If we look at infrastructure, what are some of the issues Hondurans are faced with? They are probably consumed with infrastructure issues, such as roads and bridges, safe drinking water, and sanitary sewers in their cities and reaching into their urban areas, where it is applicable. We have world-class engineering and construction firms here in Canada. I am sure that they are doing business in Honduras right now, but this would allow them to have an expanded role and better opportunities for trade there.

I would like to talk a little more about Huron—Bruce, if I may. Huron—Bruce is a large rural riding in southwestern Ontario. I have mentioned beef and pork production. The area is a huge producer of grains, corn, soy beans, wheat, and other specialty products that may not be common to people from coast to coast.

We have the deepest freshwater port in Lake Huron, which allows for tremendous opportunities. A large amount of grain is shipped in and out of Goderich each and every year, which presents further opportunities. Maybe the Canada-Honduras trade agreement would not change the trade picture in Huron—Bruce overnight, but when we add the cumulative effect of all the trade agreements, it would make a difference for agricultural producers.

We also have the largest inland holding facility for grains, with the Hensall co-op.

I can remember in the 2005 election, back when corn was in the $2 range and farmers were legitimately struggling, one of the commitments we made to our producers was something we heard from them. They did not want to earn their living from the mailbox. They wanted to earn their living from the marketplace. I am proud to say that eight or nine years later, that is what they are doing. It is not only because of the trade agreements. There are a lot of other factors that go along with it. However, these trade agreements have added up and made significant improvements to the situation for our producers.

We can take a look at the price of a great number of commodities and look at where they have gone. We can take a look at a great number of farmland values and how they have increased since 2005. This is all because what we are trying to do is set up markets, reduce barriers, and work with other countries. We work with their veterinarians and food inspection agencies so that when a food issue comes up, they can react quickly and know that we have mechanisms here in Canada to protect the export of our food and food products. We have done that.

One other product I have not mentioned is the great hardwood lumber that comes out of Huron—Bruce. It is world-class hardwood maple, oak, and cherry. There are great products coming out. There is walnut as well, whether veneer or hardwood flooring. These are products that would now have the tariffs reduced. I believe on wood products it is around 15%. We will see that reduced.

As these are reduced, our products will become more competitive with the U.S. and with the European Union. That is good for Canadians, it is good for Canadian producers, and it is certainly good for a riding like mine, Huron—Bruce.

I am glad to take questions from the opposition.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
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CPC

Barry Devolin

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin)

It being 5:30, there will not be time today for questions and comments, as the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
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CPC

Greg Kerr

Conservative

Mr. Greg Kerr (West Nova, CPC)

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-555, An Act respecting the Marine Mammal Regulations (seal fishery observation licence).

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Yukon for seconding this bill. I know he is quite passionate about the topic.

I rise today to speak to Bill C-555, An Act respecting the Marine Mammal Regulations (seal fishery observation licence). I believe that this is a sensible proposition and one that deserves the support of the House.

The proposed change to the Marine Mammal Regulations is straightforward and to the point. Essentially, it seeks to increase the distance unauthorized persons must maintain from seal harvesters. The bill would change the safety distance to a full nautical mile instead of the present half nautical mile.

The House should endorse this bill to show that we support the legitimate economic activities of the sealers. We should provide as safe an environment as possible for them to work in. Each day spent on the ice is a day spent on the ragged edge of safety, and that is without opponents putting the sealers lives in danger by disrupting the seal hunt.

This bill would serve to strengthen the safety aspect of the Marine Mammal Regulations and enhance the government's ability to enforce the requirements set out in the regulations. To be clear, the intention is to preserve the authority and discretion of the Governor in Council to modify the regulations in the future through the normal regulatory process, as opposed to having to do it by legislation.

For decades now there have been many radical groups that have wanted to disrupt the seal hunt, but there are also those who legitimately want to monitor the hunting up close. Any person can apply to Fisheries and Oceans Canada for a licence to observe the seal harvest, and I want to stress that this is a licence to observe and not a licence to intervene. Any person failing to respect the condition of the licence can indeed be fined or arrested. Thankfully, these incidents have been few and far between.

Indeed, the government can and will refuse to issue licences to anyone who intends to disrupt the seal harvest or otherwise interfere with sealers' activities. Under the regulations, anyone convicted of violating the conditions of a sealing fishery observation licence may not be eligible for another licence in the future.

