New Democrats Defend Fisheries Habitat Protection

OTTAWA – New Democrats are calling out the Conservative government for proposing changes to the Fisheries Act that could seriously weaken environmental oversights in the context of major development projects, such as those involving oil and gas.

“The Conservatives are putting the rush to development ahead of the tens of thousands of Canadians who depend on the fisheries,” said New Democrat Fisheries and Oceans critic, Robert Chisholm (Dartmouth-Cole Harbour) “They are once again making significant changes without having a transparent and respectful discussion with Canadians, especially those whose lives depend on sustainable fisheries.”

Today, Minister Ashfield stated that “current rules protecting fish and fish habitat go beyond their intended conservation goals.” For months, the Conservatives have refused to answer as New Democrats have pressed them for details about proposals to weaken habitat protection in the Fisheries Act.

“We know that these changes will have major implications for our coastal communities and the livelihoods of people who depend on the fishery,” said Fin Donnelly (New Westminster-Coquitlam and Port Moody), Deputy Fisheries and Oceans critic for the West Coast. “Weakening provisions to protect fish habitat will also weaken environmental reviews – and that means it will be easier for the Conservatives to fast-track projects like pipelines without strong environmental oversight.”

“The Conservatives are demonstrating that the long-term survival of the ecosystems that support the fisheries is not important to them,” said Phil Toone (Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine), deputy Fisheries and Oceans critic for the East Coast. “This government is gradually choking off the lifelines that keep independent fishing communities alive; these changes are one more step in that process.”