On Tuesday, June 8th, I gave my maiden speech (see below) in the House of Commons. The speech, in response to the budget, was 10 minutes long, followed by 5 minutes of questions and answers.
Not so many weeks ago — in the middle of the federal election campaign — I met a Newfoundland fisherman by the name of Paul Critch.
Paul owns a 60-footer that was tied up at Prosser’s Rock boat basin on the southside of St. John’s harbour, the largest fishing port in my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Madam Speaker, Paul’s about my age, maybe a couple of years younger, in his early 40s.
He's strong and capable.
You don’t see many such men on the wharves these days, I’m sad to report.
Paul Critch is also a 5th generation fisherman.
We stood there on the wharf, on the edge of the North Atlantic — about as far away from Ottawa as you can get in this country, a place that many federal bureaucrats (even within DFO) probably can’t even imagine — and had a conversation about the fishery and where it’s headed.
Paul said he named his boat the Chelsea and Emily, after his two daughters.
Upon the birth of his second daughter, Paul said his father remarked: “Thank God.”
“Thank God” it’s not a boy.
A grandson would have to go into the fishery.
And who wants that.
This is what Newfoundland and Labrador has come to in terms of our once great fisheries — the greatest fisheries in the world, the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, the fisheries that we presented to Canada in 1949.
Sixty-two years later and our commercial groundfish fisheries for species such as cod and flounder are on their knees.
They have been managed to annihilation.
Managed Annihilation, History of the Newfoundland Cod Collapse, is, in fact, the title of a book released in 2010.
As the title indicates, Managed Annihilation contends that northern cod were administered into virtual extinction.
Three guesses who did the administering.
Mr. Speaker, we’re supposed to run out of oil — not fish.
We have hit rock bottom.
The time to rebuild is now.
Better late than never — it’s been 20 years since the northern cod moratorium and commercial fishing was stopped off the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador for the first time in 500 years.
Twenty years since the biggest layoff in Canadian history.
And what’s been done — nothing.
Rebuilding is the furthest thing from the mind of the Conservative government.
Rebuilding is a foreign concept.
I sat and listened Monday to the minister of Finance, the member for Whitby-Ajax, as he tabled his budget Monday.
I listened to every word.
And b’y — I have to say — it’s a wonderful thing to be able to hear a Member of Parliament when they speak.
Let me compliment the leader of the New Democrats for his no-heckling policy.
Before this life I worked as a journalist for almost 20 years.
I have sat in the gallery of my home legislature and watched as politicians behaved like children.
It is not a pretty sight; it can be an embarrassing sight.
As I read this morning in the Ottawa Citizen: “We need passionate, even biting debate, in Parliament. What we don’t need are childish insults and grandstanding.”
Well done, I say, to the leader of the Opposition and member for Toronto—Danforth.
Very well done.
I listened to the minister of Finance when he spoke so proudly of his budget, but I saw more of the same for my province.
We have hit rock bottom, but the Conservative government sees fit to pound us further into the ground.
Not good enough sir.
Under program review, the Conservative government has seen fit to further cut the budget of Fisheries and Oceans Canada by almost $85 million.
That’s $9.1 million gone this fiscal year.
$18.9 million more in cuts in 2012/2013.
And $56.8 million slashed in 2013/2014.
That’s $84.8 million less for the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans to continue doing what little work they’re doing today.
On top of that, according to federal budget estimates, DFO’s overall budget is almost $145 million less this fiscal year than last fiscal year.
To make matters worse — and yes, Madam Speaker, they can still get worse — the minister of Finance spoke in this chamber Monday about finding a further $4 billion in savings.
Where is that $4 billion going to come from?
As they say where I come from, Madam Speaker, you can’t get blood from a turnip.
The people of Newfoundland and Labrador — the fishermen of Newfoundland and Labrador — have nothing left to give.
What I so dearly would have loved for the minister of Finance to announce Monday was an inquiry into the fall of the Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries.
I will continue to listen, Mr. Speaker.
The fishermen of Newfoundland and Labrador will be listening as well.
And maybe some day we’ll want our sons to be fishermen once again.
And our sons will want to be fishermen.
Thank you Madam Speaker.