Bill C-38, the controversial omnibus budget bill passed late this spring by federal politicians, remains on the mind of people like Whistler resident John Fraser and former Department of Fisheries (DFO) scientist Otto Langer.
The bill amends a number of government acts but Fraser, a former Conservative Fisheries Minister, and Langer are specifically worried about the impacts the new legislation will have on fish and fish habitat. Langer recently provided detailed answers to 10 questions put to concerned fisheries advocates by the federal Fisheries Ministry.
When details of the Bill C-38 legislation first surfaced Fraser and Langster voiced their concerns along with others involved in salmon conservation issues.
The level of concern was significant enough to trigger a meeting with MP John Weston and MP Randy Kamp, Parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Keith Ashfield, in July.
The meeting followed Westin's insistence that the new legislation will actually strengthen fisheries management.
"The proposed changes streamline regulatory process, eliminating duplication and overlap, and setting a specified, generous period (two years) for completing the necessary assessments," Weston wrote in a submission to media outlets this spring. "These changes will stimulate the economy and create jobs, two things the Conservative government has consistently done while other countries fail around us. Ask any of the 750,000 Canadians who have found jobs since July 2009; they will tell you how important it is to continue this momentum."
Langer has consistently insisted the ruling Conservatives have put the cart before the horse with Bill C-38 by creating legislation first and consulting second.
"It is obvious that by consulting now the Harper government is attempting to try and appease some by giving them the opportunity to advise on how to implement a piece of legislation that is purposely designed to not effectively protect fish and their habitat," Langer wrote in his submission to the federal Fisheries Ministry, which was shared with media outlets.
Fraser, too, hasn't been convinced the new legislation will effectively protect fish.
"The government seems to be trying to tell us that fisheries and habitat protection will be just as good or even improved," Fraser said in an interview after Langer published his response to the government questions. "If this is the case why was the fisheries act changed and diminished?"
In his response to government, Langer called the questions confusing and he noted that he felt some of the questions weren't relevant.
"I have worked for over 40 years with the habitat pollution provisions of the Fisheries Act and feel my career experience and contributions were largely destroyed by a single vote in parliament," Langer claimed in his submission to government.
He concluded his submission with a plea for government to change course.
"If you are serious about having a meaningful fisheries and habitat protection program, simply stop what you are doing," Langer wrote at the conclusion of his note.
While Langer has called for a halt, Fraser said he's willing to continue with consultation.
"I am personally prepared to work with Weston and others in the so-called consultative process but that consultative process has to show, by evidence and by specific cases, how fisheries and habitat protection will be effective," said Fraser.
Along with raising concerns about fish protection, the 400-page document made changes to meat inspection regulations and employment insurance rules. The opposition parties accused the ruling Conservative Party of using budget legislation to circumvent proper debate on amendments to existing federal acts.