Mr. Thomas S. Barnett (Comox-Alberni):
Mr. Speaker, we are about to give second reading to a bill entitled an act to amend the Fisheries Development Act which stands in the name of the Minister of Fisheries for Canada (Mr. Davis). I suppose the very obvious question to ask is: Where is the Minister of Fisheries for Canada? I am asking that question because he is not in his seat at present. My next question is: Where is the minister's parliamentary secretary? Quite frankly, as I look across the chamber I cannot see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries. I assume that someone over there is getting ready to wind up this debate on second reading, whenever it comes to that point.
I am very pleased to see that we have on the government side such leading authorities on fisheries as the Secretary of State (Mr. Faulkner). I see he is very busy taking notes over there, so perhaps he is getting ready to reply. Or could it be that the Minister of Justice (Mr. Lang), who is a leading authority on a number of subjects, so that it would not be too difficult for him to move from wheat to fish, will be the minister to wind up the debate? I thought for a little while that it might be the Minister of Supply and Services (Mr. Goyer) who would speak at the end of the debate. He has been in the House for part of the time and, as all members of the House are aware, he has recently been branching out and becoming a leading authority and spokesman for the government on such diverse matters as the storage and purchase of oil. I was rather hoping he would be the one to wind up this debate.
I also see the President of the Treasury Board (Mr. Drury) sitting over there, smiling. I do not know whether he considers himself to be an authority on fisheries in Canada. Sometimes he appears to be aware of some of the financial problems of fishermen, and since this bill involves money I can say quite honestly that I am glad to see he is here. Perhaps he will respond on behalf of the absent Minister of Fisheries to close the debate.
The program that has been the subject matter of most of the discussion by members who have participated in this debate, namely, the program of grants for the construction of smaller fishing vessels, has not been of great consequence on the west coast of Canada. Some hon. members will recall that for a number of years we had a program which provided assistance for the construction of small fishing vessels without the benefit of the Fisheries Development Act. It was operated under authority granted to the government through the provision of certain funds in the estimates. But a few years ago-not all that long ago- the Minister of Fisheries announced with great fanfare that he thought the program should have a proper statutory framework, and that in order to regularize it and expand the scope of the department's activities and the
April 5, 1974
Fisheries Development Act
financial backing of the government to assist in the development of the fisheries industry we should have a Fisheries Development Act.
Members who were on the committee will recall that we broadened the program to include things other than the construction of fishing-vessels. Not very long before that we had expanded the act so that it would include ice-making plants, fish-chilling facilities, and so on. I am happy to report that there is some interest on the Pacific coast in that new aspect of the act. I think applications are in the course of development for construction of additional icemaking equipment and storage equipment, which may assist in having our fishery's catch landed, processed and delivered to the consumers' tables in better condition than has occasionally been the case in the past. That is all to the good, Mr. Speaker; but as some hon. members have pointed out, every so often we are asked to give our blessing to a proposal, in statutory form, for some great new program. Sometimes we accept proposals with considerable enthusiasm.
My recollection is that members representing Atlantic coast constituencies were enthusiastic about the announcement concerning the Fisheries Development Act. They said it had particular implications for their inshore and mid water fishermen. Yet today we heard reports which indicate that when we get right down to the place where the fishermen are, not very much has happened as yet and the fishermen are still living in hope of seeing some practical developments flow out of the legislation that we passed.
Now we are being asked to expand the Fisheries Development Act to cover programs to assist in modifying and converting existing fishing vessels. On the face of it, I have no hesitation at all in saying that I am prepared to support this concept in the legislation because it is necessary, if the minister is going to move, particularly on the Atlantic coast, to require higher construction standards for fishing vessels so that there be some enabling legislation whereby the regulations which he is so freely tossing out do not become increasingly impossible for the fishermen to live with.
So far as the Pacific coast is concerned, I have said that this program up until now has been of very little practical consequence. The simple explanation for this is that our really major fishery on the Pacific coast is the salmon fishing industry. From the outset of the small fishing vessel assistance program, the salmon fishing industry of British Columbia has been ruled ineligible to participate in it on the ground that we had too many salmon fishing vessels in the water and it would not be proper for the parliament of Canada to take steps to encourage the construction of more. It may be pertinent at this point to remind the House that, far from having special programs to assist in the construction of fishing vessels for the salmon industry, in effect we have had a program to buy out fishing vessels, something which is a complete reversal of the import of this legislation. We have had what is known as the buy-back program.
