Cabinet forms committee to respond to plant closures

Andrew Robinson
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Will focus on helping people in affected communities

Provincial cabinet ministers have united to form a ministerial committee focused on communities affected by downturns in the fishing sector.

The Ministerial Committee on Fisheries Issues is chaired by Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Darin King and also includes Municipal Affairs Minister Kevin O’Brien, Advanced Education and Skills Minister Joan Burke, Innovation, Business and Rural Development Minister Keith Hutchings and Education Minister Clyde Jackman.

“The purpose of the committee is to respond to challenges in the fishing industry, particularly given the recent closures of the fish plants,” said King, speaking with The Telegram Friday.

Earlier this month, High Liner Foods announced it will close its secondary processing plant in Burin by the end of 2012. Plant closures were also announced in recent months for Marystown, Port Union, St. Lewis and Black Tickle.

“People need to understand that government recognizes the significant challenges that communities, people and their families are facing with the closures, and that’s why we responded with the ministerial committee,” King said.

The committee will look to reach out to communities affected by job losses, providing access to programs for employment opportunities and retraining, King said. Ultimately, the committee will explore opportunities for economic development in those regions.

“We’ll be there to engage the stakeholders and obviously give some direction to officials from our departments, who will be on the ground out in communities and regions, meeting with people and trying to move things forward,” said King.

Timely work

Speaking with reporters on Friday while attending Sportsfest in St. John’s, Premier Kathy Dunderdale said the committee’s work is timely.

“Absolutely, and when any community is affected to this degree by the loss of an industry or some kind of a facility that might be the only source of economic development directly in the community, we respond in this kind of a formal way, so that there are protocols in place that people know who’s in charge of this particular file and where to go to try and find answers.”

The expertise of the ministers involved will be important to the committee’s work, according to King. Jackman’s background as a former Fisheries minister will be useful, as will his role as an MHA for Burin-Placentia West, a region that has been in the news due to fish plant closures.

As minister of Municipal Affairs, O’Brien’s portfolio includes several employment programs, while Hutchings’ department will aid the committee on economic diversification efforts, according to King.

King said Burke’s department will have a role to play on issues concerning the retraining of workers. He also noted the minster’s experience dealing with the aftermath of the Abitibi-Consolidated newsprint mill closure in Stephenville, a community located in her district of St. George’s-Stephenville East.

 The committee will meet with various groups in the short-term to help officially identify the workers who are in need of help. Given the High Liner fish plant in Burin is not slated to close until the end of the calender year, King said, employment programs may not be an immediate need for that community.

Discussions with the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) union is also on the committee’s agenda, King said.

Attention needed

FFAW president Earle McCurdy said the committee’s attention is needed in communities dealing with fish plant closures.

“It’s certainly needed, and we certainly would hope (the committee) will come to the table with a view to putting in place a comprehensive program,” said McCurdy. “I wrote Minister King last week requesting that this be triggered with respect to several plants (closing), and just a couple of hours after I signed off the letter, the closure in Burin was announced.”

McCurdy said plant closures have a huge impact on communities, and he hopes the government can take substantive measures in order to help those affected.

— With files from Daniel MacEachern

Twitter: TeleAndrew

Organizations: Ministerial Committee on Fisheries Issues, High Liner Foods, Port Union King said.The committee Abitibi-Consolidated Stephenville East.The committee Allied Workers

Geographic location: Burin, Marystown, Stephenville

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Recent comments

  • Charles
    May 14, 2012 - 06:33

    Only damm reason...Our province is in the state it in...Is because of the people we elect to represent...They having got a clue how to solve a simple problem...with out some kind of study...Neither ones of them can find there way out of the dark...All you need little bit of foresight...This leave them out in the cold.

  • Duffy
    May 13, 2012 - 15:26

    Dear Minister, Please send more money, like you have for the past 20 years, so we can work across the street for 12 weeks a year and live in Mommys back yard" Thank You. Wonder why the Mainlanders call us lazy ?

