Think maybe I’ll need to buy Russell Wangersky a beer or something, because he just saved me a lot of work. His column this past weekend, “A Tale of Two Industries” hit the nail squarely on the head (if you haven’t read it, go here right now: http://www.thetelegram.com/Opinion/Columns/2013-04-13/article-3219143/A-tale-of-two-industries/1
He basically looked at the pulp and paper industry and the fishery and noted that the budget for Fisheries and Aquaculture had been slashed to bits — 34 per cent to be exact — while the budget for portfolios like forestry remained largely intact (down by less than three per cent).
By crunching the numbers, Russell has done the work for me.
Finally, now you can all see what I have been telling you for months.
There has never been in our history a government more indifferent to our fishing industry. And the reason they are is because they know they can be — they’ve got the polling numbers and are confident the only people who give two craps about the fishery are those working in it, and they are spread out so far and wide they can’t make a big impact at the polls anyway.
They slash the department budget without blinking.
Last year they spent one-fifth of the more than $5 million they had allotted for marketing — absolutely the most crucial issue for the industry right now and in the future — and now they have even less allotted this year.
They host a reception at the Boston Seafood Show and then the minister himself doesn’t even bother to show up, and neither he nor anybody else says a single word about the quality products coming out of here — in a room FULL of seafood industry movers and shakers.
They change fisheries ministers on AVERAGE once a calendar year, which is absolutely the most turnover for that position for any government since Confederation.
The one noteworthy piece of fisheries policy they set has been the deal with OCI to ship out 75 per cent of that company’s yellowtail and all of its redfish unprocessed — a controversial piece of business to be sure.
I don’t mean to come off as attacking government I’m just sick of all the indifference and inaction, and the way the most important industry in this province — as Russell so rightly says, no other industry puts money directly in the hands of real people like this one — has been marginalized.
Please, for the love and honour of Christ himself, please act — so something! Anything! Market our stuff. Do the damn work, and make a $1 billion industry grow. Right now the industry is growing in spite of you, not because of you. We have some amazing people doing amazing things in the industry on all sides of it, and it is they who are making the fishery work and grow.
The other Atlantic provinces are catching up to and even passing us (New Brunswick is now the Canadian leader in seafood exports — yes their aquaculture industry is massive, but they have worked hard to market their product too) and we’re sitting here watching our bobbers.
It’s not just about spending money people, it’s about being a driving force, being relentless in the pursuit of success for an amazing and renewable industry. If we look like we don’t care, why would anybody else?
It’s tough to put your money where your mouth is, if nobody can even find your mouth.
Jamie Baker is the managing editor for The Navigator magazine, www.thenavigatormagazine.com
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