Mr. Dan Ruimy (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak today to the message from the Senate regarding Bill C-68, an act to amend the Fisheries Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts. Once enacted, this bill will repeal the changes that the former Conservative government implemented when it gutted the Fisheries Act in 2012, and restore lost protections.
I would like to thank the Senate for its work on this bill, as well as the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, who is continuing the great work of the Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs, who first introduced this bill when he was at Fisheries. Of course, we hope for his quick recovery.
I will be splitting my time with the member for North Okanagan—Shuswap.
Since I was elected, I heard this message loud and clear. As a new MP, the challenge to find sustainable solutions was daunting. After much consultation, I zeroed in on what I felt should be the starting point, the Fisheries Act, which, as I had been told by the people I work with, had been gutted over the years so that fish and fish habitat no longer had the strong protections that were once there.
For two and a half years, I worked with groups such as the Alouette River Management Society, the Kanaka Education and Environmental Partnership Society, the Katzie and Kwantlen first nations, streamkeepers, the cities of Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge, as well as people like Julie Porter, Ken Stewart, Jack Emberly, Greta, Cheryl, Lina, Sophie, Ross, Doug, and the list goes on.
These are not political or partisan people; they are folks who care deeply about their community. They all helped me to better understand the importance of these changes, and I thank them very much. Together, over the course of two years, we identified and discussed key pieces of legislation in the Fisheries Act that could be improved. I submitted my report to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, with recommendations on how we can further strengthen the Fisheries Act and restore some of the lost protections, and here we are today.
I would like to speak to the specific changes we are seeking through the motion. We will be accepting a majority of the amendments made by the Senate, including many that were moved by the government through Senator Harder, and we will be respectfully rejecting just three amendments.
The first amendment we are rejecting is an amendment that was made to the definition of fish habitat by Senator Poirier. In her amendment, the senator reduced the scope for the application of fish and fish habitat provisions by deleting “water frequented by fish” from the definition of fish habitat. By narrowing the scope of fish habitat, this amendment goes against the very objective of this bill to provide increased protections.
We are also amending an amendment by Senator Christmas so that the language used in relation to section 35 and aboriginal treaty rights is consistent with the rest of the bill. On this amendment, the minister has received support from Senator Christmas.
The other amendments we will be rejecting were made by Senator Wells, regarding habitat banking and collecting fees in lieu of offsets. These amendments were initially proposed by the Canadian Wildlife Federation, which has since written a letter to support the removal of the amendments, as significant consultations are required and it would be premature at this time to include the amendments.
This motion takes full consideration of the amendments made by the Senate, and I hope all members can join us in passing the bill.
Bill C-68 has many important components that Canadians across the country support. I would like to speak about the fish stocks provisions proposed in Bill C-68, which are aimed at strengthening Canada's fisheries management framework and rebuilding depleted stocks.
The fish stocks provisions would introduce legally binding commitments to implement measures to, first, manage our major fish stocks at or above levels necessary to promote their sustainability and, second, to develop and implement a rebuilding plan for a major fish stock if it becomes depleted. Maintaining stocks at healthy levels and rebuilding depleted stocks are essential to the long-term economic viability of our fishing communities and the health of our oceans.
That is why, in the fall economic statement, the Government of Canada announced an investment of $107.4 million over five years, starting this fiscal year, as well as $17.6 million per year ongoing to support the implementation of the fish stocks provisions.
This new funding will help accelerate the implementation of the fish stocks provisions for the major fish stocks in Canada. As many members are aware, a number of important fish stocks in Canadian waters have shown significant declines over the past couple of decades and some more recently. This new investment will enable the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to implement these strong legislative tools for all key stocks.
As robust science is the bedrock of our fishery management system, the largest share of the investment will go to science activities. We will make targeted investments to increase the number of at-sea science surveys, so we can better and more frequently assess the state of our fish stocks across a broad range of major fish stocks and marine areas.
As well, we will hire additional fisheries scientists to carry out these new survey activities, analyze the data from these at-sea surveys and prepare science advice for our fisheries managers through our world-class peer review process. As a result, we will be more effective at detecting changes in the health of fish stocks and provide more robust science advice to manage these stocks to achieve sustainability goals. We will also be able to develop a better understanding of the threats facing our depleted fish stocks, which will allow us to take a targeted approach in our rebuilding efforts.
This funding will enable external groups, including indigenous groups, academics, industry and non-government organizations, to participate in fisheries data collection and the scientific assessment of Canada's major fish stocks. Additional support will be provided to establish and enhance existing partnerships and help develop scientific and technical capacity within these external groups.
With this funding we will also make investments to increase the capacity in fisheries management to develop precautionary approach management measures and rebuilding plans to meet the fish stocks provisions in collaboration with indigenous groups and stakeholders. It will also enhance our capacity to carry out socio-economic analyses to better understand the potential impacts of proposed management measures and the costs and benefits of different management options that are aimed at rebuilding fish stocks.
Over the next five years, the government has committed to making the majority of the 181 major fish stocks subject to the fish stocks provisions. Canadians have told us that sustainable fisheries are a priority, and we agree. This investment is essential in order to prescribe the major stocks as quickly as possible to the protections offered by the fish stock provisions.
We are also developing a regulation to set out the required contents of rebuilding plans so that all the plans are comprehensive and consistent. Under the proposed regulation, a rebuilding plan must be developed and implemented within two years of the stock becoming depleted.
Our government believes it is our collective responsibility to exercise our stewardship of Canada's fisheries and their habitat in a practical, reasonable and sustainable manner. The proposed fish stocks provisions and other measures in the amended Fisheries Act restore protections for fish and fish habitat, and introduce modern safeguards while facilitating sustainable economic growth, job creation and resource development.
With these stronger legislative tools to help keep our fish stocks healthy, and the funding to support their implementation, Canada's seafood sector, which employs over 76,000 people and contributed a landed value of $3.4 billion in 2017, will have a brighter future.
It is no doubt that this bill will implement changes that Canadians have long been waiting for. These amendments will restore lost protections and ensure that our fisheries are sustainable for future generations. The Senate made a number of amendments, and while we cannot support all of them, I believe we have put forth a reasonable motion that I hope all members can support.
Subtopic: Fisheries Act