Missing in action

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At some point it might be a good idea for someone — ANYONE — within the government of Newfoundland and Labrador to ought to maybe even just try to better market the $1 billion seafood industry in this province.

On Saturday night a great deal of money, time and effort was spent stuffing the gullets of visitors and dignitaries at the Boston Seafood Show with good booze and top-shelf Newfoundland and Labrador seafood. It has long been considered one of the highlights of the show, and the province’s Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture annually uses the opportunity to showcase and tout our products.

This year, Minister Derrick Dalley wasn’t in attendance. And worse, nobody stood in for him and nobody said a word (he was apparently busy with budget meetings here in NL, but to have no fallback for an event that gets planned months in advance? That’s ridiculous).

People showed up to the reception, saw some colourful banners, they ate, drank, and then toddled off with misty eyes, full bellies and no new information or real impetus to take a closer look at our products.

In truth, even if the Minister does bother to show up it’s not always a home run.

The highlight of that event last year — and I was there to see it firsthand — was Darin King spitting out a few off the cuff remarks then putting federal Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield in a headlock. And to think I had such high hopes for that guy. Heavy sigh.

By contrast, in attending the New Brunswick reception at the same show last year, not only did the province’s Fisheries Minister and Economic Development Minister show up, but so, too, did the premier(!) — and ALL of them spoke at length about the industry and their products, pushing them heavily in a room full of industry movers and shakers.

The two experiences were starkly different in contrast.

It seems New Brunswick’s political leaders understand that you must put everything into marketing your product — a lesson we don‘t give one single solitary iota of crap about here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Let’s be honest here — if this was an oil and gas event, there’d be a team of political heavyweights from this province there, including the premier and whatever ministers could hitch their wagons to the train, stumping and soap-boxing and press-releasing the snot out of themselves.

Hell, organizers of the North Atlantic Fish and Workboat Show (full disclosure: I was one of them) couldn’t get Dalley or Innovation, Business and Rural Development Minister Keith Hutchings to show up for either the show or the associated Atlantic Canada Marine Industries Hall of Fame Inductions (Steve Kent stood in for them). The complete absence of both ministers during the premier marine industry trade show in the province was certainly a hot topic during the event.

Do you think for a second that the Natural Resources Minister and/or the Premier would have failed to show up or even acknowledge the existence of Oil and Gas week or the Atlantic Canada Petroleum Show?

So what’s wrong with the NL government when it comes to the fishery and promoting it and its people? Has our seafood industry become this unimportant, this marginalized, this cast-aside? Are we getting lazy or is it just outright indifference?

Whatever the reason, what’s happening is absolutely unacceptable.

Jamie Baker is the managing editor for The Navigator magazine, www.thenavigatormagazine.com

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