MR. CHAIRMAN: Good morning, I would like to bring the Standing Committee on Economic Development to order this morning. We are very pleased this morning to have as witnesses not only the Mayor of the Town of Canso but a delegation he has with him. Perhaps we could begin, Mr. Fraser, with you introducing your colleagues who are present.
MR. FRANK FRASER: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Before I do that, I would like to thank you, as chairman, Mr. Taylor, members of the committee and our MLA, Ron Chisholm. I am glad to see Ron here this morning.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and members, for the opportunity of the Town of Canso coming before the committee and presenting a case for a community that's in very dire circumstances at the present time. As we get into that, we will open up the discussion.
For introduction purposes, Mr. Chairman, I would like to start on my immediate right. Many of you know Pat Fougere. Pat is the Manager of the Trawlermen's Co-op in Canso. Next to him is Judy Smith who represents the Canadian Auto Workers. At my back we have a task force set up to deal with some of the concerns and the questions of the crisis affecting Canso at the present time. Our councillor, Vincent Cohoon, on my right, is chairman of that committee; next to Vince is Rev. Ian Wissler. He is the Rector of All Saints Anglican Church in the Town of Canso; next to him is Rev. Daniel Boudreau who is the Parish Priest of the Star of the Sea Parish in the Town of Canso as well.
Starting on my left over here is Councillor Janet Peitzsche who represents District 5 of the Municipality of the District of Guysborough; our Chief Administrative Officer, next to her, Troy Jenkins, a Cape Bretoner; next to him is our Deputy Mayor, Finley Armsworthy, Town of Canso; Ms. Kathy Dorrington who is the President of the Canso local of the Canadian Auto Workers; Mr. John Armsworthy, who is the Vice-President of the Trawlermen's Co-op in the Town of Canso. We all thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for being here this morning.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Fraser. Perhaps we could begin as a committee by introducing ourselves, and maybe we could start with Ron.
[The committee members introduced themselves.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Once again, good morning to everybody. I should point out that one of our regular members, Frank Chipman from Annapolis, is unable to be with us this morning; Frank is sick. Perhaps, Mr. Fraser, we could begin and let the presentation start.
MR. FRASER: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. The Town of Canso, since 1990 - and many of you will recall, some of you were involved in 1990 when National Sea Foods left Canso sort of abruptly and we were in a major crisis at that time because we did not have an operator for our major employer which was Seafreez Foods; at the time it was the National Sea Foods plant at Canso, subsequently renamed Seafreez Foods Incorporated. Since that time, the area of Canso and surrounding communities of Little Dover, Hazel Hill and the whole eastern end of Guysborough County have had their ups and downs and if you have seen it in the papers, we are not very proud of that, we are not very pleased to be here on a crisis basis.
We would like to be here on the basis that we are attempting to be, as the province and the federal governments, their efforts are to make Nova Scotia a better place in which to live and work; that is our concern and that is our effort. It always has been and that is why we are here today. We want to build Canso and area into the environment that people, young people particularly, will have options of what to do. Our fishery will rebound and we will have a decision of what to do with our fish plant in Canso, stop the outflow or the bleeding of our young people and our residents in general and to make Canso a better place to live and work. That is our objective here today.
I would like to go back a little in the history of Canso, which is greatly rich and certainly has been unrecognized and forgotten. We have Grassy Island, which was the battleground between Louisbourg and the mainland, the English forces, back in the 1600's and 1700's. We have a nine minute video at our interpretation centre in Canso which has the heading, The Forgotten Island.
Canso is also the forgotten community. We are some 185 miles distance from Halifax. We are 50 miles away from the Trans-Canada Highway and, basically, we are isolated. This isolation has caused many economic problems for our one-industry town. Since last October, the Seafreez plant has been closed, people are unemployed and starting right now, last week was the first week there was a major, a marked increase in social assistance.
People are panicking. They are coming to the town council, to the members individually and collectively as a council under panic conditions. They are stating, you must do something. They are depending on the town council and surrounding councillors and the community task force to do something to make government stand up and see that we must do more than talk. We must do something to implement alternatives, options, for the people of Canso, commercial-wise, industrial-wise and particularly, employment-wise. People must be able to get up in the morning and go to a job, do a good day's work, which people are noted for in our area. They are workers, they are not slackers; all they want to do is go to work. That is what we want to provide for them, Mr. Chairman, and members. We are asking for members of all Parties to listen, to understand and to empathize with the people of Canso.
As I indicated, it's not easy to come stating our misfortunes and our weaknesses and not our strengths. Hopefully, at some point in time in another year or two we'll be able to come back here and say, it's worked. The input that you had and governments had and all the members of the provincial Legislature will be able to say, we were part of that recovery, we did something to improve the area of Canso. If you improve Canso you improve all areas of Nova Scotia. We're only as strong as our weakest link and at the present time, along with many of our neighbours - and some of you here I see are from Cape Breton and other areas of rural and small-town Nova Scotia - we are weak and we must do something about it. More than putting policy in place and setting up regional economic development authorities, we must give them strength and we must give them the tools to work with.
It appears to me now that although there was an announcement yesterday to continue with RDAs for another three years - and it's welcome news - that we must do something more than the administration of RDAs. We must give them the tools to work with, give them municipalities to work with and go on from there.
To go back to the history on that, 100 years ago, our centennial was in 2001, E.C. Whitman back in 1901, he was the first Mayor of the Town of Canso. The Town of Canso was at that time one of the wealthiest, most prosperous communities in Nova Scotia. For example, Antigonish and Canso were pretty well at a par economically. The numbers of citizens and industries that went on and things that were in Canso - and I will refer back to situations like Western Union, Commercial Cable, the communications giants of that era. They were strong and we had a wealthy, well-diversified community. We had a strong inshore fishery, fish processing, salting factories; we had all kinds of small operations.
In 2002, we find that all these industries have gone. Seafreez Foods has been closed since October 2001 - still closed, no announcement as yet - although we're hoping and awaiting a pending decision by the federal government on stocks and quotas for the plant.
That is the situation, Mr. Chairman. People are running out of EI, they started running out in the last month. Between March and May 2002 the majority of plant workers in Canso will have run out of EI with no further claims available to them because of lack of hours, lack of contributions and we are into a crisis.
What we've been doing, we've been working, co-operating, we've been doing everything we can to deal with both levels of government - provincial and federal. We've been getting much co-operation when it comes down to discussions and that type of thing, but we need more than that. We need to move on to the next step. We need to move on to where we're creating jobs and creating the environment down there that people can go to work.
They can't live on social assistance. They realize that. You can't pay for homes and have a car and go to work in the mornings if you don't have a place to go. Let's face it. That's one of the basic human instincts is to get up in the morning and go to work and come back and know that you're satisfying the needs and requirements of your family. If you don't have that, what do you have?
People are panicking now. Last week I had on my desk 23 letters of orders to sell properties for tax sale of our friends and neighbours. When you get to that point - you're looking at your neighbours and your friends and you're selling their homes and you're selling their stores - what's left for a community? I ask all members of this committee to come to Canso and take a look and talk to the people on the streets, talk to our clergy, talk to the school children, talk to the teachers and realize that it's not only a crisis in the papers, it's an actual crisis that we are facing.
We are asking you today to accept and recognize that crisis and impress upon - particularly when you open your session in April, when you go back to your spring session - please bring that to the floor, at Question Period. Bring to the government the fact that we are geographically isolated, geographically disadvantaged and all we want to do is work. Give us jobs and give us the opportunities, the tools and we'll help to make Nova Scotia a better place to live.
Having said that, Mr. Chairman, I am going to open up the discussions to the other members of the group, if you would accept that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That would be fine, Mr. Fraser.
MR. FRASER: I think I would like to start with someone who is directly affected and has been directly affected, Mr. Pat Fougere, the Manager of the Canso Trawlermen's Co-op, whose boat is tied up on the dock.
MR. PATRICK FOUGERE: Gentlemen, ladies, my name is Pat Fougere and I represent the Canso Trawlermen's Co-op. I am also a citizen of Canso, Guysborough County, Nova Scotia. I was born and raised there and regardless of what Frank Magazine has to say this month about my past, I am not going to get into that. They say when you hit Frank Magazine, you hit the big time. I received a phone call last night about a very disturbing article - anybody who wants to talk about my past, go right ahead and do it. We don't live in the past, we live in the future. If they want to take shots at me, that's all well and good, but they better be prepared to get a little bit of chew back.
I am here to talk a little bit about the past of my community and I consider it my community as I live on a piece of property that my mother was born on and her mother raised a family on. My mother raised six of us of her own and an adopted child. I raised three young girls on that same piece of property. It overlooks Canso Harbour. At one time, when I was a child, I could see hundreds of boats. I could see small boats, little boats, blue boats, yellow boats. I could see trawlers steam up the harbour, side trawlers and in the later years stern trawlers. I come out of the galley in my white clothes as cook on those trawlers and waved to my mom as she sat on the back doorstep watching us go out the harbour. I stood on the decks of those boats and watched for a family member as I come into the harbour. My history in the fishing industry is not only my big mouth, it's also the fact that I participated in that industry and I was, and am, a builder of the community of Canso.
Canso was founded in 1504 on fish. Canso can and will only survive on fish. There are other things that we have to look at as a community in rural Nova Scotia. We have to look at the diversity of the people. We have to look at community economic development as a stepping stone towards our future. We have to continue our efforts in terms of the Stan Rogers Folk Festival. We have to continue our efforts in terms of economic development by His Worship Fraser and the council of Canso to continue to bring things into the community. What things can we bring into the community? I'm sure this council is quite adept at finding out what they are, but we must have a mainstay. We must have a mainstay and we must have a lifeline. To me, that lifeline is the fishing industry.
It is beyond belief how the people in the rest of this country don't understand rural Nova Scotia. If the objective of governments today is to decentralize rural Nova Scotia and urbanize all of its people, then it will not, should not and cannot work in the case of Canso, Guysborough County, Nova Scotia. We are geographically isolated from the rest of this country.
