PROTECTION AND MANAGEMENT OF WILD SALMON AND STEELHEAD
A. Olsen: Every question we asked this week was about steelhead and wild salmon. We haven’t received straight answers to our questions, but we’ve learned a lot. We learned that six distinct ministries, in addition to a federal department, are all co-managing the Interior Fraser steelhead to extinction. There appears to be jurisdictional confusion about who is doing what for salmon.
I don’t doubt this government’s commitment to wild salmon, but I wonder about their ability to make concrete changes when it appears it is being managed off the side of everyone’s desk.
Salmon are resilient. In the Saanich culture, they are our relatives. The health and wellness requires a different relationship, one that we clearly do not yet comprehend.
Given the fact that everybody seems to be in charge, I’d like to direct my question to the Premier. Will your government consider creating a wild salmon commissioner or secretariat to unite and streamline the work being done by government to protect our wild salmon and steelhead relatives?
Hon. J. Horgan: I thank the member for Saanich North and the Islands for the question. He has, I think, characterized fairly effectively the challenge that all of us have in British Columbia with co-management of our iconic salmon species, whether they be steelhead, whether they be chum, whether they be chinook, coho, sockeye and the like. But that challenge didn’t just arrive, hon. Member, as you know, and that challenge will take some time to figure out.
We are working tirelessly on this side of the House, and we have been saying repeatedly to questions, able questions from the Green Party and from those on the other side…. Everyone in British Columbia understands the importance of salmon, not just to our people but to our land. We are going to do our level best to get through the red tape, to understand what Ottawa’s plans are for our salmon species. And we’re going to do our level best to make sure that at the end of the day, the people of British Columbia can have confidence that all levels of government are working in a coordinated way to realize the objective that the member just recognized.
Mr. Speaker: The member for Saanich North and the Islands on a supplemental.
A. Olsen: Thank you, Mr. Premier, for the answer.
We’ve heard a lot of words spoken this week. What we’re proposing, with the line of questioning and with the suggestion that I made in my initial question, is action. I think that it’s a reasonable request that we make of government. When we needed action on climate, we created a secretariat. When we needed to address issues of conflicts of interest, we created a commissioner.
These are examples of where we’ve got multiple ministries working on their files, their distinct files, and we need action across government. That’s why today we are asking the government and suggesting to the government to consider creating a wild salmon secretariat or a commissioner that could do very similar work to bring together, to streamline, all the work that’s being done. That would require adequate funding, of course.
I ask my question, again, to the Premier: would your government consider such a secretariat to coordinate the effort, as he so ably described in his answer to the first question?
Hon. J. Horgan: Again, I appreciate the passion of the member. I know it’s genuine.
In the 1990s, the government of the day created what was called fisheries renewal B.C. to do just what the member has suggested. We need to address habitat restoration upstream. We need to have spawning beds in place so that our salmon have a place to come back to.
There is no shortage of work being done by the minister responsible for Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations. The Minister of Agriculture has a role to play as well. I, too, in the intergovernmental relations side, have a role to play with our federal government. I have done the best I can to break through with the federal government so that they can understand that this is not just about scientists in Ottawa. It’s about people in coastal communities. It’s about people who live up the Fraser, people who live up the Nechako, people who live up the Skeena and everywhere in between.
Salmon are British Columbia. The member’s passion is absolutely well placed, and we are going do our level best, working with all sides of this House, to ensure that when we finish our time in this place, salmon are better off than they were when we arrived.