There are those who do not want to comply and do not want licences. They simply want to disrupt the seal hunt. These are the people we must be concerned with.

It is the safety concerns pointed out by DFO officials that we are working on. The recommendation is to go from a half nautical mile buffer to the full nautical mile to ensure that people will not be able to break up the ice when they approach.

I want to point out that there have actually been recorded incidents in the past when large, unlicensed vessels have been there simply to disrupt the livelihoods of sealers. When these large vessels are out on the ice floes where the sealers legally are, the ice can be broken a long way away. Big ships within a half nautical mile have indeed caused some very dangerous situations in the past. We are not saying that we can stop them forever, but what we can do through this bill is keep them at a safe distance. That is what we are really asking for.

The additional cushion would ensure that seal harvesters could go about their jobs without the fear of disruption from vessels that come too close to the sealing activity.

We fully support the legitimate seal industry. We are steadfast in saying that the seal harvest is a humane, sustainable, and well-regulated activity. This is not an attempt to disguise or hide the seal hunt. This bill would do nothing to change the rules under which legitimate licensed observers must carry themselves. Any attempt to paint this as a way to hide the hunt is more of the same misinformation that has been going on for some time.

Our government fully supports the Canadian sealing industry, as I have said. For over 300 years, it has been in business. It would ensure sealers' safety in carrying on this long-standing and crucial industry.

The Canadian sealing industry has a highly professional workforce committed to upholding high standards in the harvest efforts. Our government is doing what it takes to ensure that the harvest remains as safe as possible. While we respect the right of individuals to form opinions on any matter, we will not accept illegal activities that attempt to disrupt a legitimate industry such as the seal hunt.

The government will continue to defend the seal hunt as an important source of food and income for coastal and Inuit communities. We stand behind the thousands of Canadians who depend on the seal harvest to provide a livelihood for their families. We are defending those Canadians who rely on the harvest to maintain their culture, tradition, and quality of life.

I encourage all members of the House to support this bill and help ensure the safety of our sealers.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Marine Mammal Regulations
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NDP

Robert Chisholm

New Democratic Party

Mr. Robert Chisholm (Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I am certainly supporting this bill and the measures contained within.

When we received the bill, we did our due diligence and contacted people who are involved in the industry, those for it and those against it. We consulted with folks about the legislation, the industry, and what was going on.

One of the comments we heard from the Sealers Association was about how the government does not enforce the half nautical mile, let alone extending that to a full nautical mile.

While I will be supporting the principle of the bill, I do want to ask the member a question. What evidence did the member have? Were there any incidents, injuries, or damage caused under the current regulations that required the distance to be extended?

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Marine Mammal Regulations
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CPC

Greg Kerr

Conservative

Mr. Greg Kerr

Mr. Speaker, more in recent years, the department and the coast guard have become concerned. Those who are licensed can get very close. They are monitored. There are people from government constantly monitoring the activity.

The most notable incident was when a environmentalist group brought a boat in several years ago. They did indeed get up into that range and did start breaking up a lot of ice. What was apparent then to the authorities was that the ice could easily break at that distance, within the half nautical mile. That became a major concern.

I did meet with industry, and I am not aware that it had concerns about monitoring and policing. That is certainly something I would pass along. I do know they welcome and support the extended distance, because when their folks are out standing on the ice, the last thing they want to worry about is the ice disappearing below them.

We are heading in the right direction. If there is more needed down the road, I am sure we will be quite prepared to look at it.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Marine Mammal Regulations
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CPC

Randy Kamp

Conservative

Mr. Randy Kamp (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I have a brief question for my colleague. It is kind of a general question about the seal harvest.

Some opponents of the seal hunt will say that Canadians do not support the seal harvest. I wonder if the member could comment on that.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Marine Mammal Regulations
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CPC

Greg Kerr

Conservative

Mr. Greg Kerr

Mr. Speaker, I have learned a lot in preparing for this bill in terms of the incredible importance in the north and the communities that really depend on this activity, certainly in Quebec and Atlantic Canada. Even in the member's area, the coast of B.C., there is interest in what goes on.

