Clyde Jackman speaks with reporters during a media event Thursday. — Photo by Colin MacLean/The Telegram
Clyde Jackman is a man with a lot on his plate these days.
As minister of fisheries and aquaculture, Jackman’s portfolio encompasses a wide range of issues and challenges.
Jackman is also facing increased pressure after he squeaked out a win by about 40 votes in the recent provincial election.
But he says he remains upbeat about his position and told The Telegram Thursday he’s ready and willing to take on whatever challenges come his way.
First on the list is whether he’ll keep his portfolio if there’s a shakeup in cabinet.
When asked if he’d been informed of a possible job change Jackman said he hadn’t got a phone call from the premier’s office yet, but expects one within a few days.
“There’s all kinds of speculation going around,” he said.
“I’ve learned after being in this for a number of years is that the best thing is to just sit back and let it unfold.”
Jackman also didn’t say if he had a preference one way or the other.
“If that should happen that (Premier Kathy Dunderdale) should call me back into fisheries I would be more than honoured,” he said.
“But to get a call to go back in cabinet will be equally as well received and I don’t expect it will be too much longer before we will be getting a call,” he added.
In regards to a possible recount of votes from the Oct 11 election, Jackman said he’d heard a lot of rumors, but had no clear word on if his rival, NDP Julie Mitchell, will ask for another count.
“If they do, it’s a democracy. More power to them and we’ll see how that unfolds,” he said.
Two of the most pressing issues facing Jackman originate in the heart of his own riding of Burin-Placentia West — the Ocean Choice International (OCI) fish plant and the Kiewit shipyard, both in Marystown.
The OCI fish plant has been closed for more than a year after it was heavily damaged by hurricane Igor. It’s future is still in question.
The provincial government appointed financial advisers Deloitte in September to assess the financial health and viability of the OCI plant.
Under the terms of Ocean Choice’s acquisition of the plant in 2007 from the former Fishery Products International, the company agreed it could only close the plant if it experienced significant financial losses with no chance of reversing those losses in the future, on the condition those losses weren’t because of deliberate decisions by Ocean Choice.
Jackman said Thursday Deloitte’s audit was nearly complete and he expected to have the results on his desk within the next two weeks.
“After that, we will be presented with the information, we will have to consider and see where the company is going to have to go,” said Jackman.
The second issue facing Marystown is the Kiewit shipyard, which is sitting idle.
Kiewit laid off the last remaining workers at the yard, about 40 people, earlier this year. There’s been no indication since of more work coming to the facility.
The yard had at one point been in the running for a $35-billion federal shipbuilding contract, but pulled out. That contract was awarded Wednesday to shipyards in Halifax and Vancouver.
Jackman expressed his disappointment Thursday of how events unfolded.
“My plan is to set up a meeting now with Kiewit to encourage them to look at the opportunity that’s here because of spinoff,” he said.
The minister added he’s also in the process of drafting a letter to Irving, which was awarded the bulk of the government contract, to encourage the company to consider Marystown if they need skilled labour or other resources.
The Telegram contacted Kiewit and asked if the company had considered the possibility of there being some spinoff work from the contract for the Marystown shipyard.
A company spokesman said it was too early to tell if such an opportunity might exist.
“Regarding the Halifax award, obviously we don’t want to speculate, but we would consider any work that we could do at the Marystown shipyard,” he said.
These issues are only a handful of those facing Jackman and the fisheries portfolio.
It’s a tall order, but one Jackman says he will tackle confidently.
“People ask me throughout this thing, ‘So you hope to get back in fisheries?’” said Jackman.
“I say, ‘Yeah, I certainly wouldn’t mind that.’”
“They say, ‘OK, there’s something wrong with you.’”
“But no, absolutely not. This is a wonderful portfolio. It’s the essence of what made Newfoundland and Labrador in the first place and it’s going to be the essence of what carries Newfoundland and Labrador into the future,” he said.