IN THE HOUSE ~ Question Period ~ Federal government and the management of fish farms

40th Parliament, 2nd Session

Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled this week that the federal government, not the province, has exclusive jurisdiction over the management of salmon farms.

Fish farms now make up a huge part of the B.C. fishery industry and there are serious environmental concerns, especially now that wild stocks of fish are collapsing.

Fishery workers, fishers and conservationists along the B.C. coast need to know what the government plans to do.

We have known for months that this was coming. What is the plan of the government?

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Hon. Gail Shea (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, CPC): Mr. Speaker, we could not have known for months that this was coming because the court decision just came down a few days ago, it is my understanding.

The litigation has been ruled on regarding issues of whether or not provincial jurisdiction applies in B.C. or federal jurisdiction.

We do have a one year window to work with the province of B.C. and we will be doing that, but in the meantime, we will continue to jointly manage the aquaculture industry through the application of both federal and provincial laws.

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Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP): Mr. Speaker, that is just a load of halibut. We have known about this possibility for months.

B.C. just does not seem to be important to this government. For years Ottawa has abdicated its role in the proper management of the fishery. During that time, problems around the skate fish, farm pollution and sea lice have all increased, putting a serious strain on local fish stocks.

We need transition funding for close containment. We need a plan. What are the Conservatives waiting for? Why are there plans in place? Why is the government not moving to regulate fish farms and protect B.C. wild salmon?

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Hon. Gail Shea (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, CPC): Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that the province of B.C. asked for a jurisdiction over salmon farming and that an agreement was reached with the Government of Canada.

The Government of Canada has set aside $1 billion for communities in need and if there is a need in the salmon industry in B.C., then there are some funds available to address the issues that are brought forward.