Route 16, as an example - MLA Chisholm, as you are aware - it is Guysborough County's version of Upper Clements Theme Park to travel over that road. When we, as the people, have to fight for anything, we must expend hundreds of dollars per trip to leave that community and come here to Halifax. We, as an organization, spent thousands of dollars so far this year for meetings with the people who make the decisions that affect our everyday lives, Fisheries and Oceans. How long can we continue to do that?
As manager of a group of people, under the former government and under the former provincial Minister of Fisheries, Keith Colwell, we proceeded with what was designated as a pilot project. And David Anderson, who was the federal Minister of Fisheries at that time said, we will set this pilot project in motion and we will endeavour to look at its successes so it can be used in other coastal communities. How can something be a pilot project and given nothing to start with but a modification in licensing policy? That was all that was given to us.
The next proceeding year, we continued to go $1 million in debt. A group of local men who wanted to get back into the industry that they love went $1 million in debt and started to progress into the fishery. What did we end up with? We ended up with temporary access to shrimp; we ended up with temporary access to crab. What have we got today? The loss of our shrimp; in 2002-03, a possible major reduction in our temporary crab. Temporary will not cut it. One 64' 11" vessel will not cut it.
For 100 years, we helped build the community. As I stated earlier, what vessels come and go from the Port of Canso? We have a temporary right to do that? I don't think so. I think that we have to have a permanent right to do that.
Ladies and gentlemen sitting around here, the Province of Newfoundland has a stranglehold on the fishery like no other province in this country. This government, Mr. Taylor, that you sit on, must take a stand against the policies and the implementations that are being forced by the Province of Newfoundland, in order to give fishermen in rural Nova Scotia an opportunity to get back what is rightfully theirs.
Adjacency is part of the principles of the Fisheries Management Plan. It only works in one province. Historical attachment is part of the Fisheries Management Plan. It only works in one province.
Article 3 of the Fisheries Management Plan states that allocations and quotas will be issued based on the adjacency to the resource and dependency on the coastal community. I'm here to say that not only my men but my community are adjacent to the resource and our community is dependent on that resource. Implement Article 3 of the Fisheries Management Plan for Nova Scotia the same as they're doing for Newfoundland.
Every time we step in front of the federal minister: I cannot do that, it will make somebody angry. Somebody where? Newfoundland. We have a right, Mr. Armsworthy has a right, the men I represent have a right to the same resource that is "Canadian-owned", not provincially-owned.
With a quota or with allocations to the Canso Trawlermen's Co-op, it puts Ms. Smith, Ms. Dorrington and their membership - it increases their work. As their work increases, other businesses begin to increase. This is what has to happen. We have to become permanent players in the fishing industry. We were for hundreds of years. We need that permanency back.
The minister said yesterday, he's going to make an announcement within a week. Two weeks ago, it was a couple of days; yesterday, it was a week. We hope the minister is prepared to make an announcement that is beneficial to all of the people of Canso. We are, first and foremost, the oldest fishing port in the Maritimes. We want to remain that.
His Worship has given me a notification that I have one minute but I'm on a roll and I could go forever, but I will respect His Worship's request.
We in Nova Scotia, Mr. Chairman, have a major problem within the fishing industry. We in Nova Scotia must become a player within the fishing industry and members of the Nova Scotia Legislature, it is your job to stand up when the Earl McCurdys, when the Richard Cashens, when all the former ministers, John Crosbie, Stills, Nash & Young, whoever they are - they're all out of Newfoundland - stand up, then you people must stand up and defend our rights as fishermen. I thank you and when the question period comes around, I am prepared to answer any questions that you may throw.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Fougere.
MR. FRASER: Judy Smith who represents all of the employees of Seafreez Foods.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, Judy, the floor is yours.
MS. JUDY SMITH: Presently, we have 315 unionized workers at Seafreez. Out of those 315 workers, 120 did not receive enough hours, which is 420 hours, to get their EI this year, or in the year 2001. Many of those who did qualify for benefits have already lost their EI. After May, 69 people from 315 will be receiving EI benefits. That's it. That's the highest number available. After May, those 69 will start losing, nobody has any hours to qualify for EI. Topping up EI grants isn't the answer. We apply for grants, everything is top up EI. Some people need 15 hours, some people need 30 hours, some people need 40 hours to file another EI claim. They can't get it. The only grants that are coming up are EI top offs, which do not pay hours for employment. That doesn't work.
We are now running into the issue of whether people stay in a dying community or they pack up their families and leave. Those who have an education are young enough to be restrained; that's great, they have the opportunity to do that. We have no one at Seafreez under the age of 20 years old working. We have one person between the age of 20 and 24. We have over 200 people between the ages of 40 and 50; 83 over the age of 50. Who is going to hire those people? Who is going to retrain them? It's impossible, totally ludicrous, it's impossible.
We need our fish plant. We also need a pension to help those people over the age of 50 to move from the fishery. Those people aren't going anywhere. They're the mainstay of our community. If we can get 100 people out on pension then we have the opportunity for other people to perhaps come into the plant to work. We need our young people to stay in our community, whether it's going to be at the fishery or some other type of economic development that we can set up. We don't have anybody. We don't have any young people in our community. What is there for them? I have a 24 year old son. I wouldn't tell my son to come back to Canso to go to work. I would love to have him come back to Canso, but what is there? There's nothing, absolutely nothing.
Therefore, we feel that a pension for older workers, an adjustment program or some type of pension over the age of 50 with x amount of years in the fishery or whatever the criteria, the province and the federal government would be willing to set up, we could come to some sort of agreement, to get 100 people out of the fishery to move more people up the ladder. Right now, if redfish starts up, 80 people, tops, out of 315 will get work. Out of those 80 people, tops, perhaps 75 would be the older workers who could be eligible for a pension. This is what we need.
Right now, the home and school association has set up a breakfast program. There are 186 children at Fanning Elementary School. They've only been doing it for the last week or so, the first week 154 children took advantage of the breakfast program - 106 and 124. Those children are lacking at home, to have to come to school to get a breakfast.
People can't afford to live on EI. Some people get $100 or $125 EI a week. You can't feed a family, you can't pay your rent, your lights, your heat. It's impossible. We need permanent work; we need steady work. We need our community to be viable to entice our young people to stay there.
If rural Nova Scotia is going to survive the crisis that it is now in, we need all the assistance that we can receive from all levels of government to make it a viable community. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. Mr. Fraser, were there further members of your delegation who wish to speak?
MR. FRASER: Mr. Chairman, I would like to change seats. There are two presenters to have our clergy represented, please.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That would be fine.
REV. IAN WISSLER: Thank you. I am Ian Wissler. Once again, I am the Anglican priest in the parish of Canso.
REV. DANIEL BOUDREAU: Father Daniel Boudreau, Roman Catholic member of the clergy in the Town of Canso.
REV. WISSLER: I think Father Danny and I can say a lot of similar things about our experiences with what people in the Town of Canso are going through and facing right now.
It has been my great fortune to live in Canso for only the last couple of years so I am not native to the community but one thing that was readily apparent as soon as I arrived was that the people in Canso are very hard-working, dedicated people. They care about their community, they care about their families and their friends, and they regularly go above and beyond the call of duty to do what needs to get done, in my parish - and I'm sure Father Danny can say the same thing - and also in the wider community as well.
We just had a number of annual meetings in my parish. During those meetings, there was a real sense of desperation that was expressed. The people there, like I said, are really - for lack of a better term - busting their tails to get what needs to be done but ends are not being met, despite all efforts. It is a real struggle.
They see what is happening in their community with the fishing industry and the potential closure of the fish plant. The people do see that the future does not look good, to say the least. They are really concerned about how much longer the community of Canso will be able to sustain itself. They are worried about what is going to happen to the things that generations of people have worked to build in northeastern Guysborough County.
I am not just speaking here in my experience of the Town of Canso because my parish extends beyond the boundaries of the Town of Canso, itself. My parish extends out as far as Halfway Cove, which is roughly halfway between Canso and Guysborough, and down to Tor Bay and New Harbour. So it is a bit of a geographical distance. What I have said applies in most of those communities. It is more than just one town, it is a whole region of our province that we are talking about here. I will hand things over to Father Danny in just a moment.
I am also chairman of the Canso and area food bank, as well. Currently, we have about a dozen or so regular clients. Everybody on the board is amazed that we don't have more. We know that there should be more people who are coming to use our food bank. The thing is, if trends continue the way they are doing, the use of the food bank should rise exponentially within a fairly short period of time, until it gets well beyond the means of our local food bank to meet the potential need that may be there if the situation as it is continues. There we go. I will just hand things over to Father Danny.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Reverend Wissler. Reverend Boudreau.
REV. DANIEL BOUDREAU: Okay. I also want to iterate the fact that I was supposed to be there for one year. I went to Canso three years ago and each year as my term ends I keep renewing it. That is basically because of the beauty of the people. There is a generous sense of supporting one another, loving one another, there's a strong sense of joy, there's a sense of happiness, there's a sense of well-being and coming together, and a sense of peace.
Earlier, our mayor had mentioned in his presentation that so much of what we are depends on the job we do. When you lose your job, you lose a sense of self-worth, you lose a sense of dignity, and that greatly affects not only the breadwinner of the family, but the children, the spouse, the whole family in general. When that disintegrates, a great deal of problems originate from that. Both Father Ian and I have the privilege of going into numerous homes each and every week, dealing with people on a very personal level and seeing their struggles in a very real and dynamic way.
