Former Conservative fisheries ministers condemned Harper’s gutting of the Fisheries Act

Elizabeth May

Madam Speaker, I remember clearly the debates that we used to have here as Bill C-38, the omnibus budget bill of spring 2012, barrelled toward us.

It was interesting to hear the member reference Tom Siddon in his speech. I recall clearly when the former fisheries minister Tom Siddon, Progressive Conservative, joined with former fisheries minister John Fraser, also Conservative, as well as two former Liberal fisheries ministers, David Anderson and Herb Dhaliwal, and condemned what Harper was doing to the Fisheries Act. In fact, Tom Siddon was quoted in The Globe as saying, “They are totally watering down and emasculating the Fisheries Act…They are really taking the guts out of the Fisheries Act…”

It is the first chance I have to take the floor on this debate. I want to thank the Minister of Fisheries from the bottom of my heart for restoring lost protections, restoring habitat, and putting a focus back on fish and its habitat, as the Fisheries Act must do.

How did the hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa end up so far away from the great Conservative fisheries ministers of the past?

Robert Sopuck – Member for Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa

Madam Speaker, when I refer to the previous prime minister, I say prime minister Stephen Harper because I deeply respected him and his government. I would recommend that the member do so also.

I, as an elected official and a rural resident even before I became an elected official, saw the problems of the old Fisheries Act. Municipalities were forced into a compliance mode that cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars for very little benefit to fisheries.

The issues across the wide swath of Canada are very different than on the coasts. Habitat definition under the old act meant that all of Canada was considered fisheries habitat. I quoted from the farm community, the leader of Canada’s largest farm organization.

The member for Saanich—Gulf Islands may want to put farmers in rural communities out of business, and the way she operates it looks like that is what she wants to do. However, members on this side of the House and this member of Parliament care deeply about the future and fate of rural communities. By the way, I might add that the conservation work that is done by farmers, ranchers, and hunters and trappers in my constituency and my communities is second to none. I would stack that up against any that she would ever do.