Monday, October 24, 2011

Which part of our culture will the Conservatives set adrift next?

The following questions were posed on Friday, Oct. 21st, in the House of Commons:

Mr. Speaker, cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans have left our fishermen feeling like they have been set adrift in a sea of uncertainty, written off by the Conservative government.

The boom has been lowered on the resource conservative council and on the search and rescue marine sub-centre in my riding of St. John's South-Mount Pearl, but with another $57 million in planned cuts, we know there’s even more to come, worse to come.

Which part of our fisheries, of our culture, will the Conservatives set adrift next?

The following is the response of Fisheries and Oceans Minister Keith Ashfield:

Mr. Speaker, strategic review is an opportunity to assess the performance of all departments within government.

It also allowed us to ensure that we are responding to the priorities of Canadians.

We have a responsibility to spend money prudently and where it will do the most good.

We must ensure that government programs are efficient, effective and achieving the results that Canadians expect from us.

DFO is making steady progress in modernizing and improving our program and policy approaches to meet the needs of Canadians today and in the future.

And my follow-up question:

Mr. Speaker, early this afternoon I will have the pleasure of opening debate on my private members’ bill calling for an inquiry into the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act proposes that today — 20 years after the shutdown of the commercial groundfish fishery — we begin the process of rebuilding.

Unfortunately, the Conservative government appears to be sailing in the opposite direction.

Will the minister do the right thing and agree to an inquiry to restore the once great stocks that were our dowry with Confederation?

The minister’s response:

Mr. Speaker, or course the government has learned many lessons from the poor practices that had led to the collapse of the groundfish fishery in the 1990s, and while some may prefer to live in the past, our government has no intention of conducting a formal review into the collapse of the cod fishery.

In some areas, for example, on the Eastern Shelf, we have seen some positive indicators that our efforts are starting to pay off, and we will continue with fisheries reform and further implementation of sustainability policies.

And a follow-up question from Philip Toone, NDP MP for Gaspésie-Iles-de-la-Madeleine

Mr. Speaker, it is time for the minister to get a grip on reality.

Fishers are worried about the cuts at Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

People from the Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands have already suffered enough because of poor management of fish stocks.

Now the government is adding to that by cuts in search and rescue.

The industry's future and the fishers' safety are being threatened by these cuts.

Will the government commit to maintaining funding at Fisheries and Oceans Canada to guarantee the future of our fishers?

The Minister’s response:

Mr. Speaker, I believe that our department and this government have made substantial gains in the fisheries.

The programs that we are implementing will make the fishery more efficient, more effective, and better for fishers in the industry. Our programs, and those of search and rescue, are fully subscribed and are working well.

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