Excerpt from Hansard - May 14, 2003

Premier Roger Grimes opening remarks during debate in the House of Assembly on a Resolution for Joint Fisheries Management

PREMIER GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Because of the importance of this particular resolution, I will take the first couple of minutes of my fifteen minutes allotted to again officially, even though it is on the Order Paper, I think it is worth again reading the resolution into the record, the resolution that will be debated and hopefully supported and passed here today.

Mr. Speaker, I move, on behalf of the government, the following resolution:

WHEREAS the seacoast fisheries of Newfoundland and Labrador were brought into this nation with Newfoundland and Labradorís accession to Canada; and

WHEREAS the Government of the Dominion of Newfoundland held and exercised responsibility for the management of seacoast fisheries prior to Confederation; and

WHEREAS the Constitution Act, 1867 vests in the Government of Canada exclusive authority over the fishery; and

WHEREAS under current International Law an independent Newfoundland and Labrador would control its adjacent resources including the fishery; and

WHEREAS federal management of seacoast fisheries since 1949 has failed to adequately protect or develop the principal fisheries adjacent to Newfoundland and Labrador; and

WHEREAS failed federal fisheries management has led to the complete collapse of the Northern Cod fishery and other ground fish stocks, the basis for Newfoundlandís colonization and the mainstay of its economy for 500 years; and

WHEREAS the federal government has failed to adopt a comprehensive plan for stock recovery since the groundfish moratoria were declared in the early 1990s; and

WHEREAS it is recognized and accepted that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has maintained and continues to exercise primary regulatory authority over the fish processing industry in this Province; and

WHEREAS new fisheries for species such as crab and shrimp have developed in the wake of the collapse of ground fish stocks and solid, sustainable management practices are vital to the future of these fisheries; and

WHEREAS it is accepted that the regulation of fish harvesting and processing should occur in a seamless and integrated way; and

WHEREAS the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has consistently requested a greater say in fisheries management since 1949 and has identified this as a priority in Securing our Future: The Renewal Strategy for Jobs and Growth; and

WHEREAS the fishery remains an economic mainstay and principal industry of Newfoundland and Labrador and the economic and social foundation of most of its rural communities; and

WHEREAS federal management of fisheries adjacent to Newfoundland and Labrador does not give due regard to local experience and considerations; and

WHEREAS the advice of the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (FRCC), which was established to integrate practical knowledge derived from local experience and scientific information on resources, has been largely ignored in the federal governmentís recent declaration of a moratorium for 4RS3Pn Gulf cod; and

WHEREAS the recent decisions of the Government of Canada on 2J3KL Northern cod and 4RS3Pn Gulf cod were undertaken without proper consultation with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the people who depend upon these resources and with disregard for the recommendations of the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council; and

WHEREAS these decisions have further undermined the confidence of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in the effectiveness of federal fisheries management; and

WHEREAS other provinces control their main resource industries; and

WHEREAS significant and decisive action is required to address this concern;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this House call on the Government of Canada and direct the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to begin negotiations leading to the establishment of a joint management regime over the fisheries adjacent to Newfoundland and Labrador;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the principal elements of such a joint management regime include

(1) the establishment, through an amendment of the Terms of Union, of shared, equal, constitutional authority by the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada over the fisheries adjacent to the province;

(2) the establishment through an amendment of the Terms of Union of a joint fisheries management board and the delegation to that board by the governments of Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada of sufficient of their authority to permit that board to successfully implement this joint management regime;

(3) the development and implementation of a conservation and re-building plan aimed at the achievement of long-term sustainability of the fisheries in the waters adjacent to Newfoundland and Labrador and in particular a plan that would achieve the recovery of the ground fish stocks;

(4) the development and implementation of fisheries harvesting plants, including the establishment of Total Allowable Catches, based on the principles of conservation, sustainability, adjacency and the long-term well-being of the fishing communities of rural Newfoundland and Labrador;

As well, Mr. Speaker, that one of the principal elements of such a joint management regime include

(5) the establishment of programs in Newfoundland and Labrador to enhance knowledge and understanding of the ocean ecosystems adjacent to Newfoundland and Labrador through the encouragement and support of scientific research and the utilization of customary and experiential knowledge of the fisheries possessed by fish harvesters.

