Mr. Lome Greenaway (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of State (Forestry and Mines)):
Mr. Speaker, in the
November 2, 1987
speech which the Hon. Member for Western Arctic (Mr. Nickerson) made on October 1, he said that he has been faced with this problem for 15 years. He first raised the problem in the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories 10 or 12 years ago. He raised it here after he was first elected in 1979 and again in 1985 in the form of Bill C-235, which was referred to committee. I was the Chairman of the Fisheries committee when that Bill was referred to it. 1 regret very much that we were not able to deal with it. We were caught with some other very pressing business and before we knew it, the session had been prorogued and the Bill died.
Something must be dreadfully wrong with the system when a Member has to spend that much time and effort trying to get redress. We have just heard from the Hon. Member for Mackenzie (Mr. Scowen) that he, too, has problems with the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation. It boils down to the fact that the corporation has a monopoly on selling fish from the four provinces and the territories. We have the same problem in my province with the vegetable marketing board. It has a monopoly on the sale of vegetables and it is very difficult for anyone to sell their vegetables to stores.
The Member indicated in his speech that he believes that the quality of fish produced in his area is much superior to that in southern areas. There are fish which should be flown directly from that area to market without being frozen in Winnipeg, which destroys the whole fresh market aspect of it.
Some of the things which the Member said in his speech may be slightly inaccurate according to the figures and material I have been given by the Department. However, I agree with most of what he said. The problem seems to be that some of the provinces are in favour of maintaining the FFMC while others are not. I believe that the territories would be well advised to see if they can opt out as a last recourse.
I do not agree with the Member for Gander-Twillingate (Mr. Baker) who said that there is no solution to this. Although the parties are supposed to agree on the policy, if this is as bad a situation as that Member and the Member for Mackenzie say it is, we should try to repair it. At the very least, the Bill should be referred back to the committee in order to get to the bottom of the problem.
There is no doubt that the Senate found that problems exist. In its report it suggested that a pilot project should be undertaken to try to get people interested in a private fish industry in the North. I believe that would be a move in the right direction.
In his speech the Member for Western Arctic said:
By what right does the Government of Canada prevent anyone from offering
a fisherman $2 a pound for his product instead of forcing him to sell it to a
government Crown corporation for 20 cents a pound?
If that is indeed happening in his area he has a legitimate complaint. I believe there must be some advantages to the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation as well because any marketing corporation has some benefits. One benefit is better
Freshwater Fish Marketing Act
control over markets, supply, and quality, although that is not always the case.
It has been said this afternoon that the industry in the West is not doing as well as it should be. I do not have any figures on the poundage, but it looks as though 1986-87 was a record year with $59 million of fish products being sold. That is an increase of $10 million over the former record year, which was 1985-86.
The net income to the fishermen was $36.6 million. The difficulty with this 1986-87 annual report of the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation is that it does not break down what the fishermen received per province or in the Territories. For example, the fishermen of Manitoba may have been doing quite well while, according to the Hon. Member for Western Arctic, the fishermen in his area were not doing as well. This situation should be corrected.
I suggest that an official of the Department seriously examine this situation and impress upon the provinces that a problem exists.
Perhaps one solution that may be acceptable to everyone involved is to allow the territories to opt out. Another solution is to adopt the Senate recommendation of a pilot project.
In conclusion, I do not believe an Hon. Member should have to spend seven years trying to get a solution to a problem confronting him and his constituents. It is up to the Department or Members of the House to address the issue.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: PRIVATE MEMBERS BUSINESS-PUBLIC BILLS FRESHWATER FISH MARKETING ACT MEASURE TO AMEND