One of the things that you see is the frustration, the breakdown of families. We do a bit of counselling, everything from marriage difficulties, drug dependency, all these other different problems, financial problems, and these are directly related to the lack of jobs, lack of self-worth, lack of self-esteem. To have that going on in the community, it truly is devastating. We are starting to see it more and more with the young people. We work with teaching the children and when you see, within the children, sort of the joy leaving at such a young age and being frustrated, not knowing what to do, having to move out of the community after they hit graduation, it's really frustrating and that frustration is growing on a week to week basis. When we hear of homes being put up for sale, different things, friends and family moving out of the community, there's a high level of frustration and, with the lack of work, that frustration is continuing to build and causing tremendous stress on family units as well as the community itself. I thank you for that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Reverend Boudreau.
Mayor Fraser, perhaps we could and maybe should begin with some questions and answers around the committee table, if that's fine with you guys.
MR. FRASER: Sure. I think the rest of the delegation, Mr. Chairman, if you will, they will participate in the question period. They may wish to make individual comments.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes, if it is appropriate, Mayor Fraser, for some members of your delegation to respond, perhaps they could go to the microphone for recording purposes.
MR. FRASER: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, thank you. Do we have some committee members who would like to ask some questions?
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Mr. Chairman, if I could.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Chisholm.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Mayor Fraser, and the delegation here from Canso today, you certainly have a good cross-section of the community with the plant workers represented, the Trawlermen's Co-op, the Municipality of Guysborough, it's good to see them here today, as well.
I know first-hand what's happening in Canso and the problems they are having with the plant; well, I guess, any work in Canso would be helpful at this time. With the 3-O redfish plan that the federal government is looking at now, there has been a lot of talk on that about being Newfoundland's redfish. Now, I'm not quite clear if it is Newfoundland. I mean, it is my understanding that 3-O is just as close to Canso as it is to Newfoundland. I'm not sure if the Trawlermen's Co-op or fisheries out of Canso have fished that area before. I would like to be more clear on that. I know there has been a lot of media attention on that issue.
MR. FRASER: Okay. I would ask Mr. Fougere or any of the members of the CAW to respond to that. Other than the fact that the position of the Town of Canso is that 3-O redfish is Canadian redfish. It's not Newfoundland redfish, it's not Nova Scotia redfish or any other province, it belongs to the Canadian people. That is our position. Pat, do you want to respond to that?
MR. FOUGERE: Yes, Mr. Chisholm, I would like to tell you that 3-O is presently underutilized by Canadians and over-utilized by foreigners, with a larger degree of the allocations in 3-O being harvested by European countries. There was some question about the birth of the redfish in 3-O. What was it? Was it undersized fish, was it the biomass of fish being used to utilize sub-areas, unit two and unit one redfish? It was discovered genetically this redfish is a genetically small redfish that took years of marketing to find it. Is it Newfoundland redfish? You name for me one Canadian fish that belongs to one province.
As I stated at a meeting not so long ago, our captains fished 3-O redfish time and time again. Never once did they roll the redfish over on its belly was it stamped, Made in Newfoundland. That's a Canadian resource. That area of 3-O is now being talked about more than it ever has. Why? Because somebody who has found a market, some workforce that needs jobs, some trawlermen who need to harvest want access to it. Now everybody wants access to it. Companies in Canada have underutilized it for years - all of a sudden now they're cleaning their freezers to make room for 3-O redfish? I don't buy that, not at all.
We landed in ports in Newfoundland, run the whole east coast of Newfoundland - Burgeo Ramea, St. John's, Triton, Dildo - all right from one end of the province to the other end of the province. Where did we catch the fish - 2J, 2K, 3L, 3M, 3-O. That's where we caught it. The historical attachment is there. No - I will answer your question short - it is not Newfoundland's fish, it's Canadian fish.
As a member of the Nova Scotia Legislature and as a Canadian, you have a right to stand up and state the essence of that very comment: that is a Canadian fish. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Fougere. I sense that there will be a few questions perhaps directed your way or, no doubt, may be appropriate for you to respond to, so you might want to perhaps consider switching places for the time being. Thank you, Reverend Wissler. Okay, Ron Chisholm.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Just one follow-up. The 3-O redfish is there now that you're trying to get - is that allocated to another company?
MR. FOUGERE: It's allocated to a number of companies that are underutilizing, but there's also a competitive pool out there too. Mr. Chisholm, do you have a copy of the 3-O proposal?
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: I do. I don't have it with me today though.
MR. FOUGERE: I don't even see the need for your questions if you read it. It's all in the proposal.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: I guess what I'm trying to find out is, there's nobody utilizing this quota right now, there's nobody fishing it?
MR. FOUGERE: No.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: And that's one of the decisions that Minister Thibault is going to have to make.
MR. FOUGERE: But if you had your driver's license in your back pocket and you sat home for six years and didn't drive, then you wouldn't like it if somebody came in and said you're not using it so I'm going to take it from you, if you own it. There are other ways. The biomass of redfish out there is in the millions and millions of pounds - increase the tack.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Fougere - I'm used to calling you Pat so forgive me if I'm a little informal.
MR. FOUGERE: Mr. is not very - it's Pat and it will remain Pat.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The proposal regarding the redfish, would you be able to provide other committee members with copies of that proposal? Would that be okay? Thank you. Mr. MacKinnon.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: I guess I can speak with a little bit of experience here having gone through the Louisbourg experience, but we were fortunate enough, we weren't quite as isolated in terms of proximity and we did have the Fortress of Louisbourg to fall back on. I listened to two distinguished clergy make reference to some important social issues. Unfortunately, there was a policy position put in place back in the early 1990's that essentially set a process in motion that would depopulate rural Nova Scotia in favour of urban Nova Scotia. That was more formalized in what we call the exchange of services.
One of the primary factors for putting that process in place was - and it's documented, by the way. It was documented by a Deputy Minister of Municipal Affairs of the day in October 1993. It specifically indicated one of the primary reasons for that depopulation was because there was a feeling within the bureaucracy of the provincial government - and unfortunately, that still carries through to this very moment - that rural Nova Scotia is an expense to the maintenance of government. In other words, it's a liability to urban Nova Scotia. That's one of the underlying factors that we have to consider and that hasn't changed and it's going to be an obstacle.
Also, the issue of diversification. I listened to the point made that fishing is the birth and the continuation of Canso. But, unfortunately, I'm not so sure that we're able to deal with that because of all the competing forces that are working against you. I speak pointedly to Mr. Fougere and I certainly appreciate what you're saying. I don't disagree with you. I have studied the Newfoundland model and so on . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. MacKinnon, do you have a question somewhere in your dissertation?
MR. MACKINNON: Yes, absolutely. The points I am making speak to a question and I think Mr. Fougere and others in Canso understand exactly what I'm referring to. My question is, have you received any specific assurances - you made reference to lots of talk but no action - what specific assurances have you received from either the federal or provincial government to bring closure to your problem?
MR. FOUGERE: None.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Fraser?
MR. FRASER: The one thing we did receive yesterday from Minister Thibault was within seven days we would have an announcement on Seafreez and the fishery in general. I take him at his word, he's an honourable man. I think Mr. Thibault is genuinely concerned about Canso and I believe that he will come forth with something.
I have one fundamental disagreement with Mr. Thibault and that was on the matter of enterprise or community quotas, allocations. Back in 1990, very explicitly what happened in Canso, when National Sea hauled out of Canso, they took our quotas, they took our draggers and left Canso emasculated with the fishery. We had no quotas, we had no boats. The oldest seaport in the Maritimes without a quota and without a boat to fish it with; there's something wrong with that. Mr. Thibault stood at a meeting we had recently and said, I don't believe in community quotas. So enterprise quotas may be acceptable in certain terms if there's conditions on it. And what is an enterprise? I asked that question to different DFO officials and I haven't had an answer yet.
An enterprise - for example, let's use National Sea. That is an enterprise that has a plant in Lunenburg, had one in Louisbourg and as the Barry Group, they had them in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. So, if you give an allocation to an enterprise, which was the Barry Group, if you didn't like conditions in Canso, we'll move them out of Canso, we'll take them to wherever - somewhere else; out of the province, back to Newfoundland, whatever. Our stance was if you're not making a community quota, make it an enterprise, that enterprise being Seafreez. Which means it can't leave the Seafreez plant in Canso. That's my response.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mayor Fraser. Pat.
MR. FOUGERE: Mr. Chairman, I would like to qualify that now. There are a number of people that we have worked very closely with, Mr. MacKinnon, namely DFO Regional Director General Neil Bellefontaine and his entourage. Also with the Province of Nova Scotia - Minister Ernie Fage, Greg Roach, Bruce Osborne - we have worked very hard with those people and worked diligently with them. They are assuring us, in essence, that they are continuing their dialogue. But is there assurance of a definitive answer? At this point, no, but
I did not want to leave the mike saying that we were on our own because we're not. We do have x number of people working with us and for us, but we have no guarantees.
MR. MACKINNON: One supplemental, if I may. I will ask the question pointedly so I won't belabour. . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: A short preamble is permitted, Mr. MacKinnon.
MR. MACKINNON: With regard to the downturn of the fishing industry several years back as we experienced, many individuals took advantage of retraining and opportunities to look at other facets of sustaining their livelihood. Where did Canso fit into this process? To what extent did the labour force in Canso take advantage of this opportunity that was offered by the various levels of government at that time? I ask that not in a political sense, but just to find out - was that an opportunity afforded to you or not afforded to you? Was it a viable option? Was it not a viable option? I am concerned about the suggestion that you have hundreds of people going on welfare and nothing in the offing.
MR. FOUGERE: I will answer part of that, Mr. MacKinnon, and then I will let Mr. Fraser answer the other part. Number one, I think diversity and training people is a good idea if you have something to train them for. Number two, in the fishing industry, one time fishermen were known as town drunks, illiterate people. If they saw a fisherman drunk on Monday night, that guy he's that s.o.b., he's some drunk, he is. He just spent two weekends out on the water fishing, he landed on Monday night. Monday night was his Saturday night, but that perception was there. There were a large number of people who took retraining. Ms. Smith said it best yesterday - we have eight hairdressers that in 1991 became hairdressers and are now working in the plant. We have more truck drivers than Brooke Taylor represented when he drove a truck from Musquodoboit Harbour who are sitting idle. We have one in here.