  • response from a business man
    May 13, 2012 - 12:32

    Charlie, no matter how much these ministers are being paid to sit on this committee, it is too much. The money should be used towards health care or infrastructure instead, it should be use on things that benefit everyone, not something that just benefits the fishery. AND even if they are NOT being paid extra to sit on this committee, I argue the time would be better spend on discussing issues relating to health care or infrastructure. Using the time of ministers to benefit the fishery is a waste of time and unfair to the other taxpayer issues that can benefit everyone. But as I said before, when the fishery dies, we will no longer have this problem. I truly cannot wait for the death of the fishery.

  • Charlie
    May 13, 2012 - 09:55

    How much extra money are these ministers being paid to be on this committee?

  • Nothing in your post Business Man convinces me that the Federal Government should have control over the fishery
    May 13, 2012 - 08:29

    Nothing in your post Business Man convinces me that the Federal Government should have control over the vast Atlantic Ocean Waters, Air Space, the Fish, Oil and every other resource contained within those waters that the province of Newfoundland and Labrador brought into Canada. Yes all of these elements are priceless to Canada and to you as a Businessman. They have brought in Billions of dollars of revenue to the Canadian Treasury over the past 63 years. You can bet your bottom dollar if they were worthless, the Ottawa Government would have shed the responsibility many moons, ago. Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent in his speech to the Nation in May of 1949 told his Canadian subjects that they had gotten something they had dreamt of for 80 years, that was they had gotten the province of Newfoundland and Labrador into the fold by hook or by crook. I care not Business Man that your covetous Nature demands that you and your covetous Business colleagues and your political friends, want full control over the resources of the country, but I do care that you want the rest of us to "eat cake". The sick crony capitalism society we live under has to go, the wealth of the nation has to be shared fairly with all of us and finally we need governmental reform because we can't have the politicians and businessmen in bed with each other, that is detrimental to having a fair, just, equitable AND great economic society.

  • Brett
    May 13, 2012 - 07:38

    An interesting statistic would be a count of the amount of money the fishing industry in NL brings in YoY for the last say 25 years (total revenues generated by sales), and taxes earned off of said revenues (direct to corporations or through income tax on salaries). From there it would be interesting to see how much money has been spent on fisheries over the last 25 years too. Tax incentives, gov't money donated to plants/to workers, EI to people in the fisheries industry, and see exactly what the cost/benefit is of the industry.

    • business man
      May 13, 2012 - 08:41

      yes. I would love to see my numbers. I would bet that the fishery is costing us money overall. In addition, what do we get for all that money? Dirty, smelly, fishery jobs that we do not want for our selves or our children? No thank you. We are Canadians. We deserve better than the primitive life of a fisherman. I wouldn't wish a dirty smelly fishery job on my enemy. I am sure all the government money can be tracked. than information has to be public. I am fairly certain that ultimately, the fishery costs more to taxpayers than it brings in. Therefore, those who get nothing in return from the fishery must put a stop to tax dollars being pissed into the bottomless pit that the fishery is.

  • For your information Business Man the reason for the special concern for the fishery is.....
    May 12, 2012 - 14:27

    You asked the question why the special concern for the fishery. If you don't already know it, the special concerns for the fishing plants were because the Federal Government stole the fish from our province that should otherwise have been utilized to create the vibrant fishing industry it should have become right here in the communities of Newfoundland and Labrador. When Ottawa realized, it had a ''''RENEWABLE RESOURCE"" the fish quotas under its possession, that could work perfectly well as the "enabler", to grow the Agriculture and Manufacturing Sectors of places in Canada that Ottawa was focusing on to conduct International Trade, it decided that it would cut back severely on the fishers' fish quotas of Newfoundland and Labrador and instead subsidize their severely reduced fish quotas with a small amount of Employment Insurance. That left lots of fish to be traded off to the countries traded with. What a dirty trick to have played on the people with the adjacency to the fish resource, whose families fished it for the 500 years that they had been in this place.

