MOU update coming this week

Dave Bartlett
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Jackman to meet with federal minister Friday

Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman says he will get progress reports this week from three working groups discussing ways to restructure the province's fishing industry.

He will then discuss that information with federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea Friday when he meets with her in Prince Edward Island.

Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman says he will get progress reports this week from three working groups discussing ways to restructure the province's fishing industry.

He will then discuss that information with federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea Friday when he meets with her in Prince Edward Island.

The working groups are part of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed last July between the province, the Fish, Food and Allied Workers' (FFAW) union and the Association of Seafood Producers to restructure and rationalize the fishery.

Each group is investigating a part of the fishery - marketing, processing and harvesting - and is made up of representatives from both sectors and department officials.

Representatives from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans also attend the meetings in an unofficial capacity.

Jackman said while he'll have the reports before he meets with Shea, he doesn't expect specific details at this time from the groups, only an overview of their progress so far.

The minister said he's pleased with the progress made since the groups began their work in December, although he noted a dispute on the price of crab between the union and the processors delayed talks for about a month this spring.

"Right on the heels of that, (the committees) got back at it," he told The Telegram Tuesday. "They've been meeting every week and sometimes a couple times a week."

The only thing clear so far to Jackman is that change is needed in the fishery.

"(The groups) worked through some possible scenarios," he said.

"The one thing that they have indicated is that in both sectors, harvesting and processing, many of the operations are not viable in the present circumstance, so we know something has to be done," Jackman said.

The minister also said the province hired two accounting firms to do a financial analysis of each part of the industry.

Deloitte examined the harvesting side, while Grant Thornton looked at the processing side.

So far, Jackman said Shea has been receptive to the work being done.

But he said Ottawa won't be kicking in hundreds of millions towards the restructuring of the fishery and neither can the province.

Jackman said the approach to restructuring has to be reasonable, but also must be built on consensus among all stakeholders in the industry.

"We are the people, in this province, that can make the difference. The union, the processors and government are at the table," he said.

Jackman believes without a unified agreement between all sides, Ottawa will likely dismiss the MOU.

Jackman said by the end of this month, all working groups will submit a report to the chairman of the MOU committee - Tom Clift, an associate dean of Memorial University's business administration program.

By end of summer, Jackman expects something in writing from Clift, which he can then take to Shea.

When Jackman meets with Shea this week, he will also discuss with her the province's recent investment in a fisheries research vessel.

dbartlett@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Allied Workers, Association of Seafood Producers, Department of Fisheries and Oceans The Telegram Grant Thornton MOU committee

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Ottawa

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