I was having some major problems in 1990 trying to diversify because I love the industry. They asked me to go to school, take a GED. I went to school in 1991 and I got my GED and never got a job until 1997. I formed a group of laid-off trawlermen and started an association and that's how I got a job. It's not easy, Mr. MacKinnon, it's not easy to leave your place of birth. I think Mayor Fraser will probably elaborate on how you can diversify and you can also retrain, but when everything you had in your community was taken away since 1991-92, resource centres, right down the line. I will let Mr. Fraser take it from there.
MR. FRASER: Mr. MacKinnon, the matter of retraining has been with us since 1990 and we've been into much retraining. Our people travelling 72 miles, 75 miles to Port Hawkesbury to the Strait Community College and other colleges and they are doing that and have been doing that. We had a pilot project in training, what we call an LPN - Licensed Practical Nurses. We did it in Canso with the co-operation of Strait campus and Nova Scotia Community College. We are still talking with them and other similar projects that we can get
going, but what we're doing and we have been doing for the last few years, we're retraining our people for export. We're retraining them and they are moving out. It's doing nothing. Over the long term it's actually harming the community because the people must move on to get jobs in the retraining that they've taken. That is a major problem for rural areas.
I think in your preamble there earlier, you mentioned that the fishery and some of these things in rural areas are a liability to the urban areas. With all due respect to Member Epstein and the HRM, Nova Scotia is basically a rural, small-town province. What happens in Halifax is basically the result of what's going on in the rest of Nova Scotia. Look at the fishery and the farming - all the other things - the mines in Cape Breton are now closed, these things all contributed to a thriving Halifax. Our government offices, federal, provincial, our Armed Forces, these are things that are Canadian and yet Halifax, HRM has the advantage of all these things, the universities and whatnot. Our people are coming here. When we need something like this every week, we are coming to Halifax. We are staying in the hotels. We are going to the restaurants. We are contributing to Halifax. What would Halifax do without the rest of Nova Scotia? That's my answer, Mr. Chairman, on that; we are retraining, we continue to do that but we hate to see our people leave the area.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mayor Fraser. I believe we have another member of the delegation. Perhaps you could identify yourself once again and if you would like to respond.
MR. FINLEY ARMSWORTHY: I am Deputy Mayor Finley Armsworthy of the Town of Canso. On the issue of retraining, Russell, I believe in retraining. I think you have to retrain people for different jobs and everything, but why do you have to send them 70 and 80 miles, if not further than that, to Halifax to retrain when they should be retrained in their own community, make up their own decisions and what they do in the pretense after that. When you have your community colleges, you have your educations of the day and the technology that you have, we should be setting up courses in our own communities and doing our own things in our own communities, not sending them millions of miles away to Halifax and whatever to make them do things. That's just a brief on that. That's what has to be done and you, as elected officials, should be striving to make sure that goes on.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Mayor. Mr. Boudreau.
MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Chairman, first of all I want to thank the mayor for coming in and bringing the delegation. Being a former municipal councillor down in Cape Breton and representing an area today in Cape Breton, I can identify with your struggles, that's for sure.
In regard to crime, is crime on the increase in Canso as a result of the situation you are in?
MR. FOUGERE: We have no criminals in Canso, sir. (Laughter)
MR. FRASER: A quick response to that, Mr. Chairman. Crime hasn't been - we have been very fortunate, as a matter of fact we are having discussions with the RCMP right now and the Attorney General with regard to 1.5 as opposed to one officer. We only need one officer, really, because the crime in Canso over the years has been minor at the best. Since then, it has gone down. The RCMP tell us every month at our protection committee review that crime in Canso is almost non-existent; parking meters or something like that. So we are very holy.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, it goes towards your credit to the community.
MR. FRASER: Councillor Cohoon tells me it is the lowest rate in rural small-town Nova Scotia.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Very good.
MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Very good and I congratulate you for that. I was aware of that, that's why I asked the question. I guess it supports the statements that the clergy made. That is why I asked that particular question.
In regard to social assistance, does your town pay the full cost of social assistance?
MR. FRASER: Does our town pay?
MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Yes.
MR. FRASER: Well, as you know, social assistance is now a provincial responsibility. I would like to expand on that a bit because I just ended a career last year with community services with the province and worked all my life in helping in the Towns of Canso and Mulgrave and the District of Guysborough in housing and social programs, that type of thing. I have seen some good days and I have seen some bad days. Certainly I don't like what I am seeing now. I don't like people losing their homes. I don't like to see them leaving the area not knowing where they are going. That way, Member Boudreau, we have grave concerns for our people. Sometimes I wish I was back working in the social programs along with our clergy and whatnot to see what we can do to improve that. I feel that in the position I am in now, with council and dealing with our MLA and our MP and both levels of government, we should be able to do more from that level.
MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Are you aware of the opportunities for prosperity, an economic development plan that the minister released a couple of years ago?
MR. FRASER: I'm not familiar. I'm not quite aware of what the question . . .
MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: So nobody has ever provided that plan to you? Is the province doing anything . . .
MR. FRASER: The regional development plan?
MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Yes.
MR. FRASER: The regionals on the province?
MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Yes.
MR. FRASER: We are aware of that, that there is a regional plan. A regional plan is supposed to be in place for all the regions of the province. We have been dealing with ACOA, we have been dealing with the Department of Economic Development, NSBI, the Department of Tourism and we have a number of projects awaiting a decision. We've been waiting for months and months. ACOA tells us well, yeah, they're still pending.
Now FRAM, which is Fisheries Restructuring and Adjustment Measures, who needs that more than the oldest seaport in the Maritimes that is going down the tube economically, and FRAM is not helping us. They are sitting on these programs. They want us to dot the i's and cross the t's and we can't do that. We can't do that with the resources that we have, selling people's properties, people unemployed, town council not being able to meet the needs of the people and we can't function right now and provide core, essential services to our people with the revenues that we have. We can't do that. These programs are in place and they are meant to serve areas like Canso. That's not getting in. There's too much red tape and we don't have the money. Everything is based on one-third/one-third/one-third - federal/provincial/municipal. We can't come up with the funds in many cases to provide the programs that we want to provide and, as a result, places like Canso and many others, there are all kinds - look at the coastal communities in the province, they're all in the same boat.
We have a towns' caucus now and we meet regularly as a towns' caucus and all of these towns and communities from the coastal areas, we talk about that. What's happening to our coastal areas? Ask any mayor of a small town. Bruce Lohnes of Stewiacke resigned. He is not from a coastal community but he resigned recently. Frustration levels, you know. It's going to happen more and more because the mayors are talking about it. We can't do what we want to do. Why sit on the job if you can't do it? You're just wasting your time.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mayor Fraser. I think we'll have to move along and come back, Mr. Boudreau, to MLA MacDonell.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Thank you very much for your presentation. I was to Canso when you had your town meeting that day and I was quite impressed with the turnout in the community. To say that this issue doesn't touch everyone, I think, is an understatement by the way the people showed up that day. I'm really glad to have a copy of the proposal. That is helpful. I am curious as to what you were told when you met with Minister Thibault. I know that day there was a mention that there was going to be a meeting so you have had that meeting. I have heard on the radio, I think even this morning, about seven days that he would have an answer. So I'm curious as to what you were told exactly about the 3-O redfish and anything else that he may have alluded to that could be a possible help.
MR. FRASER: The moment I had with the minister yesterday was very brief and he didn't indicate that 3-O redfish was involved at all. He just said a decision for Canso will be made within seven days with regard to the fishery in general, Seafreez.
MR. MACDONELL: Was that the first meeting since the town meeting in Canso? Was that the only meeting?
MR. FRASER: No, we met as a group and I think Councillor Cohoon is chairman of the task force and he met with them. I attended as well.
MR. MACDONELL: I'm wondering, what was your feeling on that previous meeting, then?
MR. FRASER: It was basically for us to update on our proposal and whatnot. There were no commitments other than okay, we had a good discussion and I will bring it back to Ottawa and we will decide within a reasonable period of time.
MR. VINCENT COHOON: I'm Councillor Cohoon and chairman of the task force. We formed the task force to work with Barry Seafoods, with the Municipality of Guysborough and the Town of Canso and with the fishermen's co-op to help out with any proposal to get Seafreez open again and try to put a little life back in the community. I think, as a group, we left optimistic at the meeting we had with the minister. I have been on council for 24 or 25 years and it's the first time since I've been on council that I met a federal Fisheries Minister. At least he knew where Canso was, anyway, so that was a plus in itself.
He took all the ideas we had - we know it's not a total saviour, the redfish, but it's part of the pie to keep things going and to put some life back in the community - and he says that they are working on two proposals. We're under the assumption that one of them is the 3-O redfish. We know there's a battle between Newfoundland - at least they wanted the battle, we don't want a battle with Newfoundland - we realize it doesn't make any sense to take fish away from one area and give it to another area and the next week you have to try to help that area out. That doesn't make any sense.
As Mr. Fougere mentioned, the foreign fleets are out there raping that resource. At one point the Portugese fleet would catch the redfish, bring it into St. John's, put it in a container and take it back home. Now, because they're catching so many, they just load the boat and go home, so we don't know exactly how much they're taking. It's not just the Portugese, there's three or four other countries that are fishing it. They're catching the biggest part of that quota that's out there.
As a group, we are optimistic that something will be done. The only problem is the timing, people are getting frustrated and they just want an answer, they want an answer one way or the other but, needless to say, we would like positive answers.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. MacDonell, I would just like to follow up. Councillor Cohoon if I could just direct a quick question to you. I am sure your optimism is well founded, but I recall - I think it was back in February 14th in the Chronicle-Herald - the federal Minister of Fisheries was quoted as saying that he didn't believe in band-aid solutions and I think he talked about putting something in place that was short-term rather than long-term; he really wasn't interested in that. I know, Mr. Fougere, you were quoted as coming away optimistic too, that something positive would happen. I am just wondering if you could share with the committee your reason for the optimism. As far as I am concerned, just being fairly uninformed, if you read what the minister is quoted to have said, Mr. Thibault, he points out that there's an international competitive fishing industry in Canada and he doesn't believe in patchwork quilts and band-aids and things like that. I am just curious, chairing the task force, you must have something tangible.
