Possible changes to fisheries habitat concerning

MP Jean Crowder has been hearing concerns about Bill C-38 and possible changes to fisheries habitat.

I need to start this month’s column with a big thank you to all the constituents who have e-mailed or called my office in recent weeks to talk about their concerns around the budget implementation act, Bill C-38.

Many of you raised the possible changes to fisheries habitat as the most concerning.

As a coastal community, Ladysmith has seen the results of habitat destruction first-hand.

The rehabilitation of the Holland Creek salmon runs started in 1990 with the establishment of the hatchery and is still going on today.

Under the new rules proposed by the Conservative government, only habitat for commercial and aboriginal fisheries (for food, social and ceremonial purposes) will automatically receive protection.

Fish habitat for non-commercial fisheries will not automatically be protected. It isn’t clear what that means to a salmon run that cannot be exploited because it is recovering or being rehabilitated. We have to wait for the Conservatives to publish the regulations that will implement the decision in Bill C-38 sometime later this year.

In the meantime, cuts to front-line workers at the Department of Fisheries and Ocean will threaten the sustainability of our fisheries.

These cuts affect biologists, researchers, policy makers — all the people who make decisions based on facts.  Climate change studies, water ecosystem health, habitat protections and fish stock monitoring will all be affected by these job losses.

The environment in general gets short shrift in this budget.

Along with changes to the Canadian Environment Assessment Act, cuts to Environment Canada will see cuts to research and policy development on air pollution, industrial waste and upper atmospheric ozone depletion. This is the scientific capacity that gave researchers and others the important facts to protect Canadians health along with our environment.

I heard clearly that you do not like the direction the Conservatives are going on environmental issues.

This comes on top of recent allegations that money from the ecoEnergy program is being diverted from funding green technologies to oil sands research and development.

The ecoEnergy Innovation Initiative is a program created in 2011 aimed at greening Canada’s energy consumption. The fund was supposed to help Canada develop real alternatives to carbon- and pollution-heavy energy sources.

Canadians want a return to a country that is focused on environmental sustainability because that brings security and prosperity to us all.

You can still tell the prime minister that these decisions to change fisheries habitat protection and environmental standards are the wrong direction for Canada.

The simplest way is to e-mail him at pm@pm.gc.ca..