Mr. Speaker, as was indicated earlier, it was fifty-four years ago, in March past, that the separate and distinct Dominion of Newfoundland ceased to exist by a democratic choice of our people and became the youngest province of the great Country of Canada. Mr. Speaker, up to that point in time, for the 450 years of our settled time here, the aboriginals being here centuries before that, the government of the Dominion of Newfoundland held and exercised responsibility for management of the seacoast fisheries. Confederation, our voluntary entry into Confederation, Mr. Speaker, changed that and the responsibility for management of fisheries was vested with the Government of Canada. The Government of Canada has had exclusive authority over fishery management decisions since that time, since 1949.

We suggest - and I think everybody here knows, Mr. Speaker, in this Legislature and in this great Province of ours, that with the authority also came responsibilities. There are always responsibilities that come with the exercise of authority. Those responsibilities were several. The responsibility of exercising sound stewardship of the fisheries resources, not just cod, but all of the fisheries resources. The responsibility of exercising sound management decisions that took into account the principles of adjacency and our historical dependence on these very natural resources that we brought into this great country of Canada with us. The responsibility to ensure that fish management decisions take into account conservation measures to ensure that fish stocks are not, and were not, overfished.

Mr. Speaker, most importantly, the responsibility as well, to ensure that all of its management decisions took into account the impacts on the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that brought access to this great resource into Canada with us. Otherwise, we would still be the Dominion of Newfoundland and we would still be exercising both the responsibility - and we would have the accountability and the authority and the responsibility ourselves.

Mr. Speaker, our assessment is clear, and I think it is shared by members of this Legislature. Federal fisheries management of our fishery, in our view, since 1949 has been a failure. Many times in the past fifty-four years - and others will probably speak to it today. We have recognized circumstance and circumstances in that fifty-four years of history where our fish resources have been used as bargaining tools for other Canadian priorities that were deemed to be greater than those here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Sadly, Mr. Speaker, a higher priority was sometimes given to foreign policy, as important as it is, and other international trade considerations than it was to the very people of this Province who brought the resource with them and depend upon its existence for their continued sustainability as a people - not only the resource, but as a people in their communities.

As a result, as well, there have been years of foreign overfishing of straddling stocks. I do not doubt, not for a minute, like most Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, that that was a significant contributing factor in the severe decline and non-recovery of the Northern cod on the Northeast Coast. This stock - the stock upon which the Province was founded in the first instance; the stock in which rural Newfoundland and Labrador depends upon; the stock that is considered to be the birthright of every Newfoundlander and Labradorian was allowed to dwindle and almost disappear completely before any action was taken against foreign overfishing, whatsoever.

So, Mr. Speaker, we submit, and I submit, that the policies of the last fifty-four years have failed. They have failed the fish and they have failed the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, it is clear as well, and I submit that action was only taken when it was on foreign overfishing because the government of this Province, governments prior to the one that I lead, implemented a sustained information campaign on international foreign overfishing that opened the eyes of the world to the pillage that was going on in the rich fishing grounds off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and Labrador and the pending ecological disaster that was occurring off our shores. It was this government that led the campaign that went to the United Nations in New York and made the presentations - made presentations around the world about what was happening to the stocks here. Only after that campaign, led by the people and the government of this Province, did the Government of Canada start to take some action with respect to putting some limits on foreign overfishing, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: One other very important issue. Mr. Speaker, while the Northern cod stock - just to name that one stock - was shrinking to dangerously low levels and the federal manager was saying: No, go ahead and fish it. Even though Newfoundland and Labrador fish harvesters were saying: we have to set more nets, we have to go further, the catch rates are lower, there is something wrong. They said: no, our science says there is lots of fish, just go fish harder. That is what DFO, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, said, Mr. Speaker.

One other factor, very much linked to it that everybody in Newfoundland and Labrador is aware of, while this cod stock was shrinking the harp seal population was allowed to grow and grow to record numbers, numbers never seen or heard of in the history of this part of Canada. Grow it did, Mr. Speaker, to the point that there was an obvious ecological imbalance that had to be addressed. What was done about the seals? Nothing, because there was some resistance and there were other groups protesting about that. No plan to fully utilize the totality of a seal harvest, provide food, provide other sources, oil, so that the full product could be utilized and meet needs in the world; backing away from some pressure. No action on seals, Mr. Speaker, none whatsoever. Very little action on foreign overfishing. But, what action with respect to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians? A moratorium! You must stop fishing. No other real action taken at all. That is not what we call a comprehensive plan, Mr. Speaker. That is not good management of the fishery.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, as a result of these - just a couple of examples, and many others - we recognize the inherent flaws in federal management. Some people suggest, and it has been said just recently: But if you let Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have a say in it, they will fish every last fish. To our shame, by the way, in this Legislature, to our shame, the person who wrote such an article stood right where I am standing in this place just a couple of years ago as the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. He wrote an article for the national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, and said: Sure, it is only a natural instinct for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians - he was our proud leader a couple of years ago - it is only a natural instinct and left to them they will fish every last fish.