MR. COHOON: I will do part of it, then maybe Mr. Fougere can follow up on it. Seafreez Foods in Canso is not just one fish plant. Seafreez Foods is practically four fish plants within one. We have a state-of-the-art shrimp operation that you literally have to wash your boots before you go into the bloody area in the plant that does that. We have that shrimp fishery, we have a snow crab fishery that will start some time in June, maybe even late May and will run until late fall. The dead period we have is October/November until the spring when the shrimp will start up.
As I said earlier, it's not a save all, this redfish, but it's one of the pieces of pie that will make the whole plan work. Mr. Barry has gone out and said that if he gets an enterprise allocation he will spend $2 million, buy a 148 foot - correct me if I'm wrong, Mr. Fougere - vessel that is now tied up in Iceland or Norway and bring it to Canso and crew it with Canso fishermen. The question that the minister asked Mr. Barry was, what guarantee do I have that if we give you 3-O redfish that you will land them in Canso? He said, you give me the quota, I will buy the vessel, I will crew it with Canso people, I will sign a legal document that the union can have their lawyers draw up that I will process those fish in Canso, and if I don't process every one of them in Canso you can take the whole bloody thing. He elaborated more than "bloody" I guess.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you.
MR. FOUGERE: I think the reason for me coming behind Mr. Thibault and saying there was optimism, I believe somebody stated that it was the first time in 70 years that we've had a federal Fisheries Minister from the Province of Nova Scotia. That was one thing. The other thing is I had an opportunity to share in two other meetings on that same day with him on issues that were pertinent to the co-op versus pertinent to - well, anything that's pertinent to the co-op in my estimation is pertinent - the community. I left there with a feeling of optimism simply because of the fact that the dialogue up to that point was continuous and the dialogue since that point has been continuous. There have been offers, challenge offers, there has been proposals, challenge proposals, not on 3-O but on other issues that genuinely affect the co-op.
I think that this issue is political. I think it's maybe a little bit politically hot because of the controversy in Newfoundland. Mr. Chairman, from 1960 to the year 2000, 88 per cent of the total catch in that area was caught by foreign nationals, 88 per cent of that resource was caught by countries such as Estonia, Portugal, Spain, Japan, Russia and St. Pierre and Miquelon, 88 per cent. We want a minuscule percentage of it. Now everybody wants it and nobody wants to give that right to us. We have to have it. That is the reason for my optimism, simply because of the fact that the dialogue has continued, and as recent as this past Friday a quick reference was made to it at another meeting. As long as there's dialogue, there's optimism. When the door is slammed, there's nothing.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Fougere. Mr. MacDonell.
MR. MACDONNELL: I have to say that as someone who's not from a fishing community that I find the whole business around quotas and allocation of quotas, all of it I find really interesting, but I find it equally confusing. I am not sure what your life span has to be to figure this all out but I think I am going to come shy by a few years. (Interruption)
I am curious about what you said, Pat, regarding that so much of that allocation being fished by foreign fleets. Does that mean that the Canadian government allocates quota to those fleets to fish that resource or are they beyond a limit that it's in international waters and they can fish it anyway?
MR. FOUGERE: Yes, you're correct on that. All are under the jurisdiction of NAFO.
MR. MACDONELL: When the federal government decides that the stock is healthy enough that they would want to increase quota for that to be caught, is that an automatic thing, that whoever is fishing gets a certain percentage or do you have to apply to get an increase?
MR. FOUGERE: You have to apply to get an increase but you also have to have a catch history to get an enterprise allocation. That's a whole different story. You said you don't have enough longevity to understand? I have been involved for about 15 years and every single day of every single week is a learning experience in this industry. It is too complex, too diverse and when somebody within departments say, oh you have to be patient, the minister just went from a portfolio of 350 people to one that has 10,000 people. That will tell you how big and diverse it is, so I understand your feelings.
MR. MACDONELL: More people making a living off the fishery in the bureaucracy than there are in the water.
MR. FOUGERE: As a leadership candidate for the NDP I will allow that comment to be accredited to you and not to me. (Laughter)
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. MacDonell, I am going to have to move along to your colleague, Mr. Epstein. Thank you very much.
MR. FRASER: Mr. Chairman, may I make a quick response to Mr. MacDonell?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Oh, sure, Mayor Fraser.
MR. FRASER: The two meetings we had with Mr. Thibault; he's a rookie MP thrown into a real volatile portfolio. He's speaking in terms of long term and I like that. We came to Halifax, to the government, in 1990 and after that. We don't want to be coming back here every few years in a crisis. If he's talking long term, that's something that Councillor Cohoon indicated, we took a large plant in Canso with a great over-capacity and broke it into sectors. As he indicated, we had three or four plants in one to try to overcome that over-capacity. If Minister Thibault can, within seven days, come up with a plan that would keep those four sectors moving and keep the people employed on a regular basis, I would like that and I would applaud his efforts if he comes within seven days and comes up with something. Whether it's redfish or any other kind of fish that we have, I would applaud his efforts.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Epstein.
MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to thank all the delegates who have come here today from the Town of Canso. You've described your really terrible situation, which many of us have been aware of for a long time, since the first occasion more than a decade ago when the town first ran into serious trouble and mounted a very effective campaign to try to secure its survival. A lot of us have tried to follow what's been going on there. I do have a couple of questions but I want to make just a brief statement, if I could, on an item that emerged at least a little bit in some of the discussions. This was the observations about unequal development between urban and rural areas.
I don't think anyone would deny that's the case, that it's generally much more prosperous even in our province in the urban areas than it is in the rural areas. I want you to know that from my perspective and certainly the people in my district, which is the heart of the Halifax Peninsula - a more middle class area you couldn't find - we don't resent what expenses are necessary to go to maintain the rural areas. The hard fact is that it is more expensive to deliver health care and education and a few other kinds of services to rural areas, but we don't resent the money. We don't begrudge it. We don't begrudge it because we realize that without the economy that exists in the rural areas that's dependent on fisheries and farming and agriculture and mining and certain kinds of manufacture there wouldn't be an economy in the towns, there wouldn't be an economy in the cities. We realize that. There may have been poor policies adopted, but . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Excuse me, Mr. Epstein, do you have a question?
MR. EPSTEIN: I do, but I had to put that on the record because of some of the comments made earlier.
I am curious about the fish plant and its capacity. I would like to hear a little bit about that. I heard some comments about the ability to handle shrimp, crab and redfish and I heard about the number of people who are working there right now. I am not sure if that's full capacity or partial capacity? Is 315 the full number of people who could be working at that plant?
MR. FOUGERE: At this time, yes.
MR. EPSTEIN: Meaning what?
MR. FOUGERE: Meaning they could be.
MR. EPSTEIN: Sorry. I mean if there were more fish that were being landed in Canso, would it translate into more people working at that plant?
MR. FOUGERE: That's correct. If there were a variety - as you indicated, the diversity of the plant. There were very heavy amounts of money spent on a state-of-the-art, second-to-none, world-class shrimp operation where the shrimp are harvested, processed, packaged and sent to market right from Canso. There's a state-of-the-art crab line on another section of the plant. The third section of the plant comprises of a pelagic line where, value-added surimi products are done. There's a fourth part of the plant that is for groundfish. The key is, if you have no shrimp, no crab, no pelagic and no groundfish, it all equals no work.
MR. EPSTEIN: I agree. So some parts of the plant are either not in operation or not in operation as many hours as they might be? Is that what it is?
MR. FOUGERE: That's correct.
MR. EPSTEIN: What's the maximum employment that you could get from the plant?
MR. FOUGERE: With all allocations, I suppose you could have a capacity of 315 to 400.
MR. EPSTEIN: If it went up to 400 employees what would that do to the economy of the town?
MR. FOUGERE: Mr. Fraser, I will turn that over to you.
MR. FRASER: Unfortunately, the employment itself, it gives the people the opportunity to pay their taxes and that type of thing. For the governance of the town it doesn't mean anything. In other words, the town paying their costs of operating their services, providing services to the people, it does very little. We need assessment, we need business and we need factories to go up. We lost two major commercial operations, we lost Irving Oil and we lost Imperial Oil in the last couple of years. Their tanks and their assessment and their bulk refineries left Canso and moved to Port Hawkesbury and everything now is trucked into Canso.
MR. EPSTEIN: I was asking a slightly different question. I was asking, if the employment went up to 400 in the plant, would that get the town out of the crises situation it is in and give it enough breathing room to try to develop some other kinds of work as well?
MR. FRASER: The curt answer would be yes.
MS. JUDY SMITH: As stated, the fish plant has four different entities. The shrimp would run from April until June, the crab would run from June until September, redfish from April until June and October, November, December and then with alternate production in between or running concurrently. Shrimp and crab is not run at the same time because you can't fish both in the same area at the same time because of harvesting. Therefore, so many would work in shrimp, so many would work in crab, so many in redfish. It would be just in accordance to how much is brought in, whether they run one shift or two shifts. We don't know because it's not caught yet. We don't have any quota to catch. But once we find out what we can get, then we will know how much of a workforce will be back to work and at what times.
MR. EPSTEIN: Would any of the quota be from December to April?
MS. JUDY SMITH: No, redfish would be from . . .
MR. FOUGERE: Could I clarify something there. When we had our shrimp allocation - which we are about to lose any day - we could fish shrimp in January, February and March.
MR. EPSTEIN: Yes, okay. Can I ask the mayor a question?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes, Mr. Epstein.