There are a lot of issues that go on in the seal business. We talked about whether there are too many seals. This particular industry has been established. It had a black eye decades ago. There are images, such as of Paul McCartney and his wife out on the ice, and it becomes very dramatic. By the way, that in itself was a safety issue, but we will leave that one alone.

What we are finding from reasonably thinking people in Canada is that, whether or not they like the industry, it is a legal, legitimate industry that provides a lot of income and support to families. In that case, if it is going to be done, which it is, then people want to see the industry protected in the right way. Nobody believes those illegal activities should be condoned or supported. This is one more effort to make sure the illegal activity is controlled.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Marine Mammal Regulations
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NDP

Robert Chisholm

New Democratic Party

Mr. Robert Chisholm (Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, as I said before, I thank the hon. member for West Nova for introducing the bill. It is an important issue in our province and our region, as well as Quebec and other parts of this country.

I want to take this opportunity to talk about the reasons I think the bill is important and also address some of the mythology and controversy that surround seal fishing.

For coastal communities across the Atlantic region, Quebec, and Nunavut, the seal harvest represents a traditional way of life. Many fishermen and first nation communities earn their livelihood by fishing for seals in late winter or early spring. The seal hunt in the gulf is under way now.

Our indigenous people have been fishing seal for over 4,000 years and our European ancestors and early Canadian settlers fished for seals starting in the early 1600s. It was once considered an honourable way of life to make a living in Canada.

Seals provided food for coastal families and communities, the skins and pelts were used for clothing, and the oil was used for heating and lights. Much of the same is true today. Seals continue to be a primary source of food for the Inuit and coastal communities; the skins and pelts are still used for clothing; and the oils, containing omega-3, are now used for health benefits.

However, there is a growing mythology surrounding the seal harvest that the practice is neither sustainable nor humane. Like any practice of hunting or fishing, when managed correctly, I believe the seal industry is both sustainable and humane.

Seal populations in the Atlantic have seen a dramatic increase over the past 40 years. The Atlantic grey seal population has seen a thirtyfold increase since the 1960s, while the Atlantic harp seal population has quadrupled since the early 1970s. Its population today is estimated to be over eight million. Currently, fishing allotments of seals do not threaten their sustainability.

Research out of the Atlantic Veterinary College has consistently shown that current methods of killing seals are humane. Thousands of hours of research have been put into the study, and that research continues.

Let me be clear. My New Democrat colleagues and I support a humane harvest, and any cruelty to animals is completely unacceptable. We continue to urge the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to monitor the harvest carefully to ensure that all safety regulations are carried out.

I also want to take a moment to talk about the difference between the seal harvest and a seal cull. When I speak to many Canadians about this issue, there seems to be some confusion.

The seal harvest is a fishery in support of a commercial industry. It is managed similarly to other fisheries, such as lobster or groundfish. The harvest takes place annually during late winter, usually from February until late March. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans establishes a total allowable catch every year based on the precautionary approach and scientific research.

A cull, on the other hand, is a process of removing animals to achieve a specific goal. A seal cull has been proposed by the Senate Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans in a bid to conserve cod stocks. Seals are a known predator of cod, and it has been hypothesized that reducing the seal populations could help the recovery of the cod in Atlantic Canada.

This has been a very controversial recommendation, and my office has received numerous calls and emails from concerned Canadians. Again, I want to be clear and say that we do not support this recommendation. I believe that any cull needs to be backed by scientific research, and it simply does not exist in this case. An experimental cull just to see what happens is completely unacceptable.

Jeff Hutchings, a renowned marine biologist from Dalhousie University, testified in front of the Senate committee and said the following:

In my view, a cull of grey seals for the purpose of improving fisheries productivity would represent an insufficient reason for initiating such a cull for two reasons. First, the effects of such a cull, as I indicated, on the recovery of cod or other species cannot be credibly predicted from a science perspective; and second, the deliberate killing of one species native to Canada because of the human-induced depletion of another native species, ultimately caused by politically expedient but scientifically unjustified management decisions, would be difficult to defend from a variety of perspectives.

It is important to note that 20 years after the collapse of the cod fishery, Atlantic Canadians are still dealing with the devastation that overfishing can cause. That is why my New Democrat colleagues and I fully support fishery management decisions based on science. We will continue to call upon the Conservative government to reduce the cuts it has made to scientific research in Canada, and specifically to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, so that it can carry out its mandate to protect fish and fish habitat and to manage our fisheries.