Mr. Speaker, I will finish my introductory comments - because I will get to speak at the end - with this: In 1887, long before we joined Canada, the Assembly in the Colony of Newfoundland passed a resolution to investigate the operations of fisheries departments in other countries and to recommend the establishment of a similar department in our country. Do you know why, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. Premierís time is up.

PREMIER GRIMES: Could I just finish this one point?

AN HON. MEMBER: By leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

PREMIER GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank all the members for leave.

I will finish with this point: In 1887, why was that resolution passed in the Legislature in Newfoundland at the time? Because there was a fisheries crises, because the stocks were dwindling, salmon were disappearing, codfish were disappearing. Not 1987, but 1887. A government right here took action and came back - it was Chaired by the hon. A.W. Harvey and he presented a report in March of 1888. So, when we had responsibility for ourselves we set up a commission. We studied examples elsewhere.

I will finish with this, Mr. Speaker, here is what they did. They reported back in June of 1889. The Legislature passed an act to provide for the formation of a fisheries commission based on the importance of scientific examination of the fisheries. They hired a Norwegian consultant with extensive knowledge of fisheries, scientific and practical. The first step taken was to erect a hatchery to restore the propagation of cod and other fish in Trinity Bay. They looked at the effects of gear types, all the different types of gear that were used in the fishery, to eliminate ones that they thought were harmful and causing overfishing, and they were able to report, seven years later, that the fish were more abundant than they had ever been.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: So, they did take action when it was left to us. They took the right actions. They closed out the fishery for a little while. They restricted it, but they did the other things, Mr. Speaker. They changed the technology that was used. They put in the rebuilding plans. They got the best scientific information that they could and they had it rebuilt in seven years. An example and a lesson for all of us that when done right and when giving Newfoundlanders and Labradorians today, just like Newfoundlanders then, an opportunity to provide leadership and get the right things done, it will happen, it does happen, and with the passage of this resolution we can start down the road to have some real say with the government again, the Government of Canada, as equal and respected partners so we can do it right again, unlike was done ten years ago.


Excerpt from Hansard - May 14, 2003

Premier Roger Grimes closing remarks during debate in the House of Assembly on a Resolution for Joint Fisheries Management

PREMIER GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will not take a long time in closing the debate, but I would like to thank all of the participants and interveners, and a particular thank you to the Opposition House Leader, and the Leader of the NDP, but everyone who participated.

Again, with respect to the last comments that were made, I can only say that in the tone and tenor of questions asked again by the media with respect to this, talking about, whether or not, what would happen - because people sometimes jump a little bit ahead - what would happen if the Government of Canada tries to deny even the negotiation, you know, where would you go? Would you think about separating?

Of course, that is not the kind of thing that I seek any mandate to do, but my commentary is always this: It will be another very sorry and sad symbol of a constantly deteriorating relationship between provinces, as equal and respected partners, and the federal government. If this deteriorates into a legal harangue about whether or not they can deny us even the right to talk, because there have been legal opinions that we have gotten, that we know that the Government of Canada has, that if they choose to do so, they can argue under that same cessation case, that it is only narrowly defined to a separation attempt. The message in that, if the Government of Canada even goes there, if that is where they go, then what they are saying to people is that unless you go back and mount a separation movement in your Province and threaten to leave Canada, we will not talk to you, and, I think, that will be the saddest commentary ever in terms of a relationship in the country, and it will not only be a message to Newfoundland and Labrador. It will be a message to every single province and territory that we, this great Canada, put together, as the Opposition House Leader so rightfully said, assembled by us voluntarily.

There was no Canada, that then they said, you know, there wasnít a Canada that started by saying: Here we are this great land mass from sea to sea to sea and we think now we will divide ourselves up into ten provinces and three territories and we will decide on who has what jurisdiction.