MR. EPSTEIN: You mentioned earlier that you are sitting there with 23 potential tax sales of people's property, homes, businesses. So what I'm wondering is, what are you going to do?
MR. FRASER: I either have to sign them as directed by the MGA, the Municipal Government Act, or resign. Council is pretty well in the same boat. Council had to approve to do things according to the Municipal Government Act and I must sign them. I left them there. I didn't sign them before I left home. I looked at them and said, well, I'm going to sleep on this.
I don't know. All of these people, they are friends and relatives. It leaves me in that position. So I've got that task. When I go back, I either sign those orders or I resign.
MR. EPSTEIN: Is there anything in the arrangements that exist between the province and the municipalities that would help out in this situation; that is, in terms of equalization or any other funds that could be made available?
MR. FRASER: I'm glad you mentioned equalization. Mr. Chairman, may I venture into that one? The towns' caucus, which represents 31 towns - we have 21 or 22 that are active and I'm sure that up to 28, 29 will be very soon - equalization is something that we have been working on for the past year and it has to happen.
The Premier in the Province of Nova Scotia has been going to the federal government and to other provinces saying we have to have equalization, we have to have fairness in the country and within the province. I agree with equalization payments. If it wasn't for federal equalization, how would the Maritime Provinces exist? How would it have existed the last number of years?
Within the province itself, the towns are saying, why can't we have equalization within the province? We have "have-not" areas and we have "have" areas in the province. Why aren't we sharing? We can't tell the federal government and the other provinces, you know, well, you guys should be sharing with us but in the province we're saying, no, we don't want to share.
The only problem that I see - and I agree with many who are referring to this problem - is that the federal level, it comes from income tax. On the provincial level right now, we're looking at it coming from either municipal property taxes or municipal transfer of property taxes of the transfers that are registered per year in the province. Neither one of them are long-term goals.
If we had an equalization program set up, if it has to come from the third level, we have to have federal, provincial and municipal sharing of income tax. Then it would resolve many of the problems we have today. If we can get that equalization that Minister MacIsaac was prepared to put in place in December, if we had that in place, the Town of Canso would be much better able to meet its commitments, which we can't do right now. Next month, April 1st, is our new fiscal year. We aren't prepared to balance our budget. We can't do it without equalization.
Mr. Chairman, you are very aware of the needs of Canso and rural Nova Scotia, and particularly coastal Nova Scotia. We need that equalization to exist. If we don't get it, like Mayor Lohnes, I think you are going to see many mayors and elected municipal officials deciding whether they either have to resign or do some other things to attract money to the area.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mayor Fraser. I think we have to move along to - Pat, comment?
MR. FOUGERE: Mr. Chairman, when Mayor Fraser first contacted me about coming up here today, I said, yes. He said it was going to be a tri-Party that was going to discuss economic development and we were going to speak about the fishery, in general. I thought that was a great opportunity. I know most of you people from 10 years ago, 11 years ago - whatever the first battle was - and I accepted this opportunity to come up.
We can talk about all of the issues. Some of the things I first talked about can lead to a lot of that. If people in the community such as the group that I represent are given permanency within the industry as opposed to temporary into the industry - I cannot, as Manager of the co-op, understand how so many billions and billions of dollars are being spent on the industry from one group versus another group. We are $1 million in debt. And we are not permanent members into the fishing industry, while others are permanent into the industry with no debt. Every time, Mr. Chairman, I speak to the DFO officials, they say, buy your way in.
I have to get a shot in here, Mr. Chairman, and point out to you what it costs to get in. Before the MacKenzie ruling on the Marshal decision, access to licences was very broad and very cheap. A shrimp licence, for example, would have cost the Canso Trawerlmen's Co-op approximately $300,000 or maybe even less. The cost of that licence now, based on the
MacKenzie ruling as it affected the Marshall decision, is $1.2 million. It is identical in the crab industry.
These people have a right - and we respect them, and we respect their rights. I meet with them every two or three weeks. I meet with various groups of those people and they have a right. But I have a right. My men have a right. My right should not cost me my life. Whatever we put forth must not cost. That effect alone prevents the group of people that I represent from buying their way in. That's a very staggering figure, isn't it, from $250,000 to $1.2 million?
I have had one offer in the last year. Oh, I've got a shrimp licence I'm going to sell you, Mr. Fougere. Yeah, you are, are you? Yes, two quotas. How much? They're $2.6 million. And the shrimp allocation is going down. What would he want if it was on its way up? I can't compete on behalf of the men I represent.
If my men work - Mayor Fraser knows - every pound of fish we harvested since our inception has been landed in Canso, at times, at less prices than competitive companies were paying. We are a co-operative, a community-based group that believes in the philosophy of our community first, but we can't do it forever without an equal playing field, Mr. Chairman.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Fougere, just on the cost of fishing and how it has gone up to be a fisherman and so on, regarding the existing infrastructure that the Canso Trawlermen's Co-op has - like, that vessel is tied up now at the wharf?
MR. FOUGERE: I will plead the fifth. (Laughter)
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay. Well, Pat, I guess what I was leading to . . .
MR. FOUGERE: Yes, it is tied up because of a lack of resource, Mr. Taylor.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, well, what I'm trying to get to, Mr. Fougere, is, Mr. Thibault, the federal minister, is saying that Canso must be part of a national strategy. I guess the question that begs to be asked, if, in fact, some allocation does come forward, what difficulties along financial lines will the co-op have to overcome?
MR. FOUGERE: Well, there will be a lot of difficulties that the Canso Trawlermen's Co-op would have to overcome but one of the things we are not particularly concerned with is the case of the 3-O proposal because we would not be providing the vessel; Seafreez would be providing the vessel and we would be providing the crew. That's in written context, from that perspective. But in terms of other related costs, I could probably dazzle you, Brooke - or Mr. Chairman, I'm sorry - but I'm not going to today, with some of the things that are going on in the fishing industry, okay, and the costs.
We were given crab, for example, and we are only allowed to keep a part of that profit. We have to pay a profit to five other fishermen in Halifax who have never even gone on the boat or anything else. As MLA MacDonell mentioned, it's just such a complicated thing. The costs are astronomical.
You, as a sitting member of the provincial "government" will know when we need something because we will come knocking.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Well, Pat, I still . . .
MR. FOUGERE: Do you want an exact figure?
MR. CHAIRMAN: No, I don't need an exact figure. I notice in the mayor's presentation, or at least the correspondence we received, that you referenced the vessel and the wharf, and you are telling us, I guess, that if it's the redfish then, in fact, Seafreez vessels will do the fishing and people in town, the fishermen, can be employed. What does it take to put your own vessel back on the water?
MR. FOUGERE: Additional allocations, Mr. Chairman.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay. If you get the additional allocation, it comes, obviously, with a price tag. Is that the price tag you are alluding to? The cost was $200,000 and now it is . . .
MR. FOUGERE: No, Mr. Chairman. It is the cost of owning a permanent licence.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, thank you. That's the clarification . . .
MR. FOUGERE: What Minister Dhaliwal said, because of the over-capacity in the industry he did not want new players. So what they did, they started a bidding war with present licence holders. The licence that cost somebody $10, 10 years ago, all of a sudden became a million dollar lottery ticket.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Boudreau.
MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am going to get right to it because I know you are going to cut me off probably earlier than expected.
Mr. Mayor, I appreciate your comments regarding the equalization. I am hopeful that the government members here today are going to hear you because we have been trying to convince them that that's a major issue in regard to mini-rural municipalities out there. I can assure you that on April 2nd, they won't hide after that.
In any event, I want to ask the mayor about offshore opportunities in your community. With Guysborough just being next door to you, and this government boasting about the development of offshore opportunities, could you explain what the provincial government is doing in your neighbourhood, please?
MR. FRASER: The Town of Canso has not benefitted whatsoever from the offshore. You are referring to Sable. At the present time, Sable is the only operator. Only 40 miles as the crow flies from Canso and the pipelines come right across in front of our coastline in Canso. Of course, these pipelines and the second now we are talking about, PanCanadian, if they continue, each company that goes in, as a player into the offshore, to put in individual pipelines is going to increase the risk, potentially, for the fishing industry, including the Canso area.
To answer your question, specifically, it hasn't at all benefitted the Town of Canso. We don't have tax sharing and we have been after the provincial government and the federal government as well, to say look, we have to have tax sharing of mega-projects that come ashore. This resource belongs to the Canadian people and, particularly, the offshore of Nova Scotia to Nova Scotians. We feel that all Nova Scotians should benefit directly from that asset that is being taken from the subsurface of the coastline, and why not? It's not happening. The Town of Canso and Mulgrave, and the county are not benefitting at all. Mulgrave will be able, now or eventually, I think, because the lateral pipeline from Sable to Point Tupper, to carry off the waste fuels and what not, that will benefit Mulgrave greatly. I think that is where all the jobs will be created and from the waste from the actual natural gas. I think Point Tupper and Port Hawkesbury, in the next few years, will greatly be helped by that.
The Town of Canso, our location - the presentation I made to you there, you will see the map and I showed you on the map where Canso is - we are only 40 miles from Goldboro. We are not directly in line with either pipeline, either the direct pipeline by Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline or the Sable Pipeline to Point Tupper. We are on the other end, the forgotten end, so we have not benefitted at all, Mr. Boudreau.
MS. JANET PEITZSCHE: I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for bringing that point up because. . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: You're Councillor. . .
MS. PEITZSCHE: I am Councillor Janet Peitzsche. I am Councillor for the Municipality of the District of Guysborough. The reason why I am here today is because I represent the people in the surrounding area of Canso. That would represent, in large, area mass and homes about the same size of the Town of Canso and the population base would probably be about the same. The problem is doubled when you take in my area. So you are not only talking about the Town of Canso. As far as the Municipality of the District of Guysborough is concerned with the Sable project, what we have seen in my district, which surrounds the Town of Canso, are some of the trawlermen and ex-fishermen have been lucky enough to be retrained and have gotten jobs on the rigs and have been lucky enough to do that and that is great.