It is the controversial nature of the seal harvest that has led to the proposal for this bill. Fishing is a dangerous occupation. We lose far too many fishermen at sea every year because of accidents or weather. That is why I will be supporting this bill at second reading.

The bill seeks to strengthen the marine mammal regulations, increasing the distance individuals can be from active seal fishing. Earlier, in my question to the sponsor of the bill, I made the point that if any distance regulations are not enforced by the authorities, they are meaningless. I recognize that there was an incident a couple of years ago. However, it has been conveyed to me that, while the industry appreciates this increase in distance, from a safety point of view it wishes the authorities would properly enforce whatever regulations are there to provide protection. Having been involved in workplace health and safety issues for much of my life, that is what this comes down to.

In conclusion, all Canadians have the right to protest and voice their opinions. However, interfering with seal fishing is dangerous for all those involved. This bill would help keep fishermen, DFO employees, observers, and the general public safe.

I look forward to studying the bill in more detail at committee in the upcoming weeks.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Marine Mammal Regulations
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LIB

Rodger Cuzner

Liberal

Mr. Rodger Cuzner (Cape Breton—Canso, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to join in this debate as well. I have had an opportunity to discuss this with our fisheries critic, the member for Cardigan, who recommends that we support this legislation.

There are two aspects to this legislation, and they are the proximity of firearms and the impact of them on the ice.

I grew up in the coastal community of Glace Bay. My riding is predominantly coastal. Anybody who grows up along the coastline of Nova Scotia knows the perils of the ice.

There were not many playgrounds in Glace Bay in the sixties. It was a pretty modest community, and my neighbourhood was certainly modest. I had the great benefit of having the Atlantic Ocean about a nine iron away from my front door. In the summer, it was our swimming pool. In the fall, when the tide was coming in, we would race around the extending points trying not to get knocked over by the incoming tide. In March, the drift ice and the pack ice that came into the coast of Glace Bay became our playground, and we would go down on the ice, much to the chagrin of our folks.

The member for South Shore—St. Margaret's probably went home being wet up to the kneecaps. I recall getting a crack on the behind a number of times because I would be scootching. But I was a kid, six feet tall, and bulletproof. I did not understand the perils of the ice, but that is where we spent a lot of time as kids. My heart would be in my mouth if my own kids went down to play on the ice now.

Living close to the ocean, one becomes a bit ice-savvy and aware of shifts in the ice. A change in the direction of the wind or the wind picking up shifts the ice and opens up perilous water. It is easy to get in trouble.

One can only imagine sealers on the ice and the great peril they would be in if a boat were in close proximity. The shifting of the ice would place the sealers in peril.

I appreciated the comments by my colleagues from West Nova and Dartmouth—Cole Harbour that we look beyond the debate about the seal hunt. The seal hunt is a legitimate industry and should be treated as such. This is not a debate about the legitimacy or the necessity of the seal hunt. We are past that. All parties in the House support our sealers and the sealing industry.

I am very fortunate to have a progressive company in my own riding, Louisbourg Seafoods. Jimmy Kennedy is the owner, and Dannie Hansen is the CAO. They are looking at ways to better serve the sealers and access the great resource that we have with seals. They are very high in protein content. They are looking at ways to process that product and bring it to market, so that it gets the value it deserves.

I have been fortunate in my time in the House. Over the last 14 years, I have had the opportunity to sit on fisheries and oceans committee. It was six years ago when my colleague from South Shore—St. Margaret's was chair of the committee and my colleague from Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission was parliamentary secretary. We had the opportunity to go out on the ice.

We choppered out to a Canadian Coast Guard ship and we were able to monitor the hunt taking place. We brought with us a number of leading veterinarians from Prince Edward Island. They, along with us, were able to get on the ice.

The study itself was driven by the seal hunt and whether or not the harvesting practices were adequate.

The strong evidence that we were able to witness and the strong testimony that was shared with us by the veterinarians was overwhelming that this is indeed a humane harvesting practice and is something that we should not be fearful of. They referred to it as an abattoir on the ice. They said this is absolutely every bit as humane as any slaughterhouse in this country. That is one aspect that really stuck with me.

