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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 27, 2015
OTTAWA – Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay is calling on Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Gail Shea to fix a problem which will see Canadian lobster products being branded as American in order to gain access to European markets.
“We all know how important marketing and branding are for our world-renowned lobster products”, said MacAulay. “It is beyond belief that we would have to brand our products as American in order to gain access to the European market. It is even more beyond belief that Minister Shea’s office thinks that this is just fine because we can ‘still stick a maple leaf on the package or whatever’.”
“For the last several years the Minister has being telling everyone how wonderful the European trade agreement will be for the lobster industry. Not only has the government completely failed to get the trade agreement through because of a lack of provincial collaboration, but it would seem they have completely neglected to fight for any kind of Canadian branding for our products. How is our industry supposed to benefit if someone in Europe doesn’t know if they are eating lobster from Massachusetts or Prince Edward Island?”
“I am calling on Minister Shea and the Conservative government to immediately pick up the phone and deal directly with the Europeans in order to get this situation straightened out. They simply cannot ignore this problem, just as they ignored the price crisis in our lobster industry two years ago. Proper marketing and brand recognition for our products is essential and I truly hope that all the time and effort that has gone into putting lobster marketing levies in place has not been wasted due to this government’s incompetence.”
Hon. Lawrence MacAulay (Cardigan, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, first of all I want to thank my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan for bringing Bill C-638 before the House of Commons. Coming from the west coast, she fully understands what an issue this is, and coming from the east coast and living on an island with a lot of ports and wharfs around, I fully understand the problem that the bill is trying to address.
Abandoned and derelict vessels are a serious concern for community harbour authorities and shorelines and also property owners. They can create obstacles for mariners and impact on the environment and commercial and recreational activities. Their removal requires financial and technical resources, and often it is not possible to identify the vessel’s owner to seek compensation.
This results in the financial burden falling on the property owners, community organizations, or municipal or provincial governments. This issue is particularly difficult because it crosses so many areas of jurisdiction. Many different agencies and governments are responsible for dealing with these hazardous boats, which creates misunderstanding, uncertainty, and frustration.
Therefore, it is important to clarify which agency will deal with the wrecks and derelict vessels and to ensure all possible measures are taken to identify and locate the owners of the wrecks. The Minister of Transport can become involved in instances where a vessel is the cause of an obstruction to navigation.
The Canadian Coast Guard responds to incidents where pollution can be a threat and can recover the cost of its expenses to deal with pollution from the ship source oil pollution fund. But once the pollution and the sources are dealt with, it does not have the authority to deal with the abandoned and derelict vessel itself.
If an abandoned or derelict vessel is not a major environmental concern and is not posing an obstacle to navigation, there is usually no action taken by government, and these vessels can remain hazardous and an eyesore for communities and harbour authorities—and a great expense for harbour authorities, I might add.
This issue has become a growing concern over the last few years and will continue to be a major issue as commercial and recreational fleets age and numbers grow. Currently there are 2.6 million pleasure craft licensed in Canada. A few years ago, I was pleased to be part of a study by the fisheries committee into the country’s small craft harbours.
The report, entitled “Small Craft Harbours: An Essential Infrastructure Managed by and for Fishing Communities”, included a section on derelict vessels and recommended that Fisheries and Oceans Canada consider legislative changes to facilitate the removal of abandoned and derelict vessels from its harbours. The government supported this recommendation, but unfortunately no action has been taken, as of yet, and that is too bad.
We know that approximately $1 billion has gone unspent at DFO since the government came to power. We know that the government has cut the budget for small craft harbours from $200 million down to now under $100 million. Conservatives are promising more money now right before the election, but the harbour authorities I talk to say, even with the new money, the problem in this country with our harbours and wharfs will not be properly addressed.
During the fisheries committee study, we heard the harbour authority representatives say that they do not have the proper authority and budget to deal with derelict vessels. We heard that there is no long-term plan for dealing with derelict vessels and there is a need for legislative changes to facilitate the removal of the abandoned and derelict vessels.
As Ben Mabberley of the National Harbour Authority Advisory Committee put it:
“The truth is that one sinking of a derelict vessel at your harbour can bankrupt the harbour authority. It’s that simple. We need to find a solution for it. This is going to be an issue right across the country.”
As he indicated, it is becoming much more of an issue on the east coast.
More must be done to assist with the problems associated with these derelict vessels. The federal government must show leadership and work in collaboration with provincial and municipal governments, harbour authorities, and community organizations to deal with this. This is simply not going to happen under the present government.
