With the 2015 Canadian Federal Election now in the books and a new government about to take over the reins in Ottawa, many are trying to understand what a Justin Trudeau government with a Liberal Party majority might mean to us in our lives. Here are some items to consider: One positive appears to be that the new government does not have aversion to running a deficit, which may mean an opportunity regaining funding cut for important fisheries management services. While no specifics are mentioned, it is definitely something for the SFAB and SVIAC to promote. This would include getting the Vision for Recreational Fisheries in BC, Implementation Plan fulfilled as well.
From a fresh water perspective, the Liberal election platform indicated “We will treat our freshwater as a precious resource that deserves protection and careful stewardship”. This seems fairly general and good statement. They also suggested in their fresh water piece the implementation of Justice Cohen’s Commission recommendations regarding Sockeye salmon. If so, much of the key pieces relate to changes in fish farming practices in the ocean along areas where Sockeye migrate. Regarding freshwater angling, it is likely there will be little change as that is managed by the provincial government. The same applies to steelhead management currently a provincial responsibility. From a saltwater fisheries perspective there may be some impacts to come on the West Coast. The Liberal election platform indicated the new government under their control would implement a significant increase in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
Citing a Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society example the Liberal platform documents indicate that currently Canada only has 1.3% of Protected Ocean Estate by Country. The Liberal mandate sees the implementation an increase to 5% by 2017 and 10% 2020. That relates to a 4 fold increase by 2017 from current levels and an 8 fold increase by 2020. The key will be where those MPA will be. The East Coast, the North Coast and the West Coast of Canada will likely all see new or enlarged existing MPAs established. It is worth noting that MPAs are not open to extraction or removal of marine creatures, so fishing as an activity is traditionally not permitted. Hence one could assume a loss of fishing opportunity for our sector if this platform issue is delivered upon on the West Coast. Clearly, there is a need for us to be vigilant when planning processes start and consultations on the selection of area and location for new MPAs gets underway.
It is also worth noting, Parks Canada will be boosted by the new government reversing the cuts made by the Harper government. The Liberals also plan to add an additional $25,000,000 to develop Canada’s National Park system. Around South Vancouver Island there are several Parks Canada initiatives currently languishing on hold that if revitalized may directly impact your fisheries. The most notable of those is the Southern Gulf Islands National Marine Conservation Area in the waters off Sidney.
Another important consideration is who will Justin Trudeau appoint as his new Fisheries Minister? Will that new minister have any knowledge of our unique and complex fishery in British Columbia? Will Trudeau opt for one of the BC MPs to be the new Fisheries Minister? This is important to us here on South Vancouver Island. Many former Fisheries Ministers have hailed from the East Coast, where commercial fisheries are king. Geoff Regan, a former Fisheries Minister from Dec 2003 to Feb 2006, was recently re-elected as MP for Halifax West. Could he be given the job? Or perhaps the appointment will go to Lawrence MacAulay, the former Liberal fisheries critic, who maintained his seat in the election for the PEI riding of Cardigan. Rumor has it, he enjoys recreational fishing himself. There are many choices.
While we do not know what the new cabinet look like or who the ministers will be, we have heard from Trudeau his cabinet will be smaller and equally represented by women and men. In the weeks and months to come we will find out just how our important public recreational fisheries will be changed, if at all. Let’s all hope if there are changes, they are for the better.