The other one was the peril that sealers place themselves in in order to take part in this fishery. They are out there in the elements. They are on the ice, and the ice is moving. They are exposed to those types of things. I was really impressed with just how nimble they were in getting around on the ice while they took part in the fishery, but it was obvious that the danger and the fear factor were great while they went about and plied their trade. Most were using the hakapik, but some were using firearms.

The bill addresses not just the ice and the movement of the ice, but it would also provide that additional buffer, that additional security for those who are using high-powered firearms in the harvesting of the seals.

I remember the conversation at the time at committee. We had wondered at the time whether a greater buffer should be placed between observers and those who were harvesting the seals. I recall those discussions coming out of that particular study and I believe a recommendation had been made there.

I think the bill being presented today makes absolute sense. It would allow for a safer work environment for those in the fishery as well as for the observers, who absolutely have a legitimate right to take part, to observe, to hold to account those who are in the midst of that harvesting. We certainly acknowledge and respect their right to be there, but it would also give them a much higher degree of safety as they go about their business and do the necessary observation.

I want the member and the House to know that we agree with the principle of the bill. I am sure that my colleague, the member for Cardigan, will continue to work with the member on it as it goes forward, but I am pleased to stand here today and recognize its merit and offer it support.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Marine Mammal Regulations
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CPC

Randy Kamp

Conservative

Mr. Randy Kamp (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to participate in this debate and to share our government's perspective on Bill C-555. Let me begin by congratulating the member for West Nova, who represents his constituents so well and is leading the charge to protect the safety of all those involved with the seal hunt.

It is clear that our government is committed to developing regulations that are fair and enforceable. This bill, which proposes amendments to the marine mammal regulations, is of great importance, as it concerns the safety of everyone involved in the seal harvest. That is why our government is supporting this bill.

Marine mammal regulations regulate matters with respect to the management and control of fishing for marine mammals and related activities in Canada or in Canadian waters. The proposed bill would require the Governor in Council to amend the marine mammal regulations to increase the distance that a person must maintain from another person who is fishing for seals, except under the authority of a seal fishery observation licence. To be clear, the intention is to preserve the authority and discretion of the Governor in Council to modify the regulations in the future through the normal regulatory process, as opposed to having to do it by legislation. The proposed change to the regulations would increase from one-half nautical mile to one nautical mile the distance that an unlicensed observer must keep from a person who is fishing for seals. It is a pretty simple bill.

Every year, the Canadian seal harvest attracts observers. Seal fishery observation licences are provided to people wishing to observe the hunt where the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans determines that issuing the licence will not disrupt the seal fishery. Licensed observers have been and will continue to be able to monitor Canada's commercial seal harvest in accordance with the existing regulations and related licence conditions. Our government strives to ensure that there is a balance between the rights of observers and those of sealers, as well as overall safety for everyone.

What this bill would do is to help address the ongoing concerns about unlicensed observers who may pose a threat to the safety of everyone involved in the seal harvest. Let me be clear that Canadian sealers have nothing to hide from the public. However, in order to respond more quickly to the actions of dangerous activists, like those who have a stated purpose of disrupting the seal hunt and who act accordingly, this bill proposes amendments to the marine mammal regulations to increase the distance that individuals must stay away from sealers engaged in sealing activities. These changes would be made to ensure the safety of everyone involved in the seal hunt: hunters, observers, fisheries officers, and others.

Our government respects the rights of organizations and individuals to voice their opposition to the seal harvest. We will not, however, tolerate reckless activities that risk the safety of sealers, observers, and everyone else involved in the hunt. The proposed amendment is aimed at strengthening the management of the seal hunt to ensure that it can continue in a safe, humane, and orderly manner while further improving the safety of everyone involved. This important change would strengthen enforcement activities and assist in improving the management of the seal fishery observation licensing regime. This bill would afford enforcement officials who are operating in dangerous conditions more time to react when there is an incident such as occurred in 2008.

The Canadian seal harvest is humane, sustainable, and conducted in an open and transparent manner. Our government remains unwavering in its commitment to defend our sealing businesses and to preserve our rural coastal communities. Communities in Atlantic Canada, eastern Quebec, and the north have relied on the seal hunt as a way of life for centuries. Whether it is opening new markets or protecting traditional ones, Canadian sealers know our government is there to fight for them.

