Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman said the latest delay in the hotly anticipated memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the future of the fishery has nothing to do with politics.
The Opposition has suggested the report has been delayed for fear of how it would affect the 2011 election.
“People will think what they want, but from my perspective, this has nothing to do with the election,” Jackman said.
“It has to do with getting it right.”
When the MOU was signed in July 2009, then-fisheries minister Tom Hedderson said the process would bring changes to the industry for the 2010 season.
In early September 2010, Jackman said the report would be released before the end of the year.
In November, it was delayed until the new year.
Now it’s been delayed again.
Jackman said last week that he’s read a draft copy — a document of about 100 pages — but sent it back for fine-tuning, thereby further delaying an already protracted process.
He’s making no apologies.
The MOU has the future of the fisheries industry at stake, he said, and the complex financial analysis of each of the fishing zones around Newfoundland and Labrador will be used to dictate a path forward.
“My initial reaction, what really stood out, was the difference in incomes for people around the province,” Jackman said.
“But when you see the income of plant workers, that really stood out. Are people going to stay with it? And will a generation that’s going to follow those (workers)? I don’t think a 27-year-old or 29-year-old is going to be content making $10,000 a year plus EI (employment insurance) for the rest of their lives.
“They’ve got too many doors open to them. If we think in the future we are going to have young people go into our fish plants, some things are going to have to change.”
Jackman wouldn’t confirm any other details of the report, such as how many recommendations there are and whether rationalization will involve closing fish plants.
“Everybody thinks there are too many plants, but nobody wants to see a plant closed in their area,” he said.
“Let me be clear: there is no magic bullet here. One thing that has become clear in reading this is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.”
Jackman said there’s been no decision about whether there will be public consultations following the release of the MOU.
“Once the fine-tuning is done, I have to bring this to my (cabinet) colleagues, and (federal) Fisheries Minister Gail Shea,” he said.
Opposition fisheries critic Marshall Dean, meanwhile, suggested the government is stalling.
“The fishery is showing the full signs of eight years of neglect under this government,” he said. “It’s time for some real action.”
The Northern Pen
with files from The Telegram