Mr. Ghislain Fournier (Manicouagan, BQ)
Mr. Speaker, I regret to announce that I am very unsatisfied with the answers that were given to me by the fisheries and oceans minister. I have been told the same thing over and over since April 8, and the answer never applies to my riding. In other words, there is never a solution for my riding.
As a member of Parliament, I have the right to get clear and precise answers from the government. On April 8, not only did the fisheries and oceans minister not answer my question, but he questioned the needs of the people of my riding, particularly the people of the Lower North Shore, for whom I have been requesting assistance since December 11, 2002.
We burned nothing down. The citizens of my riding tried, by civilized means, to get their point across. To no avail. Today, 75 fishers are occupying the offices of MAPAQ and of Canada Economic Development. Must we destroy something to get the government's attention? I think it is time for the government to wake up.
I have been saying this for weeks. I am asking for an exclusive quota of seals for the fishers because they have no other expected source of revenue.
The moratorium on crab and on cod penalizes them twice over. Since the last fishery crisis, they have been encouraged to convert their fleet to snow crab fishing. This was only two years ago. And now, after we have pushed them to convert their boats into a crab fishing fleet, the government completely bans crab fishing. This is complete nonsense.
They keep talking about the $14 million for Quebec. However, it does not apply to the Lower North Shore. This area has been completely ignored.
To receive EI benefits, fishermen have to prove cod catches of at least 25%. They do not catch any cod. We are told that there is no more. They do not catch cod anymore. There is a full moratorium on cod and a full moratorium on crab. There are no measures for the zone allocated to them. It is very clear. None whatsoever.
Does the Secretary of State responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec realize this? I ask that the quotas formerly granted to the crab fishers in zone 16A be extended for one year until the studies separating zones 16A and 16B are completed.
If access to zone 16A, one of the best zones for snow crab fishing, were allowed this year, this would save the 43 businesses on Quebec's Lower North Shore. If an exclusive and specific regional quota for seals were set over several years, this would enable the stakeholders interested in the economic development of the region to work on a recovery project based on the plan submitted on April 1. The developers could work on the implementation of a first, second and third processing plant. Clearly, a guaranteed supply is needed.
The proposals are realistic, objective and fair. Is this approach not better than inadequate employment insurance benefits? Is it not better than going through the same thing all over next year?
The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and his department are actingin bad faith on this issue. The seal skin processing project was brought to his attention in an e-mail dated February 14. Yet, in his answer in the House, on May 1, and I conclude by quoting his own words, the minister said:
These quotas are being apportioned within the various regions through regional discussions.
Then, on May 8, at a meeting, the minister assured me that there was a quota and that he was keen in seeing this business plan succeed. However, it will not work with half-measures.
Subtopic: Budget Implementation Act, 2003