The proposed amendments to the regulations come at a time when the communities that rely on our traditional industries, like the seal harvest, need a government that is willing to fight for their rights. Canada's seal hunt has the highest standards of practice for any animal hunt in the world. Yet the European Union has placed a discriminatory ban against our seal products. Our government will continue to fight for the Canadian seal hunt in whatever arena possible, including the World Trade Organization. We are proud to protect a traditional, sustainable, and historic way of life for Canadian sealers across this great country.

The measures taken by the European Union have struck a blow to sealers in the north, in Quebec, and Atlantic Canada, to their families, and to Canada as a whole. Our government has taken decisive action to defend Canadian sealers in light of the European Union's very discouraging ban on seal products.

Our government has made repeated and unrelenting efforts to show the European Union and its member states the value of the seal hunt to Canadians and has challenged the European Union's ban in the World Trade Organization. We were very disappointed in the findings of the World Trade Organization panel last November that the ban could be justified on the basis of public moral concerns, and we have filed an appeal with the World Trade Organization appellate body.

One of the main concerns provoking the debate in Europe and the movement to ban seal products has to do with considerations related to the well-being of the animals. Our government is committed to applying the strictest standards in this area. That is why we have sought the best scientific advice on humane harvesting methods and adapted our regulations and licensing criteria based on that advice.

There has been an ongoing campaign put forth against Canadian sealers for a number of decades now, loaded with inaccurate and misleading allegations. It has been alleged that the seal harvest provides few economic benefits. That is false. It has been alleged that Canadians paid millions in subsidies and administrative costs for a seal harvest that is uneconomic. That is also false.

As important as the regulations are, it is also important to note that Fisheries and Oceans Canada also carries out effective monitoring, control, and surveillance programs on the sealing grounds and in coastal communities. Fisheries and Oceans is continually making improvements to its monitoring program to ensure compliance with regulations, which result in a humane and sustainable hunt. These actions should dispel the notion that the hunt is impossible to regulate and manage effectively. The Canadian Coast Guard, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Quebec Provincial Police work in collaboration with Fisheries and Oceans enforcement staff to monitor compliance and to enforce the regulations.

We are standing up in defence of the Canadians sealers' right to earn a living, and we will continue to do so. It is about protecting everyone involved in the seal harvest, and it is the right thing to do. I thus invite all members to join me in supporting Bill C-555.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Marine Mammal Regulations
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NDP

Ryan Cleary

New Democratic Party

Mr. Ryan Cleary (St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of Bill C-555, an act respecting the Marine Mammal Regulations (seal fishery observation licence), but the bill, like so much other lip service the Conservative government pays to the east coast seal hunt, is a charade, a charade to make it appear that the government is actually doing something for the hunt, for sealing. It is a sham to make it appear that the government is defending the seal hunt, an illusion to make it appear that the government is a champion of the seal hunt. All the bill amounts to is Conservative sleight of hand.

Bill C-555 would increase the distance an unofficial observer, in other words, anyone who is not there to hunt, a seal protester, for example, must keep from the sealing. Right now it is against the law for an unofficial observer to come within a half nautical mile of the hunt. Bill C-555 would increase that buffer zone to a full nautical mile, so it would increase from a half nautical mile to a full nautical mile.

However, the half-mile buffer there now is not enforced, so increasing the distance to a full nautical mile is lip service. That is what I mean by lip service. It basically means nothing.

It is a good concept, and it is one my party supports. How could we not? It is about safety, in theory anyway, but for all intents and purposes, it means nothing. Sealers on the ground in my province of Newfoundland and Labrador say that it is a good idea, but they do not see how it would change anything.

Frank Pinhorn, executive director of the Canadian Sealers Association, says it is frustrating, because as it stands, regulations are not enforced with the half nautical mile zone. Now the Conservatives would increase the buffer zone to a full mile. Who are they trying to fool? It is nobody on this side of the House, nobody back home in Newfoundland and Labrador. They are not fooling us, so what is the purpose of the bill? There is no purpose. It is a nuisance bill.

The Conservatives are trying to divide the New Democratic caucus on the seal hunt, only there is no divide. New Democrats fully support a humane and sustainable hunt. It is our policy, period, end of discussion.

