Response to government's tough line on OCI mainly positive

James
James McLeod
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Even political foes support Darin King's comments

FFAW president Earle McCurdy speaks with reporters Friday morning just minutes after provincial Fisheries Minister Darin King announced that Ocean Choice International has been denied a permanent redfish exemption. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

Fisheries Minister Darin King's tough words for Ocean Choice International (OCI) earned him praise from most sides Friday.

FFAW president Earle McCurdy was the brunt of King's wrath last month, but this time, McCurdy was only too happy to praise the minister.

"I agree with the comments he made," McCurdy said. "If I was him I'd read the riot act, too."

King blasted OCI for not being forthcoming with financial details about its redfish operations.

He also accused the company of threatening and bullying the government to try to get an exemption allowing the company to ship fish out of the province unprocessed.

King said he's still open to providing some sort of exemption in the future, but he dismissed the possibility of giving OCI a permanent exemption on redfish and yellowtail.

McCurdy said while he supports what King had to say, he worries that any temporary exemption has a way of becoming permanent.

"I think the government also has to be very careful with respect to temporary exemptions, in that they become permanent by the impact that they have in the market," he said.

"You have to look not only at where the market is today, but also be mindful that markets change."

Both Liberal and NDP fisheries critics, along with federal NDP MP Ryan Cleary, all liked what they heard from King Friday morning.

"The runaway train has been stopped. That doesn't necessarily mean that it's going in the right place, or going anywhere just yet," Liberal fisheries critic Jim Bennett, said.

"I think the best part about that is it shows the willingness of the government, and in truth, this minister to take a stand on this issue."

Christopher Mitchelmore, the NDP fisheries critic, said if Ocean Choice doesn't have the people's best interests at heart, the government needs to think about stepping in, in a forceful way.

"I mean, if they're not willing to work with the people, you've seen what happened in Newfoundland and Labrador before," he said.

"Look at what the government has done with Abitibi Bowater."

Ocean Choice chief operating officer Blaine Sullivan was one of the few people who didn't appreciate King's words.

Sullivan said he was disappointed that the permanent exemption wasn't given, and not happy that King called the company's credibility into question.

The only other voice speaking against the announcement was Fortune Mayor Charles Penwell. Fortune stands to benefit with 110 full-time, year-round jobs if the OCI plan goes forward.

"We were a bit disappointed to hear the minister say they didn't have all the information because in council's discussions with him in mid-December, he clearly indicated to us the department was going to take its time and do its own research," Penwell said.

"We were hoping by this time we would have an announcement they were going to be up and running."

jmcleod@thetelegram.com Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: OCI, NDP

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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  • fintip
    January 07, 2012 - 11:50

    I was pleased when the Penney group stepped in several years ago to take over the local operations of the defunct FPI. Penney was not known for being a corporate bully - a trait nonetheless increasingly evident in the behaviour of OCI. Sullivan is showing the kind of arrogance and indifference toward government, communities and fishermen that was a hallmark of the fishery in the old days. Particularly offensive is the old style tactic of divide and conquer - in this case pitting the residents of one community against another. Unfortunately when communities are so badly in need of jobs, the tactic often works. To be fair, Mayor Penwell did appear a little sheepish with his comments - obviously aware that no one likes to see one community take advantage of the misfortune of an another. There is a long history of corporate greed and government incompetence, if not corruption, in the Newfoundland fishery - made much worse since confederation with the loss of local control of the resource to Ottawa. If the fishermen and residents of outport Newfoundland are to prevail against federal indifference and manipulation by companies like OCI, they are going to need to stick together. They need to rediscover the value of standing up for one another - a principle promoted by people like William Coaker and, in more recent times, by Richard Cashin. For its part, the province needs to adopt a more aggressive approach to innovation and productivity improvement if local value-added processing is to remain viable.