Transcript: Fisheries & Oceans Committee Meeting (14 Mar 2012)

Mr. Fin Donnelly: In your opening remarks you talked about habitat protection. In the questions you also pointed out an example of a jamboree in a field. Isn't it more to the point of looking at pipeline projects and that you've been intensely lobbied by large organizations, with more of a focus on pipelines and oil transportation off the coast, perhaps mining and other major activities? Isn't that more of a concern? Certainly it's come to light.

As you know, I've been asking in question period about this fact that the department intends to make sweeping changes to section 35 of the Fisheries Act, and that will have a major significant impact on habitat protection. With cuts of $10.2 million to species-at-risk recovery, $11.9 million from science and sustainable fisheries, and cuts of $6.7 million to environmental assessment regulation for major natural resource projects, is it safe to assume that DFO is indeed pulling out of habitat protection when assessing major projects? I specifically mention pipelines, oil tankers, mining operations, and not just farmers' fields, bridges, roads, and housing developments.

Hon. Keith Ashfield: It wouldn't be responsible for me as Minister of Fisheries to do anything that would impact on habitat, habitat protection, and the protection of fish. That's my primary focus. We're looking at all of our policies, but rest assured that it would not impact...if there are any changes. Who knows? I don't know for sure. No decisions have been made, but we're looking at things.

The primary thing is that we will protect our habitat and our fish. The funding programs that you mentioned were sunsetting programs, and I think my staff has probably talked to you about those already.

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