When Premier Kathy Dunderdale really gets talking about the fishery, she gets angry and she gets exasperated.
She sees it as an industry dominated by self-interested players scoring cheap political points at the expense of real people.
"It is extremely frustrating," Dunderdale said. "The people who are suffering here and having the worst effect of it have been manipulated almost from Day 1 in terms of this industry."
Since the Oct. 11 provincial election, the fishery has emerged as the No. 1 political issue in the province.
In a year-end interview with Dunderdale, more than half the conversation was dominated by the fishery.
Repeatedly, she stressed that solving the industry's systemic problems won't come without pain, and only the federal government has the kind of deep pockets necessary to provide the money for restructuring.
"We have overcapacity in the fishery. That's the same as pulp and paper, isn't it? When you have overcapacity, something has to close. When you close things, people get displaced. That's why you need your other partners to help mitigate the impacts," Dunderdale said.
"We can't do it by ourselves, and people who keep suggesting that we can do it by ourselves are dreaming in Technicolor."
Compared to her predecessor, Danny Williams, Dunderdale has taken a markedly different tack in dealing with the federal government.
She defended that more conciliatory approach, implying that Williams' notoriously combative attitude was more about ego than results.
"I can go down and be the fighting Newfoundlander on that wharf with a bucket of rocks and be flinging them full time at the federal government. And I might look like the real hero, you know, that I'm stood up for the rights of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians," Dunderdale said. "Am I serving their best interest? In my mind I'm not."
The specific issue facing the provincial government right now is Ocean Choice International's decision to close the Marystown fish plant.
OCI wants to move operations to a smaller plant in Fortune, and ship most of their quota of yellowtail flounder out of the province unprocessed.
Fish, Food and Allied Workers' president Earle McCurdy has come out forcefully against this plan, arguing that the province should be able to keep both the Marystown and Fortune plants open.
"On yellowtail, we can take it out and we can process it and nobody can buy it because it's too expensive," she said.
"If there is no market for processed yellowtail under a certain weight, no market for it, then why are we going to process it?"
Dunderdale said that if people want to "leave the fish in the water" as some people are suggesting, that's fine, but it's important to fully understand what that means.
"We could leave the fish in the water. I'm fine with that," she said. "We may lose jobs elsewhere, and if we don't fish the quota, we might lose the quota and then somebody else would be coming and harvesting the yellowtail with the 150 harvesting jobs and sending it overseas. All I'm saying is, let's have the discussion."
But she only wants to have that discussion if the players will "stop playing games" and find some answers.
"There's a whole lot of people always trying to position you in a certain place because it takes the heat off them and it takes the spotlight off them. We all know what the issues are in the fishery. They've been identified time over time," she said.
"The thing is, you can't do anything by yourself. The processes have to come, the FFAW has to come.
"The federal government has to come."
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