Major change at Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture

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If you know anything about government you know that, in most cases, the real power in any department usually rests behind the throne.

Quite often, the cabinet ministers are the public faces of the department. They do all the interviews and talking, usually from the notes prepared for them by their communications staff. But the real decision-making often happens within a department’s bureaucracy, led by the deputy minister.

The Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture in this province has had a slew of different ministers appointed in recent years — Tom Rideout, Tom Hedderson, “Landslide” Clyde Jackman, Darin King and now Derrick Dalley. The current government swaps out ministers in the department on average about once every 12-15 months.

The one constant through all that has been the deputy minister, Alistair O’Reilly.

As of Monday, however, O’Reilly is no longer there; he is being moved into the department of Innovation, Business and Rural Development where Keith Hutchings is the figure head.

Replacing O’Reilly in fisheries is David Lewis, a former assistant deputy minister for the department who I am told has 20 years in the industry.

This is a very interesting and significant change.

O’Reilly has been the power behind the throne in the department since Rideout brought him on board. O’Reilly had been around the industry, everywhere from private companies like Clearwater to the Canadian Council of Fisheries Innovation (CCFI) to a previous stint in Fisheries and Aquaculture as assistant deputy minister.

He was also the president of the Fisheries Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (FANL) representing processing companies at one point — so that automatically, fairly or not, made him a bit of a lightning rod for controversy among fishermen.

Either way this is an interesting change — and one that likely carries much more direct, tangible hands-on impact on the department and future policy than changing the minister for the department.

Considering all the change we’re likely to see in the industry on land and at sea in the next few years, this is also a shift that comes at an interesting time.

 Never a dull moment to be sure.



Jamie Baker is the managing editor for The Navigator magazine,

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