    • a business man
      May 12, 2012 - 23:13

      nothing in your post justifies to my why my tax dollars should be used on anything related to the fishery. I really don't care what happened when NL joined Canada, or how the fish was used for the last 500 years. I care about today, and the taxes I pay today. Regardless of what you say, I as a taxpayer and voter am sick of the fishery. Even the subsidizing of reduced fish quotas with a small amount of Employment Insurance is something I approve of. I fully support reduced fish quotas and foriegn/offshore fish processing, but I absolutely disagree with EI being given to the fishermen year after year. If I had it my way, the demise of the fishery would prevent the fishermen from qualifying for EI, and I would therefore be happier with the use of my tax dollars. The reality is that the fishery only benefits a few thousand people in NL, and millions of people in Canada would be happier with the use of their tax dollars if those dollars were not spent on the fishery. Really, if we were to kill the NL fishery tomorrow, who would really care? Sure, a few thousand fishermen may be put out of work, and sure a few fishing communities may be devistated, but the majority of taxpaying citizens and voters will not give a crap....for the rest of us, life will go on, It is not that the rest of Canada does not care about those who work in the fishery, but rather the rest of Canada, especially myself, does not want our hard earned tax dollars being used on the fishery. We are willing to accept the death of the fishery if it means that our money will no longer be used in the fishery. And then you get the guys like me who close down businesses in this province specifically to reduce the money that goes into the taxbase by removing jobs and corporate taxes from the province. If the government continues to spend my tax dollars on the fishery, then I will move my companies to other provinces/countries and let them take my tax money and the jobs.....much better than allowing my tax dollars to be used on the fishery.

    • A further response from a business man
      May 13, 2012 - 11:06

      I re-read your post and I just want to say that as a NL and Canadian citizen and voter, I absolutely agree with the decision of the federal government to use the fishery as an enabler to grow the Agriculture and Manufacturing Sectors of places in Canada that Ottawa was focusing on to conduct International Trade. I have made lots of money in these sectors and internationally, and I believe using the fish resource to benefit all of Canada is the most efficient decision, regardless to the impact of a few thousand NL fishermen. In short, what may seem like an unfair decision to a few thousand fishermen and a few fishing communities is really democratic decision that serves the best interests of Canada as a whole. As far as I am concerned, Canadians no longer need Canadian fishermen. We can get fish from anywhere in the world. If we cut the Canadian fishermen out of the fishery, then the benefit of the natural resource can reach every Canadian, not just the fishermen. So let's allow the foreign fishers catch the fish, lets pay them less than what we pay the local fishermen, and lets let the merchants/processors make more money. As they make more money, they will pay more taxes, and then those taxes can be used on social programs that benefit everyone, like health care. To re-phrase, lets through a few thousand fishermen under the bus, and then allow a few hundred thousand citizens to reap the benefits. The loss of the fishery will result in a gain for every single citizen. Like it or not, that is my opinion, and I will vote accordingly, and make my political donations accordingly.

  • a business man
    May 12, 2012 - 10:55

    here we go again. more government resourses used on the stinking fishery. People lose their jobs every day...why the special concern for the fishery? Factories and plants close every day, why the special concern for the fish plants? The truth is that the fishery is a special interest group that serves its participants by using the resources (tax dollars) of everyone else. Essentially, the fishery is a leech that needs to be squashed. We are paying the government to talk about the fishery when they should be talking about health care. We are spending time on the interests of a small number of fishery workers when that time should be used on things that matter to everyone, like health care. So I said it before and I'll say it again, I wish death upon the fishery. When the fishery dies (not if by when, and I can't wait), then the government cannot waste more money on the fishery and fishery strategies, and the fishery workers will not be able to use the fishery for a few weeks before going on their annual EI cycle. The death of the fishery will be tough for the fishermen, but will be in the best interests of the majority of NL citizens. Those who have nothing to do with the fishery are sick of paying more and more taxes and then watching our tax dollars being wasted on the fishery. If there no longer is a fishery, then it is likely that they government cannot spend money on a fishery. As a taxpayer, citizen and voter, I beleive the interests of the majority will be served with the death/demise of the fishery.