Other than that, what my area that I represent has gotten from the Sable project is a low tax base and a few other things. But we will die, as well as the Town of Canso, without the fish plant. The same problems that the Town of Canso have, we have in our area without the fish plant. We are losing our kids. I have two kids, one at Dalhousie and one at St. F.X.. Will they have a chance to come home to Little Dover? No. We have, after 28 years, finally got the government to approve a sewer system for Little Dover. This year, when the spring construction year starts, my community will have - since 28 years, finally - the poison taken out of the ground. We should be dancing in the streets in Little Dover because of that.
Do you know what I have to face? If the fish plant closes, I have to go back to my council and say, we have to rethink this, after 28 years, because my community will not be able to afford to pay the $2,500 capital connection charge. That is what is going to happen.
Although Guysborough County and Sable are great to put together, you have to be in the community and realize that the area of Guysborough County, the District of Guysborough that I represent, will get a few jobs off the Sable because of the fishermen and their experience, a low tax rate and maybe a few other things to bring us into the 21st Century. But if we don't have the fish plant my area dies, as well as the Town of Canso. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Councillor. We are going to have to move along to MLA MacDonell.
MR. MACDONELL: Thank you. I'm curious about when you were talking about the MacKenzie ruling. I didn't understand the impact on the cost of the licences based on that. Could you explain that?
MR. FOUGERE: Because the treaty says they must share in the industry and because the industry has an overcapacity problem, the decision was made to bring them in through the purchase of existing licences. That is where the cost of licences escalated.
MR. MACDONELL: Okay.
MR. FOUGERE: MLA MacDonell, before I go back on that, I want to make a point of clarification, Mr. Chairman.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Point of clarification, Pat, yes.
MR. FOUGERE: I can count on one hand the number of fishermen and former trawlermen who are working in the Sable offshore, okay. I do have one major concern with the exploration of oil off of Canada's East Coast. It's the destruction of lucrative fishing grounds off of Sable Island. We must not sacrifice our livelihoods for potential.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Fougere. I am going to have to move along. We will do some short snappers here. One question per member. (Interruption) Maybe the answers can be concise too, Pat. (Laughter)
MR. FOUGERE: They will be, Mr. Chairman.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. MacKinnon.
MR. MACKINNON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Touching on that very point on the offshore, earlier this week I heard on the news where the provincial government, in concert with others, is agreeing to relax the environmental regulations with regard to the disposal of the oily soils that are produced in the drilling of the offshore. Has your organization or municipality had any input into that process? I know there is a 30-day reception period for people to respond and so on.
MR. FOUGERE: I'm not aware of the issue.
MR. MACKINNON: Well, there was a proposal, in short, Mr. Chairman, that any of the oily soils that come up as a result of the drilling they are just going to dump them into the sea. My concern is, where are they going to dump them? How is that going to impact on the fishery? I know OTANS and people in the oil industry are quite excited about it because they are going to save millions of dollars, but at what cost? Perhaps if you could give me some insight on that, Your Worship.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Fraser.
MR. FRASER: I am very much aware of that proposal. The proposal, basically, is to process the gas at sea and the waste, which you mentioned, we have been assured that that would not be dumped at sea but would be put in containers and whatever and brought ashore. It would not be released into the waters.
The Town of Canso prepared a resolution back last September for the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities' conference in Sydney and we brought this before, objecting strongly, to the processing of natural gas at sea. That resolution was passed unanimously by the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities and we still protest the provincial and federal governments allowing the gas to be processed at sea. It is going to cost Nova Scotians jobs, it is going to increase the risk of environmental disasters at sea. It puts our fishery at risk and we would ask the members of this committee, when you go back to the Legislature, and with your caucuses, that you prepare policies objecting to the processing of gas at sea. You are robbing Nova Scotians of jobs. You are putting our fishery at risk and I would like to see every member speak out objectively against processing at sea.
MR. MACKINNON: Just quickly, Mr. Chairman, did you receive that assurance in writing, that these oily soils would be contained in barrels?
MR. FRASER: No, of course we didn't. PanCanadian is going from community to community, giving presentations and stating that type of thing. It was in a PowerPoint presentation, it was brought out that it would not be released into the waters off the coast.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mayor Fraser. Councillor Cohoon.
MR. COHOON: Just for clarification, I don't think it's the soil that they are putting back down.
MR. MACKINNON: No, it is what's coming up.
MR. COHOON: What it is, as the mayor says, they are going to process at sea. From the process, that well that they are going to do is very similar to Alberta Gas and they have a lot of sour gas in it. There is sour gas and other liquids. Those liquids will be pumped back down and pumped under the sea bottom into cavities in the ground. They aren't just being dumped overboard sort of thing. So it is sour gas and other liquids that are being pumped back down the pipeline and back down underneath the sea bottom, okay?
MR. MACKINNON: I'm talking about the soils.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. MacKinnon and Councillor Cohoon. Mr. Chisholm.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: I just wanted to comment on a question from Mr. Boudreau on the equalization. The Municipality of the District of Guysborough as well as the District of St. Mary's in Guysborough County were in favour of the equalization plan that was presented, I guess, in early December. They jumped on board very quickly to support that proposal and to have that equalization program in place for towns like Canso, Mulgrave
and other areas of the province. So it wasn't from a lack of support in Guysborough County that that proposal was rejected. That's the only point I had to make, Mr. Chairman.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Good point, Mr. Chisholm.
MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman. It's quite obvious that the majority of the municipalities were in support of that equalization. The problem was, of course, the government of which the honourable member is a member. (Laughter)
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Boudreau.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: I better not comment on that, I guess.
MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Go ahead.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I guess if we were across the street in the House we would say that is not a point of order but it is certainly a point raised by an honourable member. I have Mr. Epstein down.
MR. EPSTEIN: What I wondered was whether there are any provincial government offices in Canso? (Laughter)
MR. FRASER: Well, we mentioned that, Mr. Chairman. We mentioned that if HRM isn't interested in providing some equalization cash to the hard-hit rural municipalities, that maybe they would agree that the province and the federal government would relocate certain offices and departments to various parts of Nova Scotia. I think that's an answer. It either has to be cash or in kind when it comes to help; give us either one.
We have a number of applications under FRAM now, under ACOA, and they are outstanding and the FRAM program, as many know, comes to an end at the end of March. That is the end of FRAM. The three applications that we have before the federal government right now, they are integral parts of the puzzle in putting Canso back to work again. We have those and we would like to see the support of this committee as well, in pressing ACOA and the Department of Economic Development to come into agreements to putting these pieces of the puzzle into place.
If we can get these three things going, one is in tourism, one is in high-tech and the other is in our industrial park, which would be trades related. This would put all types of persons, young people, people with technology skills and plant workers and things like that who don't have too many skills other than processing, to be put to work almost immediately. So if we had that support, Mr. Chairman, that would help.
MR. EPSTEIN: Where is the nearest community college?
MR. FRASER: Port Hawkesbury, approximately 75 miles away.
MR. EPSTEIN: Okay, thanks.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mayor Fraser, if I could, just a quick question. I remember a few years ago being in the Town of Canso and meeting with Mr. Fougere, then and now a community activist. There was great concern about the town being in, I guess, a potential insolvency situation. I am wondering, Mr. Fraser, as mayor of the town, it is certainly a scenario you don't like to think about, but have you had any discussions with your more well-off municipalities regarding some form of partnering and co-operation?
MR. FRASER: We have had ongoing discussions. The town caucus is endeavouring to encourage the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities to make some structural changes that would not pit rural municipalities against cities and against towns, that type of thing, and vice versa. We are trying to come up with something that would create a better Nova Scotia for everyone, that we must share somewhat. The major projects, if they all go to a host community, one host community or two, that community is going to be rich with all kinds of reserves and all kinds of prosperity and the rest of Nova Scotia really is not going to benefit much. So I believe that the present Government of Nova Scotia is heading in that direction. They want to create a situation where mega-projects like Sable, like this 800 megawatt power station that they are proposing for Goldboro, these will be taxed in such a way that it will be shared with other areas of Nova Scotia and I agree with that. I agree wholeheartedly. It has to happen. If not, then you are going to have one municipality fighting the other to be a host community. It shouldn't be that way.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I know the former Mayor of Stewiacke, Bruce Lohnes, quite well, Mayor Fraser, and I know he shares many of the concerns that you raise and the committee on small-town Nova Scotia certainly is working very hard on behalf of all those small units that are struggling.
Mr. MacDonell, the final question may go to you.
MR. MACDONELL: I would like to move, I think, a motion, but I want to run it past you people to see whether it's premature. Before I do that, in looking at this, is this area here, 3-O, does the concept of adjacency apply to it in terms of Nova Scotia? My thought is that it wouldn't.
MR. FOUGERE: But what about historical attachment?
MR. MACDONELL: Right, okay. That is what I wanted you to . . .
MR. FOUGERE: It is the same distance from Canso to go to 3-O as it is from Newfoundland to 3-O.
MR. MACDONELL: Okay, great.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The councillor has a comment before we entertain a motion.
MS. PEITZSCHE: I would just like to deal with the question about the two municipalities working together. I represent the area surrounding the town and I work very hard for my own district. We have had some diversity in our own little communities and we will still work toward diversifying our own little communities, but I can tell you right now that it doesn't matter how many millions of dollars the Municipality of the District of Guysborough gets off of Sable, if we don't get our fish plant in the Town of Canso we're done. There is nothing else that will stabilize my end of the Municipality of the District of Guysborough except the fishery. I want to make that quite clear. So the millions of dollars from Sable can come to the Municipality of the District of Guysborough but my district, without the fishery, will always be the same. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, councillor. Mr. MacDonell.