It was the other way around. We came together voluntarily and created Canada, and now our creation, the phrase that I use, is in danger of running amok. It is getting out of control. What we created voluntarily is threatening to run out of control, and there are real messages for all of us. No matter where we are in the country, if one of the so-called equal and respected partners comes forward with a request from all of its legislators, every single one of us, therefore having been supported by all the people, never mind what party they voted for, never mind what candidate they chose. They sent us all here and we stand up and say on behalf of the people who sent us here that we want to start this negotiation. We have an end goal in mind, but we want to start a negotiation. The elected representatives in a democratic society are saying so - hopefully, as I understand it - unanimously. Then there will some real messages for every Canadian, no matter where they live in this great country.

If the leaders of the Canada that we created ourselves turn around and say: Thatís nice. I am glad to hear that you would like to have a talk, but I donít want to have a talk. Because that is what we heard last week. I think there are Newfoundlanders and Labradorians everywhere in this Province and knows that we know of our own kin who are everywhere in this great country, who take offence to that. There are Canadians in every jurisdiction that take offence to that kind of attitude. I do appreciate the strong unequivocal comments, particularly the last ones by the Opposition House Leader.

Mr. Speaker, let me conclude again, because I do agree in looking at the historical documents

and there was some reference to it. The key to the documents that were secret at the time - and no wonder they were secret leading up to 1949 because if they were out in the public they would have been explosive. The debate was contentious enough as it was. The documents from the Canadian High Commissioner to Newfoundland to the Government of Canada - some quotes there - but the key to it: the accession of Newfoundland would increase the Dominion of Canada by an area larger - by four times larger than the Maritime provinces with the great wealth he talked about, not only the Island but Labrador - possessing very considerable mineral and forest resources and then this one, which is our debate today. As well as easy assess to the finest fishing grounds in the world, which is our very targeted and pointed debate today.

So, in 1946, leading to 1949, it was acknowledged that with the management of the fishery done by the Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who were here at the time, we had managed it, eked out and squeezed out and sustained ourselves, gotten a living from it, built our communities, raised families, and still through 450 years of settled experience, after the Aboriginal existence for years and centuries before that - still being described as easy access to the finest fishing grounds in the world. I gave the example of what happened in the 1880s when there was, at the time - by the way, the debate was a serious one. Check the historical records. There was a collapse in the fishery.

I finished my remarks earlier, Mr. Speaker, by talking about what the people here did about it. They did not just shut down a fishery, they put in place a rebuilding plan. They put in place the hatcheries. They did the grow-out. They changed the gear types. They invested in science to make sure that they better understood the ecology of the whole system, the interactions on what would happen. In seven years, it is reported, seven years later all reports said a great change had been accomplished. The fisheries were brought under control and a full flourishing fishery, commercial as it was, was back in operation again. Now, is that the experience from the last decade? I think not. From 1949, and with the correction to 1954 because of the salt fish things and so on - but in that last fifty years, the management decisions have been made by, other than, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

I think the people in this Chamber, Mr. Speaker, would recognize more so than anyone else, that in the bureaucratic system - you know the saddest part of it all is that those who are employed by the Government of Canada as experts - and there are several of them - and as regional managers, people with influence and say right here in Newfoundland and Labrador, over in the White Hills, we in this room, we in this Chamber, we know what their advice was to the Government of Canada. We know what their advice was. The people closest to the resource with real expertise, having lived here, seeing the science, knowing the experience, putting it all together, said there is the basis for a limited, sustainable fishery. It is those kinds of people, by the way, who made the same recommendation to their superiors a little bit up the ladder. But guess where all their superiors who were a little bit up the ladder are? Kent Street in Ottawa. As we know here, I do not subscribe to any particular theories, plots or schemes, I just happen to know it exists.

I was engaged in Newfoundland and Labrador, in discussion groups as the leader of a teachersí union here some twenty years ago, invited by senior federal bureaucrats when they talked about the inefficiency and waste of small boat fisheries. The social fishery they called it. Why would you have a social fishery? Why would communities be sustained because of a fishery? Because, a fishery - you should be using a natural resource to feed the people. The most efficient and economic way to do it - we know what the answer is. The most efficient and economic way - if your only objective is to take fish and feed people - is to send out three or four factory freezer trawlers, do it all offshore, no fish plants, no communities, no inshore fishery. Federal officials were talking openly about that in this Province twenty years ago, and probably for twenty years before that. They did not have any management schemes or thoughts or ideas that suggested you should listen to the people that are there, you should look at sustainable fisheries practices that can also sustain a lifestyle that has been the very feature and the backbone of this particular Province for almost 500 years. What we have in fifty years is the circumstance that we face today.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that the recommendations that are here today in this particular motion, it is not the first time, which is why it was again offensive to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, but very symbolic of an attitude, when the Intergovernmental Affairs Minister rushed outside to the media and said it is improvisation. I do not know where this could have come from.

