By Daniel MacEachern
A St. John’s member of Parliament has criticized the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for refusing to release the amount of compensation paid to Gray Aqua for its diseased salmon — but adds the company’s financial troubles may prompt the release of that information soon.
Ryan Cleary, the NDP MP for
St. John’s South-Mount Pearl, said Friday his office submitted an Access to Information request last September to find out how much the agency had agreed to pay Gray Aqua after the company was ordered to destroy nearly half a million fish that had infectious salmon anemia.
“(Gray) Aqua took it all the way to the Federal Court of Canada, arguing that they should not have to release this information,” said Cleary, a member of Parliament’s standing committee on fisheries and oceans.
But this week, with the news that Gray Aqua had filed for bankruptcy protection, came a notification from the court that said Gray Aqua was dropping its opposition to releasing the information.
“We need an official approval from the Federal Court before we can actually get the information that we’ve trying for a year to get,” said Cleary, who added that he hoped the order from the court would come in the next few weeks.
Cleary said the information should have been public from the start.
“This is taxpayers’ money. It should be disclosed,” he said. “Fish farming, aquaculture in Newfoundland and Labrador, right across Canada, is sensitive. People are very sensitive to this. They’re sensitive because of problems in the past, be it escapement and farmed fish mixing with wild fish, be it sea life, be it transferred disease — the whole nine yards.
“When you have potentially millions of dollars that are being spent in compensation for fishkills, in an industry the regulation of which has been questioned, in terms of whether both levels of government are doing the job, this information should be public. We’ve been fighting for a year all the way to the Federal Court of Canada, and that shouldn’t have to happen for public moneys.”
A representative of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency told The Telegram this week that the agency will not disclose specific compensation amounts, saying the information falls under the Privacy Act.
Gray Aqua president Tim Gray has not responded to repeated requests for comment from The Telegram.