Bill C-638, while perhaps not providing all the answers, is a step in the right direction. This bill seeks to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, with respect to wrecks by designating the Canadian Coast Guard as the receiver of wrecks, by requiring the receiver of wrecks to take responsible steps to determine and locate the owners of the wrecks, and by providing the power to the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to enact regulations that must be followed by receivers of wrecks to remove, dispose, or destroy the wrecks.
Bill C-638 would also require the Minister of Transport to file a report every five years before each house of Parliament regarding the operations of part 7 of the act. Currently, the receiver of wrecks is an officer of Transport Canada who acts as a custodian of the wreck in the absence of the rightful owner. The receiver has a responsibility to attempt to locate the owner within 90 days.
If after this period no owner is located, the receiver may dispose of the wreck to the salvor or sell it through public sale. The cost of removing a vessel or wreck can be significant and can include environmental and technical assessments, investigative work to determine the owner, salvage contracting for the removal, bringing equipment to the site, preparation for removal, removing the vessel and associated waste, managing final disposal and, finally, the legal fees associated with this.
Stakeholders, while in favour of this bill, have also stressed to me that funding is the key issue to deal with this problem. As has been indicated here, Washington State has set up a fund, and over the last number of years it seems to have made some progress on this issue while here in Canada the government has made absolutely no progress.
In 2009, the fisheries committee submitted a report to the government on small craft harbours, which included a recommendation and a lot of testimony on dealing with abandoned and derelict vessels. In 2012, Transport Canada put out a study on abandoned and derelict vessels in Canada. It is now 2015 and the government has still not taken any real action or shown leadership. It is time for the government to step up, work together with municipal and provincial governments, harbour authorities, and all stakeholders to deal with this issue.
These derelict or abandoned vessels are an environmental problem, a navigational problem and, of course, they are a bigger problem on the west coast. We also have to realize that there are 2.6 million pleasure crafts registered in this country and I can only see this issue becoming a much bigger one. I hope that the Government of Canada will support Bill C-638, take some appropriate action for the environment, safety, and navigation around the ports and not leave it to the port authorities, which do not have the financial capacity to handle these issues.
I am very pleased to indicate that the Liberals will be supporting this bill and we very much hope that the government will take up its responsibility and put the money where it should be.
OTTAWA – Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay says it is unacceptable that the federal Conservative government has let nearly $1 billion go unspent at the department of fisheries and oceans. The government’s response to an order paper question recently tabled by the Island’s longest-serving MP revealed $957.1 million in unspent funds allocated to DFO since the Conservatives came to power in 2006, topping out at $173.9 million or almost 9 percent of DFO’s budget in 2013-14.
MacAulay says Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Gail Shea has been seen around the province and region making funding announcements, but when large cuts have crippled DFO and the department is not spending such large amounts of money it does have access to, then it is questionable whether the funding announcements Shea is making will ever actually see the light of day.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that this kind of money is going unspent when the Conservatives have already gutted DFO, slashed budgets for vital programs like Small Craft Harbours, fisheries and climate science, coast guard and research stations, and downloaded costs onto the backs of fishermen”, said MacAulay. “Unfortunately the Conservative government is becoming more and more secretive with how they are spending and allocating money in the departments, but it is apparent that departments are sending massive amounts of money back to the Treasury Board to pad the bottom line for the Conservatives.”
“We have seen recent infrastructure announcements and Minister Shea has attempted to highlight money for Small Craft Harbours, coming on the heels of the budget for that program being cut in half by her government. In theory, this may sound like good news, but with her answer to my question showing a billion dollars going unspent, I am very skeptical of just how much of this funding will actually be spent and how much will sent back to Treasury Board. It’s all just electioneering on the part of the Conservatives.”
MacAulay added, “In DFO’s most recent corporate business plan, it says that the department is ‘unable to sustain a sufficient and representative workforce needed to support, deliver, and manage the Small Craft Harbours program’, while also making many references to the physical infrastructure risk at DFO.”
“There are serious problems in the department of fisheries and oceans and sending a billion dollars back and saying there is nowhere to spend it certainly will not fix them. I truly hope the government will consider the effects of their gutting of DFO and critical programs like Small Craft Harbours. And the effects that sending money for these programs back will have on the coastal communities of Prince Edward Island.”
You can view the Order Paper Question, tabled in the House of Commons Dec. 4, 2014, below:
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