Local politicians chide
fisheries and environment staff for not taking farm concerns
Federal Fisheries and Environment rules on
access of grazing cattle to waterways have been a hot topic in
rural Canada for the past few years. So miffed farmers might
find some comfort in the lecture that Liberal and Conservative
MPs gave officials from the two departments over their
handling of the issue.
Liberal Rose-Marie Ur told a meeting of the
Commons agriculture committee that officials from the two
departments go to meetings with farmers "but you don't listen.
You don't take into consideration what you're hearing. This is
the frustration out there, that you don't understand the
Chairman Paul Steckle added that farmers
live in fear that the demands for exclusionary fencing along
waterways could put them out of business. "Our farmers right
now just cannot undertake another one of these kinds of
issues. We need some assurance from you that this is not going
"We are in a situation where farmers today, a
good friend of
The writer is a veteran national affairs reporter based in
mine's brother, did away with himself in the
dairy business. We don't need another one of these kinds of
things to cause further people to take these kinds of
Mark Eyeking, the parliamentary secretary
for agriculture, said if governments and environmentalists are
so adamant about farmers changing their practices, they should
pay for it.
"Because the way the farmers see it now,
it's just a bunch of urban people ganging up on them and
wanting them to change their whole lifestyle and everything
they're doing. You have to encourage them all to get to the
table and say, if they want to get it done, somebody has to
pay for it."
Conservative MP Rick Borot-
sik added that, since 1999 in Manitoba, the
fisheries department has "caused me nothing but consternation
and difficulties. It seems your enforcement officers certainly
take their responsibilities very seriously."
"Why is it that when a small municipality
wishes to put a culvert in to replace a bridge, which is over
a creek that runs only two weeks out of the year, DFO has the
tendency of coming down on that with hobnail boots? But when
there is a circumstance in Asessippi Lake in Manitoba where
there has been overfishing by the First Nations, DFO throws
its arms up and says, 'It's not our responsibili-ty'."
The officials said the departments are
required by law to protect fisheries habitat and that they try
to be co-operative at first. The MPs said that stern warning
letters from the Justice Department and armed Fisheries
officers don't seem like a co-operative approach to most
Unfortunately the meeting ended without any
evidence that the officials understood the message the MPs
tried to deliver to them.