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Brison speaks in support of the Atlantic Lobster Fishery

Friday, June 05, 2021
Source :  Hansard

House of Commons Debates


Friday, June 5, 2021

Atlantic Lobster Fishery

Hon. Scott Brison (Kings—Hants, Lib.):
    Madam Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to speak to this very important motion introduced by my colleague, the member for Cardigan, who has, throughout his career here, vigorously defended the interests of his constituents and the interests of all Atlantic Canadians and all Canadians. In fact, as a member of Parliament during this economic crisis, he has stood in the House in support of sectors that have been in dire straits in other parts of the country, including the auto sector.

    It is important to realize that this is a Parliament with members from all parts of Canada who vigorously defend the interests of all regions of Canada. That is what makes this place a special place. In the same way that the hon. member for Cardigan has stood up and vigorously defended the auto sector, we have a responsibility also to recognize the challenges faced in Atlantic Canada today by our lobster fishers.

    The fact is we have seen lobster prices go from $6 a pound down to about $3.50 per pound. We see a lobster fishery that is worth about $1 billion and the Conservative government is only offering $10 million to try to save a $1 billion industry. That is $10 million for advertising, nothing to help restructure the industry and nothing to provide long-term vision to preserve and maintain this proud and important industry to our regions.

    Again, the Atlantic lobster fishery is worth $1 billion. The government is offering advertising money worth about 1% of the annual value. When we compare that to the size of the bail-out for the auto sector, it is very clear the government places no value whatsoever on the lobster fishery. It does not understand the lobster fishery. Nor does it understand the needs and the challenges faced by families living in lobster fishing communities in Atlantic Canada. It does not understand the challenges faced by people in the lobster industries in communities in my riding, like Halls Harbour and Blomidon. It does not understand that these are proud people who have worked hard and provided for their families over the years. During this crisis, they need help to survive it.

    What we are calling for is very clear. We need to see changes in EI benefits to ensure EI fairness for all Canadians during this crisis. In the lobster fishery, we need to ease access to credit in support for inventory costs during this crisis.

    The fact is many of the lobster processors and companies have had their financing pulled out from under them, as the Icelandic banks have tanked. The Icelandic banks were disproportionately involved in the financing of our lobster fishery. As that banking system collapsed, it exposed our lobster fisheries to enormous down side. Whether it is through government agencies like EDC, for instance, or through programs such as ACOA, working with the chartered banks, we need to ensure we provide the appropriate backstop to financing to ensure the credit crunch that is threatening the future of our lobster fishers does not kill it. We have to ensure, at this critical time as we see the global banking crisis disproportionately affect the Icelandic banks, that it does not disproportionately threaten our lobster industry.

    It is clear, with 10,000 licensed harvesters in five eastern Canadian provinces, that we need a federally funded license rationalization program to help lobster fishermen adjust to a reduced capacity, and I have read up to 20% of the licenses potentially, a licensed buy-back program to help rationalize the industry. There are simply too many licences out there now for the size of the industry as it exists. The federal government has to play a role in that, in the same way it has to play an important role as global market conditions hurt our forestry industry. The Conservative government has failed in that regard as well.

    What is painfully clear and absolutely obvious with the government is this. Whether it is a vulnerable forestry family in a forestry town affected by the global economic downturn, or a vulnerable lobster fishery family in a coastal Atlantic Canadian town facing crisis today and facing a question of survival, they can expect very little sympathy or assistance from the cold-hearted Conservative government.

    It is a government that has turned its back on hundreds of thousands of vulnerable Canadians who have lost their jobs. We saw the Statistics Canada labour report this morning. In the manufacturing industry it shows we have seen the greatest job loss in the history of Canada. In fact, we are down now to the same number of manufacturing jobs in Canada as we had in 1976. In over three years in office, the Conservative government has offered no vision for manufacturing. It has turned its back on manufacturing.

    Lobster processing is part of food processing, which is part of manufacturing. What is the government doing to help lobster processors adapt to be more competitive, to invest in cutting edge technology, to reduce energy consumption to be more efficient? The answer is nothing. The laissez-faire “I don't care” Conservative government is not interested in helping the vulnerable during this time because Conservatives do not believe in the role of government. They do not understand the role of the government. However, fundamentally it is their lack of belief in the role of government that hobbles their capacity to act now. It is terribly difficult to do things when they do not believe in them.

    Whenever the Prime Minister is called on to help people, he has to pinch his nose to do so. He does not see a role for government in helping the vulnerable. It is critically important during these crises that governments help Canadians, help them build a bridge to a brighter future and get them through these tough times. That is why we have strong national government, a strong national government with strong national programs that reflect the collective will of Canadians to help people in every region of the country when they face crisis.

    One of the most unifying principles in Canada that really helps make us Canadian, and is part of our DNA, is the notion that when in need, regardless of where a Canadian lives, other Canadians in other parts of the country want to help and will help. One of the responsibilities we have as members of Parliament elected to the House, regardless of where we are from, is to learn, to seek to understand the challenges faced by Canadians in areas in which we have not lived or do not live. One of the incredible privileges of being a member of the House is the opportunity to learn more about Canada. However, that opportunity to learn about Canada comes with a responsibility to do something to help Canadians.

     In the Reform Party it was all about doing everything the constituents wanted and nothing else. The fact is we have a responsibility not just to stand up for our constituents, but to stand up for all Canadians, regardless of where they live in the country.

    My message to all members of Parliament in the House, and the message from the member for Cardigan, is even if we do not have a lobster fishery in our riding, we have a responsibility as a member of Parliament to understand this issue and the challenges that lobster fishing families face right now.

    The crisis that the lobster fishery faces right now threatens an age-old tradition and a strong vibrant industry. I urge every member of Parliament to support this important motion from the member for Cardigan.

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