On Thursday, Dec. 9th, the second hour of debate took place in the House of Commons on my private member’s bill – the Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act. The following is my 5-minute speech. A vote on the bill is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 14th.
There has been a major breakthrough in the fisheries since the introduction of my private member's bill, Bill C-308, the Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery Rebuilding Act.
The breakthrough took almost 20 years.
It took tens of thousands of job losses, the biggest layoff in Canadian history.
The breakthrough took unparalleled out-migration from the outports of Newfoundland and Labrador.
The breakthrough comes after untold suffering and hardship, and a devastating blow to our heritage, a blow that still threatens our culture.
The breakthrough is the long awaited acknowledgement that the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery is broken.
The word “broken” has been used in recent weeks to describe the state of our fisheries.
The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has used the word “broken,” so has the CEO of Ocean Choice International, one of the largest fish companies in Newfoundland and Labrador left standing.
Now that the acknowledgement has been made that the fishery is broken, the question now becomes, “How do we fix it?”
The cracks in the broken fishery begin at the very foundation, the management.
With Confederation, part of our dowry to Canada was the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, one of the richest fishing grounds on the face of the planet.
Sixty-two years later and commercial stock, such as cod and flounder, have been virtually wiped out.
Stock after stock has failed under the current management regime.
The management has not worked.
It cannot be trusted to fix what has been broken.
Twenty years and no recovery plan.
Our future is too important to leave in the hands of the bureaucracy and the system that brought our fishery to its knees in the first place.
One of the only reports that has been carried out in recent decades on the state of fisheries management was written in 2005 by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.
The report was entitled, Northern Cod: A failure of Canadian fisheries management.
The key word being “failure.”
The report took DFO to task for failing to recognize mismanagement as one of the reasons for the stock collapse, describing DFO's lack of long-term vision as astonishing.
On Sept. 12 of this year, I held a news conference in St. John's to announce my private member's bill calling for an inquiry into the Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries.
The news conference was made in the same hotel room where then-federal Fisheries Minister, John Crosbie shut down the northern cod fishery in 1992.
Within hours of that news conference, the current minister of Fisheries and Oceans for Canada announced there would be no inquiry.
His reasoning, the minister pointed out that some areas of the Eastern Scotian Shelf have seen some stock improvement.
The ignorance is astonishing.
The Scotian Shelf is off Nova Scotia, not Newfoundland and Labrador.
When the Conservative government says no to my bill, before the Conservative government has even seen my bill, that is a testament to the importance it gives to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.
When the Conservative government says no to my bill, it is saying no to the future of Newfoundland and Labrador.
It is saying no to the future of our culture and the sustainability of our heritage.
The Prime Minister once said that the Atlantic provinces have a culture of defeat.
Saying no to an inquiry will ensure that defeat.
How can the Conservative government say yes to an inquiry into the disappearance of British Columbia salmon stock and no to an inquiry into the Newfoundland and Labrador cod stock.
Are our fish, our cod fish, are we, any less important?
John Crosbie once asked, “Who hears the fishes when they cry?”
My question to the Conservative government is this, “Who hears the fishermen when they cry?”