While on the one hand we have been putting money into grants to assist in the construction of fishing vessels, on
the other hand, in my part of the world primarily, we have been putting money into the pot to get fishing vessels out of the fishing industry. Both these developments may be necessary, and in some respects desirable-although the salmon fishermen of British Columbia would tell you that most of the money for the buy-back program comes out of their pockets. It is a sort of subsidy in reverse. In effect, they are subsidizing themselves to get fishermen out of the industry. This is worth mentioning in light of the experience that has just been recounted to us, where shortly after we passed legislation expanding the program for fishing vessel construction on the Atlantic coast the minister announced a freeze on the granting of moneys until a complete review was undertaken of the approach that was planned.
The fact is that every so often the Minister of Fisheries talks about great, unexploited fisheries which we are not utilizing to the full on a sustained yield basis. Then he suddenly discovers that with the kind of technology available to Canadian fishermen or, as is more frequently the case, available to foreign fishermen on the Atlantic coast, the fishery that has been underexploited becomes overexploited. I would agree that there must be some flexible application of various programs in the light of certain circumstances, but it is pretty difficult for individual fishermen to make rational plans to commit funds for the construction, improvement or conversion of a fishing vessel, funds which may be the principal investment of their lifetime, when they do not know from one week to the next whether a new edict will come out saying they can no longer participate in that particular fishery. For that reason alone, fishermen have every right to be concerned that when we pass a law there will be a realistic application of it. I hope that kind of application will be given to the present proposal to extend assistance with respect to the modification and conversion of fishing vessels.
One question in my mind that ought to be answered concerns whether this part of the program will be open to the west coast salmon industry. I have already indicated that west coast salmon fishing vessels have never been eligible for grants under this program. I am not basically quarrelling with that, but just as is the case on the east coast, so also on the west coast increasing emphasis is being placed upon having the type of vessels which will ensure that catches arrive at shore in good condition. This has a particular application in respect of our west coast salmon fishing industry. Some of the developments that have taken place recently require quite expensive installations in a modern salmon fishing vessel to preserve the quality of the fish and to increase the efficiency of the fishermen by installing proper refrigeration so he can stay out longer before returning to port with his catch.
That really is the only direct question in relation to the west coast fishery that comes to my mind. The questions which were asked by other hon. members from the Atlantic coast certainly deserve to be answered also. Perhaps I should also say that the questions raised by my colleagues, the hon. member for Meadow Lake (Mr. Nesdoly) and the hon. member for Northwest Territories (Mr. Firth) about the application of this program to the freshwater fisheries of Canada are also particularly relevant.
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As I recall from our committee discussions, the Minister of Fisheries has said that these programs are available to those engaged in the inland fisheries. This question was raised partly because jurisdiction over fisheries management on the prairies, in Ontario and in the territories has not been vested directly in the Department of Fisheries but has been delegated to provincial authorities for purposes of administration. For a long time I have thought that because of that particular administrative arrangement the federal Department of Fisheries has not paid as much attention to the potential development of our inland fisheries as it might have done.
One of the main considerations which must be borne in mind when one thinks of the potential of the fisheries industry in Canada is this: because of our geographic extent and because many parts of the country are far from the sea where fishing is traditionally carried on, it is difficult to transport fish to places far from where it is caught and to make sure it arrives in good condition. Fish, unlike beef, does not improve with hanging: if it is not handled carefully it deteriorates quickly. Thus, in the interest of providing quality, attractive, high protein food for Canadian consumers, fisheries resources should be developed as closely as possible to centres of population.
What I have to say in this connection has particular application to the freshwater inland fisheries of Canada. This problem was given major attention at the federal-provincial fisheries conference held in Ottawa in 1964. The governments of the three prairie provinces showed their interest by attending the conference. Ministers of those three governments were prepared to come to grips with the policy issues involved. The result of the conference was the establishment of the Freshwater Fisheries Marketing Board. That board, unfortunately, got off to a bad start. I do not know if our fisheries committee has received the answer as to how and why this happened, but it became very apparent that poor management people were put in charge of the board in its initial stages. The resulting setback was most unfortunate for the welfare of fishermen of inland areas. Hopefully, steps are under way to rectify that situation. From my assessment, I still think the idea was sound; I say this on the basis of facts which were brought forward when the formal proposal was made to establish this marketing board.
There is a fair potential for developing a freshwater fish market domestically and in the central parts of the country to the south. There is a fair potential, therefore, for an export market. For these reasons, I feel that the Minister of Fisheries should pay attention to the development of the industry so that it meets its potential. This bill is important in connection with assistance for the construction and modification of existing vessels, that is to say, existing vessels which must be improved and brought up to standard. It is also important for providing vessels with equipment which will enable them to preserve fish. The minister should also see how the program can best be applied to the development of fisheries in the freshwater fishing areas of Canada. I think I have said what needs to be said on this bill on second reading. I await with interest the response of the government when this debate is to close.
Fisheries Development Act
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: FISHERIES DEVELOPMENT ACT