Will the two-man office for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Clearwater be closed? MP Cathy McLeod says she doesn't know yet.
Will staff at the DFO office in Kamloops be reduced? McLeod says yes, but assures us that this and other "consolidations" won't have a noticeable impact.
In fact, these cutbacks are all about making the DFO more efficient and better able to perform its duties, we're told.
There may be some truth to this, but there is a larger, more important truth that is being skimmed over.
Changes to DFO staffing may indeed lead to efficiencies, but as part of a general gutting of the Fisheries Act they will have consequences that the public will find very much noticeable.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government plan to reduce federal protection of fish habitats as part of an overhaul of environmental legislation. The reason: to free up projects that are being slowed down by environmental reviews.
Says Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield: "It makes good, common sense that the government should be able to minimize or eliminate restrictions on commonplace activities that pose little to no threat, at the same time, maintain appropriate, reasonable and responsible protection for Canada’s fisheries."
But the regulatory burden the Conservatives hope to lighten could easily go beyond "commonplace" projects and extend to major developments as well. Will the proposed Ajax mine, for example, get a pass from Fisheries under this legislation that it might not have otherwise?
If the fish habitats in the bill are deemed to have no special importance, this could be the case.
Another worry for our region is the Adams River salmon run, as alluded to in a letter to Harper from four former fisheries ministers, two Liberal and two Conservative, all from B.C.
"Migratory salmon and steelhead are icons of our home province. Our experience convinces us that their continued survival would be endangered without adequate federal regulation and enforcement, particularly in the area of habitat protection."
This letter was signed by Tom Siddon, David Anderson, John Fraser and Herb Dhaliwal. They know that looser regulations and fewer staff members to enforce them will add up to bad news for fish habitat.
McLeod needs to look into the wider consequences of changes to the Fisheries Act for our region, and answer some important questions. Will standards for assessment of Ajax be lowered? Will preservation of the Adams River run be made more difficult?
This is about much more than the shuffling of a few employees.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by editor Robert Koopmans, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, news editor Mike Cornell or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.