When everybody knows there is at least a twenty-five year history, because others have worked very hard at this and put their political hearts and souls into it to try and accomplish some meaningful say, because the record shows that the Peckford Administration worked at it almost incessantly from 1979 right through until 1986 and 1987, several attempts at the constitutional table and elsewhere, because they understood that a real part of the future was having some kind of real say in the fundamental management decisions.

They looked at the constitutional amendments, and the Peckford Administration shifted some policy but also stayed into the realm of trying to have a fisheries management board for a couple of years, but every time trying to have a real say.

Under the Wells Administration, the same kind of a notion of a joint management regime of some particular description was sought out, lobbied for. The objective always being a real say for the people close to the resource, because the people in Newfoundland and Labrador understand more than anyone else that if you destroy the resource you destroy yourself. That is why it was not destroyed for 450 years, because the people in our rural communities knew that if they destroyed the resource they were destroying their very own beings and their very own communities.

In the Tobin Administration as well, there were attempts to have increased co-operation and co-ordination between DFO and provincial government officials.

It is true, that the Official Opposition had it as a major plank in their election platform the last time, that we should have joint management. We absolutely should have. There is no disagreement on that in Newfoundland and Labrador. That has to be part of the answer for the future, and that is why I am delighted, Mr. Speaker, in anticipation of what I expect to be a unanimous approval of this today. Sometimes we might haggle over the approach, exactly how you do it, but the end goal, I believe, is what is in the heart and soul of every Newfoundlander and Labradorian. It is time, and it has been said before, too.

Today, as I said with respect to J. S. Macdonald, the Commissioner, he talked about forest resources, minerals, fishery, there are lots of other issues. Today, we are focusing on the fishery, but it will not be very long because we have had a Royal Commission in place now for some fifteen months, and again it is interesting to see the reaction to it. The reaction from the same Minister Dion, by the way, fifteen months to the Intergovernmental Affairs Minister for Newfoundland and Labrador. Minister Lush, he says, I hope this is just not a disguise for a fed bashing exercise.

That is the exact comment. I hope that is not a disguise for a fed bashing exercise. The minister, on our behalf, reminded him, Minister Dion, he said, on behalf of the Government of Canada, please understand our message is in the title. Our message is in the title of the Royal Commission. We have put a lot of thought into it, and our title for the Royal Commission, which will report in five or six weeks, is: Renewing and Strengthening Our Place in Canada, because we are very proud and fierce and loyal Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and I believe - there is a separation element, there is no doubt in my mind - but I believe most Newfoundlanders and Labradorians today, if treated fairly, would also like to stay as loyal and proud Canadians. We would like to see that happen.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, I think it is clear, too, from the messages we have seen in the last little while, in particular, on an issue that the Government of Canada brought to the table, this Legislature did not announce these fishery management decisions. They are in the purview right now and the mandate of the Government of Canada, solely, unilaterally. We think it should have been shared. We think it has to be shared into the future. They brought it forward, but I think the attitudes that many of the speakers have talked about here today suggest to us that our title on our Royal Commission about renewing and strengthening our place in Canada, it is pretty obvious that Canada, itself, needs a bit of renewing and strengthening. One way to do it is to deal with its partners in the provinces and territories with some respect and some dignity.

I will end by saying this. I hope the message coming from this Legislature today, that we have given serious thought and consideration to this, full deliberation, and we want to start a negotiation with an end goal in mind: that there will be a negotiation with a willing partner in Ottawa, rather than resistance and legal harangue over what the secession case does or does not obligate someone to do.

What are not talking about obligating; we are talking about a moral obligation, to come and engage with a partner who has identified a very serious problem and would like to go down a road and a process to get to a solution whereby we have an equal say, as equal and respected Canadians, into the future. I just hope that we get the right response to a very strong and clear message that I appreciate this Legislature sending to the Government of Canada today.

With that, again I thank all of the speakers and the interveners in the debate and look forward to support of this particular resolution.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.