MR. MACDONELL: My thought is, in light of the upcoming announcement that the minister may make you may find this premature but, anyway, my motion is that all members of the Nova Scotia legislative Economic Development Committee urge the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to recognize his obligation to allocate the fish quota to the Town of Canso and to do so immediately. We urge this in recognition of the principles of adjacency, historical attachment and dependency. Now I put, according to Article 3 of the management plan, if I have that right . . .
MR. FRASER: Excuse me, I would remove all of the - read the last two lines.
MR. MACDONELL: We urge this in recognition of the principles of adjacency, historical attachment and dependency.
MR. FRASER: I would eliminate that.
MR. MACDONELL: Okay. So the original, the preceding part is . . .
MR. FOUGERE: I would use dependency, not adjacency or historical attachment.
MR. MACDONELL: Okay. So we can say, we urge this in recognition of the principle of dependency.
MR. FOUGERE: Of a coastal community. Because you are opening a can of worms.
MR. FRASER: Maybe even historical dependency.
MR. MACDONELL: Okay.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. MacDonell, for the edification of committee members, certainly the chairman - would you mind reading that motion back into the record?
MR. MACDONELL: Well, I would be glad to.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you.
MR. MACDONELL: Anybody can still add to this if they feel they want an adjustment. All members of the Nova Scotia legislative Economic Development Committee urge the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to recognize his obligation to allocate fish quota to the Town of Canso and to do so immediately. We urge this in recognition of the principle of historical dependency and also in recognition of the crisis in the town.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Question on the motion. Mr. MacKinnon?
MR. MACKINNON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Would the honourable member be willing to accept a friendly amendment to that?
MR. MACDONELL: I would be.
AN HON. MEMBER: I would like to hear it first.
MR. MACKINNON: Include the provincial Minister of Fisheries, or Natural Resources to provide a letter of support.
MR. FOUGERE: He has that, Mr. MacKinnon.
MR. MACKINNON: He has? Okay.
MR. FOUGERE: A very strongly worded . . .
MR. MACKINNON: Do you have a copy of that letter? Maybe if you would be kind enough to table it for the committee I will take it on notice.
MR. FOUGERE: If I don't, I can fax it to your office.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Is that okay, Mr. MacKinnon?
MR. MACKINNON: Yes.
MR. FOUGERE: I have more proposals here than bin Laden got.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Do you second the motion? Mr. Epstein did second the motion.
Just a question for clarification, John. Was it thought that we would draft up the motion and have the individual members sign it and send it off to Mr. Thibault? (Interruption) I'm asking for clarification, Mr. Boudreau.
MR. MACDONELL: If it is necessary, yes, but if it is not necessary I think just draft a letter and the chairman can sign it.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay.
MR. FOUGERE: Could you cc the. . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Okay, the chairman can draft that letter to entertain the motion, provided it gets through and I sense that it will. Is there any further question on the motion? Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is unanimously carried.
Mayor Fraser, I know Pat would probably like to, but would you like to have summary comments? You are certainly welcome to for a couple of minutes.
MR. FRASER: Yes, Mr. Chairman. Thank you very much. On behalf of the Town of Canso and our group here today, I would like to say that this is one of the better forums that I have ever sat in on to discuss . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. We can't hear the speaker.
MR. FRASER: . . . economic situations and certainly the crisis in Canso and area at the present time. It certainly was a great learning experience for myself and, I'm sure, the members of the group. I welcome two hours of discussion. I think this was very valuable and worthwhile and I am very pleased with the discussions that we have had, very frank, open discussions.
I would like to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for affording me the opportunity when I applied in December to come before this committee. I would like to thank, particularly, Mrs. Henry, we worked very closely in setting this up and arranging it. Of course, we were stormed out a couple of weeks ago and very quickly the committee and yourself, Mr. Chairman, agreed to get it back on stream in view of the crisis in Canso. We would like to
thank all the members and all the persons in the Province of Nova Scotia, and the three Parties involved. Thank you very much from the bottom of our hearts. We appreciate it very much.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mayor Fraser. Mr. Fougere?
MR. FOUGERE: Mr. Chairman, in my closing comments, I want to reiterate what His Worship said. As you probably know, Mr. Chairman, more than anybody, because we have had phone conversations over about the past nine, 10 years, or since the original battle of the Canso issue - in the last two years they haven't been very frequent because I don't like answering machines but - the last few times I called you, that is what I got.
It is very amazing to sit in this room and watch a tri-Party committee that will go to the Legislature on April the 2nd and pick and tear at each other. It is so refreshing to sit here today under the circumstances that we are under. They are not very good circumstances for us. The gratitude, the politeness, the mannerism in which this meeting unfolded today is very new to me because I am used to sitting over at the peanut gallery. I have gone on record in the past - I had a big fight with Bill Gillis back in 1991, when I dubbed it the Mickey Mouse Club. I said that they were eating their smarties and the biggest job they had was to try to figure out whether they ate the red ones last. It led to a big hurrah with the former member for Antigonish, I guess, Bill Gillis. It is refreshing to come here today and see a tri-Party committee such as this get along in the way you did.
Although sometimes I, in particular, find humour in things that are not humorous, I want to assure you that I am first and foremost a Cansonian. Secondly, I am a fisherman. Thirdly, I love my community. I will defend my community no matter what it takes, but we need help. That help cannot wait until May, June, July. That help has to happen now.
Our own MLA recently spent half of the day in our office. He is in and out of the community. He understands and he knows the concerns. As Councillor Peitzsche mentioned, as Mayor Fraser mentioned and as Ms. Smith mentioned, and the clergy, we live in the real world in Canso. We are not here talking to you about a mythological Harry Potter-type of scenario or anything else. This is real, Mr. Chairman.
I think, as Mayor Fraser said, it would do politicians good to visit rural Nova Scotia. I lived in Halifax and I worked at some pretty seedy places. I hope FRANK didn't include some of them. But I worked in some pretty seedy places in this city. I moved back home in the late 1980's; I am one who is not leaving. I don't care what it takes for me to stay, I'm staying. I hope on April 2nd, Mr. Boudreau, when you pick on our MLA over equalization, or Minister MacIsaac, or the Premier, keep in mind this meeting today, look at the faces around here today and realize that you are fighting for the very existence of the oldest fishing port in the Maritimes.
I have taken this message to the Honourable Russell MacLellan when he was Premier; I have taken this message to Keith Colwell when he was, I believe, in your riding now, Mr. Dooks; I have taken this message to you, Brooke, a dozen times. We need this province to stand up on fishing issues. We have been silent, we have been dormant. It can't continue.
When I sat in a meeting last week and was told by the New Brunswick Government, by the province and by a bunch of people from New Brunswick who are fishing 25 per cent of the shrimp that is less than 20 miles off the shores of Canso, that they are not leaving, it is pretty disheartening knowing that; knowing what is taking place in Newfoundland. I think it is time that this province took a stand on the fishing. If they do, it will not only be for the benefit of Canso, it will be for the benefit of all rural Nova Scotia fishing communities.
I ask you today to leave here and think of what the Canso Trawlermen's Co-op needs for permanency in the industry, the need for the welfare of our families. If the fishing industry goes, the rest will come. Other businesses will come and replace those that are gone. There will be a whole new cycle. But if the fishing industry goes, there will be no cycle and we will be left as a dying town.
Having said that, I want to thank you on behalf of the Canso Trawlermen's Co-op Limited. Remember, four years ago DFO told us that you are not fishermen and you are not getting back in the industry. We told them then that we were. We are back and we are back to stay. No matter what the cost is, we are back to stay.
I thank you for the opportunity to present myself, regardless if I was joking with some answers, this is not a joking matter. This is dear to me because I love my community and I love the people I represent. Also, as Mayor Fraser said, I appreciate the opportunity. This is one of the most gratifying experiences that I have gone through in the past two years, to sit in this room, under this environment and discuss these issues. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
MR. FRASER: In closing, Mr. Chairman, may I state that I forgot to mention the community of Canso has called for an ecumenical service next Monday night. Our clergy will attest to that and they will lead the service.
I want to state that I quipped to the minister, Minister Thibault, I said look, we are having an ecumenical service on Monday, March 11th at 7:00 p.m. in our church. I said it would make the supreme commander look awfully good if you made an announcement on March 12th.
MR. FOUGERE: We are basically asking for divine intervention. (Laughter)
MR. CHAIRMAN: I want to thank Mayor Frank Fraser, on behalf of this committee. We do appreciate your kind comments about the committee - it is an excellent committee - and those made by your colleague, Pat Fougere. You certainly brought a delegation here today representing the Town of Canso. We don't question or dispute the sincerity of all members. I would just like to concur with Mr. Fougere, that the MLA is very concerned and does bring those concerns to government about the Town of Canso.
We do now share some of your optimism and hope that Mr. Thibault brings forward an announcement that will make everybody happy, not only in Canso, but in Nova Scotia. When a town such as Canso is struggling, the whole province has to bear some of the brunt. So thank you for bringing those concerns in here. We will send off the resolution that was unanimously passed by this committee and welcome you to come back at any time, perhaps under more pleasant circumstances.
Thank you very much, Mayor Fraser. Thank you, committee.
Our next meeting is March 19th. We have the Sydney Port Corporation. Mr. Boudreau does want the floor. I do apologize. We didn't have a motion to adjourn so I would ask committee members to indulge Mr. Boudreau.
MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Is the Port Authority confirmed to come in on that particular day?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes, it is on March 19th.
MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: I am wondering about putting forward a request in regard to rail tax. I would appreciate an opportunity - I know there's a major issue in Cape Breton at the moment in regard to rail tax. I guess I am requesting that other members of the committee would support me in requesting the rail tax come before this committee.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Are you talking, RailAmerica? This is to do with the situation with the rail.
MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Yes, the railway company in Cape Breton.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Is there any comment from other committee members regarding Mr. Boudreau's request for RailAmerica to come in as a witness, or representatives appropriate? Okay. Perhaps Darlene can work with you, Brian, and line up a potential witness.
MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Motion to adjourn.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We stand adjourned.
[The committee adjourned at 11:03 a.m.]