The 1985 report of the Royal Commission on Seals and the Sealing Industry in Canada quoted a sealer/fisherman, which are one and the same, who described himself back then, 29 years ago, as an endangered species. Let me quote that fisherman/sealer:

I am endangered but I still fight back. I will survive. I will not let animal rights become more important than human rights. I will not let people give souls to animals while they rob me of my human dignity and right to earn a livelihood.

Today's sealer/fisherman is more endangered than ever. Outport Newfoundland and Labrador is more endangered than ever. The commercial fisheries are more endangered than ever. Sealers and fishermen are one and the same. Sealers are fishermen. Fishermen are sealers. Their livelihoods are in jeopardy. Their numbers dwindle every year.

According to the news back home this week, the fishermen's union is raising red flags about the possibility of significant cuts to the total allowable catch for the northern shrimp fishery. Shrimp has been one of the most lucrative fisheries since the collapse of the groundfish stocks, such as cod, in the early 1990s.

Just today the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies released a report on the east coast fishery, a report that slams the Conservative government for failing to reform fisheries management, two decades after the cod moratorium.The northern cod fishery was shut down in 1992, 22 years ago, and there is still no recovery plan. How shocking is that?

Sealers are fishermen. They are one and the same. What does the Conservative government have to offer? It increases the buffer zone for seal hunt observers to one nautical mile from a half nautical mile. It is a charade, a sham, an illusion, a joke.

I attended Seal Day on the Hill back in February, a day when government reaffirmed its support for the seal hunt, but the proof of the government's commitment to the seal hunt is not in the pâté, but in the policy, in the action. The east coast seal hunt has seen the biggest collapse of seal markets in its history under the Conservative government. That is a fact.

Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Taiwan, the European Union and all of its member countries have banned the importation of Canadian seal products while the Conservative government has sat idly by touting its undying support. What happened to China and to the markets there that the Conservative government was poised to tap into? What happened to those markets? Silence.

The Conservative government is on the verge of a free trade deal with the European Union, but if the government were so solidly behind the seal hunt, like it says it is, why did it not make the seal ban a make or break issue during those trade talks? Instead the Conservative government agreed to have the EU ban decided by the World Trade Organization, which upheld the ban last fall. The Conservative government is appealing the WTO's decision, but again, if the government were serious it would have made the EU ban a make or break consideration in trade talks. It did not.

Instead we see empty action, or nuisance bills like this one, to increase the buffer zone around the hunt from half a nautical mile to a full nautical mile when the government cannot even enforce the half nautical mile zone. The sealer today is as endangered as the fishermen. They are one and the same. There is no vision for the fishery or the seal hunt, no blueprint for rebirth.

The Conservative government's latest move regarding the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery is to eliminate minimum processing requirements as part of the EU trade deal. Now the trade deal is a good one. The elimination of seafood tariffs is a fabulous thing. It is being lauded in all quarters of the fishery, but the question must be asked, what will be the impact on our fisheries, on our processing sector, of the lifting of those minimum processing requirements?

The Conservative government does not give up $280 million in compensation for nothing, especially when it has done nothing for our fisheries for decades, other than to cut the guts out of science, cut the guts out of fisheries management, and cut the guts out of enforcement.

To conclude, sealers and fishermen are one and the same. As I mentioned before, we support this bill for what it is worth, but it does not address the underlying problems of our seal hunt or of our fishers. Make no mistake, the fight in us is vicious yet. The seal hunt is a part of Newfoundland and Labrador culture. It is woven in our history. It is who we are. More so than any other slight, Newfie on down, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians take any criticism of the seal hunt as a direct personal attack, not just against us, who we are as a people, but against our forefathers and our very outport souls.

To attack the seal hunt is to attack Newfoundland and Labrador. To attack the seal hunt is to poke the bear that is the fighting Newfoundlander. But the government's trying to pull off a charade, a sham, an illusion that it is a defender of the hunt when it is not must also be pointed out. So if they increase the buffer zone around the hunt, fill your boots, Mr. Speaker.

Stand in the House and blow and sputter about all the Conservatives are doing in defence of the hunt, but the proof is in the action and there is none.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Marine Mammal Regulations
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March 6, 2014