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Donnelly asks Conservatives about Cohen Commission, gets no answer

Fin Donnelly, NDP MP for New Westminster-Coquitlam and Port Moody, rose in Question Period today to ask whether the government would heed the recommendations of the Cohen Commission on protection of fish habitat. He did not get an answer.

"In his landmark report," Donnelly said, "Justice Cohen was clear: Weakening fish habitat protection will put Fraser River sockeye in peril. We already had strong protection for fish habitat, Mr. Speaker, but instead of enforcing them, the Conservatives are getting out of the business of oversight, to make it easier for their oil lobbyist friends to push through their pipeline project. Instead of stalling, will the minister listen to Justice Cohen and reverse this government's reckless move to weaken habitat protection?"

Gail Shea, minister of national revenue and former minister of fisheries and oceans, rose and said: "The honourable member has to remember that it was this side of the House that called the commission because we are concerned about the fate of B.C. salmon."

"... There are more than 650 Fisheries officers in more than 100 locations across Canada who will be available to conduct investigations related to the fisheries protection provisions of the Fisheries Act. In British Columbia alone, and the Yukon, there will be over 170 officers in over 30 locations who will conduct investigations and other as required."

Donnelly rose to supplement his question: "How does the minister expect these officers to properly investigate fish habitat violation with a third fewer staff?"

Shea responded, in part: "As I just said, there are over 650 fisheries officers in over 100 locations... In British Columbia alone, there will be over 170 officers in over 30 locations, because we do take the management of Canadian fish very seriously."

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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